Akbar was an imperialist. He frankly declared and desired to pursue the policy of extension of the empire. He felt it necessary even for the security of his territories. He expressed- “A monarch should be ever intent on conquest, otherwise his enemies rise in arms against him.” Akbar, therefore, engaged himself in wars of conquest all through his life. He largely succeeded.
His empire extended from Kabul in the west to Bengal in the east and from Kashmir in the north to Vindhyas in the south. He had initiated his conquest of southern India and partially succeeded before he died. Yet, he conquered the entire north India and consolidated it under his administration.
The first conquest of Akbar was that of Malwa. Baz Bahadur, the ruler of Malwa was fond of fine arts, particularly of dance and music. He was neglectful towards the affairs of the state and kept himself engrossed in romance with his talented mistress Rup Mati. Akbar despatched Adham Khan to conquer Malwa. Baz Bahadur faced the Mughul army twenty miles ahead of his capital, Sarangpur, but was defeated and he fled away.
Adham Khan captured all his treasures and women of harem but Rup Mati committed suicide by taking poison before her capture. Adham Khan kept most of the captured treasure to himself which dissatisfied Akbar who went in person to Sarangpur. Adham Khan pleaded mercy, was forgiven and allowed to continue as the governor.
In 1562 A.D., Pir Muhammad was appointed the governor of Malwa. He proved a tyrant to his subjects. Baz Bahadur took help of some rulers of southern India and attacked Malwa. Pir Muhammad went to fight against him but was defeated. He drowned himself in the river Narmada while returning for safety.
Baz Bahadur occupied Malwa. But, his success remained short-lived. Akbar sent Abdulla Khan Uzbeg to recapture Malwa. The Mughuls succeeded in recovering Malwa. Baz Bahadur again fled away and after passing the life of a fugitive here and there accepted the service of Akbar.
The Afghans revolted in Jaunpur. It was suppressed by the local governor, Khan Zaman with the help of the imperial army. But, then, he himself exhibited signs of independence. Akbar proceeded towards Jaunpur in person. Khan Zaman submitted and was pardoned. At that time, Akbar sent Asaf Khan to capture the fort of Chunar which was in the hands of the Afghans. The fort was captured in 1561 A.D.
The state of Gondwana extended from Ratanpur in the east to Raisin in the west and Rewa in the north to the frontiers of the south. Its ruler was Vir Narayan but its de facto ruler was his mother, Rani Durgavati, a Chandel princess of Mahoba. Durgavati was a brave and successful ruler. She had given no offence to Akbar.
The cause of attack on Gondwana was purely imperialistic designs of Akbar who deputed Asaf Khan on this task in the year 1564 A.D. Vir Narayan and Durgavati faced the Mughuls at Narhi. Vir Narayan was wounded and was obliged to withdraw for safety in the fort of Chauragarh. Rani Durgavati was also wounded the next day and preferred to stab herself to death instead of being captured by the enemy.
The Mughul army then attacked Chauragarh. Vir Narayan fought bravely but died fighting and the fort was captured by the Mughuls. Gondwana was then annexed to the Mughul empire.
It was part of the imperial policy of Akbar to bring Rajasthan to submission. Akbar pursued a different policy than pure annexation towards the Rajput rulers.
The main features of this policy were as follows:
(a) He captured all important forts in Rajasthan.
(b) He accepted the services of all those Rajput rulers who surrendered to him voluntarily. Their states were returned to them and some of them even entered into matrimonial alliance with the emperor.
(c) He fought aggressive wars against those rulers who refused to submit to him voluntarily and annexed their territories.
Akbar succeeded in getting submission of all Rajput rulers of Rajasthan except that of Mewar. However, he captured the fort of Chittor and larger part of the territory of Mewar Thus, he largely succeeded in getting submission of Rajasthan.
(i) Amer (Modern Jaipur):
Raja Bhar Mal, the ruler of Amer was the first Rajput ruler who submitted to Akbar and voluntarily offered to enter into a matrimonial alliance with the emperor. He met the emperor in the way while he was on a pilgrimage to the mausoleum of Shaikh Muin-ud-din Chishti at Ajmer in 1562 A.D.
