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Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839)

Known as the Lion of Punjab he earns his rightful place in the Hall of Fame for the enlightenment he brought into a country whose bane was lack of vision among rulers who roughshod over subjects in order to prove their exalted position. He was a protector of the weak and poor in a state that he established where he proved by example the strong were as just and their strength was in making the weak feel secure.
Succeeding his father at the age of 18 he wielded the Sikh Raj a region straddling the border into modern –day People’s Republic of China and Islamic Republic of Afghanistan or the Kingdom of Kabul as it was known then.
In his reign lasting nearly forty years he had conquered vast tracts of territory strategically juxtaposed between the limits of British India to the left and the powerful Afghan Empire to the right. The land that eventually became the Kingdom of the Sikhs had been ruthlessly subjected to the worse kind of atrocities by invading armies coming through the Khyber Pass into the Indian sub-continent, over eight centuries. Among his conquests most notable achievements were in his conquest of Lahore in 1799 and he made it his capital, annexed Kashmir (1819). He wore out the Afghan army by sheer doggedness won from them the control of Peshwar in 1834.
The extent of his kingdom steadily broke away after his death and the sway of Great Britain had become all too powerful to break. But one lasting legacy of this great ruler was his religious tolerance. The empire of the Sikhs was most exceptional in that it allowed men from religions other than their own to rise to commanding positions of authority. Besides the Singh (Sikh), the Khan (Muslim) and the Misr (Hindu Brahmin) feature as prominent administrators. The Christians formed a part of the militia of the Sikhs. In 1831, Ranjit Singh deputed his mission to Simla to confer with the British Governor General, Lord William Bentinck. Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa, Fakir Aziz-ud-din and Diwan Moti Ram ― a Sikh, a Muslim and a Hindu representative ― were nominated at its head. Rather than caste merit was considered for appointment to important offices.
‘At present, flushed by a series of victories, they (the Sikhs) have a zeal and buoyancy of spirit amounting to enthusiasm; and with the power of taking the most exemplary revenge, they have been still more lenient than the Mohammedan were ever towards them.’(Masson, Charles. 1842. Narrative of Various Journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan and the Panjab, 3 v. London: Richard Bentley)
Maharaja Ranjit Singh is remembered for uniting the Punjab as a strong nation and his possession of the Koh-i-noor diamond. Ranjit Singh willed the Koh-i-noor to Jagannath Temple in Puri, Orissa while on his deathbed in 1839. His most lasting legacy was the golden beautification of the Harmandir Sahib, most revered Gurudwara of the Sikhs, with marble and gold, from which the popular name of the “Golden Temple” is derived.
He was also known as “Sher-e-Punjab” which means the “Lion of Punjab” and is considered one of the three lions of modern India, the most famous and revered heroes in Indian subcontinent’s history. The other lions are Rana Pratap Singh of Mewar and Chhatrapati Shivaji, the great Maratha ruler. The title of “Sher-e-Punjab” is still widely used as a term of respect for a powerful man.
Captain William Murray’s memoirs on Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s character:
Ranjit Singh has been likened to Mehmet Ali and to Napoleon. There are some points in which he resembles both; but estimating his character with reference to his circumstances and positions, he is perhaps a more remarkable man than either. There was no ferocity in his disposition and he never punished a criminal with death even under circumstances of aggravated offence. Humanity indeed, or rather tenderness for life, was a trait in the character of Ranjit Singh. There is no instance of his having wantonly infused his hand in blood.”
Many famous folk stories about Maharaja portray a leader and the inspiration Maharaja Ranjit Singh was. In one famous incident, when Maharaja was about to cross the badly flooded river near Attock (now in Pakistan and called Kabul River). One of Maharaja’s generals reported this fact to Maharaja, saying that the river cannot be crossed and it is now an Atak (an obstacle in Hindi) for us. Maharaja retorted “eh Attock uhna lai atak hai, jehna de dillan wich atak hai” or “This river Attock is an obstacle for those, who have obstacles in their hearts”, then crossed the river successfully. The army and other generals followed his lead.(ack: wikipedia)
benny

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Constantine I (c.280-337AD)
Emperor

