TITLES AND ORDERS OF MERIT, instituted at his court by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, broadly followed the Mughal pattern, though there did not exist among the Sikh nobility a specific classification or hierarchy which marked the mansabdan system of the Mughals. Tides and awards were granted to princes of the royal blood, principal sardars and high officials of the State, and they carried with them privileges as well as jagirs. Thus did the Maharaja also patronize his favourites and men of proven loyalty to him and his family. The highest title seems to have been Rajai Rajgan held only by one person in the history of Sikh rule.

That was Dhian Singh Dogra, also titled Raja Kalan, who had the privilege of holding his own miniature darbar. Next was the title of Raja, which was held among others by Dhian Singh`s brothers, Gulab Singh, and his son, Hira Singh, the Maharaja`s favourite. Gulab Singh was awarded the title of Raja of Jammu in 1822, with jagirs amounting to over 7,00,000 rupees annually. He was the most highly favoured vassal and tributary of the Maharaja, the condition of his allegiance being the maintenance of a special body of horse and foot for his sovereign. Suchet Singh was the Raja of Ramnagar, with ajagir worth 3,00,000 rupees and command of the Charyari Sowars.

Hira Singh received the title of Raj a with ajagir of the value of well over 5,00,000 rupees annually, with the exceptional privilege of a seat in the Darbar. Some of the military titles were Hizbari Jang (lion in battle), Zafar Jarig (victorious in war), Dilawar Jang (gallant in war), Safdar Jang (valiant in war), Samsam ud Daulah (sharpedged sword of the State), Shuja` udDaulah (valour of the State), I`timad ud Daulah (support of the State), Mubariz ul Mulk (hero of the country) and Jarnaili Awwal (general of the first rank).

If the military titles referred to qualities of bravery and courage, those of the civil departments lauded honesty, sagacity and industry. For instance : Dayanat Panah (abode of honesty), Firasat Dastgah (manufactory of wisdom) and Mashakhkhat Panah (refuge of the distinguished). Ecclesiastical titles lauded the qualities of piety and nobility of life and conduct. One such title was Brahm Murat (picture of divinity). The title of Sardar, common to military and civil officers, was mainly reserved for Sikhs. `Izazi Sardari was the highest honour most distinguished Sikh generals such as Hari Singh Nalva, Gurmukh Singh Lamma ,and Dal Singh Naherna received.

Complimentary expressions like Bawaqar (of high prestige), `Azim ushShan (of high glory), Ujjal Didar (of immaculate appearance) and Nirmal Buddh (of clear intelligence) were prefixed to this tide in official correspondence. Among the notables who were the recipients of military and civil titles were Raja Dina Nath, Diwan Savan Mall, Sardar Atar Singh Sandhanvalia, Captain C.M.Wade, Diwan Jodha Ram, General Avitabile, Sardar Lahina Singh Majithia, Kanvar Sher Singh and Sardar Tej Singh. One prestigious award instituted by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1837 on the occasion of the marriage of his grandson, Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh, was KaukabiIqbali Panjab, Star of the Prosperity of the Punjab.

The order and the medal, which was the insignia of the order, created at the suggestion of Sir Henry Fane, the British commander in chief, who had come to attend the wedding as a guest, resembled in shape the French Legion de Honour instituted by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. The first recipient of this title was Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh himself. The order had three grades, each having its own medal. The medals bore the effigy of Ranjit Singh on one side and had silk ribands of gold and scarlet colour. They were in the shape of a star and were meant to be worn round the neck.

The first grade medal was ornamented with one big diamond. It was meant for the members of the royal family and those chiefs who showed exceptional devotion to the person of the Maharaja and his family. The second grade medal, with a diamond and an emerald set in it, was bestowed on loyal courtiers and sardars. The third contained a single emerald and was open to civil and military officers who had rendered some special service to the State.

References :

1. Sun, Sohan Lal, `Umdat ut-Twarikh. Lahore, 1885-89
2. Kohli, Sita Ram, Catalogue of the Khalsa Darbar Records. Lahore, 1919-27
3. Fane, H.E., Five Years in India. London, 1842
4. Ganda Singh, ed., Maharaja Ranjit Singh (First Death Centenary Memorial Volume). Arnritsar, 1939