The political condition of Punjab before Ranjit Singh
When was Maharaja Ranjit Singh born?
Maharaja Ranjit Singh was born on November 2, 1780 to Maha Singh, the head of the Sukarchakia Misal. When Ranjit Singh was only twelve years old, his father died at the same time. From 1792 to 1797, a council of regency in which his mother, his mother-in-law Sadakaur, and Diwan Lakhpat Rai were there, functioned. In 1797, Ranjit Singh took the entire charge into his hands.
How did Maharaja Ranjit Singh die?
Maharaja Ranjit died in 1839. His mausoleum was built in Lahore and is still standing there. With his death, the British started tightening their grip on Punjab. After the Anglo-Sikh War, on 30 March 1849, Punjab was made a part of the British Empire and Kohinoor was presented to Queen Victoria.
The political condition of Punjab during the time of Ranjit Singh
At the time when Ranjit Singh assumed the throne, his dominion was limited to a few districts between the Ravi and Jhelum rivers.
Bhangi Misal – This was the most powerful example of that time. Its empire extended from the mountains between the Ravi and the Beas rivers to the Sutlej as well as the region of Rachna, which also included the cities of Lahore and Amritsar.
Kanhaiya Misal – Amritsar was the kingdom of Kanhaiya Misal in the northern parts.
Ahluwalia Misal – Under this, the area of Duab of Jalandhar was included.
Phulkian Misal – South of the Sutlej, Patiala, Patiala, Nabha, and Kaithal were ruled by the Phulkian chieftains and their dominance was up to the Yamuna river.
Multan, Attock, Peshawar, Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, and Kashmir were ruled by different Muslim chieftains who took the power of Kabul into their hands. Zamanshah, the grandson of Ahmad Shah Abdali, considered himself the lord of Punjab and made many attacks to show his dominance over Punjab.
The Sikh Misl was in a disintegrating state in the late 18th century. There was a civil war in Afghanistan. Ranjit Singh took advantage of this and soon established a kingdom in central Punjab with the power of the sword.
Jamanshah’s invasion of Punjab-1798
In 1798, Zaman Shah invaded Punjab. While returning some of his artillery got stuck in the China river. Ranjit Singh took them out and sent them back. In return for that service, Zaman Shah allowed him to take over Lahore. Ranjit Singh immediately captured Lahore (1799). This victory greatly increased the prestige of Ranjit Singh.
In 1805, he also snatched Amritsar from the Bhangi Misl. Now Lahore, the political capital of Punjab, and Amritsar, the religious capital, both came under his control and he became the most important chieftain of the Sikhs soon he annexed the region from the river Jhelum to the river Sutlej.
As Latif put it, “Many old Sikh confederations either subjugated or settled east of the Sutlej river, such as the Phulkians and Nihangs, and they accepted the protection of the British. But Kanhaiya, Ramgarhia, and Ahluwalia were examples of his flag. I Felt pride in fighting down.
Ranjit Singh’s Victory Campaign
Ranjit Singh had a strong desire to become the king of all the Sikhs. In this spirit, he also wanted to conquer the region beyond the Sutlej (Firozpur and Ludhiana districts which are locally known as Malwa). For this purpose, he arranged three campaigns. In 1806 he came to Patiala with a 20,000 army, he conquered Dodhali city and also defeated Sahib Singh of Patiala.
On his way back he collected taxes from cities like Ludhiana, Dakkha, Raikot, Jagraon, Ghungharana etc. The next year the Maharaja again crossed the Sutlej. This time he mediated a dispute between the Maharaja of Patiala and his wife Askaur. On his return, he collected taxes from the kings of Kaithal and Kalsia and also conquered Narayangarh, Vadni, Jira, and Kotkapura.
He became unhappy with Raja Ranjit Singh of Par Sutlej and sought protection from the British. Therefore Raja Bhag Singh of Jind met Lal Singh, brother of Kaithal and Sardar Chain Singh, Diwan of Patiala, and Mr. Seaton, the English resident in Delhi. In the same year Matkoff, who had gone to make a treaty with the Maharaja of Lahore, inspired the Maharaja to give up the rights beyond the Sutlej. But Maharaj again crossed the Sutlej in 1808 and conquered Faridkot, Malerkotla, and Ambala. But in the end, in 1809, through the Treaty of Amritsar, Ranjit Singh accepted the British right over the territories beyond the Sutlej.
Ranjeet Singh’s relationship with Dogra and Nepali
At the time when Ranjit Singh was establishing his dominance in the plains of Punjab, the Dogra chieftain Raja Sansar Chand Katoch of Kangra was expanding his influence in the surrounding hilly region. In 1804, Sansar Chand came down from the mountains and attacked Bajwada and Hoshiarpur. But Ranjit Singh’s army defeated him and established the dominance of Maharaja Ranjit Singh over Hoshiarpur.
Sansar Chand now again paid attention to the hilly areas. Frightened by this act of Sansarchand, the king of Kahlur sought help from the Gorkhas of Nepal. The Gorkhas under Amar Singh Thapa besieged Kangra. Sansar Chand alone could not resist them, so he sought the help of Ranjit Singh. In return, he accepted to give the fort of Kangra to Ranjit Singh.
A Sikh army under Diwan Mohkam Chand defeated the Gorkhas. Kangra was captured by the Sikhs and Sansarchand came under the protection of Ranjit Singh. The Gorakhs tried to get the help of the British but their own relations with the British were not very good and from 1814 to 1816, Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu conquered Ladakh. In the last days of Ranjit Singh’s reign, relations between the British and the Sikhs were not very good and he received the envoy of Nepal in 1837 and recruited Gurkhas in his army.
Ranjeet Singh’s relationship with the Afghans
Punjab was a part of Ahmad Shah Abdali’s empire but after his death in 1773, except for some small parts like Multan, Kashmir, etc., the rest became the possession of Sikh Misls. On the other hand, due to internal disputes within the Afghans, Ranjit Singh got an opportunity to strengthen his position.
In 1800 Shah Shuja, the grandson of Ahmad Shah Abdali ascended the throne of Kabul. But his brother Shah Mahmud, with the help of the powerful Barakzai chieftains Fateh Khan and Dost Mohammad, displaced him in 1809. Now these chieftains themselves took control of Kashmir and Peshawar.
Shah Shuja sought help from Ranjit Singh to get the kingdom of Kabul. He also presented the Kohinoor diamond to the Maharaja. The Maharaja actually wanted to use his name for the conquest of Multan, Kashmir, and the region on the eastern bank of the Sindh river. When Shah Shuja did not get any definite assurance, he went to Ludhiana under the protection of the Company and started living with them.
In 1831, Shah Shuja again sought the help of Ranjit Singh. Ranjit Singh said that he is ready to help but the condition is that-
- Shah Shuja stationed his crown prince in Lahore by giving an auxiliary army to the Maharaja.
- stop cow slaughter in Afghanistan and
- Return him at the door of Somnath temple.
Shah Shuja, I did not get tired of this feat. The company also did not support this campaign. In 1835, the Maharaja removed this condition and made a treaty with Shah Shuja, according to which it was accepted that the Maharaja would annex the territories of the west bank of Sindh. Ranjit Singh took the opportunity and won Peshawar in 1834 itself.
Dost Muhammad, who by that time had firmly settled on the throne of Kabul, became very frustrated at this. He attacked Peshawar with an army of 40,000 tribals, but Ranjit Singh successfully defended Peshawar and also won the Jamrud fort. In this way, many times the entire area up to the pass came under Ranjit Singh.
Ranjeet Singh’s relationship with the British
Ranjit Singh had to face the British due to his efforts to expand the kingdom beyond the Sutlej. There was talk of Jamanshah’s invasion of India again in 1800. The British sent Munshi Yusuf Ali to pray to the Maharaja that he would not join them if Zamanshah attacked.
In 1805, Jaswant Rao Holkar, who had fled from the British, came to Punjab to seek the help of the Sikhs. Ranjit Singh was campaigning towards the west at that time. Therefore, he considered it good in this that he should not take the hostility of the British. Secondly, he saw only the selfishness of Jaswant Rao Holkar in this. Finally, he signed a treaty of friendship with Lord Lett on 1 January 1806. Under this, Ranjit Singh had to force Jaswant Rao Holkar to return from Amritsar and on the other hand, the British assured them that they would not make any plan to conquer Ranjit Singh’s kingdom.
In 1807, a treaty was signed between Napoleon and Alexander in Europe and there was a fear of the invasion of these two powers on India. Lord Minto (1807-13) asked Charles Metcalfe to make a treaty of friendship with Ranjit Singh. The Maharaja agreed to accept Metcalf’s aggressive and defensive treaty proposal.
The condition was that if there was a Sikh-Afghan war, the British would be neutral and would accept Ranjit Singh as the sole king of the whole of Punjab, including the region beyond the Sutlej, which is also called Malwa. By this time Napoleon’s fear was over as a rebellion broke out in Spain, and the attitude of the British became harsh. The English commander David Ochterlony gathered an army and proceeded towards Ludhiana and then in 1809 made a declaration, in which it was said that the territory beyond the Sutlej was under English protection and if there was any attack from Lahore, that military force will be stopped from The Maharaja was defeated and finally signed the Treaty of Amritsar on 25 April 1809 which contained the following clauses-
1- There will be eternal friendship between the British Government and the State of Lahore. The British government will accept this state among the common states and the British government will not have any relation with the people and the region north of the River Sutlej.
2- In the territories which the king has on the left bank of the river Sutlej, he will not keep an army more than the internal requirements and besides this, he will not encroach on any adjacent region or the territories owned by the king.
3- This treaty shall be deemed to be void for violation of the above clauses or in violation of the principles of friendship.
The treaty was of great importance because of its immediate and potential implications. The immediate effect was that Ranjit Singh’s dream of establishing supremacy over the Sikh kings across the Sutlej was shattered, but on the other hand, as Cunningham said, the Maharaja was free to expand westward. He conquered Peshawar in 1818, and Multan in 1834. But this treaty also indirectly showed that Ranjit Singh was weaker than the company. The British went to Lahore and the fear of war increased. Apart from this, the relations of the Maharaja with the princely states of Sindh and Bahawalpur were also controlled by the Company.
Weakening the power of Ranjit Singh by the company
Between 1809 and 1839 the powerless situation of the Maharaja was evident. The Company put an end to the Maharaja’s moves in Sindh. In 1831, William Bentinck met Maharaja Ranjit Singh at the place of Ropar and both the parties promised friendship. When the Maharaja proposed to divide Sindh, Bentinck did not accept to discuss this subject. At the time when the meeting was taking place in Ropar, Colonel Pottinger made a business agreement with the amirs of Hyderabad. The Maharaja sensed the tricks of the British but could not do anything. He was not ready to fight. Due to the fear of Russia, the British took control of Firozpur and built a cantonment there. This worried Ranjit Singh but he could not do anything.
In order to completely pacify the Russian moves in Afghanistan, the Company decided to remove Dost Mohammad from the throne of Kabul and in his place, Shah Shuja, who was living under the Company’s protection, decided to make the Emir of Kabul. Ranjeet Singh was asked to participate in this plan.
Ranjit Singh’s inferiority complex appears to have persisted in Ranjit Singh’s relationship with the company. The increasing dominance of the British was frightening for him, but still, Ranjit Singh did not try to form any organization of the Indian kings against the British, nor did he make any effort to balance power. He has been avoiding bad days.
In this case, Ranjit Singh proved to be a poor politician. NK According to Sinha, “In the last decade of his life, Ranjit Singh appears to be an apathetic, incapable and ruthless man, he was afraid to show the disability of his state and his policy was, Jhuko, Jhuko, and Jhuko.”
Administration of Ranjit Singh
At that time only an autocratic administration system was prevalent in India. Ranjit Singh had neither the necessary intellectual awakening nor the inclination to start a new tradition. All official and political power were concentrated in the Maharaja. But he was a benevolent autocratic ruler. He considered himself a servant of the Khalsa or the Sikh Commonwealth. And always worked in the name of Khalsa, he also called his government ‘Sarkar-e-Khalsa’ and issued coins in the name of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh.
land tax and justice system
Army formation on The European method
Started paying monthly salary to the army
Formation of Fauz-e-Khas
army European recruitment
In Ranjit Singh’s army, 39 officers of different castes worked, including French, German, American, Greek, Russian, English, Anglo Indian, Scottish and Spanish residents. Different types of incentives were given to these foreigners to settle in Punjab. Of these, those who attained the highest position were Ventura, Allard, Court, Gardner, and Evitable. Ventura was the Fauj-i-Khas’ Padati and Allard was the caretakers of the cavalry, and Court and Gardner reorganized the artillery.
Many of these European officers also held high positions in civil administration. For example, Ventura was the governor of Derajat for some time and Evitable was made the governor of Peshawar.
It is estimated that in 1835, Ranjit Singh’s army numbered 75000 of which 35000 were regularly trained soldiers. This army proved to be adept at fighting Pathans, Gorkhas, and Dogras and this terrified the British in both the Sikh wars.
Rating of Ranjit Singh
When a British officer asked Fakir Azizuddin, who was his foreign minister, from which eye Ranjit Singh was, he replied that “his figure is so bright that I could not even know by looking carefully at him till today.”
Ranjit Singh was very popular among both Hindus and Muslims. Although he considered the Sikhs as his allies and co-religionists, he respected scholars of all religions. Once he had cleaned the dust from the feet of a Muslim saint with his white beard.
According to Lapel Griffin, Ranjit Singh was a dandy and ideal soldier, who was nimble, courageous, and patient with a mighty body. Veer, like a lion (lion), often fought ahead in his army and fought like an ordinary soldier. He used to plan his campaigns in advance. He was well acquainted with the various arts of warfare.
Whenever he fought with the tribesmen on the border of Punjab and Afghanistan, he often forced them to fight in the plains and fought with them rarely in their hilly region. Victor Jacqueman, a French tourist, compared him to Napoleon Bonaparte. It is true that he used deceit and power to achieve his purpose but was not ruthless and bloodthirsty. Rather, he treated the losers with kindness and respect. Baron von Heugel expressed similar views and concluded, “Perhaps never could such a vast kingdom have been made of so few crimes.”
As a Sahasak, Ranjit Singh always took care of the public interest. He always tried to protect the common man from oppression by the bureaucracy. There used to be a large box outside his palace and in it his subjects could complain to any officer and his key was kept with him.
For the purpose of knowing the exact condition, he himself used to go to different parts of the country. People of all religions used to take advantage of his merciful state. A Muslim fakir Azizuddin was its foreign minister and deserved its special favor. Similarly, the Dogra brothers held a special place in his court. But the most important thing was that Ranjit Singh gave a peaceful state to the people of Punjab which had never happened in the last one hundred years.
But we cannot call Ranjit Singh a creative and efficient politician. The kingdom which he had built with hard labor came to an end within 10 years of his death and the Maharaja himself could not escape its responsibility. He had concentrated all the powers in himself so much that not only did one place become vacant due to his death, but a situation had come due to which the whole structure started falling apart. He could not subordinate his army to the civil authorities.
After his death, the army which was under his complete control intervened in politics and he abolished civil administration. Like Shivaji, Ranjit Singh too could not fill the hearts of his people with the feeling that could keep them together after his death.
Perhaps Shivaji’s successor was equally inept as Ranjit Singh, but due to some circumstances, the history of Maharashtra was different. His biggest failure was in dealing with the British. Knowing that the British were laying siege around him and knowing what their objectives were, he just went on passing time and did nothing. Many times he decided to fight with the British but at the right time, he lost his courage and left the essential task of fighting the British to his successors.
Despite all this, Ranjit Singh holds an important place in Indian history. The people of Punjab still remember this brave man. Cunningham concludes that “he established a state by uniting the fragmented elements. Protected Punjab from Marathon and Pathans and established a well-organized state without giving the opportunity to the British to interfere. He and- Reinforcement of attacks from the west Pushed back and annexed the North-Western territories up to the Khyber Pass. The biggest thing was that he was very brave and that is what he owes to his future.