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

Akbar, Emperor of India »


By Richard von Garbe

With the conquest of Chitor which I have treated at considerable length because it ended in a typically Indian manner, the resistance of the Rajputs broke down. After Akbar had attained his purpose he was on the friendliest terms with the vanquished. It testifies to his nobility of character as well as to his political wisdom that after this complete success he not only did not celebrate a triumph, but on the contrary proclaimed the renown of the vanquished throughout all India by erecting before the gate of the imperial palace at Delhi two immense stone elephants with the statues of Jaymal, the “Lion of Chitor,” and of the noble youth Pata who had performed the most heroic deeds in the defense of Chitor. By thus honoring his conquered foes in such a magnanimous manner Akbar found the right way to the heart of the Rajputs. By constant bestowal of favors he gradually succeeded in so reconciling the noble Rajputs to the loss of their independence that they were finally glad and proud to devote themselves to his service, and, under the leadership of their own princes, proved themselves to be the best and truest soldiers of the imperial army, even far from their home in the farthest limits of the realm.

The great masses of the Hindu people Akbar won over by lowering the taxes as we have previously related, and by all the other successful expedients for the prosperity of the country, but especially by the concession of perfect liberty of faith and worship and by the benevolent interest with which he regarded the religious practices of the Hindus. A people in whom religion is the ruling motive of life, after enduring all the dreadful sufferings of previous centuries for its religion’s sake, must have been brought to a state; of boundless reverence by Akbar’s attitude. And since the Hindus were accustomed to look upon the great heroes and benefactors of humanity as incarnations of deity we shall not be surprised to read from an author of that time[17] that every morning before sunrise great numbers of Hindus crowded together in front of the palace to await the appearance of Akbar and to prostrate themselves as soon as he was seen at a window, at the same time singing religious hymns. This fanatical enthusiasm of the Hindus for his person Akbar knew how to retain not only by actual benefits but also by small, well calculated devices.

[Footnote 17: Badaoni in Noer, II, 320.]

It is a familiar fact that the Hindus considered the Ganges to be a holy river and that cows were sacred animals. Accordingly we can easily understand Akbar’s purpose when we learn that at every meal he drank regularly of water from the Ganges (carefully filtered and purified to be sure) calling it “the water of immortality,”[18] and that later he forbade the slaughtering of cattle and eating their flesh.[19] But Akbar did not go so far in his connivance with the Hindus that he considered all their customs good or took them under his protection. For instance he forbade child marriages among the Hindus, that is to say the marriage of boys under sixteen and of girls under fourteen years, and he permitted the remarriage of widows. The barbaric customs of Brahmanism were repugnant to his very soul. He therefore most strictly forbade the slaughtering of animals for purposes of sacrifice, the use of ordeals for the execution of justice, and the burning of widows against their will, which indeed was not established according to Brahman law but was constantly practiced according to traditional custom.[20] To be sure neither Akbar nor his successor Jehangir were permanently successful in their efforts to put an end to the burning of widows. Not until the year 1829 was the horrible custom practically done away with through the efforts of the English.

[Footnote 18: Noer, II, 317, 318.]

[Footnote 19: Ibid. 376, 317.]

[Footnote 20: J.T. Wheeler, IV, I, 173; M. Elphinstone, 526; G.B. Malleson, 170.]

Throughout his entire life Akbar was a tirelessly industrious, restlessly active man. By means of ceaseless activity he struggled successfully against his natural tendency to melancholy and in this way kept his mind wholesome, which is most deserving of admiration in an Oriental monarch who was brought in contact day by day with immoderate flattery and idolatrous veneration. Well did Akbar know that no Oriental nation can be governed without a display of dazzling splendor; but in the midst of the fabulous luxury with which Akbar’s court was fitted out and his camp on the march, in the possession of an incomparably rich harem which accompanied the Emperor on his expeditions and journeys in large palatial tents, Akbar always showed a remarkable moderation. It is true that he abolished the prohibition of wine which Islam had inaugurated and had a court cellar in his palace, but he himself drank only a little wine and only ate once a day and then did not fully satisfy his hunger at this one meal which he ate alone and not at any definite time.[21] Though he was not strictly a vegetarian yet he lived mainly on rice, milk, fruits and sweets, and meat was repulsive to him. He is said to have eaten meat hardly more than four times a year.[22]

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