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chapter 6 The Anglo-Sikh Wars and Pax Britannica Guru Nanak (1469–1539) established the Sikh religion in the Punjab. He preached a religion based upon the universal brotherhood of mankind without distinction of race, class, or creed. In 1604 his successor, Arjan Singh, completed the construction of the magnificent Harimandir, or Golden Temple , in Amritsar to give the rapidly growing community a geographical focal point. Although the new religion mainlyattracted lower-caste Hindus, it also appealed to Muslims, which brought the wrath of the Mughals down upon the Sikhs. Emperor Jahangir put Guru Arjan to death and viciously persecuted the Sikh community.Under their new leader, Guru Hargobind, the movement took on a decidedly militant characteristic to combat Mughal oppression. After the Mughals executed Guru Tegh Bahadur in 1675, the militancy of the Sikhs reached a new level under his son and successor, Guru Gobind Rai. Gobind initiated a military community known as the Khalsa, or pure. Henceforth all male Sikhs engaged in the profession of arms, and rules that invoked strict discipline controlled their conduct. Although Emperor Aurungzeb initiated a new campaign against the Sikhs, Guru Gobind managed to evade the imperial armies. However, one of the last Mughal emperors, Farukh Siyyar, managed to capture and kill Gobind’s successor, Banda Singh, along with thousands of his followers in 1715. Fortunately for the Sikhs, this was the last gasp of the once-mighty Mughal Empire, and they began to flourish in the 1730s and gradually asserted their independence. Their main enemy was no longer the Mughals but the Afghans , who under Ahmad Shah Durrani waged a constant war against them from 1747 to the early 1760s. However, after his victory over the Marathas at the third battle of Panipat, Durrani quickly recognized Sikh influence in the Punjab. Much of the region at this time was divided between several Sikh clans, or misls, led by chieftains. In addition, a number of Hindu and Muslim chiefs, who combined outnumbered the Sikh chiefs, also ruled in this area. These clans constantly fought each other and the Afghans. (Ahmad Shah Ab103 The Anglo-Sikh Wars and Pax Britannica dali, the Afghan leader, was considered the Punjab’s nominal ruler.) Veena Sachdeva has identified 125 political units in the Punjab in the eighteenth century. None of these principalities were large, and most collected revenues of less than 500,000 rupees, with a few even struggling to bring in 20,000 rupees a year.1 The Punjabi chieftains’ armies were also quite small. The strongest of the chiefs could field a temporary army of 5,000–15,000 men with great difficulty . Of this force, only a small proportion would be under his direct control (the Fauj-i-Khas). Most of the soldiers were militia provided by landlords. Light cavalry, known as ghorchurra, dominated Punjabi armies, with infantry used mainly for garrison duty. By the late eighteenth century many of these armies also used firearms of all types.2 Ranjit Singh On 13 November 1780 a son, Ranjit Singh,was born to Maha Singh, the leader of the Sukerchariya misl. At the age of five the boy was married to the granddaughter of Jai Singh, the chief of the most powerful Sikh misl, the Kanhaya. When Jai Singh died in 1787 the two clans united under Ranjit Singh, and the united clan flourished under his energetic leadership. When the Punjab was invaded by the Afghan leader Zaman Shah (1796–99), Ranjit Singh was the only Sikh leader to confront him in open battle, and he managed to defeat him in 1799 by capturing Lahore. From then on Ranjit Singh’s preeminence over the other Sikh chieftains was never questioned. In 1801 he proclaimed himself maharaja of Punjab and began to subdue other clans. He even seized the Afghan province of Multan in 1804. While Ranjit Singh consolidated his power base in the Punjab, the British were busy seizing Hindustan from the Marathas. Ranjit Singh closely followed their actions and was particularly impressed with General Lake’s British infantry as they operated against Yaswantrao Holkar in the Punjab.3 By 1808 Ranjit Singh had extended his territories from Gujerat in the north to Ludhiana in the east and Multan in the west. He then turned his attention to Malwa in the south on the frontier with the British. In Malwa on the banks of the Sutlej River the independent Sikh chiefs approached the British for help. The latter sent a diplomatic...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780803240612
MARC Record
OCLC
60714474
Pages
440
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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