“Add another lak to it”

Saturday 16 October 2021

“Add another lak to it” Presentation, performance and Q&A A reading of the play on the Habshi (Ethiopean) rule of Bengal (1487-94)


This play, based on historical sources, tells the story of how in 1487 the Habshi rule of Bengal began and what happened during the short-lived turbulent years that caused its end in 1494.

The performance includes contextualisation of the period. It looks at how and when the Ethiopians came to Bengal, what roles they played and how some of them rose to power to become sultans of the powerful, large and economically rich territory of the Bengal Sultanate.

In total, there were four sultans from an Ethiopian background that ruled the Bengal Sultanate for nearly seven years.

The dowager queen, the wife of the last Ilyas Shahi ruler, Sultan Jalaluddin Fateh Shah who was slain by the first Ethiopian ruler, played a vital role in installing the second Ethiopian ruler of Bengal, Sultan Saifuddin Firuz Shah. Had it not been for her insistence on who should be the next ruler, the Ethiopian rule of Bengal would most probably have ended with its first ruler, Sultan Shahzada Barbak Shah.

The short period of Ethiopian or Habshi rule of Bengal (1487-1494) was also very significant, at least, in one major way. It ended the previous Ilyas Shahis that ruled Bengal for about 150 years with a short break and was the longest dynastic rule of the Bengal Sultanate.