Born Abu’l-Fath Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad Akbar, Akbar the Great was the first true emperor of India, as a nation. Before Akbar’s reign, the country was split into numerous counties and small empires, ruled by different factions of Hindu and Muslim rulers. But, with Akbar’s extensive military campaign and ruling acumen, the country was united under one rule, earning him the title of Shahanshah Akbar-e-Azam. In its glory, Akbar’s empire extended from present day Afghanistan in the north to the Godavari in the south, spreading its boundaries between the Sindh in the west and Bengal in the east. Though there were large empires before Akbar, none were as extensive and none commanded the loyalty from its smaller nations as Akbar’s. Akbar was born on October 15th, 1542 in Umarkot, Sindh in India. He was the eldest son of Humayun, son of Babar. During the birth of Akbar, Humayun was in exile, due to the re-conquest of Sher Shah Suri. Though Humayun managed to regain his empire, he died shortly after doing so, placing Akbar on the throne at the age of 14. None would have predicted this young boy to unite the entire nation under one rule, but history, as it happens made the unexpected –possible. Though Akbar is criticized and praised by both historians and religionists alike, Akbar was without doubt the greatest king. So let’s take a look at the unusual facts surrounding this great emperor.
10. Descendant of Genghis Khan
Akbar the Great was of Timur descent, which is believed to the bloodline of the Mongol terror – Genghis Khan. The blood line of Akbar the Great shows he is a direct descendant of Genghis Khan, which makes his attributes all the more interesting. Since, Genghis Khan was a ruthless conqueror from the Mongol steppes, who invaded most of the known world during his period. He was known to be the most fearsome warrior on the field, and his forces were the most dreaded nightmare of any army. Since Genghis Khan was a Turk, controversies surround the ethnicity of Akbar the Great.
9. A new Religion
It’s a well-known fact that Akbar the Great was highly tolerant to the faiths of other religions and supported the growth of other religious beliefs in his empire, unlike his predecessors. But the little known fact is that, Akbar wanted to go a step beyond than just being tolerant. He wanted to create a unified religion. He founded the Din-e-Ilahi, a religion based on the principles of Hinduism, Islam and Parsi Faiths. It attempted to bring together the faiths of various religions prevalent in that day and create a unified religious order. But since, it was ethically impossible and it had no holy-book or concrete base, it failed and was soon abolished. But if it had succeeded, the history would have been entirely different.
8. The Navratnas
Akbar was not only a great ruler but also a great patron of the arts. His commitment to culture and his love for arts was outshone by the Navratnas of his court. Navratnas, when translated to English literally means the nine gems. The nine extraordinary people in his court were also the most trustworthy consults of the great emperor. Each one had special talents which greatly helped the emperor expand his territories and grow his governing acumen. The most notable people in the court were: Birbal, who was well known for his wittiness, throughout texts; Abul Fazel, who was the author of Akbarnama, and Mian Tansen, a very talented singer.
Though Akbar was a great patron of the arts, a serious disability still haunted him. He was dyslexic and was completely incapable of reading or writing as the years of his life progressed. But still with his most trusted ministers and loyal servants, he did attend to every single work of art and continuously dedicated his time towards learning by hearing. Despite his inability, he was the most educated emperor of India, which is embellished on the walls of time by his patronage to arts. Probably only due to his disability he collected and praised the artwork and poetry of his day. It is also remarkable to note, he administered the entire country being a dyslexic.
6. Akbar’s Personal Life
As portrayed in his biography and by his dedication to arts and poetry, it was well known that Akbar the Great was quite a romantic. In his entire lifespan, he married over 30 women belonging to different religions. Though the marriages of women from other religions were considered to be of strategically important benefits; Akbar also had love for the women he married. The most notable of his wives was Jodha Bai Akbar, who was a Jaipur princess. Though she was a Hindu by birth, she commanded enormous respect and handled much of the administrative work.
Akbar was the leader in every way, which included his administrative capabilities as well. His taxation methods were the first to be based on a measured basis, more like the income tax of present day. Before Akbar, the peasants and farmers had to pay irrespective of their stature, size of farm and cultivation that year. But during Akbar’s reign, the lands of farmers were measured by their cultivable area and taxed according to the output. The failed crops and fallow lands received the emperor’s concession and were taxed at much lower rates. This was the first time in history, that an entire empire followed such a taxation method.
4. Centralized Government
Akbar showed administrative brilliance and military genius by uniting the various ruling factions of India under the single Mughal Empire. He abolished the method of allowing conquered empires to be ruled independently by their original owners, with the payment large taxes to the empire. He instead accommodated the individual factions to his own court and ruled from a central position; this gave the power to the smaller factions in Akbar’s court and vice versa. This commanded enormous respect from his peers, and was one of the major reasons for Akbar’s successful rule.
3. The Betrayal
Though Akbar was well known for his many remarkable types of attire; but as with all conquerors he had to do his part in betrayal to concrete his position as the emperor. After Humayun’s death the, the empire was left weak and was commanded by the courageous yet very young Akbar. With the threats of his Afghan counterparts, the Mughal dynasty would have been crushed, if it wasn’t for his trusted general Bairam Khan. Under the regency of Bairam Khan, Akbar successfully defended the empire against Afghans and defeated the last Hindu Emperor Hemu. But when Akbar came of age, he dismissed Bairam Khan in fear of losing his control and executed him afterwards and married his wife.
2. Akbar the Hunter
Akbar was a very courageous hunter from a young age and never actually feared anything. His greatest passion was hunting and hunted frequently during peace time in his empire. His hunts were accompanied only by loyal trustees, and more often Akbar Hunted alone. His hunts included: cheetahs, lions, tigers, black buck and even elephants. It is said that, in one such hunts Akbar was mortally wounded and recovered miraculously; but many still believe it could have been a major reason for Akbar’s mysterious death. Akbar atrophied his hunts and sometime he tranquilized animals and sent them as gifts to neighboring nations or to his wives. He also loved to keep wild animals as pets.
Akbar the great was the greatest innovator as far as coinage and currency is concerned. Akbar’s innovative system is the foundation of India’s numismatic history. Before the reign of Akbar, the coinage system was both ineffective, and almost inexistent, since both his predecessors were bent of conquest and lacked administrative intelligence. But in Akbar’s long reign of 50 years, he perfected the coinage and currency system, which marked the golden age of his reign. The coins were of both square and circular in shape, minted in a heavily guarded manufactory in both silver and gold. The inscription in the coins promoted the glory of both religion and prosperity of the emperor. The tolerance of the emperor is shown in the coinage, which featured Hindu inscriptions as well. Also the patronage to arts of the emperor and the glory of the empire is personified by the calligraphy and portrayal of paintings inscribed in the coins.