Thursday, December 1, 2016

The earliest extant account of Sher Shah Sur ( Padmavat of Jaisi, 1540 A.D)

By Khan Barmazid



Malik Muhammad Jaisi was contemporary of Sher Shah Sur and began writing the epic poem 'Padmavat' in Awadhi language in 947 Hijri year, that is, about 1540 A.D when Sher Shah was ruling at Delhi. This epic poem deals with folklore about Alauddin Khilji and Rani Padmini but some part of the work is dedicated to Sher Shah. Jaisi's description of Sur emperor , though over-laudatory , is strikingly true in certain particulars and is corroborated by well known historians like Abbas Sarwani and Nizamuddin who at times repeat the exact same sense of the statements by the Hindi poet. As the record is of some value as the earliest account of Sher Shah by one who was not a courtier or court-poet cringing for royal favours , but a saintly faqir living far away from the court and recording his honest impressions .. I give below a translation of that portion of the Padmavat , which deals with Sher Shah. (Dasharatha Sharma, the Indian historical quarterly, 1932)

Translation;
"Sher Shah is the Sultan of Delhi. Like the sun he pervades four quarters with his glory. The umbrella and the throne add to his majesty. All kings bow down their heads on the ground before him. He is a Sur by caste , and so is he sura (brave) in using the sword. He is wise and endowed with all good qualities. He made the warriors of nine regions pay homage to himself.

The seven isles and all the world submitted to him. With his sword he conquered as much territory as was done by Alexander , the conqueror of east and west. In his hand is the ring of Solomon, (hence) he has been profuse in his charities to the world. Bringing the earth to to an equipoise with his weight (greatness), this great and powerful king take care of all the creation.

Muhammad gives the blessing , 'May you rule for many yugas. You are the emperor of the world , and the world stands indebted to you. '

I give a description of the Sur king, the lord of the land, the weight of whose paraphernalia can not be borne by the earth. When his cavalry, infantry, and elephants march filling the world , mountains are reduced to sands and fly into air ; assuming the form of night , the sands envelope the sun , and human beings and birds return home to have rest ; the earth flying into the sky gives it a muddy colour ; the world and universe get broken into pieces ; the sky quakes , Indra trembles with fear , and Vasuki going to the nether world clings to it; Meru sinks down into the ground , the sea is dried , and woods crumble into dust ; men in the front divide water among themselves , and those left behind can not have even mud. 


When Sher Shah,  the foremost warrior of the world, marches against some one , the forts which never submitted to any one are turned into powder the very moment he begins his march.


As regard his justice on this earth , i say that none gives pain even to a creeping ant. Even Nausherwan who has been described as a great judge could not equal Sher Shah in giving right decisions. When he dispenses justice like Umar , all the world looks up with admiration and praise him. None has the courage to touch even a nose-ring lying (without its mistress) ; people scatter gold along the road , the cow and lion move by one path , and the two drink water at one place.

In his darbar he distinguishes between water and milk , and separates the one from the other. His justice is in accordance with law , his statements are true , and the weak and strong are given equal consideration by him. 

Folding its hands, all the world bows down to the ground , and prays that the emperor may live as long as there is water in the Ganges and Jamuna. 

Again how am i to describe the beauty of his form. When he goes out , all the world gazes at his face. Even the moon of the 14th lunar day created by God is surpassed in splendor by his beauty. On seeing him , sin departs , and the bowing world showers blessing on him. Like the sun he sheds his luster over the world, and overpowers the beauty of every thing else. So glorious is this Sur king that his glory is ten times that of sura (the sun) . One can not look him full in the face. Those who do that are obliged to bow down their heads . Day by that he increases in beauty. God had made him far more handsome than the rest of the world. 

He has shining jewel on his forehead. The moon is inferior , and he superior . The world eager to see him stands on one side and sings his praises. 

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. 

Such a great giver of gifts is Sher Shah born in this world that there neither was, nor will be like him, nor does any one now equal him in dispensing charity.  

The details given by Jaisi can probably help us the ruler's image in his own time. The author wrote that even Nausherwan, who was described as great judge , could not equal Sher Shah in pronouncing the right judgements. The latter's attempt to dispense justice like the caliph Umar was admired by the whole world. Further highlighting the king's charitable endeavors, Jaisi claimed that God had made him (Sher Shah) extremely liberal. Bali and Vikrama were said to be very charitable, and Hatim and Karna very generous. But even they could not satisfy people to the same extent as Sher Shah. Even a performer of ten asvamedha sacrifices could not equal him in merit and liberality'. Jaisi's account of Sher Shah's justice and charity may be exaggerated , but it is evident that the image of Sher Shah Suri as a benevolent ruler had already spread within the first couple of years of his short reign. (Salvaging a Fractured Past: Reflections on Norms of Governance and Afghan-Rajput Relations in North India in the Late Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Centuries, by Raziuddin Aquil)
 


The image given below is a folio from manuscript of Padmavat