Dalhousie is best known for pushing ahead an aggressive policy of conquest, annexation, and absorption of territory ruled by Indian princes with the declared aim of "rationalizing" the irregular map of the East India Company domains. Hence, the second Anglo-Sikh war of 1848 resulted in the annexation of the Punjab, a brief war with Sikkim brought more than 4,000 square kilometers of real estate under direct British rule in 1850, and all of lower Burma was taken over after the second Burmese war of 1852. In this respect Dalhousie confirmed brilliantly to the established pattern of British imperial expansion in India.
In addition, Dalhousie extended a novel and non-Indian practice called the "Doctrine of lapse" which had been used sparingly by his predecessors. He assumed the prerogative of refusing to recognize heirs by adoption to allied or dependent Indian princes. In the absence of a natural male heir, he said, sovereignity would lapse to the paramount power by now the East India Company and not the Mughal Emperor and the territory brought under direct British rule. In pursuance of this doctrine, Dalhousie annexed Satara in 1848, Baghat, Jaitpur, and Sambalpur in 1850, Udaipur in 1852, Jhansi in 1853, Nagpur in 1854, and Karauli in 1855. Further, he swept away many titles and pensions of nominal rulers or their heirs, as in the case of the Nawab of Carnatic, the Raja of Tanjore, and the Maratha Peshwa.
The painter who made this painting of the Governor General under whom the Punjab was finally annexed to the British empire, makes an honest attempt to get a good likeness: the keen face, the alert stance, the air of authority, are all there. The chair of state, with lion-shaped arms, of the kind that Lord Harding sits in, in the well-known painting of the Signing of the Treaty of Bhairowal, is clear enough.
This description by Nitin Kumar, Executive Editor, Exotic India.
Goswamy, B.N. Piety and Splendour: The Sikh Heritage in Art (Exhibition catalogue). National Museum, New Delhi, 2000.
Mansingh, Surjit. The Historiacl Dictionary of India. Vision Books, New Delhi, 2000.