Throughout the reign period (1530-1556), Humayun had faced many adverse conditions; however, he did not lose his patience rather fought with courage.
Born on 17 March 1508, Humayun succeeded Babur (his father) in December 1530 at the young age of 23.
Babur, because of his pre-matured death, could not consolidate his empire; therefore, Humayun, when became the ruler, he had to struggle with various problems.
Major problems (left behind by Babur) were:
o The administration systems of Mughal Empire were weak and the finances were unjustifiable.
o The Afghans had not been subdued entirely; hence, they were cultivating the hope of expelling the Mughals from India.
o When Humayun ascended the throne at Agra, the Mughal Empire included Kabul and Qandhar; however, there was loose control over Badakhshan (beyond the Hindukush Mountains).
o Kabul and Qandhar were under the charge of Kamran, Humayun’s younger brother. Kamran was not satisfied with these poverty-stricken areas therefore, he marched towards Lahore and Multan, and occupied them.
Humayun, who was busy elsewhere, reluctantly accepted his brother’s autocratic act, as he was not interested in starting a civil war. However, Kamran accepted the suzerainty of Humayun, and promised to help him whenever it required.
The swiftly growing powers of Afghans in the east and Bahadur Shah (ruler of Gujarat) in the west were becoming problems that Humayun had to suppress.
The Afghans had conquered Bihar and overrun Jaunpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh, but in 1532, Humayun had defeated the Afghan forces.
After defeating the Afghans, Humayun besieged Chunar (from the Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri).
Chunar was the powerful fort that commanded the land and the river route resting between Agra and the east; Chunar was popular as the gateway of eastern India.
After losing Chunar fort, Sher Shah Suri (also known as Sher Khan) persuaded Humayun to get permission to retain possession of the fort and he promised to be loyal to the Mughals. Sher Shah also sent one of his sons to Humayun court as a hostage. Humayun was in haste to return back to Agra; therefore, he accepted Sher Shah’s offer.
Bahadur Shah of Gujarat who was of the same age of Humayun had strengthened himself enough to threaten him (Humayun) in the north.
Ascending the throne in 1526, Bahadur Shah had overrun and conquered Malwa and then moved towards Rajasthan and besieged Chittor and soon abridged the Rajput defenders to sore straits.
According to some legends, Rani Karnavati (the widow of Rana Sanga), sent a rakhi (a thread that normally sister gives her brother and in return brother promises to protect her) to Humayun seeking his help and Humayun courteously responded.
Because of the fear of Mughal intervention, Bahadur Shah made an agreement with the Rana Sanga and left the fort in his (Rana Sanga’s) hands; however, he (Bahadur Shah) extracted a large indemnity in cash and kind.
Humayun spent one and half years of his time in building a new city nearby Delhi, and he named it as Dinpanah.
The buildings of Dinpanah were built to impress friends and foes alike. Another intention was, Dinpanah could also serve as a second capital, in case, Agra was threatened by the Gujarat ruler Bahadur Shah (who already had conquered Ajmer and overrun eastern Rajasthan.
Bahadur Shah invested Chittoor and simultaneously, he supplied arms and men to Tatar Khan (Tatar Khan was a cousin of Ibrahim Lodi), to invade Agra with a force of 40,000 men.
Humayun easily defeated Tatar Khan. The Afghan forces run away, as the Mughal forces arrived. Tatar Khan was defeated, and he was killed.
After defeating Tatar Khan, Humayun now invaded Malwa. He advanced forward slowly and cautiously, and covered a position midway between Chittoor and Mandu. Likewise, Humayun cut off Bahadur Shah from Malwa.
Bahadur Shah swiftly compelled Chittoor to surrender. It became possible because Bahadur Shah had fine artillery, which was commanded by Rumi Khan, an Ottoman master gunner.
Bahadur Shah did not dare to fight with the Mughals and he left his fortified camp and escaped to Mandu to Champaner, then to Ahmadabad and finally to Kathiawar. Thus the rich provinces of Malwa and Gujarat, as well as the huge treasure boarded by the Gujarat rulers at Mandu and Champaner, came into the hands of Humayun.
The fear of Bahadur Shah’s attack (on Mughal Empire) was gone with his death, as he died while fighting with the Portuguese.
Sher Shah’s Upsurge
Humayun’s absence from Agra (between February 1535 and February 1537), gave an opportunity to Sher Shah to strengthened his power and position.
Though superficially, Sher Khan continued to acknowledge loyalty to the Mughals, but steadily he planned to expel the Mughals from India.
Sher Khan was in close touch with Bahadur Shah, as he (Bahadur Shah) had helped him with heavy subsidies, which enabled him to recruit and maintain a large and competent army including 1,200 elephants.
