Sher Shah re-established the Afghan Empire which had been taken over by Babur. Sher Shah Suri, also known as Sher Khan, was the Emperor of India from 1540 to 1545.
He established the Sur dynasty by dethroning Humayun, the Mughal emperor. The Sur Empire may be considered in many ways as the continuation and culmination of the Delhi Sultanate.
Sher Shah Suri
Sher Shah Suri, whose original name was Farid was the founder of the Suri dynasty.
He became the administrator of his father’s jagir which prospered by his efforts. He had extensive administrative experience and was a feared warrior.
The title of Sher Khan was given to him by his patron for killing a tiger (sher), or for the services rendered.
In spite of not being born with a silver spoon in mouth, he was a real soldier and a rose to the position of ruler of Hindustan.
Sher Shah defeated the combined forces of the Lohani chiefs of Bihar and Mohamud Shah of Bengal at Surajgarh. With this victory, whole of Bihar came under Sher Shah.
He also plundered Bengal several times and by capturing Gaur, the capital of Bengal, forced Mohammad Shah to seek refugee with Humayun.
Encounters: Humayun and Sher Shah
Humayun and Sher Shah had three major encounters:
Encounter on the fort of Chunar in 1538 and Sher Shah’s diplomatic surrender .
Battle of Chausa with Humayun in 1539 and Sher Shah’s victory.
Battle of Kannauj in 1540 and Sher Shah’s decisive victory over Humayun.
With the victory at Kannauj, Sher Shah became the rulerof Delhi, Agra, Sambhal and Gwalior etc., also came under his sway. This victory ended the rule of the Mughal dynasty for 15 years.
In the West, he conquered Malwa, and almost the entire Rajasthan. Sher Shah was able to bring under his control a substantial part of India. The frontiers of his empire extended on the one hand from Punjab to Malwa and on the other from Bengal to Sind.
With large areas under his control, he was able to provide a sort of uniformity to the administrative system of India.
Sher Shah Suri established a sound and strong administrative system. His reign lasted only for five years, but even within this brief period, he evolved a system of administration which remained substantially unchanged till the advent of the British in India.
Sher Shah Suri was assisted by important ministers:
Diwan –i- Wizarat, also called as Wazir – in charge of Revenue and Finance.
Diwan-i-Ariz – in charge of Army.
Diwan-i-Rasalat – Foreign Minister.
Diwan-i-Insha – Minister for Communications.
Akbar’s system of government was fundamentally based on that of Sher Shah.
Sher Shah’s empire was divided into forty seven sarkars. Each sarkar was divided into several parganas. A number of sarkars were clubbed into provinces.
Chief Shiqdar (law and order) and Chief Munsif (judge) were the two officers in charge of the administration in each sarkar.
Shiqdar (military officer), Amin (land revenue), Fotedar (treasurer) Karkuns (accountants) were in charge of the administration of each pargana.
The Paragana was under the charge of the shiqdar, who maintained law and order and general administration.
The Munsif or Amil looked after the collection of land revenue. Above the Pargana was the Shiq or Sarkar under the charge of the Siqdar-i-shiqdaran and a Munsif-i-Munsifan.
He took special care for organizing the revenue administration of his kingdom. Land was surveyed on a uniform system with each holding being separately measured. The lands were divided into good, bad and middling. The assessment was liberal but the collections were strict, as one-third of the gross produce of land was taken as revenue. People could pay the taxes directly either in kind or cash.
He took special care to protect the interest of the peasants. The rights of the peasants were duly recognized and the liabilities of each were clearly defined in the kabuliyat (deed of agreement), which the State took from him, and the patta (title-deed), which it gave him in return. It minimised the scope for confusion and oppression.
The military administration was also efficiently reorganized and Sher Shah borrowed many ideas like the branding (dagh) of horses with imperial signs from Alauddin Khalji. Each soldier had his descriptive roll (chehra) recorded.
Malik Muhammad Jayasi wrote the famous Hindi work Padmavat during his reign.
Sher Shah was the first, among the Muslim rulers to recognize the fact that India was the land of the Hindus and the Muslims alike and he tried his best to reconcile the two elements as far as possible.
