Sikh Wars

Sikh Wars (1845–49), two conflicts preceding the British annexation of the Punjab. By a treaty with the British in 1809, the Sikh ruler of the Punjab, Ranjit Singh, had accepted the Sutlej River as the southern boundary of his domain. After his death (1839) the Punjab fell into a state of disorder in which a succession of rulers were rapidly overthrown by the army. In 1845 the regent, Jhindan, who was both fearful of British intentions and anxious to distract the Sikh army, sent troops across the Sutlej (Dec. 11). The British, under Sir Hugh (later Viscount) Gouge, Sir Harry Smith, and others, won several preliminary victories and then decisively defeated the Sikhs at Aliwal (Jan. 28, 1846) and Sobraon (Feb. 10). They occupied Lahore on Feb. 20. By the Treaty of Lahore (Mar., 1846), the Sikhs were forced to cede Kashmir and to pay an indemnity of 55 million rupees. The British established a protectorate, which was resented. In Apr., 1848, a riot occurred, in which two British officers were killed. There was a general uprising, followed by a second war. A costly (for the British) battle at Chilianwalla (Jan. 13, 1849) was indecisive, but the British completely routed the Sikhs at Gujrat (Feb. 21). The Sikhs surrendered on Mar. 12. Lord Dalhousie, the governor-general, annexed all the Sikh territory on Mar. 30.

See B. J. Hasrat, Anglo-Sikh Relations, 1799–1849 (1968).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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