Invaders and winners of medieval times wrote distorted history of India. Even after Independence in 1947, historians did not hide their bias to Hindu warriors who sacrificed their lives for saving their motherland Bharat, from barbaric invaders. One such ignored warrior was Hemu, real name Hem Chandra Bhargava. Entire description of Hem Chandra found in history books from various writers is limited to Abul Fazal’s description in Akbarnama, which was not only hateful but also abusive and denigrating. Reason for this hatred was that Hem Chandra not only challenged barbaric Mughals by supporting and establishing Suri Empire since 1526, but also defeated them decisively at Agra and Delhi in 1556 taking sword himself. He had a formal coronation as a Vikramaditya king on October 7th, 1556 at Purana Quila at Delhi. Hem Chandra was not even shown as an independent king in Indian records and history books till Congress rule in 2014, though he had active role of three decades in India’s Freedom Struggle from Mughals from 1526 to 1556.
Hem Chandra Vikramaditya, popularly called Hemu, (1501-1556) was also the last Hindu Emperor of medieval period. He was the only Hindu warrior to accede to Delhi’s throne during medieval period, after winning 22 battles continuously throughout North India. He won these battles from Bengal to Punjab, against Afghan rebels and Akbar’s strongholds of Agra and Delhi during (October1553-November 1556). By virtue of his continuous wins, he was bestowed the title of ‘Samrat’. Samrat is a Hindi word, equivalent to emperor, meaning, a warrior who has won all the wars fought, without losing any. Hem Chandra became Emperor after defeating Akbar’s army outside Tughlakabad Fort area of Delhi.
Born in a Brahmin Hindu family in 1501 of Maccheri Village in present day District Alwar of Rajasthan, his father Rai Puran Das Bhargava, was an agriculturist and involved in profession of Purohiti. The family migrated to Qutabpur, a village in Rewari District of present day Haryana some times in 1516. Clan at Qutabpur had acted as Rajpurohits’to Delhi rulers for decades in between 840 AD to 1192 AD and was well-connected and influential among rulers in that point in time. Priti Chandra Bhargava was the Raj Purohit of Prithviraj Chauhan when Mohmd Gauri defeated him in 1192. Hemu had his education at Rewari and learnt Hindi, Sanskrit, Arithmetic, Persian and Arabic. Hemu was brought up in Sanskritik and religious environment as his father belonged to ‘Vallabh Sampradai’.
Showing entrepreneurship and dynamism Hem Chandra along with his nephew Ramayya of Qutabpur started supplies of various merchandise to Afghan king Sher Shah Suri’s army at a young age of 25. Initially he supplied Cannons and Saltpeter, considered to be the ‘trump-card’ in battles in those days, to Sher Shah Suri, who had become ruler of Bihar in 1526. Hem Chandra used to import Cannons and Saltpeter from Portuguese and Vijaynagar Empire in south India. Sher Shah Suri and Hemu’s families were closely associated as Sher Shah Suri was born in Narnaul close to Rewari. Coming from a devout Hindu family, Hem Chandra planned and helped Sher Shah Suri in expelling intolerant Mughals from India lead by Babur and Humanyun and expanding his empire from Bihar to entire north India. Babur who had won First Battle of Panipat in 1526 was showing intolerance to Hinduism by demolishing temples and perpetuating conversions. Hem Chandra not only arranged the vital material support of cannons and saltpeter, used for the first time in north India by any native then, for Sher Shah but also support of many Hindu kings of that time using influence of his Rajpurohit families. This unity of Hindus and Afghans could successfully expel the Mughal king Humanyun from India in 1540. Rahul Sankrityayan writes in Akbar that Hemu was the main force in establishing the empire of Sher Shah Suri. Hem Chandra held various positions during this period of Sher Shah rule.
After Sher Shah Suri’s death his son Islam Shah acceded to Delhi throne in 1545. As per Abul Fazal, the record keeper of Akbar, in Akbarnama, Islam Shah appointed Hemu as his chief adviser and depended on him for important decisions. Hemu took up any and every job to strengthen Sur Empire as Afghans at that time considered themselves as native Indians and Mughals were considered as invaders and foreigners. At different times Hem Chandra became Food Minister, Minister of Internal Security managing entire Sher Shah Suri Marg, dealing with Humanyun based at Kabul on matter relating to Kamran who revolted against Humanyun etc. In 1550 Islam Shah fell ill and retired to Gwalior, and responsibility of administration of entire north India fell on Hem Chandra’s shoulders who administered from Delhi as Governor.
