ZAFARNAMAH-I-RANJlT SINGH, subtitled Ranjhnamah, by Kanhaiya Lal is an account in Persian verse of the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his successors, covering the period 1799-1849. The manuscript copies of the work are preserved in Panjab University Library, Lahore ; Panjab Public Library, Lahore ; Khalsa College, Amritsar ; and the Punjab State Archives, Patiala. Its author, Kanhaiya Lal, was a native of Jalesar, an old town in Agra district of Uttar Pradesh. His father Lala Hari Narain Mathur had migrated to Lahore. Here Kanhaiya Lal acquired technical education and rose to be an executive engineer. The British government conferred upon him the title of Rai Bahadur.
“Hindi” was his pen name. He was a prolific writer and wrote several books in Persian and Urdu. Of these, his Tankhi Panjab in Urdu prose is , in his own words, an expanded version of his Ranjitnamah. Zafarnamah in Persian means a letter or account of victory. It was one of the common titles given by Persian poets and historians to their works in prose and verse eulogizing the conquests and achievements of kings and military heroes. Already Diwan Amar Nath Akabri, a high official under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, had written an account of the Maharaja\’s conquests under the title, Zafarnamah-i-Ranjit Singh, which remained unpublished until 1928.
Kanhaiya Lal\’s Zafarnamah was lithographed in 1876 at Mustafai Press, Lahore. A summary translation of it in English was serialized in the Indian Antiquary, Calcutta, during October 1887 to April 1888. In the compilation of Zafarnamah-i-Ranjit Singh, Kanhaiya Lal seems to have utilized works such as Sohan Lal Suri\’s, \’Umdat ut-Twankh, Bute Shah\’s Twankh-i-Punjab and, possibly, Diwan Amar Nath\’s Zafarnamah. Following the style of Persian poets like Firdausi and Nizami Gahjavi, Kanhaiya Lal commences his book with invocation to God. This is followed by laudation of Hindu and Muslim teachers and the Gurus.
The major portion of the work is taken up by the wars and conquests of Ranjit Singh, ten concluding chapters covering the period from the coronation of Maharaja Kharak Singh to the annexation of the Punjab by the British in 1849. The author style is highly hyperbolic and full of poetic exaggerations. He describes the techniques of war and dauntless bravery of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and praises the courage, manliness and chivalry of his soldiers comparing them to such legendary heroes as Rustam and Asfand Yar.
1. Kirpal Singh, A Catalogue of Persian and Sanskrit Manuscripts. Amritsar, 1962