Maharaja Ranjit Singh (Punjab)

From Jatland Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Maharaja Ranjit Singh (Punjab)
Maharaja Ranjit Singh (Punjab)

Maharaja Ranjit Singh (Hindi:महाराजा रणजीतसिंह, Punjabi: ਮਹਾਰਾਜਾ ਰਣਜੀਤ ਸਿੰਘ), also called "Sher-e-Punjab" ("The Lion of the Punjab") (b.1780-27 June 1839) of Sansi-Sandhawalia Jat Gotra, was a emperor of the Sovereignty country of Punjab and the Sikh Empire. His Samadhi is located in Lahore, Pakistan.

Contents

Early life

Genealogy of Maharaja Ranjit Singh

Maharaja Ranjit Singh was a Jat belonging to the Sikh faith born in 1780 in North India, Gujranwala, which is now located in modern day Pakistan; in a Jat Sikh[1][2][3] family of Sandhawalia Gotra.[4] At the time much of Punjab was ruled by the Jat Sikhs as well as Afghans, 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 west Punjab based around his headquarters at Gujranwala.

Ranjit Singh succeeded his father at the young age of 12. After several campaigns, his rivals accepted him as their leader, and he united the Sikh factions into one state.

Maharaja

Throne of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (in Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Ranjit Singh took the title of Maharaja on April 12, 1801 (to coincide with Baisakhi day). A descendant of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, conducted the coronation ceremony [5]. Lahore served as his capital from 1799. In 1802 he took the holy city of Amritsar.

He then spent the following years fighting the Afghans, driving them out of western Punjab. He also captured Pashtun territory including Peshawar. This was the first time that Pashtuns were ruled by non-Muslims. In a historical perspective, this event was very important. For more than a thousand years invaders had come down from the Khyber pass and ruled eastern lands. Ranjit Singh reversed this trend. When the Sikh empire finally fell to the English, they were able to retain this province. He captured the province of Multan which encompassed the southern parts of Punjab, Peshawar (1818), Jammu and Kashmir (1819) and the hill states north of Anandpur, the largest of which was Kangra.

Singh also hired European mercenaries to train his troops, creating the first modern Indian Army -- the Sikh Khalsa Army, a powerful military force whose presence delayed the eventual British colonization of Punjab. He created a powerful and heavily armed state; at this point, Punjab was the only state not controlled by the British. He brought law and order, yet never used the death penalty. He stopped Indian non-secular style practices by treating Hindus and Muslims equally. He banned the discriminatory "jizya" tax on Hindus and Sikhs.

The majority of Ranjit Singh's subjects were Muslim and had an intense loyalty towards him and his Sikhs. This was once highlighted when the foreign minister of the Sikh Empire, a Muslim named Fakir Azizuddin, had a meeting with the British Governor-General. When George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland asked Fakir Azizuddin which of the Maharaja's eyes was missing, he replied: "the Maharaja is like the sun and sun has only one eye. The splendour 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 the reply that he gave his golden wrist-watch to the Maharaja's Minister at Simla.

Punjab under Ranjit Singh1823-1839

His Empire was effectively secular as it did not discriminate against Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus or even atheists. It was relatively modern and had great respect for all religions and non-religious traditions of the Empire. The only main prominent religious symbols of the empire were the Maharaja and royal family being Sikh (but not Khalsa) and the Army being dominated by Sikh nobles and the Khalsa. The Maharaja never forced Sikhism on his subjects. This was in sharp contrast with the ethnic and religious cleansing of past Mughal rulers. Ranjit Singh had created a state based upon Sikh noble traditions, where everyone worked together, regardless of background, and where citizens were made to look at the things that they shared in common, e.g. being Punjabi, rather than any religious differences.

Ranjit Singh died in 1839.

Sikh temples built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh

At the Golden temple much of the present decorative gilding and marblework date from the early 1800s. All the gold and exquisite marble work were conducted under the patronage of Emperor Ranjit Singh, Maharaja of the Sikh Punjab. The Sher-e-Punjab Empire of the (Lion of the Punjab), was a heavy donor of wealth and materials for the shrine and is remembered with much affection by the Punjabi people. Maharaja Ranjit Singh also built two of the other most sacred temples in Sikhism. This was due to Maharaja Ranjit Singh having a deep love for the tenth Guru of Sikhism Guru Gobind Singh. The other two most sacred temples in Sikhism, which he built, are Takht Sri Patna Sahib (intiation or birth place of Guru Gobind Singh) and Takht Sri Hazur Sahib the place of Guru Gobind Singh's Sikh ascension into heaven.

