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AKBAR, JALAL UD-DIN MUHAMMAD

AKBAR, JALAL UD-DINMUHAMMAD (1542-1605), third in the line of Mughal emperors of India, was born on 23 November 1542 at Amarkot, in Sindh, while his father, Humayun, was escaping to Persia after he had been ousted by Sher Khan Sur. Akbar was crowned king at Kalanaur, in the Punjab, on 14 February 1556. At that time, the only territory he claimed was a small part of the Punjab, Delhi and Agra having been taken by Hemu. He was then fourteen years old, but he proved himself a great general and conqueror. Upon his death in 1605, he left to his son and successor, Jahangir, a stable kingdom comprising the whole of Upper India, Kabul, Kashmir, Bihar, Bengal, Orissa and a great part of the Deccan.

Great soldier as he was, it is as an administrator that he gained the highest fame. His revenue reforms and his liberal religious policy won him popular acclaim.He abolished Jizyah, capitation tax on non Muslims, and the pilgrimage tax Hindus had to pay. He curbed the power of the ul'ama. Although illiterate himself, he was genuinely interested in the study of comparative religion and built an ibadat khana (house of worship) where learned men of all religions assembled to discourse on theological issues.

These discussions convinced Akbar that there were good and positive elements in all religions and prompted him to promulgate a new eclectic faith called Dini-Ilahi (Divine Faith), which he vainly hoped would prove acceptable to all of his subjects.The Sikh chronicles refer to Akbar's amicable relations with Guru Amar Das, Nanak III. They also allude to Akbar's visit to Goindval where he had to eat in the Sikh community refectory like any other pilgrim before he could see the Guru. As the Mahima Prakash records, the Emperor refused to step on the silks spread out for him by his servants when going to call on Guru Amar Das.He turned aside the lining with his own hands and walked to the Guru's place barefoot.

As recorded in Abul Fazl's Akbarnama, a contemporary source, Akbar also visited Guru Arjan at Goindval on 24 November 1598. At the Guru's instance, he remitted the annual revenue of the peasants of the district, who had been hit hard by the failure of the monsoon. According to another account, complaints were made to Akbar that the Holy Book of the Sikhs, Granth Sahib, contained references derogatory to Islam and other religions.Akbar, who was then encamped at Batala in the Punjab, sent for Guru Arjan. The Guru despatched Bhai Buddha and Bhai Gurdas with the Holy Volume.

The book was opened at random and read from a spot pointed out by Akbar. The hymn was in praise of God. So were the others read out subsequently. Akbar was highly pleased arid made an offering of fifty-one gold mohars to the Granth Sahib. He presented Bhai Buddha and Bhai Gurdas with robes of honour and gave a third one for the Guru. Akbar died at Agra on 16 October 1605 and was succeeded by his son, Jahangir.

References :

1. Bhalla, Sarup Das, Mahima Prakash, part II. Patiala, 1971
2. Smith, Vincent A. , Akbar. Delhi, 1962
3. Beveridge, A.H., trans.. The AAbar Nama. Delhi, 1989
4. Macauliffe, Max Arthur, The Sikh Religion. Oxford, 1909

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