Akbar Biography

Akbar Biography

1 . Biography

Akbar(born Oct. 15, 1542, Umarkot, Sindh [India] died 1605, Agra), greatest of the Mughal emperors of India, who reigned from 1556 to 1605 and who extended Mughal power over most of the Indian subcontinent. In order to preserve the unity of his empire, Akbar adopted programs that won the loyalty of the non Muslim populations of his realm. He reformed and strengthened his central administration and also centralized his financial system and reorganized tax collection processes. Although he never renounced Islam, he took an active interest in other religions, persuading Hindus, Parsis, and Christians, as well as Muslims, to engage in religious discussion before him. Illiterate himself, he encouraged scholars, poets, painters, and musicians, making his court a centre of culture.

2 . Akbars Early Life

Akbar was born to the second Mughal Emperor Humayan and his teenaged bride Hamida Banu Begum on October 14, 1542 in Sindh, now in Pakistan. Although his ancestors included both Genghis Khan and Timur (Tamerlane), the family was on the run after losing Baburs newly established empire. Humayan would not regain northern India until 1555.

With his parents in exile in Persia, little Akbar was raised by an uncle in Afghanistan, with help from a series of nursemaids. He practiced key skills like hunting, but never learned to read (perhaps due to a learning disability). Nonetheless, throughout his life, Akbar had texts on philosophy, history, religion, science and other topics read to him, and could recite long passages of what he had heard from memory.

3 . Akbar Takes Power

In 1555, Humayan died just months after retaking Delhi. Akbar ascended the Mughal throne at the age of 13, and became Shahanshah (King of Kings). His regent was Bayram Khan, his childhood guardian and an outstanding warrior statesman.The young emperor almost immediately lost Delhi once more to the Hindu leader Hemu. However, in November of 1556, Generals Bayram Khan and Khan Zaman I defeated Hemus much larger army at the Second Battle of Panipat. Hemu himself was shot through the eye as he rode into battle atop an elephant; the Mughal army captured and executed him.

When he came of age at 18, Akbar dismissed the increasingly overbearing Bayram Khan and took direct control of the empire and army. Bayram was ordered to make the hajj to Mecca; instead, he started a rebellion against Akbar. The young emperors forces defeated Bayrams rebels at Jalandhar, in the Punjab; rather than executing the rebel leader, Akbar mercifully allowed his former regent another chance to go to Mecca. This time, Bayram Khan went.

4 . Intrigue and Further Expansion

Although he was out from under Bayram Khans control, Akbar still faced challenges to his authority from within the palace. The son of his nursemaid, a man called Adham Khan, killed another adviser in the palace after the victim discovered that Adham was embezzling tax funds. Enraged both by the murder and by the betrayal of his trust, Akbar had Adham Khan thrown from the parapets of the castle. From that point forward, Akbar was in control of his court and country, rather than being a tool of palace intrigues.The young emperor set out on an aggressive policy of military expansion, both for geo strategic reasons and as a way to get troublesome warrior advisers away from the capital. In the following years, the Mughal army would conquer much of northern India (including what is now Pakistan) and Afghanistan.

5 . Akbars Governing Style

In order to control his vast empire, Akbar instituted a highly efficient bureaucracy. He appointed mansabars, or military governors, over the various regions; these governors answered directly to him. As a result, he was able to fuse the individual fiefdoms of India into a unified empire that would survive until 1868.Akbar was personally courageous, willing to lead the charge in battle. He enjoyed taming wild cheetahs and elephants, as well. This courage and self confidence allowed Akbar to initiate novel policies in government, and to stand by them over objections from more conservative advisers and courtiers.

6 . Matters of Faith and Marriage

From an early age, Akbar was raised in a tolerant milieu. Although his family was Sunni, two of his childhood tutors were Persian Shias. As an emperor, Akbar made the Sufi concept of Sulh e Kuhl, or peace to all, a founding principle of his law.Akbar displayed remarkable respect for his Hindu subjects and their faith. His first marriage in 1562 was to Jodha Bai or Harkha Bai, who was a Rajput princess from Amber. As with the families of his later Hindu wives, her father and brothers joined Akbars court as advisers, equal in rank to his Muslim courtiers. In total, Akbar had 36 wives of various ethnic and religious backgrounds.Probably even more importantly to his ordinary subjects, Akbar in 1563 repealed a special tax placed on Hindu pilgrims who visited sacred sites, and in 1564 completely repealed the jizya, or yearly tax on non Muslims. What he lost in revenue by these acts, he more than regained in good will from the Hindu majority of his subjects.

Even beyond the practical realities of ruling an enormous, predominantly Hindu empire with just a small band Muslim elite, however, Akbar himself had an open and curious mind on questions of religion. As he mentioned to Philip II of Spain in his letter, cited above, he loved to meet with learned men and women of all faiths to discuss theology and philosophy. From the female Jain guru Champa to Portuguese Jesuit priests, Akbar wanted to hear from them all.

