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All images: details from oil painting by renowned American portrait painter, Manu Kaur Saluja.

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The Eagle Eye of Ranjit Singh

A Poem by MICHELE GIBSON

 

 

The great Sikh Emperor, Ranjit Singh (1781-1839), had a blind eye as the result of a childhood bout with small-pox. He once quipped: "The good Lord gave me sight in only one eye so that I can see and treat all of my subjects - Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Sikh, rich or poor - as equals!" 

 

What can you see with one eye?

Justice, military strength, pomp and pageantry

Empirical designs encroaching on fragile treaties

Glory, humility, defeat

Betrayal wrenched out of the depths of kinship

Blood sacrifice sufficient to smother the will to live

Many lives

Many brilliant, radiant, devoted wives, and many spirited children

*

With one eye you can fill a court with diplomacy

You can demand order

You can keep in kingly comfort a peer and entourage,

How best not to distract them from the task at hand

To have their many needs and wants fulfilled promptly

Never ration the desire to negotiate!

*

With one eye you can guarantee peace

Entrench justice, defend the weak

Muster history

Design and master weaponry

Entice artifacts that will survive you

Monitor the movements and accomplishments of troops

Deliberate with generals

Execute strategy, reward loyalty

And, with one eye, take full responsibility

For the safety of the realm

The security of faith

The survival of a nation

 

 

January 3, 2011

Conversation about this article

1: Harmeet Kaur (New Delhi, India), January 03, 2011, 7:46 AM.

The poem incapsules all the things that make Ranjit Singh a perennial hero - and a role model for this troubled land. He had his shortcomings - don't we all! - but he overcame them so magnificently. When comes such another?

2: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), January 03, 2011, 11:20 AM.

Lord William Bentinck, Governor General of British India, when he received Fakir Azizuddin at Simla, asked the latter which of the Maharaja's eye was blind. The Fakir, as quoted in the book "Real Ranjit Singh", said that proud as he was of his master, this reference to a physical defect of his displeased him very much. He, however, summoned all his wits to his aid and replied, "Your Excellency, the Maharaja has a single eye, like the sun. If he had two eyes, he would have burnt the world to cinders. I have never dared to cast my eyes at the Maharaja's face. They were fixed on his feet. If you wish to have some information about his feet I may be able to give it to you." Lord Bentinck was so impressed with this reply that he took his gold watch out of his pocket and presented it to the Fakir. It is still part of the family collection. While making the present, he remarked, "So long as Ranjit Singh has men like you to serve him, no harm can come to his kingdom." The Muslim Fakir and his brothers remained loyal to the Sikhs to the bitter end - unlike the Hindu Dogras!

3: Jesroshan Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), January 03, 2011, 10:25 PM.

The fact that Ranjit Singh lost his empire was because of too many non-Sikhs serving him. The cream of his court were not Muslims or Hindus but Sikhs such as Akali Phula Singh and Hari Singh Nalwa. They were the hands of The Emperor of The Punjab by which he used to defeat the invaders of the territory and bring glory to Sikhism.

4: Pierre (D.C., U.S.A.), January 07, 2011, 8:50 AM.

Thank you. Though not about 'disability' per se, it speaks volumes about what others perceive as a challenge inSIGHT ...

5: Anamika Sakia (India), June 26, 2014, 7:33 AM.

Thank you for this poem ... it is inspiring!

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