Silhadi has been variously described as of Gahlot, Sisodia, Tomar or Puar ancestry. His association with the Gahlots and Sisodias (a branch of Gahlots) is probably a result of his marriage into the Sisodia ruling family of Mewar. However, he most probably belonged to the Tomar clan, and came from the Tonwarghar tract located to the north of Gwalior.
Silhadi has also been described as a Purbiya Rajput, but the term "Purbiya" here is not a clan name. He commanded a mercenary force of Rajputs or pseudo-Rajputs from the eastern region (Purab), which included Awadh, Bihar and the area around Varanasi. These soldiers were called Purbiya (eastern), and therefore, Silhadi was described as a Purbiya too.
Along with his relative Medini Rai, Silhadi rose to positions of power in the service of Sultan Mahmood Khilji II (ruled 1510-1531) of the Malwa Sultanate. Medini Rai and Silhadi were de facto rulers of the northeastern Malwa region during Mahmood’s reign. Bhilsa, Chanderi and Raisen were their strongholds. At one time they had become so powerful that they seemed to threaten Mandu, the capital of the Sultanate, itself. Only after some assistance from Gujarat Sultan Bahadur Shah, was Mahmood able to keep Purbiyas at bay.
Silhadi later allied with Bahadur Shah, and caused the downfall of the Malwa Sultanate in 1531. He remained a decisive factor in the politics of north and central India during his life and was responsible for sinking the fortunes of many kings by his sudden defections. He gained everlasting notoriety by betraying Rana Sanga in the battle of Khanwa and causing the Rajput confederacy's defeat.
- Dirk H. A. Kolff (2002). Naukar, Rajput, and Sepoy: The Ethnohistory of the Military Labour Market of Hindustan, 1450-1850. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-52305-9.
- Upendra Nath Day (1965). Medieval Malwa: a political and cultural history, 1401-1562. Munshi Ram Manohar Lal. OCLC 934073.