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Maharaja Kharak Singh (22 February 1801 – 5 November 1840), was a Sikh ruler of the Punjab and the Sikh Empire. He succeeded his father Ranjit Singh in June 1839.[2]

Kharak Singh
Kharak Singh.jpg
2nd Maharaja of the Sikh Empire
Reign27 June 1839 – 8 October 1839
Coronation1 September 1839
PredecessorRanjit Singh
SuccessorNau Nihal Singh
WazirRaja Dhian Singh
Born22 February 1801
Lahore, Punjab, Sikh Empire
Died5 November 1840 (1840-11-06) (aged 39)
Lahore, Punjab, Sikh Empire
SpouseBibi Khem Kaur Dhillon,[1]
Chand Kaur Kanhaiyā[2]
IssueNau Nihal Singh
FatherRanjit Singh
MotherDatar Kaur



He was born in Lahore in 1801, the first legitimate son of Ranjit Singh and his second wife Datar Kaur.[3] In 1812, at the age of 11 he was married to Chand Kaur, daughter of Sardar Jaimal Singh, chief of the Kanhaiya Misl. Their son Nau Nihal Singh was born in 1821.[3] In 1816 he married again when he was still a prince, to Bibi Khem Kaur Dhillon, a Jat Sikh daughter of Jodh Singh Kalalvala and grand daughter of Sahib Singh Dhillon.[1] After the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849, Bibi Khem's jagirs were reduced by the British raj due to her anti-British role in the war.[1]

Early lifeEdit

Kharak received the principality of Jammu as his jagir in 1812. In 1818, together with Misr Diwan Chand he commanded an expedition against the Afghan ruler of Multan Nawab Muzaffar Khan, achieving a decisive victory at the Battle of Multan.[4] In 1819, he held nominal command of the expedition to conquer Kashmir. [5] Three months before his death, Ranjit Singh awarded Kashmir to Kharak, which was seen as a check on the ambitions of Gulab Singh.[6]

Maharaja of the Sikh EmpireEdit

Kharak was regarded as simple minded and ill-suited to succeed his father as Maharaja.[7] It was believed he lacked his father's diplomatic skills, and wasted himself by consuming excessive amounts of alcohol and opium.[7][3] He developed a close relationship with his tutor Chet Singh, who gained such an ascendancy over him as to render him a puppet.[3] This relationship with Chet Singh created tensions with Prime Minister Raja Dhian Singh, and in 1839, Chet Singh was murdered.[3]

On the death of his father he was proclaimed Maharajah and installed on the throne at Lahore Fort on 1 September 1839. Following his accession, a series of lavish parties, and escalation of his indulgence in drink, drugs and dancing girls alienated many of his advisers and generals.[8] The Austrian physician Johann Martin Honigberger who was present at court, described his coronation as a dark day for the Punjab, and referred to the Maharajah as a blockhead who twice a day deprived himself of his senses and spent his whole time in a state of stupefaction.[8]

Raja Dhian Singh had previously resisted attempts to allow Kharak training in state craft, and on 8 October 1839 he instigated his removal from the throne with Nau Nihal Singh becoming de facto ruler.[9]


Kharak Singh was poisoned with white lead and mercury.[8] Within six months he was bedridden, and eleven months after the poisoning he died on 5 November 1840 in Lahore.[10][8] The official announcement blamed a sudden mysterious illness.[8] Though never proven, most contemporaries believed Raja Dhian Singh to be behind the poisoning.[8] At his funeral, three of his wives committed sati, along with eleven slave girls.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Bibi Khem Kaur Dhillon", URL accessed 11/16/06
  2. ^ a b Āhlūwālīā, M. L. "KHAṚAK SIṄGH MAHĀRĀJĀ (1801–1840)". Encyclopaedia of Sikhism. Punjabi University Patiala. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e C. Grey, European Adventurers of Northern India, 1785 to 1849, Asian Educational Services, 1996,
  4. ^ Kartar Singh Duggal, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Last to Lay Arms, Abhinav Publications, 2001, p.82
  5. ^ Shashikant Nishant Sharma, International Journal of Research (IJR)
  6. ^ Vanit Nalwa, Hari Singh Nalwa, "champion of the Khalsaji" (1791-1837), Manohar, New Delhi, 13 Jan 2009
  7. ^ a b Bobby Singh Bansal, Remnants of the Sikh Empire: Historical Sikh Monuments in India & Pakistan, Hay House, Inc, 1 Dec 2015,
  8. ^ a b c d e f g William Dalrymple, Anita Anand, Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World's Most Infamous Diamond, Bloomsbury Publishing, 15 Jun 2017
  9. ^ J. S. Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab, Volumes 2-3, Cambridge University Press, 8 Oct 1998, p.120
  10. ^ G. S. Chhabra, Advance Study in the History of Modern India (Volume-2: 1803-1920), Lotus Press, 2005, p.176

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Ranjit Singh
Maharaja of the Sikh Empire
27 June 1839 – 8 October 1839
Succeeded by
Nau Nihal Singh