The Tribune Spectrum
Sunday, April 8, 2001

V. N. Datta

Mulk Raj Anand

Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon

Surjit Hans

Prithipal Singh Kapur

Shiv Kumar Gupta

Kirpal Singh

Mohinder Singh

Prabhjot Singh

The Glorious Reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh

"On the 1st of Baisakh (April 12) 1801, Sahib Singh Bedi daubed Ranjit Singh's forehead with saffron paste and proclaimed him Maharajah of the Punjab. A royal salute was fired from the fort. In the afternoon the young Maharajah rode on his elephant, showering gold and silver coins on jubilant crowds of his subjects. In the evening, all the homes of the city were illumined. Ranjit Singh's political acumen is well illustrated in the compromise that he made between becoming a Maharajah and remaining a peasant leader. Although crowned King of the Punjab, he refused to wear the emblem of royalty in his simple turban. He refused to sit on a throne......

The most important consequence of taking on the title of "Maharajah of the Punjab" was that thereby Ranjit Singh assumed the rights of sovereignity not only over all Sikhs (the government itself being Sarkar Khalsaji) but over all people who lived within the ill-defined geographical limits of the Punjab....."

- Extracted from A History of the Sikhs by Khushwant Singh.

The Glorious Reign
Regrettably, scholars have neglected the use of Persian source-material in their study of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. That is why research work produced and published on him and his times has generally relied on the British sources which are partial and one-sided. A major portion of research studies on him has been brought out by non-professional historians who are ignorant of the Persian language, says V. N. Datta.


The Patron of the Arts
The hallmark of the art of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is thus its truthfulness. It is of the earthly earth. And, in spite of the import of some of the painters from the Pahari courts, the abundance of portraiture shows how almost everyone, including the Maharaja, was in search of an identity in their new exalted status, which they had acquired from modest origins in the villages of the Punjab plains. Thus, every expression under the patronage of Ranjit Singh and his nobles, shows a vitalist urge for freedom to open out to life, and more life, in the midst of things of beauty which may please the eyes, make the heart glow and intensify the emotions, says
Mulk Raj Anand

Nature of Ranjit Singh's polity
A ruler much ahead of his times
The most notable trait of Ranjit Singh's polity was the complete freedom of expression and worship enjoyed by all his subjects. Though he was born and brought up in the Sikh faith and listened to the recitation from Sikh scriptures every day, he did not proclaim Sikhism as the religion of the state. He also did not make any conscious effort to propagate it. His broad religious outlook was reflected in his according due respect to all religions. The spirit of forbearance displayed by him was in sharp contrast to the inhuman practices of the Mughal rulers, their plunder, and forced conversions, writes Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon.

How relevant are Ranjit Singh's ideas today
by Surjit Hans
According to Budh Singh, the ruler is always right; the people wrong. A king lays the people under obligation by ruling over them. If the king does not overlook the fault of the people, the world would stop. In developing countries, leaders coming to power through the modern institutions of electoral democracy, soon revert to pre-modern mentality when faced with a crisis.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh - a visionary
by Prithipal Singh Kapur
HE rise of Ranjit Singh in the Punjab was a unique phenomenon. It can in no way be associated with the decline of the Mughal Empire or consequential rise of the provincial satraps in various regions of the Indian sub-continent. However, some historians have attempted to make an odious comparison between Tipu Sultan of Mysore and Ranjit Singh.

Modernisation of the army
by Shiv Kumar Gupta
The Sikhs, after passing through a series of vicissitudes, first established themselves as a political power in the Punjab in 1765, when Jassa Singh Ahluwalia captured the territory annexed by Ahmed Shah Abdali and struck a coin in commemoration of this historic event. But the mode of fighting of Sikhs then was desultory and hardly suited to the requirements of a well-settled state. "The army of the Khalsa consisted of horsemen, brave indeed, but ignorant of war as an art. Saddle was the home of the Khalsa for several generations." According to Forster, "They were armed with a matchlock and a sabre. Their method of fighting was queer indeed."

Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Subjugation of
North Western Frontier

by Kirpal Singh
Hari Singh Nalwa knew how to match the Sikh hatred of Afghans. He set up a very strong administration in the Peshawar valley. He levied a cess of Rs 4 per house on the Yusafzais. This cess was to be collected in cash or in kind. For its realisation, personal household property could be appropriated. There was scarcely a village which was not burnt. In such an awe were his visitations held that his name was used by mothers as a term of fright to hush their unruly children.

Jewels and Relics from Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Toshakhana
by Mohinder Singh
FTER consolidating his victories and establishing an independent kingdom in Punjab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh built a unique collection of jewels and relics. The world famous Koh-i-Noor is the most precious in the category of jewels and the Kalgee of Guru Gobind Singh in the category of relics.

The king who refused to sit on a throne
by Prabhjot Singh
FTER the tercentenary celebrations of the Khalsa, it is now time for Punjab to plan the festivities for the bicentenary celebrations of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, falling on April 12 this year. Against the lavish celebrations of the Khalsa tercentenary, the fund-starved state government has chalked out a plan to commemorate the occasion in a befitting but economical manner.

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