Rain fails to dampen spirits at festival in memory of Maharaja
PUBLISHED: 06:30 27 August 2018
Torrential rain failed to dampen spirits as hundreds of people gathered for a festival in Thetford to mark the 125th anniversary of the death of the last Sikh ruler.
Maharaja Duleep Singh spent much of his life in Britain and purchased the Elveden Estate in 1863, where he lived for more than 20 years.
He died in 1893 and is buried at St Andrew and St Patrick’s Church, Elveden, along with his wife Bamba and son.
Thetford and Elveden have become significant places for Sikh pilgrimages and are part of the national Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail.
The Festival of Anglo Sikh Heritage yesterday had been organised by the Maharaja Duleep Singh Centenary Trust in response to the demand of the Sikh community.
Hundreds of Sikhs from as far afield as Southampton and Scotland attended the free festival to celebrate. The main event had been due to be held on Melford Common where there were to be a music stage, poetry, food stalls, a heritage pavilion featuring rare Sikh artefacts and colourful activities like turban tying.
In the event, heavy rain saw the festivities moved indoors to the town’s Carnegie/Guildhall Complex but it did little to dampen the mood of celebration.
Among the activities were art workshops with Suman Kaur, the winner of the BBC Big Painting Challenge 2017, and storytelling with Navleen Kaur.
Speakers included Slough MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and the Thetford mayor Roy Brame, who had a traditional turban wrapped as part of the event.
Jasvinder Singh Nagra, from the trust, said: “We hold the memory of our last Maharaja very close to our heart and it is important that the 125th anniversary of his death should be appropriately marked.
“It is our duty that our heritage be celebrated and preserved especially here in East Anglia which holds so many historical bonds and remains a place of cultural and historic interest to us.”
Visitors also got to visit the Maharaja’s memorial statue at Butten Island commissioned by the trust; while the Ancient House Museum currently has the portrait of Duleep Singh, entitled Casualty of War, by the Singh Twins, on loan.