Akbar, "The Great" - A Tyrannical Monarch
History of India has witnessed innumerable invasions by hoards of armed marauders coming in from the west, perhaps attracted to the riches and wealth India then possessed. Apart from looting of wealth and destruction of property, the 'aliens' who remained, who committed grave atrocities against the local populace, and themselves, wallowing in immoral and unethical behaviour; except for one, it is said, Akbar.
Akbar, the third generation Moghal emperor who lived from 1542-1605 A.D, has been extolled as the greatest of all Moghals, righteous in deed and noble in character. He is praised to be the only and truly secular Emperor of the times, very caring and protective of his subjects. However, assessment and analysis of contemporary notings expose this unjustified edification of Akbar and provides a remarkably different picture of Akbar's personality.
The following is not a comprehensive report on Akbar's reign, but an attempt to provide a summary to the reader, on the real nature of Akbar based on contemporary records. It is hoped that the reader will make a judgement on Akbar's "greatness" based on the information provided below.
Akbar's ancestors were barbarous and vicious, and so were his descendants like Aurangzeb and others' down the line. Akbar was born and brought up in a illiterate and foul atmosphere characterized by excessive drinking, womanizing and drug addiction. Vincent Smith in "Akbar - The Great Mogul" (p.294) writes, " Intemperance was the besetting sin of the Timuroid royal family, as it was of many other muslim ruling houses. Babur (was) an elegant toper ... Humayun made himself stupid with opium ... Akbar permitted himself the practices of both vices .. Akbar's two sons died in early manhood from chronic alcoholism, and their elder brother was saved from the same fate by a strong constitution, and not by virtue." With such an atmosphere to nourish Akbar's thoughts, it is rather unsual for Akbar to become "divine incarnate"!
Describing the demoniac pleasure which Babur used to derive by raising towers of heads of people he used to slaughter, Col. Tod writes that after defeating Rana Sanga at Fatehpur Sikri "triumphal pyriamids were raised of the heads of the slain, and on a hillock which overlooked the field of the battle, a tower of skulls was erected and the conquerer Babur assumed the title of Ghazi." (p.246). Akbar seems to have preserved this "great" legacy of erecting minarets as is obvious from the accounts of battles he fought.
Humayun, the son of Babar, was even more degenerate and cruel than his father. After repeated battles, Humayum captured his elder brother Kamran and subjected the latter to brutal torture. A detailed account is left by Humayun's servant Jauhar and is quoted by Smith (p.20), which says, " .. (Humayun) had little concerns for his brother's sufferings .. One of the men was sitting on Kamran's knees. He was pulled out of the tent and a lancet was thrust into his eyes .. Some lemon juice and salt was put into his eyes .. After sometime he was put on horseback." One can imagine the cruelty and torture that Humayun was capable of inflicting on others when he subjected to his own brother to such atrocities. Humayun was also a slave to opium habit, engaged in excessive alcohol consumption and a lecherous degenarate when it came to women (Shelat, p.27). He is also known to have married a 14 year old Hamida Begum by force. The cruelties perpetrated by of Akbar's descendants (Jehangir, Shahjahan, Aurangzeb, etc.) are not entirely different from those of his ancestors. Having brought up in the company and under the guidance of a lineage of drug addicts, drunkards and sadists, it is rather anamalous that Akbar held such a gentle and noble character. Even assuming that he fancied nobility, it is amazing that Akbar let his comtemporaries and Generals, like Peer Mohammad, loot and rape the helpless citizenry that he was ruling! It would however be interesting to observe the incidents in Akbar's reign and evaluate his character.
Akbar's (Immoral) Character and Nature
Akbar possessed a inordinate lust for women, just like his ancestors and predecessors. One of Akbar's motives during his wars of aggression against various rulers was to appropriate their women, daughters and sisters. The Rajput women of Chittor prefered "Jauhar" (immolation) than to be captured and disrespectfully treated as servants and prostitutes in Akbar's harem. On his licentous relations with women, Smith refers to a contemporary Jesuits testimony (p.81) thus, "... Akbar habitually drank hard. The good father had boldly dared to reprove the emperor sharply for his licentous relations with women. Akbar instead of resenting the priests audacity, blushingly excused himself." Both drinking and enganging in debauched sexual activities was inherited by Akbar from his ancestors.
Abul Fazl in Ain-i-Akbari (Blochmann,V.1,p.276), ".. His majesty has established a wine shop near the palace ... The prostitues of the realm collected at the shop could scarcely be counter, so large was their number .. The dancing girls used to be taken home by the courtiers. If any well known courtier wanted to have a virgin they should first have His Majesty's [Akbar's] permission. In the same way, boys prostituted themselves, and drunkeness and ignorance soon lead to bloodshed ... His Majesty [Akbar] himself called some of the prostitutes and asked them who had deprived them of their virginity?" This was the state of affairs during Akbar's rule, where alcoholism, sodomy, prostitution and murderous assaults were permitted by the king himself. The conditions of the civic life during Akbar's life is shocking!
Sodomy was a precious service of Akbar's own family. Babur, Akbar's grandfather, has given a lengthy description of this sodomic infatuation for a male sweetheart. Humayun was no different. Though perhaps Akbar did not engage in sodomy, he "allowed" it to be practiced by his servants, courtiers and sycophats. Abul Fazal in Ain-e-Akbari provides accounts of some such acts which are too disgusting to even mention. Such perverse gratification was prevelant during the Moghal rule, and in Akbar's times.
That Akbar remained monogamous throughout his life is indeed history falsified myth. Again quoting V.Smith (pp.47),".. Akbar, throughout his life, allowed himself ample latitude in the matter of wives and concubines!" and further, " Akbar had introduced a whole host of Hindu the daughters of eminent Hindu Rajah's into his harem." (pp.212). An account of how the Jaipur rulers were coerced into sending their daughters to the Mogul harem is found in Dr. Srivastava's book Akbar - The Mogul (Vol.1). Shelat notes (p.90)," (after the "Jauhar" that followed the killing of Rani Durgawati) the two women left alive, Kamalavati (sister of Rani Durgawati) and the daughter of the Raja of Purangad (daughter-in-law of the deceased queen) were sent to Agra to enter Akbar's harem." It should also be observed that adimittance into Akbar's harem was available mainly to virgins and others' were "disqualified". Inspite of such disgusting and lewd personal affairs, inducting women of abducted or killed Hindu warriors into his harem as slaves and prostitutes, it is bewildering that Akbar is hailed as a righteous and noble emperor.
The personality and nature of Akbar has been nicely summed up by the Editor of Father Monserrate's Commentarius. The editor's introduction states, "In the long line of Indian soverigns, the towering personalities of Ashoka and Akbar (because of his dread) stand high above the rest... Akbar's greed for conquest and glory and his lack of sincerity form a marked contrast to Ashoka's paternal rule, genuine self-control and spiritual ambition. Akbar's wars were those of a true descendent of Timur, and had all the gruesome associations which this fact implies."
"The old notion that Akbar's was a near approximation to Plato's philosopher king has been dissipated by modern resarches. His character with its mixture of ambition and cunning has now been laid bare. He has been rightly compared to a pike in a pond preying upon his weaker neighbours .. Akbar was unable to give up his polygamous habits, for no importance needs to be attached to the bazaar gossip of the time that he once intended to distribute his wives among his grandees."
Whole of India was reduced to a brothel during the Moghal rule and Akbar, one of the Emperors, is being glorified as one of the patrons of the vast brothel. The above instances may suffice to convince the impartial reader that Akbar's whole career was a saga of uninhibited licentiousness backed by the royal brute.
Glancing at the events in the reign of Akbar, it is a compelling deduction that he was no less cruel a tyrant than any of his ancestors. With his trecherous nature and the unlimited power than he wielded over a vast region qualifies him to be one of the foremost tyrants and sadists in India's history, or perhaps, even world history.
