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Rise of Maharaja Ranjit Singh

Ranjit Singh takes up reins of Sukarchakia Misl

Sardar Mahan Singh had performed the rites of dastarbandi (succession) of Ranjit Singh during his lifetime. Therefore, after his death Ranjit Singh was accepted as Chief of the Sukarchakia misl without any hindrance. Ranjit Singh was yet a ten years old lad.1 Although he had seen many a battle along with his father, yet it was difficult for him to carry the burden of leading his confederacy at that young age. As already mentioned Ranjit Singh had been engaged to the daughter of the late Gurbakhsh Singh Kanheya. Gurbakhsh Singh's widow, Sardarni Sada Kaur, was an extremely intelligent and far-sighted woman. She voluntarily came to the help of her tender-aged son-in-law. Ranjit Singh's mother also lent a helping hand and this made Ranjit Singh's task easy.

Ranjit Singh's Narrow Escape - 1793 A.D.

Ranjit Singh was very fond of hunting right from his early age. Once in search of game, he went close to Ladhewala village which was in the territory of the Chathas. In pursuit of game, Ranjit Singh got separated from his companions and was left alone. Coincidently, Nawab Hashmat Khan Chatha along with his servants was also busy hunting there. When he saw Ranjit Singh alone, he thought of taking revenge from the son of his avowed enemy, Sardar Mahan Singh who had defeated him several times. He gave a forceful blow to Ranjit Singh with his sword from behind, but as the saying goes: “None can kill the one, whom God saves.” Ranjit Singh taken unawares, leaned towards the front of his horse and stuck to the saddle. The sword could only cut the rein in two. He turned back to find the situation serious. He got enraged like a tiger, furiously attacked Hashmat Khan and instantly separated his head from his body. When the Khan's servants saw this, they fled. Ranjit Singh stuck the Khan's head on his spear and rejoined his comrades only to relate them the whole incident. His comrades were wonder- struck, acknowledged his bravery and thanked God.

Ranjit Singh's Marriage - 1796 A.D.

Ranjit Singh got married at the age of sixteen. The grand marriage party went, to Batala town with great pomp and show, where the people were entertained with dance, music and such other spectacles. Ranjit Singh’s generosity made the people his admirers. After a few days, he came back to Gujranwala along with his bride.

Sada Kaur Helps against Ramgarhias

During the same year, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, taking advantage of the death of Jai Singh Kanheya, started making incursions into the possessions of the Kanheya misl. Sardarni Sada Kaur requested Ranjit Singh for help. Ranjit Singh sent Diwan Lakhpat Rai toward the Dhanni region, and himself, accompanied by Sardar Fateh Singh Dhari, Sardar Jodh Singh and Sardar Dal Singh Wazirabadia, set out towards Batala, and besieged the Ramgarhia fort of Miani. But incessant rains inundated the surroundings of the town and Ranjit Singh was compelled to lift the siege.

Meeting with the Chiefs of Lahore and inspection of the Fort

While going to Batala Ranjit Singh sent his army ahead and himself stayed at Lahore for two or three days. He held deliberations with Sardars Chet Singh and Mohar Singh, who looked after him well. On this occasion Ranjit Singh got a chance to see the Lahore fort, and probably, as historian Sohan Lal indicates, this chance-inspection of the fort aroused in him the ambition to acquire the royal fort.

Ranjit Singh's Second Marriage - 1798 A.D.

By virtue of Ranjit Singh's first marriage, an alliance had been forged between Sukarchakia and Kanheya Misls. In order to further strengthen his position, Ranjit Singh, as a far-sighted person began to make overtures of friendship to the chiefs of Nakai Misl. As a result, Ranjit Singh got married to the sister of Sardar Gian Singh Nakai in 1798 A.D. The marriage party left Gujranwala and passing through Muraliwala and Sheikhupura reached Satghara where Sardar Gian Singh warmly welcomed it, and saw it depart with huge dowry. Ranjit Singh's eldest son Kharak Singh was born of this marriage.

Taking the Reins of Government in His Own Hands

Diwan Lakhpat Rai was a trusted minister and confident of Sardar Mahan Singh. Complete accounts of the income and expenditure of all possessions of the Sukarchakia misl were maintained by the Diwan. Sardar Mahan Singh had full confidence in the Diwan's ability and honesty. So, at the time of his death, he put Ranjit Singh's hand in the hands of Diwan Lakhpat Rai and his maternal uncle, Sardar Dal Singh of Wazirabad, and declared them Ranjit Singh's guardians. The arrangement worked well for some time, but Sardar Dal Singh and Diwan Lakhpat Rai got jealous of each other. Dal Singh began to instigate Ranjit Singh against the Diwan. On the other hand Ranjit Singh's mother-in-law Sada Kaur goaded him to take the administration of the misl in his own hands. Ranjit Singh by then, eighteen also began to think that way. By chance, Diwan Lakhpat Rai, was killed during 1798 A.D. while he was on a tour of the Dhani region to collect revenues and Ranjit Singh, in consultation with his mother, took the reins of government in his own hands.

Insinuation of Matricide against Ranjit Singh

Princep and Mohammad Latif aver that Sardar Dal Singh had a hand in the murder of Diwan Lakhpat Rai. Captain Murray and Captain Wade, throw a hint in their report, even insinuate, that Diwan Lakhpat Rai had illicit relations with Ranjit Singh's mother, and that Ranjit Singh either killed his mother himself or got her killed. But Mohammad Latif presents an exaggerated version by inventing a fictional story, wherein he describes the death of Ranjit Singh’s mother in greater detail. But he does not quote any reference/evidence to support the truth of his statements. He simply goes on to assert that all the writers accept that Ranjit Singh murdered his mother because of her licentious nature. But intensive investigations and scrutiny do not bring forth any evidence from any reliable source which can be said to support the above averments. As already stated in the preface, a major part of the reports of Murray and Wade is based on hearsay. Munshi Sohan Lal, Diwan Amar Nath and Bute Shah do not even mention this matter. If we accept that Sohan Lal and Amar Nath were court chroniclers of the Maharaja and their silence in this matter need not be given any weight even then we have to look to Bute Shah’s Tarik-i-Punjab for evidence. Bute Shah was an inhabitant of British territory across the Sutlej, and was no co­religionist of the Maharaja either, he does not give even a hint regarding this affair. On the contrary, he mentions at one place that Ranjit Singh took the reins of government in his own hands on the advice of his mother and in consultation with her.2

Shah Zaman’s Invasion of Punjab - 1798 A.D.

After the death of Ahmad Shah Abdali, his son Taimur ascended the throne of Kabal and thereafter Shah Zaman became the king of Kabul in 1793. Shah Zaman decided to conquer Punjab following the footsteps of his grandfather. He launced three invasions one after the other between 1795 and 1798 A.D., but every time he had to return without success because of risings in his own kingdom in Afghanistan. His own brother Mahmud was also active to stake claim to the throne. On the other hand, the Sikhs had increased their strength and it was not an, easy task for Shah Zaman to overpower them. Whenever the Durrani army entered Punjab, the Sikhs left their respective areas and retired into the jungles. When Zaman’s army advanced further the Sikhs attacked the rear and inflicted heavy losses killing large number of soldiers. Before the King got aware of their attack, the Sikhs would instantly disappear; and would again strike wherever they got their chance, kill the Afghan soldiers in hundreds, and take away their horses and equipment and would disappear again. These tactics of the Sikhs proved deadly for the enemy, who found no way out but to retire empty-handed.

Shah Zaman Occupies the Fort of Lahore

In December 1798 Shah Zaman advanced towards Lahore, and finding no Sikh chief to oppose him there, he occupied the Lahore Fort. But how could the Khalsa bear this silently? They were camping around Lahore. They began to harass and the Durrani army, stationed in the city and deprive them of their rations and armament. After that they retired back to their hideouts. The whole action was so sudden and swift that by the time the guards and patrols of the Durrani army got ready to retaliate, the Sikhs disappeared instantly without leaving any trace behind. Shah Zaman felt helpless before this kind of operations. He considered his long stay at Lahore to be hazardous and soon went back to Kabul.

Ranjit Singh Challenges Shah Zaman

Munshi Sohan Lal relates an interesting anecdote in this regard.

While Shah Zaman was in occupation of the Lahore Fort, Ranjit Singh thrice came near the fort. Standing below the Musamman Burj (hexagonal tower), where Shah Zaman often used to sit, he fired shots wounding a few Durranis and shouted a few times, “See O grandson of Ahmad Shah, the grandson of Charhat Singh has come. Come out to face him.” But when there was no reply from Shah Zaman, he went back.3

The Plan of Nawab of Qasur

As soon as Shah Zaman went back, the three Bhangi Sardars arrived at Lahore and they occupied the city as before. But there was disunity among these three chiefs and they often remained at war with one another. As a result, the subject population of the town got fed up with the precarious conditions around. Due to mutual feuds, these Bhangi chiefs, too, did not remain strong enough to hold the town. This became well known all around. On hearing this; the Nawab of Qasur got prepared to occupy Lahore.

