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Chapter 3 – Shir Shah, and others of the Family of Sur

1540, AH 947

The ultimate success of the house of Teimur, and the great celebrity which they afterwards obtained, have occasioned Shir Shah to be regarded as an usurper. Yet, as he was born in India, and expelled a foreign family who had only been fourteen years in possession, his claim was, in reality, more conformable to justice than those of most founders of dynasties in that country.

Shir Shah takes possession of all Humayun’s dominions

The retreat of Camran seems to have been concerted with Shir Shah, for he had no sooner with-drawn than the latter monarch took possession of the whole of the Panjab. After settling the province, and founding the famous fort of Rohtas, on the Hydaspes, which he named after that in Behar, he returned to Agra, and was soon called to subdue the revolt of his own governor of Bengal. He made such a division of that province for the future as to guard against a repetition of disturbance.

Recovers Malwa 1542, AH 949 1543, AH 950

In the course of the next year he conquered Malwa; and in that succeeding he reduced the fort, which was held by the son of Silhadi, a Hindu chief, who had enjoyed great authority under the government of Bahadur Shah.

Massacres of the garrison of Raisin

The garrison surrendered on terms; but when they had left the fort, the capitulation was declared null

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on the authority of the legal opinion of some Mahometan lawyers; and the Hindus, who had confided to the faith of their engagement, were attacked and cut to pieces after a brave resistance. No motive can be discovered for this act of treachery and cruelty. There was no example to make or injury to revenge, and the days of religious fury were long since gone by; yet there is no action so atrocious in the history of any Mahometan prince in India, except Tamerlane.

1544, AH 951 Invades Marwar

Next year, Shir invaded Marwar with an army of 80,000 men. Maldeo, raja of that country, was in the height of his power, and derived additional strength from the sterility of his territory and the want of water in many parts of it. Although he had only 50,000 men to oppose to the superior numbers of his antagonist, he appears, at first, to have overawed the invader. Shir remained for a month, halted within a short distance of his army; but succeeded, at last, by the usual trick of letters written on purpose to be intercepted, in exciting the raja’s suspicions of his chiefs, and thus inducing him to commence a retreat. One of those chiefs, indignant at the imputation, determined, in the Rajput spirit of honour, to wipe it off at any risk. He quitted the army with his own tribe, consisting of only 12,000 men, and fell with such impetuosity on Shir Shah, who was unprepared for so vigorous an effort, that he threw his camp into confusion; and so nearly gained the victory, that Shir Shah, when he had, at last, succeeded in repulsing the

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assailants, declared that he had nearly lost the empire of India for a handful of millet; alluding to the poverty of the country and the low quality of its produce.

Takes Chitor Is killed at Calinjer

After this he reduced the Rana of Mewar to submission, and subsequently laid siege to Calinjer. He was here overtaken by a just retribution for his breach of faith at Raisin; for the raja refused to enter into terms which he could not be sure would be observed; and as Shir was superintending the batteries, he was involved in the explosion of a magazine, which had been struck by the enemy’s shot, and was so scorched, that, although he survived for some hours, his recovery was hopeless from the first, and towards evening he expired.

1595, May 22 AH 952, Rabi ul Awal

In the midst of his agonies, he continued to direct the operations of the siege; and when intelligence was brought to him that the place was taken, he exclaimed, “Thanks be to Almighty God!” and never spoke again.

His character

Shir Shah appears to have been a prince of consummate prudence and ability. His ambition was always too strong for his principles, and in the massacre at Raisin, he had not even that passion to plead; but towards his subjects, his measures were as benevolent in their intention as wise in their conduct.

His internal improvements

Notwithstanding his short reign and constant activity in the field, he brought his territories into the highest order, and introduced many improvements in his civil government. Abul Fazl affects to deride his institutions, which he represents

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as a revival of those of Ala u din; nevertheless, most of them remained after the downfal of his dynasty, and are spoken of by the same author, along with many others of former sovereigns, as original conceptions of his master, Akber. Another author, who wrote under Akber77, states that Shir Shah made a high road, extending for four months’ journey, from Bengal to the western Rohtas, near the Indus, with caravanserais at every stage, and wells at every mile and a half; there was an Imam and a Muezzin at every mosque, and provisions for the poor at every caravanserai, with attendants of proper casts for Hindus as well as Mussulmans. The road was planted with rows of trees, for shade; and in many places was in the state described when the author saw it after it had stood for fifty-two years.

Shir Shah was buried at Sahseram, where his stately mausoleum is still to be seen, standing in the centre of an artificial piece of water a mile in circumference, which is faced by walls of cut stone, with flights of steps descending to the water.

Selim Shah San

1545, May 25 AH 952, Rabi ul awal 15 Selim supplants his elder brother

Adil Khan was the eldest son of Shir Shah, and had been recognised as his heir by that king. He was a prince of a feeble character, while his second brother, Jelal Khan, was a man of known abilities,

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and had distinguished himself as a soldier in his father’s wars. For these reasons, most of the chiefs were disposed to support Jelal; and four of the principal of them having pledged their faith to Adil for his personal safety, and for his receiving an adequate provision, he was induced to abdicate in favour of his brother. Jelal accordingly was proclaimed by the title of Selim Shah, and a tract of country near Nana was assigned to Adil. He soon after took alarm at some proceedings of Selim; and he seems to have had good grounds for his suspicions, as Khowas Khan, the principal general of Shir Shah, and one of the four chiefs who were security for the late agreement, took Adil under his protection, revolted from the king, and marched straight to the capital for the purpose of deposing him. Selim had much to fear from disaffection at home as well as from the declared rebels; but he Quells. anticipated all movements against him by his promptitude and firmness, defeated the enemy, and in time entirely crushed the rebellion. Adil fled to Behar, and was never more heard of.

The nobles who had been secretly engaged in the conspiracy did not feel that their failure to take part with it had saved them from the suspicions of the king. One was convicted and punished; and the others began to plot anew, and took arms for their own protection, without setting up any competitor for the crown.

The contest on this occasion took place in the Panjab. The rebels were again defeated. They

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Till 1597, AH 959

retired among the Gakkars; by the strength of whose country, and the support of the Afghan tribe of Niazi, they were able to keep alive the insurrection for two years.

The rest of Selim’s reign was passed in tranquillity. On one occasion, indeed, he was informed that King Humayun, who had recovered Cabul, had actually crossed the Indus to attack him. Selim to be indisposed at the time, and was sitting under the application of leeches; but he started up on the instant, directed an immediate march, and was encamped six miles from Delhi before evening. If alarm had any share in this display of energy, it was ill founded: Humayun had only crossed for local purposes, and almost immediately retired to Cabul.

Dies 1555, AH 960

Selim Shah died after a reign of nine years. He was an improver, like his father, but rather in public works than in laws. One division of the royal palace at Delhi was built by him; and although Humayun ordered it to be called Nurghar, by which name only it can be mentioned at court, it still retains that of Selimghar every where but in the royal presence.

Account of a fanatical sect

In this king’s reign there appeared at Biana a sectary, named Shekh Allai, who preached the doctrines of the Gheir Mehdis, and by his earnest zeal and persuasive eloquence soon induced many persons to join him. They threw their property into a common stock; and some even left their families and devoted themselves to the shekh.

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Khowas Khan, the great general whose rebellion has been mentioned, was at one time among their number. At first, the shekh’s fanaticism was inoffensive; but some of his followers went beyond all tolerable bounds: they thought it was their duty to interfere whenever they saw a man in any act of sin, and if he did not attend to their remonstrance, to put him to death. The civil government, as well as the Mahometan lawyers, thought it now high time to interpose. The shekh was tried, and condemned to death; but the king remitted his sentence, and banished him to Hindia on the Nerbadda. This only spread the infection of his doctrines: he converted the governor and the garrison, and was making greater progress than ever, when he was recalled to the capital. The king was importuned by the Mullas to put him to death; and, after many delays, he ordered him to be whipped, and then left to consider whether he would recant his errors: the shekh had, previously, been seized by an epidemic then prevailing, and was so reduced that he expired at the third lash. His sect created no disturbance, and seems to have melted away.

Mohammed Shah Sur Adili

1553, AH 960 Mohammed Adili murders his nephew

On Selim’s death, his son, a boy of twelve years old, was murdered by his uncle, Mohammed Khan, who usurped his throne under the title of Mohammed Adil Shah, but is better known by that of

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and usurps the throne His vices and incapacity

His character was not such as to efface the memory of his crime; he was grossly ignorant, fond of coarse debauchery and low society, and as despicable from his incapacity as he was odious for his vices.

