The promptness of Babar’s administrative methods is a striking contrast to the circumlocution of present-day departmentalism. There still exist remains of many splendid sarais, or halting-places, built along this road by different Mogul Emperors for their convenience, from the time of Babar down to Aurangzib. One of the finest is the Nurmahal Sarai, near Jalandhar, built by Jahangir and named after his favourite wife. Edward Terry, who accompanied Sir Thomas Roe, James the First’s ambassador at Jahangir’s Court, describes “the long walk of four hundred miles, shaded by great trees on both sides,” and adds, “this is looked upon by the travellers who have found the comfort of that cool shade as one of the rarest and most beneficial works in the whole world.”
Humayun, who succeeded Babar, had many of his father’s amiable qualities, but none of his genius as a leader of men. He utterly failed in the attempt to consolidate the great empire which Babar had left him, and in 1539, or nine and a half years after his accession, he was completely defeated at Kanauj by Shere Khan Sur, an Afghan nobleman, who had submitted to Babar, but revolted against his son. Humayun found himself a fugitive with only a handful of men, and was eventually driven not only out of Hindustan, but even from the kingdom of Kabul. He then took refuge with the Shah of Persia. Shere Khan Sur, under the title of Shere Shah, ruled at Agra until he died, five years afterwards. His son, Salim Shah, or Sultan Islam, succeeded him, and reigned between seven and eight years, but on his death the usual quarrels between his relatives and generals gave Humayun, who in the mean time had got back Kabul with the aid of a Persian army, the opportunity to recover his position in Hindustan. This occurred in 1555, but Humayun’s unfortunate reign terminated the same year through a fatal fall from a staircase in his palace at Delhi.
Humayun left no memorial of himself at Agra, but he is to be remembered for two circumstances; the first, that he was the father of the great Akbar, who succeeded him; and the second, that the plan of his tomb at Delhi, built by Akbar, was the model on which the plan of the Taj was based.
Interregnum: Shere Shah.
Shere Shah was a great builder, and a most capable ruler. In his short reign of five years he initiated many of the great administrative reforms which Akbar afterwards perfected. Fergusson, in his “History of Indian Architecture,” mentions that in his time there was a fragment of a palace built by Shere Shah in the Fort at Agra, “which was as exquisite a piece of decorative art as any of its class in India.” This palace has since been destroyed to make room for a barrack, but probably the two-storied pavilion known as the Salimgarh is the fragment to which Fergusson refers. The only other building of Shere Shah’s time now remaining in Agra is the half-buried mosque of Alawal Bilawal, or Shah Wilayat, in the Nai-ki Mandi quarter (see p. 102).