Sher Shah Suri (Farid al-Din Khan; 1472, or 1486 – 22 May 1545),[4] often referred to as Sultan Adil (The Just King), was the founder of the Sur Empire in India. He was the regent and later sole ruler of Bihar from 1529—1540 until he defeated the Mughal Empire in 1540, founding the Sur Empire, and establishing his rule in Delhi, crowning himself as Emperor. After his accidental death in 1545 CE, his son Islam Shah became his successor. The influence of his innovations and reforms extended far beyond his brief reign. In his reign, he remained undefeated in battle, being renowned as one of the most skillful Afghan generals ever produced.[5]

Sher Shah Suri
Sultan Adil (Just Authority)
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
1st Sur Emperor
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
Reign1529 — 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)
SpouseUtmadun Nissa Bano Begum
Rani Shah
IssueIslam Shah Suri (Jalal Khan)
Adil Khan
Native LanguagePashto
FatherHasan Khan Sur
ReligionSunni Islam
Military career

His early childhood saw him flee from home due to internal family strife. He pursued an education in Jaunpur, where he began his rise to power after his father offered a manager position of his jagirs. Sher Shah governed the territories of his father, and began garnering a reputation due to his reforms which saw prosperity in the region. He gave up his position over the jagirs due to family intrigues. Sher Shah left to Agra, where he remained until his father's death, allowing him to return to the jagirs and assume control over it.

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

During his rule as Emperor of the Sur Empire, he established a magnitude of economic, administrative, and military reforms, issuing the first Rupiya, and organizing the postal system of the Indian subcontinent. 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 further developed Humayun's Dina-panah city and named it Shergarh, also reviving the historical city of Pataliputra, which had been in decline since the 7th century CE, as Patna.[6] Sher Shah also embarked on numerous military campaigns which saw the Afghans rise into prominence again in India.

Early life and origin (1472/1486–1497)

Sher Shah was born in Sasaram, in modern day Bihar, India. The birth date of Sher Shah is disputed, with some accounts stating he was born in 1472,[7] while other accounts state he was born in 1486.[8] He was of Pashtun Afghan origin, being of the Sur clan.[9][10]

Sher Shah's grandfather, Ibrahim Khan Sur, started out as a horse trader, and became a landlord (Jagirdar) in Narnaul area (present-day Haryana), representing his patron Jamal Khan Lodi Sarangkhani, who assigned him a few villages in Hissar Firoza.[11] Hasan, the father of Sher Shah, entered the service of Jamal Khan. In 1494, Jamal Khan was promoted and was then established in Bihar by Sikandar Khan Lodi. Jamal Khan requested Hasan to be given Jagirs, to which, Sikandar granted Hasan the jagirs of Khwaspur, Sasaram, and Hajipur in Bihar.[10]

The mazar of Suri's grandfather Ibrahim Khan Sur still stands as a monument in Narnaul.[12][13][14]

Hasan had several wives, raising over 8 eight sons, with only Nizam Khan being the full brother of Sher Shah.[10][15] One of Sher Shah's stepmothers was cruel to him, with Hasan being unable to do anything about it as he was too submissive to his wife. As a result, Sher Shah went to Jamal Khan, wishing to garner experience and expand his education.[16] When his father discovered that he fled to serve Jamal Khan, the governor of Jaunpur, he wrote Jamal Khan a letter that stated:

Faríd Khán, being annoyed with me, has gone to you without sufficient cause. I trust in your kindness to appease him, and send him back; but if refusing to listen to you, he will not return, I trust you will keep him with you, for I wish him to be instructed in religious and polite learning.[13]

Jamal Khan advised Sher Shah to return home but he refused. Sher Shah replied in a letter:

If my father wants me back to instruct me in learning, there are in this city many learned men: I will study here.[13]

Sher Shah pursued his education in Jaunpur for many years, he studied many topics including history and religion. As a result, he had a soft spot for people who were poor, and wished to give to their needs.[17] Hasan attended Jamal Khan in Jaunpur in a visit on an occasion and met with some of Sher Shah's kinsmen, who told Hasan about promises of future greatness about Sher Shah. As a result, Hasan offered Sher Shah to manage his domains in 1497.[18][19]

