Rule of Afghans

Rule of Afghans began in Bengal in 1538 following the fall of Hossain Shahi Dynasty. At the Beginning, the period of their rule was very short, about six months (April-September, 1538). But the next term lasted for a long period from 1539 to 1576. Before the occupation of Bengal by Sher Khan (Afghan) in 1538, Afghans used to serve the Sultans of Bengal. The Sultans of Bengal had appointed them in various government departments. Several thousand Afghans were recruited in the army of Sultan Muzaffar Shah (1490-1493), the last Habsi (Abyssinian) ruler of Bengal. Sultan Alauddin husain shah (1494-1519) also recruited a good number of officers and jawans in different branches of his armed forces. Later, during the rule of Sultan nusrat shah (1519-1532), Afghans played a very important role holding key positions like commander.

In this backdrop, sher shah conquered Bengal and ascended its throne. Afghan officers and troops rejoiced the victory of Sher Shah, their compatriot and accepted his command.

Bengal under Sur Dynasty (1538-1553) Afghans had started developing their establishment in Bihar from the beginning of 13th century. The process had reached its peak with the establishment of Lodi rule in Delhi. Afghan leader Daria Khan Luhani and his son Bahar Khan Luhani ruled the State of Bihar successively. Bahar Khan refused to accept the authority of Lodi ruler and proclaimed the independence of his state designating himself as Sultan Muhammad Lohani sometime after 1522. After his death in 1527, his son Jalal Khan Lohani ascended the throne of Bihar. Mahmud Lodi, brother of Ibrahim Lodi, later occupied Bihar from Jalal Khan. The situation compelled Jalal to take refuge in Bengal. Sultan Nusrat Shah had granted him political asylum. Later he also granted asylum to Mahmud Lodi, as he was driven out from Bihar by the Mughal emperor babur.

After the death of Babur in 1530, Mahmud Lodi again tried to rejuvenate the Afghans. But humayun, son of Emperor Babur defeated him in the battle of Dorah in 1532. Later in April 1538 Sher Khan occupied Gauda defeating Sultan Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah, the last ruler of Husain Shahi dynasty. And thus he founded the rule of Afghan of Sur dynasty in Bengal. But responding to the appeal of Sultan Mahmud Shah for help Mughul emperor Humayun came forward and occupied Gauda without any resistance from the Afghans on 8 September 1538. He stayed there for next eight months and then left Bengal for Delhi as the fratricidal conspiracy began there over the throne of Mughal Empire. On the way Sher Khan launched a surprise attack and defeated the Mughal Emperor in that battle. Sher Khan successively defeated and killed Jahangir Quli Khan, the Governor of Bengal requiring the control of Gauda (October 1539).

Realising the importance of Bengal for the development of his empire, Sher Shah gave attention to its administrative reform and reorganisation. He dismissed Khijir Khan, the first governor of Bengal, on charge of fraudulent act and divided whole territory of Bengal including Chittagong into small units. He placed all there administrative units under a Muqtar and appointed Kazi Fajilot as the Chief Supervisor of muqtars. This plan of Sher Shah became very effective for running the administration and ultimately Afghans settled in Bengal permanently by associating themselves closely and deeply with the local environment and culture.

Islam Shah (1545-53) son and successor of Sher Shah, retained his control over Bengal. He appointed Muhammad Khan Sur as the new governor of Bengal in 1945, dismissing Kazi Fajilat to further consolidate the administrative machinery. The new governor also consolidated his own position by awarding death penalty to a rebel named Sulaiman.

Independent Sur Sultanate (1553-63) After the death of Islam Shah in 1553, Adil Shah occupied the throne of Delhi. The Governor of Bengal Muhammad Khan Sur proclaimed independence of Bengal taking the title of Sultan Muhammad Shah Gazi and denied to recognise the authority of the new ruler of Delhi. Muhammad Shah and Bahadur Shah, only two out of four sultans of Sur dynasty were able to establish themselves as eligible Sultans. Muhammad Shah not only recaptured Chittagong from the king of Tripura, he also annexed Arakan region. His authority was also recognised in Bihar. The sole authority of Muhammad Shah in Eastern India instigated him to stand against Adil Shah Sur. He occupied Jaunpur and advanced towards Delhi. But in a battle held at Chhapparghata in December 1555, Himu the commander of Adil Shah killed Muhammad Shah, the Sultan of Bengal.

After the death of Muhammad Shah, his eldest son Khijir Khan became the Sultan taking the title of Giasuddin Abul Mujaffar Bahadur Shah. Soon after the coronation, Sultan Giasuddin along with his forces went out for a battle against Adil Shah to retaliate his father's killing. The battle was took place at Fatehpur, four miles west of Surujgarh under Munger and defeated Adil Shah's troops and captured him. Later Adil Shah was killed. A vast area from Jounpur to Chittagong came under the rule of Bahadur Shah and he established friendly relation with Khan-e-Zaman, the Governor of Eastern Province of Akbar. Bahadur Shah ruled Bengal till his death in 1560. His brother Jalal Shah came to power and ruled Bengal till 1563, when another Afghan Giasuddin occupied Bengal by force assassinating Jalal Shah. Subsequently Taj Khan Karrani toppled the occupied forces and killed their leader Giasuddin. And thus the rule of Karrani Dynasty began in Bengal.