He accepted the suzerainty of Akbar and offered his daughter in marriage to the emperor. Akbar agreed to it. He married the Rajput princess on his return journey and took Bhagwan Das, the adopted son of Bhar Mal, and the latter’s grandson, Man Singh into his service. This very Rajput princess gave birth to the next Mughul emperor, Jahangir.
Merta was in possession of Jaimal who was a vassal of Rana Uday Singh of Mewar. It was attacked by Mirza Sharafuddin, a Mughul officer near Ajmer in 1562 A.D. Jaimal left the fort but it was defended by Rajputs under Deva Das. However, the handful Rajputs numbering nearly 200 were slaughtered and the fort was captured by the Mughuls.
The Sisodiya family of the rulers of Mewar commanded a unique respect among the Rajput rulers. The power and prestige of Mewar had received a set-back after the death of Rana Sangram Singh. The then ruler of Mewar, Rana Uday Singh was trying to recover the lost prestige of Mewar.
The Rana looked with contempt the ruling family of Amer who had offered submission to Akbar and gave one of its princesses in marriage to him. He not only refused to accept the suzerainty of the Mughul emperor but provided shelter to Baz Bahadur, the fugitive ruler of Malwa and also to rebellious Mirzas.
Besides, Mewar had political and economic importance. It commanded the trade-route from north India to the sea-coast of Gujarat and the conquest of north India by Akbar could not be completed without the submission of Mewar. Akbar attacked Mewar in 1567 A.D. and besieged the fort of Chittor.
On the advice of his nobles, Rana Uday Singh went to the forest for safety and left the care of the fort to Jaimal. The Mughuls failed to capture the fort even after five months. One night Jaimal was wounded by the gun-shot of Akbar while he was looking after the repairs of the wall of the fort. Jaimal soon died of his wound. His death disheartened the Rajputs who, then, prepared themselves for the final battle. That night the Rajput women performed Jauhar.
Next morning, the Rajputs came out of the fort and under the command of Fateh Singh attacked the Mughuls. The Rajputs were killed to the last man. The resistance of the Rajputs infuriated Akbar so much that when he entered the fort, he ordered a general massacre. Nearly 30,000 persons were butchered to death. Akbar felt sorry afterwards and erected statues of Jaimal and Fateh Singh, mounted on elephants at the gate of the fort of Agra to commemorate their heroism.
Colonel Tod described Uday Singh as a weak and cowardly ruler. But the statement is not acceptable to modern historians. Uday Singh left the fort not because of cowardice but on the advice of his nobles for the safety of the royal family. He never submitted to Akbar though he suffered hardships throughout his life.
The Mughuls, of course, succeeded in capturing the capital and the fort of Chittor but greater part of the territory of Mewar remained under the possession of Rana Uday Singh. Uday Singh died in 1572 A.D. and was succeeded to the throne by his son Pratap Singh who took a vow on his succession that he would neither eat his food in utensils nor would sleep on the bed till he was able to recapture his capital. He observed his vow throughout his life. All attempts to convince Rana Pratap to accept the suzerainty of Akbar failed.
In 1576 A.D., Akbar despatched a strong army under Man Singh and Asaf Khan to attack Mewar. Rana Pratap gave them battle at Haldi Ghati on 18 June 1576. The Rana had a very small army as compared to his enemy. Yet, his charge was so fierce that the Mughul army felt desperate.
However, the numerical strength of the Mughuls paid and the Rana was hard pressed from all sides and his life was endangered. At that time his one noble, Bida Jhala snatched away crown from the head of the Rana. He was understood as the Rana by the Mughuls and was encircled. That gave Rana Pratap an opportunity to escape and he left the battlefield.
The Rajputs were defeated but the Mughuls also felt so exhausted that they did not dare to pursue Rana at that time. Gokunda was occupied by the Mughuls but Man Singh failed to get any remarkable success. He was recalled by Akbar at the court. After him, many other Mughul nobles were sent in succession to subdue Rana Pratap but nobody could break up his spirits.
The whole of Mewar was ravaged by the Mughuls and the Rana was forced to seek shelter in hills and forests and suffer hunger and thirst along with his family members. Yet, he continued his resistance. He never accepted the suzerainty of Akbar and when he died in 1597 A.D. he had succeeded in recovering larger part of Mewar from the Mughuls. The struggle of Rana Pratap against Akbar has been regarded as a glorious chapter in Indian history.