Vincent Smith (p.50) says that in a privately executing Kamran's son [namely, Akbar's own cousin] at Gwalior in 1565, ".. Akbar set an evil example, initiated on a large scale by his descendents Shahjahan and Aurangzeb." This does not cause a serious alarm knowing the percious heritage of duplicity and trechery handed down to Akbar by his ancestors. Generations of martial races (Rajputs) were cut off by his (Akbar) sword ... he was long ranked with Shahbuddin and Alla (Allauddin) and other instruments of destruction, and with every just claim; and like these he constructed a Mumbar (a pulpit for islamic preachers) for the Koran from the altar of Eklingji (the deity of the Rajput warriors)." (Todd, p.259) Not only that he forcibly annihilated innumerable humans, he also had no respect for temples and deities and willingly indulged in destruction of such places of worship.
That Akbar refused to strike a helpless and injured prisoner seems to be utterly false. At an tender age of 14, Akbar slashed the neck of his Hindu adversary Hemu brought before him unconcious and bleeding. After the fateful battle of Panipat, the unconcious Hemu was brought before Akbar who smote Hemu on his neck with his scimitar, and in Akbar's presence, the bystanders also plunged their swords into the bleeding corpse. Hemu's head was sent to Kabul and his trunk was gibbeted at one of the gates of Delhi. After victorious forces pushing south from Panipat after that great victory (at Panipat), writes Smith (pp.29), "marched straight into Delhi, which opened its gates to Akbar, who made his entry in state. Agra was also passed into his possession. In accordance with the ghastly custom of the times, a tower was built with the heads of the slain. Immense treasures were taken with the family of Hemu whose aged father was executed." This "tower of heads" tradition and ceremony was religuously preserved by the "magnanimous" Akbar.
After the capture of Chittor, says Smith (p.64), ".. Akbar exasperated by the obstinate resistance offered to his arms, treated the town and garrison with merciless severity. The 8000 strong Rajput garrison having been zealously helped during the seige by 40,000 peasants, the emperor ordered a general massacre which resulted in the death of of 30,000 (even thought the struggle was over). Many were made prisoners." Such terrible was his humanitarian outlook as towards his defeated adverseries. L.M. Shelat writes more on this incident that (pp.105), "neither the temples nor the towers escaped the vandalism of the invaders". There were events where intolerant Akbar ordered the excision of one man's tongue, trampling opponents to death by elephants and other private or informal executions and assacinations. After a victorious battle at Ahemadabad, in accordance with the gruesome custom at the times, a pyramid was built with the heads of the rebels, more than 2000 in number. At one time, enraged on seeing a hapless lamplighter coiled up near his couch, Akbar order that the servant be shreded into thousand pieces! What else can one expect the barbaric and unscrupulous Akbar?
Akbar's reign of horrid cruelties includes the following incident which must be considered the jewel in the crown of horrid pastimes. Vincent Smith writes (pp.56) "An extraordinary incident which occured in April while the royal camp was at Thanesar, the famous Hindu place of pilgrimage to the north of Delhi, throws a rather unpleasant light on Akbar's character... The Sanyasins assembled at the holy tank were divided into two parties, called the Kurs and Puris. The leader of the latter complained to the King that that the Kurs had unjustly occupied the accustomed sitting place of the Puris who were thus debarred from collecting the pilgrims' alms." They were asked to decide the issue by mortal combat. They were drawn up on either side with their arms drawn. In the fight that ensued the combatants used swords, bows, arrows and stones. "Akbar seeing that the Puris were outnumbered gave a signal to some of his savage followers to help the weaker party." In this fight between the two Hindu sanyasin sects Akbar saw to it that both were ultimately annihilated by his own fierce soilders. The chronicler unctuously adds that Akbar was highly delighted with this sport. How can an emperor, so noble and great, can have a sadist mind that relishes and obtains "delight" by ordaining and watching two Hindu sanyansin sects being slaughtered?
Killing and massacring others' was regarded as a pastime and diversion by a bereaved Akbar. The chronicler Ferishta notes (Briggs, p.171), "Prince Murad Mirza falling dangerously ill (May 1599) was buried at Shapoor. The corpse was afterwards removed to Agra, and laid by the side of Humayun, the prince's grandfather. The kings grief for the death of his son increased his desire for the conquering the Deccan, as a means of diverting the mind." Could there exist a more sinister kind of sadism?
Akbar's cruelty towards the Hindu women kidnapped and shut up in his harem were staggering and his much vaunted marriages said to have been contracted for communal integration and harmony were nothing but outrageous kidnappings brought about with the force of arms. This is apparent from Akbar's marriage to Raja Bharmal's daughter that occurred at Deosa "when people Deosa and other places on Akbar's route fled away on his approach." (Shrivastava, pp.63). Why would the people flee in terror if at all Akbar was "visiting" Raja Bharmal and that the marraige was congenial and in consent with the bride's party? Far from abolishing the practice of Sati, Akbar invited the Jesuit priests to watch the "considerble fun" and supporting it by his weighty judgement and explicit approbation. (Monserrate's Commentary, pp.61).
Many more horried facts on Akbar's rule can be added. Even the infamous tax, which supposedly was abolished by Akbar, was continually being collected in Akbar's reign. A number of persons were secretly executed on Akbar's orders and a list of such people is provided by Vincent Smith. Akbar's reign was nothing but terror, torture and tyranny for his subjects and courtiers as is obvious from the quoted events. There are numerous other occasions and recorded events from Akbar's life that personifies him as a devil incarnate, contrary to what has been propagated.
Akbar was born a muslim, lived like a muslim and died as a muslim; that too a very fanatic one. Histories have dubbed him as a true believer who accomplished a synthesis of the best principles of all religions. The infamous Jiziya tax, which is special tax exaction from the Hindus, was never abolished by Akbar. Time and time again different people had approached seeking exemption from Jiziya. Everytime the exemption was ostensibly issued, but never was actually implemented. Throughout Akbar's reign, temples used to razed to the ground or misappropriated as mosques and cows were slaughtered in them, as happened in the battle at Nagarkot. No symbol of Hindu origin and design was spared from the iconoclastic wrath of Akbar.
Xavier, a Jesuit in Akbar's court, gives a typical instance of Akbar's perfidy in making people drink water in which his feet had been washed. Xavier writes, says Smith (p.189), Akbar posed " as a Prophet, wishing it to be understood that he works miracles through healing the sick by means of the water in which he washed the feet." Badauni says that this [the above] special type of humiliation was reserved by Akbar only for Hindus. Says Badayuni, "... if other than Hindus came, and wished to become disciples at any sacrifice, His Majesty reproved them." Where was his broadminded and tolerant nature then?
Yet another Xavier's letter (MacLagan, p.57 and Du Jarric, p.90) states, "The Christian fathers got little opportunity of holding religious discussions with Akbar or influencing him in favour of Christianity ...Akbar silenced Xavier by telling him that the freedom accorded to him in preaching his religion was itself a great service." Akbar was not at all a tolerant of other religious faiths.
Akbar had filled both his hands with 50 gold coins when Badayuni expressed his strong desire to take part in a "holy war" (massacring Hindus) and "dye these black moustachois and beard in (hindu) blood through loyalty to Your Majesty's person" (sic). Akbar far from dispproving of Badayuni's despicable desire, gladly presented him with a decent premium.
The Hindus were treated as thirdclass citizens in Akbar's reign is evident from the Ain-i-Akbari. Abul Fazal writes, "... he [Husayn Khan, Akbar's governer at Lahore] ordered the Hindus as unbelievers to wear a patch (Tukra) near the shoulders, and thus got the nick name of Tukriya (patcher)." (Bochmann., p.403) The patch was obviously to mark the "unbelievers" out as pariahs for providing special degrading treatment.
The holy Hindu cities of Prayag and Banaras, writes Vincent Smith (p.58), were plundered by Akbar because their residents were rash enough to close their gates! No wonder Prayag of today has no ancient monuments -- whatever remain are a rubble! It is rather obvious that Akbar had no respect and reverance for cities considered holy by Hindus, let alone esteem for human life and property. Also, it is evident from this instance that Akbar's subjects were horrified and scared upon the arrival of their king into their city. If at all Akbar was so magnanimous, why then did not the people come forward and greet him?
Monserrate, a contemporary of Akbar, writes (p.27), "the religious zeal of the Musalmans has destroyed all the idol temples which used to be numerous. In place of Hindu temples, countless tombs and little shrines of wicked and worthless Musalmans have been erected in which these men are worshipped with vain superstition as though they were saints." Not only did the muslims destroy the idols, but usurped the existing temples and converted them into tombs of insignificant people.
