Sher Shah Suri

Summary

Farid al-din Sher-shah Suri ibn Hasan-khan (c. 1486-22 May 1545, Kalinjar) was a Muslim commander of Pashtun origin. He began his service with the ruler of Bihar as a common soldier, reached the command positions in the Mughal army, and then in 1540 expelled the Mughals from the Indian borders and subjugated the entire Northern India, founding the last dynasty of the Delhi sultanate – the Surids. One of the greatest reformers in the history of India.

The following is a description of the name of the man who was born in Sasaram in Bihar into the Pashtun feudal family of Sur. His father Hasan-khan was one of the amirs of the Delhi Sultan Ibrahim Shah II Lodi and held a jagir which included Sasaram, Khaspur and Tand. Sher-khan successfully managed his father”s jagir for some time. Then his half-brothers took over the jagir and Farid Khan left Sasaram to serve Bahar Khan Lohani, the Afghan ruler of Bihar, who awarded him the title of Sher Khan, which means “Lion-Lord”, for his loyalty and courage.

After Babur”s victory at Panipat, Sher-khan entered his service and soon regained his father”s jagir. After the death of Bahar Khan Lohani in 1529, Sher Khan became the guardian of his minor son and heir Jalal Khan, thereby concentrating power over Bihar in his hands. Taking advantage of the dynastic crisis that followed Babur”s death in 1530, Sher Shah began to play his own political game. In the year of Babur”s death, Sher Shah seized the fortress of Chunar, which held the treasury of the deposed Lodi dynasty (about 900,000 rupees). However, already in 1531, the new padishah Humayun seized Chunar and made Sher Shah capitulate.

Opposition to Sher Khan”s power grew in Bihar itself: in 1533 the Lohani tribal chiefs allied against him with the Bengal Sultan Mahmud Shah, to whom the juvenile Bihar ruler Jalal Khan Lohani soon fled. In 1534 Sher Khan defeated the coalition Bengal-Lohani forces at Surajgarh on the bank of the Kiul River. As a result of this victory, Sher Khan Suri becomes the de facto independent ruler of Bihar and parts of Bengal. The Afghan tribes, dissatisfied with the power of the Mughal dynasty, rallied under his banners. Mahmud Shah of Bengal gave him part of his sultanate territory and paid a large sum of money. In April 1538, Sher Khan seized the capital of Bengal, Gaur. Mahmud Shah fled to the Great Mogul Humayun, who soon invaded Bengal at the head of an impressive army and seized Gaur. Sher Khan Suri retreated to Rohtas, his Bihar citadel. After nine months Humayun left Bengal.

After the defeats at Chausa (June 27, 1539) and at Kanauj (spring 1540), Humayun left Delhi and fled to Kandahar and then to the court of the Safavid shah. Sher Khan got the whole of Bengal and Jaunpur, after which in December 1539 he was crowned sultan under the name of Sher Shah.

To subdue the Hawars, Sher Shah erected the impregnable fortress of Rohtas. By 1542 Sher Shah had conquered Gwalior, Malwa, Udjain, Sindh and Punjab. In 1544, Sher Shah, at the head of an 80-thousand army, invaded Rajputana and conquered Ajmir, Jodhpur and Chitor. When he united the Delhi Sultanate and a number of Rajput principalities under his scepter, the latter became for the first time in history vassals of a Muslim ruler of Delhi. But Sher Shah was killed by an explosion of his own ammunition in 1545 at the siege of the fortress of Kalanjar.

The splendor of Sher Shah”s court is now reminded by his opulent mausoleum in Sasaram. In 2006, the Prime Minister of Pakistan opened a museum in Rohtas devoted to the life and work of Sher Shah.

Sher Shah was not only a gifted general, but also an able administrator. Sher Shah pursued a wise policy of religious tolerance toward Hinduism and widely recruited Hindus for military, administrative, and other services for the benefit of his empire. Through several major reforms he created a system of administration and taxation, which, when adopted by Humayun”s son Akbar, formed the basis of the Mughal Empire. It was under him that the first full-fledged rupee was minted.

The tax reform of Sher-Shah was carried out under the leadership of his talented advisor Ahmad-khan Tagi. In order to streamline taxation and improve tax collection, Sher-Shah appointed four special officials – amin, shikdar and two karkun – in each district of the empire (pargana). The karguns kept the tax documentation in two languages: in Farsi and in Hindi, which made taxation understandable not only for the Turkic top of the state, but also for the lower-level Hindu officials. Several parganas constituted a province, headed by a shikdar-i shikdaran, who had administrative and judicial powers. The amount of the tax was now to be calculated on the basis of the size of the cultivated land: a jarib was taken as the unit of taxation, and this system of taxation was called jariban. The tax was paid at the taxpayer”s request either in money or in products. Information about the amount and form of payment of the tax was recorded in special documents – kabuliyat (Farsi “agreement”) or patta (Hindi “document”). The officials were instructed to take into account the damage caused to crops by natural and other factors when collecting the tax. The village chiefs were responsible for the direct collection of the tax, and they were also responsible for ensuring public order and searching for offenders.

The tax reform established moderate taxes and limited the arbitrariness of officials toward taxpayers, which was in the interest of the state. Sher Shah himself argued:

Among other measures of Sher-Shah aimed at strengthening the central power are the restoration of the practice of branding the horses of servicemen and military commanders, the widespread construction of roads and caravanserais (about 1700 caravanserais were built along trade routes and other roads). The development of trade was also greatly facilitated by the issue of a large number of full-weight silver rupees and the abolition of road tolls.

Sources

  1. Шер-шах
  2. Sher Shah Suri
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