Jump to content

Sher Shah Suri

This is a good article. Click here for more information.
Page semi-protected
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sher Shah Suri
Sultan Adil (Just King)
Lion King
Painting of Sher Shah Suri from a manuscript of Tarikh-i-Khandan-i-Timuriya (dated between c. 1570–1590), prepared by the court painters of Mughal emperor Akbar
Sultan of Hindustan
Reign6 April 1538/17 May 1540 — 22 May 1545[b]
CoronationFirst coronation: 6 April 1538
Second coronation: 17 May 1540
PredecessorHumayun (as Mughal Emperor)
SuccessorIslam Shah Suri
Ruler of Bihar
Reign1530 — 6 April 1538/17 May 1540
PredecessorJalal Khan Lohani
BornFarid al-Din Khan
1472 or 1486
Sasaram, Delhi Sultanate (now in Bihar, India)
Died22 May 1545 (aged 73 or 59)
SpouseLad Malika
IssueIslam Shah Suri (Jalal Khan)
Adil Khan
Native languagePashto
FatherHasan Khan Sur
ReligionSunni Islam

Sher Shah Suri (Farid al-Din Khan; 1472 or 1486 – 22 May 1545),[1] also known by his title Sultan Adil (Just King), was the ruler of Bihar from 1530 to 1540, and Sultan of Hindustan from 1540 until his death in 1545.[2] He defeated the Mughal Empire in 1540, founding the Sur Empire, and establishing his rule in Delhi. The influence of his innovations and reforms extended far beyond his brief reign. During his time in power, he remained undefeated in battle and was renowned as one of the most skillful Afghan generals in history.[3]

Born between 1472 and 1486 and given the name Farid Khan, his early childhood saw him flee from home due to internal family strife. He pursued an education in Jaunpur, where his rise to power began after his father offered him a managerial position over his jagirs. Sher Shah effectively governed these territories, gaining a reputation for his reforms that brought prosperity to the region. However, due to family intrigues, he eventually relinquished his position over the jagirs. Sher Shah then moved to Agra, where he stayed until his father's death. This event allowed him to return to his family's jagirs and take control, thereby solidifying his leadership and furthering his rise to power.

Sher Shah spent time in Agra after the Mughals gained power, observing the leadership of Babur. After leaving Agra, he entered the service of the governor of Bihar. Following the governor's death in 1528, Sher Shah obtained a high position in Bihar and, by 1530, became the regent and de facto ruler of the kingdom. He engaged in conflicts with the local nobility and the Sultanate of Bengal. In 1538, while Mughal Emperor Humayun was engaged in military campaigns elsewhere, Sher Shah overran the Bengal Sultanate and established the Suri dynasty. He defeated the Mughals and drove them out of India, establishing himself as emperor in Delhi. A brilliant strategist, Sher Shah was both a gifted administrator and a capable general. His reorganization of the empire and strategic innovations laid the foundations for future Mughal emperors, notably Akbar. Sher Shah died in May 1545 while besieging Kalinjar fort. Following his death, the empire descended into civil war until it was eventually re-conquered by the Mughals.

During his rule as Emperor of the Sur Empire, Sher Shah implemented numerous economic, administrative, and military reforms. He issued the first Rupiya organized the postal system of the Indian subcontinent, as well as extending the Grand Trunk Road from Chittagong in Bengal to Kabul in Afghanistan, significantly improving trade. Sher Shah further developed Humayun's Dina-panah city, renaming it Shergarh, and revived the historical city of Pataliputra, which had been in decline since the 7th century CE, as Patna.[4] Additionally, he embarked on several military campaigns that restored Afghan prominence in India.

Name and title

His birth name was Farid Khan.[1] After 1526, he was conferred the title Sher Khan, and following ascension as Sultan of Hindustan in 1540, he became known as Sher Shah.[2]

His surname 'Suri' was taken from his Pashtun Sur tribe.[5] He was a distant kinsman to Babur's brother-in-law, Mir Shah Jamal, who remained loyal to Humayun. The name Sher (means lion or tiger in the older pronunciation of Persian) was conferred upon him for his courage, when as a young man, he killed a tiger that leapt suddenly upon the governor of Bihar, Behar Khan Lohani.[6][7]

Early life and origin (1472/1486–1497)

Farid Khan was born in Sasaram, located in present-day Bihar, India. His birth date is disputed, with some accounts stating he was born in 1472,[8] while others claim 1486.[9] He was of Pashtun Afghan origin, belonging to the Sur clan.[10][11]