His contribution to the burgeoning Christianity in the difficult days of persecution under the Roman aegis he is called the Great and among Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Christians by the appellation of a saint. Saint Constantine or Constantine the Great he reversed the persecutions of his predecessor, Diocletian, and issued (with his co-emperor Licinius) the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance throughout the empire.
Caesar Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus was Roman emperor from 306, and the sole holder of that office from 324 until his death in 337.
Constantine also transformed in a matter of six years the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium into a new imperial residence, Constantinople, which would remain the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire for over one thousand years. When he died the empire was divided among his three sons which was a harbinger of things to come.
The Byzantine Empire considered Constantine its founder and the Holy Roman Empire reckoned him among the venerable figures of its tradition. In the later Byzantine state, it had become a great honor for an emperor to be hailed as a “new Constantine”. Ten emperors, including the last emperor of Byzantium, carried the name. At the court of Charlemagne the name Constantine acquired a mythic role as a warrior against heathens and his identifying with his reign was to prove his legitimacy as his successor. Perhaps this foreshadows the manner Stalin made himself as legitimate successor to the mantle of Lenin.

benny

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AKBAR THE GREAT (1542 – 1605)

Ruler

He is considered to be the greatest of the Moghul Emperors of India, who extended his hold on the Indian sub-continent and established an elaborate administrative service on military lines, in which the highest posts were open to Hindus as well as Muslims. Although he never renounced Islam, he took an active interest in other religions persuading other sects to engage in religious discussions before him. Illiterate himself, he encouraged scholars, poets, painters and musicians, making his court a centre of culture. Descended from Turks, Mongols and Iranians who pre-dominated in the political elites of Northern India he could boast among his ancestors both Tamerlane and Genghis Khan. Humayun, who after a season of political upheavels regained his throne in 1555, made his son Akbar the governor of Punjab. After his death in 1556, and in its ensuing confusion, Akbar succeeded to the throne after the battle of Panipet. His rule extended over a little more than the Punjab and the area around Delhi, but under the guidance of his chief minister, Bayram Khan, he consolidated his power. In 1560 Akbar took over the reins himself. Soon he established as an absolute monarch expanding his empire systematically. Malwa, which commanded the route to Deccan, fell to him in 1561. With Rajputs he adopted a policy of conciliation and conquest. In 1562 Akbar married a Rajput lady, but those who refused his supremacy were shown no mercy. When Chitor in Mewar fell in 1568 he massacred its inhabitants. That prompted other Rajput Rajas to accept Akbar as emperor in 1570. In 1573 Akbar conquered Gujarat, a state with many ports, which traditionally dominated India’s trade with western Asia. In 1576 Bengal was annexed. Towards the end of his rein, he embarked on a fresh round of conquests. Kashmir was subdued in 1586, Sind in 1591. His last years were troubled by his son, Prince Salim, who was eager for power. He died at Agra in 1615. He instituted many reforms. When Akbar took over, the Army was split up into private forces of the individual commanders and provincial governors, which gave them the tendency to become hereditary local rulers. Akbar put a stop to this. Firstly every officer was, at least in principle, appointed and promoted by the emperor. Secondly several administrators were assigned military ranks thus making them dependent to him. These ranks were systematically graded and the emperor could offer attractive careers to the able and ambitious. In this way he was able to enlist the loyal services of many Rajput Princes. His reforms required a cetralised financial system. A civil administrator (Diwan) along with the provincial governor collected the revenue, prepare accounts and report directly to the emperor. Despite these reforms Indian peasants remained poorer, while the official elite enjoyed greater wealth. A dominating personality he had a sharp intellect which was unbiased. Akbar’s capital of Fatehpur Sikri was begun in 1570 and abandoned in 1586. It’s combination of Hindu and Muslim architectural styles symbolized the contact of cultures that he encouraged. He had the translations of Sanskrit classics into Persian made. His reign was an example of the stimulating effects of cultural encounter. European techniques of realism and perspective were incorporated in the Mughal style of his painters. His reign was also often portrayed as a model for future governments-strong, benevolent, tolerant and enlightened. Effective government in a country geographically as vast and socially as complex as India, demanded a wide measure of social support. Akbar understood this need and satisfied it.

benny

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