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Alauddin Hussain Shah

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Title: Alauddin Hussain Shah  
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Alauddin Hussain Shah

Ala-ud-din Husain Shah (reign 1494–1519)[1] was an independent late medieval Sultan of Bengal, who founded the Hussain Shahi dynasty. He became the ruler of Bengal after assassinating the Abyssinian Sultan, Shams-ud-Din Muzaffar Shah, whom he had served under as wazir. After his death in 1519 his son Nusrat Shah succeeded him.

Early life and accession

Husain Shah's original name is Sayyid Husain. According to a 1788 chronicle, Riyaz-us-Salatin, Husain was the son of Ashraf Husaini, a Sharif of Mecca and an inhabitant of Tirmiz (in Turkestan).[2] Besides both historians Salim (writer of Riyaz-us-Salatin) and Firishtah (from late 16th century) mentioned him as Sayyed - this indicates Husain's Arab descent. Besides, the term Sultan Husain Shah bin Sayyed Ashraf-ul-Husaini (Sultan Husain Shah, son of Sayyed Ashraf-ul-Husaini) frequently appeared on his coins.[2] But it is not yet known how he came to Bengal and occupied the post of Wazir of Sultan Shamsuddin Muzaffar Shah. Most likely he first settled in Chandpara, a village in Murshidabad district. Because a number of inscriptions of Husain Shah's early years found in the villages around Chandpara and also a mosque called Kherur Mosque is constructed by Sultan Husain in the locality in 1494.[2][3][4] A lake, Sheker Dighi, is also associated with Husain Shah.[4]

Initially, he secretly sympathized with the rebels but ultimately he put himself openly as their head and bessieged the citadel, where Muzaffar Shah shut himself with a few thousand soldiers. According to the 16th-century historian Nizamuddin, the Sultan was secretly assassinated by Husain with the help of the paiks (palace-guards), which ended the Abyssinian rule in Bengal.[1]


Husain Shah's long reign of more than a quarter of a century was a period of peace and prosperity, which was strikingly contrast to the period that preceded it. The liberal attitude of Husain Shah towards his Hindu subjects is also an important feature of his reign.[1]

Initial administrative actions

Immediately after accession to the throne, Husain Shah ordered his soldiers to desist from pillaging Gaur, his capital city. But when they continued to do so, he executed twelve thousand soldiers and recovered the pillaged articles, which included 13,000 gold plates. Next, he disbanded the paiks (the palace guards), who were the most significant agitators inside the palace. He removed all Habshis from administrative posts and replaced them with Turks, Arabs, Afghans and the local people.[1]

Engagement with the Delhi Sultanate

Sultan Hussain Shah Sharqi, after being defeated by Bahlol Lodi, retired to Bihar, where his occupation was confined to a small territory. In 1494, he was again defeated by Sultan Sikandar Lodi and fled to Bengal, where he was granted asylum by Sultan Ala-ud-Din Husain Shah.[5] This resulted in an expedition against Bengal in 1495 by Sultan Sikandar Lodi. Husain Shah of Bengal sent an army under his son Daniyal to fight with the Delhi army. The armies of Delhi and Bengal met at Barh near Patna. Sikandar Lodi halted the advance of his army and concluded a treaty of friendship with Ala-ud-din Husain Shah. According to this agreement, the country west of Barh went to Sikandar Lodi while the country east of Barh remained under Husain Shah of Bengal. The final dissolution of the Jaunpur Sultanate resulted in the influx of the Jaunpur soldiery in the Bengal army, which was further strengthened by it.[1]

Kamata-Kamrup expedition

From 1499 to 1502, Husain Shah's general Shah Ismail Ghazi led an expedition to the Kamata kingdom and annexed the territory up to Hajo. They took Nilambara, the king of Kamata as prisoner and pillaged the capital city. This was publicly recorded in an inscription at Malda.[1]

Orissa campaigns

According to the Madala Panji, Shah Ismail Ghazi commenced his campaign from the Mandaran fort (in the present-day Hooghly district) in 1508-9 and reached Puri, raiding Jajpur and Katak on the way. The Gajapati ruler of Orissa, Prataparudra was busy in a campaign in the south. On hearing this news, he returned and defeated the invading Bengal army and chased it into the borders of Bengal. He reached the Mandaran fort and besieged it, but failed to take it. Intermittent hostilities between the Bengal and Orissa armies along the border continued throughout the reign of Husain Shah.[1]

Expeditions to Tripura and Arakan

According to Rajmala, a late royal chronicle of Tripura, Husain Shah despatched his army four times to Tripura, but the Tripura army offered stiff resistance and did not yield any territory. But the Sonargaon inscription of Khawas Khan (1513) is interpreted by a number of modern scholars as an evidence of annexure of at least a part of Tripura by Hussain Shah's army.[1]

During Husain Shah's expeditions to Tripura, the ruler of Arakan helped Dhanya Manikya, the ruler of Tripura. He also occupied Chittagong and expelled Husain Shah's officers from there. In 1513, Husain Shah assigned the charge of Arakan expedition to Paragal Khan. Paragal Khan advanced from his base on the Feni River. After Paragal's death, his son Chhuti Khan took over the charge of the campaign until Chittagong was wrested from Arakanese control. The hostilities probably ended in 1516.[1]

The Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, arrived India by sea in 1498.[6] Consequently a Portuguese mission came to Bengal to establish diplomatic relations towards the end of Husain Shah's reign.[2]

Cultural contribution

The reign of Husain Shah witnessed a remarkable development of Bengali literature.[1] Under the patronage of Paragal Khan, Husain Shah's governor of Chittagong, Kabindra Parameshvar wrote his Pandabbijay, a Bengali adaptarion of the Mahabharata. Similarly, under the patronage of Paragal's son Chhuti Khan, who succeeded his father as governor of Chittagong, Shrikar Nandi wrote another Bengali adaptation of the Mahabharata. Kabindra Parameshvar in his Pandabbijay eulogised Husain Shah as the incarnation of Krishna in the Kaliyuga (kalijuge velo jeno Krishna abatar).[7] Bijay Gupta wrote his Manasamangal Kāvya also during his reign. He eulogised Husain Shah by comparing him with Arjuna (samgrame Arjun Raja prabhater Rabi).[8] He mentioned him as Nrpati-Tilak (the tilak-mark of kings) and Jagat-bhusan (the adornment of the universe) as well.[2] An official of Husain Shah, Yashoraj Khan, wrote a number of Vaishnava padas and he also praised his ruler in one of his pada.[9] During Husain Shah's reign a number of significant monuments were constructed. Wali Muhammad built Chota Sona Masjid in Gaur.[10]

Religious tolerance

The reign of Husain Shah is also known for religious tolerance towards his Hindu subjects of Bengal. However, R.C. Majumdar claims that during his Orissa campaigns, he destroyed some Hindu temples, which Vrindavana Dasa Thakura has mentioned in his Chaitanya Bhagavata.[11] The celebrated medieval saint, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his followers preached the Bhakti cult throughout Bengal during his reign.[10] When Husain Shah came to know about Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's huge following amongst his subjects, he ordered his qazis not to injure him in any way and allow him to go wherever he liked.[11] Later, two high level Hindu officers in Husain Shah's administration, his Private Secretary, (Dabir-i-Khas) Rupa Goswami and his Intimate Minister (Saghir Malik) Sanatana Goswami became devoted followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.[10]

Preceded by
Abyssinian rule
(Shamsuddin Muzaffar Shah)
Sultanate of Bengal
Hussain Shahi dynasty

Succeeded by
Nasiruddin Nasrat Shah

See also


External links

  • Coins of Husain Shah
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