SynopsisBorn on October 15, 1542 in Umarkot, India, and enthroned at age 14, Akbar the Great began his military conquests under the tutelage of a regent before claiming imperial power and expanding the Mughal Empire. Known as much for his inclusive leadership style as for his war mongering, Akbar ushered in an era of religious tolerance and appreciation for the arts. Akbar the Great died in 1605.
Early LifeThe conditions of Akbar's birth in Umarkot, Sindh, India on October 15, 1542, gave no indication that he would be a great leader. Though Akbar was a direct descendent of Ghengis Khan, and his grandfather Babur was the first emperor of the Mughal dynasty, his father, Humayun, had been driven from the throne by Sher Shah Suri. He was impoverished and in exile when Akbar was born.Humayun managed to regain power in 1555, but ruled only a few months before he died, leaving Akbar to succeed him at just 14 years old. The kingdom Akbar inherited was little more than a collection of frail fiefs. Under the regency of Bairam Khan, however, Akbar achieved relative stability in the region. Most notably, Khan won control of northern India from the Afghans and successfully led the army against the Hindu king Hemu at the Second Battle of Panipat. In spite of this loyal service, when Akbar came of age in March of 1560, he dismissed Bairam Khan and took full control of the government.
Akbars Accession to Throne
The Second Battle of Panipat 1556The field of Panipat once decided the fate of India in 1526 when Babar defeated Ibrahim Lodi. Thirty years later, once again the fate of India was decided there when as battle was fought between Akbar and Himu. This battle is famous as the Second Battle of Panipat.Himu was determined to drive out the Mughals from India. On the other hand, Bairam Khan and Akbar were determined to regain Delhi. Thus that both the sides met in the field of Panipat to fight as grim battle. Himu commanded a big army. It contained 15 hundred war-elephants. His soldier attacked the Mughals with great force. They were about to win when an arrow from the enemy side suddenly pierced the eye of Himu. Himu fell down unconscious. When his soldiers saw their general in that condition, they fled from the field. Akbar thus won the battle. It is learnt from the writings of Muslims historians like Badauni that when Himu’ s unconscious body was placed before Akbar, Bairam Khan advised him to cut down the head of the enemy in his own hands. But Akbar declined to strike at a dying man. Thereupon, Bairam did that work himself. Akbar’s victory at Panipat had far reaching results. The Mughal Empire got back life at the hour of its death. The struggle between the Mughals and Afghans also come to and end. Akbar conquered Delhi and Agra.Akbar began his rule with Bairam Khan as his guardian. But he could not tolerate Bairam’s supremacy for long. In 1560, he assumed all power directly to his own hands. Bairam revolted, but suppressed. Akbar pardoned him and permitted him to go to Mecca. Only his way to Mecca, however, Bairam Khan was assassinated by and old enemy.
DiplomacyAkbar was probably the first Islamic ruler in India who sought stable political alliances through matrimony. He married several Hindu Princess including Jodha Bai, from the house of Jaipur, Heer Kunwari from the house of Amber, and princess from the houses of Jaisalmer and Bikaner. He strengthened the alliances by welcoming male relatives of his wives as part of his court and bestowing them with important roles in his administration. Political significance of these alliances was far-reaching for the Mughal Empire in securing strong loyalty of these dynasties. This practice brought the Hindu and Muslim nobilities in close contact securing a better secular environment for the empire. The Rajput alliances became strongest allies of Akbar’s army which proved crucial in many of his subsequent conquests like that in Gujarat in 1572. Akbar and the Uzbeks of Central Asia entered into a treaty of mutual respect under which the Mughals were not to interfere in Badakshan and Balkh regions and the Uzbeks would stay away from Kandahar and Kabul. His attempt to make alliance with the newly arrived Portuguese tradesman proved futile with the Portuguese refuting his friendly advances. Another contributing factor was Emperor Akbar’s relations with the Ottoman Empire. He was in regular correspondence with Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. His contingent of pilgrims to Mecca and Medina were warmly welcomed by the Ottoman Sultan and the Mughal Ottoman trade flourished during his rule. Akbar also continued to maintain excellent diplomatic relationship with the Safavid rulers of Persia, which dated back to his father’s days with Shah Tahmasp I lending his military support to Humayun for recapturing Delhi.
Akbars Religious Policy
The Central MinistersFor their assistance in the administration of the country, the Mughal Emperors had appointed ministers under them. The following ministers had been appointed. (a) The Prime Minister ( vakil ) (b) The Finance Minister ( diwan or Wazir )
Provincial GovernmentAkbar had divided his empire into well- defined provinces in which he set up a well established and uniform system of administration. In each of such province or suba there was a Governor, styled as Sipah Salar, Commander_in_chief, the Diwan, a Bakhshi, a Faujdar, a kotwal, the Qazi, the Sadar, the Amil, the Bitikchi, the Potdar and other officers of the revenue department. Aprt from that Akbar established an efficient Mansabdari system in 1570, to regulate the Imperial services. All the gazzetted Imperial officers of the state were styled as Mansabdars. To begin with they were classified into sixty-six grades, from the mansab of ten to ten thousands. Thus it was Akbar who organized the mansabs of his Imperial officers in a very systematic form that it became associated with his name.
Major BattlesIn November 1556, his forces defeated Hemu and the Sur army at the Second Battle of Panipat, where Hemu was shot in his eye and later captured and executed. Asaf Khan led the Mughal forces and raided the Gondwana kingdom in 1564, defeating its ruler, Rani Durgavati, at the Battle of Damoh, who killed her minor son Raja Vir Narayan and committed suicide to save her honor. Akbar defeated Daud Khan, the ruler of the only Afghan haven in India – Bengal, at the Battle of Tukaroi in 1575, who was captured and killed by the Mughal forces in another battle, thereby annexing Bengal and parts of Bihar.
AchievementsDuring his reign, the Mughal Empire extended to most of the Indian subcontinent, stretching from the Himalayas in the north to the Vindhyas in the south and Hindukush in the north-west to Brahmaputra River in the east. He annulled the special tax payable by Hindus for making pilgrimages in 1563 and completely abolished the jizya, or the annual tax, paid by non-Muslims in 1564, thus earning respect from his subjects. In 1569, he established a new capital west of Agra to celebrate his victory over Chittorgarh and Ranthambore, which was named Fatehpur Sikri (‘City of Victory’) in 1573 after he conquered Gujarat.
Architecture and Culture
Death of AkbarIn 1605, at the age of 63, Akbar fell ill with a serious case of dysentery. He never recovered from it and after three weeks of suffering, he passed away on October 27, 1605 at Fatehpur Sikri. He was buried at Sikandra, Agra.
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