Petition to Ranjit Singh

Meanwhile stories of Ranjit Singh's bravery and daredevilry spread all around. Far-sighted people had known that this warrior could one day become the master of Punjab. When people of Lahore came to know of the intentions of the Nawab of Qasur, they preferred to become subjects of Ranjit Singh. Therefore, eminent citizens of Lahore, for example, Bhai Gurbakhsh Singh, Hakim Hakam Rai, Mehir Muhkam-ud-Din and Mian Ashaq Mohammad, submitted a petition to Ranjit Singh under their signatures in which they described the entire situation and invited him to occupy Lahore.

Preparation by Ranjit Singh

At that time Ranjit Singh was at Ram Nagar. On receipt of this petition Ranjit Singh decided to sieze the God - sent opportunity. He immediately sent his trustworthy emissary, Qazi Abd-ur-Rahman to Lahore to confirm the facts stated in the petition and himself left for Batala to consult his mother-in-law. Sada Kaur agreed with his plans. The two jointly collected an army of about twenty-five thousand horse and foot and marched towards Amritsar, and after one night's stay at Majitha swiftly reached the outskirts of Lahore, and encamped in Wazir Khan's garden.4 From here, Ranjit Singh got in touch with Mehir Mohkam-ud- Din and others.

Occupation of Lahore - July 6, 1799 A.D.

Ranjit Singh arranged his army in two divisions. One portion of the army under the command of Sardami Sada Kaur attacked from the side of the Delhi Gate, and the second formation under Ranjit Singh made an assault on the Lahori Gate. None could check Ranjit Singh's assault. Under his orders the gate was set on fire by filling gun power below its foundation, which blew up the wall adjacent to the Gate. Meanwhile the Gates were thrown open by Mehir Mohkam-ud-Din's men. Ranjit Singh, thundered like lightening and entered the city with two thousand horsemen and four large guns. The Bhangi officials of three chiefs of the city were so over-awed by the courage of the Lion of the Punjab that no one came forward to confront him. The Sardars Mohar Singh and Sahib Singh left the city along with their troops, and Chet Singh shut himself up within the historic fort. Ranjit Singh occupied the City, and gave strict orders to his soldiers not to inflict any excesses on the citizens. Then he turned his attention to the fort and encamped in the open ground in front of it. Shelling on the fort was about to start when Sada Kaur arrived. She gave the information that sufficient provisions were not available in the fort and that Chet Singh would be himself compelled to leave the fort. And so it happened. On the following day Chet Singh finding himself unable to fight back, vacated the fort, and accepted to owe allegiance to Ranjit Singh in return for the grant of a reasonable jagir.5

Immediately after this, Ranjit Singh undertook the task of repairs to the city walls as well as to the walls of the fort. Alongside, the blacksmith - artisans of the city were commissioned to repair the guns of the Fort.6

The Battle of Bhasin - March 1800 A.D.

The increasing strength of Ranjit Singh, alarmed the chiefs of other misls. With his occupation of Lahore their jealousies as well as fears were aroused. Lahore had always remained the centre of political power of the Punjab. Therefore the chiefs of other misls began to consider Ranjit Singh’s rising power as a danger to their very existence. Hence they thought of making a bid unitedly to wrest Lahore from Ranjit Singh. Not many days after Ranjit Singh had occupied Lahore, Gulab Singh Bhangi, Sahib Singh Bhangi, Sahib Singh Gajrati, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and Nizam-ud-Din ruler of Qasur, advanced towards Lahore to dislodge

Ranjit Singh and encamped in the plains of village Bhasin near Lahore. Ranjit Singh also got prepared for the contest. For two months armies of both the sides remained arrayed against each other. A few skirmishes took place but the confedrates against Ranjit Singh did not risk a full- scale war. During this period of procrastination, Bhangi Chief Gulab Singh , one day drank himself to death and his troopers left Bhasin, following which other allied forces also melted away and Ranjit Singh emerged victorious.