Rise to power (1497–1528)

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

Sher Shah accepted the offer of his father, and began implementing reforms. Sher Shah's early career of administration focused on corruption. Notably, one of Sher Shah's major reforms as the administrator of the domains of his father was assessing land revenues, defining, and establishing commissions for those who collected. However, following these reforms, his step-mother who had initially force him to flee, as well as his step-brothers, began encouraging strife and intrigue. This led to Sher Shah's resignation from his post in 1518, after having been manager for 21 years.[18] Sher Shah departed for Agra, which was ruled by the Lodi dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate.[20][17]

Sher Shah remained in Agra until his father's death, after which, the jagirs of his father were given to him by the King, Ibrahim Khan Lodi. Following this, he returned to the jagirs in 1520-21 and begin administering it, while fighting off his half-brother, Sulaiman, who initially drove Sher Shah from the state. Sher Shah returned after allying with Behar Khan Lohani, and occupied his old Jagir as well as other several crown Parganas. Following this, the Lodis were toppled from power in 1526, bringing the Mughals to power under Babur.[21][22] Behar Khan Lohani established an independent state in Bihar during this period, and donned the title of Sultan Muhammad. Having eliminated any threat to his Jagirs, he accompanied Behar Khan to Agra and arrived in April 1527, where he met Mughal emperor Babur. Sher Shah remained in Agra and observed Mughal military organization, as well as their administration.[23][24]

While conversing with a friend, Sher Shah remarked:

If luck and fortune favor me I will very shortly expel the Mughals from Hind, for the Mughals are not superior to the Afghans in battle or single combat, but the Afghans have let the Empire of Hindo slip from their hands on account of their internal dissensions. Since I have been amongst the Mughals, and know their conduct in action, I see that they have no order or discipline and that their kings from pride of birth and station do not personally superintend the government and leave all the affair and business of the state to their nobles and ministers, in whose sayings and doings they put perfect confidence. These grandees act on corrupt motives in every case whether it be of a soldier or a cultivator, or of a rebellious zamindar.[25]

His surname 'Suri' was taken from his Pashtun Sur tribe. 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, Bahar Khan Lohani.[26][27]

In one occasion with Mughal Emperor Babur, while dining with him, they placed a dish that Sher Shah was unaware of how to eat customarily. As a result, he drew his dagger and cut the dish into smaller pieces for him to put into his spoon. This received the attention of Babur, who remarked to 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.[28][29]

— Babur

Suspecting a plot was rising against him, he left Agra and returned to his own Jagirs in 1528. However, he felt unsafe, and as a result, established himself under the protection of Sultan Muhammad of Bihar. Upon his arrival, he was greeted well, and was appointed as the guardian of Muhammad's son, Jalal Khan.[30][24]

Reign in Bihar (1528–1538/1540)

Specially Sher Khan was not an angel (malak) but a king (malik). In six years he gave such stability to the structure (of the empire) that its foundations still survive. He had made India flourish in such a way that the king of Persia and Turan appreciate it, and have a desire to look at it. Hazrat Arsh Ashiyani (Akbar the great) followed his administrative manual (zawabit) for fifty years and did not discontinue them. In the same India due to able administration of the well wishers of the court, nothing is left except rabble and jungles...

Mirza Aziz Koka, son of Ataga Khan, in a letter to Emperor Jahangir

Sultan Mohammad of Bihar died in October 1528, leading to his queen, Dudu Bibi, becoming the regent of the kingdom. Sher Shah was appointed as the deputy governor to Dudu Bibi, allowing him to begin consolidating his position. He led numerous reforms in Bihar, such as the reorganization of the military, while appointing loyalists to high posts. With this, he became one of the most powerful Afghan leaders in India. Sher Shah partook in the Battle of Ghaghra, but did not commit to aiding Mahmud Lodi, who was a contender and rival of Babur. Following the defeat of Mahmud Lodi, Sher Shah pledged his allegiance to Babur. In the beginning of 1530, Dudu Bibi died, which allowed Sher Shah to become the regent of Jalal Khan, and the de facto ruler of the kingdom. Much of the Lohani nobles opposed his powerful position, and despite Sher Shah offering to share power, the Lohani nobles refused, and instead left to the Bengal with Jalal Khan, in which they attempted to garner the support of Nasiruddin Nasrat Shah, the ruler of the Bengal Sultanate. As a result, Sher Shah became the sole ruler of Bihar, but did not adopt any high title, rather styling himself as Hazrat-i-Ala.[31][32][33]

Acquisition of Chunar (1530)

Taj Khan, the governor of Chunar, was assassinated by his step-son. As a result, his wealthy wife, Lad Malika, searched for a protector, and gave consent in marriage to Sher Shah, who was growing to fame due to his bravery. As a result, negotiations were held and the sons of Taj Khan were unaware. With this, the fort of Chunar fell under the control of Sher Shah.[34][35]

First conflict with the Mughals (1532)

Mughal Emperor Humayun, faced with the rising threat of the Afghans in the east led by Mahmud Lodi,[36] defeated a force of them at Dadrah in 1532, and besieged Chunar following this in September 1532, which was under the control of Sher Shah. The siege continued for over four months to no avail. As a result, Sher Shah offered his loyalty to the Mughals on the condition that he remained in control of Chunar, also sending 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.[37][38][39]

Lohani conflict (1533–1534)

Makhdum Alam refused to accept Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah as the Sultan of Bengal with a plea of assassinating Sultan Alauddin Firuz. Makhdum formed an alliance with Sher Shah. Sher Shah saw this as an opportunity to crush the power of the Lohani nobles who had allied themselves with Mahmud Shah. Mahmud Shah sent an army of artillery, cavalry and infantry under Ibrahim Khan in 1534 to conquer Bihar. Jalal Khan was also with Ibrahim Khan in this expedition.[40] Sher Shah abruptly attacked the combined forces of the Lohani chiefs of Bihar and Mohamud Shah of Bengal and defeated them at Surajgarh in March 1534. In this battle Ibrahim Khan was defeated and killed and Jalal Khan was forced to return to his patron Mahmud Shah. Sher Shah consolidated his control over the whole of Bihar following the victory.[39]

First Bengal campaign (1536–1537)

Sher Shah, having consolidated rule over much of Bihar, now marched on Bengal. The Sultanate of Bengal was ruled by the Hussain Shahi dynasty. He utilized large subsidies from Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, recruiting a large army that included over 1,200 elephants. Not long after Humayun returned to Agra from his campaigns against Malwa, Sher Shah launched his Bengal campaign and despite aid from the Portuguese, Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah was defeated.[39] The Sultan was forced to pay over 13,000,000 gold coins, and cede territory up to Sakrigali.[41][42][43]

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

Depiction of Sher Shah's capture of Rohtasgarh fort through Stratagem

Sher Shah's relentless campaigns on the Bengal Sultanate prompted its ruler to request aid from Humayun, who in turn mobilized a Mughal army in July 1537, and advanced to Chunar. Humayun reached the fort in November 1537 and laid siege to it. The siege would last over six months until the fort finally fell despite the attempts from Rumi Khan to make quick work of the city. Sher Shah then led a second invasion into Bengal, seizing Rohtasgarh in March 1538, which he used to situate Afghan families and loot he obtained during the war. Sher Shah followed his victory at Rohtasgarh by besieging Gauda, which fell to the Afghan forces in April 1538.[42][36][44] With these victories, Sher Shah held his first coronation.[45][46] Following the fall of Gaur, Sher Shah offered favorable peace terms to Humayun, offering 10,000,000 dinars, and that he would surrender Bihar in exchange for control of Bengal. Humayun did not wish to leave Bengal in the hands of a hostile state, especially with its rich resources, as well as the contributing factor that Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah, wounded, entered the camp of Humayun and requested the continuation of war against Sher Shah. Ghiyasuddin would die from his wounds not long after.[47][48]

