From the Jacket
By sheer force of his personality Maharaja Ranjit Singh born in 1780, became the unquestioned ruler of the Punjab from 1799 to 1839, his kingdom being the last bastion to hold out against the British a symbol of their incomplete conquest of India.
Relying on unconventional statecraft and dazzling display of daring and courage, he wielded his warrior nation to extend the empire from the Sutlej to Kabul in Afghanistan and from Ladakh to Iskardu and Tuklakote in Little Tibet.
Every invasion of India till then had been from West to East, across the Indus, from 2000 BC onwards, when the Aryans came in. for the first time in history, an Indian ruler went West wards, crossed the Indus River in 1826 and hoisted his flag on Kabul fort.
This is the story of Maharaja Ranjit Singh whose kingdom was the last to lay arms before the British who had annexed to entire sub-continent.
About the Author
He is born in 1917 awarded Waris Award as Punjabi writer of the millennium by the chief minister, Punjab in the world Punjabi Conference held at Chandigarh in December, 2000 has to his credit 21 collections of poetry, seven plays, six collections of short plays, and autobiography in two volumes and several works of literary criticism. K.S. Duggal has been honoured with Padam Bhushan, the Soviet Land Nehru Award and Punjabi Sahitya academy's Sarva Sresht Sahtykar Award for the totality of his contribution to Indian literature besides the National Academy of Letters Award for drama, the Bhasha Parishad Award for fiction and the Bhai Mohan Singh Vaid Award for autobiography. Appreciating his contribution to Indian literature, Shri Duggal was conferred the degree of D. Lit. by the president of India in 1997. Having served as Director, All India Radio, Director National Book Trust and Adviser, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting attached to Planning Commission of India, he is currently devoted exclusively to literary activity.
There is no lack of historical literature on Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a commanding and arresting figure of nineteenth-century India. Several of his contemporaries, Indians as well as foreigners, have left detailed accounts of his achievements and personality. Many books were written in English about the Sikhs and the Punjab within a decade of the Maharaja's death. Several of the foreign visitors who had either served the Maharaja or visited him recorded their first-hand impressions. In this context , the names of Osborne, M'Gregor, Steinbach, Murray, Carmichael Smyth, Thronton, Baron Hugel, H.M. Lawrence, Charles Mason, W. Barr and Cunningham are well known. Henry Prinsep wrote his book about Ranjit Singh within his lifetime- in 1834. Over the years, books for the specialist as well as for the lay reader have been steadily arriving. The bicentennial of the Maharaja's birth, especially, brought forth a considerable amount of literature. In history there is always scope for a fresh look on any subject. For this reason, this latest book on Maharaja Ranjit Sigh from the pen f the noted Punjabi litterateur and creative writer K.S. Duggal is entirely welcome, and it does bring some fresh insight and perspectives to the theme.
The author portrays the emergence of the phenomenon that Ranjit Singh was in its historical setting, tracing in detail the evolution of the Sikh commonwealth from the time of the time of the Founder, Guru Nanak. Under the Gurus, the basic Sikh tenets and institutions were established. Under Banda Singh the Sikhs shook the mighty Mughal empire to its very foundations. After Band Singh's death, with brief intervals of respite, resulting ultimately in the liberation of the Punjab which began with the establishment of the Misls, or Sikh independecies. The leadership was then assumed by Maharaja Ranjit Sigh, the most outstanding product of the eighteenth-century political revolution in the Punjab, initiated by the Sikh resistance. His conquests and his feats on the battlefields as well as his creation of an efficient and humane system of administration are described in the book in vivid detail. What has impressed the author most is the personality of Ranjit Singh who indeed was "no common character but possessed of powers of mind rarely met with either in the eastern or western world."He has, appropriately, highlighted his generosity of nature, his liberal outlook and his equal treatment of all- Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. The other highlights of the book are the chapters on the arts and on literature in the Punjab under Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
The present work is not a research study. It is more in the nature of a tribute to a great leader of men produced by the Punjab who liberated north-west India, establishing an authority in which all people, without distinction of creed, class or caste, were co-sharers.
Misunderstandings still prevail about the Maharaja, his character and personality, his policy and administration, engendered mostly by some of the early European writers. K.S. Duggal's book corrects several of these faulty perspectives.
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