His achievements notwithstanding, he is not a household name in India. His name does not ring any bells in the collective memory of Hindus. I am not even sure if any physical memorial of this Hindu Hero exists. Anecdotally, Prithvi Raj Chauhan is considered as the last Hindu ruler of Delhi. Even I had made the same assertion in one of my previous articles in Tattva ; and it took me a while to realize my error! It is incorrect to think that Hindus made no efforts to liberate Delhi in medieval India. Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya – the Hero of our story – made one such effort that succeeded – albeit for a brief interlude. As I read more about his life and his journey to the throne of Delhi, I was absolutely amazed by this great warrior-hero who almost succeeded in liberating India from foreign invaders – the Mughals. And more importantly, I don’t want to just narrate his life story – I want to put it in the general historical context of his times. As you will see below, his life (1501-1556) was an extremely tumultuous period in the history of India. Events that happened during this time-frame defined the course of Indian History for the next two and a half centuries. That is why I feel that it’s important for Hindus to know more aboutSamrat Hem Chandra and his courageous efforts. Early Childhood Not much is known about his childhood and early life. In fact, historians disagree about both his birth name and birth place. K.K. Bhardwaj  claims that perhaps his original name was Basant Rai, Hem Rai, Hem Raj or Hem Chandra Bhargava. R.C. Majumdar  writes that “he was born in a poor family of Dhansar section of theBaniya caste, living in a town in the southern part of Alwar”. Muslim historian Badayuni has described him as a resident of a small town called Rewari in the taluk of Mewat, and began his life as a green vendor. Others believe that he was a hawker in the town of Mewat . Historians mention that brought up in a religious environment, he was educated in Sanskrit, Hindi, Persian, Arabic and Arithmatic. He was also trained in Horse riding and was fond of wrestling (Kushti) . His rise to fame did not begin until late 1530s when he came in contact with the officers of Sher Shah Suri. But events that happened in north India during his youth were not as dull! India in Hem Chandra’s Youth In the early 1500s, huge portions India were under Islamic occupation. South India, Rajputana, Orissa and Assam were the only parts of India that remained free. In Delhi, Lodi dynasty was ruling large parts of north India. Independent sultanates ruled Gujarat and Central India. Under the Islamic occupation, Hindus was already burdened by the crushing Jizya tax . At such point in 1526, a Central Asian tribal warrior named Babur attacked India. His armies marched from Kabul to Delhi via Punjab. In the first battle of Panipat (April 21, 1526) Babur defeated the joint armies of Ibrahim Lodi and Raja Vikramjit – king of Gwalior – and captured the throne of Delhi . Now Rajputs under the leadership of Rana Sangramsingh of Chittor challenged Babur. They were also supported by Hasan Khan Meo . But unfortunately their joint forces too were defeated by Babur in the battle of Khanwa. With this victory Babur now controlled northwestern India as well as parts of Gangetic Plains. After more than 450 years, it’s difficult to imagine how different those times were. For starters, Indian children of school going age did not learn to memorize ‘Babur the Brave’, ‘Akbar the Great’, ‘Aurangzeb the Cruel’! Indians then had rather simple criteria. They considered anyone who was not from India and had not a single drop of Indian blood in his body (Babar, Humayun and Akbar) but still wanted to rule India as a foreign aggressor. And indeed that’s how the perception of Indians regarding the Mughal period should be. Today, the geopolitics of South Asian subcontinent has changed so drastically, that it is easy to forget that the Kabul-Kandahar region – known as Gandhara in early days was considered very much a part of Indian civilization . With this perception in mind, the Afghans considered themselves as natives and were considered by Indians as natives of the land . Whereas Mughals – the Central Asian tribal people attacking India were obviously foreign aggressors. Now that explains why Raja of Gwalior offered his help to an Afghan ruler – Ibrahim Lodi or why Hasan Khan Meo chose to fight with Rana Sangramsingh rather than with Babur. Babur’s reign was nothing short of disaster for India in general and Hindus in particular. Guru Nanak, who was a contemporary of Babur and witnessed cruelties of Babur’s armies on the people, wrote in detail about the atrocities committed by him and his troops. Guru Nanak poignantly wrote  ‘The Creator has sent Babur the Mughal as Yama disguised. There was so much slaughter that the people screamed – Didn’t You feel compassion, Lord?’ Mercifully, Babur died (January 1531) before he could consolidate his hold on India and was succeeded by a weak son – Humayun. Sensing an opportunity, Sher Khan Suri – an Afghan commander of the Lodis – who was stationed in Bihar during Ibrahim Lodi’s rule, attacked Humayun. He defeated the Mughals in the battles of Chausa and Kanauj and drove them out of Delhi . He captured Delhi in May 1540, declared himself the emperor and took the name of Sher Shah Suri. His ascent was miraculous – born in a peasant family, he rose from the rank of a private and ultimately became the king of most of the northern India. After capturing Delhi, he pursued Humayun and chased the Mughal army out of India. Humayun survived only by fleeing to the refuge of the king of Iran. Sher Shah Suri’s victories, though ridding India from the foreign occupation for the time being, did not give respite to the large Hindu populace. In addition to Jizya, he continued to levy huge ‘pilgrimage tax’ on Hindu pilgrims. Rise of Hem Chandra Hem Chandra’s rise began at around this time. He was based in Rewari – 55 miles from Delhi – and started supplying cereals to Sher Shah’s army. Slowly he started other supplies like saltpeter (for gunpowder) to Sher Shah’s army and that’s when he came in contact with Ismail Shah – Sher Shah’s son. After Sher Shah’s death in 1545, Ismail Shah succeeded him. Recognizing Hem Chandra’s caliber, he initially appointed Hem Chandra as Shahang-i-Bazar, a Persian word meaning ‘Market Superintendent,’ who managed the mercantile system throughout the empire. This post gave Hem Chandra an opportunity to interact with the king frequently in order to apprise him of the trade and commercial situation of the kingdom . After proving his abilities as Market Superintendent, he rose to become Daroga-i-Chowki or Chief of Intelligence . Ismail Shah’s health deteriorated in 1552 and he shifted his base from Delhi to Gwalior, at which point he promoted Hem Chandra to Governor of Punjab. Hem Chandra held this position until Ismail Shah’s death in October 1553.