Ranjit Singh was born in 1780. He was the leader of the Sikh Empire of Punjab. He was popularly known as Sher-i-Punjab, or "Lion of Punjab". He fought his first battle alongside his father at age 10. After his father died, he fought several wars to expel the Afghans in his teenage years and was proclaimed as the "Maharaja of Punjab" at age 21. His empire grew in the Punjab region under his leadership through 1839.
Almost 777 years of foreign rule, starting from the Turkish invader Mahmud of Ghazni in 1022 after ousting the Hindu Shahi ruler Raja Tarnochalpal, until the time Maharajah Ranjit Singh entered the gates of Lahore on July 7, 1799; Punjabis had not ruled their own land.
Prior to his rise, the Punjab region had numerous warring misls (confederacies), twelve of which were under Sikh rulers and one Muslim. Ranjit Singh successfully absorbed and united the Sikh misls and took over other local kingdoms to create the Sikh Empire of Punjab.
He repeatedly defeated invasions by Muslim armies, particularly those arriving from Afghanistan, and established friendly relations with the British. He received support from Punjabi Musalmans who fought under his banner against Afghan forces of Nadir Shah and later of Azim Khan.
Ranjit Singh's reign introduced reforms, modernization, investment into infrastructure, and general prosperity. His army and government included Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, and Europeans. His court reflected a secular pattern, his Prime Minister Dhian Singh was a Dogra, his Foreign Minister Fakir Azizuddin was a Mulsim, his Finance Minister Dina Nath was a Brahmin, and artillery commanders such as Mian Ghausa, Sarfaraz Khan were Muslims.
The army under Ranjit Singh was not limited to the Sikh community. The soldiers and troop officers included Sikhs, but also included Hindus, Muslims, and Europeans. Hindu Brahmins and people of all creeds and castes served his army, while the composition in his government also reflected a religious diversity. His army included Polish, Russian, Spanish, Prussian and French officers. In 1835, as his relationship with the British warmed up, he hired a British officer named Foulkes.
However, the Khalsa army of Ranjit Singh reflected the regional population, and as he grew his army, he dramatically increased the Rajput and Jat Sikhs who became the predominant members of his army. In the Doab region, his army was composed of the Jat Sikhs, in Jammu and northern Indian Hills it was Hindu Rajputs, while relatively more Muslims served his army in the Jhelum river area closer to Afghanistan than other major Panjab rivers.
Ranjit Singh ensured that Panjab manufactured and was self-sufficient in all weapons, equipment and munitions his army needed. His government invested in infrastructure in the 1800s and thereafter, established raw materials mines, cannon foundries, gunpowder and arms factories. Some of these operations were owned by the state, others operated by private operatives.
The prosperity of his Empire, in contrast to the Mughal-Sikh wars era, largely came from the improvement in the security situation, reduction in violence, reopened trade routes and greater freedom to conduct commerce.
There were no forced conversions in his time. His wives Bibi Mohran, Gilbahar Begum retained their faith and so did his Hindu wives.