.·´`·.·´¯`·.› Maharaja Ranjit Singh ‹.·´¯`·.·´`·.
Ancestory and Childhood
Ranjit Singh was born on Nov. 13, 1780 at Gujranwala. He was named Ranjit Singh by his father Mahan Singh. These two pictures on the right are the pictures of the house of Sardar Charat Singh, his grandfather, bottom picture is the door to the room where Ranjit Singh was born.
Ranjit singh had his first taste of battle, when he was hardly ten years old. It was Sahib Singh bhangi (they were called bhangis as they use to drink 'Bhang' all the time) of Gujarat (a town in Punjab, now in Pakistan) refused to pay tribute to Mahan Singh and his estate was attacked by him. Sahib singh shut himself at the fort of Sodhran and the siege of the fort was laid. Ranjit singh accompanied Mahan Singh. The siege continued for several months.
Mahan singh fell grievously ill. Apprehending his approaching end he invested Ranjit singh chief of the Sukerchakia Misl by putting Ranjit's forehead saffron paste. It was a great occasion of joy. Mahan Singh returned to Gujrawala. When the other Bhangi sardars came to know about the illness of Mahan singh and the army of Sukerchikia's was commanded by a child of ten years they came to rescue the Sahib singh bhangi at Sodhran. Ranjit singh ambushed them and routed their forces. Ranjit singh's victory opened the eyes of many chieftains. When the news of victory was conveyed to Mahan singh, he distributed sweets and perhaps it was the last news given to Mahan singh before he breathed his last.
Mahan Singh died in 1792. Ranjit singh was then 12 years old. He was too young to manage the affairs of the estate. His mother Raj Kaur became his natural guardian. He was also helped by Diwan Lakhpat rai. She had full confidence in his integrity but her brother Dal Singh did not like his interference in the administration of the territory. So, Dal singh joined hands with Sada Kaur, Ranjit singh's mother-in-law who exercised a lot of control over him. Thus two clear cut groups were formed, Diwan and Raj Kaur on one hand, Sada Kaur and Dal Singh on the other side. The intrigues and counter intrigues made Ranjit sick of all of them. He started spending most of this time outside the house on hunting expeditions. Ranjit singh also became suspicious of people around him and disliked some of them.
Ranjit singh learnt riding, shooting, and started drinking early years of his life. Drinking was not considered bad in those days and the more one drank, the more respect he commanded among the sardars. It was a matter of pride.
Ranjit singh was once attacked by Hashmat Khan when he was out on the hunting expedition. Hashmat Khan, a chief of an estate which had many score to settle with Mahan singh, Ranjit singh's father. Ranjit singh's horse was frightened. Khan took the opportunity and pierced his sword into the body of Ranjit singh. Ranjit singh controlled himself and before Khan could make another move, Ranjit cut his head, hung it on his spear and joined his comrades with his prized possession. The heartened Ranjit and his companions joy knew no bounds as the young lad of 13 had performed a miracle.
Ranjit grew up without any formal education and remained totally illiterate. Fond of swimming and excursions, Ranjit had more traits to become a soldier later in life. Ranjit singh once told Captain wade, British agent at Ludhiana that his father had left for him 20,000 rounds of shot which he expended in firing at marks.
Having spent his years in dissipation and indulgence, Ranjit was attracted towards usual vices common among the nobility during those days. However, Ranjit "in his youth was remarkably active and excellent horseman and well skilled in everything connected with military feats.
At the age of 16 Ranjit singh was married to Mehtab Kaur of Kanhaiya misal, thus this marriage brought two great misals together. Then in 1798 he again married to the daughter of Khazan singh Nakai thus also adding his strength. The second marriage annoyed Sada kaur and Mehtab kaur. Mehtab kaur returned to Batala and only returned to Gujrawala occasionally.
Upto this time diwan Lakhpat Rai was managing the affairs of the estate. He was confident of sardar Mahan singh. He kept all the accounts. Diwan was murdered while away in the Dhanni area for collecting the revenue. This gave an opportunity to Ranjit singh to take over the administration.
Thus at the age of 18 Ranjit singh assumed the powers directly. Sada kaur exploited the position of Ranjit singh and she was the ladder by which Ranjit singh reached the climax of his power. the plastic mind of the young boy was molded by men and women from whom he had no lofty religious and moral ideas to imible. He was brought up more or less a spoilt child.
We had many divergent accounts of the physical appearances of Ranjit singh. "He was exactly like old mouse, with gray whiskers and one eye." "In person he was short and mean-looking and had he not distinguished himself by his great talents he would be passed by without being thought worthy of observation. Without exaggeration must call him the most ugly and unprepossessing man I saw throughout Punjab. His left eye, which is quite closed, disfigures less than the other but form so many dark pits in his grayish brown skin, his short straight nose is swollen at the tip; his skinny lips are stretched tight over his teeth which are still good; his grizzled beard, very thin on cheeks and upper lip, meets under the chin in matted confusion, and his head which is sunk very much on his broad shoulders, is too large for his height, and does not seem to move easily. He has thick muscular neck, thin arms and legs, the left foot and left arm dropping, and small well informed hands. The nervous irritation of his mind is shown by the continual pressure on one's finger. His costumes always contributes to increase his ugliness, being in winter the color of gamboge from the pagri down to his very socks and slippers. When he seats himself in common English chair with his feet drawn under him, the position is one particularly unfavorable to him; but soon as he mounts his horse and with his black shield on his back puts him on his mettle, the whole form seems animated by the spirit within, and assumes a certain grace of which nobody could believe it susceptible"(by Eden Emily, upto the country p.320, and by Hugel Baron, Travels in Kashmir and the country of the Sikhs p. 380). "He had a large and indeed an unusual share of the weakness and vices which grew up, like all weeds, in human nature, and his moral being seemed, at superficial glance, as dwarfed and distorted as his physical envelope. He was selfish, false and avaricious; grossly superstitious, shamelessly and openly drunken and debauched. In the respectable virtues he had no part; but in their default he was still great with him, as with the most illustrious leaders of men, from Ceaser and Alexander to Napolean, intellectual strength not allied to maral rectitude. He was great because he possessed in an extraordinary degree the qualities without which the highest success cannot be attained, and the absence of the commonplace virtues which belong to the average citizen neither diminished nor affected in any way the distinction of character. He was born ruler. Men obeyed him with instinct and because they had no power to disobey".
Situation in Punjab, Sikh confedrations and Afghanis
Punjab presented a picture of chaos and confusion when Ranjit singh took reins of Sukerchikias misal. The edifice of Ahmad Shah abdali's empire in India had crumbled. Afghanistan was dismembered. Peshawar and Kashmir though under the suzerainty of Afghanistan had attained de facto independence. Barakzais were the masters of these places. Attock was ruled by Wazrikhels and Jhang lay at the feet of Sials. Pathans were ruling Kasur. Multan had thrown yoke and Nawab Muzaffar Khan had taken its charge.
Map of Punjab in 1790's
Both Punjab and Sind were under Afghan rule since 1757 after Ahmad Shah Abdali was granted suzerainty over these two provinces. They were confronted with the rising power of Sikhs in Punjab. Taimur Khan, a local Governor was able to turn away Sikhs from Amritsar. He razed to the ground the fort of Ram Rauni. But this state of affairs did not last long and the Sikh misal joined hands and defeated Taimur Shah and his Chief minister Jalal Khan. The Afghans were forced to retreat and Lahore was occupied by the Sikhs in 1758, Jassa singh Ahluwalia proclaimed Sikh's sovereignty and became its head. He struck coins to commemorate his victory.
When Ahmad Shah Abdali was engaged in his campaign against the Marathas at Panipat in 1761, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia plundered Sirhind and Dialpur, seized some places in Ferozepur district and took under his possession Jagraon and Kot Isa Khan on the other bank of Sutlej. He captured Hoshiarpur and Naraingurh in Ambala and levied tribute from the chief of Kapurthala. He then marched towards Jhang. Sial chief offered stout resistance. When Ahmad Shah left in Feb. 1761, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia again attacked Sirhind and extended his territory as far as Tarn Taran. He crossed Bias and capture Sultanpur. In 1762, Ahmad Shah again appeared and a fierce battle took place. It is called Ghalughara, a great holocaust. Jassa singh fled to Kangra hills after Sikh forces were totally routed. After the departure of Ahmad Shah Abdali, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia attacked Sirhind, it was razed to ground and the afghan Governor Zen Khan was killed. This was a great victory to Sikhs who were rulers of all the area around the Sirhind. Jassa Singh hastily paid visit to Hari Mandir at Amritsar, and he made amends and restored it to original shape as it was defiled by Ahmad Shah by slaughtering cows in its precincts.
Ahmad Shah died in June 1773. After his death power of Afghans declined in Punjab. Taimur Shah ascended the throne at Kabul. By then misals, had established themselves in Punjab. They had under their control the area as far as Saharnpur in east, Attock in west, Kangra Jammu in north and Multan in south. Efforts were made by Afghan rulers to dislodge Sikhs from their citadels. Taimur Shah attacked Multan and defeated the Bhangis. The Bhangi sardars, Lehna Singh, and Sobha singh were driven out of Lahore in 1767 by the Abdali but soon reoccupied it. They remained in power in Lahore till 1793-the year when Shah Zaman succeeded to the throne of Kabul.
Another menace to Sikhs was the Pathan ruler of Kasur who was loyal to Kabul. During the Abdali attacks, he took side with him and plundered the Sikh territory. Now again assistance was promised to Shah by Kasur ruler, Nizam-Ud-Din-Khan.
The first attempt by Shah Zaman was made in 1793. He came upto Hassan Abdal from where he sent an army of 7000 strong cavalry under Ahmad Shahnachi but the Sikhs totally routed them. It was a great setback to Shah Zaman but again in 1795 he reorganized forces and attacked Hassan Abdal, snatched Rohtas from Sukerchikias, whom leader was Ranjit Singh. who suffered at Shah Zaman' hands but did not lose courage. However, shah had to be back in Kabul as an invasion was apprehended on his own country from the west. After he went back, Ranjit dislodged the Afghans from Rohtas.
Shah Zaman could not sit idle. In 1796 he moved, crossed Indus for the third time and dreamt of capturing Delhi. His ambition knew no bounds. By now he had collected 3000 strong afghan army. He was confident a large number of Indians will join with him. Nawab of Kasur had already assured him help. Sahib Singh of Patiala betrayed his countrymen and declared his intentions of helping Shah Zaman. He had family traditions of loyalty to all the invaders who attacked India. Shah Zaman was also assured help by the Rohillas, Wazir of Oudh, and Tipu Sultan of Mysore. Shah was bent upon to finish the infidels. The news of Shah Zaman invasion spread like wild fire. Chicken hearted people started fleeing to hills for safety. Heads of Misals, though bound to give protection to the people as they were collecting Rakhi tax from them were the first to leave the people in lurch. In Dec. Shah occupied territory upto Jhelum. When he reached Gujarat Sahib singh bhangi panicked and left the place. He could not offer any resistance.
Next was the territory of Ranjit singh. He was alert and raised an army of 5000 horsemen. But they were inadequately armed with only spears and muskets. The afghans were equipped with heavy artillery. Ranjit singh thought of a stiff united fight against the invaders. He came to Amritsar. A congregation of Sarbat Khalasa was called and many Sikh sardars answered the call. An almost unanimous opinion prevailed that Shah zaman's army should be allowed to enter the Punjab, and they all should retire to hills.
However, Sada Kaur thought otherwise and exhorted the Sikhs to fight to the last. She persuaded Ranjit singh to be bold enough to face the Afghan army and offer stiff resistance. Forces were reorganized under the command of Ranjit singh and they marched towards Lahore. They were able to gave Afghans a crushing defeat in several villages and ultimately surrounded the city of Lahore. Sorties were made in night in which they would kill a few Afghan soldiers and then leave the city in the thick of darkness. Following this tactic they were able to dislodge Afghans at several places.
In 1797, Shah Zaman, suddenly left for Afghanistan as his brother Mahmud had revolted. Shahanchi khan with considerable force was left at Lahore. The Sikhs however followed Shah upto Jhelum and snatched many goods from him. The Sikhs returned and in the way were attacked by the army of Shahnachi khan near Ram Nagar. The Sikhs routed his army. It was the first major achievement of Ranjit Singh. He became the hero of the land of Five Rivers and his reputation spread far and wide.
Again in 1798 Shah Zaman attacked Punjab to avenge his defeat in 1797, people took refuge in hills. Sarbat Khalsa was again called and Sada Kaur again persuaded Sikhs to fight till the last man. This time even Muslims were not spared by Shah Zaman forces and he won Gujarat very easily. Sada Kaur aroused the sense of Sikhs of national honor and if they had left Amritsar then she will command the forces against Afghans. She said an Afghani soldier was no match to a Sikh soldier . They would be give befitting reply and by the grace of Sat Guru they would be successful.
The Afghans had pl*ndered the towns and villages as they had vowed and declared openly that they would exterminate the Sikhs; but in the process the Muslims suffered most as Hindus and Sikhs had already left for the hills. The Muslims thought that they would not be touched but their hopes were belied and their provisions were forcible taken away by the Afghans.
Shah Zaman sought help of raja Sansar Chand of Kangra, that he will not gave any food or shelter to Sikhs. He agreed. Shah Zaman attacked Lahore and Sikhs were surrounded from all sides, they had to fight a grim battle. The Afghans occupied Lahore on Nov. 1798, and planned to attack Amritsar. Ranjit Singh collected his Men and faced forces about 8 Km from Amritsar. It was a well-matched encounter which forced Afghans at last to retire. They were humiliated and fled towards Lahore. Ranjit Singh pursued them and surrounded Lahore. Afghan supply lines were cut. Crops were burnt and other provisions pl*ndered so that they did not fall into Afghan's hands. The Afghans never expected such a humiliating defeat at the hands of Sikhs. Nizam-ud.din of Kasur attacked Sikhs near Shahdara on the banks of Ravi, but his forces were no match to Sikhs. Here too, Muslims suffered the most. The retreating Afghans and Nizam-ud-din forces plundered the town which antagonized the local people.
The Afghans struggled hard to dislodge Sikhs but in vain. Sikh cordon was so strong that they made impossible for the Afghans to break it and proceed towards Delhi. Ranjit singh became terror to them.
The moment Zaman Shah left, Ranjit singh pursued his forces and caught them unawares near Gujranwala. They were chased further up to Jhelum. Many Afghan were put to death and their war equipment was taken into possession and they were made to run for their lives. Shah Zaman was overthrown by his brother and was blinded. He became a helpless creature and 12 years later came to Punjab to seek refuge in Ranjit singh's darbar, who was now the ruler of land. Destiny wished it like that.
"The character of Ranjit Singh", says Cunningham," seems to have impressed itself, not only on the other Sikh leader, but on the Duranni Shah. He coveted Lahore, which was associated in the minds of men with the passion of power, and as the king was unable to cross his heavy artillery over the flooded Jhelum, he made it known to the aspiring chief that their transmission would be an acceptable service. As many pieces of cannon as could be readily extricated were sent after the Shah, and Ranjit singh procured what he wanted, a royal investiture of the capital of Punjab." "The task Ranjit singh readily undertook and partly performed, rescuing eight guns of the twelve and sending them to Peshawar; and Zaman Shah kept his promise of giving Lahore to Ranjit" Main entrance to the Lahore Fort.
These conclusions have no relevance which are neither feasible nor supported the facts. Zaman Shah did lose guns and Ranjit singh might have taken them out, but there is no proof about sending them to Peshawar. Nor is there any proof that Ranjit Singh had made overtures to the Afghan King prior to his occupation of Lahore, although it is said that Shah tried to win over Ranjit Singh by sending him 'Khillat'. No friendly contacts were established between them. On the other hand Ranjit Singh treated the Shah's demands for submission with contempt and challenged him that he would acquire the capital with sword. When Shah was holding his court in 'Musamman burj' in Lahore. Ranjit appeared surreptitiously and challenged the Shah "o grandson of Abdali, come down and measure swords with the grandson of Charat singh".Ultimately, the shah's withdrawal gave a choice to the Sikhs to "obliterate all semblance of Afghan authority between Ravi and Jhelum. Ranjit singh combined with Sahib Singh of Gujrat (Punjab) and Milkha Singh of pindiwala and a large Sikh force, fell upon the Afghan garrison while Shah Zaman was still in vicinity of Khyber Pass. The Afghan forces fled towards north after having been routed by the Sikhs leaving behind at Gujrat their dead including the Afghan deputy."
Thus although guns were dug and returned to the Shah by Ranjit singh, he could never appoint Ranjit Singh as a Governor of Lahore, in lieu of this favor. A document dated April 1800 says: "Ranjit singh has lately delivered to Zaman Shah's vakil 15 pieces of cannon which the Durrani prince lost last year in the retreat".
This make it obvious that the guns were returned in 1800 and as such Ranjit singh could not be granted Lahore before that date. Ranjit Singh had occupied Lahore in July 1799. Thus there was no question of Ranjit Singh getting Lahore as a gift. He got the city by the might of his sword. Lahore was the most important and biggest city of Punjab. After Amristar, it was next in importance to Sikhs, as it was not only the capital of the province but also the birthplace of the fourth Guru Ram Das. Lahore at that time was ruled by the Bhangi sardars.(they were called bhangi because they use to drank Bhang all the time). It was captured earlier by them and remained under their control till it was reoccupied by Shah Zaman in 1797. After Shah Zaman left, Bhangi Sardars, Chet Singh, Sahib Singh and Mohar Singh reoccupied it. They had no talent and ability to rule. These incapable sardars did not take any interest in the welfare of the people and were inept and imbecile. They had no control over the people. They were "unscrupulous, drunken, profligate and tyrannical."
The Muslims had a considerable influence in the town. Mian Ashak mohammad and Mian Mukkan Din were very powerful and exercised a lot of hold on the people. They were called chaudhries and were often consulted in most of the affairs of the city. Mian Ashak Mohammad daughter was married to Badr-ud-din. He was a very influential man. Due to some unknown reason, he had some dispute with khatries of the town. he quarreled and Khatries reported the matter to Chet Singh. some forged papers that badr-ud-din had links with Zaman Shah were also shown to Chet singh. Chet singh was convinced of matter and arrested Badr-ud-din.
A wave of resentment followed the arrest among the supporters of Badr-Ud-Din and Mian Ashak Mohammad. The formed a deputation of some leading chaudhries and pleaded on behalf of Badr-ud-din but they were humiliated and were made to lick ground.
By this time the people of the country had become aware of the rising strength of Ranjit singh, the rising star on the horizon. He was the most popular leader of the Punjab and was already yearning to enter Lahore. The people of Lahore being extremely oppressed raised their voices of wailing to the skies and were looking towards their liberator. Muslims joined Hindus and Sikh residents of Lahore in making an appeal to Ranjit Singh to free them from the tyrannical rule.
A petition was written and was signed by Mian Ashak Mohammad, Mian Mukkam Din, Mohammad Tahir, Mohammad Bakar, Hakim Rai, and Bhai Gurbaksh Singh. It was addressed to Ranjit singh to free them from Bhangi sardars. Ranjit singh was invited to liberate Lahore as early as possible. He mobilized a 25000 Army and marched towards Lahore on July 6, 1799.
It was a last day of Muharram when a big procession was to be taken out in the town in the memory of the two grandsons of Prophet Mohammad who were martyred in the battlefield without having a drop of water. It was expected that Bhangi sardars will also participate in procession and mourn with their Shia brethren. By the time procession was over Ranjit singh had reached outskirts of city.
Early morning on July 7 1799, Ranjit singh's men had taken their positions. Guns glistened and the bugles were sounded. Rani Sada kaur stood outside Delhi gate and Ranjit singh proceeded towards Anarkali. Ranjit singh rode along the walls of the city and got the wall mined. A breach was blown. . It created panic and confusion. Mukkam Din, who was one of the signatories to the petition made a proclamation with the beat of drum that town had been taken over by him and he was now head. He ordered all the city gates to be opened. Ranjit singh entered the city with his troops through the Lahori gate. Sada kaur with a detachment of cavalry entered through Delhi gate. Before Bhangi sardars had any inkling of it, a part of the citadel was occupied without any resistance. Sahib singh and Mohar singh left the city and sought shelter at some safer place. Chet singh was left either to fight, defend the town or flee as he like. He shut himself in Hazuri Bagh with only 500 men. Ranjit singh's cavalry surrounded Hazuri Bagh and Chet singh surrendered and he was given permission to leave the city along with his family.
Ranjit singh was well entrenched in the town now. Immediately after taking possession of the city, he paid visit to Badashahi mosque. This gesture increased his prestige and his status was in the eyes of people. He won the hearts of the subjects, Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs alike. It was July 7, 1799 when victorious Ranjit Singh entered Lahore.
Other small confederates and Ranjit singh
The jealously of the leading sardars surfaced with increase in Ranjit's fame. Shah Zaman no longer posed any threat. Earlier, the Sikh chiefs joined hands and collaborated to meet the Afghan menace. The bonds affinity were cut pieces now and the potential Sikh chiefs Sahib Singh Bhangi of Gujarat, Jassa singh ramgharhia, Jodh singh Bajwa of Wazirabad, and Gulab singh Bhangi of Amritsar joined hands to wrest Lahore from Ranjit Singh. They sought the help of Nizam-Ud-Din of Kasur, who was an aspirant of subedari of Lahore. In early 1800 they marched towards Lahore. Ranjit singh faced them at about 16 km from city at Bhasin, with Kanhaiyas on his side. The forces of Ranjit singh won a very easy victory in only three days and these misal sardars were unable to dislodge Ranjit Singh from his citadel.
Ranjit Singh hastened back to Lahore triumphantly. He was given royal reception by the citizens. Ranjit singh's expansionist designs now knew no bounds he marched on to Jammu. On the way he annexed Narowal and Varowal. Maharaja of Jammu had neither intention nor was capable of fighting him so he presented him a nazrana of 20,000 rupees. Ranjit singh marched towards Sialkote and accepted nazrana there too, then Dilawargarh. He had to fight various chiefs and sardars during these expansions.
Open rift between Ranjit singh and Sahib Singh Bhangi invited interference from some other powers. Shah Zaman send feelers to various sardars. The Bhangi sardars and others united with them wanted to let down Ranjit singh and hence invited Shah Zaman to attack him. Ranjit singh accepted gifts send by Shah Zaman. This diplomatic move resulted in mutual trust and faith between Ranjit Singh and Shah Zaman. It was a diplomatic victory of Ranjit Singh. Meanwhile, British govt. was also much perturbed. Their concern was the rising power of Ranjit singh who could pose danger to them one day. In April 1800 Governor General send Mir Yusuf Ali to Lahore to hold negotiations with Ranjit singh. An historic meeting was held on 22 Oct. 1800, where Ranjit Singh, Rani Sada Kaur, Fateh Singh Ahluwalia, and Misr Ram Dayal were present. Yusauf gave a long sermon on the treachery of the Afghans and how Abdali was cruel to Sikhs; how he did not even spare the holy places of Sikhs including Golden temple of Amritsar; The Afghan could never be faithful treachery was in their blood. This meeting remained indecisive. Ranjit singh could not trust either British or Shah Zaman.
Ranjit Singh was now considered a great force. He appointed misr Ramdayal for his day to day affairs with people. Fateh singh Ahluwalia guided on army matters. During the same periods darbar attracted the Fakir brothers who held high offices under Ranjit singh. Fakir Aziz-Ud-Din was the most prominent among them. He came along with his father Ghulam Mohiud-Ud-Din who was an royal doctor. Nur-Ud-Din and Imam-Ud-Din the other brother of Zaiz were also given different post in Ranjit singh's darbar. Aziz-Ud-Din was made the in charge of Foreign affairs. "It was due to his wise counsel that the Maharaja maintained friendly relations with the British government; and the fact that these relations were on a footing of equality and mutual respect was largely an outcome of his ardent loyalty to Ranjit Singh." (Syed Moheduddin, The Real Ranjit Singh p.40)
By this time the day had come that Ranjit singh should declare himself the Maharaja of Punjab and treats all his subjects Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs equally. On April 12 1801, Ranjit Singh declared himself Maharaja of Punjab on the same auspicious day of Baisakhi when Khalsa was made by Guru Gobind Singh. The investiture ceremony was performed by Sahib Singh Bedi, who was the direct descendant of Guru Nanak. A commemorative coin was issued, Nanakshahi rupee as it was called. People showered flowers on him and in turn Ranjit singh showered gold and silver coins on his subjects. It was a grand gala occasion. Ranjit Singh rode on the elephant and passed through the streets of Lahore. He won popular acclaim and earned a lasting place in the hearts of the people. At night the town was illuminated with oil lamps and there was display of fire works. Many chiefs and sardars offered nazrana and in return receive khillats. The fort was garrisoned. The city which had suffered 30 years of Bhangi misrule needed peace and rule of law. The Maharaja ordered that no interference be made with the personal and public law of Muslims. They were given equal rights with other subjects. Courts presided over by the Qazis and Muftis were confirmed. Prominent citizens were designated as chaudhries and mohallas. The sense of security was given to the people. Trade and Business were established on a sound basis.
Meanwhile Batala was attacked by the Raja of Kangra Sansar chand, so Ranjit singh ordered his troops to march there. Kangra's men fled in fear and all territory was restored to the Rani Sada Kaur. Maharaja also occupied Naushera part of domain of Sansar Chand and give it to Rani Sada Kaur.
Ranjit singh's family and relatives
1802 proved to be an auspicious year for the Maharaja. His Rani Raj Kaur, daughter of Nakai Sardar Khazan Singh gave birth to a son. He was named Kharak Singh. The happy event was celebrated with great rejoicing.
Valuable khillats were bestowed on sardars of the darbar and each soldier in Army was presented with a gold necklace. A large amount was distributed among poor.
Shalimar Gardens at Lahore, Lahore was the capital city of Maharaja Ranjit singh's Sarkar Khalsa. These Gardens were built by Jahangir the Fourth emperor of Mughals.
When the celebrations were over, the Maharaja along with his ally, Fateh Singh Ahluwalia marched on to Daska. The fort was seized and the in charge fled in fear. A police post was set up in this fort and victorious maharaja returned to Lahore. Now a message was received from Pindi Bhatian that Jassa Singh Bhangi was committing excesses on the local zamindars. He held the Chiniot fort. The maharaja reached there with his army. Some resistance was offered but the fort fell to Ranjit singh's army.
However, all was not quiet. The Pathan Chief of Kasur, Nizam-Ud-Din created fresh trouble. He had collected a large force of Afghans and pl*ndered few villages under the Maharaja and was making further preparations to create more trouble. The maharaja was enraged. He directed Fateh singh Ahluwalia to proceed to Kasur s the Nawab had brooken the terms of the treaty. Ranjit singh himself followed along with his troops. The Nawab offered stout resistance as he was well prepared. A fierce battle ensued. The Sikhs showed their valor under the command of their able generals. The Pathans entered the fort as they were unable to fight the Sikh army in open. Many were slain. At last fort was seized and remaining soldiers were put to death. The Nawab surrendered with humility. He was forgiven, reinstated and he promised to remain submissive. He paid huge sum of money as Nazrana and was also made to pay for the war reparations. This Nazrana money was distributed among the poor and the needy to celebrate victory.
Then after a brief spell, Maharaja marched into Jull*ndur Doab. He annexed several places on the way. He also seized Phagwara and gave this town to Fateh Singh Ahluwalia. Then Maharaja visited Kapurthala and there he came to know that Sansar Chand of Kangra had entered Bijwara and Hoshiarpur. The Maharaja hastened back, turned out Raja Sansar Chand and established army posts at these two places.
By this time Ranjit singh had become a great force. While returning from hills maharaja subdued old Sikh chiefs and sardars, Tara singh Gheba, Dharam Singh of Amritsar and Budh Sing of Fyzulapur.
And now came the engagement of his son Kharak singh to Chand Kaur, daughter of Jaimul singh of Kanhaiya misal. There were rejoicing throughout the kingdom. Celebrations continued for several days. Nautch parties were arranged and money was spent lavishly. In one such parties, the Maharaja fell in love with a very beautiful Muslim dancing girl, Moran, whom he ultimately married. She had a great influence over maharaja and money was coined the inscription of Mor; peac*ck on it in commemoration of the marriage. The maharaja performed pilgrimage to Hardwar, accompanied with Moran. Chand Kaur gave birth to Naunihal Singh, Maharaja's grandson. Prince Naunihal Singh, Maharaja's Grandson
However, this marriage with Moran raised a storm in the kingdom. Sikh public opinion received a rude shock. The maharaja was summoned to the Akal Takht. The maharaja sought forgiveness with all humility. He offered gifts to the panj pyaras, under whose orders he was called. They pronounced punishment which Maharaja gladly accepted. He was to be flogged publicly. Panj Pyaras were gratified at the submission of the Maharaja and took a lenient view and accepted a fine of RS. 1,25,000 from the Maharaja.
Moran's influence over the Maharaja remained only for a short while. The Maharaja sent Moran away to Pathankote, where she spent many years of her life in peace.
The maharaja established a secular state in which all the subjects, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs were treated alike. Many talented Hindus and Muslims joined his service and the Maharaja gladly participated in the religious festivals of all the communities. Festivals like Dussehra, Diwali, Holi, Basant were celebrated with splendor and gaiety. The Maharaja participated in them along with his subjects and on the occasions of Amavas and Baisakhi took a dip into the holy tank at Amritsar. By his secular outlook, the Maharaja earned great respect from his subjects and also their loyalty.
The campaign of Amritsar
Amritsar is the spiritual capital of the Sikhs. A holy tank was got dug by Guru Ram Dass and the temple was built by Guru Arjan Dev, who installed Guru Granth Sahib in it. Akal Takht was built by Guru Hargobind. It was the seat of temporal authority. The Guru hinself sat there and held a court ofjustice. Many Sikhs used to gather there for the redress of their grievances. Gurmattas were passed which were binding on the Sikhs.
Guru Arjan Dev proclaimed the benefits of he holy tank at Amritsar."all the sins that a man committeth are washed away by bathing in the Tank of Ram Das."
