Kingdom of the Sikhs (1799-1849)

Kingdom of the Sikhs

The Kingdom of the Sikhs, or Sarkar Khalsaji, was a manifestation of the spiritual path initiated by Guru Nanak that was eventually crystallized into the tradition of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh. In 1799, the Sikhs established their kingdom in that part of the Indian subcontinent most traumatised by the invaders from the west. Significantly, when this new kingdom came into being the East India Company had gained supremacy in the Indian subcontinent.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Sarkar Khalsaji stretched from the banks of the Satluj to the very foothills of the Hindu Kush Mountains in the trans-Indus region. Hari Singh Nalwa was the Commander-in-Chief at the most turbulent northwest frontier of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's kingdom. He took the frontier of the Sarkar Khalsaji to the very mouth of the Khyber Pass.

For eight centuries, marauders from Central Asia had gained easy access into the subcontinent through the Khyber Pass. They had freely indulged in loot, plunder, rape, and forcible conversions to Islam. In his lifetime, Hari Singh became a terror to the ferocious tribes inhabiting this region. He successfully thwarted the last foreign invasion into the subcontinent through this Pass at Jamrud, permanently blocking this route of the invaders. Even in his death, Hari Singh Nalwa's formidable reputation ensured victory for the Sikhs against an Afghan force five times as numerous.

Hari Singh Nalwa's performance as a military commander and as an administrator in this region of the Indian subcontinent remains unmatched. Two centuries on, Britain, Pakistan, Russia and America have been unsuccessful in effecting law and order here. Hari Singh Nalwa's spectacular achievements exemplified the tradition established by Guru Gobind Singh such that he came to be hailed as the 'Champion of the Khalsaji'.

India in 1823 CE, showing the extent of the kingdom of the Sikhs. From Joppen, C. 1938. Historical Atlas of India, 4th ed., Calcutta: Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd.