Sher Shah Suri, born Farid Khan, has become an example of good governance and progressive rule in the subcontinent. According to Historians, his reign was one of the most reformative ones in the region. The administrative system he introduced, divided the central government into broader ministries. These ministries were responsible for assisting the king in Communications, Defense, Revenue & Finance, and foreign affairs.
Furthermore, he invested in public infrastructures such as roads, public buildings, and hostels for travelers. The Afghan King also introduced a currency system that improved trade and boosted the economy. The G.T Road is one of his greatest contributions, that paved the route from Kabul to Calcutta.
The 476th Death Anniversary
Today (22nd May 2021) marks the 476th death anniversary of Sher Shah Suri – the Pashtun tiger king of Hindustan who masterfully established his rule, forced the Mughals out of Hindustan, and introduced many reforms that the Indian sub-continent continues to benefit to this day.
Sher Shah Suri invested in public infrastructures such as roads, public buildings, and hostels for travelers. The Afghan King also introduced a currency system that improved trade and boosted the economy.
Ibrahim Khan, the grandfather of Sher Shah Suri, migrated to Punjab from the foothills of the Sulaiman Mountains in D.I. Khan (present-day Pakistan); here he made a career working for the fellow Pashtun nobles (Mohabat khan, Jamal Sarang, etc.) while receiving Jagir from them.
Lineage and Ancestry
Hassan Khan, son of Ibrahim Khan and father of Sher Shah, moved to Sasaram Bihar later. It was here that Farid Khan (birth name of Sher Shah) was born during the reign of Ibrahim Lodhi.
Ibrahim Lodhi (reign 1517-1526), of the Pashtun Lodhi dynasty, was defeated by Zaheer-ud-Din Babur in April 1526, at Panipat. This brought an end to the 75 years of Pashtun rule of the Delhi Sultanate and marked the beginning of the Mughal rule in Hindustan.
There is confusion if Sher Shah Suri was born in Sasaram (Bihar) and or in Hisar (Haryana). The Tomb of Hasan Khan, father of Sher Shah Suri, is in Sasaram. Meanwhile, his grandfather’s tomb is in Hisar.
Just two years after Babur’s victory over Ibrahim Lodhi in 1528, Babur noticed Sher Shah Suri in a banquet eating food with his dagger. Babur immediately felt threatened and wanted him arrested but was convinced by his nobles that such an act would antagonize Pashtuns.
Sher Shah Suri’s Military and Strategic Prowess
He would prove Babur correct years later when he after taking over Bengal, started to wrestle away one area after another from Babur’s son Humayun’s control and ultimately forcing him to seek refuge in Kabul.
He reformed the military to better prepare against the Mughals, and then to defend his Sultanate against the enemy. Afghans flocked to enlist in his service and army because he treated them well as he relied on them. He had declared to kill any Afghan who would refuse to fight for him
Many do not know that Sher Shah Suri sent an envoy to the Ottoman court of Suleman the Magnificent in 1544 and concluded the first Afghan-Ottoman military alliance against the Persian empire. However, it fell apart with the death of Sher Shah in 1545.
The Suri Empire’s Administrative Structure greatly impressed Emperor Akbar. So much so, that he commissioned his Royal Waqia-Navis Abbas Khan Sarwani to document Suri’s rule in the 1570s
Interestingly, Humayun was later supported by the Persian empire to take parts of Hindustan from the Suris when they were involved in the civil war among themselves in the mid-1550s.
Given the Mughal’s experience with the Pashtuns, Emperor Akbar left it as a law to his descendants to never appoint Pashtuns as governors, and as generals but only as soldiers, to never receive pay of more than Rs. 4,000/year. He didn’t want to lose the throne again to them. Sher Shah died on this day in 1545.
Tarikh-I Sher Shahi
Though it was Sher Shah Suri who’d overthrown his father & ended Mughal rule in the subcontinent; The Suri Empire’s Administrative Structure greatly impressed Emperor Akbar. So much so, that he commissioned his Royal Waqia-Navis Abbas Khan Sarwani to document Suri’s rule in the 1570s.
It was compiled by 1579 & presented to Mughal Emperor as Tuhfat-i-Akbar Shahi. Historian Ahmad Yadgar later named it Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi & it came to be known as such. What interests me is that the royal document calls “provinces of Sindh & Multan, country of the Baluchis.”
Furthermore, the Shere Khan, the character in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, the master orientalist whose writings have demonized Afghans across the globe, is named after Sher Shah Suri.
From there, the stereotypical character of “Sher Khan” was adopted in the English and Indian literature, cinema, and Television (also later in Pakistani media) to portray Pashtuns in specific stereotypical roles.