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Ranjit Singh

About Maharaja Ranjit Singh

Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780 –1839), 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.

Ranjit Singh was born on November 13, 1780 in Gujranwala City, Punjab, which is now in modern day Pakistan. He was born into a Sikh Jat family of the Sandhu Clan, to Sardar Maha Singh Sukerchakia (d. 1792), and Sardarni Mai Raj Kaur, the daughter of Raja Gajpat Singh of the Jind Kingdom. At the time, large parts of the Punjab were ruled by the Sikhs, who had divided the territory among factions known as Misls, each with its own powerful Sikh chieftain. His grandfather was Sardar Charat Singh Sukerchakia (d. 1770), and his great grandfather was Sardar Naudh Singh (d. 1752), also a Sikh Warrior, and the great great grandson of Baba Budha Ji (d. 1718), the first in line to take Amrit Sachaar.

Born Ranjit Singh
13 November 1780
Gujranwala, Sukerchakia Misl(Modern-Day Pakistan)
Died 27 June 1839 (aged 58)
Lahore, Punjab, Sikh Empire (present-day Pakistan)
Burial Cremated remains stored in the Samadhi of Ranjit Singh in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
Father Sardar Mahan Singh

Ranjit singh had his first taste of battle, when he was hardly ten years old. It was Sahib Singh bhangi (they were called bhangis as they use to drink ‘Bhang’ all the time) of Gujarat (a town in Punjab, now in Pakistan) refused to pay tribute to Mahan Singh and his estate was attacked by him. Sahib singh shut himself at the fort of Sodhran and the siege of the fort was laid. Ranjit singh accompanied Mahan Singh. The siege continued for several months.

Mahan singh fell grievously ill. Apprehending his approaching end he invested Ranjit singh chief of the Sukerchakia Misl by putting Ranjit’s forehead saffron paste. It was a great occasion of joy. Mahan Singh returned to Gujrawala. When the other Bhangi sardars came to know about the illness of Mahan singh and the army of Sukerchikia’s was commanded by a child of ten years they came to rescue the Sahib singh bhangi at Sodhran. Ranjit singh ambushed them and routed their forces. Ranjit singh’s victory opened the eyes of many chieftains. When the news of victory was conveyed to Mahan singh, he distributed sweets and perhaps it was the last news given to Mahan singh before he breathed his last.

Mahan Singh died in 1792. Ranjit singh was then 12 years old. He was too young to manage the affairs of the estate. His mother Raj Kaur became his natural guardian. He was also helped by Diwan Lakhpat rai. She had full confidence in his integrity but her brother Dal Singh did not like his interference in the administration of the territory. So, Dal singh joined hands with Sada Kaur, Ranjit singh’s mother-in-law who exercised a lot of control over him. Thus two clear cut groups were formed, Diwan and Raj Kaur on one hand, Sada Kaur and Dal Singh on the other side. The intrigues and counter intrigues made Ranjit sick of all of them. He started spending most of this time outside the house on hunting expeditions. Ranjit singh also became suspicious of people around him and disliked some of them.

Ranjit singh learnt riding, shooting, and started drinking early years of his life. Drinking was not considered bad in those days and the more one drank, the more respect he commanded among the sardars. It was a matter of pride.

Ranjit singh was once attacked by Hashmat Khan when he was out on the hunting expedition. Hashmat Khan, a chief of an estate which had many score to settle with Mahan singh, Ranjit singh’s father. Ranjit singh’s horse was frightened. Khan took the opportunity and pierced his sword into the body of Ranjit singh. Ranjit singh controlled himself and before Khan could make another move, Ranjit cut his head, hung it on his spear and joined his comrades with his prized possession. The heartened Ranjit and his companions joy knew no bounds as the young lad of 13 had performed a miracle.