Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar: The Great

Muslim, Indian, and Western historians all see Akbar as the greatest ruler of Indian history.

Tina S
Tina S
Feb 10, 2010
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Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar , also known as Akbar the Great (November 23, 1542  – October 27, 1605)  was the third Mughal Emperor of India. He was of Timurid descent; the son of Humayun, and the grandson of Babur who founded the dynasty. At the end of his reign in 1605 the Mughal empire covered most of Northern India.

Akbar was originally named Badruddin Akbar, because he was born on the night of abadr (full moon) After the capture of Kabul by Humayun his date of birth and name were changed to throw off evil sorcerers. Contrary to some popular traditions, the name Akbar - meaning "Great" - was a not an honorific title given to Akbar; rather he was named for his maternal grandfather, Shaikh Ali Akbar Jami.


In order to govern this territory, Akbar developed a bureaucracy and a system of autonomy for the imperial provinces. Akbar's bureaucracy was among the most efficient in the world. He put military governors, or mansabars , in charge of each region. Each governor was responsible for the provincial military and, as in the Ottoman state, was directly responsible for all abuses. Abuses of power and mistreatment of the poor or weak resulted in severe punishments and death, just as in the Ottoman Empire. Each military governor was put in charge by the padshah himself, so he could be dismissed at will.

The most important part of the bureaucracy was tax collection. Akbar made several innovations. His tax, like all other states, was a land tax that amounted to one-third of the value of the crops produced on it each year. However, the tax was assessed equally on every member of the empire—a radical innovation considering that every other state in the sixteenth century rarely taxed the nobility.

He also eliminated the tax assessed on non-Muslims. From the beginning of the Islamic expansion, a special tax was levied on non-believers. This special tax, called the jizya , was bitterly resented all during the history of Muslim rule in India. In addition, Muslim rulers in India charged a "pilgrimage" tax on unbelievers travelling to various Hindu pilgrimage sites. Akbar eliminated this tax in 1564.

Political government:

Akbar's system of central government was based on the system that had evolved since the Delhi Sultanate, but the functions of various departments were carefully reorganised by laying down detailed regulations for their functioning.

The revenue department was headed by a wazir, responsible for all finances and management of jagir and inamlands.

The head of the military was called the mir bakshi, appointed from among the leading nobles of the court. Themir bakshi was in charge of intelligence gathering, and also made recommendations to the emperor for military appointments and promotions.

  • The mir saman was in charge of the imperial household, including the harems, and supervised the functioning of the court and royal bodyguard.
  • The judiciary was a separate organization headed by a chief qazi, who was also responsible for religious endowments.
Akbar departed from the policy of his predecessors in his treatment of the territories he conquered.

Akbar was an artisan, warrior, artist, armourer, blacksmith, carpenter, emperor, general, inventor, animal trainer (reputedly keeping thousands of hunting cheetahs during his reign and training many himself), lacemaker, technologist and theologian.

The king, Akbar the Great, was keenly interested in art and architecture. The Mughal style of painting developed under his guidance, as a result of fusion of Hindi and Persian techniques. His architecture is characterized equally by a happy blending of the indigenous and Islamic modes of construction and ornamentation.

Akbar was an efficient administrator. He decorated his royal court with the most efficient courtiers and ministers. He married a Rajput princess named Jodha Bai who was from a ruling family of Rajasthan. Akbar was the Mughal Emperor who respected all the religions. He had ministers from all the religions in his kingdom especially Hindu and Muslims both. He appointed the ministers on the basis of their merits without any discrimination of caste and creed. The famous ‘Nine Gems’ or the ‘Nav Ratna’ of his court had the qualities of administration and are famous worldwide.

He is said to have been extremely moderate in his diet. Ain-e-Akbari mentions that during his travels and also while at home, Akbar drank water from the Ganga river, which he called ‘the water of immortality’. Special people were stationed at Sorun and later Haridwar to dispatch water, in sealed jars, to wherever he was stationed.

According to Jahangir's memoirs, he was fond of fruits and had little liking for meat, which he stopped eating in his later years. He was more religiously tolerant than many of the Muslim rulers before and after him.
Akbar was a follower of Salim Chishti, a holy man who lived in the region of Sikri near Agra, who later blessed him with three sons. Believing the neighbourhood to be a lucky one for himself, he had a mosque constructed there for the use of the saint. Subsequently, he celebrated the victories over Chittor and Ranthambore by laying the foundation of a new walled capital, 23 miles (37 km) 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.  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 city served for a while as Akbar's capital and lavish court. It was, however, placed far from source of water and the "perfect city" and "perfect symbol of Islam" was abandoned forever shortly after Akbar's death.

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 realized it was not militarily defensible. In 1599, Akbar shifted his capital back to Agra from where he reigned until his death.

Religious View:

Akbar, though a Muslim, is remembered as a tolerant ruler, and he even started a new faith, Din-i-Ilahi, which was an attempt to blend Islam with Hinduism, Christianity, Jainism, and other faiths. Akbar, though a Muslim, is remembered as a tolerant ruler, and he even started a new faith, Din-i-Ilahi, which was an attempt to blend Islam with Hinduism, Christianity, Jainism, and other faiths. He won over the Hindus by naming them to important military and civil positions, by conferring honors upon them, and by marrying a Hindu princess.

Finally, thus to call Akbar as 'The Great' is nothing but an insult to all civilized societies. This article also has shown Akbar's dubious use of religious principles.

Keywords: Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar,The Great,Fatehpur,Sikri,symble of Islam,architecture,Mughol,painting,Emperor,Rajput,Navratna,ain-e-Akbari,Ganga,Jahangir,artist,bakshi,Shaikh Ali Akbar Jami,Northern India.

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