* On the first of Baisakh, April 12, 1801, Sahib Singh Bedi daubed Ranjit Singh’s forehead with saffron paste and proclaimed him Maharaja of the Punjab. A royal salute was fired from the fort. In the afternoon, the young Maharaja rode on his elephant, showering gold and silver coins on jubilant crowds of his subjects. In the evening, all houses of the city were illumined. The most important consequence of taking on the title “Maharaja of the Punjab” was that thereby Ranjit Singh assumed the rights of sovereignty not only over all the Sikhs but all over the people who lived within the limits of Punjab. The title also gave Ranjit Singh a legal right to demand that territories which had at any time paid revenue to Lahore territories such as Jammu, Kashmir, and the Rajput hill states, Multan, Bahawalpur pur, Dera Ismail Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan and others should pay tribute to him and owe allegiance to the Lahore Darbar.

* Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s political acumen is well illustrated in the compromise that he made between becoming a Maharaja and remaining a peasant leader. Although crowned King of Punjab, he refused to wear the emblem of royalty in his simple turban. He refused to sit in a throne and continued as before to hold durbar seated cross legged in his chair. He ordered new coins to be struck. These did not bear his effigy or his name but that of Guru Nanak, and were named the “Nanak Sahi” coins. The seal of the government likewise bore no reference to him. It was known as “Sarkar Khalsa Ji”, the court for the same reason came to be knownas the “Darbar Khalsa Ji”. He himself preferred to be addressed as plain and simple “Singh Sahib”. Ranjit Singh did not want to, nor ever did, lose the common touch.

Article extracted from this publication >>  February 13, 1987