News & Updates

November 27, 2018


Path of Naam Simran – Concept of Sikh meditation explained as a true path of salvation.


May 17, 2018


Sri Guru Amardas Ji – A detailed biography of Guru Amardas Ji posted.


Check Past Updates

Find Us On...

Find Sikhism: Sikh Religion, Beliefs, Philosophy and Principles on FacebookFind Sikhism: Sikh Religion, Beliefs, Philosophy and Principles on Twitter

Political Condition of the Punjab and Policy of Ranjit Singh

New Phase of Ranjit Singh's Life

A new phase started in Ranjit Singh's life after the conquest of Amritsar. Lahore and Amritsar were major centres of the Punjab, and both now formed part of the Maharaja’s possessions. Among the Sikh misls, the Bhangi misl had come to be rated as strongest only because Lahore and Amritsar had been conquered by this misl. Ranjit Singh had humbled them and taken over their territories. Kanheya misl was also among the premier Sikh misls. But after the death of its founder Sardar Jai Singh its possessions and importance had decreased. Its chiefship came into the hands of Ranjit Singh’s mother-in-law, Sardarni Sada Kaur. Ramgarhia misl also used to be counted among the strong misls, but its chief, Sardar Jassa Singh had become too old to remain effective. The other chiefs were more concerned to maintain their possessions. They were left with no other option, except to owe allegiance to Ranjit Singh. Ranjit Singh, on his part was a staunch Sikh and after assuming the title of Maharaja he had also issued coins in the name of Guru Nanak Dev. For this reason he came to have an honourable status among the Sikhs.

Political Condition of the Punjab

Casting a close look at the political map of Punjab of the time, it will be found that a major part of the Central Punjab had remained under the Sikh misls. The rest of the territories were under such chiefs who professed autonomy or semi-autonomous position. Multan was under Nawab Muzaffar Khan Saddozai. Dera Ismail Khan with Abd-us-Samad Khan, Mankerah, Hot, Bannu and Kohat remained in possession Mohammad Shah Nawaz Khan and Tonk was under Nawab Sarwar Khan. In the beginning; all these Nawabs used to be governors ruling in the name of the Amir of Kabul. But after the fall of Durrani government, they became independent. Bahawalpur remained with Nawab Bahawal Khan Daudputrah and Peshawar and its vicinal areas were with Fateh Khan Barakzai. Afghans of Wazirkhel tribe headed by Jahandad Khan had taken possession of the Attock Fort and its vicinities. Kashmir and Hazara were ruled by Sardar Azim Khan Barakzai, borther of Fateh Khan. The hilly areas of Kangra and Jammu were fragmented into petty Rajput states of Kangra, Kullu, Chamba, Basohli, Mandi, Suket, Jammu, etc. These hill rajas were feudatories of the erstwhile Mughal emperors. Now, they feigned to be independent. The East (of Indian sub-continent) had come under the British. After the second Maratha War, Maratha strength declined and the British had conquered territories up to Delhi and Saharanpur. In this way, the whole country up to the Yamuna river had been occupied by the British.

Ranjit Singh's Plan of Action

It is clear from the above that the dominions of the Sikh chiefs were surrounded on all the four sides by Strong Muslim states in the west and the northwest. In the northeast, the Rajputs were trying to strengthen their position. And in the east, British government had established up to the river Yamuna. The Sikhs on their own were divided amongst themselves. Ranjit Singh was by nature very intelligent and sagacious. He knew all about this deplorable condition. Therefore, he felt the need to unite the Sikhs under one banner to enable him to face the powerful rivals and establish the Khalsa hegemony all over Punjab. He put this plan into action and went about to first gradually subdue and conquer big and small misldars and sardars in order to pave the way for establishing a glorious kingdom in Punjab.

The Genius of Ranjit Singh

It is noteworthy that as soon as the Maharaja subdued a Misldar or chief and annexed his territory he granted him a jagir or annuity and appointed him to a high rank in his court and instead of disbanding his contingents, he enrolled them in his own army. Thus the sardars were not peeved at the loss of their position and the Maharaja took full advantage of the services of such experienced chiefs and their forces. In the beginning of the Maharaja's rule, these sardars were honoured with high ranks and they and their progeny proved to be so loyal to the Maharaja that we find among them not a single instance where any one proved a traitor to the Maharaja’s dynasty even after his death. During the Anglo-Sikh wars when treason and desertion became the order of the day in Lahore Court, the Khalsa army did not waver from their fidelity towards the Sarkar-i-Khalsa.

