By Andre Wink
Broadly considered as the best of the Mughal emperors, Jalal ad-Din Akbar (1542-1603) was once a powerful army tactician and well known demagogue. Ascending to the throne on the age of 13, he governed for part a century, multiplied the Mughal empire, and left at the back of a legacy to rival his notorious ancestor Chinggis Khan. This lucid biography presents glimpses into Akbar's everyday life and highlights his contribution to new equipment of imperial keep an eye on.
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Already fairly early in his reign (the seventh year) we get evidence that Akbar was cracking down on generals engaged in the still common Mongol practice, in times of war, of indiscriminately killing non-combatants, capturing women and children, and selling them as slaves. “It was the Code (Tora) of Chingis Khan,” wrote Badauni, “to massacre or make slaves of all the inhabitants [of a conquered region] . . to destroy utterly 50 AKBAR many towns and villages and sweep everything clean and clear .
Akbar’s grandson Shah Jahan undertook “hunting”expeditions in this area from 1636 onward,in order to prepare for the final invasion of Balkh and Badakhshan – which, when launched in 1645, proved disastrous. 34 AKBAR The Uzbeks, however, never ceased to be a danger, although they did not seize Kabul. Whenever Akbar succeeded in subduing one or other of the huge tribal confederacies no matter how temporarily, the Uzbeks recoiled in fear, and closed the gates of Balkh. But Akbar made sure not to provoke his CentralAsian neighbors too much, and always turned down forward policies suggested to him by advisers who aimed at the subjugation of Balkh.
They killed everyone except Shi’is and infidels, whom they sold like cattle in Bukhara. Such descriptions of “Tartar” pastoral nomads in relatively recent times provide glimpses into the mode of life of the medieval Mongols. But they show a mode of life in retreat, one that has become anachronistic and marginalized. In effect, while pastoral nomadism survived into recent times, no great “Tartar” conquerors emerged from the steppes after the death of Timur in the early fifteenth century. THE NEW COURT ETIQUETTE Perhaps Akbar understood better than anyone else the necessity of taming the Mongol nobles.