Select from the drop-down MENU & READ the Blog in your PREFERRED Language


Akbar & Harka Bai | Maharana Pratap | Mauryans | Razia Sultan | Miscellaneous | Jodha Akbar | FolkLore | Suggestions

5300+ comments registered on over 165 active posts, till now.
Plagiarism is a serious ethical offense amounting to copyright infringement. ZERO tolerance for Plagiarism.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Mughal Emperor Akbar - The Sun Worshipper

Hi Friends,

Presently, i see a very interesting discussion happening on one of Abhay's posts and that is - Was Akbar totally a self-made man or was he influenced by anyone in his journey to become Akbar the Great?  

Well, the answer to this Q is NOT directly written anywhere but still it can be understood by a little deduction. :)

Why would Akbar pay reverence to Sun if he was NOT "influenced" by his Hindu courtiers/consorts/other agencies ? We all understand the extreme significance of the Sun worshiping act on Akbar's part - it would amount to blasphemy even now for a devout Muslim to worship any God other than Allah. Back then, the ulema was quite powerful and had a say in the administration of the empire and could even dethrone the Emperor if he was found to stray from the straight and narrow path prescribed by them. Yet Akbar was able to stand up to everyone and not only allowed his Rajput wives to practise Hinduism but even joined them in their prayers, rituals and festivals. Similarly, he adopted certain customs from other faiths such as the fire worship of the Zoroastrians and allowed every citizen to practise the faith they wanted to. 

Let's now see just how much Akbar was influenced by the customs of some other faiths and advocated them to others. Evolution of thought and the growth of an individual is a continual process and Akbar is a fine example of this. The following post deals with the same.


Hindus have traditionally worshiped the Sun God since the beginning. The Sun is the source of heat and light on Earth and sustains life. It is the easiest compass used to find direction. It is responsible for causing day and night and seasons on Earth.

In spite of all this, it is hard to believe that a deeply religious man like Akbar chose to go against his faith and believe in the power of the Sun God. Yet, believe he did and openly. 

Coin of Akbar bearing his Image on one side and Sun on other

Influence of Birbal

It is said that Akbar's deep friendship with Birbal influenced him in the matter of Sun worship. Birbal is presumed to have convinced Akbar that since humanity received light and sustenance from the Sun, the Sun deserved the highest reverence.

This is what Badayuni has to say about Birbal's influence on Akbar in this regard. Look at the highlighted text.

Tarikh-i-Badouni, Vol-2, Pg-260

"On the other hand, Birbal the Hindu {{the Persian text calls him "cursed Birbal"}} tried to persuade the king that since the sun gives light to all, and ripens all grain, fruits, and products of the earth, and supports the life of mankind, that luminary should be the object of worship and veneration; that the face should be turned toward the rising, not toward the setting, sun; .... "


Picture 1

Remember, Badayuni was one of the fiercest critics of Akbar's religious beliefs and his proclivity for adopting Hindu customs and being liberal with Hindus. Badayuni was especially critical of the influence of the Rajput wives on Akbar's habits and outlook.

Here, it seems Badayuni was aghast that Akbar should pray to the Sun, as it is forbidden in Islam to pray to anyone except Allah. What was more, he was upset by the suggestion that Akbar should look toward the eastern sky (while praying) instead of toward the west (the direction of Mecca). 

Badayuni further says:

Tarikh-i-Badouni, Vol-2, Pg-260-261

"Several wise men at court confirmed what he said by representing that the sun was the chief light of the world and the benefactor of its inhabitants, that it was a friend to kings and that monarchs established periods and eras in conformity with its motions. This was the cause of the worship paid to the sun on the New Year of the Persian emperor Jalal-ad-din, and the reason why he had been induced to adopt that festival for the celebration of his accession to the throne. Every day, therefore, Akbar used to put on clothes of the particular colour which accorded with that of the regent planet of the day. He began also, at midnight and at early dawn, to mutter the spells which the Hindus taught him for the purpose of subduing the sun to his wishes. 

