Ancient House Visits India

Creating the Duleep Singh gallery

A visit to Khalsa College

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Fri

Today I had the opportunity to visit the prestigious Khalsa College in Amritsar. Built in 1892, it’s difficult to put into words the grandeur of the building and it’s size. The College is every Britisher’s idea of an Indian Palace! The building has been sympathetically maintained and new buildings blend into their surroundings well. As well as a seat of learning, there is a small museum and study centre on site. The College had been following my trip via local newspapers, and were keen that I had a look at their collection and offered some advice. The collection has some fascinating works on paper, like some of the other museums in the area, they have weaponry and a large number of photos. Unfortunately like many of the museums I’ve been to; no one on site seems to have had any formal museum training. However they were very open to ideas and how they could use some best practice models from the UK which was great. The College aspire to redisplay and open the museum to the general public, which I am sure would be very popular. And as every good museum in Amritsar should have an image of Maharajah Duleep Singh, here’s theirs! (apologies for the rubbish snap)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES I didn’t really have the opportunity to take too many photos, but I managed to snap one of the entrance hall, which reminded me of Maharajah Ranjit Singh’s Summer Palace and Elveden Hall. Fortunately the College building is supported by a regular maintenance programme and looked in very good condition. The site itself is on the outskirts of Amritsar, so feels very peaceful with lush lawns and excellent sporting facilities.

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The second part of my visit gave me the opportunity to meet some of the students and staff. Today is Holi, so the College itself was rather quiet although I did see several students covered in bright powder as we arrived. I gave a talk on Maharajah Duleep Singh’s story and the Anglo Sikh work at Ancient House. Most of the students had heard of the Maharajah, but were unaware that he had tried to reclaim his throne and return to India. They were really interested in the Anglo Sikh work going on in Thetford, especially the Prince Frederick cricket match and Gatka performances. And of course everyone recognised Satinder Sartaaj when an image of him at the museum appeared! The response from everyone to my trip has been so positive, I’ve count of the times people have said thank you for telling our story or how surprised they are that a museum in the UK is so interested in Sikh culture. On my part I thought the students were fantastic, especially as some had given up their Holi celebrations to meet me. To mark my visit the college presented me with a framed photograph of the building.

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Back in the city centre people were out and about enjoying their holiday. I really wanted to take some photos of paint and powdered cover people, but every time I saw some, they were whizzing past on a motorbike! I did manage to catch these two looking very splendid though.

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Sadly tomorrow is my last day, although I will be leaving with a notebook full of connections and partnerships to be developed fully. I have loved my visit to the Punjab and have started to make a wish list of where to visit next – Patiala is at the top!

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