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Title: Akbar, Emperor of India
Author: Garbe, Richard von, 1857-1927
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A Picture of Life and Customs from the Sixteenth Century


Rector of the University of Tubingen

Translated from the German by Lydia G. Robinson

Reprinted From "The Monist" Of April, 1909
The Open Court Publishing Company


Tempera painting in the _bar Namah_ by Abu'l Fazl. Photographed
from the original in the India Museum for _The Place of Animals in
Human Thought_ by the Countess Evelyn Martinengo Cesaresco.]


Akbar Directing the Tying-up of a Wild Elephant (Frontispiece)

Akbar, Emperor of India

Mausoleum of Akbar's Father, Humâyun

View of Fathpur

Akbar's Grave

Mausoleum of Akbar at Sikandra

The Chakra, the Indian Emblem of Empire


The student of India who would at the same time be an historian,
discovers to his sorrow that the land of his researches is lamentably
poor in historical sources. And if within the realm of historical
investigation, a more seductive charm lies for him in the analysis of
great personalities than in ascertaining the course of historical
development, then verily may he look about in vain for such
personalities in the antiquity and middle ages of India. Not that the
princely thrones were wanting in great men in ancient India, for we
find abundant traces of them in Hindu folk-lore and poetry, but these
sources do not extend to establishing the realistic element in details
and furnishing life-like portraits of the men themselves. That the
Hindu has ever been but little interested in historical matters is a
generally recognized fact. Religious and philosophical speculations,
dreams of other worlds, of previous and future existences, have
claimed the attention of thoughtful minds to a much greater degree
than has historical reality.

  [Footnote A: This essay is art enlarged form of an address delivered
  on the occasion of the birthday of King Wilhelm II of Württemberg, on
  February 25, 1909.]

The misty myth-woven veil which hangs over persons and events of
earlier times, vanishes at the beginning of the modern era which in
India starts with the Mohammedan conquest, for henceforth the history
of India is written by foreigners. Now we meet with men who take a
decisive part in the fate of India, and they appear as sharply
outlined, even though generally unpleasing, personalities.

Islam has justly been characterized as the caricature of a religion.
Fanaticism and fatalism are two conspicuously irreligious emotions,
and it is exactly these two emotions, which Islam understands how to
arouse in savage peoples, to which it owes the part it has played in
the history of the world, and the almost unprecedented success of its
diffusion in Asia, Africa and Europe.

About 1000 A.D. India was invaded by the Sultan Mahmud of Ghasna.
"With Mahmud's expedition into India begins one of the most horrible
periods of the history of Hindustan. One monarch dethrones another, no
dynasty continues in power, every accession to the throne is
accompanied by the murder of kinsmen, plundering of cities,
devastation of the lowlands and the slaughter of thousands of men,
women and children of the predecessor's adherents; for five centuries
northwest and northern India literally reeked with the blood of
multitudes."[1] Mohammedan dynasties of Afghan, Turkish and Mongolian
origin follow that of Ghasna. This entire period is filled with an
almost boundless series of battles, intrigues, imbroglios and
political revolutions; nearly all events had the one characteristic in
common, that they took place amid murder, pillage and fire.

  [Footnote 1: E. Schlagintweit, _Indien in Wort und Bild_, II, 26 f.]

  From Noer's _Kaiser Akbar_, (Frontispiece to Vol. II).]

The most frightful spectacle throughout these reeking centuries is the
terrible Mongolian prince Timur, a successor of Genghis-Khan, who fell
upon India with his band of assassins in the year 1398 and before his
entry into Delhi the capital, in which he was proclaimed Emperor of
India, caused the hundred thousand prisoners whom he had captured in
his previous battles in the Punjab, to be slaughtered in one single
day, because it was too inconvenient to drag them around with him. So
says Timur himself with shameless frankness in his account of the
expedition, and he further relates that after his entry into Delhi,
all three districts of the city were plundered "according to the will
of God."[2] In 1526 Baber, a descendant of Timur, made his entry into
Delhi and there founded the dominion of the Grand Moguls (i.e., of the
great Mongols). The overthrow of this dynasty was brought about by the
disastrous reign of Baber's successor Aurungzeb, a cruel, crafty and
treacherous despot, who following the example of his ancestor Timur,
spread terror and alarm around him in the second half of the
seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries. Even to-day
Hindus may be seen to tremble when they meet the sinister fanatical
glance of a Mohammedan.

  [Footnote 2: A. Müller, _Der Islam im Morgen-und Abendland_, II, 300

Princes with sympathetic qualities were not entirely lacking in the
seven centuries of Mohammedan dominion in India, and they shine forth
as points of light from the gloomy horror of this time, but they fade
out completely before the luminous picture of the man who governed
India for half a century (1556-1605) and by a wise, gentle and just
reign brought about a season of prosperity such as the land had never
experienced in the millenniums of its history. This man, whose memory
even to-day is revered by the Hindus, was a descendant of Baber, Abul
Fath Jelâleddin Muhammed, known by the surname Akbar "the Great,"
which was conferred upon the child even when he was named, and
completely supplanted the name that properly belonged to him. And
truly he justified the epithet, for great, fabulously great, was Akbar
as man, general, statesman and ruler,--all in all a prince who
deserves to be known by every one whose heart is moved by the
spectacle of true human greatness.[3]

  [Footnote 3: From the literature on Emperor Akbar the following works
  deserve special mention: J. Talboys Wheeler, _The History of India
  from the Earliest Ages._ Vol. IV, Pt. I, "Mussulman Rule," London,
  1876 (judges Akbar very unfairly in many places, but declares at the
  bottom of page 135, "The reign of Akbar is one of the most important
  in the history of India; it is one of the most important in the
  history of the world"); Mountstuart Elphinstone, _History of India,
  the Hindu and Mahometan Periods_, with notes and additions by E.B.
  Cowell, 9th ed., London, 1905; G.B. Malleson, _Akbar and the Rise of
  the Mughal Empire_, Oxford, 1890 (in W.W. Hunter's _Rulers of India_);
  A. Müller, _Der Islam im Morgen-und Abendland_, Vol. II, Berlin, 1887;
  but especially Count F.A. von Noer, _Kaiser Akbar, ein Versuch über
  die Geschichte Indiens im sechzehnten Jahrhundert_, Vol. I, Leyden,
  1880; Vol. II, revised from the author's manuscript by Dr. Gustav von
  Buchwald, Leyden, 1885. In the preface to this work the original
  sources are listed and described; compare also M. Elphinstone, pp.
  536, 537, note 45.]

When we wish to understand a personality we are in the habit of
ascertaining the inherited characteristics, and investigating the
influences exercised upon it by religion, family, environment,
education, youthful impressions, experience, and so forth. Most men
are easily comprehensible as the products of these factors. The more
independent of all such influences, or the more in opposition to them,
a personality develops, the more attractive and interesting will it
appear to us. At the first glance it looks as if the Emperor Akbar had
developed his entire character from himself and by his own efforts in
total independence of all influences which in other cases are thought
to determine the character and nature of a man. A Mohammedan, a
Mongol, a descendant of the monster Timur, the son of a weak incapable
father, born in exile, called when but a lad to the government of a
disintegrated and almost annihilated realm in the India of the
sixteenth century,--which means in an age of perfidy, treachery,
avarice, and self-seeking,--Akbar appears before us as a noble man,
susceptible to all grand and beautiful impressions, conscientious,
unprejudiced, and energetic, who knew how to bring peace and order out
of the confusion of the times, who throughout his reign desired the
furtherance of his subjects' and not of his own interest, who while
increasing the privileges of the Mohammedans, not only also declared
equality of rights for the Hindus but even actualized that equality,
who in every conceivable way sought to conciliate his subjects so
widely at variance with each other in race, customs, and religion, and
who finally when the narrow dogmas of his religion no longer satisfied
him, attained to a purified faith in God, which was independent of all
formulated religions.

