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The Historical Study Of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Times - Book By Dr. Kirpal Singh
Preface Of The Book 'The Historical Study Of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Times' By Dr. Kirpal Singh
In the Indian history Maharaja Ranjit Singh ( 1799-1839 A.O.) was like a meteor who shot up in the sky and dominated the scene for about half a century. He proved to be the Indian Bismark who unified the warring states of the Punjab, which after his death was annexed by the Britishers in 1849. He was able to repel the evergushing stream of foreign invasions from the north western frontier and create a vast empire between two great powers of India-Britishers on one hand and the Afghan on the other. He inspired both admiration and awe. His accounts have been written by the court chroniclers who were full of adoration for their master. On the other hand British records give the twist in order to establish the British superiority and justify their policy of expansion of territories. Therefore the historiography of Ranjit Singh' s period is of great significance. In this bunch of research papers an effort has been made to analyse the nature of some of the important sources of information. · It also emphasizes the significance of documentation concerning the events or situations relating to this period.
There are numerous writings by Europeans-travellers and employees of both Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the East India Company viz the British authorities. This category includes Alexander Gardener, Steinback, J.D. Cunningham, Princep, Dr Mecgregor, and travellers like Von Hugel, Jacquemont Moor Croft, Alexander Burnes etc.
Besides this there are three kinds of records: -
I. Official Record of Ranjit Singh
(a) This includes the account written by Court Chronicler Sohan Lal Suri - five volumes of Umdatul Twarikh in Persian. At later stage after the death· of Ranjit Singh it was tampered by the British.
(b) Khalsa Darbar Records. This was brought from Lahore in 1947 and is preserved in the Punjab state Archives, Patiala. Its catalogue in two volumes was prepared by Prof. Sita Ram Kohli and published by the Punjab Government, Lahore.
(c) there are more records which represent Lahore Darbar's account like Bhandari collection of papers recently acquired and preserved in the Punjab State Archives, Zafar Namah by Dewan Amar Nath (Persian) edited by Prof. Sita Ram Singh and published by Punjab University Lahore, etc.
II. British Records of East India' company
(a) The second major records are the official noting, correspondence, comments, reports etc. of the East India Company. These huge records have been preserved in the National Archives of India which was previously known as Imperial Record Office. They throw a flood of light on various dealings of Ranjit Singh with the British and subsequently events leading to the Sikh Wars and annexation etc.
(b) Persian Accounts got written by the Britishers include the following:-
(l) Tarikh-i-Punjab by Bute Shah
(2) Tarikh-i-Sikhan, Khushwaqat Rai. The author was an employee of the British.
(3) Ibarat Namah by Aliuddin etc.
III. Private Records
There is another category of records which are being discovered and these constitute the most important source of information. These are personal and private letters of the British officials who used to write about important events in India to their near and dear ones in England. In these letters they revealed their real mind which they could not disclose in their official documents.
The papers on Anglo Sikh Wars and Maharaja Dalip Singh are based on private records. Sir Henry Hardinge, the Governor General who fought First Sikh War had written letters to his wife, in England. These are most revealing regarding the events of the First Sikh War and role of Raja Gulab Singh. Brigadier Alexander Macleod was fighting the Second Sikh War. His son was in British army and he used to write letters to his wife Nancy and his son William giving graphic account of various battles of the Second Sikh War. When Lord Cross was the Secretary of State for India, Lord Dufferin was the Governor General and Viceroy. The former used to write personal and private letters to latter relating to Maharaja Dalip Singh' s visit to Russia. These letters are revealing. These three research papers highlight the significance of private records in writing scientific history. Late S. Partap Singh Kairon then Chief Minister of Punjab enabled me to locate and consult the private records in England by sanctioning my research tour to that country.