Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the founder of the Sikh Empire, was a “great humanist” who saw every religion uniformly and constructed more temples and mosques than gurdwaras, a noted British-Pakistani historian has said. Delivering the annual lecture on ‘Maharaja Ranjit Singh-the rise and fall of a secular empire’ – organised by the Pothohar Association, UK at the Mayfair’s Hotel in London on Friday, Fakir Syed Aijazuddin, Honorary British Consul, Lahore, said: “Maharaja Ranjit Singh was a great humanist. He saw every religion uniformly during his regime.”
Ranjit Singh’s secularism can be seen in the trust he reposed in the three Muslim brothers who began their careers as Hakims or physicians but gradually rose to become indispensable functionaries in his court, Aijazuddin said. “The eldest was Azizuddin, who acted as his spokesman and foreign minister, the second – Imamuddin – was given responsibility for the Sikh armoury at Govindgarh, outside Amritsar and the third – Nuruddin,- my lineal ancestor – became the de facto governor of Lahore.”
Ranjit Singh gave Azizuddin diplomatic responsibilities after he treated Ranjit Singh’s precious eye, he said. He also pointed out that during his regime, Ranjit Singh built more temples and mosques than gurdwaras. “While he built one gurdwara, he would build two mandirs (temples) and three mosques,” he said.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh came to power in Punjab in the early half of the 19th century. Born on November 13, 1780 in Gujranwala, now in Pakistan, he died on June 27, 1839 in Lahore.