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Ghazi (warrior)[1]
Sehenshah-E-Hind (King of kings of India)[2]
Akbar with a lion and a calf, by Govardhan, c. 1630
3rd Mughal emperor
Reign11 February 1556 – 27 October 1605[3][4]
Coronation14 February 1556[3]
RegentBairam Khan (1556–1560)[5]
BornJalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar
15 October 1542[a]
Amarkot, Rajputana
(modern-day Umerkot, Sindh, Pakistan)
Died27 October 1605(1605-10-27) (aged 63)
Fatehpur Sikri, Agra Subah, Mughal Empire
(modern-day Uttar Pradesh, India)
BurialNovember 1605
  • Raj Kunwari (m. 1570)
  • Nathi Bai (m. 1570)
  • Bhakkari Begum (m. 1572)
  • Qasima Banu Begum (m. 1575)
  • Gauhar-un-Nissa Begum
  • Bibi Daulat Shad
  • Rukmavati
  • several others
Full name
Abu'l-Fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar[10]
Posthumous name
Arsh-Ashyani (lit.'One who nests on the divine throne')
HouseHouse of Babur
DynastyTimurid dynasty
MotherHamida Banu Begum
ReligionSunni Islam[11][12]
Emperor Akbar with a falcon

Akbar (Abu'l-Fath Jalal ud-b din Muhammad Akbar, 25 October 1542 – 27 October 1605), also known as Akbar the Great was the 3rd Mughal Emperor.[13] He was born in Lahore (now Pakistan). He was the son of 2nd Mughal Emperor Humayun. Akbar is considered one of the greatest Indian emperors in Indian history[14]. Some even compare his legacy with that of the Indian conqueror Ashoka.

Akbar became the de jure king in 1556 at the age of 13 when his father died. Akbar was too young to rule, so Bairam Khan was appointed as Akbar's regent and chief army commander. Soon after coming to power Akbar defeated Himu, the general of the Afghan forces, in the Second Battle of Panipat. After a few years, he ended the regency of Bairam Khan and took charge of the kingdom. He initially offered friendship to the Rajputs. However, he had to fight against some Rajputs who opposed him. In 1576 he defeated Maharana Pratap of Mewar in the Battle of Haldighati. Akbar's wars made the Mughal empire more than twice as big as it had been before, covering most of the Indian subcontinent except the south (excluding the Deccan Plateau).

Administration[change | change source]

Mughal Empire under Akbar's period (excluding white area)
Remain of Mughal Empire when Akbar died

Akbar's system of central government was based on the system that had evolved since the Delhi Sultanate, but the functions of various departments were reorganised with detailed regulations for their functioning

  • The revenue department was headed by a wazir, responsible for all finances and management of jagir and inamdar feudal lands.
  • The head of the military was called the mir bakshi, appointed from among the leading nobles of the court. The mir bakshi was in charge of intelligence gathering, and also made recommendations to the emperor for military appointments and promotions.:)
  • The mir saman was in charge of the imperial household, including the harems, and supervised the functioning of the court and royal bodyguard.
  • The judiciary was a separate organization headed by a chief qazi, who was also responsible for religious beliefs and practices. in

Religious policy[change | change source]

Portrait of the Mughal Emperor Akbar invocation of a Dua prayer

Akbar, as well as his mother and other members of his family, are believed to have been Sunni Hanafi Muslims.[15] His early days were spent in the backdrop of an atmosphere in which liberal sentiments were encouraged and religious narrow-mindedness was frowned upon.[16] From the 15th century, a number of rulers in various parts of the country adopted a more liberal policy of religious tolerance, attempting to foster Communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims.[17] These sentiments were earlier encouraged by the teachings of popular saints like Guru Nanak, Kabir, and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu,[16] and the verses of the Persian poet Hafez, which advocated human sympathy and a liberal outlook.[18] The Timurid ethos of religious tolerance persisted from the times of Timur to Humayun, and influenced Akbar's policy of tolerance in matters of religion.[19] Akbar's childhood tutors, including two Irani Shias, were largely above sectarian prejudices, and made a significant contribution to Akbar's later inclination towards religious tolerance.[19]

Akbar sponsored religious debates between different Muslim groups (Sunni, Shia, Ismaili, and Sufis), Parsis, Hindus (Shaivites and Vaishnava), Sikhs, Jains, Jews, Jesuits, and Materialists. He was also partial to Sufism; he proclaimed that "the wisdom of Vedanta is the wisdom of Sufism".[20]

Association with the Muslim aristocracy[change | change source]

The Mughal emperor Akbar welcomes his son Prince Salim at Fatehpur Sikri (Akbarnama).

During the early part of his reign, Akbar adopted an attitude of suppression towards Muslim sects that were condemned by the orthodoxy as heretical.[21] In 1567, on the advice of Shaikh Abdu'n Nabi, he ordered the exhumation of Mir Murtaza Sharifi Shirazi – a Shia buried in Delhi – because of the grave's proximity to that of Amir Khusrau, arguing that a "heretic" could not be buried so close to the grave of a Sunni saint. This reflected a restrictive attitude towards the Shia, which continued to persist until the early 1570s.[22] He suppressed Mahdavism in 1573 during his campaign in Gujarat, in the course of which the Mahdavi leader Bandagi Miyan Sheik Mustafa was arrested and brought in chains to the court for debate and released after eighteen months.[22] Akbar was reportedly angered by acts of embezzlement by many high level Muslim clerics.[23] As Akbar increasingly came under the influence of pantheistic Sufi mysticism from the early 1570s, his outlook shifted from orthodox Islam as traditionally professed, to a new concept of Islam that transcended the limits of Islam.[22] Consequently, during the latter half of his reign, he adopted a policy of tolerance towards the Shias and declared a prohibition on Shia-Sunni conflict, and the empire remained neutral in matters of internal sectarian conflict.[24] In 1579, the Mughal Emperor Akbar referred to himself as:[25]

Emperor of Islam, Emir of the Faithful, Shadow of God on earth, Abul Fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar Badshah Ghazi (whose empire Allah perpetuate), is a most just, most wise, and a most God-fearing ruler.

In 1580, a rebellion broke out in the eastern part of Akbar's empire, and a number of fatwas, declaring Akbar to be a heretic, were issued by Qazis. Akbar suppressed the rebellion and handed out severe punishments to the Qazis. To further strengthen his position in dealing with the Qazis, Akbar issued a mazhar, or declaration, that was signed by all major ulemas in 1579.[26][27] The mahzar asserted that Akbar was the Khalifa of the age, a higher rank than that of a Mujtahid; in case of a difference of opinion among the Mujtahids, Akbar could select any one opinion and could also issue decrees that did not go against the nass.[28] Given the prevailing Islamic sectarian conflicts in various parts of the country at that time, it is believed that the Mazhar helped stabilise the religious situation in the empire.[26] It also helped him eliminate the religious and political influence of the Ottoman Khalifa over his subjects, thus ensuring their loyalty to him.[29]

Din-i Ilahi[change | change source]

Akbar holds a religious assembly of different faiths in the Ibadat Khana in Fatehpur Sikri.

Akbar was deeply interested in religious and philosophical matters. An orthodox Muslim at the outset, he later came to be influenced by the Sufi mysticism that was being preached in the country at that time. He moved away from orthodoxy, appointing to his court several people with liberal religious philosophies, including Abul Fazl, Faizi, and Birbal. In 1575, he built a hall called the Ibadat Khana ("House of Worship") at Fatehpur Sikri, to which he invited theologians, mystics, and selected courtiers renowned for their intellectual achievements to discuss matters of spirituality with them.[16] These discussions, initially restricted to Muslims, were acrimonious and resulted in the participants shouting at and abusing each other. Upset by this, Akbar opened the Ibadat Khana to people of all religions as well as atheists, resulting in the scope of the discussions broadening, even extending into areas such as the validity of the Quran and the nature of God. This shocked orthodox theologians, who sought to discredit Akbar by circulating rumours of his desire to forsake Islam.[26]

Akbar's effort to evolve a meeting point among the representatives of various religions was not successful, as each of them attempted to assert the superiority of their respective religions by denouncing other religions. The debates at the Ibadat Khana grew more acrimonious and, contrary to their purpose of leading to a better understanding among religions, instead led to greater bitterness among them, resulting in the discontinuance of the debates by Akbar in 1582.[30]

Akbar's interaction with various religious theologians had convinced him that despite their differences, all religions had several good practices, which he sought to combine into a new religious movement known as Din-i-Ilahi.[31][32] Virtues in Din-i-Ilahi included generosity, forgiveness, abstinence, prudence, wisdom, kindness, and piety.[33] Celibacy was respected, chastity enforced, the slaughter of animals was discouraged, and there were no sacred scriptures or a priestly hierarchy.[34] A leading noble of Akbar's court, Aziz Koka, wrote a letter to him from Mecca in 1594 arguing that the discipleship promoted by Akbar amounted to nothing more than a desire on Akbar's part to portray his superiority regarding religious matters.[35] To commemorate Din-e-Ilahi, Akbar changed the name of Prayag to Allahabad (pronounced as ilahabad) in 1583.[36][37]

Silver square rupee of Akbar, Lahore mint, struck in Aban month of Ilahi

Some modern scholars claim that Akbar did not initiate a new religion, instead introducing what Oscar R. Gómez has called a transtheistic outlook, derived from tantric Tibetan Buddhism,[38] and that Akbar did not use the word Din-i-Ilahi.[39]

