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Akbar wisely enough abstained from attempting to play the rôle of a Justinian, and he left his courts to administer these laws according to the requirements of each case. But he was by no means indifferent to the mode in which his judges performed their duties; misconduct on their part, we may well believe, would have incurred his severest displeasure, and as the ultimate judge, whose sense of justice and right was completely unfettered, his authority could at all times be invoked by the injured suitor, and their knowledge of this fact doubtless had considerable influence in keeping the judges up to a lively sense of their own responsibilities and duties. In the punishment of criminals Akbar frequently enjoined the courts to temper justice with mercy, and no death sentence could be executed until it had obtained his confirmation. Again, while Akbar allowed Hindus to live under the benefit of their own laws in regard to civil rights, he did not hesitate to interfere with the strict enforcement of those laws when they appeared to him cruel or unjust. Thus, he anticipated to some extent our own later legislation by nearly three centuries, by forbidding the compulsory burning of widows, the Hindu practice of ordeal, and the marriage of Hindu children before a fit age; while he also furnished us with a precedent for permitting Hindu widows to remarry. In these wise ordinances the Emperor gave further evidence of the qualities of a true statesman which every historian accords to him.
Such was the man who was the glory of the Mogul Empire, but who can scarcely be called a Muslim Sovereign.* If his character was not altogether stainless, we must remember the age and society in which he lived, and it must at all events be conceded that his record points him out as one of the most illustrious Oriental princes
* Cf. "Tarikh-i-Badauni," vol. ii., pp. 211, 255; vol. v., pp. 524, 528; Elliott's "History of India." Badauni says there was "not a trace of Islam left in Akbar," vol. v., ibid., p. 527.
who have ever ruled in India. As it is finely said in a Persian couplet of Abul Fazl :
"Akbar the King illumines India's night,
And is a lamp in the Court of the House of Timur,"
which, if a poetical, is not a very extravagant estimate of Akbar's relation to the other imperial rulers of his race. A comparison has been suggested between Akbar and Charles I. of Spain, who was better known as Charles V. of Germany. But the comparison offers few resemblances. Like Charles, who finally abdicated, and thus closed his political career in January of the same year (1556) in which Akbar may be said to have begun his, the Delhi Emperor was left to guide the helm of empire while still a mere stripling (fourteen as compared with sixteen, the age at which Charles succeeded his grandfather Ferdinand); and again, like his European contemporary, he was continually engaged in wars to consolidate his vast empire. Both Sovereigns laboured conscientiously to discharge their high destinies in a becoming manner, and both were ready at all times to sacrifice ease and pleasure for the public welfare. Neither avoided labour or repined under fatigue in the arduous task of governing his extensive dominions, and both wielded the sceptre with a masterful hand. Both, again, on their death-bed assembled their nobles, and implored the forgiveness of anyone who had been wronged or neglected by them. But the similitude of the comparison cannot be extended much further. Akbar, as we have seen, freely employed Hindus in the highest offices of State, and showed no bias in favour of any creed or nationality. But Charles, who was born in Flanders, caused much discontent among his Castilian subjects by the undue favouritism he showed to his Flemish courtiers, on whom he bestowed every appointment of value. Again, Akbar, as I have pointed out, was most tolerant in matters of religion; but Charles had been too long under the tutelage of Adrian of Utrecht (afterwards Pope Adrian VI.)
to imbibe any such feeling towards a religion differing from that in which he had been educated.
If Charles ratified the Convention of Passau (1552), whereby the Protestants were allowed the free exercise of their religion till the next Diet, he did it with no willing mind, and his whole previous attitude towards Luther and his followers was that of a temporizing policy with a latent but bitter spirit of hostility towards the Protestant schism. In a codicil to his will, written a few days before his death (1558), he commanded his son, Philip II., perhaps the most detestable monster and execrable bigot who ever wore a crown, to pursue and chastise the heretics with the utmost severity and vigour, to protect the holy office of Inquisition, and by this means "to deserve that our Lord will ensure the prosperity of his reign." Lastly, Charles was unlike Akbar in the result of his military exploits. Akbar was uniformly successful, but Charles, in his second war against Francis I. of France, lost half his army; while his siege of Algiers ended in disastrous failure (1541). On the whole, the comparison must be in favour of the Mogul Emperor. Nor would Akbar even compare unfavourably with two other contemporary European monarchs who were among the most eminent of their respective countries, namely, Elizabeth of England and Henry IV. of France.
