Kharak Singh, Maharaja
Eldest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1801-1840)
Was born on 9 February 1801. He was married to Chand Kaur, daughter of Jaimal Singh Kanhaiya, in 1812. The Maharaja brought him up in the family's martial tradition and assigned him to a variety of' military expeditions. While barely six years old, he was given the nominal command of the Sheikhpura expedition (1807); was placed in charge of the Kanhaiya estates in 1811; and deputed in 1812 to punish the recalcitrant chiefs of Bhisnbar and Rajauri. He was invested with the command of Multan expedition (1818) as well as of Kashmir (1819). He was also sent on similar campaigns undertaken by Ranjit Singh for the conquest of Peshawar and against the Mazaris of Shikarpur.
Frail in constitution, Kharak Singh ascended the throne in June 1839 on the death of his father. From the very first day he had to encounter the envy of his powerful and ambitious minister, Dhian Singh Dogra. Dhian Singh resented especially the ascendancy of the royal favourite Chet Singh Bajva, a trusted courtier who had also been Kharak Singh's tutor. The Dogas started a whispering campaign against the Maharaja as well as against Chet Singh. It was given out that both the Maharaja and his favourite were surreptitiously planning to make over the Punjab to the British and surrender to them six hands in every rupee of the State revenue and that the Sikh army would be disbanded. To lend credence to these rumours, some fake letters were prepared and discreetly intercepted. Gulab Singh Dogra, Dhian Singh's elder brother, was charged to work upon Kharak Singh's son, Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh, then travelling in his company from Peshawar to Lahore. Misled by these fictitious tales, the young prince became estranged from his father.
Matters came to a climax when, in October 1839, Dhian Singh made a plot to assassinate Chet Singh. Early on the morning of 9 October the conspirators entered the Maharaja's residence in the Fort and assassinated Chet Singh in the presence of their royal master, who vainly implored them to spare the life of his favourite.
Kharak Singh was removed from the Fort and he remained virtually a prisoner in the hands of Dhian Singh. Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh took the reins of the government into his own hands, but he was helpless against the machinations of his minister, who continued to keep father and son separated from each other. Dhian Singh subjected Kharak Singh to strict restraint upon the pretext that he might not escape to the British territory. Doses of slow poison were administered to the Maharaja, who was at last delivered by death on 5 November 1840 from a lonely and disgraceful existence.