‘Larins Sahib‘ is a historical drama by Gurcharan Das. Published in 1970, the action of the play is based on the events in Punjab during 1846-47.
The political condition in Punjab becomes unstable after the death of King Ranjith Singh and when British had influenced the power of the state. The development of hubris brings about the downfall of the hero, Lawrence.
Henry Lawrence is the leading character in the play. Sher Singh, the guardian of Dalip Singh, called Lawrence as “Larins Sahib” which is a polite and colloquial form of ‘Lawrence Sahib’. The play is set in Lahore, Punjab and briefly in Calcutta.
This play appears as one of the three plays in the collection called ‘Three Plays‘ by Gurcharan Das.
LARINS SAHIB PLOT SUMMARY
The play opens one month after the first Anglo-Sikh war. Lord Henry Hardinge, the Governor General of India had arranged a meeting at the bank of Sutlej which was attended by the major representatives of East India Company to discuss the battle of Sobraon, the first Anglo-Sikh war.
The meeting was sought to discuss the battle and Lahore treaty. The treaty was signed on 9th March 1846 to end the battle of Sobraon in which the Sikhs embraced the total defeat and surrendered to the East India Company. Victory was at their hands. With the help of treacherous and unpatriotic leaders which included a number of Sikh courtiers, the treacherous Lal Singh and Tej Singh, it became easy for the British to grab a victory against the Sikh.
Hardinge was talking ill of Indians and also about the sudden uprisal of Henry Lawrence as an inevitable leader in a very short period of time. Lawrence had arrived at the meeting. Hardinge and Lawrence discussed about Lahore treaty. According to the treaty the Sikhs agreed:
- to hand over the land between the Sutlej and the Beas.
- to pay 1.5 crore rupees indemnity as compensation for the loss in the war to East India Company.
- to allow the British Army at Lahore and troops in other cities.
- to reduce Sikh Army from 20,000 infantry to 12,000.
- to surrender 36 guns to the British.
Lawrence protested against such injustice to India. He compared and appreciated the King Ranjith Singh who was popularly known as ‘Punjab Lion‘ or ‘one-eyed lion‘. His objections were not taken to mind. Lawrence was appointed as the British agent in Punjab.
Dalip Singh, the son of the King is introduced. He was only twelve years old. Baba, the tutor of Dalip illustrated the battle of Sobraon. The treason and betrayal of Khalsa army had led to the defeat of Sikhs in the battle. Dalip asked Rani Jindan, the wife of Maharajah Ranjith Singh, more about the battle of Sobraon. He wanted an instant revenge over the British. But they led him to bed.
After his appointment as British representative, Lawrence went to meet Rani Jindan. They discussed about the Cow Slaughter incident. Lumsden, one of the British officers, killed some cows which came on his way. Lawrence announced that he wanted to apologize the Sikh people at the Shah Alami Gate on behalf of the British for the mishappening.
Later Rani Jindan went to meet Lawrence disguised as Zubheda Begam and introduced herself as the ‘singing Queen of Banaras’. She appreciated Lawrence for his good intentions. But Lawrence could see through her disguise and identified her as the Queen of Punjab. He asked the reason for her disguise.
She revealed that she was there to warn him against his decision to meet the Sikhs at Shah Alami gate. He refused to drop his ears to her warnings. He then appreciated Maharajah Ranjith Singh for his good qualities. Rani left the place gifting him the ‘Kohinoor Diamond‘ as a mark of trust and friendship insisting that he should not wear, but he could just keep it instead, because she valued it greatly as it belonged to her husband.
Lawrence, along with Edward and Sher Singh, went to the gate to meet the Sikhs. Sher Singh noticed Lawrence wearing the Kohinoor Diamond ring which belonged to the past King of Punjab. The crowd welcomed him with a roar “Larins Sahib Zindabad“. There at the meeting, Lawrence seeked to apologize for the cow slaughter incident. Suddenly, there was a gun fire in which hundreds of Sikhs were killed. Lawrence seeked the apology of the Queen for such a mishappening again. The Queen and Lawrence happened to come closer. It developed into an illegitimate affair between them. Lawrence kissed her hand even.
Sher Singh complained that Lawrence’s behaviour day by day changed a lot. He is dressed up like the past King and even wore up his diamond. He exulted in the fact that the people had called him “Angrej Badsha“. He imagined himself as the reincarnation of Ranjith Singh, ‘the Lion of Punjab’.
Then Lawrence heard a complaint from a man who said that a widowed woman who was supposed to commit Sati was denying to do so. But Lawrence interfered and explained how it was his mission to abolish Sati out of the state. This impressed the people greatly and arose a good impression on Lawrence.
The British head quarters in Calcutta demanded Lawrence to be present at the Court William. Many accusations against Lawrence were drawn up which included the following;
- the arrest of Lal Singh and Tej Singh who were working for the British.
- non-surrender of Lahore revenue for one month
- action against Lumsden in Cow Slaughter incident
- acceptance of Kohinoor Diamond from Rani
Lawrence denied to answer the questions telling that he had travelled miles of distance not to answer such petty questions. Hardinge also charged him against his affair with the Queen of Punjab.
Lawrence returned Punjab after one week. He informed Rani and Dalip that they could no more survive in their concerned designation. They were to be exiled very shortly. Rani demanded that Lawrence return her diamond. But Lawrence stated that he had gifted it to Queen Victoria. Rani cursed him for being unfaithful and treacherous.
A letter received from Hardinge stated Lawrence’s transfer from Punjab to Calcutta and Currie was appointed as the new representative of Punjab. Rani was imprisoned and put into Sheikpura prison. Later she was banished to Banaras from where she escaped and took shelter in Nepal where she died. Dalip was exiled to Sussex, England where he married a girl and remained a ‘black Prince’ for the rest of his life at Queen Victoria’s court.