Hemu, a low Hindu, made prime minister

He committed the conduct of his government to one Hemu, a Hindu, who had once kept a small shop, and whose appearance is said to have been meaner than his origin.

Vigour and talents of Hemu

Yet, with all these external disadvantages, Hemu had abilities and force of mind sufficient to maintain his ascendancy amidst a proud and martial nobility, and to prevent the dissolution of the government, weighed down as it was by the follies and iniquities of its head.

Oppressive measures of the king

Adili was scarcely seated on his throne before he had dissipated his treasures by the most indiscriminate profusion. When he had nothing of his own to give, he resumed the governments and jagirs of his nobles, and bestowed them on his favourites. As the Afghans are never very capable of subordination, and are particularly jealous of any slight, the sufferers by these resumptions bore their wrongs with great impatience. On one occasion, when the king transferred the lands held by a military chief to an upstart whom he favoured, the son of the dispossessed chief started forward, and exclaimed, “What! is my father’s estate to be given to a seller of dogs ?” An attempt was made to force him out of the court; and the person to whom the grant had been made seized him by the throat for the purpose, when the young man drew

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his dagger, and laid the aggressor dead at his feet. Being now attacked on all sides, he ran at the king, who leaped from his throne, and had scarce a moment to pass into his seraglio when the assassin was at the door. The king, however, was able to draw the bolt, and was soon delivered from his danger by the death of his assailant.

1554, AH 961 Rebellions

The ill consequences of the affair did not end here. On the same day, one of the principal nobles fled from the court, and, being joined by other malcontents, set up the standard of revolt near Chunar.

Separation of Delhi and the western provinces

The king marched against the rebels; but though he defeated them in action, his affairs were little improved by his success; for Ibrahim Sur, a person of his own family, seized on Delhi and Agra; and the king, after a vain attempt to expel him, was forced to leave him in possession, and confine himself to the eastern portion of his dominions. This example of successful rebellion was not lost on the spectators.

Revolt of the Panjab under Secander Sur

Secander Sur, another nephew of Shir Shah, proclaimed himself king in the Panjab, advanced on Ibrahim, defeated him in action, and constrained him to leave Delhi and Agra. Ibrahim was now driven in on the territory still in the hands of Adili.

Revolt of Bengal

He was met and defeated by Hemu, and pursued to Biana, were he would have been captured had not Hemu’s attention been called off by a rebellion of Bengal. The usurper in this case was Mohammed Sur, who had been intrusted with the government of the province.

Revolt of Malwa

By the time Hemu had joined his master, he heard that Malwa

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had also revolted, and that Humayun, having again entered India, had defeated Secander, and had taken Delhi and Agra.

Notwithstanding this disastrous intelligence, Hemu persevered in opposing the new king of Bengal, who had advanced to some distance from his usurped territory. Hemu was again victorious, and Mohammed Sur fell in the battle.

Return of Humayun

The rebellions in other quarters still continued; but the most imminent danger that presented itself was from Humayun at Agra. While preparing to engage in this new contest, Hemu heard of the death of his enemy and the accession of Akber, who was then in the Panjab. Deriving fresh courage from this change, Hemu deposited his nominal king at Chunar, and set off with 30,000 men to recover the capital. His numbers increased as he advanced through a friendly country: Agra was taken after a siege, and all the Mogul troops who had been with Humayun were assembled under Tardi Beg at Delhi.

Success of Hemu

Having been defeated in the field, Tardi Beg precipitately abandoned the city; and Hemu now prepared to march to Lahor, and give the last blow to the apparently discomfited invaders. The general opinion in Akber’s camp was in favour of a retreat to Cabul; but Akber, who was only in his thirteenth year, left the whole conduct of affairs to Behram Khan; and the intrepid character of that officer preserved the hopes of the house of Teimur. Rejecting the timid counsels of

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the other chiefs, Behram advanced against Hemu with a greatly inferior force;

His defeat by Akber, and death

and after a desperate battle at Panipat, in which Hemu showed the most heroic courage, the Indian army was defeated, and Hemu taken prisoner (November 5. 1556).

Death of Mohammed Adili

With Hemu Adili lost all hope of recovering his dominions: he continued to reign for some time longer, till he was killed in a battle with a new pretender in Bengal.


77. In the “Muntakhib ul Tawarikh,” written in AH 1004, 1594-5.

This collection transcribed by Chris Gage
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