Although the Sikh Empire began with the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, it began taking shape from 1707 CE with the downfall of the Mughal Empire that began with Aurangzeb's death. One of the first pivotal figures of in Sikh history was Banda Singh Bahadur who was an ardent disciple of Guru Gobind Singh. He was a fierce warrior who participated in a number of battles. He was captured after an eight-month siege of the Gurdas Nangal Fort by Farrukhsiyar's forces and taken to Delhi. Given the choice between converting to Islam and death, Banda Singh chose the latter.
Another important figure in Sikh history is Nawab Kapur Singh. In and around Lahore, Zakariya Khan, the Mughal governor, launched an offensive against the Sikhs which drove them into hiding. In an attempt to destabilise Khan, groups of Sikhs would attack government caravans and treasuries as a mark of revolt.
The attacks proved successful and Zakariya Khan offered the Sikhs a jagir of three parganas and the title of 'Nawab' to their leader. Kapur Singh was elected to accept this title. Under Nawab Kapur Singh, the Sikhs formed the Dal Khalsa, an army of veterans and youngsters. As the Khalsa expanded, it was divided into misls. These misls were spread across Punjab.
The truce between Zakariya Khan and the Sikhs did not last long. The Mughal governor sent an army to occupy the jagir and drove the Sikhs out of Amritsar. In 1739 CE, Nader Shah of Persia sacked Delhi. On his way back, he was ambushed by the Dal Khalsa and relieved of the looted wealth. The girls abducted by his army were taken away by Sikhs to safety. Nawab Kapur Singh retired and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia took over his duties.
Nicknamed Sher-e-Punjab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh founded the Sikh Empire. He united all the misls under his banner. His empire included the Kashmir Mountains, Himalayan kingdom, the Sind-Sagar doab, the Pothohar Plateau, and the trans-Indus regions up to the foot of the Suleiman Mountains.
After Ranjit Singh's death, he was succeeded by a series of weaker kings and barely lasted a decade. The Sikhs were partially subjugated after the First Anglo-Sikh War, and the empire came to an end after the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1848-49 CE. The region was taken over by the British East India Company.