The Sur Empire: Sher Shah’s administration- Part II

The Sur Empire: Sher Shah’s administration- Part II

Administration and Contribution of Sher Shah and Islam Shah

  • Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi (History of Sher Shah):
    • It was in Persian and written by Abbas Khan Sarwani, a waqia-navis under later Mughal Emperor, Akbar around 1580, provides a detailed documentation about Sher Shah’s administration.

Law and Order:

  • Although Sher Shah ruled only for about five years, he has many contributions to his credit.
  • Sher Shah’s foremost contribution was the establishment of law and order over the length and breadth of the empire.
  • Sher Shah laid great emphasis on making the roads safe, and took stern action against robbers and dacoits.
  • He was convinced that the safety of the roads could only be ensured if the zamindars, some of whom were in league with the robbers, were kept under control.
    • Thus, he took stern action against Fath Khan Jat who had devastated the entire tract of Lakhi Jungle (in the modern Montgomery district, and the old sarkar of Dipalpur) and had caused confusion from Lahore to Delhi by his violent behaviour.
    • The governors of the sarkars Sambhal (near modern Moradabad) and of Lucknow suppressed the contumacious zamindars and rebels of the area thoroughly where they had found shelter, and sought deliverance after repenting for having committed theft and highway robbery.
    • Similarly, the governor of Kannauj dealt sternly with rebels and highway plunderers in the area under his control.
  • Thus, establishment of law and order implied not only making the roads safe, but of bringing to book zamindars and the raiyat which were remiss in paying land revenue, or in carrying out imperial orders.


  • Sher Shah laid great emphasis on improving roads and the system of communications, both to help military movements and to foster trade and commerce.
  • The roads also ensured greater control over the countryside. Thus, he restored the old imperial road from the river Indus in the west to Sonargaon in Bengal. (Shershah suri marg)

Sher Shah Road

  • He also built a road from Agra to Jodhpur and Chittor, which must have linked up with the roads leading to the sea-ports of Gujarat.
  • He built a third road from Lahore to Multan which was the starting point for caravans to west and central Asia.
  • He built a fourth road from Agra to Burhanpur, again linking it with the roads leading to the sea-ports of Gujarat.

Sarais and Dak Chauki (Postoffice):

  • For ensuring safety on the roads and for extending comforts to the travellers, he built sarais (kos minar) on the highway at a distance of two karohs (4 miles). Separate apartments were built for the Hindus and the Muslims where they could get beds and cooked food, and Muslim and Brahman cooks were appointed for the purpose.
  • There also was provision for uncooked food-supplies being given to Hindus who had their own caste rules.
  • According to Abbas Khan, Sher Shah made a rule to the effect that “whoever came to the sarai was to be served with food out of government money according to one’s rank and his pony was given grain and drink.”
  • A custodian (shahna) was appointed in each sarai to safeguard the goods of the merchants, and rent-free lands were allotted in the neighbourhood for their expenses, and for the expenses of the imam and the muezzin for the mosque which was built in each sarai.
  • Sher Shah built 1700 such sarais. They were really fortified inns, and were built strongly because some of them have survived even to-day.
    • Sher Shah caused markets to be set up in every sarai.
    • Many of the sarais became mandis where the peasants came to sell their produce, and were the nucleus for the growth of towns (qasbas) where trade and handicrafts developed.
  • These sarais must have been popular because later, Islam Shah ordered a sarai to be built between every two sarais of Sher Shah.
  • The sarais were also used for dak chowkis (postal service) for which two horses were kept at every sarai. By this means, by relays of horses news from a distance of 300 kos could reach in a day.

