Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, more famously known as Akbar the Great, was the third emperor of the Mughal Empire, after Babur and Humayun. He was the son of Nasiruddin Humayun and succeeded him as the emperor in the year 1556, at the tender age of just 13. Succeeding his father Humayun at a critical stage, he slowly enlarged the extent of the Mughal Empire to include almost all of the Indian sub-continent. He extended his power and influence over the entire country due to his military, political, cultural, and economic dominance. He established a centralised system of administration and adopted a policy of marriage alliance and diplomacy. With his religious policies, he won the support of his non-Muslim subjects as well. He was one of the greatest emperors of the Mughal dynasty and extended his patronage to art and culture. Being fond of literature, he extended support to literature in several languages. Akbar, thus, laid the foundations for a multicultural empire during his reign.
|Name:||Mughal Emperor Akbar|
|Full Name:||Abu’l-Fath Jalal ud-din Muhammad Akbar I|
|Religion:||Islam (Sunni), Din-e-Illahi|
|House:||House of Timur|
|Issue:||Hassan Mirza Hussain Mirza Jahangir Khanum Sultan Begum Sultan Murad Mirza Daniyal Mirza Shakr-un-Nissa Begum Aram Banu Begum Mahi Begum|
|Consort :||Ruqaiya Sultan Begum|
|3rd Mughal Emperor Regent:||Bairam Khan (1556–1560|
|3rd Mughal Emperor Predecessor :||Humayun|
|3rd Mughal Emperor Coronations:||14 February 1556 at Kalanaur, Punjab|
|3rd Mughal Emperor Reign:||11 February 1556 – 27 October 1605|
|Date:||15 October 1542|
|Spouse:||Mariam-uz-Zamani (m. 1562–1605), Salima Sultan Begum (m. 1561–1605), Ruqaiya Sultan Begum (m. 1551–1605)|
|Parents:||Humayun, Hamida Banu Begum|
|Date:||27 October 1605|
|Burried:||Akbar’s tomb, Agra, India|
|Rest Place:||Fatehpur Sikri, India|
Born 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.
The 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
Akbar was as boy of 14 when Humayun died in Delhi in January 1556. He was at that time in the Punjab. The news of the emperor’s death came as a shock to the Mughals. But, fortunately for young Akbar, he had as powerful guardian named Bairam Khan to help him. At a place named Kalanaur in the Punjab, Bairam Khan placed Akbar on throne and declared him as the new Badshah.
The death of Humayun made the Afghans bold enough to reconquer Delhi. Sultan Adil Shah of the Sur Dynasty was the strongest of the Afghan Princes at that time. His Hindu minister, Himu was the real source of his strength. Himu was ambitious statesman as well as an able general. He defeated the Mughal forces and reconquered Agra and Delhi. With that victory, Himu styled himself as Raja Vikramjit or Vikramditya. The Mughal Empire came very near to and ends only the soil of India. In as situation like that, a battle between Akbar and Himu became imminent.
The Second Battle of Panipat 1556
The 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.
Previous Indian governments had been weakened by two disintegrating tendencies characteristic of premodern states—one of armies being split up into the private forces of individual commanders and the other of provincial governors becoming hereditary local rulers. Akbar combated those trends by instituting comprehensive reforms that involved two fundamental changes. First, every officer was, at least in principle, appointed and promoted by the emperor instead of by his immediate superior. Second, the traditional distinction between the nobility of the sword and that of the pen was abolished: civil administrators were assigned military ranks, thus becoming as dependent on the emperor as army officers.
Those ranks were systematically graded from commanders of 10 persons to commanders of 5,000 persons, with higher ranks being allotted to Mughal princes. Officers were paid either in cash from the emperor’s treasury or, more frequently, by the assignment of lands from which they had to collect the revenue, retaining the amount of their salary and remitting the balance to the treasury. Such lands seem to have been transferred frequently from one officer to another; that increased the officers’ dependence on the emperor, but it may also have encouraged them to squeeze as much as they could from the peasants with whom their connection might be transitory. Politically, the greatest merit of the system was that it enabled the emperor to offer attractive careers to the able, ambitious, and influential. In that way, Akbar was able to enlist the loyal services of many Rajput princes.
Akbar’s reforms required a centralized financial system, and, thus, by the side of each provincial governor ( later called nawab) was placed a civil administrator (divan) who supervised revenue collection, prepared accounts, and reported directly to the emperor. As a further safeguard against abuses, Akbar reorganized the existing network of newswriters, whose duty it was to send regular reports of important events to the emperor. Akbar also seems to have instituted more-efficient revenue assessment and collection in an effort to safeguard the peasants from excessive demands and the state from loss of money. But such efficiency could only have been enforced in the areas directly administered by the central government. That excluded the lands under tributary rulers such as the Rajputs and also the lands assigned for the maintenance of Mughal officers.
Yet, notwithstanding Akbar’s reforms, travelers’ accounts indicate that the Indian peasants remained impoverished. The official elite, on the other hand, enjoyed great wealth; liberal patronage was given to painters, poets, musicians, and scholars, and luxury industries flourished. Akbar also supported state workshops for the production of high-quality textiles and ornaments.
Akbar 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
Akbar’s rule was marked by wide religious tolerance and liberal outlook. Akber was profoundly religious himself, yet he never sought to enforce his own religious views on anyone; be it prisoners of war, or Hindu wives or the common people in his kingdom. He gave great importance to choice and abolished discriminatory taxes based on religion. He encouraged building of temples and even churches his empire. Out of reverence for the Hindu members of the Royal Family he banned the cooking of beef in the kitchens. Akbar became a follower of the great Sufi mystic Sheikh Moinuddin Chishti and made several pilgrimages to his shrine at Ajmer. He craved religious unity of his people and with that vision founded the sect Din-i-Ilahi (Faith of the Divine). Din-i-Ilahi was in essence an ethical system that dictated the preferred way of life discarding qualities like lust, slander and pride. It borrowed heavily from existing religions extracting the best philosophies and forming an amalgamation of virtues to live by.
The Central Ministers
For 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 )
Akbar 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.
In 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.
During 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
Akbar commissioned the building of several forts and mausoleums during his reign and established a distinct architectural style that has been dubbed as Mughal architecture by connoisseurs. Among the architectural marvels commissioned during his rule are the Agra Fort (1565–1574), the town of Fatehpur Sikri (1569–1574) with its beautiful Jami Masjid and Buland Darwaza, Humayun’s Tomb (1565-1572), Ajmer Fort (1563-1573), Lahore Fort (1586-1618) and Allahabad Fort (1583-1584).
Akbar was a great patron of art and culture. Although he himself could not read and write, he would appoint people who read to him various topics of art, history, philosophy and religion. He appreciated intellectual discourse and offered his patronage to several extraordinarily talented people whom he invited to his court. Together these individuals were referred to as the Nava Ratnas or the Nine Gems. They were Abul Fazel, Faizi, Mian Tansen, Birbal, Raja Todar Mal, Raja Man Singh, Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana , Fakir Aziao-Din and Mullah Do Piaza. They came from various backgrounds and were revered by the emperor for their special talents.
Death of Akbar
In 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.