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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

2 HOURS that changed Mughal History | Death of Akbar - Victory of Jahangir - Defeat of Khusrau, Raja Man Singh & Mirza Aziz Koka | Story of treachery, loyalty & fluctuating fortunes - A detailed analysis from Portuguese account of 3rd Christian Mission at Mughal Court, Akbarnama, lesser known Persian histories & hitherto unknown Rajasthani (Jaipur) Manuscript | Part-2 of 3 part series

Hello Folks,

Here is the second part in the tri-part series of articles related to the intrigue surrounding the death of Mughal Emperor Akbar and the sudden and surprising accession of Prince Salim as the next Mughal Emperor. 

The first part of this series set the ball rolling with a miniature of Mughal Emperor Akbar along with his grandsons Khusrau and Khurram and his personal physician Ali Gilani during his last days, intricately and expressively captured by the royal Mughal artist Manohar. It included translations of the partially surviving Persian inscriptions on the painting, inscriptions which vividly captured Akbar's despair at being laid low by a minor ailment as well as his utter loneliness in spite of being one of the greatest and longest ruling monarchs of all times. 

Those who missed it can read it here - Link of Part 1 of 3:  

The LAST Portrait : Tragedy of a dying emperor | With English translation of surviving Persian Inscriptions | Death of Mughal Emperor Akbar - Part 1 of a 3 part series 

Modern Copy of the miniature in the last blog post. Akbar with Hakim Ali Gilani and his grandsons Khusrau and Khurram.

It is suggested that this series be read in a chronological order without missing any of the parts so as to have a clear idea of the main characters who played their roles effectively in the high drama surrounding the passing away of Akbar as well as the events leading up to and post Akbar's death. 

The present article contains 2 sections. The first section is a brief overview of the historical personalities who were of paramount importance towards the end of Akbar's reign and the beginning of Salim / Jahangir's. Emphasis has been lain on such details about these people as reveal the kind of relation they had with Akbar. The introduction may appear lengthy, but it is replete with rare facts which will be of interest to the serious history buffs as well as the novice aficionados. 

The second and main section of this article recounts details from various accounts - Persian, Rajput and Portuguese - that touched upon events pertaining to the death of Akbar from different perspectives. 

At the end of the article, the following appendices have been provided for discerning readers.

  • Appendix 1 - Shows a record of a  shocking intention of Salim (later aborted) against Raja Man Singh's family for supporting Khusrau as a contender for the throne. From the Tarikh-i-Khan Jahani wa Makhzan-i-Afghani by Khwaja Ni'mat-ullah Khan Harvi. 
  • Appendix 2 - About Sheikh Nurul Haq, who wrote about the later years of Akbar in his account Zubdatu-l-Tawarikh.
  • Appendix 3 - About Hakim Ali Gilani and his treatise on medicine.

Section I 
Important People From the Mughal Court At the Time of Akbar's Death

Let us see what role each of these esteemed personalities from the Mughal Court played in the run up to and the aftermath of Akbar's death.

1. Hakim Ali Gilani - Akbar's Personal Physician
2. Khan-i-Azam Mirza Aziz Koka - Akbar's Foster Brother
3. Raja Man Singh of Amer - Akbar's Adopted Son / Farzand
4. Prince Khusrau - Akbar's Favorite Grandson groomed from childhood to be the future emperor
5. Raja Ram Das Kachwaha - Shekhawat Rajput Noble responsible for the security of the Agra Fort
6. Sheikh Farid Bhukhari / Murtaza Khan - Mughal Noble and Unexpected Kingmaker;
7. Said Khan / Saiyid Khan - A Chagatai Mughal Noble and an Unexpected Kingmaker

The last two names would most likely be known to only serious history buffs but by the end of this article, even amateur history readers would be flabbergasted by the swiftness and precision of their strategic and tactical planning that defeated the objectives of even the most powerful and seasoned Mughal nobles - Raja Man Singh and Mirza Aziz Koka, and helped elevate Prince Salim to the throne in a matter of a couple of hours after Akbar's death. This was not as easy as it sounds, for just before they stepped in, Prince Salim was on the verge of fleeing Agra, fearing the coronation of his son, Prince Khusrau as the next Emperor.

Let's get to know these interesting people then without further ado.

1. Hakim Ali Gilani - Akbar's Personal Physician

He was originally from Gilan in Iran and migrated to India due to financial constraints. His knowledge of contemporary sciences, particularly medicine and mathematics, paved his way to the Mughal court. Being the nephew and disciple of Fathullah Shirazi (a scientist in Mughal court ) might also have played a part in his appointment to the Mughal court.  

Hakim Ali initially settled in the Deccan for some years, after coming to India. Akbar was soon apprised of his intellect and capabilities. After testing him, Akbar appointed him as his personal physician and a noble at court. {Akbar had given him a peculiar test - Hakim Ali was asked to distinguish cow urine from human urine, which Gilani did successfully!}

Hakim Ali soon gained the same respect and privilege often reserved for governors and high-ranked nobles at the court. Doubtless, this must have been due to not only his expertise in medicine and mathematics and his capability in treating diseases, but also due to his eloquence, charming manners and calm temperament. 

He earned the royal title of Jalinus-i-Zaman, which means Galen* of the age. He is credited to be the first Indian hakim who described the significance of the churning movements of the stomach as a necessary prelude to proper digestion of food in the human body. He was one of the few physicians of his time to look into the histological details of the cardiac and other muscles of the body.

* - Galen was a prominent Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher in the Roman Empire, during the 2nd century AD.

Jahangir, in his Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, remarks about Hakim Ali's expertise and states that: ''Hakim was an unprecedented person and was an expert on Arabic sciences."

However, Badayuni did not have a high opinion of Hakim Ali, as he stated in his record that "he is passionately devoted to the practice of the healing art, but he is but a youth, self-opinionated and of limited experience". Badayuni seems to have formed this opinion of Hakim Ali when Ali was not yet a mature physician. 

Among Hakim Ali's famous, well-tried formulas, the compound oil of deodar, known as roghan-i-deodaris well-known. It is stated that once Akbar, on his way to Kabul, fell from his seat on the elephant, sustaining much discomfort and pain in the limbs. Upon using the medicated deodar oil, he gained relief within three days. Ali had also prepared the Sharbat-i-Kaifnak, which helped a person to overcome exhaustion.

Hakim Ali Gilani was also a mathematician of repute. 

He was the main physician to attend to Akbar during his last days. 

2. Khan-i-Azam Mirza Aziz 'Koka' { Khan-i-Azam means : The Great Lord } - Akbar's Foster Brother

Mirza Aziz Koka was the younger son of Shams-ud-din Muhammad Khan Atga. 

Mirza Aziz Koka

Shams-ud-din had saved the life of Humayun, after he lost the battle to Sher Shah Suri in 1540, by preventing him from getting drowned in the river Ganges. Consequently, Humayun appointed him and his wife Jiji Anga as the foster parents of a young Akbar. {Atga means foster father while Anga means foster mother / wet nurse. } 

Koka (Kokaltash to be exact) means foster brother. Aziz came to be known as Aziz 'Koka', the foster brother of Akbar and his playmate from childhood. Both of them were of the same age and Aziz was always the object of Akbar's grace and favour. 

The reason for this was the intimate relationship that Akbar had with Aziz's parents. He had sent Atga to Kabul in April 1557 to bring his mother Hamida Bano Begum safely to Agra. Atga had also defeated Bairam Khan near Jalandhar before Akbar's arrival on the scene. Akbar had honoured him with the title of "Azam Khan" for achieving this victory. {Azam means greatest, and Khan was a military designation during medieval times. } According to the Iqbalnama, Akbar used to show more affection to Jiji Anga than to his own mother. He had even shaved off his head when she died and carried her coffin. 

As a result, in spite of being often offended by Koka's boldness, Akbar almost never punished him. As per the English translation of Akbarnama, Akbar used to say, "Between me and Azíz is a river of milk which I cannot cross.

I would like to mention here that the Persian account says - " natutm~n guzasht "  and not "natuwo~nam" , as the translator wrongly assumed it to be in the Persian text. Hence, the correct translation should be "Between me and Aziz there is a link (connection) of a river of milk which i cannot let pass (i.e. i cannot allow the link to die)." Did you notice how misreading a single word can change the intended meaning in translation? While in this case, the translation still conveys the correct meaning, in some cases, it may lead to great confusion.

There was another relationship between Aziz and Akbar. One of the daughers of Aziz Koka was married to the favourite grandson of Akbar and son of Jahangir - Prince Khusrau. She remained by the side of Khusrau throughout his confinement till his death.

Aziz Koka was also a member of Akbar's newly found order (not religion), Din-e-Illahi. He rose to become a mansabdar/ commander of 7000 rank in the Mughal court. The only other person who got this rank was Raja Man Singh of Amer.

A rank as high as this was only reserved for the royal princes - Salim, Murad, Daniyal, and later Khusrau. No other person rose to such a high rank during the reign of Akbar.

Aziz Koka had 6 sons and 6 daughters, of whom 2 sons were promoted to high rank by Akbar. {The rest were promoted by Jahangir during his reign.} Atga Khan had 3 more brothers who served Akbar. Due to the loyal services of the clan of Atga Khan to Akbar and his family, Persian historians call them -"Atga Khail" or "Atga Paltan", which means the "battalion of the foster father".

3. Raja Man Singh of Amer (Amber) - Akbar's Adopted Son / Farzand

A 20-year old Akbar met a 11-year old Raja Man Singh when he went to Sambhar to marry the latter's paternal aunt, Princess Harka Bai, in 1562. The Rajasthani account "Ishwar Vilas Mahakavyam" and local histories like the "History of Nathawahasgive the following details about their encounter. 

Akbar saw the dark complexion of Kunwar Man Singh and asked him jokingly, "Where were you when God was distributing beauty in heaven?" Came the prompt reply, "I was in my prayer room at that time. But i was present to receive valour and manliness when God was distributing these qualities."

