India in the 16th century was a land of turmoil and conflict, where powerful rulers competed for supremacy and influence.
Among them, two names stand out: Sher Shah Suri, the Afghan emperor who overthrew the Mughals and established the Sur dynasty, and Rao Maldev, the Rajput king of Marwar who expanded his domain through 52 wars.
These two formidable adversaries faced each other in several battles, but never in a decisive confrontation. However, there was another player in the game: Humayun, the rightful Mughal emperor who had lost his throne to Sher Shah and was seeking to regain it with Persian help.
Humayun and Maldev had a common enemy in Sher Shah, and an alliance between them could have been a game-changer in Indian history. However, due to mistrust, miscommunication, and missed opportunities, they failed to join forces and instead fought against each other, weakening their own positions and allowing Sher Shah to consolidate his rule.
In this blog post, we will explore the historical context, the military prowess, the diplomatic intricacies, and the implications of what could have been a historic alliance between the Rajputs and Mughals.
The Rise of Sher Shah Suri
Sher Shah Suri was a brilliant military strategist, an efficient administrator, and an ambitious ruler. He rose from being a minor Afghan nobleman to the emperor of India by defeating Humayun in the battles of Chausa (1539) and Kannauj (1540).
He implemented administrative reforms, introduced the Grand Trunk Road, reorganized the revenue system, and improved infrastructure. These measures bolstered his control over northern India, posing a formidable challenge to regional rulers, including Humayun and Maldev.
Rao Maldev of Marwar
Rao Maldev was a distinguished ruler known for his military acumen and imperial ambitions. He hailed from the Rathore clan of Rajputs, renowned for their valor and chivalry. Ascending to the throne after the demise of his father, Rao Ganga, Maldev embarked on a mission to expand Marwar’s territory through 52 wars, capturing 58 parganas.
His conquests included Ajmer, Phalodi, Nagaur, Bilara, Dungar Singh, Bhadrajuna, Raipur, Jalore, and others. Despite facing significant military challenges, Rao Maldev’s strategic prowess and diplomacy solidified his position as one of the most powerful rulers in Hindustan.
Humayun and His Troubles
Humayun was the second Mughal emperor who faced a series of military defeats at the hands of Sher Shah Suri. He was forced to leave India and seek refuge in Persia, where he formed alliances and regrouped his forces. After regaining the throne with Persian assistance, Humayun returned to India, reclaiming territories and reestablishing Mughal rule.
The Missed Opportunity
At a critical juncture in 1543 AD , Humayun found himself in Rajasthan , a region where Rao Maldev held sway . Both rulers had mutual interests in countering Sher Shah Suri’s dominance , and an alliance between them could have been a turning point in Indian history . However , distrust and conflicting ambitions hindered their collaboration .
According to some sources , Humayun had sent an envoy to Maldev , requesting his help against Sher Shah . Maldev agreed , but on one condition : that Humayun would marry his daughter .
Humayun accepted , but later changed his mind when he saw that Maldev’s daughter was not beautiful enough for him . He secretly married another woman , Hamida Banu Begum , who later became the mother of Akbar . This offended Maldev , who felt betrayed by Humayun .
Another version of the story suggests that Humayun had asked Maldev for refuge , but Maldev refused , fearing that Sher Shah would attack him if he sheltered Humayun . Humayun then tried to persuade Maldev by offering him half of his kingdom , but Maldev declined , saying that he already had enough land . Humayun then resorted to force , attacking Maldev’s territories . However , he was repulsed by Maldev’s army , which outnumbered his own .
Whatever the reason , the fact remains that Humayun and Maldev failed to cooperate against Sher Shah , who took advantage of their division . He attacked both of them separately , defeating them in several battles . He also captured many forts and towns from them , such as Raisen , Chanderi , Kalinjar , Gwalior , Ranthambore , Ajmer , and Nagaur . He even besieged Jodhpur , the capital of Marwar , but could not capture it due to Maldev’s resistance .
The failure of Humayun and Maldev to form an alliance had far-reaching consequences for Indian history . It allowed Sher Shah to establish his supremacy over northern India , and to lay the foundations of the Sur dynasty , which lasted for 15 years . It also delayed the restoration of Mughal rule , which only happened after Sher Shah’s death in 1545 AD . It also weakened the Rajput power , which had to face the Mughals as well as the Afghans in the future .
However , one can also speculate on what could have happened if Humayun and Maldev had joined forces against Sher Shah . Perhaps they could have defeated him in a decisive battle , and ended his rule . Perhaps they could have divided his empire among themselves , and created a balance of power in India . Perhaps they could have forged a lasting friendship , and paved the way for a Rajput-Mughal alliance that would shape Indian history for centuries . Perhaps they could have changed the course of Indian history .