A closer observation, however, shows that the contrast is not quite so
harsh between what according to our hypotheses Akbar should have been
as a result of the forces which build up man, and what he actually
became. His predilection for science and art Akbar had inherited from
his grandfather Baber and his father Humâyun. His youth, which was
passed among dangers and privations, in flight and in prison, was
certainly not without a beneficial influence upon Akbar's development
into a man of unusual power and energy. And of significance for his
spiritual development was the circumstance that after his accession to
the throne his guardian put him in the charge of a most excellent
tutor, the enlightened and liberal minded Persian Mir Abdullatîf, who
laid the foundation for Akbar's later religious and ethical views.
Still, however high we may value the influence of this teacher, the
main point lay in Akbar's own endowments, his susceptibility for such
teaching as never before had struck root with any Mohammedan prince.
Akbar had not his equal in the history of Islam. "He is the only
prince grown up in the Mohammedan creed whose endeavor it was to
ennoble the limitation of this most separatistic of all religions into
a true religion of humanity."[4]

  [Footnote 4: A. Müller, II, 416.]

Even the external appearance of Akbar appeals to us sympathetically.
We sometimes find reproduced a miniature from Delhi which pictures
Akbar as seated; in this the characteristic features of the Mongolian
race appear softened and refined to a remarkable degree.[B] The shape
of the head is rather round, the outlines are softened, the black
eyes large, thoughtful, almost dreamy, and only very slightly
slanting, the brows full and bushy, the lips somewhat prominent and
the nose a tiny bit hooked. The face is beardless except for the
rather thin closely cut moustache which falls down over the curve of
the month in soft waves. According to the description of his son, the
Emperor Jehângir, Akbar's complexion is said to have been the yellow
of wheat; the Portuguese Jesuits who came to his court called it
plainly white. Although not exactly beautiful, Akbar seemed beautiful
to many of his contemporaries, including Europeans, probably because
of the august and at the same time kind and winsome expression which
his countenance bore. Akbar was rather tall, broad-shouldered,
strongly built and had long arms and hands.

  [Footnote B: Noer, II as frontispiece (comp. also pp. 327, 328); A.
  Müller, II, 417.]

Akbar, the son of the dethroned Emperor Humâyun, was born on October
14, 1542, at Amarkot in Sindh, two years after his father had been
deprived of his kingdom by the usurper Shêr Chân. After an exile of
fifteen years, or rather after an aimless wandering and flight of that
length, the indolent pleasure-and opium-loving Humâyun was again
permitted to return to his capital in 1555,--not through his own merit
but that of his energetic general Bairâm Chân, a Turk who in one
decisive battle had overcome the Afghans, at that time in possession
of the dominion. But Humâyun was not long to enjoy his regained
throne; half a year later he fell down a stairway in his palace and
died. In January 1556 Akbar, then thirteen years of age, ascended the
throne. Because of his youthful years Bairâm Chân assumed the regency
as guardian of the realm or "prince-father" as it is expressed in
Hindî, and guided the wavering ship of state with a strong hand. He
overthrew various insurgents and disposed of them with cold cruelty.
But after a few years he so aroused the illwill of Akbar by deeds of
partiality, selfishness and violence that in March 1560 Akbar, then 17
years of age, decided to take the reins of government into his own
hand. Deprived of his office and influence Bairâm Chân hastened to the
Punjab and took arms against his Imperial Master. Akbar led his troops
in person against the rebel and overcame him. When barefooted, his
turban thrown around his neck, Bairâm Chân appeared before Akbar and
prostrated himself before the throne, Akbar did not do the thing which
was customary under such circumstances in the Orient in all ages. The
magnanimous youth did not sentence the humiliated rebel to a painful
death but bade him arise in memory of the great services which Bairâm
Chân had rendered to his father and later to himself, and again assume
his old place of honor at the right of the throne. Before the
assembled nobility he gave him the choice whether he would take the
governorship of a province, or would enjoy the favor of his master at
court as a benefactor of the imperial family, or whether, accompanied
by an escort befitting his rank, he would prefer to undertake a
pilgrimage to Mecca.[5] Bairâm Chân was wise enough to choose the
last, but on the way to Mecca he was killed by an Afghan and the news
caused Akbar sincere grief and led him to take the four year old son
of Bairâm Chân under his special protection.

  [Footnote 5: Noer, I, 131.]

Mâhum Anâga, the Emperor's nurse, for whom he felt a warm attachment
and gratitude, a woman revengeful and ambitious but loyal and devoted
to Akbar, had contributed in bringing about the fall of the regent.
She had cared for the Emperor from his birth to his accession and amid
the confusion of his youth had guarded him from danger; but for this
service she expected her reward. She sought nothing less than in the
rôle of an intimate confidante of the youthful Emperor to be secretly
the actual ruler of India.

Mâhum Anâga had a son, Adham Chân by name, to whom at her suggestion
Akbar assigned the task of reconquering and governing the province of
Mâlwâ. Adham Chân was a passionate and violent man, as ambitious and
avaricious as his mother, and behaved himself in Mâlwâ as if he were
an independent prince. As soon as Akbar learned this he advanced by
forced marches to Mâlwâ and surprised his disconcerted foster-brother
before the latter could be warned by his mother. But Adham Chân had no
difficulty in obtaining Akbar's forgiveness for his infringements.

On the way back to Agra, where the Emperor at that time was holding
court, a noteworthy incident happened. Akbar had ridden alone in
advance of his escort and suddenly found himself face to face with a
powerful tigress who with her five cubs came out from the shrubbery
across his path. His approaching attendants found the nineteen year
old Emperor standing quietly by the side of the slaughtered beast
which he had struck to the ground with a single blow of his sword. To
how much bodily strength, intrepidity, cold-blooded courage and
sure-sightedness this blow of the sword testified which dared not come
the fraction of a second too late, may be judged by every one who has
any conception of the spring of a raging tigress anxious for the
welfare of her young. And we may easily surmise the thoughts which the
sight aroused in the minds of the Mohammedan nobles in Akbar's train.
At that moment many ambitious wishes and designs may have been carried
to their grave.[6]

  [Footnote 6: Noer, I, 141.]

The Emperor soon summoned his hot-headed foster-brother Adham Chân to
court in order to keep him well in sight for he had counted often
enough on Akbar's affection for his mother Mâhum Anâga to save him
from the consequences of his sins. Now Mâhum Anâga, her son and her
adherents, hated the grand vizier with a deadly hatred because they
perceived that they were being deprived of their former influence in
matters of state. This hatred finally impelled Adham Chân to a
senseless undertaking. The embittered man hatched up a conspiracy
against the grand vizier and when one night in the year 1562 the
latter was attending a meeting of political dignitaries on affairs of
state in the audience hall of the Imperial palace, Adham Chân with his
conspirators suddenly broke in and stabbed the grand vizier in the
breast, whereupon his companions slew the wounded man with their
swords. Even now the deluded Adham Chân counted still upon the
Emperor's forbearance and upon the influence of his mother. Akbar was
aroused by the noise and leaving his apartments learned what had
happened. Adham Chân rushed to the Emperor, seized his arm and begged
him to listen to his explanations. But the Emperor was beside himself
with rage, struck the murderer with his fist so that he fell to the
floor and commanded the terrified servants to bind him with fetters
and throw him head over heels from the terrace of the palace to the
courtyard below. The horrible deed was done but the wretch was not
dead. Then the Emperor commanded the shattered body of the dying man
to be dragged up the stairs again by the hair and to be flung once
more to the ground.[7]

  [Footnote 7: J.T. Wheeler, IV, I, 139, 140; Noer, I, 143, 144.]

I have related this horrible incident in order to give Akbar's picture
with the utmost possible faithfulness and without idealization. Akbar
was a rough, strong-nerved man, who was seldom angry but whose wrath
when once aroused was fearful. It is a blemish on his character that
in some cases he permitted himself to be carried away to such cruel
death sentences, but we must not forget that he was then dealing with
the punishment of particularly desperate criminals, and that such
severe judgments had always been considered in the Orient to be
righteous and sensible. Not only in the Orient unfortunately,--even in
Europe 200 years after Akbar's time tortures and the rack were applied
at the behest of courts of law.

Mahum Anâga came too late to save her son. Akbar sought with tender
care to console her for his dreadful end but the heart-broken woman
survived the fearful blow of fate only about forty days. The Emperor
caused her body to be buried with that of her son in one common grave
at Delhi, and he himself accompanied the funeral procession. At his
command a stately monument was erected above this grave which still
stands to-day. His generosity and clemency were also shown in the fact
that he extended complete pardon to the accomplices in the murder of
the grand vizier and even permitted them to retain their offices and
dignities because he was convinced that they had been drawn into the
crime by the violent Adham Chân. In other ways too Akbar showed
himself to be ready to grant pardon to an almost incomprehensible
extent. Again and again when an insubordinate viceroy in the provinces
would surrender after an unsuccessful uprising Akbar would let him off
without any penalty, thus giving him the opportunity of revolting
again after a short time.

It was an eventful time in which Akbar arrived at manhood in the midst
of all sorts of personal dangers.


I will pass over with but few comments his military expeditions which
can have no interest for the general public. When Akbar ascended the
throne his realm comprised only a very small portion of the
possessions which had been subject to his predecessors. With the
energy which was a fundamental characteristic of his nature he once
more took possession of the provinces which had been torn from the
empire, at the same time undertaking the conquest of new lands, and
accomplished this task with such good fortune that in the fortieth
year of his reign the empire of India covered more territory than ever
before; that is to say, not only the whole of Hindustan including the
peninsula Gujerat, the lands of the Indus and Kashmir but also
Afghanistan and a larger part of the Dekkhan than had ever been
subject to any former Padishah of Delhi. At this time while the
Emperor had his residence at Lahore the phrase was current in India,
"As lucky as Akbar."[8]

  [Footnote 8: J.T. Wheeler, IV, I, 180.]

It was apparent often enough in the military expeditions that Akbar
far surpassed his contemporaries in generalship. But it was not the
love of war and conquest which drove him each time anew to battle; a
sincere desire inspired by a mystical spirit impelled him to bring to
an end the ceaseless strife between the small states of India by
joining them to his realm, and thus to found a great united empire.[9]

  [Footnote 9: Noer, II, 8, 390, 423.]

More worthy of admiration than the subjugation of such large
territories in which of course many others have also been successful,
is the fact that Akbar succeeded in establishing order, peace, and
prosperity in the regained and newly subjugated provinces. This he
brought about by the introduction of a model administration, an
excellent police, a regulated post service, and especially a just
division of taxes.[10] Up to Akbar's time corruption had been a matter
of course in the entire official service and enormous sums in the
treasury were lost by peculation on the part of tax collectors.

  [Footnote 10: For the following compare Noer I, 391 ff.; M.
  Elphinstone, 529 ff.; G.B. Malleson, 172 ff., 185 ff.]

Akbar first divided the whole realm into twelve and later into fifteen
viceregencies, and these into provinces, administrative districts and
lesser subdivisions, and governed the revenues of the empire on the
basis of a uniformly exact survey of the land. He introduced a
standard of measurement, replacing the hitherto customary land measure
(a leather strap which was easily lengthened or shortened according to
the need of the measuring officer) by a new instrument of measurement
in the form of a bamboo staff which was provided with iron rings at
definite intervals. For purposes of assessment land was divided into
four classes according to the kind of cultivation practiced upon it.
The first class comprised arable land with a constant rotation of
crops; the second, that which had to lie fallow for from one to two
years in order to be productive; the third from three to four years;
the fourth that land which was uncultivated for five years and longer
or was not arable at all. The first two classes of acreage were taxed
one-third of the crop, which according to our present ideas seems an
exorbitantly high rate, and it was left to the one assessed whether he
would pay the tax in kind or in cash. Only in the case of luxuries or
manufactured articles, that is to say, where the use of a circulating
medium could be assumed, was cash payment required. Whoever cultivated
unreclaimed land was assisted by the government by the grant of a free
supply of seed and by a considerable reduction in his taxes for the
first four years.

Akbar also introduced a new uniform standard of coinage, but
stipulated that the older coins which were still current should be
accepted from peasants for their full face value. From all this the
Indian peasants could see that Emperor Akbar not only desired strict
justice to rule but also wished to further their interests, and the
peasants had always comprised the greatest part of the inhabitants,
(even according to the latest census in 1903, vol. I, p. 3, 50 to 84
percent of the inhabitants of India live by agriculture). But Akbar
succeeded best in winning the hearts of the native inhabitants by
lifting the hated poll tax which still existed side by side with all
other taxes.

The founder of Islam had given the philanthropical command to
exterminate from the face of the earth all followers of other faiths
who were not converted to Islam, but he had already convinced himself
that it was impossible to execute this law. And, indeed, if the
Mohammedans had followed out this precept, how would they have been
able to overthrow land upon land and finally even thickly populated
India where the so-called unbelievers comprised an overwhelming
majority? Therefore in place of complete extermination the more
practical arrangement of the poll tax was instituted, and this was to
be paid by all unbelievers in order to be a constant reminder to them
of the loss of their independence. This humiliating burden which was
still executed in the strictest, most inconsiderate manner, Akbar
removed in the year 1565 without regard to the very considerable loss
to the state's treasury. Nine years later followed the removal of the
tax upon religious assemblies and pilgrimages, the execution of which
had likewise kept the Hindus in constant bitterness towards their
Mohammedan rulers.

Sometime previous to these reforms Akbar had abolished a custom so
disgusting that we can hardly comprehend that it ever could have
legally existed. At any rate it alone is sufficient to brand Islam and
its supreme contempt for followers of other faiths, with one of the
greatest stains in the history of humanity. When a tax-collector
gathered the taxes of the Hindus and the payment had been made, the
Hindu was required "without the slightest sign of fear of defilement"
to open his mouth in order that the tax collector might spit in it if
he wished to do so.[11] This was much more than a disgusting
humiliation. When the tax-collector availed himself of this privilege
the Hindu lost thereby his greatest possession, his caste, and was
shut out from any intercourse with his equals. Accordingly he was
compelled to pass his whole life trembling in terror before this
horrible evil which threatened him. That a man of Akbar's nobility of
character should remove such an atrocious, yes devilish, decree seems
to us a matter of course; but for the Hindus it was an enormous

  [Footnote 11: Noer, II, 6, 7; G.B. Malleson, 174, 175.]

Akbar sought also to advance trade and commerce in every possible way.
He regulated the harbor and toll duties, removed the oppressive taxes
on cattle, trees, grain and other produce as well as the customary
fees of subjects at every possible appointment or office. In the year
1574 it was decreed that the loss which agriculture suffered by the
passage of royal troops through the fields should be carefully
calculated and scrupulously replaced.

Besides these practical regulations for the advancement of the
material welfare, Akbar's efforts for the ethical uplift of his
subjects are noteworthy. Drunkenness and debauchery were punished and
he sought to restrain prostitution by confining dancing girls and
abandoned women in one quarter set apart for them outside of his
residence which received the name _âitânpura_ or "Devil's City."[12]

  [Footnote 12: J.T. Wheeler, IV, I, 173; Noer, I, 438 n.]

The existing corruption in the finance and customs department was
abolished by means of a complicated and punctilious system of
supervision (the bureaus of receipts and expenditures were kept
entirely separated from each other in the treasury department,) and
Akbar himself carefully examined the accounts handed in each month
from every district, just as he gave his personal attention with
tireless industry and painstaking care to every detail in the widely
ramified domain of the administration of government. Moreover the
Emperor was fortunate in having at the head of the finance department
a prudent, energetic, perfectly honorable and incorruptible man, the
Hindu Todar Mal, who without possessing the title of vizier or
minister of state had assumed all the functions of such an office.

It is easily understood that many of the higher tax officials did not
grasp the sudden break of a new day but continued to oppress and
impoverish the peasants in the traditional way, but the system
established by Akbar succeeded admirably and soon brought all such
transgressions to light. Todar Mal held a firm rein, and by throwing
hundreds of these faithless officers into prison and by making ample
use of bastinado and torture, spread abroad such a wholesome terror
that Akbar's reforms were soon victorious.

How essential it was to exercise the strictest control over men
occupying the highest positions may be seen by the example of the
feudal nobility whose members bore the title "Jâgîrdâr." Such a
Jâgîrdâr had to provide a contingent of men and horses for the
imperial army corresponding to the size of the estate which was given
him in fief. Now it had been a universal custom for the Jâgîrdârs to
provide themselves with fewer soldiers and horses on a military
expedition than at the regular muster. Then too the men and horses
often proved useless for severe service. When the reserves were
mustered the knights dressed up harmless private citizens as soldiers
or hired them for the occasion and after the muster was over, let them
go again. In the same way the horses brought forward for the muster
were taken back into private service immediately afterwards and were
replaced by worthless animals for the imperial service. This evil too
was abolished at one stroke, by taking an exact personal description
of the soldiers presented and by branding the heads of horses,
elephants and camels with certain marks. By this simple expedient it
became impossible to exchange men and animals presented at the muster
for worthless material and also to loan them to other knights during

The number of men able to bear arms in Akbar's realm has been given as
about four and a half millions but the standing army which was held at
the expense of the state was small in proportion. It contained only
about twenty-five thousand men, one-half of whom comprised the cavalry
and the rest musketry and artillery; Since India does not produce
first class horses, Akbar at once provided for the importation of
noble steeds from other lands of the Orient which were famed for horse
breeding and was accustomed to pay more for such animals than the
price which was demanded. In the same way no expense was too great for
him to spend on the breeding and nurture of elephants, for they were
very valuable animals for the warfare of that day. His stables
contained from five to six thousand well-trained elephants. The
breeding of camels and mules he also advanced with a practical
foresight and understood how to overcome the widespread prejudice in
India against the use of mules.

Untiringly did Akbar inspect stables, arsenals, military armories, and
shipyards, and insisted on perfect order in all departments. He called
the encouragement of seamanship an act of worship[13] but was not able
to make India, a maritime power.

  [Footnote 13: Noer, II, 378.]

Akbar had an especial interest in artillery, and with it a particular
gift for the technique and great skill in mechanical matters. He
invented a cannon which could be taken apart to be carried more easily
on the march and could be put up quickly, apparently for use in
mountain batteries. By another invention he united seventeen cannons
in such a way that they could be shot off simultaneously by one
fuse.[14] Hence it is probably a sort of _mitrailleuse_. Akbar is
also said to have invented a mill cart which served as a mill as well
as for carrying freight. With regard to these inventions we must take
into consideration the possibility that the real inventor may have
been some one else, but that the flatterers at the court ascribed them
to the Emperor because the initiative may have originated with him.

  [Footnote 14: Noer, I, 429. The second invention, however, is
  questioned by Buchwald.]

    (II, 372) because of the so-called "organ cannons" which were
    in use in Europe as early as the 15th century.

The details which I have given will suffice to show what perfection
the military and civil administration attained through Akbar's
efforts. Throughout his empire order and justice reigned and a
prosperity hitherto unknown. Although taxes were never less oppressive
in India than under Akbar's reign, the imperial income for one year
amounted to more than $120,000,000, a sum at which contemporary Europe
marveled, and which we must consider in the light of the much greater
purchasing power of money in the sixteenth century.[15] A large part
of Akbar's income was used in the erection of benevolent institutions,
of inns along country roads in which travelers were entertained at the
imperial expense, in the support of the poor, in gifts for pilgrims,
in granting loans whose payment was never demanded, and many similar
ways. To his encouragement of schools, of literature, art and science
I will refer later.

  [Footnote 15: Noer, I, 439.]

Of decided significance for Akbar's success was his patronage of the
native population. He did not limit his efforts to lightening the lot
of the subjugated Hindus and relieving them of oppressive burdens; his
efforts went deeper. He wished to educate the Mohammedans and Hindus
to a feeling of mutual good-will and confidence, and in doing so he
was obliged to contend in the one case against haughtiness and
inordinate ambition, and in the other against hate and distrustful
reserve. If with this end in view he actually favored the Hindus by
keeping certain ones close to him and advancing them to the most
influential positions in the state, he did it because he found
characteristics in the Hindus (especially in their noblest race, the
Rajputs) which seemed to him most valuable for the stability of the
empire and for the promotion of the general welfare. He had seen
enough faithlessness in the Mohammedan nobles and in his own
relatives. Besides, Akbar was born in the house of a small Rajput
prince who had shown hospitality to Akbar's parents on their flight
and had given them his protection.

The Rajputs are the descendants of the ancient Indian warrior race and
are a brave, chivalrous, trustworthy people who possess a love of
freedom and pride of race quite different in character from the rest
of the Hindus. Even to-day every traveler in India thinks he has been
set down in another world when he treads the ground of Rajputâna and
sees around him in place of the weak effeminate servile inhabitants of
other parts of the country powerful upright men, splendid warlike
figures with blazing defiant eyes and long waving beards.

While Akbar valued the Rajputs very highly his own personality was
entirely fitted to please these proud manly warriors. An incident
which took place before the end of the first year of Akbar's reign is
characteristic of the relations which existed on the basis of this
intrinsic relationship.[16]

  [Footnote 16: Noer, I, 224-226]

[Illustration: VIEW OF FATHPUR]

Bihâri Mal was a prince of the small Rajput state Ambir, and possessed
sufficient political comprehension to understand after Akbar's first
great successes that his own insignificant power and the nearness of
Delhi made it advisable to voluntarily recognize the Emperor as his
liege lord. Therefore he came with son, grandson and retainers to
swear allegiance to Akbar. Upon his arrival at the imperial camp
before Delhi, a most surprising sight met his eyes. Men were running
in every direction, fleeing wildly before a raging elephant who
wrought destruction to everything that came within his reach. Upon the
neck of this enraged brute sat a young man in perfect calmness
belaboring the animal's head with the iron prong which is used
universally in India for guiding elephants. The Rajputs sprang from
their horses and came up perfectly unconcerned to observe the
interesting spectacle, and broke out in loud applause when the
conquered elephant knelt down in exhaustion. The young man sprang from
its back and cordially greeted the Rajput princes (who now for the
first time recognized Akbar in the elephant-tamer) bidding them
welcome to his red imperial tent. From this occurrence dates the
friendship of the two men. In later years Bihâri Mai's son and
grandson occupied high places in the imperial service, and Akbar
married a daughter of the Rajput chief who became the mother of his
son and successor Selim, afterwards the Emperor Jehângir. Later on
Akbar received a number of other Rajput women in his harem.

Not all of Akbar's relations to the Rajputs however were of such a
friendly kind. As his grandfather Baber before him, he had many bitter
battles with them, for no other Indian people had opposed him so
vigorously as they. Their domain blocked the way to the south, and
from their rugged mountains and strongly fortified cities the Rajputs
harassed the surrounding country by many invasions and destroyed
order, commerce and communication quite after the manner of the German
robber barons of the Middle Ages. Their overthrow was accordingly a
public necessity.

The most powerful of these Rajput chiefs was the Prince of Mewâr who
had particularly attracted the attention of the Emperor by his support
of the rebels. The control of Mewâr rested upon the possession of the
fortress Chitor which was built on a monstrous cliff one hundred and
twenty meters high, rising abruptly from the plain and was equipped
with every means of defence that could be contrived by the military
skill of that time for an incomparably strong bulwark. On the plain at
its summit which measured over twelve kilometers in circumference a
city well supplied with water lay within the fortification walls.
There an experienced general, Jaymal, "the Lion of Chitor," was in
command. I have not time to relate the particulars of the siege, the
laying of ditches and mines and the uninterrupted battles which
preceded the fall of Chitor in February, 1568. According to Akbar's
usual custom he exposed himself to showers of bullets without once
being hit (the superstition of his soldiers considered him
invulnerable) and finally the critical shot was one in which Akbar
with his own hand laid low the brave commander of Chitor. Then the
defenders considered their cause lost, and the next night saw a
barbarous sight, peculiarly Indian in character: the so-called Jauhar
demanded his offering according to an old Rajput custom. Many great
fires gleamed weirdly in the fortress. To escape imprisonment and to
save their honor from the horrors of captivity, the women mounted the
solemnly arranged funeral pyres, while all the men, clad in saffron
hued garments, consecrated themselves to death. When the victors
entered the city on the next morning a battle began which raged until
the third evening, when there was no one left to kill. Eight thousand
warriors had fallen, besides thirty thousand inhabitants of Chitor who
had participated in the fight.

With the conquest of Chitor which I have treated at considerable
length because it ended in a typically Indian manner, the resistance
of the Rajputs broke down. After Akbar had attained his purpose he was
on the friendliest terms with the vanquished. It testifies to his
nobility of character as well as to his political wisdom that after
this complete success he not only did not celebrate a triumph, but on
the contrary proclaimed the renown of the vanquished throughout all
India by erecting before the gate of the imperial palace at Delhi two
immense stone elephants with the statues of Jaymal, the "Lion of
Chitor," and of the noble youth Pata who had performed the most heroic
deeds in the defense of Chitor. By thus honoring his conquered foes in
such a magnanimous manner Akbar found the right way to the heart of
the Rajputs. By constant bestowal of favors he gradually succeeded in
so reconciling the noble Rajputs to the loss of their independence
that they were finally glad and proud to devote themselves to his
service, and, under the leadership of their own princes, proved
themselves to be the best and truest soldiers of the imperial army,
even far from their home in the farthest limits of the realm.

