Here we detail about the top seventeen things to know about Akbar the Great. They are:
1. Early Life of Akbar 2. India at the Time of Akbar’s Accession 3. Akbar and the Second Battle of Panipat (1556) 4. Akbar Freed Himself from his Guardian Bairam Khan (1660) and everything else.
1. Early Life of Akbar:
Born in Amarkot on October 15, 1542, when his father was a fugitive, Akbar’s childhood was spent in adversity. When Humayun was on his way to Persia to implore Shah Tahmasp’s assistance he received the news of Askari’s march against him. Humayun was at Mustang then.
He fled with Hamida Banu, Akbar’s mother leaving Akbar, a baby of one year, behind, to his fate. Askari picked the baby and sent him to his wife who looked after the baby with motherly affection. In 1545 after recovering Qandahar from Askari and Kabul from Kamran he sent for his son whose whereabouts he came to know in the meantime. Akbar was then three years of age and when brought to Hamida Banu, he easily recognised his mother and jumped into her arms.
Akbar was now being looked after by a number of nurses, the chief of whom was Maham Anaga, wife of Atga Khan who has saved Humayun from drowning after the battle of Kanauj or Bilgram.
Akbar was a truant boy and all attempts of his tutors to teach him to read write failed. He bided his time in horse and camel riding, and looking after his pet dogs, pigeons etc. Although endowed with extraordinary memory he would not even sit down to learn the alphabet. Even in his childhood he became an expert swordsman, horse-rider and also expert in other martial exercises.
In 1551, on the death of Hindal, Akbar was made the governor of Ghazni, with Munim Khan as his guardian. After Humayun succeeded in defeating Sikandar Shah Sur in 1555, he formally declared Akbar as the heir-apparent and after occupation of Delhi Akbar was appointed governor of Lahore and the famous Bairam Khan, a friend of Humayun, was appointed Akbar’s guardian.
At the time of Humayun’s death in 1556, Akbar was in camp with his guardian Bairam Khan, in the pursuit of Sikandar Sur, nephew of Sher Shah. The news of the death of Humayun was kept concealed in order to facilitate Akbar’s peaceful accession. Bairam Khan took immediate step to enthrone Akbar, then a boy of thirteen on a brick platform improvised on the occasion and proclaimed him emperor on February 14, 1556. His accession to the throne had already been proclaimed in Delhi on February 11, 1556 the day of which Humayun died.
2. India at the Time of Akbar’s Accession:
India “presented a dark and complex picture.” Akbar’s half-brother Mirza Muhammad Hakim was governing Kabul almost in full independence. Kashmir, Multan, Orissa, Malwa and Gujarat as also the local chieftains of Gondwana had become virtually independent. In the south, the vast Vijayanagar empire, the Muslim Sultanates of Khandesh, Berar, Bidar, Ahmadnagar and Golconda etc. felt little interest in North Indian politics. The Portuguese were in possession of Goa and Diu.
Humayun had succeeded in recovering only a small part of the Mughal territories in Hindustan. The Afghan Surs were still in occupation of the greater portion of Sher Shah’s dominions. “The country from Agra to Malwa, and the confines of Jaunpur owned ‘ the sovereignty of Adil Shah ; from Delhi to the smaller Rohtas on the road to Kabul, it was in the hands of Shah Sikandar ; and from the borders of the hills to the boundaries of Gujarat, it belonged to Ibrahim Khan.”
After Akbar’s accession, Adil Shah’s general Himu came forward to oppose the Mughals. He defeated the Mughal governor of Delhi Tardi Beg, and occupied Delhi and Agra. Himu betrayed his master, assumed the title of Raja Vikramjit or Vikramaditya and advanced to meet Akbar and Bairam Khan in the historic field of Panipat.
3. Akbar and the Second Battle of Panipat (1556):
Bairam Khan with Akbar advanced through Thaneswar to the plain of Panipat, where thirty years earlier, Akbar’s grandfather, Babur had routed and slain Ibrahim Lodi. Himu lost his park of artillery in a preliminary engagement yet he faced his adversary with 15,000 war-elephants and a vast number of troops far superior in number to those of Akbar.
The battle was fought on November 5, 1556, and at the initial stage Himu successfully attacked the enemy on both wings. Bairam Khan commanded the ten thousand strong army from the rear, placed Ali Quli Khan, later appointed Khan Zaman, in charge of the centre, Sikandar Khan Uzbeg in charge of the right wing and Abdullah Khan Uzbeg in charge of the left wing. Akbar was kept by Bairam Khan at a safe distance in the rear by his- guardian Bairam Khan.
After a successful attack on the two wings, Himu launched an attack on the centre of the Mughal army; Himu appeared to be on the point of winning victory. But the defeated Mughal troops on two wings collected themselves and made a counter offensive on Himu’s flanks. Ali Quli Khan made a cavalry charge on the centre of Himu’s army.
While fighting was raging with all fury between the two sides, Himu was struck by an arrow in his eye and he fell fainted. Himu’s elephant driver took him out of the battlefield but was pursued by the Mughal army and brought before Akbar. Bairam Khan insisted on his young master to sever the head of Himu by his own hand and become a Ghazi, i.e. slayer of infidel, which Akbar complied with.
Abul Fazl gives us a different story. According to him Akbar refused to kill a dying man. Dr. Smith, however, points out that “the commonly accepted story that young Akbar exhibited a chivalrous unwillingness to strike a wounded prisoner is a later, courtly invention.”
Significance of the second battle of Panipat (Nov. 5, 1556) lay in the fact that it marked the real beginning of the Mughal empire in India and the history of its expansion began. The political significance of this battle was all the more far-reaching,-for it shattered the military power of Himu on the one hand and put an end to the Afghan pretensions to sovereignty in Hindustan forever.
The victors occupied Delhi on the day of victory. Agra was also captured soon after. Himu’s aged father was taken prisoner and put to death on his refusal to embrace Islam. Attempt to capture Himu’s widow, however, failed. Sikandar Sur Afghan, pretender to the Delhi throne, was compelled to surrender in May, 1557, and was assigned a jagir in Bihar only to be expelled there-from soon after.
Muhammad Adil, another Afghan pretender, was killed in 1557. The third pretender Ibrahim had to flee and take refuge in Orissa. Within two years of the second battle of Panipat there remained no Sur claimant to the throne of Delhi and Akbar’s sovereignty over Delhi was confirmed.
4. Akbar Freed himself from his Guardian Bairam Khan (1660):
In 1660, Akbar had attained the age of eighteen and began to resent the galling tutelage of Bairam Khan. Bairam Khan was a man of extraordinary personality and of imperious nature. He would have no regard for other people’s feelings. Akbar’s impatience of the guardianship of Bairam Khan was all the more accentuated by the encouragement by his mother Hamida Banu Begum and his foster-mother Maham Anaga.
Further all persons who were not pleased with Bairam Khan or were inimically disposed towards him seized every opportunity to exaggerate his faults. Coolness grew between Bairam and his royal ward which gradually developed into open breach. Bairam Khan’s order of execution of Tardi Beg wounded the religious feelings of the Sunnis, particularly so due to the appointment of Shaikh Gadi in his place.
Bairam Khan had also committed certain acts of indecision by punishing a Mahaut, i.e. elephant-driver whose elephant ran through the ropes of the tents of Bairam Khan when the elephant was engaged in an elephant-fight witnessed by Akbar himself, and by dismissing Mulla Pir Muhammad, Akbar’s tutor. Akbar was egged upon by harem party headed by Maham Anaga which drew some of the governors to its cause.
Akbar yielded to their pleadings and in a letter couched in polite language written by Abdul Latif, Akbar acknowledged the services of Bairam Khan and conveyed his intention to assume the affairs of the State into his own hands and desiring the Bairam Khan should make a pilgrimage to Mecca. A suitable assignment was made for Bairam’s maintenance, the revenue of which would be transmitted to him from time to time.
Bairam Khan, despite well-wishers advice, after some hesitation complied with the royal command, relinquished his office and was making arragements to collect his treasures in the Punjab, but as he was not moving sufficiently fast as desired by those who wanted him to be finally out of India, i.e. the court party, sent Pir Muhammad with an army to hasten him out of the country.
Pir Muhammad was the former ungrateful protege of Bairam Khan. This was too much for Bairam. He expressed this affront to his personal dignity and status held by him so long by standing up for armed resistance. He was defeated Akbar, with his generosity and gratitude to his former guardian, granted him pardon.
He was offered the governorship of Chanderi, and Kalpi, alternatively to become Akbar’s confidential adviser or leave for Mecca. Bairam Khan chose the last alternative; after all he was too high-minded and dignified a person to accept any position inferior to one that he had been occupying for long. He decided to start for Mecca.
But on his way he was assassinated by an Afghan named Mubarak Khan whose father was killed by Bairam Khan in a battle in 1555. Akbar gave shelter to the now destitute family of Bairam Khan. Bairam Khan’s infant son, Abdul Rahim, was brought up under Akbar’s care and in 1584 was honoured by his father’s title of Khan Khana.
Taking a dispassionate view of the services rendered by Bairam Khan when Akbar’s position on the Delhi throne was precarious, his able guidance of his royal ward and the court party’s setting of Pir Muhammad to hasten him out of the country, one cannot but come to the conclusion that Bairam Khan was a person more sinned against than sinning. Akbar’s generosity towards him when he had revolted was not certainly commensurate with the services rendered by him in restoring the Mughals on the Delhi throne.
Akbar’s freedom from the tutelage of Bairam Khan did not make him completely a free man in regard to his administration. He was now under the new tutelage of his chief nurse Maham Anaga, her son Adham Khan, Pir Muhammad, Shiab-ud-din Ahmad Khan etc. of the harem party. In 1561 when Akbar appointed his foster-father Shams- ud-din Atga Khan as his Prime Minister, the harem party, particularly, Maham Anaga and Adham Khan were extremely displeased.
The intransigence and high-handedness of Adham Khan and Pir Muhamman began to exceed all bounds of toleration. On May 16 1562 Adham Khan stabbed Atga Khan to death while he was attending to his official duties’ He also tried to enter the room in which Akbar was then sleeping in order to make his peace with Akbar.
But the guard prevented his entry by bolting the door from inside Akbar awakened by the noise caused by the murder of Atga Khan came out and asked Adham Khan why he had killed Atga Khan. Adham Khan had the temerity to threaten Akbar himself and even held his hand and sword but Akbar’s severe blow stunned him and at once he was put under arrest, bound hands and feet and thrown down from the palace terrace under orders of Akbar.
Maham Anaga who was ailing was informed of the incident by Akbar himself which evoked a reply from her “Your Majesty has done well.” Soon after Maham also died. This was how Akbar freed himself from the influence of the harem party.
5. Expansion of Mughal Empire under Akbar’s Rule:
When Akbar ascended the Delhi throne the Mughal Empire comprised the Punjab Delhi and Agra. During the years 1558 to 1560 when Akbar was under the tutelage and protection of Bairam Khan Mughal dominion in Hindustan was on the road to expansion by the occupation of the strong fort of Gwalior in Central India, Ajmer, the key of northern Rajputana and Jaunpur province in the east.
With the emancipation of Akbar from the tutelage of the harem party called the petticoat government (1560-62) by Dr. Smith, began his personal rule in the fullest sense of the term. Akbar “was the most ambitious of men who loved power and wealth brooking no rival near his throne”, now set himself to the conquest of north-western and central India, to be followed by the conquest of the east and the south. He would say that “A monarch should be ever intent on conquest, otherwise his neighbours rise in arms against him.” Akbar acted on these avowed principles all throughout his reign.
During the petticoat government, Adham Khan and Pir Muhammad had conquered Malwa, but its ruler Baz Bahadur recovered it and held it till he was compelled to submit some years later.
In 1564 Akbar emancipated himself from the influence of the harem party and now he was both in fact and name to make himself the sole master of Hindustan. Akbar knew well that capture of the leading fortresses was a sine qua non to the overall authority over Hindustan. During the course of his conquest it will be noticed that he was taking particular care to acquire important fortresses.
(a) In 1564, Akbar despatched Asaf Khan, governor of Kara and eastern provinces to conquer the kingdom of Garh-Katanga, i.e. Gondwana, comprising the northern districts of the Central provinces. Vir Narayan, the reigning king was a minor and the queen- mother Durgabati, a Rajput lady of great charm and valour was ruling the kingdom as the regent of her son. He had a powerful army of 20,000 horses, 1000 elephants and a large infantry.
Durgabati had valiantly defended her kingdom against Baz Bahadur and his Afghan followers of Malwa. Akbar’s attack on Gondwana was an unprovoked one, a part of his policy of imperialistic expansion. Asaf Khan’s army had 50,000 troops! Durgabati ably resisted Asaf Khan with an inferior force for two days. Vir Narayan was wounded in the battle and his mother got him removed from the scene of the battle Durgabati continued to fight till she herself got struck by two arrows from the enemy side.
She stabbed herself to death in order to avoid dishonour at the hands of the Mughal army. “Choosing death rather than dishonour she stabbed herself to the heart so that her end was noble and devoted as her life had been useful.” Vir Narayan, despite his being wounded now offered resistance and fell fighting. His women immolated themselves by performing jauhar to escape dishonour. Asaf Khan collected immense booty in jewels gold and silver, and 1000 elephants out of which he sent on 200 elephants to Akbar retaining the rest of the booty for himself.
At this point of time Abdullah Khan Uzbeg, governor of Malwa, and Khan Zaman, governor of Jaunpur, rebelled. Taking the cue from these rebellions, Mirza Hakim, brother of Akbar, also proclaimed himself emperor of Hindustan. Akbar quelled all the three rebels with a heavy hand and meted out adequate punishment to the rebels.
(b) Akbar’s next move was for the conquest of Chitor, the capital of Mewar. Akbar’s sense of imperialism deeply resented the independent status assumed by Rana Udai Singh of Mewar, who was acknowledged as the head of the Rajput clans.
It may be recalled here that even after the defeat of Sangram Singha in the battle of Khanua, the Rajput power was not totally disrupted. Akbar’s far-sightedness gave him to realise that friendship and support of a valiant race of people like the Rajputs would be very much valuable for putting the Mughal rule over Hindustan on permanent basis.
This apart, Rajput friendship and assistance would immensely help Akbar to expand the Mughal Empire and render security to it. It was through Rajputana again that commercial route between north-western India and the rest of the country passed. Akbar’s political wisdom, his far-sighted statesmanship revealed these political and economic advantages of friendly relationship with the Rajputs.
In 1562 Beharimal of Amber (Jaipur) accepted Akbar as his suzerain and gave his daughter in marriage with Akbar. In this a matrimonial relationship was established between the Mughals and the Rajputs. Behari Mai, his son Bhagawandas and grandson Man Singha accepted high military posts in Akbar’s army and helped him in expanding his empire.
It may be mentioned here that Rana Sangram Singha who represented the spirit of Rajput valiance and independence and who staked his claim for the throne of Hindustan fought against Babur, the grandfather of Akbar. But neither that spirit of independence and dignity nor the valliance and fighting strength now remained among the Rajputs.
Rana Udai Singha was’ as incapable as craven-hearted. He, however, did not stoop so low as to buy Mughal neutrality or friendship by giving his daughter in marriage to Akbar or to accept his vassalage. In 1567 when Akbar invested the famous fort of Chitor, Udai Singha fled and took shelter in the hills. Jai Mai and Patta or Fatha—two Rajput chiefs fought valiantly up to the last and laid their lives down in fighting against the Mughals.
A large number of the Rajputs lost their lives in defence of their capital. When all hopes of victory were lost, the Rajput women performed jauhar in order to avoid dishonour. Akbar was victorious, Chitor fell and Akbar inflamed by the stiff resistance offered to his arms ordered a general massacre which led to the killing of 30,000 Rajputs.
“The gates of the fortress (Chitor) were taken off their hinges and removed to Agra. The huge kettledrums which used to proclaim for miles around, the exit and entrance of the princes, and the massive candelabra which lighted the shrine of the Great Mother, also were carried away to adorn the halls of the victor. Chitor was left desolate, so that in the eighteenth century it became the haunt of tigers and other wild beasts. In these latter days it has partially recovered, and the lower town is now a prosperous little place with a railway station.”
(c) Next year, in 1568, Akbar advanced to reduce Ranthambhor. Raja Surjan Rai Hara- was a vassal of the Rana of Mewar. But before the siege was laid the army was recalled as the rebellious Mirzas invaded Malwa. It was in 1569 that Akbar could again advance against Ranthambhor. The siege of the fort lasted for a month-during which there were heavy casualties on both sides.
It was on March 18, 1569 that the fort of Ranthambhor fell despite most valiant resistance put up by Surjan Rai Hara. Tod refers to a visit by Bhagawandas to Surjan Rai along with Akbar in disguise. The Rajputs having recognised Akbar, the latter personally conducted negotiations.
Some historians including Dr. Smith accepts the narrative of Tod, but according to badauni Surjan Rai Hara, a vassal of the Rana of Mewar, considering the fact that an impregnable fort like Chitor had failed to resist the Mughals thought that resistance would be useless and as such sent his sons Danda and Bhoja to Akbar for negotiating peace with him. Akbar granted lenient terms and returned to his capital.
(d) The capture of two strong Rajput forts, namely, Chitor and Ranthambhor while adding to the military strength of the Mughal, empire, enhanced the military prestige of Akbar. Now the only fort of importance that was yet to be occupied was Kalinjar in the modern Banda district of Uttar Pradesh. Sher Shah could not reduce it.
Raja Ramchand of Rewa had watched with consternation the fate of Chitor and Ranthambhor So when in 1569 Majnun Khan Qaqshal was sent by Akbar against Kalinjar, Ram Chand made a seeming defence and submitted. Raja was assigned a jagir near Allahabad and Kalinjar was put in charge of Majnun Khan.
(e) Akbar’s visit to Nagaur in 1570 brought more Rajput principalities under his control without any war. It was through Bhagawandas, brother-in-law of Akbar that the rulers of Bikaner and Jodhpur, Rai Raiyan Mai and Chandra Sen respectively, waited upon Akbar. They were received with all courtesy, in audience, and they made their submission to Akbar’s sovereignty.
Likewise Rawal Hara Rai of Jaisalmer submitted Akbar married a princess of the ruling family of Bikaner and also the daughter of the ruler of Jaisalmer. By 1570, the entire Rajsthan except Mewar with its feudatory States— Banswara, Pratapgarh and Dungarpura—accepted the suzerainty of Emperor Akbar.
(f) Akbar’s attention was now turned towards Gujarat. It had been conquered and possessed by Babur for some time, but it regained its independence. Gujarat was a rich centre of commerce between India, Turkey, rich ports on its coasts, Gujarat had an attractive commercial position and possessed rare economic advantages. Gujarat also lay on the way through which Indian Muslims in those days would journey to Mecca.
Akbar naturally, realised the importance of occupying Gujarat for the interests of his empire’ The ruling king Muzaffar Shah III was only a nominal ruler and the distracted condition of Gujarat due to a bloody feud among the nobles for extension of their powers and interests, offered an excellent opportunity to Akbar. Besides, Akbar’s rebellious relatives the Mirzas had taken shelter in different parts of Gujarat.
This gave an added cause to Akbar’s invasion of Gujarat. In the meantime one of the leaders of the civil war that was raging in Gujarat, Itimad Khan appealed to Akbar for intervention. Akbar at once sent Khan Khana with 10,000 horses as advance guard and himself followed with the mam army in September, 1572. Akbar easily took possession of Ahmedabad and took Muzaffar Shah III prisoner.
Itimad Khan and other chief nobles came and waited on Akbar Khan Azam was appointed governor of Gujarat and Muzaffar Shah III was pensioned off. Akbar next proceeded to Cambay where the merchants from Turkey, Syria, Persia, Trans-Oxiana, portugal etc. waited on him. Akbar next captured Surat (Feb. 28, 1573) and the Portuguese who had come in touch with him courted his friendship.
Hardly Akbar had returned to Fathpur Sikri in Agra when news reached him of insurrections breaking out in Gujarat. Akbar hurried to Ahmedabad vanquished the insurgents and annexed Gujarat as an integral part of his empire. According to Dr. Smith, “The conquest of Gujarat marks an important epoch in Akbar’s history. The annexation gave his government free access to the sea with all the rich commerce passing through Surat and other western ports. The territory and income of the State were vastly extended so that the viceroyalty of Gujarat became one of the most important posts in the gift of the sovereign.”
Towards the last part of the reign of Sher Shah, Sulaiman Karrani was the governor of Bihar. But with the fall of the Sur dynasty he made himself independent and extended his authority over Bengal and Orissa. Sulaiman Karrani was circumspect enough to disarm Akbar by acknowledging his suzerainty.
But the rashness of his son Daud Khan, who considered himself more than a match for the imperial power, prompted him to openly defy Akbar. In 1574, Akbar undertook an expedition to chastise the presumptuous prince. He expelled him from Patna and ‘Hajipur during the rainy season of the year. Mumin Khan was then left in charge of the Bengal campaign and Akbar himself returned to Fathpur Sikri.
Daud Khan retreated towards Orissa but was defeated by the imperial forces at Tukaroi on the eastern bank of the river Suvarnarekha early in 1575 (March 3). But towards the end of the same year Daud made an attempt to recover Bengal. But near Rajmahal he was finally defeated and killed in July, 1576.
Bengal was thus finally annexed to the Mughal empire. But some local chiefs, the most important of whom were Kedar Rai of Vikrampur, Pratapaditya of Jessore, Kandarpa Narayan of Chandradvipa, i.e. Bakarganj and Isa Khan of East Bengal, continued to resist the authority of the emperor for long. Akbar annexed Orissa finally in 1592.
(g) Chitor and the eastern part of Mewar had been occupied by Akbar in 1568, but the major portion of Mewar continued to be under Rana Udai Singh. His son, the indomitable Rana Pratap, ascended the throne of Mewar at Gogunda on March 3, 1572. He swore uncompromising resistance to the Mughals and recovery of Chitor.
The magnitude of his task can be better understood when we note that without a capital and with only slander resources he had to oppose the organised strength of “immeasurably the richest on the face of the earth.” His fellow Rajput chiefs and neighbours and even his brother Shakti Singh who lacked the high Rajput ideals of chivalry and independence had allied themselves with the Mughals.
No obstacle was too alarming for this national hero of Rajputana, who was of a much nobler stuff than his relatives. The magnitude of the peril confirmed the fortitude of Pratap, who vowed, in the words of the bard to make his mother’s milk resplendent and he amply redeemed his pledge.
Akbar, on the other hand, was bent upon wresting the remaining portions of Mewar from Rana Pratap. He sent Man Singh assisted by Asaf Khan, with a powerful army to invade the remnant of Mewar in April, 1576. Man Singh reached the plain at the northern end of the pass of Haldighat.
Here the imperial army was attacked by Rana Pratap and a furious battle was fought in which the arrows and the bullets were shot indiscriminately as the Rajputs proved too much for the Sisodia heroes. Pratap was surrounded by the enemy and was about to be cut off. Bida Jhala, a faithful follower of Pratap, cleverly seized the crown from the head of the Rana which gave an impression to the enemy that he was himself the Rana.
As he was pursued, Pratap was taken out of the battlefield by some faithful soldiers. Bida Jhala proved his loyalty to Pratap by laying his life down in the battlefield. Pratap took shelter in the hills.
Next morning, Gogunda was occupied by Man Singh and Pratap’s strongholds fell into the hands of the Mughals one by one. The indomitable Sisodia king Rana Pratap, although reduced to starvation at times, would neither condescend to lower his pride and acknowledge Akbar’s suzerainty, nor to agree to any matrimonial alliance with the Mughals. It is wrongly supposed by some that Akbar due to chivalrous regard for Rana Pratap, his great adversary, left him unmolested for the rest of his life. That fact is otherwise, Pratap was hunted from hill to hill and he and his family had to live on the fruits of the hills of his own native land.
Instead of giving himself up to despair, Pratap continued the war with the Mughals and before his death in 1597 (Jan.) succeeded in recovering many of his strongholds. Before he breathed his last he exacted a pledge from his chief, for he had no faith in his son, that “his country should not be abandoned to the Turks.”
Tod’s observation about Rana Pratap is worth quoting: “Thus closed the life of a Rajput whose memory is even now idolised by every Sisodia…Had Mewar possessed her Thucydides or her Xenophon, neither the wars of Peloponnesus nor the retreat of the Ten Thousand would have yielded more diversified incidents for the historic muse than the deeds of the brilliant reign amid the many vicissitudes of Mewar.
Undaunted heroism, inflexible fortitude, that sincerity which ‘keeps honour bright’, perseverance— with fidelity such as no nation can boast of—were the materials opposed to a soaring ambition, commanding talents, unlimited means and the fervour of religious zeal ; all, however, insufficient to contend with one unconquerable mind.”
Rana Pratap’s death provided Akbar with an opportunity to reduce the remaining portion of Mewar, but his preoccupation in other quarters prevented him from doing so. Though Akbar did not stop sending more than one expedition against Amar Singh, son of Pratap, yet Mewar defied total annexation to the Mughal Empire.
(h) North-west frontier had been occupying a position of strategic importance to every government in India and the problem of maintaining control over the region drew the most pointed attention of all rulers. “The Hindukush range, separating Central Asia from Southern Afghanistan, Baluchistan and India, becomes ‘much less forbidding’ in the north of Herat, and through this vulnerable point an external invader from Persia or Central Asia may easily enter the Kabul valley and India.” At a time when Kabul was within the Mughal Empire, Qandahar was India’s first line of defence.
Qandahar was also a very important commercial centre where merchandise of different parts of Asia used to come for marketing. Qandahar in enemy hands would, therefore, mean a dagger pointed to the heart of the Mughal Empire. The turbulent Afghan tribes of the frontier— the Yusufzais and the Uzbegs—were dangerous in the fastnesses of their native hills and fanatically attached to their liberty.
They were least friendly to the Mughals. Akbar had suppressed the turbulence of the Uzbegs and Abdullah Khan; their leader became friendly to him. The Yusufzais were reduced to submission by Raja Todor Mai and Prince Murad. Simultaneously with the expeditions against the tribesmen, Akbar despatched Bhagawan Das and Qasim Khan for the reduction of Kashmir.
The Sultan of Kashmir, Yusuf Shah, and his son Yaqub were defeated and Kashmir was annexed to the Mughal Empire (1586)! Sind was conquered in 1590-91 and Baluchistan in 1595. Being harassed by his own relatives the Persian governor of Qandahar, Muzaffar Hussain Mirza, surrendered it to Akbar, thus Qandahar came peacefully into the possession of Akbar. In this way Akbar made his north-west frontier secure and at the same time made important additions to his territories. By 1595 Akbar’s empire extended from Hindukush to the Brahmaputra and from the Himalayas to the Narmada except a few tracts.
(i) After making north-west frontier secure and having consolidated his authority over northern and central India, Akbar turned his attention towards the Deccan. Akbar’s imperialistic ideal necessarily included extension of his hegemony’ over the Deccan Sultanates—Khandesh, Bijapur, Ahmadnagar and Golconda. Akbar’s farsightedness also made it clear to him that the Portuguese merchants must be pushed back to the sea in order to prevent them from interfering in the politics of the country.
The Deccan Sultanates were frittering their strength in mutual hostilities and except on a solitary occasion when they united against the Vijayanagar Empire they did not realise the wisdom of offering a joint front against the common enemy. Thus when Akbar sent his emissary to demand their peaceful submission, all except Khandesh sent evasive answers.
Diplomatic missions having failed, Akbar decided to use force. He first appointed Prince Danial to lead an expedition to the Deccan but changed his mind and recalled him after he had already left Lahore. Mirza Abdur Rahim was appointed in the place of Danial to command the invading force.
Abdur Rahim, Bairam Khan’s son, assisted by Murad, the emperor’s second son, marched against Ahmadnagar. Ahmadnagar, the premier kingdom of the Deccan, was rent with internecine feuds and dissensions at this crucial time. Though the operations of the Mughal army were hindered because the two general did not pull on well with each other, yet the siege of Ahmadnagar was laid in 1595.
The city was heroically defended by the gallant Chand Bibi, the Dowager-Queen of Bijapur and an aunt of the reigning king Muzaffar of Ahmadnagar. Torn by internal dissensions the imperial general raised the siege and made peace with Chand Bibi according to which Berar was ceded to the Mughals and Ahmadnagar agreed to recognise the suzerainty of the Mughal emperor, Bahadur, a minor, was placed on the throne of Ahmadnagar.
Soon after Chand Bibi resigned her authority and contrary to her advice and in violation of the peace signed between the Mughals and Chand Bibi, a militant section of the nobles at Ahmadnagar expelled the Mughals from Berar. This brough the Mughal army against Ahmadnagar once again and the Mughals gained a signal victory in a battle on the bank of the Godavari (1577). Internal dissensions led to the murder of Chand Bibi and the city was stormed by the Mughals in 1600. It was, however, not until the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan that Ahmadnagar was finally annexed to the Mughal Empire.
In 1598, Abdulla Khan Uzbeg died, which brought relief to Akbar from the anxiety of a possible invasion of India from the North West. The Sultan of Khandesh, Miran Bahadur Shah, repudiated the Mughal authority and prepared to defend himself in his strong fortress of Asirgarh. Akbar marched to the south in July, 1599 and easily captured Burhampur, the capital of Khandesh.
He laid siege of the fortress of Asirgarh. “It was impossible to conceive a stronger fortress or a more amply supplied with artillery, warlike stores and provisions.” While the siege was being valiantly resisted by the army of Khandesh, the news of the fall of Ahmadnagar reached them. It caused much disappointment and dejection among them. An unexpected calamity had also fallen on the Mughal camp, for Prince Salim had risen in open revolt. Thus both sides had enough reasons to come to terms.
Akbar himself took the initiative he sent an invitation to Bahadur to meet him on the assurance of safe return. Bahadur arrived at Burhampur camp with a scarf round his neck which was a sign of submission. But as he stood before the emperor, an imperial officer rudely threw Bahadur prostrate on the ground.
Akbar then ordered Bahadur to send a written communication to his garrison at Asirgarh to surrender the fort. This Bahadur refused to comply, and he was put under detention. As the news of this treachery reached the Abyssinian commandant of the fortress of Asirgarh, he sent his son Mukarrib Khan to protest.
Mukarrib was also asked, when he came to protest, if his father would surrender the fort. Mukarrib’s answer was flat refusal couched in a language full of taunts which stung Akbar deeply. He ordered Mukarrib to be stabbed to death.
Akbar turned desperate. He wrote to Father Jerome and Benedict of Goa to write to the Portuguese of Goa to send him heavy artillery to reduce the fort to submission. When the Portuguese refused, Akbar flew into a rage. Although there are contradictory versions of the means applied for securing the surrender of the fort, both from the accounts of Sirhindi and Abul Fazl, it is clear that unfair means such as distribution of gold- and silver among the officers of the garrison as well as the outbreak of pestilence within the fort led to the surrender of Asirgarh in 1601. “There can hardly be any doubt that the ignoble methods by which the strongest fort in India was captured by Akbar must for ever remain as a slur on his reputation.”
6. Akbar’s Attitude to State:
Akbar’s conquest of Bengal in 1576, twenty year after his accession, made him master of the whole of Hindustan and the most important administrative reform effected by him in that year was the division of the empire into twelve Subahs or provinces : Agra, Ajmer, Allahabad, Oudh, Bengal, Bihar, Delhi, Kabul, Lahore, Malwa, Multan and Gujarat. After Khandesh, Berar and Ahmadnagar were conquered, the number of the Subahs rose to fifteen.
Akbar’s attitude to the State went through a process of evolution closely connected with the gradual change in his religious policy as well as his theory of kingship. At the initial stage of his reign, Akbar was an orthodox Muslim ruler, the Amir-ul-Mummin, i.e. the commander of the faithful, a defender of Islam and entrusted to carry out God’s will as expressed in the Holy Quran and as such responsible to God alone. In theory, if not in practice, he was subordinate to the millat, i.e. the whole Muslim population. The millat was, however, controlled by the ulemas, i.e. the Muslim divines.
Akbar was wise enough to understand that his growing empire based on military conquests would not ensure permanence. The experiences of the Sultanate of Delhi as also of the military success of his grandfather were not lost on him. He realised that a strong political system and efficient administrative machinery based on the habitual allegiance of all Subjects irrespective of caste, creed or religion were imperatively necessary for an enduring empire.
He, therefore, set about in his characteristically forthright manner to achieve them. Akbar sought to remove the check upon his will by the millat or the ulemas and to that end promulgated his Infallible Decree (Mahzar) in 1579 (Sept.) by which he assumed power of interpreting law which in his opinion was likely to be beneficial to the State or adopted any line of action for the benefit of his subjects, provided he could quote any verse of the Quran in support of his action.
In practice, however, this meant that Akbar combined in his person both the secular and ecclesiastical authorities. The next logical step was to establish his claim as the impartial ruler of his people, Muslims or non Muslims. Not that Akbar’s policy of setting up an administration which would be personal by all means, but would be fully devoted to the welfare of the people and the State, went without any opposition.
The Sunni ulemas and the Muslim nobility who had been enjoying a privileged position in the State combined to raise a standard of rebellion, for they found Akbar’s policy to be a virtual establishment of common citizenship on the basis of complete toleration. With the help of the Persians and the Rajputs as well as the tacit acquiescence of the bulk of the Sunni population Akbar triumphed.
The rebellion of the Sunni ulemas and a section of the Muslim nobility convinced Akbar that the concept of an Islamic State had to be given up completely and welfare of the diverse creeds within the empire was the only right course to be followed. The scholarly secretary of Akbar, Abul Fazl, propounded the theory of Divine Right of Kingship, which was subscribed to by Akbar.
According to Abul Fazl the king was God’s representative on earth and his shadow. Greater knowledge and wisdom are given to him by God than to any other human being. Akbar maintained that “the very sight of kings had been held to be a part of divine worship.” “Divine worship in monarchs consists in their justice and good administration. Tyranny is unlawful in everyone, especially in a sovereign who is the guardian of the world.”
It is thus clear that Akbar’s attitude to the State and government was one of personal despotism, but enlightened and solicitous of the welfare of the subjects. As the supreme head of the State, he was the supreme commander of the army, the highest executive, the highest law-giver and the fountainhead of justice. He believed in a paternal concept of the State and considered himself as the father and guardian of his people.
As the head of the State and government Akbar worked hard for the discharge of his manifold duties. From Akbarnama we know that Akbar would appear before the public early at sunrise when he was accessible to the common people and would hear their complaints and transact State business.
In the second session he would hold an open court which would generally last for four and a half hours. Huge crowds of all descriptions of people of both sexes would collect and present their petitions to the emperor. Akbar would listen to them and would dispose of many of the cases on the spot. The third session when he would again appear” in the afternoon and hold a full durbar in the Diwan-i-Am.
This session lasted usually for an hour and a half when daily routine business, particularly matters related to the imperial forces, Karkhanas, appointments and promotions of mansabdars granting of Jagirs etc. were attended to. At night he would meet his ministers and advisers in the private audience hall, i.e. Diwan-i-Khas where affairs relating to foreign relations and internal administration were looked after. Late at night confidential matters relating to war and foreign policy or internal administration would be attended to with important ministers in a room called Daulat Khana.
From Abul Fazl we come to know that Akbar would spend hours of night in his private audience hall with philosophers and sufis. There would also be present “unprejudiced historians.” Akbar devoted about sixteen hours of a day in the business of the State.
The above discussion will not leave us in any doubt that Akbar’s solicitousness for the welfare of the people, his paternal attitude towards his duties to his subjects made him both an enlightened and benevolent despot, for, while he would not share his supreme authority with the people, he believed in their right to be well-governed. He earned the habitual obedience of his subjects, both Muslims and non-Muslims and made himself the first Muslim ruler who could be reasonably regarded as the national emperor of India.
7. Composite Nature of Administration Put Forth by Akbar:
Under Akbar the structure of administration continued to be more or less of the time of the Sultanate, although changes in names as well as in details were brought about by him. Under Akbar, the central government as it had evolved comprised the Prime Minister (Vakil), Finance Minister (Diwan), Paymaster General (Mir Bakshi), Chief Sadr (Sadr-i-Sadur). The ministers were appointed by the emperor himself and held office during his pleasure. Ministers were subordinate to the Prime Minister. The Mughal ministers did not constitute any cabinet they were rather glorified clerks than ministers.
As long as Bairam Khan was the Vakil, he exercised the powers of appointing and dismissing other ministers and was the virtual head of all the different departments of the government. But with his removal, the post of Vakil was gradually bereft of much of its real power and the department of finance was taken out of his hands and given to a separate minister called Diwan. Gradually, the Vakil’s position became an ornamental one and did not possess more power than advising the crown. Later, under shah Jahan Diwan was actually made the Grand Wazir, i.e. the Prime Minister.
The Diwan or the finance minister also called wazir, was the head of the finance department and was in charge of the revenue and expenditure of the empire. Muzaffar Khan was Akbar’s first Diwan but was replaced by Raja Todar Mai who was a skilled financier and a first rate administrator.
The main duties of the Diwan were to formulate rules and regulations for land revenue settlement, to fix the rates of revenues, to scrutinise and control disbursements. Important transactions were scrutinised and passed for payment by the Diwan. The provincial Diwans were appointed on his recommendations and were under his control and supervision.
All important revenue transactions, grants of assignments became valid only when his seal was affixed. Diwan was the most trusted person of the emperor and enjoyed wide powers and discretion. His duties were so heavy and multifarious that he had a few important officials to assit him.
These were: Diwan-i-Khalsa, who looked after the crown land, Diwan-i-Jagir, who looked after assignments of land for service or free gifts of land, Sahib-i-Taujih who was in charge of military accounts, Diwan-i-Bayutut who supervised the accounts of various workshops (karkhanas) and Mushrif-i-Khazana who was the treasury officer, all assisting the Diwan in the discharge of his duties.
Akbar fully realised the importance of the revenue and finance department and took a personal interest in its working. He appointed a board of five experts to review work of the department from time to time.
Mir-Bakshi or Paymaster General was in rank next to the imperial Diwan. He was in charge of recording the names, ranks and salaries of mansabdars. Salaries of all officers were disbursed through this office. Mir Bakshi had to keep himself in touch with every head of the military department and every mansabdar.
He was required to attend the imperial Durbar and his position was on the right side of the throne. He had to present the and dates for service in the military department as also to present all horses and man abdars before the emperor. He maintained the list of the palace guards.
Although no he commander-in-chief of the army, he was at times sent in command of forces Muster of troops, branding of horses, issue of certificates for grant of mansabs under his seal and signature were among his important duties. With the increase in the number of troops more than one Bakshi had to be appointed
Sadr-us-Sadur or the chief Sadr was also an important minister and had to perform three types of duties: To act as the religious adviser to the emperor, to disburse royal Charities, and to function as the chief justice of the empire. Under Akbar the chief Sadr enjoyed great power and prestige in regard to all the three types of functions that he discharged.
At the initial stage of his administration Akbar allowed the chief Sadr to function as the religious adviser to the crown. But after he had reorganised his administration in his own concept and rejected the Islamic theory of government, the chief Sadr ceased to be his chief religious adviser. Even with regard to the chief Sadr’s power of granting scholarships and religious jagirs Akbar allowed him only the right to recommend.
From Ain-i-Akbari we know that before such steps were taken by Akbar much corrupt, on had crept into the department of the chief Sadr. Akbar also appointed Sadrs in provinces which also reduced the power of the chief Sadr. After all these measures the department of chief Sadr began to function efficiently.
Apart from the above four principal ministries there was the ministry of royal harem kitchen guards and workshop under a minister called Mir Saman.
8. Provinces under Akbar’s Administration:
Akbar divided his empire into a number of Subahs or provinces for the sake of administrative efficiency. In 1602 the total number of provinces was fifteen. There were a number of subordinate States belonging to chiefs who had accepted Akbar’s sovereignty. The States were strewn all over the empire and were of different sizes and the chiefs enjoyed different degrees of status and prestige.
They were required to enlist themselves as mansabdars in the imperial service and to be present at the court on important occasions
In each Subah or province the head of the administration as also the commander
Of the provincial force was the Sipah Salar i.e. the governor popularly known as subahdar. He was the viceroy of the emperor and appointed by him. The subahdar was to administer even-handed justice in criminal cases, maintain peace and order look after the welfare of the people. He was responsible for punishing the disaffected and the recalcitrant elements. He was to appoint loyal persons for police and intelligence service.
