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Akbar crosses the Ganges, Ikhlas, 1600

Dschalāludin Wazir Akbar Khan , shortly Akbar , also in English-speaking Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar , Persian جلال الدین محمد اکبر- Ǧalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Akbar (born October 15, 1542 in Umarkot , Sindh ; died October 27, 1605 in Agra ) was Mughal Mughal of India from 1556 to 1605 and, along with Ashoka, is one of the two most important rulers in the history of the Country . As an outstanding diplomat and military strategist, he consolidated his newly acquired territories through a policy of religious tolerance in dialogue with representatives of the most important faiths. Akbar was the first Mughal ruler to marry a Hindu , a Rajput princess from Amber, and abolished the special taxes imposed on non-Muslims. By gaining the loyalty of local princes - often through marriages - he succeeded in introducing an efficient system of taxation and rule.


Akbar succeeded his father Nasir ud din Muhammad Humayun to the throne at the age of 13 and was initially under the reign of Bairam Khan . At that time the Mughal Empire was in deep crisis and controlled only Delhi and a few surrounding towns. Akbar and his guardian won the second battle of Panipat against Hemu , a general and first minister of the Surides , who had occupied Delhi in October 1556 and made himself independent. In 1560 he overthrew the regent Bairam Khan and in 1561 the opposing party by overthrowing his milk brother Adham Khan to death. From now on he ruled himself.

Akbar undertook a number of smaller campaigns of conquest. In these campaigns he used war elephants and fast, light cavalry, as well as cannons, musketeers and pioneer corps. His troops were kept in practice by driven hunts in peacetime . At times Akbar fought at the risk of his own life; there are many examples of his great personal courage. Akbar's strategy was to treat defeated opponents generously and thereby bind them to him. He pursued the same goal with his wide-ranging personal marriage policy.

On the side of the Rajputs , the Ranas Udai Singh (ruled 1537–1572) and Pratap Singh (ruled 1572–1597) of Mewar were the main opponents. When Akbar attacked Chittorgarh in 1567/8 , Udai Singh left the city and founded Udaipur . When Akbar conquered Chittor after a long siege, he caused a massacre (1568). Although the hard core of the Rajputs never surrendered, Akbar managed to win some of them (e.g. the Raja of Amber) to his side. By around 1580 he succeeded in establishing a stable, large empire in northern India that stretched from Kabul to Bengal .

Akbar, drawing from around 1605

Two major uprisings by the Muslim nobility of Afghan and Turkomongol origins threatened his rule. Both wanted to make Akbar's half-brother Hakim, the prince of Kabul, ruler. One of them took place in 1580/1: In Bengal, the Afghan nobility proclaimed Hakim ruler, and Akbar then personally conquered Kabul in 1581 . It seems that shifts in influence in the interests of the central government took place not only from a religious, but also from an ethnic point of view, and that the disadvantaged rose up.

Akbar abolished religious taxes ( Jisja 1564 and 1580) for non-Muslims, allowed parts of the Hindu rites (festivals, clothing) at court and in 1562 married Hira Kunwari (also Harkha Bai, Jodhaa Bai), the daughter of Raja Bharmal von Amber . She converted to Islam under the name Mariam-uz-Zamani and became the mother of Salim . Hindus were not only used as minor officials, but sometimes also as the highest dignitaries. If z. For example, a Hindu named Man Singh became the governor ( subahdar ) of Kabul, this also reduced the risk of this province becoming detached. The administrative and tax reformer Todar Mal was z. B. a Hindu from the simplest of backgrounds. In the last three decades of Akbar, a Hindu-Muslim mixed culture emerged in which Hindu works were also translated (the Orthodox Muslim Badauni had to translate the Mahabharata , for example ) and celebrated at court. The court language was Persian .

Before his death, there were rivalries between the princes and between Akbar and his eldest son Salim. Salim, who later became Emperor Jahangir, killed the minister Abu 'l-Fazl and already marched against Agra when the women of the court reached a reconciliation (1602/03). Akbar would have liked to keep Salim out of the line of succession, but in the end he only had the choice between Salim and his son Khusrau , as his two other sons had already died.

Administrative reforms and land expansion

Expansion of the Mughal Empire at the death of Akbar (1605)

Akbar was an administrative reformer who, with the help of his ministers (Abu 'l-Fazl, Todar Mal, and others), organized a central administration that, given the size of the empire, was quite effective, especially when compared to that of his successors. The division of the top administrative level among twelve ministers according to subject areas was one of the innovations that Akbar introduced. In practice, for example, four officials and a minister had to sign a pay request for an officer before an account was even set up for it. Then the ruler's approval, three ministers and six civil servants, were required before the wages were paid.

