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

Akbar, Emperor of India »


By Richard von Garbe

Mahum Anaga came too late to save her son. Akbar sought with tender care to console her for his dreadful end but the heart—broken woman survived the fearful blow of fate only about forty days. The Emperor caused her body to be buried with that of her son in one common grave at Delhi, and he himself accompanied the funeral procession. At his command a stately monument was erected above this grave which still stands to—day. His generosity and clemency were also shown in the fact that he extended complete pardon to the accomplices in the murder of the grand vizier and even permitted them to retain their offices and dignities because he was convinced that they had been drawn into the crime by the violent Adham Chan. In other ways too Akbar showed himself to be ready to grant pardon to an almost incomprehensible extent. Again and again when an insubordinate viceroy in the provinces would surrender after an unsuccessful uprising Akbar would let him off without any penalty, thus giving him the opportunity of revolting again after a short time.

It was an eventful time in which Akbar arrived at manhood in the midst of all sorts of personal dangers.

I will pass over with but few comments his military expeditions which can have no interest for the general public. When Akbar ascended the throne his realm comprised only a very small portion of the possessions which had been subject to his predecessors. With the energy which was a fundamental characteristic of his nature he once more took possession of the provinces which had been torn from the empire, at the same time undertaking the conquest of new lands, and accomplished this task with such good fortune that in the fortieth year of his reign the empire of India covered more territory than ever before; that is to say, not only the whole of Hindustan including the peninsula Gujerat, the lands of the Indus and Kashmir but also Afghanistan and a larger part of the Dekkhan than had ever been subject to any former Padishah of Delhi. At this time while the Emperor had his residence at Lahore the phrase was current in India, “As lucky as Akbar.”[8]

[Footnote 8: J.T. Wheeler, IV, I, 180.]

It was apparent often enough in the military expeditions that Akbar far surpassed his contemporaries in generalship. But it was not the love of war and conquest which drove him each time anew to battle; a sincere desire inspired by a mystical spirit impelled him to bring to an end the ceaseless strife between the small states of India by joining them to his realm, and thus to found a great united empire.[9]

[Footnote 9: Noer, II, 8, 390, 423.]

More worthy of admiration than the subjugation of such large territories in which of course many others have also been successful, is the fact that Akbar succeeded in establishing order, peace, and prosperity in the regained and newly subjugated provinces. This he brought about by the introduction of a model administration, an excellent police, a regulated post service, and especially a just division of taxes.[10] Up to Akbar’s time corruption had been a matter of course in the entire official service and enormous sums in the treasury were lost by peculation on the part of tax collectors.

[Footnote 10: For the following compare Noer I, 391 ff.; M. Elphinstone, 529 ff.; G.B. Malleson, 172 ff., 185 ff.]

Akbar first divided the whole realm into twelve and later into fifteen viceregencies, and these into provinces, administrative districts and lesser subdivisions, and governed the revenues of the empire on the basis of a uniformly exact survey of the land. He introduced a standard of measurement, replacing the hitherto customary land measure (a leather strap which was easily lengthened or shortened according to the need of the measuring officer) by a new instrument of measurement in the form of a bamboo staff which was provided with iron rings at definite intervals. For purposes of assessment land was divided into four classes according to the kind of cultivation practiced upon it. The first class comprised arable land with a constant rotation of crops; the second, that which had to lie fallow for from one to two years in order to be productive; the third from three to four years; the fourth that land which was uncultivated for five years and longer or was not arable at all. The first two classes of acreage were taxed one—third of the crop, which according to our present ideas seems an exorbitantly high rate, and it was left to the one assessed whether he would pay the tax in kind or in cash. Only in the case of luxuries or manufactured articles, that is to say, where the use of a circulating medium could be assumed, was cash payment required. Whoever cultivated unreclaimed land was assisted by the government by the grant of a free supply of seed and by a considerable reduction in his taxes for the first four years.

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