The People’s Maharaja / By: Lily Swarn

The People’s Maharaja
 
Remembering Maharaja Ranjit Singh , the Lion of Punjab , the Founder of the Sikh Empire on the day he passed away,His reign lasted from 1801 to 1839.Born on 13 th November 1780 in Gujranwala , Pakistan,he became a Maharaja at 21 yrs of age .
 
At its peak in the 19 th century , the Sikh Empire extended from Khyber Pass in the West to Western Tibet in the East and from Mithankot in the South to Kashmir in the North .
 
The Maharaja lost his left eye as an infant after contracting smallpox.Known as one of the greatest strategists of his times , he was adept in martial arts and impeccably groomed in the Sikh tradition of fighting.He fought his first battle when he was 10 yrs old beside his father and numerous battles with Afghans.
On 12 th April 1801, he joined many Sikh groups into one State and won the title of Maharaja.
 
Ranjit Singh was a truly secular leader . His army included Hindus, Muslim , European generals and warriors .His army was trained amongst others by European mercenaries . His army was the first modern Indian Army and was known as the Sikh Khalsa Army , which helped prevent the British from colonising Punjab during his lifetime
 
The Maharaja never wore a crown even when he sat on his throne since everyone is considered equal before God in Sikhism.
 
Maharani Jindan ( Jind Kaur )was his favourite wife and played an important role after his passing.
 
He set up Takht Sri Patna Sahib Gurdwara where the 10 th Sikh Guru was born and Takht Sri Hazur Sahib , the place where he died .
 
The gold and marble work of the iconic Golden Temple in Amritsar was also under his patronage .
 
The Kohinoor diamond which is in the Queen of England‘s possession currently ,was once a part of Ranjit Singh ‘s treasure
 
Pul Moran was built on the Lahore Amritsar highway near Wagah border in memory of a dancer Moran. The historic site is also known as Pul Kanjari .
 
He is famous as Sher- e-Punjab ( Lion of Punjab) due to his liberal patronage ,
The British could not annex Punjab in his lifetime .
His reign was that of an almost mythical ruler who was tolerant .
 
On June 27 2019 his statue was unveiled in Lahore Fort to mark the 180 th anniversary of his death .A symbol of stability during these times of religious and ethnic strife .
This 12 year old heir to the Sukerchakia Misl gave history a lot to ponder about .
 
I must share this famous tale which I heard from my dad about a maraasi ( political satirists and humorists during his rule ) . Once someone challenged a maraasi that he couldn’t call the Maharaja a one eyed man .Taking up the challenge the maraasi went up to Ranjit Singh and recited “ Teri iko akh sulakhni jehri chamkaan maare / tainu jhuk jhuk karan salaamaan do akhiyaan waale “(You are a blessed one eyed man in front of whom even two eyed men bow )
 
 
 
By: Lily Swarn

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