The Sikh Confederacy
The Sikh Confederacy (from 1716-1849) was a collection of small to medium sized independent sovereign, punjabi Sikh states, which were governed by barons, in Punjab. They were loosely politically linked but strongly bound in the cultural and religious spheres. Guru Gobind Singh before leaving for Nanded had divided responsibility of Punjab into separate regions (with borders). The records for these were kept at Amritsar and Lahore. As the Sikh Army (Dal Khalsa) grew new regions where administered and new Sikh barons came to the fore and the number of large misls eventually increased.
The Sikh Empire (from 1799-1849) was formed on the foundations of the Sikh Confederacy by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The Empire extended from the Khyber Pass in the west, to Kashmir in the north (touching) the borders of Tibet, to the Indus River in the south and in the east to Himachal Pradesh. The main geographical footprint of the empire was Punjab (historical Punjab region). The religious population demography of the Sikh Empire was Muslim (80%), Hindu (10%) and Sikh (10%). The once strong empire was severely weakened after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839. The Empire ended, with the British Empire annexing its territory in 1849, after the Second Anglo-Sikh War.
The foundations of the Sikh Empire, during the Sikh Confederacy, could be defined as early as 1707, starting from the death of Aurangzeb and the downfall of the Mughal Empire. The fall of the Mughal Empire provided opportunities for the Sikh army, known as the Dal Khalsa, to lead expeditions against the Mughals and Afghans. This led to a growth of the army, which was split into different confederations and then independent kingdoms. Each of these component armies were known as a misl, each controlling different areas and cities. However, in the period from 1762-1799 Sikh rulers of their kingdoms appeared to be coming into their own. The formal start of the Sikh Empire began with the disbandment of the Sikh Confederacy by the Coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1801, creating the one unified political Empire.
After the Maharaja's death the empire was severely weakened by internal divisions and political mismanagement. This opportunity was used by the British Empire to launch the first series of Anglo-Sikh Wars. The Sikh Empire was finally annexed by the British Empire at the end of the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849.