[Chapter 2 of “The Sikhs and Afghans, in connexion with India and Persia, immediately before and after the death of Ranjeet Singh – From the Journal of an expedition to Kabul, through the Panjab and the Khaibar Pass”]

By Shahamat Ali [Persian Secretary with the Mission of Lieut Col Sir C M Wade, to Peshawar in 1839, and now Mir Munshi to the Political Resident in Malwa]

[Published 1847; Pages 14-25]

The Government of Lahore – Mode of conducting business – The Governors – Habits of the Maharaja – The Darbar – Disposition of the various officers of the Maharaja’s court – Governors of provinces – Revenue of the Maharaja’s dominions – Strength, organization, and expense of his army. *
[* Since this journal was written great changes have taken place in the court of Lahore; almost all the principal persons mentioned have died of violent or natural deaths, and the army been destroyed.]

THE government of Lahore is a pure despotism, and the entire direction of its affairs, foreign or domestic, is, according to the Oriental saying, on the tongue of his Highness. Although some of the courtiers are men of wisdom and intelligence, and the Maharaja has a share of that consideration and respect which every ruler must have for the prejudices and opinions of his countrymen, yet, possessed of a vigorous mind himself, and having a great reliance on his own penetration and judgment, he is generally guided by his own opinions, though he may ask that of his courtiers.

In affairs of importance he consults the Grunth, the religious book of the Sikhs, and often acts as he is guided by that oracle. His correspondence with foreign states, as well as with his own functionaries, is solely dictated by himself; and, though illiterate, he exercises a minute criticism in correcting the diction of his secretaries. An habitual reserve in matters of business forms a striking feature of his character. It is an invariable rule with him never to mention his object to anyone until the time for execution has arrived.

During the early part of his reign, he and the other Sikh chiefs had no system of official records; business was conducted by verbal orders, and continued so with Ranjeet Singh until Diwan Bhowani Das, a clever native of Peshawar, was employed.

When he came into his service he divided the transaction of the affairs of state into different offices or departments, keeping the accounts, farming of districts, and preserving every record of importance, commenced only from that period. At present there are twelve Daftars or offices where the civil and military business of the government is arranged. Diwan Dinanath is at the head of them. Formerly, neither were there any forms for the Deodhee;* [*Corresponding with the Lord Chamberlain’s office, literally the entrance to the court] they were introduced about the same time. Bhae Ram Singh, and Bhae Govind Ram, and Faqir Azizuddin, assist his Highness in civil affairs; the Faqir also acts the part of chief secretary for foreign affairs. The letters to functionaries are also frequently written by him. Misser Beli Ram, a respectable Brahmin, is in charge of the regalia and the treasury. A separate account of these functionaries will be given, and no observations need therefore be made on their merits or character here.

The affairs of the country are conducted by means of Governors or Kardars, who are appointed to each district. They manage the whole business connected with the administration of the territory entrusted to them, and seldom report any case to the court unless it be of high importance, when his Highness’s orders are communicated by issuing Parwanas.* [*Official orders] The settlement of the revenue, the audit of accounts, and their adjustment, both in the military and civil department; are done entirely by the Maharaja; but in the last two or three years, owing to his bad state of health, he has sometimes delegated that duty to Raja Dhian Singh. He has news-writers in every quarter of his dominions, and the news of foreign courts is always read to his Highness in the morning.

His Highness disposes of his time in the following manner :- In the morning and evening he always goes out either on horseback or in a litter to take the air; when in ill health he seldom denies himself that exercise, or even in rainy or stormy weather. After his ride in the morning he takes a hasty breakfast, and then holds his Darbar,*[*Court of audience] and sometimes on the plain under the shade of a tree or a camp, which continues till twelve o’clock. The whole business of the day is transacted by him with rapidity and despatch during that time. When the Darbar is over, the Maharaja takes a short repose of half an hour only, when he resumes his seat, and hears the Grunth for about one hour and a half. After that ceremony he again takes the air. In these exercises he generally employs himself in inspecting his troops, or other military exercises, or receiving the petitions of his people.

With the exception of the five functionaries already named, the annexed list contains the names of the other courtiers, chiefs, and military commanders who attend the Darbar. Nearly all the old Sikh Sirdars or chiefs are now extinct.

Those only of them who survive are Sirdars Jawend Singh, Mowakil, Dhuna Singh, Malwai, and Sham Singh, Atariwala, but they possess very little influence in the court. The rest are either the descendants of old families or the creations of a few days, owing their rise to His Highness.

Sirdar Atar Singh,
Sirdar Ajit Singh, and
Sirdar Lehna Singh,
{Sindhanwalia the relations of the Maharaja}

Sirdar Lehna Singh Majithia.

Sirdar Sham Singh, the father-in-law of Kour Naonihal Singh,
Naonihal Singh and Sirdars Jei Singh, and Jagat Singh

Sher Singh and Karam Singh

Sirdar Dhuna Singh, Malwai.

Sirdar Jawend Singh, Mowakil.

Pertab Singh, the son of the late Jawala Singh, Bherania.

General Allard, lately dead.
General Ventura.
M. Avitabile.
M. Court, besides several others, viz.: Messrs. Foulkes, Steinbach, &c., with inferior commands.* [*MM. Avitabile and Court are also styled generals by courtesy.]

General Teij Singh
General Ram Singh, the son of Jemadar Khoshal Singh
General MIsser Sukhraj, to each of whom the Maharaja has given separate divisions of his army

All the other officers and functionaries at the time of Darbar wait in the outer yard next to the palace: when anyone is required he is sent for to the presence.

