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Akbar, the great was one of the most eminent rulers of Indian history. He was one of the two greatest and of course the most controversial personality along with Aurangzeb. Both are variously held responsible for the downfall of the Mughal Empire.
Akbar came to the throne in 1556 after the sudden death of his father, Humayun. The news of Humayun’s death was kept secret for 17 days. When he came to power he was a child of hardly 14. The first aim of Akbar was to bring all India under one ruler and to accomplish this task in a great measure by enlisting in its favor several races which he desired to bring within his fold.
Hemu, Commander of Adil Shah occupied Agra and Delhi and Tardi Beg, Mughal Commander fled away. For this he was awarded death punishment and Bairam Khan became Commander of the Mughal Army.
Second Battle of Panipat
Hemu occupied Delhi and Agra. He proclaimed himself king under the title of Vikrama Jit. When the news of the fall of Delhi and Agra reached Akbar, he ordered an immediate march towards Sirhind. At Sirhind Tardi Beg joined with remnant of his forces. In the mean time Hemu was setting his troops in order, and when he heard of the arrival of Akbar at Sirhind, he marched from Delhi, sending his artillery in advance to Panipat. From Sirhind Akbar moved towards Panipat, on November 5, 1556, the fight began at the battle field of Panipat.
Hemu succeeded in overthrowing the right and left wing of the Mughal forces and was attempting to crush the centre by his elephants, but suddenly an arrow pierced through his eyes which made him unconscious. On seeing their leader fall, the army of Hemu fled away and the Mughals came out victorious.
The second Battle of Panipat proved to be of far- reaching importance. The Mughals gained a decisive victory over the Afghans.
Akbar’s Rajput Policy
Akbar probably was the first Muslim ruler of India who adopted liberal policy of conciliation toward Rajputs and his other non Muslim subjects. The Rajput chiefs not only offered submission to the Mughal Emperor but fought for him along with
Mughal soldiers in the expansion of the Mughal Empire as well as in the subjugation of the Rajput rulers and rebels. He secured Rajput friendship by matrimonial alliances with them as well as by granting posts of trust and responsibility to the Hindus within the civil and military administration. Apart from that the first step towards the friendship with them was that he removed the religious restrictions imposed by the Delhi Sultans over the Hindus. Akbar abolished the pilgrim tax imposed on the Hindus and also remitted jizya or the poll tax on the non Muslims.
The Promulgation of Din-i-Illahi
The third or the final stage in the evolution of his religious views was reached in 1582 when he promulgated a new religion, the Din_i_llahi or Divine Religion. He opened the Ibadat Khana to the people of different faiths towards the end of the year 1578. Although discussions in the Ibadat Khana continued on, yet Akbar arranged private meetings with the scholars and holly men of different faiths. He lose faith in Sunni orthodoxy, then he turned to Shia scholars, but yet he got no mental satisfaction from Shia faith, then he turned to Sufism but in vain. Now he attempted to see consolation in other religions by freely mixing with Hindus Sanyasis, Christian missionaries, Zoroastrian priests and Hindu philosophers. After long enquiries about all the religions he came to the conclusion that there were sensible men in all religions. So he decided to establish a common religion which was acceptable to all the faiths, by including all the good points taken from all the religions, investigated by him. The basic principles of the new religious faith were:
(a) The principle of toleration.
(b) Grant of liberty of conscience and worship to all.
(c) Removal of all distinctions between the two communities.
The effects of toleration pursueded toward the Hindus endeared the latter to him so strongly that they became so loyal and faithful supporters in all the matters of the state. The danger from the Rajputs and Hindus was also over now. They were later on used by him as a valuable weapon against his enemies – the Uzbeks and other rebellious officers.
In 1556 when Akbar came to power, he had no territory, but when he died in 1605, he left a very long powerful and consolidated empire.
Akbar as an Administrator
Akbar was not only the founder of the Mughal Empire in India, but he was also a great administrator. He laid the foundation of a splendid system of administration which continued for a period of two centuries. Salient features of his administration were as follow:
The Central Ministers:
For their assistance in the administration of the country, the Mughal Emperors had appointed ministers under them. The following ministers had been appointed.
(a) The Prime Minister ( vakil )
(b) The Finance Minister ( diwan or Wazir )
Akbar had divided his empire into well- defined provinces in which he set up a well established and uniform system of administration. In each of such province or suba there was a Governor, styled as Sipah Salar, Commander_in_chief, the Diwan, a Bakhshi, a Faujdar, a kotwal, the Qazi, the Sadar, the Amil, the Bitikchi, the Potdar and other officers of the revenue department.
Aprt from that Akbar established an efficient Mansabdari system in 1570, to regulate the Imperial services. All the gazzetted Imperial officers of the state were styled as Mansabdars. To begin with they were classified into sixty-six grades, from the mansab of ten to ten thousands. Thus it was Akbar who organized the mansabs of his Imperial officers in a very systematic form that it became associated with his name.