Sher Shah Suri – Muslim Warrior

shershahsuri

Sher Shah Suri was the founder of the Sur Empire in North India, with its capital at Delhi. An ethnic Pashtun, Sher Shah took control of the Mughal Empire in 1540. After his accidental death in 1545, his son Islam Shah became his successor. He first served as a private before rising to become a commander in the Mughal army under Babur and then the governor of Bihar. In 1537, when Babur’s son Humayun was elsewhere on an expedition, Sher Khan overran the state of Bengal and established the Sur dynasty. A brilliant strategist, Sher Shah proved himself as a gifted aministrator as well as a capable general. His reorganization of the empire laid the foundations for the later Mughal emperors, notably Akbar, son of Humayun.

During his five-year rule from 1540 to 1545, he set up a new civic and military administration, issued the first Rupiya and reorganised the postal system of India. He further developed Humayun’s Dina-panah city and named it Shergarh and revived the historical city of Pataliputra, which had been in decline since the 7th century CE, as Patna. He extended the Grand Trunk Road from Chittagong in the frontiers of the province of Bengal in northeast India to Kabul in Afghanistan in the far northwest of the country.

1.Early life and origin
Sher Shah Suri was born as Farid Khan in the present day place Sasaram State Bihar India. His surname ‘Suri’ was taken from his Sur tribe . The name Sher (tiger) was conferred upon him when, as a young man, he killed a tiger. His grand father Ibrahim Khan Suri was a land lord (Jagirdar) in Narnaul area and represented Delhi rulers of that period. Mazar of Ibrahim Khan Suri still stands as a monument in Narnaul. Tarikh-i Khan Jahan Lodi (MS. p. 151). also confirm this fact. However, the online Encyclopædia Britannica states that he was born in Sasaram (Bihar), in the Rohtas district. He was one of about eight sons of Mian Hassan Khan Suri, a prominent figure in the government of Bahlul Khan Lodi. Sher Khan belonged to the Pashtun Sur tribe (the Pashtuns are known as Afghans in historical Persian language sources). His grandfather, Ibrahim Khan Suri, was a noble adventurer who was recruited much earlier by Sultan Bahlul Lodi of Delhi during his long contest with the Jaunpur Sultanate.

2.Conquest of Bihar and Bengal
Farid Khan started his service under Bahar Khan Lohani, the Mughal Governor of Bihar.Because of his valour, Bahar Khan rewarded him the title Sher Khan (Tiger Lord). After the death of Bahar Khan, Sher Khan became the regent ruler of the minor Sultan, Jalal Khan. Later sensing the growth Sher Shah’s power in Bihar, Jalal sought assistance of
Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah, the independent Sultan of Bengal. Ghiyasuddin sent an army under General Ibrahim Khan. But, Sher Khan defeated the force at the battle of Surajgarh in 1534 after forming an alliance with Ujjainiya Rajputs and other local chiefdoms. Thus he achieved complete control of Bihar.

In 1538, Sher Khan attacked Bengal and defeated Ghiyashuddin Shah.But he could not capture the kingdom because of sudden expedition of Emperor Humayun. On June 26, 1539, Sher Khan faced Humayun in the Battle of Chausa and defeated him. Assuming the title Farid al-Din Sher Shah, he defeated Humayun once again at Kannauj in May 1540 and forced him out of India.

3.Conquest of Malwa
After the death of Bahadur Shah of Gujarat in 1537, Qadir Shah became the new ruler of Malwa Sultanate. He then turned for support towards the Rajput and Muslim noblemen of the Khilji rule of Malwa. Bhupat Rai and Puran Mal, sons of Raja Silhadi accepted service under the regime of Malwa in recognition of their interest in the Raisen region. By 1540, Bhupat Rai had died and Puran Mal had become the dominant force in eastern Malwa. In 1542, Sher Shah conquered Malwa without a fight and Qadir Shah fled to Gujarat. He then appointed Shuja’at Khan as the governor of Malwa who reorganised the administration and made Sarangpur the seat of Malwa’s government. Sher Shah then ordered Puran Mal to be brought before him. Puran Mal agreed to accept his lordship and left his brother Chaturbhuj under Sher Shah’s service. In exchange Sher Shah vowed to safeguard Puran Mal and his land. The Muslim women of Chanderi, which Sher Shah took under his rule, came to him and accused Puran Mal of killing their husbands and enslaving their daughters. They threatened to accuse the sultan on the Day of Resurrection if he did not avenge them. Upon reminding them of his vow for Puran Mal’s safety, they told him to consult his ulema. The ulema issued a fatwa declaring that Puran Mal deserved death for this act. Sher Shah’s troops then surrounded Puran Mal’s fortress at Raisen. Upon seeing this, Puran Mal beheaded his wife and ordered the Rajputs to kill their families as he might have thought that personal honor was involved because of his lord going back on his promise.
After this, the Rajputs then went into battle and all of them were killed by Sher Shah’s troops. `Abd al-Qadir Bada’uni puts the number of Rajputs to 10,000 while Nizamuddin Ahmad puts it to 4,000.

4.Government and administration
The system of tri-metalism which came to characterize Mughal coinage was introduced by Sher Shah. While the term rupya had previously been used as a generic term for any silver coin, during his rule the term rupiya came to be used as the name for a silver coin of a standard weight of 178 grains, which was the precursor of the modern rupee. Rupee is today used as the national currency in India, Indonesia, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sri Lanka among other countries. Gold coins called the Mohur weighing 169 grains and copper coins called Dam were also minted by his government.

5.Sher Shah built monuments including Rohtas Fort
(now a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Pakistan), many structures in the Rohtasgarh Fort in Bihar, Sher Shah Suri Masjid, in Patna, built in 1540–1545 to commemorate his reign. He built a new city Bhera of Pakistan in 1545 and inside the city built historical grand Sher shah suri Masjid.

Qila-i-Kuhna mosque, built by Sher Shah in 1541, at Purana Qila, Delhi, a Humayun citadel started in 1533, and later extended by him, along with the construction of Sher Mandal, an octagonal building inside the Purana Qila complex, which later served as the library of Humayun.

Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi (History of Sher Shah), written by Abbas Khan Sarwani, a waqia-navis under later Mughal Emperor, Akbar around 1580, provides a detailed documentation about Sher Shah’s administration.

6.Death and succession
Sher Shah was killed on 13 May 1545 during siege of the Kalinjar fort of Rajputs. When all the tactics to subdue this fort failed then Sher Shah ordered walls to the fort to be blown up with gunpowder, but he himself was seriously wounded as a result of the explosion of a mine. He was succeeded by his son, Jalal Khan who took the title of Islam Shah Suri. His mausoleum, the Sher Shah Suri Tomb (122 ft high) stands in the middle of an artificial lake at Sasaram, a town that stands on the Grand Trunk Road.

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