After equipping a new army, Humayun attacked Sher Khan and captured Chunar and then he invaded Bengal for the second time, and seized Gaur (the capital of Bengal).
After the victory of Gaur, Sher Khan sent a proposal to Humayun that he would surrender Bihar and pay an annual tribute of ten lakhs of dinars if he was allowed to retain Bengal. However, Humayun was not in a mood to leave Bengal to Sher Khan.
Bengal was the land of gold, rich in manufactures, and a center for foreign trade. Secondly, the ruler of Bengal who had reached Humayun’s camp in a wounded condition, informed that resistance to Sher Khan was still continued.
By observing underneath suspicious intention of Sher Shah, Humayun rejected Sher Khan’s proposal and decided a campaign to Bengal. Soon after, the Bengal ruler submitted to his wounds; therefore, Humayun had to undertake the Bengal campaign all alone.
Bengal campaign of Humayun was not much beneficial, but rather was the prelude to the disaster, which overtook his army at Chausa after a year.
Sher Shah had left Bengal and went south Bihar. With a master plan, he let Humayun campaign Bengal so that he might disrupt Humayun’s communications with Agra and bottle him up in Bengal.
Arriving at Gaur, Humayun swiftly took steps to establish law and order. But this did not solve any of his problems. On the other hand, Humayun’s situation was further made worse by his younger brother, Handal, as he attempted to crown himself of Agra. However, because of Sher Khan’s master plans, Humayun was totally cut off from all news and supplies from Agra.
After a stay of three to four months at Gaur, Humayun planned back to Agra, leaving a small garrison behind. In spite of having a series of problems such as the rainy season, discontent in the nobility, and the constant harrying attacks of the Afghans, Humayun managed to get his army back to Chausa near Buxar, without any serious loss.
As Kamran heard about Hindal’s act, he left Lahore to suppress Hindal’s rebellion at Agra. But Kamran, though not disloyal, made no attempt to send any help to Humayun.
Deceived by an offer of peace from Sher Shah, Humayun crossed to the eastern bank of the Karmnasa River and gave full opportunity to the Afghan horsemen encamped there. It was the great mistake of Humayun that reflected not only a bad political sense, but also a bad generalship as well.
Sher Shah’s forces attacked on Humayun surreptitiously; however, Humayun, somehow managed to escape from the battle field. He swam across the river with the help of a water-carrier. Sher Shah robbed Humayun’s treasures. In this war, about 7,000 Mughal soldiers and many prominent nobles were killed.
After the defeat at Chausa in March 1539, only the fullest unity among the Timurid princes and the nobles could have saved Humayun.
Kamran had a battle-hardened force of 10,000 Mughals under his command at Agra. But he had not come forward to help Humayun, probably, he had lost confidence in Humayun’s leadership. On the other hand, Humayun was not ready to assign the command of the armies to Kamran, as he could misuse it to store power for himself. The confusions between the two brothers grew till Kamran decided to return back to Lahore with his army.
The army hastily assembled by Humayun at Agra was no match against Sher Shah. However, in May 1540, the battle of Kanauj was bitterly contested. Both the younger brothers of Humayun namely Askari and Hindal, fought courageously, but to no avail.
The battle of Kanauj taken away Humayun’s empire and he became a prince without a kingdom; Kabul and Qandhar remaining under Kamran. Sher Shah, now became the sole powerful ruler of north India.
Humayun kept wandering in Sindh and its neighboring countries for the next two and a half years, planning various schemes to regain his kingdom. But hardly anyone was ready to help him. Surprisingly, his own brothers were against him, and even had tried to kill or imprison him. Nevertheless, Humayun faced all these trials and tribulations with great fortitude and courage. The downfall period of Humayun reflected the best part of his character.
While wondering in search of shelter, Humayun reached at the court of the Iranian king. In 1545, with the help of Iranian king, Humayun recaptured Qandhar and Kabul.
Reasons of Humayun’s Downfall
The major reasons for Humayun’s failure were:
o Humayun’s inability to understand the nature of the Afghan power and Sher Shah’s deceptive trick.
o The presence of large numbers of Afghan tribes across the north India and their nature of getting united under a capable leader (like Sher Shah).
o Without getting the support of the local rulers and zamindars, the Mughals were bound to remain numerically inferior.
o The differences of Humayun with his brothers, and his alleged faults of character.
o Though Humayun was a competent general and politician, his two mistakes i.e. ill-conceived Bengal campaign and wrong interpretation of Sher Shah’s proposal made him lose.
Humayun’s life was a romantic one, as he experienced from rich to rag and again from rag to rich.
In 1555, after the break-up of the Sher Shah’s empire, Humayun again recovered Delhi; however, he did not live long to enjoy his victory.
Humayun died because of fall from the first floor of the library building in his fort at Delhi.
The tomb of Humayun was built by the orders of Akbar (son of Humayun) and Humayun’s first wife (Bega Begum). And, the tomb was designed by Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, a Persian architect appointed by Bega Begum.
Building of the tomb was started in 1565 (nine years after the death of Humayun) and completed in 1572. The total cost spent in the building (of tomb) was 1.5 million rupees (at the time).
Sher Shah Suri ascended the throne of Delhi at the age of 67. His original name was Farid and his father was a jagirdar at Jaunpur.
Sher Shah spent his childhood with his father and remained actively involved in the affairs of his father’s jagir. Because of this, he learned rich administrative knowledge and experience.
Sher Shah was very intelligent, as he never let any opportunity to go in vain. The defeat and death of Ibrahim Lodi and the misunderstanding in Afghan affairs let Sher Shah emerge as the most important Afghan sardars (of that time).
Because of his smart skill set and administrative quality, Sher Shah became as the right hand of the ruler of Bihar.
After killing a tiger, the patron of Sher Shah adorned him the title of ‘Sher Khan.’
As a ruler, Sher Shah ruled the mightiest empire, which had come into existence (in north India) since the time of Muhammad bin Tughlaq.
Sher Shah’s empire was extended from Bengal to the Indus River (excluding Kashmir). In the west, he conquered Malwa, and almost the entire Rajasthan.
Maldeo, the ruler of Marwar, ascended the gaddi (kingdom) in 1532, and in a short span of time, took the control of whole of western and northern Rajasthan. He further expanded his territories during Humayun’s conflict with Sher Shah.
In the course of the conflict, the Maldeo was killed after a courageous resistance. His sons, Kalyan Das and Bhim, took shelter at the court of Sher Shah.
In 1544, the Rajput and Afghan forces clashed at Samel (located between Ajmer and Jodhpur). While invading different jagirs of Rajasthan, Sher Shah had taken the great precautions; at every step, he would throw up entrenchments to guard against a surprise attack.
After the battle of Samel, Sher Shah besieged and conquered Ajmer and Jodhpur, forced Maldeo into the desert.
Merely in 10 months of ruling period, Sher Shah overran almost the entire Rajasthan. His last campaign was against Kalmjar; it was a strong fort and the key to Bundelkhand.
During the Kalmjar campaign (1545), a gun burst and severely injured Sher Shah; the incident took, Sher Shah’s life.
Sher Shah was succeeded by Islam Shah (his second son), who ruled till 1553.
Islam Shah was a competent ruler and general, but most of his energies were lost in controlling the rebels raised by his brothers. Besides, rebels of tribal feuds also pulled Islam Shah’s attention.
Islam Shah’s death (November 1554) led to a civil war among his successors. The civil war created a vacuum that ultimately provided an opportunity to Humayun to recover empire of India.
In 1555, Humayun defeated the Afghans, and recovered Delhi and Agra.
Sher Shah’s Work
Sher Shah was one of the most distinguished rulers of north India who had done a number of developmental works (along with well-planned administrative works). His works can be studied under the following heads:
Sher Shah re-established law and order across the length and breadth of his empire.
Sher Shah placed considerable emphasis on justice, as he used to say, “Justice is the most excellent of religious rites, and it is approved alike by the king of infidels and of the faithful“.
Sher Shah did not spare oppressors whether they were high nobles, men of his own tribe or near relations.
Qazis were appointed at different places for justice, but as before, the village panchayats and zamindars also dealt with civil and criminal cases at the local level.
Sher Shah dealt strictly with robbers and dacoits.
Sher Shah was very strict with zamindars who refused to pay land revenue or disobeyed the orders of the government.
Economic & Development Works
Sher Shah paid great attention for the promotion of trade and commerce and also the improvement of communications in his kingdom.
He reinstated the old imperial road known as the Grand Trunk Road, from the river Indus in the west to Sonargaon in Bengal.
He also built a road from Agra to Jodhpur and Chittoor, noticeably linking up with the road to the Gujarat seaports.
Sher Shah built about 1,700 sarai; some of them are still existing, which reflect how strong these sarai were.
Over a period of time, many of the sarai developed into qasbas (market-towns) where peasants flocked to sell their produce.
Sher Shah’s roads and sarai have been called as “the arteries of the empire.” These development works strengthened and fasten the trade and commerce in the country.
In Sher Shah’s entire empire, customs duty was paid only at two places: the goods produced in Bengal or imported from outside paid customs duty at the border of Bengal and Bihar at Sikrigali and goods coming, from West and Central Asia paid custom duty at the Indus. No one was allowed to levy custom duty at roads, ferries, or town. The duty was paid a second time at the time of sale.
