RANJIT SINGH (1780-1839), Maharaja of the Punjab, popularly called Sheri Punjab, i.e. the Lion of the Punjab, was the most colourful, the most powerful and yet the most endearing figure in the history of the Sikhs. He ruled over a domain extending from the Khaibar Pass in the west to the River Sutlej in the east, from the northern extremity of Kashmir to the deserts ofSindh in the South, comprising the subds (provinces) of Lahore, Multan, Peshawar and Kashmir, and their dependencies. It covered an area of 1,00,436 square miles with an estimated population of 53,50,000.

Rising from a family of little political consequence and commanding no more than a small band of fighting horsemen, he was the first Indian in a thousand years to stem the tide of invasions from the northwest frontier and to carry his flag into the homeland of the traditional conquerors of Hindustan. Born on 13 November 1780 at Gujrariwala, now in Pakistan, Ranjit Singh was the only son of Mahari Singh Sukkarchakkia and Raj Kaur, daughter of Raja Gajpat Singh of Jind. He was given the name of Buddh Singh which, in commemoration of an armed victory his father had won, was changed into Ranjit (Victor in Battle) Singh. An attack of smallpox during infancy deprived Ranjit Singh of the sight of his left eye.

He attended no school and spent most of his time riding and in chase. He developed a passionate love for horses and had his first encounter with steel at the age of ten when he fought beside his father against the Bharigi chieftains. Ranjit Singh lost his father soon after. Since he showed little interest in administrating the estates he had inherited, his mother and his late father`s manager, Lakhpat Rai, looked after them until his maternal uncle, Dal Singh, and his mother in law, Sada Kaur, took over the management. In 1796 Ranjit Singh had married at Batala Mahitab Kaur, daughter of Sada Kaur, head of the Kanhaiya misi, who gave him active support during the early part of his career of battle and conquest.

Shah Zaman, the King of Kabul and a grandson of Ahmad Shah Durrani, made several frantic efforts to reestablish the Durrani power in India and in the autumn of 1796 occupied the city of Lahore, but he had to retire to his country in January 1797 leaving behind his general Ahmad Shah Shaharichibashi as his deputy with 12,000 soldiers to deal with the Sikhs. The Sikhs followed the Shah all the way across the Jehlum and deprived him of much of his baggage. Shaharichi Khan, as the Afghan general was generally called by the Sikhs, planned to take the returning Sikhs by surprise and intercepted them near Ramnagar, but he was killed in the battle that followed and his force was completely routed.

Ranjit Singh in whose territory lay the scene of this engagement distinguished himself in battle and his reputation rose from that of an obscure Sikh chieftain to the hero of the Punjab. The humiliation of this defeat rankled in Shah Zaman`s mind and, as soon as he had settled his domestic problems, he once more descended upon the Punjab, in the autumn of 1798. Ranjit Singh made no resistance, and lei the Shah occupay Lahore without opposition on 27 November 1798. Meanwhile, Ranjit Singh had retired to Amritsar to collect a Sikh force. With these men he defeated a detachment of Afghans despatched by the Shah and forced them to retire to Lahore.

He followed them and encircled the capital, cut off the Afghans` supply lines and burnt the standing crops in the neighbouring countryside. According to Sohan Lal Suri and Bute Shah, two contemporary historians, Ranjit Singh at this time thrice rushed upon the Samman Burj of the Fort with a small force, fired some shots, killed and wounded a number of the Afghans, and challenged the Shah to a handtohand fight. “Come on, 0 grandson of Ahmad Shah” shouted Ranjit Singh, “and try your strength with the grandson of Sardar Charhat Singh.” But as there was no response from the other side, Ranjit Singh had to return without a trial of strength with the Durrani.

There was news of fresh trouble in Afghanistan which led Shah Zaman again to turn his footsteps towards his home country. On 7 July 1799, Ranjit Singh drove the Bharigi rulers out of Lahore and became master of the capital. The populace, largely consisting of Muslims and Hindus, welcomed him as their redeemer. Shah Zaman tried to regain diplomatically what he had failed to do militarily and proposed to invest Ranjit Singh with a title. Ranjit Singh accepted the compliment, and in return presented the Shah with some cannon the Afghans had lost during their retreat from the Punjab. However, his success roused the envy of the other Sikh sarddrs, chiefly the Bharigis.

