In 1575 Akbar was about thirty-four years of age. Twenty years had passed away since the boy had been installed as padishah.”
Continuing Akbar Establishes the Moghul Empire In India,
our selection from The History of India: Mogul Empire by James Talboys Wheeler published in 1881. The selection is presented in six easy 5 minute installments.
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Place: Lahore, India
Another officer, named Khan Zeman, played a similar game in Behar. He was warned that Akbar was on the move; he escaped punishment by making over the spoil before Akbar came up. This satisfied Akbar; he returned part of the spoil and went back to Agra. Henceforth Khan Zeman was a rebel at heart. Some Usbeg chiefs revolted in Oudh; they were joined by Khan Zeman. Akbar was called away to the Punjab by an Afghan invasion; on his return the rebels were in possession of Oudh and Allahabad. Akbar marched against them in the middle of the rains. He outstripped his army; he reached the Ganges with only his bodyguard. The rebels were encamped on the opposite bank; they had no fear; they expected Akbar to wait until his army came up. That night Akbar swam the river with his bodyguard. At daybreak he attacked the enemy. The rebels heard the thunder of the imperial kettle-drums; they could not believe their ears. They fled in all directions. Khan Zeman was slain in the pursuit. The other leaders were taken prisoners; they were trampled to death by elephants. Thus for a while the rebellion was stamped out.
These incidents are only types of others. In plain truth, the Muslem power in India had spent its force. The brotherhood of Islam had ceased to bind together conflicting races; it could not hold together men of the same race. The struggle between Shiah and Sunni was dividing the world of Islam. Moguls, Turks, and Afghans were fighting against each other; they were also fighting among themselves. Rebels of different races were combining against the Padishah. Meantime any scruples that remained against fighting fellow-Muslems were a hinderance to Akbar in putting down revolts. The Muslem power was crumbling to pieces. The dismemberment had begun two centuries earlier in the revolt of the Deccan. Since then the strength which remained in the scattered fragments was wasted in wars and revolts; the whole country was drifting into anarchy.
No one could save the empire but a born statesman. Akbar had already proved himself a born soldier. Had he been only a soldier he might still have held his own against Afghans and Usbegs from Peshawur to Allahabad. Had he been bloodthirsty and merciless, like Bairam Khan, he might have stamped out revolt and mutiny by massacre and terrorism. But he would have left no mark in history, no lessons for posterity, no political ideas for the education of the world. He might have made a name like Genghis Khan or Timur; but the story of his life would have dropped into oblivion. After his death every evil that festered in the body politic would have broken out afresh. His successors would have inherited the same wars, the same revolts, and the same mutinies; unless they had inherited his capacity, they would have died out in anarchy and in revolution.
Akbar had never been educated. He had never learned to write, nor even to read. He had not gone with his father to Persia, where he might have been schooled in Muslem learning. He had spent a joyless boyhood with a cruel uncle in Kabul; he had been schooled in nothing but war. But he had listened to histories, and pondered over histories, until grand ideas began to seethe in his brain.
The problem before him was the resuscitation of the empire, or rather the creation of a new empire out of the existing chaos. Fresh blood was wanted to infuse life and strength into the body politic; to enable the Mogul Shiahs to subdue the Afghan Sunnis. Akbar saw with the eye of genius that the necessary force was latent in the Rajputs. Henceforth he devoted all the energies of his nature to bring that force into healthy play.
In 1575 Akbar was about thirty-four years of age. Twenty years had passed away since the boy had been installed as padishah. He had not as yet conquered Kabul in the northwest, nor Bengal in the southeast; he had not made any sensible advance into the Deccan. But he had gained a succession of victories. He had restored order in the Punjab and Hindustan. He had subdued Malwa, Guzerat, and Rajputana. Many Rajputs were still in arms against him; he had nothing to fear from them. He had fixed his capital at Agra; his favorite residence, however, was at Fathipur Sikri, about twelve miles from Agra.
It is easy to individualize Akbar. He was haughty, like all the Moguls; he was outwardly clement and affable. He was tall and handsome; broad in the chest and long in the arms. His complexion was ruddy, a nut-brown. He had a good appetite and a good digestion. His strength was prodigious. His courage was very remarkable. While yet a boy he displayed prodigies of valor in the battle against Hemu. He would spring on the backs of elephants who had killed their keepers; he would compel them to do his bidding. He kept a herd of dromedaries; he gained his victories by the rapidity of his marches. He was an admirable marksman. He had a favorite gun which had brought him thousands of game. With that same gun he shot Jeimal the Rajput at the siege of Chitor.