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Jellaladin Mahommed Akbar

Jellaladin Muhammad Akbar the Great (1542-1605) was the ruler of the Mughal Empire from the time of his accession in 1556 until 1605. He is commonly considered the greatest of the Mughal emperors.

Table of contents
1 Political career
2 Religion
3 Lover of Arts
4 Final years

Political career

Akbar was born at Umarkot in Sind on the 14th of October 1542, his father, Humayun, having been driven from the throne a short time in a series of decisive battles by the Afghan Sher Shah Suri. After more than twelve years' exile, Humayun regained his sovereignty, which, however, he had held only for a few months when he died. Akbar succeeded his father in 1556 under the regency of Bairam Khan, a Turkoman noble, whose energy in repelling pretenders to the throne, and severity in maintaining the discipline of the army, tended greatly to the consolidation of the newly recovered empire. Bairam, however, was naturally despotic and cruel. When order was somewhat restored, Akbar took the reins of government into his own hands by a proclamation issued in March 1560.

On November 5 fifty miles north of Delhi, a Mughal Army defeated Hindu forces of General Hemu to ensure Akbar the throne of India.

When Akbar ascended the throne, only a small portion of what had formerly been comprised within the Mughal empire owned his authority, and he devoted himself to the recovery of the revolted provinces. He expanded the Mughal empire to include the Gujarat (1572), Bengal (1574), Kabul (1581), and Kashmir (1586), among others. Over each of these, as it was restored, he placed a governor, whom he superintended over.

Akbar did not want to have his court tied to closely to Delhi. He ordered the court moved to Fatehpur Sikri, near Agra, but when this proved untenable, he set up a roaming camp that let him keep a close eye on what was happening throughout the empire. He tried to develop and encourage commerce; he had the land accurately measured for the purpose of rightly adjusting taxation; he gave the strictest instructions to prevent extortion on the part of the tax gatherers.


He was at first Muslim, but skepticism as to the divine origin of the Koran led him to seek the true religion in an eclectic system. He accordingly set himself to obtain information about other religions, sent to Goa, requesting that the Portuguese missionaries there should visit him. Based on these inquiries, he adopted a religion called Din-e-alahi taken from Islam, Zoroastrianism, and other religions. This religion separated out his truest devotees in the court, but failed to gain acceptance outside, and died with Akbar.

However, the spirit of toleration which originated his religion was also important in establishing his kingdom. He conciliated Hindus by giving them freedom of worship; while at the same time he strictly prohibited certain Brahmanical practices, such as trial by ordeal and sati, the burning of widows against their will. He also abolished all taxes upon pilgrims as an interference with the liberty of worship, and the capitation tax upon Hindus, probably upon similar grounds.

Lover of Arts

Although he was illiterate (and possibly dyslexic), he had a great love for knowledge, inviting men from all different religions to come discuss matters of the world with him. He was a patron to many men of literary talent, among whom may be mentioned the brothers Feizi and Abul Fazl. The former was commissioned by Akbar to translate a number of Sanskrit scientific works into Persian; and the latter has left, in the Akbar-Nameh, an enduring record of the emperor's reign. It is also said that Akbar employed Jerome Xavier, a Jesuit missionary, to translate the four Gospels into Persian.

Final years

The closing years of Akbar's reign were rendered very unhappy by the misconduct of his sons. Two of them died in youth, the victims of intemperance; and the third, Salim, later known as emperor Jahangir, was frequently in rebellion against his father. These calamities were keenly felt by Akbar, and may even have tended to hasten his death, which occurred at Agra on the 15th of October 1605. His body was deposited in a magnificent mausoleum at Sikandra, near Agra.

Preceded by:
Mughal Emperors Succeeded by: