Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi

Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi was written by Abbas Khan Sarwani, an Afghan, who was serving under the Mughal emperor akbar as a waqianavis (writer). The author wrote his book at the order of his patron Akbar; in fact his book was entitled Tuhfah-i-Akbar Shahi, and Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi originally formed the first chapter of that book. The Tuhfah-i-Akbar Shahi was a detailed history of the Lodi and Sur sultans of Delhi, but the portion known as Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi is the portion available now.

The Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi has been written by a person who had marriage relations with Sher Khan (later sher shah), and he had acquaintance with other persons whose fathers had served Sher Shah and his son Islam Shah. Abbas Sarwani mentions as his sources, many other persons who held high ranking offices in the government of the Afghan rulers. The Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi also incorporated short biographies of those important personages who lived in those days.

Abbas Khan Sarwani lived at the Mughal court under Akbar, though for a short period. So he was in a position to utilise court documents and library of the Mughal emperor and also books under private possession. Though the author wrote under a Mughal emperor and was also a servant of the government, he did not fail to idealise Sher Shah by giving him credit for introducing political and administrative institutions. Being an Afghan himself, he was aware of the tribal rivalry and jealousy of the Afghan nobles and held them responsible for their misfortune and downfall in competition with the Mughals. The Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi was written in 994 AH/ 1586 AD.

The Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi is a very important source book for the reconstruction of history of Bengal. Sarwani gives a threadbare analysis of how Bengal lost its independence at the hands of Sher Shah. ghiyasuddin mahmud shah, sultan of Bengal from 1533 to 1538 AD, inherited from his father and brother a vast kingdom with well-organised administration. In spite of this Sher Shah wrested Bengal from him and this was possible by the sagacity, intelligence and prowess of Sher Shah and the folly of Ghiasuddin Mahmud Shah. From the position of the son of a jagirdar, Sher Shah became the master of a vast territory and from this position he made a successful bid for the throne of Delhi.

Although the Muslims were ruling Bengal for more than three hundred years, no contemporary history written in Bengal has so far been available. So the history of such an important event as the loss of independence, and Sher Shah's conquest of Bengal is found in Abbas Sarwani's Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi. In this book is also found the administrative arrangements of Sher Shah in Bengal. It relates the rebellion of Khizr Khan Surak, governor of Bengal, Sher Shah's quick suppression of the rebellion and, for better administration, division of Bengal into smaller units. Abbas Sarwani also relates Sher Shah's measures to keep Bengal in peace under the empire of Delhi, his political and social institutions and revenue reforms throughout the empire including Bengal. Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi also gives the information that Sher Shah constructed a road from the Panjab to sonargaon, built sarais at a distance of every two kos providing facilities for taking rest and food by the travellers and wayfarers with separate arrangements for the Muslims and non-Muslims. [Abdul Karim]

Bibliography SM Imamuddin (ed), Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi of Abbas Sarwani, Dhaka University, 1964; KR Qanungo, Sher Shah and His Times, Calcutta, 1965.