The Mughal system was one of checks and balances. The provincial diwan was next to the subahdar and he was in charge of revenue collection, disbursement of salaries of the provincial officers, to keep accounts, meet the expenses of the subahdar and despatch the balance to the imperial treasury.
The diwan was appointed by the emperor on the recommendation of the imperial diwan and was not subordinate to the subahdar. The system was devised so as to make the subahdar a check on the diwan and the latter a check on the subahdar. The mutual checks and balances were thought to be the only way to curtail the powers of either of these provincial officials.
In fact, the subahdar and the diwan occupied equal status. Besides his financial duties such as revenue collections, disbursements of salaries and meeting other expenses of administration, the diwan was also in charge of civil justice. It goes without saying, cooperation between the subahdar and the diwan was the only condition of smooth administration of a province.
The provincial sadr and qazi’s duties were combined in the same post. While as sadr, it was his duty to recommend persons for free grant of land or cash scholarship to the imperial sadr, his duty as qazi was to try cases as the head of the judicial department of the province. The district and town qazis worked under his supervision.
The provincial Bakshi was in charge of recruitment, organisation, discipline and efficiency of the provincial armed forces. Under the- command of the Sipah Salar, the provincial Bakshi was appointed on the recommendation of the imperial Mir Bakshi.
Waqi Navis or Waqaya Navis was in charge of posting news writers and spies in all important places in the province including the offices of the Sipah Salar, diwan, qazi, faujdar, police officer etc. Much of the security and efficiency of the administration depended on the secret intelligence; as such great attention was paid to this branch. There are instances when news writers were appointed in provinces and in parganas by the central government.
Qotwal was in charge of internal defence, health, sanitation and peace of the provincial captial. He was the head of the entire police administration and thanas of the province.
Mir Bahar was in charge of the customs and boats and ferries, collections made there as well as of port duties realised in coastal towns.
9. Character of Akbar’s Administration:
The Mughal administration under Akbar acquired an efficiency which rendered it brilliant in the Indo-Islamic history of India, but it was not national in the sense that it was mostly foreign in personnel. The Turks, Mongols, Uzbegs, Persians, Arabs and the Atghans with a small percentage of Indian Muslims and Hindus comprised the administrative personnel under Akbar.
Most of the foreigners had of course settled in the country for one or two generations and many of them accompanied Babur or Humayun and were related to the royal family. According to Blochmann, 70 per cent of the high officers of the State had been occupied by them. Akbar threw higher services open to the Hindus, although their number was small both in the civil and the military services.
Among the Hindus who held high civil or military offices, the Rajputs predominated Thus from the point of view of administrative personnel, both civil and military, under Akbar the Mughal administration assumed a composite character.
Structurally, the Mughal administration basically continued to be what it was under the Delhi Sultanate, but with reforms in details, Akbar gave it a secular character which raised it from the narrow sectarian nature of the Sultanate days. Akbar’s establishment of a common citizenship of his subjects irrespective of their castes and creeds and his solicitousness for their welfare and his eagerness for meeting out even handed justice to the people gave him the unstinted loyalty of his vast composite people.
10. Akbar and Mansabdari System:
Under Babur and Humayun the army consisted mostly of foreigners such as the Mongols, Turks, Uzbegs, Persians and the Afghans. The commanding officers were granted assignments in lands in lieu of salaries. Weaknesses as in the ruler, for instance in Humayun, made these commanders corrupt, inclined to insubordination, often avoiding to maintain the number of troops under them, which they were duty bound to do Akbar clearly understood the malady of the armed forces and attempted reforms which were resisted by the commanders.
He had to subdue numerous rebellions of the Mughal and Uzbeg officers. All this convinced Akbar that the only way out of the sorry and dangerous state of affairs was to assume absolute power of control and direction over the army into his own hands. The army needed to be organised in such a manner that corruption would be stamped out and army would become a disciplined force on which the State could safely rely on. The result was the mansabdari system.
A mansab means a rank and a mansabdar a holder of rank in the imperial service. A mansabdar had to maintain a definite number of troops. There were mansabs from ten to ten thousand. The ranks above 5,000 mansabs were, to begin with, kept reserved for the princes and relatives of the blood royal. But later these were given to others, as for instance, Man Singh was made a mansabdar of 7,000. Mansabs above 7,000 were now reserved for members of the royal family.
These mansabdars formed the official nobility and their appointment, promotion, reduction or dismissal depended on the emperor.
Complaints constantly poured in throughout the reign of Akbar that officers did not maintain the required number of horses and necessary equipment out of the revenues allotted to them. Badaoni writing in 1573-74 observed, “In cases of emergency they (Jagirdars) came themselves with some of their slaves and Mughal attendants to the scene of war, but of really useful soldiers there were none.” Badaoni also refers to measures like branding of horses; preparation of minute muster rolls etc., even these did not totally prevent fraud, for “the amirs”, remarks Badaoni, “put most of their servants and mounted attendants in soldiers’ clothes, brought them to the musters and performed everything according to their duties. But when they got to their jagirs they gave leave to their mounted attendants….After enquiry it was found that they were all hired and that their very clothes and saddles were borrowed articles.”
Some mansabdars had no duty except waiting upon the emperor and performing the work they might be called upon to do. Services of the mansabdars might be both civil and military or any of the two. All imperial officers except the sadr and the qazi were enrolled as military officers. Each mansabdar had a fixed rate of pay out of which he had to defray the cost of his establishment and the salary of his troops
The Mughal army comprised cavalry, infantry, artillery and elephants, but no navy. Cavalry was, however, the flower of the Mughal army. The infantry comprised matchlock-men, archers, Mewatis, swordsmen, wrestlers, macebearers, porters, slaves etc. According to Ain-i-Akbari, the total number of matchlock-men under Akbar was 12,000.
Akbar’s artillery was not by any means strong or efficient, although there were pieces of ordinance which were carried by elephants and hundreds of bullocks. There were also different kinds of guns. The artillery was in charge of an officer called mir atish. The elephants were also trained to fight offensive battles by dashing the enemies to the ground and trampling them under foot. Elephants were furnished with defensive armours. Some elephants used to carry ganjals, i.e. light guns on their back which were ignited and fired from their back during battles.
Blochmann’s statement that Akbar’s standing army was only 25,000 strong is not regarded as correct by modern historians who point out that while the standing army under Jahangir and Shahjahan was not less .than three lakhs in strength, Akbar’s standing army could not be in all reasonableness’ any less than this figure, including of course the contingents of the mansabdars.
It may, however, be pointed out that despite Akbar’s giving a great deal of thought and attention to his military establishment, his army was inherently weak and on the evidence of Badaoni we know that corruption in the mansabdari system could not be totally eradicated in spite of various measures undertaken by Akbar.
11. Fiscal Sources of Revenue Settlement in Akbar’s Rule—Todar Mal:
The fiscal sources of the empire were divided into two parts: central and local. The central revenue comprised income from commerce, mint, presents, salt, inheritance, customs and land. The land revenue, of these, was the most important source. Akbar had abolished the pilgrims’ tax, Jizya, which were previously charged from the Hindus. Zakat which was a religious tax on the Muslims was also allowed to lapse.
It may be mentioned that Akbar did not believe in the Islamic theory of taxation, namely, kharaj, khams, zakat and jizya. Land revenue, according to Moreland, during the laster years of Akbar’s reign amounted to ninety million rupees. Revenue derived from other sources constituted only a fraction of the total amount of land revenue.
The land revenue was charged on the basis of the government records prepared after ascertaining the average produce of various kinds of lands for ten years. The system was evolved as a result of a series of experiments undertaken during the early years of the reign of Akbar. The first experiment was undertaken in 1563 by Aitmad Khan under orders of Akbar.
Aitmad Khan divided the Khalisa land of Agra, Delhi and a part of Lahore into several areas, each yielding two and a half lakhs of rupees as revenue. But this did not mean any fundamental change in the system of land revenue assessment. As such in 1566, the second experiment was undertaken when Muzaffar Khan was the Diwan and Todar Mai his assistant.
It was noticed that fictitious roll rent was maintained and the State demand was converted into cash on the basis of a fixed price of the produce for all parts of the empire without reference to their actual market price, whereby the State received much less than what it was entitled to. Muzaffar Khan made new rent roll but without measuring the lands of villages or referring to the records of the village patwaris.
But Muzaffar Khan’s attempt was only partially successful. In 1569 a third experiment under the new Diwan Shiab-ud-din Ahmad abandoned Sher Shah’s schedule of assessment and introduced the system of assessing the revenue, when the crop would ripen and would be standing in the field. This was rather an arbitrary and cumbersome system which often led to haggling and bargaining between the cultivator and the revenue collector. This system was known as Kankut.
In 1570-71 the fourth experiment was made when revenue assessment was made on the basis of the actual produce of the soil. This system was extended to the jagir lands which were so long kept out of all revenue experiments and revenue systems. The Kankut or Nasq as it was previously introduced was abandoned. Land was measured by the government officials and revenue was settled on the actual produce of the land. This system was the work of Raja Todar Mai. This experiment proved very successful and the assessment schedule prepared by Todar Mai continued to be in force till 1580. Towards the end of his reign Akbar fixed the rate of revenue in cash.
The revenue settlement made by the ordinance called Ain-i-Dahsala established certain fixed processes;
(i) The land of the empire was surveyed by Sikandar Lodi’s gaz or yeard, measuring 33 inches. Akbar used bamboo jarib, instead of hempen rope as was done in Sher Shah’s time as the rope was liable to expansion and contraction. 3600 square yards would make a unit called a bigha. The actual area of land under the cultivation of a cultivator was recorded. In this way the lands of all villages, districts, provinces and the empire had been measured,
(ii) Lands which were under cultivation or cultivable were classified into four types according to fertility, (a) Polaj belonged to the first category and was always cultivated, (b) Parauti was cultivated almost always but would be left fallow for some time occasionally to recuperate fertility, (c) Chachar was land that had to be left fallow for three or four years, and (d) Banjar, the land which had to be left fallow for five or more years. The first three types of lands would be divided into three kinds according to their produce and on the basis of their average produce revenue would be assessed.
