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

Akbar, Emperor of India »


By Richard von Garbe

It is easily understood that many of the higher tax officials did not grasp the sudden break of a new day but continued to oppress and impoverish the peasants in the traditional way, but the system established by Akbar succeeded admirably and soon brought all such transgressions to light. Todar Mal held a firm rein, and by throwing hundreds of these faithless officers into prison and by making ample use of bastinado and torture, spread abroad such a wholesome terror that Akbar’s reforms were soon victorious.

How essential it was to exercise the strictest control over men occupying the highest positions may be seen by the example of the feudal nobility whose members bore the title “Jagirdar.” Such a Jagirdar had to provide a contingent of men and horses for the imperial army corresponding to the size of the estate which was given him in fief. Now it had been a universal custom for the Jagirdars to provide themselves with fewer soldiers and horses on a military expedition than at the regular muster. Then too the men and horses often proved useless for severe service. When the reserves were mustered the knights dressed up harmless private citizens as soldiers or hired them for the occasion and after the muster was over, let them go again. In the same way the horses brought forward for the muster were taken back into private service immediately afterwards and were replaced by worthless animals for the imperial service. This evil too was abolished at one stroke, by taking an exact personal description of the soldiers presented and by branding the heads of horses, elephants and camels with certain marks. By this simple expedient it became impossible to exchange men and animals presented at the muster for worthless material and also to loan them to other knights during muster.

The number of men able to bear arms in Akbar’s realm has been given as about four and a half millions but the standing army which was held at the expense of the state was small in proportion. It contained only about twenty—five thousand men, one—half of whom comprised the cavalry and the rest musketry and artillery; Since India does not produce first class horses, Akbar at once provided for the importation of noble steeds from other lands of the Orient which were famed for horse breeding and was accustomed to pay more for such animals than the price which was demanded. In the same way no expense was too great for him to spend on the breeding and nurture of elephants, for they were very valuable animals for the warfare of that day. His stables contained from five to six thousand well—trained elephants. The breeding of camels and mules he also advanced with a practical foresight and understood how to overcome the widespread prejudice in India against the use of mules.

Untiringly did Akbar inspect stables, arsenals, military armories, and shipyards, and insisted on perfect order in all departments. He called the encouragement of seamanship an act of worship[13] but was not able to make India, a maritime power.

[Footnote 13: Noer, II, 378.]

Akbar had an especial interest in artillery, and with it a particular gift for the technique and great skill in mechanical matters. He invented a cannon which could be taken apart to be carried more easily on the march and could be put up quickly, apparently for use in mountain batteries. By another invention he united seventeen cannons in such a way that they could be shot off simultaneously by one fuse.[14] Hence it is probably a sort of mitrailleuse. Akbar is also said to have invented a mill cart which served as a mill as well as for carrying freight. With regard to these inventions we must take into consideration the possibility that the real inventor may have been some one else, but that the flatterers at the court ascribed them to the Emperor because the initiative may have originated with him.

[Footnote 14: Noer, I, 429. The second invention, however, is questioned by Buchwald.]

(II, 372) because of the so—called “organ cannons” which were in use in Europe as early as the 15th century.

The details which I have given will suffice to show what perfection the military and civil administration attained through Akbar’s efforts. Throughout his empire order and justice reigned and a prosperity hitherto unknown. Although taxes were never less oppressive in India than under Akbar’s reign, the imperial income for one year amounted to more than $120,000,000, a sum at which contemporary Europe marveled, and which we must consider in the light of the much greater purchasing power of money in the sixteenth century.[15] A large part of Akbar’s income was used in the erection of benevolent institutions, of inns along country roads in which travelers were entertained at the imperial expense, in the support of the poor, in gifts for pilgrims, in granting loans whose payment was never demanded, and many similar ways. To his encouragement of schools, of literature, art and science I will refer later.

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