The Sur Empire (Sher Shah)

     The childhood name of Sher Shah, the founder of the Second Afghan dynasty or the Sur empire, was Farid.  He began his career with the administration of his father’s iqta at Sasharam (in south Bihar, now Jharihand).  Later, Farid joined the service of Behar Khan Lohani, the Afghan Governor of south Bihar, from whom he received the tile of Sher Khan.

     As Deputy Governor of Bihar, Sher Khan launched upon administrative experiments that alarmed ther Lohani tribesmen, who till then had controlled both administration and politics in Bihar.  They fled in  body to Nusrat Shah of Bengal, persuading him to invade Bihar.  Sher Khan inflicted a crushing defeat on the allies in 1530.  This victory made him the undisputed master of Bihar.  Meanwhile he luckily captured the fortress of Chunar. He got an opportunity to increase his power when Humayun marched against Bahadur Shah of Gujarat He suddenly invaded Bengal and destroyed its independence in 1537.

     The news of Sher Khan’s successes in Bihar and Bengal alarmed Humayun. He hurriedly returned from Gujarat In battle of Chausa (near Buxar) Humayun was completely defeated. Now he adopted the title of Sher Shah and proclaimed himself as Emperor of Hindustan. He ordered Khutba to be read and coins to be struck in his name.  Next year (1540) Humayun tried to retrieve his fortune, but was so severely defeated 1n ‘Battle of Bilgram or Kannauj’ that from this time he had to lead a life of wanderer for about 15 years.

     The only formidable enemy of Sher Shah to be subdued was Maldeo, the Rajput ruler of Marwar. But he eventually succeeded in controlling the whole of Rajasthan. Sher Shah succeeded in carrying out an empire which extended from Bengal to Indus excluding Kashmir.

     Sher Shah’s last campaign was against Kalingar, a strong fort that was the key to Bundelkhand; he succeeded, but died from an explosion in 1545.

     Sher Shah was succeeded by his second son lslan Shah who ruled till 1553. Mubariz Khan assumed the title of Muhammad Adil Shah and made Hemu the Chief Minister. Humayun defeated Sikandar Suri and occupied Delhi in 1555 and thus the Sur empire ended.


     Sher Shah established a highly centralised government. His administrative works were roughly divided into various departments called Diwans, each headed by a separate minister. For administrative convenience he divided the whole empire into 47 Sarkars (district) which were further subdivided into several parganas (sub district). Village was the lowest unit of administration. Sher Shah made the local village headman (Muqadaams) and zamindars responsible for local crime.

     For the convenience of travellers, Sher Shah built many sarai (inn) at a distance of every two kol (about 8 km.).  These sarais were also used as dak-chowki. The roads and sarais of Sher Shah. have been called the ‘Arteries of the Empire’. He built four roads, most famous was the Grand trunk road from Sonargaon (Bengal) to Cuttack. 

     Sher Shah improved the end revenue system by adopting zabti-i-har-sal (assessment every year) method of revenue collection. Land was measured using the ‘gaz-i-Sikandari’ and a Jarib of rope was the standard unit of measurement. He introduced two documents called patta (the amount each peasant had to pay) and qabuliyat (deed of agreement)

Sher Shah was the first ruler to introduce ‘Silver’ rupiya (Rupee) (one rupiya was equal to 64 dams) and gold coin ‘ashrafi'.

  • He was also a great builder. He built a new city on the bank of the Yamuna and another at Rohtas in Punjab.
  • The old fort (Purana Qila) and the Mausoleum which he built for himself at Sasharam during his life time are the finest monuments in India.
  • He also patronized the learned men Malik Muhammad Jaysi who completed his ‘Padmavat’ during his reign.
  • In fact, in many ways, Sher Shah anticipated Akbar, though the state under the Surs remained by and large Afghan in character. 

Related Questions

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