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Ranjit Singh(rŭn`jĭt sĭng), 1780–1839, Indian maharaja, ruler of the Sikhs. Seizing Lahore (1799) and Amritsar (1809), he established himself as the leading Sikh chieftain. In 1809 he made a treaty with the British, by which he agreed not to expand his domain south of the Sutlej River. However, he built up a formidable army with the help of European officers and rapidly expanded his holdings to the north and west. By the time of his death he controlled all of the Punjab north of the Sutlej as well as Kashmir. At the end (1849) of the Sikh Wars most of his kingdom fell to Great Britain.
Born Nov. 13, 1780, in Budrukhan, or Nov. 2, 1780, in Gujranwala; died June 27, 1839, in Lahore. Ruler of the Punjab state from 1799 to 1839.
The ruler of a small Sikh principality, Ranjit Singh began a struggle to unify Punjab lands in the 18th century. In 1799 he took possession of Lahore, the economic and cultural center of Punjab, and assumed the title of maharaja. He completed the unification of Punjab in 1810 and 1811 and created a strong centralized feudal state, which lasted until Punjab was annexed by the British after the Sikh Wars (1849).
Ranjit Singh carried out a series of internal reforms aimed at centralizing the government. His military reforms were especially significant: the army was reorganized along European lines and placed under the command of the maharaja himself, with the traditional detachments of jagirdars playing a secondary role. The military reforms allowed Ranjit Singh to conduct an active policy of conquest and to retain the obedience of regional vicegerents.