Main Issues of Ranjit Sikh Policy

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It is fascinating to note that some of Ranjit Singh’s Courtiers and Officials were individuals who had escaped from their past circumstances since they felt disappointed and mostly regarded with ordinary families. The Misr brothers, Diwan Sawan Mal and Diwan Chand, had related with common family. Obviously, the general population, holding the most elevated employments in Ranjit’s government, had strictly clung to their Hindu forms of religion. The Maharaja mostly depended upon those skilled Hindus who performed his jobs with devotion and related with the state. Diwan Mohkam Chand, Diwan Chand and Ram Dayal acted as top positioning military officers. Diwan Sawan Mal and Diwan Moti Ram were some of his best provincial Governors. Multan was ruled by a Governor who represented the Maharaja at all ceremonial occasions. Since Multan was conquered with very great difficulty and the Sikh State was militaristic so, mostly Governors were Kardars or military men.

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It was Ranjit Singh’s policy to temper as little as possible with the existing laws and traditions of his territories. An ideal and successful ruler is one who, to make his kingdom a peaceful State, established strong, organized and durable institutions. State institutions or pillars are considered the backbone in stability of the State. Three pillars or institutions, which are necessary for organized as well as everlasting government and better economy, are legislature, executive and judiciary. Without empowering these institutions, governmental system cannot run for a long time. Though Ranjit Singh, due to his power, intelligence and great struggle, founded a glorious dynasty, yet he failed to form these basic institutions properly. It is a fact that only institutions run the government not men because personalities come and go whilst the institutions exist.


Geographically and historically, Multan has kept its different uniqueness since times immemorial that made it a distinct area from the other parts of India. Seeing its political and financial conditions, it can be said that it had not only endured an exceptionally blooming district but was independent in its necessities. As one of the entrances to the Subcontinent, it had been a fountain of fascination for the foreign conquerors. Countless Hindu officials and courtiers, who served the Maharaja as well as his successors, were drawn from many groups like the Rajputs, the Brahmins, the Khatris and the Ghurkhas. In the cluster of Khatris, the most prominent were Diwan Mohkam Chand, Moti Ram, Ram Dayal, Diwan Bhawani Das, Diwan Devi Das, Diwan Sawan Mal and his son Diwan Mulraj. In the group of Brahmins, Diwan Dina Nath, Misr Diwan Chand and Diwan Ajodhya Prashad were holding a respectable place. After conquest of Lahore and downfall of the Bhangis, Maharaja Ranjit Singh tempted to march against Multan which was the religious capital of the Punjab. According to Chopra (1960), the Sikh regime was a landmark in the history of Multan because it considered a secular State. After six long centuries of Muslim rule, it passed into the hands of the Hindus in 1818. Being a secular minded, they not only closed the doors of the mosques for the Muslims but also committed enormous rape cases and killing of the Muslim women.

The Sikhs were not enlightened masters, yet the Hindus and Muhammadans considered their rule far better than the Afghans. I never opined that the Sikh rule was benevolent and good but it was, at any rate, better than the Pathans. During the Sikh rule in Multan, there is no doubt about the standard of life of all the classes. It, to a great extent, was the legacy of the Mughals and the Afghans who committed numerous atrocities. The Sikhs ruled in Multan for thirty one years. During this period, they were pre-occupied with military expeditions so, they could not devote and thought to ameliorate the ruthless condition of the people. From 1802 to 1818, almost eight assaults were made to overcome it, in which many General and Commandants participated. (Chopra, 1960) Some of these noticeable commandants, administrators and provincial Governors are as under whom participated in the attacks at Multan.

The land of Multan has been remained the target of insurgent activities of the foreign invaders and dictators. These foreign forces not only exploited its brave, hardworking, fearless and dauntless people but also divided it into pieces. They attracted the local people with the lust for earning and enrolled them in the army because their sole aim was to prepare them for fight against their accused enemies. These foreigners belonged to different religions, civilizations and geographical tracts. Multan has also enjoyed the Muslims rule for three centuries. During this period, it maintained its social, political and religious position but in 1707, after the death of Aurangzeb Alamgir, the Mughal Empire began to scatter. At last Ahmad Shah Abdali conquered Multan in 1752. In 1766, the Sikhs and the Afghans fought many battles but the most important and decisive adventure occurred in 1818. During this battle, Ranjit Singh conquered Multan and killed Muzaffar Khan, the governor of Multan, and succeeded in establishing the Sikh Raj here. The Sikhs, in such a way, looted, killed the masses and destroyed Multan that history will not face such kind of destruction and catastrophe. The political circumstance also stayed extremely melted and geo-political changes frequently occurred so that no unfaltering predominant proprietorship was made. Different Muslim feudal chiefs were staunch supporters of the Sikhs, yet this was not satisfactory to protect their control in the Punjab. During his regime in Multan, he appointed many Governors (Nazims) one after the other but no one, in prestige and reputation, could reach to Sawan Mal. After having been appointed the Governor of Multan, he reconstructed Multan and attended towards his subjects.

The motivation behind this work was that the era and area under examination has an extremely incredible importance in the history of Multan. The first half of the nineteenth century was a time of radical changes in Northern India and the Punjab, especially in Multan, which was dominated by the Sikhs. During proposed period, the Muslim rule was on the verge of closure and the new Sikh rulers were attempting to obtain the entire Subcontinent. Its main aim is to examine the role of invaders of Multan in promoting or demoting Sikh rule and development and is to highlight the origin and role of Ranjit Singh in history of Multan.

This period is momentous in the historical backdrop of Multan because it was the time of decay of the Mughal-Afghan reign and the rise of the Sikhs. They rose as autonomous rulers of the Punjab, including Lahore, Multan, Peshawar and Kashmir, by dint of their own arms and forecasted to build up a jurisdiction under Ranjit Singh. Multan stayed under Muslim power for about eight centuries, however, disappointingly, no steady and secured control could build up here and the populace, to a great extent, remained destitute, offensive and backward in perspective of socio-political and financial conditions. After the fold of the Mughal Empire, the bigger part of the Punjab was again attached to the Sikh kingdom. This work has a multidimensional structure in which local history, the attitude of trespassers towards people of Multan, traditions and its reaction has been covered. History of the Sikh rule in Multan indicates its hostility and, a long time ago, settled custom of communal bitterness. Local historians have also observed all the disparities and profound religious resentment in pre-colonial Punjab. For instance, the general population of Multan can be seen in the shape of three groups: the Muslims, the Hindus and the Sikhs, yet there was not a single parameter in native historian’s works by which we could separate the general population of Multan into social gatherings. The criteria, they utilized, ranged from sectarian belief, religion, occupation and tribe.

Other than this, the formation of local identity draws out the design of regional contrasts. Local history is productive for local studies. It, more extensively, highlights the regional conditions as well as present angle of dream to look at challenging situations. Furthermore the regional history, when a locality has more extensive part to play in its geographic situation, becomes significant to understand general histories.

Hari Singh Nalwa

One of the most famous invaders in Multan was General Hari Singh Nalwa. Sandhu (1935) describes that he, who was a notable warrior, born in 1791 in the Majha region of Gujranwala district. His father’s name was Gurdyal Singh and had a place with Uppal family and Sukarchakia Misl. After father’s death in 1798, Hari Singh was sent to Amrit Sanchar in 1801 to become a Sikh. In 1804, his mother dispatched him to Lahore Durbar to decide a property quarrel. (Sandhu, 1935) When Ranjit Singh came to know that Hari’s predecessors had served his descendants then he designated him at his Durbar as a private attendant. (Sandhu, 1935) It is said that when he was 14 years old, a tiger assaulted him and executed his horse. However, in these circumstances, he did not become nervous and he, after a tiresome battle, slaughtered the lion without any weapon. Because of this valour, he was given the title of Bagh Mar. (Sandhu, 1935)

Nayyar (1995) describes that his first and foremost contribution in the Sikh victory was the triumph of Kasur in 1807. After that Maharaja instructed him to seize Sialkot in which he was an autonomous commandant of 17 years old. (Nayyar, 1995) Under his leadership, Multan was assaulted by the Sikh armed forces on February 20, 1810. The fortress of Multan, engaged by Nawab Muzaffar Khan, was vigorously blasted, but it could not be intruded. However, Multan city remained under the Sikhs for a couple days. (Sandhu, 1935) In spite of substantial shooting from the fort, the Sikh fighters laid down mines beneath the wall at the hazard of their lives. These mines were kindled to break the wall of the fort. Ranjit himself participated in this combat. He stormed the citadel with assistance of the Sikh soldiers and the Nawab had to capitulation. All the regions across Jhelum River were captured by the Sikhs without much confrontation. (Sandhu, 1935)

Sandhu (1935) mentions that after this, the Maharaja turned his attention towards Peshawar. He, along with Hari Singh and Phula Singh, sent the troops to the North-West. Nonetheless, Dost Muhammad expelled Jahan Dad and acknowledged the sovereignty of the Maharaja. Hari Singh was delegated the Governor of Peshawar and he made numerous fortress there. (Sandhu, 1935) Then he seized Jamrod which was situated in Khyber Pass and also built a citadel there too. He built another stronghold here which adjoined Afghanistan. After a few day, he built Gurdawara Panja Sahib at Hassan Abdal too. (Sandhu, 1935) In 1820, he included Dera Ghazi Khan, Mankera, Hazara and some adjoining regions in the Sikh realm. Bahawalpur was also seized under his headship and after that he was made the Governor of Hazara. He went to Dera Ismail Khan and Dera Ghazi Khan to abandon his son Gurdit Singh. (Singh G. , 1949) After that he wished to capture Attock but the Sikh army, headed by Kharak Singh and Hari Singh, was obstructed by the Afghans. To stop the Sikh armed forces in reaching the war zone, they broke the Bridge of Attock River. (Sandhu, 1935)

In 1837, the last fight amongst the Sikhs and the Afghans occurred at Jamrod. The Afghan armed force, comprising of more than thirty thousand fighters under the charge of Mirza Shamir Khan, was sent to fort of Jamrod by Dost Muhammad. (Pearse, 1898) General Hari Singh was on bed rest at Peshawar because of his sickness. The Afghan military achieved Jamrod and began to siege the citadel on April 23, 1837. (Pearse, 1898) A savage fight occurred in which the Afghans were vanquished, yet, in this fight, Hari Singh died by his wounds on April 30, 1837. It was an extraordinary misfortune to the Sikhs as he was a wellspring of fear to the Afghans. (Pearse, 1898) He was burnt at Jamrod stronghold where his commemoration stands still. To hear the pitiful news of his demise, Maharaja Ranjit Singh with his wet eyes stated, “The best mainstay of the Sikh Raj had fallen.” It was the correct tribute to the immense General. It is an awesome credit to the designers of the Sikh Empire and its main pillar, Hari Sigh, from its head Maharaja Ranjit Singh. (Pearse, 1898)

