Maharani Jind Kaur’s Tikka

Today marks the 75th Anniversary of the Death of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, who passed away on this day in 1948! The fascinating Indian Princess, daughter of the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, who was a goddaughter of Queen Victoria and a prominent Suffragette, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh possessed this splendid heirloom from her grandmother, the legendary Maharani Jind Kaur!

A gem-set gold forehead pendant (chand-tikka), the upper element in the form of a crescent set with rock crystal surmounted by a three petaled flower motif set with rubies, a suspension loop to the central petal, the lower element in the form of a crescent set with rock crystal, surmounted by a single spinel, the lower edge of each element with a fringe of seed pearls and gold foliate motifs. The Tikka was made in Punjab, likely Lahore in the first half of the 19th Century for Maharani Jind Kaur, one of the wives of Maharajah Ranjit Singh of the Sikh Empire and mother of the last Maharajah Duleep Singh, who had served as Regent of the Sikh Empire and waged an unsuccessful war against the advancements of the British East India Company. The wives of Maharajah Ranjit Singh had been described:

“in gauzes with gold borders, and their arms… covered with bracelets. Their ears, noses and foreheads were also much ornamented”

When the British East India Company invaded and took over the Treasury of Lahore, they confiscated the most important Jewels, like the Koh-i-Noor Diamond and the Timur Ruby, for Queen Victoria while other treasures were auctioned by Messrs Lattie Bros in the Diwan-i-Am of the Lahore Fort. Maharani Jind Kaur had been separated from her son, Maharajah Duleep Singh, who was sent to England while she fled imprisonment into exile in Nepal. The Maharani’s personal jewels, which included this Tikka among 600 pieces of jewellery, had been confiscated when she was imprisoned at Chunar Fort and after several years in exile, it was agreed that her private property and jewels would be returned on the basis that she left India, with the casket of her jewels returned upon her arrival in London in 1861, as described by Lady Login:

her Jewels had at the moment arrived from the Custom House, and so delighted was she at the sight, that she forthwith decorated herself, and her attendants, with an assortment of the most wonderful necklaces and earrings, strings of lovely pearls and emeralds being arranged, in graceful concession to English fashion, as a sort of fringe or frilling inside the brim of the bonnet, in the place where the custom then was to wear a semblance of a “cap!” The extraordinary figures which the poor Maharanee and her favourite women cut, in this attire, can be better imagined than described!

After Maharani Jind Kaur’s passing in 1863, her Jewels were inherited by her son, Maharajah Duleep Singh, and passed along to his various children. This Tikka eventually came into the collection of Maharani Jind Kaur’s granddaughter, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, a leading suffragette.

Princess Sophia was fined several times due to her political unrest, and bailiffs confiscated her jewelry from Hampton Court Palace to sell at auction on several occasions. Each time, Princess Sophia’s friends of Sophia ensured that nobody bid on the items and the items were sold for a pittance to be bought by the suffragettes and returned to Princess Sophia, who would be in attendance at several of the auctions.

Princess Sophia did not leave any descendants and upon her death in 1948, the Tikka was left to her personal maid and companion, Mrs Ivy Janet Lane, and passed by descent until being sold to a private collection who exhibited the Tikka at the Maharajah Duleep Singh Exhibition in Thetford in 2010 and 2011 and also at the Digital 3D Exhibition by the Sikh Museum Initiative in Leicester in 2019 before the Tikka was sold at Auction at Bonhams in London for £187,562.50 in 2020. The current location is unknown.


Anglo-Sikh Museum | Bonhams

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