It was must for every true Sikh to take a dip in the holy tank. Moreover, Amritsar was the biggest trade centre of Punjab. Goods from central Asia were exchanged here for the local goods. Silk, Muslin, Spices, tea, hides, and several other articles were bought and sold here. For the Sikhs Amritsar was the Mecca.
Amritsar was divided among a dozen families manning different parts of the city. In each of these parts they had built for themselves small fortresses and maintained a task force of tax collectors who sometimes forcibly collected money from the trading community. These tax collectors very often quarelled among themselves and sometimes even created scenes in the streets to the amazement of the residents. The citizens could not stand such a situation for long and secretly approached Maharaja Ranjit Singh to invite him to attack the city. It was reported to Ranjit Singh that there was hardly any unity among these Sardars. The only formidable family was that of Mai Sukhan, widow of the Bhangi chief, Gulab Singh. She was in possesion of the Gobindgarh fort. According to Lepel Griffin, Ranjit singh demanded from Mai Sukhan the famous Bhangi Gun, Zamzama, made of copper and Brass, which had caused disaster among the rank and file of the Marathas at the third battle of Panipat. It was captured from the Duranis in 1764 by the Bhangis and it was because of this reason that it was known as Bhangian Di Tope.
Thus in 1802, Maharaja Ranjit Singh marched towards, Amritsar at the head of the force consisting of Kanahaiya, Nakkai and Ahluwalia troops in addition to his own force in strength. When the troops reached Amritsar, the Rani closed the gates of the town, mounted the ramparts of the city with arms and ammunition in considerable quantity and gave the attacking army a very good recetion. Fateh Singh Ahluwalia, commenced his operations in front of the Bridge gate and the Maharaja on the other end of the Lohgarh fort. A fierce fighting took place but in the end the gates could not stand the heavy cannonade and the marching army entered city in triumph, with the Maharaja at the head. Ranjit Singh ordered that the city should not be pl*ndered as the place was too sacred with the memory of the Gurus. The fort of Lohgarh was besieged without any difficulty. As a coincidence, there was heavy rain during the dy and the Rani and her son had no place to take shelter. They went to the haveli of Sardar Jodh singh Ramgarhia, who took pity on them and gave them shelter. Ranjit singh Sanctioned a small jagir for them for their maintenance. The confederacy collapased. Ranjit singh occupied the fort and captured considerable war material,including the Zamzama and the area which yielded a handsome revenue.
More important than the capture of the fort was the acquisition of the services of the gallant warrior, Akali Phula Singh. He belong to the militant order of the Nihangs and had devoted his life to the protection of the Sikh shrines. He rendered necessary help to the Maharaja in capturing the city of Amritsar. With him were about three thousand Nihangs who wanted to join the army of the Maharaja. The Akali prooved to be a great asset to the Maharaja in capturing territories later on. He died a heroic death in the battle of Naushera. He was a man of such a forceful will and character that at one time he decoyed even Maharaja Ranjit singh to undress and get flogged on his naked body before the holy Akal Takht. With a person of such a high stature as the Maharaja himself accepting the punishment awarded, the Akal Takht gained a dignity and prestige among the Sikhs who henceforth came to seek a pardon here.
Akali Phoola singh, though a soldier of zeal and valour, sometimes acted according to his own whims. Since 1800, the management of the holy shrines passed into the hands of the Akalis under the supervision of Akali Phula Singh. In 1815 he reached Amritsar with some of his devotees and out of Rs 1,100 collected as contribution at Darbar Sahib, he claimed Rs 1000. It was Baisakhi day. He picked quarrel with his rivals and in the ensuing encounter there were three casualties. The matter was reported to Ranjit singh who ordered Hakim Imam-Ud-Din to settel the dispute.
Ranjit singh,the victor, paid a visit to Hari mandir as a humble man and performed his ablutions in the holy tank. The capture of the Amritsar brought fame and honour to Ranjit Singh. Ranjit Singh was such a devoted Sikh that instead of putting his name on the coin issued by his government he put the word "akal Sahai", means the great God, as seen in this coin. Many Indians from the force of East India company started joining the ranks of his family. As many sardars of the Bhangi famiy had joined the Maharaja army, they were required to furnish well-ewuipped soldiers at times of war. The total fighting force which could be utilised on any occasion was 31,000. Ranjit Singh appointed Misar Chajju Mal as the collector of Customs at Amritsar. The Misar was extremely loyal to Maharaja and rendered him useful service. Ranjit singh took keen interest in the management of the holy shrine. He appointed Surat Singh as its Manager. He gave shrine its marble face and its golden look from which the name Golden Temple or Swarn Mandir is derived. Marble and fresco paintings were also added. The eastern loggia of the shrine was gilded by Rani Sada kaur at a cost of Rs. 1,75,300 . Amritsr's gaiety and splendour increased. It was inhibited by aristocracy and many high dignitaries often visited the town. It was illuminated on special occasins. There were rejoicings in the city and it gave a festive appearance and whenever the Maharaja was victorious in any campaign, large scale celebrations were held.
The Sikh army then marched towards Peshawar and no resistance was offered. Most of the Ghazis fled and Peshawar was occupied by the Sikh army on November 18, 1818. The Governor of Peshawar, Yar Mohammad Khan left the territory and crossed the Khyber Pass to Yusafzai land.
Although the Sikh army was victorious, hold on Peshawar could not be retained and the territory administered properly with a meager army. So Ranjit Singh appointed Jahan Dad Khan of Attock as the Governor of Peshawar. The people of the town were not touched nor their property looted. A nazrana of Rs 25,000 was collected from prominent citizens. The Maharaja stayed at Peshawar for 3 days, celebrated his victory and returned to Lahore. He took with him 14 heavy guns. The Governor Jahan Dad Khan had no force to protect the town in case it was attacked by anybody. The Maharaja had hardly reached Lahore, when Yar Mohammad Khan, attacked Peshawar and recaptured it. Jahan Dad Khan fled leaving the territory to the mercy of the invaders.
The Maharaja was sore over the developments. In the meanwhile, Mohammad Khan, the Barakzai, offered to the Lahore darbar an annual tribute of Rs. 100,000. He was made the in charge of Peshawar. The offer of Barakzais was accepted but the Maharaja sent a force of 12000 men under the command of Prince Kharak Singh, Missar Dewan Chand and Sardar Nalwa and ordered to cross the Indus river to ensure the implementation of the terms. Peshawar was reoccupied by the Barakzais but paid only half the amount promised along with a horse. The Sikh forces quietly retrieved to Lahore. By 1823, Abdali's Indian empire was sinking. In the same year, the Maharaja summoned Hari Singh to Lahore for urgent consultations as intelligence reports had been received that Mohammad Azim Barakzai was mustering his forces to fight against the Khalsa. It was a challenge for the Maharaja who thought it fit to nip the evil in the bud.
The Maharaja gathered his troops at Rohtas and marched towards Rawalpindi. Having halted there for a couple of days, he sent Fakir Aziz-ud-Din to Peshawar to realize tribute from the Governor Yar Mohammad Khan who owed allegiance to him. Yar Mohammad Khan gave right royal reception to the Fakir. The town was illuminated and parades were held in the honor of the visiting dignitary. The Fakir was duly impressed. Yar Mohammad Khan cleared his dues and presented to the Lahore darbar a gift of few horses. It is said that Yar Mohammad Khan sent to the darbar Rs. 40,000 as tribute with a promise of further annual tribute of Rs 20 000.
Fakir Aziz-ud-Din returned satisfied and reported the matter to the Maharaja. But the conduct of Yar Mohammad Khan irritated the tribesmen. Pathans flared up in an open revolt and raised the cry of Jehad against the infidels. Their chief instigator was Azim Khan, Yar Mohammad's elder brother. He aroused the religious feelings of tribesmen and declared that he would liberate the Pathans from foreign yoke. Cries of Jehad resounded in the Khyber Pass and shouts of Allah-o-Akbar were heard from the top of the hills.
