First Anglo-Sikh War Modern History Notes for UPSC

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The First Anglo-Sikh War was fought between the British East India Company and the Sikh Empire in 1845-1846. After the war, the Sikh empire partially surrendered and Jammu and Kashmir became a separate princely state under British rule. You will learn about the First Anglo-Sikh War(1844-56) in this article, which will help you prepare for the UPSC and other competitive exams.

Causes of the First Anglo-Sikh War

Immediately after Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, chaos and anarchy spread throughout the Punjab. Because the British failed to defeat the Afghans a number of times, it gave undue encouragement to the Khalsa, and they were more interested in clashing with the British than anyone else.

Sikhs had been encircled by Sindh and Punjab rites by the English. They had forced the Sikhs to withdraw their forces from Shikardur. In 1838, the Sindh Amirs were forced to have a British Resident in Hyderabad (Sindh), thereby creating a barrier against Sikh expansion. In 1835, they occupied Ferozpur and established a cantonment. The Sikhs felt that the policy of encirclement was being done by the English with the ultimate idea of capturing Punjab.

The English weren’t silent spectators of these affairs in Punjab. They started mobilizing their troops in large numbers around the Sutlej river in order to exploit the internal weakness of the Sikh state. According to estimates, there were 2500 soldiers stationed on the Sutlej boundary line in 1836, but 14,000 were stationed there in 1840. The British started to prepare boats that could be used for military pontoon bridges across the Sutlej at Bombay. The British military preparations enraged the Sikhs.

Sindh had been annexed by the British in 1843, so even strategic considerations would drive the Sikhs to attempt its conquest, since Sindh could not be effectively controlled without it.

In order to divide the Sikh nobles and create conditions for declaration of war against the English, Major Broadfoot, the Political Agent for Punjab, tried his best. The Broadfoot had instigated Tej Singh and Gulab Singh to cross the Sutlej with the Sikh army, which led to the war. The British therefore used every possible means to cause the Sikhs to declare war. In the end, they succeeded.

Maharaja Dalip Singh’s mother, Rani Zindan, played a large role in the first war between the English and Sikhs. Like other members of the Lahore Durbar, she too had a fear of the Sikh army. As a result, she desired a war between the Sikh army and the English in order to ensure her safety. The Sardars of the Lahore Durbar also encouraged the Sikhs to fight the English. Their belief was that a victory by the Khalsa army would mean a greater expansion of territory and a distraction from politics. A defeat would result in its weakness being reduced, which would make it less dangerous. The Khalsa army crossed the Sutlej near Kasur, encouraged by Lahore Durbar, after which Lord Hardings declared war.

Events of the First Anglo-Sikh War

Lal Singh’s Sikh army had roughly 50,000 men when the conflict began in December 1845, compared to 20,000 to 30,000 British troops.

During the First Anglo-Sikh War, five battles were fought.

Battle of Mudki: The first battle between the Sikhs and the English as fought at Mudki on December 18, 1845. The Sikhs were defeated.

Battle of Ferozeshah: A battle between the British East India Company and the Sikh Empire took place in Ferozeshah in Punjab on the 21st and 22nd of December 1845. The British won the war under Sir Hugh Gough and Governor-General Sir Henry Hardinge, while the Sikhs were led by Lal Singh.

On January 21, 1846, Ranjodh Singh Majithia led the Sikhs to defeat the English at Buddwal. After defeating the Sikhs again at Aliwal on January 26, the Sikhs were defeated at Sobram on February 10, 1846, and were routed. The English then crossed the Sutlez on February 13, and captured Lahore on February 20.

Result of the First Anglo-Sikh War

The war came to an end by the Treaty of Lahore which was signed on 9th March, 1846. The terms were:

  • In accordance with this treaty, the Sikhs were to pay one crore as war indemnity, but they only had 50 thousand with them. For the rest of the money, they surrendered the territory between Punjab and Kashmir, as well as the Beas and Sindh. The land was handed over to Gulab Singh, even though it was declared he had bought it. Lal Singh became Prime Minister, and Rani Jindan became Dalip Singh’s Regent.
  • Sikh territories and the left bank of the River Sutlej were renounced by the Maharaja, and the Khalsa army was limited to 22,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry. The Sikhs had to surrender all their guns.
  • There was to be no European employment in Lahore without the English’ consent. A British force was to remain there until the year ended. Henry Lawrence was the Resident.
  • The Governor General gave assurance that he would not interfere in the internal affairs of the Lahore Durbar.

As a result of dissatisfaction with the Treaty of Lahore on Kashmir, the Sikhs revolted. The Treaty of Bhairowal, or Second Treaty of Lahore, was signed in December of 1846. The Terms of the Treaty were:

  • Until Maharaja Dalip Singh reached 16 years of age in 1884, the Durbar was supposed to pay 22 lakhs per annum to meet the costs of the British force at Lahore.
  • Until Dalip Singh became a major, the British Resident ruled the Punjab with the help of a regency council composed of sardars, which gave him the power to change anything or appoint a new person.
  • The British believed that occupation of any Sikh fortress was necessary to protect the Maharaja’s interests, so they could place the British force there, in addition to Lahore. In this respect, the Second Treaty of Lahore or the Treaty of Bhairowal marked a great improvement over the First.


Many advised Lord Hardings to annex the Empire as the Sikhs had been brutally beaten, but he refused, because the annexation of Punjab to the British Empire was intended to create a Hindu state that could serve as a buffer state between British India and Afghanistan. In order to control Punjab, a larger British army was needed, but the British army was deficient at the time. As far as economics were concerned, Punjab was not so attractive at the time. The Second Anglo-Sikh War broke out three years later over resentment of British meddling in administration.

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