But an Akbar is one of those rare and brilliant meteors which occasionally flash across and illumine the dark annals of the history of absolute monarchy, leaving a trail of light behind them even when they have vanished from sight. Akbar's immediate successors inherited scarcely any of his virtues, and had all the vices of the race to which they belonged. Jehangir was indolent, and had the Scythian love for wine and women. Shah jehan was magnificent, and a great patron of architecture. The Táj Máhál, the Moti Musjid at Agra, and the Jama Musjid at Delhi, still survive to glorify his reign. But despite what Tavernier says of his reigning, "not so much as a king over his subjects, but rather as a father over his family," we cannot
forget that he caused his elder brother Khusru to be assassinated—at least, that was the general belief-that his sack of Agra was accompanied by the utmost cruelty and the perpetration of the grossest outrages on the wives and daughters of the inhabitants, that his marches while in rebellion against his father left desolation behind them, and can only be compared to the raids of an adventurer like Alá-ud-din, and that he also murdered his brother Shahryar and every member of the royal blood who was at all likely to prove a rival to his throne. Intrigue and assassination supplied the place of wisdom and firmness, and were the chief instruments of his administration. Most of the Hindu Princes who were devoted to Akbar were alienated by the intolerant spirit of Jehangir and of Shah Jehan, and became refractory and turbulent; and finally, under the unscrupulous fanatic who assumed the high-sounding title of Alamgirthe Conqueror of the World-the magnificent fabric of empire which Akbar had constructed, began, after temporarily reaching its widest limits, to experience the seeds of decay, so much so that even a friendly contemporary writer -Kháfi Khan-had to admit that Alamgir's government was a universal failure. It was in this reign that the Mahrattas rose to power, and we first hear of the Konkan freebooter Sivaji, of whom we shall have to speak at greater length presently. The subsequent history of Alamgir's successors is a history of crime, of fratricidal wars, of gross oppression, of weakness, of plots, of treacheries, and of incompetence. But so deep were the foundations on which Akbar had raised his great empire, that a certain halo still surrounded the throne of the Great Mogul, even after every spark of vitality had vanished from the administration which bore its name. The victory of Baxar gained by Major Munro in 1764 gave a death-blow to that empire in the North; its last vestiges of authority in the South had disappeared by 1761, and as the result of the third great battle of Panipat, fought in the same year between the Mahrattas and Ahmad Shah, the Durani invader, it lay pros
trate at the mercy of the Afghan victor. The titular dignity no doubt survived for nearly a century longer, and only ceased to exist in January, 1858, when the then occupant of the throne, Bahadur Shah, was convicted of ordering a massacre of Christians and of waging war against the British Government. The Mogul Empire thus perished after an existence of exactly two centuries, unregretted and unmourned, not by conquest at the hands of the British, but by internal decay, by the operation of those same forces which caused the downfall of the Saracen, and which have reduced the Turkish Empire to a shadow. Self-indulgence on the part of the rulers, zenana influences and intrigues, religious intolerance, and insufferable arrogance, produced in each case the inevitable consequences of effeminacy, weakness, and hatred, subverting all authority and undermining the basis of all empire. But even in its zenith the Mogul Empire could not compare with the present paramount rule in India, either in its strength, its resources, its administrative machinery, or in its genera solicitude for the welfare and prosperity of the people; and one can scarcely credit any well-informed Muhammadan, not to speak of Hindus, Mahrattas, Sikhs, and others, asserting the superiority of the Mogul as compared with the British rule.* If such a person should exist, let him read the account which a contemporary historian-Abdul Kadir Badaunigives of the rapacity of the subordinate officials appointed to carry out Raja Todar Mull's reforms, and he will then have reason to bless his destiny that he has lived three centuries later, and under another and more enlightened and effective government. "A great portion of the country," says Badauni, "was laid waste through the rapacity of the Kroris, the wives and children of the raiyats were sold and scattered abroad, and everything was thrown into confusion."
*This comparison is not intended to detract from the credit abundantly conceded above to Akbar as an able and enlightened ruler; but conceding everything that the most enthusiastic admirer of the Great Emperor could justly claim for him, the opinion expressed in the text would nevertheless hold good.