By Dr R. Brahmachari
The story of Raja Vikramaditya Hemraj or Himu is one of the most spectacular and brightest episodes of Indian history, that narrates the life of an extraordinary brilliant son of Bharat Mata who, during the heydays of Muslim rule in the country, raised himself from a humble vegetable vendor to the highest government post of a Prime Minister or wazir (that too in the court of a Muslim king), and ultimately to the throne of Delhi, assuming the title of Vikramaditya or Raja Vikramjit, by dint of sheer merit, ability, extraordinary military skill and bravery. Most of the Hindu heroes of that time, like Rana Pratap, emperor Prithviraj Chauhan, Maharana Sangram Singh, and others were born in royal families, but Himu did not have any such advantage, and this is enough to estimate his towering personality. So, to adore him, the eminent historian, Shri R.C. Majumdar writes: ?For there is no doubt that he (Himu) furnishes the only shining example of a Hindu, born and brought up as such in a Muslim State, who once dominated the political stage of northern India by sheer merit and personality, without any advantage of birth or fortune. As no such attempt seems to have been made in any general history of India so far, no apology is needed for the short sketch of life and activities of the great Hindu commoner, Hemchandra, called by his Afghan followers, after his accession to the throne of Delhi, as Hemu Shah.?1
When the brilliant star named Himu appeared in the sky of northern India, the political scenario was extremely chaotic. In fact, it was the period of intense struggle between Afghan and Mughal invaders to acquire the right to devastate India. In a.d. 1540, Sher Shah defeated the Mughal invader, Humayun, in a battle near Vilgram on May 17, and ascended the throne of Delhi. After his death on May 22, 1545, anarchy reigned. The nobles made Jalal Khan, the second son of Sher Shah, the Sultan of Delhi, thus depriving the eldest Adil Khan the right to the throne as the latter was incompetent, lazy and ease-loving. After ascending the throne, Jalal Khan assumed the little of Islam Shah. Soon after, a group of nobles made a conspiracy to murder Islam Shah and put Adil on the throne. But the plan leaked out and Islam Shah put all the conspirators to the sword.
On November 22, 1554, Islam Shah, after ruling for nine years and six months, died and his nobles put his minor son Firuz on to the throne. But after a few months, Mubariz Khan, a cousin of Firuz, murdered him and ascended the throne assuming the new name of Muhammad Adil Shah. But he was unsuitable as a ruler.
In that hour of crises, Adil Shah appointed Himu the Wazir, or the Prime Minister, of his court and handed over civil, military, finance and, in fact every other responsibility to him.
On the other hand, the news of Islam Shah'sdeath inspired Humayun to invade India and recover his lost territory. At this juncture, Bairam Khan came to Humayun'shelp and that enhanced his strength considerably, enabling him to reconquer Babur. News of these developments made Adil very shaky and he gave up all the responsibilities to his most trusted employee Himu, a Hindu officer, and this incident facilitated Himu to rise as the most important man in north Indian politics. This was the time when the star of Himu'sfortune shone brightest. Adil Shah appointed him the wazir (Prime Minister) and the incident initiated his rapid rise.
Who this Himu was?
Historian R.C. Majumdar, in this regard, writes, ?Himu was born in a poor family of Dhansar section of the Baniya caste, living in a town in the southern part of Alwar.? Muslim historian Badayuni has described him as a resident of a small town called Rewari in the taluka of Mewat, and according to him, Himu began his life as a green vendor. However, at a certain stage, he succeeded to draw the attention of Adil Shah, who appointed him the superintendent of the Delhi market. But by dint of his sincerity and sense of responsibility, he became a favourite of Adil, who started to elevate him to more and more responsible posts. When Adil Shah died, Himu was the chief of the intelligence department and, at the same time, head of the postal department (daroga-e-dak chowki).
Then Junaid himself advanced with and 8,000-strong cavalry to confront Himu, while Himu had only 3,000 horses. So he decided to attack the enemy in the darkness of night and Ahmmad Yadgar, in his Tarikh-e-Salatin-e-Afghana, writes, ?The enemy remained on the alert during the three watches of the night; but in the last watch, they grew negligent and fell asleep… The soldiers of Adil Shah fell furiously on them on all sides.? Himu did not give them the time to put on their armour and the Afghans, sword in hand, passed through their enemy, slaughtering all they met?. He then went to the court of Adil Shah and Yadgar writes, ?He (Himu) then stood with folded hands in front of the throne. Adil Shah honoured him with a purple kilat (garment), the collar and the skirt of which were covered with jewels?.
Meanwhile, in 1555, Sikandar Shah invaded Delhi. In a severe battle, he defeated Ibrahim and thus Delhi went under the control of Sikandar. On the other hand, the rivalry among the Afghans provided a great opportunity for the Mughals to recover their lost empire. In November 1554, Humayun left Kabul, advanced towards Lahore, and in February 1555, gained control over the city almost without any resistance. Then Sikandar Shah marched against Humayun with a 30,000-strong cavalry. A severe battle took place at Machhiwara near Ludhiana and Sikandar Shah suffered a compete defeat. Sikandar then marched against Humayun with 80,000 horsemen, but he was again defeated in a battle near Sirhind, and he fled to Sivalik Hills.
Himu was a great warrior and visionary.
Ascendency of Himu
In that hour of crises, Adil Shah appointed Himu the wazir, or the Prime Minister, of his court and handed over civil, military, finance and, in fact every other responsibility to him.
After assuming the new responsibility, Himu at once marched against Ibrahim and defeated him twice, first at Kalpi and then at Khanwa.Himu then marched against Muhammad Shah and a battle was fought at Chhapparghatta, a place 20 miles away from Kalpi. Muhammad Shah was defeated and Himu gained control over Bengal.
Meanwhile, on January 26, 1556, Humayun died and Himu sought permission from Adil to attack Delhi.
As Himu drew closer to Agra, a frightened Iskandar Khan, the Mughal Governor of the city, fled to Delhi. So Himu occupied Agra practically without resistance and then the victorious wazir marched towards Delhi. Alikuli Khan, the Mughal Governor of Delhi, also prepared a strong force to confront Himu and a fierce battle followed. Then victorious Himu entered Delhi and Nizamuddin Ahmad, in his Tarikh-e-Akbari, writes, ?Humayun had greatly vaunted his achievements at Delhi and had taken to himself the title of Raja Bikaramjit.?
The news of the fall of Delhi and the skill and bravery of Himu reached the Mughal prince, Akbar in time. Nearly 10 months later, Akbar, with a great force of 26,000 horsemen under the command of Bairam Khan marched towards Delhi.
The battle began in the morning on November 5, 1556, at Panipat and to describe the same, Nizamuddin Ahmmad writes, ?Himu then advanced with his elephants, and made such a determined charge on the Imperial army that the left wing was shaken.? Himu then drew off his forces, and made an assault upon the centre, which was under the command of Khan Zaman. He led all his elephants against the Khan'smen, who received him with a shower of arrows. An arrow pierced the eye of Himu, and came out at the back of his head. When those who were fighting under him saw his condition, their hands got paralysed, and they broke. The imperial forces pursued them, and cut many of them to pieces?. According to Abul Fazl, Himu had divided his army into three divisions and he himself was leading the central division with 500 elephants and 20,000 Afghan and Rajput horsemen. So, many believe, when Himu was on verge of winning the battle, the accident occurred, leading to his defeat.
According to Yadgar, Alikuli Khan could trace the elephant of Himu in the forest, brought it back and placed Himu before Bairam Khan, and writes, ?Bairam Khan? caused Himu to descend from the elephant, after which he bound his hands, and took him before the young and fortunate prince, and said: As this is our first success, let Your Highness'sown august hand smite this infidel with the sword?. The prince, accordingly, struck him and divided his head from his unclean body.?
But according to Vincent Smith, Akbar himself struck Himu with his sword to earn the tile of Ghazi, and writes, ?Bairam Khan desired Akbar to earn the title of Ghazi, or slayer of the infidel, by flashing his sword on the captive. The boy naturally obeyed his guardian and smote Himu on the neck with his scimitar. The bystanders also plunged their swords into the bleeding corpse. Himu'shead was sent to Kabul to be exposed, and his trunk gibbeted at one of the gates of Delhi.?
Himu was victorious, and Ibrahim fled to his father at Bayana. Himu followed and invested Bayana, which he besieged for three months Himu then marched against Muhammad Shah.
But the tale of Himu did not end with his death. Intelligence came to Akbar that Himu'sfather, his wife and other members of his family were living in Alwar with their properties and wealth and, on the pretext of a possible revolt by Haji Khan, the Governor of Alwar, he sent a detachment to Alwar, under the cammand of Nasir-ul-Mulk, a.k.a. Pir Muhammad. The Mughal army brought the Mewat region under the rule of Delhi and Pir Muhammad executed Himu'sfather.
Historian R.C. Majumdar, while offering his respect to Himu, writes, ?Such was the noble end of the family, a great Hindu who was born in a humble life, but made his way to the throne of Delhi by dint of sheer ability and military skill?a unique episode in the history of India during the Muslim rule.?
Almost all the Muslim chroniclers have tried to paint Himu as a traitor and disloyal, because he ascended the throne of Delhi, instead of offering the same to his master Adil Shah. But, in this context, R.C. Majumdar writes, ?No one today can reasonably claim to know the thoughts in Himu'smind. But a little reflection will show that there was nothing unreasonable or immoral in the aspirations of Himu. No doubt, personal ambition played a great part but it may not be altogether wrong to think that he was also inspired by the idea of founding a Hindu raj. This is supported by his assumption to the tile of Vikramaditya.? And, perhaps, most shameful as well as most deplorable is the role of the so-called secular historians of independent India who, like the Muslim historians, are continuing their efforts to blacken Himu'scharacter by potraying him a betrayer of his Muslim master.