History of Jalal ud-din Muhammad Akbar
Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, more famously known as Akbar the Great, was the third emperor of the Mughal Empire, after Babur and Humayun. He was the son of Nasiruddin Humayun and succeeded him as the emperor in the year 1556, at the tender age of just 13. He extended his power and influence over the entire country due to his military, political, cultural, and economic dominance. He established a centralized system of administration and adopted a policy of marriage alliance and diplomacy. With his religious policies, he won the support of his non-Muslim subjects as well. He was one of the greatest emperors of the Mughal dynasty and extended his patronage to art and culture. Being fond of literature, he extended support to literature in several languages. Akbar, thus, laid the foundations for a multicultural empire during his reign.
Early Life & Childhood
Akbar was born as Abu’l-Fath Jalal ud-din Muhammad Akbar at the Umerkot fort in Sind on October 15, 1542. His father Humayun, the second emperor of the Mughal dynasty was in flight after his defeat in the battle of Kanauj (in May 1540) at the hands of Sher Shah Suri. He and his wife Hamida Banu Begum, who was pregnant at that time, were granted refuge by the Hindu ruler Rana Prasad. As Humayun was in exile and had to move constantly, Muhammad Akbar was brought up in the household of his paternal uncles, Kamran Mirza and Aksari Mirza. Growing up he learnt how to hunt and fight using various weapons, shaping up to be the great warrior who would be the greatest emperor of India. He never learned to read and write during his childhood, but that did not diminish his thirst for knowledge. He would often ask to be read about art and religion.
Muhammad Akbar was 13 years old at that time and Humayun’s trusted general Bairam Khan took up the post of Regent for the young Emperor. Akbar succeeded Humayun on February 14, 1556 in Kalanaur (Punjab) and was proclaimed ‘Shahanshah’. Bairam Khan ruled on behalf of the young Emperor till he came of age.
Muhammad Akbar married his cousin Ruqaiya Sultan Begum, daughter of his paternal uncle Hindal Mirza, in November 1551. Ruqaiya became his chief consort after he ascended the throne. In 1562, he married the daughter of Raja Bharmal, ruler of Amer. The marriage took place when Akbar was on his way back from Ajmer after offering prayers to the tomb of Moinuddin Chishti. Bharmal had conveyed to Akbar that he was being harassed by his brother-in-law Sharif-ud-din Mirza (the Mughal hakim of Mewat). Akbar insisted that Bharmal should submit to him personally, it was also suggested that his daughter should be married to him as a sign of complete submission. She was entitled Mariam-uz-Zamani after giving birth to Akbar’s eldest surviving son, Prince Salim (the future emperor Jahangir). She died on 19 May 1623. His third wife was his cousin, Salima Sultan Begum, the daughter of Nur-ud-din Muhammad Mirza and his wife Gulrukh Begum also known as Gulrang, the daughter of Emperor Babur. She was at first betrothed to Bairam Khan by Humayun. After Bairam Khan’s death in 1561, Akbar married her himself the same year. She died childless on 2 January 1613.
At the time of his ascent to the Mughal throne, Akbar’s empire encompassed Kabul, Kandahar, Delhi and parts of Punjab. But the Afghan Sultan Mohammad Adil Shah of Chunar had designs on the throne of India and planned to wage war against the Mughals.
Following his victory over the Rajputana, Muhammad Akbar brought Gujarat (1584), Kabul (1585), Kashmir (1586-87), Sindh (1591), Bengal (1592) and Kandahar (1595) within the Mughal territory. The Mughal army led by General Mir Mausam also conquered parts of Balochistan around Quetta and Makran by 1595.
Architecture and Culture
Akbar commissioned the building of several forts and mausoleums during his reign and established a distinct architectural style that has been dubbed as Mughal architecture by connoisseurs. Among the architectural marvels commissioned during his rule are the Agra Fort (1565–1574), the town of Fatehpur Sikri (1569–1574) with its beautiful Jami Masjid and Buland Darwaza, Humayun’s Tomb (1565-1572), Ajmer Fort (1563-1573), Lahore Fort (1586-1618) and Allahabad Fort (1583-1584).
Death of Akbar
In 1605, at the age of 63, Muhammad Akbar fell ill with a serious case of dysentery. He never recovered from it and after three weeks of suffering, he died on October 27, 1605 at Fatehpur Sikri. He was buried at Sikandra, Agra.
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