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Akbar the Great, Muslim emperor of India, established a sprawling kingdom through military conquests, but is known for his policy of religious tolerance.
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By elevating the status of the princesses’ families, Akbar removed this stigma among all but the most orthodox Hindu sects.
In 1574 Akbar revised his tax system, separating revenue collection from military administration. Each subah, or governor, was responsible for maintaining order in his region, while a separate tax collector collected property taxes and sent them to the capital. This created checks and balances in each region, since the individuals with the money had no troops, and the troops had no money, and all were dependent on the central government. The central government then doled out fixed salaries to both military and civilian personnel according to rank.
Akbar was religiously curious. He regularly participated in the festivals of other faiths, and in 1575 in Fatehpur Sikri—a walled city that Akbar had designed in the Persian style—he built a temple (ibadat-khana) where he frequently hosted scholars from other religions, including Hindus, Zoroastrians, Christians, yogis, and Muslims of other sects. He allowed the Jesuits to construct a church at Agra, and discouraged the slaughter of cattle out of respect for Hindu custom. Not everyone appreciated these forays into multiculturalism, however, and many called him a heretic.
In 1579, a mazhar, or declaration, was issued that granted Akbar the authority to interpret religious law, superseding the authority of the mullahs. This became known as the “Infallibility Decree,” and it furthered Akbar’s ability to create an interreligious and multicultural state. In 1582 he established a new cult, the Din-i-Ilahi (“divine faith”), which combined elements of many religions, including Islam, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism. The faith centered around Akbar as a prophet or spiritual leader, but it did not procure many converts and died with Akbar.
Unlike his father, Humayun, and grandfather Babur, Akbar was not a poet or diarist, and many have speculated that he was illiterate. Nonetheless, he appreciated the arts, culture and intellectual discourse, and cultivated them throughout the empire. Akbar is known for ushering in the Mughal style of architecture, which combined elements of Islamic, Persian and Hindu design, and sponsored some of the best and brightest minds of the era—including poets, musicians, artists, philosophers and engineers—in his courts at Delhi, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri.
Some of Akbar's more well-known courtiers are his navaratna, or "nine gems." They served to both advise and entertain Akbar, and included Abul Fazl, Akbar's biographer, who chronicled his reign in the three-volume book "Akbarnama"; Abul Faizi, a poet and scholar as well as Abul Fazl's brother; Miyan Tansen, a singer and musician; Raja Birbal, the court jester; Raja Todar Mal, Akbar's minister of finance; Raja Man Singh, a celebrated lieutenant; Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana, a poet; and Fagir Aziao-Din and Mullah Do Piaza, who were both advisors.
Akbar died in 1605. Some sources say Akbar became fatally ill with dysentery, while others cite a possible poisoning, likely traced to Akbar's son Jahangir. Many favored Jahangir’s eldest son, Khusrau, to succeed Akbar as emperor, but Jahangir forcefully ascended days after Akbar's death.
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