Farid Khan's grandfather, Ibrahim Khan Sur, began his career as a horse trader and eventually became a landlord (Jagirdar) in the Narnaul area of present-day Haryana. He represented his patron Jamal Khan Lodi Sarangkhani, who assigned him several villages in Hissar Firoza.[12] Farid Khan's father, Hasan, entered the service of Jamal Khan. In 1494, Jamal Khan was promoted and established in Bihar by Sikandar Khan Lodi. At Jamal Khan's request, Sikandar granted Hasan the jagirs of Khwaspur, Sasaram, and Hajipur in Bihar.[11]

Hasan had several wives and fathered over eight sons, with Nizam Khan being Farid Khan's only full brother.[11][13] One of Farid Khan's stepmothers was cruel to him, and Hasan, being too submissive to his wife, was unable to intervene. As a result, Farid Khan sought refuge with Jamal Khan, aiming to gain experience and further his education.[11][14] When Hasan discovered that his son had fled to serve Jamal Khan, the governor of Jaunpur, he demanded his return.[14][15] Although Jamal Khan advised Farid Khan to comply, Farid Khan refused to return.[16]

Farid Khan pursued his education in Jaunpur for several years, studying subjects such as history and religion. On one occasion, Hasan visited Jamal Khan in Jaunpur and encountered some of Farid Khan's relatives, who spoke of Farid Khan's potential for future greatness. Impressed by these accounts, Hasan invited Farid Khan to manage his domains in 1497.[17][18]

Rise to power (1497–1528)

Imagined sketch of Sher Shah Suri by Afghan artist Abdul Ghafoor Breshna

Farid Khan accepted his father's offer and embarked on implementing numerous reforms. His early administrative career focused on combating corruption. One of Farid Khan's significant reforms as administrator of his father's domains was the assessment of land revenues, along with defining and establishing commissions for tax collectors. However, despite these reforms, Farid Khan faced resentment and intrigue from his stepmother, who had initially forced him to flee, and his step-brothers. This opposition eventually led to Farid Khan resigning from his post in 1518, after serving as manager for 21 years.[19] Following his resignation, he departed for Agra, which was under the rule of the Lodi dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate.[20]

Farid Khan remained in Agra until his father's death, after which he received his father's jagirs from Sultan Ibrahim Khan Lodi. Returning to his jagirs in 1520-21, he began administering them while contending with his half-brother Sulaiman, who initially drove Farid Khan away. Farid Khan later returned with the support of Behar Khan Lohani, forging an alliance that allowed him to reclaim his jagir and several other crown Parganas. In 1526, the Lodis were overthrown, bringing the Mughals to power under Babur.[21][22] During this time, Behar Khan Lohani established an independent state in Bihar and assumed the title of Sultan Muhammad. With his jagirs secured, Farid Khan accompanied Behar Khan to Agra and arrived in April 1527, where he met Mughal emperor Babur. During this time, Farid Khan was conferred the title of Sher Khan after killing a tiger that lept upon the ruler of Bihar.[2] Sher Khan remained in Agra, observing Mughal military organization and administration.[23][24]

During one occasion while dining with Mughal Emperor Babur, Sher Khan encountered a dish he was unfamiliar with eating customarily. In response, he drew his dagger cut the dish into smaller pieces, and then ate it with a spoon. Babur took notice and informed his minister Mir Khalifa:

Keep an eye on Sher Khan, he is a clever man and the marks of royalty are visible on his forehead. I have seen many Afghan nobles, greater men than he, but they never made an impression on me, but as soon as I saw this man, it entered into my mind that he ought to be arrested for I find in him the qualities of greatness and the marks of mightiness.[25][26]

— Babur

Suspecting a rising plot against him, Sher Khan departed Agra and returned to his own Jagirs in 1528. Feeling unsafe there, he sought refuge under the protection of Sultan Muhammad of Bihar. Upon his arrival, he was warmly received and appointed as the guardian of Muhammad's son, Jalal Khan.[27][24]

Reign in Bihar (1528–1538/1540)

In October 1528, Sultan Mohammad of Bihar died, and his queen, Dudu Bibi, assumed the role of regent. Sher Khan was appointed as her deputy governor, allowing him to begin consolidating his position in the region. He implemented numerous reforms in Bihar, including the reorganization of the military and the appointment of loyalists to high-ranking positions. These reforms significantly strengthened his position, making him one of the most influential Afghan leaders in India.[28][29]

During this period, Sher Khan participated in the Battle of Ghaghra, but did not commit significant aid toward Mahmud Lodi, a rival contender against Babur. Following Mahmud Lodi's defeat, Sher Khan pledged his allegiance to Babur. In early 1530, the death of Dudu Bibi enabled Sher Khan to become the regent for Jalal Khan, effectively making him the de facto ruler of Bihar.[30]