Trade and Commerce:

  • Apart from above steps, Sher Shah adopted other measures, too, to promote trade and commerce.
  • He struck fine coins of silver and copper of uniform standard in place of the debased coins of mixed metals of earlier times.
  • His silver rupee remained a standard coin for a long time.
sher shah coin1
Rupiya released by Sher Shah Suri, 1540–1545 CE, was the first Rupee
sher sha coin 2
Copper Dam of Sher Shah Suri, issued from Narnul mint
  • The system of tri-metalism which came to characterize Mughal coinage was introduced by Sher Shah.
    • While the term rupya had previously been used as a generic term for any silver coin, during his rule the term rupiya came to be used as the name for a silver coin of a standard weight of 178 grains, which was the precursor of the modern rupee.
  • He also made some effort to standardize weights and measures.
  • In Sher Shah’s empire, goods paid customs duty only two times—at the place of entry and at the time of sale.
    • As an example, Abbas Sarwani tells us: “When they (the merchandise) came from Bengal, the custom was levied at Garhi (Sikrigali)“.
    • He adds, “When it (merchandize) came from the direction of Khurasan, the custom duty was levied on the borders of the kingdom, and again a second duty was levied at the place of sale.
    • It is not clear why the produce of Bengal was clubbed with foreign merchandize.
  • For the safety and tranquility of the roads Sher Shah made it a rule to make the muqaddams (headmen of villages) and zamindars responsible for apprehending the culprits if the theft took place within their charge, or to make good the loss if they were unable to do so.
  • If murder had been carried out, and the murderer not traced, the muqaddams themselves were to be put to death.
  • It was a barbrous rule to club the innocent with the guilty, but it was based on the principle that theft and highway robbery were committed either at the instance of the muqaddams or that the muqaddams at least had full information about them.
  • In any case, Sher Shah’s approach appear to have yielded good results so that Abbas Sarwani says In the days of the rule of Sher Khan if an old white-haired woman proceeded on the road with a basket full of good and ornaments on her head, none of the thieves and night patrols, out of dread of Sher Khan, could even go near her.”
    • Abbas Khan’s emphasis was on the dictum “First make the roads safe from the robbers, if you want the country to remain populous and prosperous.”
  • Sher Shah also urged the local and other officials not to injure the travellers and the merchants, and not to lay their hands on the property of the merchants if any one of them should die by accident and without heirs.
  • Also, officials were to purchase goods from the merchants only at their market price. Though these injunctions were not always followed in practice as shown by similar regulations being made later on by Jahangir, and Bernier’s complaint of the mistreatment of the merchants by high nobles under Shah Jahan.

Revenue Reform:

  • It has been said that the most striking contribution of Sher Shah was his reform of the revenue system.
    •  He was well qualified to do so because he was fully acquainted with the prevailing revenue system as incharge of his father’s jagir, and as the virtual ruler of Bihar for ten years after 1530.
  • Sher Shah wanted that the assessment of land-revenue should not be based on crop sharing or estimation.
    • Nor should the village head-men and zamindars be allowed to pass their burden on to the shoulders of the weaker sections.
  • Hence, as a ruler, he insisted upon the system of measurement (zabt).
    • Although a system of measurement of the sown area was very old in India, and had been instituted or revived by Alauddin Khalji, the system of measurement introduced by Sher Shah was different from the traditional system.
  • In the traditional system, the crop-yield was estimated on the basis of sample cuttings in the sown area. Under Sher Shah, lands were divided into three categoriesgood, bad and middling, and the average yield computed.
    • One-third of the average yield was the share of the state.
    • On this basis, a crop-rate (ray) was drawn up, so that as soon as the sown field was measured, the share of the state could be determined.
    • This could then be converted into rupees on the basis of local rates.
    • The peasants were given the option of paying in cash or kind, though Sher Khan preferred cash.
  • Only Multan was excluded from measurement on account of special circumstances, the old system continuing there, with the state share being only one-fourth.
    • He also laid down the charges to be paid to the measuring parties.
  • The measurement of fields was to be carried out every year.
    • As a safeguard against famine which was a recurrent feature, a cess at the rate of two and a half seers per bigha was also levied.
  • There has been a good deal of controversy as to the extent to which these reforms were applied to different parts of the empire under Sher Shah and Islam Shah, and whether the settlement was made with each individual cultivator, or with the village headmen (muqaddams) and zamindars.
    • Although Abul Fazl says that under Sher Shah and Islam Shah, Hindustan passed from crop-sharing and estimation to measurement, but even under Akbar the system of measurement was prevalent only in the settled parts of the empire in the doab, Punjab and Malwa, and that even there it is probable that it did not cover the whole land in any province.
    • However, the starting of the zabt system was undoubtedly a significant development.
  • The amount each peasant had to pay was written down on a paper called patta, and each one was informed of it.
    • No one was allowed to charge anything extra.
    • This has led some to compare it to the ryotwari system of the British whereby the state established direct relations with the peasants.
    • However, modern research does not support this. While an attempt was made to assess the obligations of individual cultivators, the local head-men and zamindars were involved both in the process of assessment and collection of the land-revenue, and received remuneration for their services.
    • No attempt was made by the medieval state to do away with the muqaddams and the zamindars because it was in no position to do so.
    • All that it could do was to limit their exactions.

