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

Akbar, Emperor of India »


By Richard von Garbe

Akbar also introduced a new uniform standard of coinage, but stipulated that the older coins which were still current should be accepted from peasants for their full face value. From all this the Indian peasants could see that Emperor Akbar not only desired strict justice to rule but also wished to further their interests, and the peasants had always comprised the greatest part of the inhabitants, (even according to the latest census in 1903, vol. I, p. 3, 50 to 84 percent of the inhabitants of India live by agriculture). But Akbar succeeded best in winning the hearts of the native inhabitants by lifting the hated poll tax which still existed side by side with all other taxes.

The founder of Islam had given the philanthropical command to exterminate from the face of the earth all followers of other faiths who were not converted to Islam, but he had already convinced himself that it was impossible to execute this law. And, indeed, if the Mohammedans had followed out this precept, how would they have been able to overthrow land upon land and finally even thickly populated India where the so—called unbelievers comprised an overwhelming majority? Therefore in place of complete extermination the more practical arrangement of the poll tax was instituted, and this was to be paid by all unbelievers in order to be a constant reminder to them of the loss of their independence. This humiliating burden which was still executed in the strictest, most inconsiderate manner, Akbar removed in the year 1565 without regard to the very considerable loss to the state’s treasury. Nine years later followed the removal of the tax upon religious assemblies and pilgrimages, the execution of which had likewise kept the Hindus in constant bitterness towards their Mohammedan rulers.

Sometime previous to these reforms Akbar had abolished a custom so disgusting that we can hardly comprehend that it ever could have legally existed. At any rate it alone is sufficient to brand Islam and its supreme contempt for followers of other faiths, with one of the greatest stains in the history of humanity. When a tax—collector gathered the taxes of the Hindus and the payment had been made, the Hindu was required “without the slightest sign of fear of defilement” to open his mouth in order that the tax collector might spit in it if he wished to do so.[11] This was much more than a disgusting humiliation. When the tax—collector availed himself of this privilege the Hindu lost thereby his greatest possession, his caste, and was shut out from any intercourse with his equals. Accordingly he was compelled to pass his whole life trembling in terror before this horrible evil which threatened him. That a man of Akbar’s nobility of character should remove such an atrocious, yes devilish, decree seems to us a matter of course; but for the Hindus it was an enormous beneficence.

[Footnote 11: Noer, II, 6, 7; G.B. Malleson, 174, 175.]

Akbar sought also to advance trade and commerce in every possible way. He regulated the harbor and toll duties, removed the oppressive taxes on cattle, trees, grain and other produce as well as the customary fees of subjects at every possible appointment or office. In the year 1574 it was decreed that the loss which agriculture suffered by the passage of royal troops through the fields should be carefully calculated and scrupulously replaced.

Besides these practical regulations for the advancement of the material welfare, Akbar’s efforts for the ethical uplift of his subjects are noteworthy. Drunkenness and debauchery were punished and he sought to restrain prostitution by confining dancing girls and abandoned women in one quarter set apart for them outside of his residence which received the name aitanpura or “Devil’s City.”[12]

[Footnote 12: J.T. Wheeler, IV, I, 173; Noer, I, 438 n.]

The existing corruption in the finance and customs department was abolished by means of a complicated and punctilious system of supervision (the bureaus of receipts and expenditures were kept entirely separated from each other in the treasury department,) and Akbar himself carefully examined the accounts handed in each month from every district, just as he gave his personal attention with tireless industry and painstaking care to every detail in the widely ramified domain of the administration of government. Moreover the Emperor was fortunate in having at the head of the finance department a prudent, energetic, perfectly honorable and incorruptible man, the Hindu Todar Mal, who without possessing the title of vizier or minister of state had assumed all the functions of such an office.

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