Abu’l-Fath Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad Akbar , also known as Shahanshah Akbar-e-Azam or Akbar the Great (14 October 1542 – 27 October 1605), was the third Mughal Emperor. He was of
Timurid descent; the son of Emperor Humayun, and the grandson of the Mughal Emperor Zaheeruddin Muhammad Babur, the ruler who founded the Mughal dynasty in India. At the end of his reign in 1605 the Mughal empire covered most of northern and central India. He is most appreciated for having a liberal outlook on all faiths and beliefs and during his era, culture and art reached a zenith as compared to his predecessors.
Akbar was 13 years old when he ascended the Mughal throne in Delhi (February 1556), following the death of his father Humayun. Du
ring his reign, he eliminated military threats from the powerful Pashtun descendants of Sher Shah Suri, and at the Second Battle of Panipat he decis
ively defeated the newly self-declared Hindu king Hemu. It took him nearly two more decades to consolidate his power and bring all the parts of northern and central India into his direct realm. Heinfluenced the whole of the Indian Subcontinent as he ruled a greater part of it as an emperor. As an emperor, Akbar solidified his rule by pursuing diplomacy with the powerful Hindu Rajput caste, and by marrying a Rajput princess.
Akbar’s reign significantly influenced art and culture in the country. He was a great patron of art and architecture  He took a great interest in painting, and had the walls of his palaces adorned with murals. Besides encouraging the development of the Mughal school, he also patronised the European style of painting. He was fond of literature, and had several Sanskrit works translated into Persian and Persian scriptures translated in Sanskrit apart from getting many Persian works illustrated by painters from his court. During the early years of his reign, he showed intolerant attitude towards Hindus and other religions, but later exercised tolerance towards non-Islamic faiths by rolling back some of the strict sharia laws. His administration included numerous Hindu landlords, courtiers and military generals. He began a series of religious debates where Muslim scholars would debate religious matters with Hindus, Jains, Zoroastrians and Portuguese Roman Catholic Jesuits. He treated these religious leaders with great consideration, irrespective of their faith, and revered them. He not only granted lands and money for the mosques but the list of the recipients included a huge number Hindu temples in north and central India, Christian churches in Goa.
Early years and name:-
Akbar was born on 14 October 1542 (the fourth day of Rajab, 949 AH), at the Rajput Fortress of Umerkot in Sindh (in modern day Pakistan), where Emperor Humayun and his recently wedded wife, Hamida Banu Begum, daughter of Shaikh Ali Akbar Jami, a Persian Shia, were taking refuge. After the capture of Kabul by Humayun, Badruddin’s circumcision ceremony was held and his date of birth and name were changed to throw off evil sorcerers and he was renamed Jalal-ud-din Muhammad by Humayun, a name which he had heard in his dream at Lahore. Part 10:..the birth of Akbar Humayun nama, Columbia University.
Humayun had been driven into exile in Persia by the Pashtun leader Sher Shah Suri. Akbar did not go to Persia with his parents but grew up in the village of Mukundpur in Rewa (in present day Madhya Pradesh). Akbar and prince Ram Singh I, who later became the Maharajah of Rewa, grew up together and stayed close friends through life. Later, Akbar moved to the eastern parts of the Safavid Empire (now a part of Afghanistan) where he was raised by his uncle Mirza Askari. He spent his youth learning to hunt, run, and fight, made him a daring, powerful and a brave warrior, but he never learned to read or write. This, however, did not hinder his search for knowledge as it is said always when he retired in the evening he would have someone read.[better source needed] In November 1551, Akbar married his first cousin, Ruqaiya Sultan Begum at Jalandhar. Princess Ruqaiya was the only daughter of his paternal uncle, Hindal Mirza, and was his first wife and chief consort.
Following the chaos over the succession of Sher Shah Suri’s son Islam Shah, Humayun reconquered Delhi in 1555, leading an army partly provided by his Persian ally Tahmasp I. A few months later, Humayun died. Akbar’s guardian, Bairam Khan concealed the death in order to prepare for Akbar’s succession. Akbar succeeded Humayun on 14 February 1556, while in the midst of a war against Sikandar Shah to reclaim the Mughal throne. In Kalanaur, Punjab, the 13-year-old Akbar was enthroned by Bairam Khan on a newly constructed platform, which still stands.[dead link] He was proclaimed Shahanshah (Persian for “King of Kings”). Bairam Khan ruled on his behalf until he came of age.
Akbar was known in his own time as a military genius. Due to the constant state of war between the Hindu Rajputs and the Mughal Empire, particularly after the wounding of the Mughal commander Khan Kilan by Rajput nobles in the year 1572, Akbar began to utilize the Kitar alongside the Mughal Talwars in battle. The latest Matchlocks were mass-produced by the finest craftsmen and effectively employed during various conflicts. Akbar also ordered the manufacture of the finest chain-plate armors and other protections that made his war elephants and Sowars invincible in combat. Akbar also began to utilize metal cylinder rockets known as bans particularly against war elephants, during the Battle of Sanbal.
Akbar also began to believe that war elephants were the keys to military success, he believed that a single “Armored Elephant” was equal to 500 Sowars at the center of the battlefield. Akbar also noted that elephants have the ability to move through the densest of forests clearing through woods and paving way for both the Mughal Sepoys, Sowars and Cannons. Akbar personally owned 5000 well trained elephants and recorded the use of almost 40,000 across his Mughal Empire. Akbar is also known to have replaced pairs of elephant tusks with a pair of double-curved Tusk Swords. War elephants were also used to carry out executions of those who fought against the Mughal Emperor. Akbar was the first to place advanced swivel guns and cannons atop of Howdahs, thus combining firepower and mobility on the battlefield and sieges.
The Mughal Emperor Akbar also distributed crescent military standards and kettledrums to his finest servicemen.
The court of young Akbar, age 13, showing his first imperial act: the arrest of an unruly courtier, who was once a favorite of Akbar’s father. Illustration from a manuscript of the Akbarnama
Akbar decided early in his reign that he should conquer the threat of Sher Shah’s dynasty, and decided to lead an army against the strongest of the three, Sikandar Shah Suri, in the Punjab. He left Delhi under the regency of Tardi Baig Khan. Sikandar Shah Suri presented no major concern for Akbar, and often withdrew from territory as Akbar approached.
The king Hemu, however, commanding the Afghan forces, defeated the Mughal Army and captured Delhi on 6 October 1556. Urged by Bairam Khan, who remarshalled the Mughal army before Hemu could consolidate his position, Akbar marched on Delhi to reclaim it. Akbar’s army, led by Bairam Khan, met the larger forces of Hemu on November 5, 1556 at the Second Battle of Panipat, 50 miles (80 km) north of Delhi. The battle was going in Hemu’s favour when an arrow pierced Hemu’s eye, rendering him unconscious. The leaderless army soon capitulated and Hemu was captured and executed.
The victory also left Akbar with over 1,500 war elephants which he used to re-engage Sikandar Shah at the siege of Choopa. Sikandar, along with several local chieftains who were assisting him, surrendered and so were spared death. With this, the whole of Punjab was annexed to the Mughal empire. Before returning to Agra, Akbar sent a detachment of his army to Jammu, which defeated the ruler Raja Kapur Chand and captured the kingdom. Between 1558 and 1560, after moving the capital from Delhi to Agra, Akbar further expanded the empire by capturing and annexing the kingdoms of Gwalior, northern Rajputana and Jaunpur.
After a dispute at court, Akbar dismissed Bairam Khan in the spring of 1560 and ordered him to leave on Hajj to Mecca. Bairam left for Mecca, but on his way was goaded by his opponents to rebel. He was defeated by the Mughal army in the Punjab and forced to submit. Akbar, however forgave him and gave him the option of either continuing in his court or resuming his pilgrimage, of which Bairam chose the latter.
Mughal Empire at death of Akbar:-
The third Mughal Emperor Akbar leads his armies during the Siege of Ranthambore in the year 1569, against Rai Surjan Hada.
The Mughal Emperor Akbar shoots a Rajput leader, using a Matchlock, during the Siege of Chittorgarh.
After dealing with the rebellion of Bairam Khan and establishing his authority. Akbar went on to expand the Mughal empire by subjugating local chiefs and annexing neighbouring kingdoms. The first major conquest was of Malwa in 1561, an expedition that was led by Adham Khan and carried out with such savage cruelty that it resulted in a backlash from the kingdom enabling its ruler Baz Bahadur to recover the territory while Akbar was dealing with the rebellion of Bairam Khan. Subsequently, Akbar sent another detachment which captured Malwa in 1562, and Baz Bahadur eventually surrendered to the Mughals and was made an administrator by Akbar. Around the same time, the Mughal army also conquered the kingdom of the Gonds, after a fierce battle between Asaf Khan[disambiguation needed], the Mughal governor of Allahabad, and Rani Durgavati queen of the Gonds. However after the victory of the Mughals, Asaf Khan allegedly misappropriated most of the wealth plundered from the kingdom and later Akbar subsequently ordered him to restore some of the wealth, apart from installing Durgavati’s son, a convert to Islam, as the local administrator of the newly conquered region.
Over the course of Akbar’s conquest of Malwa, he brought most of present-day Rajasthan, Gujarat and Bengal under his control, but Akbar believed that Chittorgarh Fort was a major threat to Mughal Empire because it housed Rajputs who were considered sworn enemies of the Mughals, in the year 1567 Akbar began to gather his forces who were briefly interrupted during the Battle of Thanesar, but by autumn Akbar was prepared to mount his siege. Chittorgarh Fort was ruled by Udai Singh who often gave refuge to the enemies of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Udai Singh’s kingdom was of great strategic importance as it lay on the shortest route from Agra to Gujarat and was also considered a key to central Rajasthan. Fearing Akbar’s impending assault Udai Singh retired to the hills, leaving two warriors Jaimal and Patta in charge of the fort.
In October 1567, the Mughal army of approximately 5000 men led by Akbar surrounded and besieged 8000 Hindu Rajputs during the Siege of Chittorgarh and within a few months Akbar’s ranks expanded to over 50,000 men. After an arduous siege Akbar ordered his men and augmented them to lift baskets of earth in order to create a hill in front of the fort by which the Mughal Cannons could be placed. As the Mohur Hill was completed Akbar placed his cannons and mortars near its tip, he then organized his sappers to plant mines under the heavy stone walls of the fortress of Chittor, but the mines exploded prematurely during an assault killing about a hundred Mughal Sowars, as the siege continued it is believed that a shot from Akbar’s own Matchlock wounded or killed the commander of the already demoralized Hindu Rajputs. The fortress of Chittor finally fell on February 1568 after a siege of four months. The fort was then stormed by the Mughal forces, and a fierce resistance was offered by members of the garrison stationed inside. When the Rajput women were ordered to commit Jauhar (self immolation), Akbar had realized that victory was near and the Mughals launched their final assault over 30,000 inhabitants of Chittorgarh Fort were killed by the victorious Mughal army. Akbar then ordered the heads of his enemies to be displayed upon towers erected throughout the region, in order to demonstrate his authority.
The total loot that fell into the hands of the Mughal was distributed throughout the Mughal Empire. Akbar then ordered the statues of two of the “armored elephants” that led the Mughal assault be carved and erected at the chief gate of the Agra Fort. Akbar then built similar spiked-gates throughout his fortresses in order to deter elephant attacks. It is said that the brass candlesticks taken from the Kalika temple after its destruction were given to the shrine of Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, a shrine that Akbar vowed to rebuild after his victory. Akbar then celebrated the victory over Chittor and Ranthambore by laying the foundation of a new city, 23 miles (37 km) W.S.W of Agra in 1569. It was called Fatehpur Sikri (“city of victory”).
In the year 1568, the 26 year old Mughal Emperor Akbar reigned supreme, bolstered by his success, he was looking forward to widespread acclamation as one of the greatest Muslim conquerors, within and beyond his realm, and was given the honorific title Zill-e-Ilahi (Shadow of Allah). He gathered miniature painters, who illustrated the Mughal forces that fought during the Siege of Chittorgarh in the Fatahnama-i-Chittor issued by him after the conquest of Chittor at Ajmer, where he stayed for some time and then returned to Agra, on Ramadan 10, 975.AH/March 9, 1568AD. After Akbar’s conquest of Chittor, two major Rajput clans remained opposed to him – the Sisodiyas of Mewar and Hadas of Ranthambore.
Akbar’s entry into the fort of Ranthambhor in 1569:-
Ranthambore Fort was reputed to be the most powerful fortress in Rajasthan, was conquered by the Mughal army in 1569 during the Siege of Ranthambore, making Akbar the master of almost the whole of Rajputana. As a result, most of the Rajput kings, including those of Bikaner, Bundelkhand and Jaisalmer submitted to Akbar. Only the clans of Mewar continued to resist Mughal conquest and Akbar had to fight with them from time to time for the greater part of his reign. Among the most prominent of them was Maharana Pratap who declined to accept Akbar’s suzerainty and also opposed the marriage etiquette of Rajputs who had been giving their daughters to Mughals. He renounced all matrimonial alliances with Rajput rulers who had married into the Mughal dynasty, refusing such alliances even with the princes of Marwar and Amer until they agreed to sever ties with the Mughals.
Having conquered Rajputana, Akbar turned to Gujarat, whose government was in a state of disarray after the death of its previous ruler, Bahadur Shah. The province was a tempting target as it was a center of world trade, it possessed fertile soil and had highly developed crafts. The province had been occupied by Humayun for a brief period, and prior to that was ruled by the Delhi Sultanate. In 1572, Akbar marched to Ahmedabad, which capitulated without offering resistance. He took Surat by siege, and then crossed the Mahi river and defeated his estranged cousins, the Mirzas, in a hard-fought battle at Sarnal. During the campaign, Akbar met a group of Portuguese merchants for the first time at Cambay. Having established his authority over Gujarat, Akbar returned to Agra, but Mirza-led rebellions soon broke out. Akbar returned, crossing Rajasthan at great speed on camels and horses, and reached Ahmedabad in eleven days – a journey that normally took six weeks. Akbar’s army of 3000 horsemen then defeated the enemy forces numbering 20000 in a decisive victory on 2 September 1573.
Young Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana son of Bairam Khan being received by Akbar
Akbar’s system of central government was based on the system that had evolved since the Delhi Sultanate, but the functions of various departments were carefully reorganised by laying down detailed regulations for their functioning
The revenue department was headed by a wazir, responsible for all finances and management of jagir and inam lands. The head of the military was called the mir bakshi, appointed from among the leading nobles of the court. The mir bakshi was in charge of intelligence gathering, and also made recommendations to the emperor for military appointments and promotions.
The mir saman was in charge of the imperial household, including the harems, and supervised the functioning of the court and royal bodyguard.
The judiciary was a separate organization headed by a chief qazi, who was also responsible for religious beliefs and practices
Akbar set about reforming the administration of his empire’s land revenue by adopting a system that had been used by Sher Shah Suri. A cultivated area where crops grew well was measured and taxed through fixed rates based on the area’s crop and productivity. However, this placed hardship on the peasantry because tax rates were fixed on the basis of prices prevailing in the imperial court, which were often higher than those in the countryside. Akbar changed to a decentralized system of annual assessment, but this resulted in corruption among local officials and was abandoned in 1580, to be replaced by a system called the dahsala. Under the new system, revenue was calculated as one-third of the average produce of the previous ten years, to be paid to the state in cash. This system was later refined, taking into account local prices, and grouping areas with similar productivity into assessment circles. Remission was given to peasants when the harvest failed during times of flood or drought. Akbar’s dahsala system is credited to Raja Todar Mal, who also served as a revenue officer under Sher Shah Suri, and the structure of the revenue administration was set out by the latter in a detailed memorandum submitted to the emperor in 1582-83.
Other local methods of assessment continued in some areas. Land which was fallow or uncultivated was charged at concessional rates. Akbar also actively encouraged the improvement and extension of agriculture. The village continued to remain the primary unit of revenue assessment. Zamindars of every area were required to provide loans and agricultural implements in times of need, to encourage farmers to plough as much land as possible and to sow seeds of superior quality. In turn, the zamindars were given a hereditary right to collect a share of the produce. Peasants had a hereditary right to cultivate the land as long as they paid the land revenue. While the revenue assessment system showed concern for the small peasantry, it also maintained a level of distrust towards the revenue officials. Revenue officials were guaranteed only three-quarters of their salary, with the remaining quarter dependent on their full realisation of the revenue assessed.
An Emperor shall be ever Intent on Conquest, Ohterwise His enemies shall rise in arms against him.
Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad Akbar,
Akbar organized his army as well as the nobility by means of a system called the mansabdari. Under this system, each officer in the army was assigned a rank (a mansabdar), and assigned a number of cavalry that he had to supply to the imperial army. The mansabdars were divided into 33 classes. The top three commanding ranks, ranging from 7000 to 10000 troops, were normally reserved for princes. Other ranks between 10 and 5000 were assigned to other members of the nobility. The empire’s permanent standing army was quite small and the imperial forces mostly consisted of contingents maintained by the mansabdars. Persons were normally appointed to a low mansab and then promoted, based on their merit as well as the favour of the emperor. Each mansabdar was required to maintain a certain number of cavalrymen and twice that number of horses. The number of horses was greater because they had to be rested and rapidly replaced in times of war. Akbar employed strict measures to ensure that the quality of the armed forces was maintained at a high level; horses were regularly inspected and only Arabian horses were normally employed. The mansabdars were remunerated well for their services and constituted the highest paid military service in the world at the time.
Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience) in Fatehpur Sikri
Akbar was a follower of Salim Chishti, a holy man who lived in the region of Sikri near Agra. Believing the area to be a lucky one for himself, he had a mosque constructed there for the use of the priest. Subsequently, he celebrated the victories over Chittor and Ranthambore by laying the foundation of a new walled capital, 23 miles (37 km) west of Agra in 1569, which was named Fatehpur (“town of victory”) after the conquest of Gujarat in 1573 and subsequently came to be known as Fatehpur Sikri in order to distinguish it from other similarly named towns. Palaces for each of Akbar’s senior queens, a huge artificial lake, and sumptuous water-filled courtyards were built there. However, the city was soon abandoned and the capital was moved to Lahore in 1585. The reason may have been that the water supply in Fatehpur Sikri was insufficient or of poor quality. Or, as some historians believe, Akbar had to attend to the northwest areas of his empire and therefore moved his capital northwest. Other sources indicate Akbar simply lost interest in the city or realised it was not militarily defensible. In 1599, Akbar shifted his capital back to Agra from where he reigned until his death.
Akbar was a great innovator as far as coinage in concerned. The coins of Akbar set a new chapter in India’s numismatic history. The coins of Akbar’s grandfather, Babur, and father, Humayun, are basic and devoid of any innovation as the former was busy establishing the foundations of the Mughal rule in India while the latter was ousted by the Afghan, Farid Khan Sher Shah Suri, and returned to the throne only to die a year later. While the reign of both Babur and Humayun represented turmoil, Akbar’s relative long reign of 50 years allowed him to experiment with coinage.
Akbar introduced coins with decorative floral motifs, dotted borders, quatrefoil and other types. His coins were both round and square in shape with a unique ‘mehrab’ (lozenge) shape coin highlighting numismatic calligraphy at its best. Akbar’s portrait type gold coin (Mohur) is generally attributed to his son, Prince Salim (later Emperor Jahangir), who had rebelled and then sought reconciliation thereafter by minting and presenting his father with gold Mohur’s bearing Akbar’s portrait. The tolerant view of Akbar is represented by the ‘Ram-Siya’ silver coin type while during the latter part of Akbar’s reign, we see coins portraying the concept of Akbar’s newly promoted religion ‘Din-e-ilahi’ with the Ilahi type and Jalla Jalal-Hu type coins.
The coins below represent a few of these innovative concepts introduced by Akbar that set the precedent for Mughal coins which was refined and perfected by his son, Jahangir, and later by his grandson, Shah Jahan.