The Mughal emperor Akbar as we know was the most influential king of the Mughal empire. It was under his rule the empire flourished and expanded beyond its limits. We have read in history textbooks about his conquests, administration and reforms that have contributed to the growth of the empire. In this article, we will not repeat the facts and figures that take a long time to seep into the mind. Instead, we will know about 10 interesting facts about Akbar that will take you by surprise and may even tickle your curiosity.
So, let’s dive into the article without any further delay!
Akbar Became King at the Age of 13
Akbar was only a minor when he acceded the throne of the Mughal empire. After the death of his father Humayun in 1556, at the age of 13 Akbar assumed the position of the Mughal emperor or the Shahenshah. He was the third king of the Mughal empire. At the age of 13, he was made the governor of the Punjab region.
Since he was only a child who is deemed unfit to rule, Bairam Khan became his regent. Apart from serving as a regent, he was also the guardian, mentor and close confidante of Akbar. With Bairam Khan’s help, Akbar won the Second Battle of Panipat against King Hemu and regained all the lost territories. Thus, with Bairam Khan leading different battles and serving as the chief general of Akbar, many territories were conquered and merged with the Mughal empire.
Akbar’s Second Consort was Betrothed to his Mentor Bairam Khan
Salima Sultan Begum was Mughal emperor Akbar’s second consort. She was also his first cousin and daughter to his paternal aunt Gulrukh Begum and Nuruddin Muhammad Mirza (Viceroy of Kannauj). Before that, she was betrothed to Bairam Khan who was 40 years older than her. The couple had no issues together. The marriage was arranged by Humayun. Three years after the marriage in 1561, Bairam Khan was assassinated by a group of Afghans and the alliance was cut short.
Salima Sultan Begum did not bear any children with Akbar but was entrusted with the care of Akbar’s second son, Murad Mirza for a few years. She wielded considerable influence over Akbar and his son Jahangir.
Akbar Introduced the Din-e-Ilahi
The Mughal emperor introduced the all-inclusive religion of Din-e-Ilahi to merge religious differences. Din-e-Ilahi also means “religion of God” was formulated for people to practice their religion in combination with other religions. This will bring a greater sense of unity and belongingness to a separate identity. He never compelled anyone to follow the religion he created but had a great desire for the religion to be opted among his fellowmen.
Akbar was religiously tolerant and always promoted the ideals of “unity in diversity”. He had many Hindu confidantes and was even married a Rajput princess named Jodha Bai. It was because of his liberal ideals, he introduced a new religion “Din-e-Ilahi”. Additionally, to strengthen his kingdom it was necessary to make people from different cultural identities feel inclusive. As per the religion, one must yearn for God, give up meat and sins like greed, lust, slander etc.
Akbar Constructed a Temple and a Separate Kitchen for Jodha Bai
Jodha Bai was a Rajput princess who became Mughal emperor Akbar’s third consort on January 20 1562. Jodha Bai was a strict vegetarian and couldn’t share her meals from a kitchen that cooked non-vegetarian food. As a result, Akbar had instructed a separate vast kitchen for her where only vegetarian meals were prepared. He even took vegetarian food three days a week after his marriage to the Rajput princess.
Akbar was a liberal minded Mughal emperor who believed in secularism. After marrying Jodha Bai, he built her a palace to honour her religious identity. The architecture was fashioned in a Rajputana style and it consisted of a temple with the idol of Lord Krishna as Jodha Bai was an ardent devotee of the deity. During those times, when rules involved following patriarchal tradition for women, Akbar defied the norms and built the temple and the palace because of his kind consideration and love for his wife. She was allowed freely to worship Lord Krishna in both the royal palaces of Agra and Fatehpur Sikri.
Akbar Was an illiterate Man
Akbar may have been dyslexic right from the beginning, for which he couldn’t bring himself to read and write. All attempts to instruct him in different disciplines were met with failure. Therefore, he remained an illiterate man all his life. This didn’t deter his desire to give up on education completely. He would always have someone with a pleasant voice read out loud to him when he retired in the evening.
