Hemu: A National Freedom Fighter & the Hero of 2nd battle of Panipat

Undoubtedly, Hemu or ‘Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya’ (Hemu), the • last Hindu emperor of India, being a member of an ordinary family, did extraordinary and brilliant deeds in the history of India. Through his ideas and visions, he made tremendous efforts to make his country, Bharat a powerful nation. He was a man who tried utmost to change the destiny of India’s future.

He was a capable administrator, a military genius, a shrewd politician and a far-sighted statesman. In the true sense, he was the follower of the great Hindu ruler Prithvi Raj Chauhan who fought bravely in the battlefields and sacrificed his life for the country. Hemu was one of the greatest freedom fighters in the annals of Indian history, who struggled hard against the foreign rulers. In short, Hemu was a man of ideas and ideals as well as a man of prompt actions, brilliant and courageous deeds.

Hemu was born on 1501 in the village Machheri, three miles away from Rajgarh in the region of Alwar (Rajasthan) in Dhusar Brahmin (Bhargava) family. His father Puran Das was a Purohit and a religious person. Saint Puran Das took Sanyas and migrated to Varindavan to live with famous saint Harivansh of the Vallabha Sampradai or sect.

The family shifted to Qutabpur, a village of Dhusar Brahmins, in Rewari (Haryana) for better prospects. Hemu was brought-up and educated there. He studied Hindi, Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic. During his childhood he was fond of wrestling and horse-riding.

Based at Rewari, which was on main route of traders from Iran, Iraq to Delhi, Hemu started supplying cereals to Sher Shah’s army. Later on, he took up supply of saltpeter (for gunpowder) also to his army.

After Shershah Suri’s death on May 22, 1545 A.D., Jalal Khan, the younger son of the former, assumed the title of Islam Shah and became the ruler. Islam Shah recognized the capability and the administrative skills of Hemu and therefore made him his personal advisor. He consulted Hemu in matters relating not only to trade and commerce but also pertaining to statesmanship, diplomacy and general politics. However Islam Shah initially appointed him as Shang-ah-i-bazar i.e. ‘Market Superintendant’.

In 1550 AD,Hemu accompanied Islam Shah to Punjab when he was deputed along with other high officers to receive Mirza Kamran, the second son of Babar in the fort of Rohtas. In fact, Hemu became the consultant to Islam Shah in all matters of importance. Islam Shah was ruling entire North India from Punjab to Bengal at that time. Hemu was soon promoted as the Chief of intelligence or Daroga-ai-dak­ chauki i.e. Superintendent of Posts. In 1552 and 1553 Hemu held positions as Governor of Punjab and Delhi state also.

In November 1554 A.C.,Islam Shah died and his 12 years old son Firoz Khan became the ruler, who was killed within three days by Adil Shah Suri. His original name was Mubrez Khan or Mubarak Khan. The new king Adil Shah was an indolent, pleasure-seeker, drunkard and debauch. He faced revolts on all sides. Adil Shah looked to Hemu as Chief Advisor and practically entrusted all his work to him. Hemu now became the Prime Minister and Chief of the Afghan Army.

In the words of great historian A.L. Srivastava, “As he (Hemu) proved his worth and loyalty,he was promoted to the post of Prime-Minister and thus earned the distinction of being the first of the two Hindus, the other being Todar Mal, who occupied the position of the Chief Minister of any Mohammadan ruled state during the medieval period of our country’s history” (The Mughal Empire, 1952, P.128)

Most of the Afghan governors revolted against Adil Shah and refused to pay the taxes. Hemu went to various states in North India to crush these revolts. Hemu fought 22 battles and won all of them.

All accounts of the battles fought and victories of Hemu are given by Abul Fazl and Badauni. In the words of Historian Dr. Rajinder Singh Kushwaha “Since both of them hated Hemu, they painted him in the black colour. Their restrained praise is all the more valuable as a testimony to the valour and military skill of Hemu.”

Abul Fazl writes, “Battles took place between Hemu and Ibrahim who was a claimant for the sultanate and the former was always victorious. Sultan Mohammad,who had assumed the kingly title in Bengal, was also defeated, and was made tread the land of annihilation. Hemu was also engaged in conflicts with Taj Karrani and Ruku Khan Nuhar and defeated them. He fought twenty battles with the opponents of Mubrez Khan and was victoriou in all of them.”

When Humayun returned to India to recover his lost throne, Adil Shah sent Hemu northwards to oppose him retiring himself to Chunar. When Humayun met with fatal accident on January 26, 1556 AD, Hemu remained in the field to prevent Akbar from taking effective possession of his father’s kingdom. Hemu consolidated his army and went from Gwalior to Agra. He defeated lskandar Khan Uzbeg, Governor of Agra. He occupied Agra with its huge treasure and equipments, and proceeded towards Delhi. Tardi Beg Khan, the Mughal Governor of Delhi, frightened and immediately sent a dispatch to Akbar and Bairam Khan and demanded adequate reinforcements for the defence of the capital. Bairam Khan sent his ablest Commander Pir Mohammad Sherwani with a big army. In Delhi, the battle was fought at Tuglakabad. Hemu defeated the Mughals. Hemu won Delhi after a day’s battle on October 6, 1556 AC. Nearly 3000 soldiers died in the battle. Tardi Beg fled away. Hemu entered Delhi victorious under a royal canopy.

He occupied Delhi and declared his independent status. He had his coronation or Rajyabhishek at Purana Qila in the presence of all the Afghans and Rajput commanders with all religious ceremonies. He issued coins in his name and assumed the historic name ‘Vikrmaditya’ or Raja Bikramjit. He reorganized the army and made certain appointments, with’out removing any Afghan. He also made significant reforms in the mercantile system. He dismissed all the corrupt officers and replaced them. He also paid attention for the cow protection and prohibited totally the cow’s slaughter.

Though Hem Chandra Vikrmaditya ruled only 29 days,yet it was a historical event in the history of India. He re­ established the Hindu Kingdom after centuries of foreign rule. World famous Historian R. C. Majumdar called it, “a unique episode in the history of India during the Muslim rule.”

Historian A.L.Srivastava writes, “Modem European writers have joined the medieval chronicles (whose prejudice to a Hindu, who made any attempt to free his country from foreign yoke is obvious) in finding fault with him. No impartial student of history, however can fail to admire Hemu’s qualities of leadership, and the promptitude with which he seized the opportunity of banishing alien rule from the capital. If foreigners like Humayun and the descendants of Sher Shah could advance claims to the sovereignty of India, Hemu who was a real native of the soil, had an equally legitimate, if not better, claim to rule over his ancestral land.”

Similarly R.C.Majumdar reasonably writes, “there is nothing unreasonable or immoral in the aspirations of Hemu… it may not be altogether wrong to think that he was inspired by the ideas of founding a Hindu Raj.”

The news of the fall of Delhi from Akbar’s control, the Mughal army at Kalanaur lost heart and many commanders refused to fight Hemu. They advised Akbar to retreat to Kabul a she would be safer. But Bairam Khan refused and insisted to fight with_Hemu.

The battle between Hemu and Mughals was fought at Panipat on November 5, 1556 AD. Historian V.A. Smith gives the following account of the battle, “The armies met in battle on November 5, 1556. At first Hemu was successful on both wings. Probably he would have been the victor but for the accident that he was hit in the eye by an arrow and rendered unconscious. His army, when deprived of its leader, the sole reason for its existence, dispersed at once.” (The Oxford History of lndia (1923) P.344)

Hemu was captured in an unconscious, almost dead state. Bairam Khan desired Akbar to earn the title of Ghazi by flashing his sword on the captive. Akbar complied with the request and smote Hemu on the neck. Hemu’s head was sent to Kabul to show Afghans that he was dead, and his trunk was gibbeted atone of the gates of Delhi.

But the tragedy did not end here. The forces of Akbar conquered the Sarkar of Alwar which was the home of Hemu. The Mughal officer proceeded to the township where Hemu’s family lived.

Abu Fazl describes what happened further, “The palace was strong and there was much fighting, and the father (Puran Das) of Hemu was captured and brought alive before the Nazim-al-mulk. The latter called upon him to change the religion. The old man answered, “For eighty years I have worshipped my God,according to this religion. Why should I change it at this time, and why should I merely for fear of my life and without understanding it come into your way of worship. Pir Mohammd treated his words as if he heard them not, and answered him with the tongue of sword.”

The vengeance of the Mughals continued. The clan of Dhusar Bhargavas was hounded throughout the region, brutally beheaded and pyramid .of their skulls were built. Such painting of Akbar’s time is on display in National Archives, New Delhi and its replica can be seen in the War Museum at Panipat. Such pyramids were still in existence 60 years later during the time of Jahangir, as mentioned by Petre Mundy, a British traveller in his travelogue on India during that period.

R.C.Majumdar mentions, “such was the noble end of the family of Hemu, a great Hindu who was born as bumble life, but made his way to the throne of Delhi.”

So was the end of one of the glorious periods of the Indian History. No praise can be too great for Hemu’s bold endeavour to re-establish indigenous rule at Delhi after more than 350 years of foreign domination.