Sikh Empire

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Sikh Empire

Sarkar-i Khalsa
ਸਰਕਾਰ ਖਾਲਸਾ
سرکار خالصہ
1799–1849
Sikh Empire flag.svg
Flag
Anthem:  Deg Tegh Fateh
Sikh Empire tri-lingual.jpg
Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Sikh Empire at its peak in c. 1839
Capital Lahore
Common languages
Religion
Sikhism
Government Federal monarchy
Maharaja  
 1801–1839
Ranjit Singh
 1839
Kharak Singh
 1839–1840
Nau Nihal Singh
 1840–1841
Chand Kaur
 1841–1843
Sher Singh
 1843–1849
Duleep Singh
 1843 - 1849
Jind Kaur
(regent)
Wazir  
 1799–1818
Jamadar Khushal Singh [2]
 1818–1843
Dhian Singh Dogra
 1843–1844
Hira Singh Dogra
 1844–1845
Jawahar Singh Aulakh
 31 January 1846 – 9 March 1846
Gulab Singh [3]
Historical era Early modern period
 Capture of Lahore by Ranjit Singh
7 July 1799
29 March 1849
Population
 1831
3,500,000[ citation needed ]
CurrencyNanak Shahi Sikke
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kattar Dhal Talwar.jpg Sikh Confederacy
Flag of Herat until 1842.svg Durrani Empire
Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg Maratha Empire
Punjab Province (British India) British Raj Red Ensign.svg
Jammu and Kashmir (princely state) Jammu-Kashmir-flag-1936-1953.gif
Today part of
Part of a series on the
History of India
Satavahana gateway at Sanchi, 1st century CE North Gateway - Rear Side - Stupa 1 - Sanchi Hill 2013-02-21 4480-4481.JPG
Satavahana gateway at Sanchi, 1st century CE

The Sikh Empire (also Sikh Khalsa Raj or Sarkar-i Khalsa [4] ) was a major power originating in the Indian subcontinent, formed under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who established a secular empire based in the Punjab. [5] The empire existed from 1799, when Ranjit Singh captured Lahore, to 1849 and was forged on the foundations of the Khalsa from a collection of autonomous Sikh misls. [6] [7] At its peak in the 19th century, the Empire extended from the Khyber Pass in the west to western Tibet in the east, and from Mithankot in the south to Kashmir in the north. Religiously diverse, with an estimated population of 3.5 million in 1831 (making it the 19th most populous country at the time), [8] it was the last major region of the Indian subcontinent to be annexed by the British.

Khalsa Initiated Sikh warrior tradition started by Guru Gobind Singh, the Sikh community

Khalsa refers to both a special group of initiated Sikhs, as well as a community that considers Sikhism as its faith. The Khalsa tradition was initiated in 1699 by the last living Guru of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh. Its formation was a key event in the history of Sikhism. The founding of Khalsa is celebrated by Sikhs during the festival of Vaisakhi.

Indian subcontinent Peninsular region in south-central Asia south of the Himalayas

The Indian subcontinent, is a southern region and peninsula of Asia, mostly situated on the Indian Plate and projecting southwards into the Indian Ocean from the Himalayas. Geologically, the Indian subcontinent is related to the land mass that rifted from Gondwana and merged with the Eurasian plate nearly 55 million years ago. Geographically, it is the peninsular region in south-central Asia delineated by the Himalayas in the north, the Hindu Kush in the west, and the Arakanese in the east. Politically, the Indian subcontinent includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Ranjit Singh founder of Sikh Empire (early 19th century)

Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the leader of the Sikh Empire, which ruled the northwest Indian subcontinent in the early half of the 19th century. He survived smallpox in infancy but lost sight in his left eye. He fought his first battle alongside his father at age 10. After his father died, he fought several wars to expel the Afghans in his teenage years and was proclaimed as the "Maharaja of Punjab" at age 21. His empire grew in the Punjab region under his leadership through 1839.

Contents

The foundations of the Sikh Empire can be traced to as early as 1707, the year of Aurangzeb's death and the start of the downfall of the Mughal Empire. With the Mughals significantly weakened, the Sikh army, known as the Dal Khalsa, a rearrangement of the Khalsa inaugurated by Guru Gobind Singh, led expeditions against them and the Afghans in the west. This led to a growth of the army which split into different confederacies or semi-independent misls . Each of these component armies controlled different areas and cities. However, in the period from 1762 to 1799, Sikh commanders of the misls appeared to be coming into their own as independent warlords.

