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SIKH EMPIRE – 1801 – 1839

Q1. What was Sikh Empire and how it came to be formed?
Actually it was a confederation of small or medium sized Sikh states. Came to exist after the fall of the Mughal Empire and later to become the Sikh Empire.
Q2. What was the region controlled by this Sikh Empire?
The region controlled by this Empire is Punjab, spread across western India and Pakistan. The Sikh empire extended from Khyber Pass in the West, Kashmir to the North touching borders of Tibet, to the Indus River in the South and Himachal Pradesh in the east.
Q3. Who founded the Sikh empire?
MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH - 1801-1839 - He was born in 1780 in the Sindhuwalia family in Sikh faith. He became a chieftain as a minor with mother as regent and took independent charge in 1796.
Q4. What were Ranjit Singh's military and other achievements?
1. Captured Lahore in 1799 and Amritsar in 1802 with the help of Zaman Shah of Afghanistan. Became Maharaja of Lahore.
2. He was the one to add the Golden Dome to the Amritsar Temple.
3. Captured Ludhiana in 1806.
4. Captured the Pashtun region in Afghanistan and became the first non-muslim ruler.
5. Captured Multan (Pakistan) and Peshawar in 1818, Jammu and Kashmir in 1819 and the hill station of Anandpur in Punjab.
6. He was the first to create a modern Indian Army "Sikh Khalsa Army" trained by hired foreign mercenaries, and a heavily armed and military force, which delayed British efforts to annexe the Punjab region.
7. He banned the Jizya tax imposed on Hindus by the Mughals.
8. He was very secular and respected all religious nobles by including them in his court as ministers.
9. He donated a lot of wealth to the Golden Temple, Amritsar and decorative interiors and the floorings were done during his period.
10.Two other famous sikh temples, Takht Sri Panth Sahib at Patna, Bihar and Takht Shri Hazur Sahib on the banks of river Godavari at Nanded in Maharashtra were built by him.
11.He abolished the capital punishment.
12.He entered into a Treaty with British represented by Metacalfe called the "Treaty of Amritsar 1809" for mutual military cooperation to prevent French advancement.
13.He acquired the world famous "Kohinoor" diamond from Shah Shuja of Afghanistan after giving him protection in 1814, which was later acquired by the British after the II Anglo Sikh war and taken to England where it still remains.
14.In 1838 he entered into a Tripartite Treaty with Lord Auckland, then Governor General of India and Shah Shuja to invade Afghanistan to install Shah Shuja back on the throne, which was followed by I Afghan War (1838-1842). However, Ranjit Singh refused to permit the British troops to march through his territory during the war. He died in 1839 and his Samadhi is at Lahore, Pakistan.
Q5. Which foreigner was employed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh as Governor of Wazirabad and what was his role in the Sikh Empire?
PAOLO AVITABILE - An Italian, was hired and appointed as Governor of Wazirabad in 1826. In 1834 he was moved as Governor of Peshawar. He was a ruthless administrator and ruled by fear and torture. He became so powerful and indispensable to the British because of the force exhibited by Ranjit Singh under the conditions of Tripartite Treaty, which was more inclined to fight against than for the British.
In 1842 when the British were retreating from Kabul after the I Afghan war he rendered the East India company all possible assistance and also huge wealth of which it is believed more than half was for his own self routed to Europe through the British. It is also believed that he was disloyal to his employers, as he was passing on information about the employment and deployment of Sikh forces to a British official - Henry Lawrence. In 1843, (even after the death of Ranjit Singh, he continued) he sought retirement and went to Naples in Italy, Europe and did not live long.
Q6. Who were the successors of Ranjit Singh in the Sikh Empire?
KHARAK SINGH - 1839-1840 - Son of Ranjit Singh, succeeded the throne, but, unfortunately he was imprisoned and killed by poisoning. Upon this, Nauni Hal Singh, the minor son of Karak Singh was made the king, but also died soon by an accident of a building collapse. Truth behind both the deaths are unclear.
SHER SINGH -1840-1843 - He was another son of Ranji Singhji. He came to power in 1840 and ruled until 1843. He died of an accidental firing of a pistol by one of his sons. But in his death also the conspiracy theory is not ruled out as there was already family feud when he was the heir to ascend the throne.
DULEEP SINGH - 1843 -1893 - He was the youngest son of Ranjit Singh. He assumed the throne at the age of five and was too young to take any administrative decisions. Taking advantage of the situation, the British fought two battles, Anglo Sikh Wars I and II (see under battles). By 1849, the Sikh empire fell completely to the British and Duleep Singh was exiled to London and Scotland and spent his entire life there. He died in 1893 at Paris in France.