Undoubtedly Akbar was the only ruler among the rulers of medieval India who attempted to foster the national feeling in India.
He did succeed to some extent. However subsequent Mughal rulers failed to catch his spirit.
The majority of historians regard Akbar as a great emperor.
K.T. Shah writes, “Akbar was the greatest of the Mughals and perhaps the greatest of all Indian rulers for a thousand years, if not ever since the days of the mighty Mauryas. But without detracting in the least from the genius of the man of the inheritance of his birth, it may yet be said that Akbar was so great, because he was so thoroughly Indianised.”
Akbar’s claim to be a ‘national king’ is supported on the following basis:
1. Bringing entire India under rule of one monarch.
2. Unified system of administration.
3. Unified system of revenue administration.
4. Unified taxation policy.
5. Rajput policy of reconciliation.
6. Religious policy of synthesis and toleration.
7. Making Persian as court language.
8. Generous help in the growth of literature in all languages.
9. Developing a uniform Indian style of fine arts by bringing about synthesis of different styles.
10. Cultural harmony relating to customs and manners.
11. Welfare of his subjects belonging to different communities.
Edwardes and Gerrett wrote:
“Akbar has proved his worth in different fields of action. He was an intrepid soldier, a great general, a wise administrator, a benevolent ruler, and a sound judge of character. He was a born leader of men and can rightly claim to be one of the mightiest sovereigns known to history …During a reign of nearly fifty years, he built up a powerful Empire which could vie with the strongest and established a dynasty whose hold over India was not contested by any rival for about a century. His reign witnessed the final transformation of the Mughuls from merely military invaders into a permanent Indian dynasty.”
1. Considering India as Motherland:
Most of the Sultan rulers of India considered themselves as the representative of Caliph of Baghdad. Babur had also willed to be buried outside India and in his home country. Humayun also looked towards Kabul and Qandhar. Akbar completely identified himself with India, its people and soil etc. He worked for the prosperity of India. He had loyalty to India alone and none else.
2. Union of Hindustan under one head:
According to Malleson, “Akbar’s foremost aim was the union of Hindustan under one head which was difficult to achieve had he persecuted all Non-Islamic religions. To accomplish this, it was necessary first to conquer, secondly to respect all consciences and all methods of worshipping the Almighty.” Thus Akbar’s aim to expand his empire in India was to unify the scattered kingdoms under one umbrella. However according to Dr. R.P. Tripathi, the aim of Akbar was more ambitious than that of national king. Akbar in his view wanted to bring the entire world under his control as he was an expansionist.
3. Equal treatment with all subjects:
Famous artist Ferguson has written, “There is nothing more remarkable in Akbar’s character as his toleration which influenced all his activities. He had the same love and appreciation for all his Hindu subjects as he had for his co-religionists.”
4. Synthesis of all religions:
Akbar attempted to being about synthesis of all religions. ‘Ibadat Khana’ was established for religious discussions.
5. Founding of Din-i-Ilahi:
On the basis of good points of all religions, Akbar founded a new religion and such a step could he taken only by a national ruler.
6. Appointments on merits and not on religious basis:
Merit was the basis of all appointments and this led to great efficiency in his administration. By this policy Akbar won the heart of the Hindus. Todar Mal, was appointed an Finance Minister. Bhagwan Dass, Man Singh and Birbal were among the high-ups.
7. Akbar’s ‘Nav-ratnas’ (Nine Jewels):
Out of nine distinguished persons of his court, four were Hindus.
8. Removal of restrictions upon the Hindus:
Akbar abolished the pilgrim tax as well as jizya tax. He gave religious freedom to all.
9. Matrimonial alliances with the Hindus:
Akbar entered into matrimonial alliances with several Rajput families. However it is not clear why no girl from the royal family was married into Hindu family.
10. Cultural synthesis of Hindus and Muslims:
Akbar made vigorous efforts to bring about fusion of Hindu and Muslim art and literature.
The effects of both Persian and Indian art are clearly visible in his buildings built at Fatehpur Sikri, Agra and Delhi.
It is said that not less than 13 out of 17 most important painters of his court were Hindus.
Akbar established a special translation department with the objective of translating the sacred books of the Hindus from Sanskrit into Persian.
From the accounts given above, it is clear that Akbar was a national ruler. Jawaharlal Nehru has rightly described him, “Father of Indian nationalism.”