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“SIKH EMPIRE”
“SIKH EMPIRE”

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Sikhism is the latest religion of just five centuries old, and has a peculiar characteristic of its people. So far their behavior did not change, in spite of the continued persecution to the extent of extinction, with a moratorium period of 86 years when they have ruled. They enjoy the life in all adverse and favourable circumstances in the Will and Pleasure of God, so they were never revengeful to anybody or any community. During this period they were only once carried away emotionally in retaliation during the partition riots. The Sikh Genocide and storming of Golden Temple and subsequent their genoside could not shake their belief in the Will of God.

Historians have not justified in narrating the tales of Banda Singh Bahadar’s victories and achievements of his ruling period. Definitely, he has not spared any person who was responsible for the untold persecution of the peaceful and innocent Sikhs and no doubt punished them all. At the same time he was never biased against the language and people of invaders. He and the entire Sikh rule used Persian as their official language and coins were inscribed in Persian. He and all Sikh rulers recruited vast number of Muslims in their armies. He and all Sikh rulers respected all religions and never desecrated any place of worship and Scripture including Mosques and Quran. He and Sikh rulers protected the women and the surrendered enemies fighting against them.

The first Sikh Sovereign Baba Banda Singh Bahadur became a disciple of Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji at Nanded in 1708. Till then he was known as Madho Das Bairagi and was leading a saintly life. After his initiation into the Sikh brotherhood, became a respected, if not popular, general; his cold and impersonal character did not endear him to his men. He was the first Sikh military leader to wage an offensive war against the Mughal rulers of India in 1709, thereby conquering large tracts of territory and establishing a vast empire.

One of his most revolutionary acts is to abolish the age old prevailing Zamindari system. He brought the land reforms, making the cultivator owner of the land. This so far could not be brought even after independence.

Then comes the ruling period of Misls. The clashes and bloodshed in the battles are the common factors during every period of history. But, by this time, no culprit was left behind to be punished; hence this period was somewhat peaceful in civil life.

Misl is an Arabic word means ‘like’. The Sikh misls were ‘alike’, in the sense that they were considered equals. The Misls were twelve companies of Sikhs, some numbering a few hundred while others could field tens of thousands of men. Each Sikh was free to join any Misl he chose, and every Misl was free to act in any way it wished in the area under its control. Only matters affecting the community as a whole were they to take orders from the Supreme Commander Nawab Kapur Singh. All these Misls or bands together were called Dal Khalsa. They met at least twice a year at Amritsar for Sarbat Khalsa. So called Sarbat Khalsa as the whole community of the Sikh Panth (panth means path) gets together.

Confederation was a nation that existed from 1716 to 1799. The misldar system was ideally suited to the conditions of the time and worked well. It combined freedom of action with the discipline of a unified command. They were loosely and politically linked but strongly bounded together in the cultural and religious spheres. The records for these were kept at Amritsar. As the Sikh Army formally called Dal Khalsa grew to new regions where administered and new Misldars came to the fore and the number of large misls eventually increased to 12 Misla and the total force of 70000 Cavalry.The Sikh Misls i.e., Sikh Confederation was combined and named as Sarkar Khalsa i.e., Sikh Empire (1799-1849) after the coronation of one of the Misldar Ranjit Singh of Sukerchakia Misl as the sovereign.

Maharaja of the Sikh Empire.

The most authentic source about the personal life of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is the book written by Fakir Syed Waheed-ud-Din of Lahore, a doyen and descendant of the famous Fakir family which served with dedication and devotion to the Maharaja. The book is based on the archival material in the possession of the Fakir family. It resolves some of the mysteries about Maharaja’s personal life and state policy.

The author writes that Maharaja Ranjit Singh entered Lahore Fort as a conqueror on July 7, 1799. He was admonished by a holy ‘voice’ to obey four commandments as a ruler, if he wants to prosper:

The Empire extended from Khyber Pass in the west, to Kashmir in the north, to Sindh in the south, and Tibet in the east. The main geographical footprint of the empire was the Punjab. The religious demography of the Sikh Empire was Muslim (80%), Sikh (10%), Hindu (10%). However, in the period from 1762-1799 Sikh rulers of their misls appeared to be coming into their own. The formal start of the Sikh Empire began by the time of Coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1801, creating the one unified political Empire. All the misldars who were affiliated with the Army were nobility with usually long and prestigious family histories in Punjab’s history.

What impelled these Sikh confedracies to united and zealous action was their faith in the common destiny of the Khalsa. Any call for a joint cause was joyfully answered and the greatest sacrifices willingly made for its realization. Their living conviction was that the Guru had invested them with moral and temporal dignity and charged them with the duty of liberating the country imparted an element of philanthropy to their extremely dangerous and heroic adventure. To do fighting for the Panth was the consummation most cheerfully sought; to compromise with evil and injustice was considered the extreme of degradation and pusillanimity. This brave new spirit created a revolutionary impulse in the country. The Sikhs gave new direction to the course of Indian history. When Zaman Shah, son of Ahmad Shah Abdali (Durrani), reached Peshawar on January 30th 1799, that was the last invasion of any Mughal, Turk, Greek, Persian, No more invader could come from that side into India. Sikhs boldly sealed off the western frontiers of the country.

Ranjit Singh, the Lion of the Punjab, is sometimes compared to the Mughal Emperor Akbar (1542-1607). Both succeeded their fathers at the age of twelve, both had long and prosperous reigns, considerably extended their empires and both married women from other religions in addition to their own in what appears to be a genuine effort to be non-sectarian. Both had little of no formal education but possessed an insatiable curiosity which left the people they quizzed exhausted. Both were succeeded by children not quite as worthy as their illustrious fathers. In the annals of Indian history they rank as tow of its most charismatic and likeable rulers.

As a devout Sikh, Ranjit Singh saw his power as deriving from the Panth Khalsa . He did not wear the emblem of royalty on his turban, he never sat on the throne and when no coins were struck in his name. The inscription on coins continued of the previous Sikh Empire of Banda Singh Bahadur. Yet he was a passionate secularist and he reported to have said “God wanted me to look upon all religions with one eye that is why he took away the light from the other.”