Despite his growing power, many of the Lohani nobles opposed Sher Khan’s dominance. Although he offered to share power, the Lohani nobles rejected his proposal and instead fled to Bengal with Jalal Khan, seeking the support of Nasiruddin Nasrat Shah, the ruler of the Bengal Sultanate. Consequently, Sher Khan became the sole ruler of Bihar. However, he did not adopt any grand titles, preferring to style himself as Hazrat-i-Ala.[30][29]

Acquisition of Chunar (1530)

View of Chunar fort from the north across the Ganges river

Taj Khan, the governor of Chunar, was assassinated by his stepson. In the aftermath, his wealthy widow, Lad Malika, sought a protector to secure her position. Recognizing Sher Khan's growing influence, she agreed to marry him. Through these negotiations, which were kept secret from Taj Khan's sons, Sher Khan gained control of Chunar. This acquisition significantly bolstered Sher Khan's power and influence in the region.[31][30]

First conflict with the Mughals (1532)

Portrait of Mughal Emperor Humayun seated in a garden

Mughal Emperor Humayun, faced with the rising threat of the Afghans in the east led by Mahmud Lodi,[32] defeated a force of them at Dadrah in 1532, following up his victory by besieging Chunar in September 1532, which was under the control of Sher Khan. The siege continued for over four months to no avail. In order to make peace, Sher Khan offered his loyalty to the Mughals on the condition that he remained in control of Chunar, offering to send one of his sons as hostage. Humayun accepted and lifted the siege in December 1532, returning to Agra due to the rising threat of Bahadur Shah, the ruler of the Gujarat Sultanate. Humayun did not wish to split up his forces under the command of a noble to continue the siege, as this would split his strength, additionally giving reason for peace to be established.[33][34][35]

Lohani conflict and Bengal campaign (1533–1537)

Makhdum Alam refused to recognize Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah as the Sultan of Bengal accusing him of assassinating Sultan Alauddin Firuz. He formed an alliance with Sher Khan, who saw this as an opportunity to crush the power of the Lohani nobles allied with Mahmud Shah. In 1534, Mahmud Shah sent an army of artillery, cavalry and infantry under Ibrahim Khan in 1534 to conquer Bihar, with Jalal Khan accompanying the campaign.[36] However, Sher Khan launched a sudden attack on the combined forces of the Lohani chiefs of Bihar and Mahmud Shah of Bengal, defeating them at Surajgarh in March 1534. In this battle, Ibrahim Khan was killed, and Jalal Khan was forced to retreat to Mahmud Shah. Following this victory, Sher Khan consolidated his control over Bihar.[35]

Following the Sultan's defeat, the conflict continued intermittently for over three years. After consolidating his rule over much of Bihar, Sher Khan began preparing for an invasion of Bengal, then under the Hussain Shahi dynasty. With large subsidies as aid from Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, he recruited a large army, including over 1,200 elephants. Shortly after Humayun returned to Agra from his campaigns against Malwa, Sher Khan launched his campaign against Bengal. Despite receiving aid from the Portuguese, Sultan Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah was defeated.[35] The Sultan was forced to pay over 13,000,000 gold coins, and cede territory up to Sakrigali.[37][38][39]

Second Bengal campaign and conflict with the Mughals (1537—1540)

Depiction of Sher Khan's capture of Rohtasgarh fort through stratagem

Sher Khan's relentless campaigns on the Bengal Sultanate prompted its ruler to seek aid from Humayun. In response, Humayun mobilized a Mughal army in July 1537, and advanced towards Chunar. He reached the fort in November 1537 and laid siege to it. The siege would last over six months before the fort finally fell. Following this, Sher Khan began a second invasion into Bengal, seizing Rohtasgarh in March 1538. He used Rohtasgarh to situate Afghan families and loot he obtained during the war. Following up his victory, Sher Khan besieged Gauda, which fell to the Afghan forces in April 1538.[38][32] With these victories, Sher Khan held his first coronation.[40] After the fall of Gauda, Sher Khan offered favorable peace terms to Humayun, proposing to pay 10,000,000 dinars, and the cessation of Bihar in exchange for control of Bengal. Humayun refused the offer, not wishing to leave the Bengal's rich resources to a hostile state. Additionally, the wounded Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah, who had entered Humayun's camp, urged him to continue the war against Sher Khan. Ghiyasuddin died from his wounds soon after.[41][42]

