Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Emperor Akbar ( 1542-1605 )
 The architect of modern India was the great Mughal Emperor Akbar who gave equal respect to people of all communities and appointed them to the highest offices on their merits irrespective of their religion, caste, etc.
The Emperor Akbar held discussions with scholars of all religions and gave respect not only to Muslim scholars, but also to Hindus, Christians, Parsis, Sikhs, etc. Those who came to his court were given respect and the Emperor heard their views, sometimes alone, and sometimes in the Ibadatkhana (Hall of Worship) in Fatehpur Sikri, where people of all religions assembled and discussed their views in a tolerant spirit.
 The Emperor declared his policy of Suleh-e-Kul, which means universal toleration of all religions and communities. He abolished Jeziya in 1564 and the pilgrim tax in 1563 on Hindus and permitted his Hindu wife to continue to practise her own religion even after their marriage. This is evident from the Jodha Bai Palace in Fatehpur Sikri which is built on Hindu architectural pattern.
 In 1578, the Parsi theologian Dastur Meherji Rana was invited to the Emperor s Court and he had detailed discussions with Emperor Akbar and acquainted him about the Parsi religion. Similarly, the Jesuit Priests Father Antonio Monserrate, Father Rodolfo Acquaviva and Father Francisco Enriques etc. also came to the Emperor's Court on his request and acquainted him about the Christian religion. The Emperor also became acquainted with Sikhism and came into contact with Guru Amar Das and Guru Ram Das (see `The Mughal Empire by R.C. Majumdar).
 Thus, as stated in the Cambridge History of India (Vol.IV The Mughal Period) Emperor Akbar conceived the idea of becoming the father of all his subjects, rather than the leader of only the Muslims, and he was far ahead of his times. As mentioned by Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru in `The Discovery of India , Akbar's success is astonishing, for he created a sense of oneness among the diverse elements of India.
 In 1582, the Emperor invited and received a Jain delegation from Ahmedabad consisting of Hiravijaya Suri, Bhanuchandra Upadhyaya and Vijayasena Suri. Jainism, with its doctrine of non-violence, made a profound impression on the Emperor, and influenced his personal life. He curtailed his food and drink and ultimately abstained from flesh diet altogether for several months in the year. He renounced hunting which was his favourite pastime, restricted the practice of fishing and released prisoners and caged birds. Slaughter of animals was prohibited on certain days and ultimately in 1587 for about half the days in the year.
 Akbar's contact with Jains began as early as 1568, when Padma Sunder who belonged to the Nagpuri Tapagaccha was honoured by him.
 As mentioned in Dr. Ishwari Prasad s `The Mughal Empire' , the Jains had a great influence on the Emperor. A disputation was held in Akbar's court between the Jain monks Buddhisagar of Tapgaccha and Suddha Kirti of Khartargaccha on the subject of the Jain religious ceremony called Pansadha in which the winner was given the title Jagatguru by Akbar.
 Having heard of the virtues and learning of Hir Vijaya Suri in 1582 the Emperor sent an invitation to him through the Mughal Viceroy at Ahmedabad. Hirvijaya Suri accepted the invitation in the interests of his religion. He was offered money by the Viceroy to defray the expenses of the journey but he refused. The delegation consisting of Hir Vijaya Suri, Bhanu Chandra Upadhyaya and Vijaya Sen Suri started on their journey and walked on foot all the way from Ahmedabad to Fatehpur Sikri, subsisting on alms offered by people on the way, as was their custom.
 On reaching Fatehpur Sikri they were received with great honour befitting imperial guests. Hir Vijaya Suri first had discussions with Abul Fazl, one of Emperor Akbar's ' navratnas '. He propounded the doctrine of Karma and an impersonal God.
 When he was introduced to the Emperor he defended true religion and told him that the foundation of faith should be daya (compassion) and that God is one though he is differently named by different faiths.
 The Emperor received instruction in Dharma from Suri, who explained the Jain doctrines to him. He discussed the existence of God and the qualities of a true Guru and recommended non-killing (Ahinsa). The Emperor was persuaded to forbid the slaughter of animals for six months in Gujarat and to abolish the confiscation of the property of deceased persons, the Sujija Tax (Jeziya) and a Sulka (possibly a tax on pilgrims) and to free caged birds and prisoners.
 Hirvijaya Suri and his companion Jain monks stayed for four years at Emperor Akbar's court, and left for Gujarat in 1586. They imparted a knowledge of Jainism to Akbar and obtained various concessions for their religion.
 The Emperor is said to have taken a vow to refrain from hunting and gave up eating meat on Fridays, Sundays, and some other days, as mentioned in Ain-i-Akbari by Abul Fazl. In fact he expressed a desire to give up meat- eating for ever as it had become repulsive to him. The killing of animals was forbidden for certain days.
 Before the Jain monks left Fatehpur Sikri, the Emperor presented to them the Padma Sundar scriptures which had been preserved in his palace library. He offered these to the Jain monks as a gift, knowing that they would not accept anything else, and they were pressed by the Emperor to accept them.
 Emperor Akbar was a propagator of Suleh-i-Kul (universal toleration of all religions) at a time when Europeans were indulging in religious massacres e.g. the St.Bartholomew Day massacre in 1572 of Protestants, (called Huguenots) in France by the Catholics, the burning at the stake of Protestants by Queen Mary of England, the massacre by the Duke of Alva of tens of thousands of Protestants for their resistance to Rome, and the burning at the stake of Jews during the Spanish Inquisition.
 We may also mention the subsequent massacre of the Catholics in Ireland by Cromwell, and the mutual massacre of Catholics and Protestants in Germany during the Thirty Year War from 1618 to 1648 in which the population of Germany was reduced from 18 million to 12 million.
 Thus, Emperor Akbar was far ahead of even the Europeans of his times.
 It was because of the wise policy of toleration of the Great Emperor Akbar that the Mughal empire lasted for so long. The same wise policy of toleration and respect for all religions alone can keep our country together despite so much diversity.

1 comment:

  1. sir...what about Akbar's chittor massacre in 1568 when 30000 people(hindu) were killed due to only their religion.....