Akbar is hailed as the greatest king among all Mughal rulers. He was the one who shaped the Mughal Empire and established it on great heights. Under his reign, Mughal Empire kissed pinnacles of success.
His full name was “Abu`l-Fath Jalal ud-din Muhammad Akbar”. He was born on 15 October 1542 in Umerkot, Sindh. He was the son of emperor Humayun and Hamida Begum.
He became the king in 1556 at the tender age of 13. Bairam khan the military general of his army was appointed as his guardian.
The Mughal Empire ruled over India for 200 years but it was only under his supremacy that it flourished the most. He was the real founder of Mughal Empire. He got the throne at a very critical stage but slowly he was able to enlarge the outskirts of Mughal Empire. He ruled almost more than half of India. He was the greatest emperor of Mughal dynasty.
Akbar was illiterate but he was a wise man. He had great retention power also. Though he was a Muslim, yet he respected people from all religion i.e. Buddhists, Hindus and Christian as well. His mentality was secular and thus his mind set was not like much by the Ulemas, fanatic Muslim priests.
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Akbar was brought up by his paternal uncles. Kamran Mirza and Aksari mirza as Humayun, his father was in exile. He was groomed well right in his childhood by his uncles for the throne. He was to acquire at a later stage in his life. There he learnt fighting with different weapons, hunting techniques and war-fare strategies which turned him into a great warrior.
After his father’s death, he ascended the throne in Kalnaur (Punjab). He was married to ruqaiya Sultan Begum who was the daughter of his paternal uncle Hindal Mirza. She was his childhood friend also. Other than Ruqaiya Begum, he had many wives in his harem who were kept with luxuries in the harem.
Under the guardianship of Bairam Khan, Akbar annexed many territories and added them to his growing empire. He had conquered almost all of the northern India with the help of Bairam Khan.
He won the second battle of Panipat against Hindu king Hemu with the leadership of Bairam Khan. But in 1560 when he grew up enough to take his own decisions he dismissed Bairam Khan and took control over the entire empire.
He was a very cunning general who properly knew how to expand his reign. He expanded his territories from Afghanistan in the north to Godavari River in the south. From Sindh in the west to Bengal in the east, the complete nation was under the name of one ruler Akbar.
Akbar was very intelligent man. He knew that only power was not sufficient to rule over people. He employed several strategies to win the hearts of people. Akbar had great capability of winning the hearts of people whom he conquered. He forgave them for their wrongdoings and made them loyal to the Sultanate. Moreover he deployed them at higher positions and ranks in his court.
This humble attitude of him won the hearts of his courtiers also. Akbar made alliances with Hindu kings by marrying their daughters. This was a strategic move of his to gain trust of Rajput rulers so as to avoid any conflicts with them. He married Hindu princess- Jodha bai, the eldest daughter of the house of Jaipur.
This alliance has been recorded in the annals of history. He gave higher ranks to the fathers and brothers-in-law of his Hindu wives in his court. This elevated their status in the society and courts. Hindu and Muslim alliances were not respected in the society and the Hindu kings who marry their girls in Muslims were looked down upon and humiliated.
But the respect he gave them was unparalleled. He abolished Jaziya tax on Hindu pilgrims. This act of his received a lot of flak from Muslims but earned him a place in the hearts of his Hindu subjects.
He created an integrated system to efficiently administer his kingdom. He rewarded the talented and intellectual people without considering their regional background.
Though Akbar was a Muslim by birth yet he had great respect for other religions too. He started new religion ‘Din-i-illahi’ (divine faith) which is a combination of many religions. In 1575 he built Fatehpur Sikri- a walled city in Agra. He shifted his capital from Delhi to Agra and operated from their for almost 15 years.
Respecting other faith, he also allowed the Jersuits to build a church in Agra. He also discouraged the slaughtering of cattle out of respect for Hindu customs and several loyal Hindu courtiers of his empire.
Patronage of art
Though illiterate but he appreciated the art, culture and intellectual discourse. He combined Islamic, Persian and Hindu architectural designs in the Mughal architecture to present panoramic structures and forts we see today.
He sponsored several poets, musicians, artists and philosophers also to follow their heart and research their fields. Akbar was known for his nine gems or ‘navratana’ of his court.
They were intellectuals and scholars who helped Akbar by advising him and being of utmost utility to him. The nine gems of his court are listed as follows:
- Abul Faizi- a poet and scholar
- Miyan Tansen- a singer and musician
- Raja Birbal- the court jester
- Raja Man singh- a lieutenant
- Abul Fazal- scholar and writer
- Abdul Rahim Khan-i-khana – a poet
- Raja Todarmal- minister of finance
- Fakir Azio-din- an advisor
- Mullah do- piazza – an advisor
Akbar died in 1605 as he fell ill with the disease of dysentery. Also, old age took a toll over him, weakening his immunity and thus, he was not able to bear the brunt of this deadly disease. His son Jahangir ascended the throne after his death and took over the empire from the hands of his dead father.
But Akbar will always remain alive in our hearts as the greatest ruler aka the Mughal king who won over lands and hearts simultaneously.