Akbar

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Akbar

Akbar (ăk´bär), 1542–1605, Mughal emperor of India (1556–1605); son of Humayun, grandson of Babur. He succeeded to the throne under a regent, Bairam Khan, who rendered loyal service in expanding and consolidating the Mughal domains before he was summarily dismissed (1560) by the young king. Akbar, however, continued the policy of conquest. A magnetic personality and an outstanding general, he gradually enlarged his empire to include Afghanistan, Baluchistan, and nearly all of the Indian peninsula north of the Godavari River. To unify the vast state, he established a uniform system of administration throughout his empire and adopted a policy of conciliating the conquered chieftains. Having defeated the Rajputs, the most militant of the Hindu rulers, he allied himself with them, giving their chiefs high positions in his army and government; he twice married Rajput princesses.

Although he was himself illiterate, Akbar's courts at Delhi, Agra, and Fatehpur Sikri were centers of the arts, letters, and learning. He was much impressed with Persian culture, and because of him the later Mughal empire bore an indelible Persian stamp. Apparently disillusioned with orthodox Islam and hoping to bring about religious unity within his empire, he promulgated (1582) the Din-i-Ilahi [divine faith], an eclectic creed derived from Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity. A simple, monotheistic cult, tolerant in outlook, it centered on Akbar as prophet, but had an influence outside the court. Akbar, generally considered the greatest of the Mughal emperors, was succeeded by his son Jahangir.

See biography by V. A. Smith (2d rev. ed. 1966); R. Krishnamurti, Akbar, the Religious Aspect (1961).

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