The ruler of Ranthambhor, Raja Surjan Rai was a Hara Rajput of Bundi and a vassal of Mewar. Akbar sent an army to capture it in 1569 A.D. The fort was besieged and the Raja surrendered after one and a half month.
Kalinjar was in possession of Raja Ram Chand of Rewa. Majnun Khan Qaqshal was sent to capture it in August 1569 A.D. The Raja surrendered the fort to the Mughuls without fighting as he had come to know the fate of Chittor and Ranthambhor and could realise the futility of resistance.
The surrender of the fort of Chittor and Ranthambhor demoralised Rajput rulers and they saw no chance of any success against the mighty power of the Mughuls. The conciliatory policy of Akbar towards the Rajputs allured them further to accept the suzerainty of Akbar. Therefore, Akbar did not face resistance from any other Rajput ruler afterwards.
In 1570 A.D., Chandra Sen. ruler of’ Jodhpur submitted himself before Akbar. The same way, the rulers of Bikaner and Jaisalmer also paid personal attendance before Akbar and accepted his suzerainty. A princess of the ruling family of Bikaner and a daughter of the then ruler of Jaisalmer, Har Rai were also married to the Emperor.
Thus by 1570 A.D., except Mewar and some of its tributary states, the whole of Rajasthan submitted to Akbar, It was a unique success of Akbar. The Rajput rulers not only accepted his suzerainty but a few of them gave princess of royal family in marriage to the Emperor and, thus, became his loyal friends and relatives which helped in strengthening the Mughul empire in India.
Akbar, on his own part, not only returned them their kingdoms but also treated them with all due honour. Except that the strong forts of Rajasthan were occupied by the Mughuls, the Rajput rulers suffered no loss of their territories.
On the contrary, they gained handsome jagirs, titles and honour by accepting the service of the Emperor. The success of Akbar against the Rajputs was complete. Colonel Tod has remarked- “Akbar was the real founder of the empire of the Moguls, the first successful conqueror of Rajput independence.”
Gujarat was a prosperous province. It was regarded as the centre-place of the trade with the western world. The Muslim pilgrims to Mecca too had to pass through the ports of Gujarat. Muzaffar Khan III, the ruler of Gujarat was an incompetent ruler who had mismanaged the affairs of the state which had resulted in mutual conflict of powerful nobles.
The rebellious Mirzas had found shelter in Gujarat and were participating in its politics. These were the conditions in Gujarat when Akbar desired to conquer it. The submission of the rulers of Rajasthan made the task of Akbar easier because it was now easy to keep it under the control of Delhi. Akbar attacked Gujarat in person in 1572 A.D. He did not face any serious challenge and Ahmedabad was occupied by the Mughuls after a minor battle.
Muzaffar Khan and his nobles then surrendered to Akbar. Akbar occupied territory as far as Cambay, pursued Ibrahim Mirza and defeated him at Sarnal. While returning, he occupied the fort of Surat. That completed the conquest of Gujarat. Akbar appointed Khan- i-Azam (Mirza Aziz Khan Koka) as governor of Gujarat and returned to the capital.
Akbar had hardly returned to Agra when the news came that there was a revolt in Gujarat (1573 A.D.), Muhammad Husain Mirza, who had fled to Daultabad returned to Gujarat. The nobles of Gujarat joined him and they besieged the Mughul governor at Ahmedabad. When Akbar received the news, he hurried back to Gujarat and completed the journey of 450 miles only in nine days.
The sudden and unexpected arrival of the Emperor surprised and demoralized the rebels and they were defeated in a battle near Ahmedabad. Muhammad Husain Mirza fled away and the revolt was completely suppressed. The governor remained the same but Todar Mal was appointed to look after the revenue administration of Gujarat and he settled it after six months of hard labour.
6. Bihar and Bengal:
Sulaiman Karrani, the governor of Bihar had asserted independence after the fall of the Sur-dynasty. But he acknowledged the suzerainty of Akbar in 1568 A.D. He was a competent ruler, brought Bengal and Orissa under his rule and made Tanda his capital. He died in 1572 A.D. His son and successor, Daud, however, declared independence after his accession and even dared to attack the eastern border of the Mughul empire.