The quick and intrepid response was sufficient for Akbar to gauge the potential of this 11-year old child and he took Raja Bharmal's permission to take Raja Man Singh with him to Agra. Abu'l Fazl only mentioned in his hyperbolic style that Raja Man Singh was exalted by the auspicious glance of Akbar at Sambhar. He added however that Raja Man Singh was conferred the title of Farzand-i-Akbar {Son of Akbar}

Raja Man Singh of Amer, From Maharaja Man Singh Museum, Rajasthan

From a very young age, Man Singh took an active part in various battles along with his father (Raja Bhagwan Das) and grandfather (Raja Bharmal). During the reign of Akbar, Man Singh achieved great success in Bengal, Odisha and Assam and established Mughal suzerainty in the Northeast of India. On behalf of the Mughals, Man Singh also fought successfully with the dreaded tribal chiefs of Afghanistan. He was posted as commander-in-chief of the Mughal  army on the Northwestern frontier and in Punjab, Kashmir, and Afghanistan. Under his able command, the Kachhwaha Rajputs of Amer assisted Akbar in his vast empire building across the north of India, from Afghanistan to Assam.

The Zakhiratu-l-Khawanin of Sheikh Farid Bhakkari mentions the respect Man Singh enjoyed not only in the Mughal court but also in the Mughal household. Among the anecdotes mentioned in this Persian history, two anecdotes stand above all others because they throw specialight on the personal bonding between Akbar and Man Singh.

i. Raja Man Singh was a child of just over 11 years when Akbar brought hito the Mughal court along with his aunt Harka Bai / Mariam-Uz-Zamani, after her marriage (with Akbar). 

While in the palace at Agra, he was asked to take care of and indulge himself in play with the 6-year old Abdu'l Rahim Khan-i-Khana, the son of Bairam Khan and his first wife, {later adopted by Akbar as his own son} and a future Mughal commander, an accomplished poet and Krishna devotee.

ii. Thsons of Abdu'l Rahim Khan-i-Khana {I'rich, Rahman, Darab and Amrullah} addressed Raja Man Singh as Dadda Ji. {It is a Hindi word which means "honourable grandfather", as Raja Man Singh behaved like a fatherly figure to Rahim! }

A drunk Akbar pushes Raja Man Singh to the ground when the latter tries to save his life. The other nobles look on in fear. The sword with which Akbar was about to stab himself in order to show his bravado lies on the ground after Raja Man Singh knocks it out of Akbar's hands. From the Akbarnama.

There is a special incident which throws light on the fearless attitude which the Kachwaha Raja possessed. In a private drinking party in 1575, Akbar, in a drunken state, wished to pierce a sword through his chest to prove his bravado; an act that was a fatal custom prevalent among the Rajputs. At that moment, the Kachwaha Raja not only saved Akbar's life by stopping him but also gave a blow to Akbar in order to bring him back to his senses, while all the other nobles watched fearfully, not daring to stop Akbar. 

Here is the link to the post that provides a detailed description of that incident : Akbar tries to injure himself, but Raja Man Singh stops him = An Angry Akbar | The Fight of Mughal Emperor Akbar and Raja Man Singh

The Kachwaha Raja was a close confidante of Akbar and gave invaluable advice on numerous occasions, like the one here, recorded by Abu'l Fazl in Akbarnama. Akbar had initially chosen his son Murad (16 years old) to avenge the Yusufzai massacre of the Mughal army in 1586, in Afghanistan. However, Man Singh persuaded Akbar to change his mind, as it was a dangerous task. Akbar later considered sending his third son Daniyal (14 years old) to fight against the feared Yusufzais but decided against that as well. Finally, he sent his close friend, Raja Birbal to head the campaign against the Yusufzais with fatal consequences for Birbal.

Before his death in 1605, Akbar recalled Raja Man Singh back to Agra from Bengal where he was serving as a governor. The reason was simple.  

Since the beginning of 1605, Akbar suffered from a feeling of isolation and dejection since some of his near and dear ones had died in quick succession. Murad had already died in 1599. Abu'l Fazl, the friend, philosopher and guide of the Great Mughal , had already been murdered on the orders of Prince Salim on August 12, 1602. Prince Daniyal, his beloved son, had died in Burhanpur on 11th March, 1605. Hamida Bano Begum, alias Mariam Makani, his aged mother, had breathed her last on September 6, 1604. No wonder, when Raja Man Singh arrived at Agra in August, 1605, the Emperor did not permit him to leave him (Akbar) till his death.

Raja Man Singh of Amber in old age, 1614. From the Shah Jahan Album

Sometime before his death Akbar had granted a mansab of 7000/6000 to Raja Man Singh, the highest rank that any person other than a royal prince could get. Before this the highest possible rank for a non-royal noble was just 5000. Raja Man Singh's elevation is also important for the fact that, he was the first noble in the Mughal empire and also the only non-Muslim noble who was elevated to such an extremely powerful position by Akbar. In the words of a Mughal chronicler - "thereby Raja Man Singh was placed above every Muhamaddan officer".

Later, only Mirza Aziz Koka got this rank, as seen earlier in this article. 

It is important to understand Raja Man Singh's close and intimate relation with Akbar and his status in the Mughal court, to understand the nuances of the accounts described in the next section. 

4. Prince Khusrau Mirza - Akbar's Favourite Grandson

Prince Khusrau Mirza was the favourite grandson of Akbar and considered to be the successor of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Akbar, it seems, started grooming him to be the next in line for the Mughal throne when Jahangir rebelled. 

The following blog article is relevant in the present discourse. Do read it before going on to the next section. 

Link : Akbar and His Chosen Heir: A Battle of Succession - Salim, Murad, Daniyal & Khusrau 

Some time before his death, Akbar had granted a mansab of 10,000 on Khusrau and made Raja Man Singh his guardian after elevating the latter to a rank of 7000 mansab. Around the same time, the father-in-law of Khusrau, Mirza Aziz Koka was given the governorship of Bihar.

The Iqbalnama-i-Jahangiri states: "Aziz Koka was so much devoted to the cause of Khusrau that he is recorded to have repeatedly declared: "I am willing that they (the fate) should convey the good news of his (Khusrau's) sovereignty to my right ear and should seize my soul from my left ear". "

An earlier article on the blog dealt in detail with the relation between Khusrau and Akbar, and how Raja Man Singh and Mirza Aziz Koka were roped in to promote Khusrau's interests, by Akbar. Readers can take a look at this article at the given link.

Link : Khusrau | The unfortunate Mughal Prince - Struggle for Power - 1

In 1605, Khusrau was a young boy of 17, of eminently handsome countenance, agreeable manners and irreproachable character. Akbar himself had directed his training. 

He had commenced his education under no less a man than the liberal scholar Abu'l Fazl, assisted by his brother, the learned Abu'l Khair*. For a while Raja Man Singh had been his guardian. A learned Hindu Brahmin named Shiv Dutt Bhattacharya was appointed Khusrau's teacher and had taught him at length about Hindu scriptures.

* - Abu'l Fazl had 7 brothers and 4 sisters. 2 of his brothers are known - Abu'l Faiz and Abu'l Khair.

From the atmosphere of the court he imbibed a rare breadth of culture and liberality of sentiment. His normal virtues were set off to the highest advantage by the contrast which the scandalous ways of his father and near ones furnished.

Khusrau (in red turban) with his brother Parvez (behind) meeting Jahangir.
Khusrau is giving a drink to his father and Parvez is serving dishes.

The 3rd Christian mission, which met a young Khusrau in 1595, recorded a very interesting observation about him. They recorded a meeting where Akbar praised the courteous manners of Khusrau and asked Salim to observe his son in the following manner :

" On the evening following our arrival the Emperor called us and showed us pictures of our Saviour (Jesus Christ) and the Blessed Virgin (Mary), and held them in his arms with as much reverence as though it were one of our priests. When we saw the holy pictures we knelt down, and seeing this the Emperor's ten*-year-old grandson (Khusrau), the Prince's son, also clasped his hands and bent his knees : whereon the Emperor was delighted and said to the prince (Salim) 'Look at your son (Khusrau).' "

* - Khusrau was 7/8 years old, that time. The fathers did not know his actual age, perhaps.

The above anecdote about Khusrau, Akbar and Salim is taken from The Father's Provincial Report of November 1595 (with its enclosures), Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Part-1, Volume - 65, 1896, Pg-68.

When Prince Salim occupied Allahabad during his rebellion against Akbar, appointing his servants to mansabs and giving them jagirs, Akbar favoured Prince Khusrau so openly that every one looked upon him as Akbar's successor. 

5. Raja Ram Das Kachwaha - Shekhawat Rajput Noble, Incharge of the Security at Agra Fort

Raja Ram Das Kachwaha was from a modest background and in the service of Raja Raisal Durbari in Rajasthan. He was from the Shekhawat offshoot of the Kachwaha Rajputs of Amer. Raisal recommended Ram Das to Mughal Emperor Akbar. In 1574, when Todar Mal was sent along with Munim Khan to Bihar, Ram Das handled the Finance Department. His honesty and diligence impressed Akbar. Soon, he rose to be among the topmost recruits of the Mughal court and had his separate palace in the Agra Fort near the Haati-pol (Elephant door).

However, it was famously chronicled about him that he never stayed in his own palace. 
Reason ? He was the commander of the 200 special Rajput forces which guarded the Agra Fort. Hence, he spent his life with the soldiers in the 'barracks' ( Pesh-Khana was the exact word) to be able to deliver his duty properly. 

Akbar had no fixed time to enter or leave the haram. But Ram Das was always found in attendance with the 200 special Rajputs guarding the area.

According to the Nuskha-i-Ahwal-i Asad Beg of Murad Ragini*, Raja Ram Das Kachwaha was the person, whose scrutiny and permission was required by anyone who wanted to have a private audience with Akbar in his palace. This was true even if any noble wanted a private audience oAkbar in his palace.

