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General Shriman Rajrajeshwar Maharajadhiraj Sri Sir Ranbir Singhji, Indar Mahindar Bahadur, Sipar-i-Sultanat, Mushir-i-Khas-i-Kaiser-i-Hind GCSI, CIE (August 1830–12 September 1885) was the son of Maharaja Gulab Singh, Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir and head of the Jamwal Rajput clan.
The trans-Himalayan territories of Gilgit, Astore, Hunza-Nagar were conquered and made part of Jammu and Kashmir in his time. He was noted as a great scholar of classical Persian, and was also learned in Pashtu, Sanskrit and English.
Following the death of his father, Shri Ranbir Singh ascended the throne of Jammu and Kashmir . The new Maharaja was popular with his people. The state made some considerable progress during his reign. Reorganisation of the state administration was the first to engage his attention. Three separate departments dealing with the revenue, civil and military affairs were established . To make justice cheaper and efficient, regular Courts of Justice were set up, uniform laws were framed and a new State Panel Code, Shri Ranbir Dandh Bidhi, was issued." The people could air their grievances and seek redress at the Maharaja's public Darbars as well.
In order to encourage trade and industry, the system of taxation was overhauled and means of transport and communication were improved. Thus while tax on the shawl manufacturers was reduced, a number of imports were altogether abolished . About fifty thousand rupees was spent on repairing the pathways since there were no roads in the state at that time. Postal arrangements were made more efficient. Postal services between Srinagar and Muree (Now in West Pakistan) were also introduced, and letters were delivered within 72 hours . After Gilgit was finally subjugated in 1860, it was decided to connect it to Srinagar by a telegraph line. Telegraphic links were established between Srinagar and Jammu as well.
Many old bridges were repaired and some new ones were also built over the Jhelum in Srinagar, Baramulla and Anantnag. For the benefit of the cultivators, an attempt was made to assess the land revenue at a fixed rate. New staples were introduced into the country and money was freely spent on sericulture, hops, vines and presses. The cumulative effect of the above noted measures on the trade was that on the whole it increased. The shawl trade, however, received a setback mainly due to a fall in their demand in Europe after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.
For the physical and moral upliftment of the people a number of medical dispensaries and schools were opened. Expenditure on the latter amounted to about fifty thousand rupees . Maharaja Gulab Singh had laid the foundation of the Dharmarth Fund. Maharaja Ranbir Singh put it on a permanent basis by the grant of a number of villages in the provinces of Jammu and Kashmir. A Dharmarth Code, describing the aims, objects, scope and the rules of its administration, was also compiled.
The one measure for which Maharaja Ranbir Singh earned most the esteem of his people was his patronage of learning and scholarship. He established a department for the collection and publication of important Sanskrit works on the Hindu Law and Ritual, as well as for the translation of Sanskrit and Persian manuscripts into Hindi. His collection of Sanskrit manuscripts now housed in the Raghunath temple library is most prized in the whole of India. Trignometrical survey of the state, which had been commenced in the reign of Maharaja Gulab Singh was now brought to a completion, and a map of the valley and surrounding mountains was prepared.` The Maharaja sent several expeditions against the frontier tribes on the north-west. As a result of these, varying degree of control came to be established over Chilas, Ponial, Yasin, Darel, Hunza and Nagar by the end of 1870.
Trade between Central Asia and British India was carried on through the state territory. In 1863, the Maharaja reduced transit duties. Two additional measures gave a further fillip to the trade. The first, the posting of a British Agent at Leh in 1867, regulated the flow of the trade, The second, a commercial treaty concluded in 1870 between the Maharaja and the Government of India, which resulted the abolition of all the duties in return for a similar concession made by the Government of India on the trade between the state and British India .
The Government of India also endeavoured to strengthen its defence against any aggression from the side of state, the meeting place of the three greatest empires of the east. The Russian conquest of Tashkent, Khokand, Khojand and Samarkand during the late sixtees had indeed created an alarming situation for the British . And on the side of the state, Gilgit occupied a strategic position of great importance. This particular gate of the (British) Empire covered all the passes over the Hindu Kush... 1149 Therefore, in 1877 an agreement was reached with Maharaja Ranbir Singh for the establishment of a Political Agency at Gilgit. Although due to certain unfavourable circumstances this Agency was withdrawn in 1881, it was re-established eight years later.
The road to Gilgit lay through Kashmir whose borders also touched the tribal territories wherein the important passes leading across the Hindu Kush were situated. Therefore, it became a matter of policy with the British Government to tighten their hold over Jammu and Kashmir as well . But the pace of progress in Kashmir was further quickened as a result of it. The Gilgit question itself was finally solved in 1935 when it was transferred to the Government of India on a sixty year lease basis. The closing years of Ranbir Singh's reign were marked by the ravages of the great famine of 1877-79 in Kashmir,and trade came to a stand-still. . To prevent the rigor of famines in future, he took up the construction of a cart road from Srinagar to Rawalpindi (now in West Pakistan). The assessment of land revenue was also revised.
Ranbir Singh died on September 12, 1885 and was succeeded by his eldest son Pratap Singh.
Maharajadhiraj Sri Sir Ranbir Singh married five times and had six children, four sons:
- Maharaja Pratap Singh (18 July 1848-23 September 1925). Succeeded his father as Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir in 1885.
- General Raja Sir Ram Singh, KCB (31 May 1861-22 June 1899); issue
- General Raja Sir Amar Singh, KCSI (14 January 1864 – 1909). Married twice and had one son:
- Hari Singh (30 September 1895-26 April 1961). Succeeded his uncle as Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir in 1925.
- Mian Lakshman Singh (1870–1875)
and two daughters.
Ranbir SinghBorn: August 1830 Died: 12 September 1885
(as Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir)
|Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir