Mughal King Akbar greatly influenced by Sufi mysticism is remembered for his reforms & statesmanship even today by Bishwa Nath Singh on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 4:59am
Bishwa Nath Singh.:
Akbar whose full name was Abu'l Fath Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar and also popularly known as Shahanshah Akbar-e-Azam was the third ruler of Mughal and of Timurid descent being the son of Emperor Humayun, and the grandson of the memorable Mughal Emperor Zaheeruddin Muhammad Babur, the ruler who founded the Mughal dynasty in India. He was born on October 14,1542 in the fort of Umarkot, Sindh to Emperor Humayun and his recently wedded wife, Hamida Banu Begum. The Rajput Fortress of Umarkot in Sind, where Humayun and Hamida were taking refuge, became the birthplace of this great emperor. In 1540, Humayun was forced into exile by Afghan leader Sher Shah and Akbar spent his childhood in Afghanistan, at his uncle Askari's place. His youth was spent in running and fighting, rather than learning to read and write. However, this could never impair his interest in art, architecture, music and literature He had succeeded his father as the emperor in the year 1556, when he was only thirteen years old. One of the most successful emperors of the Mughal Empire, Akbar also made significant contribution in the field of art. Apart from commencing a large collection of literature, he also commissioned a number of splendid buildings during his reign. Humayun recaptured Delhi in the year 1555, with the help of his Persian ally Shah Tahmasp. However, a few months after his victory, he met with an accident and died. On 14th February 1556, Akbar succeeded the throne, in the midst of a war waged by Sikandar Shah for the Mughal throne. The first battle fought by Akbar was against Sikandar Shah Suri of Punjab. However, when Akbar was busy leading assault against Sikandar Shah, Hemu, a Hindu warrior, launched an attack on Delhi, which was then under the regency of Tardi Beg Khan. Tardi fled from the city and Hemu claimed the capital. On the advice of his general, Bairam, Akbar launched an attack on Delhi and reclaimed the city. On 5th November 1556, 'Akbar the Great' fought the Second Battle of Panipat against General Hemu. Following soon after was the battle with Sikandar Shah at Mankot. In 1557, Adil Shah, who was the brother of Sikandar, died in a battle in Bengal. Along with fighting against the other rulers, Akbar also solidified his support by revoking the jizya tax on non-Muslims. At the same time, he started wooing the favor of the powerful Rajput caste, at times by marrying Rajput princesses. He expanded the Mughal Empire by including Malwa, Gujarat, Bengal, Kabul, Kashmir and Kandesh, amongst others. In no time, the rule of Akbar was firmly established over the entire Hindustan (India). Akbar's reign significantly influenced art and culture in the country. He was a great patron of art and architecture He took a great interest in painting, and had the walls of his palaces adorned with murals. Besides encouraging the development of the Mughal school, he also patronised the European style of painting. He was fond of literature, and had several Sanskrit works translated into Persian and Persian scriptures translated in Sanskrit apart from getting many Persian works illustrated by painters from his court. During the early years of his reign, he showed intolerant attitude towards Hindus and other religions, but later exercised tolerance towards non-islamic faiths by rolling back some of the strict sharia laws. His administration included numerous Hindu landlords, courtiers and military generals. He began a series of religious debates where Muslim scholars would debate religious matters with Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Cārvāka atheists, Jews, and Portuguese Roman Catholic Jesuits. He treated these religious leaders with great consideration, irrespective of their faith, and revered them. He not only granted lands and money for the mosques but the list of the recipients included a huge number Hindu temples in north and central India, Christian churches in Goa and a land grant to the newly born Sikh faith for the construction of a place of worship. The famous Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab is constructed on the same site. He even founded a religion, the Din-i-Ilahi (Divine Faith), which Akbar was deeply interested in religious and philosophical matters. An orthodox Muslim at the outset, he later came to be influenced by Sufi mysticism that was being preached in the country at that time, and moved away from orthodoxy, appointing to his court several talented people with liberal ideas, 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 and discussed matters of spirituality with them. 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 and extending even into areas such as the validity of the Quran and the nature of God. This shocked the orthodox theologians, who sought to discredit him by circulating rumors of his desire to forsake Islam. His efforts to evolve a meeting point among the representatives of various religions was not very successful, as each of them attempted to assert the superiority of their respective religions by denouncing other religions. Meanwhile, 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 to the discontinuance of the debates by Akbar in 1582 However, his 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. However, some modern scholars claim that Akbar did not initiate a new religion and did not use the word Din-i-Ilahi At about this time, he began to indicate that he had lost faith in the creed of the prophet of MeccaThe purported Din-i-Ilahi was more of an ethical system and is said to have prohibited lust, sensuality, slander and pride, considering them sins. Piety, prudence, abstinence and kindness are the core virtues. The soul is encouraged to purify itself through yearning of God. The celibacy was respected, chastity enforced, the slaughter of animals was forbidden and there were no sacred scriptures or a priestly hierarchy. However, a leading Noble of Akbar's court, Aziz Koka, wrote a letter to him from Mecca in 1594 arguing that the Din-i-Ilahi promoted by Akbar amounted to nothing more than a desire on Akbar's part to portray himself as "a new prophet".To commemorate Din-e-Ilahi, he changed the name of Prayag to Allahabad (pronounced as ilahabad) in 1583. Akbar was well aware of the structure and stratum of the society of his empire. His bold and imaginative approach to the problems of his heterogeneous empire may have reduced some of the long-standing, although generally passive, Hindu antagonism toward an administration which was entirely Muslim in spirit.Akbar appointed the great Hindu Rajput chiefs to an active partnership in his government. Eventually, it became accepted practice for high-profile Hindus, like Amber or Jodhpur, to be governors of a major province or commander-in-chief of an army composed largely of Muslims. The Hindus were able to practice their own religion without disturbance. His policy toward Hindus must be seen in its proper perspective. There was consistent contact between Hindus and Muslims in many areas of social life. Not only Muslim sovereigns but the entire Muslim ruling class recruited Hindus into their services, often in positions of great responsibility such as the case with Todar Mal and his staff. Hindus also served as craftsmen, artisans, entertainers, concubines, soldiers and servants. The two communities acknowledged and respected each other's rights in all aspects of social and religious life as revealed in the Mughal History written by eminent historians of that period. He had married a Hindu Rajput princess of Amber [now Jaipur] in 1562. She was the mother of Jahangir. Also married daughter of Raja of Jaisalmer and also the niece of Raja of Bikaner – both Hindu Rajput princesses. He had more than thirty three wives – one of whom from Tibet.He had allowed his wives to practice their belief.He had three sons. Jahangir born Aug 30 1569, Murad born 1570, Daniyal born 1572 – all from different mothers. Both Murad and Daniyal died of alcoholism – Murad died in 1599 at the age of 29 and Daniyal died 1603 aged 31.He was a great statesman and a brilliant administrator. As the Politics of reconciliation, he had . encouraged inter religion marriages between Mughal and Rajput aristocracy.He had varied of his interests.He enjoyed elephant fights, hunts, initiating and introducing fashion and styles [according to Abul Fazal]. Set up an art department at Sikri – large number of hindu painters and 2 Persian painters – Mir Sayyid Ali and Abdu Samad – art of his court a combination of Persian and Indian. Main work of painters to illustrate manuscripts. Interested in comparative religion. Built Ibadat khana in Sikri for theologians and priests of different religions.He was a great lover and patron of arts. Influenced by poetry of Hafiz who was influenced by Sufi pantheism. Despite his illiteracy – collected books. Created a library of 24,000 volumes of manuscripts.Tansen – Master of Music in Akbar’s court. Set up a translation department. Commissioned translations of Atharva Veda, Ramayana, Mahabharata. He had appointed two Rajput princes as Generals. Akbar’s diwan – Raja Todar Mal. His most loyal officials and friends were Hindus. Two wee lnown courtiers – Abul Fazal and Birbal. Abul Fazal’s 2 works – Akbar-nama and Ain-I-Akbari are accounts of Akbar’s court. He was a workaholic, an insomniac seldom slept more than three hours a night. He . liked only one meal a day. Only drank Ganges water. As a ruler, his reign a period of exceptional harmony between Hindus and Muslims. Allowed new temples to be built –participated in Hindu festivals. Introduced new year festival of Nauroz at court. Introduced the concept of Din Ilahi – the divine faith. Principle of acceptance of all religions and sects. Did not attempt to become the head of a new religion.He had introduced many reforms during his regime that extended for forty years from the year 1556 to 1605 He had abolished Jaziya. Encouraged widow remarriage, discouraged child marriage, outlawed practice of sati, and persuaded Delhi merchants to set up special market days for women. Lifted ban on building of temples. In 1566, an attempt was made on his precious life. An assassin, posted on the roof of Khair al-Manzel, a madrasah built by Maham Anka near the Purana Qala, shot an arrow at the emperor as he rode back into Delhi. The arrow wounded Akbar's shoulder. This incident changed Akbar's method of rule and now took into his own hands the supervision of the entire administration of the empire.He had abolished Islam as the state religion.He had unique capacity as a warrior and statesman.He had extented his Kingdom at death – Gujarat, Bengal, Qandhar, Orissa, Sindh, Baluchistan, and parts of Deccan.He had consolidated his Mughal