• Deo Deco London

Hidden Gems - Jutti's of Maharaja Duleep Singh

Updated: Mar 27, 2021

Photo credit: HRP

Welcome to my second post, this blog is dedicated to South Asian objects found in museum collections. On a visit for my mother in-law's birthday in October 2019, a group of us ladies visited Kensington Palace in London.

It was my first visit, and a beautiful place despite the usual British weather. At the time of our visit there was a new exhibition open to the public by Historic Royal Palace titled Victoria: Woman and Crown.

The exhibition featured a section on the life of Victoria as Empress of India. As we looked around the exhibition a number of objects, textiles, and prints caught my eye. In particular, the Jutti's (shoes) of Maharaja Duleep Singh. Theses beautiful handmade shoes were on loan from the Toor Collection. The Jutti's were made of velvet and embroidered with a decorated gold braid. Although worn and fragile the rich colours and decorative patterns really stood out.

Duleep Singh (4 September 1838 – 22 October 1893) was the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire. He was exiled to Britain, turned to Christianity but later on in life he returned to Sikhism. Even though he embraced the British way of life to some extent, he must have stood out as he didn't always wear the Victorian attire. You'll often see him in photographs wearing rich colours, velvets and silks.

The sad thing about his story is that he was never able to return to Punjab. So, any connection to his kingdom must have meant a lot to him.

I like to think that even though he was so far away from home, Maharaja Duleep Singh's personal wardrobe would have reflected his regal Punjabi heritage, reminding him of home, and to him was a symbol of his true identity, always.

Question - what do you wear that connects you to your roots? Whether that’s a piece of jewellery or a colour we find ourselves always searching for, what makes your style unique?

Duleep Singh (1838–1893) in 1854; portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter

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