Sher Shah Suri


So here’s what happened- Humayun was a drug addict, alcoholic and terribly negligent of his young Mughal empire. He turned a blind eye to many factious elements and as a result the afghan Sher Shah usurped the empire from right under his nose.

Sher Shah was extremely diligent, thorough and cautious man with a clear goal of capturing the throne of Hindustan. Born in small place called Sasaram in Bihar to a mercenary soldier. as he grew up he readily took into his father steps, became a soldier himself and slowly and steadily worked his way into capturing lands one by one. His major win was annexing Bengal, Humayun knew about his advances now while he should have clipped his wings early on but he simply dismissed the matter without giving it a second thought. This would prove him costly soon. 

In 1540 after gathering a considerable army Sher Shah challenged Humayun at the battlefield near Kanauj. This was a final wake up call for Humayun to take action against him lest he loses his throne. The war actually started sometime in 1537 but due weather conditions  Humayun’s taciturn manner and Sher Shahs over cautiousness the war dragged on for 3 whole years. Eventually Sher Shah gained the upper hand over Humayun’s laziness and defeated him.

Humayun was quickly driven out of Agra, then Delhi and from there onwards from Lahore and Kabul even (despite Kamran, his brother, holding the reign there he refused to aide nor give any shelter to Humayun)

Sher Shah meanwhile settled into his new role as the King of India. In a way this break was necessary because much of later Mughal policies were in fact modeled on those introduced by Sher Shah. He was extremely smart guy with clear cut agenda in his mind and he didn’t waste much time putting them into action.  

Here are some of his admirable policies

# He introduced standardized coinage  i.e the Rupee system  which is our national currency

# He extended the Grand Trunk Road till Kabul to facilitate  trade.  For the safety of the travelers he  even introduced caravanserias at short distances for convenience

#He reformed the land revenue policy whereby peasants were to directly remit 1/3rd of the profit in cash or kind to the imperial treasury.  By eliminating the middlemen he  was able to successfully increase the remittance to the throne.

# In military he  re-introduced the branding of horses as part of measurement of inventory. Also he set up a clear delegation and accountability of roles within the army. Each head of the division was responsible for the soldiers under him , their behavior and performance. If the soldiers of the particular division were unruly or were ineffective the head was held responsible and penalized (sometimes resulting in death). This maintained absolute obedience and law and order.

These are some of his innovative policies which really helped in the effective administration of the country. So efficient were these that all future Mughal rulers employed and built upon this in their respective administrations. Sher Shah clearly established a superior rule. He was successfully able to  win over all classes- peasants, traders, nobels etc with his policies and was liked by all.

However fortune was not favour him for long. Like Babur. Sher Shah too died after ruling for about 5 years in an unfortunate accident. Legend goes that in one of his campaigns he died due to a back fire from a canon, some claim he died due to gun powder explosion. Nonetheless he left behind a credible legacy for his clan. The Sur dynasty was passed on to his able son Islam Shah and managed to survive for 15 years.

Meanwhile on the other side Humayun like his father was a wandering brigand with a pregnant wife in tow. He sought for refuge from his brothers but they all turned against him. The only support that came for him was from the king of Persia- Shah Tahmasp. Humayun went over there and lived in his auspices for sometime and in exchange for his refuge he presented the much valuable Koh-i-noor diamond which changed hands again here. However Persia was largely Shia while Humayun was Sunni muslim so this eventually clashed when the king asked him to convert. Since this didn’t happen he was respectfully kicked out from Persia however he got the army from the Shah which was his initial intent.  By now he was done with his desultory existence, he had a son the future Akbar the Great and now knew he needed to re-establish the lost Mughal glory  he thus, set out with a clear agenda in his mind

His luck was to also favour him in this venture. He was successfully able to defeat his brother Kamran and capture Kandhar and Kabul. Kamran was blinded and shipped out for Haj while his other brothers Askari and Hindal were dead in the tussle. After this success things looked upbeat in India also for him. Islam Shah had passed away without leaving a credible successor. Naturally this lead to much confusion with many small parties vying for the throne. In this confusion Humayun once again found his shot at the throne.  He re-launched his Hindustan campaign was successfully able to take Punjab, Delhi and of course Agra.

Once again the Mughals were back in the game.