Ranjit Singh


Ranjit Singh
/run"jit sing"/, ("Lion of the Punjab")
1780-1839, Indian maharaja: founder of the Sikh kingdom of Punjab.

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born Nov. 13, 1780, Budrukhan or Gujranwala, India
died June 27, 1839, Lahore

Founder and maharaja (1801–39) of the Sikh kingdom of the Punjab.

He became chief of the Shukerchakias (a Sikh group located in what is now Pakistan) on the death of his father in 1792. In 1799 he seized Lahore, the capital of the Punjab (and now in Pakistan), and in 1801 he proclaimed himself maharaja of the Punjab. In 1802 he captured Amritsar, a city sacred to the Sikhs, and by 1820 he had consolidated his rule over the whole of Punjab between the Sutlej and the Indus rivers. The Sikh state he created, which had included Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus in both the army and the cabinet, collapsed soon after his death.

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▪ Sikh maharaja
also spelled  Runjit Singh,  byname  Lion Of The Punjab 
born Nov. 13, 1780, Budrukhan, or Gujrānwāla, India
died June 27, 1839, Lahore [now in Pakistan]

      founder and maharaja (1801–39) of the Sikh kingdom of the Punjab.

      Ranjit Singh was the only child of Maha Singh, on whose death in 1792 he became chief of the Śukerchakīās, a Sikh group. His inheritance included Gujrānwāla town and the surrounding villages, now in Pakistan. At 15 he married the daughter of a chieftain of the Kanhayas, and for many years his affairs were directed by his ambitious mother-in-law, the widow Sada Kaur. A second marriage, to a girl of the Nakkais, made Ranjit Singh preeminent among the clans of the Sikh confederacy.

      In July 1799 he seized Lahore, the capital of the Punjab. The Afghan king, Shāh Zamān, confirmed Ranjit Singh as governor of the city; in 1801, however, Ranjit Singh proclaimed himself maharaja of the Punjab. He had coins struck in the name of the Sikh Gurūs, the revered line of Sikh leaders, and proceeded to administer the state in the name of the Sikh commonwealth. A year later he captured Amritsar, the most important commercial entrepôt in northern India and sacred city of the Sikhs. Thereafter he proceeded to subdue the smaller Sikh and Pashtun (Afghan) principalities that were scattered over the Punjab. But his later forays east were checked by the English, with whom he signed the Treaty of Amritsar (Amritsar, Treaty of) (1809) fixing the Sutlej River as the eastern boundary of his territories.

      Ranjit Singh then turned his ambitions toward the north and west, against the Pashtuns. In the summer of 1818 his troops captured the city of Multān and six months later entered the Pashtun citadel, Peshāwar. In July 1819 he finally expelled the Pashtuns from the Vale of Kashmir. By 1820 he had consolidated his rule over the whole Punjab between the Sutlej and the Indus rivers.

      All of Ranjit Singh's conquests were achieved by Punjabi armies composed of Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus. His commanders were also drawn from different religious communities, as were his Cabinet ministers. In 1820 Ranjit Singh began to modernize his army, using European officers to train the infantry and artillery. The modernized Punjabi army fought well in campaigns in the North-West Frontier (on the Afghanistan border). Ranjit Singh added Ladākh (a region of eastern Kashmir) to his kingdom in 1834, and his forces repulsed an Afghan counterattack on Peshāwar in 1837.

      In 1838 he agreed to a treaty with the British viceroy Lord Auckland (Auckland, George Eden, earl of, 2nd Baron Auckland, 2nd Baron Auckland of Auckland, Baron Eden of Norwood) to restore Shāh Shojāʿ to the Afghan throne at Kābul. In pursuance of this agreement, the British Army of the Indus entered Afghanistan from the south, while Ranjit Singh's troops went through the Khyber Pass and took part in the victory parade in Kābul.

      Shortly afterward Ranjit Singh was taken ill, and he died at Lahore in June 1839, exactly 40 years after he had entered the city as a conqueror. In little more than six years after his death, the Sikh state he had created collapsed because of the internecine strife of rival chiefs.

Additional Reading
Lepel H. Griffin, Ranjit Singh (1892); N.K. Sinha, Ranjit Singh (1933); and Khushwant Singh, Ranjit Singh, Maharajah of the Punjab (1962), are three conventional biographies. For an eyewitness account of the personality and court of Ranjit Singh, see Emily Eden, Up the Country: Letters Written to Her Sister from the Upper Provinces of India, 2 vol. (1866, reissued 1978); and W.G. Osborne, The Court and Camp of Runjeet Sing (1840, reprinted 1973).

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Universalium. 2010.

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