Sher Shah instructed his governors to compel the people to treat merchants and travelers well and not to harm them in any way.
If a merchant died, no one to seize his goods.
Sher Shah enjoined the dictum of Shaikh Nizami i.e. “If a merchant should die in your country it is a perfidy to lay hands on his property.”
Depending on the territoriality, Sher Shah made the local village headmen and zamindars responsible for any loss that the merchant suffered on the roads.
If the goods of a merchant were stolen, the headmen and/or the zamindars had to produce them, or to trace the haunts of the thieves or highway robbers, failing which they had to undergo the punishment meant for the thieves and robbers.
Though it sounds barbarous (to make innocent responsible), but the same law (discussed in the immediate above point) was applied in cases of murders on the roads.
Abbas Sarwani explained Sher Shah’s law and order in the picturesque language i.e. “a decrepit old woman might place a basketful of gold ornaments on her head and go on a journey, and no thief or robber would come near her for fear of the punishment which Sher Shah inflicted.”
Sher Shah’s currency reforms also promoted the growth of commerce and handicrafts.
For the trade and commerce purpose, Sher Shah made an attempt to fix standard weights and measures across his empire.
He built a separate road from Lahore to Multan. At that time, Multan was one of the central points for the caravans going to West and Central Asia.
For the convenience of travelers, Sher Shah built a number of sarai at a distance of every two kos (about eight km) on all the major roads.
The sarai was a fortified lodging or inn where travelers could pass the night and also keep their goods in safe custody.
Facility of separate lodgings for Hindus and Muslims were provided in the sarai. Brahmanas were appointed for providing bed and food to the Hindu travelers, and grains for their horses.
Abbas Khan Sarwani (who had written ‘Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi’ or history of Sher Shah) says, “It was a rule in the sarai that whoever entered there, received provision suitable to his rank, and food and litter for his cattle, from the government.”
Sher Shah also made efforts to settle down villages around the sarai, and the land was set apart in these villages for the expenses of the sarai.
A number of villages comprised a pargana. The pargana was under the charge of the shiqdar, who looked after law and order and general administration, and the munsif or amil looked after the collection of Land revenue.
Above the pargana, there was the shiq or sarkar under the charge of the shiqdar-i-shiqdran and a munsif-i-munsifan.
Accounts were maintained both in the Persian and the local languages (Hindavi).
Sher Shah apparently continued the central machinery of administration, which had been developed during the Sultanate period. Most likely, Sher Shah did not favor leaving too much authority in the hands of ministers.
Sher Shah worked exceptionally hard, devoting himself to the affairs of the state from early morning to late at night. He also toured the country regularly to know the condition of the people.
Sher Shah’s excessive centralization of authority, in his hands, has later become a source of weakness, and its harmful effects became apparent when a masterful sovereign (like him) ceased to sit on the throne.
The produce of land was no longer to be based on the guess work, or by dividing the crops in the fields, or on the threshing floor rather Sher Shah insisted on measurement of the sown land.
Schedule of rates (called ray) was drawn up, laying down the state’s share of the different types of crops. This could then be converted into cash on the basis of the prevailing market rates in different areas. Normally, the share of the state was one-third of the produce.
Sher Shah’s measurement system let peasants to know how much they had to pay to the state only after sowing the crops.
The extent of area sown, the type of crops cultivated, and the amount each peasant had to pay was written down on a paper called patta and each peasant was informed of it.
No one was permitted to charge from the peasants anything extra. The rates which the members of the measuring party were to get for their work were laid down.
In order to guard against famine and other natural calamities, a cess at the rate of two and half seers per bigha was also levied.
Sher Shah was very solicitous for the welfare of the peasantry, as he used to say, “The cultivators are blameless, they submit to those in power, and if I oppress them they will abandon their villages, and the country will be ruined and deserted, and it will be a long time before it again becomes prosperous“.
Sher Shah developed a strong army in order to administer his vast empire. He dispensed with tribal levies under tribal chiefs, and recruited soldiers directly after verifying their character.
The strength of Sher Shah’s personal army was recorded as:
o 150,000 cavalry;
o 25,000 infantry armed with matchlocks or bows;
o 5,000 elephants; and
o A park of artillery.
Sher Shah set up cantonments in different parts of his empire; besides, a strong garrison was posted in each of them.
Sher Shah also developed a new city on the bank of the Yamuna River near Delhi. The sole survivor of this city is the Old Fort (Purana Qila) and the fine mosque within it.
One of the finest nobles, Malik Muhammad Jaisi (who had written Padmavat in Hindi) was the patron of Sher Shah’s reign.
Sher Shah did not, however, initiate any new liberal policies. Jizyah continued to be collected from the Hindus.
Sher Shah’s nobility was drawn exclusively from the Afghans.
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