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By Richard von Garbe
[Footnote 1: E. Schlagintweit, Indien in Wort und Bild, II, 26 f.]
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.” 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. Mueller, Der Islam im Morgen—und Abendland, II, 300 f.]
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 Jelaleddin 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.
[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. Mueller, Der Islam im Morgen—und Abendland, Vol. II, Berlin, 1887; but especially Count F.A. von Noer, Kaiser Akbar, ein Versuch ueber 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.
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