Aurangzeb Sixth Mughal Emperor

Muhi-ud-Din Muhammad, commonly known by the sobriquet Aurangzeb or by his regnal title Alamgir, was the sixth Mughal emperor, who ruled over nearly the entire Indian subcontinent for a period of 49 years. Widely considered to be the last effective Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb compiled the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri, and is regarded as one of the few rulers who have fully established Sharia law and Islamic economics throughout South Asia.

Mughal Empire dynastic empire extending over large parts of the Indian subcontinent

The Mughal Empire or Mogul Empire, was a large empire in South Asia. It was founded in 1526 and was formally dissolved in 1857.

Guru Gobind Singh The tenth and last human Guru of Sikhism

Guru Gobind Singh (5 January 1666 – 7 October 1708), born Gobind Rai, was the tenth Sikh Guru, a spiritual master, warrior, poet and philosopher. When his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, was beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam, Guru Gobind Singh was formally installed as the leader of the Sikhs at age nine, becoming the tenth Sikh Guru. His four sons died during his lifetime – two in battle, two executed by the Mughal army.

The formation of the empire began with the capture of Lahore, by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, from its Afghan ruler, Zaman Shah Durrani, and the subsequent and progressive expulsion of Afghans from the Punjab, by defeating them in the Afghan-Sikh Wars, and the unification of the separate Sikh misls. Ranjit Singh was proclaimed as Maharaja of the Punjab on 12 April 1801 (to coincide with Vaisakhi), creating a unified political state. Sahib Singh Bedi, a descendant of Guru Nanak, conducted the coronation. [9] Ranjit Singh rose to power in a very short period, from a leader of a single misl to finally becoming the Maharaja of Punjab. He began to modernise his army, using the latest training as well as weapons and artillery. After the death of Ranjit Singh, the empire was weakened by internal divisions and political mismanagement. Finally, by 1849 the state was dissolved after the defeat in the Anglo-Sikh wars. The Sikh Empire was divided into four provinces: Lahore, in Punjab, which became the Sikh capital, Multan, also in Punjab, Peshawar and Kashmir from 1799 to 1849.

Zaman Shah Durrani Emir of Afghanistan

Zaman Shah Durrani, was ruler of the Durrani Empire from 1793 until 1800. He was the grandson of Ahmad Shah Durrani and the fifth son of Timur Shah Durrani. An ethnic Pashtun like the rest of his family and Durrani rulers, Shah Zaman became the third King of Afghanistan.

Guru Nanak Founder of Sikhism

Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikhism and the first of the ten Sikh Gurus. His birth is celebrated worldwide as Guru Nanak Gurpurab on Kartik Pooranmashi, the full-moon day in the month of Katak, October–November.

Artillery class of weapons which fires munitions beyond the range and power of personal weapons

Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry's small arms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to breach defensive walls and fortifications during sieges, and led to heavy, fairly immobile siege engines. As technology improved, lighter, more mobile field artillery cannons developed for battlefield use. This development continues today; modern self-propelled artillery vehicles are highly mobile weapons of great versatility providing the large share of an army's total firepower.

Background

Mughal rule of Punjab

The Sikh religion began around the time of the conquest of Northern India by Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire. His conquering grandson, Akbar the Great, supported religious freedom and after visiting the langar of Guru Amar Das got a favourable impression of Sikhism. As a result of his visit he donated land to the langar and the Mughals did not have any conflict with Sikh gurus until his death in 1605. [10] His successor Jahangir, however, saw the Sikhs as a political threat. He ordered Guru Arjun Dev, who had been arrested for supporting the rebellious Khusrau Mirza, [11] to change the passage about Islam in the Adi Granth. When the Guru refused, Jahangir ordered him to be put to death by torture. [12] Guru Arjan Dev's martyrdom led to the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind, declaring Sikh sovereignty in the creation of the Akal Takht and the establishment of a fort to defend Amritsar. [13] Jahangir attempted to assert authority over the Sikhs by jailing Guru Hargobind at Gwalior, but released him after a number of years when he no longer felt threatened. The Sikh community did not have any further issues with the Mughal empire until the death of Jahangir in 1627. The succeeding son of Jahangir, Shah Jahan, took offence at Guru Hargobind's "sovereignty" and after a series of assaults on Amritsar forced the Sikhs to retreat to the Sivalik Hills. [13]

