Sikh Empire

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Map of the Sikh Empire within the map of Pakistan.

The Sikh Empire was an empire in the Punjab region of Pakistan, and also covered some areas of India and Tibet.[1] It lasted from 1799, when Maharaja Ranjit Singh captured Lahore, until 1849, when the British East India Company defeated it in the Second Anglo-Sikh War. The empire stretched from Gilgit and Tibet in the north to the deserts of Sindh in the south and from the Khyber Pass in the west to the Sutlej in the east.[2][3]

The empire was divided into four provinces; Lahore, Multan, Peshawar, and Kashmir and had a diverse population of around 4.5 million in 1831, with Muslims being the majority at 70% and Sikhs at 6%.[4] The British Empire annexed it, marking the end of Sikh rule in the Indo-Pak subcontinent.[5]

The empire's origins trace back to the capture of Lahore from Zaman Shah Durrani, and Ranjit Singh became Maharaja in 1801. Expelling Afghans and unifying Sikh misls, he modernized the army with advanced training and weaponry. However, after his death, internal divisions and political mismanagement weakened the empire. The British East India Company took advantage, and in 1849, the Sikh Empire fell after losing the Second Anglo-Sikh War.[6][7]

History[change | change source]

Samadhi (tomb) of Ranjit Singh, the founder of Sikh Empire in Lahore, Pakistan.

The Sikh Empire officially started in 1801 when the Misls united to form a single state.[8] The leaders of the Misls, linked to the army, were usually from noble families with a long history in Sikh and Muslim traditions.[9]

The empire covered the Punjab region to the west, Khyber Pass, Kashmir in the north, Sindh in the south, and Tibet in the east. In 1799, Ranjit Singh moved the capital from Gujranwala to Lahore, previously established by his grandfather in 1763. Ranjit Singh annexed the Sial State in 1807 after invading Jhang, citing a conspiracy between the local ruler and Nawab Muzaffar Khan of Multan.[10]

Hari Singh Nalwa served as the Commander-in-Chief of the Sikh Khalsa Army from 1825 to 1837.[11] He played a key role in conquering various regions and securing the Koh-i-Noor diamond. Nalwa expanded the empire's frontier to the Indus River, and at the time of his death, the western boundary was the Khyber Pass.[12]

Timeline[change | change source]

Potrait of Fakir Azizuddin, the Foreign Minister of Sikh Empire.

Administration[change | change source]

Detail from ‘Darbar (royal court) of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’, gouache, ca.1850

The empire was divided into various provinces (known as Subas), them namely being:[13]

No. Name Estimated population (1838) Major population centre
1. Lahore Suba 1,900,000 Lahore
2. Multan Suba 750,000 Multan
3. Peshawar Suba 550,000 Peshawar
4. Derajat Suba 600,000 Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan
5. Jammu and Hill States Suba 1,100,000 Srinagar

List of rulers[change | change source]

S. No. Name Portrait Birth and death Reign Note
1 Maharaja Ranjit Singh 13 November 1780 (Gujranwala) 27 June 1839 (Lahore) 12 April 1801 27 June 1839 38 years, 76 days The first Sikh ruler Stroke
2 Maharaja Kharak Singh 22 February 1801 (Lahore) 5 November 1840 (Lahore) 27 June 1839 8 October 1839 103 days Son of Ranjit Singh Poisoning
3 Maharaja Nau Nihal Singh 11 February 1820 (Lahore) 6 November 1840 (Lahore) 8 October 1839 6 November 1840 1 year, 29 days Son of Kharak Singh Assassinated
4 Maharani Chand Kaur
1802 (Fatehgarh Churian) 11 June 1842 (Lahore) 6 November 1840 18 January 1841 73 days Wife of Kharak Singh and the only female ruler of Sikh Empire Abdicated
5 Maharaja Sher Singh 4 December 1807 (Batala) 15 September 1843 (Lahore) 18 January 1841 15 September 1843 2 years, 240 days Son of Ranjit Singh Assassinated
6 Maharaja Duleep Singh 6 September 1838 (Lahore) 22 October 1893 (Paris) 15 September 1843 29 March 1849 5 years, 195 days Son of Ranjit Singh Exiled
7 Maharani Jind Kaur
(regent; nominal)
1817 (Gujranwala) 1 August 1863 (Kensington) 15 September 1843 29 March 1849 5 years, 195 days Wife of Ranjit Singh Exiled

References[change | change source]

  1. "Ranjit Singh: A Secular Sikh Sovereign | Exotic India Art". Retrieved 2024-01-04.
  2. Gupta, Hari Ram (1991). History of the Sikhs. Munshiram Manoharlal. ISBN 978-81-215-0540-6.
  3. Singh, Khushwant (2004). History of the Sikhs. Oxford University Press. pp. viii. ISBN 978-0195673081.
  4. Dalziel, Nigel; MacKenzie, John M, eds. (2016-01-11). The Encyclopedia of Empire (1 ed.). Wiley. doi:10.1002/9781118455074.wbeoe314. ISBN 978-1-118-44064-3.
  5. Melton, J. Gordon (2014-01-15). Faiths Across Time [4 Volumes]: 5,000 Years of Religious History [4 Volumes]. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-61069-026-3.
  6. Fenech, Louis E. (2013-01-31). The Sikh Zafar-namah of Guru Gobind Singh: A Discursive Blade in the Heart of the Mughal Empire. OUP USA. ISBN 978-0-19-993145-3.
  7. Khilnani, N. M. (1972). British Power in the Punjab, 1839-1858. Asia Publishing House. ISBN 978-0-210-27187-2.
  8. "History of Sikhism". 2014-05-08. Archived from the original on 2014-05-08. Retrieved 2024-01-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  9. Lawrence-Archer, J. H. (James Henry) (1878). Commentaries on the Punjab Campaign, 1848-49. Including some additions to the history of the Second Sikh War, from original sources. University of California Libraries. London : W.H. Allen.
  10. Cavendish, Marshall (2006). World and Its Peoples. Marshall Cavendish. ISBN 978-0-7614-7571-2.
  11. Fenech, Louis E. (2013-01-31). The Sikh Zafar-namah of Guru Gobind Singh: A Discursive Blade in the Heart of the Mughal Empire. OUP USA. ISBN 978-0-19-993145-3.
  12. "Ranjit Singh", 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, vol. 22, retrieved 2024-01-04
  13. Herrli, Hans (1993). The Coins of the Sikhs. p. 10.