Golden Period of Mughals History Study Materials


Golden Period of Mughals History Study Materials


Akbar (1556-1605)

            The untimely demise of Humayun in 1556 left the task of consolidation of the empire to his 13-year-old son, Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar (1556-1605). After a decisive military victory at the Second Battle of Panipat in 1556, Akbar’s regent Bairam Khan followed a vigorous policy of expansion on his behalf. As soon as Akbar became mature, he started freeing himself from the influences of ministers, court factions, and harem intrigues and showed his own capability for judgement and leadership. He was a ‘workaholic’ who seldom slept for more than 3 hours a day. He personally supervised the implementation of his administrative policies, which formed the backbone of the Mughal Empire for over two centuries. He followed the policy of conquering, annexing and consolidating his empire. It was bound by Kabul in the north-west, Kashmir in the north, Bengal in the east, and beyond the Narmada River in the south—an area that can be compared in size to the Mauryon territory.


            Akbar introduced a bureaucracy and a system of autonomy for the imperial provinces to govern them with efficient administration. He appointed military governors, or mansabdars, incharge of each region. Each governor was responsible for the provincial military management. Abuse of power and mistreatment of the poor or weak were severely dealt with and could lead to punishments and death. Collection of taxes was the most important responsibility of the bureaucracy. Akbar made many innovations in this regard. Like all the other states his tax was a land tax. He also collected one-third of the value of the crops produced on a piece of land each year. He made the arrangements that the tax was assessed equally on every member of the empire. It was a radically innovative idea as no other states in the sixteenth century taxed their nobility. He also eliminated the tax collected from non-Muslims. Traditionally Islamic states had been imposing a special tax called Jizya on non-believers. All non-muslim communities bitterly resented this tax in India. Moreover, non-Muslims had to pay Pilgrimage tax for travelling to various Hindu pilgrimage sites. Akbar eliminated this tax in 1564. He used most of his administration in an effort to please the Hindu population. It made a calming effect on Rajput states who had never fully accepted Islamic supremacy. Akbar also involved large number of Hindus in the bureaucracy. By the end of Akbar’s rule, nearly one-third of the imperial bureaucracy were Hindus. He consolidated relations with many Hindu states by marrying the daughters of the kings. It is said that during this process he had over 5000 wives, almost all of whom he married were for political reasons. However, his favourite wife was a Hindu who gave birth to his successor, Jahangir.

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Notable facts about Jalal-ud-dinAkbar

            Akbar was the eldest son of Humayun, and he ascended the throne at the young age of 113 in the year 1556. His tutor Bairam Khan was appointed as regent.

The Second Battle of Panipat

           The battle was fought between Hemu or Hemchandra and Bairam Khan Bairam Khan defeated Hemu on 5 November 1556, and as a result Hemu was captured and slained by him. This battle put on end to the Mughal-Afghan contest for the throng of Delhi forever.

Expansion of Akbar’s Empire

       Akbar put an end to the regency of Bairam Khan at the age of 18 and assumed the authority. He conquered various, towns and forts such as Gwalior, Ajmer and Janapur had also annexed the kingdom of Malwa. This brought him close to the Rajput kingdom. The Rajput kingdom of Mewar put up a powerful defence under Rana Uday Singh and his son Rana Pratap. Akbar invaded Gujarat (1572-1573), Bengal (1574-1576) and by 1595, he conquered, Kashmir, Sindh, Orissa, Central Asia and Kandahar (Afghanistan.)

Akbar and the Rajputs

        Akbar tried to win over Rajputs by inducting Rajgut kings into Mughal service and treating them equal to Mugnal nobility. He married Rajput princess Jodha Bai, daughter of Raja Mal of Jaipur in 1562, and displayed his secular policy towards Hindus. Most Rajput kings accepted his supremacy, barring Rana Pratap Singh and his son Amar Singh, of Mewar.

Battle of Haldighati

         This battle of Haldighati was fought in 1576, between Rajput Rana Pratap Singh of Mewar and the Mughal army led by Man Singh of Amber. Rana Pratap Singh was defeated in the battle but he continued his struggle and did not submit. Akbar constructed a walled city near Agra, known as Fatehpur Sikri, However, he had to shift his capital to Agra again because of many administrative and political reasons.


         Akber performed his role as a spiritual leader of his people quite seriously. He devoted much of his time and resources to find out the common truth In the religions he ruled over. Keeping this in his mind, he developed a new religion known as Din-i-ilahi, or ‘The Religion of God’. Suggesting that every faith have the essenial truth that God is unified and one, he tried to find the unifying aspects of all religions. He had begun this project much longer before he introduced Din-i-Ilahi. He conducted a series of debates at his court among spiritual leaders of the different religions, including Christianity, Hindus, Zoroastrians and joins. Finally, he included members of the Ulema, but the debates could not go smoothly bedause of the intolerant behaviour of the Jesuits whotried convert Akbar, and did not wish to discuss the creation of universel religion. Akbar was a devout orthodox Sunni Muslim; still, aspects of his belief were in part derived from Shi’a Islam. Din-i-Ilahi, which expected to synthesise the wold’s religions into a single religion, was chiefly based on Islam.     It was rationalistic and was based on one overriding doctrine, the doctrine of tawhid—God is one, singular and unified. Akbar also elevated the notion of wahdat-al-wujud, or unity of the real’, to a central religious idea in his new religion. Horses were usually provided with a special imperial mark known as Dagh. It was done to distinguish the horses of high breed from low breed horses. Chehra was a descriptive roll of the soldiers. It was done to make sure that the nobles recruited experienced and well mounted sawars. It would also check any kind of proxy in the battlefield.

