Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar (15 October 1542 – 27 October 1605), fondly remembered as Akbar - The Great, was the third and undoubtedly the strongest Mughal king.
He is well remembered for his contribution to the various art forms, literature and architecture, some of which encapsulated all best features of art forms around the world.
He also started his own religious faith called “Din-i-llahi”, which got faded after his death. Akbar’s court comprised of Navratna (nine jewels) who were extraordinary people in their respective fields.
Monuments built by Akbar include the Agra Fort, Buland Darwaza, Lahore Fort and Allahabad Fort.
Akbar was born on 15th October 1542 in the Rajput fortress of Umerkot in Sindh, where Emperor Humayun and his recently wedded wife, Hamida Banu Begum were taking refuge. Akbar grew up in the village of Mukundpur in Rewa.
Akbar and prince Ram Singh I, who later became the Maharaja of Rewa, grew up together and stayed close friends throughout their life. Later, Akbar moved to the eastern parts of the Safavid Empire where he was raised by his uncle Mirza Askari.
When Humayun died, his death was concealed by Bairam Khan in order to prepare for Akbar’s succession. Akbar later succeeded Humayun in the year 1556 in the midst of a war against Sikandar Shah to reclaim the throne.
Akbar was thereafter enthroned by Bairam Khan in Kalanaur Punjab and was proclaimed ‘Shahanshah’. Bairam Khan ruled on the behalf of Akbar until he came of age.
On 3rd October, 1605, Akbar fell ill and he never recovered. He is believed to have died on or before 27th October 1605 and his body was buried in a mausoleum in Sikandra in Agra.
Reign and Achievements of Akbar:
Akbar was 13 years old when he ascended the Mughal throne in Delhi following the death of his father Humayun. Akbar was known for his military powerfulness. Akbar used different new armors and combat devices for his army.
He used the Kitar and Machlocks which were produced by the finest craftsmen and effectively employed during various conflicts. He also ordered the manufacture of the finest chain plate armors and other protections that made his war elephants and Sowars invincible in combat.
Akbar also utilized the metal cylinder rockets known as bans particularly against war elephants during the Battle of Sanbal. He believed that war elephants were the keys to military success.
He personally owned 5000 well-trained elephants war elephants that were used to carry out executions of those who fought against the Mughal Emperor.
In the initial reign days, Akbar decided to conquer the threat of Sher Shah’s dynasty. As such, he left Delhi under the regency of Tardi Baig Khan to lead an army against the strongest of the three, Sikandar Shah Suri.
During that time, the Hindu king Hemu defeated Mughal Army to capture Delhi. Thereafter, urged by Bairam Khan, Akbar met the larger forces of Hemu on the Second Battle of Panipat and captured and executed Hemu. Sikandar Shah too surrendered before Akbar and as a result, Punjab was annexed to the Mughal Empire.
He built the city of Fatehpur Sikri as a sign of his victory. The Ranthambore Fort was the most powerful fortress in Rajasthan and was conquered by the Mughal army in the year 1569 during the Siege of Ranthambore.
This made Akbar the master of almost the whole of Rajputana. This led to many of the Rajputana rulers submitting themselves to Akbar. After the Rajputs, Akbar turned to Gujarat and conquered Ahmadabad and Surat, and established his authority over Gujarat.
Administration of Akbar:
Akbar’s administration was divided into different categories each headed by different supervisors and wazirs. Akbar developed a unique way of the taxation system. He created the dahsala system of taxation and revenue and under the system
The revenue was calculated as one-third of the average produce of the previous ten years, to be paid to the state in cash.
This system was later however, refined taking into account the local prices and grouping areas with similar productivity into assessment circles. Under this system, remission was also given to the peasants when the harvest failed during times of flood and drought.
Akbar’s army and nobility were organized by means of a system called the mahasabdari. In this system, every officer was assigned a rank, i.e. a mansab and cavalry. There were different sections which divided the different categories of army.
The practice of giving Hindu princesses to Muslim kings in marriage though was popular from times before Akbar, but it took a new perspective from Akbar’s time.
The Rajput rulers were also made members of the court and the Hindu princesses’ marriage to a Muslim weren’t seen as a sign of degradation. One such matrimonial alliance is the marriage of Akbar to Jodha Bai. The matrimonial alliances allowed interchange of thoughts among the two religions.
Relations with different rule:
Akbar had an amicable relation with the Portuguese. Though he could not develop his navy by the Gujarat coast due to the strong hold of the Portuguese, he sought permits from the Portuguese to allow his people to go on Hajj to Mecca through the Indian Ocean.
In the year 1580, a rebellion broke out where a number of ‘fatwas’ declaring Akbar to be a heretic were issued by the Qazis. Akbar suppressed the rebellion and handed out severe punishments to the Qazis.
In order to strengthen his position, he issued a mazhar or declaration that was signed by all major ulemas in 1579.
He also built a hall called the Ibadat Khana in Fatehpur Sikri to which he invited theologians, mystics and selected courtiers renowned for their intellectual achievements and discussed matters of spirituality with them.
However, the interaction with various religion theologians had convinced him that despite their differences, all religions had several good practices which he sought to combine into a new religious movement called the Din-i-Ilahi. However, it has been argued over time that the theory of the Din-i-Ilahi being a new religion was a misconception.
Akbarnama, the Book of Akbar:
This book is an official biological account of Akbar written in Persian. The works were commissioned by Akbar and written by Abul Fazl, one of the nine jewels of Akbar’s court.
Portrayals of Akbar:
In the year 2008, Ashutosh Gowariker released a film portraying the story of Akbar and his wife Jodha Bai titled ‘Jodhaa Akbar’. Akbar was also portrayed in the award winning 1960 Hindi movie ‘Mughal-e-Azam’. Akbar is also a major character in Slaman Rushdie’s 2008 novel ‘
The Enchantress of Florence’. There have also been portrayals of Akbar in different television serials and plays. "Jodha Akbar" is a television series on played on Zee TV.