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Sangha, Ranjit Singh Collection

Kartar Singh Sangha was the son of Suchet Singh and Partap Kaur. He was born in village Kala Sanghian, Kapurthala State, India, on 13 December 1899. His father was a soldier in the British Indian army, who died while serving in 1899. Kartar Singh married Nachhattar Kaur of village Mahal Gehla, Jullundur. A few months after their wedding in 1920, Kartar Singh sailed to Shanghai. Nachhattar joined him a few months later in 1921.

Kartar Singh was employed by the Chinese Maritime Customs Service (CMCS), in Shanghai, from November 1920 until November 1952. Nachhattar and Kartar had four children in Shanghai: Harbhajan Singh, Ranjit Singh, Mohinder Kaur and Raminder Kaur. In 1939 Ranjit Singh was sent to India along with a family friend. The rest of the family followed in 1941. After availing his leave, Kartar Singh sailed back to Shanghai leaving his family behind. Harbhajan died in 1942 in India, due to illness.

After his retirement from the CMCS in 1952, Kartar Singh continued to live in Shanghai for another eight years. In 1960 he returned to his home in Kala Sanghian, India, and started farming on his family farm. In 1975, Nachhattar Kaur died two months before Kartar Singh. This collection of fifty images (HPC ref: Jn-s) is named after their son, Ranjit Singh Sangha, who died in April 2016.

The set of photographs includes portraits of the Sangha family, and servants, Singh and his colleagues in the Customs, friends in the Shanghai Municipal Police, and social events, such as a gathering to mark the visit to the city of Rabindranath Tagore in 1924. The photographs give a flavour of family and public life amongst Sikhs in Shanghai. There are shots of a visitor from Kartar Singh’s home district, Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala; of Indian nationalist leader, Subhas Chandra Bose; and of a family friend, Bishan Singh, who joined Bose’s Indian National Army and who fought the British Army in Burma during WW II. Bishan was caught and imprisoned in Singapore till India attained independence in 1947. HPC refs: Jn-d and Jn-s.