AKHBAR-I-DARBAR-I-MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH, also called Akhbari Deorhi Sardar Ranjit Singh Bahadur, is a set of Persian manuscripts comprising 193 loose sheets of unequal size and containing, as the title indicates, news of the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839). These sheets are believed to be newsletters sent from the Punjab for the Peshwa Daftar at Poona (now Pune). The collection was first discovered in 1932-33 by Dr Muhammad Nazim, an officer of the Archaeological Survey of India, in the Alienation Branch of the Divisional Commissioner\’s office at Poona.

The material was translated into English and published by Punjab Government Records Office in 1935 as Monograph No. 17, Events at the Court of Ranjit Singh, 1810-1817. The Languages Department, Punjab, brought out a re-print in 1970. Some of the original manuscripts are preserved in the Punjab State Archives at Patiala under catalogue Nos. M412 (I. II). M4I9 (I, II) and M352 (I, II). The newsletters, covering the period from 1 November 1810 to 2 September 1817 with one letter, dated 10 June 1822, are written in Persian shikasta or running hand. Each letter has a heading giving the title (usually, Akhbari Deorhi Sardar Ranjit Singh Bahadur), the day of the week, the date in Hijri era, and the place from which the letter was sent.

The newswriter remains anonymous. He also remains impersonal in that he relates bare facts without comment or opinion. Most of the letters were written from the Fort of Lahore where the Maharaja held his court, while there are some written from widely disparate places such as Fort of Gobindgarh (Amritsar), Gujrat, Attock, Wazirabad, Rajauri, Sialkot, Fatehgarh and Rawalpindi. Ten letters relating to the period 1810-12 end with the sentence, “Zabani Khushhal Singh Khabardar nawishtah shud this has been written on the basis of verbal information supplied by Khushal Singh, the informant,” while three letters of the year 1817 end with the word, arzi followed by a seal which reads “`Azim Ullah 1236 A. H.”

The latter remains unidentified, but the former has been conjectured to be Khushal Singh Jamadar, the deorhidar, or chamberlain, under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. These letters, rich in variety and detail, provide intimate glimpses into the life of Ranjit Singh, his daily routine, personal habits, character and pastimes. To refer to the newsletter, dated 9 June 1813, the Maharaja rose early in the morning and came to the diwan khana, where the sardars presented themselves and made obeisance. Here he received reports from different parts of the kingdom. Expeditiously disposing of State business, he would inspect troops mounted on a horse or an elephant. Thereafter, he returned to the zanana, took meals and rested in the afternoon. In the late afternoon, he would come to the Saman Burj and transact business for four hours.

The letters contain valuable information about Ranjit Singh\’s financial, military and judicial administration during the earlier period of his reign. For example, the extent to which the Maharaja had succeeded in training and reorganizing his forces on Western model, even before the advent of European officers, is revealed through his consistent endeavours in this behalf and through the names of battalion and higher commanders mentioned. The instructions issued to his adalatis or justices indicate his concern for impartiality in the administration of justice. The frequent mention of joris, lit. pairs, who bring news from distant districts, even from foreign courts and offices, reveals the elaborate system of speedy and efficient intelligence gathering which then existed.