Just like Maharaja Ranjit Singh has donated to have the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar covered with gold leaf, he donated gold so that the roofs of Vishvanath temple in Banaras and Jwalamukhi and Kangra temples can be covered with gold leaf [6]. He had willed that the Kohinoor diamond be donated to the Jagannath Temple in Puri[7].

Abolition of Capital Punishment

Maharaja Ranjit Singh abolished capital punishment during his rule. [8]

Character

Maharaja Ranjit Singh once punished one of his Generals for killing a nightingale when she was warbling, which had annoyed the General[9]. Maharaja Ranjit Singh would help old men with their labour when he used to conduct his afternoon walks through Lahore, with his ministers. One incident was of an elderly man who could not lift a heavy sack. Maharaja Ranjit Singh asked the old man "Night is approaching, old man, why are you sitting here in darkness?". The elderly man answered that the sack is too heavy for me to carry home. The Maharaja carried the heavy sack all the way to the old man's house and was blessed by him[10].

Captain Murray's memoirs on Maharaja Ranjit Singh's character:

"Ranjit Singh has been likened to Mehmet Ali and to Napoleon. There are some points in which he resembles both; but estimating his character with reference to his circumstances and positions, he is perhaps a more remarkable man than either. There was no ferocity in his disposition and he never punished a criminal with death even under circumstances of aggravated offence. Humanity indeed, or rather tenderness for life, was a trait in the character of Ranjit Singh. There is no instance of his having wantonly imbused his hand in blood." Murray (Captain), op.cit., p.174. [11][12].

Ranjit Singh's generals

Ranjit Singh encircled himself with an array of generals and soldiers. They were men from different clans, castes and regions These included:

Among his European Mercenary Generals were:

Americans of note:

Aftermath

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 Empress of Punjab, the Princess of Kangra, daughter of Maharaja Sansar Chand, 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.[13]

The throne went to his eldest son Kharak Singh and the empire began to crumble due to poor governance and political infighting among his heirs. The Sikh princes died through internal plots and assassinations, while the nobility struggled to maintain their power.[36]

Conquests

Ranjit Singh and his brave Sikh generals were capable of conquering such a great expanse of land for many reasons, varying from their Sikh discipline to their modern weaponry. Ranjit Singh's early conquests were minor and forgettable when he was a young misldar (baron). He conquered vast tracts of territory on all sides of his kingdom. And by 1799, he had captured Lahore.

From the capture of Lahore, he rapidly annexed the rest of the Punjab. The war rose to a climax at the battle of Multan. Thereafter he was the undisputed ruler of northern India and the land of the five rivers. And even then, to secure his empire, he defeated the Pashtun militias and tribes. The tables having been turned on the Mughals and Afghans, Ranjit Singh conquered yet more territory. In the year 1802, Ranjit Singh successfully invaded Kashmir.

The Guru's Prophecy

The tenth Guru of Sikhism had ordered his Sikhs not to build any monument of him.[14]. The place where Guru Gobind Singh, made ascension, and left the earth was Nanded in current Maharashtra in 1708. Anyone who did build any monument of him, would make his living male progeny and blood lineage die and extinct.[15] Maharaja Ranjit Singh was renowned for his love of the tenth Guru of Sikhism[16]. Scholars of the time record he often used to refer to himself as "Guru Gobind Singh's Drum". His love for the Guru would bring him into conflict with the prophecy; he defied it, and built one of the five holiest sights in Sikhism, a Gurdwara, Takht Sri Hazur Sahib[17]. Takht Sri Hazur Sahib was built as a monument and sacred place of worship to honour the place where Guru Gobind Singh left the earth and made ascension. It was completed in 1839 and that same year Maharajah Ranjit Singh died. All of his sons, except Dalip Singh, died within 5 years of his death and the temple's completion. His only remaining infant son Maharajah Dalip Singh was made kingdom less as a child by the British, within 10 years of Maharajah Ranjit Singh's death. He died penniless, in a hotel room in Paris, after spending most of his life trying to return to Punjab, his people and regain his lost Empire[18]. Much has been written about the ending of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Empire, family and the Guru Prophecy. The most recent being a book written by English author Christy Campbell in his renowned book "The Maharajah's Box: An Imperial Story of Conspiracy, Love and a Guru's Prophecy"[19].

