Maharaja Ranjit Singh: From Humble Origins to the Glory of Empire


A brief overview of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's significance and impact on Sikh history and the Indian subcontinent.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh, known as "Sher-e-Punjab" (Lion of Punjab), was a prominent and revered leader in South Asia. He was born on November 13, 1780, in Gujranwala, now in Pakistan. Maharaja Ranjit Singh is best known for founding the Sikh Empire, which was centered in the Punjab region of South Asia.

Early Life and Background

  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh was born on November 13, 1780.
  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh's parents were Mahan Singh Sukerchakia and Raj Kaur. Mahan Singh Sukerchakia (also referred to as Maha Singh) was the chief of the Sukerchakia Misl, one of the Sikh confederacies in the Punjab region during the late 18th century. Ranjit Singh was born into this Sikh warrior clan, and the martial traditions of the Sikhs influenced his upbringing. Raj Kaur, his mother, played a role in his early life and upbringing. Ranjit Singh's parents belonged to the Sikh Jat community, which had a long history of military and martial traditions. Within this environment, Ranjit Singh was raised and developed the leadership qualities that would later shape his rule and the Sikh Empire he founded.
  • In the Punjab, in what is now eastern Pakistan and northwest India, Ranjit Singh's father was ruler of one of 14 Misls or kingdoms that emerged after the Mughal collapse. Twelve of the Misls, including Ranjit's Suckerchakia, were ruled by Sikhs; a Muslim ruled one, and one by the Irish sailor turned mercenary, George Thomas, the so-called "raja from Tipperary."
  • As a child, he grew up surrounded by the traditions of the Sikh martial culture, which emphasized physical fitness, martial arts, and the Sikh code of conduct. Ranjit Singh received education in Sikh martial arts and horse riding from a young age.
  • His early education focused on developing his physical and military skills, which were highly valued in the Sikh community.
  • He also received guidance on Sikh ethics and principles, including the importance of justice and equality.

Ranjit Singh's upbringing in this environment instilled in him the qualities of leadership, courage, and a deep sense of Sikh identity. These early experiences would shape his later life as a military leader and the founder of the Sikh Empire in the Punjab region.

In the historical text "Umdat ut-Tawarikh," the court historian Sohan Lal Suri describes an event that illustrates the courage of Ranjit Singh as a young boy of 13 years. The event occurred during a battle in 1793 when Ranjit Singh was still a teenager. Here is a summary of the event:

During a battle against a rival group, young Ranjit Singh displayed remarkable bravery. He was leading a charge on horseback when a bullet in the chest struck him. Despite the severe injury and heavy bleeding, Ranjit Singh did not falter. Instead, he continued to lead his troops and press forward.

Ranjit Singh's determination and courage in the face of adversity earned him the admiration and respect of those around him. This event is often an early example of his leadership qualities and unyielding commitment to the Sikh cause.

Sohan Lal Suri's account highlights Ranjit Singh's bravery and resilience from a young age, foreshadowing his future as a formidable military leader and the founder of the Sikh Empire.

  • In 1795, at age 15, Maharaja Ranjit Singh entered into matrimony with Mehtab Kaur. She was the daughter of Rani Sada Kaur, the widow of Sardar Gurbaksh Singh, the chief of the Kanhiyas misl. Rani Sada Kaur, known for her astute administrative skills, played a significant role in overseeing Maharaja Ranjit Singh's affairs for many years.
  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh's early exposure to Sikhism and military training played a crucial role in shaping his character and leadership skills. Here's an overview:
    1. Early Exposure to Sikhism: Ranjit Singh was born on November 13, 1780, in Gujranwala, now in Pakistan. He was born into a Sikh family, and from a young age, he was immersed in Sikh traditions and teachings. His mother, Mata Raj Kaur, played a significant role in his religious upbringing and education. He learned about the tenets of Sikhism, the importance of equality, and the principles of justice and compassion.
    2. Military Training: Ranjit Singh's father, Mahan Singh, was the chief of the Sukerchakia Misl, one of the Sikh confederacies. Under his father's guidance, young Ranjit began receiving military training. This early exposure to warfare and leadership was instrumental in preparing him for his future role as an army commander.
    3. Leadership within the Sukerchakia Misl: After his father died in 1792, Ranjit Singh assumed leadership of the Sukerchakia Misl at the tender age of 12. This early experience of leading a Sikh misl allowed him to develop his leadership skills and gain practical knowledge of governance and warfare.
    4. Capture of Lahore: One of Ranjit Singh's early military achievements was the capture of Lahore in 1799 when he was just 18 years old. This marked a significant turning point in his career, as Lahore became his capital and the base from which he would eventually establish the Sikh Empire.
    5. Alliance with Other Sikh Misls: Ranjit Singh recognized the need for unity among the various Sikh misls to counter external threats. He skillfully negotiated alliances with other misls, gradually consolidating his power and expanding his territory.
    6. Religious Tolerance: Ranjit Singh's leadership was marked by religious tolerance. Despite being a devout Sikh, he ensured that his subjects, regardless of their faith, enjoyed religious freedom and equal treatment under his rule. This inclusivity policy helped him gain the support of diverse communities within his empire.

Rise to Power

  • Ranjit Singh ascended to power in the early 19th century and established his rule over a fragmented Punjab. His rise to power marked the end of the turbulent period of regional conflicts and the beginning of a unified Sikh state.
  • In the late 18th century, Punjab was marked by political fragmentation and social upheaval. Here's a summary of the political and social context during this period: Political Context:
    1. Sikh Misls: Punjab was divided into small territories controlled by a Sikh misl or confederacy. These misls were essentially self-governing and often engaged in conflicts with each other and external powers.
    2. External Threats: The region faced external threats from various quarters, including the Afghan and Persian invasions. The frequent incursions by foreign powers contributed to the instability of Punjab.
    3. Absence of Central Authority: Punjab had no central authority or unified government. This power vacuum allowed different misls to assert their authority and vie for control.

    Social Context:

    1. Religious Diversity: Punjab was characterized by religious diversity, with Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, and others coexisting in the region. This diversity influenced the socio-cultural fabric of Punjab.
    2. Caste System: The caste system played a significant role in social hierarchies. The society was divided into various castes, each with social and economic status.
    3. Agriculture-Centric Economy: Agriculture was the backbone of Punjab's economy. The fertile land and the extensive canal system built during the Mughal era supported a thriving rural economy.
    4. Emergence of Sikhism: Sikhism, founded by Guru Nanak in the 15th century, continued to gain followers in Punjab. The Sikhs, inspired by their Gurus, played an influential role in the region's socio-political dynamics.
    5. Role of Jats: The Jats, an agricultural community, significantly influenced Punjab. They were known for their martial traditions and often played critical roles in the Sikh misls.
    6. Conflict and Instability: The frequent disputes among the misls, invasions by external powers, and the absence of a central authority contributed to insecurity and instability in Punjab.
  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh's early military campaigns and alliances were instrumental in his rise to power and the eventual establishment of the Sikh Empire in Punjab. Here are some key campaigns and collaborations from his early military career:
    1. Capture of Lahore (1799): One of Ranjit Singh's earliest and most significant military achievements was the capture of Lahore in 1799 when he was just 18 years old. This marked the beginning of his expansionist efforts. Lahore would later become the capital of his empire.
    2. Conflict with the Bhangi Misl: Ranjit Singh faced initial opposition from the Bhangi Misl, led by Sardar Gujjar Singh. However, he defeated Gujjar Singh's forces and solidified his control over Lahore and its surrounding regions.
    3. Alliance with Kanhaiya Misl: Ranjit Singh formed a strategic alliance with the Kanhaiya Misl, led by Sardar Jai Singh Kanhaiya. This alliance provided him with additional military support and helped him expand his influence.
    4. Battle of Amritsar (1802): Ranjit Singh struggled with the combined forces of the Bhangi and Kanhaiya Misls near Amritsar. Despite initial setbacks, he emerged victorious, further consolidating his power.
    5. Conflict with the Sukerchakia Misl: Ranjit Singh initially faced resistance from his own family's Sukerchakia Misl, led by his cousin Sardar Sahib Singh. However, he managed to assert his authority and unite the Sukerchakia forces under his leadership.
    6. Alliance with Other Sikh Misls: Ranjit Singh recognized the need for unity among the various Sikh misls to counter external threats. He skillfully negotiated alliances with several misls, gradually expanding his territorial control.
