The myth of Akbar – the ‘Great’ | OPINION
When we read the medieval history of India, historians tell us that Akbar who established the great Mughal Empire in India was a great ruler. He is nicknamed “the Great” by these “eminent” historians. According to them, he was the greatest among all Mughal emperors. He had a great personality, his political and military achievements were unmatched. The kingdom’s religious policy which he adopted towards people of other faiths, especially Hindus, was liberal, accommodating and tolerant, thus qualifying him to be called “the Great”.
According to historians, Akbar is “great” with many achievements like undefeated military campaigns, establishment and consolidation of Mughal rule in the Indian subcontinent with its historical extent and spread, relative prosperity of his rule and the establishment of administrative measures, which have been copied. until the 19th century, etc. His personality was great, for he had many virtues. Although he was Muslim, his empire was never Islamic. He married many Hindu princesses and was a very tolerant person. The epithet “great” is also given to Akbar based on his tolerant, secular, and liberal state policy. Thus, he is the perfect example of the national king.
He assimilated Indian culture and promoted the idea of ’Sulehkul’. Although he is the descendant of Babur, he made India his homeland and was therefore ‘Indianized’. Describing Akbar’s success as “astonishing”, Jawaharlal Nehru, the historian, concludes that Akbar “created a sense of unity among the various elements of northern and central India”. It is important to mention here that an aura of grandeur has been created around Emperor Akbar which has been further romanticized, by a few films in Bollywood where Akbar is presented as a perfect king; thus creating a popular myth around him.
In a nutshell, Akbar is hailed as “great” by these historians because of three major parameters: a) his traits, b) his achievements as an emperor, c) his liberal, secular, and accommodating religious policies toward other religions. , especially the Hindus. A narrative has been established by a few historians to project Akbar as an example of a perfect ruler who made no distinction on the basis of religion towards people of other religions when making and executing policy of State. Thus, Akbar’s religious policy was overemphasized and overemphasized to conclude that he was “the Great”.
We will discuss these three aspects with historical evidence and facts, and regardless of the narrative instructed by these historians to come to the conclusions regarding the “greatness” of the Mughal Emperor.
The story of Akbar, “the Great”, was seeded by Anglican historians, which was later developed by Nehruvian and left-wing historians. Enchanted by the power of their own British Empire, these British historians have overestimated the grandeur, splendor and political-territorial spread of Akbar’s empire, associated with the fact that he established the Mughal Empire. To make an outside invader who conquered India through the use of ruthless force in the name of religion and who established and consolidated the Mughal Empire as the British established their own, suited the account of historians Whiteman in justifying their colonialism and foreign domination with a centralized system of power imposed on Hindustan.
On merit too, Akbar’s empire was not as big as other empires in India. If we compare the political territory and extent of the Mughal Empire under Akbar, it was much less than his successors like Aurangzeb and much less than the Maurya Empire, Maratha Empire and the British Raj and even less than the empire Gupta, as we can see. seen from the following table.
So to say that his empire was big is totally wrong, concocting and distorting the real historical facts and evidence just to support the biased view of Akbar’s Mughal kingdom being vast in terms of territory.
The second argument vehemently advanced by Nehruvian-leftist historians is that Akbar was an Indian since he was born, raised and died here as an Indian. He made India his homeland and, unlike the British, did not take the country’s wealth to his own land.
Nothing is far from historical evidence and facts. He was the grandson of the acclaimed invader Babur, who invaded India to plunder and plunder its riches. He followed the Islamist religious duty to kill the infidels, destroy their temples and convert the kafirs to Islam.
Even his father Hamayun could not establish a proper regime in India and never made India his homeland although he died there. According to historical accounts [Chandra, Satish (2001) Medieval India and Smith, Vincent Arthur (1917)], Akbar and his guardian, Bairam Khan, were in Kalanaur (Batala, Punjab) on their way back to Kabul for good when they heard the news of Humayun’s death. It was not by choice that Akbar stayed in India and made it his homeland, but by historical circumstances, which forced him to fight and stay in the country.
The historical events that unfolded led him to fight the Second Battle of Panipat (1526) which he won without fighting himself. This war was fought on religious lines with a call to convert India into an Islamic state because after defeating and beheading Hemachandra Vikramaditya (Hemu) in the second battle of Panipat, Akbar assumed the title of ‘Ghazi’ . He sent Hemu’s head to Kabul for display and had the trunk kept at one of the Delhi gates (p 29 V. Smith).
