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Thursday, October 15, 2015

How Akbar was Born | The Incredibly Romantic Story of the Birth of Mughal Emperor Akbar as a Refugee in a Rajput Citadel of Amarkot | With Akbarnama portraits depicting celebrations on Akbar's birth

" Akbar did not have a single drop of the "blood of Hind" running through his veins, colloquially speaking. Yet he was a native son of the soil of Hind, not just because he was born here but also because he lived almost his entire life here and accepted Hind as his ONLY homeland. And, what is more - we have accepted him as one of our own - as a monarch who continues to rule over many hearts after 400 years for his reforms, despite his administration which lasted only for forty-nine years, eight months & three days. "

Akbar as a 15 year old boy, about 1557 AD (Tashbih-Khurdsal-Akbar-Padshah )
Johnson Collection, India Office ; Album XVIII, F-4 ; Artist unknown.
The earliest Indo-Persian painting of Akbar.

Jalal-ud-din Muhammad  Akbar was (officially) born on Sunday, 15th October, 1542*, at Amarkot (also known as Umerkot), a small town of less than 5000 inhabitants, amidst the forbidding sand-dunes of the eastern extremity of the Sindh desert. The adjoining sea of sand in Rajputana provided a bleak backdrop for the birth of a child destined to rank among the great sovereigns of the world. This was not the first time that providence chose a grim setting to raise the curtains on an important event in history.

Map Showing Location of Amarkot in Sindh, now in Pakistan.

*  - There is a discrepancy about the DOB of Akbar. Check this post for the details -
REAL Date of Birth of Akbar & Akbar's Horoscope | Was Akbar a Title ?


Let us trace the events that immediately preceded the birth of Akbar. What were the circumstances that led Akbar to be born in a Rajput palace-fort when Rajputs and Mughals were traditional foes? I can tell you this is one very interesting and romantic story that will leave you spell-bound by the vagaries of Fate.

Humayun and Hamida Banu Begum Reach Amarkot
Humayun and his 15-year old consort, Hamida Banu Begum, reached Amarkot on 22nd August, 1542, following a perilous march from near Jodhpur through a tract of desert as forbidding in its scarcities as in the hostility of its Rathor ruler, Rao Maldeo Rathore. 
It was indeed a wonder that the fleeing Mughal Emperor and his small band of followers escaped death or capture at the hands of one whom Ferishta described as "the most powerful and influential prince of the time in Hindustan" & Nizam-ud-din described as the "greatest Rai of Hind".

Rao Maldeo Rathore of Jodhpur

Some modern authors allege that ambition & power led Rao Maldeo to forget the traditions of Rajput chivalry, according to which he should have provided shelter to Humayun, who was wandering in exile after losing his empire to Sher Shah Suri. But, in my opinion, this charge is not true. Initially, Rao Maldeo did agree to provide refuge to Humayun, but due to a "mistake" by Humayun's camp followers, Rao Maldeo turned against Humayun, who consequently had to flee Jodhpur. 

Mistake of Humayun turned Rao Maldeo Rathore against him, though he did not molest him and allowed him to pass safely through his kingdom of Jodhpur.

Reference :
Glorious Rathores, Pg-23 ;
Author: Bisheshwar Nath, Superintendent of Archaeological Department of Jodhpur, Member Historical Records Commission, Jodhpur Archaeological Department ;
Published in 1943 under the Orders of Jodhpur Darbar for His Highness Maharaja Umaid Singh Ji of Jodhpur ;
Printed at Jodhpur Government Press

Fortunately for the much troubled Humayun, he was received with utmost respect and courtesy by the Rana of Amarkot - Rana Veersal. Humayun made Amarkot his base for gaining a foothold in Sindh*.

* - Sindh and Amarkot are now in Pakistan.

Hopelessness bred in Humayun and his men a desperation which enabled them to win the battle against hunger, thirst and the raiding parties of pitiless pursuers. Humayun and Hamida Banu entered Amarkot at the head of a weary troupe of seven attendants; the rest straggled in several hours later in small batches. 

Birthplace of Akbar in Amarkot(now called Umerkot), Sindh, Pakistan

The gallant Rana of Amarkot, from the Hindu Sodha Thakur Rajput clan*, not only gave the royal couple a gracious welcome, but he also received every member of the Mughal party with courtesy and made suitable arrangements for their stay and entertainment. He even went to the extent of vacating his own palace inside the fort for Humayun and his young wife, and ordered his courtiers to pay homage to them in the same manner as they did to him.

Brief Note about the Sodha Thakur Ranas of Amarkot :

* - The descendants of Sodha Rajput Ranas still live in Sindh, Pakistan. They have one more sovereign who is remembered in history for his heroic sacrifice for his fierce love of independence. Their ancestor Rana Rattan Singh fought to keep Sindh free from British colonialism. The British captured and executed him in his own fort at Amarkot (in 1853), on top of a high platform constructed especially to make his hanging visible for miles around and serve as an example to those who dared to defy their rule. Legend has it that even at the gallows, his last wish was to give a twist to his magnificent moustache in a final gesture of his defiance to British rule. The Sindhi folk song 'Mor tor tillay Rana' is based on his heroism can still be heard from the bards of Amarkot. The site has been converted into Umerkot Museum.

They were in news in 1999, as the Late Rana Chandra Singh of Umerkot had brokered the former Indian Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s historic trip to Lahore to meet Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for peace talks.

Sodha Ranas continued to form matrimonial alliances with the royal families of Rajasthan in India, even after the partition of India. Borders did not affect them. Recently, in February 2015, they came to India to marry a princess of Kanota dynasty (Jaipur), Rajasthan. It was a much talked about wedding in the royal circles.

Read more here :

Birthplace of Mughal Emperor Akbar in Amarkot has been marked by the Umerkot Museum authorities

Hamida Banu Begum Treated as a Daughter of the Royal Family by the Rana of Amarkot
When the Rana came to know that Hamida was seven months with child, he placed at the disposal of his guests the meagre medical resources of his desert kingdom. Rajput ladies of high status were deputed to keep her company and to see that the memories of her arduous trek through the desert did not in any way disturb her equanimity.
In a signed document to his officers, the Rana wrote:

We have the privilege of playing host to a royal couple. Fortune has not been kind to them in recent months. It is our moral obligation to make them feel at home in our realm and to leave nothing undone to restore their peace of mind. Therefore, I command you all, in the name of our traditions and canons of honour, to extend to them such courteous submissions as would bring them happiness.

A special obligation devolves upon the ladies of your families to personally pay their homage and express their good wishes to the Queen who is expected to gain in a few weeks the high honour of being a mother. We attach great importance to the coming happy event. It will perhaps be the first time in history that a Muslim princess will give birth to a child in a Rajput palace. Our duty is clear.

The young Queen must be accorded the same courtesies and facilities as would be extended to a daughter of our own royal family. Arrangements may therefore be made, in consultation with the custodian of our household, to fill the days of our honoured guest with amusements such as would raise her spirits and generate in her the confidence of being amidst genuine friends.

This was a circular which, in a way, anticipated the concept of Hindu-Muslim unity the unborn child was destined to work for, later in his life. Notice how the Rana commanded his officers and their womenfolk to accord the young Hamida the same courtesies and facilities that they would offer a daughter of the Rana's family. In other words, the Rana accepted them not as refugees, but his own people, who had been struck by misfortune. It is hard to imagine the large-heartedness of the Ranas of those days!

Hamida Banu Begum, wife of Mughal Emperor Humayun. Anglo-Indian painting at Lucknow, late 19th century. The inscription on the picture reads - "Hamida Banu Begum, zaujah (wife) Shah Jahan Badshah (king)". This is a later painting. Hence, an error of the makers. Hamida Banu Begum was Humayun's wife.

Humayun and Rana Veersal Bond
Humayun was touched greatly by the warmth of deferential submissions made to him and his wife. The Rana placed at his disposal the entire resources of his kingdom, including an army comprising 2500 well-trained Rajput soldiers, for joint punitive action first against Shah Hussain of Sindh and then, if fortune favoured them, against Sher Shah Sur whom they considered to be the arch usurper and a common foe.
However, this union was later broken, thanks to Humayun's indulgence in sensual pleasures and inactivity. This is another story and is not part of our present discussion.

Humayun seated in a landscape, painted 1650. Original is present in Arthur M Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.

Humayun Advised by Astrologers to Not Meet Akbar for a Month
At the instance of a Hindu astrologer, who foretold Humayun that if he did not set his eyes on his child for 30 days after his birth, the newborn would bring good fortune to him and the Timurid dynasty, Humayun decided to immediately march south-west of Amarkot, before Akbar's birth. Superstitious by nature, Humayun left Amarkot on 12th October, 1542, in disregard of the counsel of his Amirs. Three days later, Akbar was born.  

Celebrations At Akbar's Birth
The birth of a male child was a signal for festivities, the like of which had seldom before been seen in Amarkot. The fortress, enveloped in the light of the full moon, became the focal point of rejoicings which, as is customary in Hind, initially took the form of prayers to thank the Lord of Creation for bestowing upon the royal guests the gift of a son and heir. Drums were beaten to proclaim the happy event to the population. When dawn broke, alms were distributed to the poor. Community kitchens were set up and food served free to merry-makers and all those who came to town to take part in the celebrations. Temple bells were sounded, and dancers, clad in their shimmering red and yellow raiment, went into ecstatic performance of their skills before the images of deities worshipped for their sway over the forces of procreation.

Inside the palace, the motley group of Mughal ladies congratulated each other on an event they all believed was of uncommon significance. Traysful of sweets were passed around, and tables heaped with luscious fruits were laid out for the members of the King's household to feast upon. Merry-making continued for two days and nights without a stop. Khwaja Muazzam, brother of Hamida Banu, received the felicitations of Rajput courtiers on behalf of Humayun, and bestowed upon them khilats and robes of honour - suited to their ranks. The Khwaja sent hard-riding horsemen to convey the news to the "kingdom-less" Emperor who was camped sixteen miles from Amarkot at a picturesque place abounding in water and vegetation.

This is a portrait from Akbarnama - rare to be found. Hamida Banu Begum Gives Birth to Akbar - Hamida Banu Begum is reclining on a bed as she
is offered sweets for giving birth to the Mughal heir. Another woman seems to be waving something over her head, may be to drive away evil spirits.

The newborn Akbar is cradled by a Rajput lady, as the other ladies wait to attend to the baby with scented oil. A woman seems to be pounding
turmeric in the extreme left, to be applied to the mother and child along with the oil at the time of their first bath after the delivery.

A couple of brahmins in the centre seem to be waiting to look at the child before drawing his horoscope.

Notice the comfortable settings which Hamida Banu was provided by Rana Veersal for her confinement.
Can anyone say the Mughal couple was on the run for their life at this moment after losing their entire kingdom ?

This is the page of Akbarnama from which the above (and below) pictures showing birth of Akbar were carefully taken. The celebrations can be seen in the later half of the picture. Drums are beaten & alms are distributed to the poor in Amarkot on birth of Akbar.

More clear view of the above picture showing birth of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Everything written in the post can be seen in pictures, ranging from sweets to tumeric to oil, and the preparations to draw horoscope. The hospitality & help given to Humayun and Hamida Banu Begum by the Rana of Amarkot can be clearly seen.

Distribution of alms to the poor in Amarkot on birth of Akbar.
In the background, we can see Mango leaves on the doors of the fort, which points to a typical Hindu style of celebration.

Rejoicing in Amarkot on birth of Akbar. The performers can be seen showing acts with swords in hands.
Drums are beaten to announce the arrival of a Mughal prince. People can be seen praying to the Almighty.

When Tardi Beg broke the news to him, Humayun prostrated himself on the ground to thank Allah for His munificence. The assembled courtiers did the same. Some of them ventured to suggest that the Emperor return to Amarkot to share with Hamida Banu the joy of parenthood, but in vain. Humayun was determined to evade having a look at his son for thirty days. 

3 year old Akbar with Humayun and Hamida Bano Begum at Kabul..Portrait from Akbarnama

Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar Padshah, who ruled over sufficient part of Hind for forty-nine years, eight months and three days between 1556 and 1605 was totally illiterate. But he had the intrinsic curiosity to question almost everything and the only answer to his questions was a convincing reason. He questioned everything ranging from the use of Arabic alphabet to child marriage, or the denial of a daughter’s share in her father’s property but above all, he questioned religion as the basis of legitimacy of the state. 

Akbar's remarkable journey in the land of Hind started - in the palace of a Rajput Rana. And within a score of years, his life again intertwined with the Rajputs irrevocably. His birth had forecast a new dawn in the politics of India which demanded unity of all sorts and the later part of his life was dedicated to this mission. 

Today is the 473rd birth anniversary of this Mughal Emperor. Do share your thoughts about this magnificent legend in his memory today. 

Today is also the Birth Anniversary of the visionary leader, scientist and a great human, Late. Shri APJ Abdul Kalam Ji - the former President of the Union of India, who devoted his entire life for the progress of this nation.

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Thanks to Radhika for her contribution to this post.
The article has been posted under the Rajputs and Mughals(Akbar) section of this history BLOG.

Last Blog Post:
Details of Wives & Children of Maharana Pratap | With notes about availability of Rajput Records & Video of Udaipur Museum regarding conservation of artefacts with inputs from present Rana of Udaipur

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