Thursday, November 24, 2016

Sher Shah Sur aimed at eradicating poverty from his empire


By Khan Barmazid




Rizqullah Mushtaqi, the author of Waqiat-i-Mushtaqui, who was in born 1496 A.D and who saw the reign of Lodi and Sur Sultans, informs us that Sher Shah aimed at aimed at eradicating poverty from his empire. He fixed a good amount of money equivalent to 500 tolas of gold to be distributed among the needy people daily. All deserving people in every village, blind or otherwise handicapped, got stipends. Two kitchens were constructed in the capital , one for providing food to the poor and the other for the royal harem and state officers. Food was always available in both the kitchens for people. The high nobles also imitated their master in maintaining large kitchens for the benefit of the public. (Iqtidar Hussain Siddiqui)  

Here is the excerpt from English translation of  Waqiat-i-Mushtaqi by Iqtidar Hussain Siddiqui;
 "Every one, no matter, important or unimportant , who paid visit to him (Sher Shah), did not turn back empty-handed. He was given some thing. Five hundreds tolas of gold , per day, was fixed for running the kitchen (langar) for the beggars ; food was cooked there day and night and distributed among them. He settled allowances upon the blind and helpless everywhere in the villages , as well in the cities. The two karkhanas,  ( departments) , one relating to the construction work , and the other , langar-i-Furqa (or kitchen for the beggars) were kept (running) without any interruption even on a holiday , for these two departments were meant for the good of the general public"

The royal kitchen was also (a ) large (establishment), for several thousand persons were always fed there. At every time, any person who felt like eating , he went to the royal kitchen and took his meal , this was the (royal) order. (Sher Shah) himself used to take his meals in the company of the ulamas and mashaikh. (pp-135-136)

Abbas Khan Sarwani, who wrote Tuhfa-i-Akbar Shahi on  the orders of Mughal emperor Akbar, informs us that ;
 "His (Sher Shah's) personal kitchen was very spacious where several thousand horsemen and his personal servants who were called 'Qabai' in the Afghan tongue , took their food. There was a general order to the effect: "Whoever , whether he be a soldier , a religious personage or raiyat , if he be in need of food , comes to the kitchen , he should be served with dishes and should not go disappointed." In his own army-camp he had set up langar (alms-house)  for religious mendicants and the needy , the poor and destitutes , who were given delicious food. The daily expense incurred on the establishments of kitchens were 500 gold mohurs. (Tarikh-i-SherShahi, translated by Brahmadeva Prasad Ambashthya, pp-769-770)  

Malik Muhammad Jaisi, a Hindi poet who wrote epic poem Padmavat, praises contemporary Sher Shah in 1540 in the following manner;
 "Further, God has made him extremely liberal. None has given so much charity as he. Bali and Vikrama have been said to be very charitable , Hatim and Karna were generous. But even these could not satisfy the suitors to the same extent as Sher Shah who was Meru and the ocean as his treasures. In the darbar is sounded the drum of his charity , and the fame thereof goes across the sea. Coming into contact with Sher Shah, the world has been transformed into gold , and poverty fleeing thence has gone to other countries. One who went and and asked for even one boon was never without foods or cloths throughout one's life. Even a performer of ten asrameda sacrifices did not equal him in merit and liberality. "(Dasharatha Sharma, the Indian historical quarterly, 1932)

Like Feroz Shah Tughlaq, Sher Shah was solicitous of the welfare of his subjects more than other Sultans. In one of his farmans he says, "If the insufficiency of rain destroys the crops of the year , it is necessary that the poor should be helped with money from the treasury so that as far as the resources of the state permit they might be saved from the whirlpool of destruction".  ("Some aspects of Muslim administration", R.P.Tripathi, pp-305-306)


A painting dated 1786 by William Hodges showing a view of the tomb of the Emperor Sher Shah at Sasseram in Bihar'.