Humayun (1530-1540 & 1555-1556)
Humayun, a cultured and learned person, was not a soldier like his father. He was faced with the problems of a weak financial system and predatory Afghans.
Bahadur Shah, the ruler of Gujarat, also posed a great threat. Humayun’s brother Kamran who was in charge of Kabul and Kandahar extended his authority up to Punjab. Humayun remembering the promise he had made to his father on the eve of his death that he would treat his brothers kindly, agreed to Kamran’s suzerainty over Punjab to avoid a civil war.
The growth of Afghan power in the regions around Bihar and Uttar Pradesh under the leadership of Sher Khan (later Sher Shah) made Humayun initiate action. Defeating the Afghans at Daurah in 1532 Humayun besieged the powerful fort of Chunar.
After a period of four months, Humayun, believing the word of Sher Shah that he would be loyal to the Mughals, withdrew the siege. This turned out to be a great mistake.
Humayun spent the succeeding years of his life constructing a new city in Delhi, Dinpanah, while his enemies were strengthening themselves.
Realizing the ensuing danger from Bahadur Shah who had annexed Rajasthan and instigated and provided refuge to all anti-Mughal elements, Humayan marched against him. He captured Gujarat and Malwa and left them under the control of his brother Askari.
Unable to put down the rebellions of the Gujarati people, Askari decided to proceed to Agra. This alarmed Humayun stationed at Mandu, for he was afraid that Askari would take Agra for himself.
Hence, abandoning Gujarat and Malwa Humayun pursued his brother. Both the brothers reconciled after a meeting at Rajasthan.
When Humayun was deeply engrossed in the affairs of Bahadur Shah, Sher Khan had strengthened himself by defeating the ruler of Bengal. Sher Khan captured the fort of Rohtas and Bengal.
After capturing Chunar Humayun marched to Bengal to confront Sher Khan. When Humayun reached Gaur or Gauda he received information on the rebellion of Hindal, his younger brother. Humayun proceeded to Agra to quell the rebellion.
Sher Khan who had been quiet all this time started attacking the army of Humayun. When Humayun reached Chausa with great difficulty there was a full-fledged battle.
Battle of Chausa (1539)
- The Battle of Chausa was won by Sher Khan.
- Humanyun was defeated.
- His 7000 Men were killed.
- Humayun himself had to run for his life by swimming across the Ganga.
- Humayun who had arrived at Agra assembled his army with the support of his brothers Askari and Hindal to counter Sher Khan.
- The final encounter took place at Kanauj.
Battle of Kanauj (1540)
This battle was won by Sher Khan and Humayun’s army was completely routed, and he became a prince without a kingdom.
Sher Shah and Sur Dynasty
From the time Humayun abandoned the throne in the Battle of Kanauj to his regaining of power in 1555 Delhi was ruled by Sher Shah of the Sur Dynasty. Born in the family of a Jagirdar and named Farid, he received the title of Sher Khan after killing a tiger (sher in Hindi).
When he ascended the throne, he was called Sher Shah. Through his ability and efficiency, he emerged as the chief of Afghans in India. His military capability and diplomacy made him victorious over Humayun and many other Rajput rulers.
Malwa fell without a fight. Rana Uday Singh of Mewar surrendered without resistance. Sher Shah’s next venture to capture Kalinjar failed as a gunshot caused his death in 1545.
Sher Shah was succeeded by his second son Islam Shah who ruled till 1553. His death at a young age led to a state of confusion about succession. Humayun used this opportunity to regain Delhi and Agra from the Sur rulers.
Sher Shah’s Reforms
When Sher Shah was pursuing Humayun, he had left Khizr Khan as the Governor of Bengal. Khizr Khan married the daughter of the former ruler of Bengal, Sultan Mahmud, and started behaving like a king.
On his return, Sher Shah ordered him to be put in chains. As one familiar with the problem of provincial insubordination, he thought that the real solution to the problem would be to set up a strong administrative system.
So he made his government highly centralized. The local administrative structure of the Delhi Sultanate was followed with certain changes. The village headmen who were made responsible for the goods stolen within the area under their control became vigilant.
The welfare of the peasants was a prime concern. When the peasant is ruined, Sher Shah believed, the king is ruined. Sher Shah took great care that the movements of the army did not damage crops.
He followed a flexible revenue system. The land was surveyed and revenue settled according to the fertility of the soil. In some areas, the jagirdari and zamindari systems were allowed to continue.
In yet other places he arranged to collect only a portion of the gross produce. Sher Shah showed the same concern while dealing with traders. In order to encourage trade, he simplified trade imposts, collecting taxes only at the point of entry and the point of sale.
The standardization of the metal content of gold, silver, and copper coins also facilitated trade. His currency system continued through the entire Mughal period and became the basis of the coinage under the British.
For the enhancement of trade and commerce, Sher Shah maintained a robust highway system by repairing old roads and laying down new roads. Apart from repairing the Grand Trunk road from the Indus in the west to Sonargaon in Bengal, he also built a road connecting Gujarat’s seaports with Agra and Jodhpur.
A road was laid connecting Lahore with Multan. The highways were endowed with a large network of sarais, rest houses, where the traders were provided with food and accommodation, ensuring brisk commerce.
Some of the sarais constructed by Sher Shah still survive. This sarais also ensured the growth of towns in their vicinity. Sher Shah practiced charity on a large scale.
He gave stipends from the treasury to destitute people. Sher Shah was an orthodox and devout Sunni.
He is said to have dispensed justice without bias, punishing the oppressors even if they were nobles or his relatives. Through stern punishments to rebellious zamindars and nobles and to thieves and robbers, he ensured effective maintenance of law and order in the empire.
The fiscal administration for which Akbar and Todar Mal have been so highly praised was largely based on the methods of Sher Shah. During his short rule, Sher Shah did not have much time for building new cities and palaces.
He started building a new walled city in Delhi, which later came to be known as Purana Qila (Old Fort). He built his own mausoleum in Sasaram.
It is a land tenure system developed during the Delhi Sultanate. Under the system, the collection of the revenue of an estate and the power of governing it were bestowed upon an official of the state.
The term refers to another land tenure system. The word zamindar means landowner in Persian. In Mughal times the zamindars were drawn from the class of nobles.
Akbar granted land to the nobles as well as to the descendants of old ruling families and allowed them to enjoy it hereditarily. Zamindars collected revenue from the tenants and cultivators and remitted a fixed amount to the state.
Humayun’s Return from Exile
After Sher Shah’s death in 1545, his weak successors ruled for ten years. Humayun, who had fled after his defeat at Kanauj, had taken asylum in Persia. Humayun then went to Afghanistan with Persian troops.
He succeeded in capturing Kandahar and Kabul. But his brother Kamran did not allow him to hold them in peace. The struggle between the brothers intensified, and yet in the end Kamran had to seek a compromise with Humayun.
Meanwhile, the Sur empire had fragmented, and so Humayun’s invasion became easy. The Afghan forces in Punjab, on the approach of Mughals, began to flee.
Humayun became the Emperor once again. He died very soon after regaining Delhi when he slipped down the stairs of the library in the fort at Delhi.
In the colorful words of Lane Poole, “Humayun stumbled out of his life, as he has stumbled through it.”