Akbar attacked Bihar in 1574 A.D. and occupied it. He then left Munim Khan to complete the conquest of Bengal and Orissa and returned to the capital. Munim Khan captured Tanda and Daud fled away to Orissa. In 1575 A.D., Daud fought the Mughuls for the first time at Tukarao near the eastern bank of the river Suvaranarekha. He was defeated.
He accepted suzerainty of the Mughuls and was assigned Orissa as his jagir in return. But Munim Khan died very soon and Daud refused to accept these terms. He attacked Tanda and captured it. Akbar now sent Khan-i-Jahan as the governor of Bengal and Bihar who decisively defeated and killed Daud in a battle near Rajmahal in July 1576 A.D. Bengal was thus, finally annexed to the Mughul empire.
Mirza Muhammad Hakim, cousin of Akbar, was the ruler at Kabul. He tried to capture Punjab in 1566-67 A.D. but his attempt was foiled. In 1581 A.D., he again dared to attack India. There were some revolts in Bengal and Bihar at that time and some rebellious nobles of Akbar desired to place Mirza Hakim on the throne of Delhi.
Feeling dissatisfied with the religious policy of Akbar some respectable nobles at the court of Akbar were in correspondence with Mirza Hakim and a few fanatic Maulvis declared support to the cause of Mirza Hakim as a religious duty.
These circumstances encouraged Mirza Hakim to try his luck in India against Akbar. But after crossing the river Indus when he proceeded towards Lahore, contrary to his expectations, he found no support for his cause in Punjab. Akbar proceeded to face Mirza Hakim himself. Realising that he would not get any support in India and, in that case, it would be futile to fight against Akbar, Mirza Hakim returned to Kabul.
Akbar despatched Raja Man Singh in advance to capture Kabul and himself followed him leisurely. Mirza Hakim fled away without fighting and Kabul was occupied by Man Singh. Mirza Hakim sought pardon but Akbar insisted on his personal attendance which he refused.
Akbar appointed Mirza Hakim’s sister Bakht-un-Nisa Begum as the governor of Kabul and returned to India. After his return, Mirza Hakim returned to Kabul and took up the virtual reins of government from the hands of his sister though she remained the governor in name. But, Mirza Hakim died very soon the same year (1581 A.D.). Afghanistan, then was annexed to the Mughul empire and Raja Man Singh was appointed as its governor.
Yusuf Khan, the then ruler of Kashmir had sent his sons in 1581 A.D. to wait on Akbar but himself had avoided his presence at the court. Not satisfied with the behaviour of Yusuf Khan, Akbar desired to annex Kashmir and therefore, sent an invading army under the command of Qasim Khan and Raja Bhagwan Das to Kashmir in 586 A.D.
The snow and rain in Kashmir disheartened the Imperial army and the Mughuls proposed a treaty with Yusuf Khan. Yusuf Khan too realised his weakness and agreed for peace. He accepted the suzerainty of Akbar, agreed to the recitation of Khutba and the issuing of coins in the name of the Emperor. But when he presented himself before the Emperor, he was imprisoned as the terms of the treaty were not acceptable to Akbar.
Yakub Khan, son of Yusuf Khan attempted to fight against the Mughuls but he had to retreat to Srinagar because of a local uprising there. Therefore, the Mughuls got the opportunity to proceed ahead. Yakub Khan fled away and Srinagar was occupied by the Mughuls. Afterwards, Yakub Khan surrendered himself and was imprisoned. Thus, Kashmir became a part of the Mughul empire in 1586 A.D.
Akbar appointed Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khana as governor of Multan and assigned him the responsibility to conquer Sindh. Abdur Rahim attacked Sindh in 1591 A.D. and defeated Mirza Zani Beg, the ruler of Sindh in two battles. Zani Beg then accepted service under the Emperor and Sindh was annexed to the Mughul empire.
Qutulu Khan Lohani had become independent in Orissa. After his death, his son, Nisar Khan became the ruler of Orissa. Raja Man Singh, governor of Bihar attacked Orissa in 1590 A.D. Nisar Khan surrendered to the Mughuls after a feeble resistance.
He was deputed as the governor of Orissa. But, after two years he rebelled and even occupied Puri and Jagannath. Raja Man Singh defeated and forced him to leave Orissa which was, then, annexed to the Mughul empire in 1592 A.D.
Akbar despatched Mir Masum to conquer Baluchistan in 1595 A.D. Mir Masum succeeded in his mission, defeated the Baluchi chiefs and annexed entire Baluchistan to the Mughul empire.
Kandhar was in the hands of the ruler of Persia. The then governor of Kandhar, Muzaffar Husain Mirza spoiled his relations with his ruler and, thereby, felt insecure. He decided to accept the service of Akbar and surrendered the fort to the Mughul officer, Shah Beg.
Akbar took Muzaffar Husain Mirza under his service, appointed him a mansabdar of 5,000 horses and assigned him the jagir of Sambhal. Thus, the strong fort of Kandhar fell in the hands of the Mughuls peacefully.
13. South India (Khandesh and Ahmadnagar):
Akbar desired to bring south India also under his suzerainty and, accordingly, sent messages to the rulers of Khandesh, Ahmadnagar, Bijapur and Golkunda in 1591 A.D. Ali Khan, ruler of Khandesh alone accepted the offer of the Mughul emperor, accepted his suzerainty and agreed to pay an annual tribute.
The rulers of the other states, however, refused to accept the offer of Akbar politely. Akbar deputed prince Murad and Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khana to conquer Ahmadnagar. The fort of Ahmadnagar was besieged by the Mughuls in 1595 A.D. It was, however, heroically defended by Chand Bibi, an aunt of the ruling king for some months.
Ultimately, because of mutual differences among the Mughul officers, lack of supplies and possibilities of help from Golkunda and Bijapur to Ahmadnagar, the Mughuls decided for peace with Chand Bibi. Chand Bibi readily agreed for it.
A treaty was accepted by both the parties in 1596 A.D. by which Bahadur, grandson of Burhan-ul-mulk was accepted as the Sultan of Ahmadnagar under the suzerainty of Akbar and Berar was ceded to the Mughul ruler. But the peace could not be maintained for long.
Chand Bibi separated herself from the administration of the state while other nobles desired to recover Berar from the Mughuls. Akbar again deputed prince Murad and Khan-i-Khana against Ahmadnagar but as differences arose between the two, recalled Khan-i-Khana and deputed Abul Fazl in his place. Prince Murad died in 1597 A.D.
Then prince Daniyal and Khan-i-Khana were deputed for the campaign in the Deccan and Akbar too marched in person towards Ahmadnagar. The Mughuls occupied Daultabad in 1599 A.D. and Ahmadnagar in 1600 A.D. Chand Bibi either committed suicide or was murdered by those nobles who disliked her efforts of peace with the Mughuls. The young king, Bahadur Nizam Shah, was sent as a prisoner to the fort of Gwalior.
However, it did not mean the extinction of the state of Ahmadnagar. Larger part of it yet remained free from the Mughuls and the nobles of Ahmadnagar continued to resist the Mughuls in the name of another child of the dynasty.
Khandesh also tried to reassert its independence. Raja Ali Khan, the ruler of Khandesh died fighting against Ahmadnagar from the side of the Mughuls. He was succeeded by his son Miran Bahadur Shah. He refused to acknowledge the suzerainty of Akbar at the time when the Mughuls were engaged with Ahmadnagar.
Akbar attacked Burhanpur, the capital of Khandesh in 1599 A.D. and occupied it. Miran Bahadur fled to Asirgarh. Akbar besieged Asirgarh as well. After the siege of some months, Miran Bahadur surrendered himself. He was sent as a prisoner to the fort of Gwalior and a pension was fixed for him.
Thus, by 1600 A.D., Akbar captured Khandesh, Berar, part of Ahmadnagar and forts of Burhanpur, Asirgarh, Daultabad and Ahmadnagar.
Akbar, thus, captured the whole of north India and provided it sound stability. A part of the Deccan was also conquered by him. The Mughul empire extended from Kandhar and Kabul in the west to Bengal in the east and from Kashmir in the north to Berar and Ahmadnagar in the south during his time and became the most extensive and powerful empire in India. The power of the Afghans was completely broken.
They lost the ambition of an independent kingdom of their own and accepted service under the Mughul Emperor. The same way, the Rajput states, except that of Mewar, also acknowledged the suzerainty of Akbar and helped him in extending and consolidating the Mughul empire.
Akbar, thus, succeeded in fulfilling his ambition of conquering India to a great extent and also paved the way to complete the conquest of the remaining part of India by his successors.