A Great Ruler

Poet's Notes


Sher Shah: Sher Shah Suri (1486-1545), a great Indian Ruler (of Afghan origin) and role model; ruled over India for a brief period of 5 years.

(The) Panchatantra: (in Sanskrit, literally mans "Five Treatises") an ancient Indian collection of animal fables, arranged within a frame story. Putative author: Vishnu Sharma in some recensions and Vasubhaga in others, both of which may be fictitious pen names. It is likely a Hindu text, and based on older oral traditions with "animal fables that are as old as we are able to imagine".  translated into at least 50 world languages including English, Persian and Arabic 

Rajputs:  members of the patrilineal clans of warriors of the Indian subcontinent. They rose to prominence from the late 6th century AD and had a significant role in many regions of central and northern India until the 20th century.

Babur: (1483-1530)-  founder of the Moghul dynasty

Humayun: (1531-1540) son of  Babur,

Akbar: (1542-1605),  Akbar the Great,  son of Humayun,

Aurangazeb:  (1618-1707)- the most controversial Ruler of the dynasty, son of  Shah Jahan,

All is fair in love and war: an echo of Cervantes’ Don Quixote

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You were an Afghan, Farid Khan by name,
A name less known to the world today.
You ran away from home,
Because your own step-mother plotted against you.
Now you were runaway-Khan!

You chose to be a knight-errant,
Soon became a military commander in Bihar,
Was renamed Sher Khan, a title awarded 
By the Governor of Bihar,
Whom you saved from the jaws of a tiger!

So you became the Deputy Governor.
But wherever you went,
Your ruler feared your strength and potential
And, of course, you were in trouble!

For instance, during your stint
In Babur’s army, you easily caught 
The Moghul Ruler’ attention,  
Who promptly exhorted one of his ministers: 
“Keep an eye on this young man.
He is clever.
And I see royal marks on his forehead!”

You were shrewd enough 
To sense the great king’s fear and suspicion.
You quit his army soon!
During your stint, however, 
You were sharp enough to notice
The weakness in the Moghul system—
The  Ruler’s over-dependence on his ministers.
“I will not,” you told yourself,
“Make the mistake when I become a ruler!” 

When Humayun, Babur’s son, ascended the throne, 
After his father’s death, you saw
The chance of a lifetime:
You inflicted a crushing defeat 
On him in the battle of Chausa in 1539. 
Became Sher Shah, the Emperor!

From Farid Khan to Sher Shah—
An amazing trajectory,
Comparable to Napoleon’s.
You are acknowledged, even today, as a brilliant strategist, 
A gifted administrator and a capable General.
Your whole life is indeed an object lesson 
In strategy, diplomacy, and administration.
India Post, in the 1970s, honoured you  
By issuing a postal stamp!

You were, by and large, a role model for the later Moghul—
King Akbar the Great.
And at the same time a standing warning to him:
Don’t collide head-on with the Rajputs, 
The fine warrior race of Rajasthan.
Akbar befriended them
And had the best of both worlds!
But Emperor Aurangazeb,
Though he came much later, 
Was too obtuse to follow this lesson. 

Well, you chose to take on the Rajputs
And, not surprisingly, got into trouble.
Your earlier victory, 
Over the Rajput King Maldeo of Marwar, 
You achieved by causing dissension between the King 
And his able Generals, by forging letters, 
Which were (as you rightly expected) intercepted. 
Maldeo left the battle field, disgusted. 
You won!

This strategy is known as Mitrabheda
(as spelt out in Panchatantra).
And you knew it by instinct.
All is fair in love and war!

Anyway, yours was after all a pyrrhic victory,
Considering your losses,
Which you yourself highly regretted.
Much earlier in your career, however,
You practised a different strategy, known as Mitra-labha, 
Securing, that is, friends and allies: 
You formed an alliance with Ujjaini Rajputs in Bihar 
And so were able to defeat the mighty Sultan of Bengal.
But later in your life you ignored 
This strategy—at your peril. 

The crows (in Panchatantra) were able 
To defeat the clever owls
Because of the sane counsel
(they had from Chiranjeevin, the wise crow).
That’s what the whole book 
Of Kakolukiyam (of Panchtantra) is about.

But you shunned counsellors, 
Presumably because of the lesson 
That you had learnt earlier from the Moghuls.
So you lost your own life— Labdhapranasam

You resorted to Aparikhitakaraka, ill-considered action,
Which Panchantra urges us to avoid: 
In the year 1545, in the battle of Kalinjar,
For a small cause ,
You besieged the historic Rajput Fort.
All your tactics failed!

Then, you took a drastic step:
You decided to blow up 
The strong Fort with gunpowder
You yourself were blown up!

Alas, the subcontinent lost—a Great Ruler!


Copyright © | Year Posted 2017

Post Comments
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Date: 9/10/2017 10:02:00 AM
I admire your talent of taking historical facts a making them spell binding by speaking to the main character as if they were in the room.
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Ram R. V.
Date: 9/10/2017 10:26:00 AM
Thank you, Patricia, for your nice comment. It actually took me more than a week to gather details and conceptualize the poem. Now I feel rewarded:)
Date: 9/9/2017 10:06:00 AM
Woah! Well, what goes around comes back around. He ended up getting it in the end. This poem kept me on the edge of my seat. Nicely penned, Ram! :)
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Ram R. V.
Date: 9/9/2017 10:47:00 AM
Thank you, dear Julie, for your nice comment. It actually took me more than a week to collect data, to conceptualize and compose the poem. Now I feel rewarded! Thanks, once again:)
R. V. Avatar
Ram R. V.
Date: 9/9/2017 10:47:00 AM
Thank you, dear Julie, for your nice comment. It actually took me more than a week to collect data, to conceptualize and compose the poem. Now I feel rewarded! Thanks, once again:)