Maharani Chand Kaur

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Maharani Chand Kaur (1802-1842) was the wife of Maharaja Kharak Singh, the eldest son and successor of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. She was the daughter of Sardar Jaimal Singh of the Kanhaiya misl. She was born in Fatehgarh which now falls in present day's Gurdaspur district of the Punjab. She was married to Prince Kharak Singh in February 1812 at the age of 10.

She staked her claim to the throne of Lahore in November 1840, after the death of her husband, the marginalized (even by his son) Maharaja of the Punjab. Her son, Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh (Kanvar=heir designate) (Nau Nihal-new Branch), was wounded, in a freak accident, while returning from his father's cremation. Expected to recover, he was discovered dead a few days later. She had won the support of the Sandhanvalia collaterals; Atar Singh, Lahina Singh and Ajit Singh and several other influential courtiers such as Bhai Ram Singh, Bhai Gobind Ram, Gulab Singh Dogra and Jamadar Khushal Singh.

She challenged Sher Singh, the second son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, on the grounds that her co-daughter, Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh's widow, Sahib Kaur, was pregnant saying that she should assume regency on behalf of the unborn legal successor to her husband's throne.

Chand Kaur's ambition was matched by her courageous spirit. She would cast aside her veil, leave the zenana, don a turban like a sardar, and inspect the parades of the Khalsa troops as their monarch. She remarked, "Why should I not do as Queen Victoria does in England?"

Sher Singh, winning support of a rival group at the court, including the powerful Rajput Wazir Dhian Singh (the brother of Gulab Singh Dogra) and of a section of the army, marched upon and laid siege to Lahore. A compromise was, however, arrived at between the two factions by which Chand Kaur became regent with Raja Dhian Singh being returned as principal minister of the State. The truce, however, did not last long.

Dhian Singh Dogra, pressed Chand Kaur to adopt his son, Hira Singh, so he might become the next to sit on Ranjit Singh's golden Gaddi. He was angered when his plotting was rebuffed. Seeing little hope of his ambition being realized, in January of 1841, he openly supported the claims of Sher Singh, who was as well favored by the army. Sher Singh, who looked the part, became the sovereign of the Punjab. Chand Kaur was pensioned off with an annual jagir of 9,00,000 rupees. Her Sandhanvalia supporters fled across the Sutlej into British territory. Chand Kaur retired gracefully to the segregation of her late son's palace inside the city of Lahore. Behind the scenes Dhian Singh's elder brother, The future Maharaja of J & K—Gulab Singh, who looked after her property, absconded from the Fort with cartloads of gold and silver.

In July 1841, Nau Nihal Singh's widow Sahib Kaur delivered a stillborn son. This ended whatever hopes Chand Kaur had of realizing her claims. But courtly intrigue had not ceased. Dhian Singh replaced the maidservants of the Dowager Maharani with hillwomen from his own country. The latter tried to kill her by poisoning her food and eventually finished her off on 11 June 1842, smashing her head with wooden pikes from the kitchen (some reports say they dropped a stone from a balcony crushing her skull.)

Dhian Singh, however, had their tongues cut off to prevent them from speaking of the plot. Realizing that there were other ways to tell of his deeds and that anger over losing their tongues might move them to do so--Dhian Singh, in the end, had them executed.

After her death the Sandhanvalia's would return and take their revenge on Maharaja Sher Singh, his young son and the wily Dhian Singh Dogra. Their triumph would be short lived.