Sikhism, or Sikhi, is a monotheistic religion that originated in the Punjab region in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent around the end of the 15th century. It is one of the youngest of the major world religions and the world's fifth largest organized religion, as well as being the world's ninth-largest overall religion. The fundamental beliefs of Sikhism, articulated in the sacred scripture Guru Granth Sahib, include faith and meditation on the name of the one creator, divine unity and equality of all humankind, engaging in selfless service, striving for justice for the benefit and prosperity of all and honest conduct and livelihood while living a householder's life. In the early 21st century, there were nearly 25 million Sikhs worldwide, the great majority of them living in Punjab, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Babur 1st Mughal Emperor

Babur, born Zahīr ud-Dīn Muhammad, was the founder and first Emperor of the Mughal dynasty in South Asia. He was a direct descendant of Emperor Timur (Tamerlane) from what is now Uzbekistan.

Langar (Sikhism) Sikh community kitchen where a free meal is served to all visitors by volunteers

Langar (kitchen), is the term used in Sikhism for the community kitchen in a Gurdwara where a free meal is served to all the visitors, without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity. The free meal is always vegetarian. People sit on the floor and eat together, and the kitchen is maintained and serviced by Sikh community volunteers.

The next guru, Guru Har Rai, maintained the guruship in these hills by defeating local attempts to seize Sikh land and playing a neutral role in the power struggle between two of the sons of Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb and Dara Shikoh, for control of the Mughal Empire. The ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, moved the Sikh community to Anandpur and travelled extensively to visit and preach in defiance of Aurangzeb, who attempted to install Ram Rai as new guru. Guru Tegh Bahadur aided Kashmiri Pandits in avoiding conversion to Islam and was arrested by Aurangzeb. When offered a choice between conversion to Islam and death, he chose to die rather than compromise his principles and was executed. [14]

Guru Har Rai The seventh Guru of Sikhism

Guru Har Rai revered as the seventh Nanak, was the seventh of ten Gurus of the Sikh religion. He became the Sikh leader at age 14, on 8 March 1644, after the death of his grandfather and sixth Sikh leader Guru Hargobind. He guided the Sikhs for about seventeen years, till his death at age 31.

Guru Tegh Bahadur Ninth Guru of Sikhism

Guru Tegh Bahadur was the ninth of ten Gurus of the Sikh religion. Tegh Bahadur continued in the spirit of the first guru, Nanak; his 116 poetic hymns are registered in Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Tegh Bahadur prevented conversions of the Hindu Kashmiri Pandits and non-Muslims to Islam, and was publicly beheaded in 1675 on the orders of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in Delhi for himself refusing to convert to Islam and saving Hindu Kashmiri Pandits and other non-Muslims or as viewed by Muslims that he was condemned to death for waging war but was offered at last moment that converting to Islam will save him, which he declined as he wanted to be in Sikh rehat till his last breath. Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib and Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib in Delhi mark the places of execution and cremation of the Guru's body. The martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur is remembered as the Shaheedi Divas of Guru Tegh Bahadur every year on 24 November, according to the Nanakshahi calendar released by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in 2003.

Anandpur Sahib City in Punjab, India

Anandpur Sahib, sometimes referred to simply as Anandpur, is a city in Rupnagar district (Ropar), on the edge of Shivalik Hills, in the Indian state of Punjab. Located near the Sutlej River, the city is one of the most sacred places in Sikhism, being the place where the last two Sikh Gurus lived and where Guru Gobind Singh Ji founded the Khalsa Panth in 1699. The city is home to Kesgarh Sahib Gurdwara, one of the five Takhts in Sikhism.