Following this, Humayun began his march to Bengal against Sher Shah, however the march of the Mughal army would be overwhelmed from poor weather conditions, with rains causing the loss of his baggage between Patna and Monghyr. Humayun eventually reached Gauda and seized it without any opposition on 8 September 1538. However, the city was abandoned by the Afghans, with no loot as they had stripped the treasury.[36] Humayun remained at Gaur for months, stuck there due to the weather, however he restored order into the city. As this was happening, Sher Shah drove deep into his territory, seizing Bihar and Varanasi, while also recovering control over Chunar, and laying siege to Jaunpur, with other detachments of the Afghan army extending as far as Kannauj.[48] As a result, Humayun was effectively stranded at Gauda with no communication lines. After learning of disturbances at Agra, Humayun rushed to settle for peace with Sher Shah, which was concluded. Humayun crossed the Karmanasa River, where he could easily be attacked by the Afghans. Sher Shah, seeing the fragile state of the Mughal army, attacked the Mughal army led by Humayun at the Battle of Chausa. The Afghans descended on the Mughals and caught them off guard, and resulted in the complete rout of the Mughals. Humayun barely escaped with his life, and the Mughals suffered over 7,000 dead, with many prominent noblemen killed.[49][50][51]

Following his defeat, Humayun returned to Agra, and restored order after disturbances from his brother, Hindal Mirza. Humayun mobilized a large force, and advanced with an army of 40,000, while Sher Shah amassed 15,000. Humayun met Sher Shah at Kannauj, with both armies mirroring each other across the Ganges river. Humayun crossed the river and began skirmishing with Sher Shah's army. Amidst the fighting, Humayun's army saw many nobles hiding their insignia to prevent them from being recognized by the Afghans, with many nobles also fleeing from the battle. The Mughal army was defeated, which led to Humayun fleeing to Sindh. Following this victory, Sher Shah was crowned a second time on 17 May 1540 as Sher Shah, being declared as Emperor of Northern India, while also donning the epithet of Sultan Adil, meaning "Just King".[52][53][54]

With the defeat and flight of Humayun, Sher Shah captured Delhi.[55][48]

Reign as Sur emperor (1540–1545)

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

Advance into the Punjab and pacification of the Gakhars (1540–1542)

Following the flight of Humayun, Sher Shah continued in pursuit, advancing into the Punjab. Sher Shah advanced on Lahore, and caused panic among the Mughals. Kamran Mirza was not prepared to face Sher Shah, and as a result, retreated to Kabul, leaving the region to Sher Shah. Sher Shah captured Lahore in November 1540, with Afghan armies advancing as far as the Khyber Pass, but not extending his empire beyond the Indus as Sher Shah did not wish to incorporate many Afghans who enjoyed their independence and face difficulties with them. The Afghans also seized control of Multan in 1541, but did not pursue the retreat of the Mughals further, seeing them as no longer as a threat.[56][57]

Not longer after, Sher Shah entered conflict with the Gakhars, who had always been difficult to subjugate despite attempts from former rulers in the region. Sher Shah resorted to diplomacy, inviting the Gakhar chief and asking him to acknowledge him as the emperor of India. The Gakhar chief gave an insulting response, which enraged Sher Shah. Sher Shah marched through the Punjab and subjugated the Gakhars, laying waste to much of the countryside and taking many prisoners. Sher Shah also constructed the Rohtas Fort. To further secure his rule over the Gakhars, and to ward off any threat of Mughal return, he left 50,000 men in the Punjab under his generals, Haibat Khan Niazi and Khawas Khan Marwat.[58] Sher Shah advanced toward the Bengal, the governor of which he placed became rebellious.[59][56]

Reforms in Bengal (1541)

Realizing the importance of Bengal, Sher Shah focused much of his administrative efforts in the region. Khijir Khan, the governor of Bengal under Sher Shah, led a revolt in March 1541. Sher Shah mobilized an army and lead it himself, defeating Khijir Khan and restoring Bengal under his suzerainty. Bengal was divided into 47 smaller administrative divisions, appointing them under a shiqdar, which would be oversighted by Kazi Fajilot as the chief supervisor of the Muqtars.[60] These reforms saw the prominence of Afghans in Bengal, with many Afghans moving and settling in the region. Some of the Afghans who settled in the region would go on to establish the Muhammad Shahi dynasty, which ruled Bengal from 1553 to 1563, and the Karrani dynasty, which ruled from 1563 to 1576.[36][54]

Conquest and consolidation of Malwa (1542)