In 1800, they entered into a coalition with Nizam udDin of Kasur and assembled their forces at the village of Bhasin, near Lahore. On Baisakhi day, 12 April 1801, Sahib Singh Bedi, a pious Sikh in direct descent from Guru Nanak applied the ceremonial saffron mark to Ranjit Singh`s forehead and proclaimed him Maharaja of the Punjab. For the coronation ceremonies Ranjit Singh refused to wear any emblems of royalty or sit on throne. He continued to hold darbdrscated crosslegged in his chair as before. He had his coins struck in the name of the Guru, and did not lend them his effigy or name. The seal of the government likewise bore no reference to him.

Despite the many sonorous titles, official and others used for him, the one by which he preferred to be addressed was the plain Singh Sahib. Nor was the government related to him or to his family. It was Sarkar Khalsaji, Government of the Honoured Khalsa; the court was known as Darbar Khalsaji. Yet his intention was not to establish a Sikh theocracy, but a State in which all people, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, would enjoy equal rights and opportunities. His council of ministers consisted of men belonging to all those different communities. His army, though its nucleus remained Sikh, had large contingents of Muslims, mainly in the artillery, and of Hindus.

Although punctilious in the observance of Sikh ritual, he joined his Muslim subjects in their religious celebrations as he joined his Hindu subjects at their festivals. The first task to which Ranjit Singh now applied himself was to bring the entire Punjab under his control. His closest collaborators in this were his mother in law, Sada Kaur, and Fateh Singh, chief of the Ahluvalias, with whom he had ceremonially exchanged turbans to mark their fraternal relationship. Their combined forces levied tribute on the zaminddrs of DhanniPothohar and on the Afghan rulers of Kasur and Multan. The most significant achievement was the taking in 1802 of Amritsar, the chief trading centre of the Punjab and the holy city of the Sikhs.

Amritsarwas divided among a dozen families. The combined force of Ranjit Singh, Sada Kaur and Fatch Singh Ahluvalia reduced them one after the other and also captured the powerful fort of Gobindgarh. Equally valuable was the procurement of the services of Akali Phula Singh, a fearless and outspoken soldier who was destined to play a crucial role in several of Ranjil Singh`s military campaigns. Ranjit Singh received a great welcome from the people of Amritsar. After paying homage at the Harimandar, he ordered the Temple to be rebuilt in marble and its domes to be covered with gold leaf.

The capture of Amritsar added spiritual sanction to Ranjit Singh`s temporal powers. He sent emissaries to the independent principalities in the province exhorting them to declare allegiance to the Sarkar Khalsaji. At the same time he began to reorganize his army. First lo feel the impact of the new army was Ahmad Khan Sial of Jharig, Punjab`s premier breeder of horses and leader of the Sials. Ahmad Khan was defeated and reinstated at Jharig as a vassal of the Lahore Darhar. Thus encouraged, Ranjit Singh carried out extensive reorganization of his army. In 1802, soon after the occupation of Amritsar, he engaged some deserters from the army of the East India Company to train his own infantry.

Several new commanders came to the fore: Diwan Muhkam Chand, Hari Singh Nalva, Hukma Singh Chimni, Fateh Singh Kaliarivala, Desa Singh Majithia. Heavy artillery was raised under a Muslim, Chaudhari Ghaus Khan. Ranjit Singh made it a daily practice to watch his troops at drill and manoeuvres. After the conquest of Jharig, the Maharaja was moving towards Multan when the news of the arrival of the Maratha fugitive Jasvant Rao Holkar in the Punjab reached him. Holkar was being pursued by Lord Lake who had come as far as the River Beas. Ranjit Singh hurried back to Amritsar where a meeting of the Sarbatt Khalsa comprising the leading sarddrs was convened to decide by gurmataor common resolution how to treat the Maratha chief and his pursuers.

The Maharaja could ill afford to make the Punjab a theatre of war between two foreign armies, especially when his own position was not yet secure. It was therefore decided to have the issue settled by negotiations. Ranjit Singh was eventually able to bring about a reconciliation between the British and the Maratha chief and have all the latter`s territories beyond Delhi restored to him. At the same time a treaty was entered into, on 1 January 1806, between Lord Lake and the Sikh chiefs by which the Maharaja and Fateh Singh Ahluvalia agreed to “cause Jaswant Rao Holkar to remove with his army to the distance of 30 coss from Amritsar and… never hereafter hold any further connection with him,” while Lord Lake undertook that so long as the conditions of this treaty were observed “the British armies shall never enter the territories of the said chieftains, nor will the British government form any plans for the seizure or the sequestration of their possessions or property.”