Akbar even modified a huge library inherited from his father Humayun and installed 24,000 books in it. He made attempts to organize the library and make it unrivalled in the world. Despite being an illiterate man, he appointed the navratnas or “9 Jewels of the Mughal court” that would make considerable contributions to literature. Besides, he always enjoyed the company of refined literary men. He was indeed a great patron of education as can be found through the establishments of various Maktabs and Madrasas with a proper education system in place.
Akbar’s Foster Mother Served as the de facto ruler of the Mughal Empire
Akbar’s foster mother was Maham Anga who is said to have weaned him during childhood. She was his chief nurse before he was crowned the “Shahenshah” at the age of 13. She was shrewd in her ways and played a dominant role in matters of the harem or the household. She crafted a ploy to make Akbar feel that he no longer needed Bairam Khan. Maham Anga and his son Adham Khan planned to make Akbar visit India and they utilized the opportunity to make their plans fruitful.
She even used emotion as a tool to influence Akbar. For example, on one such occasion, she pleaded with the emperor to let her stay in Mecca so that she don’t have to bear up with the brunt of Bairam Khan. Thus, Maham Anga exercised a lot of power on the Mughal emperor Akbar.
Akbar Removed jizya tax on Non-Muslims
Jizya was a tax levied on non-Muslims by Qutb-ud-din-Aibak, the general of the Ghurid king Muhammad Ghori. The tax was paid in order to give protection to the non-Muslim population by its Muslim rulers. Moreover, the non-Muslims were even exempted from military service or can practise their religion with freedom. This tax was abolished by the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1564. As Akbar was a religiously tolerant man, he didn’t believe in imposing the tax upon non-Muslims.
The tax is mentioned in Quran but the extent is not stated. It was introduced by the Muslim rulers to promote Islam in the Indian subcontinent. However, since jizya was against Hindu sentiments, Akbar thought of abolishing it. He knew that giving up such taxes can foster good relations between the two communities of Hindus and Muslims.
Differences Cropped up Between Akbar and his general Bairam Khan in later years
Bairam Khan who was the guardian and the regent of Akbar later turned rebellious against the emperor. He was provoked by the conspirators who provided false information just to see him ruined. He rebelled twice against Akbar which was subdued eventually. Although the emperor forgave him but he robbed him of all the privileges he enjoyed. He had three options placed for Bairam Khan which are:
- He could have a handsome jagir in the sarkar of Chanderi and Kalpi
- Bairam Khan could become Akbar’s confidential advisor
- He could go out on a journey to Mecca
Bairam Khan sided with the third and the last option of visiting Mecca.
Akbar had 5000 Women in his Palace
Akbar had a total of 5000 women in his palace as per reports. 300 of them were said to be his wives or concubines that resided in his harem. The rest of the women were female servants and other close relatives.
The majority of these marriages were political alliances, less likely to be personal love interests of emperor Akbar. Local rulers were eager to wed off their daughters to emperors to gain political advantages and to be in favor. These women were quite influential and were an active participant in society. They even established various madrasas and mosques and monuments. For example, Maham Anga erected the Khair-ul-Manzil which is a mosque and a Madrasa complex.
Akbar’s Death Resulted From Dysentery or Acute Diarrhea
Akbar fell ill in 1605 but he was not treated by the chief physician Hakim Ali. It was thought that the emperor’s vigor of constitution would have revived him but his situation started becoming worse. He had developed an acute case of diarrhea or dysentery. On the ninth day, the physician started providing him with remedies to cure his illness. It is stated that the conflict between his son Salim and his grandson Khusrau aggravated Akbar’s health condition and took him to a no-recovery state.
While Akbar lay in the bed ailing, Khurram (later Shah Jahan) who was his most favorite grandson refused to leave his side although his life was under threat. A conflict arose between two groups in support of Salim and Khusrau to place their leads as the next emperor. However, Akbar, in his declining state of health, motioned to the attendants to invest Salim with the robes, the daggers and the turban. Following this, Akbar succumbed to his ill health on 27 October 1605.
The Final Thought!
Did you find the facts about Mughal emperor Akbar interesting? Were all of these facts known to you? Did you come across any such fact for the first time? If you know any more facts about Mughal emperor Akbar, let us know in the comments section.