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What were the difficulties faced by Akbar during the period

1556-1564? How did he overcome them?

"His majesty [Akbar] plans splendid edifices ... Thus

mighty fortresses have been raised, which protect
the timid, frighten the rebellious, and please the
- Abul Fazl, Ain-i-Akbari (Regulations of Akbar), c. 1590

Miracles occur in the temples of every creed.

Humayuns death had been a blow to the Mughals and it was totally
unexpected. It had only been a year since he had recaptured Delhi and
the kingdom was still young. His son Jalal-ad-din Akbar was then formally
seated on the throne of the Mughal Empire. In the course of the next ten
years of young Akbars reign he faced several crises both from internal
threats and from external ones. In this essay we shall look at what some
of those problems were that Akbar had to deal with in the initial years of
his reign.
The major sources which throw light on Akbars period are divided into
three categories; official, personal and foreign accounts. Abul Fazls
akbarnama and ain-i-akbari which are the official accounts of the official
court chronicler. In these works Akbar is presented as an exalted monarch.
Another official account was that of Nizamuddin Ahmad. Abdul Qadir
Badaunis account muntakhab-ut-tawarikh is a personal account which is
highly critical of Akbar. Badaunis work is important as it provides a
different perspective from that of the other historians and provides details
that are either missing or avoided in the other accounts. There are also
accounts by foreign travellers and Jesuit missionaries which however
suffer from personal prejudices.
Since Akbar was very young at the time of him becoming the emperor,
Behram Khan who was very close to Humayun and had been a favourite
official of Humayun was appointed the khan-i-khana and the vakil of the
empire. He was one of the most powerful nobles of the camp and initially
the nobles agreed to support this decision since the empire facing many
difficulties and a powerful leader was needed to ensure the safety of the

empire. In 1556, soon after the coronation of the young emperor, Delhi
came under attack by the Afghans from Bihar which was led on the led by
Hemu. Behram khan sent the army to meet him under Tardi Beg but the
Mughal army was defeated. Many of the Mughal army officials had fled
from the battle when they realised that they could not resist the attacks of
Hemu and Tardi Beg was one among them. Behram khan then had him
executed as punishment for it. This incident caused much confusion and
resentment in the court and Beharam khan used this as a pretext to rise
to power.
Iqtadar Alam Khan divides the period of Behram Khan into 4 phases. The
first phase was up to the period of 1566 when he was Akbars tutor and
the other nobles had sanctioned his rise to power based on his promise to
keep the Afghans at bay. The Afghans were still powerful and remained
powerful in many areas within the Indian subcontinent such as Hemu in
Bihar and Bahadur Shah in Gujarat. The second phase was from 1556-57,
when Behram khan rose to prominence and suppressed the other nobles
by sending them away to parts of the empire. The third phase was from
1557-59 when the harem arrives from Kabul. She resents the rise of
Behram khan and with the support of the other nobles tries to curtail his
powers. She states that Akbar needs to consulted on important decision
and they should be presented before him such as in the case of the
decision to execute Tardi Beg. The fourth phase is from 1559-1560 when
Akbar begins to assert his authority and reclaims power from Behram
During the four years of Behram khans reign the Mughal Empire faced
many dangers and threats but also showed considerable progress. The
senior nobles had hoped that once he came to power, he would share it
with them too. But when he sent them off to different parts of the empire
on various tasks, the realised that he had different intentions. Within the
court Behram khan faced much opposition from Akbars foster parents and
mainly from the Turkish nobles. The dominant Sunni nobility felt that
Behram khan being a Shia Muslim, had undermined their powers and was
creating a nobility that favoured the men of his own creed or men who
were entirely subservient to his will. The execution of Tardi Beg who was a
Turk was considered by these nobles as an act of hostility towards them.
By 1560, Akbar wanted to assert his position, but his views were not
always taken into account by the now very powerful Behram khan. Akbar
knew he had to confront his tutor but at the same time was wise enough
to realise that an open conflict might jeopardise his position. So Akbar
decided to tactfully deal with the situation and so on the pretext of going
for a hunting expedition, Akbar fled from Agra to Delhi and there he rallied
the nobles and his troops. Behram khan could not entirely understand the

situation and he felt that the emperor was acting under the influence of
the nobles. He decided to then take up arms to punish his enemies. But
this resulted in his defeat which was then followed by Akbar giving him
two options, to either remain in the court as a subordinate to Akbar and
not as a regent or to go to Mecca on holy pilgrimage. Behram khan chose
the latter and decided to go to Mecca, but on his way , while passing
through Gujarat, he was killed by Mubarak Khan Nohani.
A second major problem that Akbar faced was from his foster family.
Maham Anagam the harem, came to Delhi in 1557 from Kabul. Winston
Smith calls the phase when Akbar was dominated by his foster family as a
petticoat government. The wet nurses of the emperor were incorporated
into the foster family which was a practice of central Asian tradition. She
along with the other Turkish nobles had tried to curtail the powers of
Behram Khan. Now that Behram khan was removed, the foster family and
the nobles who had supported Akbar against Behram khan hoped for a
higher share in power. When Akbar tried to centralise his empire and
assert his authority, it led to conflicts with the foster family. This is clearly
reflected through the actions of Adham khan, the son of Maham Anagam
when after the conquest of Malwa, he refused to send the war booty to
Akbar. Akbar then confronted him, at which Adham khan offered up
everything to Akbar except for 2 concubines which he kept for himself.
When Akbar came to know of this, Maham Anagam, had the 2 concubines
killed so that it would not cause further problems. Adham khan was
recalled from Malwa and when he killed Shamsuddin who was believed to
be the jure vakil , Akbar had Adham khan killed. This swift action helped
prevent further bloodshed as Shamsuddins eldest son was preparing to
take revenge.
The Turnai nobility consisted of 4 main groups; the Chagatai, the Uzbeks,
the Mirza's and the Atka Khayl. All of them revolted at some point or the
other. The Atka Khayl was the foster family and the Chagatais were also
part of the Uzbeks. The Uzbek revolts and rebellions were a problem which
was actually the beginning of the opposition of the Chagatais being
presented. These nobles resented the centralising policies of Akbar and
many of them began to revolt. The Uzbek nobles began asserting regional
autonomy and there were several rebellions in the period between 156162. There was growing resentment among them as they believed in the
Chengizi tradition of sharing power among the elites. They resented the
centralising policies of Akbar which prevented them from retaining the war
booty and other tributes. However Akbar had many of them sent to
different parts of the empire in order to better control them and limit their
powers. The opposition of the Chagatais eventually manifested itself in
the form of the Uzbek rebellions. The first rebellion was that of Abdullah

khan Uzbek of Malwa who refused to send Akbar the tribute. He had
earlier recaptured Malwa for the Mughal Empire and had become the
governor of the province. It eventually led to an a conflict between Akbar
and Abdullah khan and the latter was defeated in this in 1564. There
were also other Uzbeks who refused to send the tribute such as Ibrahim
khan Uzbek, Sikander Khan Uzbek and Khan-i-Zaman Uzbek. In 1565
Akbar was informed of the rebellion being planned by Iskandar Khan
Uzbek. The other Uzbek officials also joined hands in this rebellion but
they were ultimately defeated by Akbar. However, they were pardoned
and given back their jagirs. The final rebellion was in 1567 when these
Uzbek nobles pledged their loyalty to Mirza Muhammad Hakim who Akbar
had driven back to Kabul. They were yet again defeated by Akbar and this
time too they were pardoned. Akbar was constantly on the move
suppressing these rebellions mainly through the use of force.
The Mirzas were a minor threat when compared to the Uzbeks. The Mirza's
were a small faction in Akbars court and were a part of the Chagatai
nobility and aspired for greater share in power. They were given jagirs in
the Sambal region. The first Mirza rebellion was in 1560 under Mohammed
sultan Mirza who was related to Akbar. They attempted marching to Delhi
to capture power but there were repressed by the local Mughal governor.
Some of them managed to escape and fled to Gujarat. All these rebellions
led Akbar to bring about many reforms within the nobility itself in order to
prevent such rebellions.
It was these rebellions that led Akbar to broaden the base of the nobility
and look for new alliances. There was a need to transform those chieftains
who saw themselves as autonomous or semi-autonomous. Even during
the time of Babur, we see his conflict with Rana Sangha of Sissodiya, in
which he faced defeat. Babur was also advised by the Safavid ruler to ally
with the Rajputs. The Rajput policy of Akbar can be traced to 1562 when
Akbar marries the daughter of raja Bara Mal of Amer. Although popular
legend refers to this princess as Jodha Bhai, there is no clear evidence
regarding this. The Kachwahas were a very minor group among the
Rajputs but this did not concern Akbar much as he saw this alliance as an
inroad to other Rajput relations. In 1562, the raja Bara Mal came to meet
Akbar on his way back from Ajmer, to pay homage and also to seek
protection as his brother Askaran was trying to build an alliance with the
Afghans and claim the throne of Amer. The Kachwaha land was very near
to Agra and Delhi and also their lands were flat plains which left them
open to attacks from these different areas. So the Kachwaha family was
sinking into ruin. Akbar however did not consider this too much and
considered an alliance with them as the way into dealing with the rest of
the Rajputs. Besides the Kachwahas were very good warriors.

In 1563, Akbar abolished the jaziya in order to better the relations with the
Rajputs even though this tax had existed only in paper and was not really
implemented. But this act did not really help to improve the relations with
them as only the Kachwahas were willing to enter into alliance with the
Mughals. Akbar faced much criticism from his nobility and the ulema for
his attempts to include new members in the nobility as they felt that he
was not taking up the cause of Islam as a true Muslim ruler should. But
despite this Akbar continued to try and build up his relations with the
Rajputs and there were some advantages that were offered with an
alliance with them. Rajputana was very strategically located and provided
the shortest route to the Deccan. In addition they provided access to the
rich mercantile ports of Gujarat and Malwa. Also the Rajputs were known
for their bravery and valour in battle and Akbar realised that they would
be a good addition to his forces.
R.P. Triparti, C.A. Bayly and I.A. Khan talk about neo-liberalism and talk of
Akbars attempt to create a composite culture and a cohesive empire.
According to A.L.Srivastav, Akbar was the only Muslim ruler who dreamt of
Indian unity and the alliance formed an integral part of his religious policy
of building a state that was not based and supported by Muslims alone.
Badauni blames the Rajput relations as the reason for the change in the
ideological outlook of Akbar. I.A.Khan says that these alliances were an
attempt on the part of Akbar to create a heterogeneous nobility as the
Uzbek and Mirza rebellions led him to believe that they could not be
entirely depended on.
Akbar soon realised that his liberal policy with the Rajputs had not helped
in creating new alliances and so he decides to shift to a more harsher
policy involving military force. So in 1568, Akbar attacks chittor and lays
siege to it. Since chittor was the capital of the Sissodiyas, Akbar hoped
that its conquest would lead to the Rajputs accepting Mughal sovereignty.
Abul Fazl claims that it was the arrogant nature of the Rana of Sissodiya
that led to the attack. The siege of Chittor lasted for over four months
from October 1567-february1568. There was a lot of bloodshed and after
the Mughals had captured it, the fathnama(declaration of victory) was
read in the name of the Mughal rulers. In the following years most Rajput
houses accepted Mughal alliance and were inducted into Mughal nobility.

So we see that during the first phase of Akbars reign as emperor of the
Mughal Empire, he had to face several difficulties which he had to
overcome. He had to initially shake off all the power and other ties which

were trying hard to control him and gain access to power such as his
regent and his foster family. He also then had to deal with the external
threats that he faced from the different parts of the empire. In addition to
all this he had to face the several rebellions and revolts from the various
nobles who were always trying to carve out independent spheres of power
for themselves. And finally, Akbar had to deal with the Rajputs and
relations with them, both through his liberal policy and also through
military force. While Akbar had to use force in many instances, we also
see that he often pardoned the rebels and those who went against him. In
these ways Akbar managed to deal with the several problems that he
faced mainly during the initial phase of his reign from 1556-1564.

> Iqtidar Alam Khan - The Political Biography of a Mughal Noble: Munim
Khan Khan-i Khanan, 1497-1575, Orient Longman for the Department of
History, Aligarh Muslim University, 1973.
> Douglas E. Streusand, The Formation of the Mughal Empire, Oxford
University Press, 1989.
> Irfan Habib, Akbar and his India, Oxford University Press, 1997.
> Satish Chandra, Essays on medieval Indian history, Oxford University
Press, 2003.

> John F. Richards, The Mughal Empire, Cambridge University Press, 1995.
> Khaliq Ahmad Nizami, Akbar and his Religion, 1989.
> Satish Chandra, Essays on medieval Indian history, Oxford University
Press, 2003.

Arpith Isaac
III History