Akbar has neither any love or compassion for Hindus as is apparent from the above examples. Hindus were openly despised and contemptously treated under Akbar's fanatical rule as under any other rule. Akbar was only one of the many links of the despotic and cruel Moghal rule in India, and enforced the tradition of his forefathers with sincerity and equal ruthlessness.
Akbar's (mal) Administration
Akbar was so penurious and retentive of money that .." he considered himself to be heir of all his subjects, and ruthlessly seized the property of every deceased whose family had to make a fresh start ... Akbar was a hard headed man of business, not a sentimental philanthropist, and his whole policy was directed principally to the aquisition of power and riches. All the arrangements about Jagirs, branding (horses) etc., were devised for the one purpose namely, the enhancement of the power, glory and riches of the crown." (Smith, p.263). The latter statement indicates what a marvellous and altruist administrator Akbar was!
Akbar's lawless and rapacious rule also led to horrible famines -- Delhi was devastated and the mortality was enormous. Gujrat, one of the richest provinces in India, suffered severly for 6 months in 1573-74. Smith writes, "The famine which began in 1595 and lasted three or four years until 1598 equalled in its horrors the accession year and excelled the visitation by reason of its longer duration. Inundation and epidemics occasionally marred Akbar's reign." And Akbar is said to have done nothing to ameliorate the sufferings of the masses, instead accumulated all the wealth he had amassed into forts and palaces.
Refering to the Gujarat famine, Dr. Shrivastava (p.169) writes, "... the famine was not caused by drought or the failure of seasonal rains, but was due to the destruction wrought by prolonged wars and rebellions, constant marching and counter-marching of troops, and killing men on a large scale, and the breakdown of admnistrative machinary and the economic system ... The mortality rate was so high that on an average 100 cart-loads of dead bodies were taken out for burial in the city of Ahemadabad alone .."
Smith asserts that epidemics and inundiation often marred Akbar's reign, and at the time of such distress, writes Badayuni (Blochmann, p.391), parents were allowed to sell their children. Utter lawlessness and stately permissions to carry out immoral activities seem to the norm during Akbar's reign. Deadly pestilence and frightful famine appeared on the scene from time to time and lasted for years together, due to Akbar's callous and inadequate administrative capacities.
Noble in character that Akbar was that his generals and courtiers, even including his son Jehangir, revolted against him. Interminable wars and unending rebellions were continuing somewhere or the other in his so-called peaceful reign. Dr. Shrivastava nicely summarizes (p.381) , "The vast empire hardly ever enjoyed complete immunity from some kind of disturbance and rebellion. Some chief or the other taking advantage of slackness of administration, lack of vigillance ... or the occurance of a natural calamity raised its head in revolt. It is tedious to recount cases of civil disturbance.". On an occasion of an accident, rumours spread about the seriousness of the injury and possibly the death of Akbar which caused revolts and rebellions in distant parts of the country, and many paraganas were plundered by turbulent people!
Had Akbar been do generous as he is often made out to be and his reign so just and kind, peace and contentment should have prevailed during his lifetime and upon his death, the subjects should have looked upon his children with devotion love and respect. However, due to nature of Akbar's rapacious rule, everyone from princes to paupers wished to overthrow Akbar.
The (usurped) Buildings
With constant famines, wars and revolts occuring the Akbar's era, where then did he get the time and money to construct buildings of magnificence and grandeur, like the Fort at Agra ? Akbar is said to have built several forts and palaces and founded many townships. However, as seen earlier, Akbar simply renamed pre-existing townships of Hindu origin and claimed to have been built by himself.