Mohammad Azim Khan marched with a strong army of both regulars and irregulars from Kabul to Peshawar. Thousands more joined him on the way spurred by their greed to loot and pl*nder. When Mohammad Azim Khan reached Peshawar on January 27, 1823, Yar Mohammad Khan fled into Yusufzai territory. The news was received by the Lahore darbar with surprise. Immediate action was ordered. Prince Sher Singh and Hari Singh Nalwa led the advance columns. They crossed the Attock by means of a pantoon bridge and reached the fort of Jahangiria. A light skirmish took place, Afghans left the fort and fled in whatever direction they could. When Azim Khan, who was encamping at Peshawar, came to know the fate of his comrades at Jahangiria, he gathered more tribesmen by raising the cry of Jehad. The religious sentiments Of Afghans were inflamed and their enthusiasm reached its peak, raised the slogan of "do or die" for the green banner, which was to be kept aloft at all costs. Tribesmen from all corners-Afridis? Yusufzais and Khattacks-gathered like a swarm of locusts to lay down their lives in Jehad against the infidels.
The Maharaja, on the other hand, mobilized all his resources, gathered arms and ammunition, marched in stages and reached the eastern bank of the river. To his great disappointment he found that the Afghans had already destroyed the bridge. Sher Singh, who had earlier captured Jahangiria, was besieged by Afghans. Azim Khan was being assisted by his brothers Dost Mohammad and Jabbar Khan.
All the hills were surrounded by hostile forces. It was almost impossible for the Khalsa army to cross the river and was not allowed to make a boat bridge for the purpose. The blood-thirsty Afghans were hovering all around and Sher Singh and his troops were put in the most awkward position. There was no escape for the Khalsa. The Maharaja had to take a quick decision, for there was no time for consultations. The time to strike had come. The Maharaja took a bold decision at the spur of the moment and ordered his troops to cross the river. The Maharaja was the first to plunge his horse into the river. He recited Japji and prayed to the Lord for success. The troops followed him. All types of animals- camels, elephants, horses and mules were used to cross the river. Many were carried away by the strong current of the river. Some war equipment was lost too. But most of the troops were able to cross the river and were able to control its western bank. Before the Afghans could take any action, Khalsa army was fully entrenched and had the upper hand. The Afghans retreated in dismay. The gates of Jahangiria fort were opened. The triumphant Maharaja entered the fort and was received with great honor. Gun shots were fired and Prince Sher Singh welcomed his father with loud shouts of Sat Sri Akal. The first round was over. The Khalsa carried the day.
The Afghans now encamped in the open fields at Naushera, between Attock and Peshawar. In between was Landi stream and on its western bank were stationed the Afghans. The Maharaja held consultations with his generals and decided that Afghans on the western banks of Indus should not be allowed to cross it and join the Afghans at Naushera. lf the Afghans on both sides of the stream somehow joined, the situation for the Khalsa would be beyond control. So they had to strike without any loss of time.
The Khalsa army surrounded Naushera and encamped on the bank of the river Landi. The artillery was put into action. Guns were fired opposite the Afghans. The Afghans were entrenched on the Pir Sabad hillock. The army of the Sikhs was estimated to be around 25,000 strong while the Afghans, strength w as not less than 40,000. The Ghazis were asked to wage a holy war against the infidels and were instigated in the name of Jehad. They were told to 'do or die' for the sake of their religion. Khatak chief's son Feroz Khan with a considerable number of Mujahids had joined the Afghan regulars. On the other side, the contingent of the Khalsa army were commanded by its dashing and dynamic general Phula Singh. He had a suicide squad at his command which was imbued with the desire to fight and die for the sake of the Panth.
However, Akali Phula Singh's courage and bravery at Naushera surpassed his earlier achievements. Attempts were made to dislodge the Afghans from the hillock but nothing substantial could be achieved. Ultimately, Akali Phula Singh with his band of desperadoes moved along the foot of the hill. A musket ball struck him down his horse but not caring for his life he rode an elephant and dashed into the enemy ranks. The Afghans fell on the Akalis and hand-to-hand fight ensued. The Akalis were surrounded by 1500 Afghan horsemen amidst shouts of Sat Sri Akal and Allah-o-Akbar. Many Afghans lost their lives but in the encounter another musket ball hit the brave general who in the thick of firing captured the hillock. But the general lost his life along with a number of his devoted soldiers. He was the hero of Multan and Kashmir and had proved his mettle in earlier battles also. But his courage and bravery at Naushera surpassed all his earlier achievements. The loss of Akali Phula Singh was ursbearable for Ranjit Singh who when informed of the death of his brave general, became remorseful but bowed before the Will of God. He ordered a Samadh to be constructed at the place where the gallant general had lost his life.
Then the Sikh troops advanced under Prince Kharak Singh but Afghans did not budge an inch. Half the Afghans were slain but the remaining could not be dislodged from their position on the high ground. More Sikh forces were rushed. The battle lasted the whole day. Some 2,000 Sikh soldiers laid down their lives. Then by the evening many Afghans were dislodged from their positions. The remaining Ghazis fought their way out of the Sikh posts and fled in the hills to save their lives. The victory was of the Khalsa. When Wazir Khan came to know of the happenings at Naushera, he rushed from Peshawar to join his co-religionists and his brother who was commanding the Afghans. But he was not allowed to cross the river by the troops in the command of Hari Singh Nalwa. Sikh soldiers showered fire on Azim Khan's forces like rain in the month of sawan and many in the enemy ranks died. Ranjit Singh himself appeared on the scene, rode up to the top of the mound, and ordered his troops to march forward. The hill resounded with the cries of Sat Sri Akal. Ranjit Singh acknowledged the greetings of his troops by raising his naked kirpan to his forehead. Fierce fighting followed. Moorcroft, who was present in the battlefield, wrote to the Governor-General: "The matchlock, the brow, the spear, the sword, the knife and even the staff of an undisciplined multitude were about to be opposed by the cannon, the musket. the matchlock and the sabre directed by disciplined artillerists-under the command of Ranjit Singh himself and consisting of the flower of the Sikh army Infantry fire was opened. The Sikh cavalry charged one line of horsemen galloped up to the enemy, fired, wheeled and turned back. The same thing was repeated again and again. The Afghans concluded that such a combat would not be beneficial to them. They climbed down the hillock and attacked the Sikhs with all their force. Two of the Sikh guns were captured but in a matter of moments they were recaptured by the Sikhs. Gunfire continued. The Afghans were within the firing range of the Sikh Army.
The Ghazis made a desperate effort to dislodge the Sikhs from their vantage position but all in vain. The Sikh cavalry rode into the ranks of the Ghazis. Azim Khan watched from a distance the slaughter of his Mujahids. In between was the stream, which he was not allowed to cross. When he saw his Ghazis fleeing and attempting to cross the river and some of them drowning, his head hung in shame. The shock was too great for him to bear. He was broken hearted and died some time afterwards. The battle of Naushera sounded the death knell of the Afghans. Three days later, the victorious Maharaja entered Peshawar. The citizens gave him a rousing reception, presenting the Maharaja many gifts. At night the bazaars and streets of the town were illuminated and fireworks were displayed. Shouts of Sat Sri Akal resounded in the sky in this far-flung area inhabited by the Pathans, who had no respect for the law.
After a couple of days, both Yar Mohammad and Dost Mohammad appeared before the Maharaja, repented for their misdeeds and sought his forgiveness. The Maharaja, generous and liberal as he was, pardoned them who promised to pay him tribute regularly in future. Beautiful horses were presented to the Maharaja. Shahi darbar was held and Yar Mohammad was appointed the Governor of Peshawar as he promised to pay a revenue of one lakh and ten thousand rupees to the Maharaja.
After the victory the Maharaja returned to Lahore. Songs of welcome were sung and the Muslim festival, Shab-i-barat was celebrated by all the communities jointly. Roses, flowers and petals were showered on the victorious Ranjit Singh who in turn showered gold and silver coins on the large concourse of people who had gathered in the streets celebrating the victory. At night oil lamps were burnt and rockets were fired. The Maharaja thanked the Almighty for the victory.
The Sikhs' victory at Naushera had. practically liquidated Afghan supremacy between Indus and Peshawar. In Afghanistan the Barakzai brothers were quarreling among themselves. Habibullah Khan, son of Mohammad Azim Khan was not in a position to keep the kingdom under his control. Sher Dil Khan, brother of Mohammad Azim Khan had already declared himself as the independent ruler of Kandhar. Dost Mohammad Khan wrested the masnad at Kabul. The Bukhara chief annexed Balakh, Herat was occupied by Kamran, the dethroned son of Shah Mohammad. Peshawar was retained as the tributary of Lahore darbor. Sind was no longer under the Afghans. Kashmir was annexed to the Sikh empire in 1819. Multan was occupied by the Sikhs in 1818, the Derajat in 1821, Attock in 1813 and Rawalpindi in 1820.
By 1826, the dismemberment was complete and final. Kabul had become a separate empire. Kandhar was ruled by three brothers, Kohin Dil, Rustom Dil and Mihr Dil. The fourth brother, Sher Dil had already died. Prince Kamran of Herat became the tributary of Persia.
The situation had taken such a turn that it enabled the Sikhs to annex the Afghan provinces in North India. After the death or Mohammad Dil Khan, who was a strong force in unifying the Earakzai family, the Afghans had suffered much. With the occupation of Peshawar by the Sikhs, the unity of the Barakzai family was broken into pieces. The Sikhs never trusted the Barakzais and were being paid the tribute under coercion and threats, they raised a cry of Jehad and vowed to fight against the Sikhs whom they called infidels.
The upsurge was tremendous. All joined hands and gathered under the banner of Sayeed Ahmad, so-called reformer, who proclaimed the doctrine of purity of imam for Muslims. He pretended to reform the Muslims, among whom corruption and evil practices had crept in. He belonged to Bareilly, and was once a mercenary in the service of Amir Khan, the Rohilla chief. He left the service of Amir Khan after his fall. He then became religious enthusiast, went to Mecca for Haj and on his return became the exponent of the Wahabi doctrines.
The Treaty of Amritsar (Sarkar Khalsa and British)
In 1807, Ranjit Singh had taken over the territory of Tara Singh Gheba, who had died earlier. His widow was ousted and the estate attached without any resistance. It was a severe blow to the authority of the Sardars who were still dreaming of retaining their petty estates. It caused alarm among the Malwa chiefs, who were convinced that the Maharaja was now bent upon reducing them to the position of tributaries.
Ranjit Singh's General, Dewan Mukham Chand crossed the Sutlej and captured Wadni, near Ferozepur, and proceeded towards Anandpur. This created further stir among the Malwa chiefs and they conspired against the Lahore darbar and turned their eyes towards the British who could help them in retaining their territories. They found in the British their savior.
The Malwa chiefs held a meeting and met Seton, the British Resident at Delhi. They appealed to the resident to give them protection against the designs of Ranjit Singh. They argued that the Cis-Sutlej territory had always been protected by the Government at Delhi and now that the British were in possession of Delhi, they should extend them protection. The resident gave them patient hearing, but could not help them at that stage.
In March 1808, Lord Minto, the Governor-General, wrote, "Although as a principle, we cordially recognize the wisdom and the justice of abstaining from all interference's in the contests, disputes, and concerns of states with which we are unconnected by the obligations of alliance, and are fully convinced of the embarrassment and inconvenience of extending.
our protection to petty chieftains, who are unable to protect their territories from the aggressions of more powerful neighbors, yet we are disposed to think that cases may occur in which temporary deviation from those general principles may be a measure of defensive policy, the neglect of which might be productive of much more danger and embarrassment than the persecution of it, and that the certain resolution of the Raja of Lahore to subjugate the states situated between the Sutlej and the frontier of our dominion would, under other circumstances than the present, constitute a case on which, on grounds of self defense, the interposition of the British power for the purpose of preventing the execution of such a project would be equally just and prudent.
The British, however, did not harm their relations with Ranjit Singh. Though, "the Resident held out no hopes to the deputies of the confederate Sikh chiefs of direct British interference in their relations with the Lahore ruler, but nevertheless they were led to hope that they had the best sympathies of the British authorities, and that, when the time came, a helping hand would not be denied to them. The reply, though encouraging, was not decisive, and by no means sufficient to save the chiefs concerned from eventual ruin.
Thus, the British agent "gave the hint to the Cis-Sutle; chiefs that in emergency they would not be deserted. However, "the reply to the deputation, though straightforward, was cautious and vague. It practically amounted to this: We can promise nothing definite; but you have our sympathy, and we will do what we can.
This did not satisfy the Cis-Sutlej chiefs. They thought of further means to save themselves from the expansionist designs of Ranjit Singh. However, Ranjit Singh played a diplomatic game. He sent his emissaries to Cis-Sutlej's chiefs to calm down their feelings.
After the Treaty of Amritsar with British which simply stated that the International boundry of line between the Sarkar Khalsa and British India is Satluj. Ranjit singh was virtually made master of all the territory to the west of Satluj. But.. there was several small kingdoms, like Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Kashmir, Multan, Sialkote which were ruled by Afghani or local chiefs.
Thus, Ranjit singh first turned towards North towards Kangra valley which was taken over from Raja Sansar Chand by Gurkhas. Ranjit Singh's forces fought with Gurkhas in Kangra Valley in the end the Gurkha leader Amar Singh thapa fled leaving the field to the Sikhs. Ranjit singh entered the fort of Kangra and held a royal Darbar which was attended by the hill chiefs of Chamba, nurpur, Kotla, Shahpur, Guler, Kahlur, Mandi, Suket and Kulu. Desa Singh Majithia was appointed governor of Kangra.
Then Ranjit singh sent a force under the command of Hukma Singh Chimmi to Jammu and himself marched on to Khushab. The fort of Khushab was held by Jaffar Khan, a Baluch chief. He gave up the city and defended the fort stoutly. Ranjit singh invited him to vacate the fort and accept a jagir. In few months, Jaffar Khan accepted Ranjit singh's terms and gave up the fort. He was given a jagir and allowed to remain in Khushab with his family.
Meanwhile, Shah Shuja was arrested by a Afghani Ata Mohammad Khan who was governor of Kashmir. Shah Shuja's wife Wafa Begum approached Ranjit Singh to get her husband out of Kashmir. Ranjit Singh wanted Kohinoor diamond and he agreed. Hari Singh Nalwa and other forces were dispatched along with the Afghani forces of Wafa Begum. The Sikhs and Afghans crossed the Pir Panjal and entered the valley of Kashmir towards the close of 1812. Shah Shuja was rescued from an undergrond dungeon by Sardar Nihal singh Attariwala. Hari Singh Nalwa was made a new governor of Kashmir by Ranjit Singh. Shah Shuja was set free. Shah Shuja invited Ranjit Singh to his house. A servant brought in a packet as they settled down in their seats after mutual exchange of courtesies. Ranjit singh watched eagerly as the stone was being slowly unwrapped. He was beside himself with joy when the Koh-i-nor, Mountain of Light was placed on his palm. The price of this stone at that time was 6 crore rupees which comes to about Two million American dollars with today's conversion factor. This diamond still exist in England and is part of one of the Royal stone's.