Attitude towards cultivators:

  • He was very solicious of the interests of the peasantry.
    • While looking after his father’s jagir, he is supposed to have said, “I know that the humble raiyat are the pivot of agriculture. If they are happy the cultivation will thrive. If the raiyat are in a bad condition, the agricultural output will diminish.
    • Thus, he was very careful that when his army marched the cultivated fields were not affected.
    • Horsemen were posted to prevent the soldiers entering into the cultivated portions of the farmers’ land, and he took stern action against those soldiers who were found violating this.
    • Abbas Khan says that if on account of the narrowness of the passage, the cultivation came to be trampled down by acts of necessity, trustworthy amins were appointed to measure the devastated portion of the cultivation and then to pay the compensation money to the raiyat.
  • However, Sher Shah solicitude applied only to peasants who were fully loyal, observed the imperial regulations, and paid their dues without demurr.
    • No mercy was to be shown to those zamindars and their followers who were remiss in making the payments, or did not attend the office of the amils.
    • In that case, their villages were to be captured, the men slain, women and children enslaved, their animals and property seized, and new peasants settled in the area. This, apparently, was a traditional practice.

System of government:

  • Under Sher Shah Suri the experiment in the formation of a bureaucracy under a centralised despotism had taken place. Akbar gave it a definite shape. Thus. we can say that Sher Shah anticipated Akbar.
  • Village (head = muqaddam)< pargana <shiqq (= Mughal sarkar).
  • Village:
    • The lowest unit was the pargana which comprised a number of villages.
    • Muqaddam (village headman):
      • Each village had a headman (muqaddam).
      • Link between the government and the village.
      • Not the government servant
      • He was responsible for maintaining law and order in his village.
    • Patwari, a village record-keeper.
    • Neither of them were government servants, but were entitled to a share in the produce.
  • Pargana:
    • The pargana was under the charge of
      • a shiqdar:
        • looked after law and order and general administration, and
        • responsible for the collection of land-revenue.
        • assisted by two karkuns (clerks) who kept the records both in Hindi and Persian.
      • a munsif or amil:
        • whose responsibility was to measure the land for land-revenue.
    • Both (shiqqdar and munsif) were directly appointed by the government.
    • There was also a khazanadar or poddar or fotadar who was entrusted with the treasury of the pargana.
    • qanungo:
      • maintained the records at pargana level. He was a hereditary semi-official.
    • Sher Shah considered the posts of amils to be profitable ones, and changed the amils every two years so that others close to him could also benefit.
    • This implies that the regulations he had made prohibiting collection of cesses and charges beyond those permitted were flouted in practice, and he had no means of stopping it.
  • Shiq:
    • Above the pargana was the shiq to which the word sarkar had begun to be used increasingly from the time of the Lodis.
    • shiqqdar-i shiqqdaran:
      • Head of sarkar (shiqq).
      • was the supervisor and executive officer over the shiqqdars of all the parganas in a sarkar (shiqq).
      • responsible for the collection of land-revenue which sometimes implied militarily operations.
      • The munsif-i munsifan performed the duties of amin (created later by the Mughals) at sarkar (shiqq) level.
        • responsible for the assessment of land revenue, and settling the boundary disputes between parganas.
      • There were 66 sarkars (shiqqs) in Sher Shah’s Empire.
    • The word used for the head of the sarkar was the faujdar or the muqta, and he was assisted by a munsif or munsif-i-munsifan.
  • Provincial organisation:
    • Sultanat there was no provincial organization as such but sometimes a number of shiqs were grouped together, and called khitta or vilayat.
    • This generally happened in frontier areas such as Bengal or Punjab or Malwa or some of the more turbulent areas for the convenience of defence. (several shiqqs were placed under an officer whom we can equate with the Mughal subadar).
    • Sher Shah more or less maintained the same system.
    • In Lahore, Bihar, Multan, Jodhpur, Ranthambhor and the hill-areas around Nagarkot, a number of shiqs or sarkars were group together under the control of an amin or muqta who was really a military commander.
    • Bengal was fragmented into units or shiqs because of fear of rebellion, and a non-military man, Qazi Fazilat, was appointed amin, merely to coordinate.
    • Thus, provincial governments evolved only under the Mughals.
    • Sher Shah’s contribution was to stabilize and further consolidate the boundaries and structure of the shiqs or sarkars which remained the real unit of administration even under the Mughals.
  • Sher Shah did not like the Mughal system of government in which large powers were left in the hands of the ministers who were corrupt.
    • Hence, he looked into everything himself, and devoted himself to work unremittingly, and constantly toured the country.
    • This type of personal administration is supposed to be typified by his army organization.
  • He introduced the branding system (dagh) of the horses and descriptive-rolls (chehra) which had fallen into disuse.
    • He imposed it very harshly.
    • Descriptive rolls of even sweepers and female slaves in the palace were recorded.
    • He used to personally interview every soldier and fixed his pay before he was inducted into the army, and had the horses branded in his own presence.
  • He maintained a personal army of:
    • 150,000 cavalry,
    • 25,000 bowen and
    • infantry men, including matchlock-men and bowmen,
    • a park of artillery and
    • 5,000 war elephants.
  • In addition, there were nobles, some of whom were commanders of 20,000 sawars, or 10,000 or 5,000 sawars.
  • Sher Shah himself fixed the monthly stipends of newly recruited soldiers.
    • It seems that both the nobles and the soldiers were paid by means of land-assignments or iqtas. 
  • The chiefs were under strict instructions not to take anything out of the iqtas reserved for the soldiers. Thus, the question of Sher Shah wanting to do away with the iqta or jagir system does not arise.
  • However, howsoever hard an individual might work, it was impossible for him to personally supervise the administration of a vast country such as Hindustan.
    • It seems that there was a revenue department and a department of the ariz which looked after the army.
  • There also was a sadr who looked after the revenue-free grants made to religious people, scholars, etc., the sadr being asked to review all the grants made earlier.
  • Thus, the traditional departments must have continued, but those at their head were perhaps allowed little power or authority.
    • Such over-centralization proved harmful once a masterful man like Sher Shah had been removed from the scene.
  • Summery of Adminitrative structure of Shershah:
    • Sher Shah had four ministers after the model of the Sultanate period. They were
      1. Diwan-i-Wazarat: The department was related with financial matters such as collecting taxes and maintaining accounts of the state exchequer.
      2. Diwan-i-Ariz: Headed by ariz-i-mamalik, it was a military department.
      3. Diwan-i-Risalat: Headed by sadr, this department dealt with the religious and foreign affair matters. Diwan­i-Kaza, headed by qazi, worked under this department. The qazi looked after judicial administration.
      4. Diwan-i-Insha: Working as a secretariat, it issued royal orders. The head of this department was called dabir.

      Besides them there were minor officers, two of whom (the chief qazi and the head of the news department) enjoyed fairly high rank and are placed by some writers in the category of minister.

