Maharaja Ranjit Singh is one of the greatest kings in Indian history. He is much revered all across India and is popularly known as Sher-E-Punjab, “The Lion of Punjab”.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh
Raja to Maharaja
He was blinded in one eye, injured in one arm, yet built up the great Sikh empire. He united the disparate Sikhs into a kingdom and built an empire that covered Punjab, Kashmir, Ladakh, the entire North West. He was served by able men like Hari Singh Nalwa, Dewan Mokam Chand, Veer Singh Dhillon, and Zorawar Singh. He built his kingdom by bringing together many small groups of people. It was thereafter he received the title Maharaja.
Maharaja united the people
In the modern army that he built, Maharaja Ranjit Singh even recruited European officers to bring in the latest techniques of warfare. This is the reason British Rulers couldn’t annex Punjab until he was alive. This made Punjab the last state which came under British ambit in 1849.
But alas no one knows about his legacy in India.
Golden Throne of Maharaja Ranjit Singh
Stamp Issued on Maharaja Ranjit Singh
Only King to Conquer Afghans
Ranjit Singh is the only king in the history of world to have conquered Afghans, which even modern militaries of USA and Russia couldn’t achieve, and eventually blocked entry of Afghan rulers, from North West.
Promoted Education and Discipline
Maharaja Ranjit Singh ensured that Punjab was the most literate state at that time.
As per the research of Dr Leitner, Principal of Government College, Lahore, Punjab was ahead in education, before the British Rule. He further goes on to say that Maharaja Ranjit Singh spent a large percentage of his revenue on education.
His observations show how traditional schools were available all across North India.
Observation from Punjab and Lahore
More on this in our book, Breaking The Myths – About Society.
Under his rule, He formulated a book known as Punjabi Qaida, which every women were made to compulsorily read and memorize, before marriage. He made sure that every female in every village had a copy of Qaida, which made sure that literacy was built in at family level in Punjab. At the time when Punjab was annexed by the British, there was 100% literacy in the state.
Even though he recruited European officers he ensured they followed a strict code of conduct, no beef, no smoking and no alcohol.
Persian as Official Language
Interestingly, while every Punjabi revered the Gurumukhi script of Punjabi language, in their worship of the Sacred Book Guru Granth Sahib, Maharaja Ranjit Singh declared Persian as the official language of His kingdom. He did this to encourage people to learn foreign languages. However in this process, he never neglected the local Punjabi language.
Banned Cow Slaughter
As a matter of fact, Ranjit Singh banned cow slaughter in his empire.
Secured Kohinoor Diamond
In a series of attacks on India from the Northwest, the last to ransack India, was Nadir Shah of Persia, in 1739.
His troops unleashed a 57 day, general massacre on Delhi, then probably the most prosperous city of the world and took back as spoils of war, treasures assessed at Rupees 70 Crores of those days’ value, along with priceless artefacts such as the Peacock throne and the Kohinoor Diamond, currently on exhibit at the Tower of London.
Durranis were the rulers of Afghanistan, who repeatedly attacked India. They had now come to possess the Kohinoor diamond, after Nadir Shah’s plunder, as they conquered Punjab from the Marathas. But this region was regained from the Durranis in 1813 by Ranjit Singh who eventually conquered much of Punjab and it was Sikh rule in that region until 1848. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was thus able to secure the Kohinoor diamond from the Durranis. A descendant of Ahmad Shah, Shah Shuja Durrani brought the Kohinoor back to India in 1813 and gave it to Ranjit Singh.
This Kohinoor diamond was forcefully taken away by the British, after they conquered Punjab in 1849.
At the end of the battle with the British, the only people left in the royal line were a 10 year young boy, Duleep Singh, and his mother, Rani Jindan. In 1849, after imprisoning Jindan, the British forced Duleep to sign a legal document, amending the Treaty of Lahore, that compelled Duleep to give away the Kohinoor and all claim to sovereignty.
A Secular Leader
He was s devout Sikh, who never differentiated on religion. Both his court and army had equal number of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims – a truly secular king.
Maharaja’s Finance Minister was a Hindu Brahmin, his Prime Minister was a Dogra, while his Foreign Minister a Muslim.
Renovated Golden temple and built Gurudwaras
Maharaja also renovated the Golden Temple, giving it the gold plates, and gave equal amount of gold to then Hindus and Muslims too, for renovation of their shrines and temples.
He built Gurudwaras at Patna and Nanded, in honor of Guru Gobind Singh, both of which are considered among the Panch Takth, which means a throne of authority, revered by the Sikhs.
Gurudwara Takht Sri Patna Sahib
A great warrior, an equally able and wise ruler, he was a truly great human being too.
A serial “Sher-E-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh” premiered on Life Ok in 2017, on the great life of this King.
On his birthday, let us remember this great king and his great legacy, as a humble tribute to this great emperor.
– Dr. D.K. Hari & Dr. D.K. Hema Hari