Mughals : Din-Illahi

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Arrival | Rajputs & Portuguese | Babur | Khanwah | Humayun | Sher Shah | Akbar | Din-Illahi | Haldi Ghati | Administration | Jahangir | Shah Jahan | Aurangzeb | Last Mughals | Europeans | Nadir Shah 

The major achievement of Akbar may be described as the re-creation of the imperial idea in India. The early Hindu emperors had surrounded themselves with an aura of sanctity in tune with Hindu ideas. The Muslim sultans were venerated by their subjects; each dynasty was forgotten within a generation of its overthrow. Akbar restored this concept of imperial sanctity. It is this purpose that lies behind the otherwise strange episode of Akbar's 'Divine Faith' or Din-Illahi. This episode sprang from his undoubted interest in religion and tendency to free thought and mysticism.

Akbar was always free-minded. His marriage with Maharani Jodha Bai, younger sister of Maharaja Man Singh of Jaipur and his marriage with a Christian girl are ample proof of this. He wanted his heir to be born to have the roots of all the main faiths in this world. He also abolished Jazia , a tax imposed on Hindus for not following the tenets of Islam. There followed an era of religious discussions into which were brought Portugese fathers from Goa, Hindu Brahmins, Jains, and Zoroastrians.

This lead to a break with Islam and virtual revolt lead by his brother Muhammad Hakim in Kabul. This happened in 1580 but was soon crushed by 1581, after that Akbar remained unchallenged for rest of his life. During the next twenty four years Din-Illahi developed as a cult. Many Muslim intellectuals like Abul Fazl (the philosopher of the cult), his brother Faizi, the poet, and some Hindus like Raja Birbal and Tansen joined the cult. The noticeable feature of this cult was that Akbar was treated as super-human or semi-divine person and the whole cult was centered around him. His intention was to create an aura of respect for the throne so that it became a religious duty to obey the throne and sacrilege to oppose it.

There seems no doubt that Akbar was a remarkable personality. Though formally illiterate he had a prodigious memory and a keen intellect; he made up for writing by dictation and for reader by readers. He also had a great respect for superior intellects as well as masters of their respective trades. His court was rich in culture as well as material wealth. This is reflected by the courtiers he had which included Raja Birbal, Tansen (The greatest composer-musician of Hindustani music was Tansen, a vocalist and instrumentalist at the court of Akbar in the 1500's. Descendants of Tansen in the 1700's founded a tradition upon which modern Indian classical music is based), Abul Fazl & Faizi.

Akbar was a great patron of architecture, art, and literature. Its fame persuaded Queen Elizabeth I of England to send out her ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe. Many of Akbar's buildings still survive, including the Red Fort at Agra and the city of Fatehpur Sikri, with its encircling wall 10 kilometres long.

This is how his son describes him:-

He was of middle height, of a wheat-coloured complexion, with black eyes and eyebrows. His beauty was of form rather than face, with abroad chest and long arms. On his left nostril was a fleshy mole, very becoming, of the size of a split pea, which physiognomists understood to be an augury of great wealth and glory. His voice was extremely loud, and in discourse and narration he was witty and animated. His whole air and appearance had little of the wordly being but exhibited rather divine majesty.

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