12 April 1801
Ranjit Singh crowned the ‘Maharaja of the Punjab’
The Sikh Empire was formally established on April 12, 1801 when the Sikh chieftain Ranjit Singh was crowned the ‘Maharaja of the Punjab’.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh Background
- Ranjit Singh was born on 13 November, 1780 at Gujranwala in modern-day Pakistan to Mahan Singh Sukerchakia and his wife. Mahan Singh was the chief of the Sukerchakia clan or misl.
- Born Buddh Singh, he was renamed Ranjit at the age of ten when he showed remarkable prowess in fighting.
- He inherited the Sukerchakia estates upon his father’s death at the tender age of 12, and started ruling over it.
- Ranjit Singh was a brilliant commander and fighter and showed amazing courage and bravery while resisting the Muslim invaders from the west.
- His fame grew when he defeated the army of Afghan ruler Shah Zaman when the latter tried to annex Punjab.
- He successfully united all the Sikh misls under his command and unified the Punjab region.
- The Sikh Empire started albeit unofficially in 1799 with the annexation of Lahore. Ranjit Singh annexed surrounding states and created an empire extending from Kashmir in the north to Mithankot in the south.
- He had the important cities of Lahore, Multan, Amritsar, Jammu, Peshawar, Srinagar, Sialkot and Rawalpindi in his empire.
- The official coronation was done on April 12, 1801 when Ranjit Singh was declared the ‘Maharaja of Punjab’. It is interesting to note that he was proclaimed the king of the Punjab region and not just the Sikhs.
- The coronation was carried out by Baba Sahib Singh Bedi, who was a direct descendent of Guru Nanak. A few religious rites were performed and the grand Durbar was attended by prominent Hindu, Sikh and Muslim nobles.
- Ranjit Singh was a modern king in some respects. For him, the ‘Sacha Padshah’ was the Guru while he was only His servant. Even coins were struck in the name of Nanakshahi. His Durbar was also called the Durbar Khalsaji. It showed that the institution was deemed far more important that the person occupying the position.
- As king, Ranjit Singh refused to sit on the royal throne and heard grievances sitting in his chair or reclining on a cushion on a carpet.
- He believed that the kingship was bestowed on him by the Gurus and that he was a servant of only the Gurus. He did not acknowledge the Mughals as his superior.
- The Khalsa army was modernised by Ranjit Singh. The infantry and armoury was enhanced. People from different races and ethnicities were recruited. He even established arms factories and cannon foundries.
- Ranjit Singh was able to bring in prosperity to the people owing to the curbing of violence and the better facilities provided for trade and commerce. He was also a secular king. Despite being a staunch Sikh, people of all faiths lived in peace during his reign.
- He was able to unite all of the Sikhs as a cohesive and strong fighting force.
- Ranjit Singh died in 1839 and the empire did not last long after that. The British were able to conquer the empire in 1849 after the Second Anglo-Sikh War.
Also on this day
1961: Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to travel to outer space. This day is observed as the International Day of Human Space Flight by the UN.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.