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Chapter 2 – From 1586 to the Death of Akber

Akber interferes in the disputes of the Deckan

After Mozaffer had been driven into the peninsula, Akber began to take part in the disputes of the Deckan (in 1586). His first attempts failed, as will hereafter be related; and before long he was fully occupied by the affairs of his own northern dominions.

Akber moves to Attok on the Indus

In the year 1585 his brother, Mirza Hakim, died; and, although he had no difficulty in taking the territories held by that prince into his immediate possession, yet he heard, about the same time, that Mirza Soliman had been driven out of Badakhshan by Abdullah, the Khan of the Uzbeks; and it was probably apprehension of the further progress of that formidable neighbour which chiefly induced him to go in person to Cabul. Abdullah Khan, however, was contented with Badakhshan; and as Akber made no attempt to recover that possession of his family, the peace remained undisturbed. The emperor was now in the neighbourhood of the northern mountains, a great portion of which was comprised within his dominions; and he was engaged by this circumstance in wars of a new description, attended with greater difficulties than any he had yet encountered.

Conquest of Cashmir

The first was the conquest of Cashmir. That celebrated kingdom is an extensive plain, situated

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in the heart of the Hemalaya mountains, and more than half way up their height. Placed, by its elevation, above the reach of the heat of Hindostan, and sheltered by the surrounding mountains from the blasts of the higher regions, it enjoys a delicious climate, and exhibits, in the midst of snowy summits, a scene of continual verdure, and almost of perpetual spring. Trees belonging to different climates are scattered over its surface, while fruits of various kinds and flowers of innumerable descriptions are poured forth with spontaneous profusion over the hills and plains. The level country is watered by rills, which issue from the valleys or fall in cascades down the mountains, and collect in different places, especially in two lakes, whose varied banks and floating gardens are the great boast of the valley.

This terrestrial paradise can only be approached by difficult and dangerous passes. The road, though a steep ascent on the whole, often rises and descends over rocky ridges; sometimes winds through long and close defiles; and sometimes runs along the face of precipices overhanging deep and rapid rivers. The higher part of the mountain, from whence the descent into Cashmir commences, is at one season further obstructed, and in some places rendered impassable, by snow.

Cashmir had been ruled by a long succession of Hindu, and sometimes, perhaps, of Tartar princes, from a very remote period till the beginning of the fourteenth century, when it fell into the hands of a

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Mahometan adventurer, and was held by princes of the same religion till the time of Akber’s invasion132.

1586, AH 994

The hopes of that enterprising monarch were excited by distractions which prevailed among the reigning family; and while at Attok, in 1586, he sent a detachment, under Shah Rokh Mirza, the son of Mirza Soliman (who had entered his service when driven out of Badakhshan), and his own brother-in-law, Raja Bhagwan Das of Jeipur, to take possession of the prize thus exposed to hazard by the contention of its owners.

The obstacles already mentioned, especially the snow, retarded the progress of the army; and although it, at last, penetrated through a pass which had not been guarded, yet its supplies had been exhausted in these unproductive and inaccessible mountains, and the remaining difficulties seemed so considerable that the two chiefs entered into a treaty with the ruling power of Cashmir, by which the sovereignty of Akber was acknowledged, but his practical interference with the province forbidden. The emperor disapproved of this engagement;

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and next year sent another army, whose efforts were attended with more success. The dissensions which prevailed in Cashmir extended to the troops stationed to defend the pass: part came over to the Moguls; the rest quitted their post and retired to the capital. The barrier once surmounted, Cashmir lay at the mercy of the invaders. The king submitted, was enrolled among the nobles of Delhi, and was assigned a large jagir in Behar. Akber afterwards made a journey to Cashmir to enjoy the pleasures of his new conquest. He only repeated his visit twice during the rest of his reign; but Cashmir became the favourite summer retreat of his successors, and still maintains its celebrity as the most delicious spot in Asia, or in the world.

Wars with the north-eastern Afghans

Though Akber’s next operations were not unprovoked like those against Cashmir, they were opposed with much greater obstinacy, and terminated with less success. They were directed against the north-eastern tribes of the Afghans, who inhabit the hilly countries round the plain of Peshawer.

Description of those tribes and of their country

The plain is of great extent and prodigious fertility, combining the productive soil of India with many of the advantages of the temperate countries in the west. It is bounded on the north by the great chain of Hindu Cush; on the west by the high range of Soliman; and on the south by a lower range, called the hills of Kheiber, which extends from that of Soliman to the Indus. This tract forms about one tenth of the proper country

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of the Afghans. Its inhabitants are now called Berduranis, and are distinguished from the other Afghans by some peculiarities of dialect and manners.

The northern part belongs to the Eusofzeis, who are by much the most considerable of these north-eastern tribes, and who afford a good specimen of the rest. Their territory includes the northern part of the plain of Peshawer, and stretches up the mountains to the snowy ridge of Hindu Cush, embracing some valleys of thirty or forty miles in length, and corresponding breadth, from each of which other valleys run up on both sides; all rivalling Cashmir in climate and beauty, and all ending in narrow glens, hemmed in by high precipices or lost in woods and forests. Such a country is full of intricacy and obstruction to an invading army, but affords easy communications to the natives, who know the passes from one valley to another, and who are used to make their way even when there is no path to assist them. The original population was Indian, consisting, probably, of descend-ants of the ancient Paropamisadae133. It had, at a comparatively recent period, been conquered and reduced to a sort of villanage by certain Afghan tribes; and they, in their turn, were dispossessed, about a century before this period, by the Eusofzeis, a tribe from near Candahar, which had just suffered a similar expulsion from its native seats. With such possessions, and with their numerous

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vassals, the Eusofzeis added the pride of wealth to the independence natural to mountaineers; and their self-importance was increased by their democratic constitution. Though each of their clans had a hereditary chief, he had no authority in time of peace, except to consult the people and to make known their wishes to the other clans. Internal affairs were conducted by the inhabitants of each village; causes were tried by a sort of jury, and meetings for one or other purpose were constantly held in the public apartment of the village, which served also as a place of relaxation for the inhabitants, and of entertainment to guests or passing strangers. The land was equally divided; and equality was maintained by new distributions of it from time to time. The Indian vassals were well treated, but they had no share in the government; and the conquerors were not more distinguished by their fair complexions than the superiority apparent in their demeanour.

The other tribes inhabiting the plains and the lower bills to the south had been longer settled there, and had had more intercourse with the Mahometans of India; but some of those in the Solimani mountains had a still more rugged country and less civilised manners than the Eusofzeis. The emperor Baer had endeavoured to bring the north-eastern tribes under his dominion, and partially succeeded with some. He failed entirely with the Eusofzeis, though he employed the Means of conciliation as well as destructive inroads into the accessible part of their country.

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Sect of the Roushenias

The present quarrel originated in a fanatical spirit, which had sprung up, many years before, among this portion of the Afghans. A person, named Bayazid, had then assumed the character of a prophet; had set aside the Koran, and taught that nothing existed except God, who filled all space, and was the substance of all forms. The Divinity despised all worship and rejected all mortifications; but he exacted implicit obedience to his prophet, who was the most perfect manifestation of himself. The believers were authorised to seize on the lands and property of infidels, and were promised, in time, the dominion of the whole earth. Bayazid soon formed a numerous sect (which took the name of Roushenia, or enlightened), and established his authority in the hills of Soliman and Kheiber, with an influence over the neighbouring tribes. He was so long successful, that the government was obliged to make an exertion to put him down. His own presumption and the blind confidence of his followers led him to meet the royal troops in the plain. He was defeated with great slaughter, and died soon after of fatigue and vexation134. His sons dug up his bones, and bore them in an ark, at the head of their column; but they ceased to be formidable beyond their hills till about 1585, when one of the youngest, named Jelala, assumed the command, and exercised it with such vigour,

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that the ordinary government of Cabul was found incompetent to resist him. When prince Hakim died, and Cabul came directly under Akber, the government was given to Raja Man Sing, whose talents and connection with the emperor were supported by the forces which he could draw from his hereditary dominions. Even these advantages did not prove effectual; and one of the professed objects of Akber’s expedition to the Indus was to settle the Afghans. With this view he sent successive detachments from his camp on the east bank of the Indus; and commenced his operations by an attack on the Eusofzeis, although they had long before quarrelled with the Roushenias, and renounced the tenets of the sect.

Destruction of the invading army by the Eusofzeis

The chief commanders in the force detached were Zein Khan, the emperor’s foster-brother, and Raja Bir Bal, his greatest personal favourite. So great was the importance attached to this expedition, that Abul Fazl relates that he himself drew lots with Bir Bal who should command one of the divisions, and was much mortified by being disappointed in this opportunity of distinguishing himself:

1586, January; AH 994, Safar

his brother Feizi accompanied the force135. The open country was soon overrun and laid waste; but on Raja Bir Bal’s advancing up one of the valleys, he found himself, by degrees, involved among defiles, where there was no outlet, and was at last obliged to give up the enterprise, and retrace

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his steps to the plain. Zein Khan showed more perseverance: he made his way through many rugged and dangerous mountains, and even built a redoubt in a place convenient for controlling the neighbourhood; but his troops were by this time so much exhausted by fatigue, and so much harassed by the increasing numbers and audacity of their enemies, that he was compelled to form a junction with Bir Bal; and both combined would have been unable to pursue their operations if they had not received further reinforcements from Akber.

They now resumed their plan of invasion. Bir Bal was on bad terms with Zein Khan, and it was contrary to the strongest remonstrances of the latter that they determined to risk their whole force in a desperate attack on the Afghans. The resolution taken, they advanced into the mountains. They soon came to a strong pass, which Bir Bal succeeded in ascending; but on reaching the top, after a day of fatigue, he was set on by the Afghans, with such effect, that his men dispersed, and made their way, as they best could, to the plain. Zein Khan, who had remained at the foot of the pass was attacked at the same time, and defended himself with difficulty, during the night and part of the next day, when both chiefs were at last enabled to come to a halt, and to collect their scattered forces. Zein Khan recommended that they should endeavour to capitulate with the enemy; but Bir Bal could not be prevailed on to accede to

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any of his suggestions; and, having received information that the Afghans intended to complete the ruin of the army by a night attack, he marched off his troops without consulting Zein Khan, and endeavoured to make his way through a defile, which would have afforded him the means of retreating to the open country. The intelligence was probably given for the purpose of drawing him into an ambuscade, for he had no sooner reached the gorge at the head of the pass, than he was assailed on all sides by the Afghans, who overwhelmed him with showers of stones and arrows, and, rushing down the sides of the hills, fell, sword in hand, on his astonished soldiers. All attempts to preserve order on his part were vain; men, horses, and elephants were huddled together in their flight down the defile; and Bir Bal himself, with several other chiefs of note, were slain in the rout and slaughter which ensued. Nor was Zein Khan more fortunate in his position on the plain: for, although during the day he kept up an orderly retreat, amidst swarms of archers, matchlock men, and slingers; yet, after a short respite which he was allowed in the evening, the alarm of “The Afghans !” was again raised, and his troops fled in disorder, during the darkness of the night, losing many men killed, and more prisoners, while he, himself, escaped on foot, and made his way with difficulty to Attok136.

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The news of this disaster spread alarm in the emperor’s camp. One of his sons, Prince Morad, under the guidance of Raja Todar Mal, was ordered out with a force to check the approach of the Afghans. After the first apprehension had subsided, the prince was recalled, and the force left under the command of Todar Mal and Raja Man Sing.

Akber refused to see Zein Khan, and was long inconsolable for the death of Bir Bal. As the raja’s body was never found, a report gained currency that he was still alive among the prisoners: and it was so much encouraged by Akber, that, a long time afterwards, an impostor appeared in his name; and as this second Bir Bal died before he reached the court, Akber again wore mourning as for his friend. Bir Bal’s favour was owing to his companionable qualities, no less than to his solid merit. He was a man of very lively conversation,

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and many of his witty sayings are still current in India137.

The Eusofzeis made no attempt to pursue their advantages. Todar Mal and Man Sing took up and fortified positions in different parts of the country, and prevented the Eusofzeis from cultivating their portion of the plain. By these means, according to Abul Fazl, they were reduced to unqualified submission; and, in reality, some temporary agreement or tacit understanding was brought about, so as to leave Man Sing at liberty to act against the Roushenias, under Jelala, in the southern and western hills.

1586, AH 995

Accordingly, in the course of the same summer, he marched against them; and, after being exposed to considerable hazard, he succeeded in gaining a partial success.

1587, AH 995

The Roushenias, however, stood their ground, and the ascendancy of the government was not restored till the next year, when a combined attack was made by Man Sing, from Cabul, and a force detached by Akber, to cross the Indus to the south of the salt range, and come in on the enemy from their rear.

From 1587 to 1600

Jelala was at that time completely defeated; he, however, almost immediately renewed his operations, which were kept up for many years, and were sometimes aided by contests between the government and the Eusofzeis, which produced no permanent results. During this time, it was the policy of the Moguls

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to prevent the cultivation of the fertile plains and valleys; so that Jelala was often compelled, by want of supplies; to leave the strong countries he occupied, and expose himself to the risk of battles on more equal ground. He was several times obliged to fly to the mountains of the Cafirs, and once to the court. of Abdullah, the Khan of the Uzbeks: still he always returned and renewed his attacks; and in 1600, he was in sufficient strength to obtain possession of the city of Ghazni.

This was the last of Jelala’s exploits. He was soon driven out of the city; and, being repulsed and wounded in an attempt which he afterwards made to recover it, he was pursued On his retreat, and was overtaken and killed before he could make his way to a place of safety.

The religious war was continued by his successors, during the two next reigns (of Jehangir and Shah Jehan); and when, at last, the enthusiasm of the Roushenias wore out, the free spirit of the Afghans, which had owed nothing to its success, survived its extinction: the north-eastern tribes were never more formidable than in the reign of Aurangzib; and the Eusofzeis have resisted repeated attacks from the Mogul emperors, and afterwards from the kings of Persia and Cabul, and retain their turbulent independence undiminished to the present day138.

Imperfect settlement at the end of fifteen Years

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The nature of the war with Jelala had not, latterly, been such as to prevent Akber’s employing his troops in the adjoining countries. It was some years before the death of that leader, that he made the important acquisitions of Sind and Candahar.

Conquest of Sind

1591, AH 999

The province of Sind had passed from the Arghuns139 into another family of military adventurers, and Akber took advantage of some dissensions which afterwards took place among these new usurpers, to endeavour to recover that old possession of the kings of Delhi. He sent an army from Lahor, where he was himself at the time, to enter Sind from the north, and lay siege to the fort of Sehwan, the key to Lower Sind, and a place of great importance to the security of the whole province.

The success of this attempt was prevented by the chief of Sind, who drew near with his army,

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and intrenched himself in such a situation that Akber’s general could neither attack him nor carry on the siege while he was so near.

1592, AH 1000

This difficulty was surmounted by the sagacity of the emperor himself. He sent another detachment to enter Sind by the way of Amercot; and, by thus distracting the attention of the chief, deprived him of the advantages of his position, and before long, reduced him to give up the province. He received very favourable terms, and was appointed by Akber, according to that monarch’s practice, to a high rank among the nobles of the empire.

It is mentioned in the “Akbernameh” that the chief of Sind employed Portuguese soldiers in this war, and had also 200 natives dressed as Europeans. These were, therefore, the first Sepoys in India.

The same chief is also said to have had a fort defended by an Arab garrisons the first instance in which I have observed any mention of that description of mercenaries, afterwards so much esteemed.

Recovery of Candahar

After the treacherous seizure of Candahar by Humayun, the king of Persia made several at tempts to recover possession. He had no success until the beginning of Akber’s reign, when the divided state of the monarchy enabled him to effect his purpose. Similar disorders in the early part of the reign of Shah Abbas gave a corresponding advantage to Akber. The Persian chiefs fell out

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1594, AH 1003

among themselves; one of them fled to India; and all parties ultimately turned their eyes to the same quarter; so that, at length, both the town and territory fell, without a blow, into the hands of the Mogul prince.

These proceedings led to no quarrel with Persia: Shah Abbas was fully employed at home, and, being desirous of Akber’s assistance against the Uzbeks, he soon after renewed the friendly intercourse which had long been suspended between the courts, and patiently waited his opportunity of recovering Candahar; which did not present itself till after the death of Akber.

Complete settlement of Hindostan

The acquisition of Candahar placed Akber in complete possession of his hereditary kingdom beyond the Indus (the war with the north-eastern Afghans being now confined to the mountains): and nearly at the same time he had completed the conquest of Hindostan Proper. Sind had fallen in 1592; the last attempt at rebellion in Cashmir was quashed about the same time; the reduction of Bengal was completed by the submission of Orissa; and all disturbances in Guzerat terminated by the death of Mozaffer in 1593; so that the whole of Hindostan to the Nerbadda was more under Akber’s authority than it had been under any former king. The rana of Oudipur, indeed, continued unsubdued; but the other Rajput chiefs were changed from jealous tributaries to active and attached adherents.

Expedition to the Deckan

The next object for Akber was to extend his

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dominions over the Deckan. As early as 1586 he had taken up the cause of Burhan, a brother of Murtezza Nizam Shah, the fourth king of Ahmednagar, who claimed to administer the government on the ground of the mental derangement of its actual possessor. An expedition sent by Akber from Malwa to support this claim had failed, and Burhan remained for some years under Akber’s protection. At a later period (1592), after his brother’s death, Burhan acquired possession of his hereditary kingdom without any aid from Akber; but he found it divided by internal faction, and engaged in war with his neighbour the king of Bijapur. All these distractions were increased on the death of Burhan. That event happened after a short reign; and in 1595 there were no less than four parties in the field, each supporting a separate claimant. The chief of the party that was in possession of the capital had recourse to the aid of the Moguls; and, at his invitation, Prince Morad entered the Deckan from Guzerat, and Mirza Khan, the Khani Khanan, from Malwa, the two armies forming a junction within a short distance of Ahmednagar.

1595, about November; AH 1004, about the end of Rabi ul Akhir Chand Sultana

But, in the mean time, the chief by whom they were called in had been obliged to leave the capital, and it was now in the hands of Chand Sultana, or Chand Bibi, one of the most distinguished women that have ever appeared in India. This princess was acting as regent for her infant nephew, Bahadur Nizam Shah, and she no sooner was aware of the approach of the Moguls

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than she applied herself to conciliate the king of Bijapur, her relation, and at the same time to reconcile the heads of the other internal parties; that all might, for a time at least, unite to resist the power whose ambition threatened equal danger to them all. So successful was her appeal, that one of the chiefs, Nehang, an Abyssinian, immediately set out to join her, and cut his way into Ahmednagar while the Moguls were in the act of investing the place: the other two likewise laid aside their private animosities, and joined the army of Bijapur, then marching against the Moguls.

Her defence of Ahmednagar

These preparations increased the eagerness of Prince Morad. He pressed on the siege, and had already run two mines under the works, when they were discovered and rendered useless by the countermines of the besieged, Chand Bibi herself superintending the workmen, and exposing herself to the same dangers as the rest. The third mine was fired before the means taken to render it ineffectual were completed: the counterminers were blown up, a wide breach was made in the wall, and such a sudden terror was struck among those who defended it, that they were on the point of deserting their posts and leaving the road open to the storming party which was advancing. But they were soon recalled by Chand Bibi, who flew to the breach in full armour, with a veil over her face and a naked sword in her hand; and having thus checked the first assault of the Moguls, she continued her exertions till every power within

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the place was called forth against them: matchlock-balls and arrows poured on them from the works; guns were brought to bear upon the breach; rockets, gunpowder, and other combustibles were thrown among the crowd in the ditch; and the garrison in front opposed so steady a resistance, that, after an obstinate and bloody contest, which lasted till evening, the Moguls were obliged to draw off their troops and postpone the renewal of the assault till the next day. But the garrison and inhabitants had been raised to enthusiasm by the example of the regent; and, as her activity and energy were not slackened during the night, the Moguls found, when the day dawned, that the breach had been built up to such a height as to render it impossible to mount it without new mines. Meanwhile the confederates drew near; and, though the Moguls were still superior in the field, they were unwilling to risk all on the chance of a battle. Chand Bibi, on the other hand, was well aware of the precarious duration of a combination like the present; and both parties were well satisfied to come to terms, the king of Ahmednagar surrendering to the emperor his claims on Berar, of which he had recently made a conquest140.

Peace agreed on AH 1004, Rajab; 1596, about February

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War renewed, and extended to the whole of the Deckan

The Moguls had not long withdrawn, when fresh dissensions broke out in Ahmednagar. One Mohammed Khan, whom Chand Bibi had appointed peshwa141, or prime minister, plotted against her authority, and finally applied for aid to Prince Morad. The prince was already engaged in a dispute with the Deckan princes about the boundaries of Berar; both parties had once more recourse to hostilities, and before the expiration of a year from the peace they again met each other in the field in greater force than before.

1596, December, or January 1597

The king of Candesh, who acknowledged himself Akber’s subject, appeared on his side on this occasion, while the king of Golconda had now joined his forces to those of Bijapur and Ahmednagar. The battle took place on the river Godaveri: though maintained with great fury for two days, its result was indecisive. The Moguls claimed the victory, but made no attempt to advance; and their ill success, together with the disagreement between Prince Morad and the Khani Khanan, induced Akber to recall them both. Abul Fazl (the author), who was his prime minister, and had been lately in temporary disgrace, was sent to remove the prince; and, if necessary, to take the command of the army.

Akber goes in person to the Deckan

His representations convinced Akber that his own presence was required: he

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therefore left the Panjab towards the end of 1598 (after a residence of fourteen years in the countries near the Indus); and before the middle of 1599 he arrived on the river Nerbadda. The strong fortress of Doulatabad had been taken before he appeared; several other hill forts fell about the same time; and as soon as the royal army reached Burhanpur, on the Tapti, a force was sent forward under his son, Prince Dania, and the Khani Khanan, to lay siege to Ahmednagar. Chand Bibi’s government was now in a more disturbed state than ever. Nehang, the Abyssinian chief, who had joined her in Ahmednagar at the beginning of the former siege, was now besieging her.

Death of Chand Sultana

He drew off on the approach of the Moguls; but the intestine disturbances still rendered a defence hopeless; and Chand Bibi was negotiating a peace with the Moguls, when the soldiery, instigated by her factious opponents, burst into the female apartments and put her to death. Their treason brought its own reward: in a few days the breach was practicable; the storm took place; the Moguls gave no quarter to the fighting men; and the young king, who fell into their hands, was sent prisoner to the hill fort of Gwalior.

Taking of Ahmednagar 1600, about July; AH 1009, Safar

But the fall of the capital did not produce the submission of the kingdom. Another pageant king was set up, and the dynasty was not finally extinguished till the reign of Shah Jehan, in 1637.

Conquest of Candesh Akber returns to Hindostan

Before the siege of Ahmednagar, a disagreement had taken place between Akber and his vassal,

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the former king of Candesh, which induced the emperor to annex that country to his immediate dominions. The military operations which ensued occupied Akber for nearly a year, and it was not till some months after the storm of Ahmednagar that the reduction of the province was completed by the fall of Asirghar, when Akber appointed Prince Danial viceroy of Candesh and Berar, with the Khani Khanan for his adviser; and marched, himself, to Agra, leaving the command in the Deckan and the prosecution of the conquest of Ahmednagar to Abul Fazl.

Spring of 1601, end of AH 1009 Refractory conduct of his eldest son, Selim

Before his departure Akber had received embassies and presents from the kings of Bijapur and Golconda, and had married his son Danial to the daughter of the former prince142. Akber’s return to Hindostan was rendered necessary by the refractory conduct of his eldest son Selim143. The prince, who was now turned of thirty, does not appear to have been deficient in natural abilities; but his temper had been exasperated, and his understanding impaired, by the excessive use of wine and opium144. He had always looked on Abul

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Fazl as his mortal enemy; and the temporary disgrace of that minister, and his subsequent removal to the Deckan, were concessions made by Akber to the complaints and jealousy of his son. On his own departure for the Deckan, Akber declared Selim his successor, appointed him viceroy of Ajmir, and committed to him the conduct of the war with the rana of Oudipur, sending Raja Man Sing to assist him with his arms and counsels. After much loss of time Selim set forth on this duty, and had made some progress in the fulfilment of it, when intelligence arrived of the revolt under Osman in Bengal, of which province Man Sing was the viceroy. He immediately set off for his government; and Selim, now free from all control, and seeing the emperor’s whole force employed in other quarters, was tempted to seize on the provinces of Hindostan for himself.

1600, about November; AH 1009, Shaban

He marched to Agra; and, as the governor of that city contrived to elude his demands for its surrender, he proceeded to Allahabad, and took possession of the

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surrounding countries of Oud and Behar. He at the same time seized on the local treasure, amounting to thirty lacs of rupees (300,000l.) and assumed the title of king. However much Akber may have been afflicted by this conduct, he determined not to drive his son to extremities. He wrote a temperate letter, warning him of the consequences of his conduct, and assuring him of his own undiminished affection, if he would in time return to the path of his duty. As these remonstrances were soon followed by Akber’s return to Agra, Selim replied in the most submissive terms, and actually marched as far as Etayah with the professed intention of waiting on his father. Whether he in reality intended his approach to be hostile, or entertained apprehensions for his own safety, he spared no efforts to raise troops, and had assembled such a body that Akber sent to desire him to advance slightly attended, or else to return to Allahabad. Selim chose the latter course. It is not improbable that this retreat was procured by negotiation; for it was soon followed by a grant of Bengal and Orissa by Akber to his son, and by renewed professions of fidelity and devotion on the part of the latter.

Murder of Abul Fazl

During this deceitful calm, the prince had an opportunity, which he did not let slip, of revenging his own supposed injuries, while he inflicted the severest blow on the feelings of his father. Abul Fazl had at this time been recalled from the Deckan, and was advancing with a small escort towards Gwalior,

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when he fell into an ambuscade laid for him by Narsing Deo, raja of Orcha in Bundelcand, at the instigation of Prince Selim; and although he defended himself with great gallantry, he was cut off with most of his attendants, and his head sent to the prince145.

1602, AH 1011

Akber was deeply affected by the intelligence of this event. He shed abundance of tears, and passed two days and nights without food or sleep. He immediately sent a force against Narsing Deo, with orders to seize his family, ravage his country, and exercise such severities as on other occasions he never permitted. He does not seem to have known of his son’s share in the crime: so far from interrupting his intercourse with him, he sent Selima Sultana, one of his wives, who had adopted Selim after his own mother’s death, to endeavour to soothe his mind and bring about an entire reconciliation.

Reconciliation of Akber with Selim

This embassy was attended with the desired effect. Selim soon after repaired to court and made his submission. Akber received him with his usual kindness, and conferred on him the privilege of using the royal ornaments. Selim was

1603, AH 1012

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Continued misconduct of Selim

soon after again dispatched with a force against the rana of Oudipur; but he protracted his march on various pretences, and showed so little disposition to involve himself in a permanent contest of that nature, that Akber, desirous to avoid a rupture at all costs, sent him leave to return to his almost independent residence of Allahabad. Here he gave himself up more than ever to debauchery. He had always entertained a peculiar dislike for his eldest son, Prince Khusru, whose own levity and violence seem to have given him reason for his displeasure. Some circumstance in their disputes at this time so affected Khusru’s mother (the sister of Raja Man Sing) that she swallowed poison, and thus added a fresh sting to the already inflamed mind of her husband. Selim’s irascibility now became so great that his attendants were afraid to approach him; and he was guilty of cruelties which had been so long disused that they excited horror among all who heard of them, and which were peculiarly repugnant to the humane nature of Akber146.

The emperor was much perplexed as to the course to pursue, and determined to try the effect of a personal interview with his son. He therefore set off for Allahabad, and had advanced one or two

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marches, when he heard of the alarming illness of his own mother, and returned just in time to receive her last breath.

On hearing of this journey, and the cause of its suspension, Selim perhaps animated by some sense of duty or natural affection, or perhaps conceiving that his interests would be best served by his presence at court, determined to repair to Agra, and to submit in good earnest to his father.

He is placed under restraint, and soon after released

On reaching Agra he was kindly received, but was for a short time placed under restraint; and either to lessen the disgrace of his confinement, or to prevent his indulging in his usual excesses, he was put under the care of a physician. Before long he was restored to freedom and to favour.

His quarrels with his own son, Khusru

Still the violence of his temper does not appear to have abated; and his jealousy of his son Khusru led to such a disorderly scene at an elephant fight in Akber’s presence, that he was in imminent danger of again incurring the public displeasure of the emperor. Khusru took up the quarrel with as much vehemence as his father, and did all he could to exasperate Akber against him. It is even probable that Khusru had, long ere this, entertained views of supplanting his father in the succession; and Selim, in his Memoirs, appears to have been convinced that Akber at one time had serious thoughts of such a supersession147; but the real favourite with Akber, as well as with Selim himself, was

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Khurram148, the third and youngest son of the latter; and their preference of that prince was among the principal causes of the discontent of his elder brother.

Death of Danial, Akber’s third son

Akber had, some years before, lost his second son, Morad: he now received accounts of the death of his third son, Danial, who fell a victim to intemperance in the thirtieth year of his age. His health having already received a severe shock from his excess, he was obliged to pledge his word to his father to leave off the use of wine, and was so surrounded by people of the emperor’s, that he was unable to gratify his propensity, which had become irresistible. His resource was to have liquor secretly conveyed to him in the barrel of a fowling piece; and having thus again free access to indulgence, he soon brought his life to a close. This calamity was felt by Akber in the degree that was to be expected from the strength of his attachments; and it is probable that his domestic afflictions, and the loss of his intimate friends, began to prey upon his spirits and undermine his health.

Sickness of Akber

He appears to have been for some time ill149, when, in the middle of September, 1605, his complaint came on with additional violence, accompanied by total loss of appetite; and it became apparent, before long, that there were little hopes of his recovery. For the last ten days he was confined to his bed; and although he appears to have

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retained his faculties to the last, he was no longer capable of taking part in business.