Scholars have also argued that the theory that Din-i-Ilahi was a new religion is a misconception that arose because of erroneous translations of Abul Fazl's work by later British historians.[40] It has been accepted[according to whom?] that the policy of sulh-e-kul, which formed the essence of Din-i-Ilahi, was adopted by Akbar not merely for religious purposes, but as a part of general imperial administrative policy. This also formed the basis for Akbar's policy of religious tolerance.[41] At the time of Akbar's death in 1605, there were no signs of discontent among his Muslim subjects, and even theologians like Abdu'l Haq accepted that close ties remained.[42][needs to be explained]

Relation with Hindus[change | change source]

The great Mogul discoursing with a Humble Fakir

Akbar decreed that Hindus who had been forced to convert to Islam could reconvert to Hinduism without facing the death penalty.[43] Akbar was well-liked by Hindus, who sang religious hymns to him and his eulogies.[44]

Akbar practised several Hindu customs. He celebrated Diwali and allowed Brahman priests to tie jewelled strings around his wrists by way of blessing. Following his lead, many nobles took to wearing rakhi (protection charms).[45] He renounced beef and forbade the sale of all meats on certain days.[45]

His son Jahangir and grandson Shahjahan maintained many of Akbar's concessions, such as the ban on cow slaughter, having only vegetarian dishes on certain days of the week, and drinking only Ganges water.[46] When Akbar was in Punjab, 200 miles away from the Ganges, water was sealed in large jars and transported to him. He referred to the Ganges water as the "water of immortality".[46]

Relation with Jains[change | change source]

Akbar enters Surat triumphantly.

Akbar regularly held discussions with Jain scholars and was impacted by their teachings. His first encounter with Jain rituals was when he saw a procession of a Jain Shravaka named Champa after a six-month-long fast. Impressed by her power and devotion, he invited her guru, Hiravijaya, to Fatehpur Sikri. Hiravijaya accepted the invitation and travelled to the Mughal capital from Gujarat.[47]

Akbar was impressed with his scholarly approach. He held several inter-faith dialogues among philosophers of different religions. The arguments of Jains against eating meat persuaded him to become a vegetarian.[48] Akbar also issued many imperial orders that were favourable for Jain interests, such as banning animal slaughter.[49] Jain authors also wrote about their experience at the Mughal court in Sanskrit texts that are still largely unknown to Mughal historians.[50]

The Indian Supreme Court has cited examples of the co-existence of Jain and Mughal architecture, calling Akbar "the architect of modern India" and stating that "he had great respect" for Jainism.[source?] In 1584, 1592, and 1598, Akbar declared "Amari Ghosana", which prohibited animal slaughter during Paryushan and Mahavira Janma Kalyanak. He removed the Jazia tax from Jain pilgrim places like Palitana.[51] Santichandra, disciple of Suri, was sent to the Emperor, who in turn left his disciples Bhanuchandra and Siddhichandra in the court. Akbar invited Hiravijaya Suri's successor Vijayasena Suri to his court who visited him between 1593 and 1595.[source?] Akbar's religious tolerance was not followed by his son Jahangir, who later threatened Bhanuchandra.[52]

Personality[change | change source]

Akbar's reign was chronicled by his court historian Abul Fazal in the books Akbarnama and Ain-i-Akbari. Other sources of Akbar's reign include the wod Sirhindi. Akbar was an artisan, warrior, artist, armourer, administrator carpenter, emperor, general, inventor, animal trainer, technologist. He became emperor at the age of 13.

Navaratnas[change | change source]

Akbar had Navaratnas (nine jewels in Sanskrit) in his court which include Abul Fazl, Faizi, Tansen, Birbal, Raja Todar Mal, Raja Man Singh, Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana, Fakir Azizudin and Mohd Shakil Hasan

Akbarnama[change | change source]

(Pronounced as Akbar-e-Namah)
The Akbarnāma means the Book of Akbar. It is the official biographical account of Akbar written by Abu Fazl. It includes vivid and detailed descriptions of his life and times. It also includes the information about the flora, fauna, life of the people of his reign, and the places Akbar used to visit.

The work was commissioned by Akbar, and written by Abul Fazl, one of the Navratnas (Nine Jewels) of Akbar's royal court. The book took seven years to complete. An illustration was done in the Mughal school of painting. A part of this is Ain-i-Akbari.

Death[change | change source]

On 3 October 1605, Akbar fell ill with an attack of dysentery, from which he never recovered. Twelve days after his sixty third year he died on 27 October 1605, after which his body was buried at a mausoleum in Sikandra (Agra): Akbar's tomb.

