Sher Shah Suri
Sher Shah Suri has always occupied a special place in the History of the Subcontinent and that of Islam. A self made man, he had risen to become the most powerful ruler of the Subcontinent since Asoka. His achievements are phenomenal. He is also by all means the
first true social reformer in the history of Indo-Pakistan, and in many ways its first "socialist" King. He is also revered as the first true Indian Muslim King to rule Indo-Pakistan.
Sher Shah Suri, whose real name was Farid Khan, was born to an Afghan-Muslim jagirdar of the Sur Tribe of the Afghans. Surs had migrated from Ghaur in Modern Day Afghanistan to Bihar during Bahlol Lodhi'sreign. Apparently Farid Khan was not a favorite of his father. He left home early on with a desire to make something of himself. He devoted himself to education and became a master at Persian language.
The Lodhi Sultanate was in its twilight when Sher Khan joined the service of Ibrahim Lodhi in Agra. However in 1522, he left Ibrahim's service for Bahar Khan's service closer to home. It was here that he earned the title of "Sher Khan" for his courage. It is said that on a hunting trip with Bahar Khan, Farid Khan saved Bahar Khan's life when a tiger attacked him. Later the relations between the two became estranged and Sher Khan left to join the Mughal service under Babur. It was here that Sher Khan got to know the inherent weaknesses of the Mughal-Turk structure of Government. Babur has said to have already spotted Sher Khan as a potential trouble maker for the future. Soon mistrust and suspicion forced Sher Khan to flee from the Mughal camp to join once again his old master Bahar Khan's service where now Bahar's son, the minor Jalal Khan was ruling. Sher Khan soon became the virtual ruler of Bihar. Soon afterwards, the widowed Lad Malika of Chunar fort married Sher Khan to give him that strategic fort. Sher Khan's opponents rallied under the lodhi Afghan ruler Sultan Mahmud Lodhi and the minor Jalal Khan. Sher Khan overcame this opposition at the famous battle of surajgarh which broke the back of the Lodhis.
Meanwhile in the North West India, Babur was succeeded by his son Humayun. Humayun considered both Sultan Mahmud Lodhi, Sher Khan and Bahadur Shah as a threat to his rule. He made his first move against Bahadur Shah. While the Mughal forces were away, Sher Khan further consolidated his power by invading and finally annexing Bengal from the Lodhis. In early 1538 Humayun marched against Sher Khan and laid siege to Chunar which was fatal mistake on his part.
Rohtas Fort (???? ?????? – Qila Rohtas)
While this siege progressed, Sher Khan consolidated his power further by taking over Rohtas Fort.Historians have often accused Sher Shah of treachery in this respect. Sher khan asked the Hindu ruler of Rohtas to give his family shelter, while he goes to battle against the Mughals. Sher Shah's soldier entered the Rohtas fort under the guise of women in "shahi dolis". It was a matter of hours before Rohtas fort fell to Sher Shah.
For months Sher Khan retreated, and Humayun pursued him into Bengal.Then finally at Gaur Humayun turned back. On the way Sher Khan struck Humayun's forces at Chaunsa in June 1539 inflicting upon them a severe defeat. Humayun barely made it back to Dehli, giving rise to another famous folklore of "Nizam Saqqa" the water carrier. Next year Humayun returned, but his forces were uprooted again at Kanauj. Now it was Sher Shah's turn to pursue Humayun. Humayun was forced to flee from Agra. His brother Kamran refused to give him shelter, and finally Humayun fled to Iran only to return 15 years later with the help of the Safavids. After this Sher Shah campaigned extensively against the Rajputs. He defeated formidable foes like Puran Mill and Maldev. He met his end at Kalinja where he was died in a freak accident with one of the cannons. 10 years after his Death Humayun returned at the head of a safvid Army and retook Dehli and Agra. Humayun met his tragic end falling off the stairs. He was succeeded by the 13 year old Akbar and his "Ataleeq" Bairam Khan, the hero of the second battle of Panipat.
Sher Shah Suri was a brilliant Military strategician, and decribed by many as extremely Machiavellian in nature. His conquest of Rohtas Fort and the massacre of Puran Mill's family are two blots on Sher Shah Suri's character. Nevertheless Sher Shah's most brilliant achievements were in administrative reforms. He carried out extensive agrarian and administrative restructuring laying the foundation for the administration which helped Akbar and the rest of the Mughals to rule for the next 300 years. For convenience of administration, the whole Empire was divided into forty-seven units each of which was again divided into several sununits.The subunit had one Ami , one Shiqdar, one treasurer, one Hindi writer and one Persian writer to keep accounts.
To check undue influence of the officers in their respective jurisdictions, the Sher Shah devised the plan of transferring them every two or three years, which, however, could not be long-enduring owing to the brief span of his rule. Every branch of the administration was subject to Sher Shah's personal supervision. Sher Shah's land revenue reforms, based on wise and humane principles, have unique importance in the administrative history of Indo-Pakistan. Remissions of rents were made, and probably loans were advanced to the tenants in case of damage to crops caused by the encampment of soldiers, or the insufficiency of rain. These revenue reformsincreased the resources of the State and at the same time conduced to the interest of the people. Sher Shah Suri also introduced the idea of a unified currency and tariffs to improve the General Economic Condition of the poor.Sher Shah also instituted the Subcontinent's first effective law and order force. It is said about his rule that "a woman could travel with all her jewelry in his empire without being afraid of getting looted."
By far Sher Shah's greatest legacy is the modern Grand Trunk road which ran from Bengal to Attock, however some claim it ran right up to Kabul. Along the way "Baulis" and "Sarais" were constructed which are the equivalent of Modern day Service stations. Some 450 years later, an incompetent ruler of Modern Pakistan also fancied going down in History as Sher Shah Suri. The result, a road though one of the best in the world but a white elephant for the Pakistani Nation.
Mausoleum of Sher Shah Suri.
Sher Shah Suri lies today in an impressive octagonal Mausoleum, in Sassaram, Bihar from where this ambitious and Brilliant Afghan had started out to create his destiny. His mausoleum, a part of India's historical heritage, which has the second largest dome in that country, today is threatened by extremists, who want to perform "Karseva" by encroaching on to the premises of this great Emperor's last resting place by completing the "Sarveshar Mahadev" temple. The most vocal supporter of this is local BJP leader Jawahir Prasad of the ruling party in the center. One wonders if there is no end to this. What's next? Taj Mahal? At this rate slowly but surely all monuments of Muslim origin will one day vanish from India.