  • At the sarkar level:
    • (i) shiqdar-i-shiqadaran to maintain law and order; and
    • (ii) munshife-i-munshifan to supervise the revenue collection.
  • Three important officials at the paragana level were:
    • (i) shikdar to maintain law and order;
    • (ii) amin to collect revenue; and
    • (iii) munsif to look after judicial matters.

Justice System:

  • Sher Shah gave great emphasis on justice.
  • He used to say, “Justice is the most excellent of religious rites, and is approved alike by the king of infidels and of the faithful.” Also that “None of the devotions and prayers can be equated with justice and here all the sections of infidels and Islam are one on the point.”
  • Justice implied making no distinction between men of his own tribe and near relations and others in awarding punishment, and to prevent oppression by those in power.
  • It is difficult to say how effective he was in practice in this sphere, despite the presence of a large number of spies who reported on everything.
  • Civil cases of the Muslims were taken care of by the qazi.
  • Criminal cases were tried by the shiqqdar.
  • Panchayats and caste bodies must have continued to provide civil law to the Hindus, while zamindars and shiqdars were also involved in providing criminal justice.
  • The largest responsibility for detecting crimes rested upon muqaddams.
    • If the muqaddam of the village, where the crime was committed, failed to capture the culprit, he was liable to severe punishment.

Shershah as a builder:

  • Surs embarked on profound architechural projects. Their buildings laid the ground work on which the Mughals built.
  • The architectural heritage produced under diverse conditions and in two separate localities of the Surs may be divided into two separate and distinct periods.
  • 1st phase:
    • Emerged at Sasaram (Bihar) under Sher Shah between 1530 and 1540.
    • A group of tombs was built illustrating the final fulfillment of the Lodi style (inspired by the octogonal Lodi tombs at Delhi).
      • 3 belonging to the ruling family and 1 to Aliwal Khan who was the architect of these tombs.
      • The outstanding amongst the tombs at Sasaram is the mausoleum of Sher Shah.
    • Buildings reflect the ambition of Sher Shah to create monuments grander than anything round in Delhi.
    • The first project of this scheme was the construction of the tomb of Hasan Khan, Sher Shah’s father, in 1525.
    • Tomb of Sher Shah (Sasaram):
      • Sher_Shah_Suri_Tomb
        Sher Shah Suri Tomb at Sasaram
      • The magnificent mosoleum he had built for himself at Sahsaram which was in a class by itself for strength, stability and harmony.
      • It was built in the centre of a large pond, approached by a causeway.
        • “Its reflection creating an illusion of movement at the same time duplicating its bulk”.
      • The building gains height and solidity by being based on a high square platform which is linked to the main building by kiosks at the corners.
        • Stands on a stepped square plinth.
      • The main building comprises an octagonal chamber surrounded by an arcade.
      • A terraced effect is given to the building by an arched verandah around the building, and the massive dome which rises in stages.
      • The neck of the dome is covered by a wall over which are placed a series of graceful kiosks.
      • There are domed canopies in each corner of the platform.
        • The massive dome is covered by a lotus finiale.
      • Constructed using the finest Chunar sandstone.
      • Considerably enlarged the normal proportions of the earlier building.
        • Increased the number of stories thus producing a beautiful pyramidal structure in five distinct stages.
    • It will be seen that many features in the mausoleum of Sher Shah are carried forward, with modifications to the Taj Mahal:
      • But while the Taj Mahal gives an illusion of being light and airy, Sher Shah’s mausoleum give the impression of strength and solidity which are considered important features in architecture, and are appropriate expressions of Sher Shah’s character.
  • 2nd phase: (from 1540 to 1545)
    • Several architectural innovations were adopted which got reflected in mature form in the consequent Mughal style.
    • This phase of development took place in Delhi.
    • Purana Qila:
      • Sher Shah built the Purana Qila on the bank of the Jamuna intended to be the sixth city of Delhi, the only surviving parts of which are the Old Fort with its massive battlements, and the magnificent mosque (Qila-i-Kuhna mosque) inside it. None of the palaces and public buildings of Sher Shah have survived.  Today, only two isolated gateways survive.
      • The “Purana Qila” built by Sher Shah, is a massive structure with walls of grey stone and an impressive gateway of red sandstone with white marble inlay and occasionally inset with blue glaze.
      • It was completed by his son Islam Shah and then Humayun. It is where Humayun’s capital Din Panah was located.
        • Later it was renovated and named Shergarh by Sher Shah.
      • West_Gate
        West Gate, ‘Bara Darwaza’, present main Entrance of Purana Qila
    • Qilsai Kuhna Masjid:
      • The only building inside the Purana Qila citadel to have survived is the royal chapel, called Qila-i-Kuhna mosque built in about 1542 .
      • The main feature of the mosque is its pleasing treatment of the facade which consists of five arched entrances (five elegant arched prayer niches or mihrabs).
        • The facade of the prayer hall is divided into five arched entrances, the central one larger than the others, each with an open archway recessed within it.
        • Mihrab:
          • It is a semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the qibla; that is, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying, of graceful proportions.
          • Each of them is set within a rectangular frame. 
      • The facade is carved in black and white marble and red sandstone, and the central arch is flanked by narrow, fluted pilasters.
      • One notable feature in this building is the shape of the arches – there is a slight drop (i.e flatness) in the curve towards the crown.
        • It is indicative of the last stage before the development of the four-centred “Tudor” arch of the Mughals.
      • The three central archways have graceful oriol windows reminiscent of the Rajasthan style of architecture.
      • The narrow turrets (small tower extending above building) on two sides of the central bay and at the corners at the backwall of the mosque give strength to the building, and balance the single Lodi style flat roof.
      • These buildings may be considered the climax of the Lodi style of buildings, and the beginning of a new phase.
      • Qila_Kuhna_Masjid_inside_Puran_Qila,_Delhi
        Qila-i-Kuhna mosque
    • Sher Shah built Rohtas Fort, many structures in the Rohtasgarh Fort in Bihar, Sher Shah Suri Masjid, in Patna, built in 1540–1545 to commemorate his reign.
    • He built a new city Bhera of Pakistan in 1545 and inside the city built historical grand Sher shah suri Masjid.
Rohtas Fort’s magnificent Kabuli Gate
Lal Darwaza or Sher Shah Gate, the Southern Gate to the Sher Shah Suri’s city, Shergarh, opposite Purana Qila, Delhi, also showing with the adjoining curon walls and bastions
  • A Humayun citadel started in 1533, and later extended by him, along with the construction of Sher Mandal, an octagonal building inside the Purana Qila complex, which later served as the library of Humayun.
Sher Mandal
Sher Mandal, Humayus’s private library (in Purana Qila) –octagonal tower of red sandstone- Humayun fell down the stairs here and died
  • These examples suffice to show that Sher Shah had great understanding and sensibility for architecture.
  • Although Sher Shah was generous in providing support and patronage to religious divines and scholars, the Sur period was too brief to produce any remarkable work of note, the only exception being the Hindi work Padmavat by Malik Muhammad of Jaisi in east U.P.

Character of the State under the Surs:

  • Sher Shah’s state is said to be “a compromise between the Afghan and Turkish theories of sovereignty”.
  • The Afghan sardars were not supposed to be partners in the kingdom, but like Sher Shah himself, any of them could aspire to suzerainty.
  • Although Sher Shah was a despot, and kept the nobles under strict control with the help of spies, he paid attention to the susceptibilities and needs of his nobles and the soldiers.
    • The noble posted as incharge of sarkar or wilayat was not given unlimited powers. He was regularly directed through royal farman to implement new rules and regulations.
    • Sher shah was an absolute monarch for all practical purposes.: It was demonstrated in the Sher Shah’s policy with regard to the planting of Afghan colonies in the territories known for recalcitrant inhabitants (Gwaliar).
    • Organizing nobility in order to safeguard the interest of dynast:
      • No group was strong enough to assume the shape of a pressure group.
      • Even non-Afghan nobles, Khawwas Khan, Haji Khan and Habib Khan Sultani holding the charge of important provinces with large iqtas. This shows that the establishment of a pure Afghan nobility was never a consideration with Sher Shah.
      • However, the nobility under Sher Shah and Islam Khan was predominantly Afghan. He paid special attention to the recruitment of Afghans who rallied around him.
  • Sher Shah tempered his despotism by generosity and benevolence.
    • He is reported to have ordered his high officials to maintain records of all the disabled and handicapped persons in different towns, cities and territories.
    • All of them received maintenance allowances as well as cash grants.
  • He maintained a large langar khana (free kitchen) for the poor and the needy and this example was followed by some of his nobles.
  • Sher Shah was an orthodox Muslim and observed his prayers regularly.
    • He was well acquainted with religious sciences, and constantly associated with learned men and religious divines.
    • However, he was not bigoted. The cruel treatment meted out to Puran Mal of Chanderi cannot be justified, but it was a political measure which was given a religious gloss.
  • Although jizyah continued to be collected, it is called a city tax which implies that it was collected in the countryside as a part of land-revenue.
    • There are no reference to destruction of temples.
    • There are a few references to grant of rent-free lands not only to Muslims and foreign scholars, but also to brahmans, temples and maths.
    • Thus, when Sher Shah was leading the expedition to Kalinjar, he met a brahman and was impressed by his frankness in speaking and gave him in grant one entire village in sarkar Kalpi and five hundred rupees in cash.
  • Islam Shah took an important step in limiting the influence of the ulama.
    • He issued detailed orders not only on administration and revenue matters which had to be followed in every sarkar, but also in religious matters, without bothering whether they were in conformity of the sharia or not.
  • As the administration tightened, more and more Hindus were appointed to the revenue department, to the discomfiture of the Afghans.
    • Opportunities for the Hindus broadened till under Adali, a successors of Islam Shah, Hemu, who had started official life as a shuhna of the market at Delhi, rose to the highest position of wazir.
    • Although this happened in a period of disintegration, it showed a trend whereby the Afghans state set up by Sher Shah was slowly opening out and the social base of the ruling class becoming broader.
    • But a basic change had to await the arrival of Akbar.

Sher Shah combined in himself qualities of lion and fox:

  • Sher Shah had quality of ‘planning like a fox’ and ‘attacking like a lion’.
  • Sher Shah with qualities of fox:
    • Many of Sher Shah’s military compaigns exhibit his tricks and tactics which reflects his political shrewdness. The folllwing events prove his political shrewdness and quality of fox.
      • In 1537, at Rohtas, the Hindu Raja jad agreed to shelter Afghan women but was tricked and the fort was captured.
      • In 1543, during his compaign against Chanderi, he swore on Quran that he would spare life, honour and properties of Rajputs if they surrendered but when they surrendered, they were butchered.
      • In 1539, at Chausa, he attacked sleeping Mughal soldiers.
      • To capture Jodhpur, he used forgery of letter to create suspicion among Rajputs.
  • Sher Shah with qualities of lion:
    • He led many military compaigns with boldness and bravery. He was able to defeat powerful Mughal army.
    • His qualities of lion are displayed by his enlightened despotism.
      • As the Sultan, he improved the administration, carried out currency and revenue reforms, systematised military by reintroducing dagh and chehra, built highways, provided for amenities for travellers, delivered justice, patronised learned men, showed liberal attitude towards non-Muslim objects.

