Anglo-Sikh Wars

Anglo-Sikh wars


The First Anglo – Sikh War

Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1799-1839) was the last great ruler of Punjab. After his death in 1839, his son

Khadag Singh and then Sher Singh became king. After the killing of Sher Singh, Maharaja Daleep Singh,

a minor son of Ranjit Singh, became king. He was only five years old, so his mother Rani Jind alia’s

Jhindan became his regent

But the Sikh army of Punjab was not happy with Jindan Kaur, the Rani, so they enabled ‘Khalsa

Panchayat’ and started taking decisions on their own. Often the civil administration and Punjab army

were in collusion. The court intrigue in Punjab was also weakening the state.

The English East India Company had recently fought along war against Afghanistan (1836 –

42). They realised that Punjab is key to have better control over Afghanistan.

The British took advantage of weak political situation of Punjab and were in search of an

excuse to wage a war against them.

They succeeded in allying Teja Singh, the commander-in-chief and Lal Singh, the wazir. Both

the traitors convinced their army to cross Satluj on December 13, 1845. Though the Sikh army was still

in the territory of their king’s dominion, it was enough for the British to declare war against Punjab. It

was just an ‘excuse’ for the war.

The first battle was fought at Mudki on December 18, 1845 in which the Sikhs were defeated

but the British also suffered heavily with the loss amounting to 872 soldier beign killed and wounded.

The second battle look place at Firozshah on December 21, 1845. The Sikhs were clearly at upper hand.

The Birtish army was in a state of confusion. Had Teja Singh and Lal Singh not treacherously retired

from the battlefield at that critical time the result would have been different.

The General requested the Sikh Sardars to desert their army and promised them awards and rewards

in return. Maharaja Gulab Singh of army jammu was promised Kashmir and Lal Singh was heavily


But the Sikh army rallied again under Ranjhor Singh and defeated the British army. But Ranjhor Singh

was defeated at Aliwal on January 28, 1846. The decisive battle, however, was fought at sobraon, near

Sutlej, on February 10, 1846. Lal Singh gave a plan of the Sikh position at Sobraon and Teja Singh

mysteriously disappeared from the battlefield. In spite of treason and treachery of their leaders, the

Sikh soldiers dashed against the British forced.

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 of rupees was to be given to the English.

• The Jalandhar Doab (between the Beas and the Sutlej) was annexed to the Company’s


• A British resident was to be established at Lahore under Henry Lawrence.

• 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 Rupees 75 lakh to the Company as the price. The transfer of Kashmir

to Gulab Singh was formalised by a separate treaty on March 16, 1846.

Treaty of Bhairowal The Sikhs were not satisfied with the Treaty of Lahore over the issue of

Kashmir, so they rebelled. In December, 1846 the Treaty of Bhairowal was signed. According to

the provisions of this treaty, Rani Jindan was removed as regent and a council of regency for

Punjab was set up. The council consisted of 8 Sikh Sardars presided over by the English resident,

Henry Lawrence.

Second Anglo-Sikh (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. Inhuman treatment meted out to Rani Jindan,

who was sent to Benares as a pensioner, added to the resentment of 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 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) Battle of Chillhanwala, January, 1849.

(iii) Battle of Gujrata, 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


Result At the end of the war came:

• Surrender of 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

become the first chief commissioner.

Significance of the Anglo-Sikh Wars

The Anglo-Sikh wars gave the two sides a mutual respect for each other’s fighting prowess. The

Sikhs were to fight loyally on the British side in the Revolt of 1857 and in many other campaigns

and wars uptil the India independence in 1947.

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