Many historians have distorted History to suit the needs of the governments, and it’s hard to find any difference between court historians working for monarchs and today’s historians who are so-called modern-day rational, scientific historians working in democratic setups because we see biases in both their writings. It is the result of such writings that we hardly know about an exclusive personality and magnitude of a Hindu King, Hemu (Hem Chandra Vikramaditya) who has been totally brushed out by historians. Hemu was a ruler who won twenty-two battles in barbaric medieval times, ruled Delhi and was the chief character of Second Battle of Panipat.
Since Ancient times (Indraprastha), Delhi has always been a centre of politics. According to Robert Eric Frykenberg ‘’No ruler could be considered to truly hold sway over Hindustan until he had control of Delhi.’’1 Hemu also know as Hem Chandra Vikramaditya after winning a day-long battle on October 7, 1556 at Tughlaqabad a village five miles east of the Qutb Minar instead of establishing Islamic flag of Suri Dynasty, crowned himself the emperor of Delhi and assumed the title of Vikramaditya, a term used for a number of Hindu kings in India’s ancient Vedic past2. This led to the rule of a Hindu King at Delhi after centuries (though for few a days only).
The primary source of information for Hemu is Persian texts, but these texts too were biased as they were written by court historians of the Mughals like Abdul Qadir Badayuni and Abul Fazl who wrote for Akbar, an adversary of Hemu. Historians, vary about Hemu’s birthplace and caste like Ram Prasad Tripathi in his work “Rise and Fall of the Mughal Empire” characterise him as a Dhusar who “are supposed to be a sub-division of Gaur Brahmins”, John F. Richards in The Mughal Empire (The New Cambridge History of India) states him as a Vaishya and R. C Majumdar as a Dhusar or “Dhansar section of the Baniya caste. Satish Chandra termed Hemu as “Dhusar or Bhargava, who claim to be Gaur Brahmins. Kalika Ranjan Qanungo, in his work Sher Shah and his Times categorises him as a Dhusar, a”caste of the Vaish or Baniyas, who now claim to be Bharagava Brahmins’’.
Mughal historian Badayuni has described him as a resident of a small-town called Rewari (present-day Haryana ) in the taluk of Mewat, who began his life as a green vendor. Others believe he was a hawker in the town in the town of Mewat. According to historian R.C Majumdar Hemu at a young age he started working as a tradesman, either as a green-grocer or selling saltpetre3. After Sher Shah Suri’s death in 1545, his son Islam Shah became the ruler of the Sur Empire and during his rule, Hemu rose to become the ’Shuhna ’superintendent of the market at Delhi with some soldierly experience under his belt4. Islam Shah was succeeded by his 12-year-old son, Firoz Khan, who was killed within three days of his accession by his uncle, Adil Shah Suri for whom Hemu worked as a Chief Minister (Wazir )5. Adil Shah Suri was more attracted in the pursuit of pleasure and delight rather than affairs of the state6. According to Abul Fazl, it was now Hemu who was making all the new appointments and taking the old officials out of the system in the name of King. He was also working as a judge and producing judgements from backdoor in the Shah’s court.7
It was his conspicuous ability for war and civil administration, which took him to the topmost holds in Sur Dynasty. His honesty and devotion to the interest of the state and his strictness in putting down slack and corrupt public servants antagonised the degenerated old official nobility. Hemu in addition to being a highly efficient civil administrator, was the best military genius after Sher Shah from Afghan Side. A cool, fareless, confident,decision-maker was what Hemu proved to be. In the internecine wars of the Afghans, he had fought 22 battles with the domestic enemies of his master and being victories on all of them8. It was in 1556 that with the death of Humayun on January 26, 1556 Hemu got a perfect opportunity to defeat the Mughals.
Part of Modern-day Delhi – Qutab Minar area Tughlaqabad became the host of a notable battle fought on October 7, 1556 between Hemu popularly known as Hem Chandra Vikramaditya, and the forces of the Mughal emperor Akbar led by Tardi Beg Khan. Hemu drove the Mughals out of Bayana , Etawah ,Sambhal, Kalpi, Narnaul and Agra9. His fear was so much that Mughal Governor of Agra evacuated that city and fled to Delhi10. According to Akbar’s Court Historian Badayuni, Hemu advanced upon Delhi with the force of 50,000 sawars, 1,000 elephants, 51 pieces of Cannon and 500 Falconents.11 In Delhi (Tughlaqabad ) the encounter was set and the mughals were led by Tardi Beg in the centre with Iskandar Beg leading the left wing and Haidar Muhammad in the battle field.12
Although the Mughals were almost equal in numbers but could barely resist Hemu’s Challenge. With death in front of their face many of the Mughals officers fled away in terror without waiting to offer a defence. Their chief Tardi Beg himself took the same course at last.13 After captivating Delhi on October 7, 1556, Hemu instead of establishing Islamic flag of Suri Dynasty he crowned himself the emperor of Delhi and assumed the title of Vikramaditya, a term used for a number of Hindu kings in India’s ancient Vedic past.14 This led to rule of a Hindu King after centuries at Delhi (though for few days ). Badayuni says that he assumed the title of Bikramjit like a great Raja in Hindustan from whom the people of Hind take their era, and that he “had done his best there to destabilize the ordinances of Islam15. Some scholars however differ in Hemu’s proclaiming himself as an Independent King.
A month later the Second Battle of Panipat was fought between the forces of Hemu and the army of Akbar, on November 5, 1556. It was a decisive victory for Akbar’s generals Khan Zaman I and Bairam Khan, Hemu was wounded by a chance arrow and captured unconscious during the war. Akbar’s regent, Bairam Khan beheaded the almost dead Hemu shortly thereafter. Hemu’s supporters would later erect a memorial for him at the spot in Panipat where he was beheaded. It is now known as Hemu’s Samadhi Sthal.16
(The writer is a State Youth Head at Vivekananda Kendra, Uttar Prant. He obtained his Masters in History from the University Of Delhi and is pursuing COP in Vedic Culture from Jawaharlal Nehru University.)