In 1542, Sher Shah embarked on his campaign to Malwa. This was a result of fears of Malwa joining with the Mughals against Sher Shah. Sher Shah also faced the external threat of Humayun, who was attempting to forge a kingdom in Gujarat, and a forged alliance with the Malwa Sultanate would be threatening. As a result, the Afghan armies first began their march on Gwalior. Led by Shujaat Khan, Gwalior was subjugated under Afghan rule. With this, the threat of being flanked as the Afghans advanced further into Malwa were extinguished. After gaining 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.[61][54]

Despite former grudges, Sher Shah reconciliated and gave him gifts, and even gave Qadir Khan a Jagir in Bengal. Despite this, Qadir Khan did not like the generous offer, and instead, fled to Gujarat, with an attempt to re-capture him in a pursuit led by Shujaat Khan ending in failure. Sher Shah consolidated his new territories before returning to Agra. While returning to Agra, he received submission from the ruler of Ranthambore.[57] Shujaat Khan was placed as the new governor of Malwa. Qadir Khan attempted to retrieve his lost territories, and entered in battle against Shujaat Khan on separate occasions. Despite numerical inferiority, Shujaat Khan decisively defeated the coalition of Qadir Khan. Shujaat Khan was awarded with over 12,000 horses due to his valiant efforts.[62]

Conquest of Raisin (1543)

After the death of Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, Puran Mall recovered control of Raisin after it was annexed by Bahadur Shah in 1532. Upon his restored rule in the region, he led many tyrannical actions on the Muslim populace of the city. The survivors of this occasion developed a grudge against Puran Mall. Sher Shah, hearing of this, and seeking to obtain control of Raisen himself, began preparing for war. Sher Shah remarked:

I did wrong when I said I would go towards Bengal. If Almighty God would vouchsafe me a recovery from this fever I will return with all speed, and Puran Mall who has enslaved the families of the Muslims in Chanderi and has made dancing girls of their daughters and did not accompany my son Qutab Khan — him will I so punish that he may be a warning to others.[63]

Before resorting to war, Sher Shah offered Varanasi to Puran Mall if he ceded Raisin. Puran Mall refused to agree to any offer, and as a result, Sher Shah declared war. Jalal Khan led the Afghan army, reaching Vidisha, where he merged forces with Sher Shah. The Afghan forces then advanced to Raisin, besieging it. The siege of the city lasted for six months until the artillery of Sher Shah destroyed the cities defenses, which led to Puran Mall surrendering. The treaty observed the points that: Free passage to himself [Puran Mall] and his family with their belongings, The retirement of Sher Shah to a distance of two marches from the fort, and Adil Khan and Qutab Khan to bind themselves by solemn oaths that Puran Mall and his family will not be molested in any way.[64][57]

Sher Shah and his army withdrew a distance of two marches from the fort per the agreement. However, Sher Shah then encountered widows of the chiefs of Chanderi, with many others waiting for Sher Shah along the roadside. They called out to Sher Shah:

We have suffered from this inhuman and malignant infidel all kinds of tyranny and oppression. He has slain our husbands and our daughters he has enslaved, and made dancing girls of them, and has seized our lands, and all our worldly goods for a long time past. ... If you do not give us justice, hereafter, in the day of resurrection when the first and the last of all men shall be collected together, we will accuse you.[65]

Upon hearing this, and further seeing the ruined families of Muslim survivors, Sher Shah was reported to have tears dropped from his eyes, and his idea of the destruction of oppression overtook him. Furthermore, demanded by his army to take action, Sher Shah ordered an army led by Isa Khan Hajjab to lead a forced march, which caught up to the retreating detachment of Puran Mal. The Rajput forces put up resistance, but were entirely annihilated.[66][67][68]

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. As a result, Sher Shah began assembling for a campaign in 1543. It also aligned with his ideas of building a new road from Lahore to Multan. During this, a certain raider named Fateh Khan Jat looted the routes between Lahore and Delhi, which surmounted to numerous complaints in return. As a result, Sher Shah ordered Haibat Khan to put an end to the raids of Fateh Khan. Haibat Khan successfully trapped Fateh Khan in a mud fort around Fatehpur. Seeking no possible way of escaping the situation, Fateh Khan surrendered to Haibat Khan. However, the garrison of the fort led by Hinda Baluch made a sortie, breaking out of the fort and successfully fleeing. Despite this, Hinda Baluch was captured during the sortie. With this, the Balochi leaders were executed. Following the campaign, Haibat Khan would subjugate upper Sindh as far as Sehwan.[69][70]

