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Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah


Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah (1533-38 AD) the last sultan of the Husain Shahi dynasty of Bengal. He ascended the throne in 1533 AD killing his nephew Sultan Alauddin Firuz and ruled for five years.

In supplanting his nephew, he created enemies among the high officials and sowed the seed of internal feud in the kingdom. So, after his accession, he was beset with difficult situations. In the southeast, Khuda Bakhsh Khan, a governor and general of Mahmud Shah extended his sway over the region lying between the Karnafuli and the mountains of arakan and began to behave almost like an independent ruler. In the northwestern frontier of the Kingdom, a realignment of political powers had also been in progress. Makhdum Alam, governor of Hajipur, refused to recognise Mahmud Shah as the sultan of Bengal and on the pretext of Sultan Alauddin Firuz's death, he allied himself with Sher Khan, the regent of Jalal Khan Lohani and the virtual ruler of Bihar and showed signs of rebellion.

Though Mahmud succeeded in suppressing Makhdum Alam, the power and prestige of Sher Khan grew almost unabated. The growing power of Sher Khan led to the rise of two parties in Bihar one under Sher Khan and the other under Jalal Khan. Jalal sought the assistance of Mahmud against Sher Khan and on the pretext of leading his army into Bengal crossed the frontier with his supporters and threw himself under Mahmud's protection and accepted his vassalage.

The fugitive position of Jalal Khan to his court gave the sultan of Bengal a technical right to crush Sher Khan. Mahmud Shah sent an army consisting of artillery, cavalry and infantry under Ibrahim Khan to conquer Bihar in 1534 AD. In this expedition, Jalal Khan also accompanied Ibrahim Khan. Sher Khan took the allied army by surprise and routed them at Surajgarh in March 1534 AD. Ibrahim Khan was defeated and killed and Jalal Khan was compelled to retreat to his protector Mahmud shah.

The battle of Surajgarh broke the military prestige of Bengal. The Lohanis disappeared from the scene. Ghiyasuddin Mahmud and Sher Khan were determined to pursue the struggle to the bitter end.

In the meantime the arrival of the portuguese on the Bengal shores and their activities added to Mahmud's troubles. In 1534, they had arrived at Chittagong with the purpose of opening trade in Bengal. But they misbehaved with the Muslim governor and the traders of Chittagong. So, they were captured under the order of Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah and sent to gaur as prisoners. But the aggressive designs of Sher Khan that had been heightened by his victory at Surajgarh compelled Mahmud to change his course of action. The sultan was badly in need of allies in his impending confrontation with Sher Khan. Hence, in order to enlist their support he released the Portuguese prisoners and even employed de Mello Jusarte as one of his military advisers. The Portuguese were also permitted to establish factories at Chittagong and satgaon (Hughli).

Taking advantage of humayun's preoccupation in Gujrat, Sher Khan annexed the territories upto Bhagalpur in 1535 AD. Then he appeared before the teliagarhi pass (1536 AD) which was defended by Mahmud's army with the assistance of the portuguese. Finding the Teliagarhi pass impregnable, Sher Khan diverted his move and unexpectedly appeared before Gaur by way of Jharkhand and thereby frustrated all the defensive calculations of Mahmud. He was frightened at Sher Khan's sudden appearance. His Portuguese allies advised him to hold on till the arrival of their help. But Mahmud Shah dared not wait till that time and sued for peace. Sher Khan accepted his peace proposal, took a huge war indemnity and withdrew to Bihar.

In 1537, Sher Khan again came to Gaur and besieged the capital. At this stage, Humayun marched towards the east with a view to capturing Chunar. Realising the gravity of Humayun's move Sher Khan left his son Jalal Khan and Khawas Khan to continue the seige of Gaur and hurried to Chunar to keep the Mughals engaged there. Mahmud Shah came out of the fort and fell upon the enemy. In the battle, he was wounded and defeated and fled towards Hajipur in north Bihar. Gaur fell into the hands of the Afghans on 6 April 1538.

From north Bihar Mahmud urged upon Humayun, who was at that time halting at Barkunda after the capture of Chunar, to resume his march and expel the Afghans from Bengal. Humayun proceeded towards Bengal and Mahmud joined him at Darweshpur. On their arrival at Kahlgaon, Mahmud came to know of the execution of his two sons by the Afghans at Gaur and died in utter grief and affliction. Thus the Husain Shahi dynasty came to an end in 1538 AD and it also marked the end of the independent Sultanate of Bengal.

Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah was a weak, pleasure loving and easy-going ruler. He had neither diplomatic foresight, nor any practical approach to the political problems which beset Bengal during his reign.

In spite of his failure, Mahmud Shah's reign was not devoid of constructive activities. As a patron of architecture, he built three mosques two at Gaur and one in Mymensingh district. He also built a bridge at Dhorail in Dinajpur district in 1533, a gate for 'defence and security' of the realm in 1536-37 and a tomb at Purnia in 1537. [ABM Shamsuddin Ahmed]