Around this time, Ranjit singh also got the fort of Attock by daring operations of Hari Singh Nalwa and Desa Singh Majithia. Now Punjab under Ranjit Singh extended from Satluj to river attock and from Kashmir to Kasur. Early in 1817, Ranjit singh sent a body of troops to Multan under the command of Diwan Bhiwani Das to receive from Nawab Muzaffar Khan the tribute he owed to the Sikh Darbar. Bhiwani das laid siege to the city, but showed little vigour to pressing it. He made a secret pact with the Nawab which led Ranjit Singh to recall him and deprive him of his office. Ranjit Singh planned the afresh expedition and sent a strong force under his son Kharak Singh's charge. He arranged for supplies to be sent by boats down the river Ravi, the Chenab and the Jhelum. The system of passing letters was organised in such a manner that the Maharaja received the news from Multan by relays of messengers several times a day.
The fort of Multan was one of the strongest in the country and Nawab Muzaffar Khan defended it with an equally strong heart. Kharak Singh's armies lay around it without making much headway. Ranjit Singh sent a big gun Zamzama along with Akali Phula singh's Nihang regiment. The Zamzama was fired with effect and the gates were blown in. Akali Phula singh made a sudden rush and took the garrison by surprise. The grey bearded Nawab stood in his way, sword in hand to fight, resolved to fight to death. His five sons died fighting. Two surviving sons were giving jagirs by Ranjit singh. their descendants are still in possession of those lands in Pakistan. Prince Kharak singh left Jodh Singh Kalsia with 600 men to guard the fort of Multan. Now Ranjit Singh southern boundry was Multan. In 1818, A.D. Ranjit singh won Rohtas, Rawal Pindi and Hasan Abdal. Then he made preparations to cross the river Attock and attack Peshawar. These conquests are greatly explained with the biography of Hari Singh Nalua . In 1819, Ranjit Singh had to attack Srinagar again, this time he made Diwan Moti Das Governor, with Sham singh Attariwala, Jawala Singh Padhania, and Misr Diwan Chand to further assist him in the operations in valley. Ten successive governors administered Kashmir during Sikh regime. One of them was prince Sher singh who carred the Sikh standard across the high mountains into Ladakh. The conquest of Ladakh valley which was strategically very important, made the frontier secure against the expanding influence of China. Sher Singh sent General Zorawar Singh to march towards Tibet. Garo and Rudok were occupied and the Lhasa armies attacked. Tibetian government signed a treaty with Zorawar's armies.
The legacy of Maharaja Ranjit Singh
Two Europeans, Ventura, an Italian by birth, and Allard, a Frenchman, came to Lahore in 1822 to seek service in the Sikh army. Both of them had served under Napolean in the imperial army of France. After Napolean's defeat at Waterloo they lost their occupation and left Europe to try their fortune in the East. They had heard many a tale of the grandeuf of Ranjit Singh's court and were taken up with the idea of visiting Lahore. Ranjit Singh, although not educated but was very wise and intelligent, he knew about the exploits of Napolean. Punjabi historians had compared them and Ranjit singh was even called Napolean of the East. Ranjit singh met these two European and he received them kindly asked them about their health and journey, previous employment, future plans. He showed them his troops on parade and provided amenities for their entertainment. In April of 1822, they sent a letter to Maharaja asking for an employment with his troops. The communication between these soldiers and Maharaja was in French through the trusted aide Faqir Nur-ud-din, who knew French, English, persian as many other languages. Maharaja wanted to make sure that these people did not had any contacts with British and only when he was cent percent sure, he gave them command of 500 horsemen each. This command had few Purbias(Bihari) and other Hindus of Central provinces, employed with Ranjit Singh. They were also to train all forces of Sikhs in the western method of drill. Ventura's army was called Fauj-e-Khas while little bit later Allard was asked to raise a cavalry of fresh recruits. Then Ranjit Singh also made them sign an agreement that in the event of a clash between Maharaja and European power, they would remain loyal to Sarkar Khalsa and fight for him. They were to wear their beards long and abstain from beef and tobacco. Ranjit Singh provided houses for Ventura and Allard and gave them handsome salaries. To Ventura he gave 40,000 rupees when he married a Muslim girl from Ludhiana. Two villages were subsequently given to the daughter of Ventura as jagir. Ventura built a house, which still exists near Anarkali, it is a beautiful Cheateau in French style. This shows that even though Ranjit Singh was cautious but shrewd and able enough to distinguish between people beneficial to him.
He selectively employed several more Europeans, such as Dr.Honigberger, a native of Hungary. Avitable 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 Steinbach, a German was made a battalion commander. Hurbon, a Spainard was an engineer. Dr. Benet, a Frenchman was a 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. He was very kind to these foreigners. He trusted them and gave them positions of responsibility and rewarded them generously for their services. But he always kept a watchful eye on them and never let them have an influence over him. They willingly submitted to his natural dignity and served him faithfully.
Ranjit singh's Lahore also attracted many visitors and travellers. Like his foreign counriers, they came from all parts of the world. They were drawn by the reports of the Maharaja's hospitality and his personal charm and joi de vivre. What fascinated his visitors most was his unquenchable curiosity. He asked them the most searching questions and his keenness of mind and range of interest surprised everyone. Many travellers have written in their books of his generosity, refined manner and mental alertness. He was always cheerful and vivacious and transmitted the same spirit of heartiness to his visitors. 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 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 raltions with the country of Ranjit Singh. They traders from Punjab were assured welcome and security in Russia.
Another famous traveller to visit Ranjit Singh was Baron Charles Hugel. He was a German Scientist, who travelled 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 Jacquemont, a French traveller, also praised Ranjit Singh's powers of conversation and his shrewd judgement. He wrote in his book: "Ranjit Singh is almost the first inquistive 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, Napolean, 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 British took over Punjab after Ranjit Singh convent Schools were spread all over Punjab.
He was a benevolent king. Eventhough the Government of Punjab was called Sarkar Khalsa but no laws were imposed on any of the minority or majority. Sikhs at his time were about 15% of whole population, hindus around 25%, rest were Muslims. He governed the fourty years of his rule from Lahore with secular ideals. He would fast with Mulsims during Ramadan and play Holi with Hindus., yet he would be at Amritsar almost every Month to take bath. A poor muslim from Lahore had written a Quran which he was going to take to DelhiA to sell at the Mughals court. Ranjit Singh asked him how much he wanted and paid him twice. There is another story about Ranjit singh. One year, crops totally die and due to a massive famine, 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. Although he was a devout Sikh but he cannot be called a strict Khalsa sikh adhering to all the principles of Sikhism. He was a very well disciplined soldier of Khalsa who was also a secular as well as enjoying his life, like drinking, etc. 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 splendour 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.
Re: .·´`·.·´¯`·.› Maharaja Ranjit Singh ‹.·´¯`·.·´`·.
As a reader of sikh history, I am always amazed at the foresight shown by Maharajah Ranjit Singh in hiring foreign Generals such as Allard and Ventura to drill the troops in modern warfare techniques. To read the descriptions by the British of "sikh gunners, perfectly drilled, unique specimens of manhood each no less than 6'3 in height, enough to send shivers through the stoutest of men."
Ranjit Singh was always open to alternative thinking and progress. His court was adourned with all religions and thinkers. The commissioning of european artists to paint court scenes has allowed a wonderful record of the times to be preserved. But for a few sentinel events in our history, the outcome of sikh history may well have been vastly different.
Recently, I heard there was a movement afoot to have a Sikh Regiment in the British Army. Its a shame this did not come to pass, as I am sure the application process would have been swamped. What a unit that would have been !