Akbar was not only an aggressive imperialist but also a wise Statesman of his time. He knew that the conquests of States without their consolidation would not serve any purpose. For the consolidation and conquests of his empire, he adopted a novel policy, famous as the Rajput policy of Akbar.
The Rajputs at that time were a prestigious warrior class in the Hindu society who was famous for their heroism and sense of duty and devotion to their motherland. Akbar knew the importance of this class. He also knew that it was impossible to conquer the Rajputs by force. Mostly it was reported by many historians that he changed his policy and extended his hand to them for friendship and he knew that the friendship with the Rajputs would mean much. But that was not the actual case. Akbar conducted many manhunts on Rajputs in order to get a clear trade route to Gujarat. Akbar’s policy was expansionist in nature, thus he had done so many unethical things with Hindu Rajput Rulers to gain territorial control. During the siege of Chittorgarh, he ordered the beheading of 30,000 civilians and flaunted their severed heads in the city and tower of Chittor.
Peace with Rajputs
Rajputs were most loyal as friends, as also most dangerous as enemies. He tried to bring the Rajputs to his fold. He made all possible efforts to establish cordial relations with Rajputs. He even stressed establishing matrimonial alliances with the Rajput rulers. As a result, the Rajput rulers of Ambar, Bikaner, and Jaisalmer gave their daughters to the Mughal Emperor in marriage and earned his favor. He also offered respectable and high posts to the Rajputs who joined the Mughal service.
Raja Bhagwan Das and Raja Mansingh for example were given high posts of office for their loyalty and faithfulness to the emperor. Akbar’s liberal attitude inspired a large number of Rajputs to join the Mughal service in different capacities of Mansabdars and they even were prepared to shed their blood for the conquests and consolidation of the Mughal Empire.
The exception of Mewar
Mewar was the only state which did not submit to the Mughal Empire. Her famous ruler Rana Pratap Singh considered it a stigma on the Rajput character. He hated the Rajputs who had submitted to the Mughal emperor Akbar by accepting His Rajput policy. He faced the Mughal army very bravely in the Battle of Haldighati on 18 June 1576 AD. Although he was defeated his spirit of independence did not make him surrender to the Mughals. It was only after his death, that the state of Mewar during the rule of his son Amar Singh passed into the hands of Mughals completely.
However, Akbar’s Rajput policy was proved completely a success. Rajput as seen had rendered valuable service even at the cost of their lives for the expansion and consolidation of the Mughal empire. He also got the support of the Rajputs against any nefarious designs of some Afghan rulers and leaders. Akbar’s Rajput policy in fact was proof of his great statesmanship.
Religious Policy of Akbar
If Akbar is remembered today, it is due to his famous religious policy. His real fame rests on his liberal religious policy. His knowledge of the essence of different religious philosophies at a later stage made him promulgate a new religion famous in history as Din-i-Ilahi under whose banner Akbar had tried to unite Hindus and Muslims. For the vast Mughal empire to be enduring Din-e-Ilahi was probably the only alternative. However, time, proved it as Akbar’s ‘Monument of Folly’.
Akbar inherited Mughal legacies in the matters of religion. His father Humayun and his grandfather Babur were not fanatics. They had not conquered India with a religious motive. Their motive was purely political. Though Babur had declared Jehad on the eve of certain important wars, his motive was only to unite and encourage the Muslim soldiers. Babur and Humayun were no doubt men of learning and liberal outlook.
Akbar’s mother Hamida Banu Begum was a Shia Muslim and the daughter of a Persian scholar. She taught her son Akbar the fundamentals of religious toleration. As the descendant of liberal ancestors, Akbar maintained religious toleration and Akbar maintained the family legacies of liberal outlooks. Further his tutor Abdul Latif was a man of broad ideas who taught him sublime conceptions of divine and spiritual realities.
Akbar’s father Humayun during his extreme distress as a homeless wanderer had kept his pregnant wife Hamida Banu Begum under the protection of the Hindu king of Amarkot. The Hindu king being sympathetic to his misfortune had given shelter to Hamida Banu Begum in his own house where Akbar was born. The gesture of that Hindu king even during the dangerous hours during the rule of Sher Shah was really an unforgettable memory of Akbar. This incident might have inspired the future emperor to adopt some liberal policies for Hindus.
Influence of Sufi friends
Akbar had come in close contact with two of his Sufi friends known as Faizi and Abul Fazal who were highly cultured and thoroughly liberal in their outlook. They influenced Akbar to show respect toward different faiths and cultures.
Influence of Rajput Queens
Akbar married the Hindu princess of Ambar, Bikaner, and Jaisalmer and established matrimonial and cordial relations with Rajputs. Though this matrimonial alliance was for a political motive, it had its religious results. With the presence of the Hindu women in the Mughal harem, Hindu religious ceremonies and festivals entered the Mughal Palace. Almost all the great Hindu festivals like Diwali, Dussehra, and Holi were observed in the Mughal Palace. The emperor used to participate in all the festivals wearing Hindu dresses. This also made the emperor Akbar liberal towards the Hindu religion.
Influence of Contemporary Religious thinkers
Akbar constructed a House of worship or Ibadatkhana in his capital city of Fatehpur Sikri and invited religious thinkers and preachers of different religions and faiths to that house for religious discussions. Religious leaders of various religions such as Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Parsi, and Christian were invited for learned discourses. Akbar acquired knowledge by associating himself with the wise men of the country as the result he was far away from orthodox beliefs.
Akbar promulgated a new religion known as Din-i-Ilahi in 1582. It means divine faith. It was a collection of the finest principles of all religions. Being an amalgamation of all religions the new religion aimed at uniting people of all religious sects. It aimed to establish the oneness of God.
Instead of superstitions, men were asked to follow a code of moral conduct. To lead a pure and principled life and worship the Lord were the cardinal tenets of the new religion. The religion was simple and its principles were easily intelligible. Din-i-Ilahi was also known as Tahid-o-Ilahi.
Principles of Din-i-Elahi
According to Din-i-Ilahi feasts served after the death of a person for the liberation of his soul is meaningless. A man should give such feasts in his lifetime. So, that his journey after death becomes smooth. A man should arrange community feasts on his own birthday. He must also distribute alms on that day which brings better in his next life.
The followers of the Din-i-Ilahi should address a co-religionist with Allah-o-Akbar and the other should respond with ‘Jalla Jallalhu’. A follower of Din-i-Ilahi should not eat flesh, onion, and garlic. Dining with executioners, fishermen, and untouchables was not permissible.
According to Din-i-Ilahi, a man’s marriageable age was 16 years and that of a woman was fixed at 14 years. Marriage with widows, old women, and pre-puberty girls was forbidden. All should lead a life of purity and good moral character. People must sleep with their heads towards the east and legs towards the west. A man must take a vow to sacrifice four essentials for the emperor such as life, wealth, religion, and honor. No one should grow a beard.
Followers of Din-i-Ilahi should believe in one God and should be tolerant of all religions. When a follower of Din-Ilahi dies his neck should be tied with a brick and some grains and set afloat in a river. Afterward, the brick and the grains were to be removed from his neck and submerged in the water and the dead body should be consigned to flames at a place where there was no water.
Propagation of Din-i-ilahi and its Analysis
Din-i-Ilahi was not propagated properly. Akbar did not move any efforts for its propagation. He did not even force anyone to accept this religion. Among the Hindus, only Raja Birbal accepted this religion. Raja Bhagwan Das and Man Singh refused to accept this religion. Muslims also did not take any interest in Din-i-Ilahi.
Among the Muslims, the Din-i-Ilahi was extremely unpopular. The women also secretly incited people not to accept this religion. During Akbar’s lifetime, this religion never gets any popular acceptance. It was totally eclipsed after the death of Akbar.