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The Last Sunset (The Rise & Fall of the Lahore Durbar)
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About the Book

 

The Last Sunset: The Rise and Fall of the Lahore Durbar recreates the history of the Sikh empire and its unforgettable ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Shukarchakra dynasty. An outstanding military commander, he created the Sikh Khalsa Army, organized and armed in Western style and acknowledged as the best in India in the nineteenth century. Ranjit Singh's death in 1839 and the subsequent decline of the Lahore Durbar, gave the British the opportunity to stake their claim in the region till now fiercely guarded by Maharaja Ranjit Singh's army.

 

Amarinder Singh chronicles in detail the two Anglo-Sikh wars of 1845 and 1848. The battles, high in casualties on both the sides led to the fall of Khalsa and the state was finally annexed with Maharaja Duleep Singh, the youngest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, put under the protection of the Crown and deported to England.

 

About the Author

 

Amarinder Singh, who is from the royal family of Patiala, was educated at the Doon School. After graduating from the National Defence Academy at Khadakawasla and the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun, he was commissioned into the 2nd Battalion of the Sikh regiment. During the 1965 war with Pakistan, he was ADC to the GOC-in-C, Western Command, in whose theatre of operations the entire war was fought. Later, as member of Parliament, he was a member of the Parliamentary Defence Committee.

 

Amarinder Singh spent four terms in the Punjab Legislature once as minister and then as Chief Minister of Punjab from 2002 to 2007. He presently represents the state Congress Party.

 

He has authored two books: Lest We Forget: The History of Indian Army from 1947-65 and A Ridge Too Far: War in the Kargil Heights 1999.

 

Introduction

 

Seldom in history does a man make so great an impact upon the events of his time that, 168 years after his death, he is still being written, spoken and conjectured about as if those events were recent happenings.

 

Such a man was Ranjit Singh, the maharaja of Lahore. Though illiterate, he was a highly perceptive man. His great intelligence and will to go on learning till his dying day, made him one of the ablest rulers and military commanders in the history of the Punjab and, indeed, of India.

 

I have sometimes been asked why I have chosen to write this study about a man and his times of whom so much has already been written by very competent men and women in countless books, by military men in their autobiographies or historians covering the more mundane business of government and the national events of a certain period. While autobiography often makes for an absorbing and enjoyable read, the authors, sometimes, have their noses too close to the windowpane to see things in their true perspective. Some autobiographies are written under the pressure of personal prejudice, and thus fail to give an accurate, broad-based, in-depth account of events surrounding the experiences of the authors. As for written history, this is, all too often, written in a monotonous, dry as dust style with which it has, sadly, now become synonymous, making people shy away from it. I have attempted to write about the military aspects of a fascinating period, factual in every respect, I believe, and without prejudice, to produce a story - a human story - to which, I hope, lay readers too, will be attracted.

 

History seeks to record events as they actually occurred. However, students will find that military biographers, and even historians, are divided down the middle over the story of the years I have covered about events in the Punjab and the activities of the Lahore Durbar.

 

Contemporary historians, writing while the game was still in progress, bat openly for their own sides. Later historians are, perhaps, more objective, writing with a tongue-in-cheek subtlety which tends to favour their own. This behaviour is inevitable when events have changed the history of a country or a large part of it. Whilst the British can find very little wrong with their own part in the ten years preceding the annexation of the Punjab, the Sikhs write with a bias of their own. Mythology thus created becomes embedded in men's minds over a span of a century and a half. Whilst the victor, be he a general, a staff officer or even the adjutant of a regiment writing up the unit's war diary, seeks to glorify success, the vanquished disappear quietly from the scene, to lick their wounds and brood over disaster until the day dawns when they begin to look back with nostalgia and toy with the idea of what might have been ... if only ... !

 

Ranjit Singh was unquestionably a great man. As he swept through the Punjab, bringing more and more of it under his own control, he showed his understanding of men, building a team of exceptional administrators to become either his ministers or the holders of key positions, such as the

governorship of newly-won territories.

