Unfortunately, his sons were not half
the men that Babur had been. His successor Humayun was the most
capable of them, and thats not saying much. Humayun inherited
his fathers poetic and scholarly side, but was unfortunately no
fighter. Besides he was an opium addict to boot. The problem was
accentuated by the fact that he hadnt come to a safe and secure
empire there were many battles to be fought. His own brothers
were up in arms against him, the empire needed consolidation and an
administrative system had to be set up. In face of such odds, Humayun
seemed to just give up.
¤ Humayun- A Charming Person But No Warrior
To be fair to the poor fellow, he was not king material at all.
Contemporary accounts describe him as an affable, charming person
excellent at making parties go, a great friend and a good companion.
But definitely not a warrior. Left to himself Humayun preferred to
dream away his time in an opium haze, while his enemies
thundered at the gates. Blood and war was distasteful to his
rather erudite nature.
When the call came though he did lead his army to a few successful
battles. However his luck couldnt last long. In the end he was
defeated and chased out of India by Sher Shah Suri. Humayun gave up
opium and spent the rest of his days trying to get his kingdom back.
Ultimately he went for help to the Shah of Persia and eventually
managed to work his way back to Delhi,
upon Sher Shah Suris death. Although he regained his kingdom
with great effort and luck (which is probably why he was named
Humayun, the fortunate), he was not destined to rule it
for long. In January 1556, he met his tragic end by slipping from the
stairway of Din Panah as he was coming down the library. Dinpanah, the
city he started building was finished by and Sher Shah Suri.
Humayuns troubled life seemed to in the end justify a couplet
which he often quoted:
"Oh Lord, of thine infinite goodness make me a part;
Make me a partner of the knowledge of thy attributes;
I am broken-hearted from cares and sorrows of life;
O call to thee thy poor madman and lover;
Grant me my release."
¤ Sher Shah Suri-The Interim Sultan
Sher Shah Suri, the interim sultan between the reigns of Humayun and
Akbar, was altogether a much better king and administrator than
Humayun. The shrewd Babur had once remarked about Sher Shah:
an eye on Sher Khan. He is a clever man and the marks of royalty are
visible on his forehead
Without a doubt, Babur must have
wished for a son like him to succeed him. In his short reign, Sher
Shah Suri showed remarkable talents as an administrator, diplomat,
builder and reformer. A gentleman too, it seems. When Sher Shah
defeated Humayun in the Battle of Chausa, the Mughal did not have time
to save his queens and was himself saved by a water carrier. Sher Khan
ensured that the royal ladies were treated with respect and returned
to Humayun. He was an excellent statesman; the revenue reforms,
administrative system and social welfare schemes he devised and
carried out actually worked well for many years to come.
¤ Formation of The Seventh City of Delhi
Humayun and Sher Shah Suri, the defeater and the defeated, both built
the seventh city of Delhi. Humayun started it as Dinpanah or Purana
Qila and Sher Shah Suri finished it as Delhi Sher Shahi.
Probably the romantic in Humayun made him select the ancient city of
Indraprastha as the site for his new capital. Work began on the fort
and the new city in 1533. By 1538 the major construction was over.
During this time, Humayun also built a rest house for travellers
called Nili Chattri, which is now next to the Nigambodh Ghat cremation
In 1540 Sher Shah Suri took over the reigns of Dinpanah. It took 15
years and Sher Shahs death for Humayun to defeat and regain
control of his city.
