The Exile: A Novel Based on Life of Maharaja Duleep Singh
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In 1839, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab died and his empire was plunged into chaos. Less than a decade later, weakened by internecine rivalry, Punjab fell into the hands of the British. The ruler who signed away the kingdom and its treasures, including the famed Koh-i-noor diamond, was the eleven-year-old Duleep Singh, the youngest of Ranjit Singh s acknowledged sons. In this nuanced and poignant novel, Navtej Sarna tells the unusual story of the last Maharaja of Punjab.
Soon after the British annexed his kingdom, Duleep was separated from his mother and his people, taken under British guardianship and converted to Christianity. At sixteen, he was transported to England to live the life of a country squire an exile that he had been schooled to seek himself.
But disillusionment with the treatment meted out to him and a late realization of his lost legacy turned Duleep into a rebel. He became a Sikh again and sought to return to and lead his people. The attempt would drag him into the murky politics of nineteenth-century Europe, leaving him depleted and vulnerable to every kind of deceit and ridicule. His end came in a cheap hotel room in Paris, but not before one last act of betrayal and humiliation.