Intrigues regarding the succession

From this time all eyes were directed to the succession, and the court became an arena for the struggles of the contending parties. Selim was the acknowledged heir, and the only remaining son of the emperor; but his rebellion had weakened his reputation, and he was now in a sort of disgrace, removed from his troops, and from all those over whom he was accustomed to exercise authority.

Unsuccessful combination to set aside Selim

On the other hand, Raja Man Sing was maternal uncle to Khusru, who was moreover married to the daughter of Aziz, the Khan i Azim, the first of Akber’s generals; and those great personages, foreseeing an increase to their own power in the succession of their young relation, took immediate measures for securing the palace, which forms also the citadel of Agra, and made all dispositions for placing Khusru on the throne. Selim was now justly alarmed for his personal safety, and forebore visiting the palace on pretence of illness. His son, Prince Khurram, though only a boy, disregarded both his father’s injunctions and his own danger, and declared that he would never quit his grandfather while he continued to live. Akber was distressed by his son’s absence, of which he surmised the cause. He repeatedly expressed his anxiety to see him, and again pronounced him the lawful successor to the kingdom, while he expressed his desire that Khusru should be provided for by a grant of the province of Bengal. These declarations, together with the

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exertions of some of the most respectable nobles, who still adhered to Selim, had a great effect in drawing off the inferior chiefs who had attached themselves to the opposite party; and Aziz soon perceived that he was likely to be deserted if he persevered, and took the prudent course of opening a private negotiation with Selim. Man Sing, whose influence depended on the loyalty of his followers to himself and not to the emperor, was not exposed to the same danger; but finding himself left alone, and having received flattering overtures from Selim, he also at length promised his support to the heir apparent, who now repaired to the palace, and was affectionately received by the dying monarch. The last moments of Akber are only recorded by his successor.

Death of Akber. 1605, AH 1014. October 13.

He says that, at this interview, Akber desired him to bring all his omrahs into the chamber where he was lying; “for” said he “I cannot bear that any misunderstanding should subsist between you and those who have, for so many years, shared in my toils and been the companions of my glory.” When they were assembled he delivered a suitable address to them; and, after wistfully regarding them all round, he desired them to forgive any offences of which he might have been guilty towards any of them. Selim now threw himself at his feet, and burst into a passion of tears; but Akber pointed to his favourite scymitar, and made signs to his son to bind it on in his presence. He seems afterwards to have recovered from this exhaustion: he addressed himself to Selim, and

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earnestly conjured him to look to the comfort of the ladies of his family, and not to forget or forsake his old friends and dependents. After this he permitted one of the chief mullahs, who was a personal friend of Selim’s, to be brought to him, and in his presence he repeated the Mahometan confession of faith, and died in all the forms of a good Mussulman150.

His character

Akber is described as a strongly built and handsome man, with an agreeable expression of countenance, and very captivating manners151. He was endowed with great personal strength and activity. In his youth he indulged in wine and good living, but early became sober and abstemious, refraining from animal food on particular days, making altogether nearly a fourth part of the year. He was

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always satisfied with very little sleep, and frequently spent whole nights in those philosophical discussions of which he was so fond. Although so constantly engaged in wars, and although he made greater improvements in civil government than any other king of India; yet, by his judicious distribution of his time, and by his talents for the dispatch of business, he always enjoyed abundant leisure for study and amusement. He was fond of witnessing fights of animals, and all exercises of strength and skill; but his greatest pleasure was in hunting, especially in cases like the destruction of tigers, or the capture of herds of wild elephants, which gave a scope to his enjoyment of adventure and exertion. He sometimes also underwent fatigue for the mere pleasure of the exercise, as when he rode from Ajmir to Agra (220 miles) in two successive days, and in many similar journeys on horseback, besides walks on foot of thirty or forty miles in a day. His history is filled with instances of romantic courage, and he seems to have been stimulated by a sort of instinctive love of danger as often as by any rational motive. Yet he showed no fondness for war: he was always ready to take the field and to remain there, exerting all his talents and energy, while his presence was required; but when the fate of a war was once decided, he returned to the general government of his empire, and left it to his lieutenants to carry on the remaining military operations. These were, in some cases, very long protracted; but his conquests, when concluded,

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were complete; and no part of India, except that near the capital, can be said to have been thoroughly subdued until his time. He was not free from ambition; but as the countries he invaded had been formerly subject to Delhi, he would have incurred more blame than praise among his contemporaries if he had forborne from attempting to recover them.


132. The History of Cashmir called the “Raj Taringi” is remarkable, as the only specimen of that department of literature in the Shanscrit language. It is executed by four different hands; the first of whom wrote in A. n. 1148, but quotes the works of earlier historians with a precision that gives confidence in his accuracy. The early part, as in all history, is fabulous, but it gradually approaches to consistency in facts and dates until about 600, from which period the chronology is perfectly accurate. (Wilson’s History of Cashmir, Transactions of the Asiatic Society, vol. xv. pp. 3. 85.)

133. See vol. i. p. 450.

134. Dr. Leyden’s Account of the Raushenia Sect, Asiatic Researches, vol. ii. p. 363.

135. Akbernameh.

136. Akbernameh. Muntakhab ul Tawarikh. Khafi Khan. Abul Fazl must have been minutely informed of the real history of this transaction; but his anxiety to soften the disgrace of Akber’s arms, and to refrain from any thing that may reflect on Bir Bal, was so great, that his account is confused and contradictory, and I have been obliged to supply his deficiencies from the “Muntakhab ul Tawarikh.” As a proof of the defects I have ascribed to him, I may mention that, although he gives a full and even eloquent description of the total destruction of the army, he concludes by stating the loss at 500 men. Khafi Khan, with equal inaccuracy, asserts that of 40,000 or 50,000 horse and foot, not a single person escaped alive. The defeat seems to have taken place in the mountains of Swat, and the names given to the passes are Karah, or Karah-Korah, and Bilandzei.

137. Chiefly from the Muntakhab ul Tawarikh.

138. Abul Fazl’s account of these wars is a curious specimen of his adulation and his inconsistency. Immediately after Mir Bal’s calamity (that is, in the first year of the war), he says: “The highlands were soon cleared of the rubbish of rebellion. Many were killed, and a large number took refuge in Iran and Turan (Persia and Tartary); and thus the countries of Bajaur, Swad, and Tirah, which are rarely to be equalled in the world for their climate and fertility, and the plenty of their fruits, were cleansed of these wicked wretches.” Yet this alleged conclusion of the war does not prevent Abul Fazl’s relating the various events which took place during the course of it in the remaining fifteen years that are included in his history. He even accounts for Akber’s fourteen years’ stay in the Panjab, by “his being at one time engaged in suppressing the Tajiks (Roushenias), and at another in reducing the inhabitants of the northern hills.” (Chalmers’s MS. Translations of the Akbernameh.)

139. See pp. 144. 685, 686.

140. Chand Bibi is the favourite heroine of the Deckan, and is the subject of many fabulous stories. Even Khafi Khan mentions her having fired silver balls into the Mogul camp; and the common tradition at Ahmednagar is, that when her shot was expended, she loaded her guns successively with copper, with silver, and with gold coin, and that it was not till she had begun to fire away jewels, that she consented to make peace.

141. The title of peshwa (i.e. leader) had been used under the Bahmani sovereigns. It has since become famous as that under which the Bramin ministers of the raja of Satara so long governed the Maratta empire.

142. The account of the operations in the Deckan is from the “Akbernameh,” and Ferishta, especially his “History of Ahmednagar,” vol. iii.

143. Afterwards the Emperor Jehangir.

144. His own account is, that in his youth he used to drink at least twenty cups of wine a day, each cup containing half a sir (six ounces, i. e. nearly half a pint); and that if he was a single hour without his beverage, his hands began to shake, and he was unable to sit at rest. After he came to the throne, he says, he drank only five cups (i. e. little more than a quart), and only took it after nightfall. It does not appear how long he adhered to this sobriety. (Price’s Jehangir, pp. 6, 7.) Drinking seems to have been the vice of the age among the Mahometan kings and great men: Baler and Humayun both drank hard: the princes of Turk dynasties seem all to have had the same propensity; and even the Sofis of Persia, so lately elevated by the sanctity of their family, not only drank to excess in private, but made their piles of cups and flagons of gold and jewels compose a great part of the splendour of their court.

145. Selim, in his Memoirs, written after he was emperor, acknowledges the murder, and defends it on the ground that Abul Fazl had persuaded Akber to renounce the Koran, and to deny the divine mission of Mahomet. On the same ground he justifies his own rebellion against his father. (Price’s Memoirs of Jehangir, p. 33.) One of his first acts after his accession was to promote the murderer, Narsing Deo (who had escaped the unrelenting pursuit of Akber), to a high station, and he always continued to treat him with favour and confidence.

146. On one occasion Selim ordered an offender to be flayed alive, and Akber could not conceal his disgust when he heard of it, but said he wondered how the son of a man who could not see a dead beast flayed without pain could be guilty of such cruelty to a human being.

147. Price’s Memoirs of Jehangir, p. 33.

148. Afterwards Shah Jehan.

149. Price’s Memoirs of Jehangir, p. 70.

150. Akber was buried near Agra. His tomb is thus described by Bishop Heber. The central building “is a sort of solid pyramid, surrounded externally with cloisters, galleries, and domes, diminishing gradually on ascending it, till it ends in a square platform of white marble surrounded by the most elaborate lattice-work of the same material, in the centre of which is a small altar tomb, also of white marble, carved with a delicacy and beauty which do full justice to the material, and to the graceful forms of the Arabic characters which form its chief ornament.” (Bishop Heber’s Narrative, vol. i. p. 587.) This immense pile served as quarters to an European regiment of dragoons for a year or two after the first conquest of that territory by the British.

151. Price’s Memoirs of Jehangir, p. 45. The following is the account given of him by the Portuguese Jesuits who went to visit him from Goa. He was about “fifty years old, white like an European, and of sagacious intellect. He received them with singular affability, &c.” (Murray’s Discoveries in Asia, vol. ii. p. 89.)

This collection transcribed by Chris Gage
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