(1780 - 1839)
Ranjit Singh was born in India, and at the age of twelve
became ruler of the kingdom of Punjab (now in Pakistan). The region was in a
state of chaos, but Ranjit Singh restored peace and order, and he soon won the
affection of the people. He was short in stature, and could only see out of one
eye, but such was his enthusiasm for life, and his kindness to one and all that
he was often described as shining as brightly as the sun.
During his forty-year reign thousands of people came to live in Punjab; Ranjit Singh abolished capital punishment, and there was complete freedom of speech. All religions were treated equally, and the Maharaja himself celebrated the different festivals of all his subjects. When he passed away, in 1839, his kingdom fell under the sway of the British, but he is still remembered by the people of Punjab, where many stories are told of his wisdom and great heartedness. This is one of those stories:
Once Maharaja Ranjit Singh was travelling home, when he
passed by a village. A crowd of little boys were gathered about some mango
trees, and they were throwing stones up at the fruits to knock them down. None
of them noticed the king, and one boy accidentally struck him with a stone.
Seeing what they had done, all the boys ran home to their parents.
The Maharaja sent one of his guards into the village and told him to call together all the little boys. When the villagers heard this command they became very afraid. What was going to happen to their sons? The mother and father of the boy who had struck the king were particularly frightened.
“Alas, how will the Maharaja punish our son?” they said to each other.
When all the children were assembled the king ordered them to form a line. Next he turned to his treasurer and said:
“Give to each one of these children 51 rupees.”
When the villagers saw what was happening they were filled with amazement.
“O Maharaj,” they said, “we were very afraid, because we thought that you were going to punish our children.”
“My dear friends!” said King Ranjit Singh. “When a man strikes a tree with a stone, he receives fruit in return. I am a human being, but why should I give punishment in return? Today these were all the rupees I had with me, and I gave you them all. I only wish it had been more.”
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