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Highpoints of Akbar’s Reign

             Humayun’s heir, Akbar, was born in exile and was only 13 years old when his father died. Thanks to his exceptionally capable guardian, Bairam Khan, he survived to demonstrate his worth. Akbar’s reign holds a certain prominence in history; he was the ruler who actually fortified the foundations of the Mughal Empire, After a series of conquests, he managed to subdue most of India. The areas, not under the empire were designated as tributaries. He also adopted a conciliatory policy towards the Rajputs, hence reducing any threat from them. Akbqr was only a great conqueror, but a capable organiser and great administrator as well. He set up a host of institutions that proved to be the foundation of an administrative system that operated even in British India. Akbar’s rule also stands out because of his liberal policies towards non-Muslims, his refigious innovations, the land revenue system and his famous Mansabdari system. The last became the basis of Mughal military organisation and civil administration.


         There was considerable disagreement during the reigns of Babur, Humayun and Akbar over the nature of monarchy and its place in Islamic society. Many Islamic scholars under Babur and Akbar believed that Indian monarchies were fundamentally un-Islamic. At the heart of the problem was the fact that none of the invading monarchs were approved by the Caliph, but rather were acting solely on their own. The majority of Islamic scholars, however, concluded that the monarch was divinely appointed by God to serve humanity and that the Indian Sultanate or the Mughal Padshah was acting in the place of the Caliph. The political theorists and Islamic scholars surrounding Akbar were deeply influenced by Shi’ite Islam. In particular, they subscribed to the Shi’ite notion that God had created a Divine Light that is passed down in an individual from generation to generation; this individual is known as the Imam. The central theorist of Akbar’s reign was Abul Fazl, who joined Akbar’s court in 1574, and is considered one of the greatest political theorists in Islamic history. He believed that the Imamate existed in the form of just rulers. The Imam, in the form of a just ruler, had secret knowledge of God, was free from sin, aud was primarily responsible for the spiritual guidance of humanity, This, to a certain extent, made the padshah superior to flip SharKa, or Islamic law, and the Islamic scholars who interpreted it. Needless to say, orthodox Islamic scholars bitterly opposed, this political theory, and instead advocated a close.partnership between the ulama, or Islamic  religious and legal scholars, and the Sultan or padshah. Abu’l Fazl was alsd deeply influenced by Plato’s philosophy, as it had been handed down by Muslim philosophers. In particular,he argued for Plato’s concept of the philosopher-king, who, by virtue of his talent, wisdom and learning, deserved to be obeyed by all others. He saw Akbar as the embodiment of  the perfect philosopher-king.

Mansabdari System

          Akbar organised the nobility and his army by means of the Mansabdori system. Under this system, every officer was assigned a rank or mansab, divided into  and Sawor. Zat indicated the personal status of a person and the salary due to him, whereas Sawar meant the number of cavalryman a person was requited to maintain.


            An astuto ruler who genuinely appreciated the challenges of administering so vast an empire, Akbar introduced a policy of reconciliation and assimilation of Hindus (including Maryam al-Zamani, the Hindu Rajput mother of his son and heir, Jahangir), who represented the majority of the population. He recruited and rewarded Hindu chiefs with the highest ranks in government; encouraged intermarriages between Mughal and Rajput aristocracy; allowed new temples to he built; personally participated in celebrating Hindu festivals such as Dipavali, or Diwali, the festival of lights; and abolished theJizya (poll tax) imposed on non-Muslims. Akbar came up with his own theory of ‘rulership as a divine illumination’, enshrined in his new religion Din-i-Iluhi (Divine Faith), incorporating if the principle of acceptance of ail religions and sects. He encouraged widow remarriage, discouraged child marriage outlawed the practice of sati and persuaded Delhi merchants to set up special market days for women who otherwise were secluded at home. By the end of Akbar’s reign,the Mughal Empire extended throughout most of India, North of the Godavari River. The exceptions were Gondwana in Central India, which paid tribute to the Mughal and Assam, in the north-east.

Jahangir (1605-1627)

       By the beginning of the seveteen century the Mughal Empire had acquired unparalleled military strength and economic prosperity. Jahangir was an educated and able administrator. He continued Akbar’s policy and earned respect from all spheres of the society. The Mughal rule under Jahangir was noted for political stability, brisk economic activity beautiful paintings and monumental buildings.

Shahjahan (1628-1658)

            Shahjahan was Jahangir’s son. He ascended the throne in 1628 after his father’s death. He was best known for his Deccan and foreign policies. He faced two major revolts during the early part of his rule. First, the revolt by Khan Jahan Lodhi (1628-1630), and revolt by Jujhar Singh of Bundelkhand in 1630-1631. During 1630-1632 he faced famine and plague in a large part of Gujarat, Khandesh and Deccan, in which thousands of people died. Shahjahan, with his brilliant administrative skills, came out successful against these adversities and went on to consolidate his empire. Abdul Hamid Lahori described, in his accounts, the strategies adopted by Shahjahan to control situations of famine and plague.

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