Following this, Humayun marched towards Bengal to confront Sher Khan. However, the Mughal army was overwhelmed by poor weather conditions, with heavy rains causing the loss of their baggage between Patna and Monghyr. Humayun eventually reached Gauda and seized it without opposition on 8 September 1538. However, the city had been abandoned by the Afghans, who had stripped the treasury of any loot.[32] Humayun remained in Gauda for months, restoring order to the city despite being stuck there due to the weather. Meanwhile, Sher Khan advanced into Humayun's territory, seizing Bihar and Varanasi, reclaiming control over Chunar, and laying siege to Jaunpur. Other detachments of the Afghan army extended as far as Kannauj.[42] As a result, Humayun found himself effectively stranded in Gauda with no lines of communication. Upon learning of disturbances in Agra, Humayun immediately sought to settle for peace with Sher Khan. However, as he crossed the Karmanasa River, where his army was vulnerable to attack, Sher Khan capitalized on the Mughal army's fragile state and attacked at the Battle of Chausa. The Afghans descended on the Mughals, catching them off guard and resulting in a complete rout. Humayun barely escaped with his life, with the Mughals suffering over 7,000 casualties, including many prominent noblemen.[43][44][45]

Following his defeat, Humayun returned to Agra, and restored order after disturbances caused by his brother, Hindal Mirza. He then mobilized a large force of 40,000 soldiers and advanced against Sher Khan, who had amassed an army of 15,000. The two armies met at Kannuaj, mirroring each other across the Ganges river. Humayun crossed the river and engaged in skirmishes with Sher Khan's forces. During the fighting, many of Humayun's nobles hid their insignia to avoid recognition by the Afghans, and several fled the battle. The Mughal army was ultimately defeated, forcing Humayun to flee to Sindh. Following this victory, Sher Khan was crowned a second time on 17 May 1540, being declared the ruler of Hindustan and adopting the epithet Sultan Adil, meaning "Just King." He further took on the name Sher Shah.[2][46][47] The defeat and flight of Humayun allowed Sher Shah to capture Delhi.[48][49]

Reign as Sur emperor (1540–1545)

Portrait of Sher Shah Suri, Afghan emperor of northern India (1538–1545)

Advance into the Punjab and Gakhar campaign (1540–1542)

Following Humayun's flight, Sher Shah continued his pursuit into Punjab, advancing on Lahore, causing panic among the Mughals. Kamran Mirza, unprepared to confront Sher Shah, retreated to Kabul, leaving the region to Sher Shah. In November 1540, Sher Shah captured Lahore, with Afghan armies advancing as far as the Khyber Pass. However, he chose not to extend his empire beyond the Indus, as he did not wish to incorporate many Afghans who valued their independence and might pose difficulties. In 1541, Sher Shah captured Multan. However, he didn't pursue the retreat of the Mughals further, no longer considering them a significant threat.[50][51]

Not long after, Sher Shah entered into conflict with the Gakhars, who had historically been difficult to subjugate despite attempts by previous rulers. Sher Shah initially attempted diplomacy, inviting the Gakhar chief to acknowledge him as the emperor of India. However, the Gakhar gave an insulting response which enraged Sher Shah. In retaliation, Sher Shah marched through Punjab, subjugating the Gakhars, devastating much of the countryside, and taking many prisoners. To further secure his rule, Sher Shah constructed Rohtas Fort and stationed 50,000 men in Punjab under his generals Haibat Khan Niazi and Khawas Khan Marwat.[52] Subsequently, Sher Shah turned his attention to Bengal, where the governor he had appointed had become rebellious.[53][50]

Reforms in Bengal (1541)

Recognizing the importance of Bengal, Sher Shah focused much of his administrative efforts in the region. In March 1541, Khijir Khan, the governor of Bengal under Sher Shah, led a revolt. Sher Shah mobilized an army and personally led it to defeat Khijir Khan, restoring Bengal to his suzerainty. He then divided Bengal into 47 smaller administrative divisions, each overseen by a shiqdar, with Kazi Fajilot established as the chief supervisor of the Muqtars.[54] These reforms increased the prominence of Afghans in Bengal, leading many to settle in the region. Some of these Afghan settlers later established the Muhammad Shahi dynasty, which ruled Bengal from 1553 to 1563, and the Karrani dynasty, which ruled from 1563 to 1576.[32][55]

Conquest and consolidation of Malwa (1542)

In 1542, Sher Shah embarked on a campaign to Malwa due to fears that Malwa might ally with the Mughals against him. Sher Shah also faced the external threat of Humayun, who was attempting to establish a kingdom in Gujarat. As a result, the Afghan armies first marched on Gwalior, led by Shujaat Khan, subjugating it under Afghan rule. This attack eliminated the threat of being flanked as they advanced further into the Malwa Sultanate. After securing the submission of Abul Qasim Beg, the Mughal wali of Gwalior, the Afghans continued their march to Sarangpur. Qadir Khan, the ruler of the Malwa Sultanate, being abandoned by his vassals who refused to support him, begged for the mercy of Sher Shah, who treated him well.[56][55]

Despite former grudges, Sher Shah reconciled with Qadir Khan, and even gave Qadir Khan a jagir in Bengal. However, Qadir Khan was discontent with the offer and fled to Gujarat. An attempt to recapture him, led by Shujaat Khan, ended in failure. Sher Shah consolidated his new territories before returning to Agra, receiving submission from the ruler of Ranthambore.[51] Shujaat Khan was appointed as the new governor of Malwa.[57]