The great masses of the Hindu people Akbar won over by lowering the
taxes as we have previously related, and by all the other successful
expedients for the prosperity of the country, but especially by the
concession of perfect liberty of faith and worship and by the
benevolent interest with which he regarded the religious practices of
the Hindus. A people in whom religion is the ruling motive of life,
after enduring all the dreadful sufferings of previous centuries for
its religion's sake, must have been brought to a state; of boundless
reverence by Akbar's attitude. And since the Hindus were accustomed to
look upon the great heroes and benefactors of humanity as incarnations
of deity we shall not be surprised to read from an author of that
time[17] that every morning before sunrise great numbers of Hindus
crowded together in front of the palace to await the appearance of
Akbar and to prostrate themselves as soon as he was seen at a window,
at the same time singing religious hymns. This fanatical enthusiasm of
the Hindus for his person Akbar knew how to retain not only by actual
benefits but also by small, well calculated devices.

  [Footnote 17: Badâoni in Noer, II, 320.]

It is a familiar fact that the Hindus considered the Ganges to be a
holy river and that cows were sacred animals. Accordingly we can
easily understand Akbar's purpose when we learn that at every meal he
drank regularly of water from the Ganges (carefully filtered and
purified to be sure) calling it "the water of immortality,"[18] and
that later he forbade the slaughtering of cattle and eating their
flesh.[19] But Akbar did not go so far in his connivance with the
Hindus that he considered all their customs good or took them under
his protection. For instance he forbade child marriages among the
Hindus, that is to say the marriage of boys under sixteen and of girls
under fourteen years, and he permitted the remarriage of widows. The
barbaric customs of Brahmanism were repugnant to his very soul. He
therefore most strictly forbade the slaughtering of animals for
purposes of sacrifice, the use of ordeals for the execution of
justice, and the burning of widows against their will, which indeed
was not established according to Brahman law but was constantly
practiced according to traditional custom.[20] To be sure neither
Akbar nor his successor Jehângir were permanently successful in their
efforts to put an end to the burning of widows. Not until the year
1829 was the horrible custom practically done away with through the
efforts of the English.

  [Footnote 18: Noer, II, 317, 318.]

  [Footnote 19: _Ibid._ 376, 317.]

  [Footnote 20: J.T. Wheeler, IV, I, 173; M. Elphinstone, 526; G.B.
  Malleson, 170.]

Throughout his entire life Akbar was a tirelessly industrious,
restlessly active man. By means of ceaseless activity he struggled
successfully against his natural tendency to melancholy and in this
way kept his mind wholesome, which is most deserving of admiration in
an Oriental monarch who was brought in contact day by day with
immoderate flattery and idolatrous veneration. Well did Akbar know
that no Oriental nation can be governed without a display of dazzling
splendor; but in the midst of the fabulous luxury with which Akbar's
court was fitted out and his camp on the march, in the possession of
an incomparably rich harem which accompanied the Emperor on his
expeditions and journeys in large palatial tents, Akbar always showed
a remarkable moderation. It is true that he abolished the prohibition
of wine which Islam had inaugurated and had a court cellar in his
palace, but he himself drank only a little wine and only ate once a
day and then did not fully satisfy his hunger at this one meal which
he ate alone and not at any definite time.[21] Though he was not
strictly a vegetarian yet he lived mainly on rice, milk, fruits and
sweets, and meat was repulsive to him. He is said to have eaten meat
hardly more than four times a year.[22]

  [Footnote 21: Noer, II, 355-]

  [Footnote 22: J.T. Wheeler, IV, I, 169, following the old English
  geographer Samuel Purchas.]

Akbar was very fond of flowers and perfumes and especially enjoyed
blooded doves whose care he well understood. About twenty thousand of
these peaceful birds are said to have made their home on the
battlements of his palace. His historian[23] relates: "His Majesty
deigned to improve them in a marvelous manner by crossing the races
which had not been done formerly."

  [Footnote 23: Abul Fazl in Noer, I, 511.]

Akbar was passionately fond of hunting and pursued the noble sport in
its different forms, especially the tiger hunt and the trapping of
wild elephants,[24] but he also hunted with trained falcons and
leopards, owning no less than nine hundred hunting leopards. He was
not fond of battue; he enjoyed the excitement and exertion of the
actual hunt as a means for exercise and recreation, for training the
eye and quickening the blood. Akbar took pleasure also in games.
Besides chess, cards and other games, fights between animals may
especially be mentioned, of which elephant fights were the most
common, but there were also contests between camels, buffaloes, cocks,
and even frogs, sparrows and spiders.

  [Footnote 24: M. Elphinstone, 519]

Usually, however, the whole day was filled up from the first break of
dawn for Akbar with affairs of government and audiences, for every one
who had a request or a grievance to bring forward could have access to
Akbar, and he showed the same interest in the smallest incidents as in
the greatest affairs of state. He also held courts of justice wherever
he happened to be residing. No criminal could be punished there
without his knowledge and no sentence of death executed until Akbar
had given the command three times.[25]

  [Footnote 25: J.T. Wheeler, IV, I, 168.]

Not until after sunset did the Emperor's time of recreation begin.
Since he only required three hours of sleep[26] he devoted most of the
night to literary, artistic and scientific occupations. Especially
poetry and music delighted his heart. He collected a large library in
his palace and drew the most famous scholars and poets to his court.
The most important of these were the brothers Abul Faiz (with the _nom
de plume_ Faizî) and Abul Fazl who have made Akbar's fame known to the
whole world through their works. The former at Akbar's behest
translated a series of Sanskrit works into Persian, and Abul Fazl, the
highly gifted minister and historian of Akbar's court (who to be sure
can not be exonerated from the charge of flattery) likewise composed
in the Persian language a large historical work written in the most
flowery style which is the main source of our knowledge of that
period. This famous work is divided in two parts, the first one of
which under the title _Akbarnâme_, "Akbar Book," contains the complete
history of Akbar's reign, whereas the second part, the _Aîn î Akbarî_,
"The Institutions of Akbar," gives a presentation of the political and
religious constitution and administration of India under Akbar's
reign. It is also deserving of mention in this connection that Akbar
instituted a board for contemporary chronicles, whose duty it was to
compose the official record of all events relating to the Emperor and
the government as well as to collect all laws and decrees.[27]

  [Footnote 26: Loc. cit., 169.]

  [Footnote 27: Noer, I, 432, 433.]

When Akbar's recreation hours had come in the night the poets of his
court brought their verses. Translations of famous works in Sanskrit
literature, of the New Testament and of other interesting books were
read aloud, all of which captivated the vivacious mind of the Emperor
from which nothing was farther removed than onesidedness and
narrow-mindedness. Akbar had also a discriminating appreciation for
art and industries. He himself designed the plans for some extremely
beautiful candelabra, and the manufacture of tapestry reached such a
state of perfection in India under his personal supervision that in
those days fabrics were produced in the great imperial factories which
in beauty and value excelled the famous rugs of Persia. With still
more important results Akbar influenced the realm of architecture in
that he discovered how to combine two completely different styles. For
indeed, the union of Mohammedan and Indian motives in the buildings of
Akbar (who here as in all other departments strove to perfect the
complete elevation of national and religious details) to form an
improved third style,[28] is entirely original.

  [Footnote 28: A. Müller, II, 386.]

Among other ways Akbar betrayed the scientific trend of his mind by
sending out an expedition in search of the sources of the Ganges.[29]
That a man of such a wonderful degree of versatility should have
recognized the value of general education and have devoted himself to
its improvement, we would simply take for granted. Akbar caused
schools to be erected throughout his whole kingdom for the children of
Hindus and Mohammedans, whereas he himself did not know how to read or
write.[30] This remarkable fact would seem incredible to us after
considering all the above mentioned facts if it was not confirmed by
the express testimony of his son, the Emperor Jehângir. At any rate
for an illiterate man Akbar certainly accomplished an astonishing
amount. The universal character of the endowments of this man could
not have been increased by the learning of the schools.