He extended equal treatment to all sections of his subjects irrespective of the faith they professed.
Some of the most responsible officials, civil and military, were recruited from among the Hindus. He administered justice with strict impartiality and kept effective vigilance on the conduct of the judicial officers.
Sher Shah did not, however, initiate any new liberal policies. Jizya continued to be collected from the Hindus, while his nobility was drawn almost exclusively from the Afghans.
He introduced a reformed system of currency and struck fine coins of gold, silver and copper of uniform standard in place of the debased coins of mixed metals. His silver coin was known as Rupiya and copper coin was known as Daam.
His silver rupee remained a standard coin for centuries after him. He is credited with the introduction of custom duty. He also considerably improved the means of communication.
He restored the famous Grand Trunk Road running from Bengal to Punjab, and planted trees and established resting places (Sarai) along the roads to facilitate movement of the troops and to give boost to trade and commerce.
He extended the Grand Trunk Road from Chittagong in the frontiers of the province of Bengal in northeast India to Kabul in Afghanistan in the far northwest of the country.
Sher Shah had also improved the communications by laying four important highway They were:
Sonargaon to Sind
Agra to Burhampur
Jodhpur to Chittor and
Lahore to Multan.
He also linked places like Chittor to the seaports of Gujarat.
Moreover, he ensured law and order with very severe penalty for harming the traders and directed his governors to treat merchants and travellers well in every way.
Also, Sher Shah introduced a system of horse-posts or mail service carried by the horses and was very solicitous for the welfare of the peasantry.
Art and Architecture
He built many inns, mosques and laid down the network of roads the most famous among them being the Grand Trunk Road. He also built an entire city near Delhi on the banks of Yamuna.
He also had a refined taste in architecture. It is evident in the Rohtas Fort built by him. Sher Shah Suri Masjid in Patna and Qila-i-Kuhna mosque at Purana Qila, Delhi were his other great contributions.
His mausoleum is considered a masterpiece of Indo-lslamic architecture and is famous as Sher Shah Suri Tomb situated in Sasaram, Bihar.
Importance of Dynasty
Sher Shah ruled for five years only and even within this brief period he had left the traces of administrative talents permanently impressed. Had he lived longer, he would have founded a stable Afghan Empire and the Empire of the Mughals would not perhaps have come into existence in India. Of all the rulers of medieval India, he was undoubtedly the greatest.
He was an able general, consummate soldier, and a determined ruler. His reforms were well calculated to secure the interests of the people. So great was his personality that his greatest enemy, Humayun, on his death referred to him as ‘Ustad-I-Badshahan’, teacher of kings.
The changes made by him were adopted by Akbar and his successors as the basis of their government. After the fall of the Mughals, the English East India Company also retained the same administrative machinery more or less intact.
It is clear that the genius of Sher Shah continued to affect the destiny of India for centuries.
Reasons for Decline
The last campaign of Sher Shah Suri was against Kalinjar where he was injured during an accidental gun powder blast and died.
Sher Shah’s state system revolved around his personality, it was extremely top heavy. The level of institutionalization of administration was very low. As a result of this, the Sur Empire collapsed within 10 years of Sher Shah’s death. He was succeeded by his second son, Islam Shah, who ruled till 1553.
Islam Shah was a capable ruler and general but most of his energies were occupied with the rebellions raised by his brothers and with tribal feuds among the Afghans. His death at a young age led to a civil war among his successors.
Sher Shah’s successors were thoroughly incompetent and unfit to carry on his work of reconstruction. Instead of trying to secure the support of all the sections of society, they created dissensions and group-rivalries. There was no national solidarity among the Afghans. Rivalries and jealousies ruined the Afghans.
The successors of Sher Shah ignored the lot of the peasantry. There was no proper collection of revenues. The examples of Sher Shah were forgotten. Also, they did not bother to give justice to the people.
This provided Humayun the opportunity he had been seeking for recovering his empire in India. In two hotly contested battles in 1555, he defeated the Afghans and recovered Delhi and Agra.