Maharani Jindan Kaur (1816-1863) was the youngest wife and Queen of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, ruler of the Sikh Kingdom of Punjab before the British took control. When Maharaja Ranjit Singh died, it was expected that his wife would throw herself into the flames of her husband's funeral pyre, but she rejected this ancient custom (suttee). She believed she ought not to die, but live to protect and nurture her son, Duleep Singh and maintain the independence of the Sikh kingdom of Punjab. She loved the Sikh religion and her Sikh people. After her husband's death there was a period of violent struggle between different factions wanting to take control of both government and money. There was chaos, until the Maharani was able to exert her authority as Regent. She was prepared to throw aside her veils (purdah) and speak to the chiefs with impressive but plain speaking. She inspired both fear and loyalty and was declared "Raj Mata"- Mother of the Sikhs.
The British plundered land, riches and people in the Punjab. The Maharani used all her gifts of wisdom, determination, diplomacy and courage to outwit the British and inspire others to resist and eventually mutiny. She was deprived of her freedom and forbidden to interfere in the government of the state. She remained calm and serene in the midst of great personal and public upheaval. She escaped from the top-security prison of Chunar and went to Nepal. Her last journey was to England with her son, Duleep, and there she was able to tell him of all her sufferings. She was prematurely old, almost blind, broken but not subdued in spirit. She refused to allow her body to remain in England, so it was eventually taken back for cremation in India and her ashes were finally interred with those of her husband.
Her exceptional abilities outreached those of any man, the lioness within her refused to be tamed. She is a woman of inspiration and hope for the oppressed.