Qadir Khan attempted to reclaim his lost territories and engaged in battles against Shujaat Khan on multiple occasions. Despite being outnumbered, Shujaat Khan decisively defeated Qadir Khan's coalition. For his valiant efforts, Shujaat Khan was awarded over 12,000 horses.[57]

Conquest of Raisen (1543)

After the death of Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, Puran Mal regained control of Raisen, which had been annexed by Bahadur Shah in 1532. Following the re-capture of the city, Puran Mal led many tyrannical actions against the Muslim populace, creating deep resentment among the survivors. Hearing of this and seeking to take control of Raisen, Sher Shah began preparing for war.[58]

Before resorting to war, Sher Shah offered Varanasi to Puran Mal in exchange for Raisin. Puran Mal refused, prompting Sher Shah to declare war. Jalal Khan led the Afghan army to Vidisha, where he merged forces with Sher Shah. The merged Afghan force then advanced to Raisen, laying siege to the city. The siege lasted for six months until Sher Shah's artillery breached the city's defenses, leading to Puran Mal's surrender. The resulting treaty observed that: Puran Mal and his family would be granted free passage with their belongings, Sher Shah would withdraw his army to a distance of two marches from the fort, and Adil Khan and Qutab Khan would ensure that Puran Mal and his family would not be harmed.[59][51]

Sher Shah and his army withdrew as agreed. However, along the way, he encountered widows of the chiefs of Chanderi and many others who demanded justice for the tyrannies they had suffered under the rule of Puran Mal.[60] Sher Shah's army took notice of this as well and demanded he took action. As a result, Sher Shah ordered Isa Khan Hajjab to lead a forced march that caught up with the retreating detachment of Puran Mal. The Rajput forces resisted but were ultimately annihilated.[61]{sfn|Matta|2005|p=171}}

Second Punjab campaign and subjugation of upper Sindh (1543)

Map of the Sur Empire at its height

Despite conquering Multan in 1541, it was later overrun by Baloch tribes, prompting Sher Shah to plan a campaign in 1543. This campaign aligned with his intention to construct a new road from Lahore to Multan. During this period, a raider named Fateh Khan Jat looted the routes between Lahore and Delhi, leading to numerous complaints.[62][63]

Sher Shah ordered Haibat Khan to stop these raids. Haibat Khan successfully trapped Fateh Khan in a mud fort near Fatehpur. Seeing no escape, Fateh Khan surrendered, but the fort's garrison, led by Hinda Baluch, made a sortie, breaking out of the fort and fleeing. Despite this, Hinda Baluch was captured, and the Balochi leaders were executed. Following the campaign, Haibat Khan subjugated upper Sindh as far as Sehwan.[62][63]

Conquest of Marwar (1543–1544)

Portrait of Rao Maldeo Rathore

In 1543, Sher Shah Suri, with a force of 80,000 cavalry, set out against Maldeo Rathore, the Rajput king of Marwar. Maldeo advanced to face Sher Shah's army, which halted in the village of Sammel in the pargana of Jaitaran, ninety kilometers east of Jodhpur.[64] After a month of skirmishing, Sher Shah's position became dangerous due to supply difficulties for his large army. To resolve this, Sher Shah employed a cunning ploy by dropping forged letters near Maldeo's camp, falsely indicating that some of his commanders were promising assistance to Sher Shah. This caused great distress to Maldeo, who immediately suspected his commanders of disloyalty, leading him to abandon his commanders and retreat to Jodhpur with his men.[65]

Maldeo's generals, Jaita and Kumpa, fought valiantly with a few thousand men against the Afghans, who had 80,000 men and some cannons. In the ensuing Battle of Sammel (also known as the Battle of Giri Sumel), Sher Shah emerged victorious, but several of his generals were killed, and his army suffered thousands of casualties.[65] Following this victory, Sher Shah's general Khawas Khan Marwat took possession of Jodhpur and occupied the territory of Marwar from Ajmer to Mount Abu in 1544.[65]

Death and legacy (1545)

Tomb of Sher Shah Suri at Sasaram
The tomb (covered in green)