7 . Foreign Relations

As Akbar solidified his rule over northern India, and began to extend his power south and west to the coast, he became aware of the new Portuguese presence there. Although the initial Portuguese approach to India had been all guns blazing, they soon realized that they were no match militarily for the Mughal Empire on land. The two powers made treaties, under which the Portuguese were allowed to maintain their coastal forts, in exchange for which the promised not to harass Mughal ships that set out from the west coast carrying pilgrims to Arabia for the hajj.Interestingly, Akbar even formed an alliance with the Catholic Portuguese to punish the Ottoman Empire, which controlled the Arabian Peninsula at that time. The Ottomans were concerned that the huge numbers of pilgrims flooding in to Mecca and Medina each year from the Mughal Empire were overwhelming the resources of the holy cities, so the Ottoman sultan rather firmly requested that Akbar quit sending people on the hajj.

Outraged, Akbar asked his Portuguese allies to attack the Ottoman navy which was blockading the Arabian Peninsula. Unfortunately for him, the Portuguese fleet was completely routed off of Yemen. This signaled the end of the Mughal Portuguese alliance.Akbar maintained more enduring relations with other empires, however. Despite the Mughal capture of Kandahar from the Persian Safavid Empire in 1595, for example, those two dynasties had cordial diplomatic ties throughout Akbars rule. The Mughal Empire was such a rich and important potential trading partner that various European monarchs sent emissaries to Akbar, as well, including Elizabeth I of England and Henry IV of France.

8 . Early Rule

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).

9 . Imperial expansion

Akbar first attacked Malwa, a state of strategic and economic importance commanding the route through the Vindhya Range to the Deccan plateau and containing rich agricultural land; it fell to him in 1561.Toward the zealously independent Hindu Rajputs (warrior ruling class) inhabiting rugged, hilly Rajasthan, Akbar adopted a policy of conciliation and conquest. Successive Muslim rulers had found the Rajputs dangerous, however weakened by disunity. But in 1562, when Raja Bihari Mal of Amber (now Jaipur), threatened by a succession dispute, offered Akbar his daughter in marriage, Akbar accepted the offer. The Raja acknowledged Akbars suzerainty, and his sons prospered in Akbars service. Akbar followed the same feudal policy toward the other Rajput chiefs. They were allowed to hold their ancestral territories, provided that they acknowledged Akbar as emperor, paid tribute, supplied troops when required, and concluded a marriage alliance with him. The emperors service was also opened to them and their sons, which offered financial rewards as well as honour.

However, Akbar showed no mercy to those who refused to acknowledge his supremacy. When, after protracted fighting in Mewar, Akbar captured the historic fortress of Chitor in 1568, he massacred its inhabitants. Even though Mewar did not submit, the fall of Chitor prompted other Rajput rajas to accept Akbar as emperor in 1570 and to conclude marriage alliances with him, although the state of Marwar held out until 1583.One of the notable features of Akbars government was the extent of Hindu, and particularly Rajput, participation. Rajput princes attained the highest ranks, as generals and as provincial governors, in the Mughal service. Discrimination against non Muslims was reduced by abolishing the taxation of pilgrims and the tax payable by non Muslims in lieu of military service. Yet Akbar was far more successful than any previous Muslim ruler in winning the cooperation of Hindus at all levels in his administration. The further expansion of his territories gave them fresh opportunities.

In 1573 Akbar conquered Gujarat, an area with many ports that dominated Indias trade with western Asia, and then turned east toward Bengal. A rich country with a distinctive culture, Bengal was difficult to rule from Delhi because of its network of rivers, always apt to flood during the summer monsoon. Its Afghan ruler, declining to follow his fathers example and acknowledge Mughal suzerainty, was forced to submit in 1575. When he rebelled and was defeated and killed in 1576, Akbar annexed Bengal.Toward the end of his reign, Akbar embarked on a fresh round of conquests. Kashmir was subjugated in 1586, Sind in 1591, and Kandahar (Afghanistan) in 1595. Mughal troops now moved south of the Vindhya Range into the Deccan in peninsular India. By 1601 Khandesh, Berar, and part of Ahmadnagar were added to Akbars empire. His last years were troubled by the rebellious behaviour of his son, Prince Sal?m, who was eager for power.

10 . Administrative reform

Previous Indian governments had been weakened by the disintegrating tendencies characteristic of pre modern states the tendency of armies to split up into the private forces of individual commanders and the tendency of provincial governors to become hereditary local rulers. Akbar combatted these 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 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.

These 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 emperors 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; this 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 this way, Akbar was able to enlist the loyal services of many Rajput princes.

Akbars reforms required a centralized financial system, and thus by the side of each provincial governor (s?badar, later called nawab) was placed a civil administrator (d?wan, or 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. This excluded the lands under tributary rulers such as the Rajputs and also the lands assigned for the maintenance of Mughal officers.

Yet, notwithstanding Akbars 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.

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