Diwan Mohkam Chand

Diwan Mohkam Chand, the most expert, brave and recognized commander, ascended Ranjit Singh from a chief to the Emperor of the Punjab. He was not a warrior by birth but also the best of the Sikh Generals. He was a nasty enemy of the English who, with a great force, had been sent to Kangra. (Griffin, The Rajas of the Punjab being the History of the Principal States in the Punjab and their Political Relation with the British Government, 1870) He was the child of a Kochhar Khatri trader named Besakhi Mal of Kunjah in Gujarat. (Grewal & Banga, 1975) Furthermore, before to join the Maharaja’s service, he acted as a Munshi under Dal Singh of Akalgarh. (Suri, Umdat-ut-Tawarikh, 1887) He stayed with him till 1804, yet after his death, Ranjit Singh detained his States. Sehju, the widow of Dal Singh, hated him and demanded to audit the whole records about the management of the Akalgarh property. (Griffin, The Rajas of the Punjab being the History of the Principal States in the Punjab and their Political Relation with the British Government, 1870) He did not care to open a hostile investigation, yet he left the employment and joined the service of Sardar Sahib Singh Bhangi of Gujarat who named him Diwan. (Ali-ud-Din, 1963) After three years, he squabbled with the Sardar and was detained. (McGregor, 1864)

According to Chopra (1960), he, from 1806 to 1814, connected with all the military expeditions of the Maharaja. He, from joining Ranjit’s force to till his demise, was a consistent companion of the Emperor. When the Maharaja recognized his military then Mohkam Chand was deliberated the titles of Diwan and Fateh Nasib in 1812. (Chopra, 1960) He joined the endeavors of the Maharaja to the Cis-Sutlej domain in 1806 and 1807, Sialkot in 1808, Kangra in 1809 and Jalandhar in 1811. He participated in campaigns of 1812 and 1813 against Kashmir in conjunction with Fateh Khan, where he vanquished the Afghan Wazir at the war of Haidaru. (Wadehra, 1885) Other than this, he collected the Nazrana from Basoli, Rajouri, Kulu and Multan. In 1810, He went to Multan with the Maharaja, however the assault ended without result and Muzaffar Khan paid tribute.

In 1810, Mohkam Chand oppressed the state held by Kahn Singh Nakkai. (Kaur, 2011) The domain under the Nakkais was located amongst Multan and Kasur. It produced a yearly income of nine lakh rupees. The region comprised the villages of Chunia, Dipalpur, Satgarha, Sharkpur, Gogra and Kot Kamalia. Ranjit Singh sent him along with Kharak Singh to Multan and domains of the Nakkais to assume the charge. (Shah, 1848) Mohkam Chand directed Sardar Kahn Singh, the successor of Gian Singh Nakkai, to collect the tribute from Muzaffar Khan in the interest of the Lahore Durbar. (Shah, 1848) Hakam Rai, the Nakkai administrator, instantly moved towards Ranjit Singh with the demand that it was not suitable for Lahore forces to take army action against the Misl and promised to pay a huge Nazrana to the Maharaja. (Suri, Umdat-ut-Tawarikh, 1887) Though Kharak Singh was the maternal grandson of the Nakkais, yet the Maharaja answered that he does not had anything to do in that matter. Mohkam Chand vanquished the forces of Chunia, Dipalpur and Satgarha. Sardar Kahn Singh returned from Multan but at that time he lost his Misl from his hands. He was given a Jagir of twenty thousand rupees yearly. (Suri, Umdat-ut-Tawarikh, 1887)

Diwan Mohkam Chand was a phenomenal and executive governor of Jalandhar Doab. From 1806 to 1814, he was the man next in significance to the Maharaja. He expired on October 29, 1814, at Phillaur and his grave was built there in a garden. (Amarnath, 1928) At the time of his demise, he held a huge Jagir which gained yearly income of 642161 rupees. (Chhabra, 1962) He left behind one son, Diwan Moti Ram, and two grandsons, Diwan Ram Dayal and Diwan Kirpa Ram, who as well rendered a huge support of the Sikh State. Ranjit Singh had provided him an extraordinary elevation throughout his career. Griffin states that he, as a general, had been quite often effective and his executive talents were as awesome as his military ones. With his demise, the Maharaja lost his most faithful and committed worker. (Griffin, The Punjab Chiefs: Historical and Biographical Notices of the Principal Families, 1890)

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