The Karrani Dynasty (1563-76 AD) The Afghans welcomed the rise of Karranis in eastern region of India as they had lost power to the Mughuls in North India. Many Afghans fled away from the north to Bihar and Bengal for taking refuge there. The exodus strengthened the hands of Karrami rulers. Taj Khan Karrani was a seasoned politician as he joined in politics back in 1540. Famous historian Badayuni termed him correctly as the most wise and educated person among the Afghans. sulaiman karrani, the brother of Taj Khan Karrani was sworn in power just after him in 1563AD. He ruled the country till his death in 1572. He shifted the state capital to Tanda from Gauda as its weather and environment became adverse and unsuitable for human being as well as animals and birds.

One of the most glorious and unique military achievements of Sulaiman Karrani was the victory of Orissa. He defeated King Mukunda Dev in 1567 and took necessary steps to run its administration properly. Later in 1568, Sulaiman Karrani annexed Kochbihar under his rule. The Afghans advanced upto Tejpur and occupied many places around the Koch capital and frontiers.

The foresightedness of Sulaiman Karrani overshadowed his relationship with Mughal Emperors. He was a highly skilled diplomat and being an experienced and tactful ruler, he used to send many types of bequests to emperor Akbar to satisfy the ego of the Mughals. Even, he often expressed his loyalty to the Mughals saying he would introduce khutba in the mosque and issue coins in the name of the Emperor.

Sulaiman Karrani, the most competent and the great statesman among the Afghan rulers of East India, died perhaps in 1572. He was buried at Tanda. His son bayazid karrani was sworn in after him. He assumed all the royal authority with the co-operation of all leading elites including Lodi Khan Karrani. Earlier, as a crown prince, Bayazid was highly aspirant about his future position. But after becoming the Sultan he adopted a policy of repression and harassment. This situation compelled the members of his council to stand unified against him. They killed him within a month and placed prince Daud Khan Karrani, his younger brother, as the new Sultan.

After the coronation, Daud Khan Karrani observed that an intersection there was enmity among the Afghan elites. His administrative function started with the retaliation of his brothers Killing. He punished his cousin Hasan, son of khwaja Elyas Karrani, who executed Sultan Bayazid. He consolidated the sovereign power of Bengal Sultanate by introducing khutba and inscribed coins by his own name. Such steps made emperor Akbar very discontented. Daud Karrani appointed Lodi Khan Karrani as the governor of Bihar and neutralised another influential Afghan Guzor Khan.When Guzor Khan extended his support to sultan Daud, all the elements of mass uprising in Bihar subsided.

These dramatic changes in the internal politics and the resultant tensed situation were very significant to the Mughal imperialists. Because they were waiting to take advantage of the situation. Meanwhile, Daud Khan Karrani killed his commander-in-chief Lodi Khan and for this immature act facilitated to deteriorate the situation further. The well-wishers of Lodi Khan took his son Ismail to the Mughal governor munim khan to seek his security.

This dramatic change gave Munim Khan a unique opportunity to siege Patna. As a result, Daud Karrani had to leave Patna immediately and through teliagarhi, tandah and satgaon he reached in a far place, Cuttack of Orissa. Mughal forces also chased him quickly, which resulted a war, which is known as the battle of Tukaroy in history. The war was ended on 3 March 1575 with the signing of the Cuttack Treaty, under which Daud Khan Karrani promised not to go against the Mughal anymore.

Meanwhile Munim Khan died and Hossain kuli Khan-e-Jahan became the Mughul Governor. In this juncture, Daud Khan Karrani again announced battle against the Mughals. Daud was defeated in the battle of rajmahal on 12 July 1576 (15 Rabi II 984 AH). He was arrested and killed by the order of Khan-e-Jahan and that was end of Karrani Dynasty.

Karrani Sultans had highly commendable qualities as administrator. The cause behind the fall of their dynasty was not the military supremacy of Mughals, rather the internal conflict and enmity of Afghan elites and the betrayal of their trusted Hindu allies.

Having no leader, the Afghans assembled under Qutlu Khan Lohani, who had the main base at Ghoraghat and from there he used to run his administration on a vast area of Bihar and Orissa. After him Isa Khan Lohani, his sons Khwaja Sulaiman Lohani and Khwaja Usman Lohani led the Afghans successively. Isa Khan was the guardian of Qutlu Khan's minor son Nasir Khan Luhani. Sulaiman Lohani died suddenly in 1594 and after that his other son Usman Lohani (known as usman khan afghan) led the Afghans. He established friendly relation with the chief of Bara Bhuyians isa khan and other feudal kings and zamindars of Bengal. At that time Usman Lohani had an administrative set up over the vast tract of the east coast of brahmaputra river. After the death of Usman Lohani, his followers surrendered to the Mughal authority during the rule of subahdar islam khan chisti in Bengal. [Muhammad Ibrahim]