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Freed

Punjabi Peacocks

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Gurfateh !

Whether we like to admit it or not all Singhs are 'peacocks' - we all take time to perfect our Turbans and are known to take a number of tying attempts to get the right look and won't leave the house unless we 'get it right'.

Whether you tie a small and graceful Dastar or a large flamboyant ਰੋਹਬਦਾਰ (Rohbdaar) Patiala or 'Ludhiana' style, or a smart smooth Dumala or the 'without the use of a mirror' more organic dumala - we all are particular about our Dastars which give us a Royal Bearing - Sardaari - a Blessing from Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

The punjabi peacock comes in many forms; the village Jatt peacock - with a high ਤੁਰ੍ਹਲਾ (turla) on his turban, a kentha around his neck, waxed moustache, and a tattoo on his thigh to show his 'Physique'; and the more sophisticated 'Sardaar' - dressed in tight Aichan/Sherwani with Churidar pajama, usually astride a horse to show off his shapely legs ! (Before you think I'm making this up, examples of all these 'peacocks' exist in my family ! ) You also get the modern variety in Punjab; who have to match their turbans with their shirts and 'Diesel' jeans; and their western counterparts with smart Dumallas worn with hoodies and sportswear.

The zenith of 'Punjabi Peacocks' was probably the time of the Maharajas - of all the Punjabi Maharajas two stand out as 'Textbook' examples of the Punjabi Peacock - Maharaja Sher Singh and Maharaja Bhupinder Singh - "The Flower of Oriental aristocracy".

They were both larger than life, handsome, robust characters - aesthetes very fond of the finer things in life. Speaking about Bhupinder Singh, Louis Cartier (brother of Jacques Cartier, the Jeweller) wrote;

" The doorway seemed ablaze; people gasped as the Maharaja of Patiala entered....on his neck,amidst the diamond rivers bedecking his shoulders, shone the necklace of the Empress Eugenie.....across his turban he wore diamond drops, sparkling like fireworks, which bedewed his eyes. The chandeliers focussed upon him. He held the light and diffused it. He was immense and as he held the stage, he epitomized the India of the Maharaja. "

The Maharaja of Patiala was known for his beautiful turban - the Patiala Shahi style and it is said he spent two hours on his bath and care of his beard - "being a Sikh and first among the Sikh Princes, it was necessary that every hair should be oiled till it shone like silk before being neatly rolled over a cord and tied round the chin." (R Forbes 1939)

Here is a collection of images showing the two Maharajas - Punjabi Peacocks in all their glory ;

Maharaja dhiraj Sher Singh Bahadur, Maharaja of the Punjab. Born at Batala, December 1807.

The August Schoefft painting of Sher Singh.

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He is wearing the koh-i-noor on his arm, a belt of emeralds , the Timur Ruby (actually a spinel) and he is seated on the Golden Throne.

The original setting of the Koh-i-noor.

now set with paste replicas.

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the enamel work on the rear.

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The Timur ruby - reset by Garrard - now in the collection of the Queen.

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The emerald belt - also in the Queen's collection.

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The Throne

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Sher Singh - from the A. Schoefft painting of the Lahore Darbar.

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In the Shish Mahal of the Lahore Fort.

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Prince Soltykoff described Sher Singh as, "a big stoutish man of forty, covered with the most beautiful jewels in the world".

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Portrayed after a bath.

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The English signature of Sher Singh - showing his Anglophile tendencies.

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Jarau Cchattar given by Sher Singh to Darbar Sahib Amritsar.

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Sher Singh and his son Partap Singh were murdered by the Sindhanwalia Sardars on 15 September 1843.

A persian poet wrote of this treachery as;

"Ba shauq sagan shikar-i-sheran kardand" - 'For their sport, worthless dogs had hunted lions'. (Qadir 1917)

Maharaja Bhupinder Singh - or to give him his full title ;

His Highness Farzand-i-Khas-i-Daulat-i-Inglishia, Mansur-i-Zaman, Amir ul-Umara, Maharajadhiraja Raj Rajeshwar 108 Sri Maharaja-i-Rajgan, Maharaja Bhupendra Singh, Mahendra Bahadur, Yadu Vansha Vatans Bhatti Kul Bushan, Maharaja of Patiala.

Farzand-i-Khas-i-Daulat-i-Inglishia: Favoured son of the English nation.

Mansur-i-Zaman: Victorious of the Age.

Amir ul-Umara: commander/prince of the nobility.

Maharajadhiraja: great prince of princes.

Raj Rajeshwar: superior prince.

Yadu Vansha Vatans Bhatti Kul Bushan: ornament of the Bhatti clan.

Maharaja-i-Rajgan: Great Prince amongst Princes.

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Bhupinder Singh captained the Indian cricket team on their first ever tour of England in 1911.

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The Patiala XI - at Chail cricket ground, built by the Maharaja, the world's highest cricket ground, at 7500 feet above sea level.

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The MCC England presented the Maharaja (president of the Board of Cricket Control of India) with this cartoon in 1935.

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Hunting with the Prince of Wales (Later to abdicate the throne).

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Inspecting his troops.

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Charge....

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Viceregal Party

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Vandyk portraits

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On the roof of the Savoy Hotel, London.

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At 'the front' during World War 1.

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Opening the Memorial Gate to Indian soldiers outside the Brighton pavilion.

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Imperial War Conference, 1917.

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In London with his son Yadwinder Singh, father of Amarinder Singh.

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With the King of Spain, Madrid 1928.

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An informal shot - without his trademark beautiful turban - surrounded by his daughters.

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A pocket watch made for the maharaja.

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The Maharaja's travel watch and wrist watch made by Cartier.

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A 'chand mang-tika' - worn on the forehead - platinum diamond and pearls with a portrait of the maharaja - made by Cartier.

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I could go on forever , so I think I'll stop there !

Hope you enjoyed the pictures,

Ranjit Singh 'Freed'

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