Following the conquest of Marwar, Sher Shah besieged Kalinjar Fort in 1544. Due to continuous resistance from the Rajputs, he failed to capture it by force and instead blockaded the fort for seven months.[66] The circumstances regarding Sher Shah's death are uncertain. Some sources state that he was mortally wounded by a gunpowder explosion when one of his cannons burst. Another account suggests that during a battle, as he descended from a rampart and ordered his men to hurl bombs into the fort, one bomb reflected back and hit a cache of bombs, causing a large explosion. Some people escaped with minor burns, Sher Shah was seen half-burned and taken to his tent, where he remained for two days. Despite his critical condition, he ordered his men to swarm the fort, advancing close to the fort with his troops.[67] Upon hearing that the fort had finally fallen, he remarked, "Thanks to Almighty god." Sher Shah succumbed to his wounds and died on 22 May 1545, at the age of 73 or 59.[48][68] He was succeeded by his son, Jalal Khan, who took the name Islam Shah Suri.[69] Sher Shah was buried in the tomb of Sher Shah Suri, which stands in the middle of an artificial lake at Sasaram, a town on the Grand Trunk Road. The tomb finished its construction on 16 August 1545, three months after his death.[70]

Hermann Goetz posited that one of the motivations for Sher Shah choosing his birthplace, Sasaram, as the sight of his tomb, was that:

"For Sher Shah Sasaram was the very symbol of his life and glory".[70]

Decades after his death, the Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi was commissioned by Akbar to detail the reign of Sher Shah. Written by Abbas Sarwani, the source was significant toward detailing the conquest of Bengal by Sher Shah as well as the magnitude of his reforms, and greatly benefited in contribution towards the history of medieval India.[71][72][73]

Government and administration

Rupiya released by Sher Shah Suri, 1538–1545 CE, was the first Rupee

The system of tri-metalism which came to characterize Mughal coinage was introduced by Sher Shah.[74] While the term rūpya had previously been used as a generic term for any silver coin, during his rule the term rūpee 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.[75] The Rupee is today used as the national currency in India, Indonesia, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka. Gold coins called the Mohur weighing 169 grains and copper coins called Paisa were also minted during his reign.[75] According to numismatists Goron and Goenka, it is clear from coins dated AH 945 (1538 AD) that Sher Shah had assumed the royal title of Farid al-Din Sher Shah and had coins struck in his own name prior to the battle of Chausa.[76]

Sher Shah was responsible for greatly rebuilding and modernizing the Grand Trunk Road, a major artery which runs all the way from modern day Bangladesh to Afghanistan. Caravanserais (inns) and mosques were built and trees were planted along the entire stretch on both sides of the road to provide shade to travelers. Wells were also dug, especially along the western section. He also established an efficient postal system, with mail being carried by relays of horse riders.[77]

Provincial and local administration

The Sur Empire was divided into many subdivisions called Iqtas, which were often ruled by military governors. Haibat Khan, who governed the Punjab, commanded over 30,000 men and could distribute jagirs to his soldiers. Khwas Khan, another military governor, ruled over Rajasthan with a force of over 20,000 men. The heads of Iqtas were known by various titles such as Hakim, Faujdar, or Momin and typically commanded bodies of men usually numbering less than 5,000. Their responsibilities included maintaining order and enforcing law within their jurisdictions.[78]

Iqtas were further divided into districts known as Sarkars, each overseen by two chief officers: the Shiqar and the Munsif. The Shiqar was responsible for civil administration and could field 200-300 soldiers to maintain law and order. The Munsif handled revenue collection and civil justice, while chief Shiqars often dealt with criminal justice cases.[79]

Sarkars were in turn divided into smaller units called Parganas. which consisted of a town and its surrounding villages. Each Pargana had a Shiqar, a Munsif, a Fotdar (treasurer), and a Karkun (clerk) proficient in Hindi and Persian. The Shiqar of a Pargana was a military officer under the Sarkar's Shiqar's oversight and was responsible for maintaining stability and assisting the Munsif in land revenue collection and measurement. The Munsif in the Pargana was under the supervision of the chief Munsif in the Sarkar.[80]

An open Panchayat in Narsingarh, Madhya Pradesh

Villages within the Parganas often operated autonomously and were governed by assemblies called Panchayats. This was respected by Sher Shah during his reign. These assemblies consisted of village elders who managed local needs and enforced community-specific punishments. The village chief acted as a liaison between the village and the higher levels of government.[81]

Religious policy

The religious policy of Sher Shah is debated amongst historians. Dr. Qanungo states that Sher Shah upheld religious tolerance toward Hindus. Ram Sharma states that Sher Shah Suri was heavily devoted to his faith, always praying the five prayers, while also claiming that Sher Shah's wars against the Rajputs were a Jihad. The war against Puran Mal in particular was described as a Jihad, and his treatment of Maldeo were argued as signs of religious intolerance. However, Sher Shah was always tolerant of Hindus, and did not bear grudges against them, or wage Anti-Hindu propaganda.[82][13]

According to Srivastava, Sher Shah's balanced approach satisfied his fellow Muslims despite his lenient treatment of Hindus. Sher Shah's policy was that Islam would hold supremacy over the lands he conquered, but without displacing Hinduism.[83]


Sher Shah's army defeated the Mughal Empire and drove them out of India. He invited Afghans from across the empire, giving them high positions and personally taking an interest in recruiting troops. Sher Shah promoted individuals based on merit rather than nepotism. The Afghan army emphasized cavalry, while their infantry were armed with muskets. One of his military reforms included dividing his army into divisions, each led by a commander. Discipline was strict, with provisions supplied by Banjaras who accompanied the army. Roles were assigned through the Dagh system, which also helped root out foreign spies.[84]

Sher Shah considered Pashto as a sign of friendliness, and gave higher salaries to Afghans who could speak Pashto in his army.[15] By 1540, his standing army consisted of over 150,000 cavalrymen, 25,000 infantrymen, and over 5,000 war elephants.[85]

Social justice

One of the things Sher Shah Suri was renowned for was his social justice. Courts were held by Qadis, with Sher Shah himself observing civil cases. Hindus settled their disputes in Panchayat assemblies, while in criminal cases, nobody was exempt from the law of the empire. The criminal law of the empire was extremely harsh to deter others from committing crimes out of fear of the repercussions. Sher Shah imposed heavy punishments on individuals in high posts, including government officials.[86][87]

Sher Shah's reputation grew as he became known for being a formidable and just ruler, to the point where merchants could travel and sleep in deserts without fear of being harassed by bandits or robbers. His soldiers acted as police, with the duty of finding thieves and robbers. Sher Shah Suri also implemented the reform of self-responsibility, assigning officials the duty to find culprits in cases such as murder; if they failed, they would be held responsible and hanged. Historians praise these reforms for their effectiveness.[88][87]


The Kabuli gate of Rohtas fort

Sher Shah built several monuments including Rohtas Fort (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Pakistan), many structures in the Rohtasgarh Fort in Bihar, the Sher Shah Suri Masjid in Patna, the Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque inside the Purana Qila complex in Delhi, and the Sher Mandal, an octagonal building also inside the Purana Qila complex, which later served as the library of Humayun. He built a new city, Bhera, in present-day Pakistan in 1545, including within it a grand masjid named after him.[89][90][91][92] The mausoleum of Sher Shah Suri was described as one of the most beautiful monuments in India, due to its grandeur and dignity. Cunningham even was inclined to prefer it over the Taj Mahal.[91]


Among his reforms while consolidating the empire, Sher Shah Suri abolished taxes at the borders of provinces to invigorate trade throughout India. Only two levies remained in place: one on goods being brought into the country and another when goods were sold. As a result, customs duties were entirely removed.[88][93]

Sher Khan (1962), an Indian Hindi-language action film by Radhakant starring Kamaljeet in the titular role along with Kumkum, is ostensibly based on the emperor's life.[94]

The Jungle Book, made by Rudyard Kipling, has its antagonist Shere Khan named after Sher Shah Suri.[95]

See also



  1. ^ Humayun, the rival of Sher Shah Suri, referred to Sher Shah as Ustad-I-Badashan, meaning "Teacher of Kings".
  2. ^ Sher Shah held his first coronation on 6 April 1538 after he captured Gauda, the capital of the Bengal Sultanate. However, his second coronation took place on 17 May 1540, after he defeated Humayun at the Battle of Kannuaj. Historians dispute when the Sur Empire was founded as a result, and both dates are used in different sources.