Formation of the Khalsa

Guru Gobind Singh assumed the guruship in 1675 and to avoid battles with Sivalik Hill rajas moved the guruship to Paunta. There he built a large fort to protect the city and garrisoned an army to protect it. The growing power of the Sikh community alarmed the Sivalik Hill rajas who attempted to attack the city but Guru Gobind Singh's forces routed them at the Battle of Bhangani. He moved on to Anandpur and established the Khalsa, a collective army of baptised Sikhs, on 30 March 1699. [15] The establishment of the Khalsa united the Sikh community against various Mughal-backed claimants to the guruship. [16] In 1701, a combined army of the Sivalik Hill rajas and the Mughals under Wazir Khan attacked Anandpur. The Khalsa retreated but regrouped to defeat the Mughals at the Battle of Muktsar. In 1707, Guru Gobind Singh accepted an invitation by Aurangzeb's successor Bahadur Shah I to meet him. The meeting took place at Agra on 23 July 1707. [15]

Paonta Sahib City in Himachal Pradesh, India

Paonta Sahib is one of the major industrial towns of Himachal Pradesh in India. It is located in the south of Sirmour district, on National Highway 7. Major industries are cement production, [( Power Group )] - Power Generation - Renewable Energy ( Hydro Power - 1st Private SHP in Himanchal and Uttarakhand and Infrastructure //skihimalayas.net, Pharmaceuticals, textiles, chemicals and food, as well as Asia's biggest limestone market at Sataun. Paonta Sahib is an important place of worship for Sikhs, hosting a large Gurdwara named Gurudwara Paonta Sahib, on the banks of the river Yamuna. The river is the boundary between the states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.Major hotels to stay in Paonta Sahib are Hotel Guru Surbhi, Hptdc, Grand Riviera,

Battle of Bhangani

The Battle of Bhangani was fought between Guru Gobind Singh's army and Bhim Chand (Kahlur) of Bilaspur on 18 September 1686, at Bhangani near Paonta Sahib.Number of Hindu Rajas of Shivalik Hills participated in the war from Bhim Chand (Kahlur)‘s side. It was the first battle fought by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, at the age of 19.

Wazir Khan was Governor of Sirhind, administering a territory of the Mughal Empire between the Sutlej and Yamuna rivers.

Banda Singh Bahadur

In August 1708 Guru Gobind Singh visited Nanded. There he met a Bairāgī recluse, Madho Das, who converted to Sikhism, rechristened as Banda Singh Bahadur. [15] [17] A short time before his death, Guru Gobind Singh ordered him to reconquer Punjab region and gave him a letter that commanded all Sikhs to join him. After two years of gaining supporters, Banda Singh Bahadur initiated an agrarian uprising by breaking up the large estates of Zamindar families and distributing the land to the poor peasants who farmed the land. [18] Banda Singh Bahadur started his rebellion with the defeat of Mughal armies at Samana and Sadhaura and the rebellion culminated in the defeat of Sirhind. During the rebellion, Banda Singh Bahadur made a point of destroying the cities in which Mughals had been cruel to the supporters of Guru Gobind Singh. He executed Wazir Khan in revenge for the deaths of Guru Gobind Singh's sons and Pir Budhu Shah after the Sikh victory at Sirhind. [19] He ruled the territory between the Sutlej river and the Yamuna river, established a capital in the Himalayas at Lohgarh and struck coinage in the names of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh. [18] In 1716, his army was defeated by the Mughals after he attempted to defend his fort at Gurdas Nangal. He was captured along with 700 of his men and sent to Delhi, where they were all tortured and executed after refusing to convert to Islam. [20]

Dal Khalsa period

Nawab Jassa Singh Ahluwalia PicKingRaja.jpg
Nawab Jassa Singh Ahluwalia

Sikh Confederacy

The period from 1716 to 1799 was a highly turbulent time politically and militarily in the Punjab region. This was caused by the overall decline of the Mughal empire [21] that left a power vacuum in the region that was eventually filled by the Sikhs of the Dal Khalsa, meaning "Khalsa army" or "Khalsa party", in the late 18th century, after defeating several invasions by the Afghan rulers of the Durrani Empire and their allies, [22] remnants of the Mughals and their administrators, the Mughal-allied Hindu hill-rajas of the Sivalik Hills, [23] [24] and hostile local Muslims siding with other Muslim forces. [25] The Sikhs of the Dal Khalsa eventually formed their own independent Sikh administrative regions, Misls, derived from a Perso-Arabic term meaning "similar", headed by Misldars. These Misls were united in large part by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Cis-Sutlej states

