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Thread: sikhs empire
01-16-2009, 07:00 AM #1
The period from 1716 to 1799 was a highly turbulent time politically and militarily in the Punjab. This was caused by the overall decline of the Mughal Empire, the loss of Mughal power in the Punjab was quite swift - as the Mughal power weakened it was challenged again and again by the Sikhs resulting in further loss of territory. This left a power vacuum that was eventually filled by the Sikh Confederacy. The Sikh Confederacy would eventually in the 19th century be superseded by the Sikh Empire but its influence would still remain strong throughout the empire's history.
The former Sikh Empire, commonly known as, Punjab/Sikh Raj/Khalsa Raj, was a region straddling the border between modern day People's Republic of China and Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The name of the region "Punjab" or "Panjab", comprises two words "Punj/Panj" and "Ab", translating to "five" and "water" in Persian. When put together this gives a name translating to "the land of the five rivers" coined due to the five rivers that span the Punjab. Those "Five Rivers" are Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Chenab and Jhelum, all tributaries of the river Indus, home to the Indus Valley Civilization that perished 3000 years ago. Punjab has a long history and rich cultural heritage. The people of the Punjab are called Punjabis and they speak a language called Punjabi. The following modern day political divisions made up the historical Punjab Empire:
Himachal Pradesh, India
North West Frontier Province, Pakistan
Tribal Areas, Pakistan
Parts of north-eastern Afghanistan
The misldars were subject to the control of the Sarbat Khalsa, the biannual assembly of the Panth held at Amritsar. The frequent use of the Sarbat Khalsa converted it into a central forum of the Khalsa Panth. It also had to elect a leader of the Sikh Confederacy, and to lay down its political goal and plans of its military strategy. It had also to set out plans for strengthening the Khalsa faith and body politic, besides adjudicating disputes about property and succession. The Akalis were in charge of the Sri Darbar Sahib Harmandir Sahib at Amritsar, but they did not infringe with the sovereignty of the Misldars' misls.
A Supreme Commander/President/Jathedar was democratically elected at Amritsar. Once every year the misldar of each region of Punjab would convene at either of capitals Amritsar or Lahore and form a council including every misldar of the empire altogether with the all available citizens of the empire present at the event and elect a national leader, through the Sarbat Khalsa. He would then act as the Head of State and Supreme Commander of the nation's defense forces.
Past elected confederate Supreme Commanders/Presidents/Jathedars:
Nawab Kapur Singh.
Jassa Singh Ahluwalia.
All the misldars who were affiliated with the Sikh Confederacy were nobility with usually long and prestigious family histories in the Sikh religion and Punjab's history in general. Misldars usually had to do more with the Sikh military structure but they at the same time would also take out the civilian rule as well in their respective administrative autonomous regions. So it is right to say that the misldars were the military governors of the empire who were answerable only to the democratically Sarbat Khalsa elected President during the Sikh nation's Confederate days which later on changed to as the Maharajah of the Sikh Empire. Their military exploits outside their misls were legendary & famous in Sikh history. The misldars in the early stages of the Sikh Confederacy were very cordial and hospitable with each other. However, during the later stages of the Sikh Confederacy, they had lost most of their idealism and rivalry and competing alliances emerged between the later misldars (+1780 AD). This is one of the reasons given by scholars why such a powerful military force never conquered and governed other lands outside the Punjab. Constant warfare between the later misldars meant time, energy and resources were spent on feuds rather than large expansion. However, even in the later stages of the Confederacy the misldars still held great affection for the Sikh cause and the Sikh religion. This is highlighted by them stamping coinage in their misls, not in their individual name but usually in the name of Guru Gobind Singh or the Sikh religion in general.
Agriculture was the main input to the economy. For each misldar, land revenue became the major source of his income. As a rule, the misldars followed the baiai system. 20% of the gross produce was deducted before the division for expenses of cultivation. The remaining four fifths, the misldars' share varied from one half to one quarter. The general proportion was 55% cultivator's share, 7.5% proprietor's share and 37.5% government share. Producers of a few crops such as cotton, sugarcane, poppy and indigo were required to pay revenue in cash. The Khalsa or crown lands remained under the direct control of the misldars. According to James Browne, a contemporary East India Company employee, the misldars collected a very moderate rent, and that mostly in kind. The misldar never levied the whole of his share and in the country, perhaps, never was a cultivator treated with more indulgence. Moreover, the misldars did not interfere with old and hereditary land tenures. The rules of Haq Shufd did not permit land to be sold to an outsider. New fields, or residential sites could be broken out of wasteland as such land was available in plenty. Duties on traders and merchants also brought some revenue. The Sikh barons gave full protection to traders passing through their territories. George Forster, who traveled to northern India in 1783, observed that extensive and valuable commerce was maintained in their territories.
The military power levels of the Sikh Confederacy increased dramatically after 1762, this led to rapid increase in territory. Although the political structure of the Sikh Confederacy was still in place, the increase in power saw the introduction of new features, more often seen with empires, such as military treaties with other powers that desired military protection from it e.g. in December 1768, Najib-ud-Dulla entered into a military treaty with the Sikh Confederacy. Rai Mal Gujar and Walter Leuhardt (Samroo) too wanted to join in.
