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History of Akbar the Mughal Emperor

Filed under: History on 2021-09-19 09:28:39
Abu’l-Fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar was one of the mightiest emperors during the Mughal era. With a strong personality and a successful general, Akbar gradually enlarged the Mughal Empire to include much of the Indian subcontinent. His power and influence, however, extended over the entire subcontinent because of Mughal military, political, cultural, and economic dominance.

Akbar (c. 1556 – 1605 CE)

Akbar was one of the greatest monarchs of the Mughal dynasty. He was the son of Humayun and Hamida Banu Begum, born at Amarkot in c. 1542 CE. When Humayun fled to Iran, young Akbar was captured by his uncle Kamran, but he treated him well. Akbar was reunited with his parents after the capture of Qandahar. When Humayun died, Akbar was at Kalanaur in Punjab, commanding operations against the Afghan rebels there. He was crowned at Kalanaur in c. 1556 CE at the young age of 13 years and 4 months.

During the first few years of Akbar’s reign (c. 1556 – 1560 CE), Bairam Khan acted as his regent. Bairam Khan was Humayun’s confidante and gained the title of Khan-i-Khanan.

Bairam Khan represented Akbar in the Second Battle of Panipat (c. 1556 CE) with Hemu Vikramaditya (wazir of Adil Shah of Bengal) who led the Afghan forces. Hemu was almost on the point of victory but an arrow pierced his eye and he became unconscious. His army fled and fortune favoured the Mughals.

During the regency period of Bairam Khan, Mughal territories were extended from Kabul up to Jaunpur in the east, and Ajmer in the west. Gwalior was also captured.

Bairam Khan emerged as the most powerful noble and started appointing his own supporters on important positions neglecting the old nobles. This caused resentment among other nobles who managed to influence Akbar as well. The growing arrogance of Bairam Khan also aggravated the problem. Akbar removed him and gave him the option of serving at the court or anywhere outside it or retiring to Mecca. Bairam Khan chose Mecca but on his way was killed by an Afghan at Patan near Ahmedabad. Bairam’s wife and his young child were brought to Akbar at Agra. Akbar married his widow and brought up Bairam’s child as his own who later became famous as Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan, a noted Hindi poet and an influential noble.

Akbar had to face rebellions from many groups and individuals in the nobility. This included his foster mother, Maham Anaga and her relations, particularly her son, Adham Khan. In c. 1561 CE, Adham Khan defeated Baz Bahadur and emerged victorious at Malwa. Adham Khan followed his victory at Malwa with an almost total massacre of the defending army, women and even children and sent only parts of the booty to Akbar. Removed from command, he laid claim to the post of wazir and when this was not granted, he stabbed the acting wazir in his office. Akbar was enraged and threw him down from the Agra Fort. 

Uzbeks (Central Asian nobles) held important positions in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Malwa. Between c. 1561- 1567 CE, they broke out in rebellion several times. Meanwhile, a rebellion by the Mirzas, who were Timurids, also turned against the emperor. Encouraged by these rebellions, Akbar’s half brother, Mirza Hakim, who had seized control of Kabul advanced into Punjab and besieged Lahore. The Uzbek rebel nobles declared Mirza Hakim as the emperor of Hindustan. However, by sheer grit, determination and a certain amount of luck, Akbar overcame these rebellions. Mirza Hakim was forced to flee to Kabul and the rebellion of the Mirzas was crushed, while the Uzbeks were completely routed by c. 1567 CE.

Early expansion of the Empire (c. 1560- 1576 CE)
Akbar conquered northern India from Agra to Gujarat and then from Agra to Bengal. He strengthened the north-western frontier. Later, he went to the Deccan.
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