Its administration abolished the flat-rate taxation of villages and instead had taxes calculated according to the income; an approach never before practiced in India. In order to have direct access to taxes, he abolished the subordinate administrative structure in countries and declared the entire empire to be royal property. Royal officials collected the taxes, no longer agents of the local princes. The taxes were increasingly demanded from the farmers in the form of money. With this money Akbar raised a standing army. Conversely, farmers were compensated for crop losses caused by the army.

The state continued to strive to enlarge the cultivation areas, to secure the roads and to improve the postal system. A new currency system was established under Akbar. The rupee introduced by Sher Shah Suri became the main silver coin of the empire, and Akbar introduced the golden mohur . They replaced older coin units that had fallen in value. Dimensions and weights should also be standardized. In addition, the administration of justice was tightened, although, by today's standards, cruel sentences including the death penalty continued to be imposed.

Many of Akbar's measures already existed under previous rulers, but his long, relatively quiet reign made them particularly strong or even made them effective. In the social field, he took action against child marriages , widow burnings ( Sati ) and gambling and restricted prostitution . He was a great patron of science, painting and literature, especially the Persian language - the court language of the Mughals. Despite everything, he remained illiterate himself .

Cultural work

Religious politics

Diwan-i-Khas , the private audience hall in Fatehpur Sikri

Akbar was also a philosopher and thinker who spent his life searching for a "true" belief. In the first period of his rule (around 1573/75) Akbar publicly represented Sunni Islam of the Hanafi direction. In his private life he was a follower of Sufism and particularly venerated Saint Salim Chishti , who had foretold the birth of his heir to the throne, and other saints of the Muslim Chishti order .

With the conquest of Gujarat (1573) the Mughal Empire spanned almost all of northern India. Akbar was faced with the task of administering the various religions and peoples of his empire (with their respective legal forms) equally. In 1575 he had the "Ibadat-hana", a disputation hall for religious questions, built in Fatehpur . From now on, religious questions could be disputed openly and the previously practiced legal interpretation Taqlid was replaced in favor of unrestricted ijschtihād . In 1579 Akbar finally broke with the orthodox ulama by signing a charter ( mahdar ) which, among other things, allowed him to pass unrestricted laws against the background of the Koran.

In the following years Akbar invited representatives of various religions to his court, including Portuguese Jesuits from Goa (including Rodolfo Acquaviva ). Stimulated by this exchange and under the influence of the scholar Shaikh Mubarak-i Nagauri, a new religious movement emerged: the " Din-i ilahi ". The fact that this movement is a new religion can be rejected for the following reason: Although Akbar set different accents in his practice of Islam than before, he laid the foundation stone on the currents of the time, especially Neoplatonism , which was Akbar at the time was regarded as a "general standard doctrine" and combined with Aristotelianism and the traditional sciences for higher learning. Theologically he rejected the Taqlid and took over the Idschtihad , i. H. a reasoned interpretation of Islam. Another important part of the " Din-i ilahi " was the metaphor and worship of the sun. The sun was not worshiped directly as God, but rather as God's light. With recourse to Neoplatonism, the sun was seen as the first emanation of God, from which the world emerged in further steps. In this sense it was possible for the believer to recognize the eternal light of God in the sun and to see God himself in the hereafter in its sight. But sun worship was also established in the context of existing traditions. Akbar, for example, reintroduced the traditional Nauruz festival, which he viewed as a sun festival. Akbar also saw himself in a direct relationship with God and introduced the originally Hindu ritual of darshan , which mainly consisted of appearing in front of his subjects every morning on the balcony of his palace. Darshan is also the blessing viewing of Hindu gods in the temple, so that Akbar presented himself as a representative of God on earth.

As a result of these developments, Orthodox Muslims (e.g. Badauni) and Jesuit missionaries accused Akbar of having fallen away from Islam. However, this assessment could also be traced back to their contextual partisan view. In retrospect, the “Din-i ilahi” can be understood as a movement that is slowly growing out of Islam, since on the one hand traditional elements remained, but these were combined with rationalist ideas.

Although Akbar only accepted a small group of selected courtiers into his new pantheistic faith, he owed the merit of religious tolerance and the approximate equality of Muslims and Hindus, which also contributed to the stabilization of the Mughal empire . At his court he employed Miyan Tansen (Hindu, appointed in 1562), a legendary musician who loved things like miracles. B. the rain magic, were said.


Fatehpur Skri - Panch Mahal

Akbar was a major builder who, with Fatehpur Sikri, had a new capital built for himself between 1569 and 1576 , which was unusual from an architectural point of view, but which he hardly lived in due to the constant change of location. In 1585 he left the city and, worried about an Uzbek invasion, stayed in Lahore for thirteen years , apart from three trips to his beloved Kashmir. Today only a small part of Fatehpur Sikri is inhabited. In addition, there was the construction of the Red Fort in Agra and the mausoleum of his father Humayun in Delhi, which mark him as an inventive builder. His tomb in Sikandra ( Akbar mausoleum ), the plans of which probably go back to him in part, also breaks new ground in architectural terms. .


