A bizarre case of Lahore


M.A. Rahman Chughtai was introduced to Amrita by her father Umrao Singh Sher-gil. Umrao Singh was a valued and respected friend of the artist. In the meeting Dr Allama Iqbal was also there and he too, was introduced to Amrita. The father, Umro Singh expressed high hopes for her. The father was a specialist on Omar Khayyam as well as Sufi poetry and Chughtai had many discussions with him. When Amrita Sher-gil came to settle in Lahore, and wanted to hold an exhibition here, people co-operated with her. The story is best told in the Foreword to her catalogue. I think hardly anybody would have it, and many chatter box Totas speak of Amrita, without knowing anything about her.

Foreword one
Foreword one
Foreword two
Foreword two

That very day Amrita was coming to see M.A. Rahman Chughtai, when she died and the artist wrote a condolence on her, which we can print later. The first version is attached with this writing. Suffice to say that her death was an enigma and could not be officially resolved to this day. But people knew the personality of Amrita. She had excessive sexual appetite and she quenched it with affairs with many people. Her Hungarian husband Dr Victor Egan did not like that, although he loved her very much. A jealous husband with access to sophisticated poisons, poisoned her to death. That was the story everybody knew in Lahore and is known in art circles. Excess always produce an excessive reaction. The gallery fell through, as well as the proposed clinic of the husband. No body won, every body lost. Lahore which was ready to host the Sikh artist lost her in the same moment. The discussion on art which was supposed to happen with M.. Rahman Chughtai and Amrita Sher-gil never happened. This is how fate operates, by spinning endless tales of mystery.

Amrita in Paris
Amrita in Paris


    1. I have always been very fascinated with Amrita Shergil. She lived and died at 23 Sir Ganga Ram Mansion, The Mall, Lahore. That house was only six houses away from our No.30. Although I did not know about it then that it was Amrita’s house but till 1978 I was a frequent visitor to that house to meet my friends Christopher Dias who used to live in the Upper Storey and the D;Souzas who lived at the Ground floor. Amrita died in the first floor room. The top of the house contained a Barsaati on the roof that was her Studio. She made her last painting sitting there. The Ground floor was the Dispensary and the Consultation Room. of her doctor husband. Her funeral was brought out from that house and she was cremated at the banks of river Ravi. Late Khalid Hassan the eminent Writer/Journalist told me that a Heritage Plaque should be put at her house marking it as the residence of Amrita Shergil. I think we should do that. Thank you Arif Sahib for writing on Amrita Shergil.

      1. The present set-up will even demolish the house of Dr Allama Iqbal or even Quaid-e-Azam. Who will care for poor Amrita? Nothing is sacred for greedy people.

    2. Nice to read your touching write-up on Amrita Sher-Gill. It is good idea to put up a heritage plaque at the apartment where Amrita died. India and Pakistan, we have inseparable common heritage; we should celebrate it together. You may like to read my article on Amrita. Please googl “articles by J N Sinha in Frontline, Hindu”.
      All the best
      JN Sinha

  1. Though I do not understand art so well but the articles published by you are reflection of the fact that what magnificent history and culture this city of Lahore manifests in itself . I am grateful that you are educating young people and making them aware of their rich heritage. In the current article your this sentence has impressed we very much and is indeed the reality of life, “This is how fate operates, by spinning endless tales of mystery.” One question what I would like to ask is that in your opinion was it justified for Amrita to have extra marital sex just to fulfill her sexual desires and by doing so hasn’t she disgrased his husband which you said earlier loved her too much? I want your dedicated opinion on this matter.

    1. Nymphos have no set of principles. Their physical needs make them lose all other values. That s why one should curb endless delusions and illusions of fantasy of bookish orgasms. Love beats everything else. It makes human beings human not animals.

      1. I put up it with utmost respect but how u define somebody as nymphos? Describing her sexual desire in this manner smacks as if she was …. It’s bit indecent.

        1. A married woman has legally or morally no right to have short sexual relations outside her bonded relation. We speak for most cultures. Khushwant Singh describes his own experience with her.

    2. I believe allegation “nymphomanic”, is the talk of the town by frustrated admirers who had no actual access to her but displayed their aware ness for a subject they were not aware of.
      She certainly loved her husband & vice versa , were socializing & were privileged to do so.! There seem to be no reason for an European Dr husband traveling all the way from Hungty ! He could have left & gone..? Why would a Dr kill his love ?
      On balance of probability he must have given some inappropriate medicine to abort pregnancy but it turned out as misadventure. Intimate sexual relation can not be had by any body with every body when ever.There are huge number of factors , physical – hormonal , emotional , social cultural , time place & person warranting both partner to be able to do so. Let us pray ,may peace be on them on a rose flowery decorated bed.

  2. One more thing it was my father Abdur Rahman Chughtai who convinced Umrao Singh (his friend) to let Amrita pursue a career of art. He felt no need for same.

  3. Mr. Arif,
    I fully subscribe to your views on the mysterious death of Amrita Shergill, but would like you to corroborate your accusation with a convincing conviction.

  4. Dear Deepak Sahib, I felt so nice with your writing comments on our blog. In real terms we are trying to bridge the gap between our nation. Well done! Without losing our own identity, we can still live in love peace and harmony.
    My father was a great friend of Amrita’s father, and everybody in Lahore knew of her exploits. A neighbour of Amrita (next door) told me of her secret meeting with another neighbour Khushwant Singh, as well as visits from Jawaharlal Nehru, who she used to meet at Faletti’s Hotel Lahore. The truth is that however much her husband loved her, he was incapable of satisfying her sexual hunger. That’s the truth. But there is one thing more. I cannot place the reference right now, but I read that in the end, before his death, her husband broke down and actually confessed to the crime. More proof than that is not possible. But in any case the father did not want to pursue the same to police and court.

  5. The lifeline of amrita is exciting although. Pl. tell us more about armita, her affairs and her likings. why they shifted to lahore.
    if she was so nymph,why did she married to a doctor then. does she had any child. i have also read that she was interested both male and female. is there any female affair confirms it.

    1. Dr Victor Egan was a thorough gentleman and her relative from the mother’s side. Eastern girls end up doing things which they do not want. Her character is faultless as is her family. Her desires are a result of her artistic drives. Creativity spurred by sexual drives but there was need for power control. Never in our lives have we heard of any other drives i n her life. She was a woman of substance in all ways. Lahore was her Punjab roots and she had a lot planned in her art related to the Art of M.A. Rahman Chughtai. The condolence letter of Chughtai Artist explains a lot of things.

  6. This lady prayed role model especially in these modern days.she was a careered .and talented lady since her childhood,i see there great reason why we should remember her.though she went away without accompolishing her mission she left a gap but where she went she will not come back but all of us we will go through there and that is death.

  7. Dear Chugtai Sahib:

    I have only recently read your article on Amrita. I’ll be obliged if you could give me some information about H.L. Prasher who wrote the catalog reproduced by you. Who was he? what was his background? Where did he go after Partition? What was his achievement. I want some not all details about him.
    Thank you and best wishes,
    Sarvan Minhas

    1. Prasher was a great friend of my father and even his children kept in touch with us till recently. I will try to get out more but his daughter was concerned about us.

    2. He was from Lahore but I think he went to Calcutta afterwards. More as I find out. Best to you!

    1. Debojyoti Jee Art releases tensions within country and without. It brings people together regardless of beliefs. So relax with our own Chughtai Art too. There is message of good will here.

  8. Your write up is quite Interesting. But instead of her personal shortcomings, her art prowess needs consideration.
    Chugtai ji, what is the state of her mansion today? Does it still exist or demolished in the name of `urban development’?
    – Dr H S Anupama, Bangalore.

  9. Lahore changes slowly off the main roads. I think it still exists and we have nothing against her. She was coming to see my father the same day. Different people take out their pent up furies in different ways. She was possibly a very lonely person herself.

  10. So this is kind of Random, I was brought to this page because of an app I used and curiosity. The app scans your face and then matches it with paintings of people that closely resemble you. Mine was matched with Amrita Sher-gil’s “The Vina player”. I then looked up the painting and was interested in Amrita and her story. When I heard that she died a mysterious death I wanted more information. My search brought me here. Did her husband really poison her? Because I had a hunch it was something like that. Her story really made me cry.

    1. You certainly are an Indian Queen. If your face looks like her painting, you are aesthetically pure. How nice! You have the ability to cry for a person dead long ago, is certainly reflective of utter sensitivity. My mother used to come out crying from a tender movie. Even myself we are moved with tragedy when we cannot do anything. Like Don Quixote, we like to run on a galloping horse to rescue people from evil. That is tradition.
      But today the world is merely materialistic, all the more, and every day tragic events upsets us with nightmares. Reach out for those in distress.
      I certainly love to have you as a friend. Please feel free to communicate with me at

  11. Thanks for the information on Amrita Sher Gil..

    I just discovered her painitings and in complete awe.. She seems to have lived quite an enigmatic life.. Her brief but brilliant life full of travels and fascinating tales..


  12. What an amazing read… i just found out about Amitra, strolling the internet looking for inspiring arts as i’m a painter too
    I wanted to know how she died and i read it here
    She will be in my heart now forever
    Thank you
    Beatrice Joya (Granada Spain)

  13. Hello Mr. Arif Rahman Chughtai. I would love to know more about about Amrita sher gill’s life stories and affairs and many more things. If you are yourself alive now. 😶 Would love to know more information about her.

  14. AAPKI AMARI (आपकी अमरी ) Hindi
    Understanding the life and times of great Indian artist Amrita Sher-Gil through her letters

    An important figure in the art history of India, Amrita Sher-Gil was born on 30 January 1913 in Budapest, Hungary, to Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Majithia, and Marie Antoniette Gottesmann. At a very young age, Amrita began to explore the canvas. Her art was inspired by the social stories and fairy tales of the Green Brothers and Hans Andersons.

    In the years 1924-25, Films were her inspiration to paint. The Sher-Gil family arrived in India on 2nd January 1921. On their way to India, they had to take a pit-stop in Paris as Amrita was mesmerized by the legendary art that Paris had to offer and that served a further inspiration for her to paint more. She returned to Paris in 1929 to educate herself in the field of Arts after staying in Mumbai, Delhi, Simla and Lahore for a short while. After returning to India she had extensively studied Ajanta paintings, Rajput, Kangra, Basholi, Moghul Miniature Paintings, she got inspired by these works and introduced a totally different idiom in her art eventually to become a great contribution towards Indian modern art.

    ‘Tujhi Aamri’ (तुझी आम्री) is an effort to showcase the short-lived 28 years of the life of Amrita Sher-Gil by the way of her paintings and the letters she wrote to her parents and friends. In this two-act play of 120 mins with 10 min break, the performers are explaining the life and times of Amrita Sher-Gil through the dramatization of the letters along with the audio-visuals. The actor playing ‘Amrita’ will be on stage in the character of Amrita Sher-Gil accompanied by the character of her sister ‘Indu’. This is an effort to engage the people to know Amrita’s work and the thought process that was way ahead of time. The program is based on the books of renowned literary and art scholar Rameshchandra Patankar and artist Vivan Sundaram. The show is also going to be played in Hindi in certain regions of the country.

    1. Thank you very much for letting us know. My father Abdur Rahman Chughtai was friend of Amritas father, for that man was a scholar on the works of Omar Khayyam. The day she died she was supposed t o pay the artist a visit in his studio. She was probably cremated near our house on Ravi road and instead of living person, her dead body passed our house.

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