In the autumn of 1806, Ranjit Singh crossed the Sutlej and toured the Malva country receiving tribute from several sarddrs, including Tara Singh Ghaiba, head of the Dallevalia misl. He also settled a dispute which had arisen between the chiefs of Nabha and Patiala. On his way back to Lahore, the Maharaja was invited by Raja Sarisar Chand of Karigra to help him expel the Gurkhas who had invaded his domains. Ranjit Singh marched up to Javalamukhi at which the Gurkhas withdrew from the valley. In February 1807, Ranjit Singh *s troops attacked Kasur whose chief, Nawab Qutb udDin, had failed to pay tribute. After a month of fierce fighting, the town was captured.

Qutb udDin was caught while fleeing the fort, but Ranjit Singh set him at liberty and made over to him as jdgir Mamdot and a few other villages on the left bank of the River Sutlej. A domestic quarrel between Raja Sahib Singh of Patiala on the one hand and his wife Rani As Kaur and the heir apparent Karam Singh on the other gave Ranjit Singh another opportunity to cross over into the Malva region. He settled the dispute in the Patiala family and once more took tribute from other cisSullej chieftains. On his way back to his capital, he took Naraingarh from the Raja of Sirmur and, on the death of the head of the Dallevalia misl, incorporated his estates into his kingdom.

Diwan Muhkam Chand who had served the Dallevalias with distinction joined Ranjit Singh`s service and immediately proceeded to make the Rajput chieftains ofJasrota, Chamba, Basohli and others acknowledge Ranjit Singh`s suzerainty. Another notable acquisition was the fort of Sheikhupura, near Lahore. It is clear that by the autumn of 1808 Ranjit Singh had made up his mind to subjugate the entire cisSutlej region, and, but for the arrival of the Metcaife mission in 1808 and continuing British interest in the area, his dream of uniting all the Sikhs under his supremacy would have been realized. Metcalfe`s mission to the court of Ranjit Singh was the outcome of a supposed threat of French invasion under Napoleon Bonaparte.

Later its primary object apparently became the reduction of Ranjit Singh`s power. The British decided to extend their protection to the Sikh principalities south of the River Sutlej, and demanded surrender of all conquests made by Ranjil Singh in this region subsequent to the arrival of the Metcaife mission at his court. Negotiations between the two powers led to the signing of a treaty of mutual friendship at Amritsar on 25 April 1809. The treaty provided that the British government would count the Lahore Darbar among the most honourable powers and would in no way interfere with the Sikh ruler`s dominions to the north of the Sutlej. It however fixed the southern limit of his kingdom and barred further extension of Sikh frontier in that direction.

Yet the establishment of peace and friendship between the two powers left Ranjit Singh free to pursue a course of conquest in the north and beyond the River Indus unhampered and to consolidate his power in the central and southern Punjab. One of the Maharaja`s more decisive campaigns lay towards the northeastern hills. The incursion of the Gurkhas under Amar Singh Thapa into the Karigra valley made Raja Sarisar Chand seek once again the help of Ranjit Singh who himself led out an army. He defeated the Gurkhas at Ganesh Ghati and, on 24 December 1809, occupied the Karigra Fort and held a royal darbdr which was attended by the hill chiefs of Chamba, Nurpur, Kotia, Shahpur, Guler, Kahlur, Mandi, Suket and Kullu.

Desa Singh Majithia was appointed governor of Karigra. On his return to his capital, Ranjit Singh launched expeditions to subdue scattered chiefships which still kept up a show of independence. The estates of the Singhpurias and of the Bharigis at Gujrat were confiscated. The Baluch tribes round Khushab and Sahival were tamed. Other territories seized were Jalandhar, Tarn Tarn,Jammu, Mandi, Suket, the salt mines ofKheora, Daska and Halloval. Ranjit Singh did not spare his kinsmen and the estates of the Nakais and the Kanhaiyas were likewise reduced to fiefdoms. Ranjit Singh`s major conquests began with the occupation of Multan in 1818. In 1819 Kashmir was annexed.

He conquered Peshawar, Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Isma`il Khan, Hazara, Kohat, Tonk and Bannu in quick succession, but was, at first, content to rule these regions through the local Muhammadan chieftains, who acknowledged his overlordship and paid tribute. He seized Peshawar in 1818, but gave it first toJahandad Khan, then in 1923 to Yar Muhammad Khan and finally, in 1830, to Sultan Muhammad Khan as a feudatory. He conquered Dera Ghazi Khan in 1820, but gave it to the Nawab of Bahawalpur in farm. From Sultan Muhammad Khan of Peshawar, Ranjit Singh used to receive an annual tribute of some horses and rice and kept one of his children as a hostage in his court as a guarantee of good conduct.

He subjugated Dera Isma`il Khan in 1821, but gave it to she dispossessed Mankera ruler, Hafiz Muhammad Khan, as a tributary to Lahore, ion is and the neighbouring districts were made tributary in 1822 but not directly annexed. However, after the disturbances created by the fanatical Sayyid Ahmad Barelavi were quelled, there was a change in Ranjit Singh`s policy regarding his transIndus territories. Dera Ghazi Khan was brought under direct control in 1831, Peshawar in 1834; Tonk, Bannu and Dera Isma`il Khan were annexed between 1832 and 1836. In the northwest the boundaries of the Sikh kingdom now extended into the base of the Yusafzai territory northeast of Peshawar, and up to Fatehgarh, a fort near the Khaibar Pass.

In the southwest, it touched the undefined borders of Sindh beyond Rojhan and Mitlhankot, the junction of the rivers Sutlej and Indus. Among the four major provinces comprising the Sikh kingdom, Lahore, where the central government was located, included the entire Majha country and the major cities of Lahore and Amritsar; its population towards the close of the Maharaja`s reign approximated 19,00,000. The province of Multan included the dependencies all along the east bank of the River Indus, and the districts of Jharig, Dera Isma`il Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Muzaffargarh and Leiah; its population approximated 7,50,000.

The province of Peshawar comprised the valley of Peshawar and its dependencies across the River Indus and in the Yusafzai region: Its population approximated 6,00,000. The province of Kashmir included the whole valley of Kashmir, Muzaffarabad, Ladakh and Gilgit: its population approximated 5,50,00. There were besides tributary states in the hills, among them Bilaspur, Suket, Chamba, Rajouri, Ladakh and Iskardu. Some of the territories farmed out were Mandi, Kullu, Jasvan, Kangra. Kutlehar, Siba, Nurpur, Haripur, Datarpur, Basohli, Chhachh, Hazara, Rawalpindi, Hasan Abdal, Dhanni, Katas, Chakval, Tonk, Bannu, Mankera, Ramnagar, Mittha Tiwana, Bhera, Khushab, Pind Dadan Khan, Gujrat, Wazirabad, Sialkot, the Jalandhar Doab and Sheikhupura. Besides, Ranjit Singh held large territories in the cis Sutlej region yielding an annual revenue of over 20,00,000 rupees.

According to an estimate made by a British historian, W. Murray (1832), the revenues of the Punjab amounted to 2,58,09,500 rupees: land revenue and tributes 1,24,03,900 rupees; customs duties 19,00,600 rupees; mohrdnd fee for stamping the State seal on papers 5,77,000 rupees; and jdgirs and fiefs, 1,09,28,000 rupees. Later estimates, however, place the resources of the State between 2,50,00,000 and 3,25,00,000 rupees. Munshi Shahamat `All (1838) mentions the figure 3,00,27,762, derived from the following sources: Khalsa (Rs 1,96,57,172), jdgirs (Rs 87,54,590) ,khirdjddrs (Rs 12,66,000), and customs (Rs 3,50,000). The administration of Maharaja Ranjit Singh may be described as a personalized military despotism based on popular will. Designated as the Sarkar Khalsa, it was an absolute centralized monarchy, but liberal and benevolent.

Its chief merit was religious moderation and practical efficiency. Though based on military might and sustained by successive victories, it was extremely popular. As absolute monarch, Ranjit Singh enjoyed great power which he wielded unhampered for the common weal of all his subjects Hindu, Sikh, Muhammadan and others. The central government was run under about a dozen daftars or departments of the State, supervised by chosen men of talent and ability, who controlled the civil administrationthe regalia or treasury, land revenue, octroi and excise, pay and accounts, income and expenditure, royal household and other departments.

