Sher Shah Suri

Sher Shah Suri (1486, SasaramMay 22, 1545 Kalinjar) (- Šīr Šāh Sūrī), also known as Farid Khan or Sher Khan (Lion the King), was a powerful Afghan Emperor of North India (1540–45) who founded a short living dynasty known as Sur Dynasty in 1540 in North India. He overtook the strong weakening Mughal Empire by using their military and social deficits. He was able to keep the power in india for the next 5 years.

Early life

Not much is known about his life. Most of the stories about him are fictions or only tales. What we for sure know is Sher Khan was born in Sasaram, Bihar. He was of Afghan origine and descended from an Afghan adventurer recruited much earlier by Sultan Bahlul Lodi of Delhi during his long contest with the Sharqi Sultans of Jaunpur. The Shah's personal name was Farid, the title of Sher (“Tiger”) being conferred when he killed a tiger as a young man..His original name was Farid-ud-din Abul Muzaffar, but was mostly called Farid. One of eight or 10 (in some sources it is claimed also of 12) sons of Hasan Khan Sur, a vasall of Sasaram and a horse breeder, Farid rebelled against his father and left home to enlist as a soldier in the service of Jamal Khan, the governor of Jaunpur (Uttar Pradesh).

Political career

In Jaunpur, Farid Khan became a private. Later he worked for the province ruler of Bihar, Bahâr Khân, who rewarded him for bravery with the Persian title Sher Khan (Lion the King) when he killed a tiger as a young man. Before he came back to Bihar he was working for the royal court of Mughals where he became educated and well teached over the Arabic and Persian language and the armed force nature. Short after he became official and minister of the court and some later also the educator of the Mughal prince he became a rebell. As a rebell he wanted to obtain the control of the Afghan sub-kingdoms of Bihar and Bengal. He returned back to Bihar where he retook his old place as minister. Because the king of Bihar had conflicts with Bengal he send Sher Shah to handle that for him. In early 1539 he conquered Bengal and, through clever deception, the Rohtas stronghold southwest of Bengal. Nevertheless, the battle demanded ca. 15000 and more slaughtered civilian lifes beside of the hostile soldiers. At the Battle of Chausa on June 26, 1539, he faced and he defeated the Mughal emperor Humayun and assumed the royal title of Farud-din Sher Shah. Humayun's rule began badly with his invasion of the Hindu principality of Kalinjar in Bundelkhand, which he failed to subdue. Next he became entangled in a quarrel with Sher Khan by unsuccessfully besieging the fortress of Chunar (1532). Thereafter he conquered Malwa and Gujarat, but he could not hold them. Leaving the fortress of Chunar unconquered on the way, Humayun proceeded back to to assist Sultan Mahmud of that province against Sher Khan. He lost touch with Delhi and Agra, and, because his brother Hindal began to openly behave like an independent ruler at Agra, he was obliged to leave Gaur, the capital of Bengal. Negotiations with Sher Khan fell through, and the latter forced Humayun to fight a battle at Chausa, 10 miles southwest of Baksar, in which Humayun was defeated. Humayun had no answer to the political and military skill of Sher Shah and had to fight simultaneously on the southern borders to check the sultan of Gujarat, a refuge of the rebel Mughals. Humayun's failure, however, was attributable to inherent flaws in the early Mughal political organization. The armed clans of his nobility owed their first allegiance to their respective chiefs. These chiefs, together with almost all the male members of the royal family, had a claim to sovereignty. There was thus always a lurking fear of the emergence of another centre of power, at least under one or the other of his brothers. Humayun had also to fight against the heavy odds of his opponents' rapport with the locality.

Rise of Sher Khan

After Sher Khan defeated the Bengali and Hamayun´s army with his own Bihari army and some Afghan tribes men, he returned strengthenedly and self-assuredly through his successful action back to Bihar where he was rebelling against his own Sahib (pers.: Master) by taking the power. In May 1540 at Kannauj he had again to face Moghul Emperoer Humayun and defeated him and had driven his foes from Bengal, Bihar and the Punjab and at the same time also suppressed the Baluchs and their chiefs on the northwestern frontier. Intent on expanding the sultanate of Delhi, he captured Gwalior and Malwa but was killed during the siege of Kalinjar by a shoot on a barrel of gunpowder very next to him. Sher Shah ruled the whole of North India´s islamic belt for five years, reannexing and defeating the Rajputs.

Sher Khan built also the Rohtas Fort in 1541-43 to crush the Gakhars, who were loyal to Humayun, to whom the fort was finally surrendered by a treacherous commander 10 years after Sher Khan's death. Ironically, Rohtas Fort became the capital of the very people it was designed to crush, the Gakhars.

Expansion and victories

Sher Khan continued to expand his empire, subjugating Bengal, Malwa, Raisen, Sindh and Multan. In the Battle of Raisen, Sher Khan attacked the fort of the Rajput ruler Puran Mal. After it became apparent that defending the fort would be too tough, Puran Mal agreed to surrender the fort on the condition that his troops, their wives and children, be allowed to leave unmolested. Sher Khan agreed. But as Puran Mal and his family were leaving the fort they were attacked by Sher Khan's Pashtun tribe´s men. In a very short time, Sher Khan had extended his kingdom from the Indus in the west to Bengal in the east.

Sher Shah Suri was succeeded by his son, Jalal Khan who took the title of Islam Shah Suri. After his death the Mughals came again fully to power.

Government and administration

One of the great Muslim rulers of India, Sher Shah rose from the rank of private to be emperor, reorganized the administration efficiently and the army and tax collections, built roads and Travellers' inns, rest houses and wells, improved the jurisdiction, founded refuges and hostpitals, established, free kitchens and organized a mail services and the police, At their return, Mughals could build on his measures.

Additional reading


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