Akbar, the Great, was one of the Greatest Rulers of Indian History. He has become a hero whose memory is immortalized as a great king in the hearts of the people of India. The lapse of three hundred years has not diminished it in any way.
It has been rightly stated that “he possessed that broad-minded sympathy, that capacity to trust and to evoke trust, that generous confidence in a loyal people, which enabled him to weld together a great and durable empire out of the poor fragments of military conquests left to him by his father.”
Condition of lndia in 1556
Akbar came to the throne in 1556 after the death of his father, Humayun. At that time, he was a child of hardly 14. The throne he inherited was not a bed of roses. As a matter of fact, there was no throne at all. When Akbar got the news of the death of his father, he was at Kalanaur in the Gurdaspi^r District of the Punjab. It was at that place that Akbar was enthroned. An ordinary brick platform was prepared and the ceremony was performed.
However, the ceremony did not strengthen the hands of Akbar. According to Dr. Smith, “It merely registered the claim of Humayun’s son to succeed to the throne of Hindustan.” It is well-known that Humayun had recovered Delhi in June 1555 but he had not found enough time to consolidate his position in India. Everything was still unsettled. The position of Akbar was very shaky that he was advised by all except Bairam Khan to leave India and retire to Kabul.
It is true that Sikandar Sur had been defeated by Humayun, but it is also true that his power had not been crushed. He was still at large in the Punjab. He retained his pretensions to be the king of Delhi and Punjab. In the Eastern Provinces, the Afghans were strong under their king Mohammad Shah Adali. Adali’s minister, Hemu, possessed a large army and was determined to prevent Akbar from taking possession of the dominion of his father.
The Rajput princes also possessed considerable stength and sitting in their forts, they were formidable enemies of Akbar. The important Rajput princes were those of Mewar, Jaisalmer, Bundi and Jodhpur. These Rajput princes had increased their strength in the time of Humayun. They had increased their military strength to such an extent that they were thinking in terms of fighting against the Mughal Empire.
The States of Gujarat and Malwa had become independent. Their rulers acted in an independent manner and entered into diplomatic relations with other countries. Kabul at that time was under the control of Mirza Hakim, the brother of Akbar. He was acting as an independent ruler and was ambitious enough to entertain dreams of acquiring the empire of India.
Both Sindh and Multan were independent and did not owe any allegiance to the Ruler of Delhi. Likewise, Kashmir was being ruled by an independent Muslim Ruler. Gondwana at that time was being ruled by Rani Durgawati, in the name of her minor son. The States of Ahmednagar, Bijapur, Golconda, Bidar, Berar and Khandesh were absolutely independent and their rulers did not owe any allegiance to the Sultans of Delhi.
However, they were involved in continuous wars with the empire of Vijayanagar. At that time, the Portuguese were powerful both in the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. They had established their hold on the Western Coast of India and possessed such important places as Goa, Daman and Diu.
The King was absolute and there was practically no check on his authority. He was assisted by a Wazir or Prime Minister whose position varied with the personal equation. In same cases he was an uncontrollable viceregent and in others, only the Chief among the Ministers. The various provinces were ruled by the nobles and the King or the Sultan was simply their overlord.
They were absolute within their jurisdiction and exercised all executive powers of the State. The King did not interfere in the internal affairs of the provinces. Each province had an army of its own under its own governor. The King depended partly on the soldiers of his nobles and partly on the troops recruited by himself.
As regards the social life of the people, the Hindus were looked down upon. They had to pay such discriminatory taxes as Jizya and pilgrimage tax. The people in general were steeped in superstitions and attached great importance to witchcraft, omens and dreams.
The economic condition of the people was simply deplorable. A famine was raging in full fury and was bringing havoc to the people. This was particularly so in the case of Delhi and Agra where thousands died of starvation. “The capital was devastated and nothing remained but a few houses. An epidemic plague ensued and spread through most of the cities of Hindustan. Multitudes died and men were driven to feed on human flesh, parties being formed to seize and eat solitary victims.”