Truth of Hemu's Sovereignty

Hemu was the chief minister of the Afghan Suri king Adil Shah, also known as Adali. Following the death of Humayun, Hemu defeated the Mughals and successfully captured Agra and Delhi.

It has been documented that after the conquest of Delhi, Hemu ascended the throne, assuming the title of Raja Bikramajit, a Persian form of Vikramaditya. He even minted coins in his name, thereby renouncing his allegiance to his former master, Adali.

Upon acquiring the vast wealth of the Mughals, Hemu chose to keep it for himself. With so many treasures of royalty in his possession, he began to harbor ambitious aspirations. Hemu generously shared the spoils, excluding the elephants, with the Afghans who had joined him, winning their loyalty. Together, they marched into Delhi, where Hemu raised the imperial canopy over himself and minted coins bearing his name. Hemu appointed his own governors and expanded his influence over Delhi and its surroundings, as chronicled by Ahmad Yadgar.


According to notable historians Satish Chandra and N.B. Roy, Hemu's assumption of the title of Bikramajit cannot be considered proof of his accession to the throne. The title Bikramajit was actually bestowed upon him by Adali in 1553 following a significant victory over the Karrani rebels. No coins minted by Hemu have been found, and even Ahmad Yadgar's account suggests Hemu remained loyal to Adali after the conquest of Delhi on October 6, 1556.

When Hemu, who rose from humble origins, found himself in control of the entire administration of the empire, his pride and arrogance exceeded all bounds. This led to animosity from the Afghan chiefs, who began plotting against him and revolting against his authority, according to Ferishta.

However, after the capture of Delhi, Hemu managed to gain the support of Afghan chiefs by generously distributing spoils. In Delhi, Hemu bestowed upon himself the grand title of Bikramajit. During the battle of Panipat, Hemu's vanguard was captured by the Mughals. He raised the hopes of the Afghans, led by Shadi Khan, by offering generous land grants and lavish rewards. However, as per Badauni, the Afghans grew tired of his oppressive rule and began praying for his downfall.

Abul Fazl records that Adali was left with only the title of king, as Hemu took charge of all appointments, dismissals, and the administration of justice. He also seized the treasures of Sher Shah and Salim Shah, along with their elephant-stud. Initially, he adopted the title of Rai, but later proclaimed himself as Raja Bikramajit. Despite this, he maintained the nominal sovereignty for Adali and engaged in fierce battles against his adversaries.

Nimatullah recounts that the Afghan chiefs were deeply offended by Hemu's behavior and ultimately chose to desert him during the battle at Panipat. Hemu displayed insolent conduct towards the Afghans by hosting a dinner where he sat on a raised seat, out of their reach. He ridiculed and insulted the Afghans, demanding they eat and bow down to him as Hemu Shah.

Rizqullah Mushtaqi provided an exaggerated account of Hemu's usurpation: Hemu finally gained complete control over Sultan Adil Shah, proclaiming himself Raja and seized all power from Adali, except for providing him with food and water. Hemu took possession of the treasures and elephants, solidifying his power over the country. He then divided the kingdom among his supporters, the whole of the country slipped away from under the control of Adli Shah. Hemu refused to pay any Afghans, but generously rewarded those who joined his service. He openly degraded all Afghans, including renowned nobles and famous warriors who were easily killed by him. No notable figure was spared, not even the Chaudhris and Qanungos. Hemu replaced them with grocers from his own caste.

When Hemu presented food to the Afghans, he declared, "so and so are eating." The Afghans ate the food, bowing their heads. He would often arrest them on flimsy charges, hang or kill them, saying: "The Afghans say that we have got a few thousand brothers. Where are these brothers? Why do they not help this brother?" He killed the Qazi of Awadh and left the body on the ground until he received a substantial sum of money. Only then did he permit the burial of the body. Seventy Saiyids from Rewari were arrested and put to death. Islam lost its glory and prestige. Cow slaughter was banned in certain areas and infidelity being promoted. Many dignitaries and notable Muslims were arrested and imprisoned. However, Hemu later released the aforesaid notables of Delhi saying: "It is all right. When I return from this expedition (the battle of Panipat), I shall settle their affair."


If Hemu had committed all the aforementioned atrocities, the Afghan chiefs would never have considered him as their leader. Anyway, there is record that Hemu's relations such as Taharpal, Rajya and Bhagwan Das were occupied in important positions in the court.

The Afghans remained loyal to Hemu just as he was loyal to Adali. Ferishta observes, "After the death of the unfortunate Hemu, who had certainly great abilities, notwithstanding his mean descent, the fortune of Adali declined apace." Nimatullah recounts, "Adali was thrown in utter consternation by the news of Hemu's beheading."


There were Rajputs also in Hemu's army.

Shadi Khan was one of the chief officers of Adali. He was also killed in the Panipat battle.

Nizamuddin Ahmad merely states that "Hemu, who was sounding the trumpet of pride in Delhi, and had given himself the title of Raja Bikramajit."

According to the Dutch chroniclers, "The troops of Hemu were discontented owing to their pay being in arrears, and hence deserted their general and dispersed."