There was strong collaboration together in defense against foreign incursions initiated by foreign invaders such as, Ahmed Shah Abdali and Nadir Shah. Amritsar was attacked numerous times. Yet the time is remembered by Sikh historians as the "Heroic Century". This is mainly to describe the rise of Sikhs to political power against large odds. The circumstances were hostile religious environment against Sikhs, a tiny Sikh population compared to other religious and political powers, which were much larger and stronger in the region than the Sikhs. The military power levels of the Sikh Confederacy increased dramatically after 1762, this led to rapid increase in territory.
These Sikh confederate states were disbanded following the Coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Lahore, 1801 AD, and the creation of the Sikh Empire.
The Sikh Empire (from 1801-1849) was formed on the foundations of the Sikh Confederacy by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The Empire extended from Afghanistan in the west, to Kashmir in the north, to Sindh in the south and to Tibet in the east. The main geographical footprint of the empire was the Punjab. The religious demography of the Sikh Empire was Muslim (80%), Hindu (10%) and Sikh (10%). The once strong empire was severely weakened after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839. The Empire ended, with the British Empire annexing its territory in 1849, after the Second Anglo-Sikh War.
The foundations of the Sikh Empire, during the Sikh Confederacy, could be defined as early as 1707, starting from the death of Aurangzeb and the downfall of the Mughal Empire. The fall of the Mughal Empire provided opportunities for the Sikh army, known as the Dal Khalsa, to lead expeditions against the Mughals and Afghans. This led to a growth of the army, which was split into different confederations and then semi-independent misls. Each of these component armies were known as a misl, each controlling different areas and cities. 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 with the disbandment of the Sikh Confederacy by the time of Coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1801, creating the one unified political Empire.
End of An Empire
After Maharajah Ranjit Singh's death in 1839, the empire was severely weakened by internal divisions and political mismanagement. This opportunity was used by the British Empire to launch the first series of Anglo-Sikh Wars. The Sikh Empire was finally annexed by the British Empire at the end of the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849. After the British acquisition of the Sikh Empire, the former Empire was dissolved into several crown ruled and princely states under the name of British province of Punjab and was granted a statehood and eventually a lieutenant governorship stationed in Lahore as a direct representative of the Royal Crown in London.
1707-1716, Creation of Sikh Confederacy begins to influence the political structure of the Punjab.
1762-1767, Ahmed Shah Abdali and the Sikhs battle for control.
1763-1774, Charat Singh Sukerchakia, Misldar of Sukerchakia Army established himself in Gujranwala.
1773, Ahmed Shah Abdali dies and his son Timur Shah is unable to suppress the Sikhs.
1774-1790, Maha Singh, becomes Misldar of the Sukerchakia Army.
1762-1801, Sikh Confederacy military power rating increases rapidly.
1790-1801, Ranjit Singh becomes Misldar of the Sukerchakia Army.
1799-1801, transition period neither Confederacy or Empire, in a state of revolution or anarchy.
1801 April 12th, Coronation of Ranjit Singh as Maharaja, formal beginning of the Sikh Empire.
1801 - 27th June 1839, Reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, whose coronation took place in 1801.
1801 - 1839, large expansion of the Sikh Empire in land mass spearheaded by the Punjab Army.
27th June 1839 - 5th November 1840, Reign of Maharaja Kharak Singh
5th November 1840 - 18th January 1841, Chand Kaur was briefly Regent
18th January 1841 - 15th September 1843, Reign of Maharaja Sher Singh
15th September 1843 - 31st March 1849, Reign of Maharaja Duleep Singh
^ Encyclopędia Britannica Eleventh Edition, (Edition: Volume V22, Date: 1910-1911), Page 892.
^ First Page of Book The Sikh Army (1799-1849) (Men-at-arms), By Ian Heath. (Date:2005, ISBN 1841767778).
^ Sikh Period - National Fund for Cultural Heritage
^ Encyclopędia Britannica Eleventh Edition, (Edition: Volume V22, Date: 1910-1911), Page 892.
^ MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH ... - Online Information article about MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH
^ Ranjit Singh: A Secular Sikh Sovereign by K.S. Duggal. (Date:1989. ISBN 8170172446)
Volume 2: Evolution of Sikh Confederacies (1708-1769), By Hari Ram Gupta. (Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. Date:1999, ISBN 8121505402, Pages: 383 pages, illustrated).
The Sikh Army (1799-1849) (Men-at-arms), By Ian Heath. (Date:2005, ISBN 1841767778).
The Heritage of the Sikhs By Harbans Singh. (Date:1994, ISBN 8173040648).
Sikh Domination of the Mughal Empire. (Date:2000, second edition. ISBN 8121502136).
The Sikh Commonwealth or Rise and Fall of Sikh Misls. (Date:2001, revised edition. ISBN 8121501652).
Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Lord of the Five Rivers, By Jean-Marie Lafont. (Oxford University Press. Date:2002, ISBN 0195661117).
History of Panjab, Dr L. M. Joshi, Dr Fauja Singh.