    7. The Capture of Multan (1818): Ranjit Singh's forces captured the city in 1818 after a protracted siege. This victory further extended his influence into southern Punjab.
    8. Alliance with General Hari Singh Nalwa: Ranjit Singh forged a close alliance with General Hari Singh Nalwa, a capable military commander. Nalwa played a crucial role in many of Ranjit Singh's successful campaigns, including the conquest of Peshawar.
  • The consolidation of power in the Punjab region under Maharaja Ranjit Singh marked a significant phase in the history of the Sikh Empire. Here's an overview of what happened during this period:
    1. Expansion of Territory: Ranjit Singh embarked on a series of military campaigns to expand his territory. Through a combination of military conquests and strategic alliances, he gradually brought various Sikh misls and regions under his control. His empire expanded to include present-day Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir territories, parts of Himachal Pradesh, and parts of present-day Pakistan.
    2. Capture of Key Cities: Ranjit Singh's forces captured important cities and strongholds, including Lahore, Amritsar, Multan, and Peshawar. These conquests played a crucial role in extending his influence over the region.
    3. Administration and Governance: Ranjit Singh established a centralized administration with a solid military and civil governance focus. He appointed capable officials and administrators to manage different aspects of his empire, ensuring effective rule.
    4. Religious Tolerance: Despite being a Sikh ruler, Ranjit Singh was known for his religious tolerance. He promoted a policy of religious freedom and respect for all communities, including Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. This policy helped in maintaining social harmony within his diverse empire.
    5. Infrastructure Development: Ranjit Singh initiated several infrastructure projects, including constructing forts, canals, and roads. The structure of the famous Ranjit Sagar Dam (also known as the Thein Dam) is one notable example of his commitment to infrastructure development.
    6. Cultural Patronage: The Maharaja was a patron of the arts and culture. He supported the development of Punjabi literature, music, and art. His court attracted poets, scholars, and artists who contributed to the region's cultural richness.
    7. Peshawar Campaign (1834): One of Ranjit Singh's most notable military achievements was the capture of Peshawar in 1834. This strategic city had been under Afghan control, and its capture marked a significant expansion of the Sikh Empire's western boundaries.
    8. Relations with the British: Ranjit Singh maintained relatively stable relations with the British East India Company. He signed the Treaty of Amritsar in 1846, establishing a formal alliance with the British. This treaty recognized the British influence in some areas of the Punjab.
    9. Death and Succession: Maharaja Ranjit Singh passed away in 1839. His death was followed by internal strife and power struggles among his successors and generals, weakening the empire's cohesion.
  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh was a brilliant military strategist and leader. He expanded his kingdom through a series of successful military campaigns and alliances. His formidable Khalsa Army, composed of well-disciplined Sikh soldiers, played a pivotal role in his conquests.
  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh is known for bringing Sikhs together and establishing the affluent Sikh Empire. Rebuilding the Harmandir Sahib, famously known as the Golden Temple, in Amritsar and other significant gurudwaras like the Takht Sri Patna Sahib in Bihar and the Hazur Sahib Nanded in Maharashtra under his patronage is part of his lasting cultural and artistic legacy.
Photo: storytimes. co

Administration and Reforms

Overview of Ranjit Singh's administrative policies.

  • Religious tolerance and patronage. One of his notable attributes was his commitment to religious tolerance. Despite being a Sikh ruler, he ensured that people of different faiths, including Hindus and Muslims, enjoyed religious freedom and equal treatment in his empire.
  • Ranjit Singh introduced a range of administrative and economic reforms in his empire. He centralized power, established a strong bureaucracy, and promoted trade and agriculture. His rule saw the flourishing of arts and culture in the Punjab region.
  • He was a patron of the arts and supported Sikh culture and heritage. Under his rule, significant architectural and cultural achievements, such as the Golden Temple in Amritsar, were realized.
  • Relations with the British: Ranjit Singh maintained a delicate balance of power with the British East India Company, which controlled much of India at the time. His diplomacy and military strength allowed him to maintain autonomy in his region.
  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh implemented several economic and agricultural reforms during his reign to improve the economic prosperity of his kingdom. Some of the key reforms include:
    1. Land Revenue System: Ranjit Singh introduced a fair and equitable land revenue system. Land revenue was fixed based on the quality and fertility of the land, and it was assessed periodically to ensure that it remained reasonable for the farmers. This system provided stability to the rural economy and encouraged agricultural productivity.
    2. Irrigation Projects: Recognizing the importance of irrigation in agriculture, Ranjit Singh initiated several irrigation projects. Canals and watercourses were constructed to ensure a consistent water supply to farmlands. The construction of the Upper Bari Doab Canal is a notable example of his efforts to promote agriculture through irrigation.
    3. Encouragement of Agriculture: Ranjit Singh encouraged agriculture by providing incentives to farmers. He offered farmers grants and loans to purchase seeds, equipment, and livestock. This support helped to improve agricultural practices and crop yields.
    4. Rehabilitation of Wasteland: The Maharaja initiated projects to reclaim and cultivate wasteland—this involved clearing and cultivating previously uncultivated or barren land to expand agricultural production.
    5. Support for Horticulture: Ranjit Singh promoted horticulture by establishing fruit orchards, particularly in Kashmir. He encouraged the cultivation of fruits like apples and cherries, which became essential cash crops.
    6. Silk Production: The Maharaja promoted silk production by establishing silk farms. This initiative aimed to reduce the dependence on imported silk and boost the local silk industry.
    7. Trade and Commerce: Ranjit Singh supported trade and commerce by improving transportation infrastructure, including roads and bridges. This facilitated the movement of goods within his empire and with neighboring regions.
    8. Coinage and Currency: He issued his coinage, which helped standardize currency within his kingdom and promote trade.
    9. Tax Reforms: The Maharaja reviewed and reformed the tax system to make it more equitable. Taxes were levied based on a person's income and property, and efforts were made to curb corruption in tax collection.
    10. Encouragement of Industry: Ranjit Singh encouraged the establishment of various industries, including textiles and metalwork. This diversification of economic activities contributed to the overall economic growth of his kingdom.
  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh is credited with organizing and modernizing the Khalsa Army, transforming it into a formidable military force. Here's how he went about collecting the Khalsa Army:
    1. Professionalization: Ranjit Singh recognized the need to professionalize the Khalsa Army. He recruited soldiers based on merit and loyalty rather than hereditary considerations. This marked a departure from traditional feudal armies.
    2. Unified Command: He established a centralized command structure as the supreme commander. This ensured unity of command and efficient decision-making during military campaigns.
    3. Modernization: The Maharaja introduced modern military techniques and training methods. He sought the expertise of European officers, including French and Italian officers, to train and modernize his troops.
    4. Artillery: Recognizing the importance of batteries in warfare, Ranjit Singh acquired and developed a formidable artillery corps. He employed European experts to manufacture cannons and train gunners.
    5. Cavalry: The Sikh cavalry, known as the "Ghora Fauj," was a vital army component. Ranjit Singh expanded and modernized the cavalry, making it one of the region's most skilled and feared cavalry units.
    6. Infantry: The infantry, known as the "Pedestrian Fauj," was also reorganized and equipped with modern weaponry. Ranjit Singh introduced drill and discipline in infantry units.
    7. Engineering Corps: He established an engineering corps to build forts, construct roads, and lay siege to enemy fortifications. This corps played a crucial role in military campaigns.
    8. Logistics and Supply: Ranjit Singh paid close attention to logistics and supply lines. He ensured his armies were well-provisioned during campaigns, contributing to their success.
    9. Tactics: The Maharaja adapted his military tactics to suit different terrains and enemies. His Army was known for its flexibility and adaptability to changing battlefield conditions.
    10. Fortifications: Ranjit Singh invested in constructing and fortifying key strongholds, including the famed Lahore Fort. These fortifications served as strategic bases for his military operations.
    11. Merit-Based Promotion: Promotion within the Army was based on merit and performance rather than social status. This motivated soldiers to excel in their duties.
    12. Religious Tolerance: Ranjit Singh's Army was known for its religious diversity, with Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims serving alongside each other. He promoted religious tolerance in the military, fostering unity.
    13. Expanding Territory: Under his leadership, the Khalsa Army embarked on successful military campaigns to raise the Sikh Empire's territory, capturing key regions in present-day Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, and parts of northwest India.

Military Campaigns

    1. Early Conquests: Ranjit Singh's military campaigns began at a young age when he captured territories in the Punjab region. He established authority over several Sikh misls (confederacies) and neighboring areas.
    2. Annexation of Lahore: One of his most significant achievements was the annexation of Lahore in 1799. Lahore became the capital of his empire, and its capture marked the beginning of the consolidation of his rule.
    3. Capture of Multan: Ranjit Singh's forces captured Multan in 1818, a city ruled by Afghan forces. This conquest expanded his influence further into western Punjab.
    4. Northwestern Expansion: The Maharaja extended his rule into the northwest frontier regions, including Peshawar and Attock. These strategic areas brought the Sikh Empire into contact with the British Empire and the Afghan Durrani Empire.
    5. Kashmir Acquisition: In 1819, Ranjit Singh's forces entered the Kashmir Valley, leading to the annexation of Kashmir. The region became an integral part of his empire.
    6. Occupation of Jammu: Jammu was incorporated into the Sikh Empire in 1820 after the region was captured. This further expanded the empire's territory.
    7. Sindh Campaign: In 1821, Ranjit Singh launched a campaign to conquer Sindh, a region south of Punjab. Though the campaign faced resistance, it contributed to the empire's expansion.
    8. Conquests in the North: The Maharaja's armies moved northward, capturing territories in present-day Himachal Pradesh and parts of Tibet. This northern expansion solidified Sikh control over the Himalayan regions.
    9. Northwestern Frontiers: Ranjit Singh's ambitions extended into the northwest frontier areas. He aimed to secure strategic trade routes and maintain control over the region, which was a crucial buffer against external threats.
    10. Treaty with the British: Recognizing the strength of the British Empire, Ranjit Singh signed the Treaty of Amritsar in 1846, ceding territory to the British in exchange for protection against external enemies. This marked the beginning of British influence in the region.
    11. Legacy of Expansion: By his death in 1839, Maharaja Ranjit Singh had expanded the Sikh Empire to its zenith, encompassing vast territories in the Indian subcontinent. His leadership and military prowess played a pivotal role in shaping the empire's borders and influence.Maharaja Ranjit Singh played a pivotal role in expanding the Sikh Empire during his reign. Here's a summary of his involvement in the expansion of the Sikh Empire:
  • Conquests:
    • Maharaja Ranjit Singh embarked on a series of military campaigns to expand his influence and consolidate the Sikh Empire.
    • His conquests extended from his early successes in the Punjab region to the northwestern frontiers and beyond.

    Capture of Lahore:

    • In 1799, Ranjit Singh achieved a significant milestone by capturing Lahore, a major city in the Punjab.
    • Lahore became the capital of his empire, and its capture marked the beginning of his quest to unite the Punjab under his rule.
    • The capture of Lahore was crucial in consolidating his power, as it served as a strategic and cultural center.

    The capture of Amritsar:

    • In 1802, Maharaja Ranjit Singh's forces captured Amritsar, a sacred city for Sikhs and the site of the Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib).
    • The capture of Amritsar was a symbolic and strategic triumph, as it allowed Ranjit Singh to gain control over this religious and cultural center.
    • Ranjit Singh ensured the safety and preservation of the Golden Temple, earning the respect and support of the Sikh community.

    These conquests of Lahore and Amritsar were pivotal moments in Ranjit Singh's rise to power and the expansion of the Sikh Empire. They began his efforts to bring various Sikh misls (confederacies) and regions under his rule, ultimately establishing a unified and powerful Sikh state in the Punjab region.

  • During his rule, Maharaja Ranjit Singh's relations with neighboring states and powers were characterized by a complex mix of diplomacy, military campaigns, and shifting alliances. Here's an overview of his relations with crucial neighboring states and powers:1. British East India Company:
    • Ranjit Singh maintained a pragmatic relationship with the British East India Company, which controlled vast territories in India.
    • In 1809, he signed a treaty with the British, recognizing the Sutlej River as the boundary between his empire and British-controlled territories.
    • This treaty established cooperation and non-interference between the two powers, which helped him focus on other fronts.

    2. Afghanistan:

    • Relations with Afghanistan, notably the Durrani Empire, were often strained. Ranjit Singh sought to expand his influence into Afghanistan, leading to conflicts along the frontier.
    • The most significant conflict was the Battle of Jamrud in 1837, where Ranjit Singh's forces unsuccessfully attempted to capture the Khyber Pass.

    3. Tibet:

    • Ranjit Singh extended his influence into Tibet, and his forces captured territories in the Tibetan region of Ladakh.
    • This expansion led to trade relations and increased Sikh control over Himalayan regions.

    4. Kashmir:

    • The annexation of Kashmir in 1819 brought this region under Sikh control. Ranjit Singh's rule in Kashmir had mixed results, with some periods of stability and others marked by unrest.

    5. Internal Rivalry:

    • Ranjit Singh faced internal challenges from rival Sikh leaders and chiefs of various misls. He skillfully navigated these rivalries, using diplomacy and military might to unite the Sikh factions under his rule.

    6. Maratha Empire:

    • By the time of Ranjit Singh's rule, the Maratha Empire was in decline. Although there were no significant conflicts, the Marathas had lost much of their influence in northern India.

    7. Central Asia:

    • Ranjit Singh maintained diplomatic relations with Central Asian powers, including the Khanates of Bukhara and Khiva. These interactions primarily revolved around trade and diplomacy.

    Overall, Maharaja Ranjit Singh's foreign relations were marked by a balance of power, military conquests, and diplomacy. His ability to consolidate power within the Punjab region and maintain a relatively stable relationship with the British allowed the Sikh Empire to flourish for a time. However, after he died in 1839, the empire faced internal strife and external pressures that would ultimately lead to its decline and annexation by the British in the mid-19th cent

  • 1834, Mohammed Azim Khan again attempted an attack on Peshawar with an army of 25,000 composed of Khattak and Yasufzai tribe members. The Maharaja defeated the forces.
  • In December 1809, he went to the aid of Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra in the Lesser Himalayas (in what is now western Himachal Pradesh state) and, after defeating an advancing Ghurka force, acquired Kangra for himself. In 1813, he joined a Bārakzay Afghan expedition into Kashmir. Although the Bārakzays betrayed him by keeping Kashmir for themselves
  • His empire grew in the Punjab region under his leadership through 1839.
  • Ranjit Singh Maharaja of Punjab Maharaja of Lahore Sher-e-Punjab (Lion of Punjab) Sher-e-Hind (Lion of Hind) Sarkar-i-Wallah (Head of State)

Personal Life and Legacy

  • Family life and marriages.
  • How many wives did he have? To ensure internal stability in the empire, Ranjit married women aged 16 to 44 — all from the region's ruling family. Plural weddings were common practice during Punjabi adage and symbol of prestige. The Army had been modernized and reformated to ensure internal protection, and the British were seeking to sign an agreement establishing the firmly defined boundary in the Sutlej River and sometimes coordinated against their common enemy, the Afghan Army. Ranjit Singh became famous after his impressive sikh expansion. Ranjit Singh had as many as 46 wives, according to an interview with his youngest son, Maharaja Duleep Singh.
  • Maharani Jindan (Jind Kaur) was his favorite wife who played an important role after his passing.
  • Ranjit Singh is a patron of the arts and culture.
  • Assessment of his leadership and legacy.
  • His death and the decline of the Sikh Empire.
  • Death and Legacy: Maharaja Ranjit Singh died on June 27, 1839. After his death, his empire began to decline, eventually succumbing to British influence. However, his legacy as a unifying leader and military genius endures, and he is celebrated as a symbol of Sikh pride and resilience. Maharaja Ranjit Singh's life and reign remain a significant chapter in the history of the Indian subcontinent, particularly in the Punjab region. His leadership, military prowess, and commitment to religious harmony are remembered and admired today. Named the Greatest World Leader According to a BBC survey, Maharaja Ranjit Singh has been named the 'greatest world leader.' The editor of BBC World Histories Magazine, Matt Elton, wrote, 'Ranjit Singh's overwhelming success in our poll suggests that the qualities of his leadership continue to inspire people worldwide in the 21st century. Five thousand scholars worldwide participated in this poll, including eminent historians like Matthew Lockwood, Margaret MacMillan, and Gus Casely-Hayford. Ranjit Singh received 38 percent votes. The second-best got only 25. The top 20, way below the line, included Joan of Arc, Mughal emperor Akbar, Russian empress Catherine the Great, and US President Abraham Lincoln.


The lasting impact and historical significance of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's rule and achievements are profound and enduring:

What did Ranjit Singh do for Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus?

But in this religiously diverse region, armed forces could not guarantee stability. Ranjit Singh thus struck a delicate balance between a loyal Sikh leader's role and his desire for the protection and support of his empire's Islam and Hindu people. The Sikh also began an effort to restore Sikh temples, including the restoration of the Harmandir shams (** should be Sahib), the Golden Temple in Amritsar marble (1809) and gold (1833) and also donated several other gifts to a charitable organization. He favored Hindu temples, mosques, and Sufis shrines and banned the slaughtering of animals.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh lost sight in one of his eyes due to an injury he sustained during a battle in his youth. The incident occurred when he was just 12 years old. During a skirmish, he was hit by a ball of hard clay fired from a slingshot, which struck his left eye. Despite receiving medical attention, including treatment by European doctors, the injury resulted in permanent blindness in that eye.

Despite this setback, Ranjit Singh continued to grow and develop as a military and political leader, ultimately establishing the Sikh Empire and becoming a prominent figure in South Asian history. His determination and resilience in adversity contributed to his reputation as a strong and capable ruler.

The gold and marble work of Amritsar's iconic 'Golden Temple' was also done under his patronage.

The Golden Temple, also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib, is the holiest shrine in Sikhism and a prominent religious and cultural landmark in India. Over the centuries, it has undergone various construction, renovation, and preservation efforts. Here is an overview of the work done on the Golden Temple:

  1. Foundation and Early Construction: The foundation of the Golden Temple was laid by Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru, in the late 16th century. Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru, initiated the temple's construction in 1588. The temple was designed to symbolize equality, spirituality, and community service.
  2. Golden Plating: The most iconic feature of the Golden Temple is its gilded exterior. Maharaja Ranjit Singh initiated the gold plating of the temple's dome and upper floors in the early 19th century. Various Sikh devotees donated the gold. The gilding process was completed in 1830, giving the temple its distinctive appearance.
  3. Architecture: The Golden Temple is known for its unique architecture, which combines elements of Hindu, Islamic, and Sikh styles. The temple complex includes a central pool (Amrit Sarovar), a causeway (Guru's Bridge), and the main sanctum (Darbar Sahib). The temple's four entrances symbolize openness and inclusivity.
  4. Renovations and Expansion: Over the years, the Golden Temple has undergone numerous renovations and expansions to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims. The temple complex has been expanded to include additional buildings, dormitories, and visitor facilities.
  5. Preservation: Efforts are continually made to preserve and maintain the temple's structural integrity and artistic heritage. Skilled artisans and craftsmen work on the maintenance and restoration of the temple's artwork, frescoes, and decorative elements.
  6. Community Service: The Golden Temple is a place of worship and a center for community service. The Langar (community kitchen) serves free meals to thousands of visitors daily, irrespective of their background. This tradition of selfless service has been a hallmark of the Golden Temple for centuries.
  7. Modern Amenities: In recent years, modern amenities such as a visitor center, museum, and improved facilities for pilgrims have been added to enhance the overall experience for visitors.
  8. Environmental Initiatives: Efforts have been made to make the Golden Temple complex more eco-friendly. Solar panels, for example, have been installed to harness renewable energy.

The Golden Temple symbolizes Sikhism's equality, service, and devotion values. It attracts millions of visitors and pilgrims worldwide, making it one of the most visited religious sites globally. The ongoing care and preservation of the temple are essential to maintain its significance and beauty for future generations.