¤ Construction of Dinpanah
But for now lets get back to Dinpanah, or Dehli Sher Shahi as
it was called under Sher Shah Suri. While Humayun built the body, the
soul of Dinpanah was Sher Shahs work. He built a number of
buildings within the fort with material from the cities of Siri and
Ferozabad, which, thanks to frequent invasions, were even then in
¤ Sher Mandal Tower
Sher Shah had built the Sher Mandal a two-storeyed octagonal tower in
red sandstone and the Qila-i-Khona Masjid, an exquisite mosque inside
the Purana Qila. The mosque probably best exemplifies Sher Shahs
sophisticated taste and love for buildings. It is said that originally
the entire interior was to be built with marble but they ran out of it
and so made do with red sandstone instead. But the mosque didnt
lose much by this - its quintessential charm is because of the clever
use of the stone. A plaque outside the mosque reads, As long as
there are people on this earth, may this edifice be frequented and
people be cheerful and happy in it. Well, the mosque is not in
worship now, but it is certainly frequented by many lovers of
architecture and history.
¤ Sher Garh--The Citadel
Sher Shah also built Sher Garh, the citadel of his city whose
ramparts were completed by his son Islam Shahi. The only remains of
the fort now are the Lal Darwaza and the Kabuli Darwaza. The southern
gate of Sher Shahs city has been identified as the Lal Darwaza,
which is now known more popularly as the Sher Shah Gate near Purana
Qila. The Kabuli Darwaza was the northern gate. The Purana Qila itself
has three gates, the Humayun Darwaza (Humyauns Gate), Talaqi
Darwaza (Divorce Gate! Nobody knows why it was named thus.) and Bara
Darwaza (the Big Gate). The Bara Darwaza is the one you would use to
enter the fort today.
¤ Dargah--Tomb of Sufi Saint
Sher Shah built a lot of other monuments around Delhi. In 1541 he
built the dargah (tomb of a Sufi saint) over the grave of the sainted
Bakhtiyar Kaki, popularly known as Qutub Sahib, near the Qutub Minar.
The loud mirror-and-marble domed pavilion over the tomb however is not
to be attributed to Sher Shah who would have probably reeled at the
sight of such ostentation. His taste was clearly towards the
understated, as is evinced by the ethereal marble jaali screens from
which the women may sneak a peek at the famed saints grave; for
they are not allowed in.
Sher Shahs son Islam Shah, in his short rule, managed to build
a mosque in the same complex and the fort of Salimgarh. Those are his
only important contributions to the landscape of Delhi. His reign was
cut short by Humayuns return.
¤ Construction of The Magnificent Humayun Tomb
Humayun started living in Dinpanah again. He converted the Sher
Mandal into his library, again an ill-fated decision, since he slipped
to his death from the stairs of this pavilion. The kings
grief-stricken wife Hamida Banu undertook the construction of Humayuns
Tomb in 1565. Legend has it that the design of the Taj was inspired by
this tomb. In pure architectural terms, this building is probably
superior and much more beautiful that the stunning Taj. Sacrilege?
Blasphemy? Not really - the only thing this building lacks is the
It took nine years to complete the complex and the tomb itself is a
dazzling landmark in the evolution of Mughal architecture in India.
Hamida Begum is said to have spent one and a half million rupees on
it. The plan of the building is brilliant and absolutely mathematical.
The tomb is set bang in the middle of large square-patterned typically
imperial Mughal-style garden which is neatly divided into sub-squares
by paved lanes. The fourth side of the tomb was not walled because the
river was supposed to make up for it, but the river flows there no
more. The place is studded with fountains which were the rage in those
days. The intricate and delicately beautiful latticework on the tomb
remained the trademark of Mughal architecture down the ages.
¤ Power Passed Over To Akbar After Humayun
With the passing away of Humayun, the political power passed
completely out of Delhis hands. The greatest kings of the Mughal
dynasty, Akbar and Jahangir, spent comparatively less time in Delhi.
Akbar, arguably the most important king that India produced, preferred
to stay in Agra. He built another capital city, Fatehpur Sikri, near
Agra. But it had to be abandoned because of a water crisis. Jahangir
preferred to divide his time between Agra, Lahore and Kashmir where he
built many gardens.
However there are a few monuments in Delhi which date to Akbars
time. One such structure is Adham Khans tomb near the Qutub.
Also there is a mosque that Akbar's mother Mahim Anga built, located
opposite the main entrance of the Purana Qila.
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