A historical moment frozen in time

"Of all the blessings conferred on the Indian empire, of all the reforms with which the reign of your majesty is associated, none is greater than the spread of education throughout the country. With Your Majesty’s assumption of direct sovereignty over the Empire of India, dawned a new era of progress and enlightenment. By the beneficent and enlightened policy of Your Majesty’s Government, education has been placed within the reach of all classes, without distinction of race or creed; and schools and colleges have been opened throughout the length and breadth of the vast Empire; and in the perfect confidence that in our enlightenment lay the true strength and security of the empire, education has been encouraged and fostered with a generosity worthy of the great British nation.

The Palace in 1906"In the true spirit of Your Majesty’s famous Proclamation, all the appointments in the State have been thrown open to competition; and freedom of speech, the greatest of all privileges, has been conferred on the people. With a Free Press we are enabled to lay freely before the Government all our wants and all our wrongs, and have not the slightest doubt that other and greater privileges will follow in due time.

By the introduction of the English language into our schools all the inexhaustible treasured of the English literature, all the vast stores of modern research, have been bought within our reach; and the people of India, not slow to avail themselves of the inestimable advantages, are now pushing on in honorable rivalry with the nations of the West in the great advance of intellectual progress. And history well associate the reign of Your t Gracious Majesty with the great intellectual awakening of the nations of India."

As a student of history I have always been filled with wonder with the way the Britishers documented facts and stored them. This book is an alt perfect example of this exercise which is otherwise a routine task of the administration. And the fact that such documents are created, stored and maintained for posterity is clear with the title of the document, it says – A History of the Celebration of the Queen Empress’s Jubilee Festival at Kapurthala Punjab 15th, 16th and 17th February 1887.

On February 2, 1887, the Kapurthala Council held a special meeting to discuss the proposals relatives to the commemoration of Her Imperial Majesty’s jubilee year.

After giving a list of all those present, various resolutions were passed regarding the celebrations. These included, among other things, the establishment of a hospital at Kapurthala to be named The Victoria Hospital for Women and Children, the foundation stone of which was laid by His Highness Raja Jagatjit Singh. Not many in Kapurthala know where the hospital is now but some of the present residents of Kapurthala say that it is the same hospital that survives today as the wing of the Government Civil Hospital.

Another resolution passed during the meeting that day said that a salute of 101 guns be fired at 7 am on February 16, and the city be illuminated in the evening. Yet another resolution said that all persons over 80 inhabitants of the state entertained as guests throughout the period of rejoicing.

The book goes on to point out how these resolutions were followed to the last detail. An interesting description is on the conduct of the foundation-stone laying ceremony of the hospital by the King Jagatjit Singh. The King and the Superintendent of the Kapurthala Council sat on silver chairs, and were given equal importance. Details like who sat to the King’s left and who to his right and who else was there at what distance from the raja have been narrated.

The Jagatjit Singh ClubThe t obsequious of speeches was, for obvious reasons, delivered by the Superintendent of the Council Major Massey. The long address was duly translated into Urdu for the listeners—

"I will merely say, therefore, say that her reign has been marked throughout by justice and impartiality towards all classes and races. There have been rulers in this land and elsewhere who have wrung money from their subjects to squander upon their own lustful bodies and those of their favourites; but Queen Victora is unselfish in thought and in deed. We see signs of her benevolence in….

In short, it may be said that in no age has any Sovereign behaved more liberally towards the subjects whom it has pleased the Almighty that she should govern, than has our beloved Queen and Empress Victoria.

Of direct interest to any historian of modern Indian history are the contents of the address of the state officials. After the initial three paragraphs of unfolding the greatness of the Empress, the officials made it a point to reiterate their loyalty to the British government

"The Maharajas of Kapurthala have ever been the foret, not only among the Punjab Chiefs but among the princes of all India to share the full confidence of Your Imperial Majesty. Maharaja Fateh Singh was the first Sikh chieftain in Punjab, who, in 1806, secured the treaty of friendship and alliance with the British Government jointly with His Highness’s friend and companion-in-arms, the great Maharaja Ranjit Singh. His grandson, Maharaja Randhir Singh, was inspired with a devotional loyalty to Your Majesty’s Throne, such as has never been surpassed by any other Indian Prince. He zealous services in the dark days of the Mutiny are now matters of history read daily in our schools. Many were the gifts conferred by Your Majesty on his Highness. On the quelling of the Mutiny the once extensive possessions of Kapurthala which by circumstances had gradually diminished, were again enlarged by the grant of the valuable estates in Oudh".

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