Note: Persian emperor Jalal-ad-din referred ^^^ is the Seljuk ruler, Sultan Jalal-ad-din Malik Shah (1072-92). 

If we look at what Badayuni has recorded ^^^, one point emerges. That Akbar was convinced that the Sun was the friend of kings. And that if Akbar could somehow "control" the Sun, it would bid his every wish

Note: This scan from the Akbarnama (Vol 1, Chapter 4, pg 85) shows how Akbar's worship of the Sun was considered blasphemous by some.

Picture 2
This reason, however, seems personally to me to be a more plausible reason why Akbar may have chosen to worship the Sun rather than just being convinced that it was an object of veneration. Another reason may have been his desire to project himself as one of the (native Hindustani) people by showing them that he followed their beliefs and customs.  

Akbar started the celebration of the Iranian festival of Nau Ruz-i Jalali {Jalal's New Year - Jalal here referring to the Seljuk ruler who had started the celebration of this festival and not Akbar} in Ajmer on 21st March, 1574 (the date of 21st March corresponding to the vernal equinox was fixed for the celebration by the Seljuk ruler). The celebration lasted for 6 days. Akbar threw a grand feast and distributed one lakh rupees to his officials and noblemen. Describing Akbar celebrating the festival in his capital - Fatehpur Sikri - for the first time, in 1578/79 A.D., Badayuni tries to understand the emperor's motivation and it is then that he wrote the above lines.   

{{We will look at the celebrations of the New Year festival in detail later.}}

Note: Ajmer was really close to Akbar's heart; so much so that he started the celebration of the new year festival from this holy place. :)

Influence of Zoroastrians - Traditional Sun / Fire Worshippers

Badayuni then goes on to relate that in addition to Birbal, there were Zoroastrians in the court who also revered the Sun and worshiped Fire.     

Tarikh-i-Badouni, Vol-2, Pg-261

"Fire-worshippers also came from Nausari in Gujarat, proclaiming the religion of Zardusht [=Zoroaster] as the true one and asserting that reverence to fire is superior to every other kind of worship. They attracted the king’s regard and taught him the peculiar terms, ordinances, rites, and ceremonies of the ancient Persians; so that at last he directed that the sacred fire should be made over to the charge of Abu-l-Fazl, and that, according to the fashion of the Kings of Iran, in whose temples blazed perpetual fires, he should take care that it was never extinguished either by night or day – for that it is one of the emblems of God and one light from among the many lights of His creation."


Picture 3

It appears that Akbar was so influenced by the Zoroastrians that he got sacred fire lit and kept in charge of his closest aide Abul Fazl. He was convinced that fire was one of the symbols that represented God on earth and that as long as he kept the fire burning, God's grace would be ever present upon him like a benevolent shadow.

Fire is sacred to Hindus too and no worship is complete without it. Fire is considered one of the purest elements in the Universe and the accepted witness to all major events. Many Hindus always keep a hom burning just like the sacred fire of the Zoroastrians. 

Influence of Rajput Wives

As I mentioned above, Badayuni was perturbed by the influence of the Rajput wives of Akbar in making him follow Hindu religious rites and rituals. He (Badayuni) says in this regard (refer to the highlighted text in Picture 3 above):

Tarikh-i-Badouni, Vol-2, Pg-261

"From his earliest youth, in compliment to his wives, the daughters of the Rajas of Hind, Akbar had, within the female apartments, continued to burn the hom, which is a ceremony derived from fire-worship; but on the New Year festival of the twenty-fifth year after his accession (987 A.H., 1579 A.D.) he prostrated himself both before the sun and before the fire in public, and in the evening the whole court were required to rise up respectfully when the lamps and candles were lighted."

Fire is symbolic of the Sun on earth in many ways. That Akbar should bow to the Sun and fire both - going against his faith and even making it imperative for his nobles to follow their emperor - was disconcerting to the orthodox Badayuni.

Just as we saw in the show - where Jodha keeps a diya ever burning by the side of her Kanha and which was never allowed to go out even in her absence by Akbar - it seems a sacred fire - the hom - was kept ever burning in the harem of the Hindu wives of Akbar. And he also seems to have followed the practice of having lamps and candles lit at dusk and bowing to them - a Hindu ceremonial ritual. 

So we see that Akbar kept the hom burning in the harem and a sacred fire burning in the care of Abul Fazl. It is really rare to come across a true secular leader who followed the customs of various faiths with equal earnestness.

Celebrating Nau Ruz - Influence of Jalal-ad-din Malik Shah

As seen earlier, it appears that Akbar was fond of celebrating the Nau Ruz festival elaborately in Fatehpur Sikri. This Iranian New Year festival is an occasion to celebrate spring when the Sun returns to warm the earth and its inhabitants after a long and harsh winter. 

Father Monserrate, the Portuguese Jesuit, witnessed a lavish celebration of this festival in March 1582. 

The next year (1583), the festivities were expanded and assumed the form they would take for the next 75 years or so. The festival now lasted for 19 days. High ranking nobles competed with each other in decorating the public buildings of the palace fortress. On the first and last days of the celebration, Akbar held a grand assembly and presented the nobles and officials with horses, robes of honor and increases in rank and salary. On the other days, the emperor visited the mansions of the nobles, one by one. Each noble was responsible for one day's entertainment. The noble offered rich cloth from India, Khurasan (in Iran) and Iraq; pearls, rubies and gold; and elephants, camels and Arabian horses. 

Look at the following lines by Badayuni:    

Tarikh-i-Badouni, Vol-2, Pg-261

"On the festival of the eighth day after the sun’s entrance into Virgo in this year, Akbar came forth to the public audience-chamber with his forehead marked like a Hindu’ and with jewelled strings tied on his wrist by Brahmans as a blessing. The chiefs and nobles

adopted the same practice in imitation of him and on that day presented pearls and precious stones suitable to their respective wealth and station. It also became the current custom to wear on the wrist the rakhi, an amulet formed of twisted linen rags." 

Read the highlighted text ^^^ where it is mentioned that the nobles presented pearls and precious stones suitable to their respective wealth and station to the emperor. On this day, these high officials also presented a jewel to Mariam-uz-Zamani according to their estate. (Link : <- This has been mentioned in an old post.)

Even today, many Hindus tie colored string on their wrist as an amulet to guard them. Badayuni says in this regard that Akbar may be celebrating his birthday on the 8th day of the sun entering Virgo and thus appearing like a Hindu in public (Akbarnama, Vol 1, Chapter 3, Pg 72):

Picture 4

Introduction of Solar Calendar

Akbar's fascination with the sun extended to the introduction of a new era and a new calendar based on the sun's movement. 

He invited the Iranian scientist and intellectual Amir Fathullah Shirazi to develop a new solar calendar based on the one developed by Omar Khayyam for Sultan Jalal-ad-din Malik Shah. The months of the year were Persian and the year started on the vernal equinox. 

Akbar also introduced a new era - the Ilahi or Divine - the first time he celebrated the festival in Fatehpur Sikri

Amir Fathullah recalculated and renumbered the early years of Akbar's reign. Since Akbar had become king in mid-February, 1556, it was decided to make the vernal equinox of that year the date for both his accession and the start of the new era. 

Since now 2 events had to be celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox, the accession of the emperor - jashn-i-julus - and the new year - jashn-i nau ruz, the celebrations became more elaborate.

Did Akbar have any special reasons for introducing the solar calendar or was it just a whim based on his reverence for the Sun? 

Abul Fazl says that Akbar introduced this calendar for economic reasons. Farmers in an agrarian economy needed a calendar that would coincide with the seasons. Since the solar calendar is 11 days longer than the lunar calendar, there are about 31 lunar years for 30 solar years. Fazl says:

Ain-e-Akbari, Vol-2(B-3), Pg-29:

"By this means the road was opened to grievous oppression, because 31 lunar years are equal to only 30 solar years and great loss occurred to the agriculturists as the revenue was taken on the lunar years and the harvest depended on the solar. "


Picture 5

That is, the peasants had only as many harvests as the solar years but they were earlier being taxed per the lunar calendar. They were paying an extra year's tax every 30 years even though they didn't have any corresponding harvest. This anomaly in the land revenue system was rectified during Akbar's reign, which is still remembered for administrative reforms.   

