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Kharak Singh

Eldest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Kharak Singh was bron from his second and beloved wife Rani Raj Kaur in 1801. In 1811 he married Rani ChandKaur and on 1821 he fathered Prince Nau Nihal Singh, a brilliant personality and most respected member of royal family. In June 1839 Khaxak Singh succeeded his father on the gaddi of Lahore with Raja Dhyan Singh as Prime Minister. Maharaja Kharak Singh died from a fever in November 1840 and Nau Nihal Singh was to succeed him as Maharaja of Punjab.

Oil Painting of Maharaja Kharak Singh

This efficient machinery worked well under Ranjit Singh and Punjab was on its way to prosperity. Army was totally separated from state affairs, Ranjit Singh had designed and implemented an ingenious system for this purpose. Army democratically elected five members Panches, they decided on all the matters vis-à-vis state, etc. British did not dared attacked Punjab as long as Ranjit Singh lived. Ranjit Singh counterchecked British by hiring several Frenchmen for his important defense portfolios. Ranjit Singh's biggest oversight was perhaps inability to have fully prepared one of his sons to take over his kingdom. When Ranjit Singh died, Kharak Singh, his eldest son became Maharaja. Kharak Singh was 50 years old at this time. He lacked the down to earth personality of his father. Kharak Singh was a heavy opium eater. He totally neglected state affairs and got himself immersed in wine, opium, drinking and womanizing. At this time Prime minister was still Dhyan Singh. His son Naunihal Singh though, was a favorite with army. He fought in several battles and was posted as a governor of North West Frontier province at this time. Maharaja Ranjit Singh had earlier married Naunihal Singh with daughter of Sardar Sham Singh Attariwala.

Dogra brothers, Dhyan Singh, Suchet Singh and Gulab Singh were in total control of administration at this time. Dhyan Singh's son Hira Singh was also a favorite of Maharaja Ranjit Singh just like Naunihal Singh(his own grandson). Maharaja Had given him a title "Farzand-e-Khas", or "a special son". It was rumored that Dhyan Singh wanted Hira Singh, his son to become Maharaja of Punjab and thus he started his manipulations. Kharak Singh, the new maharaja did not trusted Dogra brothers and started neglecting them. His mentor was one Chet Singh Bajwa who was also his childhood teacher. Kharak Singh started interfering with affairs concerning state, which were under the jurisdiction of Dogra brothers. Ranjit Singh had earlier looked after all matters himself and had only given some liberty to Dogra brothers while keeping them in check. Ranjit Singh's ability to not trust anyone blindly played a major role in day to day administration of state af fairs. Most of his courtiers were scared to do anything wrong.

But during the time of Kharak Singh, everything was changed. Dogra suspected that Chet Singh was responsible for their removal from state affairs. Dogras brothers Gulab Singh and Suchet Singh got together and decided to remove Chet Singh Bajwa and then subdue Kharak Singh. One night when Chet Singh was sleeping in same palace where Maharaja Kharak Singh lived, Suchet Singh Dogra along with Gulab Singh entered the palace and hacked Chet Singh to pieces. Dogra brothers now changed servants of palace and administer a slow poison (mercury) in food to Maharaja Kharak Singh. His son Naunihal Singh who suspected treachery of Dogras did not returned to Lahore until Maharaja Kharak Singh died. All this time Dhyan Singh Dogra was faithful to the Maharaja Ranjit Singh's family.

Naunihal Singh came back to Lahore to fulfill his obligation to cremate the body of his father Maharaja Kharak Singh and as well as to become a new Maharaja. Dhyan Singh Dogra declared Naunihal Singh a new maharaja. On the same day when the party was returning from cremation ground, a large block of concrete from Archway fell on top of Naunihal Singh. It is said that he was not hurt bad and was able to walk himself but still Gulab Singh Dogra insisted on getting a palki. Two days later Dhyan Singh Dogra declared that Naunihal Singh had died due to complications of his injury. Even Naunihal Singh's mother and wife were not allowed to meet him after injury. English doctor that operated on Naunihal Singh testified to British author Macauliffe that initially Naunihal Singh did got some injury on head and he applied bandages but next day when he went to see Naunihal Singh his head was totally crushed and bandages were changed, he was not br eathing. Dhyan Singh Dogra now proclaimed other son of Ranjit Singh named Sher Singh as Maharaja of Punjab.