Life at the Lahore Darbār: 1799-1839 by Nadhra S.N. Khan

July 2016
This article offers an insight into the glamorous life of the Lahore Darbār—the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who ruled the Punjab for forty years (1799–1839). The city of Lahore had enjoyed prominence since Mughal times and having served as their provincial capital boasted of several grand edifices. The fortified Mughal palace now known as the Lahore Fort, the most prominent among these, was chosen by the Sikh Maharaja for both residential and official purposes. This article recounts contemporary sources that describe the grandeur of the Lahore Darbār and the ceremonial culture introduced by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Descriptions of seasonal festivals like Holi and Basant celebrations, religious rites performed in the presence of both Hindu and Sikh priests, music and dance performances for the Maharaja’s foreign guests all help re-imagine Lahore and the Fort during the Sikh rule in the nineteenth century.  

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Nadhra Khan is Assistant Professor of Art History at Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan. She specializes in the history of art and architectural ornament of nineteenth century Punjab but her research and teaching interests also cover the earlier Mughal and later colonial visual culture of this region. She has held research fellowships at SOAS, London (Charles Wallace Fellowship, 2010-11) Paris (2015) Princeton (Fulbright, 2014-15) and Oxford ( Barakat Trust 2015). Her forthcoming publications include her monograph entitled Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Samadhi: Understanding Sikh Architectural Ornament, which will appear later in 2016, and an essay on John Lockwood Kipling’s pedagogy in the context of colonial art education in India.

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