empire to whole of India during his tenure.He had got built a walled capital Fatehpur Sikri starting 1571. In honor of Shaikh Salim Chishti. While Sikri being constructed Akbar built a temporary city 7 miles south of agra called Nagarcin – no remains of that city. Fatehpur Sikri also a short-lived city because of water problems. In 1585 moved capital to Lahore and in 1599 to Agra. It is with this reason that he was also called as Akbar the great who was an artisan, warrior, artist, armoire, blacksmith, carpenter, emperor, general, inventor, animal trainer (reputedly keeping thousands of hunting cheetahs during his reign and training many himself), lacemaker, technologist and theologian. Akbar was said to have been a wise emperor and a sound judge of character. His son and heir, Jahangir, wrote effusive praise of Akbar's character in his memoirs, and dozens of anecdotes to illustrate his virtues. According to Jahangir, Akbar was "of the hue of wheat; his eyes and eyebrows were black and his complexion rather dark than fair". Antoni de Montserrat, the Catalan Jesuit who visited his court described him as follows:” One could easily recognize even at first glance that he is King. He has broad shoulders, somewhat bandy legs well-suited for horsemanship, and a light brown complexion. He carries his head bent towards the right shoulder. His forehead is broad and open, his eyes so bright and flashing that they seem like a sea shimmering in the sunlight. His eyelashes are very long. His eyebrows are not strongly marked. His nose is straight and small though not insignificant. His nostrils are widely open as though in derision. Between the left nostril and the upper lip there is a mole. He shaves his beard but wears a moustache. He limps in his left leg though he has never received an injury there." Akbar's court had Navaratnas (Nine Jewels), meaning a group of nine extraordinary people. They included: Abul Fazel (Akbars's chief advisor and author of Akbarnama) ,Faizi (Akbar's poet laureate) ,Mian Tansen (a Hindu singer who converted to Islam) ,Birbal (a noble known for his wittiness) ,Raja Todar Mal (Akbar's finance minister) , It is said that he was greatly troubled in the last few years of his life due to the misdemeanors of his sons. Especially his third son, Salim, was frequently in rebellion against his father. On October 3, 1605, he had fallen ill and had suffered with acute dysentery, from which he never recovered. He is believed to have died on or about October 26,1605, after which his body was buried at a mausoleum in Agra. After his passing away ,he had left behind a rich legacy both for the Mughal Empire as well as the Indian subcontinent in general. He firmly entrenched the authority of the Mughal empire in India and beyond, after it had been threatened by the Afghans during his father's reign establishing its military and diplomatic superiority. During his reign, the nature of the state changed to a secular and liberal one, with emphasis on cultural integration. He also introduced several far-sighted social reforms, including prohibiting sati, legalizing widow remarriage and raising the age of marriage. He had under lied the values of of the modern republic of India and that is why , he is fondly adored by both Muslims and Hindus as a great son of our Almighty God.He will bealways remembered for his great statemanship and reforms!Let us join to pay our humble obeisance to His lotus feet and respectful homage to Him!
Photos: Five in all. Photo :(1)Mughal Emperor Akbar(October 14,1542 to October 26,1605)(2)Salim Chishti Shrine at Fatehpur Sikri in India (3)Akbar's Tomb complex at Sikandara in a suburb of Agra, Uttar Pradesh, showing the chhatris on three levels, a Rajasthani architecture feature.
(4)The main entrance of Emperor Akbar at Sikandara a suburb of Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India and (5)True tomb of Akbar, at the basement of the tomb at Sikandara a suburb of Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.
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Bishwa Nath Singh :
Mughal Emperor Akbar was an ardent follower of Salim Chishti, a very holy man who lived in the region of Sikri near Agra. Believing the area to be a lucky one for himself, he had a mosque constructed there for the use of the saint. Subseq...uently, he celebrated the victories over Chittor and Ranthambore by laying the foundation of a new walled capital, thirty seven kms.west of Agra in 1569, which was named Fatehpur ("town of victory") after the conquest of Gujarat in 1573 and subsequently came to be known as Fatehpur Sikri in order to distinguish it from other similarly named towns. The Palaces for each of Akbar's senior queens, a huge artificial lake, and sumptuous water-filled courtyards were built there. However, the city was soon abandoned and the capital was moved to Lahore in 1585. The reason may have been that the water supply in Fatehpur Sikri was insufficient or of poor quality. Or, as some historians believe, Akbar had to attend to the northwest areas of his empire and therefore moved his capital northwest. Other sources indicate Akbar simply lost interest in the city or realised it was not militarily defensible. In 1599, Akbar shifted his capital back to Agra from where he reigned until his death.Let us join to pay our respectful homage and floral tribute to Him who will be adored for ever for His great statesmanship and bringing reforms in both social and cultural life!