  [Footnote 29: J.T. Wheeler, IV, I, 174]

  [Footnote 30: J.T. Wheeler, loc. cit., 141; Noer, I, 193; II, 324,

[Illustration: AKBAR'S GRAVE.]

I have now come to the point which arouses most strongly the universal
human interest in Akbar, namely, to his religious development and his
relation to the religions, or better to religion. But first I must
protest against the position maintained by a competent scholar[31]
that Akbar himself was just as indifferent to religious matters as was
the house of Timur as a whole. Against this view we have the testimony
of the conscientiousness with which he daily performed his morning and
evening devotions, the value which he placed upon fasting and prayer
as a means of self-discipline, and the regularity with which he made
yearly pilgrimages to the graves of Mohammedan saints. A better
insight into Akbar's heart than these regular observances of worship
which might easily be explained by the force of custom is given by the
extraordinary manifestations of a devout disposition. When we learn
that Akbar invariably prayed at the grave of his father in Delhi[32]
before starting upon any important undertaking, or that during the
siege of Chitor he made a vow to make a pilgrimage to a shrine in
Ajmir after the fall of the fortress, and that after Chitor was in his
power he performed this journey in the simplest pilgrim garb, tramping
barefooted over the glowing sand,[33] it is impossible for us to look
upon Akbar as irreligious. On the contrary nothing moved the Emperor
so strongly and insistently as the striving after religious truth.
This effort led to a struggle against the most destructive power in
his kingdom, against the Mohammedan priesthood. That Akbar, the
conqueror in all domains, should also have been victorious in the
struggle against the encroachments of the Church (the bitterest
struggle which a ruler can undertake), this alone should insure him a
place among the greatest of humanity.

  [Footnote 31: A. Müller, II, 418]

  [Footnote 32: Noer, I, 262]

  [Footnote 33: Noer, I, 259.]

The Mohammedan priesthood, the community of the Ulemâs in whose hands
lay also the execution of justice according to the dictates of Islam,
had attained great prosperity in India by countless large bequests.
Its distinguished membership formed an influential party at court.
This party naturally represented the Islam of the stricter observance,
the so-called Sunnitic Islam, and displayed the greatest severity and
intolerance towards the representatives of every more liberal
interpretation and towards unbelievers. The chief judge of Agra
sentenced men to death because they were Shiites, that is to say they
belonged to the other branch of Islam, and the Ulemâs urged Akbar to
proceed likewise against the heretics.[34] That arrogance and vanity,
selfishness and avarice, also belonged to the character of the Ulemâs
is so plainly to be taken for granted according to all analogies that
it need hardly be mentioned. The judicature was everywhere utilized by
the Ulemâs as a means for illegitimate enrichment.

  [Footnote 34: J.T. Wheeler, IV, I, 156.]

This ecclesiastical party which in its narrow-minded folly considered
itself in possession of the whole truth, stands opposed to the noble
skeptic Akbar, whose doubt of the divine origin of the Koran and of
the truth of its dogmas began so to torment him that he would pass
entire nights sitting out of doors on a stone lost in contemplation.
The above mentioned brothers Faizî and Abul Fazl introduced to his
impressionable spirit the exalted teaching of Sûfism, the Mohammedan
mysticism whose spiritual pantheism had its origin in, or at least was
strongly influenced by, the doctrine of the All-One, held by the
Brahman Vedânta system. The Sûfi doctrine teaches religious tolerance
and has apparently strengthened Akbar in his repugnance towards the
intolerant exclusiveness of Sunnitic Islam.

The Ulemâs must have been horror-stricken when they found out that
Akbar even sought religious instruction from the hated Brahmans. We
hear especially of two, Purushottama and Debî by name, the first of
whom taught Sanskrit and Brahman philosophy to the Emperor in his
palace, whereas the second was drawn up on a platform to the wall of
the palace in the dead of the night and there, suspended in midair,
gave lessons on profound esoteric doctrines of the Upanishads to the
emperor as he sat by the window. A characteristic bit of Indian local
color! The proud Padishah of India, one of the most powerful rulers of
his time, listening in the silence of night to the words of the
Brahman suspended there outside, who himself as proud as the Emperor
would not set foot inside the dwelling of one who in his eyes was
unclean, but who would not refuse his wisdom to a sincere seeker after

Akbar left no means untried to broaden his religious outlook. From
Gujerat he summoned some Parsees, followers of the religion of
Zarathustra, and through them informed himself of their faith and
their highly developed system of ethics which places the sinful
thought on the same level with the sinful word and act.

From olden times the inhabitants of India have had a predisposition
for religious and philosophical disputations. So Akbar, too, was
convinced of the utility of free discussion on religious dogmas. Based
upon this idea, and perhaps also in the hope that the Ulemâs would be
discomfited Akbar founded at Fathpur Sikrî, his favorite residence in
the vicinity of Agra, the famous Ibâdat Khâna, literally the "house of
worship," but in reality the house of controversy. This was a splendid
structure composed of four halls in which scholars and religious men
of all sects gathered together every Thursday evening and were given
an opportunity to defend their creeds in the presence and with the
cooperation of the Emperor. Akbar placed the discussion in charge of
the wise and liberal minded Abul Fazl. How badly the Ulemâs, the
representatives of Mohammedan orthodoxy, came off on these
controversial evenings was to be foreseen. Since they had no success
with their futile arguments they soon resorted to cries of fury,
insults for their opponents and even to personal violence, often
turning against each other and hurling curses upon their own number.
In these discussions the inferiority of the Ulemâs, who nevertheless
had always put forth such great claims, was so plainly betrayed that
Akbar learned to have a profound contempt for them.

In addition to this, the fraud and machinations by means of which the
Ulemâs had unlawfully enriched themselves became known to the Emperor.
At any rate there was sufficient ground for the chastisement which
Akbar now visited upon the high clergy. In the year 1579 a decree was
issued which assigned to the Emperor the final decision in matters of
faith, and this was subscribed to by the chiefs of the Ulemâs,--with
what personal feelings we can well imagine. For by this act the Ulemâs
were deprived of their ecclesiastical authority which was transferred
to the Emperor. That the Orient too possesses its particular official
manner of expression in administrative matters is very prettily shown
by a decree in which Akbar "granted the long cherished wish" of these
same chiefs of the Ulemâs to undertake the pilgrimage to Mecca, which
of course really meant a banishment of several years. Other unworthy
Ulemâs were displaced from their positions or deprived of their
sinecures; others who in their bitterness had caused rebellion or
incited or supported mutiny were condemned for high treason. The rich
property of the churches was for the most part confiscated and
appropriated for the general weal. In short, the power and influence
of the Ulemâs was completely broken down, the mosques stood empty and
were transformed into stables and warehouses.

Akbar had long ceased to be a faithful Moslem. Now after the fall of
the Ulemâs he came forward openly with his conviction, declared the
Koran to be a human compilation and its commands folly, disputed the
miracles of Mohammed and also the value of his prophecies, and denied
the doctrine of recompense after death. He professed the Brahman and
Sûfistic doctrine that the soul migrates through countless existences
and finally attains divinity after complete purification.

The assertion of the Ulemâs that every person came into the world
predisposed towards Islam and that the natural language of mankind was
Arabic (the Jews made the same claim for Hebrew and the Brahmans for
Sanskrit), Akbar refuted by a drastic experiment which does not
correspond with his usual benevolence, but still is characteristic of
the tendency of his mind. In this case a convincing demonstration
appeared to him so necessary that some individuals would have to
suffer for it. Accordingly in the year 1579 he caused twenty infants
to be taken from their parents in return for a compensation and
brought up under the care of silent nurses in a remote spot in which
no word should be spoken. After four years it was proved that as many
of these unhappy children as were still alive were entirely dumb and
possessed no trace of a predisposition for Islam.[35] Later the
children are said to have learned to speak with extraordinary
difficulty as was to be expected.

  [Footnote 35: J.T. Wheeler, IV, I, 174; Noer, I, 511, 512. A familiar
  classical parallel to this incident is the experiment recorded by
  Herodotus (II, 2) which the Egyptian king Psammetich is said to have
  performed with two infants. It is related that after being shut up in
  a goat's stable for two years separated from all human intercourse
  these children repeatedly cried out the alleged Phrygian word [Greek:
  bekhos], "bread," which in reality was probably simply an imitation of
  the bleating of the goats. Compare Edward B. Tyler, _Researches into
  the Early History of Mankind_. 2nd edition, (London, 1870), page 81:
  "It is a very trite remark that there is nothing absolutely incredible
  in the story and that _Bek, bek_ is a good imitative word for bleating
  as in [Greek: blêchhaomai, mêkhaomai], _blöken, meckern_, etc."
  Farther on we find the account of a similar attempt made by James IV
  of Scotland as well as the literature with regard to other historical
  and legendary precedents of this sort in both Orient and Occident.]

Akbar's repugnance to Islam developed into a complete revulsion
against every thing connected with this narrow religion and made the
great Emperor petty-souled in this particular. The decrees were dated
from the death of Mohammed and no longer from the Hejra (the flight
from Mecca to Medina). Books written in Arabic, the language of the
Koran were given the lowest place in the imperial library. The
knowledge of Arabic was prohibited, even the sounds characteristically
belonging to this language were avoided.[36] Where formerly according
to ancient tradition had stood the word _Bismilâhi_, "in the name of
God," there now appeared the old war cry _Allâhu akbar_ "God is
great," which came into use the more generally--on coins, documents,
etc.--the more the courtiers came to reverse the sense of the slogan
and to apply to it the meaning, "Akbar is God."

  [Footnote 36: Noer, II, 324, 325. Beards which the Koran commanded to
  be worn Akbar even refused to allow in his presence. M. Elphinstone,
  525; G.B. Malleson, 177.]

Before I enter into the Emperor's assumption of this flattery and his
conception of the imperial dignity as conferred by the grace of God, I
must speak of the interesting attempts of the Jesuits to win over to
Christianity the most powerful ruler of the Orient.

As early as in the spring of 1578 a Portuguese Jesuit who worked among
the Bengals as a missionary appeared at the imperial court and pleased
Akbar especially because he got the better of the Ulemâs in
controversy. Two years later Akbar sent a very polite letter to the
Provincial of the Jesuit order in Goa, requesting him to send two
Fathers in order that Akbar himself might be instructed "in their
faith and its perfection." It is easy to imagine how gladly the
Provincial assented to this demand and how carefully he proceeded with
the selection of the fathers who were to be sent away with such great
expectations. As gifts to the Emperor the Jesuits brought a Bible in
four languages and pictures of Christ and the Virgin Mary, and to
their great delight when Akbar received them he laid the Bible upon
his head and kissed the two pictures as a sign of reverence.[37]

  [Footnote 37: J.T. Wheeler, IV, I,162; Noer, I, 481.]

In the interesting work of the French Jesuit Du Jarric, published in
1611, we possess very detailed accounts of the operations of these
missionaries who were honorably received at Akbar's court and who were
invited to take up their residence in the imperial palace. The evening
assemblies in the 'Ibâdat Khâna' in Fathpur Sikrî at once gave the
shrewd Jesuits who were schooled in dialectics, an opportunity to
distinguish themselves before the Emperor who himself presided over
this Religious Parliament in which Christians, Jews, Mohammedans,
Brahmans, Buddhists and Parsees debated with each other. Abul Fazl
speaks with enthusiasm in the _Akbarnâme_ of the wisdom and zealous
faith of Father Aquaviva, the leader of this Jesuit mission, and
relates how he offered to walk into a fiery furnace with a New
Testament in his hand if the Mullahs would do the same with the Koran
in their hand, but that the Mohammedan priests withdrew in terror
before this test by fire. It is noteworthy in this connection that the
Jesuits at Akbar's court received a warning from their superiors not
to risk such rash experiments which might be induced by the devil with
the view of bringing shame upon Christianity.[38] The superiors were
apparently well informed with regard to the intentions of the devil.

  [Footnote 38: J.T. Wheeler, IV, I, 165, note, 47; M. Elphinstone, 523,
  note 8; G.B. Malleson, 162.]

In conversation with the Jesuits Akbar proved to be favorably inclined
towards many of the Christian doctrines and met his guests half way in
every manner possible. They had permission to erect a hospital and a
chapel and to establish Christian worship in the latter for the
benefit of the Portuguese in that vicinity. Akbar himself occasionally
took part in this service kneeling with bared head, which, however,
did not hinder him from joining also in the Mohammedan ritual or even
the Brahman religious practices of the Rajput women in his harem. He
had his second son Murâd instructed by the Jesuits in the Portuguese
language and in the Christian faith.

The Jesuits on their side pushed energetically toward their goal and
did not scorn to employ flattery in so far as to draw a parallel
between the Emperor and Christ, but no matter how slyly the fathers
proceeded in the accomplishment of their plans Akbar was always a
match for them. In spite of all concessions with regard to the
excellence and credibility of the Christian doctrines the Emperor
never seemed to be entirely satisfied. Du Jarric "complains bitterly
of his obstinacy and remarks that the restless intellect of this man
could never be quieted by one answer but must constantly make further
inquiry."[39] The clever historian of Islam makes the following
comment: "Bad, very bad;--perhaps he would not even be satisfied with
the seven riddles of the universe of the latest natural science."[40]

  [Footnote 39: In Noer, I, 485.]

  [Footnote 40: A. Müller, II, 420 n.]

To every petition and importunity of the Jesuits to turn to
Christianity Akbar maintained a firm opposition. A second and third
embassy which the order at Goa sent out in the nineties of the
sixteenth century, also labored in vain for Akbar's conversion in
spite of the many evidences of favor shown by the Emperor. One of the
last Jesuits to come, Jerome Xavier of Navarre, is said to have been
induced by the Emperor to translate the four Gospels into Persian
which was the language of the Mohammedan court of India. But Akbar
never thought of allowing himself to be baptized, nor could he
consider it seriously from political motives as well as from reasons
of personal conviction. A man who ordered himself to be officially
declared the highest authority in matters of faith--to be sure not so
much in order to found an imperial papacy in his country as to guard
his empire from an impending religious war--at any rate a man who saw
how the prosperity of his reign proceeded from his own personal
initiative in every respect, such a man could countenance no will
above his own nor subject himself to any pangs of conscience. To
recognize the Pope as highest authority and simply to recognize as
objective truth a finally determined system in the realm in which he
had spent day and night in a hot pursuit after a clearer vision, was
for Akbar an absolute impossibility.

Then too Akbar could not but see through the Jesuits although he
appreciated and admired many points about them. Their rigid dogmatism,
their intolerance and inordinate ambition could leave him no doubt
that if they once arose to power the activity of the Ulemâs, once by
good fortune overthrown, would be again resumed by them to a stronger
and more dangerous degree. It is also probable that Akbar, who saw and
heard everything, had learned of the horrors of the Inquisition at
Goa. Moreover, the clearness of Akbar's vision for the realities of
national life had too often put him on his guard to permit him to look
upon the introduction of Christianity, however highly esteemed by him
personally, as a blessing for India. He had broken the power of Islam
in India; to overthrow in like manner the second great religion of his
empire, Brahmanism, to which the great majority of his subjects clung
with body and soul, and then in place of both existing religions to
introduce a third foreign religion inimically opposed to them--such a
procedure would have hurled India into an irremediable confusion and
destroyed at one blow the prosperity of the land which had been
brought about by the ceaseless efforts of a lifetime. For of course it
was not the aim of the Jesuits simply to win Akbar personally to
Christianity but they wished to see their religion made the state
religion of this great empire.

As has been already suggested, submission to Christianity would also
have been opposed to Akbar's inmost conviction. He had climbed far
enough up the stony path toward truth to recognize all religions as
historically developed and as the products of their time and the land
of their origin. All the nobler religions seemed to him to be
radiations from the one eternal truth. That he thought he had found
the truth with regard to the fate of the soul in the Sûfi-Vedântic
doctrine of its migration through countless existences and its final
ascension to deity has been previously mentioned. With such views
Akbar could not become a Catholic Christian.