The Cis-Sutlej states were a group of Sikh [26] states in the Punjab region lying between the Sutlej River to the north, the Himalayas to the east, the Yamuna River and Delhi district to the south, and Sirsa District to the west. These states fell under the suzeraignty of the Maratha Empire after 1785 before the Second Anglo-Maratha War of 1803–1805, after which the Marathas lost control of the territory to the British East India Company. The Cis-Sutlej states included Kalsia, Kaithal, Patiala State, Nabha State, Jind State, Thanesar, Maler Kotla, Ludhiana, Kapurthala State, Ambala, Ferozpur and Faridkot State, among others. While these Sikh states had been set up by the Dal Khalsa, they did not become part of the Sikh Empire and there was a mutual ban on warfare following the treaty of Amritsar in 1809 (in which the kingdom forfeited the claim to the Cis-Sutlej States, and the British were not to interfere north of the Sutlej or in the kingdom's existing territory south of the Sutlej), [27] following attempts by Ranjit Singh to wrest control of these states from the British between 1806 and 1809 [28] [29] The Sikh crossing of the Sutlej, following British militarization of the border with Punjab (from 2,500 men and six guns in 1838 to 17,612 men and 66 guns in 1844, and 40,523 men and 94 guns in 1845), and plans on using the newly conquered territory of Sindh as a springboard to advance on the Sikh-held region of Multan, [30] would eventually result in conflict with the British.

Empire

The expanding empire in 1809 CE. The Cis-Sutlej states are visible south of the Sutlej river Punjabin 1809 AD-History of Punjab pg32.jpg
The expanding empire in 1809 CE. The Cis-Sutlej states are visible south of the Sutlej river

The formal start of the Sikh Empire began with the unification of the Misls by 1801, creating a unified political state. All the Misl leaders, who were affiliated with the army, were the nobility with usually long and prestigious family backgrounds in Sikh history. [6] [31] The main geographical footprint of the empire was from the Punjab region to Khyber Pass in the west, to Kashmir in the north, Sindh in the south, and Tibet in the east. The religious demography of the empire is estimated to have been just over 10% [32] to 12% [33] Sikh, 80% Muslim, [34] and just under 10% Hindu. [35] The population was 3.5 million, according to Amarinder Singh's The Last Sunset: The Rise and Fall of the Lahore Durbar.[ citation needed ] An estimated 90% of the Sikh population at the time, and more than half of the total population, was concentrated in the upper Bari, Jalandhar, and upper Rechna Doabs, and in the areas of their greatest concentration formed about one third of the population in the 1830s; half of the Sikh population of this core region was in the area covered by the later districts of Lahore and Amritsar. [36] In 1799 Ranjit Singh moved the capital to Lahore from Gujranwala, where it had been established in 1763 by his grandfather, Charat Singh. [37]

Ranjit Singh holding court in 1838 CE Ranjit Singh holding court - Court and Camp of Runjeet Singh - pg203.jpg
Ranjit Singh holding court in 1838 CE

Hari Singh Nalwa was Commander-in-Chief of the Sikh Khalsa Army from 1825 to 1837. [38] He is known for his role in the conquests of Kasur, Sialkot, Multan, Kashmir, Attock and Peshawar. Nalwa led the Sikh army in freeing Shah Shuja from Kashmir and secured the Koh-i-Nor diamond for Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He served as governor of Kashmir and Hazara and established a mint on behalf of the Sikh empire to facilitate revenue collection. His frontier policy of holding the Khyber Pass was later used by the British Raj. Nalwa was responsible for expanding the frontier of Sikh empire to the Indus River. At the time of his death, the western boundary of the Sikh Empire was the Khyber Pass.

Geography

Indian subcontinent in 1805 CE. Joppen1907India1805a.jpg
Indian subcontinent in 1805 CE.

The Punjab was a region straddling India and the Afghan Durrani Empire. The following modern-day political divisions made up the historical Sikh Empire:

Jamrud District (Khyber Agency, Pakistan) was the westernmost limit of the Sikh Empire. The westward expansion was stopped in the Battle of Jamrud, in which the Afghans managed to kill the prominent Sikh general Hari Singh Nalwa in an offensive, though the Sikhs successfully held their position at their Jamrud fort. Ranjit Singh sent his General Sirdar Bahadur Gulab Singh Powind thereafter as reinforcement and he crushed the Pashtun rebellion harshly. [49] In 1838, Ranjit Singh with his troops marched into Kabul to take part in the victory parade along with the British after restoring Shah Shoja to the Afghan throne at Kabul. [50]

Policy

The Sikh Empire was idiosyncratic in that it allowed men from religions other than their own to rise to commanding positions of authority. [51]

The Fakir brothers were trusted personal advisors and assistants as well as close friends to Ranjit Singh, [52] particularly Fakir Azizuddin, who would serve in the positions of foreign minister of the empire and translator for the maharaja, and played important roles in such important events as the negotiations with the British, during which he convinced Ranjit Singh to maintain diplomatic ties with the British and not to go to war with them in 1808, as British troops were moved along the Sutlej in pursuance of the British policy of confining Ranjit Singh to the north of the river, and setting the Sutlej as the dividing boundary between the Sikh and British empires; [53] negotiating with Dost Muhammad Khan during his unsuccessful attempt to retake Peshawar, [53] and ensuring the succession of the throne during the maharaja's last days in addition to caretaking after a stroke, as well as occasional military assignments throughout his career. [54] The Fakir brothers were introduced to the maharaja when their father, Ghulam Muhiuddin, a physician, was summoned by him to treat an eye ailment soon after his capture of Lahore. [55]

The other Fakir brothers were Imamuddin, one of his principal administration officers, and Nuruddin, who served as home minister and personal physician, were also granted jagirs by the Maharaja. [56]

Every year, while at Amritsar, Ranjit Singh visited shrines of holy people of other faiths, including several Muslim saints, which did not offend even the most religious Sikhs of his administration. [57] As relayed by Fakir Nuruddin, orders were issued to treat people of all faith groups, occupations, [58] and social levels equally and in accordance with the doctrines of their faith, per the Shastras and the Quran, as well as local authorities like judges and panches (local elder councils), [59] as well as banning forcible possession of others' land or of inhabited houses to be demolished. [60] There were special courts for Muslims which ruled in accordance to Muslim law in personal matters, [61] and common courts preceded over by judicial officers which administered justice under the customary law of the districts and socio-ethnic groups, and were open to all who wanted to be governed by customary religious law, whether Hindu, Sikh, or Muslim. [61]

One of Ranjit Singh's first acts after the 1799 capture of Lahore was to revive the offices of the hereditary Qazis and Muftis which had been prevalent in Mughal times. [61] Kazi Nizamuddin was appointed to decide marital issues among Muslims, while Muftis Mohammad Shahpuri and Sadulla Chishti were entrusted with powers to draw up title-deeds relating to transfers of immovable property. [61] The old mohalladari system was reintroduced with each mahallah, or neighborhood subdivision, placed under the charge of one of its members. The office of Kotwal, or prefect of police, was conferred upon a Muslim, Imam Bakhsh. [61]

Sikh warrior helmet with butted mail neckguard, 1820-1840, iron overlaid with gold with mail neckguard of iron and brass Sikh helmet.jpg
Sikh warrior helmet with butted mail neckguard, 1820–1840, iron overlaid with gold with mail neckguard of iron and brass

Generals were also drawn from a variety of communities, along with prominent Sikh generals like Hari Singh Nalwa, Fateh Singh Dullewalia, Nihal Singh Atariwala, Chattar Singh Attariwalla, and Fateh Singh Kalianwala; Hindu generals included Dewan Mokham Chand Nayyar, his son, and his grandson, and Misr Diwan Chand Nayyar; and Muslim generals included Ilahi Bakhsh and Mian Ghaus Khan; one general, Balbhadra Kunwar, was a Nepalese Gurkha, and European generals included Jean-Francois Allard, Jean-Baptiste Ventura, and Paolo Avitabile. [62] other notable generals of the Sikh Khalsa Army were Veer Singh Dhillon, Sham Singh Attariwala, Mahan Singh Mirpuri, and Zorawar Singh Kahluria, among others.

The appointment of key posts in public offices was based on merit and loyalty, regardless of the social group or religion of the appointees, both in and around the court, and in higher as well as lower posts. Key posts in the civil and military administration were held by members of communities from all over the empire and beyond, including Sikhs, Muslims, Khatris, Brahmins, Dogras, Rajputs, Pashtuns, Europeans, and Americans, among others, [63] and worked their way up the hierarchy to attain merit. Dhian Singh, the prime minister, was a Dogra, whose brothers Gulab Singh and Suchet Singh served in the high-ranking administrative and military posts, respectively. [63] Brahmins like finance minister Raja Dina Nath, Sahib Dyal, and others also served in financial capacities. [62] Muslims in prominent positions included the Fakir brothers, Kazi Nizamuddin, and Mufti Muhammad Shah, among others. Among the top-ranking Muslim officers there were two ministers, one governor and several district officers; there were 41 high-ranking Muslim officers in the army, including two generals and several colonels, [62] and 92 Muslims were senior officers in the police, judiciary, legal department and supply and store departments. [62] Thus, the government was run by an elite corps drawn from many communities, giving the empire the character of a secular system of government, even when built on theocratic foundations. [64]