Its chief functionaries were the waziror principal minister of the crown; the lord chamberlain; the ministerincharge of the regalia and treasury; minister of foreign affairs; the auditorgeneral; the councillors of religious affairs and the others. In making appointments of his ministers and councillors, Ranjit Singh was his own judge; without any consideration of caste and creed, efficiency was the main criterion of his selection. For the purpose of provincial administration, the kingdom was roughly divided into four principal subahsLahore, Peshawar, Multan and Kashmir, each headed by a ndzim or silbahdar. The hill principalities and territories conquered from the sarddrs paid tribute direct to the Slate.

The Silbahdar had under him a kdrddr, a pivotal functionary in the provincial administration. Appointed by the central government, he exercised fiscal, revenue and judicial powers. The Aaraarwas without any fixed salary but held land in farm from the State and he exercised unlimited powers. The customary land revenue system with its various modes of assessment and collection, inherited by Ranjit Singh from the Mughals, was maintained by him with minor modifications. Every village had a revenue collector {muqaddam) and a circle of villages (tappd or tdluqa) was in the charge of a chaudhan. In addition, there was the keeper of fiscal records, the qaniingo.

The revenue officials were themselves proprietors of land in their respective villages or circle and were compensated by a reduction of revenue. Revenue was collected directly from the cultivators of the land. The amount or manner of payment varied, but care was taken that all the regular and irregular charges never amounted to more than half of the gross produce calculated on an estimate of the standing crops or after harvest; if the revenue was paid in cash, the sum was calculated on the value of half the produce. The rate was not considered exorbitant as most foreign observers have noted that the Punjabi agriculturist was more prosperous under Ranjit Singh than his counterparts in British India.

In times of famine or drought, ameliorative measures of relief were undertaken by the State. The judicial administration of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was by and large based on local custom and on tradition coming down from Mughal times. There existed no legal code as such; cases were often decided by custom and usage, and extensive use was made of the dharmasdstra and Shari`at for deciding the cases of the litigants of various communities to whom their customary law was applicable. Then there were the addlats or special courts in the province supervised by an `addlatid`ld or supreme court set up at the metropolis; the ndzim `s courts in the provinces, subdivisions and in the feudal territories; the jdgirddn courts with wide criminal and civil powers; and the village panchdyats to administer petty civil and criminal cases, mostly by arbitration.

Crime was generally atoned with fines making for an additional source of income for the State. The amount of fine was determined not by the gravity of the crime, but by the capacity of the criminal to pay. Capital punishment was unknown. In civil cases, the litigant paid both ways. If he won, he paid shukrdnd, or present in gratitude and, if he lost, he paid jurmdnd or fine. Fine was the general mode of punishment and in criminal cases the punishment was quick and summary. Ranjit Singh created an army which, at the zenith of his power, was a formidable force. Its overall strength was almost 1,00,000 men, a cavalry strength of 30,000 horse and a field artillery of 288 guns.

It was a favourite of Ranjit Singh`s and he nursed it with great carewith onethird of his entire revenue. The army of Ranjit Singh was of two categoriesregular and irregular, with four major divisions, viz. infantry, cavalry, artillery and FaujiKhas or the special brigade. It also contained a turbulent though highly valiant wing, the Akal Sena, a body of irregular horse of the reckless Akali warriors numbering 4,000. The crude military system inherited from Sikh mislsv/sts reorganized by Ranjit Singh by building up both infantry and artillery as separate divisions. Although Ranjit Singh had been introducing new methods of fighting in his army by copying whatever he could from the practices prevalent in the forces of the East India Company, it was noi until 1822 that he decided to modernize it along European lines.

He recruited two Fren `hmen.Jean Francois Allard and Jean Baptiste Ventura, who had served under Napoleon, to take over the training of his cavalry and infantry, respectively. Thereafter many foreigners French, English, Italians, Greeks, Americans, and Eurasians were employed on very generous terms. The foreigners signed contracts not to shave their beards, not to smoke or eat beef and to domesticate themselves by marrying native women and settling in the Punjab. Many of these foreign officers rose to high positions. The Maharaja`s favourite was Allard who was decoraied with the order of the Star of the Prosperity of the Punjab. He died in Peshawar in 1839.

