The Maharaja breathed his last on the fifth day of his sickness, the 15th of Asarh, 1896 (Bikrimi / Punjabi Calendar and 20 June 1839 Gregorian Calendar), Thursday, around dusk. It had already grown dark, Raja Dhiyan Singh, the Prime Minister was ordered to maintain calm in the city, in case riots broke out. The next day, in accordance with royal tradition, the dead body of the Maharaja was bathed and made up the way he appeared in court, in a royal dress and jewels. A podium of gold was prepared for his last rites.

His last two Rajput wives, Maharani Rajdai and Maharani Hardai, daughters of Raja Sansar Chand, ruler of Kaangra, started their preparations for Satti. At first, they declared all their estates and property including jewels, gems and stones to charity. Driven by the Maharaja’s love, they dressed up in their bridals and walked out of the palace, bare feet.

Amongst the men, Raja Dhiyaan Singh, the Prime Minister, declared that he would also burn to death with the Maharaja and ordered his effects to be given to charity. On seeing this, the nobles from the court came and persuaded him to change his decision. They pleaded that the Maharaja had chosen Raja Dhiyan Singh, amongst all men because of his wisdom and it was in the greater interest of Punjab that he looked after the affairs, run the state and guided the crown Prince Kharag Singh. Raja Dhiyan Singh, however, refused to listen. Prince Kharag Singh then, walked up to him and convinced him to change his mind. He offered him to leave the assignment as soon as calm prevails, to which he agreed.

Both the Ranis, moved out of the palace and sat around Maharaja’s dead body. Geeta, the holy book, was placed on the Maharaja`s body. The Satti Ranis administered the oath on Geeta and the body of Maharaja, by Raja Dhiyan Singh and Prince Kharag Singh to fulfill their duties for the best of Khalsa Raj and the Punjab Empire.

The Maharaja’s dead body was lifted with great prestige. Hundreds of gold coins, minted with the Maharaja’s figure, were thrown in the air. A large number of servants and citizens accompanied the funeral procession. The procession was taken out from the western gate of Hazoori Bagh and it moved alongside the River Ravi, where it was placed on a heap of Chandan wood for cremation. Prince Kharag Singh lit the fire. Both the Ranis sat in the fire, holding the head of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and 11 Kaneez (maids) sat on both side of the dead body, to be burnt with the Maharaja. Raja Dhiyan Singh went near the Ranis and requested for prayers for Prince Kharag Singh, the Sattis did not reply and stayed still with tight lips and closed eyes.

When flames flickered high, oil, ghee (purified butter) and scents were thrown in. A pigeon flew from nowhere and fell into the fire to become Satti. After a little while, it started to rain. The skies also seemed to mourn the death of the Maharaja. After the fire finally extinguished, the bodies of the Maharaja, Ranis and the maids had completely burnt and the rituals had been completed, Prince Kharag Singh took a bath and returned to palace.

On the 4th day, the remains (of cremation) were dispatched honorably, to Ganga. The remains were taken out in the form of a procession. All the courtiers, who attended the royal procession, paid their respect to the Maharaja’s remains. The reagents of the area, from where the remains passed on their way to Ganga, came out to pay homage. On the 13th day, when the remains were finally merged into Ganga, millions were given to Brahmins and the last rites culminated.

The crown prince ordered to build a Tomb (Samadh) and valuable stones were called for across India. The tomb was under construction, when Maharaja Kharag Singh died. A pause prevailed throughout the regimes of Maharaja Sher Singh and Maharaja Duleep Singh.

Finally, when the British assumed the rule of Punjab, the tomb was completed. Many people visited the tomb in the coming years. On account of the heaviness of the upper Dome, cracks were observed in the eight supporting pillars. When British administrators observed this, they contacted me and as In charge of the buildings of Lahore, I was given the responsibility to stabilise and restore the tomb. I added eight more supporting pillars and the cracking pillars were strengthened through iron rings. To date, the Samadh is stable and attracts visitors throughout India.

Excerpts from Chapter 44, Tareekh-e-Punjab by Kanhaya Lal Hindi Translated by Muhammad Hassan Miraj


Muhammad Hassan Miraj is a federal government employee.



The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Updated Nov 09, 2012 02:34pm

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Comments (58) (Closed)

Nov 10, 2012 09:47am
Ali Saheb, I think you are mistaken in your assessment of Satti practice in India.
Nov 10, 2012 09:45am
Mandeep Saheb, Do we still require moral stories? It is a piece of descriptive history and should be taken as such.
Nov 10, 2012 09:37am
Mr. Ali wake up from your dreams.This tradition has been abolished a long ago (nearly 100 years).By the way if "archives of India" give you pleasure than continue to explore it.Good luck.
mr. righty rightist
Nov 10, 2012 09:47am
The difference, however, is, while India glorifies the most ignoble of periods in its history, Pakistan ignores the most glorious chapters of its history. Take for example, the Moghul rule in India. Barring Akbar the rest of the rulers were murderers, debauchees and terrorists who terrorized not only Hindus but also poor muslim citizens. They have destroyed thousands of temples and the attrocities they have committed are unparalleled. Even Nazi rule would seem like a benign administratoion compared to the muslims rulers of India. However, Indian text books especially glorify them by lying through their teeth.
S. A. M.
Nov 10, 2012 12:01am
a very ill timed article. the city of karachi but the author prefers to brag about the good old days. the past could be glorious but what is our present pls wake up and look around there r things better than try to bring the sad memories of the demise of a ruler
Nov 10, 2012 09:59am
Most of Pakistanis want Muslim history not Hindu history where Muslims are Hero's,Hindus are villains.
Harbhajan Singh
Nov 10, 2012 09:35am
Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj was the first to condem satti, Braham influence was so strong that it took a long time to ban it.The only good thing the British did in India and we should be grateful to them,
Nov 10, 2012 09:57am
Pakistani politicians does want to know about history previous to Jinnah's Pakistan of August 14 1947.
Vishnu Dutta
Nov 09, 2012 07:10pm
We learn so much about our (common) history through your blogs. I wish some Indian writers did the same here. Keep spreading knowledge.
Nov 10, 2012 10:07am
... and who told you that 'Sati' is practiced in villages and towns of India? Your Madrassah teacher?
Nov 10, 2012 10:09am
Mr.Ali, where the hell you found Satti now a days? No spread false information. I too can count bad practices from others.
Nov 10, 2012 10:08am
You r right Mustafa, I am a Hindu from India, and Satti was such a bad practice(my personal opinion), which was finally removed by Raja Ram Mohan Ray, thats what we Hindus are doing, removing bad practices from religion, hope others too do that.
Ajay Vikram Singh
Nov 10, 2012 12:28pm
Yes, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh was a Sikh and a Hindu, as i am. Sikhism is just a derivative of one of the monotheistic schools of ancient vedic hinduism. I surprise at the ignorance of people who think Sikhs r not Hindus. I would ask them to read Guru Granth Sahib themselves. Even before you start saying about having "One God" in Sikhism and many Idols in Hinduism. Well, its a misnomer that Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. Its pure monotheism and what you call many gods or Idols are just different expressions of one single divine energy, called The God. Thats why, Raam, Krishna and other Avatars are called "Lords" not Gods. "Satyamev Jayate - There is no victory except in Truth.
Nov 09, 2012 05:16pm
Horrible practice of Sati - glad its gone!!!
Nov 09, 2012 05:16pm
a nice piece of history of 19th century Punjab kingdom. viewers need more such excerpts
Shahid Masud (@HotMasud)
Nov 09, 2012 03:06pm
Dear Author, thank you very much for reminding us of our roots.
Nov 10, 2012 12:34pm
