But it is to his internal policy that Akber owes his place in that highest order of princes, whose reigns have been a blessing to mankind; and that policy shows itself in different shapes, as it affects religion or civil government. Akber’s tolerant spirit was displayed early in his reign, and appears to have been entirely independent of any doubts on the divine origin of the Mahometan faith. It led him however to listen, without prejudice, to the doctrines of other religions, and involved him in enmity with the bigoted members of his own; and must thus have contributed to shake his early belief, and to dispose him to question the infallible authority of the Koran. The political advantages of a new religion, which should take in all classes of his subjects, could not fail, moreover, to occur to him.
In the first part of his reign, he was assiduous in visiting sacred places, and in attendance on holy men: even in the twenty-first year of his reign, he spoke seriously of performing the pilgrimage to Mecca; and it was not till the twenty-fourth year (1579), that he made open profession of his latitudinarian opinions.
It is not impossible that some even of the holy persons whom he visited may have held the free
notions common with particular sects of Mahometan ascetics; but the blame of corrupting Akber’s orthodoxy is thrown by all Mussulman writers on Feizi and his brother Abul Fazl. These eminent persons were the sons of a learned man named Mobarik, who was probably a native of Nagor, and who, at one time, taught a college or school of law and divinity at Agra. He was at first a Sunni, but turned Shia; and afterwards took to reading the philosophical works of the ancients, and became a freethinker, or, according to his enemies, an atheist. So great a persecution was raised against him on this account, that he was constrained to give up his school, and fly with his family from Agra. His sons conformed, in all respects, to the Mahometan religion; though it is probable that they never were deeply imbued with attachment to the sect.
Feizi was the first Mussulman that applied himself to a diligent study of Hindu literature and science. It does not appear whether his attention was directed to these researches by Akber, or whether he undertook them of his own accord. It was, however, by the aid and under the direction of the emperor that he conducted a systematic inquiry into every branch of the knowledge of the Bramins. Besides Shanscrit works in poetry152 and
philosophy, he made a version of the “Bija Ganita” and “Lilawati” of Bhascara A charya, the best Hebrew books on algebra and arithmetic.
He likewise superintended translations made from the Shanscrit by other learned men, including one, at least, of the Vedas, the two great historical and heroic poems the “Maha Bharat” and “Ramayana,” and the “History of Cashmir,” the only specimen of that sort of composition in Shanscrit prose153.
Akber’s acquisitions of this nature were not confined to Shanscrit. He prevailed on a Christian priest, whom Abul Fazl calls Padre Farabatun, and describes as learned in science and history, to come from Goa, and undertake the education of a few youths destined to be employed in translating the productions of Greek literature into Persian. Feizi himself was directed to make a correct version of the Evangelists154.
Feizi was first presented to Akber in the twelfth
year of his reign, and introduced Abul Fazl six years later, in 1574.
Those brothers soon became the intimate friends and inseparable companions of their sovereign. They not only were the confidants of all his new opinions in religion, and his advisers in his patronage of literature, both in foreign countries and in his own, but were consulted and employed in the most important affairs of government. Feizi was sent on a special embassy to the kings of the Deckan previous to the invasion of that country; and Abul Fazl lived to attain the highest military rank, and to hold the office of prime minister. Akber’s distress at the loss of Abul Fazl has been mentioned, and the account of his behaviour at the death of Feizi is the more to be relied on as it is given by an enemy. It was midnight when the news was brought to him that Feizi was dying; on which he hastened to his apartment, but found him already nearly insensible: he raised his head, and called out to him, with a familiar term of endearment, “Shekhji! I have brought Ali the physician to you; why do not you speak?” Finding that he received no answer, he threw his turban on the ground and burst into the strongest expressions of sorrow. When he had recovered his composure, he went to Abul Fazl, who had withdrawn from the scene of death, and remained for some time endeavouring to console him, before he returned to his palace155.
Along with Feizi and Abul Fazl, there were many other learned men of all religions about the court; and it was the delight of Akber to assemble them, and sit for whole nights assisting at their philosophical discussions. His regular meetings were on Friday; but he often sent for single Bramins or Mahometan Sufis on other occasions, and entered into long inquiries regarding the tenets of their different schools156.
Some specimens of the discussions at those meetings (probably imaginary ones) are given in the “Dabistan,” a learned Persian work on the various religions of Asia.
The fullest is a dialogue between a Bramin, a Mussulman, a worshipper of fire, a Jew, a Christian, and a philosopher157. The representative of each religion brings forth his arguments; which are successively condemned, some on account of the vicious character of their founders, and all for the absurdity of their doctrines, and the want of proof of their alleged miracles. The philosopher winds up the discourse by recommending a system which shall have no ground but reason and virtue. An account of a real debate of this kind is given in the “Akbernameh.” It was carried on before an assembly of the learned of all religions, between Padre Redif, a Christian priest, and a body of Mahometan mullahs: a decided advantage, both in temper and argument, is given to the Christian. It was concluded by Akber’s reproving the mullahs for their violence, and expressing his own opinion that God could only be adequately worshipped by following reason, and not yielding implicit faith to any alleged revelation158.
The religion of Akber himself may be inferred from what has been said. It seems to have been pure deism; in addition to which some ceremonies were permitted in consideration of human infirmity. It maintained that we ought to reverence God according to the knowledge of him derived from our own reason, by which his unity and benevolence are sufficiently established; that we ought to serve him, and to seek for our future happiness by subduing our bad passions, and practising such virtues as are beneficial to mankind; but that we should not adopt a creed, or practise a ritual, on the authority of any MAN, as all were liable to vice and error like ourselves. If it were absolutely necessary for men to have some visible object of adoration, by means of which they might raise their soul to the Divinity, Akber recommended that the sun, the
planets, or fire, should be the symbols. He had no priests, no public worship, and no restrictions about food, except a recommendation of abstinence, as tending to exalt the mind. His only observances were salutations to the sun, prayers at midnight and day-break, and meditations at noon on the sun. He professed to sanction this sort of devotion, from regard to the prejudices of the people, and not from his own belief in their efficacy. It is, indeed, related by Abul Fazl, that, being once entreated to pray for rain, he refused, observing that God knew our wants and wishes better than we did ourselves, and did not require to be reminded, to exert his power for our benefit. But as Akber practised all his ceremonies, as well as permitted them, it may be doubted whether they had not gained some hold on his imagination. He seems to have been by nature devout, and, with all his scepticism, to have inclined even to superstitions that promised him a closer connection with the Deity than was afforded by the religion which his reason approved. To this feeling we may ascribe, among other instances, the awe and veneration with which he adored the images of Jesus Christ and the Virgin, when they were shown to him by the missionaries159.
Notwithstanding the adulation of his courtiers, and some expressions in the formulae of his own religion, Akber never seems to have entertained the least intention of laying claims to supernatural
illumination. His fundamental doctrine was, that there were no prophets; his appeal on all occasions was to human reason; and his right to interfere at all with religion was grounded on his duty as civil magistrate160.
He took the precaution, on promulgating his innovations, to obtain the legal opinions of the principal Mahometan lawyers, that the king was the head of the church, and had a right to govern it according to his own judgment161, and to decide all disputes among its members; and, in his new confession of faith, it was declared that “There was no God but God, and that Akber was his calif.”
In the propagation of his opinions, Akber confined himself to persuasion, and made little progress except among the people about his court and a few learned men; but his measures were much stronger in abrogating the obligations of the Mussulman religion, which, till now, had been enforced by law. Prayers, fasts, alms, pilgrimages, and public worship were left optional: the prohibition of unclean animals, that of the moderate use of wine, and that of gaming with dice, were taken off; and circumcision was not permitted until the age of twelve, when the person to undergo it could judge of the propriety of the rite162.
Some of the other measures adopted seemed to go beyond indifference, and to show a wish to discountenance the Mahometan religion. The aera of the Hijra and the Arabian months were changed for a solar year, dating from the vernal equinox nearest the king’s accession, and divided into months named after those of ancient Persia. The study of the Arabic language was discouraged: Arabian names (as Mohammed, Ali, &c.) were disused. The ordinary salutation of Salam alekum! (Peace be unto you!) was changed into Allaho Akber! (God is most great !); to which the answer was, Jilli Jelalihu! (May his brightness shine forth!)163. Even wearing the beard, a practice enjoined by the Koran, was so offensive to Akber, that he would scarcely admit a person to his presence who conformed to it. This last prohibition gave peculiar disgust to the Mahometans, as did a regulation introducing on certain occasions the Persian custom of prostration (or kissing the ground, as it was called) before the king; a mark of respect regarded by the Mahometans as exclusively appropriated to the Deity.
As the Hindus had not been supported by the government, Akber had less occasion to interfere with them; and, indeed, from the tolerant and inoffensive character of their religion, he seems to have had little inclination. He however forbade trials by ordeal, and marriages before the age of
puberty, and the slaughter of animals for sacrifice.
He also permitted widows to marry a second time, contrary to the Hindu law164: above all, he positively prohibited the burning of Hindu widows against their will, and took effectual precautions to ascertain that their resolution was free and uninfluenced. On one occasion, hearing that the raja of Jodpur was about to force his son’s widow to the pile, he mounted his horse and rode post to the spot to prevent the intended sacrifice165.
His most important measures connected with the Hindus were of a purely favourable nature, but had been adopted many years before his innovations in religion. His employment of them equally with Mahometans began with his assumption of the government. In the seventh year of his reign he abolished the jezia or capitation tax on infidels; an odious impost which served to keep up animosity between people of the predominant faith and those under them. About the same time he abolished all taxes on pilgrims; observing that, “although the tax fell on a vain superstition, yet, as all modes of worship were designed for one great Being, it was wrong to throw an obstacle in the way of the devout, and to cut them off from their mode of intercourse with their Maker166.”
Another humane edict, issued still earlier (1561), though not limited to any one class, was, in practice, mainly beneficial to the Hindus: it was
a prohibition against making slaves of persons taken in war. It appears that in the previous disturbances this abuse had been carried to such a height, that not only was it practised towards the wives and children of garrisons who stood a storm, but even peaceable inhabitants of a hostile country were seized and sold for slaves. All this was positively prohibited.
Although Akber’s religious innovations were not all introduced at once, and although some of those found to be particularly obnoxious to censure were cancelled or confined to the palace, yet they did not fail to excite great discontent among the stricter Mussulmans, and especially among the mullahs, whose disgust was increased by some changes affecting lands granted for religious purposes, which took place in the course of the general revenue reform. The complaints of these classes are zealously set forth by an author already often referred to167, who accuses Akber of systematic depression of the Mussulman religion, and even of persecution of such persons as distinguished themselves by adhering to it. It is not improbable that he showed some prejudice against those who were active in opposing him; and he certainly restricted his patronage to the more com-pliant; but in all the instances of harsh language and conduct to individuals, brought forward by this writer, Akber seems to have been justified by particular
acts of disrespect or factious conduct. The cases in question are not confined to mullahs. One of his principal courtiers was ordered out of the royal apartment for attacking his proceedings, and asking what he imagined orthodox princes of other countries would say of them ? and another, who applied the epithet “hellish” to the king’s advisers, was told that such language deserved to be answered by a blow. The most considerable of these malecontents was Aziz (the Khan i Azim), who was Akber’s foster-brother, and one of his best generals. This nobleman having been long absent in the government of Guzerat, his mother prevailed on Akber to invite him to come to court. Aziz excused himself; and it appeared that his real objection was to shaving his beard and performing the prostration. Akber, on this, wrote him a good-humoured remonstrance; but, Aziz persevering, he sent him a positive order to come to the capital. Aziz, on this, threw up his government; and after writing an insolent and reproachful letter to Akber, in which he asked him if he had received a book168 from heaven, or if he could work miracles like Mahomet, that he presumed to introduce a new religion, warned him that he was on the way to eternal perdition, and concluded with a prayer to God to bring him back into the path of salvation. After this explosion of zeal he embarked for Mecca
without leave or notice. In a short time, however, he found his situation irksome in that country, and returned to India, where he made his submission, and was restored at once to his former place in the emperor’s favour and confidence.
But although this sort of opposition was surmounted, Akber’s religion was too spiritual and abstracted to be successful with the bulk of mankind. It seems never to have gone beyond a few philosophers and some interested priests and courtiers; and, on Akber’s death, it expired of itself, and the Mussulman forms were quietly and almost silently restored by Jehangir. The solar year was retained for some time longer, on account of its intrinsic advantages. A liberal spirit of inquiry, however, survived the system to which it owed its rise; and if extrinsic causes had not interrupted its progress, it might have ripened into some great reform of the existing superstitions.
Akber cannot claim the merit of originality for his doctrines. The learned Hindus had always maintained the real unity of God, and had respected, without believing, the mythological part of their creed. The Cabir Pantis, a Hindu sect which sprung up nearly a century before Akber, had come still nearer to his views; and from them he appears to have borrowed some of the arbitrary parts of his religions rules: still he excelled all his predecessors in his conception of the Divine nature; and the general freedom which he allowed to private judgment was a much more generous effort
in a powerful monarch than in a recluse reformer, himself likely to be an object of persecution169.
Akber’s revenue system, though so celebrated for the benefits it conferred on India, presented no new invention. It only carried the previous system into effect with greater precision and correctness: it was, in fact, only a continuation of a plan commenced by Shir Shah, whose short reign did not admit of his extending it to all parts of kingdom.
The objects of it were – 1. To obtain a correct measurement of the land. 2. To ascertain the amount of the produce of each bigah170 of land, and to fix the proportion of that amount that each ought to pay to the government. 3. To settle an equivalent for the proportion so fixed, in money.
1. For the first purpose Akber established an uniform standard to supersede the various measures formerly employed even by public officers. He also improved the instruments of mensuration, and he then deputed persons to make a complete measurement of all the lands capable of cultivation within the empire.
2. The assessment was not so simple as the measurement. The land was divided into three classes, according to its fertility; the amount of each sort of produce that a bigah of each class would yield was ascertained: the average of the three was assumed as the produce of a bigah, and one third of that produce formed the government demand171. But this assessment seems to have been only designed to fix a maximum; for every cultivator who thought the amount claimed too high, might insist on an actual measurement and division of the crop.
As lands of equal fertility might be differently circumstanced in other respects, the following classification was formed for modifying that first mentioned:–
1. Land which never required a fallow paid the full demand every harvest. 2. Land which required fallows only paid when under cultivation. 3. Land which had suffered from inundation, &c., or which had been three years out of cultivation and required some expense to reclaim it, paid only two fifths for the first year, but went on increasing till the fifth year, when it paid the full demand. 4. Land which had been more than five years out of cultivation enjoyed still more favourable terms for the first four years.
It is not explained in the “Ayeni Akberi” how the comparative fertility of fields was ascertained. It is probable that the three classes were formed for each village, in consultation with the inhabitants, and the process would be greatly facilitated by another classification made by the villagers for their own use, which seems to have subsisted from time immemorial. By that distribution, all the land of every village is divided into a great many classes, according to its qualities; as black mould, red mould, gravelly, sandy, black mould mixed with stones, &c. Other circumstances are also considered, such as command of water, vicinity to the village, &c.; and great pains are taken so to apportion the different descriptions among the cultivators as to give equal advantages to all.
3. The quantity of produce due to the government being settled, it was next to be commuted for a money payment. For this purpose, statements of prices current for the nineteen years preceding the
survey were called for from every town and village; and the produce was turned into money according to the average of the rates shown in those statements. The commutation was occasionally reconsidered, with reference to the actual market prices; and every husbandman was allowed to pay in kind if he thought the money rate was fixed too high.
All these settlements were at first made annually; but their continual recurrence being found to be vexatious, the settlement was afterwards made for ten years, on an average of the payments of the preceding ten.
The prolongation of the term mitigated another evil inherent in the system; for, as the assessment varied with the sort of cultivation, it had all the effect of a tithe in indisposing the husbandman to cultivate a richer description of produce, which, though it might yield a greater profit, would have a higher tax to pay at the next settlement.
The above measurements and classifications were all carefully recorded; the distribution of land, and increase or diminution of revenue, were all yearly entered into the village registers agreeably to them; and they still continue in use, even in parts of India which had not been conquered in Akber’s time, and where their own merits have since introduced them.
At the same time when Akber made these improvements respecting the land tax, he abolished a vast number of vexatious taxes and fees to officers.
He also made a new revenue division of the country into portions, each yielding a crore (i.e.
10,000,000) of dams, equal to 250,000 rupees, or 25,000l.; the collector of each of which was called the crori. This arrangement did not last, and the ancient Hindu division is again universally established.
The result of these measures was, to reduce the amount of the public demand considerably, but to diminish the defalcation in realising it; so that the profit to the state remained nearly the same; while the pressure on individuals was much lessened. Abul Fazl even asserts that the assessment was lighter than that of Shir Shah, although he professed to take only one fourth of the produce, while Akber took one third.
Akber’s instructions to his revenue officers have come down to us, and show his anxiety for the liberal administration of his system, and for the ease and comfort of his subjects. Some particulars of his mode of management also appear in those instructions. There is no farming of any branch of the revenue, and the collectors are enjoined, in their agreements and collections, to deal directly with individual cultivators, and not to depend implicitly on the headman and accountant of the village172.
On the whole, this great reform, much as it promoted the happiness of the existing generation, contained no principle of progressive improvement, and held out no hopes to the rural population by opening paths by which it might spread into other occupations, or rise by individual exertions
within its own. No mode of administration, indeed, could effect these objects as long as the subdivision of land by inheritance checked all extensive improvement in husbandry, at the same time that it attached to the soil those members of each family who might have betaken themselves to commerce, or other pursuits, such as would have increased the value of raw produce, and raised the price of agricultural labour, by diminishing the competition for that species of employment.
The author of the reform was Raja Todar Mal, by whose name it is still called everywhere. The military services of this minister have already been mentioned. Abul Fazl describes him as entirely devoid of avarice, and quite sincere, but of a malicious and vindictive temper, and so observant of the fasts and other superstitions of the Hindu religion, as to draw down on him reproof even from Akber173.
Though we have not a particular explanation of Akber’s system in other departments, as we have in that of revenue, a general notion of it may be made out from his instructions to his officers174.
The empire was divided into fifteen subahs or provinces175. The chief officer in each was the
viceroy (sipah salar), who had the complete control, civil and military, subject to the instructions of the king.
Under him were the revenue functionaries above mentioned, and also the military commanders of districts (foujdars), whose authority extended over the local soldiery or militia, and over all military establishments and lands assigned to military purposes, as well as over the regular troops within their jurisdiction; and whose duty it was to suppress all disorders that required force within the same limits.
Justice was administered by a court composed of an officer named mir adel (lord justice), and a cazi. The latter conducted the trial and stated the law; the other passed judgment, and seems to have been the superior authority; the distinction probably arising from the modifications introduced by the will of the prince and the customs of the country into the strict Mahometan law, of which the cazi was the organ.
The police of considerable towns was under an officer called the cotwal in smaller places it was under the revenue officer; and in villages, of course, under the internal authorities.
The tone of instructions to all these functionaries is just and benevolent, though by no means exempt from the vagueness and puerility that is natural to Asiatic writings of this sort.
Those to the cotwal keep up the prying and meddling character of the police under a despotism: they prohibit forestalling and regrating, &c.; and,
in the midst of some very sensible directions, there is an order that any one who drinks out of the cup of the common executioner shall lose his hand; a law worthy of Menu, and the more surprising as the spirit of all the rules for administering justice is liberal and humane. A letter of instructions to the governor of Guzerat, preserved in a separate history of that province, restricts his punishments to putting in irons, whipping, and death; enjoining him to be sparing in capital punishments, and, unless in cases of dangerous sedition, to inflict none until he has sent the proceedings to court and received the emperor’s confirmation. Capital punishment is not to be accompanied with mutilation or other cruelty176.
Amidst the reforms of other departments, Akber did not forget his army. If it had cost a long and dangerous struggle to bring that body to submit to orders, it scarcely required a less exertion, at a later period, to introduce economy and efficiency into the management of it.
It had been usual to grant lands and assignments on the revenue, and leave the holder to realise them without check; while musters were irregular and deceptive, being often made up by servants and camp followers mounted for the day on borrowed horses.
Akber put a stop to the first of these abuses, by paying the troops in cash from the treasury whenever it was practicable; and establishing checks on
jagirs, where such existed. The other was cured by rendering musters necessary before pay, by describing every man’s features and person on the roll, and branding every horse with the king’s mark that ever had been numbered in his service. Camels, oxen, carts, and all things necessary for the movement of troops, were also mustered and paid at fixed rates.
But even in its highest state of perfection the army was not very well organised. It was not divided into bodies, each of a certain number, and with a fixed proportion of officers: the system was, for the king to name officers as he thought necessary, who were called mansabdars, and who were divided into classes, of commanders of 10,000, commanders of 5000, &c., down to commanders of 10. These numbers, in all but the lowest classes, were merely nominal, and were adopted to fix the rank and pay of the holders. Each entertained whatever number he was specially authorised to keep (sometimes not a tenth of his nominal command), and that number was mustered, and paid from the treasury. Their united quotas made up the army; and when a force went on service, the king appointed the commander, and some of the chief officers, below whom there was, probably, no chain of subordination, except what arose from each man’s authority over his own quota. None but the king’s sons held a rank above the command of 5000; and of the latter class there were only thirty persons, including princes of the blood and
Rajput rajas. The whole number, down to commanders of 200, was not 450177.
Each mansabdar was required to keep half as many infantry as horsemen; and of the infantry, a fourth were required to be matchlockmen: the rest might be archers.
Besides these troops under mansabdars, there was a considerable body of the best description of horsemen, who took service individually, and were called ahdis (i.e. single men, or individuals). Their pay depended on their merits; it was always much higher than that of a common horseman. These last, if from beyond the Indus, received 25 rupees a month; and if Indian, 20. The matchlockmen received 6 rupees at most, and the archers as low as 2½.
The mansabdars were very liberally paid178, but no part of their emoluments or commands were hereditary. On a chief’s death, the king conferred some rank generally a moderate one at first – on his son, and added a pension if the father’s merits entitled him to it.
We have no means of guessing the number of the troops. In later times, Aurangzib was conjectured to have had 200,000 effective cavalry179, besides artillery and undisciplined infantry. It is not likely that Akber had as many. Abul Fazl says the local militia of the provinces amounted to 4,400,000; but this is probably an exaggerated account of those bound by their tenure to give a limited service in certain cases: probably few could be called on for more than a day or two to beat the woods for a hunting party; and many, no doubt, belonged to hill rajas and tribes who never served at all.
Besides the fort of Attok, already mentioned, many military works were erected by Akber. The walls and citadels of Agra and Allahabad much surpass the rest: they are lofty curtains and towers of cut stone, with deep ditches, and ornamented, in the Indian way, with turrets, domes, and battlements; each of the gateways being a stately edifice that would make a suitable entrance to a royal palace. He also built and fortified the town of Fattehpur Sikri, which was his principal residence, and which, though now deserted, is one of the most splendid specimens that remain of the former grandeur of India.180
The same methodical system was carried through all branches of Akber’s service: The “Ayeni Akberi” (Regulations of Akber) by Abul Fazl, from which the above account of the civil and military arrangements is mostly taken, contains a minute description of the establishment and regulations of every department, from the Mint and the Treasury down to the fruit, perfumery, and flower offices, the kitchen, and the kennel. The whole presents an astonishing picture of magnificence and good order; where unwieldy numbers are managed without disturbance, and economy is attended to in the midst of profusion.
The extent of these establishments appears from the work just mentioned, and the contemporary historians181; but the effect can be best judged of
by the descriptions of the Europeans, who saw them in Akber’s own time, or under the reign of his immediate successor, Jehangir.
His camp equipage consisted of tents and portable houses, in an inclosure formed by a high wall of canvass skreens, and containing great halls for public receptions, apartments for feasting, galleries for exercise, and chambers for retirement; all framed of the most costly materials, and adapted to the most luxurious enjoyment.
The inclosure was 1530 yards square. The tents and wall were of various colours and patterns within, but all red on the outside, and crowned with gilded globes and pinnacles, forming a sort of castle in the midst of the camp. The camp itself showed like a beautiful city of tents of many colours, disposed in streets without the least disorder, covering a space of about five miles across, and affording a glorious spectacle when seen at once from a height182.
The greatest displays of his grandeur were at the annual feasts of the vernal equinox, and the king’s birthday. They lasted for several days, during which there was a general fair and many processions and other pompous shows. The king’s usual place was in a rich tent, in the midst of awnings to keep off the sun. At least two acres were thus spread with silk and gold carpets and hangings, as rich as velvet, embroidered with gold, pearl,
and precious stones, could make them183. The nobility had similar pavilions, where they received visits from each other, and sometimes from the king; dresses, jewels, horses, and elephants were bestowed on the nobility; the king was weighed in golden scales against silver, gold, perfumes, and other substances, in succession, which were distributed among the spectators. Almonds and other fruits, of gold and silver, were scattered by the king’s own hand, and eagerly caught up by the courtiers, though of little intrinsic value. On the great day of each festival, the king was seated on his throne, in a marble palace, surrounded by nobles wearing high heron plumes and “sparkling with diamonds like the firmament184.” Many hundred elephants passed before him in companies, all most richly adorned, and the leading elephant of each company with gold plates on its head and breast, set with rubies and emeralds185.
Trains of caparisoned horses followed; and after them, rhinoceroses, lions, tigers and panthers, hunting leopards, hounds, and hawks186; the whole concluding with an innumerable host of cavalry glittering with cloth of gold.
In the midst of all this splendour, Akber appeared with as much simplicity as dignity. He is thus described by two European eye-witnesses,
with some parts of whose account I shall close his history187. After remarking that he had less show or state than other Asiatic princes, and that he stood or sat below the throne to administer justice, they say, that “he is affable and majestical, merciful, and severe;” that he is skilful in mechanical arts, as “making guns, casting ordnance, &c.; of sparing diet, sleeps but three hours a day, curiously industrious, affable to the vulgar, seeming to grace them and their presents with more respective ceremonies than the grandees; loved and feared of his own, terrible to his enemies188.”
[Blank page, footnote moved.]
152. He translated the “Nala and Damyanta,” an episode of the “Maha Bharat.” (See Vol. I. p. 299.) Feizi was likewise author of a great deal of original poetry, and of other works, in Persian. He seems to have been more studious and less a man of the world than Abul Fazl.
153. Muntukhab ul Tawarikh.
154. The taste for literature and accomplishments seems to have been much diffused in Akber’s court: Aziz (or Khani Azim) was a man of great learning; Mirza Khan (Khan Khanan), son of Behram Khan, and the second of Akber’s generals, made the excellent Persian translation now extant of Baber’s “Memoirs,” from the Turkish. Among the distinguished men of this time, all historians mention Tansen, a celebrated composer, whose music is still much admired. Even Zein Khan (so often mentioned as an able and active general) is said to have played well on several instruments. Akber encouraged schools, at which Hindu as well as Mahometan learning was taught, and “every one was educated according to his circumstances anal particular views in life.” (Akbernameh.)
155. Muntakhab ul Tawarikh. The same author, whose name was Abdul Kadir, relates that Feizi continued to blaspheme in his dying moments, and that at last he barked like a dog, while his face became disfigured and his lips black, as if he already bore the impress of the damnation that awaited him. Abdul Kadir inserts in his book a letter in his favour from Feizi to Akber, and defends himself from the charge of ingratitude in defaming his benefactor after his death, by saying that it was a paramount duty he owed to God and to religion. The letter shows Feizi’s zeal for his friends in a strong point of view. It expatiates on the services of the bearer, and his ill luck in their not having attracted notice; speaks of him in the warmest terms as an intimate acquaintance of thirty-seven years’ standing, a true and faithful friend, and a person of many virtues and accomplishments; and ends by strongly recommending him to the emperor. Though Abdul Kadir had quarrelled with Feizi and Abul Fazl on points of religion, this dispute does not seem to have led to his disgrace with Akber; for he mentions that he was employed by that monarch to make a catalogue of Feizi’s library after his death, and that it consisted of 4060 books, carefully corrected and well bound, on poetry and literature, moral and physical science, and theology.
156. Akbernameh. Muntakhab ul Tawarikh.
157. Translated by Colonel Kennedy, Transactions of the Bombay Literary Society, vol. ii. p. 247, &c.
158. A circumstance is related regarding this meeting, of which the Christians and Mahometans give different accounts; and, what is rather unusual in controversies, each tells the story in the way least favourable to his own faith. The disputants having split on the divinity of their respective scriptures, the Christian, according to Abul Fazl, offered to walk into a flaming furnace, bearing the Bible, if the Mahometan would show a similar confidence in the protection of the Koran. To this, he says, the Mussulmans only answered by reproaches. The missionaries, on the other hand, say the proposal came from the Mussulmans, and was rejected by them, contrary to the wish of Akber. (Murray’s Asiatic Discoveries, vol. ii. p. 91.) The probability is, that Akber may have taken this way of amusing himself with the extravagance of both parties. It does not appear that he had any design to turn the Christians at least into derision. The missionaries, provoked at the disappointment of their sanguine hopes of converting the emperor, appear at length to have suspected that he had no object in encouraging them, except to gratify his taste with their pictures and images, and to swell the pomp of his court by their attendance (Ibid. vol. ii. p. 91.); but, besides his intense curiosity about the religious opinions of all sects, both Abul Fazl and Abdul ‘Mir represent him as entertaining a real respect for Christianity. The latter author says that he made his son Morad be instructed in the Gospel, and that those lessons were not begun according to the usual form, “In the name of God,” but, “In the name of Jesus Christ.”
159. Murray, vol. ii. p. 89.
160. Some of his practices, as breathing on his disciples, &c., which have been mentioned as implying pretensions to miraculous powers, are the common forms used by spiritual instructors throughout India.
161. Muntakhab ul Tawarikh.
162. Colonel Kennedy adds that the marriage of more than one wife was forbidden.
163. These phrases include the emperor’s name, Jelal u din Akber.
164. Colonel Kennedy, Bombay Transactions, vol. ii. p. 261.
166. Chalmers’s MS. translation of the “Akbernameh.”
167. Abdul Kadir, the writer of the “Muntakhab ul Tawarikh.”
168. The Koran, the Old and New Testament, and the Psalms of David, are called books by way of excellence, and their followers, “People of the Book.”
169. In comparing Akber’s attempt to found a system of pure deism with similar experiments by modern governments, we must remember the incurable defects of all the religions with which he was acquainted, and must distinguish between the merit of a man who takes the lead of his generation, and that of another who follows the crowd even in its errors and extravagances.
170. An Indian laud measure, considerably more than half an acre.
171. Thus, assuming the produce of a bigah of wheat, in mans (a measure of something less than forty pounds) –
|Class 1. would yield||18|
which, divided by 3, gives the average – 12 mans 38½ sers; and that again divided by 3 gives the king’s demand on each bigha – 4 mans 12½ sers.
If the produce of a bigah of cotton be assumed –
|Class I. will yield||10|
|Average of the three classes||7||20|
|King’s demand (one third of the average)||2||20|
172. Gladwin’s Ayeni Akberi, vol. i. pp. 303-312.
173. Chalmers’s MS. translation of the “Akbernameh.”
174. Gladwin’s Ayeni Akberi, vol. i. pp. 29-303.
175. Twelve of these were in Hindostan and three in the Deckan: these last were increased, after the conquest of Bijapur and Golconda, to six. The title of sipah salar was changed after Akber’s time to subahdar, and an additional officer was introduced under the title of diwan, for the purpose of superintending the finances of the province. He was subordinate to the subahdar, but was appointed by the king.
176. Bird’s History of Guzerat, p. 891.
177. These numbers are from the list in the “Ayeni Akberi;” it is uncertain to which period of the reign it refers. The extremely small number of officers is explained by the absence of discipline and of instruction in tactics, as well as by the character of the horsemen, who were a sort of gentlemen, and more intelligent than ordinary troopers in a regular army.
178. The sums in the tables in the “Ayeni Akberi “cannot relate to personal allowances alone; but see Bernier, vol. i. p. 289. He mentions that his patron, Danishmand Khan, had the rank of 5000, with the real command of 500 horse, and had near 5000 crowns of pay per mensem.
180. Bishop Heber describes its commanding situation on a hill, the noble flight of steps which ascends to the portal tower, the extent and rich carving of the palace; above all, the mosque, with the majestic proportions and beautiful architecture of the quadrangle and cloisters, of which it forms one side. (Vol. i. p. 596.) The same judicious observer gives an account of the buildings within Agra. The principal are, “a beautiful mosque of white marble, carved with exquisite simplicity and elegance;” and the palace, built mostly of the same material, and containing some noble rooms. The great hall is a splendid edifice, supported by pillars and arches of white marble, more nobly simple than that of Delhi. The ornaments, carving, and mosaic of the smaller apartments are equal or superior to any thing which is described as found in the Alhambra.” (Vol. i. p. 587.) Among Akber’s principal works must be mentioned the tomb of Humayun at Delhi, a great and solid edifice erected on a terrace raised above the surrounding country, and surmounted by a vast dome of white marble.
181. Akber had never less than 5000 elephants and 12,000 stable horse, besides vast hunting and hawking establishments, &c. &c. (Ferishta, vol. ii. p. 281.)
182. Sir Thomas Roe, in “Churchill’s Voyages.” Terry’s Voyage, p. 398.
183. Hawkins, in “Purchas’s Pilgrims,” vol. i.
184. Sir T. Roe says, “I own I never saw such inestimable wealth.”
185. Sir T. Roe.
186. Bernier, vol. i. p. 42.
187. Purchas, vol. v. p. 516.
188. The principal authorities for this account of Akber’s reign are, Ferishta, the “Akbernameh” by Abul Fazl, the “Muntakhab ul Tawarikh,” Khafi Khan, and the “Kholasat ul Tawarikh.” Abul Fazl, in this reign, shows all his usual merits, and more than his usual defects. (See p. 126.) Every event that had a tendency to take from the goodness, wisdom, or power of Akber, is passed over or misstated; and a uniform strain of panegyric and triumph is kept up, which disgusts the reader with the author, and almost with the hero. Amidst these unmeaning flourishes, the real merits of Akber disappear, and it is from other authors that we learn the motives of his actions, the difficulties he had to contend with, and the resources by which they were surmounted. The gross flattery of a book written by one so well acquainted with Akber’s disposition, and submitted, it appears, to his own inspection, leaves an impression of the vanity of that prince, which is almost the only blot on his otherwise admirable character. The “Akbernameh” was brought down by Abul Fazl nearly to the time of his own death, in the forty-seventh year of the reign, and was continued for the remaining period of upwards of three years by a person named Enayet Ullah, or Mohammed Salia. I could never have availed myself of this work without the aid of a manuscript translation of Lieutenant Chalmers of the Madras army, in the possession of the Royal Asiatic Society. The “Muntakhab ul Tawarikh” was finished in the end of the fortieth year of the reign. It is written by Abdul Kadir of Badayun, and is a history of the Mahometan kings of India. The facts are chiefly taken from the “Tabakati Akberi” down to the thirty-seventh year of Akber’s reign, when that book ends. The whole of that reign, however, has many additions from the author’s own knowledge, and takes its colour from his prejudices. Abdul Kadir was a learned man employed by Akber to make translations from Shanscrit; but, being a bigoted Mussulman, he quarrelled with Abul Fazl and Feizi, and has filled his book with invectives against their irreligion and that of Akber (see page 283. note). He has also recorded many other grievances complained of at that time, and has disclosed those parts of the picture which were thrown into the shade by Abul Fazl. The impression of Akber left by this almost hostile narrative is much more favourable than that made by his panegyrist. Khafi Khan and the author of the “Kholasat ul Tawarikh” are later compilers. The “Tabakati Akberi,” written by Nizam u din Hervi, is a history of the Mahometan kings down to the thirty-seventh of Akber, and is said to be a work of great merit; but, although I have access to a copy, I am unable to avail myself of it, for want of the assistance I require to make out the character. Besides the original of Khafi Khan, I am indebted to the kindness of Major A. Gordon of the Madras establishment, for the use of a manuscript translation made by him of the work of that historian down to near the end of Jehangir’s reign. It is much to be regretted that this excellent translation has not been carried on to the end of the history, which comes down to recent times, and affords the only full and connected account of the whole period which it embraces.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage