ZAFARNĀMAH-I-RAṆJĪT SIṄGH, sub-titled Raṇjītnāmah, by Kanhaiyā Lāl is an account in Persian verse of the reign of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh and his successors, covering the period 1799-1849. The manuscript copies of the work are preserved in Pañjāb University Library, Lahore; Pañjāb Public Library, Lahore; Khālsā College, Amritsar ; and the Punjab State Archives, Paṭiālā. Its author, Kanhaiyā Lāl, was a native of Jalesar, an old town in Āgrā district of Uttar Pradesh. His father Lālā Harī Narāiṇ Māthur had migrated to Lahore. Here Kanhaiyā Lāl acquired technical education and rose to be an executive engineer. The British government conferred upon him the title of Rāi Bahādur. "Hindī" was his pen-name. He was a prolific writer and wrote several books in Persian and Urdu. Of these, his Tarīkh-i-Pañjāb in Urdu prose is, in his own words, an expanded version of his Raṇjītnāmah.

        Zafarnāmah in Persian means a letter or account of victory. It was one of the common titles given by Persian poems and historians to their works in prose and verse eulogizing the conquests and achievements of kings and military heroes. Already Dīwān Amar Nāth Akabrī, a high official under Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh, had written an account of the Mahārājā's conquest under the title, Zafarnāmah-i-Raṇjīt Siṅgh, which remained unpublished until 1928. Kanhaiyā Lāl's Zafarnāmah was lithographed in 1876 at Mustafāī Press, Lahore. A summary translation of it in English was serialized in the Indian Antiquary, Calcutta, during October 1887-April 1888.

        In the compilation of Zafarnāmah-i-Raṇjīt Siṅgh, Kanhaiyā LāI seems to have utilized works such as Sohan Lāl Sūrī's 'Umdat ut-Twārīkh, Būṭe Shāh's Twārīkh-i-Punjab and, possibly, Dīwān Amar Nāth's Zafarnāmah. Following the style of Persian poets like Firdausī and Nizāmī Gañjavī, Kanhaiyā Lāl commences his book with invocation to God. This is followed by laudation of Hindu and Muslim teachers and the Gurūs. The major portion of the work is taken up by the wars and conquests of Raṇjīt Siṅgh, ten concluding chapters covering the period from the coronation of Mahārājā Khaṛak Siṅgh to the annexation of the Punjab by the British in 1849. The author' style is highly hyperbolic and full of poetic exaggerations. He describes the techniques of war and dauntless bravery of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh and praises the courage, manliness and chivalry of his soldiers comparing them to such legendary heroes as Rustam and Asfand Yār.


    Kirpal Singh, A Catalogue of Persian and Sanskrit Manuscript. Amritsar, 1962

Janak Siṅgh