The State’s demand was one-third of the produce of the land as revenue. The produce payable as revenue was commuted into cash. Akbar divided his empire into several dasturs and all places within a dastur would have a uniform price of corn. In fixing the price of corn in a dastur the average of past ten years’ prices would be the basis.
Although there has been divergence of opinions about the interpretation of Ain-i- Dahsala among scholars like Dr. Smith, Moreland, Prof. Sri Ram, Dr. R. P. Tripathi etc., it must have been in all probability a ten years’ settlement.
The revenue collection was done by government officials, i.e. the parganas, districts and villages by amil or amal-guzar assisted by qanungos patwaris and village headmen. About the merit of Akbar’s revenue system Smith observes that “the system was an admirable one. The principles were sound and the practical instructions to officials all that could be desired.”
In criticism of Akbar’s revenue system it has been said that there was no strict or searching supervision. The assessment having been one-third of the produce was very high. It is also said that there was a good deal of corruption in the revenue department.
12. Akbar’s Religious Policy:
Akbar had in his veins the blood of the orthodox father, Mughal Sunni and the orthodox mother, Persian Shia. His guardian and protector Bairam Khan was also a Shia, who as well as Abdul Latif, Akbar’s tutor, a liberal-minded person and termed “a Sunni in the Shia country of Persia and a Shia in the sunni-ridden northern India” influenced the religious views of Akbar and taught him the principle of universal peace—Suleh-i-Kul.
Thus both hereditary and environmental influences moulded his religious views in the direction of liberalism. He was by nature incapable of religious fanaticism and although even after the fall of Bairam Khan he was on occasions persuaded to sanction measures of persecution against certain notable Muslim heretics, he did never give evidence of narrow religious bigotry.
He abolished the system of enslaving the prisoners of war and their conversion of Islam even before he had attained the age of twenty. As Akbar himself remarked “On the completion of my twentieth year, I experienced an internal bitterness from the lack of spiritual provisions for my last journey, my soul seized with exceeding sorrow.” This shows the spiritual awakening in Akbar rather early in his life the consequences of which could be seen in the liberal measures like abolition of pilgrims’ tax on the Hindus in 1563 all over his empire.
In 1564 he took a more liberal and what might be termed as a revolutionary measure of abolishing the poll tax called jizya on all the non-Muslims of his empire, a tax which was systematically realised by all the Turko-Afghan Sultans as well as Akbar’s father and grandfather in pursuance of the Quranic laws.
Akbar’s inquisitive mind led him to hold regular religious discussions in Ibadat Khana, a building built for the purpose at Fathpur Sikri in 1575. Although, to begin with, discussions were confined to Muslim Shaiks, Ulemas, Sayyids and where only Muslim nobles were allowed to be present, Akbar was soon disillusioned at the bickerings between the Ulemas who while failed to explain the fundamental doctrines of Islam to Akbar’s satisfaction behaved most irresponsibly in the presence of the emperor. Akbar now threw the discussion open to Hindus, Jains, Zoroastrians, Christians etc.
In 1579 (June 22) Akbar read the Khutba from the mosque of the Fathpur Sikri. The Khutba was drafted by the poet-laureate Faizi. In September, same year Faizi’s father Shaikh Mubarak and Abul Fazl produced at Akbar’s instance a Mahzar i.e. a formal document, The Infallible Decree—which gave Akbar the supreme authority of an arbiter in all controversial matters concerning Islam whether civil or ecclesiastical. This document was endorsed by All Muslim divines of the’ time.
The crux of the Mahzar was that “should his Majesty see fit to issue a new order in conformity with some text of the Quran, and calculated to benefit the nation, all shall be bound by it, and opposition to it will involve damnation in the next world, and loss of religious privileges and property in this.” Thus Akbar appropriated to himself the privileges which had been hitherto enjoyed by the Ulemas. According to Dr. Smith and Wolseley Haig, promulgation of this order virtually made Akbar both the “Emperor and the Pope.”
Discussions in the Ibadat Khana, however, continued as before, but Akbar would also arrange private meetings with holy men and scholars of different faiths. After Akbar had lost faith in Sunni orthodoxy we find Mulla Muhammad Yazdi and Hakim Abul Fateh—two Shia scholars won great ascendancy with Akbar. But Shiaism also did not bring much solace to him and the turned to Sufism.
Shaikh Faizi and Mirza Sulaiman of Badakshan initiated Akbar into the mysteries of Sufi principles and practices like direct communion with God. But Akbar’s intense curiosity was not satisfied by Sufism alone, he turned to Hindu Sannayasis, Christian missionaries and Zoroastrian priests. He held discussions with Brahmin scholars Purushottam and Devi, as well as Buddhists, Jains etc. Akbar was a rationalist and carried on search for truth in a scientific spirit.
Not satisfied with tradition and authority in matters of religion, Akbar prescribed reason to be the sole basis of religion and it was reason that dictated him to extend complete toleration to every creed and sect within his empire. The religious discord distressed him and to do away with it he attempted to effect a synthesis of all the various religions known to him and styled it Din-Ilahi or Divine Monotheism.
Truly speaking, it was not a religion but a socio-religious order or brotherhood, designed to weld the diverse communities of the empire into a broad brotherhood. It was based on the principle of Suleh-i-Kul, i.e. universal toleration. It believed in the unity of Godhead and some of the important Hindu, Jain and Parsi doctrines found place in it.
It was Akbar’s policy not to impose his religion by force on his subjects. Din-Ilahi, therefore, remained confined to a few thousands of his court circles and followers. Akbar allowed full religious toleration to his subjects, for he believed that there was truth in every religion and the same God was everywhere. Akbar permitted men and women converted to Islam earlier; to return to their former religion. The Christians were allowed to build churches and proselytize Hindus and Muslims into Christianity.
All these steps as also Akbar’s religious innovations were looked upon by the orthodox Ulemas as apostacy, and in 1580 Mullah Muhammad Yazdi, Qazi of Jaunpur issued a fatwa declaring that Akbar had ceased to be a Muslim and a rebellion against him was lawful. The time synchronised with Akbar’s step to resume Jagir lands and to convert them into Khalisa.
This added to the cutting down of the allowances of the imperial officers led to rebellions in Bengal, Bihar and in some other parts. Akbar put down the rebels and severely punished the malcontents.
Dr. Smith, Wolseley Haig and some other scholars of their thinking are of the opinion that Akbar was fully tolerant to other faiths no doubt but he persecuted Islam. This is based on the statements of Badaoni and the Jesuit missionaries. Badaoni took umbrage because Akbar gave up Islam as a State religion. According to Badaoni, a bigoted Muslim as he had been, Akbar’s equal treatment to all religions was tantamount to unorthodoxy and hence was denounced as persecution of Islam.
The Jesuit missionaries were busy in proving to their superiors in Goa and Lisbon that the emperor was well on the road to be converted to Christianity. This exaggeration they made purposely to magnify their achievements. But on a dispassionate consideration it has been found that the charges of apostacy brought against Akbar were untenable, for saying of prayers five times a day, pilgrimage to Mecca, celebration of Muslim festivals throughout the empire, etc. continued as before during Akbar’s time. What Akbar did was to bring Islam at par with all other religions within the empire.
13. Akbar and the Rajputs:
Akbar’s Rajput policy Was born of enlightened self-interest, the result of a deliberate policy dictated by far-sightedness, political wisdom and exigencies of the situation rather than the outcome of a sentimental recognition of the valour, patriotism or a mere chivalrous recognition of their merit. Even at an early age Akbar had experience of contumacy of the highly placed Muslim officials who were more mindful of their own interests, mutual jealousies and when opportunities came proved even traitors.
The lessons of the refusal of Shah Abdul Mali to attend Akbar’s coronation, Prime Minister Shah Mansu’s conduct in traitorously backing Mirza Muhammad in his rebellion against Akbar were not lost on Akbar. Likewise, Bairam Khan’s rebellion, Adham Khan’s and Pir Muhammad’s unprincipled and selfish conduct, the rebellions of Asaf Khan, Abdulla Khan Uzbeg and Khan Zaman showed Akbar how highly placed officials and his kinsmen menaced his throne and his life. The Afghans were never reconciled to the Mughal rule, for they regarded the Mughal rule as usurpation of their rightful claim. Bihar, Bengal and Orissa were still under the domination of the Afghans.
Akbar’s farsightedness made it clear to him that the Rajputs who held a vast tract of territories under them and had legions in their army, taken the race as a whole, all renowned for the valour, loyalty to their masters, fidelity to their words of honour, if converted into friends, would become the strongest pillars of the Mughal empire both for offence and defence purposes. Akbar, therefore, decided to earn their friendship, seek their cooperation and use them as a counterpoise against the self-seeking Mughal, Uzbeg, Afghan and Persian officials and nobility.
In pursuance of this policy Akbar accepted the submission of the Raja of Amber (Jaipur) and entered into a matrimonial alliance with that Kachhawaha ruling family and took Bhagawandas and his son Man Singh into his service. It did not take long for Akbar to discover that these Rajputs were more loyal and serviceable than the most of his top- ranking Muslim nobles. Akbar now decided upon the policy of inviting the other Rajput chiefs to accept his suzerainty but to be left undisturbed in possession of their land. One after another most of the Rajput States accepted Akbar’s suzerainty and entered into alliance with the Mughals retaining their autonomy.
Marwar, Bikaner, Jaisalmer submitted. Metra fell in 1562 Ranthambhor in 1568. Mewar was the only State that did not submit. Chitor fell, parts of Mewar fell into the hands of the Mughals, but Rana Pratap, the indomitable Rajput patriot fought from the wilds of his native lands in utter distress and before death recovered a number of fortresses from the Mughals.
Akbar found in the Rajputs not only reliable friends but fighters who helped in the expansion of the Mughal Empire. The confidence reposed in Man Singh by Akbar showed the changed picture compared to the one seen under the Turko-Afghan Sultans. Not looking upon them as political inferiors and being free from religious narrowness, Akbar treated the Rajputs with the honour and equality which the latter recompensed by their loyal service.
The broad-mindedness of Akbar, his-total tolerance to all subjects his great trust in the Rajputs made the latter fight for the Mughals, against the same Rajputs who had for more than three centuries fought stubbornly against the Turko-Afghan Sultans of Delhi. This miracle was performed by Akbar by his statesman-like appreciation of the situation, his political wisdom and his far-sightedness and above all his rational mind.