After Islam Shah’s death, Adil Shah became ruler of most of North India in 1553. He straightway made Hemu as Prime Minister-cum-chief of Army and retired to Chunar fort in east India. Abul Fazal writes in Akbarnama that Adil Shah was a drunkard and debauch and all decisions pertaining to administration, appointments and justice were taken by Hem Chandra and he was de-facto the king. Hem Chandra had to quell rebellion against Adil Shah in various states in North India and he took sword himself. During this period, Hemu fought and won 22 battles in all against Afghan rebels throughout North and East India and two battles against Akbar’s forces in Agra and Delhi, and won all. His velour, war-skills and bravery generated lots of respect for him in Hindu as well as Afghan forces. At the time of Humanyun’s death in December 1555, Hemu was in Bengal and had defeated and killed Muhammed Shah the ruler there. He saw the opportunity of capturing Delhi for himself. He made this decision known to his Afghan and Rajput commanders and started a march for Delhi through Bihar, Eastern Uttar Pradesh, parts of Madhya Pradesh and won every war.
Hemu captured Agra in January 1556, without a fight, which was won by Humanyun, during Hemu’s absence in North and preoccupation in East and was then ruled by Akbar. Akbar’s forces led by Iskinder Khan Uzbek ran away leaving Agra, Kalpi, Bayana and other states knowing about Hemu’s might. Hemu then proceeded towards Delhi. On October 7th. 1556, after a day’s fight outside Tughlakabad Fort Akbar’s forces led by Tardi Beg Khan vacated Delhi. More than 3,000 people were killed. It was a decisive victory for Hemu who entered Delhi under a royal canopy, and had his coronation or Rajyabhishake at Purana Quila, Delhi in the presence of all the Afghan and Rajput commanders with all religious formalities. It was after 350 years that a Hindu could rule from Delhi. He re-established the Hindu Kingdom and Vikramaditya Dynasty in Delhi after centuries of foreign rule with all the authority and command. He started coins in his name and consolidated his army and appointed many Hindus at many important positions, without removing any Afghan. Abul Fazal writes in Akbarnama, that Hemu expanded his army and was planning to attack Kabul to win Afghanistan. He made his plans known during coronation that Lahore was his next target.
Developments in Delhi were highly disturbing for Bairam Khan and Akbar who were still in Punjab. According to Abul Fazal, many commanders refused to fight and they were advised by most of their commanders to retreat to Kabul as they may not survive Hemu’s might, as all Hindus have united to free the country and Hemu is carrying a huge army. But Bairam Khan insisted to have a try and have a war. Both the forces met at Panipat on November 5th, 1556. Akbar and Bairam Khan did not participate in the war for safety reasons and were stationed 5 Kos or 9 miles away from the war-zone. Hemu lead his Army himself. After initial successes, it looked as if Mughals will run away, an arrow struck on Hemu’s eye. He removed the arrow and continued to fight and command his army, but slowly got unconscious and dead and lost the war. His dead body was captured and presented before Akbar, who refused to beheaded Hemu saying he was already dead. But to earn the title of a ‘Ghazi’ Bairam Khan persuaded him to behead the dead body.
To show their hatred for Hemu his head was sent to Kabul to show Afghans that he was dead and his torso was hanged outside the Purana Quila in Delhi, where Hemu had his coronation. No ruler has ever shown this type of barbarism to a rival king, shown by Akbar to Hemu. Thus ended the glorious journey of a commoner Hindu, who on his own merits not only destabilized Mughal Empire but also became an example of what and how achievements can be made for the entire Hindu community.
It is a matter of concern that Hem Chandra Vikramaditya has not been given due recognition by the Governments at States and Centre, though he had won 22 wars from Punjab to Bengal. He came from a Brahmin family, did business and administrative jobs and had to take sword to save the country from invaders. An effort needs to be made through Governments to get recognition to this great warrior who on the basis of his intelligence, velour, administrative abilities, and long struggle of thirty years, could reach not only the highest goal of his times but also destabilised the invading Mughal Empire. Memorials need to made at Panipat, where he lost his life and Delhi where his coronation took place at Purana Quila.
(The writer can be contacted at [email protected])
( With inputs from Hem Chandra Vikramaditya
Foundation, Rewari )