Maharaja Ranjit Singh was a very influential figure who lived from 1780 to 1839. He was a powerful leader of the empire of Sikhs and ruled the subcontinent of Northwest India in the early 1900s. At the age of 21, he was declared as the “Maharaja of Punjab.”
He started fighting in battles at an early age of 10 and fought alongside his father in the first battle. After the death of his father, he fought against the Afghans when he was still a teenager. He is known to have played a vital role in uniting Sikh Misls.
He was successful in establishing friendly relations with the British foreign rulers and at the same time, he also successfully defeated any invasion that came from enemies from neighboring areas, especially Afghanistan.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh is also known for bringing about prosperity in his kingdom with the help of modernization, new infrastructure, and other reforms. He was a secular leader. This is evident from the fact that his Khalsa army had Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs as well as Europeans.
He also invested a lot in cultural and artistic development. He rebuilt the Harmandir Sahib Gurudwara in the city of Amritsar and also sponsored several other famous Gurudwaras like the Hazur Sahib Nanded in Maharashtra and the Takht Sri Patna Sahib in Bihar.
Also known as the “Lion of Punjab” or “Sher-e-Punjab,” Ranjit Singh played a vital role in spreading the Sikh empire in the Northwestern part of India. He was born in the Gujranwala region of Punjab, which is now in Pakistan. Initially, his name was Budh Singh, which was later changed to Ranjit that literally means “victor in battle.”
He was mainly raised by his mother whose name was Raj Kaur after his father died when he was just 12 years old. He has always been revered as a hero. At the age of 13, Hashmat Khan tried to kill him,but Ranjit Singh ended up killing Hashmat Khan himself.
His mother passed away when he was just 18 years old,and one of his close associates named Lakhpat Rai was also assassinated. Since then, his mother-in-law from the first wife helped him. He is also known to have developed a habit of drinking alcohol around that time. This habit was only intensified in the later period. However, he never ate beef or smoked in his lifetime.
After defeating Shah Zaman who was an important leader in the Ahmedshah Abdali Dynasty at the age of 17, he became quite famous amongst his contemporaries. His other conquests towards expansion started when he signed a treaty with the East India Company where he agreed not to take the Sikh forces towards the south of the river Sutlej.
In return, the British East India Company agreed to stay away from the Sikh territory. During this time, he also fought against the Afghans and expanded his territory. Some central towns during his time were Rawalpindi, Kangra, Lahore, Multan, Gujarat, Jammu, Sialkot and Peshawar among others.
Some interesting facts about Ranjit Singh are that he contracted smallpox as an infant but still survived it. Moreover, he became one of the greatest strategists that were present in his times despite a loss of his eyesight and no education. Another interesting fact is that his kingdom possessed the famous Kohinoor diamond that is currently with the Queen of England.
As mentioned above, he made several contributions to the cultural heritage of his kingdom. This included the beautiful marble and gold work done in the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The famous Golden Temple was built under his patronage. Another less known fact about Ranjit Singh is that he had many wives who belonged to different faiths including Muslim, Hindu as well as Sikh. After his death, Jind Kaur, who was also his favorite wife played an essential role in the kingdom.
He believed in extreme equality and therefore, never wore a crown during the period he sat on the throne. He was a believer of the Sikh religion that considers everyone to be equal in the eyes of God. He also believed in talent rather than discrimination based on religion. Thiswas clearly reflected in his army where he recruited Hindus, Sikhs, Europeans and Muslims alike. This clearly shows why he is still celebrated as a major influential figure in the history of Sikhism.