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Raja Ranjit Singh 

About 1800 A.D. a young warrior named Ranjit Singh, barely twenty (born c. 1780) came to the forefront of Punjab. He was appointed as the Viceroy of Lahore by the Afghan sovereign at Kabul. He stirred up the enthusiasm of the Khalsa (holy warriors of Sikhism) to  build a strong and potent army. He expanded his borders on all sides and brought new kingdoms and people under the Khalsa umbrella. British historian J. T. Wheeler [Wheeler1899] writes "...Had he flourished a generation earlier, he might have conquered whole of Hindustan".

Ranjit Singh had his Khalsa army trained by French military strategists and generals. He came to be known as the Maharaja of Punjab, but he remained humble and ascribed all the glory of his victories to God and Guru Gobind Singh. He was an illiterate man himself, but encouraged the learning and the arts.


© K. L. Kamat
Sikh King Ranjit Singh
Sikh King Ranjit Singh
Detail from an Indian Postal Stamp

Ranjit Singh died in 1839 and his successors lacked his bravery and vision. The Sikh kingdom became weak and the British crushed the Khalsa army in 1849. This victory was to prove a very valuable one for the Europeans to fight the rest of India in 1857 in the First Indian War of Independence.

References:

  • Wheeler, J. Talboys, India and the Frontiers States of Afghanistan, Nipal, and Burma, P.F. Collier, 1899

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