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

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)

Next Story

Jaipur Literature Festival Takes A Questionable Stand On The #MeToo Movement

JLF's fast spreading presence in the international arena, calls for a more substantial stand on its part, as far as #MeToo is concerned.

#MeToo, women, Indian Idol, victim
The hushed whispers are getting louder. Flickr

After several star speakers of the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, including C.P. Surendran, Suhel Seth and Chetan Bhagat, among others, have been accused of sexually harassing multiple women, on the sidelines of the popular lit fest, the organisers, in a cautiously worded one-sentence tweet on Thursday, have supported the rising tide of the #MeToo campaign in India — but questions still remain.

“The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival unequivocally stands by the women who have courageously spoken out for equity and dignity and is committed to supporting and amplifying their voices,” the official handle of the JLF said in a tweet on Thursday.

The statement came two days after a petition was started on by writer-editor Rajni George, asking its organisers to support the #MeToo India and stand up “against sexual harassment”.

Jaipur Literature Festival

“We write today regarding the serious and credible allegations of sexual harassment made recently against a number of men in and around the literary world, as part of the MeToo movement in India.

“We, the undersigned, are dismayed, saddened and angered by these accounts. We admire the work that the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) undertakes. As India’s largest and most recognised literature festival, we believe JLF is ideally placed to take the lead in addressing this urgent issue,” George’s petition said.

JLF’s response in the one-line tweet is general, and does not specifically mention whether any of the allegations that have now surfaced were earlier brought to the notice of the organisers.

It also does not make it clear whether the doors of the festival will remain closed for the accused in its future editions, or not. It further makes no comment whatsoever on several instances that are said to have taken place on the sidelines of the annual event.

Sanjoy K. Roy, with writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple as co-directors, has been instrumental in bringing societal issues to the fore.

Notably, many of the accused have featured in prominent sessions at what is described as the “greatest literary show on Earth”, and, in many instances, the festival has been instrumental in increasing their popularity as well as readership.

On its part, JLF, produced by Teamwork Arts, headed by Sanjoy K. Roy, and with writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple as co-directors, has been instrumental in bringing societal issues to the fore. In fact, the 2018 edition of the festival in January this year had come to a close with a hard-hitting debate on #MeToo, long before the campaign gained momentum in India.

Also Read: Watch Jaipur Literature Festival Live On Twitter

Many in the literary circles feel the benchmark that JLF has itself set over the course of its journey, its coming of age and gradual but distinct shift from controversies to substance in the recent years, its fast spreading presence in the international arena, calls for a more substantial stand on its part, as far as #MeToo is concerned. (IANS)