Ventura rose to the highest position and continued to serve the Darbar after Ranjit Singh`s death. He was given the title “Count de Mandi.” Claude Auguste Court, another Frenchman and a Neopolitan, Paolo de Avitabile, who joined service in 1827, also rose to high positions. Avitabile was governor of Wazirabad and then of Peshawar. Court trained the Darbar`s artillery and stayed on in the Punjab until 1845. Ranjit Singh *s love of the arts was equally well marked. While invading Peshawar, he gave special instructions to General Hari Singh Nalva to take every care to spare the library at Chimkini from destruction. When the Mughal court at Delhi could no longer offer employment to the artists and the Punjab hill chiefs had become mere tributaries of Ranjit Singh, wellknown artists like Muhammad Bakhsh and Kehar Singh came to Lahore, where they received warm welcome and patronage.

G.T. Vigne made several portraits of the Maharaja. A Sikh school of art, mainly of portraiture of individuals or the court or lovescenes modelled on the Kangra and Guler Schools, grew up. The court historian, Sohan Lal Sun was munificently rewarded. Bute Shah, Khushwaqt Rai, Kanhaiya Lal and Amar Nath also were engaged at this time in the writing of Punjab or Sikh history, particularly of the reign of Ranjit Singh himself. Several Purdnas, Yoga Vasista, Ramdyana and the Bhagavadgitd were translated into Punjabi. Sikh murals and frescos of this period were to be seen in the Maharaja`s palace, the Shish Mahal at Lahore, his residence at Rambagh, Amritsar, and at the Golden Temple and Baba Atal`s temple at Amritsar.

Ranjit Singh got many of the dilapidated Mughal buildings and gardens restored and built new ones like the Baradari of Hazuri Bagh at Lahore. He endowed the pdthshalds, dharamshalds and mosquestraditional centres of learningto spread literacy. He had invited a Christian missionary, Rev. John C. Lowrie, to teach English to the princes, but did not agree to his teaching Christianity as part of the curriculum. However, he sent out some of the sarddrs to Ludhiana to get trained in English and French. The Persian school at Lahore was liberally endowed. The Maharaja got several of his sarddrs trained by the Europeans in the art of surgery, engineering, arms manufacture and so on.

He got several of the Sanskrit, English and French works translated into Punjabi or Persian prose, and their authors were well rewarded. The court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh represented unparalleled Oriental pageantry, ostentation and brilliance. The Maharaja was usually dressed in simple white; he wore no crown or ornaments, but a single string of pearls around his waist and on special occasions, the famous KohiNur diamond on his arm. He was surrounded by magnificently dressed, finelooking ministers, sarddrs, courtiers and civil and military officials. Only a few were privileged to sit on chairs in the Darbar; a severe court discipline and etiquette were observed and none could speak unless addressed to.

According to W.G. Osborne, “few if any courts in Europe or the East could show such a finelooking set of men as the principal Sardars.” Henry Edward Fane, who accompanied the British commanderinchief to Lahore in 1837 on the occasion of the marriage of Ranjit Singh`s grandson, Nau Nihal Singh, describes its brilliance by comparing it to “a ga!a night at the Opera.” On public occasions, the display of pageantry and colour was beyond description; “it was beyond the power of verbal description and surpassed all that European imagination had conceived even of Oriental luxury and splendour.” In the history of the Punjab, no man has excited the imagination of the people as much as did Ranjit Singh.

His looks contributed little to his popularity; he was shortstatured, of swarthy complexion and his face was pockmarked. The loss of one eye gave him an appearance of ungainliness. Yet he was possessed of great bodily vigour and activity. He grew up a fine soldier and his energies were directed towards war and conquest. His illiteracy was counterbalanced by a sharp inquisitive mind and a subtle genius and intuition with which he had mastered statecraft. He possessed a sharp intellect, a prodigiously retentive memory and an imaginative mind. An inherent quality of kindness was a marked aspect of his disposition. He was a humane despot; in his life he never wantonly inflicted either capital punishment or mutilation.

He always treated his fallen foe with deliberate kindness, and seldom imbued his hands in blood. In the words of Baron Charles Hugel, “Never perhaps was so large an empire founded by one man with so little criminality.” Ranjit Singh was a devout Sikh. He considered himself an humble servant of the Guru. An inscription over the entrance of the central shrine at Amritsar reads: `The Great Guru in His wisdom looked upon Maharaja Ranjit Singh as his chief servitor and Sikh and, in his benevolence, bestowed upon him the privilege of serving the temple.” He frequently visited the Golden Temple as is evident from the `Umdat utTwdnkh, the daily record of the Sikh court.

