The Sikh empire control initially was in hands of Mughals and later got hold of Maharaja Ranjith Singh, who became the mighty ruler. He filled in the true spirit of nationality and patriotism in Punjab region and during his rule, the Sikh empire reached the peak of its fame. During his tenure touching his territory was the biggest nightmare any foreign ruler could have. He formed the mighty Sikh kingdom in the year 1799 by merging all the 12 misls, the territory extending from “the Khyber Pass in the west, to Kashmir in the north, to Sindh in the south, and western Tibet in the east.”
Maharaja Ranjit Singh Childhood
Maharaja Ranjit Singh took birth on the 13th of November 1780 to MAHAN SINGH and RAJ KAUR at Gujranwala. Mahan Singh came to power at the age of 14 and defeated many Muslim/Nawab territories which were posing threat to the security of the kingdom. Raja Ranjit Singh, the decedent of kingship blood of such a legendary warrior, since a very young age itself was very keen about warfare and achieved proficiency in the arts of war and horse riding. He entered the battlefield at the age of 10years along with his father where he chopped the head of one Pathan soldier.
Mahan Singh fell sick in that battle and handed over one misl command to Ranjit Singh. Raja Ranjit Singh with his skill in warfare led the command and his father’s belief, to victory. Raja Ranjit Singh was very fond of hunting. Once when he was on his hunting, he was attacked by Hashmat Khan, the chief of an estate that had many scores to settle with Mahan Singh. Ranjit Singh’s horse was frightened. Khan took the opportunity and pierced his sword into the body of Ranjit Singh in reaction to it in no time he chopped khan’s head, he achieved this feat at the age of 13.
Ranjith Singh Raise As Maharaja
Mahan Singh died in 1792. After his father’s death, he was made in charge of the kingdom with the support of Diwan Lakhpat Rai and Sardar Dal Singh who were guided by sardarini Raj Kaur. At the age of 18, he got married to Rani Sada Kaur’s (leader of Kanaihya misl) daughter, Mehtab Kaur.
When Afghan king, Shah Zaman Durrani of the Ahmad Shah Abdali dynasty, when tried to occupy the Punjab region. Ranjit Singh called all Sikh chiefs for a meeting at Amritsar and explained the essence of confronting Shah Zaman and to form a united front. Finally, Ranjit Singh was chosen as the supreme commander of the Khalsa forces. In 1797 the advancing Sikh forces drove the Afghans and their Indian supporters out of the countryside and Shah Zaman’s forces were set back to Afgan all the way from Jhelum.
Shah Zaman once again invaded India during the autumn of 1798. The Hindus and Sikhs began to leave their homes and seek safety in far off places. Sahib Singh Bhangi and Ranjit Singh Sukarchakia evacuated Gujrat and Gujjranwala respectively. Once again chiefs of all Misals were called at Amritsar and Ranjit Singh was chosen the commander of the combined Khalsa forces to defeat the forces of Shah Zaman. Ranjit, along with some Sardars encircled Lahore fort.
” O grandson of Ahmad Shah, the grandson of Charhat Singh has come to meet you. Come out if you have the courage.”- Maharaja Ranjit Singh
On reaching ‘Samman Burj’ where Shah Zaman was staying, orders were passed to fire, when Ranjith Singh made a challenging roared thrice loudly, saying–” O grandson of Ahmad Shah, the grandson of Charhat Singh has come to meet you. Come out if you have the courage.” Once again Shah Zaman’s forces were defeated. After this, the Afghans never dared to attack Punjab. Lahore was kept under the control of Bhangi Sardars, Sahib Singh, Chet Singh, and Mohar Singh. He realized the importance of occupying Lahore and independent misls of Multan and Kasur, among whom internal factionalism was too high, which could pose a threat of invasion by foreign Muslim rulers and keep under his control because two times when the foreign invasion happened he tried his best to bring all misls together to fight- where not all supported- so he waited for the opportunity to occupy.
Disunity and internal fights among these three sardars were on high rampant because which of city administration got drowned away. Taking this as the right time to occupy, Nawab Nizam Din of Kasur decided to attack Lahore and captured it. Even then the situation was not set back. Some of the leading personalities of the city like Hakim Hakam Rai, Mian Mohkam Din, Mian Mohammad Barkar, Mian Mohammad Tahir, Mian Ashiq Mohammad, Bhai Gurbaksh Singh, etc wrote a petition letter to Ranjit Singh requesting him to take over Lahore. Maharaja Ranjit Singh along with Rani Sada Kaur with 25,000 soldiers took over Lahore on 7th July 1799. By then he was 19 years.
Sahib Singh and Mohar Singh joined hands with Sardar Jodh Singh Ramgarhia and Nawab Nizam Din of Kasur in order to re-occupy Lahore and raised battle against Ranjit Singh and in the fearsome battle, Raja Ranjit Singh stood victorious. He was crowned on 12th April 1799. For his supremacy, he was awarded the title MAHARAJA in 1801 during Baisakhi day in Lahore in the holy presence of Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh religious leaders.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh Rule.
He was a benevolent king. He was with secular ideals. He used to celebrate all religions with citizens of his kingdom, which portrayed a great character of humanity and thus became a people’s ruler. The kingdom enjoyed the fruits of the unity of diversity. Yearly once he used to visit Amritsar and to take bath in the holy water. Once there was a total crop failure due to devastating feminine, people were starving. So being a king, he opened up all the state stores for people. Ranjit Singh would often roam in streets of Lahore in disguise to check his rule, whether people are happy or not. That night he saw an old woman who could not carry a bag of wheat to her house where her children were starving. He carried that bag to her house on his back. A poor Muslim from Lahore had written a Quran which he was going to take to Delhi to sell at the Mughals court. Ranjit Singh asked him how much he wanted and paid him twice.
The spirit of stern religious discipline and sacrifice which had supported Sikhs through a critical period of their history and led them to power and glory was dimmed in the pomp and splendor of sovereignty. Ranjit Singh’s death on June 27, 1839, left a deep hiatus. The Khalsa lost a leader who had, by commanding personality, foresight, and skill, become their beau ideal and secured them the status of sovereign people. The British had by then taken practically the whole of India, except the Punjab and Sind.
The Sikh Court of Maha Ranjit Singh
Raja Ranjit Singh is considered as the Napoleon of the East. Though he is not a learned man, he is intelligent and wise. Raja Ranjit Singh had one Frenchman named Allard and one more Italian named Ventura, who had served under Napoleon in the imperial army of France. He gave them a command of 500 horsemen each. Ventura’s army was called Fauj-e-Khas while a little later Allard was asked to raise a cavalry of fresh recruits. Ranjit Singh provided houses for Ventura and Allard and gave them handsome salaries.
He selectively employed several more Europeans, such as Dr. Honigberger, a native of Hungary; Evitable, an Italian, later appointed Governor of Peshawar; General Court, a Frenchman who organized the artillery. Dr. Harlan, an American, who became Governor of Jasrata and later Gujrat; Henry Stein Bach, a German was made a battalion commander. Hurbon, a Spainard was an engineer; Dr. Benet, a Frenchman- was surgeon-general of Khalsa Army; Viewkenawitch, a Russian held a high rank in the artillery. There were a number of Englishmen too- Fitzroy, Gillmore, Leslie, Harvey, and Foulkes, to mention but a few- who were employed on various civil and military duties. With men of such diverse races, nationalities, and faiths to serve him, Ranjit Singh maintained a most picturesque and cosmopolitan court.
Foreign Visitors and Travelers’ Notes
Ranjit Singh’s Lahore also attracted many visitors and travelers. In the summer of 1821, William Moorcroft, the Superintendent of East India Company’s horses came to visit Ranjit Singh’s court. A daily allowance of 100 rupees was fixed for his entertainment. Moorcroft was also shown the Sikh army, he was greatly impressed by the turnout and discipline of the Sikh army. He also visited the royal stables and remarked that some of Ranjit Singh’s horses were the finest in the world. On the way back from Bukhara, Moorcroft brought a letter from Prince Nesselrode of Russia which contained greetings and good wishes from the ruler of that country. It also expressed Russia’s desire to have trade relations with the country of Ranjit Singh. The traders from Punjab were assured welcome and security in Russia.
Another famous traveler to visit Ranjit Singh was Baron Charles Hugel. He was a German Scientist, who traveled extensively in the Punjab and Kashmir. In his book, he wrote that Punjab under Ranjit Singh was safer than territories ruled by the British. He also recorded his conversations with Ranjit Singh, who, as usual, asked him many questions. He asked him if he had served as a soldier and questioned him about the German armies and their wars with France. He asked him what he thought of the Sikh army and whether it was in a fit state to confront a European force.
