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Spectrum – Lecture 04 : Anglo-Sikh Wars | Modern Indian History – Free PDF Download

After the end of  Third-Anglo Maratha war

  • Maratha chiefs too existed from now on at the mercy of the British power.
  • The Rajputana states had been dominated for several decades by Sindhia and
  • After the downfall of the Marathas, they lacked the energy to reassert
  • their independence and readily accepted British supremacy.
    • Thus, by 1818, the entire Indian sub-continent excepting the Punjab and Sindh had been brought under British control. Part of it was ruled directly by the British  and the rest by a host of Indian rulers over when the British exercised paramount  These states had virtually no armed forces of their own, nor did they have  any independent foreign relations.
  • The British completed the task of conquering the whole of India from 1818 to 1857. Sindh and the Punjab were conquered and Avadh, the Central Provinces and a large number of other petty states were annexed.

Conquest of Punjab

  • The weakness of the Mughals and invasions of Ahmad Shah Abdali created a general confusion and anarchy in Punjab. These political conditions helped the organised Dal Khalsa to consolidate further.
  • The Sikhs consolidated in misls, which were military brotherhoods with a democratic set-up. Misl is an Arabic word which means equal or alike. Another meaning of Misl is State.
  • The misls were the twelve sovereign states of the Sikh Confederacy, which rose during the 18th century in the Punjab region in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent and is cited as one of the causes of the weakening of the Mughal Empire prior to Nader Shah’s invasion of India in 1738–1740
  • During the period, 1763 to 1773, many misls started to rule the Punjab region under Sikh chieftains, from Saharanpur in the east to Attock in the west, from the mountaineous regions of the north to Multan in the south.

Sukarchakiya Misl and Ranjit Singh

  • At the time of the birth of Ranjit Singh (November 2, 1780), there were 12 important misls—Ahluwaliya, Bhangi, Dallewalia, Faizullapuria, Kanhaiya, Krorasinghia, Nakkai, Nishaniya, Phulakiya, Ramgarhiya Sukharchakiya, and Shaheed.
  • The central administration of a misl was based on Gurumatta Sangh, which was essentially a political, social, and economic system.
  • Ranjit Singh was the son of Mahan Singh, the leader of the Sukarchakiya misl. Mahan Singh died when Ranjit Singh was only 12 years old. But Ranjit Singh showed an early acumen at political affairs. Towards the close of the 18th century, all the important misls (except Sukarchakiya) were in a state of disintegration.
  • These events in the neighbouring regions were fully exploited by Ranjit Singh, who followed a ruthless policy of ‘blood and iron’ and carved out for himself a kingdom in the central Punjab. In 1799, Ranjit Singh was appointed as the governor of Lahore by Zaman Shah, the ruler of Afghanistan. In 1805, Ranjit Singh acquired Jammu and Amritsar, and, thus, the political capital (Lahore) and religious capital (Amritsar) of Punjab came under the rule of Ranjit Singh. He also maintained good relations with the Dogras and the Nepalese and enlisted them in his army.
  • Ranjit Singh successfully absorbed and united the Sikh misls and took over other local kingdoms to create the Sikh Empire.
  • The prospects of a joint Franco-Russian invasion of India through the land-route had alarmed the English.
  • In 1807, Lord Minto sent Charles Metcalfe to Lahore. Ranjit Singh offered to accept Metcalfe’s proposal of an offensive and defensive alliance on the condition that the English would remain neutral in case of a Sikh-Afghan war and would consider Ranjit Singh the sovereign of the entire Punjab.
  • Ranjit Singh agreed to sign the Treaty of Amritsar (April 25, 1809) with the Company.

Treaty of Amritsar

  • The Treaty of Amritsar was significant for its immediate as well as potential effects. It checked one of the most cherished ambitions of Ranjit Singh to extend his rule over the entire Sikh nation by accepting the river Sutlej as the boundary line for his dominions and the Company’s. Now he directed his energies towards the west and captured Multan (1818), Kashmir (1819), and Peshawar (1834).
  • Ranjit Singh died in June 1839, and, with his death, the process of the decline of his empire began

First Anglo-Sikh War (1845–46)


  • The outbreak of the first of the Anglo-Sikh wars has been attributed to the action of the Sikh army crossing the River Sutlej on December 11, 1845. This was seen as an aggressive maneuver that provided the English with the justification to declare war

Course of War

  • The war began in December 1845, with 20,000 to 30,000 troops in the British side, while the Sikhs had about 50,000 men under the overall command of Lal Singh.
  • But the treachery of Lal Singh and Teja Singh caused five successive defeats to the Sikhs \
  1. at Mudki (December 18, 1845),
  2. Ferozeshah (December 21–22, 1845),
  3. Buddelwal, Aliwal (January 28, 1846),
  4. and at Sobraon (February 10, 1846).
  • Lahore fell to the British forces on February 20, 1846 without a fight.

Treaty of Lahore

  • (March 8, 1846) The end of the first Anglo-Sikh War forced the Sikhs to sign a humiliating treaty on March 8, 1846. The main features of the Treaty of Lahore were as follows:
  • War indemnity of more than 1 crore rupees was to be given to the English.
  • The Jalandhar Doab (between the Beas and the Sutlej) was annexed to the Company’s dominions.
  • A British resident was to be established at Lahore under Henry Lawrence.
  • The strength of the Sikh army was reduced.
  • Daleep Singh was recognised as the ruler under Rani Jindan as regent and Lal Singh as wazir.
  • Since the Sikhs were not able to pay the entire war indemnity, Kashmir, including Jammu, was sold to Gulab Singh and he was required to pay 75 lakh rupees to the Company as the price. The transfer of Kashmir to Gulab Singh was formalised by a separate treaty on March 16, 1846.

Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848–49)


  • The defeat in the first Anglo-Sikh War and the provisions of the treaties of Lahore and Bhairowal were highly humiliating for the Sikhs.
  • Mulraj, the governor of Multan, was replaced by a new Sikh governor over the issue of increase in annual revenue. Mulraj revolted and murdered two English officers accompanying the new governor. Sher Singh was sent to suppress the revolt, but he himself joined Mulraj, leading to a mass uprising in Multan. This could be considered as the immediate cause of the war.
  • The then Governor General of India, Lord Dalhousie, a hardcore expansionist, got the pretext to annex Punjab completely.

Course of War

  • Lord Dalhousie himself proceeded to Punjab. Three important battles were fought before the final annexation of Punjab.

These three battles were:

  • (i) Battle of Ramnagar, led by Sir Hugh Gough, the commander-in-chief of the Company
  • (ii) (ii) Battle of Chillhanwala, January, 1849
  • (iii) (iii) Battle of Gujarat, February 21, 1849; the Sikh army surrendered at Rawalpindi, and their Afghan allies were chased out of India. (Gujarat is a small town on the banks of River Jhelum.)


  • At the end of the war came:
  • surrender of the Sikh army and Sher Singh in 1849;
  • annexation of Punjab; and for his services the Earl of Dalhousie was given the thanks of the British Parliament and a promotion in the peerage, as Marquess;
  • setting up of a three-member board to govern Punjab, comprising of the Lawrence brothers (Henry and John) and Charles Mansel. In 1853, the board was nullified and Punjab was placed under a chief commissioner. John Lawrence became the first chief commissioner.
  • In 1849, under Dalhousie’s command, the British captured the princely state of Punjab. In the process he captured the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond from the twelve-year old Punjabi Maharaja Duleep Singh.




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