About the Book
The 200th anniversary, this year, of the
coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, being enthusiastically celebrated
throughout India and abroad under the auspices of the State- level Coronation
Bicentenary Concept Committee headed by Hon’ble Sardar Parkash Singh Badal,
Chief Minister, Punjab, provided an occasion and inspiration for a fresh
overview of the life and policies of Ranjit Singh and of his times; certain
significant aspects that have remained, mostly, unattended have been addressed
in this work, particularly, the modernization impulses of Maharaja Ranjit
Singh, the last great sovereign of the country before the whole of
sub-continental India came under the British colonial rule. The role and place
of Maharaja Ranjit Singh on World canvas is another dimension that has been, so
forcefully for the first time, highlighted in this work.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh has been hailed, both by old and
modern historians, as an interpid conqueror, a great consolidator, a ‘secular
Sikh Maharaja. etc.’ The fresh approach, reflected in these essays, sees the
Sikh tradition and Punjabi nationalism as complementary to each other and as
such, a great achievement of Maharaja Ranjit Singh on ideological level. Going
beyond the traditional perspectives on Maharaja Ranjit Singh, his policies have
also been studied in relation to the Sikh civilization (qualitatively different
from the earlier civilizations), the potential of which, according to Arnold
Toynbee, was inherent in the Sikh doctrine - the potential that would, hopeably,
influence the emerging third millennium global civilization.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a legendary figure,
appears to be somewhat larger than history. He possessed the superb qualities
of a born ruler. M’Gregor in 1846 remarked that he was no common character but
possessed power of mind rarely met with either in Eastern or Western world.
Assessing the political acumen of Maharaja
Ranjit Singh, General J.H. Gordon argues that the Maharaja’s reign was one long
campaign in consolidating his power. By 1831, after repeated attempts, he had
at last brought into subjection the Muslim provinces of Multan, Kashmir and
Peshawar, the Rajput hill states and all other independent chiefs. His
supremacy was extended to the foothills beyond the Indus, to Ladakh in Tibet
beyond Kashmir and to the snowy Himalayas in the north. Furthermore, he
safeguarded his people, his kingdom the honour of his beloved country from the
hammar-like onslaught of the British.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh possessed rare
statesmanship and invariably evaluated the situation with meticulous care and
farsightedness. Only one example will suffice here. Seeing that the Phulkian
chief had taken protection under the East India Company, he accepted Sutlej as
his boundary in 1809 by the Treaty of Amritsar. Though he felt that it was a
great hurdle and obstruction in his ambitious designs yet he soon brought his
mind to see the great advantage which this treaty secured him. He was sagacious
enough to direct his whole force in other directions where he had yet many foes
to overcome and to pursue his policy of reducing to subjection all Sardars and
Muslim chiefs within the regime having intention of resistence and defiance.
The Maharaja had full faith in the broad based
fellowship and co-ordination with which the Hindus and the Muslims created
conditions of peace and prosperity to which John Malcolm calls a system most
congenious to the temperament of the subjects. In fact, the rule established by
the Maharaja was above communal considerations and based on the confidence of
the people, the nobles and the ministers. The Treaty of Amritsar was signed
primarily under the advice of Faqir Azizuddin. It is interesting to note that
Alahi Bakhsh, Muslim remained the incharge of artillery force of the Lahore Darbar
for a long period. Basawan, a Punjabi Muslim bore the Sikh colours in the
victorious and significant Kabul campaign. The evidence of the whole hearted
co-operation of the Hindus and their Generals is not far to seek. Thorburn
states that ‘white or brown, Hindu or Muslim, Teuton or Latin, all were
employed provided they knew their trade.’ Indeed, the Maharaja showed great
magnanimity in patronising all the religions and extended liberal grants to
different religious dispensations. His secularism endeared him to all his
subjects and the Maharaja proved himself to be a symbol of pride for every
Punjabi. It was by means of the Maharaja’s strenuous efforts that Punjab, once
a province of Afghanistan, emerged as a sovereign power on the map of India.
Recognising their talents, the Maharaja very
sagaciously appointed Europeans in all the four wings of his forces. It was
again his political acumen which enabled him to train his soldiers on western
lines. J.H. Gordon states that Josiah Harlan while roving Afghan border was
captured by the Sikhs. Maharaja Ranjit Singh recognising his talent told him
that he would make him Governor of Gujrat and give him 3000 rupees. In case he
behaved well, he would increase his salary, if not he would cut off his nose.
It is worth mentioning here that the Maharaja remained a just ruler throughout
his career and never inflicted corporal punishment.
Farmans of the Maharaja or orders issued from
time to time depict his keen interest in each and every sphere of his clean
administration. These Farmans have left a real legacy of the Maharaja for us to
learn from his political wisdom and experience. Having been a strict but just
administrator, he administered justice in its real spirit. He could never
tolerate corruption and injustice.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh, assumed no symbol of
royalty, since he felt that he derived his power from the Khalsa brotherhood.
He issued Nanak Shahi coins and used the seal of the days of Baba Banda Singh
Bahadur. Thus, Ranjit Singh’s coronation on the request of the citizens of
Amritsar was the beginning of a dynamic representative rule.
The present volume seeks to present glimpses of a few
aspects of the Maharaja and his reign.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh on World Canvas
Sukarchakia Misal : Its Rise and Fall
Character and Personality of Maharaja Ranjit Singh
The External Policy of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1799-1839)
The Legacy of Ranjit Singh
The Dynamics of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Policies
Maharaja Ranjit Singh : Secular Perceptions
Punjabi Language and Literature during the times of Maharaja Ranjit
Jewels and Relics in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Toshakhana
Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Contribution to Architectural Heritage
Special Lecture on Maharaja Ranjit Singh
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