Victor Jacque Mont, a French traveler, also praised Ranjit Singh’s powers of conversation and his shrewd judgment. He wrote in his book: “Ranjit Singh is almost the first inquisitive Indian I have seen, but his curiosity makes up for the apathy of his whole nation. He asked me a hundred thousand questions about India, the English, Europe, Napoleon, this world in general and the other one., hell and paradise, the soul, God, the devil, and a thousand things besides.” There were several missionaries whom Ranjit Singh also met. Several requests to open up churches, convent schools, etc were denied by Ranjit Singh. He asked them to teach Punjabi language and Sikh scriptures instead. No wonder when the British took over Punjab after Ranjit Singh convent Schools were spread all over Punjab.
MAHARAJA RANJITH SINGH’S RELATIONS WITH BRITISH:
- Anglo-Sikh Treaty (1806): This treaty of friendship and amity between East India Company and Maharaja Ranjit Singh was signed by both the parties on January 1, 1806, according to which Jaswant Rao Holkar was to be removed from Amritsar and, in return, the English were not to enter the Punjab and seize any possession of the Sikh Kingdom of Lahore.
- Anglo-Sikh Treaty of Amritsar (1809): This treaty was signed by Mr. Charles Theophilus Metcalfe on behalf of British Government and Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Amritsar on April 25, 1809. According to this Treaty, Ranjit Singh was to recognize the river Satluj as the boundary and to accept the British suzerainty over his vassals across the river, and the English were to recognize the Maharaja as the sole sovereign on his side of River Sutlej.
- Treaty of alliance and friendship (1838): This Treaty was signed on June 25, 1838, by the British, Ranjit Singh and Shah Shuja. This treaty reaffirmed the 1833 treaty between the Maharaja and the Shah. The objective of this treaty was the installation of Shah Shuja as the ruler of the whole of Afghanistan, minus Herat. Kandahar was captured on April 25, 1839, and Shah Shuja was enthroned on May 8, 1839
The treaties signed by maharaja had the following impact:
- He was restricted in expansion towards the south.
- With no efforts, they became rulers of the areas between Jamuna and Sutlej.
- His wish for a unified Sikh empire was not completed.
British’s strategy for having relations with the Maharaja was a great strategic move. The strategy of friendship was to counter Napoleon or Cezar of Russia who was planning to attack India to make a shift in the supremacy of power from the hands of the British to their hands. That was the reason why they signed three treaties with the Sikh empire. British found the best way to restrict Russia into India. Russia has a land route to India. This move of the British can be considered as one of the best moves to stop communication directly with India to assure their safety. It is very clear why the British picked up Kashmir as a spot to divide India and Pakistan. It was done in order to stop direct communication/transportation between Russia and India as well as Central Asia.
Last Wish Of Maharaja Ranjit Singh
In May 1839, Maharaja Sahib suffered a stroke of paralysis which couldn’t be cured. He held the last darbar and stated his last wish which is stated in his own words as follows:
“Khâlsâ Ji, it seems my end is near. It is a matter of a few days and so is the wish of the Lord. One has to bow before it. My last desire is that the kingdom that has been raised and strengthened with the blood of Nalwa Ji, Akali Ji and many other warriors beside the efforts put in by you all, do not let it grow weak or perish. Be careful not to split and become an easy morsel of your neighbors. Be cautious of the moves of the enemy. Freedom is dear to me more than my life. By the grace of God and your strong arms, I have taken Punjab out of the foreign rule. Be sure not to push it into their lap once again.
If foreign feet tread the soil of Punjab, they will be walking on my chest. Save me from this distressing insult. Protect the freedom of Punjab. If you all remain united, no one will ever cast an eye on you. When you all remain free, my soul will remain happy and satiated. There is not much time to say anything more. Please bring Tikka Kharak Singh before me. Kharak Singh will be the Maharaja in my place and you (Dhian Singh Dogra) will be his Minister. Take care of him.” 27th June 1839 is the last day the lion of Punjab who showed the mightiness and bravery of Sikh heart took last breath.
After the demise of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Sikh empire started weakening and finally British took hold of the Sikh empire by series of wars termed as Anglo-Sikh war. Among all battles of Feroz shah in 1845, was the turning point in which the battle continued throughout the night very ferociously in which the British faced very high causalities, in the end, the British won the battle. It is during this war General titled Sikh army as “night of terrors” as the army turned much more ferocious during the night and the British were about to lose the battle. The British by winning the second Anglo-Sikh war in 1849 divided the mighty Sikh kingdom into princely states.
To build modern Bharat, every one of us needs to derive inspiration from the great Maharaja Ranjit Singh to transform every individual in the great warrior to rebuild our nation with all the glory it deserves.. Jai Hind
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