Mughal Emperor Akbar revisited in an intense session at Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF)

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Great Emperor Akbar, Wikimedia

– by Saket Suman

Jaipur, Jan 22, 2017: Mughal emperor Akbar and several of his emotions that do not find mention in historical records were redefined in an hour-long session here on Sunday.

A session on writer Shazi Zaman’s book “Akbar”, here at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), helped decode historical events during the reign of the Mughal ruler.

One significant shortcoming of the historical writings is that they only take into account the events and incidents but ignore the “sentiment and state of mind” under which the decisions that led to those events were taken, said news anchor Ravish Kumar.

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“History is history. It is about facts and figures, about what happened, when it happened and who all were involved. But history has not cared for what a particular person thought at a given time in the past,” said Ravish Kumar addressing the session on “Akbar: Kitna Itihas, Kitna Upanyas”.

The book studies primary sources of the emperor’s time to understand how his mind was reacting to events around him and how his mind was shaping many of those events.

“It becomes important to understand Akbar’s state of mind because the facts are already there. What is not there is why those decisions were taken. What led to those events? And it is very much possible to understand it through the available resources.

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“If you look into the historical records, into the writings of the time like ‘Akbarnama’ or ‘Muntakhabuttawarikh’, it becomes very much evident that Akbar was in a troubled state of mind.

“He was troubled to see tension among the Hindus and the Muslims and said some things which may be considered venomous even today,” author Shazi Zaman contended.

Citing one common example to prove his point, Zaman narrated the “haalaat-e-ajeeb” when in a fit of anger Akbar said Hindus should eat the meat of the cow and Muslims should eat the meat of the pig.

No one, not even those closest to him could fathom what had happened to the emperor.

“Now this is something that will be considered venomous by many of us even today but there is a lot more to it. What made him say something like this?”

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His religious ideas were unsettling to the world. He provided a platform unique for his times — an equal-opportunities space for everybody to express their thoughts without fear.

Thus the Brahmins, the Vaishnav saints, the Jesuits, the Jains, the Parsis, the Sunni ulema, the Shias, the Sufis and the messianic sects could, without fear, challenge others at his court.

“But he realised that temporal battles were far easier than religious ones. These were the battles weighing heavily on his mind as the royal retainers and the courtiers waited for him to begin the hunt,” the writer said.

“And that is the beginning of a phase of bitter feud that created ripples from Sikri to Makkah,” Zaman informed a houseful audience.

The author of the scholarly offering, said to be penned after over two decades of research, said Akbar was so disturbed to see the hostility between the two communities that in a tense state of mind he must have said it.

The discussion threw light on several facets of the Mughal emperor that have not found a mention in historical records. (IANS)

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