After this victory many eminent chiefs submitted before Ranjit Singh and were given jagirs, ranks befitting their status and robes of honour. The Lion of Punjab entered Lahore with great pomp and elation. During the victory function, Ranjit Singh distributed thousands of rupees among the poor and the lowly and held festival of lights in the city.

Search for the Buried Treasure

During the two-month long campaign of Bhasin, Ranjit Singh had to dish out huge sums of money from his treasury. Consequently, not enough money was left with him for payment of salaries to the soldiers. Ranjit Singh consulted his grandees. Sardar Dal Singh's minister, Diwan Mohkam Chand suggested that loans could be raised from goldsmiths of Lahore, Gujranwala and Ram Nagar. The goldsmiths of Lahore may be asked to advance Rs. Ten Thousand each while goldsmiths from other places (Ram nagar and Gujranwala) may advance rupees five thousand each respectively. The money could be paid back later with interest. But Ranjit Singh did not like this suggestion. However, providentially a buried treasure of gold coins (ashrafis) was found in Budhu-da-Ava (brick kiln of Budhu) outside the City, out of which payment could be made to the army.7

Invasion of Jammu

Having settled affairs on this side, Ranjit Singh invaded Jammu. On the way, he conquered Mirowal and Narowal and exacted a tribute of eight thousand rupees as nazrana. Next, he conquered, Jassowal in a single assault. Marching from there, he pitched his camp four miles short of Jammu. The Raja of Jammu was taken unawares. So he came out along with all his officials to meet Ranjit Singh and present twenty thousand rupees in cash and an elephant as nazrana to the Lion of the Punjab. In return Ranjit Singh bestowed upon the Raja a costly robe of honour, and inarched back. On his way back to Lahore, he visited Sialkot, to realise tribute and conquered Dilawargarh.

Attack on Gujrat

Bhangis were deeply aggrieved at the loss of Lahore and kept conspiring against Ranjit Singh. Meanwhile Ranjit Singh called his cavalry and artillery from Gujranwala and stationed them in Lahore. Bhangi Chiefs considered it a golden opportunity. After ensuring support from Sardar Dal Singh of Akalgarh; they prepared to attack Gujranwala. The fief of Akalgarh had been bestowed upon Dal Singh by Sardar Mahan Singh. When Ranjit Singh became aware of these developments, he got furious. He at once attacked Gujrat with ten thousand soldiers and twenty guns. The Bhangi Chiefs shut the gates of the town and began shelling Ranjit Singh's contingents from within the city walls. Ranjit Singh's artillery also came into action and paid the Bhangis in the same coin. The latter found themselves unable to withstand the attack and during the night sent for Baba Sahib Singh who negotiated peace with Ranjit Singh and saved the city.

Occupation of Akalgarh

Thereafter, that Ranjit Singh advanced towards Akalgarh. He brought Sardar Dal Singh to Lahore and interned him there. Later, he was released on the recommendation of Baba Kesra Singh Sodhi. But before that, Dal Singh was called to the presence of Ranjit Singh who put him to great shame. Dal Singh very humbly assured him of his obedience. Thereupon Ranjit Singh restored his jagir. But Dal Singh could not bear the shock of his humiliation and died a few days after he reached Akalgarh. Ranjit Singh visited Akalgarh for offering condolences to the family. A maintenance jagir was granted to the widow of Sardar Dal Singh and Akalgarh was annexed.

Gifts from the British Government

During these very days an agent of the British government, Yusaf Ali Khan, presented himself before Ranjit Singh and brought from the British government of India costly gifts and an offer of friendship. Ranjit Singh bestowed special favours and honour on the British agent. He was given a five-fold robe of honour and was seen off with a letter of goodwill and costly presents.

Birth of Prince Kharak Singh - 12 Phagun Sambat 1857 Bikrami

In March 1801 A.D. Rani Datar Kaur Nakai gave birth to a son who was named Kharak Singh. Great jubilations and rejoicings were held throughout the kingdom. Cash alms were distributed among the poor and the orphans. Incentives were announced for the army as well. Ranjit Singh issued orders to the treasury officer, Karam Singh, that whosoever approached him in his/her hour of need, must be gratified. Festivities and functions continued to be held for forty days, and various ceremonies were performed according to the practices of Sikh faith.

Assuming the Title Maharaja - April 1801 A.D.

