Napoleon Bonaparte of Lahore: Maharaja Ranjit Singh

For Ranjit Singh, it was the capture of Lahore that was the ultimate step, transforming him from a warlord to a Maharaja. In July 1799 Ranjit Singh seized Lahore and in 1801 Ranjit Singh proclaimed himself maharaja of the Punjab. In July 1819 he finally expelled the Pashtuns from the Vale of Kashmir, and by 1820 he had consolidated his rule over the whole Punjab between the Sutlej and Indus rivers. Ranjit Singh had become a Sikh Napoleon, a Punjabi sun king.

Short in stature, never schooled, and did not learn to read or write anything beyond the Gurmukhi alphabet. He rose from the status of chieftain to become the most powerful Hindustani ruler of his time. He was the first Hindustani in a thousand years to stem the tides of invasions from whence they had come across the north-west frontiers of Hindustan. A French traveller compared him to Napoleon in miniature, while other observers praised him as a military genius. 

Ranjit Singh presided over a multi-ethnic, multi-faith, multi-caste empire of remarkable toleration and inclusivity. The army included Hindus, Muslims, and European Christians French, Spanish, Polish, Russian, and Prussian, though not British. His administration was a diverse affair; his prime minister was a Dogra Rajput, his finance minister a Brahmin, his foreign minister a Muslim. He set up separate courts for Muslims. Nezam Din was appointed chief Qazi with Mohammed Shah Puri and Saidullah Chishti as the two Muftis. For those Muslims who, like the Hindus and the Sikhs, preferred to be governed by the customary law of their caste or district, the Maharaja set up separate courts under judicial officers appointed by the Durbar. Hakim Nurudddin, the younger brother of Faqeer Aziz Uddin, was appointed chief medical officer.

Hindu and Sikh admirers deified him as a virtuous man and a selfless patriot. This academic apotheosis reduced a full-blooded man and an astute politician to an anaemic saint and a simple-minded nationalist. Muslim historians were unduly harsh in describing him as an avaricious freebooter. English writers, who took their material largely from Muslim sources, portrayed him as a cunning man, devoid of moral considerations, whose only redeeming feature was his friendship with the English____ Khushwant Singh

Lahore: Citadel of Tolerance

According to historical references, Ranjit Singh’s army desecrated Lahore’s Badshahi Mosque and converted it into an ammunition store, and horse stables. Lahore’s Moti Mosque was converted into Moti Temple by the Sikh army, and Sonehri Mosque was converted into a Sikh Gurdwara. Lahore’s Begum Shahi Mosque was also used as a gunpowder factory. 

But on the other hand Maharani Jind Kaur, the mother of Duleep Singh, donated a collection of handwritten Qurans to Data Sahab Durbar. Mai Moran Mosque which he built for his beloved Muslim wife Moran Sarkar, or how on  the request of Sufi Faqeer Satar Shah Bukhari, Ranjit Singh restored the Sunehri Mosque  back to a mosque.

Once a calligraphist who had spent many years making a copy of the Koran turned up at Lahore to try and sell it to the foreign minister, Faqeer Aziz Uddin. The foreign minister praised the work but expressed his inability to pay for it. The argument was overheard by Ranjit Singh who summoned the calligraphist to his presence. He scrutinized the writing with his single eye. He was impressed with the excellence of the work and bought the Holy Quran for his private collection; later Faqeer Aziz Uddin asked him why he had paid such a high price for a book for which he, as a Sikh, would have no use. 

Maharaja replied: God intended me to look upon all religions with one eye; that is why he took away the light from the other.

The Hazuri Bagh Baradari in Shalamar Gardens was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, to celebrate his capture of the Koh-I-Noor diamond from Shuja Shah Durrani in 1813.

A market of food stuff that was set up by Heera Singh became known as Heera Mandi, which was known as the Shahi Mohalla, it was a specific place where the servants and courtesans of the king used to live. It never was a place for prostitution in the Mughal era.

The personal life of Ranjit Singh was as colourful as his political career. He loved to surround himself with handsome men and beautiful women. He lived the life of a soldier and drank hard. Ranjit Singh married many times, in various ceremonies, and had eighteen wives. In an interview with French journal Le Voltaire his youngest son Duleep Singh quoted; I am the son of one of my father’s forty-six wives.

Kipling’s description of Ranjit Singh: Four things greater than all things are Women and Horses and Power and War.

Ranjit Singh had eight sons, but he acknowledged only Kharak Singh and Duleep Singh as his biological sons. His eldest was Maharaja Kharak Singh was the eldest from his second wife. Duleep Singh was from his last wife, Jind Kaur. 

Ranjit Singh suffered from numerous health complications, three strokes, which some historical records attribute to alcoholism. He died in Lahore on 27 June 1839.Four of his Hindu wives, and seven Hindu concubines with royal titles committed sati by voluntarily placing themselves onto his funeral pyre as an act of devotion. This happened despite the fact that the Sikh Gurus had condemned and denounced the man-made notion of the inferiority of women and protested against their long subjugation. Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is located adjacent the Badshahi Mosque, a sign of religious tolerance.

When Kharak Singh died in 1840, his son Nau Nihal Singh performed his last rites beside the Ravi River in Lahore. When he was returning to the palace via the Hazuri Bagh, a massive block of stone from a gate fell upon him and died instantly.

In many ways a bastion of stability, altruism, and tolerationfor forty years, Ranjit Singh’s reign was not without its shortcomings. Investment in infrastructure failed to keep pace with military spending and the jagir tax system, inherited from the Mughals, went unreformed. Without a lasting framework for future governance, after Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, the empire was weakened by internal divisions and political mismanagement. 

This opportunity was used by the British East India Company to launch the Anglo-Sikh Wars. 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.

When the pages of history are written, it is not the angry defenders of religious intolerance who have made the difference but 

Bonaparte of Lahore: Maharaja Ranjit Singh

For Ranjit Singh, it was the capture of Lahore that was the ultimate step, transforming him from a warlord to a Maharaja. In July 1799 Ranjit Singh seized Lahore and in 1801 Ranjit Singh proclaimed himself maharaja of the Punjab. In July 1819 he finally expelled the Pashtuns from the Vale of Kashmir, and by 1820 he had consolidated his rule over the whole Punjab between the Sutlej and Indus rivers. Ranjit Singh had become a Sikh Napoleon, a Punjabi sun king.

Short in stature, never schooled, and did not learn to read or write anything beyond the Gurmukhi alphabet. He rose from the status of chieftain to become the most powerful Hindustani ruler of his time. He was the first Hindustani in a thousand years to stem the tides of invasions from whence they had come across the north-west frontiers of Hindustan. A French traveller compared him to Napoleon in miniature, while other observers praised him as a military genius. 

Ranjit Singh presided over a multi-ethnic, multi-faith, multi-caste empire of remarkable toleration and inclusivity. The army included Hindus, Muslims, and European Christians French, Spanish, Polish, Russian, and Prussian, though not British. His administration was a diverse affair; his prime minister was a Dogra Rajput, his finance minister a Brahmin, his foreign minister a Muslim. He set up separate courts for Muslims. Nezam Din was appointed chief Qazi with Mohammed Shah Puri and Saidullah Chishti as the two Muftis. For those Muslims who, like the Hindus and the Sikhs, preferred to be governed by the customary law of their caste or district, the Maharaja set up separate courts under judicial officers appointed by the Durbar. Hakim Nurudddin, the younger brother of Faqeer Aziz Uddin, was appointed chief medical officer.

