MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH

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MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH:

MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH

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Maharaja Ranjit Singh (PuNJABI: ਮਹਾਰਾਜਾ ਰਣਜੀਤ ਸਿੰਘ ) ruled 1799-20 June 1839; Capital city Lahore; was the first Maharaja of the Sikh Empire.

Early life:

Early life

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Ranjit Singh belonged to a Sikh clan of Northern India. He was born in Gujranwala, now in modern Pakistan, according to some historians, into a Jatt Sikh family and others believe that he was born intoa Sansi Sikh family who were Sukerchakia misldars. As a child he suffered from smallpox which resulted in the loss of one eye. At the time, much of Punjab was ruled by the Sikhs under a Confederate Sarbat Khalsa system, who had divided the territory among factions known as misls. Ranjit Singh's father Maha Singh was the Commander of the Sukerchakia misl and controlled a territory in the west Punjab based around his headquarters at Gujranwala. After his father's death he was raised under the protection of Sada Kaur of the Kanheya Misl. Ranjit Singh succeeded his father at the age of 18.After several campaigns, he conquered the other misls and created the Sikh Empire.

The Maharaja:

The Maharaja

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Ranjit Singh was crowned on 12 April 1801 . Sahib Singh Bedi, a descendant of Guru Nanak Dev, conducted the coronation . Gujranwala rved as his capital from 1799. In 1802 he shifted his capital to Lahore. Ranjit Singh rose to power in a very short period, from a leader of a single Sikh misl to finally becoming the Maharaja (Emperor) of Punjab. He then spent the following years fighting the Afghans, driving them out of the Punjab. He also captured Pashtun territory including Peshawas. This was the first time that Peshawari Pashtuns were ruled by Punjabisa. He captured the province of Multan which encompossed the southern parts of Punjab, Peshawar (1818), Jammu and Kashmir (1819). Thus Ranjit Singh put an end to more than a thousand years of Muslim rule. He also conquered the hill states north of Anandpur Sahib, the largest of which was Kangra. When the Foreign Minister of the Ranjit Singh's court , Fakir Azizuddin , met the British Governor-General of India, Lord Auckland, in Simla, Lord Auckland asked Fakir Azizuddin which of the Maharaja's eyes was missing, Azizuddin replied: "The Maharaja is like the sun and sun has only one eye. The splendor and luminosity of his single eye is so much that I have never dared to look at his other eye." The Governor General was so pleased with this reply that he gave his gold watch to Azizuddin. Ranjit Singh's Empire was secular, none of the subjects were discriminated against on account of their religions. The Maharaja never forced Sikhism on his subjects.

SECULAR SIKH RULE:

SECULAR SIKH RULE

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The Kingdom of the Sikhs was most exceptional in that it allowed men from religions other than their own to rise to commanding positions of authority. Besides the Singh (Sikh), the Khan (Muslim) and the Misr (Hindu Brahmin) feature as prominent administrators. The Christians formed a part of the militia of the Sikhs. In 1831, Ranjit Singh deputed his mission to Simla to confer with the British Governor General, Lord William Bentinck. Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa, Fakir Aziz-ud-din and Diwan Moti Ram ― a Sikh, a Muslim and a Hindu representative ― were nominated at its head. Externally, everyone in the Sikh kingdom looked alike; they supported a beard and covered their head, predominantly with a turban. This left visitors to the Punjab quite confused. Most foreigners arrived there after a passage through Hindustan, where religious and caste distinctions were very carefully observed. It was difficult for them to believe that though everyone in the Sarkar Khalsaji looked similar, they were not all Sikhs. The Sikhs were generally not known to force either those in their employ or the inhabitants of the country they ruled to convert to Sikhism. In fact, men of piety from all religions were equally respected by the Sikhs and their ruler. Hindu sadhus , yogis , saints and bairagis ; Muslim faqirs and pirs ; and Christian priests were all the recipients of Sikh largess. There was only one exception — the Sikhs viewed the Muslim clergy with suspicion. Mullahs were not looked upon kindly, as they were known to fan fanaticism.