In the beginning of Sambat 1858 Bikrami, Ranjit Singh held a grand assembly at Lahore in which all principal chiefs participated. It was decided therein that Ranjit Singh should assume the title of Maharaja. The auspicious day of Baisakhi was fixed for the ceremony. On that day a grand court was held in Diwan-i-Aam inside the Fort in which Sikh Chiefs from far and near participated. After the performance of religious ceremonies, Baba Sahib Singh Bedi bestowed the title of Maharaja upon the Lion of Punjab and anointed him with the mark of royalty. All those present showered flowers on the Maharaja as an expression of their joy. The Maharaja gave large sums of money in charity. The chiefs were given robes of honour according to their ranks.8

Issue of New Coin by the Maharaja

On the same day during the function, it was proposed that a new coin should be struck. Poets presented verses with Maharaja's name to be inscribed on the coin, but the Maharaja did not like that any verse should include his name. He preferred to strike the coin in Guru Nanak Ji's name. Therefore, the new rupee coin was named Nanakshahi rupaiya and the new pice was named Nanakshahi paisa. The following verse was inscribed on the new coin:

Deg o tegh o Fateh Nusrat bedrang

Yaft as Nanak Guru Gobind Singh

Kettle (signifying generosity), sword (i.e. power) and unhindered victory received (or inherited) from Guru Nanak Dev - Guru Gobind Singh

All the souvenir coins minted on the first day were given away in charity. The weight of the rupee coin minted on this occasion was eleven masha and two rattis, 180 English grains. The same weight was later on adopted as the standard weight of rupee that became legal tender.

Administrative Reforms

Panchayats (village councils) were appointed to decide mutual disputes according to customary law. Cases of Muslim subjects were ordered to be decided according to their religious law, Shariat. Salaries were fixed under the rules for Qazis, Muftis and Ulema. Nizam-ud-Din was appointed chief qazi at Lahore, Mohammad Shahpur and Sa'd Ullah were appointed as muftis. Costly robes were bestowed upon them. The city was divided into wards and a chaudhari was appointed for each ward. A Kotwal was also appointed and police forces were posted for the protection of the city under him. Imam Bakhsh Kharswar was named as first Kotwal. A department of health was organised and hospitals were opened where free treatment was given through Unani system of medicine. Hakim Nur-ud-Din, younger brother of Faqir Aziz-ud-Din, was appointed director of health services. A new wall was got constructed around the city at the cost of one hundred-thousand rupees, and new guards were appointed at the gates. As a results of these administrative measures the Maharaja's subjects began to lead a peaceful and comfortable life.9

Siege of Qasur

As has been stated above Nawab Nizam-ud-Din, the Afghan chief of Qasur, cast covetous eyes on Lahore. However Ranjit Singh outsmarted him and occupied Lahore. Therefore, Nizam-ud-Din became jealous of Ranjit Singh and even organised a confederacy along with the Sikh misl chiefs and participated in the battle of Bhasin. After that, he continued to incite Sahib Singh of Gujrat. Consequently, Maharaja in his first opportunity decided to punish Nizam-ud-Din the recalcitrant chief of Kasur. Towards the end of 1801 A.D. a strong army, under Sardar Fateh Singh Kalianwala was sent towards Qasur. Nizam-ud-Din also prepared for a showdown. The Afghans faced the attacking forces fiercely, but they could not give a pitched battle. After about nine-hour long skirmishes, the Afghans lost ground and returned to take shelter inside the fort. The Sikhs chased them. They smashed the city gates and forced their entry into it. Nizam-ud-Din thought it better to come to terms and raised the white flag. The fighting thus stopped. Nizam-ud-Din accepted all conditions put before him and agreed to become a tributary of the Maharaja. He paid a huge sum towards expenses of war, and as a guarantee for future good conduct sent his brothers Qutb-ud-Din Raja Khan and Vasil Khan as hostages to Lahore.

Attack on Kangra

During these very days Sardami Sada Kaur sent a message to Ranjit Singh saying that Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra intended to attack her principality. The Maharaja reached Batala with six thousand horsemen. When Raja Sansar Chand came to know that Ranjit Singh had arrived to the help of Sada Kaur, he got so much terrified that he left the field and took shelter in the hills. The Maharaja got back all the territory captured by the Raja and restored the same to Sada Kaur. Besides this; he put Sansar Chand's territory of Nurpur and Naushehra, etc., under Sada Kaur's control.

Siege of Sujanpur

After this, Sardami Sada Kaur also related to the Maharaja the story of the excesses of Sardars Budh Singh and Sant Singh who harassed the people in the region and were devastating the country. The Maharaja at once surrounded the fort of Sujanpur. After heavy fighting the fort walls were razed to the ground and the fort was occupied. The Maharaja captured four big guns in this battle. He established his post at Sujanpur. The territories of Dharamkot and Behrampur were given to Sada Kaur. Budh Singh and Sant Singh were given jagirs for subsistence.

Brotherhood through Exchange of Turbans

Maharaja Ranjit Singh was a far sighted man. He had established alliances with the Kanheya and Nakai misls through marriages. Using the military strength of Kanheya Misl to his advantage, he had occupied Lahore, overpowered the Bhangi chiefs, assumed the title of Maharaja and struck his own coin. Now Ahluwalias' remained the only strong misl in the Punjab. The head of this Misl, Sardar Jassa Singh Kalal had founded the Dal Khalsa. Sardar Fateh Singh was then the chief of the Ahluwalia misl. Ranjit Singh, in his own interest, thought it prudent to establish cordial relations with this misl. Therefore, when, in 1802 A.D., Ranjit Singh went to Tam Taran for a holy bath, he expressed his desire to meet Sardar Fateh Singh, through a messanger. The said chief responded favourably. Thereupon Guru Granth Sahib was placed between the two, and the following terms, were settled :

  1. Friends and enemies of the one shall be considered the friends and enemies of the other.
  2. Territories in possession of both (Sukerchakias and Ahluwalias) shall be considered common holdings and no tributes shall be demanded while passing through each other's territory.
  3. Sardar Fateh Singh shall help Maharaja Ranjit Singh during the latter's conquests in the Punjab, and the Maharaja shall give reasonable jagirs to Sardar Fateh Singh out of the conquered territories.
  4. After the performance of the ceremony of exchange of turbans, both shall treat each other as brothers.

By this agreement Ranjit Singh not only removed a great hindrance from his path, but also paved the way to fully use the military resources of the Ahluwalia misl to his benefit as we shall be seen in the account that follows.

Tour of Dhanni-Pothohar

After that the Maharaja accompanied by Sardar Fateh Singh Ahluwalia set out towards Pindi Bhattian. From there he received four hundred good quality horses as nazrana. He handed over these territories to Sardar Fateh Singh. Thereafter he crossed river Jehlum and entered the Dhanni region. Here also he granted a jagir to the Ahluwalia Sardar. The Maharaja then returned to Lahore.

Annexation of Chaniot

The Chaniot territory was held by Sardar Karam Singh Dullo's son Jassa Singh who was a youngman. His subjects were fed up with him. The Maharaja went thither with a body of troopers. Jassa Singh shut himself within the fortress. Maharaja besieged the fortress and the siege continued for about two months. At last, Jassa Singh had to vacate the fortress. Ranjit Singh gave him a reasonable jagir and seized the town and the fortress.

Suppression of Nawab of Qasur

Nizam-ud-Din had accepted Ranjit Singh's suzerainty and had submitted before him last year out of expediency. In heart of hearts he was waiting for an opportunity to get independent of Ranjit Singh. Therefore; when he found the Maharaja engaged in the siege of Chaniot, he started loot and plunder in the vicinity of Lahore, and collected a large body of Afghan jehadis for his own defence. The Maharaja came to know that Nizam-ud-Din had raised the standard of revolt and that two villages around Lahore had been pillaged by the Afghans. The Maharaja, along with Fateh Singh Ahluwalia, suddenly attacked Qasur. The Afghans had already strengthened their fortifications. A pitched battle ensued. The lion of Punjab himself led the assault with a sword in hand and resorted to general massacre of the Afghan jehadis. Many Afghan warriors perished in the combat. They fought with ferocity and zeal, but unable to with stand the pressure of attacking Sikh forces, they were compelled to take refuge within the fort. The Maharaja's army started shelling the fort which made the Afghans nervous. Nizam-ud- Din was left with no other alternative but to sue for peace. He came out holding a white flag and presented himself to the Maharaja, made a humble submission and presented a petition in writing to remain obedient to the Sikh ruler in future. He also paid a heavy amount as penalty in addition to expenses of war. On this occasion; Sardar Fateh Singh also demonstrated his intrepidity and courage.

Siege of Multan - 1803 A.D.

In the beginning of the year 1803 A.D., the Maharaja proceeded towards Multan, but some of his military commanders did not agree to the proposal for the siege of Multan. The Maharaja however ignored their advice, collected his army and delivered a fiery speech. The soldiers got excited and shouting slogans of victory readied themselves to undertake an expedition against Multan. After a few days march, they entered the territory of the Nawab of Multan. Nawab Muzaffar Khan was not prepared to face the attacking forces. Therefore he thought it proper to deal with the situation sagaciously. He sent his minister and other courtiers to the Maharaja, ‘to accord a warm welcome to the Maharaja’, twenty-five miles (forty kms.) ahead of Multan. The Maharaja treated them with usual courtesies. Having got a written pledge of loyalty and tribute, the Maharaja returned to Lahore.10

Betrothal of the heir apparent Prince Kharak Singh

During the same year, Prince Kharak Singh's engagement to the tender-aged daughter of Sardar Jaimal Singh Kanheya was solemnized. The function was solemnized amidst great festivities, with large gatherings and dance parties.

The Story of Moran, the Prostitute

Diwan Amar Nath writes in Zafarnamah-i-Ranjit Singh that one day as the Maharaja was absorbed in a gathering of revelry and enjoyment of dance and music, his glance suddenly fell upon Moran, the dancer, who was then exhibiting her heartwarming art and was captivating every heart. The Maharaja fell deeply in love with her. Love began to develop into obsession, and for some time the Maharaja seemed to have become oblivious of the matters of state and started spending all his time in her company. During a fit of the same obsession, he even struck a gold coin. It is probably the same which is called Arsi wali Mohar (gold seal with small mirror) in the Punjabi language.11

Bath in the Holy Ganges

Although during his youth, Ranjit Singh was caught in Moran's love, yet as a Maharaja he carried a very essential responsibility, and he had yet to glorify the name of the Khalsa by establishing a great Sikh kingdom. Therefore, this storm (obsession with Moran) luckily passed off his head soon enough, and he turned his attention back to the affairs of state. He set out for pilgrimage and a bath in the holy Ganges, stayed there for two weeks, distributed about a hundred thousand rupees among the poor and the lowly, and came back to Lahore.12

Tour of Jalandhar Doab

On his way back from Haridwar, the Maharaja had a meeting with Sardar Fateh Singh Ahluwalia, and sojourned at Jalandhar for a few days. During the same period he conquered the town of Phagwara and fortresses in its surroundings and gave the whole territory to Sardar Fateh Singh in jagir. After this, there was an encounter with Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra who descended from the hills to expand his state towards the plains and indulged in plunder of surroundings of Hoshiarpur. The Maharaja expelled Sansar Chand from the town of Bijwara and estab­lished his own post there.

Conquest of Amritsar

Amritsar, the holy place of the Sikhs, is called their religious capital. The urge to conquer Amritsar had been repeatedly engaging the mind of the Maharaja because this was sure to enhance his prestige. As has been stated earlier, Gulab Singh Bhangi had suddenly died of hard drinking at Bhasin village. His widow, Mai Sukhan and her son Gurdit Singh of tender age were in occupation of Amritsar. They had the support of Ramgarhia Sardars. The Maharaja conspired whith Mai Sukhan's servants through Aroora Mai, a Shahukar (moneylender) and advanced towards Amritsar along with Sardar Fateh Singh Ahluwalia and Sardarni Sada Kaur at the head of a large army. The Ramgarhia Chiefs could not come to the aid of the Bhangis in time. Therefore none dared the Maharaja in the open field. However, city gates were closed and the Bhangi sardars started shelling Maharaja's forces from behind the city wall. The Maharaja, too, deployed artillery. But this situation lasted only for a day. Next day, on Phalgun, 14, 1861 Bikrami Samvat the Bhangis vacated the fort at the intercession of Jodh Singh Ramgarhia and Akali Phoola Singh. Jagirs for maintenance were granted to Gurdit Singh and his mother.13

The Bhangi's Top (Gun)

Soon after the occupation of Amritsar, the Maharaja along with his staff paid obeisance at the holy Darbar Sahib and performed the holy lshnan (bath). A heavy amount of money was presented as offerings at Sri Harimandar Sahib and the Akal Bunga (Akal Takht). Consequent upon the occupation of the Bhangis' fort, a large quantity of weapons of war and five big guns fell into the Maharaja's hands. One of them, is till today called the famous Bhangian vali Top, the Bhangis' cannon. This was cast by an artisan, Shah Nazir, for Ahmad Shah Abdali in the year 1174 Hijri. It is built of an alloy of Copper and brass. Ahmad Shah Abdali, after the Third Battle of Panipat, had left it at Lahore in the custody of Khwaja Obeid Khan. In 1762 A.D., Sardar Hari Singh Bhangi, at the head of two thousand horsemen, looted the magazine of the governor of Lahore, and this gun fell into his hands. Since then it began to be called Bhangian vali Top. It was placed in the fort at Amritsar by the Bhangi Sardars. The Maharaja used it during five big battles - those of Daskah, Qasur, Sujanpur, Wazirabad and Multan. During the last of these battles, its barrel got somewhat damaged. Therefore it was placed on a platform outside the Delhi Gate. In 1860 A.D., the British government brought it to its present place near the Museum.

Notes & References

  1. Munshi Sohan Lal and Divvan Amar Nath give 3 Maghar Sambat 1837 Bikrami, Monday, corresponding to November 13, 1780 A.D., as date of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's birth. And the date of Sardar Mahan Singh's death is 5 Baisakh Sambat 1847 Bikrami corresponding to April 14, 1790 A.D. The statement of Sayyad Muhammad Latif and Princep that Ranjit Singh's age at that time was twelve years is not correct.
  2. Bute Shah, Tarikh-i-Punjab, p. 635. “ on the advice of his mother he turned his attention to the dangerous and difficult task of revenue and civil administration."
  3. Bute Shah has also narrated this anecdote. See Bute Shah, Twarikh-i-Punjah, p. 638.
  4. In connection with Ranjit Singh's occupation of Lahore, many British historians and following them, Indian historians write that during Shah Zaman's retreat from the Punjab some of his guns had fallen in river Jehlum which Ranjit Singh had got retrieved and had sent them to Kabul, and that Shah Zaman, being pleased at that; appointed Ranjit Singh as governor of Lahore. I have found no authentic evidence in this regard. In fact there is no mention of this imaginary tale anywhere. It is not known why Captain Wade included such an hearsay story in his report and why other historians blindly accepted it. Sohan Lal, Amar Nath, Bute Shah and Sayyad Ahmad Shah have not thrown even a hint about this matter, although the mention of such happening would not have meant any demeaning of Maharaja’s dignity. Captain Murray too, does not mention it in his report which he had drafted in 1833 A.D. Bhai (Baba) Prem Singh (Hoti) has given many arguments to refute this wrong statement.
  5. Diwan Amar Nath gives 13 Safar, 1214 Hijri corresponding to July 17, 1799 A.D. as date of this event, but Munshi Sohan Lal's date is 3 Safar 1214 Hijri, that is 5 or 6 July 1799 A.D.
  6. See Munshi Sohan Lal’s Umdat-ut-Twarikh. Rai Bahadur Kanhaiya Lal describes this incident differently. He says that treasure and a few guns had been buried inside the fort by Mir Mannu and its intelligence was given to Ranjit Singh by an old man during this very year.
  7. For details see Zafarnamah Ranjit Singh and Bhai (Baba) Prem Singh Hoti’s, Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
  8. For details see Zafarnamah Ranjit Singh and Tarik-i-Punjab by Munshi Kanheya Lal.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Munshi Sohan Lal writes that a great battle took place between Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Nawab Muzaffar Khan and that the Sikhs entered the city and plundered the people, but Diwan Amar Nath does not even mention the entry of the Sikh army into the city of Multan.
  11. Diwan Amar Nath narrates this story at a great length wherein he profusely admires the beauty of Moran. He writes: “This love affair of the High Lord received acceptance because of its comparison with the former case of the world-beauty Nur-Jahan BeGuru in the bygone times during the reign of Jahangir Padshah son of Akbar Padshah. Not even once did his tongue move without her name. And he introduced a coin in her name in the conquered courtrles.” Bhai (Baba) Prem Singh (Hoti) has strongly criticized Sayyad Mohammad Latif for writing this story. Perhaps the Bhai (Hoti) had not known that the Sayyad had based major part of his book on Diwan Amar Nath's Zafur Namah-i-Ranjit Singh.
  12. Diwan Amar Nath writes that Moran did not leave the Maharaja's company, and went with him to Haridwar for a bath in the holy Gangas.

For the date see Umdat-ut-Twarikh by Munshi Sohan Lal.