The Sur Das, one of whose hymns is found in the Granth Sahib, must not be confounded with Sur Das, a blind poet famous in the north of India as the author of the Sur Sagar. The Sur Das with whom we are concerned was a Brahman born A. D. 1528. On account of his beauty he was surnamed Madan Mohan, an epithet which means that he bewitched Cupid himself, and it was said that his external and internal eyes bloomed like the lotus flower. He became highly proficient in music, poetry, and kindred arts, and at the same time possessed all the joy, comfort and pleasure to be obtained from esoteric divine knowledge. He sang of love, the first and greatest of the divine passions which form the proper subjects of poetry. As soon as a verse issued from his mouth it became celebrated. It is said that, even in that age of bad roads and slow locomotion, it would reach four hundred miles in a day as if it had acquired wings for flight.
The Emperor Akbar, who admired poetical talents, appointed Sur Das governor of the province of Sandila. Its capital is in the present district of Hardoi in Oudh. His administration appears to have been by no means successful. The ordinary land revenue of Sandila was thirteen lakhs of rupees per year, but it was all spent by Sur Das in feeding holy men. When he heard of a contemplated inspection of his province and the collection of its revenue, he fled to avoid the consequences of his too profuse generosity. When the officials arrived to take the revenue, they found stones in the sealed treasure-chests instead of money. Each chest was labelled with a slip containing these lines:
Sandila yields its thirteen lakhs;