A ban on cow slaughter, which can be related to Hindu sentiments, was universally imposed in the Sarkar Khalsaji. [65] [66] Ranjit Singh also donated large amounts of gold for the plating of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple's dome. [67] [68]

The Sikhs attempted not to offend the prejudices of Muslims, noted Baron von Hügel, the Austrian botanist and explorer, [69] yet the Sikhs were described as harsh. In this regard, Masson's explanation is perhaps the most pertinent: "Though compared to the Afghans, the Sikhs were mild and exerted a protecting influence, yet no advantages could compensate to their Mohammedan subjects, the idea of subjection to infidels, and the prohibition to slay kine, and to repeat the azan, or 'summons to prayer'." [70]

Decline

The Samadhi of Ranjit Singh is located in Lahore, Pakistan, adjacent to the iconic Badshahi Mosque SORS1.jpg
The Samadhi of Ranjit Singh is located in Lahore, Pakistan, adjacent to the iconic Badshahi Mosque

After Ranjit Singh's death in 1839, the empire was severely weakened by internal divisions and political mismanagement. This opportunity was used by the British East India Company to launch the Anglo-Sikh Wars.

The Battle of Ferozeshah in 1845 marked many turning points, the British encountered the Punjab Army, opening with a gun-duel in which the Sikhs "had the better of the British artillery". As the British made advances, Europeans in their army were especially targeted, as the Sikhs believed if the army "became demoralised, the backbone of the enemy's position would be broken". [71] The fighting continued throughout the night. The British position "grew graver as the night wore on", and "suffered terrible casualties with every single member of the Governor General's staff either killed or wounded". [72] Nevertheless, the British army took and held Ferozeshah. British General Sir James Hope Grant recorded: "Truly the night was one of gloom and forbidding and perhaps never in the annals of warfare has a British Army on such a large scale been nearer to a defeat which would have involved annihilation." [72]

The reasons for the withdrawal of the Sikhs from Ferozeshah are contentious. Some believe that it was treachery of the non-Sikh high command of their own army which led to them marching away from a British force in a precarious and battered state. Others believe that a tactical withdrawal was the best policy. [73]

The Sikh empire was finally dissolved at the end of the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849 into separate princely states and the British province of Punjab. Eventually, a Lieutenant Governorship was formed in Lahore as a direct representative of the British Crown.

Timeline

Preceded by
Sikh Confederacy
Sikh Empire
1799–1849
Succeeded by
East India Company

List of rulers

S. No.NamePortraitBirth and deathReignNote
1 Maharaja Ranjit Singh MaharajaRanjitSIngh - L Massard.gif 13 November 178027 June 183912 April 180127 June 183938 years, 76 daysThe first Sikh rulerDied in office
2 Maharaja Kharak Singh Kharak Singh.jpg 22 February 18015 November 184027 June 18398 October 1839103 daysSon of Ranjit Singh
3 Maharaja Nau Nihal Singh Nau Nihal Singh.jpg 11 February 18206 November 18408 October 18396 November 18401 year, 29 daysSon of Kharak SinghAssassinated
4 Maharani Chand Kaur
(regent)
Chand Kaur.jpg 180211 June 18426 November 184018 January 184173 daysWife of Kharak Singh and the only female ruler of Sikh EmpireAbdicated
5 Maharaja Sher Singh Sher Singh.jpg 4 December 180715 September 184318 January 184115 September 18432 years, 240 daysSon of Ranjit SinghAssassinated
6 Maharaja Duleep Singh Maharajah Duleep Singh dressed for a State function, c. 1875.jpg 6 September 183822 October 189315 September 184329 March 18495 years, 195 daysSon of Ranjit SinghDeposed
Maharani Jind Kaur
(regent)
Maharani Jind Kaur.jpg 18171 August 186315 September 184329 March 18495 years, 195 daysWife of Ranjit SinghDeposed

See also

Related Research Articles

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Sources

Further reading