Sikh group want remains of last dynasty ruler Duleep Singh to leave Norfolk

Hardeep Singh Kohli visits the grave of Maharaja Duleep Singh. Credit: wwwduleepsingh.com

Hardeep Singh Kohli visits the grave of Maharaja Duleep Singh. Credit: wwwduleepsingh.com - Credit: Archant

Should the remains of the last ruler of a Sikh dynasty be returned to his native land from his burial place in a Norfolk churchyard?

Collect pic of Duleep Singh. 3/3 20/1/98 Copy Ben Smith.Picture by Daniel Hambury, Thetford. (

Collect pic of Duleep Singh. 3/3 20/1/98 Copy Ben Smith.Picture by Daniel Hambury, Thetford. (c) ECN. EDP, TBW

Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last ruler of the Sikh empire, is buried at Elveden Church after he spent years in exile.

But a Sikh heritage organisation claims that the maharaja, who was given a Christian burial, had converted back to Sikhism before his death in Paris in 1893.

And so the Anglo-Sikh Heritage Trail wants to see the maharaja's remains repatriated, with half his ashes left in Lahore, and the other half in Kiratpur Sahib.

The issue is being raised on national radio today, after writer and comedian Hardeep Singh Kholi visited Thetford and Elveden to record a programme on the maharaja,


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The Ancient House Museum, in Thetford, was one of the locations visited by the programme, and Karen-Emma White, museum learning assistant, said the maharaja's grave was a big attraction for the area.

'From the museum's point of view we would be very sad if he went from Elveden because we can tell his story and it's nice to have visitors come here to the house before they pay their respects at the grave.

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'There's no Sikh kingdom so it's become a form of pilgrimage for some Sikhs in this country to come here,' she said.

Mr Hardeep Singh Kohli also visited the maharaja's statue on Butten Island in Thetford, and his grave at Elveden.

He was joined by Peter Bance, a Sikh historian and expert on the maharaja's life.

Mr Bance said the maharaja's repatriation was a sensitive issue.

'As a Sikh you must be cremated and there is some strong evidence to suggest that he did convert back to Sikhism before he died in Paris.

'On the other hand, his family, who were Christians, thought he should be buried in this country and we have to be respectful of that,' he said.

Mr Bance added that the issue had parallels to the case of Udham Singh, whose remains were repatriated to India after he was hanged in Pentonville prison in 1940 for the assassination of Michael O'Dwyer. The killing was seen to be an avengeance of the Amritsar Massacre in 1919.

Neither the Anglo-Sikh Heritage Trail nor Elveden Church were available for comment.

The programme, The Last Wish of a Prince, airs at 11am.

• What do you think of the debate? Let us know by emailing andrew.fitchett@archant.co.uk

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