Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780- 1839):
Founder and Maharajah of the Sikh Empire.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the leader of the Sikh Empire, which ruled the northwest Indian subcontinent in the early half of the 19th century. He survived smallpox in infancy but lost sight in his left eye. He fought his first battle alongside his father at age 10. After his father died, he fought several wars to expel the Afghans in his teenage years and was proclaimed as the “Maharaja of Punjab” at age 21.His empire grew in the Punjab region under his leadership through 1839.
Few other interesting facts:
He was adept in martial arts and was well groomed in the Sikh tradition of fighting.
On 12 April 1801 – which was Baisakhi day – Ranjit Singh won the title of ‘Maharaja’ after uniting many fringe Sikh groups into one state.
Ranjit Singh was a secular leader. His army included talented Hindus, Muslim and European warriors and generals.
He hired European mercenaries to train his army. His first modern Indian Army was called the Sikh Khalsa Army, which helped prevent the British from colonizing Punjab during his lifetime.
Ranjit Singh had many wives of Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu faith. Maharani Jindan (Jind Kaur) was his favorite wife who played an important role after his passing.
The gold and marble work of the iconic Golden Temple in Amritsar was also done under his patronage.
Till date, he is known as ‘Sher-e-Punjab’ (‘Lion of Punjab’) for his liberal patronage.