Sher Khan (shār khän) [key] or Sher Shah shä, 1486–1545, Afghan ruler in N India. He enlisted in the service of the Mughal leader Babur when the latter invaded India and became governor of Bihar. After Babur's death, however, he asserted his independence of the Mughals, and in 1537, when Humayun, son of Babur, was elsewhere engaged, he overran Bengal. A brilliant strategist, Sher Khan routed the army of Humayun in 1539, and a year later decisively defeated a fresh army at Kanauj. Humayun fled to Sind and thence to Persia, and Sher Khan as Sher Shah took control of the Mughal empire. During the five years of his reign (1540–45), Sher Shah proved himself a gifted administrator as well as an able general. His reorganization of the empire laid the foundations for the later Mughal emperors, notably Akbar, son of Humayun.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.