Abu’l-Fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar was one of the greatest rulers during the Mughal period. He had a strong personality and was a successful general, Akbar successfully expanded the Mughal empire to include much of the territories of the Indian subcontinent. His influence and authority of power extended over the subcontinent because of the dominance of the Mughals in the fields of military, politics, culture, and economics.
Age of Akbar
Akbar was one of the greatest and most successful monarchs of the Mughal empire. He was the son of Humayun and Hamida Banu Begum, born in 1542 CE. When Humayun died, Akbar was at Kalanaur in Punjab, commanding an operation against the Afghan rebel. He was crowned at Kalanaur in 1556.
During the first few years, Akbar was commanded by Bairam Khan who acted as his regent. Bairam Khan was the confidante of Akbar and obtained the title of Khan-i-Khanan.
Role of Bairam Khan
Bairam Khan represented Akbar in the Second Battle of Panipat in 1556 with Hemu Vikramaditya who led the Afghan forces. Hemu was on the verge to win but an arrow pierced his eyes and he became unconscious, leading to the fortunate victory of the Mughals.
During the regency period of Bairam Khan, the Mughal empire was extended from Kabul to Jaunpur in the east and Ajmer in the West. He emerged as one of the most powerful nobles and appointed his own supporters to important positions neglecting the old ones; which caused resentment among the old ones. The growing arrogance of Bairam Khan aggravated the situation; because of this Akbar removed him and gave him the option of serving the court or anywhere outside or retiring to Mecca. Bairam chose Mecca but on the way, he was killed by Afghans at Patan. Akbar married his wife and brought up Bairam’s son, who came to be known as Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan.
Akbar had to face rebellions from many groups and individuals from the nobility; which included his foster mother Maham Anaga and her son Adham Khan. In 1561, Adham won a victory at Malwa and followed it with the total massacre of defending army and sending only part of the booty to Akbar. When Adham was removed from command, he laid claim to Wazir and when it was denied, he stabbed the acting wazir; which enraged Akbar to throw him down the Agra Fort.
Uzbeks held important positions in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Malwa. Between 1561-1567, they broke out in rebellion several times, and also rebellions happened from the side of Mirzas, who were Timurids, also turned against the emperor. Mirza Hakim, half-brother of Akbar also rebelled against Akbar. With sheer dedication, Akbar overcame all these rebellions, and Mirza was forced to flee to Kabul, the rebellion of Mirzas was crushed and Uzbeks were completely routed by 1567.
Early Expansion of Empire
The Conquest of Akbar is from northern India from Agra to Gujarat and from Agra to Bengal, also strengthened his hold in the northwestern frontier and later went to Deccan.
Conquest of Gwalior, Malwa, and Gondwana
The first expedition was sent to capture Gwalior (1559-60) before moving toward Malwa. Adham Khan defeated the ruler of Malwa, Baz Bahadur in 1561. After subsequent fights, Baz Bahadur moved from one place to another to finally surrender at Akbar’s court and was appointed as Mughal mansabdar. Subsequently, Malwa came under the Mughal rule.
The kingdom of Garh- Katanga included both Gonds and Rajput principalities. In 1564, Asaf Khan, the Mughal governor of Allahabad attacked Gondwana and was captured by him. Later Akbar restored the kingdom to Chandra Shah.
Conquest of Rajasthan
The importance of Rajputs was known and hence Akbar wanted them as allies. He married Raja Bharamal from Amber’s daughter and inducted Rajputs into Mughal services. Bhagwant Das was appointed as governor of Lahore and Man Singh was appointed as governor of Bihar and Bengal. His conquest of Rajasthan is:
- Rajput kingdoms of Merta and Jodhpur were captured without much resistance.
- Seige of Chittor was major step. In 1568, Chittor fell after a gallant seizure of 6 months.
- Ranas of Mewar also continued to defy despite several defeats. Battle of Haldighati, Rana Pratap Singh, ruler of Mewar was severely defeated by the Mughal army led by Man Singh in 1576.
- After the fall of Chittor, Ranthambhore and Kalinjar were also conquered. Also, because of successful conquests, the Rajput Rajas of Bikaner and Jaisalmer submitted to Akbar. By 1570, Akbar conquered most of Rajasthan.
In spite of all the battles with Rajputs, there was no hostility between Rajputs and Mughals because of broad religious tolerance practices by Akbar like the abolition of the pilgrim tax and jizya. The steadfast loyalty of Rajputs became an important factor in the consolidation and expansion of the empire.
Conquest of Gujarat, Bihar, and Bengal
With the death of Bahadur Shah, Gujarat was in a state of confusion and Mirzas rebelled against the Mughal rule and had taken refuge in Gujarat. In 1572, Akbar advanced on Ahmedabad and defeated Muzaffar Shah, and build Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri. Akbar organized Gujarat into a province and placed it under Mirza Aziz Koka and returned to the capital.
Bengal and Bihar were dominated by Afghans who also captured Orissa. Akbar first captured Patna, leaving Khan-i-Khanan Munaim Khan in charge of the campaign. Mughal forces invaded Bengal and Daud Khan soon revolted in and stiff battle in Bihar in 1576, where Daud was executed. This brought an end to the first phase of Akbar’s expansion.
Rajput Policy of Akbar
He married a Rajput princess, the daughter of Raja Bharmal. It was a major thing in the history of the Mughals. He gave important posts in his court to Rajputs. Rajputs served the Mughals for four generations. Many of them rose to positions of military generals. The important administrative position was given to Raja Bhagwan Das and Raja Man Singh. He abolished the Jizya tax in 1564 and the pilgrim tax in 1563 which was imposed on Hindus. He never forced his Rajput wives to convert to their religion and gave them religious freedom. Akbar treated Rajputs with dignity and honor.
Rebellion and further expansion
Around 1580-1581, Akbar had to face many rebellions, mostly in Bengal, Bihar, Gujarat, and the northwest. The main reason for the rebellions was the strict enforcement of the dagh system and strict accounting of their income. This was aggravated by Akbar’s liberal religious policies and his policy of resuming large revenue-free grants of land which had been sometimes obtained illegally. Rebellions kept the Mughals distracted for 2 years.
In 1590, the conquest of Sindh opened trade down the river Indus for Punjab. By 1595, Mughal supremacy was established over the Northwest region. Consolidation of the northwest and fixing a frontier were two major contributions of Akbar.
After the consolidation of the northwest region, Akbar turned his attention towards eastern, and western India and Deccan. In 1592, Raja Man Singh, Mughal governor of Bengal conquered Orissa. Also conquered Cooch-Bihar and parts of East Bengal. Mirza Aziz Koka brought Kathiawar under Mughals. In 1595, the Mughals invaded Ahmednagar and Chand Bibi was defeated. Mughals also captured Asigarh and adjoining regions bringing them direct conflict with Marathas.
Administrative System Under Akbar
Organisation of Government
The organization was divided into central and provincial governments. His system of the central government was based on the structure of the Delhi Sultanate but the functions of various departments were recognized carefully. Territories were classified into Jagir, Inam, and Khalisa.
Emperor was the main head of administration and controlled all military and judicial powers and had the authority to appoint, promote and remove officials.
Central Asian and Timurid traditions were of having an all-powerful wazir and were the principal link between ruler and administration. Akbar took away the financial powers of Wazir. The head of the revenue department continued to be Wazir but was no longer the principal adviser to the ruler. He was given the title of Diwan, who was responsible for all incomes and expenditures.
Mir Bakshi was head of the military department and also of the nobility. Recommendations for the appointment to mansabdars were made by him to the emperor. He was head of the intelligence and information agencies of the empire.
An officer who was in charge of the royal household and royal workshops called karkhanas. He was responsible for all kinds of purchases, manufacturing of different kinds of items for use, and their storage in the royal household.
Chief Qazi was head of the judicial department and this was sometimes combined with chief Sadar who is responsible for charitable and religious endowments.
They were appointed to ensure general observance of rules of morality and examined weights and measures etc.
In 1580, Akbar divided the empire into 12 subs or provinces. These were broadly Bengal, Bihar, Allahabad, Awadh, Agra, Delhi, Lahore, Multan, Kabul, Ajmer, Malwa, and Gujarat. Later. Berar, Ahmednagar, and Khandesh were added. With the expansion, the number of provinces rose to twenty.
- Suba: Each suba was under the control of a Subedar, who was appointed directly by the emperor and maintained law and order. The head of the revenue department in suba was Diwan. Other officials were Mir Bakshi, Sadar, and Daroga-i-Dak,
- Sarkar: The main officers of Sarkar were faujdar and amalguzar; who was responsible for maintaining law and order, and assessment and collection of land revenue respectively.
- Pargana: Shiqdar was executive officer at level of pargana. He assisted Amil in the collection of revenue. Quanungo was in charge of land records of pargana and kotwals for maintaining law and order.
- Village: The village headman is called muqaddam and the patwari looked after revenue records.
Nur Jahan’s Influence in Jehangir’s Court
Nur Jahan had tremendous influence in the court of Jehangir and was one of the only empresses who had her name on the coin. Her presence was there when the emperor ran the court and used to run the court when the emperor was sick. She was elevated to the rank of Padshah Begum and her relatives were also promoted to higher positions.
Land Revenue System
The land revenue system of Akbar was called Zabti. It was based on Sher Shah’s land revenue system with certain changes; further improved by Raja Todar Mal and named the Dahsala system. The revenue was fixed on an average yield of land assessed on basis of the past 10 years and one-third of the average produce was state share and payments were in cash. The land was classified into 4 types: Polaj, Parauti, Chachar, and Banjar.
Akbar organized his nobility as well army by means of the mansabdari system. Every officer was assigned a rank- mansab. The highest rank was 5000 for nobles and the lowest was 10. Ranks were divided into two:
- Zat rank- Zat means personal and it fixed the personal status of a person and also salary due to him
- Sawar rank- It indicated the number of cavalrymen a person was required to maintain.
The chehra and dagh systems were followed. Each noble had to bring a contingent for periodic inspection before persons were appointed by the emperor for any position. Provision was made that the contingent of nobles should be mixed and thus Akbar weakened the forces of tribalism and parochialism.
The Jagirdari system assigned revenue of a particular territory to nobles for services to the state and it was a modified version of the iqta of the Delhi Sultanate and an integral part of the mansabdari system. Classification of jagirs are as follows:
- Tankha jagirs
- Watan jagirs
- Mashrut jagirs
- Altamgha jagir
Zamindars had hereditary rights over the produce of the land and had a direct share of 10-25 percent of peasants’ produce. He assisted in the collection of revenue and also rendered military services at times of need.
Akbar’s Religious Policy
Akbar gained respect and rose to a lot of fame due to his religious policies. His teacher Abdul Latif’s impact great on Akbar. He carried administration on the basis of Sufi doctrine which means ‘ universal brotherhood’. This was taught to him by his teacher. He prohibited forced religious conversions in 1562. He permitted Christians and Hindus to build their respective churches and temples. He prohibited cow slaughter in respect of Hindus and celebrated their festivals.
In 1575, He ordered the construction of ‘ ibadat khana’ which is a house of worship at Fatehpur Sikri. He organized religious meetings with Ulama, Brahmanas, Jesuit priests, and Zoroastrians. He held these meetings to know about different religions and social customs. His interaction with people of different religions made him realize that religious scholars who prioritized ritual and dogma were often bigots. Dissatisfied with the religious bigots, he introduced the idea of sulh-i-kul. It means that people should not be discriminated against on the basis of their religion or their realm. He focused on a system of ethics which were honesty, peace, and justice. Thus the principle of governance was also adopted by Jahangir and Shah Jahan.
In 1582 he founded a new religion named ‘tauhid-i-illahi’ and later renamed ‘din-i-llahi’. It consisted of 12 principles. important of them were:
- Worshipping sun and fire
- Observing Sunday as a holiday
- Refrain from eating meat
- Avoiding and staying away from sins like lust, pride, and slander.
- Sacrificing life, property, and their faith and honor for the emperor
- Greeting each other as Allah-hu-Akbar when illahi meet.
During Akbar’s reign, many indigenous art styles were encouraged which led to the common use of sandstone. Akbar built a series of forts, the most famous was a fort of Agra and other forts are in Lahore and Allahabad. He built Fatehpur Sikri near Agra and many buildings of Gujarati and Bengali styles are found in this complex.
He built his own tomb at Sikandra which was completed by Jahangir. Also built was the temple of Govindadeva at Vrindavan and also Jahangir Mahal at Agra Fort. He also commissioned illustrations of several literary and religious texts and Baswan, Miskina and Jaswant attained great positions in his court. Historical works like Akbarnama also remained the main themes of Mughal paintings and the language of Persian became widespread during this time.
Navratna of Akbar
Nine of the courtiers were known as Akbar’s navratnas or nine jewels. The following are the names:
- Abul Fazl
- Raja Birbal
- Raja Todar Mal
- Raja Man Singh
- Fakir Aziao Din
- Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan
- Mirza Aziz Koka
FAQs on Akbar
Question 1: Who was the favorite wife of Akbar?
Mariam-uz-Zamani was the favourite wife of Akbar.
Question 2: Who were the Mughals?
They were a muslim dynasty who ruled most of India and Pakistan in 16th and 17th centuries and consolidated Islam in South Asia, and spread of Muslim arts and culture as well faith.
Question 3: Who is Akbar?
He was the oldest son of Humayun who under the tile of Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar Badshah Ghazi ascended the throne. Humayun died in 1556 and left the empire to his 13 years old son Akbar.
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