How I Obtained The Life and Times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh

I bought the book from Gleebooks on a discount. I thought it would be good to read a book about a religion/culture that I knew virtually nothing about.

Readability

The book is an easy read for a history book. It was not at all when I expected. I thought it would be a dense and dry academic type history book but I was wrong. It flows well enough and it’s not technical at all.

While I enjoyed the read – in general – and hate to speak negatively of books, I felt like this book carried on more like a fan fiction of Ranjit Singh’s life than an academic account of his life. Objectivity is completely lost on the authors. And that is endearing enough, but I don’t know if that qualifies it as ‘scholarly’. Perhaps it’s not for me to say so.

Plot

The book starts off with explaining the origins of the Sikh faith and highlights the major Gurus – those that played a pivotal role in writing the scriptures and converting large numbers of people.

The book then turns to the life of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It highlights his life from childhood til death. There are some aspects of the maharaja that the authors focus on and then there are other features that they gloss over.

Characters

As mentioned earlier the book introduces the origins of the Sikh faiths, highlighting all of the main and highly influential Gurus.

Then the book dives into the story of Ranjit Singh, the last Emperor before the fall of Punjab to the British. In that sense, it’s pretty melancholic. Putting aside the complete adoration the authors have for the last Maharaja and the utter lack of objectivity, I do admire the man, especially since he stood up to the British. I think I’ll have to read a better history of his life to appreciate him more.

He is described to be very smart although he was not highly educated, witty, cunning and charismatic. The authors stress that he was like Alexander and treated the inhabitants of the places he vanquished with kindness. These sentiments –according to the book – are not always shared by other historians, but the authors tend to refer to them as having ‘anti-sikh’ attitudes.

He seems to have been a great leader and cunning spokesman. He also had a large harem and loved to eat and drink. He was very generous to his guests and generally kind to his people. His love for horses came second to his love of women.

He was a colourful character and the last obstacle in the way of Britain controlling the entirety of India (modern day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and – of course – Kashmir).

Conclusion

The Life and Times of Maharaja Ranjit Singhis a great introductory book into the life of this man. I will need to read other books about him though, in order to get a better gage of who he was.

I’m conflicted about scoring this because I do recommend it as an intro but I don’t think it’s a very good history book…