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Maharaja Ranjit Singh: The Sikh Ruler, In The Eyes Of Non-Sikhs Essay, Research Paper
According to the famous historian Carlyle, a worthy sovereign should be judged from a sole factor as to how he employs his sword after being victorious.
Le Griffin writes that:
“Maharaja Ranjit Singh ruled his kingdom exactly according to the Sikh way of life and Sikhism considers everyone as friends and talks about the welfare of all irrespective of caste and creed.”
The spirit of Gurbani couplet, “The one Lord is the Father of all and we are the children of the one Lord rules supreme in every Sikh heart.” Charles Hugal, writes in his book, “Travels in Kashmir and Punjab”, that, “probably no person in the world could have established such a large empire with minimum bloodshed as Ranjit Singh has established his kingdom.”
Affirming Hugal’s views, Prinsep, also writes in his book, “Origin of Sikh Power in Punjab”, that, “Ranjit Singh’s whole career was free of any blemishes like unnecessary atrocities and cruel bloodshed.”
Historian R.S. Kanungo praising all the aspects of the Kingdom of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, in his writings says, “his empire was the kingdom for ‘Welfare for All’, in which all were equal sharing partners. In his kingdom there was no special love for Sikhs and no animosity for non-Sikhs. There were no special taxes on any caste to show it down from the other or to label it inferior.”
W.G. Osborne writes that, “Maharaja Ranjit Singh was so compassionate that outside a battle he did not kill anyone, so much so that in generosity he even forgave those who tried to kill him and felt happiness in forgiving.”
Charles Hugal in his book, “The Court and Camp of Ranjit Singh”, writes that,
“Ranjit Singh ruled his kingdom according to the Sikh tenets. All the important positions were given to Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, entirely based on merit. Even his main advisors were three famous Muslim brothers: Fakir Aziz-ud-Din, his foreign minister; Fakir Nur-ud-Din, his home minister; Fakir Imam-ud-Din, his custodian of the arsenals. Forty-six senior Army officers and two top ranking Generals were Muslims.
One General was French and score of military officers were Europeans. In police and civil services he has about one hundred Muslim officers alone. Hindus too, used to hold many key positions in Sarkar-e-Khalsa. Ranjit Singh was secular through-and-through.
Since he had lost his one eye in childhood, due to small pox, he used to remark jokingly about himself that,
“God Willed that as a true Sikh I should look upon all religions with one eye”.”
Sayyed Waheed-ud-Din, the great grandson of Fakir Aziz-ud-Din writes,
“On one occassion, Maharaja and Fakir were out walking on the outskirts of Lahore when they met a bullock cart carrying what looked like a huge book. The Maharaja stopped the cart and asked the driver, what he was carrying.
“Maharaja”, replied the driver, “I am a calligraphist and this book is a manuscript of the Holy Quran, which is my entire life’s work. I am on my way to Hyderabad to sell it to the Muslim king of that country.
Turning to Fakir Aziz-ud-Din the Maharaja said,
“This man seems to think that there is nobody on this side of Hyderabad who is pious and generous enough to pay him a good price”. He then asked the calligraphist, “How much are you expecting my good man?”
The calligraphist mentioned a huge sum of Rs. 10,000. Before the minister could intervene, Ranjit Singh commanded,
“Fakir ji, please see to it that this man is paid ten thousand rupees from the state treasury.” He then asked Fakir Aziz-ud-Din to read him a passage from the manuscript. Fakir read Sura ‘Yusaf’ and then translated it.
“But Fakir ji,” remarked the Maharaja, “The Great Granth says the same kind of things. What is the difference?”
“None, your Highness”, replied the Fakir, “The goal is the same, only the paths are different.” The Maharaja awarded Aziz-ud-Din, for this apt reply, by gifting him the manuscript.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh did not know about prejudice and sectarianism, that is why a Muslim poet like Shah Mohammed was not tired of praising him and lamented by recounting the virtues of Ranjit Singh on his death.
Another unparalled quality of Ranjit Singh was that any king or landlord who was defeated by him, Ranjit Singh instead of showing him down, used to show generosity and allot him landed property worth hundreds of thousands of rupees so as to pass life with dignity.
Defeated Afghan Governor Muhammad Khan, Nawab of Kasur Kutub-o-din, defeated son of Governor of Multan are apparent examples of Ranjit Singh’s benevolence.
According to N.K. Sinha,
“Maharaja Ranjit Singh used to give robe of honour to Qazis, Sayyeds, Ulmas and hermits so that they could keep on working for welfare and building the nation with full devotion and enthusiasm.”
Henry Lawrence in his book, “Adventures of an Officer in Punjab”, writes that:
“Maharaja Ranjit Singh used to give large properties to the defeated kings and keep them in a position to live a comfortable life, while others would enjoy to let their enemies suffer to the limit of defeat.”
“Ranjit Singh was full of humanity. He ruled by following the etiquettes of Sikhism and therefore he was generous, benevolent and a sympathiser.”
“He has been likened to Mehmet Ali and to Napoleon. There are some points in which he resembles both; but estimating his character with reference to his circumstances and positions, he is perhaps a more remarkable man than either. There was no ferocity in his disposition and he never punished a criminal with death even under the circumstances of aggravated offence. Humanity indeed, or rather tenderness for life was a trait in the character of Ranjit Singh. There is absolutely no instance of his having wantonly imbued his hands in blood.”
Maharaja was truely secular and democratic in ruling his kingdom and welfare of his subjects kept paramount importance in his performance agenda. There were 4000 schools in his Kingdom, which were all same for the children of all brotherhoods. Even English and French were taught so that students could communicate with the literature and culture of the outside world. The Maharaja gave a practical shape to the Sikh mentality. His empire, in the real meaning, was the kingdom of the people in which there was justice, happiness, dynamic power and universal partnership.
Waheed-ud-Din, quotes, two of Ranjit Singh’s orders which highlight his sense of justice and equality for his people. In one order he says, that even if His Highness himself issues an inappropriate order against any resident, it should be clearly brought to the notice of His Highness so that it may be amended……justice should be dispensed in accordance with legitimate right and without the slightest oppression and prejudice and orders should be passed in accordance with the Shatras or the Quran as pertinent to the faith of the party.
In his second decree, he frankly states that Sri Sat Guru ji forbid if His Highness or his beloved sons should commit any inappropriate act. It should be brought to the notice of His Highness.
Waheed-ud-Din considers these orders very unique in the sense that they do not even exclude the Emperor from the clutches of the law. History stands testimony that, Maharaja received lashes on his back in open view of the Sangat when the punishment was awarded to him by the Akal Takhat.
Vincent Smith, observes:
“The Punjab state under Ranjit Singh was neither a traditional Indian territorial state and monarchy, nor merely a dictatorship”.
For the Sikhs his rule was a “Haleemi Raj” i.e. a Kingdom ruled with utmost humility, kindliness and a sense of service to humanity.
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