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Husain Shah


Husain Shah (1494-1519) the founder of the Husain Shahi dynasty, occupied the throne of Bengal by assassinating the Habshi Sultan Shamsuddin Muzaffar Shah, under whom he had served as wazir. He was elected sultan by the leading nobles in 1494 AD.

The legendary stories about Husain's early life, narrated by Joao-de-Barros, krisnadasa kaviraja, Fariya Y Souza and Francis Buchanan Hamilton, have hardly any relevance for sober history. It is related in the riyaz-us-salatin that Husain was the son of one Ashraf Husaini, a Sharif of Makka and an inhabitant of Tirmiz (a town in Turkistan). He accidentally came to Bengal, stayed in the house of a Qazi of Chandpara, a village in Radha, where he received his education and also the hand of the Qazi's daughter because of his noble pedigree. He eventually became the wazir of Muzaffar Shah. Chandpara has been taken to be the same as Ekani Chandpara, a village in Murshidabad district. Husain's association with that part of Murshidabad is testified by a number of inscriptions of Husain Shah's early years found in the villages around Chandpara and also by the construction of a mosque by Sultan Husain in the locality in 1494. Both Firishtah and Salim call him a 'Saiyid', indicating his Arab descent, which is numismatically established. The expression Sultan Husain Shah bin Saiyid Ashraf-ul-Husaini frequently appears on his coins. Thus there may be some truth in the information found in the Riyaz.

Alauddin Husain Shah's reign witnessed widespread territorial expansion of the Sultanate of Bengal. He could secure his western frontier against the Lodi onslaught and allowed refuge to the ousted Sharqi ruler of Jaunpur. He led several expeditions against kamarupa. The Khen dynasty of Kamarupa was overthrown and Kamarupa and Kamta were annexed to the kingdom of Bengal. He advanced further into the upper Brahmaputra valley of Assam. Husain also attained some temporary success in his hostilities against the king of Orissa, Pratap Rudra Deva. Husain's coins, dated between 1494 and 1518, contain the expression 'conqueror of Kamarupa and Kamta, and Jajnagar and Orissa'. Husain had encounters with the king of Tippera, Dhanya Manikya, and inspite of early reverses succeeded in annexing a part of Tippera to his kingdom. In the tripartite war that was waged among the rulers of Bengal, Tippera and Arakan over the possession of Chittagong, Husain was also able to occupy Chittagong, which formed an integral part of the Husain Shahi kingdom till 1538. Towards the end of Husain Shah's reign a Portuguese mission came to Bengal to establish diplomatic links. Husain's reign ended in 1519 AD.

Under Alauddin Husain Shah the country enjoyed undisturbed peace and vijaya gupta, the contemporary poet, mentioned him as nrpati-tilaka (the tilak-mark of kings), jagatabhusana (the adornment of the universe) and Krsna-avatara (the incarnation of Krsna). His policy towards the Hindus was marked by tolerance and liberalism; some of the most important offices were held by Hindus. Rupa Goswami was the Sakar Mallik, Sanatana Goswami was the dabir-i-khas, Jagai and Madhai were Kotwals of Navadvipa, Gopinath Vasu was his minister, Mukundadas was his private physician, Keshav Khan Chhatri was the chief of his bodyguards and Anup was in charge of the mint. His governors paragal khan and Chhuti Khan patronised Kavindra Parameshvara and Shrikara Nandi, who prepared the Bangla version of the mahabharata.

The catholicity of his mind is reflected in the Vaisnava works, which maintain that he had much respect for sri chaitanya whom he regarded as an incarnation of God. Husain Shah offered all facilities to Sri Chaitanya in his religious propagation. The institution of jiziyah did not prevail in Husain Shahi Bengal. Husain Shah and his successors must have tried to strengthen the foundation of the state on the basis of the support and sympathy of the different sections of people irrespective of religion and creed. The reign of Husain Shah constitutes a brilliant epoch in the history of medieval Bengal. [AM Chowdhury]