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Humshehri: Thinking Pakistan's History

Thinking Pakistan's History

Sher Shah Suri

Urdu Version

A successful conqueror, Sher Shah Suri not only defeated the Mughal Emperor Humayun, but is also remembered as a brilliant administrator.

Last Updated: 31 July 2014

Rise to power

Sher Shah Suri copy
Sher Shah Suri
(Abdul Ghaffar Breshna)

Sher Shah Suri, founder of the Sur Dynasty, was born as Farid Khan in 1472 in southern Haryana Punjab. He was the son of an Afghan landowner. He left home at an early age and went Jaunpur to study and soon acquired a good command over Arabic and Persian. Due to his abilities he was soon appointed by his father to manage the lands for him. However due to family problems he left and joined the services of then Mughal Emperor Babar.

During Humayun’s time, Mughal rule began to weaken. Sher Shah Suri took advantage of the problems faced by the Mughal Emperor and challenged his authority. He was able to assert his supremacy over Bihar by 1534. He met Humayun two times on the battlefield. The most decisive was the Battle of Chaunsa in 1539, in which Suri completely defeated Humayun’s forces. After this Sher Shah took the throne at Delhi. Although they met the following year at the Battle of Kanauj, the Mughal forces were demoralized and fled. Humayun was forced into exile for the next 15 years.

Rule & Achievements

Sher Shah ruled for a period of 5 years, 1540 to 1545. Although his reign was short, he left quite a mark on the history of the subcontinent. He was a great administrator. And many of his reforms were built on by the Mughal Emperor Akbar and later rulers.

Sher Shah made significant reforms in land revenue administration. For example establishing an agency that collected data on villages and land holdings and using actual measurements rather than estimation of land holdings as a basis for determining land revenues. He created a system of roads, which connected his kingdom for better transportation as well as defense. The longest of these roads, the Grand Trunk Road, still exists today. It runs for 1500 kilometers from Delhi to Kabul. He also made good use of his knowledge of the past, for example putting into practice Alauddin Khilji’s idea of a standing army. Finally he sought to reform the inefficient feudal system, continued from the time of the Delhi Sultanate, in order to strengthen the power of the central government. He divided his empire into districts and appointed 2 officers to each district to oversee law and order and collect revenue.

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Route of Grand Trunk Road

Sher Shah Suri died an untimely death from a gunpowder explosion. In his five years of rule he could not consolidate his power. However he is remembered for his practical and farsighted decisions as a ruler.

Find out more

Books & Articles

Ikram, S. M. “The Establishment of the Mughal Empire.” Muslim Civilization in India. Ed. Ainslie T. Embree. New York: Columbia UP, 1964. South Asia Study Resources. Columbia University.

Mohsini, Haroon. “Sher Shah Suri and the Afghan Revival.” Afghan Network: Culture & History.

“Sher Shah Suri.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 28 October 2013.