Home Literature Larins Sahib by Gurcharan Das Summary

Larins Sahib by Gurcharan Das Summary

by Litinbox

“Larins Sahib by Gurcharan Das“, published in 1970, is a historical drama that focuses on the political events in Punjab during 1840s.

This masterpiece play of Gurcharan Das is set against the backdrop of political instability that plagued Punjab after the death of King Ranjit Singh and the British Empire’s exertion of power over the region.

Larins Sahib by Gurcharan Das

The narrative of “Larins Sahib” revolves around the tragic downfall of Henry Lawrence driven by his burgeoning hubris.

Henry Lawrence is the protagonist of the play, a British agent who supports the local people. Sher Singh, the guardian of Dalip Singh, affectionately calls Lawrence as “Larins Sahib,” a polite and colloquial form of addressing him as “Lawrence Sahib (Sir).”

The action of the story takes place primarily in Lahore, Punjab, and briefly in Calcutta. “Larins Sahib” is one of the three plays featured in Gurcharan Das’s collection titled “Three Plays.”

Larins Sahib by Gurcharan Das Summary

“Larins Sahib” starts one month after the end of the first Anglo-Sikh war. Lord Henry Hardinge, the Governor General of India, organised an important meeting on the banks of the Sutlej River.

Gathering at Sutlej

The meeting at Sutlej was attended by important representatives of the East India Company, meant to discuss on the Battle of Sobraon and the subsequent Lahore treaty.

The treaty had been signed on 9th March 1846, bringing an end to the Battle of Sobraon, in which the Sikhs suffered a massive defeat and surrendered to the East India Company.

The British became victorious in the battle with the help of disloyal and treacherous Sikh courtiers such as Lal Singh and Tej Singh.

Hardinge’s Remarks

During the meeting, Lord Hardinge made derogatory remarks about Indians, as well as expressing surprise at the sudden rise of Henry Lawrence as an influential leader within a remarkably short span of time.

At this time, Henry Lawrence himself arrived at the meeting, and he and Hardinge engaged in discussions regarding the Lahore treaty.

Terms of Lahore Treaty

According to the provisions outlined in the Lahore treaty, the Sikhs agreed to the following terms:

  • To hand over the territory between the Sutlej and the Beas rivers.
  • To pay an indemnity of 1.5 crore rupees as compensation to the East India Company for the losses incurred during the battle of Sobraon.
  • To permit the presence of British troops in Lahore and other cities.
  • To reduce the size of the Sikh Army from 20,000 infantry to 12,000.
  • To surrender 36 guns to the British forces.

Lawrence’s Outcry

Lawrence vehemently protested against the prevailing injustice in India. He drew a comparison to King Ranjit Singh, who was revered as the ‘Punjab Lion’ or the ‘one-eyed lion’ because of his exceptional bravery and quality of leadership.

What Lawrence wanted was this type of leadership which benefitted the people. Despite Lawrence’s objections, his concerns were ignored, and he was appointed as the British agent in Punjab.

Dalip Singh, the King’s Son

Dalip Singh, a mere 12 years old boy, enters the story as the son of King Ranjith Singh. Baba, who served as Dalip’s tutor, illustrated the Battle of Sobraon to him in detail.

This battle marked a significant turning point as the treachery and betrayal within the Khalsa army resulted in the Sikhs’ defeat.

Dalip took interest in knowing about the battle, and so he sought after further knowledge from Rani Jindan, Maharajah Ranjith Singh’s wife, about the Battle of Sobraon. Driven by a desire for instant revenge against the British, young Dalip’s emotions ran high, but he was advised to retire to bed.

Meeting with Rani 

Following his appointment as the British representative, Lawrence paid a visit to Rani Jindan. Their conversation centers around the unfortunate incident involving the slaughter of cows.

One of the British officers named Lumsden was responsible for killing several cows that happened to cross his path. Expressing deep regret, Lawrence revealed his intention to apologise to the Sikh community at the ‘Shah Alami Gate’ on behalf of the British for this regrettable incident.

Queen of Banaras

Impressed by Lawrence’s good intentions, Rani Jindan disguised as Zubheda Begam and requested an appointment with him.