 

An outstanding military commander, who had learnt the art of war on the battlefield from an early age, he created the Sikh Khalsa Army which the British would come to acknowledge as the best in India, an accolade that would become widely accepted after the two Sikh wars of 1845 and '48. General Sir Charles Gough and Arthur Innes wrote in the introduction to The Sikhs and the Sikh Wars, '[ ... ] in the Sikhs we found the most stubborn foe we ever faced on Indian soil since the French were beaten at Wandewash.' That army made possible the remarkable military successes which characterized the forty-two years of Ranjit Singh's reign.

 

No man is perfect and, as history frequently reveals, it is often apparent that the greater a man's merits and talents, the greater his failings and weaknesses. If that were not so he would be less than human. Ranjit Singh was no exception to this rule. He too had certain qualities which were unworthy of his greatness. Though illiterate, he was highly intelligent and extremely able, and at times showed himself to be cunning, treacherous and quite ruthless. Yet, with one or two particular exceptions, he took no life, except in battle, and rehabilitated all those he vanquished. When it came to the acquisition of treasure, such as the great Kohinoor diamond, or the possession of some object that had seized his imagination, such as the beautiful Persian horse Liali, or even lesser desirable objects, he would cheat and even steal, if need be. If he had decided that he wanted something, he took it, regardless of means or cost.

 

After his death in 1839, a string of mediocre rulers, ambitious courtiers and an army that had grown aggressively volatile, presented the British with an ideal situation, enabling them to ferment intrigue which took root in that hopelessly fragmented establishment, the Lahore Durbar. It could now be only a matter of time before the kingdom of Lahore met its nemesis.

 

By 1845, the British, who by then had consolidated their gains in India, saw an opportunity and played their part in the game to perfection. The Lahore Durbar, by then fully infiltrated, also played its part in the impending disaster. Both sides had their reasons but the British completely outplayed the court of Lahore and its regent, Maharani Jinda Kaur.

 

In the Sikh wars which followed, the British Indian Army, which consisted of a number of British regiments and those of the East India Company, was highly trained and its units experienced in battle. As far as the British elements were concerned, the wars in Europe, America and China were not long over. The Company's sepoys had fought in the various engagements through which the British Empire in India was being established and consolidated and these were not yet over. General Sir Hugh Gough was supported by a string of very experienced divisional commanders, whose subordinates, down to the lowest level, had also learnt their trade on the battlefield or were the product of the cadet colleges in England. Even the governor general, General Sir Henry (later Lord) Hardinge, who had served with distinction under Wellington in the Peninsular wars, offered to serve as Cough's deputy in the field of Ferozshah. As he was well known to be inclined to interfere in military matters, this offer was, perhaps, something of a mixed blessing.

 

The Evolution of the Army up to 1839' shows us how Ranjit Singh created his great Sikh Khalsa Army, using a number of battle-hardened European soldiers of fortune, all former officers in Napoleon's armies. It was their skill and experience and their understanding of the immense importance of discipline which would give the Khalsa Army its high quality and reputation.

 

It is both sad and extraordinary that no Sikh record of the battles of the two Sikh wars exist today, apart from the organizational structure of the Khalsa Army, the names of the three divisional commanders and of their brigade commanders and of the general commanding at each battle. Of tactical deployments and handling, we know very little. Such detailed information about the conduct of the two Sikh wars as did exist was contained in one of the volumes of a daily chronicle written by Sohan Lal Suri, the vakil of the camp of Lahore during the reign of Ranjit Singh and the subsequent administrations. However, in his Umdat-ut- Tauiarikh, the vakil records that volume three, the one which, it is believed, would have told us much of what we so badly need to know about the conduct of operations and the tactical handling of the army, was borrowed by an English lieutenant, Herbert Edwardes, and never returned. What was there in that volume which the British wanted to keep under wraps and where is it today?

 

Contents

 

List of Annexures

vii

Acknowledgements

ix

Declaration

xi

Introduction

xiv

Prologue

1

The Lion of Lahore

3

The Evolution of the Army

28

The Decline of the Lahore Durbar 1839-45

48

The First Sikh War 1845-46

60

Multan 1848-49

159

The Second Sikh War 1848-49

185

Epilogue

227

Annexures

264

Notes

333

Select Bibliography

341

Index

345

 

Sample Page


The Last Sunset (The Rise & Fall of the Lahore Durbar)

Item Code:
NAJ060
Cover:
Hardcover
Edition:
2010
Publisher:
ISBN:
9788174367792
Language:
English
Size:
9.5 inch x 6.0 inch
Pages:
378
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 700 gms
Price:
$45.00   Shipping Free
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About the Book

 

The Last Sunset: The Rise and Fall of the Lahore Durbar recreates the history of the Sikh empire and its unforgettable ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Shukarchakra dynasty. An outstanding military commander, he created the Sikh Khalsa Army, organized and armed in Western style and acknowledged as the best in India in the nineteenth century. Ranjit Singh's death in 1839 and the subsequent decline of the Lahore Durbar, gave the British the opportunity to stake their claim in the region till now fiercely guarded by Maharaja Ranjit Singh's army.

 

Amarinder Singh chronicles in detail the two Anglo-Sikh wars of 1845 and 1848. The battles, high in casualties on both the sides led to the fall of Khalsa and the state was finally annexed with Maharaja Duleep Singh, the youngest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, put under the protection of the Crown and deported to England.

 

About the Author

 

Amarinder Singh, who is from the royal family of Patiala, was educated at the Doon School. After graduating from the National Defence Academy at Khadakawasla and the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun, he was commissioned into the 2nd Battalion of the Sikh regiment. During the 1965 war with Pakistan, he was ADC to the GOC-in-C, Western Command, in whose theatre of operations the entire war was fought. Later, as member of Parliament, he was a member of the Parliamentary Defence Committee.

 

Amarinder Singh spent four terms in the Punjab Legislature once as minister and then as Chief Minister of Punjab from 2002 to 2007. He presently represents the state Congress Party.

 

He has authored two books: Lest We Forget: The History of Indian Army from 1947-65 and A Ridge Too Far: War in the Kargil Heights 1999.

 

Introduction

 

Seldom in history does a man make so great an impact upon the events of his time that, 168 years after his death, he is still being written, spoken and conjectured about as if those events were recent happenings.

 

Such a man was Ranjit Singh, the maharaja of Lahore. Though illiterate, he was a highly perceptive man. His great intelligence and will to go on learning till his dying day, made him one of the ablest rulers and military commanders in the history of the Punjab and, indeed, of India.

 

I have sometimes been asked why I have chosen to write this study about a man and his times of whom so much has already been written by very competent men and women in countless books, by military men in their autobiographies or historians covering the more mundane business of government and the national events of a certain period. While autobiography often makes for an absorbing and enjoyable read, the authors, sometimes, have their noses too close to the windowpane to see things in their true perspective. Some autobiographies are written under the pressure of personal prejudice, and thus fail to give an accurate, broad-based, in-depth account of events surrounding the experiences of the authors. As for written history, this is, all too often, written in a monotonous, dry as dust style with which it has, sadly, now become synonymous, making people shy away from it. I have attempted to write about the military aspects of a fascinating period, factual in every respect, I believe, and without prejudice, to produce a story - a human story - to which, I hope, lay readers too, will be attracted.

 

History seeks to record events as they actually occurred. However, students will find that military biographers, and even historians, are divided down the middle over the story of the years I have covered about events in the Punjab and the activities of the Lahore Durbar.

 

Contemporary historians, writing while the game was still in progress, bat openly for their own sides. Later historians are, perhaps, more objective, writing with a tongue-in-cheek subtlety which tends to favour their own. This behaviour is inevitable when events have changed the history of a country or a large part of it. Whilst the British can find very little wrong with their own part in the ten years preceding the annexation of the Punjab, the Sikhs write with a bias of their own. Mythology thus created becomes embedded in men's minds over a span of a century and a half. Whilst the victor, be he a general, a staff officer or even the adjutant of a regiment writing up the unit's war diary, seeks to glorify success, the vanquished disappear quietly from the scene, to lick their wounds and brood over disaster until the day dawns when they begin to look back with nostalgia and toy with the idea of what might have been ... if only ... !

 

Ranjit Singh was unquestionably a great man. As he swept through the Punjab, bringing more and more of it under his own control, he showed his understanding of men, building a team of exceptional administrators to become either his ministers or the holders of key positions, such as the

governorship of newly-won territories.

 

An outstanding military commander, who had learnt the art of war on the battlefield from an early age, he created the Sikh Khalsa Army which the British would come to acknowledge as the best in India, an accolade that would become widely accepted after the two Sikh wars of 1845 and '48. General Sir Charles Gough and Arthur Innes wrote in the introduction to The Sikhs and the Sikh Wars, '[ ... ] in the Sikhs we found the most stubborn foe we ever faced on Indian soil since the French were beaten at Wandewash.' That army made possible the remarkable military successes which characterized the forty-two years of Ranjit Singh's reign.

 

No man is perfect and, as history frequently reveals, it is often apparent that the greater a man's merits and talents, the greater his failings and weaknesses. If that were not so he would be less than human. Ranjit Singh was no exception to this rule. He too had certain qualities which were unworthy of his greatness. Though illiterate, he was highly intelligent and extremely able, and at times showed himself to be cunning, treacherous and quite ruthless. Yet, with one or two particular exceptions, he took no life, except in battle, and rehabilitated all those he vanquished. When it came to the acquisition of treasure, such as the great Kohinoor diamond, or the possession of some object that had seized his imagination, such as the beautiful Persian horse Liali, or even lesser desirable objects, he would cheat and even steal, if need be. If he had decided that he wanted something, he took it, regardless of means or cost.

 

After his death in 1839, a string of mediocre rulers, ambitious courtiers and an army that had grown aggressively volatile, presented the British with an ideal situation, enabling them to ferment intrigue which took root in that hopelessly fragmented establishment, the Lahore Durbar. It could now be only a matter of time before the kingdom of Lahore met its nemesis.

 

By 1845, the British, who by then had consolidated their gains in India, saw an opportunity and played their part in the game to perfection. The Lahore Durbar, by then fully infiltrated, also played its part in the impending disaster. Both sides had their reasons but the British completely outplayed the court of Lahore and its regent, Maharani Jinda Kaur.

 

In the Sikh wars which followed, the British Indian Army, which consisted of a number of British regiments and those of the East India Company, was highly trained and its units experienced in battle. As far as the British elements were concerned, the wars in Europe, America and China were not long over. The Company's sepoys had fought in the various engagements through which the British Empire in India was being established and consolidated and these were not yet over. General Sir Hugh Gough was supported by a string of very experienced divisional commanders, whose subordinates, down to the lowest level, had also learnt their trade on the battlefield or were the product of the cadet colleges in England. Even the governor general, General Sir Henry (later Lord) Hardinge, who had served with distinction under Wellington in the Peninsular wars, offered to serve as Cough's deputy in the field of Ferozshah. As he was well known to be inclined to interfere in military matters, this offer was, perhaps, something of a mixed blessing.

 

The Evolution of the Army up to 1839' shows us how Ranjit Singh created his great Sikh Khalsa Army, using a number of battle-hardened European soldiers of fortune, all former officers in Napoleon's armies. It was their skill and experience and their understanding of the immense importance of discipline which would give the Khalsa Army its high quality and reputation.

 

It is both sad and extraordinary that no Sikh record of the battles of the two Sikh wars exist today, apart from the organizational structure of the Khalsa Army, the names of the three divisional commanders and of their brigade commanders and of the general commanding at each battle. Of tactical deployments and handling, we know very little. Such detailed information about the conduct of the two Sikh wars as did exist was contained in one of the volumes of a daily chronicle written by Sohan Lal Suri, the vakil of the camp of Lahore during the reign of Ranjit Singh and the subsequent administrations. However, in his Umdat-ut- Tauiarikh, the vakil records that volume three, the one which, it is believed, would have told us much of what we so badly need to know about the conduct of operations and the tactical handling of the army, was borrowed by an English lieutenant, Herbert Edwardes, and never returned. What was there in that volume which the British wanted to keep under wraps and where is it today?

 

Contents

 

List of Annexures

vii

Acknowledgements

ix

Declaration

xi

Introduction

xiv

Prologue

1

The Lion of Lahore

3

The Evolution of the Army

28

The Decline of the Lahore Durbar 1839-45

48

The First Sikh War 1845-46

60

Multan 1848-49

159

The Second Sikh War 1848-49

185

Epilogue

227

Annexures

264

Notes

333

Select Bibliography

341

Index

345

 

Sample Page


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