In north-west India, the Sikhs under their able leader Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1792-1839) became an effective political and military force. The British power in India viewed the rise of the Sikhs as a potential threat. The British thus wanted to bring the Sikhs under control.

After the death of Ranjit Singh in 1839, lawlessness prevailed in Punjab. The British took advantage of this and the First Anglo-Sikh War broke out in 1845 which ended with the defeat of the Sikhs.

In the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849, the British finally defeated them in the battle of Gujarat, a town on river Chenab (1849). The Sikh chiefs surrendered and Punjab was annexed by Lord Dalhousie. Maharaja Dalip Singh, the son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was pensioned off and sent to England.