The painting school of the Mughal emperors founded by Humayun experienced its first heyday under Emperor Akbar. He had literary works in particular artistically illustrated and his court also exerted great attraction on poets such as Ḥusain Ṯanāʾī Mašhadī . His son and successor also promoted painting.


The question of whether Akbar can be considered a syncretist or not is debated within religious studies . Furthermore, the question of which Islam Akbar is specifically referring to and to what his religious endeavors can be traced is increasingly being investigated. For the Indologist Heinrich von Stietencron, who represents Akbar according to the current state of research, Akbar is a syncretist and rationalist with regard to his religious policy:

"[...] Akbar tried to recognize the essential elements of the religions accessible to him and, as far as they convinced him, to integrate them into a system that continued and developed Islam [...]."

"Akbar clung to Islam, especially its monotheism. But the religious disputes strengthened him on the path of consistent rationalism."

According to Stietencron, Akbar's religious policy is based on rationalization processes that stem from the Islam itself, which belongs to him. The religious scholar Michael Bergunder, on the other hand, rejects the concept of syncretism and emphasizes that Akbar derived his rationalistic religious policy, like other rulers of the Mughal empire, from the rational sciences or from the neo-Platonism of Islam. Gerald Grobbel, in turn, attributes Akbar's religious endeavors to Sufism. He sees evidence of this in Akbar's relationship with his students, which should come close to the Sufi idea of ​​a student-teacher relationship. Akbar functions here as a pioneer and guide to the only knowledge of God, through his special role as mediator of the sun he is in possession of the true teaching. Despite possible breaks with some Islamic conceptions, Grobbel sees the continuity of the specifics of thought guaranteed, albeit partly in a modified form - Grobbel sees the punch line Akbar's teaching in its justification through reason instead of tradition.

See also


  • Arnold Hottinger: Akbar the Great (1542-1605). Rulers of India through the reconciliation of religions, Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Munich 1998, ISBN 978-3-7705-3335-0 .
  • Heike Franke: Akbar and Gahangir. Studies on political and religious legitimation in text and images. Schenefeld 2005, ISBN 978-3-936912-34-0 .
  • Bamber Gascoigne: The Mughals. Splendor and greatness of Mohammedan princes in India. Prisma, Gütersloh 1987, ISBN 3-570-09930-X .
  • Sri Ram Sharma: The Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors. London, 2nd edition 1962, ISBN 978-0-2103-3935-0 .
  • Gerald Grobbel: The poet Faidi and Akbar's religion. Berlin 2001, ISBN 978-3-8799-7287-6 .

Web links

Commons : Akbar  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Gerald Grobbel: The poet Faidi and Akbar's religion , Berlin 2001, p. 2.
  2. Gerald Grobbel: The poet Faidi and Akbar's religion , Berlin 2001, p. 3.
  3. Gerald Grobbel: The poet Faidi and Akbar's religion , Berlin 2001, pp. 4–5.
  4. Gerald Grobbel: The poet Faidi and Akbar's religion , Berlin 2001, pp. 6-7.
  5. Gerald Grobbel: The poet Faidi and Akbar's religion , Berlin 2001, p. 8.
  6. Gerald Grobbel: The poet Faidi and Akbar's religion , Berlin 2001, pp. 47-57.
  7. ^ Athar Ali: Mughal India, Studies in Polity, Ideas, Society and Culture , Delhi 2006, p. 164
  8. Gerald Grobbel: The poet Faidi and Akbar's religion , Berlin 2001, pp. 68 & 71.
  9. ^ Athar Ali: Mughal India, Studies in Polity, Ideas, Society and Culture , Delhi 2006, pp. 160 ff.
  10. Elke Niewöhner: An astronomical-astrological poem by the Persian poet Ḥusain Ḥakīm Ṯanāʾī Mašhadī on the Berlin Indian world map, in: Der Islam , (2019), vol. 96, no. 1, pp. 121–157, p. 127
  11. ^ Regina Hickmann: Indian miniatures of the Mughal period. Ed .: State Museums of Berlin / GDR (Pergamon Museum, Islamic Museum), Verlag Bild und Heimat, Reichenbach (Vogtl.) O. J.
  12. ^ A b Heinrich von Stietencron: Planned syncretism: Emperor Akbars religious policy . In: Peter Antes, Donate Pahnke (ed.): The religion of upper classes . diagonal-Verlag, Marburg 1989, ISBN 3-927165-02-6 , p. 55 .
  13. Gerhard, Grobbel: The poet Faidi and Akbar's religion . In: Gerd, Winkelhane (Hrsg.): Islamkundliche investigations . tape 234 . Klaus Schwarz Verlag, Berlin 2001, p. 68 .
  14. Grobbel, Gerald .: The poet Faiḍī and the religion of Akbars . Schwarz, Berlin 2001, p. 63-71 .
predecessor Office successor
Humayun Mughal Mughal of India