14. Social Reforms of Akbar:
Despite his multifarious activities Akbar found time to undertake several reform measures for weeding out the evils of both the Muslim and non-Muslim societies. His principle of religious toleration did not, however, make him blind to certain evils in the Hindu society.
In his first regnal year Akbar abolished all inland customs and taxes on trades and professions. The removal of these impositions while gave economic relief to the people by bringing down the prices, free movement of goods produced indirectly a sense of oneness among the people.
In 1562 Akbar prohibited the age-long custom of enslaving the prisoners of war, selling their wives and children etc. This pernicious custom followed during centuries past was abolished saving many innocent unfortunate people from being reduced to slavery.
In 1563 Akbar was hunting near Mathura’. He noticed that a tax was being realised from the people who had gathered there on pilgrimage. Akbar had no idea of the tax that was realised from pilgrims form all places of Hindu pilgrimage. On enquiry Akbar was told that it had been the custom of every Muslim ruler to realise pilgrim tax from the Hindus at every place of Hindu pilgrimage.
The tax was not a fixed one it was determined arbitrarily according to rank and wealth of the pilgrim. Akbar found that the pilgrim tax was morally wrong both because it was imposed on people who came “in search of the light of God” and because it was not uniform but arbitrary, variable according to the whim of the collector of the tax. He abolished the pilgrim tax all throughout his empire
Akbar also abolished jizya, the poll-tax which was imposed on the non-Muslims for its imposition, to his mind, hindered emotional integration of his subjects into one united brotherhood. There was considerable opposition to the abolition of this tax from an influential section of the court on both religious and financial grounds. But Akbar stuck to his order.
From 1581 several reform measures were undertaken in quick succession in the same year on his way to Kabul expedition Akbar passed an order from Sirhind that a census of population should be taken. The Jagirdars, Siqdars, Daroghas of all provinces were to record the number of the people, their trade, occupation, income, and also the residents, i.e. not permanent inhabitants of the area.
The good inhabitants were to be classified from the bad. It is difficult, in absence of detailed evidence, the extent to which this order for census was actually executed in those days when there was lack of proper communication, conveyance etc.
In 1582 an order was passed appointing a number of officers to regulate the transactions of sale and purchase of a certain number of listed articles.
In the same year (1582) a very important proclamation was made liberating all the slaves in the empire. Akbar observed in the proclamation. How can it be right to call those seized by force by his (Akbar’s) name and to order them to serve? By a third order in the same year it was declared that the day of his accession would be a day of public festival.
The governors of the provinces were ordered not to inflict capital punishment without Akbar s confirmation. This had the effect of stopping random hanging or killing of accused persons under orders of the governors. Small birds and creeping animals were prohibited to be killed. Sarais were opened throughout the imperial territories. People were induced to give something to charity once a week or a month or a year. To encourage this charity were instituted in the Palace. Public hospitals were also established.
Akbar was against child marriage which was prevalent both among the Hindus and the Muslims. Orders prohibiting marriage before the age of 12 and between cousins though permissible under Muslim law were passed by Akbar. Later the lowest age for marriage was raised to 16 for the boys and 14 for the girls.
Akbar seemed to have possessed a very modern mind. Consent of the parents of the boy and the girl to be married and also their mutual consent were made obligatory before marriage was performed. A token marriage tax at varying rates was realised.
It is interesting to note that under the influence of the Jaina teachers Akbar declared his preference to abstinence from meat eating (1578). In fact, he gave up hunting on Jumma days (Fridays) and abstained from meat taking on these days. He even remarked “it is not right that a man should make his stomach the grave of animals.”
A decree was passed by him recommending that his subjects should refrain from eating meat on the day of his accession as thanks-giving to almighty in order that the year may pass in prosperity. Badaoni deplored Akbar’s certain orders by observing that he “promulgated some of his new-fangled decrees. The killing of animals on the first day of the week strictly prohibited, because the day is sacred to the Sun, and during the eighteen was days of the month of Fawardin, the whole month of Aban (the month in which his Majesty was born) and on sacred days to please the Hindus.”
Badaoni observed elsewhere that Akbar discouraged study of Arabic, Mahommedan Law and the exegesis of the Quran. “Astronomy, philosophy, medicine, mathematics, poetry, history and novels were enclivated and thought necessary.” It has to be noted that Akbar’s emphasis on secular studies was not liked by orthodox school of thought, and there was no intention on Akbar’s part to destroy Arabic literature as is made out by some of his orthodox contemporaries like Badaoni.
The Imperial Library in fact, contained a great many works in Arabic. Akbar not only widened the curriculum of studies but also threw open the gates of educational institutions which had hitherto before been exclusively reserved for the Muslims. For the first time under him Hindu and Muslim children sat side by side in the same educational institutions. Sialkot was a famous seat of learning during his time.
Such was Akbar’s fervour for education that Abul Fazl wrote in appreciation that “All civilised nations have schools for education of youths, but Hindustan is particularly famous for its seminaries. A big college was founded at Fathpur on the hill, the like of which few travellers can name.” A number of Madrasahs flourished in Agra and that of Gujarat was specially famous. Beides the Madrasahs and educational institutions set up by Akbar and the nobles, there were many private schools.
Akbar took special care for the education of his sons. Mirza Abdur Rahim and Qutb- ud-din Khan, both known for their liberal outlook, were amongst the tutors of Salim. Shaikh Faizi and Sharif Khan were the teachers of Murad. Monserrate taught Murad the Christian doctrines. Sayyid Khan Chagtai was Danial’s tutor. Abul Fazl and a Brahmin Pandit were engaged to give lessons to Akbar’s grandsons.
Female education was also encouraged. It was customary for Muslim nobility to send their daughters to schools. Princess Gul Badan wrote the famous Humayun-Nama as a contribution to Abul Fazl’s Akbarnama. Salima Sultana was a poet of repute in Persian and Maham Anaga, Akbar’s chief nurse was also an educated lady.
One of the most memorable reforming steps taken by Akbar was against the inhuman practice of Suttee. Jaiman, a cousin of Raja Bhagawan Das died prematurely. His widow was unwilling to become a Suttee, i.e. to burn herself in the funeral pyre of her dead husband but her step son Udai Singh and other relations almost forced her to agree to become a suttee.
As the news reached Akbar he hurriedly appeared in the scene and taking the risk of being misunderstood by his Rajput relations intervened and got those who were forcing the widow to become a Suttee, arrested (Akbarnama). In another case Akbar intervened to persuade the young widow of Birbhadra of Panna not to immolate herself in her husband’s pyre. Although Akbar did not pass any formal decree against the practice of Suttee he thoroughly discouraged the practice.
Akbar recognised the evils of intoxicants, drinks or otherwise, but he also realised that it would be impossible to enforce total prohibition and he made a compromise. He permitted wine-taking by only those whom doctors would certify it to be necessary. Excessive drinking, disorderly behaviour after drinking or to booze were made punishable. The names of the purchasers of wine had to be recorded in the shop at the time of buying wine.
To meet the problem of beggary Akbar set up dormitories called Khairpura for the Muslim beggars, Dharampura for the Hindu beggars and Jogipura for Jogis where free food was served to them at the cost of the state.
Akbar recognised the evil of gambling but it was so wide spread that he found it impossible to suppress the evil. Gambling brought ruin to families, resulted in strifes, yet it was almost universal. Akbar set up a state bank from which loans might be taken by the gamblers and every gambling den was made liable to pay a fixed charge.
The measures that Akbar had introduced give us an impression of a new world or modernism.
15. Final Years of Akbar’s Life:
Akbar’s last years were unhappy and passed in anxiety due to the unfilial conduct and eventual rebellion of the eldest Prince Salim. He was the child, much sought for and the result of many prayers born of the Kachhawaha Princess, daughter of Bherimal of Amber. He was born in Fathpur Sikri at the hermitage of the Muslim Saint Shaik Salim Chisti on August 30, 1569.
Akbar took great care for the education of his son and engaged most learned persons as his teachers. But contrary to all expectations of his father, Salim grew into a headstrong, ease-loving youngman. He was appointed governor of Ajmer and given the charge of reducing the Rana Amar Singh of Mewar. Salim gave up the campaign and failed to perform the task given him by Akbar.
This displeased Akbar who placed Danial, the third Prince in charge of the task in preference to Salim. Murad the second son died in the meantime. Abul Fazl who was not pleased with Salim used his influence on Akbar against him. Salim who felt rather impatient for the throne took all this as deliberate steps to denigrate his power. He decided to rise in rebellion.
Salim seized the immense wealth of Shahbaz Khan a wealthy noble of Ajmer who had died and proceeded towards Agra. He by-passed his grandmother Hamida Banu who had started to meet him in order to persuade him to give up his rebellious intention. He seized the imperial treasure at Bihar and appointed his own officers in Allahabad, Bihar and Awadh and began to rule as an independent ruler.
After the fall of Asirgarh Akbar returned to Agra and opened negotiations with his son Salim. But the latter’s demands were so extravagant that Akbar despite all his filial affection and willingness to come to a settlement with his erring son, found it impossible to comply.
He now sent for Abul Fazl, his friend from the Deccan to consult him what course might be followed with regard to Salim. But Salim got Abul Fazl murdered on the way. Soon after there was a temporary rapprochement between the father and the son but as Akbar directed Salim to lead an expedition against Mewar he stopped short of reaching the place and went to Allahabad on the plea of collecting a park of artillery.
But there he was given to profuse drinking and orgies of cruelty and murder. In 1604 Danial died and Akbar was already 77. The year before (1603) Salim’s first wife, mother of Khusrav died by taking an over dose of opium due to the maltreatment meted to her by Salim. She was the sister of Man Singh.
All this had a sobering effect on Salim. He visited his father in November 16, 1604 to offer condolences to his father for the two deaths in the family. As Salim presented himself before Akbar, the latter did not betray any sign of displeasure, but later chided him for his misdeeds and slept him in the face and kept him confined in the bathroom under the charge of Raja of Salivahan who was a phsycian of great repute for the treatment of Salim.
Akbar sincerely believed that his son was suffering from a mental imbalance and needed medical treatment. Salim’s principal followers were all arrested and thrown into prison. For ten days Salim was kept without any liquor, opium or any other intoxicant after which he was released and given residence in a suitable place. Salim was reconciled to his father. He humbly accepted the governorship of the western provinces of the empire and deputed his deputies there himself remaining at Agra by the side of his father who was nearing his death.
16. Akbar’s Death (October 25-26, 1605):
In 1605 autumn, Akbar fell ill perhaps due to acute dysentery or diarrhoea. Emperor’s physician failed to diagnose the disease for about eight days during which no medicine was administered. Akbar’s condition became worse. He realised that his end was nearing and nominated his son Salim as his successor (Oct. 21) and the day on which Salim visited his ailing father, the latter had lost power of speech. He made signs indicating that the royal turban should be placed on the head of Salim and Humayun’s sword to his gird. In the midnight of October 25-26, 1605 Akbar breathed his last. Majumdar, Roychaudhuri and Dutta, however, put the date of his death as October 17, 1605.
17. Akbar’s Character, Personality and Estimate:
Jahangir in his Memoirs observes that his father Akbar “in his actions and movements was not like the people of the world, and the glory of God manifested itself in him.” Both Abul Fazl, a dear friend of Akbar and Badaoni who was definitely a hostile critic of the emperor, were unanimous on one point that Akbar possessed an extra-ordinary commanding personality and “looked every inch a king.” Contemporary writers both indigenous and foreign testify to Akbar’s uncommon dignity, and there was none who would be left unimpressed by his presence.
Father Monserrate who had the privilege of close association with Akbar writes that “he was in face and stature fit for the dignity of king, so that anybody even at the first glance, would easily recognise him as the king.” Physical description of Akbar given by father Monserrate tallies with that of Jahangir.
Akbar had a very charming personality yet possessed ‘extra-ordinary valour, remarkable courage and uncommon physical strength. “Like Alexander of Macedon, (he) was always ready to risk his life, regardless of political consequences.” “An intrepid soldier, a benevolent and wise ruler, a man of enlightened ideas, and a sound judge of character, Akbar occupies a unique position in the history of India.”
He was a good conversationalist, witty and frank, always willing to hear cases of the people and to respond graciously to their requests. Akbar was a dutiful son, a liberal brother, an indulgent father and a loving husband.
His food habits were very moderate. He avoided meat from his diet at first on Fridays, then on certain months of the year. Writers saw influence of Jainism on his food habits.
Akbar was a truant child and was illiterate. Recent discoveries have, however, shown that Akbar was not altogether unlettered. But on the evidence of Jesuit Missionaries Monserrate and Jerome Xaviere as well as Jahangir’s Memoirs, although Akbar was illiterate, yet he was so intimately connected with various branches of knowledge that no one could imagine that he was illiterate.
He was not ignorant. He had acquired deep knowledge of theology, literature, poetry, history and some other sciences by coming into touch with learned men. Akbar had a wonderful memory which largely compensated his illiteracy.
Abul Fazl who was always a close companion of Akbar says that he wrote daily with his own pen in numerals the number of pages read to him and to whom he paid accordingly. Abul Fazl also says that Akbar took special interest in calligraphy and the several modes of writing then prevalent.
All this leads to one conclusion that Akbar must have not been illiterate. There is evidence that he could compose poetry, recite poems of Hafiz and fables of India. Lastly, Jahangir observed that although his father was ummi i.e. unlettered, “he himself wrote on the front page of Zafarnamah, a work treasured by the Mughals, testifying to the signature of Akbar on that page.” “There are references to the specimens of Akbar’s handwriting in the manuscripts preserved in the India office Library, London, and the Victoria Memorial Hall Calcutta” (Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. I, 81).
Akbar was deeply religious and as it often happens with such persons, he was at times torn between doubts and beliefs and to remove which he would spend days and nights in discussions with learned men. He came to a firm belief that God is omnipresent and each person according to his condition and understanding gives the Almighty a name but to name the “Unknowable” in vain, he would often say.
In his personal life, Akbar was not given to profligacy, but he did not rise completely above the standard of his age. His harem comprised 500 women and making allowances for the presence of female relatives, servants etc. the number of his wives must have been quite numerous. Although Akbar would burst out in violent paroxysm of rage, at times, such occasions were very rare and it will be only fair to credit him with amiability, moderation, gentleness as also to say that he was never a slave of any kind of weakness.
Akbar was out and out an imperialist and believed in a policy of conquest. It was his principle that “a monarch should always be intent on conquest otherwise his neighbours rise in arms against him.” His career was actually one of continuous conquest. By his indefatigable energy, soldierly skill, diplomacy and finesse he built an empire which comprised whole of northern India, a part of the Deccan.
He brought this vast empire under one uniform government and one political system. He gave the country one official language, a uniform administrative system, coinage, a common system of weights and measures. He introduced certain most modern systems in his government, such as transfer of officers from one place to another without upsetting the work of administration. Barriers of imposts, customs, tolls etc. between one Subah and the other were removed bringing down prices at the same time encouraging expansion of trade. “This led to a growing sense of oneness of territory and a common fountain of all authority.”
By giving the country one official language (Persian) Akbar attempted to give a sort of a cultural unity to the empire. His patronage of Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian and causing translation of the Sanskrit works like the Vedas, Persian, Arabic, Greek and works on Sciences showed his eagerness for cultural activities. His attempt to prevent child marriage as also the inhuman practice of Suttee and to restrict other social vices like prostitutions, overdrinking, drunken brawls etc. showed his highly reformed mind.
He was a great military organiser and he devised the mansabdari system with payment from the imperial treasury besides assignment in land, and his reliance on the Rajputs made his army an invincible force.
Akbar’s revenue system rivals in interest and merit the system under the British rule. Akbar’s spirit of toleration, his genial treatment of the Rajputs and the non-Muslims earned him the habitual allegiance of his subjects.
Akbar was also a great builder. His greatest architectural achievement was the new capital at Fathpur Sikri within which he built the Record office, Diwan-i-Am, Diwan- i-Khas, Panch-Mahal, Maryam’s palace, Birbar’s palace, emperor’s sleeping chamber, Library and Jodha Bai’s palace. Outside the enclosure of Fatpur Sikri stands the Jami mosque with its portal called Bulanddarwaja. Within the enclosure of the mosque in the tomb of Shaikh Salim Chisti. Most of the buildings of Akbar’s time betray a mixture of Hindu-Muslim architectural styles.
For the benefit of the people, we are told by Abul Fazl, Akbar built numerous sarais and dug many wells and tanks. “Every where also sarais have been built which are the comfort of travellers and asylum for poor strangers” (Abul Fazl). From the same source we know of the founding of schools by Akbar.
The internal peace and prosperity coupled with the benevolent patronage of Akbar led to the development of art and letters during his reign. It was a period when as many as fifty-nine top-ranking Persian poets flourished. The list had been given by Abul Fazl. Abul Fazl in his Insah-i-Abul Fazl—a collection of Persian letters set up a model of epistolary composition in Persian. The most important Persian poet of Akbar’s time was Abul Fazl’s elder brother Abul Faizi.
Akbar sought to effect a fusion of Hindu-Muslim cultures and to this end arranged for providing a common literature to the intelligentsia of the country by translating Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit works. For this purpose a translation department was opened which functioned under Akbar’s personal supervision.
Amir Fatehullah Shirazi, Mirza Abdur Rahim Khan Khana, Mullah Ahmad, Qasim Beg, Shaikh Munnavvar, Naqib Khan, Abdul Qadir Badauni, Haji Ibrahim Sarhindi, Shaikh Sultan, Faizi, Abul Fazl, Maulana Sheri etc. did the work of translation.
Of the renowned composition of the historical literature in Persian in Akbar’s time were Abul Fazl’s Ain-i-Akbari, and Akbar-Nama ; Nizam-ud-din Ahmad’s Tabqat-i- Akbari, Gulbadan Begum’s Humayun-Nama, Abbas Sarwani’s Tohfa-i-Akbar Shahi alias Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi and Jauhar’s Tazkirat-ul-Waqayat ; other works were Abdul Qadir Badauni’s Muntakhab-ul-Tawarikh, Faizi Sarhend’s Akbar-Nama etc.
Akbar’s reign was also a golden age of Hindi poetry. Many first-rate Hindi poets produced Hindi poetical works which became classics. The most notable of the Hindi poets were Sur Das, Tulsi Das, Abdur Rahim Khan Khana, Ras Khan, Birbar, Tulsi Das produced several works of high standard the most important and popular of which is Ramcharit-manas.
His other important work is Vinaya Patrika. Sur Das’s important work is Sur Sagar. It is supposed that Sur Das was one of the court poets of Akbar, his father Ram Das was also Akbar’s court poet. Muslim poet of Hindi, Ras Khan was a worshipper of Lord Krishna and a friend of Tulsi Das. He was responsible for a large number of first-rate Hindi poems.
Akbar was a lover of painting. He believed that painting far from making a person irreligious turns him to God. Like the Persian emperors of the Safavi dynasty Akbar liberally patronised painting disregarding the injunctions of Quran. Akbar’s patronage attracted a number of painters to his court of whom as many as thirteen were Hindus.
It is interesting to note that two styles—Persian and Indian styles of painting during Akbar’s time got gradually fused into one. Akbar opened a separate department for painting under Khwaja Abdus Samad, one of the best painters of his court.
Akbar was an emperor of diverse interests. He was not a literate person but he had a great taste for calligraphy. He appointed many skilled calligraphists in his court. There were eight kinds of calligraphic writings prevalent in Akbar’s time, the eighty variety called Nastaliq which was favoured by Akbar.
From Ain-i-Akbari we know that there were thirty-six top-ranking musicians in Akbar’s court. They were divided into seven groups; each group was to entertain the emperor on one day of the week. Akbar, early in his reign sent for Tansen the notable musician from Rewa and gave him a position of great honour in his court. According to Abul Fazl “a singer like him had not been in India for the last thousand years.”
Tansen received training in a school founded by Raja Man Singh Tomar at Gwalior. He is said to have invented a number of ragas. Baba Ram Das was next to Tansen. Another equally famous singer was Baba Hari Das.
Akbar by virtue of his rare personality, force of character, his achievements and lofty ideas occupies a place in the history of India which shines in its own brilliance making him forever as the first national emperor of medieval India. His high sense of patriotism, intellectual superiority and his liberal attitude to religion and his principle of universal toleration entitle him to a lofty place among the kings and emperors of all countries and of all time.