Conquest of Marwar (1543–1544)

Painting 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 Rathore advanced to face Sher Shah's army. Sher Shah halted in the village of Sammel in the pargana of Jaitaran, ninety kilometres east of Jodhpur.[71] After one month of skirmishing, Sher Shah's position became critical owing to the difficulties of food supplies for his huge army. To resolve this situation, Sher Shah resorted to a cunning ploy. One evening, he dropped forged letters near the Maldeo's camp in such a way that they were sure to be intercepted. These letters indicated, falsely, that some of Maldeo's army commanders were promising assistance to Sher Shah. This caused great consternation to Maldeo, who immediately suspected his commanders of disloyalty. Maldeo left for Jodhpur with his own men, abandoning his commanders to their fate. Following this, Maldeo's generals, Jaita and Kumpa, fought with a few thousand men against the Afghans, who wielded a force of 80,000 men and some cannons. In the ensuing battle of Sammel (also known as battle of Giri Sumel), Sher Shah emerged victorious, but several of his generals lost their lives and his army suffered thousands of casualties.[72]

After 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.[72]

Death and legacy (1545)

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

Following the conquest of Marwar, Sher Shah besieged Kalinjar Fort in 1544. He failed to capture it by force but blockaded the fort for seven months during which the Rajputs gave continuous resistance.[73] The circumstances regarding Sher Shah's death are uncertain. Some sources state that while leading the siege, he was mortally wounded from a gunpowder explosion from one of his cannons bursting. Another source states that when the Afghan army was prepared to storm the walls, Sher Shah himself took part in the battle, and upon descending from a rampart, he ordered his men to hurl bombs inside the fort. One of these bombs reflected backwards and hit a cache of bombs, which caused a large explosion. Some people escaped with minor burns, but Sher Shah upon being seen, was half-burned. Sher Shah was taken to his tent where he remained for two days. Despite his critical condition, he ordered his men to swarm the fort, also advancing close to the fort with his troops.[74] When he received the news that the fort finally fell, he remarked: "Thanks to Almighty god".[75] Sher Shah succumbed to his wounds and died on 22 May 1545, at the age of 73 or 59.[55][76] He was succeeded by his son, Jalal Khan, who took the title of Islam Shah Suri.[77] Sher Shah was buried in the Sher Shah Suri Tomb (122 ft high), 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 following the death of Sher Shah.[78]

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".[78]

Humayun would later refer to Sher Shah as "Ustad-I-Badshahan", meaning teacher of kings.[79]

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.[80] 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.[81] 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.[81] 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.[82]

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.[83][84]

Provincial and local administration

Portrait of Sher Shah Suri with a Lion prostrating/surrendering to him.

The Sur empire consisted of many subdivisions, referred to as Iqtas. Some of these provinces were ruled by military governors, such as Haibat Khan, who governed the Punjab. Haibat Khan had control of over 30,000 men, and was able to give jagirs to his own soldiers. Khwas Khan was another military governor, who ruled over Rajasthan, and assembled over 20,000 men. The head of Iqtas were known by different names, such as Hakim, Faujdar, or Momin. These head of Iqtas had their own bodies of men, which were usually less than 5,000 men. The responsibility of these heads were instilling order and law in the subdivisions they controlled.[85]

Iqtas themselves were divided into districts, named Sarkars. Sarkars had two chief officers, the Shiqar, and Munsif. Shiqars were tasked with the responsibility of civil administration, and themselves could field 200-300 soldiers to maintain law and order in their districts. The Munsif of a Sarkar was responsible for revenue collection, and civil justice. The chief Shiqars would often handle cases of criminal justice.[86]

Sarkars were also in turn divided into two or three Parganas. A Pargana was a moderately sized town and surrounding villages. In every Pargana, there was a Shiqar, Munsif, and one treasurer who went under the title of Fotdar. They were also accompanied by a Karkun who could write in Hindi and Persian. The Shiqar of a Pargana would be a military officer under the oversight of the Shiqar of the Sarkar. The responsibilities of a Shiqar in a Pargana were to maintain stability, and assist the Munsif in collection of land revenues, and measuring land. While the Munsif in the Pargana would be under the oversight of the chief Munsif in the Sarkar.[87]

Villages were often autonomous and were governed by their own assemblies called Panchayats. This was respected by Sher Shah during his reign. Each assembly consisted of elders of a village who looked after the needs of villagers and instructed their own punishments in respect to the customs of the community. The chief of a village would be a form of a diplomat between the villages and the higher government.[88]

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. And on other occasions, claimed that Sher Shah's wars against the Rajputs were a Jihad. The war against Puran Mall was described as a Jihad, and his treatment of Maldeo was argued as signs of religious intolerance. However, he was always tolerant of Hindus, and did not hold any grudges against them, or wage propaganda.[89][15]

According to Srivastava, Sher Shah's balance made his fellow Muslims content with his lenient treatment of Hindus. Sher Shah's evaluated policy was seen that Islam should hold supremacy over the lands he had conquered, but not to displace Hinduism.[90]


Sher Shah's army defeated the Mughal Empire and drove them out of India. Sher Shah invited Afghans from across the empire and gave them high positions, with himself taking interest in recruiting troops. Sher Shah also promoted out of Merit. The Afghan army utilized heavy emphasis on their cavalry, while his infantry were armed with muskets. One of his reforms included splitting up his armies into divisions, which was led by a commander. Discipline was strict, with provisions being given by Banjaras, who accompanied the army. Men were also assigned roles, attributing to the system of the Dagh, with spys being able to be rooted out using this method.[91]

Sher Shah also considered Pashto a sign of friendliness, and gave higher salaries to Afghans who could speak Pashto in his army.[13]

In 1540, Sher Shah's army consisted of over 150,000 cavalrymen, 25,000 infantrymen, and over 5,000 war elephants.[92]

Sher Shah Suri is renowned as one of the most skillful Afghan generals ever produced.[5]

Social justice

One of the things Sher Shah Suri was renowned for was giving justice. Courts were held by Qadis, with Sher Shah as well 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, and done so to prevent others from doing a crime out of fear of the repercussions. Sher Shah gave heavy punishments for people in high posts, including government officials.[93][94]

The reputation of Sher Shah grew as he became known for being a formidable and a just ruler, to the point where merchants could travel through and sleep in deserts without fear of being harassed by bandits or robbers. The soldiers of Sher Shah acted as police, with the duty of these soldiers to look for thieves and robbers. Sher Shah Suri also implemented the reform of self-responsibility. It was the duty assigned to officials to find the culprits of different cases in examples such as murder, lest the officials be held responsible themselves and be hanged. As a result of these reforms, historians praise it for its effectiveness.[95][94]


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.[96][97][98]

The mausoleum of Sher Shah Suri is 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.[97]


Amongst his magnitude of reforms while consolidating the empire, Sher Shah Suri abolished taxes that were held on the borders of provinces. This was due to Sher Shah wishing to invigorate trade throughout India, and only two levies remaining in place, with them being upon goods being brought into the country, and the second for when goods were sold. Customs as a result, were entirely removed.[95][99]

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.[100] Shershah Suri, a television show about the emperor, was aired on DD National by Doordarshan, the Indian national public broadcaster.[101]

The Jungle Book, made by Rudyard Kipling, has its antagonist Shere Khan named after Sher Shah Suri.[102]

