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By Richard von Garbe
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 Humayun. 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 Abdullatif, 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.”
[Footnote 4: A. Mueller, 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 Jehangir, 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. Mueller, II, 417.]
Akbar, the son of the dethroned Emperor Humayun, was born on October 14, 1542, at Amarkot in Sindh, two years after his father had been deprived of his kingdom by the usurper Sher Chan. After an exile of fifteen years, or rather after an aimless wandering and flight of that length, the indolent pleasure—and opium—loving Humayun was again permitted to return to his capital in 1555,–not through his own merit but that of his energetic general Bairam Chan, a Turk who in one decisive battle had overcome the Afghans, at that time in possession of the dominion. But Humayun 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 Bairam Chan assumed the regency as guardian of the realm or “prince—father” as it is expressed in Hindi, 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 Bairam Chan 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, Bairam Chan 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 Bairam Chan 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. Bairam Chan 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 Bairam Chan under his special protection.
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