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Tempera painting in the Akbar Namah by Abu'l Fazl. Photographed from 
the original in the India Museum for The Place of Animals in Human Thought 
by the Countess Evelyn Martinengo Cesaresco. 











Akbar Directing the Tying-up of a Wild Elephant Frontispiece. 

Akbar, Emperor of India, facing p. 4 

Mausoleum of Akbar' s Father, Humayun, " p. 12 

View of Fathpur, '* p. 20 

Akbar's Grave, ** p. 28 

Mausoleum of Akbar at Sikandra, " p. 40 

The Chakra, the Indian Emblem of Empire, p. 42 


THE student of India who would at the same time be 
an historian, discovers to his sorrow that the land of 
his researches is lamentably poor in historical sources. And 
if within the realm of historical investigation, a more se- 
ductive charm lies for him in the analysis of great per- 
sonalities than in ascertaining the course of historical de- 
velopment, then verily may he look about in vain for such 
personalities in the antiquity and middle ages of India. 
Not that the princely thrones were wanting in great men in 
ancient India, for we find abundant traces of them in Hindu 
folk-lore and poetry, but these sources do not extend to 
establishing the realistic element in details and furnishing 
life-like portraits of the men themselves. That the Hindu 
has ever been but little interested in historical matters is 
a generally recognized fact. Religious and philosophical 
speculations, dreams of other worlds, of previous and fu- 
ture existences, have claimed the attention of thoughtful 
minds to a much greater degree than has historical reality. 
The misty myth-woven veil which hangs over persons 
and events of earlier times, vanishes at the beginning of 
the modern era which in India starts with the Moham- 
medan conquest, for henceforth the history of India is 
written by foreigners. Now we meet with men who take 
a decisive part in the fate of India, and they appear as 

* This essay is an enlarged form of an address delivered on the occasion 
of the birthday of King Wilhelm II of Wurttemberg, on February 25, 1909. 


sharply outlined, even though generally unpleasing, per- 

Islam has justly been characterized as the caricature 
of a religion. I^a^icism-and fatalism are two conspicu- 
ously irreligious emotions, and it is exactly these two emo- 
tions, which Islam understands how to arouse in savage 
peoples, to which it owes the part it has played in the his- 
tory of the world, and the almost unprecedented success 
of its diffusion in Asia, Africa and Europe. 

About iooo A. D. India was invaded by the Sultan 
Mahmud of Ghasna. "With Mahmud's expedition into 
India begins one of the most horrible periods of the history 
of Hindustan. One monarch dethrones another, no dy- 
nasty continues in power, every accession to the throne is 
accompanied by the murder of kinsmen, plundering of 
cities, devastation of the lowlands and the slaughter of 
thousands of men, women and children of the predecessor's 
adherents ; for five centuries northwest and northern India 
literally reeked with the blood of multitudes." 1 Moham- 
medan dynasties of Afghan, Turkish and Mongolian origin 
follow that of Ghasna. This entire period is filled with an 
almost boundless series of battles, intrigues, imbroglios 
and political revolutions ; nearly all events had the one char- 
acteristic in common, that they took place amid murder, 
pillage and fire. 

The most frightful spectacle throughout these reeking 
centuries is the terrible Mongolian prince Timur, a suc- 
cessor of Genghis-Khan, who fell upon India with his band 
of assassins in the year 1398 and before his entry into Delhi 
the capital, in which he was proclaimed Emperor of India, 
caused the hundred thousand prisoners whom he had cap- 
tured in his previous battles in the Punjab, to be slaught- 
ered in one single day, because it was too inconvenient to 
drag them around with him. So says Timur himself with 

X E. Schlagintweit, Indien in Wort und Bild, II. 26 f. 


shameless frankness in his account of the expedition, and 
he further relates that after his entry into Delhi, all three 
"districts of the city were plundered "according to the will 
of God." 2 In 1526 Babu, a descendant of Timur, made 
his entry into Delhi and there founded the dominion of the 
Grand Moguls (i. e., of the great Mongols). The over- 
throw of this dynasty was brought about by the disastrous 
reign of Baber's successor Aurungzeb, a cruel, crafty and 
treacherous despot, who following the example of his an- 
cestor Timur, spread terror and alarm around him in the 
second half of the seventeenth and the beginning of the 
eighteenth centuries. Even to-day Hindus may be seen to 
tremble when they meet the sinister fanatical glance of a 

Princes with sympathetic qualities were not entirely 
lacking in the seven centuries of Mohammedan dominion 
in India, and they shine forth as points of light from the 
gloomy horror of this time, but they fade out completely 
before the luminous picture of the man who governed India 
for half a century (1556-1605) and by a wise, gentle and 
just reign brought about a season of prosperity such as 
the land had never experienced in the millenniums of its 
history. This man, whose memory even to-day is revered 
by the Hindus, was a descendant of Baber, Abul Fath 
Jelaleddin Muhammed, known by the surname Akbar "the 
Great," which was conferred upon the child even when he 
was named, and completely supplanted the name that prop- 
erly belonged to him. And truly he justified the epithet, 
for great, fabulously great, was Akbar as man, general, 
statesman and ruler, — all in all a prince who deserves to 
be known by every one whose heart is moved by the spec- 
tacle of true human greatness. 3 

3 A. Miiller, Der Islam im Morgen- und Abendlarid, II, 300 f. 

8 From the literature on Emperor Akbar the following works deserve 
special mention: J. Talboys Wheeler, The History of India from the Earliest 
Ages. Vol. IV, Pt. I, "Mussulman Rule," London, 1876 (judges Akbar very 


When we wish to understand a personality we are in 
the habit of ascertaining the inherited characteristics, and 
investigating the influences exercised upon it by religion, 
family, environment, education, youthful impressions, ex- 
perience, and so forth. Most men are easily comprehen- 
sible as the products of these factors. The more inde- 
pendent of all such influences, or the more in opposition to 
them, a personality develops, the more attractive and inter- 
esting will it appear to us. At the first glance it looks as 
if the Emperor Akbar had developed his entire character 
from himself and by his own efforts in total independence 
of all influences which in other cases are thought .to deter- 
mine the character and nature of a man. A Mohammedan, 
a Mongol, a descendant of the monster Timur, the son of a 
weak incapable father, born in exile, called when but a lad 
to the government of a disintegrated and almost annihi- 
lated realm in the India of the sixteenth century, — which 
means in an age of perfidy, treachery, avarice, and self- 
seeking, — Akbar appears before us as a noble man, suscep- 
tible to all grand and beautiful impressions, conscientious, 
unprejudiced, and energetic, who knew how to bring peace 
and order out of the confusion of the times, who through- 
out his reign desired the furtherance of his subjects' and 
not of his own interest, who while increasing the privileges 
of the Mohammedans, not only also declared equality of 
rights for the Hindus but even actualized that equality, 
who in every conceivable way sought to conciliate his sub- 
unfairly in many places, but declares at the bottom of page 135. "The reign 
of Akbar is one of the most important in the history of India ; it is one of the 
most important in the history of the world"); Mountsttiart Elphinstone, 
History of India, the Hindu and Mahometan Periods, with notes and additions 
by E. B. Cowell, 9th ed., London, 1905; G. B. Malleson, Akbar and the Rise, of 
the Mughal Empire, Oxford, 1890 (in W. W. Hunter's Rulers of India) ; 
A. Muller, Der Islam im Morgen- und Abendland, Vol. II, Berlin, 1887; but 
especially Count F. A. von Noer, Kaiser Akbar, cin Versuch iiber die Ge- 
schichte Indiens im sechsehnten Jahrhundert, Vol. I, Leyden, 1880; Vol. II, 
revised from the author's manuscript by Dr. Gustav von Buchwald, Leyden, 
1885. In the preface to this work the original sources are listed and described; 
compare also M. Elphinstone, pp. 536, 537, note 45. 




4 t> x 


/ .- 

- - ; /l-1 ... 