There he would devoutly take a dip in the holy tank and make costly offerings. Some of his offerings still preserved include a bejewelled gold canopy originally presented to him by the Nizam of Hyderabad. In May 1836, Ranjit Singh issued an order to all members of the Sikh royalty and aristocracy to make nazars or offerings at the Golden Temple. Ranjit Singh`s court reflected the liberal pattern of his State. Amongst the first family to rise to prominence in Ranjit Singh`s court were the Bokharis, sons of Ghulam Mohi udDin of Lahore. Being of a Sufi persuasion they were known as Faqirs. The eldest, Faqir `Aziz udDin, was closest to the Maharaja and advised him on external affairs.

His two brothers, Nur udDin and Imam udDin, also held important positions in the Darbar. Khushal Chand, a Brahman from Meerut, known after his conversion as Khushal Singh, became chamberlain. His nephew, Tej Singh, rose to be a general in the Sikh army. When Khushal Singh fell from the Maharaja`s favour, his place was taken by Dhian Singh Dogra of Jammu. Dhian Singh`s son, Hira Singh, became a great favourite and the Maharaja treated him like his own son. The Dogra family remained the most powerful in the counsels of the Darbar. There were no forced conversions in Ranjit Singh`s time.

The Muslim women he married, Morari, Gul Bahar Begam, and others, retained their faith. His Hindu wives likewise continued to worship their own gods. He spent great sums on the repairs of Muslim places of worship. This attitude won him the loyalty of all his subjects. Ranjit Singh, the beau ideal of his people, died of paralysis at Lahore on 27 June 1839 and was succeeded on the throne of the Punjab by his eldest son, Kharak Singh. 10. St. Nihal Singh, Imprimis. Kanpur, 1939 11. Sinha, N.K., Ranjit Singh. Calcutta, 1933 12 Waheed udDin, Syed, The Real Ranjit Singh.

Karachi, 1965 13. Chopra, Barkat Rai, Kingdom of the Punjab (1839-45). Hoshiarpur, 1969 14. Chopra, Gulshan Lal, The Punjab as a Sovereign State. Lahore, 1928 15Hasrat, Bikrama Jit, Life and Times of Ranjit Singh. Hoshiarpur, 1977 16Harbans Singh, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Delhi, 1980 17.Prem Singh, Baba, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Amritsar, 1918 18. Kohli, Sita Ram, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Delhi, 1953 K.S. RANJIT SINGH (d. 1846), a soldier in Maharaja Ranjit Singh`s army, was the son of Mirza Singh who had served the Kanhaiya sarddrs,]2t[ Singh and Haqiqat Singh.

Ranjit Singh rose to be a commandant in the Sikh army and rendered active service at Multan and at Bannu and Peshawar on the northwest frontier. He was an elder brother of Kahn Singh, greatgrandfather ofArur Singh, the governmentappointed manager of the Golden Temple at Amritsar before the control of the shrine passed into the hands of an elected body under the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925. Ranjit Singh died in 1846. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Suri, Sohan Lal, `Umdat utTwarikh. Lahore, 1885-89 2. Griffin, Lepel, The Punjab Chiefs. Lahore, 1890

References :

1. Suri, Sohan Lal, ` Umdat ut-Twarikh. Lahore, 1885-89
2. Amar Nath, Diwan, Zafar Namd-i-Ranjit Singh (ed. Sita Ram Kohli). Lahore, 1828
3. Kanhaiya Lal, Ranjit Nama. Lahore, 1876
4. Osborne, W.G., The Court and Camp of Runjeet Sing. London,1840
5. Smyth, G. Carmichael, A History of the Reigning Family of Lahore. Calcutta, 1847
6. Cunningham, Joseph Davey, A History of the Sikhs from the Origin of the Nation to the Battles of the Sutlej. London,1899
7. Griffin, Lepel, Ranjit Singh. Oxford, 1905
8. Ganda Singh, ed., Maharaja Ranjit Singh: First Death Centenary Memorial Volume. Amritsar, 1939
9. Khushwant Singh, Ranjit Singh: Maharajah of the Punjab. London, 1962