General Studies IHISTORYModern India

Maharaja Ranjit Singh


A nine-foot-tall bronze equestrian statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the founder of the Sikh Empire, was vandalised in Lahore Fort earlier this week.

  • India has expressed concern at the development, saying incidents of violence against Pakistan’s minorities are increasing at an “alarming rate”.

About Maharaja Ranjit Singh

  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh (13 November 1780 – 27 June 1839), popularly known as Sher-e-Punjab or “Lion of Punjab”,
  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the first Maharaja of the Sikh Empire (Founder), which ruled the northwest Indian subcontinent in the early half of the 19th century.
  • He fought his first battle alongside his father at age 10. After his father died, he fought several wars to expel the Afghans in his teenage years and was proclaimed as the “Maharaja of Punjab” at age 21.
  • His empire grew in the Punjab region under his leadership through 1839.
  • Prior to his rise, the Punjab region had numerous warring misls (confederacies), twelve of which were under Sikh rulers and one Muslim.
  • Ranjit Singh successfully absorbed and united the Sikh misls and took over other local kingdoms to create the Sikh Empire.
  • He repeatedly defeated invasions by outside armies, particularly those arriving from Afghanistan, and established friendly relations with the British.
  • Ranjit Singh’s reign introduced reforms, modernisation, investment into infrastructure and general prosperity.
  • His Khalsa army and government included Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and Europeans.
  • His legacy includes a period of Sikh cultural and artistic renaissance, including the rebuilding of the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar as well as other major gurudwaras, including Takht Sri Patna Sahib, Bihar and Hazur Sahib Nanded, Maharashtra under his sponsorship.
  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh was succeeded by his son Kharak Singh.

Ranjit Singh and Lahore:

  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh seized Lahore in 1799 after he was invited to rule the city by its Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh elite.
  • He brought peace and security to Lahore and revived its economic and cultural glory.
  • He proclaimed himself maharaja of the Punjab in 1801, and proceeded to rule with religious tolerance for communities other than Sikhs.
  • He carried out repairs to the Lahore fort — which was built by Emperor Akbar.


Empirical expansion:

  • Ranjit Singh’s trans-regional empire 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.
    • His empire extended till Khyber pass in the northwest, and up to Panjnad in the south where the five rivers of Punjab fell into the Indus.
    • During his regime, Punjab was a land of six rivers, the sixth being the Indus.

  • Modernization of Army:
    • 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 also employed a large number of European officers, especially French, to train his troops.
    • He appointed a French General to modernize his army.

  • Wide Empire:
    • Ranjit Singh’s trans-regional empire (spread over several states) 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 — in the northeast, Khyber pass (route the foreign rulers took to invade India) in the northwest, and up to Panjnad in the south where the five rivers of Punjab fell into the Indus.

  • Legacy:
    • The Maharaja was known for his just and secular rule. Both Hindus and Muslims were given powerful positions in his darbar.
    • He turned Harimandir Sahib at Amritsar into the Golden Temple by covering it with gold.
    • He is also credited with funding Hazoor Sahib gurudwara at the final resting place of Guru Gobind Singh in Nanded, Maharashtra.

  • International Recognition:
    • In 2016, the town of St Tropez in France unveiled the maharaja’s bronze statue as a mark of respect.
    • His throne is displayed prominently at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
    • In 2018, London hosted an exhibition that focused on the history of the Sikh Empire and the international relations forged by the Maharaja.

The ten Sikh gurus in order are:

  • Guru Nanak (1469-1539) Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikhism and was the first human guru.
  • Guru Angad (1504-1552)
  • Guru Amar Das (1479-1574)
  • Guru Ram Das (1534-1581)
  • Guru Arjan (1563-1606)
  • Guru Hargobind (1595-1644)
  • Guru Har Rai (1630-1661)
  • Guru Har Krishan (1656-1664)
  • Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-1675)
  • Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708)

Source: Indian Express

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