Sher-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Founder of Sikh Empire in Punjab

Sher-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh
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Early Life of Maharaja Ranjit Singh

Maharaja Ranjit Singh was born on 13 November 1780, to Maha Singh Sukerchakia and Raj Kaur in Gujranwala , in the Majha Region of Punjab (now in Pakistan).

He was short in stature , never schooled . He did not learn to read or write anything beyond the Gurmukhi alphabet . However, he trained at home in horse riding, musketry and other martial arts.

At age 12, his father died. He then inherited his father’s Sukerchakia misl estates and was raised by his mother Raj Kaur.

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Rise of Sikh Empire

Even after the death of Aurangzeb, the relations between the Mughals and Sikhs remained worse. In the northwestern region, the creation of the Khalsa community of Sikh warriors by Guru Gobind Singh accelerated the decay of the Mughal power in the region.

After the Third Battle Of Panipat in 1761, The Maratha Empire became weak . Ahmed Shah Durrani , the founder of modern Afghanistan, also returned to Afghanistan. The Sikhs started reorganizing.

By the second half of the 18th century, the northwestern parts of the Indian subcontinent ( now Pakistan and parts of North India) were a collection of 14 small warring regions. Of the 14, twelve were Sikh- controlled Misls ( confederacies ). The Sikh Misls were all under the control of Khalsa fraternity of Sikh warriors, but they were not united.

Conquests of Maharaja Ranjit Singh

Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s fame grew in 1797, at age 17, when the Afghan Muslim ruler Shah Zaman, of the Ahmad Shah Abdali dynasty, attempted to annexe Punjab region into his control through his general Shahanchi Khan and 12,000 soldiers. The battle occured in the territory that fell in Ranjit Singh misl. 1798, the Afghan ruler sent in another army . Much of the Afghan army retreated back to Afghanistan.

In 1799, Raja Ranjit Singh’s army of 25,000 Khalsa, supported by another 25,000 in a joint operation attacked the region controlled by Bhangi Sikhs centred around Lahore.

The rulers escaped, making Lahore as the first major conquest of Maharaja Ranjit Singh . In1801, Ranjit Singh proclaimed himself as the “Maharaja of Punjab”.

In 1802 Ranjit Singh , aged 22 took Amritsar from the Bhangi Sikh misl . He also paid homage at the Harmandir Sahib temple (Golden Temple).

Treaty with The East India Company

On 1st January 1806, He signed a treaty with the East India Company. He signed that his Sikh forces would not attempt to expand south of the Sutlej river and the Company agreed that it would not dare to militarily cross the Sutlej river into the Sikh territory.

He took Multan in 1818 and the whole Bari Doab came under his rule with that conquest. In 1819, he successfully defeated the Afghan Sunni Muslim rulers and annexed Srinagar and Kashmir.

The most significant encounters between the Sikhs in the command of the Maharaja and the Afghans were in 1813 ,1823,1834 and in 1837. In 1837, the Battle of Jamrud and his March through Kabul in 1838, in cooperation with the colonial British army stationed in Sindh, became the last confrontation between the Sikhs and the Afghans.

In 1838, Ranjit Singh with his troops marched into Kabul to take part in the victory parade along with the British after restoring Shah Shoja to the Afghan throne at Kabul.

Administration of Sher-e -Punjab

Maharaja Ranjit Singh was religiously tolerant.

He allowed men from different religions and races to serve in his army . He was a culture Hindu and followed the Sikh path.

His policies were based on respect for all communities – Hindu ,Sikh and Muslim. He restored historic Sikh Gurudwars – most famously, the Harmandir Sahib ( Golden Temple) .

His army included Polish , Russian, Spanish, Prussian and french officers . He prohibited cow slaughter out of respect for Hindu sentiments and also visited Sufi mosques and holy places. He ordered his soldiers to neither loot not molest civilians.

His court compostion : his prime minister, Dhian Singh , was a Dogra ; his foreign minister, Fakir Azizuddin, was a Muslim and his finance minister, Dina Nath, was a Brahmin. He ensured that Punjab was sufficient in all weapons and munitions his army needed. Singh made his empire a strong political force for which he is deeply admired and revered in Sikhism.

His Death

In the 1830s , Ranjit Singh suffered from numerous health complications as well as stroke. At last, Sher-e- Punjab died in his sleep on 27 June 1839. After his death , Anglo-Sikh wars happened and finally, the British defeated the Sikh Empire.

Sodhi Gautam

Sodhi Gautam

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