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Ranjit Singh:: Maharaja of The Punjab Paperback – 1 Dec 2008
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true portrait of lion of punjab...author clearly shows his scholarship and deep dwelving in to the repository of knowledge and bringing out UNBIASED work on the era of independent Punjab a rarity that came after 800 years out of a genius of man who turned the tide of invasions and those who were fond of invading were themselves beseiged by undisputable mighty although most generous and forgiving ruler in history...language is very clear and informative and it reads like a novel...Khushwant singh continues to live through his work --Raminder Sep 18, 2014
As Khushwant Singh embarks on his latest voyage into history, he tries to strike a balance with making a scholarly work and producing something that the masses in general would enjoy. It doesn't possess the acute insights of some of his previous works and leaves the reader wanting in some aspects. The story line seems to have a sluggish start with too many details outpouring of Khushwants pen, and then the end approaches as rapidly as the Maharajahs own as you'll read. Overall, the books seems to be a precursor to his Hisotory of the Sikhs. The stormy life of Maharajah with all its intrigues, power plays and political brinkmanship certainly makes for an interesting read. Those who are averse to the detailed descriptions however would find their heads nodding off in midst. --By Paramjit Kaur on 27 July 2013
About the Author
Khushwant Singh was an Anglo-Indian writer, advocate, politician and journalist. A Padma Vibhushan awardee, Mr. Singh is best remembered for his humour, love of poetry and his vigourous treatment of secularism in his writings, most evident in: The Company of Women, Truth, Love and a Little Malice, With Malice towards One and All, The Mark of Vishnu and Other Stories and Delhi: A Novel. A graduate of Government College, Lahore, St. Stephen's College in Delhi and King's College London, he read for the Bar at the Inner Temple and served as a practising lawyer for nearly fifteen years before entering journalism. He has worked with The Illustrated Weekly, The National Herald and Hindustan Times. A prolific writer, Mr. Singh wrote till the grand old age of 99, releasing his last work The Good, The Bad and The Ridiculous a few months before his passing in March 2014.
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They all appreciate the fact he was the only indigenous monarch of Punjab in a millennium who kept both the Afghans in the west and British in the east at bay. What most of them detest was his inability to extend his empire beyond his own life time, and beyond the boundary of West Punjab (to Sindh in the south or across Sutlej in the east for example). That he was able to extend it to China border in the north and Khyber Pass in the west is not good enough for them. And they blame him for that in not choosing the right heir, or believe in British gossip-mongering that few, if any, of his children were his own. Most Sikh historians also hate his secularism (his favourite queens - Mohran, Gul, Jindan - were all Muslims; he engraved peahen on his currency in honour of Mohran - when called before the highest Sikh religious body in Harmandir Sahib Amritsar, he accepted to take any punishment but refused to revoke the action; he donated lot of money to Hindu temples and Muslim mosques along with Sikh Gurdwaras and wanted to donate Koh-I-Noor to Jagannath Temple in Puri during the last hours of his life). The Sikh historians wanted to pigeon-hole him purely as a Sikh ruler, and were frustrated when they couldn't.
Mercifully, Khushwant Singh has been most objective and secular in his analysis of Ranjit Singh. He has portrayed even the negative aspects of his subject, like his excessive drinking and whoring, objectively without being judgemental. What emerges is an exceptionally brave, compassionate, fiercely independent and humane monarch way ahead of his time who didn't put a single person to death for any crime, nor beheaded any of his vanquished opponents, yet maintained a peaceful empire in which general public loved him and no one was disloyal to him till his death. The book ends on the day of Ranjit Singh's death. A man could only be held accountable till his death. What happened after his death, even if it was the most bizarre chapter of Punjab history, he couldn't be held responsible for.
However, even Khushwant Singh hasn't done complete justice to Ranjit Singh. According to Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner (1840-1899), one-time Principal of Government College Lahore, founder of University of Punjab Lahore and a much-travelled man, education standard in Punjab during Ranjit Singh's regime was at par with the best in the world - far superior to the standard in British India - which suffered greatly after Ranjit Singh's death when British took over Punjab. That an illiterate man could achieve this in his 40-year rule has to be the greatest achievement of Ranjit Singh for which Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs of undivided Punjab should ever be grateful for.
Manjit Sachdeva Author of "Lost Generations" (2013)