The “most tolerant” Mughal emperor had built a tower made of the heads of soldiers killed after winning this bloody war. Thus, a foreign invader, whose father and grandfather invaded and plundered India, is called “the Great” for defeating an Indian ruler and establishing a Mughal empire. It’s a parody of logic. According to this logic, even the English were also great.
The other dominant narrative woven by these “prominent” historians is that he was very tolerant of other religions. He was the most liberal, tolerant and least radical of all Mughal kings. Even though Akbar fought with Indian rulers, it was never on the basis of religion. His state policy did not single out a person on a religious basis. Nothing could be further from the facts. Imagine the level of distortion, fiction and myth created by those devotees of the great Mughals who wanted to read the past from the perspective of the present.
Interestingly, their case is not that Akbar did not kill innocent Hindus in the name of Islam or wage wars in the name of Islam against infidels, but that he was the least radical of all Mughals, especially the fanatical Aurangzeb.
None of these historians have ever refuted that Akbar slaughtered innocent people after conquering Chittor. Among the Mughals, Akbar destroyed fewer temples, making him “great”. So their story is that since Akbar killed fewer Hindus, he was therefore the best of the worst!
In his seminal book – The Great Mughal – Ira Mukhoty describes that in 1568 Akbar had captured the fort of Chittorgarh after a prolonged siege. After winning the battle, Akbar ordered a cold-blooded massacre of 40,000 innocent Hindus who were unarmed civilians, mostly peasants, and who had taken refuge in the fort in what she calls a “political aberrant scorched earth”. She further says that Chittor’s defeat was proclaimed to be Islam’s victory over the infidels and Akbar said he was “occupied in jihad”. Several temples were destroyed and hundreds of ordinary women in the city who could not commit Jauhar (a Hindu practice of mass self-immolation by women in the past) were captured.
According to James Todd, the famous oriental historian and scholar, “the tolerant Islamist Akbar” measured the “slain” by weighing their janeu (sacred thread). After sacking Chittor, the weight of the janeus was 74.5 mann (1 Mann = 40 kg). He further says – even if I only count the atrocities committed by Akbar, it will be a challenge to keep an account of all of them, for the record, the weight of a janeu is about 7 grammars.
Also, it is claimed that he married many Indian Rajput royal ladies which shows his secular credentials. But if we go by historical records, all marriages were for political reasons more than for any sense of secular or liberal attitude. It is common knowledge that Akbar had forcibly married Salima Sultana Begum, who was the wife of his regent, Bairam Khan. Vincent Smith in ‘Akbar-The Great Mogul’ (p 81) writes, “Akbar possessed an inordinate desire for women.” One of Akbar’s motives during his wars of aggression against various rulers was to appropriate their wives, daughters and sisters. He was the one who started Meena Bazar to get concubines for his harem.
Akbar was first a Muslim, then a king. His call for war was Islamic, the titles he got after defeating were Islamic. There is not even a single instance or proof that he destroyed even a single mosque after defeating a Muslim ruler! He used to send abundant money to Makkah on various occasions from the spoils of war.
It is claimed that he removed Jazia, which shows that he was tolerant. In fact, Jazia was taken down temporarily and that takedown was also not executed correctly. In 1582, Mughal Emperor Akbar banned Sati, but no one wondered if he banned the burqa or opened mosques for Muslim women? India’s most powerful Mughal ruler, Akbar – who in 1578 ensured that he was called Ghazi – chose to build the Illahabas fort which would later be called Allahabad.
It is also claimed that he enabled the construction and repair of Hindu temples. But the fact that the holy cities of Prayag and Benares, writes Vincent Smith (p 58), were plundered and destroyed by Akbar has been conveniently minimized. Monserrate, a contemporary of Akbar, writes (p 27), “The religious zeal of the Muslims has destroyed all the temples of idols which were once numerous. In place of the Hindu temples, countless tombs and small shrines have been erected .” Akbar destroyed several temples in the Indian subcontinent, but because he destroyed fewer temples than his successor Aurangzeb, he was “the Great”?
We need to revisit those rosy images of a foreign Muslim bigot making a rule and giving him the title “great”. This story of Akbar, the great, must be unwired and unmasked.
(This article is written by Rajiv Tuli, author and commentator. All views are personal.)