- Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab:
Context: A statue of Ranjit Singh, who ruled Punjab for almost four decades (1801-39), was recently inaugurated in Lahore.
- Ranjit Singh was born on November 13, 1780 in Gujranwala, now in Pakistan. At that time, Punjab was ruled by powerful chieftains who had divided the territory into Misls. Ranjit Singh overthrew the warring Misls and established a unified Sikh empire after he conquered Lahore in 1799.
- He was given the title Lion of Punjab (Sher-e-Punjab) because he stemmed the tide of Afghan invaders in Lahore, which remained his capital until his death.
- His general Hari Singh Nalwa built the Fort of Jamrud at the mouth of the Khyber Pass, the route the foreign rulers took to invade India.
- At the time of his death, he was the only sovereign leader left in India, all others having come under the control of the East India Company in some way or the other.
- He also employed a large number of European officers, especially French, to train his troops. He appointed French General Jean Franquis Allard to modernise his army. In 2016, the town of St Tropez unveiled the maharaja’s bronze statue as a mark of respect.
- Ranjit Singh’s trans-regional empire spread over several states. His empire included the former Mughal provinces of Lahore and Multan besides part of Kabul and the entire Peshawar. The boundaries of his state went up to Ladakh — Zorawar Singh, a general from Jammu, had conquered Ladakh in Ranjit Singh’s name — in the northeast, Khyber pass in the northwest, and up to Panjnad in the south where the five rivers of Punjab fell into the Indus.
- During his regime, Punjab was a land of six rivers, the sixth being the Indus.
- The maharaja was known for his just and secular rule; both Hindus and Muslims were given powerful positions in his darbar.
- He turned Harimandir Sahib at Amritsar into the Golden Temple by covering it with gold.
- He is also credited with funding Hazoor Sahib gurudwara at the final resting place of Guru Gobind Singh in Nanded, Maharashtra.
Sources: Indian Express.