Q. Make a comparative review of the agrarian reforms of Alau-ud-Din Khalji and Sher Shah Suri.


Agrarian reforms of Alau-ud-Din Khalji:

  • Expanded Khalisa:
    • The area in closer association with the government in the area extending from Dipalpur and Lahore to Kara near modern Allahabad were brought under Khalisa. Thus, these areas were not assigned to any of the nobles as Iqta.
  • The land was to be measured (masahat), Bishwa was the basis unit and the land revenue fixed on the yield of each unit of the area.
    • Determination of produce per Bishwa was known as wafa-i biswa. Most probably, it was levied separately on the holding of each individual cultivator.
  • The intermediaries and the peasants alike were to pay the same standard of the demand (50%) without any distinction, be they intermediaries or ’ordinary peasant’ (balahar).
  • He also levied Kharaj, Jazia, Karai-Gharia-Charai on peasants.
  • The perquisites of intermediaries were disallowed.
  • The grazing and the house tax (Ghari) were to be taken from the intermediaries also.
  • Privileges of Khuts, Muqaddam, Choudhary etc. were abolished.

Agrarian reform of Sher Shah Suri:

  • It seems to have been inspired by the history of Sultan Alauddin Khalji’s reign. He adopted most of the rules and regulations introduced by the Khalji Sultan. However, like Khalji he was not harsh in their implementation.
  • Revenue measures by him:
  • Sher Shah appointed new revenue officials at the pargana and sarkar level and curtailed the powers and privileges of the land assignees (i.e. wajahdars and muqtas).
  • The unruly zamindars were forced into submission. They were also made accountable for every crime committed within the boundaries of their zamindari.
  • He established the System based on measurement and survey. This system was called Zabt.
    • The methods of crop-sharing and revenue farming were abolished and that of zabt (measurement) was enforced everywhere.
    • For measurement a unit called Sikandari Gaj was used. Sikandari Gaj was introduced by Sikandar Lodi and it was equivalent to 39 inches.
  • He introduced:
    • Patta (it was a written document in which the amount or rate of the revenue demanded by the government was mentioned) and
    • Quabooliyat (The agreement by peasants to pay the amount of revenue demanded) system.
  • Shershah also introduced direct remittances of the taxes to the government so that the taxpayers are saved from any exploitation by the middle officers.
    • He placed combined rate of Jaribana (Survey fee) and Mahasilana (Collection fee) between 2.5% to 5%.
    • The offenders among the officials were punished.
  • Sher Shah ordered the land under cultivation to be measured every year at the harvest time. The state’s share in the produce was determined according to the royal regulation.
  • This system was prevalent throughout the Empire except for the combined provinces of Multan and Sind.
    • The territory of Multan had been ruined by the oppressive Biloch rule.
    • Therefore, Sher Shah directed its governor to develop the region and realize from the cultivators only one-fourth of the produce in accordance with the crop-sharing method.
  • Abul Fazl tells us that Sher Shah on the basis of fertility of soil divided the lands into three categories, the good, middling and bad.
    • An average produce of these three types of soil was taken as standard yield per bigha.
    • One third of this standard yield was fixed as state share.
    • A rai (schedule of crop-rates or list of cash rate of different crops) was prepared for the convenience and guidance of the revenue collectors.
    • The state share now could be easily converted into cash rates, according to the market prices.
    • According to Abul Fazl, “The revenue demand levied by Sher Khan (Sher Shah), which at the present day is represented in all provinces as the lowest rate of measurement generally obtained, and for the convenience of the cultivators and the soldiery, the value taken in cash money.
  • Thus, it is clear that the state’s share was fixed in kind per bigha but collected in cash after it had been commuted according to the prevailing prices in the area.

Major similarity between these two reforms:

  • Both of them increased the directed control over the revenue collection of provinces.
  • Power of intermediaries were curtailed.
  • System of measurement and survey were introduced.
  • Unruly elements during reign of both were forced to submission.

Major differences in these two reforms:

  • Sher shah preferred revenue collection in cash but Alaunddin preferred it in kind as it helped him in undertake price controlled measures.
  • Alaunddin’s revenue demand was too high (more than 50%), Sher shah’s revenue demand was only 1/3 of the total produce.
  • Alauddin levied other kind of taxes on peasants e.g: Kharaj, Jazia, Karai-Gharia-Charai.
  • Lands was classified during Sher Shah according to the soil fertility.
  • Shershah’s Ray is another different feature that was not there during Alaunddin time.

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