Conquest of Jhang and Uch Region - October 1803

Jhang constituted an independent principality under Ahmad Khan Sial who was very rich. His stables were full with very beautiful and swift-footed horses and this was known all-over. A messenger was sent to Jhang by the Lion of the Punjab, to ask Ahmad Khan to submit before him and send a few horses as present to the Darbar. Ahmad Khan took it as an insult and treated the messenger with haughty disdain. When the Maharaja heard of this, he prepared for an armed show down. Ahmad Khan, too, did not think it proper to miss this chance for a trial of strength, and enlisted thousands of young men from among the war-like communities - Sials and Kharals of his region.

As soon as the two armies came face to face with each other, shelling started at once because of high tension on both the sides. This was followed by sword combats. The Sikhs being adept in swordsmanship fought with such a ferocity that within a few hours there were heaps of carcasses. The Sials also demonstrated their feats of courage. The Maharaja himself, riding a horse was swiftly moving from place to place encouraging and enthusing the Khalsa army. Ahmad Khan’s army lost ground and fled the field. Retreating towards the city, they shut the gates and started artillery fire from behind the walls. The Sikhs also encircled the city and started shelling during the night itself. Meanwhile a cannon ball fell near the Maharaja's foot and stuck into earth. Excitement spread in the Sikh army. They instantly demolished the gates and entered the city. Ahmad Khan ran away to Multan. Later he sent a deputation of his nobles to the Maharaja and apologized for what he had done and agreed to pay a heavy tribute. The Maharaja was a very broad­minded person. He readily agreed to grant pardon to Ahmad Khan. In this battle the Maharaja got rich treasure, innumerable costly horses and weapons. On his way back he conquered Uch territory, after a brief encounter. Having received tribute and presents from Nag Sultan Bukhari of Uch, the Maharaja arrived back at Lahore with great pomp and show.

Holding the Court at Sri Amritsar - 1803 A.D.

Relating the events of the year 1803 A.D., Diwan Amar Nath writes in his book that some soldiers from eastern India presented themselves before the Maharaja and showed him a demonstration of drill practices of the British army. They were probably discharged soldiers of the East India Company. The Maharaja took them in his service. The same writer further gives a detailed account of holding of grand court and a great military spectacle at Amritsar. The entire army came to this holy place. After lining up in formations, it demonstrated its drill.

Military Reforms

On the same occasion, titles were conferred on prominent sardars and they were entrusted the command of the army as follows:

  1.  Sardar Dasa Singh Majithia — command of four hundred horse.
  2.  Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa — eight hundred horse and foot.
  3.  Sardar Hukam Singh Chimani —Superintendent minor artillery and two hundred horse and foot.
  4.  Chaudhari Ghause Khan — Superintendent heavy artillery and two thousand horse.
  5. Abad Ullah — given the title of kumedan [commandant] and appointed Officer of a battalion of two thousands foot-soldiers.
  6. Roshan Khan Hindustani — given the title of kumedan [commandant] and appointed Officer of a battalion of two thousands foot-soldiers.
  7.  Almost the same strength of the army was placed under Babu Baj Singh.
  8.  Sardar Bhag Singh Muraliwala — Five hundred horse.
  9.  Milkha Singh, chief of Rawalpindi — Seven hundred horse and foot.
  10. Sardar Naudh Singh — Four hunded horse and foot, and also the jagir of Ghaiba.
  11.  Sardar Attar Singh son of Sardar Fateh Singh Dhari was appointed Risaldar of five hundred horsemen.
  12.  Sardar Mit Singh Bharania - Five hundred horse and foot.
  13.  Man Sardars - Four hundred horse and foot.
  14. Sardar Karam Singh Ranghar Nangalia - One hundred horse.
  15.  Sardar Jodh Singh Saurianwala - Three hundred horse and foot.
  16.  Sardar Nihal Singh Attariwala - Five hundred horse and foot.
  17.  Sardar Garbha Singh - One thousand horse and foot.
  18.  Other Sardars were collectively given command of two thousand.1 Each of them was also granted jagirs of clemency and honorary chiefships.

Total thirteen thousand three hundred soldiers.

Honorary Sardars

Besides the above, the undermentioned jagirdars were appointed honorary sardars who used to supply manpower to the Maharaja whenever needed.

  1.  Sardar Jassa Singh son of Karam Singh Dulo.
  2.  Sardar Sahib Singh son of Gujjar Singh Bhangi.
  3.  Sardar Chet Singh son of Lahena Singh Bhangi
  4.  Sardar Bhag Singh Ahluwalia
  5.  Sardar Nar Singh Chamiariwala.