Identifying herself as the ‘singing Queen of Banaras’, she engaged in conversation with Lawrence. However, he quickly saw through her disguise and recognised her as the Queen of Punjab. Curious about her concealed identity, he inquired about the reason behind her masquerade.

Rani Jindan revealed her true purpose, which was to warn Lawrence against his decision to meet the Sikhs at Shah Alami gate.

Despite her sincere warnings, he stubbornly refused to heed her advice. Nevertheless, he expressed his admiration for Maharajah Ranjit Singh and acknowledged his commendable qualities.

Eventually, Rani Jindan left, presenting Lawrence with the esteemed ‘Kohinoor Diamond’ as a symbol of trust and friendship. She insisted that he should keep it rather than wear it, as she held it in high regard because it belonged to her late husband.

Lawrence and Sikhs

Accompanied by Edward and Sher Singh, Lawrence proceeded to the gate to meet the Sikhs. Sher Singh recognised Lawrence wearing the Kohinoor Diamond ring, which once belonged to the former King of Punjab. The crowd enthusiastically welcomed him, chanting “Larins Sahib Zindabad.”

During the meeting, Lawrence took the opportunity to apologise for the unfortunate incident of cow slaughter. However, an unexpected gunshot rang out, resulting in the tragic deaths of numerous Sikhs.

Seeking accountability, Lawrence sought an apology from the Queen for this unfortunate turn of events. As circumstances unfolded, a questionable and illicit relationship began to develop between Lawrence and the Queen. Their relationship developed even more and at one point Lawrence even kissed her hand.

Sher Singh’s Concern

Sher Singh revealed his concerns, expressing his growing discontent with Lawrence’s changing behavior. He observed a significant shift in Lawrence’s demeanor over time, noting that Lawrence now resembled the former King, as he even adorned himself with the King’s diamond.

Sher Singh found this transformation unsettling, as Lawrence seemed to revel in being referred to as “Angrej Badsha” and began to harbor a belief that he was the reincarnation of Ranjit Singh, ‘the Lion of Punjab.’

Intervention in Sati

Lawrence’s reputation took an interesting turn when he involved in a case concerning a widowed woman who was expected to perform Sati (the practice of self-immolation by a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre).

However, Lawrence intervened in the matter, passionately explaining that his mission was to eradicate the practice of Sati from the region. This principled stance greatly impressed the people and enhanced their opinion of Lawrence.

Accusations against Lawrence

The British headquarters in Calcutta received various accusations against Lawrence, leading to a demand for his presence at Court William. The allegations levelled against Lawrence were:

  • The arrest of Lal Singh and Tej Singh, who were employed by the British.
  • Failure to surrender the Lahore revenue for an entire month.
  • Taking action against Lumsden in the Cow Slaughter incident.
  • Accepting the Kohinoor Diamond from Rani (presumably without proper authorization).

These charges posed a significant challenge for Lawrence, necessitating his appearance before the authorities in Calcutta to address the claims against him.

Lawrence in Calcutta

Lawrence, in a dismissive manner, refused to respond to the questions posed to him, expressing his discontent that he had traversed great distances and endured various hardships, only to be confronted with such trivial inquiries, considering the questions beneath him to answer.

Moreover, Hardinge accused Lawrence of engaging in an illicit relationship with the Queen of Punjab.

Return to Punjab

After a week, Lawrence returned to Punjab and conveyed a grim message to Rani and Dalip. He informed them that their positions and titles were no longer sustainable, and they would soon face exile.

In response, Rani requested the return of her diamond, but Lawrence asserted that he had already presented it as a gift to Queen Victoria. Rani, feeling betrayed and disloyal, cast a curse upon him for his actions.

Transfer to Calcutta

A letter arrived from Hardinge, notifying the transfer of Lawrence from Punjab to Calcutta. Currie was appointed as the new representative of Punjab in his place. Subsequently, Rani was imprisoned and confined to Sheikpura prison.

Later on, Rani was banished to Banaras, but she managed to escape and seek refuge in Nepal, where she passed away later.

Meanwhile, Dalip was exiled to Sussex, England, where he married a woman and continued to be known as the “black Prince” for the remainder of his life at Queen Victoria’s court.

Larins Sahib Characters List

  • Lord Henry Hardinge – Governor General of India.
  • Henry Lawrence – Influential leader and British agent in Punjab, alias “Larins Sahib”.
  • Lal Singh – Sikh courtier, involved in treachery and betrayal.
  • Tej Singh – Sikh courtier, involved in treachery and betrayal.
  • Dalip Singh – Son of King Ranjith Singh, later known as the “black Prince”.
  • Rani Jindan – Wife of Maharajah Ranjith Singh, also known as the “Queen of Punjab”.
  • Baba – Tutor of Dalip Singh.
  • Lumsden – British officer responsible for the slaughter of cows.
  • Zubheda Begam – Disguise used by Rani Jindan to meet Henry Lawrence
  • Edward – Companion of Henry Lawrence.
  • Sher Singh – Sikh individual, concerned about Lawrence’s behavior.
  • Queen Victoria – Queen of the United Kingdom to whom the Kohinoor Diamond was presented.
  • Currie – Lawrence’s successor as the representative of Punjab.
  • King Ranjith Singh – Former King of Punjab, referred to as the “Punjab Lion” or the “one-eyed lion”.

Other characters of “Larins Sahib” include the British officers, Sikhs, and general crowd members who play supporting roles in the play.

FAQs: People Also Ask

Q: What is the summary of Larins Sahib by Gurcharan Das?

Following the first Anglo-Sikh war, an important gathering held at the bank of the Sutlej River, presided over by Lord Henry Hardinge, the Governor General of India.

This meeting, attended by prominent members of the East India Company, was held to discuss on the Battle of Sobraon and the Lahore Treaty. The treaty, signed on March 9, 1846, marked the end of the Battle of Sobraon, with Sikhs surrendering to the British after suffering a huge defeat.

During the meeting, Lord Hardinge made derogatory remarks about Indians, while Henry Lawrence (colloquially referred to as “Larins Sahib”) voiced his objections to prevailing injustices in India, drawing comparison to the renowned King Ranjit Singh.

Despite Lawrence’s objections, he was appointed as the British agent of Punjab. Subsequently, events unfolded, including Lawrence’s encounter with Rani Jindan, who warned him against certain decisions. However, Lawrence persisted, leading to unforseen consequences and accusations against him. These accusations culminated in his transfer to Calcutta.

Meanwhile, the fate of other key figures, such as Rani Jindan and Dalip Singh, faced exile and imprisonment, marking the turbulent aftermath of colonial governance in Punjab.

Q: What is the theme of the Larins Sahib?

Larins Sahib revolves around the themes of the “complexities of colonialism”, “cultural clashes” and the “abuse of power”. The play critiques the British colonial governance in India during the 19th century, highlighting its bureaucratic inefficiency, corruption and disdain for indigenous cultures.

In addition to this, “Larins Sahib” also explores themes of identity and loyalty as characters navigate their roles within the colonial system and grapple with their allegiance to their own culture and to the colonial power.

Q: Who won the Sultan Padamsee playwriting award for his first play?

Gurcharan Das won the Sultan Padamsee playwrighting award for his first play “Larins Sahib” in 1971.

‘Theatre Group Bombay’ initiated the Sultan Padamsee playwrighting award in 1966 that later became one of the prestigious awards for playwrights in India.

Q: What is the historical play of Larins Sahib?

“Larins Sahib” is an award-winning historical play set in the 1840s during the British Colonial governance in India. It traces the progression of hubris, leading to the protagonist’s eventual downfall.

Q: Who wrote Larins Sahib?

Gurcharan Das wrote the play “Larins Sahib”, published in 1970. It is a three act play and along with Gurcharan’s “Mira” and “9 Jakhoo Hill”, it forms an extraordinary trio called “THREE PLAYS”.

Q: Who is the character of Larins Sahib?

The character “Larins Sahib” (Henry Lawrence) is the titular character and protagonist of the play “Larins Sahib”, the first play of Gurcharan Das.

Larins Sahib was an influential leader and the British agent in Punjab, who voiced against the injustices and corrupt governance of the British, gaining popularity among the people of India, who cordially referred to him as Larins Sahib (a colloquial term for “Lawrence Sir”).

Read More: