'Raja Ranjit Singh' The Last Arya King of North India
|Empire of Raja Ranjit Singh
|Black Area signifies the empire of Ranjit Singh
Punjab presented a picture of chaos and confusion when Arya Ranjit Singh took reins of Sukerchikias misal. The edifice of Ahmad Shah abdali's empire in India had crumbled. Afghanistan was dismembered. Peshawar and Kashmir though under the suzerainty of Afghanistan had attained de facto independence. Barakzais were the masters of these places. Attack was ruled by Wazrikhels and Jhang lay at the feet of Sials. Pathans were ruling Kasur. Multan had thrown yoke and Nawab Muzaffar Khan had taken its charge. The Afghans had plundered the towns and villages as they had vowed and declared openly that they would exterminate the Sikhs; but in the process the Muslims suffered most as Hindus and Sikhs had already left for the hills. The Muslims thought that they would not be touched but their hopes were belied and their provisions were forcible taken away by the Afghans.
Both Punjab and Sind were under Afghan rule since 1757 after Ahmad Shah abdali was granted suzerainty over these two provinces. They were confronted with the rising power of Siksh in PUnjab. Taimur Khan, a local Governer was able to turn away Sikhs from Amritsar. He razed to the ground the fort of Ram Rauni. But this state of affairs did not last long and the Sikh missal joined hands and defeated Taimur Shah and his Chief minister Jalal Khan. The Afghans were forced to retreat and Lahore was occupied by the Sikhs in 1758, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia proclaimed Sikh's sovereignty and became its head. He struck coins to commemorate his victory.
When Ahmad Shah Abdali was engaged in his campaign against the Marathas at Panipat in 1761, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia plundered Sirhind and Dialpur, seized some places in Ferozepur district and took under his possesion Jagraon and Kot Isa Khan on the other bank of Sutlej. He captured Hoshioarpur and Naraingurh in Ambala and levied tribute from the chief of Kapurthala. He then marched towards Jhang. Sial chief offered stout resistance. When Ahmad Shah left in Feb 1761, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia again attacked Sirhind and extended his territory as fas as Tarn Taran. He crossed Bias and capture Sultanpur. In 1762, Ahmad Shah again appeared and a fierce battle took place. It is called Ghalughara, a great holocaust. Jassa singh fled to Kangra hills after Sikh forces were totally routed. After the departure of Ahmad Shah Abdali, Jassa Singh Ahluwali attacked Sirhind, it was razed to ground and the afghan Governer Zen Khan was killed. This was a great victory to Sikhs who were rulers of all the area around the Sirhind. Jassa Singh hostility paid visit to Hari Mandir at Amritsar, and he made amends and restored it to original shape as it was defiled by Ahmad Shah by slaughtering cows in its precincts.
Ahmad Shah died in June 1773. After his death power of Afghans declined in Punjab. Taimur Shah ascended the throne at Kabul. By then misals, had established themselves in Punjab. They had under their control the area as far as Saharnpur in east, Attack in west, Kangra Jammu in north and Multan in south. Efforts were made by Afghan rulers to dislodge Sikhs from their citadels. Taimur Shah attacked Multan and defeated the Bhangis. The Bhangi sardars, Lehna Singh, and Sobha singh were driven out of Lahore in 1767 by the Abdali but soon reoccupied it. They remained in power in Lahore till 1793-the year when Shah Zaman succeeded to the throne of Kabul.
The first attempt by Shah zaman was made in 1793. He came upto Hassan Abdal from where he sent an army of 7000 strong cavalry under Ahmad shsh Shahnachi but the Sikhs totally routed them. It was a great setback to Shah zaman but again in 1795 he reorganised forces and attacked Hassan ABdal, snathched Rohtas from Sukerchikias, whom leader was Ranjit Singh. who suffered at Shah zaman' hands but did not lose courage. However, shah had to be back in Kabul as an ivasion was apprehended on his own country from the west. After he went back, Ranjit dislodged the Afghans from Rohtas.
Shah Zaman could not sit idle. In 1796 he moved, crossed Indus for the third time and dreamt of capturing Delhi. His ambition knew no bounds. By now he had collected 3000 strong afghan army. He was confident a large number of Indians will joining with him. Nawab of Kasur had already assured him help. Sahib Singh of Patiala betrayed his countrymen and declared his intentions of helping Shah Zaman. Shah Zaman was also assured help by the Rohillas, Wazir of Oudh, and Tipu Sultan of Mysore.
Next was the territory of Ranjit singh. He was alert and raised an army of 5000 horsemen. But they were inadequately armed with only spears and muskets. The afghans were equipped with heavy artillery. Ranjit singh thought of a stiff united fight against the invaders. He came to Amritsar. A congregation of Sarbat Khlasa was called and many sikh sardars answered the call. An almost unanimous opinion prevailed that Shah zaman's army should be allowed to enter the Punjab, and they all should retire to hills.
Forces were reorganised under the command of Ranjit singh and they marched towards Lahore. They were able to gave Afghans a crushing defeat in several villages and ultimately surrounded the city of Lahore. Sorties were made in night in which they would kill a few Afghan soldiers and then leave the city in the thick of darkness. Following this tactic they were able to dislodge Afghans at several places.
In 1797, Shah Zaman, suddenly left for Afghanistan as his brother Mohamed had revolted. Shahanchi khan with considerable force was left at Lahore. The Sikhs however followed Shah upto Jhelum and snatched many goods from him. The Sikhs returned and in the way were attacked by the army of Shahnachi khan near Ram Nagar. The Sikhs routed his army. It was the first major achievement of Ranjit Singh. He became the hero of the land of Five Rivers and his reputation spread far and wide.
Again in 1798 Shah Zaman attacked Punjab to avenge his defeat in 1797, people took refuge in hills. Sarbat Khalsa was again called and Sada Kaur again persuaded Sikhs to fight till the last man. This time even Muslims were not spared by Shah zaman forces and he won Gujarat very easily. Sada Kaur aroused the sense of Sikhs of national honour and if they had left Amritsar then she will command the forces against Afghans. She said an Afghani soldier was no match to a Sikh soldier . They would be give befitting reply and by the grace of Sat Guru they would be successful.
Shah Zaman sought help of raja Sansar Chand of Kangra, that he will not give any food or shelter to Sikhs. He agreed. Shah. The Afghans occupied Lahore on Nov 1798, and planned to attack Amritsar. Ranjit Singh collected his Men and faced Sash forces about 8 Km from Amritsar. Ranjit Singh pursued them and surrounded Lahore. Afghan supply lines were cut. Crops were burnt and other provisions plundered so that they did not fall into Afghan's hands. The Afghans never expected such a humiliating defeat at the hands of Sikhs. Nizam-ud.din of Kasur attacked Sikhs near Shahdara on the banks of Ravi, but his forces were no match to Sikhs. Here too, Muslims suffered the most. The retreating Afghans and Nizam-ud-din forces plundered the town which antagonsed the local people.
The Afghans struggled hard to dislodge Sikhs but in vain. Sikh cordon was so strong that they made impossible for the Afghans to break it and proceed towards Delhi. Ranjit singh became terror to them. The moment Zaman Shah left, Ranjit Singh pursued his foces and caught them unawares near Gujranwala. They were chased further up to Jhelum. Many Afghan were put to death and their war equipment was taken into possession and they were made to run for their lives. Shah Zaman was overthrown by his brother and was blinded. He became a helpless creature and 12 years later came to Punjab to seek refuge in Ranjit singh's darbar, who was now the ruler of land. Destiny wished it like that.
Ranjit Singh combined with Sahib Singh of Gujrat (Punjab) and Milkha Singh of Pindiwala and a large Sikh force, fell upon the Afghan garrison while Shah Zaman was still in vicinity of Khyber Pass. The Afghan forces fled towards north after having been routed by the Sikhs leaving behind at Gujarat their dead including the Afghan deputy. "(Bikramjit Hasrat, Life and times of Ranjit Singh, p.36).
By this time the people of the country had become aware of the rising strength of Ranjit Singh, the rising star on the horizon. He was the most popular leader of the Punjab and was already yearning to enter Lahore. The people of Lahore being extremely oppressed raised their voices of wailing to the skies and were looking towards their liberator. Muslims joined Hindus and Sikh residents of Lahore in making an appeal to Ranjit Singh to free them from the tyrannical rule.
A petition was written and was signed by Mian Ashak Mohammad, Mian Mukkam Din, Mohammad Tahir, Mohammad Bakar, Hakim Rai, and Bhai Gurbaksh Singh. It was addressed to Ranjit Singh to free them from Bhangi Sardars. Ranjit Singh was invited to liberate Lahore as early as possible. He mobilised a 25000 Army and marched towards Lahore on July 6, 1799.
It was a last day of Muharram when a big procession was to be taken out in the town in the memory of the two grandsons of Prophet Mohammad who were martyred in the battlefield without having a drop of water. It was expected that Bhangi Sardars will also participate in procession and mourn with their Shia brethren. By the time procession was over Ranjit Singh had reached outskirts of city.
Early morning on July 7 1799, Ranjit Singh's men had taken their positions. Guns glistened and the bugles were sounded. Rani Sada kaur stood outside Delhi gate and Ranjit singh proceeded towards Anarkali. ranjit singh rode along the walls of the city and got the wall mined. A breach was blown. . It created pani and confusion. Mukkam Din, who was one of the signatories to the petition made a proclamation with the beat of drum that town had been taken over by him and he was now head. He ordered all the city gates to be opened. Ranjit singh entered the city with his troops through the Lahori gate. Sada Kaur with a detachment of cavalry entered through Delhi gate. Before Bhangi sardars had any inkling of it, a part of the citadel was occupied without any resistance. Sahib Singh and Mohar Singh left the city and sought shelter at some safer place. Chet Singh was left either to fight, defend the town or flee as he like. He shut himself in Hazuri Bagh with only 500 men. Ranjit Singh's cavalry surrounded Hazuri Bagh and Chet Singh surrendered and he was given permission to leave the city along with his family.
Ranjit Singh was well entrenched in the town now. Immediately after taking possession of the city, he paid visit to Badashahi mosque. This gesture increased his prestige and his status was in the eyes of people. He won the hearts of the subjects, Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs alike. It was July 7, 1799 when victorious Ranjit Singh entered Lahore. Later Ranjit Singh did many campaigns against Afghans till he gained control of Kandhar.