Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Fall of the Sikh Empire

The Fall of the Sikh Empire

Maharaja Kharak Singh (1802 – 1840)

Kharak Singh, the eldest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was born in 1802. He came to the throne on the death of his father in June 1839. He lacked the political experience of his father and had many enemies at his court. He died of poisoning on 5th November 1840. His very capable and only son, Prince Nau Nihal Singh, was also killed in a so called accident immediately after his father’s cremation in which the traitorous Dogra chiefs played an important part.

During his short reign, a few copper paisas and silver rupees were issued bearing the Vikram Samvat year date VS 1897 (1840).

     1 Rupee VS1884/(18)97 (1840)
     Amritsar Mint  (chand – moon)
     D: 23mm, W: 11.10g.

1 Rupee VS 1897 (1840)
     Multan Mint
     D: 22.5mm, W: 11.10g.

Rani Chand Kaur (1802 – 1842)

Rani Chand Kaur, widow of Maharaja Kharak Singh and mother of Prince Nau Nihal Singh, became the Ruler of Punjab on 27th November 1840 with a council of advisors. Due to palace intrigues and conspiracies, her reign lasted less than two months. She abdicated on 17th January 1841 in favour of Maharaja Sher Singh. Rani Chand Kaur was murdered by her enemies on 12th June 1842.

Maharaja Sher Singh (1807 – 1843)

Sher Singh, the second son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was born on 4th December 1807. He succeeded to the throne of Punjab on 27th January 1841 with the assistance of the Dogra Rajas who placed him on the throne for their own advantage. He too had many enemies at court. He was murdered by Ajit Singh Sandhawalia on 15th September 1843 at the instigation of the Dogra Chief Minister, Dhian Singh.

A few copper paisas and silver rupees were issued during his short reign bearing the Vikram Samvat year dates VS 1898 – VS 1900 (1841 – 1843).

          ½ Rupee VS 1885/1900 (1843) 
           Amritsar Mint (with royal umbrella)
           D: 18mm, W: 5.50g.

½ Rupee VS 1898 (1841)
 Kashmir Mint (with kirpan – sword)
 D: 17mm, W: 5.45g.

 1 Rupee VS 1899 (1842)
 Multan Mint
  D: 23mm, W: 11.10g.

1 Rupee VS 1885/(18)98 (1841)
Amritsar Mint (with trident)
 D: 22.5mm, W: 11.00g.

Maharaja Dalip Singh (1838 – 1893)

Dalip Singh, the youngest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was born on 4th September 1838. He succeeded to the throne of Punjab on the death of his elder half-brother, Sher Singh, at the young age of 5 years in September 1843. His mother, Rani Jindan (Jind Kaur), became the Regent. At this time, the British were following a policy of expansion in the Indian Native States. They cast their eyes on the crumbling power of the Sikhs. At the hard fought battles of the 1st Sikh War (1845 – 1846) which took place at  Mudki, Ferozshare, Buddowal and Sabraon, the British came out victorious and entered Lahore, the capital. To control the affairs of the Punjab, a British Resident was appointed with absolute control.

The intrigues and conspiracies between the Dogra Rajas and the British led to the 2nd Sikh War (January 1849). The Sikh army lost to the British at the battle of Chillianwala and Gujerat.

On 29th March 1849, a black day in Sikh history, Maharaja Dalip Singh sat in the Lahore Durbar (throne room) for the last time. Amidst a deep silence, the annexation of Punjab was declared by the British. Maharaja Dalip Singh and his Chiefs had to sign an agreement vide which the Sikhs lost all of their power. One of the terms of the agreement was that Maharaja Dalip Singh could reside anywhere in British territory except in the Punjab. Thus, the golden age of the Sikhs came to an end.

During the short reign of Maharaja Dalip Singh, a few copper paisas and silver rupees were issued bearing the Samvat Years VS 1901 – VS 1906 (1844 – 1849).

¼ Rupee VS 1885/1904 (1847)
 Amritsar Mint, Sat (Truth)
  D: 15mm, W: 2.80g.

1 Rupee VS 1885/1906 (1849)
Amritsar Mint
 D: 23.50mm, W: 11.10g.
 ”RAM” in LANDE Script
 (formerly known as lazy W)
  Last dated coin of Maharaja Dalip Singh

 1 Rupee VS 1885/1902 (1845)      
 Lahore Mint
  D: 22.50mm, W: 11.10g.

1 Rupee VS 1905 (1848)
Multan Mint
D: 21.50mm, W: 11.10g.

1 Rupee VS 1904 (1847)
 Nimak Mint. (Pind Dadan Khan)
D: 23.50mm, W: 10.80g.

1 Rupee. Gold (VS 1905 = 1848)
 Issued by Diwan Mulraj
during the siege of Multan
D: 9mm, W: 0.60g.

At the end of 1849, Dalip Singh was taken to Fattehgarh and elaborate precautions were taken to prevent his abduction by the Sikhs. He was baptized into the Christian faith in 1853 and soon after left for England. He did try to return to Punjab in early 1886 but on his way was arrested in Aden where he again embraced the Sikh faith, Sikhism. He finally settled in Paris, France where he died on 23rd October 1893, a broken man.

The Treachery of the Dogras

Maharaja Ranjit Singh had taken a special liking for Dhian Singh, a Sikh in outward form only but at heart a treacherous Dogra Rajput. He made him his Chief Minister, though he was not a Sikh, and conferred  the title of Raja on him as well as his two brothers, Gulab Singh and Suchet Singh. They were given large jangirs (fiefs) for their maintenance. Gulab Singh was given the province of Jammu in 1822 and Suchet Singh was given Ramnagar.

However, the ungrateful Dhian Singh and Gulab Singh were involved in many intrigues against the Sikh Empire and were bent on gaining power, wealth and becoming independent. This opportunity came at the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839. They were directly involved in the murders of Maharaja Kharak Singh, Prince Nau Nihal Singh and Maharaja Sher Singh. They even tried to put Raja Hira Singh, son of Raja Dhian Singh, on the throne of Lahore but were met with strong resistance from the Sikhs. Raja Dhian Singh was murdered in September 1843 by the Sandhawalia Sardars, Ajit Singh and Lehna Singh, with whom he had conspired earlier to murder Maharaja Sher Singh, as they were outraged at his treacherous nature.

Raja Gulab Singh turned traitor to the Sikhs cause and conspired with the British. Due to the treachery of Raja Gulab Singh, the last battle of the first Sikh war at Sabraon on 10th February 1846 was lost though the Sikhs fought gallantly to the last drop of their blood. The traitor, Gulab Singh, was rewarded with the title of Maharaja by the British and the territory of Kashmir was sold to him. Gulab Singh thus became the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir vide the Treaty of Amritsar on 15th March 1846.

The early issues of the copper and silver coins (called Gulabi) struck in Kashmir under the rule of Maharaja Gulab Singh had the Sikh symbol of a leaf.  At a later date, the leaf symbol on the coins was removed from his coinage.    

           1 Paisa VS 1921 (1864)
           Jammu Mint
           D: 23mm, W: 11.10g.

1 Rupee VS 1925 (1868)
 Srinagar Mint
 D: 22.5mm, W: 11.00g.

     1 Rupee VS 1934 (1877)
     Srinagar Mint
     D: 22.5mm, W: 11.00g.


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