EVENTS AT THE COURT OF RANJIT SINGH
EVENTS AT THE COURT OF RANJIT SINGH, 1810-1817, edited by H.L.O. Garrett and G.I.. Ghopra, is a rendition in English of Persian newsletters comprising 193 loose sheets and forming only a small part of a large collection preserved in the Alienation Office, Pune. This material was brought to the notice of the editors by Dr Muhammad Nazim, an officer of the Archaeological Survey of India. Events at the Court, of Ranjit Singh was first published in 1935 by the Punjab Government Records Office, Lahore, as their monograph No. 17, and reprinted, in 1970, by the Languages Department, Punjab, Patiala. The newsletters, entitled “Akhbar Deorhi Sardar Ranjit Singh Bahadur” cover the period from 1 November 1810 to 8 August 1817, with a sprinkling of a few supplementary ones written up to 2 September 1817 from Shahpur, Multan, Amritsar and Rawalpindi.
Additionally, there is one brief piece which bears the date 10 June 1822. The news writer lived in Lahore and Ins informant was one Khushal Singh whom the editors identify as Jamadar Khushal Singh, the chief chamberlain or deorhi officer at the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.Probably written for the Peshava`s daftar which secured and recorded news from several different Indian courts, this set of newsletters from the Sikh court at Lahore is an important source of information on the early period of Maharaja Ranjit Singh`s career and provides intimate glimpses into his civil, military and judicial administration. What comes out strikingly from these papers is the efficient intelligence service the Lahore Darbar had established.
The Darbar sent, out special messengers to Kashmir, Kabul, Sindh, Ludhiana, and the cis Sutlej, British protected principalities of Patiala, Nabha,Jind, Kaithal and Kalsia.These messengers, called jauns or pairs, brought daily reports from news writers stationed in those places. The newsletters relate to a period when Multan had not yet been conquerred, nor had been Kashmir and Peshawar. The newsletter dated 19 September 1813 reports that Sardar Fateh Khan Wazir had left Kabul with sufficient troops intent on proceeding towards Multan. It also mentions that he was hatching, through correspondence, a conspiracy with Nawab Muzaffar Khan of Multan.
News was received that Hazrat Muhmud Shah, marching from Jalalabad, was expected to enter Peshawar.Ranjit Singh forestalled the move and was able to stem the Afghan advance. These reports however do not contain any account of the impending Sikh Afghan struggle for supremacy in the north which culminated in the battle of Haidaru in 1813 in which the Sikhs routed the Afghans. Ranjit Singh`s own designs to expand the limits of his kingdom unfold tellingly.
Muzaffar Khan, Nawab of Multan, was liable to an annual tribute of Rs 80,000. Plans were set in motion for the conquest of Multan. Likewise, for that of Kashmir.No account is forthcoming of the successive Sikh invasions of Multan in 1810, 1816, and 1817. Similarly, these papers tell little about the joint Sikh Afghan campaign against Kashmir in 1812 which aborted or about Ranjit Singh`s even more disastrous expedition of 1814. There are, nevertheless, some interesting sidelights.
A newsletter, for instance, relates that Phula Singh Akali was levying contributions 1,000 rupees and a horse on the Akalis of the Darbar Sahib at Amritsar. The KohiNur diamond wrested from Shah Shuja`ul-Mulk was evaluated by the jewellers who reported: “It was found in weight equal to three hundred and a few more “Surakhs” and in value it was declared priceless as no other similar jewel existed anywhere else.” References occur to the Maharaja`s administration of justice. A darogha-i-adalat or judge, charged with harshness, was warned to administer justice in accordance with the principles of religion and equity.
Rama Nand Sahu of Amritsar held charge of justice within his area for an annual payment of “rupees thirteen lakhs” but he was under warning to administer it with mercy and honesty. Muslims enjoyed full freedom of worship. The newsletter of 9January 1811 relates how they were exhorted by beat of drum to offer Eid-day prayers at the Royal Mosque, Lahore.Lawlessness and dacoity were not tolerated.
Those in charge of police stations were warned that failure to apprehend culprits within a reasonable time would discredit them. On Eid-day, men were posted in the streets and by lanes of Lahore to watch for anyone misbehaving or intimidating others. Totally, this Persian intelligence record is of much historical and sociological value.