References[change | change source]

  1. Lal 1999, p. 67: "It may be recalled that as an adolescent, Akbar had earned the title of Ghazi by beheading the defenseless infidel Himu. Under Akbar and Jahangir 'five or six hundred thousand human beings were killed,' says emperor Jahangir"
  2. Srivastav, Niraj (August 2019). The Curse of Mughals. ISBN 9781932705546. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Eraly 2000, pp. 114, 117
  4. "Akbar (Mughal emperor)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 27 January 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  5. Chandra 2005, p. 95
  6. Jahangir 1999, p. 437: "Ruqayya-Sultan Begam, the daughter of Mirza Hindal and wife of His Majesty Arsh-Ashyani [Akbar], had passed away in Akbarabad. She was His Majesty's chief wife. Since she did not have children, when Shahjahan was born His Majesty Arsh-Ashyani entrusted that 'unique pearl of the caliphate' to the begam's care, and she undertook to raise the prince. She departed this life at the age of eighty-four."
  7. Hindu Shah 1595–1612, p. 223: "Akbur, after this conquest, made pilgrimage to Khwaja Moyin-ood-Deen Chishty at Ajmere and returned to Agra; from whence he proceeded to visit the venerable Sheikh Sulim Chishty, in the village of Seekry. As all the king's children had hitherto died, he solicited the Sheikh's prayers, who consoled him, by assuring him he would soon have a son, who would live to a good old age. Shortly after, his favourite sooltana, being then pregnant, on Wednesday the 17th of Rubbee-ool-Awul, in the year 997 was delivered of a son, who was called Sulim."
  8. Mehta 1984, p. 222: "Bihari Mal gave rich dowry to his daughter and sent his son Bhagwan Das with a contingent of Rajput soldiers to escort his newly married sister to Agra as per Hindu custom. Akbar was deeply impressed by the highly dignified, sincere and princely conduct of his Rajput relations. He took Man Singh, the youthful son of Bhagwant Das into the royal service. Akbar was fascinated by the charm and accomplishments of his Rajput wife; he developed real love for her and raised her to the status of chief queen. She came to exercise profound impact on socio-cultural environment of the entire royal household and changed the lifestyle of Akbar. Salim (later Jahangir), heir to the throne, was born of this wedlock on 30th August, 1569."
  9. Ahloowalia 2009, p. 130
  10. Cite error: The named reference Britannica was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  11. Black 2011, p. 245
  12. Eraly 2000, p. 189
  13. "AKBAR I – Encyclopaedia Iranica". www.iranicaonline.org. Retrieved 14 June 2020.[permanent dead link]
  14. Early, Abraham (2000). The Saga of the Great Mughals. ISBN 9781932705546. Retrieved 19 May 2024.
  15. Habib 1997, p. 80
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Chandra 2007, p. 253
  17. Chandra 2007, p. 252
  18. Hasan 2007, p. 72
  19. 19.0 19.1 Habib 1997, p. 81
  20. Doniger, Wendy (March 2014). On Hinduism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-936007-9. OCLC 858660095.
  21. Habib 1997, p. 85
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Habib 1997, p. 86
  23. Smith 2002, p. 348
  24. Ali 2006, pp. 165–166
  25. Eaton 2019, p. 235
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Chandra 2007, p. 254
  27. Ali 2006, p. 159
  28. Hasan 2007, p. 79
  29. Hasan 2007, pp. 82–83
  30. Chandra 2007, p. 255
  31. Chandra 2007, p. 256
  32. "Din-i Ilahi – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 14 May 2008. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
  33. Roychoudhury, Makhanlal (1941). The Din-i-Ilahi, or, The Religion of Akbar. University of Calcutta. p. 279. OCLC 3312929.
  34. Majumdar 1974, p. 138
  35. Koka, Aziz (1594). King's College Collection, MS 194. This letter is preserved in Cambridge University Library. p. ff.5b–8b.
  36. Conder 1828, p. 282
  37. Deefholts, Deefholts & Acharya 2006, p. 87
  38. Gómez 2013, p. 51
  39. Sharma 1988, p. 42
  40. Ali 2006, pp. 163–164
  41. Ali 2006, p. 164
  42. Habib 1997, p. 96
  43. Chua 2007, p. 187
  44. Chua 2007, p. 126
  45. 45.0 45.1 Collingham 2006, p. 30
  46. 46.0 46.1 Collingham 2006, p. 31
  47. Sanghmitra
  48. Sen 2005, pp. 288–289: "Akbar arranged for discussions ... involving not only mainstream Hindu and Muslim philosophers [but Jains and others] ... Arguing with Jains, Akbar would remain sceptical of their rituals, and yet become convinced by their argument for vegetarianism and end up deploring the eating of all flesh"
  49. Truschke, Audrey (29 October 2020). "Jains and the Mughals". JAINpedia. Archived from the original on 8 March 2018. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  50. Truschke 2012, p. 373
  51. "Ahmedabad turned Akbar veggie". The Times of India. 23 November 2009. Archived from the original on 20 September 2018. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
  52. Busch 2011, p. 137

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