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 Gaur, 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. ^ Tarikh I Sher Shahi Of Abbas Khan Sarwani Persian To English K P Jayaswal Research Institute Patna Bhramadeva Prasad Ambashthya, by Bhramadeva Prasad Ambashthya, page 189 and 166
  2. ^ Sher Shah by Dowson John, Ed page 104
  3. ^ Sher Shah by Dowson John, Ed page 105
  4. ^ Lee 2019, p. 55.
  5. ^ a b Chandra 2007, p. 216.
  6. ^ Patna
  7. ^ Jansari 2023, p. 157.
  8. ^ Wright & Wright 2015, p. 402.
  9. ^ Lee 2019, p. 57.
  10. ^ a b c Mehta, p. 163.
  11. ^ Aquil 2007, p. 43.
  12. ^ Tarikh-i Khan Jahan Lodi (MS. p. 151).
  13. ^ a b c d 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.
  14. ^ The Imperial Gazetteer of India 1908, p. 381.
  15. ^ a b "Shēr Shah of Sūr". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 23 August 2010.
  16. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 12.
  17. ^ a b Chaurasia 2002, p. 179.
  18. ^ a b Mehta, p. 164.
  19. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 13.
  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. 18-19.
  26. ^ Lane-Poole 2007, p. 236.
  27. ^ "Sur Dynasty". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  28. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 20.
  29. ^ Mehta, p. 162.
  30. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 20-21.
  31. ^ Mehta, p. 165-166.
  32. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 21.
  33. ^ Khan 1976, p. 53.
  34. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 23.
  35. ^ Mehta, p. 166.
  36. ^ a b c d "Rule of Afghans". Banglapedia. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  37. ^ Chandra 2007, p. 212-213.
  38. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 33.
  39. ^ a b c Mehta, p. 167.
  40. ^ Ahmed 2012.
  41. ^ Chandra 2007, p. 215.
  42. ^ a b Mahajan 1968, p. 41.
  43. ^ Chandra 2005, p. 76.
  44. ^ Puri & Das 2003, p. 113.
  45. ^ Jenkins 2015, p. 64.
  46. ^ Bhattacherje 2009, p. 52.
  47. ^ Chandra 2007, p. 215-216.
  48. ^ a b c Mehta, p. 168.
  49. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 34-36.
  50. ^ Chandra 2007, p. 216-217.
  51. ^ Mahajan 1968, p. 42.
  52. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 38-41.
  53. ^ Chandra 2007, p. 217.
  54. ^ a b c Mehta, p. 169.
  55. ^ a b Mikaberidze 2011, p. 830.
  56. ^ a b Chandra 2005, p. 77.
  57. ^ a b c Mehta, p. 170.
  58. ^ Qanungo 1921, p. 236.
  59. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 41-45.
  60. ^ Qanungo 1921, p. 237-244.
  61. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 63-64.
  62. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 65-66.
  63. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 47.
  64. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 47-52.
  65. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 53.
  66. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 53-56.
  67. ^ Kennedy 1905, p. 212.
  68. ^ Matta 2005, p. 171.
  69. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 67-68.
  70. ^ Chandra 2005, p. 77-78.
  71. ^ Hooja 2006, p. 526-527.
  72. ^ a b Chaudhuri 2006, p. 81-82.
  73. ^ 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.
  74. ^ Qanungo 1921, p. 338-340.
  75. ^ Bhattacherje 2009, p. 54.
  76. ^ Ali Khan 1925, p. 99-100.
  77. ^ Chandra 2007, p. 220.
  78. ^ a b Asher 1977, p. 273-298.
  79. ^ Khan 1987.
  80. ^ Thomas 1967, p. 403.
  81. ^ a b "Mughal Coinage". RBI Monetary Museum. Reserve Bank of India. Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  82. ^ Goron & Goenka 2001, p. 98.
  83. ^ Dias 1996, p. 216.
  84. ^ Sud, p. 74.
  85. ^ Mehta, p. 176.
  86. ^ Mehta, p. 176-177.
  87. ^ Mehta, p. 177.
  88. ^ Mehta, p. 177-178.
  89. ^ Mahajan 1968, p. 53.
  90. ^ Mahajan 1968, p. 53-54.
  91. ^ Mahajan 1968, p. 49.
  92. ^ Roy 2015, p. 54.
  93. ^ Mahajan 1968, p. 51.
  94. ^ a b Mehta, p. 180-182.
  95. ^ a b Mahajan 1968, p. 52.
  96. ^ Matta 2005, p. 214.
  97. ^ a b Mahajan 1968, p. 54.
  98. ^ Brown 1939, p. 636-646.
  99. ^ Mehta, p. 182.
  100. ^ Rajadhyaksha & Willemen 1999.
  101. ^ "Shershah Suri - Episode 01". Prasar Bharati Archives. 14 September 2017. Archived from the original on 31 October 2021.
  102. ^ Welsh 2013, p. 188.


Preceded by Shah of Delhi
Succeeded by