Aolib.comFragment of Photochrom print of the front of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany (ca. 1897)

Akbar, Emperor of India »


By Richard von Garbe

[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: blechhaomai, mekhaomai], bloeken, 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 Bismilahi, “in the name of God,” there now appeared the old war cry Allahu 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 Ulemas 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 ’Ibadat Khana’ in Fathpur Sikri 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 Akbarname 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.

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