All these were to supply five thousand horse and foot.

  1. Kanheya misl (Sardars) - Five thousand horse and foot.
  2.  Nakai Sardars - Four thousand horse and foot.
  3.  Hill Rajas - Five thousand horse and foot.
  4.  Sardars of Doaba - Seven thousand horse and foot.

Total - Thirty one thousand sepoys.

Changing the Name of Shalamar Bagh (Garden)

Narrating the events of the same year, Diwan Amar Nath states that one day while the Maharaja was strolling in the Shalamar Bagh along with the courtiers, discussion started as to why Shalamar was so named. The Maharaja said that in Punjabi language shalamar would mean Rab-di-Mar; - the curse of God and that therefore this name was not proper. The courtiers tried to explain that shalamar is a word of Turkish language which means a place of pleasure. The Maharaja said that there were no Turks living in Punjab who could understand this meaning, and that there should be a Punjabi word. So the name Shahla Bagh was suggested and this name became current since then. In common parlance, the name Shahla Bagh is used till today.

Advent of Jaswant Rai Holkar in the Punjab

In 1805, the Maharaja was busy touring Multan territory, and was encamped twenty kos (forty eight kms.) away from Multan when some fast moving horsemen arrived there from Lahore and presented themselves to the Maharaja, to inform him that a Maratha Sardar; Jaswant Rao Holkar, ruler of Indore, and Amir Khan Rohela, after being defeated by the British general, Lord Lake, had come thither with a large army to seek refuge in the Punjab and that the British army was also advancing towards Punjab in their hot pursuit.

Return from Multan

The Maharaja cancelled his tour and immediately marched towards Lahore. As soon as he reached there, Jaswant Rao's emissaries met him with costly presents, and requested for help against the British. The Maharaja made arrangements for Jaswant Rao's stay- in Amritsar and made arrangements for his hospitality. Himself, he held consultations with his sardars. All said that “if a war takes place between Holkar and the British at this time, it will certainly be fought in Punjab and that will bring harm to us. Secondly, till today we have had friendly relations with British, why should we snap those ties?” But to disappoint someone who had come to seek protection was also irreligious. Therefore it was decided that the Maharaja should take all possible steps to mediate between the two opponents and effect some compromise.

Success and Amity

On the following day, the Maharaja went to Amritsar and advised Holkar likewise to which the latter agreed. A letter on the same lines was sent to Lord Lake. Meanwhile, Governor-General Lord Wellesley during whose tenure the war with Marathas had be­gun, was recalled; and the aggressive policy of the British government came to an end. The new Governor-General, Lord Cornwallis favoured peace. Therefore, Lord Lake also responded positively. Holkar's territories seized by Lake were returned to him. In this matter Raja Bhag Singh (of Jind) and Sardar Fateh Singh Ahluwalia had put in special efforts. As such, the British government began to further strengthen friendly relations with the Maharaja and the Ahluwalia chief.2

Bath at Sri Katas Ji3

After Maharaja Holkar went back from the Punjab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh made up his mind to have a bath at Sri Katas Ji. Katas is a sacred tank formed by a natural spring near the salt mines of Kheora where a very big fair is held on Baisakhi Day. On his way back the Maharaja fell sick, but he soon recovered and came back to Lahore.

Repairs to Shalamar Bagh (Garden)

On reaching Lahore the Maharaja stayed in Shalamar Bagh, and sanctioned huge amount of money for its extensive repairs. The Hansali Canal or Canal of Ali Mardan Khan which watered this garden was restored. It got such a splendour with fruit and flower plants that it had never witnessed after Shah Jahan.

Notes & References

  1. Sardar Fateh Singh Kalianwala was at that time was a noted chief. Therefore, to please him his adopted son Dal Singh Naherna was also awarded the honour of chiefship.
  2. In the same context Munshi Sohan Lal relates an interesting incident. Once the Maharaja told Captain Wade during conversation that when Jaswant Rao Holkar came to him for help, he sought a direction from Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Khalsa. Two pieces of paper with names of the British and Holkar written on them were placed before it. The Granth Sahib gave its decision in favour of the British.
  3. Katas (situated near Pind Dadan Khan in Jhelum district of Pakistan) is a Hindu pilgrim centre, dedicated to Lord Shiva Guru Nanak is believed to have visited this place on a Baisakhi day. - Ed.