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Sur Dynasty

The Sur dynasty ruled India from 1540 to 1555. It was founded by Sher Shah Suri, original name Farid, who was the son of an afghan landlord, Hasan Khan Suri. The total number of the rulers remained seven, and among those seven kings only one ruled effectively, Sher Khan or Sher Shah Suri. Although Sher Shah ruled only five years, he remained so much successful in his reforms that even Mughals and the British followed his policies. At a very young age, Sher Shah left his home as a result of his stepmother’s mistreatment. He was a talented administrator. When Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodhi and assumed the kingship of India, Sher Shah joined Babur and impressed him with his intelligence. Babur appointed him as the governor of Bihar. After the death of Babur when the Muhghal government became unstable, Sher Shah took advantage of the situation and became independent.


Sher Shah defeated Humayun in the Battle of Chausa (June 26, 1539) and again in the Battle of Bilgram (May 17, 1540). Humayun, son of Babur, lost hope and left India and went to Persia. Sher Shah occupied the throne of Delhi for not more than five years, but his reign proved to be a landmark in the Sub-continent. He formulated a sound imperial administration that was inspired by the Safavid regime in Iran. Sher Shah employed a powerful army, which is said to have comprised of 150,000 horses, 250,000 foot-soldiers and 5,000 elephants. He personally inspected, appointed and paid the soldiers, thus making him the focus of loyalty and subduing the jealousies between clans and tribes. To prevent fraud, he revived the tradition of branding horses, introduced first by Alauddin Khalji. The principal reforms for which Sher Shah is remembered are those connected with revenue administration. He set up a revenue collection system based on the measurement of land. Justice was provided to the common man. Numerous civil works were carried out during his short reign; planting of trees, wells and building of Sarai (inns) for travelers was done. Roads were laid; it was under his rule that the Grand Trunk road from Delhi to Kabul was built. The currency was also changed to finely minted silver coins called Dam.


During his lifetime, Sher Shah commissioned the construction of tombs for his father, Hasan Khan Suri and for himself. A third one was begun for his son Islam, but remained unfinished due to the dynasty’s fall. Sher Shah died in 1545 by a gunpowder explosion and left his kingdom to his two sons and grandsons. Unfortunately, his successors were incompetent and succumbed to old Afghan rivalries. This resulted in the downfall of the Suri Dynasty.


The Sur dynasty held control of nearly all the Mughal territories, between what is now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan to the Bengals in the east in what is now Bangladesh. The Mughals retreated west to Persia, while most of what is now eastern Afghanistan, all of Pakistan and northern India formed the Suri Empire. During the almost 15 year rule of the Sur dynasty, the region of the Indian subcontinent witnessed much economic development and administrative reforms. A systematized relationship was created between the people and the ruler, minimizing corruption and the oppression of the public. Their rule came to an end by a defeat that led to restoration of the Mughal Empire. Today, the Sur are part of the Pashtun tribal system and belong to the sub-groups of the Ghilzais.

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