Legacy

Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Lahore

Rulership of the state went to his eldest son Kharak Singh. Most historians believe competent political heirs would have forged a highly durable, independent and powerful state, as Ranjit Singh had done during his rule. However, the Kingdom began to crumble due to poor governance and political mismanagement by his heirs. His successors died through accidents and murder, while the nobility and army struggled for power.

After the First Anglo Sikh War, Punjab was defeated and all major decisions were made by the British Empire. The Khalsa Army was reduced, under the peace treaty with the British Empire, to a tiny skeleton force. Massive punishing war compensation destroyed any meaningful, independent fiscal policy. At the end of the Second Anglo Sikh War, it was annexed by the British from Ranjit Singh's youngest son Duleep Singh.

Ranjit is remembered for uniting the Punjab as a strong state and his possession of the Koh-i-noor diamond. Ranjit Singh willed the Koh-i-noor to Jagannath Temple in Orissa while on his deathbed in 1839. His most lasting legacy was the beautification of the Harmandir Sahib, holiest site of the Sikhs, with marble and gold, from which the popular name of the "Golden Temple" is derived.

He was also known as Sher-e-Punjab, the Lion of Punjab and is considered one of the 3 Lions of India, the most famous and revered heroes in North Indian history. While Emperor Maharaja Chola and Ashoka were the 2 most powerful Indian kings of history, they are not named among the 3 Lions. The other 2 Lions are Rana Pratap Singh of Mewar and Chhatrapati Shivaji, the legendary Maratha ruler. The title of Sher-e-Punjab is still widely used as a term of respect for a powerful man.

After his death, the British took his heir, the young prince Maharaja Duleep Singh, to England where he was put under the protection of the Crown. He was forced to convert to Christianity, before re-converting to Sikhism later in his life.

Postal Stamp

Maharaja Ranjit Singh Stamp
Maharaja Ranjit Singh Stamp-2.jpeg

Indian Postal Department issued a commemorative stamp on him on 28/06/1966 of Denomination 0.15 .[20]

References

  1. The History Files. "Kingdoms of South Asia - Indian Kingdom of the Jats". The History Files. Retrieved 2012-10-21.
  2. The History Files. "Kingdoms of South Asia - Indian Kingdom of the Jat Sikhs". The History Files. Retrieved 2012-10-21.
  3. The History Files. "Kingdoms of South Asia - Indian Kingdom of Sikhs". The History Files. Retrieved 2012-10-21.
  4. H. S. Duleh: History of the Jatt Clans (Translation from original Punjabi work "Jattan da Itihas" by Gurjant Singh).
  5. http://www.sikhcybermuseum.org.uk/People/ranjitmaharaja.htm
  6. Islamic Perspective by Ashgar Ali Engineer, Institute of Islamic Studies (Bombay, India) 1984
  7. Maharaja Ranjit Singh: The Last to Lay Arms By Kartar Singh Duggal, Published 2001 but now the kohinoor is took by the british maharja ranjit singh didnt lose his empire altogether he kept the british away from punjab and to this day punjab is a successful state Abhinav Publications
  8. http://www.jamboree.freedom-in-education.co.uk/real_history/maharaja.htm
  9. http://www.allaboutsikhs.com/articles/the-sikh-rule-and-ranjit-singh.html
  10. http://www.sikhcybermuseum.org.uk/People/ranjitmaharaja.htm
  11. Murray (Captain); History of The Punjab, Vol. II (Reprint, Patiala 1970)
  12. http://www.allaboutsikhs.com/articles/the-sikh-rule-and-ranjit-singh.html
  13. The Real Ranjit Singh; by Fakir Syed Waheeduddin, published by Punjabi University, ISBN 81-7380-778-7, 1 Jan 2001, 2nd ed.
  14. The Maharajah's Box, By Christy Campbell. (ISBN 0006530788)
  15. [1]
  16. The Maharajah's Box, By Christy Campbell. (ISBN 0006530788)
  17. The Maharajah's Box, By Christy Campbell. (ISBN 0006530788)
  18. The Maharajah's Box, By Christy Campbell. (ISBN 0006530788)
  19. [2]
  20. Postal Stamp on Maharaja Ranjit Singh


Literature

  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Lord of the Five Rivers, By Jean-Marie Lafont. (Oxford University Press. Date:2002, ISBN 0195661117).


External links


Back to The Rulers