July 30th, 2016
This year, our Maharaja Ranjit Singh Polo Cup was held at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. In line with our Global Citizen Education initiatives, the Polo Cup celebrated diverse identities across borders. See our multimedia page for more photos of the event from current and previous year.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh was an unquestionable ruler and the founder of Sikh Empire, who ruled his kingdom from 1799 to 1839. The Empire was a major power in the Indian subcontinent, which at its peak in the 19th century, extended from the Khyber Pass in the west to western Tibet in the east, and from Mithankot in the south to Kashmir in the north. Despite not having a proper education, Maharaja Ranjit Singh was a born leader and strategist who took on every opportunity to enlarge and secure his lands. Known as the Lion of Punjab, Ranjit Singh proved to be a man ahead of his time, governing a secular kingdom and planning epoch-making strategies that would secure the future of his land.
Secularism and Equality
Maharaja Ranjit Singh aimed to create acceptance and coexistence of all kinds of people, in order to strengthen and join the communities in his kingdom. Although Maharaja himself was a devoted Sikh, he never let his religious views become an obstacle to his political and military affairs. Unlike many monarchs before him, Ranjit Singh never declared a state religion. He also did not have any governmental official in charge of religious affairs. He patronized education and arts of all kinds of people without favoritism, and employed people irrespective of their religious beliefs, looking only on their achievements and loyalty to the kingdom. He taught his people that the pride in being Punjabi should be stronger than the belonging to any religious group. Such nationalism put the existing differences aside, unifying diverse Punjab population to withstand against the British and Afghani forces as one nation.
Ranjit Singh ruled in the best interest of his people. His state never performed any physical punishments, even if someone tried to assassinate him. Maharaja made sure that the state carried out justified rules and orders, setting up several judicial courts with proficient officers. Nearing his death, he ordered thousands of rupees to be given out to the poor. Maharaja Ranjit Singh passed away on June 27th, 1839. Following the secular philosophy even after his death, Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus have fought the British army together for their Punjabi kingdom, protecting the legacy of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
Globally Inspired Military Strategy
The real turning point for Maharaja’s army was the collaboration with foreign generals. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was a visionary, realizing that in order to withstand constant attacks, he had to re-educate his army with new methods of training and tactics. He began reforming the army by adding larger caliber guns to his artillery and sending parts of his troops to study the British infantries.
Starting in 1822, Maharaja employed several European generals: Jean Baptiste Ventura, Jean Francois Allard, Claude Auguste Court, and Paolo di Avitabile. Maharaja put great trust in his foreign generals, giving the high responsibilities and rewards. At the same time, however, he never stopped being cautious with them, and never let them take over him. Generals, on the other hand, realized Maharaja’s just rule and powerful leadership, serving him loyally until his death.
Celebrating the Intercultural Rapport Tied by Universal Values
The rapport between Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the French Generals who served him depicts the strong alliance between communities, made possible by mutual respect and common values. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was also known for his love for horses and went at great lengths to acquire a legendary horse known as Asp-i-Laila, which led him to the Peshawar Expedition in 1834.
Hence, to commemorate this historic union, Dhillon Marty Foundation held its first annual event of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Polo Cup at the prestigious Polo Club Saint Tropez, France. The second annual event was held on July 30th, 2016 at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. The Polo Cup will continue to take place annually to strengthen and celebrate diverse identities across borders.
Carpenter, E. (2012). India comes to Riviera. The Riviera Times.
Jones, R.L. (2011). The Lion’s Firanghis. Book Review. History Today
Sheikh, M. (N/A). The horse that led Lahor to war.