The adoption of a new era based on a new calendar was tied to the celebration of Nau Ruz by Akbar. It seems that he wanted the new era to herald the start of a new empire based on his ideas. The new era coincided with the expansion of the Nau Ruz celebrations in 1583. This decision had both symbolic and economic aspects. He wanted to reorganize and revitalize the Mughal empire. It took him nearly 15 years to discipline his followers and defeat his major enemies. It was only at the end of this period when he had moved to his new capital of Fatehpur Sikri that he began the political, economic and religious restructuring of his empire. The solar calendar also eased the collection of taxes in an agrarian economy.           

Even Jahangir has mentioned in his memoirs that his father held Sunday blessed and paid it great respect because it is dedicated to the Great Luminary {the Sun}. He says that throughout his dominions, this was one of the days on which it was forbidden to kill animals.

Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, Vol-1, Pg-9 :


Picture 6

I leave it to the readers to ponder on the maturity of Akbar in allowing various faiths to coexist equally in his empire and the manner in which he adopted and advocated customs from each faith to his followers. No wonder, he went on to become Akbar the Great, after absorbing positive influences from all quarters. :)

Article Category : Mughals.

Share this article :


  1. What an excellent post Radhika. Simply marvelous. Hats Off.
    It's amazing to read the extent to which you went to collect these details and scans. I am reading and re reading this post again and again.!

    The cherry on the cake is the references collected from "contemporary" sources.

    Akbar was a very big personality. He was influenced by many agencies. Evolution is a basic phenomena which happens in life of almost all of us and Akbar was no exception.
    While Abu'l Fazl credits Akbar for almost everything, Badayuni gives us more refined info about the influences on Akbar via which he made many new regulations.
    Thanks for posting these details for us. :)

  2. Thank u So much Radhika for this informative post..As Abhay said, the best part is along with the information u have provided the sources from where u read...Simply amazing...

  3. thanks Radhika ji
    its really a wonderful post which made me fan on ur post
    very nice collection of info with the proof

  4. radhika dear - i read all posts on 'tis blog by u n abhay. bt 'tis post break my silence. i hv no words 2 thnk u 4 'tis mesmerizing post. keep it up. blog is expanding 2 other countries 2. best wishes 2 all.

  5. Superb and emphatically written Radhika. Like Abhay says, you have gone to great lengths to dig into various historical sources to authenticate your writings. Simply awesome, thanks for sharing, am having tears after reading this blog, don't know why .


  6. Wonderful post...I agree that Jalal appeared once in an year in public with tikka on his forehead...but I dont agree that it was Hindu's or Rajput's influence which made Akbar worship fire...It was Parsee influence and it is given in so many books..

  7. Welcome, Pallavi :)

  8. Viji

    Am really touched by your words - thank you so much :)

  9. Iqra,

    Where have u disappeared to? Missing you so much - and am happy something made you break your silence :)

    Pls keep sharing your views and thanks so much for your wishes :)

  10. Thanks, Meena, and pls just call me Radhika :)

  11. Thanks Sindhu for such lovely words :)

  12. Abhay, you are the benchmark against which all other posts must be weighed. :)

    Akbar was influenced by a lot of people, by almost everyone he met. He was like a sponge that absorbed everything around it, retained what it wanted and discarded the rest. His greatest achievement is perhaps that he was an illiterate intellectual cum philosopher who tried every way possible to rule over the vast multi-ethnic population of Hindustan.

    In spite of being a king and an independent-minded one at that, he had no hesitation in learning from wherever he could and was a practising secularist, not just the preaching kind.

  13. Fantastic post Radhika.....Informative, well referenced and researched :)).....Thank you :))

  14. Radhika not read post, Busy,

    but i think this is for Akdha Saga. just wrote poem

    joo dil kee karib hee,

    unhe kya hee, Mohar kee jarrourat,

    Ishka chipa hee Akdha kaa,

    Sikri kee Divaro mee,

    Dekhene koo bass Aankh chahiye,

    jarra saa tarunnam chahiye

    saffe saffe zarre zarre mee Dikhta hee,

    Ishk, Atama takk sath dikhta hee.

    Dasta likhi gayi Amer mee,

    Agra hee iskaa gavah,

    Akbar kee Kunjipatal par,

    Likha hee Jodha kaa Nam Yaha,

    Mita koi sakta Nahi,

    Koshih yee Bekar Hee,

    joo mil gaye Anant mee,

    Ananat ekka kar hee,

    Dil kaa phalshapa hee

    Dil kee Kahani hee,

    Dimag see Matt samajo,

    Kyonki, yee Ishk kee Kahani hee.

  15. Radhika, superb. I love Akbar's open minded. I believe It happened in real life when Akbar said to Jodha in the serials that other emperor can't be good as him because they don't have a women like Jodha.

  16. Radhika Amaging Post. Anyways what you eat, tell us, because reading your posts, time where goes, i not know, means Timeless,;;;;;;;;;;;;;so Sarra Raj Khanne kaa hee yaa tumahari writing kaa, Lol.

    Akbar was Man of adopting everything, or learning from everthing. Without learning, you can't reach top of extreem. which movement your learning finish, you start to go
    down. His marriage was jodha big ex, that era. Agree time demands then. But Time not says, you have to connect with someone from Heart, & adopt his or her valus.
    When our mind sees, some better is that person, ;;;;;;;;;;;or XYZ, we see, very deep hidden also Other relgions, other personalites. or if we want to learn from them, then we walk that path.

    in Akbar personality we can see, he adopted all world. He wants to give betterment own Awam.he wants to do work for, everyone, progress. if he was disqualties,
    but which day he knocked, its wrong, Maybee his consicious, alert him, maybee divine sprits alert him, he improved his mistake, & moved On. His worshiping Sun, allowing others clebrating festivals, Own giving permission to celebrating, festivals,own enjoying festivals;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;all shows, his Heart +Mind broadness.
    Agra,mee knaha kaa temple, 16 cen,;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;not possible 21 cen, noone have will power,;;;;;;;;;;;;;so which man, who Rise-Up 16 cen, all conservative boundaries, How was he Great.

    Fire pooza +Sun pooza, Means he knows Nature is giving All time poistive energy,but need to understand that +follow that,;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;is n't this was not his big quality.;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;otherwise, if someone forget to thanks us, Igo bursts. Which almighty is giving,;;;;;;;;;;;;in this Earth, anyone is capable to giving thanks to Nature. If he not accepts, Jodha, from his Heart,(16 cen intercast issu was big )
    suppose he not accepts Other relgions,( King too Tabb bhee Rahta)but seeing, other things, respectful Manner +giving others freedom, Made him Akbar The Great.But Who then thinks, relgion wise, they not understood Akbar, Fully, because acc to them which Akbar was did then fully Wrong

  17. Suryanamaskar is one of the ancient forms of both prayer as well as yoga/exercise as it sun lightens the world early in the morning from darkness I dont find it odd for Akbar to pray to Sun God as he is a person who has imbibed the best points of all religions and he being a man with a vision far ahead of his time or maybe looking at his policies the subsequent generations have adopted the seularism from the principles/policy of this great ruler.

  18. Its not Akbar even before him Afghans had married Hindu women so the Indian influence started long before that excerpts from Discovery of India


    India became their home and Delhi
    was their capital, not distant Ghazni as in Mahmud's time.
    Afghanistan, where they came from, was just an outlying part of
    their kingdom. The process of Indianization was rapid, and many
    of them married women ofthe country. One of their great rulers,
    Alauddin Khilji, himself married a Hindu lady, and so did his son.
    Some ofthe subsequent rulers were racially Turks, such as Qutb-
    ud-Din Aibak, the Sultana Razia, and Iltutmish; but the nobility .....

    India was, it must be remembered, a country of many religions,
    in spite of the dominance of the Hindu faith in its various shapes
    and forms. Apart from Jainism and Buddhism, which had largely
    faded away and been absorbed by Hinduism, there were Christia-
    nity and the Hebrew religion. Both of these had reached India
    probably during the first century after Christ, and both had found
    a place in the country. There were large numbers of Syrian
    Christians and Nestorians in south India and they were as much
    part of the country as anyone else. So were the Jews. And so too
    was the small community of the Zoroastrians who had come to
    India from Iran in the seventh century. So also were many Moslems
    on the west coast and in the north-west.

    Mahmud came as a conqueror and the Punjab became just
    an outlying province of his dominions. Yet when he had esta-
    blished himself as a ruler there, an attempt was made to tone down
    his previous methods in order to win over the people ofthe province
    to some extent. There was less of interference with their ways and

    Hindus were appointed to high office in the army and the
    administration. Only the beginnings of this process are notice-
    able in Mahmud's time; it was to grow later.......

  19. Dear Radhika,

    No words to express my thoughts n thanks! Also no words to express the great personality of Akbar! I started to feel like Akbar was a real Seer.:) It's one thing to preach, n another thing to follow it up. Akbar really had the guts to walk the talk.He made use of his power fr the right things, n in doing that he did not care fr the distractors. And of all Badayni telling us these things made me very happy.:)Tatal credit goes to u dear fr the trouble taken, the scans, etc.Hope to see all these things in the serial.

  20. Thank u Sunram, fr that enchanting post. Really enjoyed reading it.Especially the last para was really touching. also, I did not know that Khanekhana wrote these good words fr MP. Thanks again.

  21. Geeta

    So well said about Akbar :) We all hope to see at least some of these things in the show.

  22. Geeta

    It seems there is a story behind Rahim speaking highly of MP. :)

    Once MP's son, Amar Singh, captured and brought the womenfolk from Rahim's family in front of his father, to show his prowess. But MP was enraged and ordered his son to respectfully escort the women back to their camp.

    Rahim was so touched by this gesture of MP that he refused to fight against MP in battle after that.

  23. Sunram

    I agree with your views here. :) In fact, I had mentioned and then deleted a verse from the Aditya Hridyam, from the Ramayana, in which Agastya Maharishi advises Sri Rama to pray to the Sun god to ensure his victory against Ravana in the battle.

    "Rama Rama Mahabahu, Shrinu Guhyam Sanatanam
    Yena sarva narina vatsa samare vijayishyasi
    Aditya hridayam punyam, sarva shatru vinashanam
    Jayavaham japen nityam akshayam paramam shivam."

  24. TFS these excerpts, Sunram :)

    Personally I feel the early Muslim rulers did not treat their Hindu wives with much respect. For most of them, these wives were merely trophies won in war. :(

  25. Haha, Mirah, the last line is good ;p

  26. Ayushi


    You are right - Akbar married Jodha for political reasons and had no need to accept her from his heart or to adopt her customs. Still he did, which is what makes him what he is. :) We can even today learn a lot from him about accepting good things from all faiths and incorporating them in our lives and about respecting all faiths equally.

  27. Agree you Radhika, well said, Yes we can learn from him, Which boundaries, very tough to broke, he broke that boundaries, or accepted from his Heart. very tough.some says, His mind was sharp, so he adopted these things., But when he left for coming generations, That path, why tough for them to accepting. Even if we see aurangjeb not accepted that 16 cen, he thinks, more broadness.

  28. radhika,
    m very busy dese days. 2 busy 2 comment. bt i read ur posts wid eagerness. keep it up dear abhay n radhika.

  29. Thank you so much, Iqra, for taking out time to read these posts. :)

    Your interest and appreciation means a lot to Abhay and me.