Yes, they succumbed. The only way they understand is when they start working in the Arab countries. I remember my Pakistani colleagues who started work in Bahrain (and also Abu Dhabi). When they arrived, they thought that their Islamic background would take them places. Man, were they in for a surprise! They were treated like crap by the Arabs. Despite our differences, the Indian and Pakistani colleagues had a good time going to both Indian and Pakistani restaurants. And sometimes watching bollywood movies (I am no fan). The ethnic DNA doesn't change. It is just that some people don't get it.
Nov 10, 2012 12:24pm
Brahman influence? Please don't say something. Have something to say and know the difference. The issue was more prevalent for Rajput community. The wives did this to escape humiliation from the aggressors. As usual, the customs deteriorated and it became the norm. Just pull your head out and see in the world. These kinds of unsanctioned things happen across all communities. Develop the intelligence and discard it. More than the British, it was Raja Ram Mohan Roy's crusade which dented the practice of Sati. And from where did you pick up your opionion that Guru Nanak was the first to condemn Sati. Any credible source or just the same prejudice seeping out?
Nov 10, 2012 11:50pm
Malik Muhammad Jayasi's poem records yet another account of the events. When Ratan Singh refuses Alauddin Khilji's demand for Padmavati for his harem, war ensues and the king is taken prisoner. Meanwhile the king of neighbouring Kambhalner makes an indecent proposal to the queen. Ratan Singh escapes and kills the king of Kambhalner, but is himself fatally wounded. His two queens, Padmavati and Nagmati perform Jauhar, and Alauddin's army arrives when their ashes are still warm. Chittor falls to the emperor.
Nov 10, 2012 12:28pm
Brush up on your history. Or maybe you are afraid that truth and facts will unsettle you?
Ajay Vikram Singh
Nov 10, 2012 12:52pm
Sikhism was created by taking one male child from every rajput Hindu family. It was simplified in terms of religious practices to get the focus required for a warrior. Last Guru of Sikhs was Guru Gobind singh ji, Gobind is one of the names of mythological Lord Krishna.
Nov 10, 2012 04:58pm
Wow! Amazing account of the final rituals, thank you for making it available here in your writing! Happy to see that Hinduism went through it’s reformation and abolished the practice. Is the Samadhi still there in Lahore and do people still visit it?
Nov 10, 2012 02:10am
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog. Keep coming with more please. Cheers
Anand K Singh
Nov 10, 2012 02:21am
The death of Ranjit Singh was the turning point that consolidated the Brit Raj. little is known of him outside North India. A good book to read of this period and that followed is ' The Exile' by Navtej Sarna
Muhammad Farooq
Nov 10, 2012 04:11am
Thanks to the British government who abolished satti rites by force of law.
Nov 10, 2012 04:14am
This is the most embarrassing thing I have read about so called maharaja.
Nov 09, 2012 09:44pm
Sher-e-punjab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh was truly a great personality in the sikh history.
Nov 10, 2012 01:43am
Thank you very much for the article, I had read book on Maharaja some time back but no mention of this part, I have served in Pakistani civil service and understand the psyche of our service I wonder how you cope with the dilemma of having been fact caring and the mistaken mindset of establishment. keep it up
Nov 09, 2012 05:46pm
Just wondering what was driving girls in those days to become satti. It was waste of so many lives. Would never want to see any girl or guy kill themselves. Wonder if they did out of pressure from Society or due to there own will or they never even thought about it while doing it. Also worried about the maids that died for no reason. So many avoidable deaths in the history of mankind.
Nov 09, 2012 03:15pm
Can't understand the Pakistani obsession with 'Sati.' Its true 'Sati' was practised in a couple of northern Indians states but was abolished by the British Raj after Raja Ram Mohan Roy fought for the cause. Which means, Sati is not practised in India for over 2 centuries now - except for one isolated case 2 decades earlier in Rajastan. Even if not for the British or Roy, India would have grown out of his heinous practice. We are not a stagnant nation, but are on move unlike some of our neighbours. By the greatest 'Sati' (or Jauhar) in Indian history was committed by Rani Padmini of Chittoor with about thousands of woman folks who did not want to be captured alive by invading Alaudin. If not for the selfless sacrifice of heroines in real life like Rani Padmini, India could be the largest islamic country in the world. Proud of Chittoor Rani Padmini anyday. Pakistan is viewed by Indians always as the part of India that 'succumbed.'
Nov 09, 2012 09:34pm
You remind us of our history in such a beautiful way- very well written - always wait for yur articles
Hassan Raza
Nov 11, 2012 09:04am
Hassan, Very well written article. This along with your articles about the Punjab history are a pleasure to read and remind us of our history.
Nov 10, 2012 01:16am
Interesting and good piece of our history. Sati was part of our history and the author has portrayed it as was written without being judgmental. Love and devotion to the king was moving
Tahir Chaudhry
Nov 09, 2012 08:43pm
Thanks, we love your blogs. Tahir
Nov 09, 2012 03:50pm
What is the moral of the story, Sir ? Perhaps you want to highlight and remind "sati" tradition.
taranveer singh
Nov 09, 2012 08:11pm
it was good maharaja ranjit Singh was secular king who had all Sikhs,Hindus, Muslims and Christian officers in his state. but he was an extremely bad Sikh. he was addicted to women and wine. he followed all rituals strictly denied by Sikhism. tilak, asking for good time from pandits, sati, etc. he got his kingdom with help of great Sikh warriors like hari singh nalwa, akali foola singh, sham Singh atariwala, but he trusted blindly on non some non Sikhs rajpoots like Lal Singh , dhyan Singh dogra tej Singh dogra who were secretly allied with british rulers. that was reason of end of Sikh empire. he was first person who badly damaged Sikh principles and consumed liquor in Sikh empire. he permanently ruined brotherhood of Sikh misls and dal khalsa. who were fighting together with enemies. he was more villain than hero and was reason behind fall of Sikh empire. shocked to read that he followed sati ritual. secularism was among few good things in his charecter. its very nice Sikhs got an empire in which all religions were equally treated unlike today's south Asia. he had world's best army with best technology. but blind trust on dogra brother was hole in his ship.
Nov 10, 2012 03:52am
Poor maids!
Khan Beg
Nov 09, 2012 06:07pm
The episode is heart breaking. It shows the immense relationship between husband and wives, between King and people and so on.
raj kumar chhabra
Nov 09, 2012 11:45pm
We all are same...same Red blood, same faces, buss alag hai to ibadat ka tareeqa hi na.......we must not fight each united ....Thanks dawn
Surjit Singh
Nov 09, 2012 06:41pm
Thank you for writing this piece of history again , as we all need to keep the story intact for future generations ..!! This is our past and heritage and needs to be told to keep our moorings intact & strong .
Nov 09, 2012 04:13pm
heart felt thanks for the lovely narration. The Maharaja is still alive in the hearts of us Indian and Punjabis in particular. Long live the Maharaja.Long live Khalsa.
Nov 09, 2012 11:30pm
Seems unreal today. Khalsa sati Geeta and asheses to haridwar gifts to brahmans. They still own him
Fawad Masood Raza
Nov 09, 2012 03:19pm
The inhuman act of murder called Satti. God knows how many millions of women were killed by making them satti over the centuries. If this is accurate, 13 women were burnt alive with the body of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. And the concept female infanticide and subjugation is still rife in the subcontinent. We need to learn from the past, and atone for these sins.
B. Ally
Nov 09, 2012 05:13pm
Amazing story of Valour and dignity of once upon a time rulers of Panjab.
Nov 09, 2012 10:44pm
I learnt that they built tomb for Maharaja Ranjit Singh (the last native ruler of the Punjab prior to independence). I got to remember this when I do visit Pakistan.
Nov 09, 2012 05:31pm
Sati was a bad practice , but was practiced then
Ajay Vikram Singh
Nov 10, 2012 12:38pm
Sati - Well, there is no Sati anywhere in Hindu scriptures and its not a religious thing. Its a cultural thing. I hope, you will understand the difference between religious and cultural. there was not even a single incident of Sati before 12th century and there is none after the coming of British rule in india. why? It was more of a cultural practice in Royal and warrior class ( Rajput) hindus. more often than not, their husbands died in battles fighting invaders, instead of becoming a sex slave and a prisoner of invaders, royal ladies preferred to die along side their dead husbands in their funeral pyre. Its a purely cultural thing instead of being religious one. equating that to Hinduism is a mighty wrong. Its like honor killing that's prevalent in all over south and central asia. Now western world thinks that honor killings may have some religious basis, but do they? It was a cultural response to invading armies, looting, raping and marauding across lands. i and my religion, condemn it as a gruesome practice.
Nov 09, 2012 10:32pm
"a nice piece of history"? What is so nice about the story -- the burning alive of two wives and 10 "kaneezes"?
Nov 09, 2012 10:34pm
Must be proud of the "roots" of burning women alive on a pier!
Mustafa Razavi
Nov 09, 2012 04:52pm
Oh, the senseless horror of Satti.
Nov 10, 2012 08:32am
Very well narrated and extremely informative. Sad to see the history of Punjab not formally documented. Its often we (Both Pakistani’s and Indian’s) chose to ignore certain periods in our history due to their religious and/or political manifestations. However we all should remember that after all we are all son's of this soil.
N K Ali
Nov 10, 2012 08:34am
Exactly. Minus Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata and maybe elsewhere, that is the general truth and ritual practiced in India. No hard feelings but it is a story housed in India's archives. Have a nice day.
Nov 10, 2012 11:16am
There is indeed "something wrong here" -- Maharaja Ranjit SIngh was a Sikh not a Hindu and Sikh women and their "maids" don't do Sati. This 'nostalgic' article about Sati can only be written by an insensitive Pakistani.
Nov 10, 2012 11:10am
Very well written article,Kudos to Dawn and Mr Muhammad Hassan Miraj
Rizwan Cheema
Nov 10, 2012 11:22am
Splendid article.
Nov 10, 2012 12:50am
I always thought Maharaja Ranjeet Singh was a Sikh. Nothing against Geeta but it should have recitation from Guru Granth Sahib plus Sati was never a Sikh custom. There is something wrong here. Two Ranis might have done sati of their own free will but I feel more sorry for the 11 maids to get burnt for no reason.
Nov 10, 2012 04:32am
Was the Maharajah a Sikh or Hindu? If a Sikh how come the practice of satti. by his two wives and others.I was under the impression that such acts were disallowed by the Sikh religion.
bhai aapana
Nov 10, 2012 12:37pm
That part of India which "succumbed" and which seeks to redeem its honour from their "own", for the humiliation suffered at the hands of "others". Acharya Chatursen a acclaimed Indian (Hindi) author in his book "Somnath" has re-created in a spine-chilling manner, the ultimatum given to the Rajput ruler of Multan to destroy the temples of the city ,who after weighing the consequences "succumbed" to the demand,choosing not to fight it out !! a wise & self-preserving decision but definitely not heroic !!.All those who read the said passages can feel the severity of humiliation ,which would make a person die a million deaths,the reverberations of such humiliation survives for eons,with generations seething to avenge it perpetually at the sub-conscious,look at the Persian (another "succumbed " lot) antipathy for Arabs.This to an extent explains the constant theme of "ghairat" in the Pakistani society.The only way out ,is to come to peace with your past(good or bad,it can't be all good& it can't be all bad) & own it up as your legitimate heritage(the way Indonesians have done it).Pakistani wont understand it or appreciate it but when we Indians say we are one WE MEAN IT(MOST OF US,IF NOT ALL) and it is not for any hegemonistic designs.Pakistanis are our own family,our own blood..!!!!!