The establish of the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Punjab ushered in a new epoch in the history of this region. Under his rule, not only the unification of Punjab was accomplished, very significant gradual improvement were also witnessed in every branch of administration. The prevailing peace and order in the kingdom together with personal attention and efforts of the Maharaja, created very conducive environment for the development of agriculture, education, literature, fine arts, trade and commerce. Due to the liberal religion policy of the Maharaja the people of all the communities-Hindu, Sikhs, Muslims and Christians-lived and thrived in the environ of communal harmony and goodwill.
A seminar organised in the Punjabi University in connection with the 200th birth anniversary celebrations of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in August 1981, focused attention on those historical aspects of the period which had remained unexplored hitherto. Far from paying merely reverential tribute to the Maharaja, the papers presented in the seminar sought to make an objective study of various facets of the subject. The wide spectrum of the themes covered in the seminar, which are included in this volume will, I hope, help understand better the politics, society and economy of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s times. Dr Fauja Singh and A.C. Arora verily deserve to be complimented for producing this historical work of great importance. It is said that Dr Fauja Singh was not destined to see this publication in the book-form. The University owes a debt of gratitude to late Dr Fauja Singh, an eminent historian who wrote and edited numerous valuable books for the Punjabi University, Patiala.
It was under the auspices of the Direction of Planning and Development that a seminar on ‘Maharaja Ranjit Singh : Politics, Society and Economy’ was organised in the Punjabi University in August 1981 as a part of the 200th birth anniversary celebrations of the Maharaja. The present volume contains the papers presented in the seminar; its title also emanates scrupulously from the subject of the seminar.
It had been our desire and endeavour from the very beginning to cover hitherto unexplored aspects of the early nineteenth century history of the Punjab. With that object in view, various themes of the seminar were carefully selected and circulated among the scholars well in advance. The response was highly encouraging in terms of both the quantity of the papers and the variety of their themes.
A glance at the papers published in this volume will reveal a wide variety of theme they represent- Ranjit Singh’s conquests and defence system, his relations with the neighbouring states, nature of the Maharaja’s state, local administration, numismatics, agricultural systems and land-market, life and manners of the common people, urbanisation, education, art and literature, trade and commerce, source-materials and historiography, etc. Evidently, the socio-cultural and economics aspects of Ranjit Singh’s time have been as adequately represented as the political aspects. We are beholden to all the scholars whose valuable papers appear in this volume. The limitation of space compelled us to curtail or condense some lengthy articles.
Grateful acknowledgements are due to Dr S.S. Johl, Vice-Chancellor, Punjabi University, for his keen interest in, and kindly foreword to, this publication; to Dr Bhagat Singh, former Vice-Chancellor of the University, for his inaugural address; to Prof. Amarjit Singh Dhillon for his unstinted co-operation in the conduct of the seminar; to Dr Kirpal Singh, Dr. S.K. Bajaj, Dr S.D. Pradhan and Dr D.S. Dhillon for their assistance in the preparation of the press-copy; to Sh. R.K. Ghai for shouldering willingly the responsibility of seeing the book through the press; to Sh. Raj Kumar for preparing afresh the type-script; and to S.Hazara Singh, Head, Publication Bureau of the University, for supervising the printing. The illustration of Maharaja Ranjit Singh given in the beginning of this volume is the photographic reproduction of the portrait done by Kehar Singh, the court-artist of the Maharaja.
It is very sad indeed that Dr Fauja Singh at whose intiative the seminar had been organised expired suddenly on 8th April 1983. In the demise of this devoted and dedicated scholar of Punjab History the country had lost distinguished historian. For one who has been his close associate for the past sixteen years and is co-editor in this volume, the tragedy is too deep for words. I take this opportunity to offer my most respectful homage and to inscribe my deepest sense of gratitude to the doyen of Punjab historians who is no more with us. To this tragedy may also be attributed the delay in the publication of the volume.
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