The Sikh Empire
The Sikh Empire (also Sikh Khalsa Raj, Sarkar-i-Khalsa or Pañjab (Punjab) Empire) was a major power in the Indian subcontinent, formed under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who established a secular empire based in the Panjab. The empire existed from 1799, when Ranjit Singh captured Lahore, to 1849 and was forged on the foundations of the Khalsa from a collection of autonomous Sikh misls.At its peak in the 19th century, the Empire extended from the Khyber Pass in the west to western Tibet in the east, and from Mithankot in the south to Kashmir in the north. The religious demography of the Sikh Empire was Muslim (70%), Sikh(17%), Hindu (13%).The population was 3.5 million. It was the last major region of the Indian subcontinent to be annexed by the British.
After Ranjit Singh's death in 1839, the empire was severely weakened by internal divisions and political mismanagement. This opportunity was used by the British East India Company to launch the Anglo-Sikh Wars.
The Battle of Ferozeshah in 1845 marked many turning points, the British encountered the Punjab Army, opening with a gun-duel in which the Sikhs "had the better of the British artillery". As the British made advances, Europeans in their army were especially targeted, as the Sikhs believed if the army "became demoralised, the backbone of the enemy's position would be broken". The fighting continued throughout the night. The British position "grew graver as the night wore on", and "suffered terrible casualties with every single member of the Governor General's staff either killed or wounded".Nevertheless, the British army took and held Ferozeshah. British General Sir James Hope Grant recorded: "Truly the night was one of gloom and forbidding and perhaps never in the annals of warfare has a British Army on such a large scale been nearer to a defeat which would have involved annihilation."
The reasons for the withdrawal of the Sikhs from Ferozeshah are contentious. Some believe that it was treachery of the non-Sikh high command of their own army which led to them marching away from a British force in a precarious and battered state. Others believe that a tactical withdrawal was the best policy.
The Sikh empire was finally dissolved at the end of the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849 into separate princely states and the British province of Punjab. Eventually, a Lieutenant Governorship was formed in Lahore as a direct representative of the British crown.
June 04, 2021