One such unfortunate township is that of Fatehpur Sikri. It has a massive defensive wall around it, enclosing redstone gateways and a majestic palace complex, explicitly in the Rajput style. It is the creation of these buildings and gateways that are accredited to Akbar. Fatehpur Sikri (or Fatehpur/Sikri) was an ancient independent principality before its occupation by the muslims. Testifying to this Todd says (p.240), " [Rana Sangram Singh] came to the Mewar throne in 1509 A.D. Eighty thousand horses, seven Rajas of the highest rank, nine Raos and 104 cheiftains, bearing the titles of Rawal and Rawut with 500 elephants follwed him into the field (against Babur). The princess of Marwar and Amber did him homage, and the Raos of Gwalior, Ajmer, *Sikri* ... served him as tributaries .." The above passage makes it clear that even during the reign of Akbar's grandfather Babur, Sikri was ruled by a "Rao", who owed allegiance to Rana Sangram Singh of Mewar. Another reference to Fatehpur Sikri is of the year 1405 (150 years before Akbar) when Ikbal Khan was killed and his head was sent to Fatehpur (E&D, p.40). Also it is stated (E&D, p.44) that Khizr Khan (the founder of Sayyad dynasty, 1500 A.D.) remained in *Fatehpur* and did not go to Delhi. Even Babur has stated that Agra and *Sikri* housed several palaces equally magnificent (E&D, p.223). These 15th century references will, for now, suffice to prove the existence of Fatehpur Sikri before even Akbar was born, and that the beautiful buildings were not built by Akbar.
The Red Fort of Agra, also originally of Rajput design and construction, was usurped by Akbar. However, an account says that Akbar demolished the fort in 1565, apparently for no reason, and constructed another in its place. Surprisingly, in 1566, Adham Khan was punished by being thrown down from the second storey of the royal apartments inside the fort! Keene (Handbook for Visitor's to Agra and Its Neighbourhood) quotes this rumour and casts a very pertinent doubt that is the fort was demolished in 1565, how is it possible for Akbar to stay there in 1566 and a man was flung down from the second story? Keene adds that even the foundation of the extensive fort could not have been complete within three years. Neither did Akbar demolish the fort, nor did he rebuild an entire structure. He simply comandeered the fort from its original inhabitants, and claimed to have been built by him.
Similarly, the palaces and mansions in Ajmer, Allahabad, Manoharpur and other townships were simply usurped by Akbar. He never ordered engineers and architects to build to build magnificent buildings. Testifying to this, Monserrate in his Commentarius (p.16) remarks, ".. musalmans whose nature is indeed that of barbarians, take no interest in such things (erecting massive and ornate buildings and townships). Their chronicles being scanty and unreliable and full of old wives tales..." The fraudulent claims that Akbar designed and built these monuments are fabricated stories written by muslim chroniclers toadying
Akbar's life has been full of acts of cruelties, barbaric behaviour, lust for women and wine. Considering the background in which Akbar was brought up and the environment in which he lived, it was indeed a surprise that he would develop qualities of compassion and love. Even assuming that such miracles can occur, unfortunately, Akbar's reign and state of administration contradict such an assumption and one is compelled to conclude that Akbar was no better a monarch than his forefathers. Apparently from what was described above, Akbar has been given unecessary credit of being tolerant, secular and an altruist king. His sycophantic courtiers, including the court chroniclers, alloted to him all the praises he desired. Upon some inspection, the nine-gem story of Akbar's court becomes a sheer invention of court flatterers, who sought Akbar's favour for self-aggrandizement. Akbar's recalcitrance and callousless in the matters of caring for his subjects and domain, led to untold misery in the form of famines and pestilence. Wars, revolts and rebellions constantly erupted concluding is mass mayhem and killings. There was no tranquility nor peace in Akbar's reign, let alone material and spiritual prosperity. That an avaricious miser Akbar was, it is rather unbelievable for him to have spent on creating expensive buildings and mansions. He was no better than other muslim monarchs, constantly on the prey to usurp power and pelf by whatever means they could. Morality and humanitarian principles took a back seat to self aggrandizement and lechery. Even after exercising numerous abductions, kidnappings, murders Akbar have been refered to as noble, compassionate and great. Even though religious fanatism never decreased in his reign, nay, was sponsored by Akbar himself, he has been termed as a secular, broadminded person. Such blunders of a serious magnitude have been committed by historians reconstructing and writing accounts on Indian history.
It may be worthwhile to research and present the "true" story of Akbar exposing to the world the true nature of Akbar and his personality. The Moghal rule in India was indeed very ruthless and full of difficult times for the people and the country; truly a "dark" age.
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