maharaja-ranjit-singh

In News: On June 27 (Death Anniversary), a statue of Ranjit Singh, who ruled Punjab for almost four decades (1801-39), was inaugurated in Lahore. 

About Maharaja Ranjit Singh:

  • Ranjit Singh was born on November 13, 1780 in Gujranwala, now in Pakistan.
  • At that time, Punjab was ruled by powerful chieftains who had divided the territory into Misls.
  • Ranjit Singh overthrew the warring Misls and established a unified Sikh empire after he conquered Lahore in 1799.
    • Ranjit Singh belonged to the Sukerchakia misl.
  • At the time of his death, he was the only sovereign leader left in India, all others having come under the control of the East India Company in some way or the other.
  • Ranjit Singh’s trans-regional empire was spread over several states.
  • His empire included the former Mughal provinces of Lahore and Multan besides part of Kabul and the entire Peshawar.
  • The boundaries of his state went up to Ladakh — Zorawar Singh, a general from Jammu, had conquered Ladakh in Ranjit Singh’s name — in the northeast, Khyber Pass in the northwest, and up to Panjnad in the south where the five rivers of Punjab fell into the Indus.
  • His general Hari Singh Nalwa built the Fort of Jamrud at the mouth of the Khyber Pass, the route the foreign rulers took to invade India.
  • He was given the title Lion of Punjab (Sher-e-Punjab) because he stemmed the tide of Afghan invaders in Lahore, which remained his capital until his death.
  • He combined the strong points of the traditional Khalsa army with western advances in warfare to raise Asia’s most powerful indigenous army of that time.
    • He employed a large number of European officers, especially French, to train his troops.
    • He appointed French General Jean Franquis Allard to modernise his army.
      • In 2016, the town of St Tropez unveiled the maharaja’s bronze statue as a mark of respect.

His Legacy

  • The maharaja was known for his just and secular rule; both Hindus and Muslims were given powerful positions in his darbar.
  • The Sikhs take pride in him for he turned Harmandir Sahib at Amritsar into the Golden Temple by covering it with gold.
  • Right at the doorstep of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple is a plaque that details how in 1830 AD, the maharaja did sewa over 10 years.
  • He is also credited with funding Hazoor Sahib gurudwara at the final resting place of Guru Gobind Singh in Nanded, Maharashtra.
  • The Kohinoor diamond, which is currently in the possession of the Queen of England, was once a part of Ranjit Singh's treasure.