Besides the above Sirdars, Sirdar Cheit Singh and Sirdar Mangul Singh, who are called the ministers of Kour Kharak Singh and Diwan Hakim Rae and Sirdar Fateh Singh, those of Kour Naonihal Singh, attend the court in the company of their masters.

The Sirdars and officers of the Maharaja’s court are for the most part well disposed towards Kour Kharak Singh and Naonihal Singh, and have respect for their authority, but they are not so well affected towards Kour Sher Singh. A bad feeling also prevails between the latter and Kour Kharak Singh and his son. The Jammoo family and Jemadar Khoshal Singh were not formerly on good terms; but at the last great fair of the Komb held at Hardwar, Raja Golab Singh and the Jemadar, who met there, exchanged turbans with each other standing in the water of the Ganges,* [*A solemn mode of reconciliation] since which they have always remained intimately allied. All the other Sirdars are generally on good terms with the Jammoo family, either from inclination or necessity. Sirdar Ajit Singh of the Sindhanwalia family has lately exchanged turbans with Raja Hera Singh, but Jemadar Khoshal Singh on the one hand and the Sindhanwalias, four Bhaes, and the Misser’s on the other, are not on good terms, and try to injure each other. The Missers and the Rajas have also had a difference, which is scarcely healed. It took place between Raja Dhian Singh and Misser Ram Kishan, the brother of Beli Ram, on account of the latter having been stopped on his entrance at the Deodhee when he proceeded as usual to the “Darbar,” and high words were exchanged on either side, which went so far that the Raja proposed to resign, but the officers of the court interposed, and brought about a partial reconciliation.

The following is the list of the chief functionaries or Governors appointed to the several provinces within the Maharaja’s dominions, showing their names and the amount of revenue derived from each province:-

(Amount in Rupees)
Diwan Sawan Mal, the governor of Multan – 38,98,550.0

Misser Roop Lal, the governor of Doaba of Jalandar – 18,72,902.0

Raja Gholab Singh, in charge of the country lying between the Chinab and the Jehlum – 25,45,000.0

Raja Socheit Singh, of the district of Vazirabad – 10,55,726.4

Sardar Lehna Singh Majithia of Manjha and territories in the hills between Satledge and Ravi – 14,87,475.0

Mian Singh, the governor of Kashmir – 36,75,000.0

M. Avitabile, the governor of Peshawr – 18,34,738.0

Besides the above, there are other officers and Kardars, such as the sons and nephews of the Faqirs and the Missers, &c. who govern small districts. The remittances made by these officers are mostly by means of Hundwis on Amritsir. No sum is received from Peshawr. The revenue of that province is consumed there, and large remittances made from court to pay the force employed in that quarter. The capture of Peshawar has been an expensive conquest to the Maharaja.

The whole revenue derived from the country within the rule of his Highness is said to amount to three crores, twenty-seven thousand, seven hundred and sixty-two rupees, which is derived from the following sources:-

Khalsa – 1,96,57,172
Jaghirs given to different people – 87,54,590
Khirajdars – 12,66,000
Transit duties between Akora and the Satledge – 5,50,000

Total of Rupees – 3,00,27,762

I shall now briefly touch on the strength, organization, and expenses of the Maharaja’s army.

Maharaja Ranjeet Singh has a large and well-disciplined army. It is better regulated than that of any native chief in India. He himself, being passionately fond of the military profession, has chiefly devoted his attention to the organization of his army.

It consists of 31 regiments of infantry, 9 regiments of cavalry, and 288 pieces of artillery of various calibre, of which 143 pieces are drawn by horses, 147 by bullocks, and 8 howitzers, besides 11,800 irregular Sowars. Nearly one-half of his regular army is commanded by the French and other European officers, and the rest by his native officers. Besides these troops the following are furnished by the Jaghirdars.

Irregular Sowars – 6460
Regular infantry – 9 regiments
Ditto cavalry – 5 regiments
Horse and bullock artillery – 87 pieces

Of these regular troops three regiments of infantry and two regiments of cavalry are furnished by Kours Kharak Singh and Naonihal Singh, and four regiments of infantry and one regiment of cavalry by the Jammoo family, while two regiments of infantry are provided by Sirdar Lehna Singh Majithia and Jemadar Khoshal Singh, and the two other regiments of cavalry by the Sindhanwalia family and Sirdar Lehna Singh.

The troops forming his garrisons in different forts, and the establishments maintained for police and other purposes, are not included in the above enumeration. The annexed is the statement of the annual expense incurred by the Maharaja in the payment of his regular army:-

Infantry, 31 regiments – 28,09,200
Cavalry, 9 regiments – 24,53,656
Horse artillery, 288 pieces – 3,24,864
Irregular Sowars, 11,800 – 72,08,562
Total rupees – 1,27,96,482

A great many deductions are made from the pay of the troops, which reduce the actual expenditure considerably. They are armed and clothed by the state, and, with the exception of two or three battalions commanded by the English officers, are organised according to the French system. The men composing the army are almost entirely Sikhs, with whom the regular service of the Maharaja is popular. In enduring fatigue, absence from the prejudices of caste, and patience of discipline, the Sikh is not easily surpassed. He only requires the skill of European officers and instructors to make him an excellent soldier.* [*They have established their military fame by their gallant conduct in the late war.]

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