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Ghiyasuddin Bahadur Shah


Ghiyasuddin Bahadur Shah sultan of Bengal. He was the son and successor of Sultan Shamsuddin Firuz Shah. During the lifetime of Firuz Shah, three of his sons including Ghiyasuddin Bahadur issued coins with full regal titles concurrently with their father's coins from the Lakhnauti mint. Ghiyasuddin Bahadur issued coins from 710 to 713 AH (1310 to 1313 AD). This concurrent issue of coins though virtually was the association of the princes in administration and sharing of sovereignty by the father with sons, the probable contest for supremacy among his sons over north and west Bengal can in no way be discarded. It seems that Bahadur was ultimately compelled to retreat to eastern Bengal sometime in 1317 AD, established his absolute authority there and began to rule this part of the country quite independently. He continued to issue coins from Sonargaon mint till the death of his father in 1322 AD. Bahadur then seized the throne of Lakhnauti, killed all his brothers except Nasiruddin Ibrahim who managed to escape and remained in hiding. Bahadur assumed the title of Al-Sultan al-Azam Ghiyath al-duniya wal-din Abul Muzaffar Bahadur Shah al-sultan bin al-sultan (The great Sultan, Helper of the world and of the religion, Father of the conqueror, Bahadur Shah the sultan, son of the sultan).

Ghiyasuddin Bahadur Shah, on strategic ground, founded a new fortified city, Qasbah Ghiyaspur, named after him, from where he issued coins in 722 AH (1322 AD). The location of Ghiyaspur has been identified with Enayetpur (still known as Khayaspur to the people of the locality), a village 24 kilometers southwest of the present Mymensingh town. A capable soldier and a politician, Bahadur Shah did not fail to scent the danger from Delhi, and realised that Lakhnauti inspite of its fortifications was not strategically suitable for an effective stand against invaders from the west. From Ghiyaspur it was more convenient to keep an eye on Lakhnauti, Sonargaon and the portion of Sylhet annexed to the sultanat of Bengal by his father.

Ghiyasuddin Bahadur Shah, the absolute master of both Lakhnauti and Sonargaon, within two years of his attaining power in Lakhnauti faced serious imperial aggression. Delhi sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq started on his eastward march in January 1324 with the object of conquering Trihut and Bengal. The imperial army passing through oudh crossed the river Kosi, encamped on that side of the river, and halted there for a month or two. Here Nasiruddin Ibrahim, son of Sultan Firuz Shah, met Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq along with some dignitaries of Lakhnauti, and appealed for military support to subdue his brother, Bahadur Shah. The emperor ordered for an immediate campaign towards Lakhnauti under the supreme command of his powerful general, Tatar Khan. Tatar Khan with a selected body of troops along with Nasiruddin Ibrahim advanced quickly, and went on until he reached the suburbs of Lakhnauti.

Having intelligence of the approach of imperial army, Bahadur Shah hurried to Lakhnauti and made preparation for war. When the imperial army under Tatar Khan reached the suburbs of Lakhnauti, Bahadur Shah led an army outside the city to give battle.

On the day following, the two armies came abreast of each other touching at a strategic point where Bahadur took his position. It was Bahadur Shah who initiated the encounter muttering to himself: 'This day is like a day of Eid unto me, since I draw my sword against the hosts of Delhi. In such a manner must I ply the sword that the reputation of my swordmanship should spread far and wide. I must earn a name on the day of battle, for the name of a warrior is better known than the warrior himself. He instantly sallied out with his contingent, emerged aggressively from the centre and rushed towards the imperial contingent under Zalchi. Tatar Jashghuri from the right wing hurried to the help of Zalchi and they jointly resisted the attack. Bahadur then fell upon the left wing of the imperial army with such vigour that the troops under Nasiruddin Ibrahim and Shahin Akhur Beg gave way. But the imperialists soon regained their position, and in their turn pressed Bahadur's army so hard that they were thrown into confusion. When Bahadur noticed the tumult in his army he found no alternative feasible but to retreat. When he retraced his steps to some distance, the imperialists fell tumultuously with drawn swords on his army who were now thoroughly confounded. After a short resistance they finally took to flight. They were pursued and many were captured by throwing nooses round their necks from behind.

Bahadur Shah retreated towards East Bengal on land route. He had evidently taken the road to his new stronghold at Ghiyaspur. Tatar Khan sent a detachment in pursuit of Bahadur under Habibullah Khan Kasuri. While crossing a river, Bahadur's mount stuck fast into the mire, and he fell together with his horse. He was soon overtaken by the hosts of pursuant from behind. Bahadur was immediately seized and was taken to Tatar Khan who brought him a prisoner along with all his elephants to the imperial camp on the bank of the Kosi.

Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq before leaving for Delhi conferred upon Nasiruddin Ibrahim all insignia of royalty, entrusted Lakhnauti to his contral and placed Tatar Khan in the government of Sonargaon and Satgaon regions which were annexed to the empire. Bahadur was taken away a captive to Delhi.

Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq, a shrewd imperialist, perhaps scented future danger from the side of Tatar Khan and Sultan Nasiruddin Ibrahim, who were prot'g's of his murdered father. In order to put a brake on their ambition he adopted a policy of check and balance, released the captive sultan Ghiyasuddin Bahadur Shah (1325), bestowed high honours upon him, and sent him back to Sonargaon which Bahadur was to rule as a vassal king in cooperation with Tatar Khan as the emperor's representative. Bahadur Shah pledged to remain loyal to the Sultan, and to send his son Muhammad alias Barbat as a hostage to' the imperial court. At first Bahadur made acknowledgement of his allegiance to the Sultan of Delhi in his coins, but he evaded the dispatch of his son to the imperial court. Bahadur Shah continued to issue coins from the Sonargaon mint in the joint names of himself and Muhammad Tughlaq till 1328 AD (728 AH). But he could little stand the vassalage with diplomatic mistrust when the Emperor associated with him the imperial general Tatar Khan in the government of Sonargaon.

Encouraged by the preoccupation of Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq in Multan to quell the rebellion of Kislu Khan, Bahadur Shah of Sonargaon made a bid for the sovereignty of the whole of Bengal, and in 1328 AD (728 AH) asserted his independence by striking coins from the Sonargaon mint in his own name. Tatar Khan gave the initial resistance, and being reinforced by troops from Delhi under Diljai Tatar met him in a battle. In the contest that followed Bahadur was defeated, fled from the battlefield, and was pursued by the imperial army. While thus fleeing, his mount happened to be stuck deep into the mire, and he jumped into a river. Instantly he was pursued and captured.

Bahadur Shah was flayed alive, and his skin stuffed with straw was made into an effigy which was sent to the Sultan while he was at Dipalpur just after the suppression of rebellion of Kislu Khan. At the Sultan's order, the effigy of Bahadur was hung and displayed together with the effigy of Kislu Khan from the battlements of the fortress, which the Sultan himself sarcastically called 'two kernels in one shell.'

Thus ended the turbulent career of Bahadur Shah, and with him ended the rule of the short lived new Mamluq sultanat of Bengal. Though the date of his first attaining power remains at all obscure, the upward limit of his independent rule can be fixed at 1317 AD and the downword limit at 1328 AD, thus giving him a career of eleven years rule in Sonargaon and Lakhnauti. [Muazzam Hussain Khan]

Bibliography Muazzam Hussain Khan, Thousand Years of Sonargaon, Dhaka, 2009.