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Sher Shah Suri (1486 - May 22, 1545) (Pashto: شیر شاہ سوری - Šīr Šāh Sūrī), also known as Sher Khan (The Lion King), was a powerful Afghan (Pashtun) conqueror in medieval Delhi, Indiamarker. He first served in the army of Mughal leader Babur until becoming the governor of Biharmarker. In 1537, when the new Mughal leader Humayun was elsewhere on an expedition, Sher Shah Suri overran Bengalmarker and became the new emperor after establishing the Suri Empire.

A brilliant strategist, Sher Shah proved himself a gifted administrator as well as an able general. His reorganization of the empire laid the foundations for the later Mughal emperors, notably Akbar, son of Humayun. During his short five year rule from 1540 to 1545, he set up a new template for civic and military administration, issued the first Rupiya in use till 20th century, a precursor for the modern Rupee. He further developed Humayun's Dina-panah city and named it Shergarh, also founded Shergarhmarker (modern day Pakistanmarker), revived the city of Azimabad, abandoned since 7th century CE, as Patnamarker. He is also famously rememered for killing a fully-grown tiger with his bare hands in the jungle of India.

Early life

Sher Khan was born in Sasarammarker, Biharmarker, India. His original birth name was Farid-ud-din Abul Muzaffar but mostly called by the simple name as Farid. One of eight or 10 (in some sources it is claimed also of 12) sons of Hassan Khan Suri, a vassal of Sasaram and a horse breeder, Farid rebelled against his father and left home to enlist as a soldier in the service of Jamal Khan, the governor of Jaunpur (Uttar Pradeshmarker). He later became known as Sher Khan after when he killed a full-sized tiger (sher) with his bare hands.

Sher Khan belonged to the Suri ethnic Pashtun tribe (known as Afghan in historical Persian sources) his parents were Afghan nobility whom descended from a Pashtun nobleman adventurer recruited much earlier by Sultan Bahlul Lodi of Delhi during his long contest with the Sharqi Sultans of Jaunpur.

Military Campaign

Government and administration

Sher Shah Suri's empire (green) at its peak

Sher Shah rose from the rank of private to be emperor, reorganized the administration efficiently and the army and tax collections, built roads and Travellers' inns, rest houses (sarais) and wells, improved the jurisdiction, founded refuges and hospitals, established free kitchens and organized a mail services and the police. At their return, Mughals could build on his measures.

He was a visionary ruler and introduced many military and civil reforms. The system of tri-metalism which came to characterise Mughal coinage was largely the creation of Sher Shah Suri. He minted a coin of silver which was termed the Rupiya that weighed 178 grains and was the precursor of the modern rupee. The same name is still used for the national currency in Pakistanmarker, Indiamarker, Nepalmarker, Sri Lankamarker, Indonesiamarker, Mauritiusmarker, Maldivesmarker, Seychellesmarker among other countries. Gold coins called the Mohur weighing 169 grains and copper coins called Dam were also minted by his government.

Mirza Aziz Koka, son of Ataga Khan, and probably Akbar's closest friend and one the most important mansabdar's of the Mughal Empire, wrote this to Emperor Jahangir in one of his personal letters to him.

Specially Sher Khan was not an angel (malak) but a king (malik). In six years he gave such stability to the structure (of the kingdom) that foundation still survives. He had made Hindustan flourishing in such a way that the king of Persiamarker and Turan appreciate it, and have a desire to look at it. Hazrat Arsh Ashiyani (Akbar) followed his administrative manual (zawabit) for fifty years and did not discontinue them. In the same Hindustan due to able administration of the well wishers of the court, nothing is left except rabble and jungles...

Death and succession

Sher was the last Delhi Sultan to offer serious resistance to the Mughals on their advance to the south, and his death in during the seige of Kalinjarmarker (Bundelkhand) in 1545, cleared the path to the return of Mughal emperor Humayun.

Sher Shah Suri was succeeded by his son, Jalal Khan who took the title of Islam Shah Suri, and his imposing mausoleum, the Sher Shah Suri Tomb (122 ft high) stands in the middle of an artificial lake at Sasarammarker, a town that stands on the Grand Trunk Road, his lasting legacy . His death also claim as fire in his store room.

Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi (History of Sher Shah), written by Abbas Khan Sarwani, a waqia-navis under later Mughal Emperor, Akbar around 1580, provides a detailed documentation about Sher Shah's administration.

Architectural legacy

Apart from the Grand Trunk Road then known as Sadak-e-Azam ("great road"), which stretches across the breadth of Indian subcontinent from Sonargaon in Bangaldesh to Peshwarmarker in Pakistan, he built monuments many of which are extant today, including, Rohtas Fortmarker, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Pakistanmarker, many structures in the Rohtasgarh Fort in Biharmarker, Sher Shah Suri Masjidmarker, in Patnamarker, built in 1540-1545 to commemorate his reign.

Qila-i-Kuhna mosque, built by Sher Shah in 1541, at Purana Qila, Delhi, a citadel Humayun started in 1533, and later extended by him, along with the construction of Sher Mandal, an octagonal building inside the Purana Qila, Delhi complex, which later served as the library of Humayun.

Additional reading


  1. Encyclopedia Britannica, Sher Shah of Sur
  2. The Empire of the Great Mughals: History, Art and Culture Annemarie Schimmel, Corinne Attwood, Burzine K. Waghmar, Trans by Corinne Attwood, Reaktion Books, 2004, p28 - "...the 'Pashtun leader Sher Khan Suri"
  3. Pakistan & the Karakoram Highway Sarina Singh, Owen Bennett-Jones, Lonely Planet 2004, p199 - "Soon after Babur died, the 'Pashtun Sher Shah Suri seized the Mughal throne..."
  4. A Historical Atlas of Pakistan Robert Greenberger, The Rosen Publishing Group 2003, p28 - "Humayun, lost the throne to Sher Shah Suri, a 'Pashtun ruler of India..."
  5. Encyclopedia of Modern Asia: a berkshire reference work David Levinson, Karen Christensen, Published by Charles Scribner's Sons 2002, p94 - "Sher Shah Suri (reigned 1539-1545), an Indian-born 'Pashtun whose rule marked an interregnum in the Mughal control of India"
  6. Columbia Encyclopedia - Sher Khan
  7. Patna
  8. Sher Shah Suri
  9. Banuazizi, Ali and Myron Weiner (eds.). 1994. The Politics of Social Transformation in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan (Contemporary Issues in the Middle East), Syracuse University Press. ISBN 0-8156-2608-8 (retrieved 7 June 2006).
  10. Mughal Coinage Reserve Bank of India RBI Monetary Museum,
  11. Rupee .

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