  1. ^ a b Lee 2019, p. 55.
  2. ^ a b c d Kolff 2002, p. 33.
  3. ^ Chandra 2007, p. 216.
  4. ^ Patna encyclopedia.com.
  5. ^ Khan 2022, p. 130.
  6. ^ Qanungo 1965, p. 71-72.
  7. ^ "Sur Dynasty". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  8. ^ Jansari 2023, p. 157.
  9. ^ Wright & Wright 2015, p. 402.
  10. ^ Lee 2019, p. 57.
  11. ^ a b c d Mehta, p. 163.
  12. ^ Aquil 2007, p. 43.
  13. ^ a b "Shēr Shah of Sūr". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 23 August 2010.
  14. ^ a b Ali Khan 1925, p. 12.
  15. ^ a b Abbas Khan Sarwani (1580). "Táríkh-i Sher Sháhí; or, Tuhfat-i Akbar Sháhí, of 'Abbás Khán Sarwání. CHAPTER I. Account of the reign of Sher Sháh Súr". Sir H. M. Elliot. London: Packard Humanities Institute. p. 78. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  16. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 12-13.
  17. ^ Mehta, p. 164.
  18. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 13.
  19. ^ Mehta, p. 163-164.
  20. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 14-17.
  21. ^ Chandra 2005, p. 30-31.
  22. ^ Davis 2000, p. 181.
  23. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 17-18.
  24. ^ a b Mehta, p. 164-165.
  25. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 20.
  26. ^ Mehta, p. 162.
  27. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 20-21.
  28. ^ Mehta, p. 165.
  29. ^ a b Ali Khan 1925, p. 21.
  30. ^ a b c Mehta, p. 166.
  31. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 23.
  32. ^ a b c d "Rule of Afghans". Banglapedia. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  33. ^ Chandra 2007, p. 212-213.
  34. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 33.
  35. ^ a b c Mehta, p. 167.
  36. ^ Ahmed 2012.
  37. ^ Chandra 2007, p. 215.
  38. ^ a b Mahajan 1968, p. 41.
  39. ^ Chandra 2005, p. 76.
  40. ^ Jenkins 2015, p. 64.
  41. ^ Chandra 2007, p. 215-216.
  42. ^ a b Mehta, p. 168.
  43. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 34-36.
  44. ^ Chandra 2007, p. 216-217.
  45. ^ Mahajan 1968, p. 42.
  46. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 38-41.
  47. ^ Chandra 2007, p. 217.
  48. ^ a b Mikaberidze 2011, p. 830.
  49. ^ Mehta, p. 168-169.
  50. ^ a b Chandra 2005, p. 77.
  51. ^ a b c Mehta, p. 170.
  52. ^ Qanungo 1921, p. 236.
  53. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 41-45.
  54. ^ Qanungo 1921, p. 237-244.
  55. ^ a b Mehta, p. 169.
  56. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 63-64.
  57. ^ a b Ali Khan 1925, p. 65-66.
  58. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 47.
  59. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 47-52.
  60. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 53.
  61. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 53-56.
  62. ^ a b Ali Khan 1925, p. 67-68.
  63. ^ a b Chandra 2005, p. 77-78.
  64. ^ Hooja 2006, p. 526-527.
  65. ^ a b c Chaudhuri 2006, p. 81-82.
  66. ^ Rizvi, Saiyid Atthar Abbas (2005). The Wonder that was India: A Survey of the History and Culture of the Indian Sub-continent from the Coming of the Muslims to the British Conquest, 1200-1700, Volume 2. Picador. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-330-43910-7. the Raja of Kālinjar, who sympathized with Humāyūn, was still defiant. Sher Shah blockaded this fort but failed it to storm it. The Rãjpūts there fought back to back for seven months. Finally, however, when mines had been laid, a lofty tower for mounting a battery had been erected, and covered approaches were ready, the attack was launched. Lighted hand-grenades were thrown into the fort. One grenade suddenly struck the wall and, rebounding into a heap of hand-grenades, exploded. Immediately the whole ammunition dump blew up. Sher Shāh himself was very badly burned, and although the fort was stormed and the Rājpūts overpowered, he died, with his ambitions unrealized.
  67. ^ Qanungo 1921, p. 338-340.
  68. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 99-100.
  69. ^ Chandra 2007, p. 220.
  70. ^ a b Asher 1977, p. 273-298.
  71. ^ "Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi - Banglapedia". en.banglapedia.org. Retrieved 1 July 2024.
  72. ^ Abbas Sarwani, I.H. Siddiqui, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. XII, ed. P.J.Bearman, T. Bianquis, C.E.Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P.Heinrichs, (Brill, 2004), 1.
  73. ^ Abbas Khān Sarwānī and the Tuḥfa-yi Akbar Shāhī. A Critical Study, Rahim Raza, East and West, 143.
  74. ^ Thomas 1967, p. 403.
  75. ^ a b "Mughal Coinage". RBI Monetary Museum. Reserve Bank of India. Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  76. ^ Goron & Goenka 2001, p. 98.
  77. ^ Kumar 2019.
  78. ^ Mehta, p. 176.
  79. ^ Mehta, p. 176-177.
  80. ^ Mehta, p. 177.
  81. ^ Mehta, p. 177-178.
  82. ^ Mahajan 1968, p. 53.
  83. ^ Mahajan 1968, p. 53-54.
  84. ^ Mahajan 1968, p. 49.
  85. ^ Roy 2015, p. 54.
  86. ^ Mahajan 1968, p. 51.
  87. ^ a b Mehta, p. 180-182.
  88. ^ a b Mahajan 1968, p. 52.
  89. ^ Asher & Hambly 1994.
  90. ^ Matta 2005, p. 214.
  91. ^ a b Mahajan 1968, p. 54.
  92. ^ Brown 1939, p. 636-646.
  93. ^ Mehta, p. 182.
  94. ^ Rajadhyaksha & Willemen 1999.
  95. ^ Welsh 2013, p. 188.


Sher Shah Suri
Born: c. 1472/1486 Died: 1545
Regnal titles
New title
Sur Empire established
Sultan of Hindustan
Succeeded by