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In their conquests, the Sikhs never perpetrated atrocities as by invaders into the sub-continent. It was true that the Sikhs held a grudge against the Afghans for the atrocities they had perpetrated, over decades, against them. Before them, the Mughals had hunted down the Sikhs like animals in the field. Every Sikh carried a price on his head. The Afghans had caused havoc and mayhem in the Punjab during the lifetime of both Ranjit Singh’s father and grandfather. Despite that, during the rule of the Sikhs there were no reports of torture of the kind routinely inflicted upon the Sikhs by some of the Muslim rulers of Hindustan and subsequently by the Afghan invaders. The Sikhs were reportedly a most tolerant nation. According to Masson, a deserter from the British India Army who was to later become a Political Agent for the East India Company and stationed in the Kingdom of Kabul: “At present, flushed by a series of victories, they (the Sikhs) have a zeal and buoyancy of spirit amounting to enthusiasm; and with the power of taking the most exemplary revenge, they have been still more lenient than the Mahomeddan were ever towards them”. As a community, the Sikhs were as well known for their religious tolerance as the Mohammedans were notorious for their intolerance. A British Agent, Alexander Burnes, traveled extensively through the Punjab during Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s rule, narrates the following incident, which occurred at the royal stud farm at Puttee as being illustrative of the national character of the Sikhs: “The horses were attacked with an epidemic disease from which a Mohammedan, who resides in a neighboring sanctuary, is believed to

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“The horses were attacked with an epidemic disease from which a Mohammedan, who resides in a neighboring sanctuary, is believed to have cured them. Though a Mohammedan the Sikhs repaired and beautified his temple, which is now a conspicuous white building that glitters in the sun. I have always observed the Sikhs to be most tolerant in their religion…” The Sikhs were never accused of the routine inhuman behavior attributed to the Muslims. In fact, they made every attempt not to offend the prejudices of Mohammedans noted Baron von Hügel, the famous German traveler, yet the Sikhs were referred to as being harsh. In this regard, Masson’s explanation is perhaps the most pertinent: “Though compared to the Afghans, the Sikhs were mild and exerted a protecting influence, yet no advantages could compensate to their Mohaomedan subjects, the idea of subjection to infidels, and the prohibition to slay kine, and to repeat the azan , or summons to prayer”.

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The sanctity and inviolability of the cow in India was well entrenched in Hindu society long before Muslim invasions. This became more so with the introduction of Islamic culture into India. “The Muslim invaders were beef eaters and killers of cows, and thus the sanctity of the cow became a rallying point for Hindu resistance against the spread of Islam.” Cattle were initially the dominant commodity and gotra (cow pen) came to signify the “endogamous kinship groups” . Sikhism was a revolt against the dominance of the Brahmins, caste and the complexity of Hindu rituals. One feature of Hinduism, which did carry over into Sikhism was a respect for the sanctity of the cow. The ban on cow slaughter was universally imposed in the Sarkar Khalsaji. So strictly was this enforced that a visitor to the Kingdom of the Sikhs claimed “the cow is venerated by the Sikhs, even more than by the Hindus” . The British had concealed their consumption of beef from a Hindu or Sikh and pork from Mohammedans by calling both Vilayuti huren , namely European venison . The Revolt of 1857 was to teach the British not to play with religious sentiment of the indigenous population — overtly or covertly. The Sikhs never razed places of worship to the ground belonging to the enemy. The Sikhs were utilitarian in their approach. Marble plaques removed from Jahangir’s tomb at Shahdera were used to embellish the Baradari inside the Fort of Lahore, while most of the mosques were left intact. Forts were destroyed however, these too were often rebuilt ― the best example being the Bala Hissar in Peshawar, which was destroyed by the Sikhs in 1823 and rebuilt by them in 1834 .

Gurdwaras built by maharaja ranjit singh :

Gurdwaras built by maharaja ranjit singh

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At the Harmandir Sahib, much of the present decorative gilding and marblework date back from the early 19th century. The gold and intricate marble work were conducted under the patronage of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Maharaja of the Punjab. The Sher-e-Punjab (Lion of the Punjab) was a generous patron of the shrine and is remembered with much affection by the Sikhs. Maharaja Ranjit Singh deeply loved and admired the teachings of the Tenth Guru of Sikhism Guru Gobind Singh, thus he promoted the teachings of the Dasam Granth (the Tenth Granth) and built two of the most sacred temples in Sikhism. These are Takht Sri Patna Sahib, the birth place of Guru Gobind Singh, and Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, the place where Guru Gobind Singh took his final rest or mahasamadhi, in Nanded, Maharashtra in 1708.

Conquests:

Conquests

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Ranjit Singh's earliest conquests as a young misldar (baron) were effected by defeating his coreligionists, the heads of other Sikh Sardaris (popularly known as the Misls ). By the end of his reign, however, he had conquered vast tracts of territory strategically juxtaposed between the limits of British India to the left and the powerful Afghan Empire to the right. The land that eventually became the Kingdom of the Sikhs had been ruthlessly subjected to the worse kind of atrocities by invading armies coming through the Khyber Pass into the Indian sub-continent, over eight centuries. In 1799, Ranjit Singh captured Lahore and made it his Capital. After the capture of Lahore, Ranjit Singh rapidly annexed the rest of the Punjab, the land of the five rivers. Having accomplished this, he extended his empire further north and west to include the Kashmir mountains and other Himalayan kingdoms, the Sind Sagar Doab, the Pothohar Plateau and trans- Indus regions right up to the foothills of the Sulaiman and Hindu Kush mountains.

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Ranjit Singh took Amritsar from the Bhangi Sardari and followed this with the more difficult conquest of Kasur, the fabled twin city of Lahore, from the Pathans.With the conquest of Multan the whole Bari Doab came under his sway. In the year 1819, Ranjit Singh successfully annexed Kashmir. This was followed by subduing the Kashmir mountains, west of the river Jhelum . Ranjit Singh built his empire by making deep inroads into the Kingdom of Kabul, defeating the Pashtun militia and the tribes inhabiting the Sindh Sagar Doab and trans-Indus regions.

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The most significant encounters between the Sarkar Khalsaji and the Afghans were fought in 1813, 1823, 1834 and in 1837. In 1813, Ranjit Singh's general Dewan Mokham Chand led the Sikh forces against the Afghan forces of Shah Mahmud led by Fateh Khan Barakzai. Following this encounter, the Afghans lost their stronghold at Attock. Subsequently, the Pothohar plateau, the Sindh Sagar Doab and Kashmir came under Sikh rule. In 1823, Ranjit Singh defeated a large army of Yusafzai tribesmen north of the Kabul river, while the presence of his Sikh general, Hari Sing Nalwa prevented the entire Afghan army from crossing this river and going to the aid of the Yusafzais at Nowshera. This defeat led to the gradual loss of Afghan power in the trans-Indus region. In 1834, when the forces of the Sarkar Khalsaji marched into Peshawar, the ruling Barakzais simply fled the place without offering a fight. In April 1837, the real power of Maharaja Ranjit Singh came to the fore when his commander-in-chief, Hari Singh Nalwa, kept the entire army of Amir Dost Mohammad Khan, the Wali of Kabul, at bay, with a handful of forces till reinforcements arrived from Lahore over a month after they were requisitioned.

Geography of sikh empire:

Geography of sikh empire

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The Sikh Empire was also known as Punjab, the Sikh Raj, and Sarkar Khalsaji, was a region straddling the border into modern-day People's Republic of China and Islamic Republic of Afghanistan then popularly referred to as the Kingdom of Cabul. The name of the region "Punjab" or "Panjab", comprises two words "Punj/Panj" and "Ab", translating to "five" and "water" in Persian. When put together this gives a name meaning "the land of the five rivers", coined due to the five rivers that run through the Punjab. Those "Five Rivers" are Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Chenab and Jhelum, all tributaries of the river Indus, home to the Indus Valley Civilization that perished 3000 years ago. Punjab has a long history and rich cultural heritage. The people of the Punjab are called Punjabis and they speak a language called Punjabi. The following modern day political divisions made up the historical Sikh Empire:

Legacy And Aftermath:

Legacy And Aftermath

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Maharaja Ranjit Singh died in 1839, after a reign of nearly forty years, leaving seven sons by different queens. He was cremated. His ceremony was performed by both Sikh and Hindu priests, his wife Maharani Mahtab Devi Sahiba, the Princess of Kangra, daughter of Maharaja Sansar Chand, the Empress of Punjab, committed Sati with Ranjit's body as Ranjit's head lay in her lap, some of the other wives also joined her and committed Sati. The throne went to his eldest son Kharak Singh, who was not entirely fit and prepared for ruling such a vast empire. Some historians believe that the other heirs would have forged an even more durable, independent and powerful empire, had they come to the throne before Kharak Singh. However, the empire began to crumble due to poor governance and political infighting among his heirs. The princes died through internal plots and assassinations, while the nobility struggled to maintain their power.

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In 1845 after the First Anglo-Sikh War, Ranjit Singh's Empire was defeated and all major decisions were managed by the British East India Company. The Army of Ranjit Singh was reduced, under the peace treaty with the British, to a nominal force. Those who gave the stiffest resistance to the British were severely punished and their wealth confiscated. Eventually, Ranjit Singh's youngest son Dalip Singh, was crowned Maharaja of Punjab in 1843 succeeding his brother, Maharaja Sher Singh. In 1849, at the end of the Secon Anglo Sikh War, it was annexed by British India from Dalip. Thereafter, the British took Maharaja Dalip Singh to England in 1854, where he was put under the protection of the Crown. Dalip Singh's mother, Maharani Jind Kaur, escaped and made her way to Nepal where she was given refuge by Sri Teen Maharaja Jun Bahadur Rana of Nepal, who then negotiated on her behalf to allow her to be reunited with her son. Maharani Jind Kaur and her son met at Spence’s Hotel, Calcutta, on 16 January 1861, after some thirteen and half years apart. She was granted permission to come to England. A residence was taken up at No. 1 Lancaster Gate.

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By Parampal singh

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