The empire that could have been, and the emperor’s resting place, the tomb of Sher Shah Suri in Sasaram

I was on my way to Bodh Gaya, Bihar. It was a six-hour long journey from the Chunar Fort in Varanasi. And I was getting bored. Well, sort of. It wasn’t because I was holed up in a car, doing nothing. It was because there was nothing interesting going on inside the car or on the road. The office Whatsapp groups were silent. Nobody was trying to put out fires or light one. Folks in my apartment building were tired of bickering & fighting over the should’s and should not’s. And my friends had everything going perfectly for them in their respective lives. Nobody was stealing their credit at work. And all their bosses were pretty happy with life and with them in general. So, there was nothing that I could solve. No problems. No conflicts. And no gossips.

What could I do to kill boredom on a trip that was taken to kill the mundane of life, anyway? Well, I could plan a pitstop on the way, and that’s what I did when I found Sasaram – just a couple of hours away from the Chunar fort.

The Taj of Bihar, Sasaram

What is Sasaram anyway? It’s a place and it’s famous for the tomb of Sher Shah Suri.

“A tomb, really?”, you might wonder!

If you do wonder, let me tell you that Taj Mahal (one of the seven wonders of the world) is actually a tomb. So is the Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi. So is Gol Gumbaj of Bijapur. And so are many other spectacular monuments in India.

The Tomb of Sher Shah Suri, in the town of Sasaram, is often known as the Taj Mahal of Bihar or the second/ third Taj Mahal of India for its beautiful architecture. Situated in the middle of an artificial lake, the tomb stands on a square stone plinth with domed kiosks. It wasn’t probably intended as the resting place of Sher Shah Suri as it was being built during his lifetime, and was finished three months after this death.

Built from the Red sandstone, it looks less of a tomb & more of a historical monument that often has many stories hidden inside. And you often uncover these stories one by one when you spend time in such monuments. And indeed, the Taj Mahal of Bihar has many stories to tell, stories of Sher Shah Suri, the founder of Suri empire in India.

History buffs often say that the face of India would have been very different had Sher Shah Suri lived for a few decades more. A man of war, strategy & vision, Sher Shah Suri never lost a single battle in the seven years that he reigned. Till the time he lived, he lived like a Sher. And do you know how he got this name? As a young man (or probably as a young boy), he once killed a Tiger who attacked a king nearby. And hence he was called a Sher.

It’s said that he was the man behind introducing Rupee as a currency. And the Grand Trunk Road, one of Asia’s longest & oldest roads was made by him too. Like many other rulers, there are not-so-good things about him too. It’s being believed that he often destroyed cities & rebuilt them after his name.

Unfortunately, during the siege of Kalinjar fort, Sher Shah Suri got seriously injured when he had ordered to blow up the fort walls with gunpowder. His death was sudden, unfortunate & unexpected. And it left a big question mark that makes people wonder to this day – what would have happened to India had Sher Shah Suri lived on for a few more decades?!

It’s possible that much of what’s believed about Sher Shah Suri is nothing but glorified tales. Maybe, he just repaired GT Road & made it more accessible. Maybe, he didn’t introduce Rupee but a version of a currency that existed already. Or maybe he did all of that and more.

What we know for sure is that there lived a Pashtun man who rose through the ranks quickly, became a commander in Babur’s Mughal army, overran the state of Bengal & established the Suri dynasty – all in one lifetime. He was the man who defeated Humayun twice in the Battle of Chausa & the Battle of Kannauj & overthrew the Mughal empire from India at least for a time. This is the tomb of the great Sher Shah Suri & it’s not to be missed.

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