AKBAR THE GREAT
Akbar, the third Mughal Emperor was only 13 when he ascended the throne upon the untimely death of his father, Humayun. He ruled under the able guidance of Bairam Khan, a prominent nobleman and won a decisive battle against the Afghans. This, the second “Battle of Paniput” assured the continuation of the Mughal Empire. In 1562 Akbar took charge as the Emperor after he removed Bairam Khan from power.
For the next 30 or so years he concentrated on expanding the Empire, which meant he was constantly at war. However, when possible he used conciliation and reward for loyalty to gain control of Kingdoms and their land. He also followed an active program of involvement and amalgamation of the various kingdoms, especially of the warring Rajputs. Unlike most muslim rulers he encouraged marriage between Hindus and Muslims. His favorite wife (first of 33 wives), was a Hindu Princess from Rajput. By the end of his campaign Akbar had extended his empire all across North India and Afghanistan as well as the Deccan in the south.
During the early part of his rule Akbar used Nagarchain, a village seven miles to the south of Agra, as his capital. At the same time he had also revamped Agra by building over 500 masonry buildings. However, in 1571 he moved his capital to the newly built city of Fatehpur Sikri. A crowded metropolis during Akbar’s reign, this city fell victim to lack of planning and was abandoned when water shortage became acute.
Akbar is credited with building the Empire into one of the richest in World history and perhaps the wealthiest of the time. Besides his gift of conquests, he was a great administrator and with the conciliatory policies towards the nonmuslims, he gained the loyalty of vast majority of his subjects. The liberal bend in his character is amply evidenced by his marrying two Hindu Princesses and then allowing them to practice Hindu religious ceremonies in the Harem.
Akbar and his Hindu wife Jodhbai
During his early years, Akbar had no time for nromal education as his father Humayun was in exile at the time. Due to this and to his alleged dyslexia, he remained illiterate but his greatness is evidenced by his eagerness to learn. Also, he surrounded himself with poets, artists, musicians, philosophers and scholars. Unlike his great grandson, the bigoted Aurangseb, Akbar not only allowed the nonmuslims to practice their own religions, he attempted to combine the various faiths into one which he named "Din-i-ilahi" (Divine faith). He had the others read literary and other works and, towards the end of his reign he was as knowledgeable as the best of the intellectuals. He would have great discussions in matters of religion each Friday in the "ibadat-khana" at Fatehpur Sikri with a gathering of theologians of all the major religions as well as scholars and philosophers. It was during the reign of Akbar that the distinctive architectural styel of the Mughal era evolved and this would find ultimate expression in the extravagant masterpiece, the Taj Mahal.
Akbar’s greatest gift and genius was primarily military; thus he built an empire that would engulf almost the whole of India and Afghanistan. Most of the population of India (estimated at 140 millions) were his subjects; compared to this, the whole population of Europe was only 40 Million and that of England only 5 Million. His reforms in administration and taxation were also in part responsible for the sustenance of this vast empire. The abolition of the unpopular taxation of all but the wealthiest of the non-Muslims; his conciliatory gestures to Hindu rulers and even appointing them in senior posts in his administration further improved his credibility among the masses. Finally, his patronage of literature, the arts and music despite his own illiteracy and the balanced treatment of all religions ushered in a period of prosperity rarely matched in Indian history. While Fatehpur Sikri was abandoned as the capital city, its stunning architecture remains a fitting monument to this golden age of medieval India. The influence of Akbar and his successors spanned not only architecture and garden design but the Indian music and cuisine have been transformed forever. Is it any wonder why Akbar is celebrated as “The Great”, a distinction he shares with another Indian Emperor, Ashoka?
THREE VIEWS FROM FATEH PUR SIKRI