Lahore During Ranjit Singh Rule

The Sikh Rule in Lahore initiated from the invasion and rule of the Sikh Misls and extended till the Sikh Empire of Ranjit Singh which ended in 1849. The Sikhs began gaining power following the decline of the Mughal Empire in Punjab and consisted of a collection of autonomous Punjabi Misls, which were governed by Misldars, mainly in the Punjab region.

Ranjit Singh was crowned on 12 April 180 as the leader of a Sikh misl. Sahib Singh Bedi, a descendant of Guru Nanak Dev, conducted the coronation. The 1740s were years of chaos, and the city had nine different governors between 1745 and 1756. Invasions and chaos in local government allowed bands of warring Sikhs to gain control in some areas. In 1799, all Sikh Misls(warring bands) joined into one to form a sovereign Sikh state ruled by Maharaja Ranjit Singhfrom the royal capital, Lahore. During the 1740s, frequent invasions by Afghans led by Ahmad Shah Abdali and chaos in local government had made life very uncomfortable for the citizens of Lahore. Bhangi Misl was the fist Sikh band to plunder the Mughal Lahore. Later Ranjit Singh was able to make gains in this chaos. He defeated the son of Abdali, Zaman Shah in a battle between Lahore and Amritsar. Out of the chaos of Afghani and Sikh conflicts emerged a victorious Sikh by the name of Ranjit Singh who was able to unify the Sikh factions and capture Lahore where he was crowned Emperor. Ranjit Singh made Lahore his capital (shifting from the former capital, Gujranwala) in 1799 and was able to expand the kingdom to the Khyber Pass and also included Jammu and Kashmir, while keeping the British from expanding across the River Sutlej for more than 40 years. He rose to power in a very short period, from a leader of a single Sikh misl to finally becoming the Maharaja (Emperor) of Punjab.

For a brief half century, from 1799 to 1846, Lahore recovered under the patronage of Ranjit Singh and his successors. Ranjit Singh consolidated the Sikh misldaars (commanders) who had ruled more or less independently during the eighteenth century under a unified command and in 1799 he established Lahore as the administrative capital of a new Sikh kingdom. Nearby Amritsar became the spiritual and commercial center of the kingdom in 1802, after Ranjit Singh’s troops occupied the city and the maharaja announced his intention to extend patronage and protection to the city’s leading groups.

While much of Lahore’s Mughal era fabric lay in ruins by the end of eighteenth century, rebuilding efforts under the Sikhs were shaped by and indebted to Mughal practice. Ranjit Singh moved into the Mughal palace in Lahore’s citadel. By 1812 he had mostly refurbished the city’s defences by adding a second circuit of outer walls that followed the outline of Akbar’s original walls and were separated from them by a moat. The maharaja also partially restored Shah Jahan‘s decaying gardens at Shalimar, and British maps of the area surrounding Lahore dating from the mid-nineteenth century show that walled private gardens – many of them bearing the names of prominent Sikh nobles – continued in the Mughal pattern under Sikh rule. The Sikh court continued to endow religious architecture in the city, including a number of Sikh gurdwaras, Hindu temples, and mosques. In short, the decaying structures and architecture of Lahore was restored by the emperor.

Ranjit Singh death in 27 June 1839 ultimately ended his reign, while his son Dalip Singh became his successor. He was buried in Lahore and his samadhi still stands there.