Hindu and Sikh admirers deified him as a virtuous man and a selfless patriot. This academic apotheosis reduced a full-blooded man and an astute politician to an anaemic saint and a simple-minded nationalist. Muslim historians were unduly harsh in describing him as an avaricious freebooter. English writers, who took their material largely from Muslim sources, portrayed him as a cunning man, devoid of moral considerations, whose only redeeming feature was his friendship with the English____ Khushwant Singh

Lahore: Citadel of Tolerance

According to historical references, Ranjit Singh’s army desecrated Lahore’s Badshahi Mosque and converted it into an ammunition store, and horse stables. Lahore’s Moti Mosque was converted into Moti Temple by the Sikh army, and Sonehri Mosque was converted into a Sikh Gurdwara. Lahore’s Begum Shahi Mosque was also used as a gunpowder factory. 

But on the other hand Maharani Jind Kaur, the mother of Duleep Singh, donated a collection of handwritten Qurans to Data Sahab Durbar. Mai Moran Mosque which he built for his beloved Muslim wife Moran Sarkar, or how on  the request of Sufi Faqeer Satar Shah Bukhari, Ranjit Singh restored the Sunehri Mosque  back to a mosque.

Once a calligraphist who had spent many years making a copy of the Koran turned up at Lahore to try and sell it to the foreign minister, Faqeer Aziz Uddin. The foreign minister praised the work but expressed his inability to pay for it. The argument was overheard by Ranjit Singh who summoned the calligraphist to his presence. He scrutinized the writing with his single eye. He was impressed with the excellence of the work and bought the Holy Quran for his private collection; later Faqeer Aziz Uddin asked him why he had paid such a high price for a book for which he, as a Sikh, would have no use. 

Maharaja replied: God intended me to look upon all religions with one eye; that is why he took away the light from the other.

The Hazuri Bagh Baradari in Shalamar Gardens was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, to celebrate his capture of the Koh-I-Noor diamond from Shuja Shah Durrani in 1813.

A market of food stuff that was set up by Heera Singh became known as Heera Mandi, which was known as the Shahi Mohalla, it was a specific place where the servants and courtesans of the king used to live. It never was a place for prostitution in the Mughal era.

The personal life of Ranjit Singh was as colourful as his political career. He loved to surround himself with handsome men and beautiful women. He lived the life of a soldier and drank hard. Ranjit Singh married many times, in various ceremonies, and had eighteen wives. In an interview with French journal Le Voltaire his youngest son Duleep Singh quoted; I am the son of one of my father’s forty-six wives.

Kipling’s description of Ranjit Singh: Four things greater than all things are Women and Horses and Power and War.

Ranjit Singh had eight sons, but he acknowledged only Kharak Singh and Duleep Singh as his biological sons. His eldest was Maharaja Kharak Singh was the eldest from his second wife. Duleep Singh was from his last wife, Jind Kaur. 

Ranjit Singh suffered from numerous health complications, three strokes, which some historical records attribute to alcoholism. He died in Lahore on 27 June 1839.Four of his Hindu wives, and seven Hindu concubines with royal titles committed sati by voluntarily placing themselves onto his funeral pyre as an act of devotion. This happened despite the fact that the Sikh Gurus had condemned and denounced the man-made notion of the inferiority of women and protested against their long subjugation. Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is located adjacent the Badshahi Mosque, a sign of religious tolerance.

When Kharak Singh died in 1840, his son Nau Nihal Singh performed his last rites beside the Ravi River in Lahore. When he was returning to the palace via the Hazuri Bagh, a massive block of stone from a gate fell upon him and died instantly.

In many ways a bastion of stability, altruism, and tolerationfor forty years, Ranjit Singh’s reign was not without its shortcomings. Investment in infrastructure failed to keep pace with military spending and the jagir tax system, inherited from the Mughals, went unreformed. Without a lasting framework for future governance, after Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, the empire was weakened by internal divisions and political mismanagement. 

This opportunity was used by the British East India Company to launch the Anglo-Sikh Wars. 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.

When the pages of history are written, it is not the angry defenders of religious intolerance who have made the difference but 

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