Town's Sikh links celebrated at ceremonies commemorating the death of the last Maharaja
PUBLISHED: 10:01 23 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:01 23 October 2018
Sikhs from across the United Kingdom gathered in Thetford to pay their respects to the last ruler of the Sikh Empire at a wreath laying and plaque unveiling ceremonies.
Maharaja Duleep Singh was the last Sikh ruler of India and bought Elveden Estate in 1863, where he lived for more than 20 years.
Thetford mayor, Roy Brame, alongside Harbinder Singh, honorary director of the Maharaja Duleep Singh Centenary Trust (MDSCT), laid wreathes on his grave at St Andrew and St Patrick’s Church, Elveden.
A plaque commemorating £40,000 of refurbishment work on the statue of the Maharaja on Butten Island in Thetford was also officially unveiled.
The work was undertaken and sponsored by Harminder Singh Gill of Gillcrest Homes, and included landscaping, the installation of two benches, and general refurbishment of the statue.
Both ceremonies took place on the 125th anniversary - to the day - of Duleep Singh’s death, and follows a festival held in August to mark his death.
Thetford’s links to the Sikhs were highlighted by both the MDSCT and the mayor, with praise from both groups for each other.
Mr Singh said: “It is a place of global, cultural pilgrimage. Sikhs throughout the world have an affection for Duleep Singh, they have an attraction towards his life.
“He is unique in the sense that this is where one individual actually reflects what happened to a nation and therefore the symbolism of the story of his life resonates with the Sikhs even today.”
He added: “We always have a warm reception from Thetford and what the events of this year have done is actually brought onto us the obvious point that Thetford may be a small town but it is part of a global story and that I think is a credit to the civic leadership and the citizens of Thetford.
“History is too often a force for division but it can actually be a much more potent force to bring people together.”
Mr Brame said: “It is absolutely incredible. I’m ever so chuffed. When I realised I was going to be the mayor I never thought about the 125 years and it is so important to the Sikhs.”