The conviction of the final reabsorption into deity, conditions also
the belief in the emanation of the ego from deity. But Akbar's
relation to God is not sufficiently identified with this belief. Akbar
was convinced that he stood nearer to God than other people. This is
already apparent in the title "The Shadow of God" which he had
assumed. The reversed, or rather the double, meaning of the sentence
_Allâhu akbar_, "Akbar is God," was not displeasing to the Emperor as
we know. And when the Hindus declared him to be an incarnation of a
divinity he did not disclaim this homage. Such a conception was
nothing unusual with the Hindus and did not signify a complete
apotheosis. Although Akbar took great pains he was not able to
permanently prevent the people from considering him a healer and a
worker of miracles. But Akbar had too clear a head not to know that he
was a man,--a man subject to mistakes and frailties; for when he
permitted himself to be led into a deed of violence he had always
experienced the bitterest remorse. Not the slightest symptom of
Cæsaromania can be discovered in Akbar.

Akbar felt that he was a mediator between God and man and believed
"that the deity revealed itself to him in the mystical illumination of
his soul."[41] This conviction Akbar held in common with many rulers
of the Occident who were much smaller than he. Idolatrous marks of
veneration he permitted only to a very limited degree. He was not
always quite consistent in this respect however, and we must realize
how infinitely hard it was to be consistent in this matter at an
Oriental court when the customary servility, combined with sincere
admiration and reverence, longed to actively manifest itself.

  [Footnote 41: Noer, II, 314, 355.]

Akbar, as we have already seen, suffered the Hindu custom of
prostration, but on the other hand we have the express testimony to
the contrary from the author Faizî, the trusted friend of the Emperor,
who on the occasion of an exaggerated homage literally says: "The
commands of His Majesty expressly forbid such devout reverence and as
often as the courtiers offer homage of this kind because of their
loyal sentiments His Majesty forbids them, for such manifestations of
worship belong to God alone,"[42] Finally however Akbar felt himself
moved to forbid prostration publicly, yet to permit it in a private
manner, as appears in the following words of Abul Fazl[43]:

  [Footnote 42: In Noer, II, 409.]

  [Footnote 43: In Noer, II, 347, 348.]

"But since obscurantists consider prostration to be a blasphemous
adoration of man, His Majesty in his practical wisdom has commanded
that it be put an end to with ignorant people of all stations and also
that it shall not be practiced even by his trusted servants on public
court days. Nevertheless if people upon whom the star of good fortune
has shone are in attendance at private assemblies and receive
permission to be seated, they may perform the prostration of gratitude
by bowing their foreheads to the earth and so share in the rays of
good fortune. So forbidding prostration to the people at large and
granting it to the select the Emperor fulfils the wishes of both and
gives the world an example of practical wisdom."

The desire to unite his subjects as much as possible finally impelled
Akbar to the attempt to equalize religious differences as well.
Convinced that religions did not differ from each other in their
innermost essence, he combined what in his opinion were the essential
elements and about the year 1580 founded a new religion, the famous
Dîn i Ilâhi, the "religion of God." This religion recognizes only one
God, a purely spiritual universally efficient being from whom the
human soul is derived and towards which it tends. The ethics of this
religion comprises the high moral requirements of Sufism and Parsism:
complete toleration, equality of rights among all men, purity in
thought, word and deed. The demand of monogamy, too, was added later.
Priests, images and temples,--Akbar would have none of these in his
new religion, but from the Parsees he took the worship of the fire
and of the sun as to him light and its heat seemed the most beautiful
symbol of the divine spirit.[44] He also adopted the holy cord of the
Hindus and wore upon his forehead the colored token customary among
them. In this eclectic manner he accommodated himself in a few
externalities to the different religious communities existing in his

  [Footnote 44: M. Elphinstone, 524.]

Doubtless in the foundation of his Dîn i Ilâhi Akbar was not pursuing
merely ideal ends but probably political ones as well, for the
adoption of the new religion signified an increased loyalty to the
Emperor. The novice had to declare himself ready to yield to the
Emperor his property, his life, his honor, and his former faith, and
in reality the adherents of the Dîn i Ilâhi formed a clan of the
truest and most devoted servitors of the Emperor. It may not be
without significance that soon after the establishment of the Dîn i
Ilâhi a new computation of time was introduced which dated from the
accession of Akbar to the throne in 1556.

After the new religion had been in existence perhaps five years the
number of converts began to grow by the thousands but we can say with
certainty that the greater portion of these changed sides not from
conviction but on account of worldly advantage, since they saw that
membership in the new religion was very advantageous to a career in
the service of the state.[45] By far the greatest number of those who
professed the Dîn i Ilâhi observed only the external forms, privately
remaining alien to it.

  [Footnote 45: Noer, I, 503.]


In reality the new religion did not extend outside of Akbar's court
and died out at his death. Hence if failure here can be charged to the
account of the great Emperor, yet this very failure redounds to his
honor. Must it not be counted as a great honor to Akbar that he
considered it possible to win over his people to a spiritual
imageless worship of God? Had he known that the religious requirements
of the masses can only be satisfied by concrete objects of worship and
by miracles (the more startling the better), that a spiritualized
faith can never be the possession of any but a few chosen souls, he
would not have proceeded with the founding of the Dîn i Ilâhi. And
still we cannot call its establishment an absolute failure, for the
spirit of tolerance which flowed out from Akbar's religion
accomplished infinite good and certainly contributed just as much to
lessening the antagonisms in India as did Akbar's social and
industrial reforms.

A man who accomplished such great things and desired to accomplish
greater, deserves a better fortune than was Akbar's towards the end of
life. He had provided for his sons the most careful education, giving
them at the same time Christian and orthodox Mohammedan instructors in
order to lead them in their early years to the attainment of
independent views by means of a comparison between contrasts; but he
was never to have pleasure in his sons. It seems that he lacked the
necessary severity. The two younger boys of this exceedingly temperate
Emperor, Murâd and Daniâl, died of delirium tremens in their youth
even before their father. The oldest son, Selim, later the Emperor
Jehângir, was also a drunkard and was saved from destruction through
this inherited vice of the Timur dynasty only by the wisdom and
determination of his wife. But he remained a wild uncontrolled cruel
man (as different as possible from his father and apparently so by
intention) who took sides with the party of the vanquished Ulemâs and
stepped forth as the restorer of Islam. In frequent open rebellion
against his magnanimous father who was only too ready to pardon him,
he brought upon this father the bitterest sorrow; and especially by
having the trustworthy minister and friend of his father, Abul Fazl,
murdered while on a journey. Very close to Akbar also was the loss of
his old mother to whom he had clung his whole life long with a
touching love and whom he outlived only a short time.

Akbar lost his best friends and his most faithful servants before he
finally succumbed to a very painful abdominal illness, which at the
last changed him also mentally to a very sad extent, and finally
carried him off on the night of the fifteenth of October, 1605. He was
buried at Sikandra near Agra in a splendid mausoleum of enormous
proportions which he himself had caused to be built and which even
to-day stands almost uninjured.

This in short is a picture of the life and activities of the greatest
ruler which the Orient has ever produced. In order to rightly
appreciate Akbar's greatness we must bear in mind that in his empire
he placed all men on an equality without regard to race or religion,
and granted universal freedom of worship at a time when the Jews were
still outlaws in the Occident and many bloody persecutions occurred
from time to time; when in the Occident men were imprisoned, executed
or burnt at the stake for the sake of their faith or their doubts; at
a time when Europe was polluted by the horrors of witch-persecution
and the massacre of St. Bartholemew.[46] Under Akbar's rule India
stood upon a much higher plane of civilization in the sixteenth
century than Europe at the same time.

  [Footnote 46: Noer, I, 490 n.]

Germany should be proud that the personality of Akbar who according to
his own words "desired to live at peace with all humanity, with every
creature of God," has so inspired a noble German of princely blood in
the last century that he consecrated the work of his life to the
biography of Akbar. This man is the Prince Friedrich August of
Schleswig-Holstein, Count of Noer, who wandered through the whole of
Northern India on the track of Akbar's activities, and on the basis
of the most careful investigation of sources has given us in his large
two-volumed work the best and most extensive information which has
been written in Europe about the Emperor Akbar. How much his work has
been a labor of love can be recognized at every step in his book but
especially may be seen in a touching letter from Agra written on the
24th of April, 1868, in which he relates that he utilized the early
hours of this day for an excursion to lay a bunch of fresh roses on
Akbar's grave and that no visit to any other grave had ever moved him
so much as this.[47]

  [Footnote 47: Noer, II, 564, 572.]


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