This book examines the achievements of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, ruler of the last great Indian state which successfully resisted British expansionism until 1849. The main emphasis is on the dynamism and energy of the Maharaja and the Punjabi people in establishing a state in the Land of the Five Rivers. Ranjit Singh’s empire ultimately came to include Kashmir, Ladakh, and Peshawar, extending as far west as the Khyber Pass.Ranjit Singh respected the ethnic and religious diversity of the people of the Punjab and successfully forged a political, social, and cultural synthesis among them. He also introduced innovative measures in the political, economic, and cultural spheres of his kingdom. His secular policy was matched by his modernising drive, seen most spectacularly in the military field where innovative measures were introduced with the help of French and Italian military officers who had served under Napoleon. Some of the most serious military challenges which the British encountered in their century-long conquest of India (1757-1849) occurred on the battlefields of Ferozeshah and Chillianwala.
In addition to the political, military, and economic aspects of Ranjit Singh’s administration, the book also throws light on some of the little-known yet fascinating cultural achievements of his rule. These include the Imam Bakhsh Lahori school of painting, the discovery of Gandhara art, and the exploration of the Himalayas, which are presented here for the first time.
This volume elaborates on the catalogue of the exhibition Life and Times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh organised by the Government of Punjab at the Rambagh Palace, Amritsar to celebrate and commemorate the bicentenary of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (13 November 1801-2001). It is lavishly illustrated with 216 colour illustrations and six maps.