XV t r 


From Noer's Kaiser Akbar, (Frontispiece to Vol. II). 


jects so widely at variance with each other in race, cus- 
toms, and religion, and who finally when the narrow dog- 
mas of his religion no longer satisfied him, attained to a 
purified faith in God, which was independent of all formu- 
lated religions. 

A closer observation, however, shows that the contrast 
is not quite so harsh between what according to our hypoth- 
eses Akbar should have been as a result of the forces which 
build up man, and what he actually became. His predilec- 
tion for science and art Akbar had inherited from his 
grandfather Baber and his father Humayun. His youth, 
which was passed among dangers and privations, in flight 
and in prison, was certainly not without a beneficial in- 
fluence upon Akbar's development into a man of unusual 
power and energy. And of significance for his spiritual 
development was the circumstance that after his accession 
to the throne his guardian put him in the charge of a most 
excellent tutor, the enlightened and liberal minded Persian 
M ir Abdu llatif, who laid the foundation for Akbar's later 
religious and ethical views. Still, however high we may 
value the influence of this teacher, the main point lay in 
Akbar's own endowments, his susceptibility for such teach- 
ing as never before had struck root with any Mohammedan 
prince./ Akbar had not his equal in the history of Islam. 
"He is the only prince grown up in the Mohammedan creed 
whose endeavor it was to ennoble the limitation of this most 
separatistic of all religions into a true religion of human- 
ity." 4 

Even the external appearance of Akbar appeals to us 
sympathetically. We sometimes find reproduced a miniature 
from Delhi which pictures Akbar as seated ; in this the char- 
acteristic features of the Mongolian race appear softened 
and refined to a remarkable degree.* The shape of the 

*A. Miiller, II, 416. 

* No'er, II as frontispiece (comp. also pp. 327, 328) ; A. Muller, II, 417. 


head is rather round, the outlines are softened, the black 
eyes large, thoughtful, almost dreamy, and only very 
slightly slanting, the brows full and bushy, the lips some- 
what prominent and the nose a tiny bit hooked. The face 
is beardless except for the rather thin closely cut moustache 
which falls down over the curve of the mouth in soft waves. 
According to the description of his son, the Emperor Je- 
hangir, Akbar's complexion is said to have been the yellow 
of wheat; the Portuguese Jesuits who came to his court 
called it plainly white. Although not exactly beautiful, 
Akbar seemed beautiful to many of his contemporaries, 
including Europeans, probably because of the august and 
at the same time kind and winsome expression which his 
countenance bore. Akbar was rather tall, broad-shoul- 
dered, strongly built and had long arms and hands. 

Akbar, the son of the dethroned Emperor Humayun, 
was born on October 14, 1542, at Amarkot in Sindh, two 
years after his father had been deprived of his kingdom 
by the usurper Sher Chan. After an exile of fifteen years, 
or rather after an aimless wandering" and flight of that 
length, the indolent pleasure- and opium-loving Humayun 
was again permitted to return to his capital in 1555, — not 
through his own merit but that of his energetic general 
Bairam Chan, a Turk who in one decisive battle had over- 
come the Afghans, at that time in possession of the domin- 
ion. But Humayun was not long to enjoy his regained 
throne; half a year later he fell down a stairway in his 
palace and died. In January 1556 Akbar, then thirteen 
years of age, ascended the throne. Because of his youthful 
years Bairam Chan assumed the regency as guardian of 
the realm or "prince-father" as it is expressed in Hindi, 
and guided the wavering ship of state with a strong hand. 
He overthrew various insurgents and disposed of them 
with cold cruelty. But after a few years he so aroused the 


illwill of Akbar by deeds of partiality, selfishness and vio- 
lence that in March 1560 Akbar, then 17 years of age, de- 
cided to take the reins of government into his own hand. 
Deprived of his office and influence Bairam Chan hastened 
to the Punjab and took arms against his Imperial Master. 
Akbar led his troops in person against the rebel and over- 
came him. When barefooted, his turban thrown around 
his neck, Bairam Chan appeared before Akbar and pros- 
trated himself before the throne, Akbar did not do the 
thing which was customary under such circumstances in 
the Orient in all ages. The magnanimous youth did not 
sentence the humiliated rebel to a painful death but bade 
him arise in memory of the great services which Bairam 
Chan had rendered to his father and later to himself, and 
again assume his old place of honor at the right of the 
throne. Before the assembled nobility he gave him the 
choice whether he would take the governorship of a prov- 
ince, or would enjoy the favor of his master at court as a 
benefactor of the imperial family, or whether, accom- 
panied by an escort befitting his rank, he would prefer to 
undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca. 5 Bairam Chan was 
wise enough to choose the last, but on the way to Mecca 
he was killed by an Afghan and the news caused Akbar 
sincere grief and led him to take the four year old son of 
Bairam Chan under his special protection. 

Mahum Anaga, the Emperor's nurse, for whom he 
felt a warm attachment and gratitude, a woman revenge- 
ful and ambitious but loyal and devoted to Akbar, had con- 
tributed in bringing about the fall of the regent. She had 
cared for the Emperor from his birth to his accession and 
amid the confusion of his youth had guarded him from 
danger ; but for this service she expected her reward. She 
sought nothing less than in the role of an intimate con- 

6 Noer, I, 131. 


fidante of the youthful Emperor to be secretly the actual 
ruler of India. 

Mahum Anaga had a son, Adham Chan by name, to 
whom at her suggestion Akbar assigned the task of re- 
conquering and governing the province of Malwa. Adham 
Chan was a passionate and violent man, as ambitious 
and avaricious as his mother, and behaved himself in 
Malwa as if he were an independent prince. As soon 
as Akbar learned this he advanced by forced marches to 
Malwa and surprised his disconcerted foster-brother be- 
fore the latter could be warned by his mother. But Adham 
Chan had no difficulty in obtaining Akbar's forgiveness 
for his infringements. 

On the way back to Agra, where the Emperor at that 
time was holding court, a noteworthy incident happened. 
Akbar had ridden alone in advance of his escort and sud- 
denly found himself face to face with a powerful tigress 
who with her five cubs came out from the shrubbery across 
his path. His approaching attendants found the nineteen 
year old Emperor standing quietly by the side of the 
slaughtered beast which he had struck to the ground with 
a single blow of his sword. To how much bodily strength, 
intrepidity, cold-blooded courage and sure-sightedness this 
blow of the sword testified which dared not come the frac- 
tion of a second too late, may be judged by every one who 
has any conception of the spring of a raging tigress an- 
xious for the welfare of her young. And we may easily 
surmise the thoughts which the sight aroused in the minds 
of the Mohammedan nobles in Akbar's train. At that 
moment many ambitious wishes and designs may have been 
carried to their grave. 6 

The Emperor soon summoned his hot-headed foster- 
brother Adham Chan to court in order to keep him well 
in sight for he had counted often enough on Akbar's affec- 

*Noer, I, 141. 


tion for his mother Mahum Anaga to save him from the 
consequences of his sins. Now Mahum Anaga, her son and 
her adherents, hated the grand vizier with a deadly hatred 
because they perceived that they were being deprived of 
their former influence in matters of state. This hatred finally 
impelled Adham Chan to a senseless undertaking. The em- 
bittered man hatched up a conspiracy against the grand 
vizier and when one night in the year 1562 the latter was 
attending a meeting of political dignitaries on affairs of 
state in the audience hall of the Imperial palace, Adham 
Chan with his conspirators suddenly broke in and stabbed 
the grand vizier in the breast, whereupon his companions 
slew the wounded man with their swords. Even now the 
deluded Adham Chan counted still upon the Emperor's 
forbearance and upon the influence of his mother. Akbar 
was aroused by the noise and leaving his apartments 
learned what had happened. Adham Chan rushed to the 
Emperor, seized his arm and begged him to listen to his 
explanations. But the Emperor was beside himself with 
rage, struck the murderer with his fist so that he fell to 
the floor and commanded the terrified servants to bind him 
with fetters and throw him head over heels from the ter- 
race of the palace to the courtyard below. The horrible 
deed was done but the wretch was not dead. Then the 
Emperor commanded the shattered body of the dying man 
to be dragged up the stairs again by the hair and to be 
flung once more to the ground. 7 

I have related this horrible incident in order to give 
Akbar's picture with the utmost possible faithfulness and 
without idealization. Akbar was a rough, strong-nerved 
man, who was seldom angry but whose wrath when once 
aroused was fearful. It is a blemish on his character that 
in some cases he permitted himself to be carried away to 
such cruel death sentences, but we must not forget that 

7 J. T. Wheeler, IV, I, 139, 140; Noer, I, 143, 144. 


he was then dealing with the punishment of particularly 
desperate criminals, and that such severe judgments had 
always been considered in the Orient to be righteous and 
sensible. Not only in the Orient unfortunately, — even in 
Europe 200 years after Akbar's time tortures and the rack 
were applied at the behest of courts of law. 

Mahum Anaga came too late to save her son. Akbar 
sought with tender care to console her for his dreadful 
end but the heart-broken woman survived the fearful blow 
of fate only about forty days. The Emperor caused her 
body to be buried with that of her son in one common grave 
at Delhi, and he himself accompanied the funeral proces- 
sion. At his command a stately monument was erected 
above this grave which still stands to-day. His generosity 
and clemency were also shown in the fact that he extended 
complete pardon to the accomplices in the murder of the 
grand vizier and even permitted them to retain their of- 
fices and dignities because he was convinced that they had 
been drawn into the crime by the violent Adham Chan. 
In other ways too Akbar showed himself to be ready to 
grant pardon to an almost incomprehensible extent. Again 
and again when an insubordinate viceroy in the provinces 
would surrender after an unsuccessful uprising Akbar 
would let him off without any penalty, thus giving him the 
opportunity of revolting again after a short time. 

It was an eventful time in which Akbar arrived at 
manhood in the midst of all sorts of personal dangers. 

I will pass over with but few comments his military ex- 
peditions which can have no interest for the general public. 
When Akbar ascended the throne his realm comprised only 
a very small portion of the possessions which had been sub- 
ject to his predecessors. With the energy which was a 
fundamental characteristic of his nature he once more took 
possession of the provinces which had been torn from the 
empire, at the same time undertaking the conquest of new 


lands, and accomplished this task with such good fortune 
that in the fortieth year of his reign the empire of India 
covered more territory than ever before ; that is to say, not 
only the whole of Hindustan including the peninsula Gu- 
jerat, the lands of the Indus and Kashmir but also Af- 
ghanistan and a larger part of the Dekkhan than had ever 
been subject to any former Padishah of Delhi. At this time 
while the' Emperor had his residence at Lahore the phrase 
was current in India, "As lucky as Akbar." 8 

It was apparent often enough in the military expedi- 
tions that Akbar far surpassed his contemporaries in gen- 
eralship. ^ But it was not the love of war and conquest 
which drove him each time anew to battle ; a sincere desire 
inspired by a mystical spirit impelled him to bring to an 
end the ceaseless strife between the small states of India 
by joining them to his realm, and thus to found a great 
united empire. 9 

More worthy of admiration than the subjugation of 
such large territories in which of course many others have 
also been successful, is the fact that. Akbar succeeded in 
establishing order, peace, and prosperity in the regained 
and newly subjugated provinces. This he brought about 
by the introduction of a model administration, an excellent 
police, a regulated post service, and especially a just divi- 
sion of taxes. 10 Up to Akbar's time corruption had been 
a matter of course in the entire official service and enormous 
sums in the treasury were lost by peculation on the part of 
tax collectors. 

Akbar first divided the whole realm into twelve and 
later into fifteen viceregencies, and these into provinces, 
administrative districts and lesser subdivisions, and gov- 
erned the revenues of the empire on the basis of a uni- 

8 J. T.Wheeler, IV, I, 180. 

8 Noer, II, 8, 390, 423. 

10 For the following compare Noer I, 391 ff. ; M. Elphinstone, 529 ff. ; G. 
B. Malleson, 172 ff., 185 ff. 


formly exact survey of the land. , He introduced a standard 
of measurement, replacing the hitherto customary land 
measure (a leather strap which was easily lengthened or 
shortened according to the need of the measuring officer) 
by a new instrument of measurement in the form of a 
bamboo staff which was provided with iron rings at defi- 
nite intervals. For purposes of assessment land was di- 
vided into four classes according to the kind of cultivation 
practiced upon it. The first class comprised arable land 
with a constant rotation of crops; the second, that which 
had to lie fallow for from one to two ye^rs in order to be 
productive; the third from fhree to four years; tjhe fourth 1 
that land which was uncultivated for five years and longer 
or was not arable at all. x The first two classes of acreage 
were taxed one-third of the crop, which according to our 
present ideas seems an exorbitantly high rate, and it was 
left to the one assessed whether he would pay the tax in 
kind or in cash. Only in the case oP luxuries or manu- 
factured articles, that is to say, where the use of a circu- 
lating medium could be assumed, was -cash payment re- 
quired. Whoever cultivated unreclaimed land was assisted 
by the government by the grant of a free supply of seed 
and by a considerable' reduction in his taxes for the first 
four years. 

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

$m m 






of the native inhabitants by lifting the hated poll tax which 
still existed side by side with all other taxes. 

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

Sometime previous to these reforms Akbar had abol- 
ished a custom so disgusting that we can hardly compre- 
hend that it ever could have legally existed. At any rate 
it alone is sufficient to brand Islam and its supreme con- 
tempt for followers of other faiths, with one of the greatest 
stains in the history of humanity. When a tax-collector 
gathered the taxes of the Hindus and the payment had 
been made, the Hindu was required "without the slightest 
sign of fear of defilement" to open his mouth in order that 

tftx collector migh t spit in it if h ej^jshed to do s^vi 1 
T&is was much more than a disgusting humiliation. When 
the tax-collector availed himself of this privilege the Hindu 

"Noer, II, 6, 7; G. B. Malleson, 174, 175- 


lost thereby his greatest possession, his caste, and was 
shut out from any intercourse with his equals. Accord- 
ingly he was compelled to pass his whole life trembling in 
terror before this horrible evil which threatened him. That 
a man of Akbar's nobility of character should remove such 
an atrocious, yes devilish, decree seems to us a matter of 
course ; but for the Hindus it was an enormous beneficence. 

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

Besides these practical regulations for the advancement 
of the material welfare, Akbar's efforts for the ethical 
uplift of his subjects are noteworthy. Drunkenness and 
debauchery were punished and he sought to restrain pros- 
titution by confining dancing girls and abandoned women 
in one quarter set apart for them outside of his residence 
which received the name Shaitanpura or "Devil's City. m ^_ 

The existing corruption in the finance and customs de- 
partment was abolished by means of a complicated and 
punctilious system of supervision (the bureaus of receipts 
and expenditures were kept entirely separated from each 
other in the treasury department,) and Akbar himself care- 
fully examined the accounts handed in each month from 
every district, just as he gave his personal attention with 
tireless industry and painstaking care to every detail in 
the widely ramified domain of the administration of gov- 
ernment. Moreover the Emperor was fortunate in having 
at the head of the finance department a prudent, energetic, 
perfectly honorable and incorruptible man, the Hindu To- 

12 J. T. Wheeler, IV, I, 173; Noer, I, 438:1. 


dar Mai, who without possessing the title of vizier or min- 
ister of state had assumed all the functions of such an 

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

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


at the muster for worthless material and also to loan them 
to other knights during muster. 

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

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

Akbar had an especial interest in artillery, and with it 
a particular gift for the technique and great skill in mech- 
anical matters. "He invented a cannon which could be 
taken apart to be carried more easily on the march and could 
be put up quickly, apparently for use in mountain batteries. 
By another invention he united seventeen cannons in such 
a way that they could be shot off simultaneously by one 
fuse. 14 Hence it is probably a sort of mitrailleuse. Akbar 

"Noer, II, 378. 

14 Noer, I, 429. The second invention, however, is questioned by Buchwald 


is also said to have invented a mill cart which served as a 
mill as well as for carrying freight. With regard to these 
inventions we must take into consideration the possibility 
that the real inventor may have been some one else, but that 
the flatterers at the court ascribed them to the Emperor be- 
cause the initiative may have originated with him. 

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

Of decided significance for Akbar's success was his 
patronage of the native population. He did not limit his 
efforts to lightening the lot of the subjugated Hindus and 
relieving them of oppressive burdens; his efforts went 
deeper. He wished to educate the Mohammedans and 
Hindus to a feeling of mutual good-will and confidence, 
and in doing so he was obliged to contend in the one case 
against haughtiness and inordinate ambition, and in the 
other against hate and distrustful reserve. If with this 

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

15 Noer, I, 439. 


end in view he actually favored the Hindus by keeping- 
certain ones close to him and advancing them to the most 
influential positions in the state, he did it because he found 
characteristics in the Hindus (especially in their noblest 
race, the Rajputs) which seemed to him most valuable for 
the stability of the empire and for the promotion of the 
general welfare. He had seen enough faithlessness in the 
Mohammedan nobles and in his own relatives. Besides, 
Akbar was born in the house of a small Rajput prince who 
had shown hospitality to Akbar's parents on their flight 
and had given them his protection. 

The Rajputs are the descendants of the ancient Indian 
warrior race and are a brave, chivalrous, trustworthy people 
who possess a love of freedom and pride of race quite differ- 
ent in character from the rest of the Hindus. Even to-day 
every traveler in India thinks he has been set down in an- 
other world when he treads the ground of Rajputana and 
sees around him in place of the weak effeminate servile in- 
habitants of other parts of the country powerful upright 
men, splendid warlike figures with blazing defiant eyes and 
■ long waving beards. 

While Akbar valued the Rajputs very highly his own 
personality was entirely fitted to please these proud manly 
warriors. An incident which took place before the end 
of the first year of Akbar's reign is characteristic of the 
relations which existed on the basis of this intrinsic rela- 
tionship. 16 

Bihari Mai was a prince of the small Rajput state Am- 
bir, and possessed sufficient political comprehension to 
understand after Akbar's first great successes that his 
own insignificant power and the nearness of Delhi made it 
advisable to voluntarily recognize the Emperor as his liege 
lord. Therefore he came with son, grandson and retainers 
to swear allegiance to Akbar. Upon his arrival at the im- 

1B Noer, I, 224-226 


perial camp before Delhi, a most surprising sight met his 
eyes. Men were running in every direction, fleeing wildly 
before a raging elephant who wrought destruction to 
everything that came within his reach. Upon the neck of 
this enraged brute sat a young man in perfect calmness 
belaboring the animal's head with the iron prong which 
is used universally in India for guiding elephants. The 
Rajputs sprang from their horses and came up perfectly 
unconcerned to observe the interesting spectacle, and broke 
out in loud applause when the conquered elephant knelt 
down in exhaustion. The young man sprang from its 
back an$ cordially greeted the Rajput princes (who now 
for the first time recognized Akbar in the elephant- tamer) 
bidding them welcome to his red imperial tent. From this 
occurrence dates the friendship of the two men. In later 
years Bihari Mai's son and grandson occupied high places 
in the imperial service, and Akbar married a daughter of 
the Rajput chief who became the mother of his son and 
successor Selim, afterwards the Emperor Jehangir. Later 
on Akbar received a number of other Rajput women in his 

Not all of Akbar's relations to the Rajputs however 
were of such a friendly kind. As his grandfather Baber 
before him, he had many bitter battles with them, for no 
other Indian people had opposed him so vigorously as they. 
Their domain blocked the way to the south, and from their 
rugged mountains and strongly fortified cities the Rajputs 
harassed the surrounding country by many invasions and 
destroyed order, commerce and communication quite after 
the manner of the German robber barons of the Middle 
Ages. Their overthrow was accordingly a public neces- 

The most powerful of these Rajput chiefs was the 
Prince of Mewar who had particularly attracted the at- 
tention of the Emperor by his support of the rebels. The 


control of Mewar rested upon the possession of the fortress 
Chitor which was built on a monstrous cliff one hundred 
and twenty meters high, rising abruptly from the plain 
and was equipped with every means of defence that could 
be contrived by the military skill of that time for an incom- 
parably strong bulwark. On the plain at its summit which 
measured over twelve kilometers in circumference a city 
w r ell supplied with water lay within the fortification walls. 
There an experienced general, Jaymal, "the Lion of Chi- 
tor/' was in command. I have not time to relate the partic- 
ulars of the siege, the laying of ditches and mines and the 
uninterrupted battles which preceded the fall of £hitor in 
February, 1568. According to Akbar's usual custom he 
exposed himself to showers of bullets without once being" 
hit (the superstition of his soldiers considered him invul- 
nerable) and finally the critical shot was one in which Ak- 
bar with his own ha*id laid low the brave commander of 
Chitor. Then the defenders considered their cause lost, 
and the next night saw a barbarous sight, peculiarly Indian 
in character: the so-called Jauhar demanded his offering- 
according to an old Rajput custom. Many great fires 
gleamed weirdly in the fortress. To escape imprisonment 
and to save their honor from the horrors of captivity, the 
women mounted the solemnly arranged funeral pyres, 
while all the men, clad in saffron hued garments, conse- 
crated themselves to death. When the victors entered the 
city on the next morning a battle began which raged 
until the third evening, when there was no one left to kill. 
Eight thousand warriors had fallen, besides thirty thou- 
sand inhabitants of Chitor who had participated in the 
fight. ^ 

With the conquest of Chitor which I have treated at 
considerable length because it ended in a typically Indian 
manner, the resistance of the Rajputs broke down. After 
Akbar had attained his purpose he was on the friendliest 



0^ / 




terms with the vanquished. It testifies to his nobility of 
character as well as to his political wisdom that after this 
complete success he not only did not celebrate a triumph, 
but on the contrary proclaimed the renown of the van- 
quished throughout all India by erecting before the gate 
of the imperial palace at Delhi two immense stone ele- 
phants with the statues of Jaymal, the "Lion of Chitor," 
and of the noble youth Pata who had performed the most 
heroic deeds in the defense of Chitor. By thus honoring 
his conquered foes in such a magnanimous manner Akbar 
found the right way to the heart of the Rajputs. By con- 
stant bestpwal of favors he gradually succeeded in so rec- 
onciling the noble Rajputs to the loss of their independence 
that they were finally glad and proud to devote themselves 
to his service, and, under the leadership of their own 
princes, proved themselves to be the best and truest soldiers 
of the imperial army, even far from their home in the far- 
thest limits of the realm. 

The great masses of the Hindu people Akbar won over 
by lowering the taxes as we have previously related, and by 
all the other successful expedients for the prosperity of the 
country, but especially by the concession of perfect liberty ' 
of faith and worship and by the benevolent interest with 
which he regarded the religious practices of the Hindus. 
A people in whom religion is the ruling motive of life, after 
enduring all the dreadful sufferings of previous centuries 
for its religion's sake, must have been brought to a state 
of boundless reverence by Akbar's attitude. And since the 
Hindus were accustomed to look upon the great heroes and 
benefactors of humanity as incarnations of deity we shall 
not be surprised to read from an author of that time 17 
that every morning before sunrise great numbers of Hin- 
• dus crowded together in front of the palace to await the 
appearance of Akbar and to prostrate themselves as soon 

17 Badaoni in Noer, II, 320. 


as he was seen at a window, at the same time singing 
religious hymns. This fanatical enthusiasm of the Hindus 
for his person Akbar knew how to retain not only by actual 
benefits but also by small, well calculated devices. 

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

Throughout his entire life Akbar was a tirelessly in- 
dustrious, restlessly active man. By means of ceaseless 
activity he struggled successfully against his natural tend- 
ency to melancholy and in this way kept his mind whole- 
some, which is most deserving of admiration in an Oriental 

u Noer, II, 317, 318. "Ibid., 376, 317. 

"J. T. Wheeler, IV, I, 173; M. Elphinstone, 526; G. B. Malleson, 176. 


monarch who was brought in contact day by day with im- 
moderate flattery and idolatrous veneration. Well did 
Akbar know that no Oriental nation can be governed with- 
out a display of dazzling splendor; but in the midst of the 
fabulous luxury with which Akbar's court was fitted out 
and his camp on the march, in the possession of an incom- 
parably rich harem which accompanied the Emperor on his 
expeditions and journeys in large palatial tents, Akbar 
always showed a remarkable moderation. It is true that 
he abolished the prohibition of wine which Islam had in- 
augurated and had a court cellar in his palace, but he him- 
self drank only a little wine and only ate once a day and 
then did not fully satisfy his hunger at this one meal which 
he ate alone and not at any definite time. 21 Though he 
was not strictly a vegetarian yet he lived mainly on rice, 
milk, fruits and sweets, and meat was repulsive to him. 
He is said to have eaten meat hardly more than four times 
a year. 22 

Akbar was very fond of flowers and perfumes and 
especially enjoyed blooded doves whose care he well under- 
stood. About twenty thousand of these peaceful birds are 
said to have made their home on the battlements of his 
palace. His historian 23 relates: "His Majesty deigned to 
improve them in a marvelous manner by crossing the races 
which had not been done formerly." 

Akbar was passionately fond of hunting and pursued 
the noble sport in its different forms, especially the tiger 
hunt and the trapping of wild elephants, 24 but he also 
hunted with trained falcons and leopards, owning no less 
than nine hundred hunting leopards. He was not fond of 
battue; he enjoyed the excitement and exertion of the 

a Noer, 11,355- 

23 J. T. Wheeler, IV, I, 169, following the old English geographer Samuel 

33 Abul Fazl in Noer, I, 511. 
84 M. Elphinstone, 519. 


actual hunt as a means for exercise and recreation, for 
training the eye and quickening the blood. Akbar took pleas- 
ure also in games. Besides chess, cards and other games, 
fights between animals may especially be mentioned, of 
which elephant fights were the most common, but there 
were also contests between camels, buffaloes, cocks, and 
even frogs, sparrows and spiders. 

Usually, however, the whole day was filled up from the 
first break of dawn for Akbar with affairs of government 
and audiences, for every one who had a request or a 
grievance to bring forward could have access to Akbar, 
and he showed the same interest in the smallest ^incidents 
as in the greatest affairs of state. He also held courts of 
justice wherever he happened to be residing. No criminal 
could be punished there without his knowledge and no 
sentence of death executed until Akbar had given the com- 
mand three times. 25 

Not until after sunset did the Emperor's time of recrea- 
tion begin. Since he only required three hours of sleep 26 
he devoted most of the night to literary, artistic and scien- 
tific occupations. Especially poetry and music delighted 
his heart. He collected a large library in his palace and 
drew the most famous scholars and poets to his court. The 
most important of these were the brothers Abul Faiz (with 
the nom de plume Faizi) and Abul Fazl who have made 
Akbar's fame known to the whole world through their 
works. The former at Akbar's behest translated a series 
of Sanskrit works into Persian, and Abul Fazl, the highly 
gifted minister and historian of Akbar 's court (who to 
be sure can not be exonerated from the charge of flattery) 
likewise composed in the Persian language a large his- 
torical work written in the most flowery style which is the 
main source of our knowledge of that period. This famous 

28 J. T. Wheeler, IV, I, 168. 
*Loc. cit., 169. 


work is divided in two parts, the first one of which under 
the title Akbarname, "Akbar Book," contains the complete 
history of Akbar's reign, whereas the second part, the Am 
% Akbari, "The Institutions of Akbar," gives a presentation 
of the political and religious constitution and administra- 
tion of India under Akbar's reign. It is also deserving of 
mention in this connection that Akbar instituted a board 
for contemporary chronicles, whose duty it was to compose 
the official record of all events relating to the Emperor and 
the government as well as to collect all laws and decrees. 21 

When Akbar's recreation hours had come in the night 
the poet§ of his court brought their verses. Transla- 
tions of famous works in Sanskrit literature, of the New 
Testament and of other interesting books were read aloud, 
all of which captivated the vivacious mind of the Emperor 
from which nothing was farther removed than onesided- 
ness and narrow-mindedness. Akbar had also a discrimi- 
nating appreciation for art and industries. He himself 
designed the plans for some extremely beautiful cande- 
labra, and the manufacture of tapestry reached such a state 
of perfection in India under his personal supervision that 
in those days fabrics were produced in the great imperial 
factories which in beauty and value excelled the famous 
rugs of Persia. With still more important results Akbar in- 
fluenced the realm of architecture in that he discovered 
how to combine two completely different styles. For in- 
deed, "the union of Mohammedan and Indian motives 
in the buildings of Akbar (who here as in all other de- 
partments strove to perfect the complete elevation of na- 
tional and religious details) to form an improved third 
style," 28 is entirely original. 

Among other ways Akbar betrayed the scientific trend 
of his mind by sending out an expedition in search of the 

"Noer, 1,432,433. 
28 A. Muller, II. 386. 


sources of the Ganges. 29 That a man of such a wonderful 
degree of versatility should have recognized the value of 
general education and have devoted himself to its improve- 
ment, we would simply take for granted. Akbar caused 
schools to be erected throughout his whole kingdom for 
the children of Hindus and Mohammedans, whereas he 
himself did not know how to read or write. 30 This re- 
markable fact would seem incredible to us after considering 
all the above mentioned facts if it was not confirmed by the 
express testimony of his son, the Emperor Jehangir. At 
any rate for an illiterate man Akbar certainly accomplished 
an astonishing amount. The universal character of the 
endowments of this man could not have been increased by 
the learning of the schools. 

I have now come to the point which arouses most 
strongly the universal human interest in Akbar, namely, 
to his religious development and his relation to the reli- 
gions, or better to religion. But first I must protest against 
the position maintained by a competent scholar 31 that Akbar 
himself was just as indifferent to religious matters as was 
the house of Timur as a whole. Against this view we have 
the testimony of the conscientiousness with which he daily 
performed his morning and evening devotions, the value 
which he placed upon fasting and prayer as a means of 
self-discipline, and the regularity with which he made 
yearly pilgrimages to the graves of Mohammedan saints. 
A better insight into Akbar's heart than these regular ob- 
servances of worship which might easily be explained by 
the force of custom is given by the extraordinary manifesta- 
tions of a devout disposition. When we learn that Akbar in- 
variably prayed at the grave of his father in Delhi 32 before 

29 J. T.Wheeler, IV, I, 174. 

80 J. T. Wheeler, loc, cit, 141; Noer, I, 193; II, 324, 326. 

81 A. Miiller, II, 418. 
M Noer, I, 262. 


starting- upon any important undertaking, or that during - 
the siege of Chitor he made a vow to make a pilgrimage 
to a shrine in Ajmir after the fall of the fortress, and that 
after Chitor was in his power he performed this journey- 
in the simplest pilgrim garb, tramping barefooted over the 
glowing sand, 33 it is impossible for us to look upon Akbar 
as irreligious. On the contrary nothing moved the Em- 
peror so strongly and insistently as the striving after re- 
ligious truth. This effort led to a struggle against the most 
destructive power in his kingdom, against the Moham- 
medan priesthood. That Akbar, the conqueror in all do- 
mains, should also have been victorious in the struggle 
against the encroachments of the Church (the bitterest 
struggle which a ruler can undertake), this alone should 
insure him a place among the greatest of humanity. 

The Mohammedan priesthood, the community of the 
Ulemas in whose hands lay also the execution of justice 
according to the dictates of Islam, had attained great pros- 
perity in India by countless large bequests. Its distin- 
guished membership formed an influential party at court. 
This party naturally represented the Islam of the stricter 
observance, the so-called Sunnitic Islam, and displayed the 
greatest severity and intolerance towards the representa- 
tives of every more liberal interpretation and towards un- 
believers. Thechief judge of^Agxa sentenced .nifiji to death 
because they were Shiites, that is tousay thex^knge^to 
the other branch of Islamjmd the Ulemas urged Akbar to 
proceed likewise against the heretics. 34 That arrogance 
and vanity, selfishness and avarice, also belonged to the 
character of the Ulemas is so plainly to be taken for 
granted according to all analogies that it need hardly be 
mentioned. The judicature was everywhere utilized by 
the Ulemas as a means for illegitimate enrichment. 

u Noer, I, 259. 
"J.T.Wheeler, IV, I, 156. 


This ecclesiastical party which in its narrow-minded 
folly considered itself in possession of the whole truth, 
stands opposed to the noble skeptic Akbar, whose doubt of 
the divine origin of the Koran and of the truth of its 
dogmas began so to torment him that he would pass entire 
nights sitting out of doors on a stone lost in contemplation. 
The above mentioned brothers Faizi and Abul Fazl intro- 
duced to his impressionable spirit the exalted teaching of 
Sufism, the Mohammedan mysticism whose spiritual pan- 
theism had its origin in, or at least was strongly influenced 
by, the doctrine of the All-One, held by the Brahman Ve- 
danta system. The Sufi doctrine teaches religious tol- 
erance and has apparently strengthened Akbar in his re- 
pugnance towards the intolerant exclusiveness of Sunnitic 

The Ulemas must have been horror-stricken when they 
found out that Akbar even sought religious instruction 
from the hated Brahmans. We hear especially of two, 
Purushottama and Debi by name, the first of whom taught 
Sanskrit and Brahman philosophy to the Emperor in his 
palace, whereas the second was drawn up on a platform 
to the wall of the palace in the dead of the night and there, 
suspended in midair, gave lessons on profound esoteric 
doctrines of the Upanishads to the emperor as he sat by 
the window. A characteristic bit of Indian local color! 
The proud Padishah of India, one of the most powerful 
rulers of his time, listening in the silence of night to the 
words of the Brahman suspended there outside, who him- 
self as proud as the Emperor would not set foot inside the 
dwelling of one who in his eyes was unclean, but who 
would not refuse his wisdom to a sincere seeker after truth. 

Akbar left no means untried to broaden his religious 
outlook. From Gujerat he summoned some Parsees, fol- 
lowers of the religion of Zarathustra, and through them 
informed himself of their faith and their hig-hly developed 


.''7 :^v...:.-:«y ^^«^-. ; . 

. .j «i , w..'»,aittw 

.,„.„, raxiir.:u:....v.?.,--j • 




system of ethics which places the sinful thought on the 
same level with the sinful word and act. 

From olden times the inhabitants of India have had a 
predisposition for religious and philosophical disputations. 
So Akbar, too, was convinced of the utility of free discus- 
sion on religious dogmas. Based upon this idea, and perhaps 
also in the hope that the Ulemas would be discomfited 
Akbar founded at Fathpur Sikri, his favorite residence in 
the vicinity of Agra, the famous 'Ibadat Khana, literally 
the "house of worship," but in reality the house of con- 
troversy. This was a splendid structure composed of four 
halls in which scholars and religious men of all sects gath- 
ered together every Thursday evening and were given an 
opportunity to defend their creeds in the presence and with 
the cooperation of the Emperor. Akbar placed the discus- 
sion in charge of the wise and liberal minded Abul Fazl. 
How badly the Ulemas, the representatives of Moham- 
medan orthodoxy, came off on these controversial evenings 
was to be foreseen. Since they had no success with 
their futile arguments they soon resorted to cries of fury, 
insults for their opponents and even to personal violence, 
often turning against each other and hurling curses upon 
their own number. In these discussions the inferiority of 
the Ulemas, who nevertheless had always put forth such 
great claims, was so plainly betrayed that Akbar learned 
to have a profound contempt for them. 

In addition to this, the fraud and machinations by 
means of which the Ulemas had unlawfully enriched them- 
selves became known to the Emperor. At any rate there 
was sufficient ground for the chastisement which Akbar now 
visited upon the high clergy. In the year 1579 a decree was 
issued which assigned to the Emperor the final decision 
in matters of faith, and this was subscribed to by the chiefs 
of the Ulemas, — with what personal feelings we can well 
imagine. For by this act the Ulemas were deprived of 


their ecclesiastical authority which was transferred to the 
Emperor. That the Orient too possesses its particular of- 
ficial manner of expression in administrative matters is 
very prettily shown by a decree in which Akbar "granted 
the long cherished wish" of these same chiefs of the Ulemas 
to undertake the pilgrimage to Mecca, which of course 
really meant a banishment of several years. Other un- 
worthy Ulemas were displaced from their positions or de- 
prived of their sinecures; others who in their bitterness 
had caused rebellion or incited or supported mutiny were 
condemned for high treason. The rich property of the 
churches was for the most part confiscated and appropri- 
ated for the general weal. In short, the power and in- 
fluence of the Ulemas was completely broken down, the 
mosques stood empty and were transformed into stables 
and warehouses. 

Akbar had long ceased to be a faithful Moslem. Now 
after the fall of the Ulemas he came forward openly with 
his conviction, declared the Koran to be a human compila- 
tion and its commands folly, disputed the miracles of Mo- 
hammed and also the value of his prophecies, and denied 
the doctrine of recompense after death. • He professed the 
Brahman and Sufistic doctrine that the soul migrates 
through countless existences and finally attains divinity 
after complete purification. 

The assertion of the Ulemas that every person came 
into the world predisposed towards Islam and that the 
natural language of mankind was Arabic (the Jews made 
the same claim for Hebrew and the Brahmans for San- 
skrit), Akbar refuted by a drastic experiment which does 
not correspond with his usual benevolence, but still is 
characteristic of the tendency of his mind. In this case a 
convincing demonstration appeared to him so necessary 
that some individuals would have to suffer for it. Accord- 
ingly in the year 1579 he caused twenty infants to be 


taken from their parents in return for a compensation and 
brought up under the care of silent nurses in a remote spot 
in which no word should be spoken. After four years it 
was proved that as many of these unhappy children as were 
still alive were entirely dumb and possessed no trace of a 
predisposition for Islam. 35 Later the children are said to 
have learned to speak with extraordinary difficulty as was 
to be expected. 

Akbar's repugnance to Islam developed into a complete 
revulsion against every thing connected with this narrow 
religion and made the great Emperor petty-souled in 
this particular. The decrees were dated from the death 
of Mohammed and no longer from the Hejra (the flight 
from Mecca to Medina). Books written in Arabic, the 
language of the Koran were given the lowest place in the 
imperial library. The knowledge of Arabic was prohib- 
ited, even the sounds characteristically belonging to this 
language were avoided. 36 Where formerly according to 
ancient tradition had stood the word Bismillahi, "in the 
name of God/' there now appeared the old war cry Alldhu 
akbar, "God is great," which came into use the more gen- 
erally — on coins, documents, etc. — the more the courtiers 
came to reverse the sense of the slogan and to apply to it 
the meaning, "Akbar is God." 

Before I enter into the Emperor's assumption of this 

85 J. T. Wheeler, IV, I, 174; Noer, I, 511, 512. A familiar classical paral- 
lel to this incident is the experiment recorded by Herodotus (II, 2) which 
the Egyptian king Fsammetich is said to have performed with two infants. 
It is related that after being shut up in a goafs stable for two years separated 
from all human intercourse these children repeatedly cried out the alleged 
Phrygian word £e/c6s, "bread " which in reality was probably simply an imita- 
tion of the bleating of the goats. Compare Edward B. Tyler, Researches into 
the Early History of Mankind. 2d edition, (London, 1870), page 81: "It is a 
very trite remark that there is nothing absolutely incredible in the story and 
that Bekj bek is a good imitative word for bleating as in pXyx* ^, MK&ofiai, 
bloken, meckern, etc." Farther on we find the account of a similar attempt 
made by James IV of Scotland as well as the literature with regard to other 
historical and legendary precedents of this sort in both Orient and Occident. 

* 8 Noer, II, 324, 325. Beards which the Koran commanded to be worn 
Akbar even refused to allow in his presence- M. Elphinstone, 525; G. B. 
Malleson, 177. 


flattery and his conception of the imperial dignity as con- 
ferred by the grace of God, I must speak of the interesting 
attempts of the Jesuits to win over to Christianity the most 
powerful ruler of the Orient. 

As early as in the spring of 1578 a Portuguese Jesuit 
who worked among the Bengals as a missionary appeared 
at the imperial court and pleased Akbar especially because 
he got the better of the Ulemas in controversy. Two years 
later Akbar sent a very polite letter to the Provincial of 
the Jesuit order in Goa, requesting him to send two Fathers 
in order that Akbar himself might be instructed "in their 
faith and its perfection/' It is easy to imagine how gladly 
the Provincial assented to this demand and how carefully 
he proceeded with the selection of the fathers who were to 
be sent away with such great expectations. As gifts to 
the Emperor the Jesuits brought a Bible in four languages 
and pictures of Christ and the Virgin Mary, and to their 
great delight when Akbar received them he laid the Bible 
upon his head and kissed the two pictures as a sign of 
reverence. 37 

In the interesting work of the French Jesuit Du Jarric, 
published in 161 1, we possess very detailed accounts of the 
operations of these missionaries who were honorably re- 
ceived at Akbar's court and who were invited to take up 
their residence in the imperial palace. The evening as- 
semblies in the 'Ibadat Khana in Fathpur Sikri at once 
gave the shrewd Jesuits who were schooled in dialectics, 
an opportunity to distinguish themselves before the Em- 
peror who himself presided over this Religious Parliament 
in which Christians, Jews, Mohammedans, Brahmans, 
Buddhists and Parsees debated with each other. Abul Fazl 
speaks with enthusiasm in the Akbarname of the wisdom 
and zealous faith of Father Aquaviva, the leader of this Jes- 
uit mission, and relates how he offered to walk into a fiery 

17 J. T. Wheeler, IV, I, 162; Noer, I, 481. 


furnace with a New Testament in his hand if the Mullahs 
would do the same with the Koran in their hand, but that 
the Mohammedan priests withdrew in terror before this 
test by fire. It is noteworthy in this connection that the 
Jesuits at Akbar's court received a warning from their 
superiors not to risk such rash experiments which might 
be induced by the devil with the view of bringing shame 
upon Christianity. 38 The superiors were apparently well 
informed with regard to the intentions of the devil. 

In conversation with the Jesuits Akbar proved to be 
favorably inclined towards many of the Christian doctrines 
and met, his guests half way in every manner possible. 
They had permission to erect a hospital and a chapel and 
to establish Christian worship in the latter for the benefit 
of the Portuguese in that vicinity. Akbar himself occa- 
sionally took part in this service kneeling with bared head, 
which, however, did not hinder him from joining also in 
the Mohammedan ritual or even the Brahman religious 
practices of the Rajput women in his harem. He had his 
second son Murad instructed by the Jesuits in the Portu- 
guese language and in the Christian faith. 

The Jesuits on their side pushed energetically toward 
their goal and did not scorn to employ flattery in so far as 
to draw a parallel between the Emperor and Christ, but 
no matter how slyly the fathers proceeded in the accom- 
plishment of their plans Akbar was always a match for 
them. In spite of all concessions with regard to the ex- 
cellence and credibility of the Christian doctrines the Em- 
peror never seemed to be entirely satisfied. Du Jarric 
"complains bitterly of his obstinacy and remarks that the 
restless intellect of this man could never be quieted by one 
answer but must constantly make further inquiry/' 39 The 

88 J. T. Wheeler, IV, I, 165, note, 47; M. Elphinstone, 523, note 8; G. B. 
Malleson, 162. 

59 In Noer, I, 485. 


clever historian of Islam makes the following comment: 
"Bad, very bad; — perhaps he would not even be satisfied 
with the seven riddles of the universe of the latest natural 
science/' 40 

To every petition and importunity of the Jesuits to turn 
to Christianity Akbar maintained a firm opposition- A 
second and third embassy which the order at Goa sent out 
in the nineties of the sixteenth century, also labored in vain 
for Akbar's conversion in spite of the many evidences of 
favor shown by the Emperor. One of the last Jesuits to 
come, Jerome Xavier of Navarre, is said to have been in- 
duced by the Emperor to translate the four Gospels into Per- 
sian which was the language of the Mohammedan court of 
India. But Akbar never thought of allowing himself to 
be baptized, nor could he consider it seriously from political 
motives as well as from reasons of personal conviction. 
A man who ordered himself to be officially declared the 
highest authority in matters of faith — to be sure not so 
much in order to found an imperial papacy in his country 
as to guard his empire from an impending religious war — 
at any rate a man who saw how the prosperity of his reign 
proceeded from his own personal initiative in every respect, 
such a man could countenance no will above his own nor 
subject himself to any pangs of conscience. To recognize 
the Pope as highest authority and simply to recognize as 
objective truth a finally determined system in the realm in 
which he had spent day and night in a hot pursuit after a 
clearer vision, was for Akbar an absolute impossibility. 

Then too Akbar could not but see through the Jesuits 
although he appreciated and admired many points about 
them. Their rigid dogmatism, their intolerance and in- 
ordinate ambition could leave him no doubt that if they 
once arose to power the activity of the Ulemas, once by 
good fortune overthrown, would be again resumed by them 

40 A. Muller, II, 420 n. 


to a stronger and more dangerous degree. It is also prob- 
able that Akbar, who saw and heard everything, had learned 
of the horrors of the Inquisition at Goa. Moreover, the 
clearness of Akbar's vision for the realities of national life 
had too often put him on his guard to permit him to look upon 
the introduction of Christianity, however highly esteemed 
by him personally, as a blessing for India. He had broken 
the power of Islam in India; to overthrow in like man- 
ner the second great religion of his empire, Brahmanism, 
to which the great majority of his subjects clung with 
body and soul, and then in place of both existing religions 
to introduce a third foreign religion inimically opposed 
to them — such a procedure would have hurled India into 
an irremediable confusion and destroyed at one blow the 
prosperity of the land which had been brought about by 
the ceaseless efforts of a lifetime. For of course it was 
not the aim of the Jesuits simply to win Akbar personally 
to Christianity but they wished to see their religion made 
the state religion of this great empire. 

As has been already suggested, submission to Chris- 
tianity would also have been opposed to Akbar' s inmost 
conviction. He had climbed far enough up the stony path 
toward truth to recognize all religions as historically devel- 
oped and as the products of their time and the land of their 
origin. All the nobler religions seemed to him to be radia- 
tions from the one eternal truth. That he thought he had 
found the truth with regard to the fate of the soul in the 
Sufi-Vedantic doctrine of its migration through countless 
existences and its final ascension to deity has been pre- 
viously mentioned. With such views Akbar could not be- 
come a Catholic Christian. 

The conviction of the final reabsorption into deity, con- 
ditions also the belief in the emanation of the ego from 
deity. But Akbar's relation to God is not sufficiently 
identified with this belief. Akbar was convinced that he 


stood nearer to God than other people. This is already 
apparent in the title 'The Shadow of God" which he had 
assumed. The reversed, or rather the double, meaning 
of the sentence Alldhu akbar, "Akbar is God," was not 
displeasing to the Emperor as we know. And when the 
Hindus declared him to be an incarnation of a divinity he 
did not disclaim this homage. Such a conception was noth- 
ing unusual with the Hindus and did not signify a com- 
plete apotheosis. Although Akbar took great pains he 
was not able to permanently prevent the people from 
considering him a healer and a worker of miracles. But 
Akbar had too clear a head not to know that l^e was a 
man, — a man subject to mistakes and frailties; for when 
he permitted himself to be led into a deed of violence he had 
always experienced the bitterest remorse. Not the slightest 
symptom of Qsesaxomanja can be discovered in Akbar. 

Akbar felt that he was a mediator between God and 
man and believed "that the deity revealed itself to him in 
the mystical illumination of his soul." 41 This conviction 
Akbar held in common with many rulers of the Occident 
who were much smaller than he. Idolatrous marks of ven- 
eration he permitted only to a very limited degree. He 
was not always quite consistent in this respect however, 
and we must realize how infinitely hard it was to be con- 
sistent in this matter at an Oriental court when the cus- 
tomary servility, combined with sincere admiration and^ 
reverence, longed to actively manifest itself. 

Akbar, as we have already seen, suffered the Hindu 
custom of prostration, but on the other hand we have the 
express testimony to the contrary from the author Faizi, 
the trusted friend of the Emperor, who on the occasion of 
an exaggerated homage literally says : "The commands of 
His Majesty expressly forbid such devout reverence and as 
often as the courtiers offer homage of this kind because of 

<*Noer, 11,314,355. 


their loyal sentiments His Majesty forbids them, for such 
manifestations of worship belong to God alone." 42 Finally 
however Akbar felt himself moved to forbid prostration 
publicly, yet to permit it in a private manner, as appears in 
the following words of Abul Fazl 43 : 

"But since obscurantists consider prostration to be a 
blasphemous adoration of man, His Majesty in his prac- 
tical wisdom has commanded that it be put an end to with 
ignorant people of all stations and also that it shall not be 
practiced even by his trusted servants on public court days. 
Nevertheless if people upon whom the star of good fortune 
has shone are in attendance at private assemblies and re- 
ceive permission to be seated, they may perform the pros- 
tration of gratitude by bowing their foreheads to the earth 
and so share in the rays of good fortune. So forbidding 
prostration to the people at large and granting it to the 
select the Emperor fulfils the wishes of both and gives the 
world an example of practical wisdom." 

The desire to unite his subjects as much as possible 
: finally impelled Akbar to the attempt to equalize religious 
differences as well. Convinced that religions did not differ 
from each other in their innermost essence, he combined 
what in his opinion were the essential elements and about 
the year 1580 founded a new religion, the famous Din i 
Ilahi, the "religion of God." This religion recognizes only 
one God, a purely spiritual universally efficient being from 
whom the human soul is derived and towards which it 
tends. The ethics of this religion comprises the high 
moral requirements of Sufism and Parsism: complete tol- 
eration, equality of rights among all men, purity in 
thought, word and deed. The demand of monogamy, too, 
was added later. Priests, images and temples,— Akbar 
would have none of these in his new religion, but from the 

"InNoer, 11,409. 
"In Never, II, 347, 34& 


Parsees he took the worship of the fire and of the sun as 
to him light and its heat seemed the most beautiful symbol 
of the divine spirit. 44 He also adopted the holy cord of the 
Hindus and wore upon his forehead the colored token cus- 
tomary among them. In this eclectic manner he accommo- 
dated himself in a few externalities to the different reli- 
gious communities existing in his kingdom. 

Doubtless in the foundation of his Din i Ilahi Akbar 
was not pursuing merely ideal ends but probably political 
ones as well, for the adoption of the new religion signified 
an increased loyalty to the Emperor. The novice had to 
declare himself ready to yield to the Emperor his property, 
his life, his honor, and his former faith, and in reality the 
adherents of the Din i Ilahi formed a clan of the truest and 
most devoted servitors of the Emperor. It may not be 
without significance that soon after the establishment of the 
Din i Ilahi a new computation of time was introduced 
which dated from the accession of Akbar to the throne in 

After the new religion had been in existence perhaps 
five years the number of converts began to grow by the 
thousands but we can say with certainty that the greater 
portion of these changed sides not from conviction but 
on account of worldly advantage, since they saw that mem- 
bership in the new religion was very advantageous to a 
career in the service of the state. 45 By far the greatest 
number of those who professed the Din i Ilahi observed 
only the external forms, privately remaining alien to it. 

In reality the new religion did not extend outside of 
Akbar's court and died out at his death. Hence if failure 
here can be charged to the account of the great Emperor, 
yet this very failure redounds to his honor. Must it not 
be counted as a great honor to Akbar that he considered 

** M. Elphinstone, 524. 
48 Noer, I, 503. 


it possible to win over his people to a spiritual imageless 
worship of God? Had he known that the religious re- 
quirements of the masses can only be satisfied by concrete 
objects of worship and by miracles (the more startling the 
better), that a spiritualized faith can never be the posses- 
sion of any but a few chosen souls, he would not have pro- 
ceeded with the founding of the Din i Ilahi. And still we 
cannot call its establishment an absolute failure, for the 
spirit of tolerance which flowed out from Akbar's religion 
accomplished infinite good and certainly contributed just 
as much to lessening the antagonisms in India as did Ak- 
bar's social and industrial reforms. 

A man who accomplished such great things and desired 
to accomplish greater, deserves a better fortune than was 
Akbar's towards the end of life. He had provided for his 
sons the most careful education, giving them at the same 
time Christian and orthodox Mohammedan instructors in 
order to lead them in their early years to the attainment of 
independent views by means of a comparison between con- 
trasts ; but he was never to have pleasure in his sons. It 
seems that he lacked the necessary severity. The two 
younger boys of this exceedingly temperate Emperor, 
Murad and Danial, died o£ delirium tremens in their youth 
even before their father. The oldest son, Selim, later the 
Emperor Jehangir, was also a drunkard and was saved 
from destruction through this inherited vice of the Timur 
dynasty only by the wisdom and determination of his wife. 
But he remained a wild uncontrolled cruel man (as differ- 
ent as possible from his father and apparently so by inten- 
tion) who took sides with the party of the vanquished 
Ulemas and stepped forth as the restorer of Islam. In 
frequent open rebellion against his magnanimous father 
who was only too ready to pardon him, he brought upon 
this father the bitterest sorrow; and especially by having 
the trustworthy minister and friend of his father, Abul 


Fazl, murdered while on a journey. Very close to Akbar 
also was the loss of his old mother to whom he had clung 
his whole life long with a touching love and whom he out- 
lived only a short time. 

Akbar lost his best friends and his most faithful ser- 
vants before he finally succumbed to a very painful abdom- 
inal illness, which at the last changed him also mentally to 
a very sad extent, and finally carried him off on the night 
of the fifteenth of October, 1605. He was buried at Sikan- 
dra near Agra in a splendid mausoleum of enormous pro- 
portions which he himself had caused to be built and which 
even to-day stands almost uninjured. 

This in short is a picture of the life and activities of 
the greatest ruler which the Orient has ever produced. 
In order to rightly appreciate Akbar' s greatness we must 
bear in mind that in his empire he placed all men on an 
equality without regard to race or religion, and granted 
universal freedom of worship at a time when the Jews were 
still outlaws in the Occident and many bloody persecutions 
occurred from time to time; when in the Occident men 
were imprisoned, executed or burnt at the stake for the 
sake of their faith or their doubts ; at a time when Europe 
was polluted by the horrors of witch-persecution and the 
massacre of St. Bartholemew. 46 Under Akbar's rule India' 
stood upon a much higher plane of civilization in the six- 
teenth century than Europe at the same time. 

Germany should be proud that the personality of Akbar 
who according to his own words "desired to live at peace 
with all humanity, with every creature of God/' has so 
inspired a noble German of princely blood in the last cen- 
tury that he consecrated the work of his life to the biography 
of Akbar. This man is the Prince Friedrich August of 
Schleswig-Holstein, Count of Noer, who wandered through 
the whole of Northern India on the track of Akbar's ac- 

40 Noer, I, 490 n. 

lilpll B " 




tivities, and on the basis of the most careful investigation 
of sources has given us in his large two-volumed work the 
best and most extensive information which has been writ- 
ten in Europe about the Emperor Akbar. How much his 
work has been a labor of love can be recognized at every 
step in his book but especially may be seen in a touching 
letter from Agra written on the 24th of April, 1868, in 
which he relates that he utilized the early hours of this 
day for an excursion to lay a bunch of fresh roses on Ak- 
bar's grave and that no visit to any other grave had ever 
moved him so much as this. 47 

47 Noer, II, 564, 572. 

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