* Murad Ragini - A disciple and friend of Abu'l Fazl, and a close confidante of Akbar in his later years (1601 onward). His account suggests that Akbar's ears were very sharp even in his last years. He mentions an anecdote in 1605, when he was whispering about Tansen to Raja Ram Das Kachwaha at night one day and Akbar heard even that conversation very clearly!


i. The clan of the Kachwaha Rajputs of Amer had 2 offshoots - Rajawats and Shekhawats. Raja Man Singh was from the Rajawat clan and Raja Ram Das was from the Shekhawat clan. Rajawats were considered the superior of the two clans.

ii. The 200 Rajputs mentioned above are the ones who were responsible for guarding the Imperial Mughal harem / seraglio, as the following extract from the Ain-i-Akbari shows.

6. Sheikh Farid Bhukhari / Murtaza Khan

Sheikh Farid Bhukhari was in the service of Akbar for a long time but his name is first heard around the year 1584. In 1586 he became a mansabdar of rank 700. By 1596, his rank increased to 1500. He was also appointed Mir Bakshi*, and had also for some time the "Daftar i Tan" in his charge, i. e., he had to settle all matters relating to the grants of Jagir holders.

*Mir Bakshi - Controlled mansabdars and spies, and maintained the army. He also made arrangements for palace guards. It was thus a very powerful post. But his accounts were checked by the wazir.

His status was significantly elevated under Jahangir due to the decided support he gave to Jahangir, immediately before his accession, and to the victory he obtained over Prince Khusrau during his rebellion.

Mughal Emperor Akbar with the noble Murtaza Khan, painted by Manohar, 1605
From a private California Collection.

Mughal Emperor Akbar with the noble Murtaza Khan, painted by Manohar

Akbar is 
depicted in three-quarter profile. He is bent with age, and leaning towards the courtier, with his right hand raised. He appears even older here than in the one we saw in the last post. However, this might be accounted for by the more detailed draughtsmanship and characterization in the present work (which is extremely fine) in comparison with the miniature seen in the last post.

The superb detail and characterization of the faces of Akbar and his companion in the present work are worth noting - Akbar's face almost sags and his eyes droop with the weariness of old age, making one sympathize with him. Yet his right hand is raised as if as a gesture of blessing toward the courtier. The royal bearing is borne by the katar / dagger held in the waistband sash.The courtier's eyes and mature but strong face indicate a man of keen intelligence. 

In the events leading up to the death of Akbar, Sheikh Farid opposed the duo of Raja Man Singh and Mirza Aziz Koka and supported Salim's claim to the throne. He declared Prince Salim as the next Emperor before Akbar had closed his eyes. Later, Salim was taken to a dying Akbar for completing the formalities.

On accession, Jahangir rewarded Farid and made him a commander of 5000, and also gave him the title of Cahibussaif wa-Iqalam, which means the Lord of Sword and Pen. He was also appointed Mir Bakshi. He received the title of Murtaza Khan, and was appointed governor of the province of Gujarat.

7. Said Khan / Saiyid Khan

A leading Mughal noble from the formidable Chagatai lineage, Said Khan rose quite high in the court of Akbar. 

His grandfather had served Humayun loyally. His uncle died fighting against Salim Shah, son of Sher Shah Suri. His father was also a distinguished man of his times. He was appointed as the guardian of Prince Daniyal. Later, he served as governor of Punjab. In 1584, he was promoted to the rank of 3000. He also served in Bihar and Bengal as governor, and was promoted to the rank of 5000. After coming to throne, Jahangir made him the governor of Punjab.

Section II
Contemporary Accounts Describing Akbar's Death

Let us begin with the 6 accounts in this series, listed below for quick reference. 

1. The Akbarnama - The Official History of Mughal Emperor Akbar, by Sheikh Abu'l Fazl 
2. The Takmila-i-Akbarnama by Mohammad Salih
3. The Nuskha-i-Ahwal-iAsad Beg by Murad Ragini
4. Letter of Jesuit Xavier (Lahore) to the Provinicial of Jesuits (Goa), dated 25th September, 1606
5. One of the versions of the memoirs of Mughal Emperor Jahangir
6. The Khyat Patalpotha by Kanha

As usual, a lot of scans have been provided in this post, from the various accounts, to satiate the curiosity of those readers who love to read the entire episode verbatim, from the translation of the original sources. However, i have also provided a brief explanation below each scan because the hyperbolic language of olden times may not be understandable to all. 

The starting point is from the oft-quoted and most reliable chronicle of Akbar's life - the Akbarnama of Sheikh Abu'l Fazl. 

The Akbarnama - The Official History of Mughal Emperor Akbar,
By Sheikh Abu'l Fazl

This is how the Akbarnama describes the passing away of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Note that the Akbarnama was completed by other court chroniclers after the death of Abu'l Fazl.

Scan 1: The physician Hakim Ali Gilani erred greatly. For 8 days he did nothing by way of treatment, believing that Akbar was strong enough to recover from the stomach ailment on his own. When the situation worsened, he started using medicines, but they only seemed to worsen the symptoms. The writer of Akbarnama calls him foolish for being unable to treat the emperor properly.

According to the writer of Akbarnama, Hakim Ali had shown similar slackness in the treatment of Shah Fathulla Shirazi, his uncle and a scholar in the court of Akbar. One day, Akbar reproached Hakim Ali for his seeming failure to effect a cure, "I raised you from dust to this level, in anticipation of getting your services in time of need. But the reverse is happening."

Scan 2: The treatment produced no impact and the situation became critical. Despite his ill - health, Akbar continued to give audience to the masses from his palace window daily - called the Jharokha Darshan. It was a very important custom because the general public looked up to the Emperor as the Zil-e-Illahi or Shadow of God and had to be kept assured that the emperor was fit. But when his weakness increased, he became bedridden for many days.

On the 19th day of the illness, the physician finally withdrew his services. The author gives 2 reasons:
1. Hakim Ali was afraid of the Emperor's wrath.
2. Hakim Ali was afraid of the wrath of the women of the harem, as they were growing impatient with his ineffective treatment.

Hakim Ali then took the protection of Sheikh Farid Bhukhari. The writer makes a sarcastic remark about the Sheikh for giving shelter to Hakim Ali. I will discuss this point in detail later. 

Scan 3: With the condition of Akbar deteriorating, a strange sadness descended everywhere. The writer lists the sterling qualities of Akbar in his praise.

Scan 4: The author describes the death of Akbar, the resultant mourning everywhere and the funeral rites. Akbar was buried in the sacred garden (Rausa Muqadda) known as Bihishtabad.

An unusual sketch of Akbar, not too long before his death in 1605
Source:  Bamber Gascoigne, The Great Moghuls (New Delhi:  B.I. Publications, 1971), p. 106.  Photograph by Christina Gascoigne.


The Takmila-i-Akbarnama,
By Mohammad Salih 

This is treated as a supplement to the Akbarnama. It was found bound with the manuscript of Akbarnama. 

The work seems to be almost unknown in England, for it is not to be found in the Libraries of the British Museum, the East India Office, or the Royal Asiatic Society. A translation of this work was given at the end of the manuscript translation of the Akbarnama belonging to the Royal Asiatic Society. It is the work of Lt. Chalmers of the Madras Army. Nothing more is known about this work or its author than what he tells us.

Scan 5: Self-explanatory extract from the Takmila-i-Akbarnama about the death of Akbar


The Nuskha-i-Ahwal-i Asad Beg,
By Murad Ragini

The following is a testimony of the death of Akbar from the Nuskha-i-Ahwal-i Asad Beg, also known as the Wikaya-i-Asad-Beg or the Halat-i-Asad Beg

From a comment on this manuscript by a person named Ziya-ud-Din Ahmed, we get to know that it was written by Peshrau Khan, who was also known as Asad Beg Qazwini* or Asad bin Muhammed Murad Ragini. Murad Ragini was a reliable and sincere friend as well as a disciple of Abu'l Fazl for 17 years. He was also a close confidante of Akbar from 1601 till Akbar's death. He wrote his own account of the history of Akbar. He lived for long and died in the reign of Shah Jahan.

{* He is different from the Qazwini who wrote the Padshahnama of Shah Jahan.}

Before the murder of Abu'l Fazl, this author was with his teacher in Deccan. But due to some circumstances he had to leave for some other place. Later he came to know that Abu'l Fazl was murdered. 

When he reached Agra to narrate the event, Akbar was in his ghusal-khana (taking a bath). Akbar was quite enraged as he thought Abu'l Fazl had died due to carelessness of Murad Ragini, and he wanted to cut him into pieces then and there only! But after carefully listening to his views, he calmed down and understood that Ragini was innocent. Upon ascertaining the facts, the Emperor was appeased, and conversed freely with him. Ragini then received a dress of honour and was soon afterwards made captain of the Emperor's bodyguard unit. Hence, there can be no doubt that he was quite close to the Emperor. 

When Akbar died, Ragini was not in Agra, as Akbar had sent him to the Deccan. Despite this, he has written a very accurate account of the events surrounding the death of Akbar from an insider's point of view. 

Do note that Ragini wrote this account in a very diplomatic tone. In his account he also described the murder of his friend and teacher, Abu'l Fazl, which was carried out by Bir Singh on the orders of his friend Jahangir. He had to thus present the assassination without either concealing the truth of the matter or offending Jahangir, who had become the ruler and Ragini's patron by the time Ragini wrote this account. 

Ragini cleverly apportioned the blame for the murder of Abu'l Fazl on fate, Fazl's own character**, and Jahangir. He even partly exonerated Bir Singh in the affair. Such able diplomatic tightrope walking, as we shall see below, was his forte.  

** Ragini declares in his account that arrogance, overconfidence , and a false estimation of his own strength were partly responsible for getting Fazl killed. The author says that he had requested Fazl to take a strong army with him, but the latter had refused and consequently got killed. 

Now let us see what Ragini says about the death of Akbar.

Scan 6: A fighting contest had been organized between the elephants of Khusrau and Salim. {This elephant fight incident is not described in the official court history of Akbar - Akbarnama.} Akbar asked the author to watch the fight with him, but the author could not do so, as he had to leave for the Deccan immediately.

Akbar, who was already sick, became even more "ill"* after seeing the conduct of the servants of Salim and Khusrau at the fight about a dispute that had arisen between them.

* - The English translator used the word "ill", but the Persian account says, "ishtidaad-i izzat". Considering the manner in which this word was placed in the text, this could mean many things. The scholars i took opinions from suggested it could mean - a seizure / a stroke / firming, strengthening, increasing (in violence) / increased strength ( overexertion ?) / spasm , etc. Perhaps he became emotionally overwrought over the unbecoming conduct of the princes' retinue in public, which might have worsened his already delicate physical condition.

Scan 7: Akbar's illness increased* so much that the chief physician Hakim Ali Gilani could do nothing to provide him relief. As Akbar was not in any condition to look after the the affairs of the Empire, the burden of the administration fell upon the shoulders of the Khan-i-Azam, Mirza Aziz Koka - the foster brother of Akbar and an ardent supporter of Prince Khusrau.

* - The Persian word is "takaassur". It seems to indicate a visible decline in the condition of Akbar.


Before we go further, it is vital to take note of an important point with regard to the state of health of Akbar. The author mentioned that Akbar's illness increased to a great extent due to a public fight between the servants of Khusrau and Jahangir. Another historian Muhammad Hadi had given an account of this elephant fight, but he had not suggested that Akbar had been affected by any illness due to this fight.

Muhammad Hadi lived in 18th century. According to the celebrated Mughal historian of pre-independent India, Ram Sharma* of Lahore, Hadi wrote an account of all the Mughal emperors titled Tazakirat-i-Salatin-i-Chughataiin the reign of Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah Rangila (1719 - 1748). Interestingly, Hadi also edited and completed the autobiography of Mughal Emperor Jahangir!

Ram Sharma - He was the first modern historian who discovered and catalogued the Persian sources of various manuscripts written under the patronage of the Mughal Empire in his work titled Bibliography of Mughal Empire, after travelling throughout India to collect manuscripts held in private and public collections. His work was richer than the brochure on Persian works written by Khan Zafar Hussain of the Archaeological Survey of India. Mr. Ram Sharma is also credited for the exposure of plagiarism / fraud of Mughal historical accounts by Mughal historian Khafi Khan, who lived in the reign of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. According to Sir Jadunath Sarkar (another celebrated Mughal historian of pre-independent India), this 'first-rate interest' discovery opened a new line of study in Mughal historical bibliography and required further investigation.

Let us revert to the account of Murad Ragini. We just read that the health of Akbar declined dramatically after an elephant fight.


Scan 8: As it became evident that Akbar was not going to survive, Mirza Aziz Koka came to Raja Man Singh and both of them agreed in favour of Khusrau as the next emperor. Both of them were the highest and most powerful nobles in the Empire and had a rank of 7000, which was earlier given ONLY to the royal princes.

The writer accuses both of them of being treacherous to Prince Salim. This may be because he wishes to appear like a supporter of Jahangir in whose reign he wrote this account, while both these veteran nobles of Akbar were in favour of Prince Khusrau. The writer further says that the two nobles decided to capture Prince Salim the next day when he would go to pay his respects to the royal court, as per his daily routine.

But, the next morning, Salim was informed of the impending danger by his "well-wishers" when he was about to reach the royal court in a boat.

Seeing that their plan had failed, Mirza Aziz Koka called upon a meeting of the important nobles while Akbar was breathing his last.

Scan 9: Khan-i-Azam Mirza Aziz Koka and Raja Man Singh sat down with the other senior nobles.

Koka openly said in the assembly that it was quite clear to everyone that Akbar was not in favour of Salim as his successor and proclaimed support for Prince Khusrau. {In this sentence, note how the author has hinted at Salim's personality by describing him as a 
"high and mighty prince", while ostensibly describing how Aziz Koka criticised Prince Salim.}

A senior noble Said Khan (refer to point 7 in Section 1) protested, saying that bypassing Jahangir and accepting his son Khusrau as the Emperor was against the customs of the Chagatai Turks. According to him, this was against the 
shi'ar-o-tura-yi-chaghatay (the code of Chaghatais and the Chinggisids in general).

Another prominent noble Qulij Khan Andijani supported Said Khan and both left the meeting. Koka was angry but could not say anything. The author accuses Aziz Koka of being at the root of the 
fitna (sedition) against the Mughal Empire.

After this meeting, 
Raja Ram Das Kachwaha (refer to point 5 in Section 1) took control of the khazana (treasury). This Rajput prince was a supporter of Salim. {Why did he take control of the treasury? Whom was he trying to "safeguard" it from and for whom? Why was he against his blood relation Raja Man Singh's support of Prince Khusrau, the son of a Kachwaha Rajput princess?  These questions will be discussed below.}

After this, the great Saiyyid (noble) Murtaza Khan (or Sheikh Farid Bhukhari, refer to point 6 in Section 1) left the fort to go home and returned with his kinsmen - the Saiyyids of Barha*, to rally support for Prince Salim's claim to the throne.

Mirza Sharif Mutamed Khan went to seek Murtaza's advice. Both of them decided to turn the tide in favour of Prince Salim through careful planning. Mutamed took the lead and Murtaza followed him along with his Barha* clansmen.

Salim, who was worried and confused about the state of affairs, had been calmed down earlier by his supporters and asked to take rest in his palace. But, as soon as he reached the palace, some "foolish people" {nobles in his coterie} began to alarm him by saying that his enemies had raised Khusrau to the throne and the next morning they would turn the guns at the fort against his palace. {This was just a rumour floating around at that time.}

Salim feared for his life and was about to give orders to ready his boats and make arrangements to flee from the Agra Palace and save his life.


* - Barha is a Hindi word which means 12. The "Barha tribe" to which Murtaza Khan belonged derived its name from the 12 villages which formed its ancestral home in the modern district of Muzzafarnagar in Uttar Pradesh state of India. Religious zeal and martial valour constituted the badge of their tribe. They were no friends of Mirza Aziz Koka.

The Saiyyids of Barha, a group that traced its origins to a 13th-century Arab immigrant to India, were a force to be reckoned with across an arc of territory northwest of Delhi. Ignored by the previous Lodi rulers of North India, the Barhas became a key constituency within the Mughal military establishment after Akbar’s accession in 1556. They were 'hardened' warriors.

Although the Barhas were considered rustic in habit, simple, and boorish, every Mughal emperor from Akbar onward treated them as especially loyal Mughal supporters within the general population and placed them at the honoured head of the Mughal vanguard in battle. I read about their presence in the Battle of Haldighati. {As far as i have read history, Haldighati Battle was the only time when the defence of Barhas was demolished by an enemy.}

Salim described them as “among the bravest men of their time” in his memoirs. Roshan Ali, in his Saiyad-ul-Tawarikh, says that Akbar and Salim competed for influence among them!

In the 18th century, they played a prominent role in the making and unmaking of Mughal Emperors, but, even in the early 17th century, their role was important, as we shall see now.

Returning to Murad Ragini's account, we saw that Murtaza Khan brought all his clansmen of the Barha tribe with him to the palace to tilt the contest in favour of Salim.
Scan 10: As Salim was rushing to leave the fort in his boat, one of his trusted servants (a noble) Rukn-ud-din Rohilla arrived. Rohilla had a large force at his command and was a man of action. He calmed Salim by assuring him of all support and asked him to wait for 2 hoursand see in which direction the contest tilted.

{These are the crucial 2 hours referred to in the title of this series - the 2 hours that changed the game completely in favour of Salim, without his doing anything actively. Read further to see how these 2 hours played out dramatically that day.}

Later, Mirza Sharif Mutamed Khan came and told Salim that the plans of their enemies had failed, and Murtaza Khan would come soon to join Salim. { The author does not elaborate about these plans of the "enemies" of Salim. So, what could those plans be? And how can we get to know them? Let's read ahead and find out.}

It was now clear that the throne would be occupied by Salim, and his servants (nobles) began to celebrate (naqqara-i-shadiyana). But Salim stopped the celebrations on account of the ill health of his father, though he honoured* Murtaza Khan for his services.

* - Salim gave him a special dress of honor (Khil'-at-i khassa) and a bejewelled sword in gratitude for his crucial support.

One by one, all the other nobles began assembling at Salim's palace to congratulate him. At last, Mirza Aziz Koka also came in the evening with his head hung in shame. But Salim ignored his ill-conduct and treated him respectfully.

However, Raja Man Singh refused to come to pay respects to Salim and took Khusrau to his palace. He made preparations to go to Bengal, and ordered the boats to be made ready.


Mirza Aziz Koka was almost powerless before the powerful combination of the Barha clansmen and other supporters of Prince Salim. But, Raja Man Singh, whose strength rested on his own Rajputs, was able to hold out longer. He refused to pay respects to Salim. {Persian Munthakhab-ul-Lubab, Khafi Khan, Vol-I, Pg-234}

It is also reported in the letter of the Jesuits that, after the submission of Mirza Aziz Koka to his authority, the only fear which Prince Salim had in his mind was the strong Hindu (read Rajput) support which Raja Man Singh had. We shall see this later.

Scan 11: Salim realised that his position as the future emperor was secure, as the majority of powerful nobles were on his side (especially Murtaza Khan). The majority of nobles headed by Murtaza Khan assured him of their support. Taking all of them with him, he went boldly to meet Akbar, who was on his death bed.

Salim bowed his head at the feet of Akbar and the dying Emperor opened his eyes. He signalled that a sar-o-pa and a turban which had been made ready be brought out. (The author claims that these were made ready for Salim!) Salim put these on, tied his sword, and did a taslim. The other nobles also did homage to Akbar. At the same moment, Akbar passed away.

Scan 12: Lamentations broke all around. After his succession, Jahangir ordered that the last rites of his father be done according to the Shari'a. Close attendants and the learned men of the age were instructed to do whatever was required.

The body was prepared and taken out in a huge procession.  Jahangir himself carried the bier, at the feet, on his shoulders, from the room where the body was prepared to the edge of the door of the public reception ( daulat-khana-i khaas-o-amm ).

From there it was taken over by the nobles, and others, barefoot and bareheaded, accompanied the body with horses and elephants beyond counting. The procession went from the Akbarabad Fort to Sikandra, with people chanting Allah-o-Akbar on the way, and coins being thrown en route. Food, sweets and drinks were distributed to one and all. When the body of the Emperor reached the destination, he was buried like a veritable treasure. A large mausoleum was made over his grave, along with a garden around it.

Scan 13: Raja Ram Das Kachwaha was made the incharge of the royal treasury and the fort by Jahangir. He was consoled too by Jahangir himself.

Intelligence reports reached Jahangir that Raja Man Singh and Khusrau were to leave for Bengal. He sent Madho Singh to stop Raja Man Singh and bring him and Khusrau back.

On being stopped by Madho, Raja Man Singh said he had no other option, as the Prince was young and was not aware of the politics which followed suit at such times. Man Singh declared that he had done what he was obliged to do as part of his duty to the young prince.

He agreed to return to Jahangir's court along with Khusrau, if Jahangir promised that no harm would befall his son.

Scan 14: Jahangir promised that no harm would befall Khusrau. The next day, Raja Man Singh brought Khusrau to the court. Jahangir kissed his face and clasped him to his bosom and received him with the greatest respect.


Mughal emperor Akbar hunting from an elephant; he holds a hawk on his outstretched right hand and looks up and back. On the elephant are also a mahout and a chowrie-holder. On foot, around the elephant are the hunting retinue, carrying guns, bows and arrows, and one holds a hound on a leash. In the background is a rocky landscape, in the top right hand corner a white building. The border is decorated with images of lions, tigers, deer, other animals and birds, interspersed with leafy trees and shrubs, all in gold on an indigo ground. V and A Museum.


Letter of Jesuit Xavier (Lahore) to the Provincial of Jesuits (Goa) 
Dated : 25th September, 1606

British Library, London, MS 9854
Missoes Jesuitas NIndia, 1582 - 1692, F. 38-52
Ed. da Silva (Portuguese)
Scan of letter taken from Portuguese archives:
Documentação UltraMarina Portuguesa, III
Scan 15: Contents of the Letter of Jesuit Xavier (Lahore) to the Provincial of Jesuits (Goa)

The author was present in Agra during the last months of Akbar's life and the early days of the reign of Jahangir. He was a part of the 3rd Christian Mission which came to the court of Akbar in 1595* and stayed till 1605. But Xavier stayed in the Mughal court for over 20 years, till his death in June 1617.

* - The capital was at Lahore, in 1595.

The account of the death of Akbar, as noted in this letter, serves as a very important testimony because this is neither an official history nor based on hearsay / gossip. The author was present in the Mughal court as a religious-cum-political agent of the Portuguese crown, and it was his duty to report all important matters without any mistake, to his superiors in Goa. Additionally, he could record what the official court chronicler would hesitate in recording, as he was not bound by loyalty to the Mughal empire nor had any need to be afraid of the emperor. 

Mughal Emperor Akbar holding a religious assembly in the Ibadat Khana (House of Worship) in Fatehpur Sikri; the two men dressed in black are the Christian missionaries Rodolfo Acquaviva and Francisco Henriques. From the Akbarnama, miniature painting by Nar Singh, ca. 1605

Let us see what this letter contains. The scan of the letter in Portuguese is provided here along with the English translation.

Xavier begins his letter by noting that "a little after I wrote to Your Reverence last year, the world revolved here around thc death of king Akbar". 

Moreover, he states that the event had been predicted by several observers. "A Muslim astrologer had given it in writing to the prince [Salim] in Agra that he would be king within three months as his father would die, while another Muslim saint who was resident in Lahore had also sent word to the same effect. Besides, several Hindu astrologers had also predicted the same." 

It was in early October, 1605 that Akbar fell ill. But it was not considered serious by anyone. During the early days of his illness, Akbar invited the Jesuits to discuss the spiritual aspects of Christianity with them. 

On this occasion, writes the author, "He gave few signs of being ill. A few days later, word was spread that he was afflicted by dysentery, and the Jesuits began to think it was time to suggest once more that he accept* 'the law of the Holy Scripture' . "

* - The Jesuits took it upon themselves to convert Akbar to their faith, but, to their disappointment, this never happened despite their best efforts and Akbar's sincere interest in knowing more about Christianity.

But, once more, when Xavier and his companion Antonio Machado were called to pay a visit late one night {' it would have been ten hours of the night' - just observe the lateness of the hour when a sick Akbar still met people to discuss matters of interest to him!)} in the interior of the royal pavilion, they were astonished to see that he looked in good health. Akbar received them with Salim and Khusrau at his side. He asked Xavier to read out and translate a letter in Portuguese that he had received. The Emperor formally sent off his son and grandson after a while. The Jesuits however remained there. 

Scan 16: Jesuit Xavier's Letter to His Superiors in Portuguese

Xavier continues:

"After a time, he rose up to go into the mahal, the place of the women, {the harem} and he went there ... as if he were in sound health, and with even less signs of weakness than when he was well! He having retired, we remained there awaiting the time when he would return, and when it was ... midnight, he passed through theragain in order to go to the place where he used to pray. We saw him coming without anyone's support ("encosto" means support ?), and as talkative and smiling as ever, all of which we noted. In the end, the [other] Padre and I decided that it was not the right moment to talk to him, as he gave no signs of illness, and he retired thereafter in order to pray. At midnight, we came away being persuaded that he was well. The next day in the morning, he showed himself at the window to the people with a very good appearance. What I have described was Saturday night, on Sunday he was well; but on Monday, it began to be said that the king was dying. "

Note the active routine of Akbar in spite of being ill. He met with his son and grandson, discussed Christianity with the Jesuits, spent time in the harem and then went to pray around midnight. He seemed absolutely hale and hearty to the Jesuits on Saturday night. He was quite fine even on Sunday when he gave the Jharokha darshan. But suddenly and inexplicably, his condition started deteriorating on Monday.

Xavier and his companions went that morning {Monday} to the jharokha, but Akbar did not appear; instead, it was confirmed that he was unwell.

The Jesuits now repeat the rumour that they (and others) had already noted some years before, namely that 'the poison that he (Akbar) had been given had started to work.'

The Jesuits then attempted to enter the palace to meet him personally, by claiming that they had a remedy for the illness. But neither they nor any of the boys whom they attempted to send in on their behalf were allowed to enter the palace. 

The security cordon around the palace was already being strengthened by Mirza Aziz Koka and Raja Man Singh to keep out all but a few close and trusted people, as the emperor was breathing his last and there was a crisis building up in the empire.

The account continues: {To remove confusion, i have added the names in brackets.}

"In all this time, the prince (Salim) did not come to see his father. Some said that since the father suspected him of giving him poison, he (Akbar) did not wish to see him. Others said that he (Salim) himself did not wish to come since he did not wish to place himself behind closed doors because of a Hindu captain (Raja Man Singh), the brother-in-law of the prince (Salim)who was aggrieved with him, as his sister (Princess Maan Bai), who was the wife of the prince (Salim), had killed herself with poison on account of jealousy over her husband, and this captain (Raja Man Singh) had the king (Akbar) in his power , and wanted to make his own nephew (Khusrau), the oldest son of the prince, the king, and exclude his father, and he had on his side another great Muslim captain (Mirza Aziz Koka, foster brother of Akbar) whose daughter was married with the same son (Khusrau) of the prince. Other Hindus and Muslims were of the same view, and even the king(Akbar) was inclined towards this (to make Khusrau the next king), so that he (Salim) was afraid to enter the fortress to see his father (Akbar), since he did not know if would be allowed to leave {or live?} there!"

The two figures mentioned here are Raja Man Singh, Salim's brother in-law and the maternal uncle of his son Khusrau, and Khan-i Azam Mirza Aziz Koka, the father-in-law of Khusrau. We have already encountered this group in the Mughal account of Murad Ragini, but it is interesting to note that the Jesuits were not entirely off the mark here. The account, more or less, matches with the one written by Murad Ragini.

Note that Xavier clearly mentions that Salim did not go to meet the dying Akbar. He states 2 possible reasons for this: either Akbar believed that Salim had poisoned him and didn't wish to meet him, or Salim was afraid of being imprisoned by Raja Man Singh if he entered the Agra Fort. Xavier also mentions that Akbar was inclined towards making Khusrau the next emperor. 

Xavier then continues his account by noting that "the king went on deteriorating". Salim, he claims, began to think that matters had now passed out of his control "and almost ran away* one night, so badly did he see the turn of his affairs. However, even though he was outnumbered and disallowed to enter the fort, he did seem to have popular opinion (o vulgo) with him. The Jesuit states that this was because he was thought to be 'liberal (and) just', and so, little by little, he managed to win over the major amirs.

{* - I was impressed to read this. This is the same incident which was mentioned above in Murad Ragini's account when Salim was about to flee the Agra Fort in boats, at night.}

Scan 17: Jesuit Xavier's Letter to His Superiors in Portuguese 

Xavier's account continues : 

" Even the principal Muslims who wanted to give the kingdom over to the grandson (Khusrau) consulted on the matter, and they thought it would be better to give it over to him to whom it belonged, so one of their principal members (Sheikh Farid Bhukhari / Murtaza Khan) was sent by them to deal with him (Salim) and to promise him the kingdom if he swore to protect the law of the Muslims and not to harm either his son (Khusrau) or others (Man Singh and Aziz Koka). He swore to it all. Immediately, that evening, the Hindu uncle of the grandson of the king (Raja Man Singh), and his father-in-law (Mirza Aziz Koka), came and brought him his son (Khusrau) and they made him touch his (Salim) feet and they did the same. The prince at once ordered the fortress and its doors to be cleared, and placing his own people there, went the next day with trusted people to see the king. "

The account notes that Akbar was unable to speak by that time, but was still conscious. He is said to have ordered Salim to be handed over the regalia, and signalled for him to be given the sword that he kept by the bedside to gird on. Salim is said to have performed the sijda, after which he was told to leave. 

In Xavier's view then : 

" The king died more or less alone, with only a few people who remained with him and took the name of Muhammed. But he never responded to them, he only took the name of God few times, nor did he die in keeping with the custom of the Hindus. As one never knew under what religion he lived, nor did one know under which one he died, since he made place for all the religions and took none of them for the truth, though his usual habit was to worship God and the Sun. "

Note the words in bold. Akbar worshipped his own personal God and the Sun. He treated all religions equally but didn't take any of them too seriously. No one knew his creed while he was alive and it was clear to none under which creed he died.  

Xavier now follows up this account with a long and largely laudatory obituary notice of Akbar, which we shall discuss in Part-3 of this series. What is of particular interest for us here is his description of the nature of the transition in the empire from Akbar to Jahangir.

" The king Akbar, that is the Great King*, came to an end. The new king began to take matters in hand. He came and went from the fort in order to console his sisters who were more disconsolate than him, but he then (always) returned to his own residence. At the end of eight days, he went to the palace to take possession of the kingdom. He had the public square richly adorned, he then came out from the interior and sat on the throne, while they shouted - 'Padshah Salamat" (and) brought him his presents ; he then went in and settled into the fortress as king. With the change in kings, the court too changed, those who had risen up now fell, and those, who had fallen now rose. Much was expected of the new king for he promised much, but once things had quietened down, the promises were forgotten and the expectations were deceived.

* - "Akbar" means great.

Scan 18: Jesuit Xavier's Letter to His Superiors in Portuguese

Amongst those deceived and disappointed were the Jesuits themselves, for they apparently had thought that there would be great conversion to Christianity, because until then he (Jahangir / Salim) almost gave out that he was a crypto Christian ( quasi se dava ao discoberto por christao ), and his own intimates claimed he was one. They claim that the reason for this change lay in the politics of the court.

For, in Xavier's view, at the time of his accession, Jahangir's principal worry was Raja Man Singh, whom he (Xavier) calls - "the Hindu captain who was at the head of all the Hindus", and, in order to counterbalance this, Jahangir had to make common cause with the orthodox Muslims. This is what Xavier says in the letter:

"The Muslims had made him king, and he had sworn to pursue the law of Muhammed with zeal, and he wished to win over and keep the Muslims on his side, by showing he was of their party, and so he did in the beginning of his reign. He gave out word that he would have the mosques cleaned and cleared. In the palace, Muslims prayers and orations began to be heard."

For Xavier then, as for his other Jesuit brethren located in Lahore, the main preoccupation in all this was the rise of what they perceived to be Islam as the state religion, that might have repercussions for their own mission and for the treatment of Christians in northern India. A reading of their later letters demonstrates however that in their own view, these perturbations proved to be of a relatively short duration, and the political system returned to status quo.


Akbar in old age, in a painting probably commissioned by Shah Jahan, c.1650;
From the collection of the Aga Khan Museum


One of the Versions of the Memoirs of Mughal Emperor Jahangir

There are several works which "claim" to be the autobiographical memoirs of Mughal Emperor Jahangir. In the history of medieval Persian literature, this is a unique and dubious distinction. There is no single consistent version, which came to us directly from the reign of the Emperor himself, in its entirety. Multiple copies of the memoirs have been obtained, some of which were outrightly rejected because they contradicted each other while describing the same event!

The pioneering orientalist historians ( Sacy, Gladwin, etc ) in the 18th and 19th centuries were confused over the reasons for this anomaly. The possibilities of copies being forged were expressed, but none of the historians took responsibility to investigate the matter, shying away from calling any version of the memoirs forged. Instead, a new terminology was introduced -  "more genuine" and "less genuine" memoirs.

To compound the matter, these memoirs were edited many times by various historians over the intervening centuries, with the last known editing being done by Mughal historian Muhammed Hadi in the 18th century. He completed and wrote the account of some years in the memoirs of Emperor Jahangir which was left unwritten by the Emperor himself. A note which was found on the memoirs made the above-mentioned declaration.

Most historians consider the Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri to be the "most genuine" among all the versions.  However, do note that, there is no version that can be termed as "perfectly genuine memoirs" of Jahangir.

The topic has been discussed in an old post. Here is the link : Multiple Memoirs of Mughal Emperor Jahangir

Let us return to the present topic of discussion.

The following extract has been taken from a version of the memoirs, which is officially called distorted by the translators. You might be thinking that if this is a forged version, then why am i posting it here?

The reason:

It offers us a rare opportunity to understand the level of distortion that can be introduced in historical accounts. We have read the description of the events surrounding the death of Mughal Emperor Akbar from Persian as well as Portuguese accounts and both of them match with each other to a fair extent. After this account, i have posted a contemporary Rajput account describing the death of Akbar. The Rajput account also matches broadly with the description provided by Murad Ragini and the Jesuit Xavier. But when we compare these 3 accounts with this particular "historical" account, we are left confounded.

It is also worth noting that while the following version of the memoir of Jahangir describes the death of Akbar in an extremely detailed manner, the Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri contains NO TRACE of the events describing the death of Akbar.

The highlights of this extract are:

1. This version appears to show Akbar as a devout Muslim. 
2. It shows Salim in soft focus, as a pious Islamic monarch.
3. Raja Man Singh, Aziz Koka and Khusrau are portrayed in it as treacherous people who  betray their loyalty to Salim.
4. Throughout the account, one can see a soft Islamic undertone.

Let's see what this version contains:

Scan 19: The account begins by mentioning the hostility of some officers who were preventing Jahangir from becoming the king. It adds that they were not successful by the Grace of God, and God put the Empire of Hindustan at Jahangir's feet. 
The hostile officers are none other than Raja Man Singh and Mirza Aziz Koka.

Scan 20: According to the account, while Akbar was already ill during his last days, the inmates of the harem asked him to have some fruit before taking his medicine. However as his stomach was already weak, he was unable to digest the fruit and his stomach ailment worsened. The next day, he was unable to eat anything at all.

Scan 21: Akbar expressed his displeasure to Hakim Ali at the latter's unsuccessful attempts to cure him. Ali tried to appease the Emperor. To satisfy his attendants, Akbar ate khichri (made of rice, daal{pulses} and ghee {clarified butter}), which resulted in dysentery.

Another physician Hakim Muzaffar scoffed at Hakim Ali, criticising him for allowing Akbar to have some melons during the early stages of the ailment.

The author of this work (supposedly Jahangir) says that he did not act against Hakim Ali, as it was possible that the other Hakim was maligning Ali out of jealousy. However, deep inside, the trust which the author had on Hakim Ali had broken.

Scan 22: As per the above lines, the author remained with Akbar for 2 or 3 quarters during the latter part of the day. This is possible because the letter of the Jesuits, which we saw above, mentioned the presence of Salim and Khusrau with Akbar on the night when they went to meet the king.

But, the lines after this appear to be an exaggeration to portray Jahangir as a very diligent and caring son. The account says that in the later days, Jahangir remained with Akbar from morning, when his medicine was served, till the end of the day.

It says that Akbar advised Salim not to meet him (Akbar) without his (Salim's) bodyguards. So, the next day he went to meet Akbar with his bodyguards. But, by then, the doors of the palace were closed and canons were positioned {on the ramparts of the fort} with their mouths toward the palace of Salim, by "those men". *

After this, Salim discontinued his visits to Akbar, as one of his men cautioned him of an impending danger. Later, a noble brought a note to Salim from Raja Man Singh. It contained an expectation that Salim would agree with the views of Raja Man  Singh {regarding the choice of Khusrau as king}


The account of Murad Ragini, which we saw above, was written when Jahangir was the Emperor. Murad Ragini wrote a diplomatic account, which was sympathetic to Jahangir in all means.

But even he did not state in his writing that Salim took care of Akbar the whole day, during his last days. Even the detailed letter of the Jesuits, from the Mughal court to their superiors in Goa, doesn't mention anything about Salim taking care of Akbar. Instead, they mention that Salim did not come to meet Akbar.

A second point. Murad Ragini says that "the placement of canons in front of Salim's palace" was only a rumour which was transmitted to Salim by his cowardly supporters without verifying its authenticity. But this account says that canons were ACTUALLY placed against Salim's palace.

Moreover, the account says that the day after the canons were placed against his palace, there was a danger to him. But Murad Ragini says that the rumour of the canons being positioned spread AFTER Salim escaped from the morning conspiracy.

Finally, neither the account of Murad Ragini nor the account of the Jesuits talk of any letter (veiled threat) being sent by Raja Man Singh to Salim through any noble.

Scan 23: The account says that the noble Mokurreb Khan continued to mobilize support among the nobles in the fort for Salim's accession to the throne.

The account states that Salim had raised the rank of Mokurreb Khan to 3000, when he was ruling independently from Allahabad  during his revolt, as a reward for his services. 

Salim (or the actual author of this account) says that he was deeply pained* when he was prevented from meeting his father. 

* - How much Salim was pained by the separation from his father remains a disputed fact. He was the same son who troubled his father tremendously with his revolt and addictions during the latter's last years.

Scan 24: The account narrates a story, which implied the probable fate of Salim after Akbar's death. It is the story of what happened to Shah Ismail and Sultan Hyder Mirza, when Shah Tahmasp of Persia died.

Scan 25: The account resumes. It says that, on the advice of his trusted friends, Salim sent his son Parvez to Akbar and informed him (Akbar) that he (Salim) was unable to meet him due to a headache.

Hearing this, Akbar raised his hands to pray for Salim's health. He then sent Khwaja Weisy to Salim, requesting the latter to come to meet him (Akbar) as he was at the end of his life.*

Akbar exclaimed - "How unfortunate is he that in his last days he is unable to meet his son, who after his death, is certain to become the king." **

Salim says that the deceitful nobles began their process of bringing the Muslim and Hindu nobles together against him. The Muslims were sworn on the Quran and the Rajputs on their loyalty to the empire. 
Mirza Aziz Koka then sent a message to Khusrau about his upcoming glorious future as the king.

Sheikh Farid Bhukhari was in communication with Mokurreb Khan, who was faithful to Salim.
Mirza Aziz then asked Khusrau whether he and his father were both agreed about Khusrau being the next king. Mirza Aziz was concerned that, if later, Salim or Khusrau changed their mind (about Khusrau being the next king), then Mirza Aziz would be disgraced in front of everyone, after all the efforts he had made to secure the throne for Khusrau. To this, Khusrau sent the reply that as he (Khusrau) was already the chosen one, Mirza Aziz need not concern himself with unnecessary scruples such as harmony between Khusrau and his father. 


The above lines, yet again, smell of exaggeration.

* - It appears probable that this statement was written to show how "good" the relations were between Salim and his father.

** - The motive of this statement seems to be to tell the reader that  Akbar always wanted Salim to succeed him to the throne. 


Now follows the most imaginary account of Akbar's death, which cannot be found in any of the other versions. 

Scan 26: According to the account, the supporters of Khusrau thought that it would be safer to shift Akbar to the other side of the Yamuna. Both Mirza Aziz Koka and Khusrau were equally assured of Khusrau's accession to the throne.

The account suggests that initially Khusrau suggested to Raja Man Singh that the condition of Akbar was very weak, and hence it was not advisable to remove him from the palace of Agra, and they should take precautions. If Akbar expired during the shifting, then it would turn the tide against Khusrau. Raja Man Singh seemed satisfied with this argument.

As soon as Akbar recovered a bit, Raja Man Singh said to Akbar that - "A lot of people have collected under Salim and they were ready to besiege the fort. If it was agreeable to Akbar, then they would like to shift him to the other side of the Yamuna till conditions were better."

{Now, here begins the exceedingly pro-Salim tilt of this account.} According to the account, Akbar chided Raja Man Singh for closing the doors of the fort to the Shahzada, following which Salim was forced to besiege the fort. 


The above conversation between Akbar and Raja Man Singh is only to be found in this version of Jahangir's memoirs and in no other account. It suggests that Akbar felt that Raja Man Singh had forced Salim to besiege the fort. 

Scan 27: With the help of some attendants, Akbar turned toward the other side of the bed. Mirza Aziz Koka entered the room and asked Akbar about his instructions with regard to Khusrau.

Akbar says in the account: " By asking such a question, you have pushed me closer to death. There is still some life left in me. But even if i die sometime from now, then what is the doubt about my successor?"

{Akbar seemed to be asking Mirza Aziz Koka why the latter should worry about a successor when he (Akbar) was still alive and, in any case, there was no doubt as to who his successor was.}

Akbar continues in the account: "How can i forget the military greatness , superior political understanding, and other great qualities which are needed for a sovereign power - all of these qualities i saw in Prince Salim when he assumed the government at Allahabad."

Akbar says further: "Not for a single moment had my love and affection for Prince Salim diminished. How does it matter that for a few moments, due to the misguidings of some evil persons, he was led astray from the right path. Isn't he my eldest son and my heir to the throne ? According to the rules of my race, the eldest son succeeds to the throne and not the younger one. But i assign to Khusrau the territory of Bengal."


The self-congratulatory tone of the account comes out more clearly in the above lines. The account shows Akbar praising the 'exceptional' qualities of Salim while he ruled at Allahabad.

However, in reality, Salim indulged in maladministration and debauchery at Allahabad. Akbar marched 
towards Allahabad with an army against Salim in 1604, but was forced to stop midway due to torrential rains and had to return to Agra due to the ill-health of Hamida Bano Begum.

Later, when Salim surrendered, Akbar took him to a private room and severely reprimanded him. In his account, Laet (Director of Dutch East India Company) tells us that: " in great anger, he (Akbar) gave him (Salim) several blows in the face, upbraiding him bitterly meantime for his treatment of himself (Akbar), and ridiculing his (Salim's) cowardice because, although at the head of 70,000 troops, he had yet come to his father's feet as a supplicant."
How much of Laet's version is true is open to individual beliefs, but what history tells us clearly is that Akbar was not happy with Salim's parallel government at Allahabad. While ruling at Allahabad, Salim grew so bitter that, as a punishment for a crime, he even ordered a person to be flayed alive before him. This news shocked Akbar to remark: "I cannot see a goat being flayed in front of my eyes, how could he get a man flayed alive before him!".

After making it clear that Salim was the chosen one (for the throne) in the last paragraph, the account now nullifies a point, which could potentially go against Salim. Let us see what this point was and how the author overruled it.

Scan 28: All the nobles came to Salim's room to congratulate him. Then, some of the nobles said : "Akbar always told Khusrau to call you (Salim) as Shah Bhai, (royal brother) not as father. Hence, we request you (Salim) that you should treat him as your son."

Salim replied: "My father never addressed me by any other name except calling me his child. Hence, by any means it cannot be denied that i was acknowledged as your future Emperor, as a son can never be a brother."

The nobles looked confused, but they had to agree with Salim and submit themselves to his authority (as the future emperor). The account says that only Mirza Aziz Koka still held out and instead sent a request for a private and confidential interview a second time.


Although Khusrau was a grandson, Akbar took him exclusively under his wings and treated him as his own son. Since childhood, Khusrau was asked to refer to Salim as his brother, (Shah bhai) and to Akbar as his father (Shah Baba). (Consequently, Khurram also started regarding Salim as his brother. The Padshahnama states references of Shah Jahan (Khurram) towards Salim as Shah Bhai (brother).) The emperor went so far as to openly declare that he "loved his grandchildren more than his sons.

The result of this was that Akbar was ready to override Salim's right to the throne as the eldest son, if he questioned his authority, and give that right to Khusrau, who was now made equivalent to Salim in rank.

These developments have been analyzed in detail 
and tagged with the required references in an earlier blog post: Khusrau | The unfortunate Mughal Prince - Struggle for Power - I

Hence, in the above paragraph, when the nobles raised the point that Salim should treat Khusrau as his brother, as ordained by Akbar, Salim replied that a son remains a son only and can never become a brother. 

Salim clarified this point so that no doubt should remain in anyone's mind that Khusrau too was eligible for the throne, as a "son" of Akbar.

Scan 29: Jahangir met Mirza Aziz Koka with great affection and pardoned him on account of the great services which were done by his family. Later, he met Sheikh Farid Bhukhari / Murtaza Khan and honoured him with a sword, money etc, for his crucial support to Salim.*

After that came Raja Man Singh to whom Salim gifted a dagger, horse etc. Salim treated Raja Man Singh with courtesy.**

Next morning, Raja Man Singh and Mirza Aziz Koka brought Khusrau with them to the court, and Mirza Aziz requested Salim to grant the province of Bengal to Khusrau.***


* - The account of Murad Ragini mentions that Jahangir met Mirza Aziz Koka, but AFTER rewarding Murtaza Khan for his allegiance. Here, the order of the events is interchanged.

** - Raja Man Singh came with Khusrau and Mirza Aziz Koka to meet Salim in court the next morning. Murad Ragini does not mention any earlier meeting between them. In fact, Salim was quite miffed with Raja Man Singh for his support to Khusrau. (See Appendix 1 for more details about this event. )

*** - If Akbar was still alive according to this account, then how could Salim hold the court ?

Scan 30: Salim had reservations about sending Khusrau away from Agra (and his supervision) at the very beginning of his reign, as he was wary of Khusrau's political ambitions. But he consented. He ordered that they should board a ship and cross the river Yamuna without entering the fort of Agra, and as soon as the mourning period was over, they would be allowed to leave for Bengal. *

During this crisis, Akbar sent one of his dresses and a turban to Salim, along with a message that in the absence of Salim, Akbar enjoyed neither peace nor repose. As soon as Salim received this message, he donned his father's robes and went to meet him. **


* - It is strange that Akbar was ill and Salim was holding the court. The turmoil and tension was too high during Akbar's last days. Additionally, these events are not mentioned in any other contemporary account - whether it be the account of Murad Ragini, the Jesuit letter, or the Padshahnama.

** - Again appears to be painting an image of great attachment with his father. 

Scan 31: The tone of the account continues in the same manner:  "Akbar asked Salim to call every noble in his presence, so that there remained no doubt or confusion in anyone's mind about Salim (being his successor). "

After all the nobles assembled, Akbar recited some couplets to them, reminding them about his past benevolence to them and urging them to remember him after he was gone.


The above-mentioned episode is yet another one that is hard to believe. All the accounts of that time are unanimous that Akbar was unable to speak when Salim came to meet him for the last time and Akbar signalled for his sword and turban to be given to his son. There is no possibility at all of Akbar reciting those long couplets to his nobles in that condition.

Scan 32: Salim, with tears in his eyes, approached a dying Akbar, who ordered his sword to be presented to Salim. Salim says he nearly died of sorrow. Akbar expired that evening.

Scan 33: Salim says that, just before his death, Akbar asked Mir Sadr Jahan (a cleric) to repeat the Kalmah (a religious salutation recited before death by Muslims) till his last moment. Salim asked the Sadr Jahan to kneel down on his knees at Akbar's feet and then recite the Kalmah.

The account says that Akbar embraced Salim and bid him adieu. Akbar asked Salim to take care of the inmates of the harem and all those who had depended on Akbar for their subsistence. He urged Salim to always remember him and their special bond.


The account tries to portray Akbar as a king who followed all the practices of Islam. This is in contradiction to the account of the Jesuits, which mentioned that Akbar refused to have the Kalmah recited before his death when the Muslim clerics asked him. 

The account of Murad Ragini also doesn't mention anything about this event, which is contrary to Akbar's ideology during his last years. He worshipped his "own God" and the Sun. (Read more here : Mughal Emperor Akbar - The Sun Worshipper)

In fact, after the death of Akbar, there were doubts among the people whether he died as a Hindu or a Muslim - because he had not followed any particular Islamic ritual on his death bed, and, even in his lifetime, he was accused of introducing various "innovations" in Islam.

As one of my friends puts it, Akbar was not a "by the book Muslim". He did what he believed was the rational thing to do.

Scan 34: Akbar asked for the Kalmah to be read again. He himself too recited the Kalmah in a "loud and distinct" manner.

Akbar also asked the Sadr to recite the surra prayer and another chapter from the Quran along with the Adeilha prayer. He died as soon as the prayers were completed.


Let us recapitulate the last actions of a dying Akbar, according to this account:
1. He asked for all the nobles to be brought to him, in order to clear any doubt about Salim's accession to the throne.
2. He recited "long" couplets before his nobles on his death bed.
3. He asked the Sadr Jahan to 
recite the kalmah and some other prayers.
4. He spoke to Salim at length and gave him a farewell embrace.
5. He himself recited the Kalmah and other prayers, "loudly and distinctly".
6. As soon as the prayers ended, he died peacefully.

In other words, this account makes it appear that Akbar had "enough time and strength" to complete all his obligations towards family, empire and Islam, before he left this world. 

Murad Ragini as well as the Jesuits maintain that Akbar died just after Salim adorned the sword and robes. There was no talk and Akbar didn't follow any religious practices on his death bed. 

Scan 35: Last rites of Akbar - note the special emphasis on the Islamic nature of the last rites. No other historic account provides such a description.

The account states Akbar's age to be around 75 years. However, Akbar died when he was 63 years old.

Scan 36: The account of the death of Akbar ends at the same point at which it started. It says that most of the nobles were in favour of Khusrau. But the Supreme Disposer of the events (God / Allah) was in Salim's favour. Most significantly, it says, "The influence of the immaculate imams (religious clerics / ulemas) was on my side."


Raja Man Singh of Amber
From Johnson Collection, India Office ; Vol. I, vii, F.5


The Khyat Patalpotha of Kanha

Kanha was a Kachwaha writer from Achalpur, Jaipur. He has written a biographical account of Raja Ram Das Kachwaha. His account gives a graphic description of the efforts of Mirza Aziz Koka and Raja Man Singh to enthrone Prince Khusrau (which according to him was the original wish of Akbar), but these plans were foiled by a group of powerful nobles - Said Khan Barha, Sheikh Farid Bhukhari / Murtaza Khan and Raja Ram Das Kachwaha, who were working in tandem to ensure that Prince Salim was crowned as the next ruler.

The historic value of this manuscript is priceless. This account has escaped the scrutiny of contemporary writers as well as modern historians. The only known copy of this Jaipur manuscript is present in the Oriental Public Library* at Patna, Bihar. This account was located by Mr. Rajiv Prasad who was the Head of Department and the Reader of history in Magadh University, Bihar. He spent 7 precious years, during the 1970s, to sort the manuscripts in that library. Among them, he located this Rajasthani account and translated select portions of this manuscript into English.

* Oriental Public Library, Patna, Bihar  - It is one of the national libraries of India. It was opened to the public way back in 1891 with 4000 manuscripts by Khan Bahadur on the orders of his dying father. Of these 4000, he inherited 1400 rarest ones from his father Maulvi Mohammed Bakhsh, who was a man of letters and had a great passion for collecting books. Bahadur made it his mission in life to establish a public library so as to fulfil his father's dream. He made all possible efforts to acquire rare books and manuscripts. He also borrowed the services of a book-hunter to collect manuscripts from learning centres in the Arab world and bring them back to India. 

The library is an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India, and is known for its extremely rare collection of Persian and Arabic manuscripts. The library is also a designated 'Manuscript Conservation Centre' under the National Mission for Manuscripts. It also hosts Mughal and Rajput paintingsAccording to an article, by the librarian of this library, published in the editorial column of The Times of India (New Delhi edition, 23 September, 1996), among the rare manuscripts present in this library is a richly illuminated manuscript of  "Tarik-i-Khandan-i-Timuriya" - the only copy of this Mughal record in the world, which was commissioned by Mughal Emperor Akbar.

This lengthy introduction has been given to underline the effort that has gone into bringing this account in front of all of us today. I express my sincere thanks to the great man whose continuous hard work of many years has enabled us to read this account today.

Now let us see what this account contains about the death of Akbar. It is important to note that this account matches to a great extent with the historically valuable account of Murad Ragini and the letter of the Jesuits, and is hence a fairly accurate and authoritative chronicle.


Scan 37: Mirza Aziz Koka addressed a meeting of the senior nobles, when Akbar was counting his last moments. 
In this account, Mirza Aziz Koka is also referred to as Azam Khan, as he had the title of Khan-i-Azam.

Scan 38: Aziz Koka asked the nobles to support Khusrau as the next emperor in the interest of the empire, as that was also Akbar's wish. 

Scan 39: The senior noble Said Khan of Barha got up angrily and said that this was not possible because Salim was still alive. As i wrote earlier, there was no love lost between him and Aziz Koka. Said Khan belonged to the ancient house of the Chagtais. His grandfather had been in the service of Humayun.

Scan 40: Said Khan left the meeting along with Mirza Sharif. The hall became empty.
We saw that the attempt of Raja Man Singh and Mirza Aziz Koka to make Khusrau the unanimous choice as the next ruler was not successful. They then decided to take control of the Mughal treasury for Khusrau, so that they could raise a great army and bribe the nobles, if required. But here also, they were beaten because the supporters of Salim had already captured the Mughal treasury. Let us see what transpired that fateful day. 

Scan 41: While leaving the room, Said Khan asked his friend, Raja Ram Das Kachwaha, to seize the Imperial Mughal treasury for Prince Salim. This was promptly accomplished by the latter.

Mirza Aziz Koka and Raja Man Singh were disheartened at not being able to secure support for Khusrau. The peaceful method had failed. So, they decided to take control of the treasury and safeguard it for Khusrau. But it had already been captured by the supporters of Salim.

The treasury was the most important aspect of an empire from the fiscal administration point of view. Hence, both the competing factions wanted to first seize control of the treasury. Aziz Koka and Raja Man Singh were beaten in this race by the supporters of Salim.

Upon observing that the treasury was under the possession of the enemies, the hopes of Raja Man Singh and Mirza Aziz Koka were dashed to pieces. However, they decided to meet Raja Ram Das Kachwaha and ask him to hand over the keys of the Mughal treasury to them. They believed that Ram Das Kachwaha would accede to their request because they were the senior most  nobles in the court of Akbar. (It appears that the two nobles were so sure of their authority that they believed that the other nobles would fall in line with their wishes automatically and hence failed to come up with a suitable plan of action to outmanoeuvre Salim's supporters.) 

While Raja Man Singh and Mirza Aziz Koka were driven from pillar to post for advancing the cause of Prince Khusrau, the supporters of Prince Salim were not sitting idle either.

Scan 42: The senior Chagatai noble Said Khan went to the house of Murtaza Khan / Sheikh Farid Bhukhari and both of them vowed to raise Salim to the throne at any cost, including war.

They sent Mutamad Khan to Salim to reassure him that they would ensure that no one else besides Salim could become the Emperor. It was at this juncture that Mutamad Khan asked Prince Salim to wait for 2 hours to see which side the contest tilted.

And these were those 2 hours that decided the future course of Indian history! Had 
Mutamad Khan not been sent to Prince Salim or had Salim not listened to the advice, he might have fled from Agra, leaving the field to Khusrau. 

Scan 43: Said Khan and Murtaza then went to the house of another Rajput noble Raisal Shekhawat. Raja Ram Das Kachwaha was also present there. The 2 Mughal nobles learnt that Aziz Koka and Man Singh had to return disappointed after being unable to take charge of the treasury. The 4 nobles realised that they had almost won the battle. But, they were well aware that they were facing the combined might of Raja Man Singh and Mirza Aziz Koka - seasoned military generals and the most powerful and highest ranked nobles in the Mughal Empire.

The account later mentions that Raja Man Singh had a huge personal army of faithful Rajputs. The 4 nobles (mentioned above) knew that even if all the other nobles combined their armies against Raja Man Singh, then also they would not be able to defeat him. Hence, they advised Raja Ram Das Kachwaha to increase the strength of soldiers guarding the Mughal treasury, and also assured him of support against Raja Man Singh in case of armed conflict. They also placed their spies and soldiers at all the strategic places in the Mughal capital of Agra. In short, these nobles were preparing for a possible armed conflict.

But what were Raja Man Singh and Mirza Aziz Koka doing at this time ? Were they also exploring the option of going to war?

Scan 44: When Raja Ram Das Kachwaha returned home, he found Aziz Koka and Man Singh waiting for him. They asked him why he had placed the Mughal treasury under the control of his men.

Ram Das replied he was just doing his duty, assigned to him by Akbar 35 years back.

Scan 45: Aziz Koka requested Ram Das to accompany them (Koka and Man Singh) to the treasury and hand over the keys. But he refused. He even warned that he would close the doors of the palace for Raja Man Singh and Mirza Aziz Koka, if required.

Scan 46: Aziz Koka said that they were carrying out Akbar's wishes, as he had wanted Khusrau to become the Emperor. But Ram Das was not convinced.

Scan 47: When Raja Ram Das refused to give the keys to Mirza Aziz Koka, Raja Man Singh interfered.

Raja Man Singh asked Ram Das in his usual commanding manner: " May I remind you, as to who i am, and what wonders i am capable of accomplishing ? "

Raja Ram Das replied diplomatically that they were both from the same clan, but his last sentence brought Raja Man Singh's blood to boiling point, because Raja Ram Das questioned Raja Man Singh's loyalty to the empire.

Scan 48: Raja Man Singh warned Raja Ram Das to hold his tongue else he would have to pay the consequences.

Raja Ram Das replied that he did not care even if his tongue were cut. As a Rajput, he was always ready to face death and that Man Singh and Aziz Koka could 
get the keys only after his death.

Raja Man Singh ran out of patience. He threatened to fight a duel with Raja Ram Das Kachwaha.

Scan 49: Kishan Singh, who was posted outside Raja Ram Das' house, remarked that he was ready to fight at a place and time decided by Raja Man Singh.

The situation could have deteriorated but Raja Ram Das restrained Kishan Singh and Mirza Aziz Koka controlled Raja Man Singh.

Aziz Koka thought it was useless to indulge further. He came out with Raja Man Singh. They found that the forts' outskirts were also guarded by the soldiers of Raja Ram Das.

The writing on the wall was clear. After the treasury. the entire fort had come under the control of the supporters of Salim.

Scan 50: Diplomacy had failed. The only option left to Man Singh and Aziz Koka was to wage a war against the supporters of Salim. But then, that would have led to the destruction of the Mughal Empire because Salim and Khusrau were of the same royal blood.

The account says that Mirza Aziz had no faith in his  men (despite being the highest ranked noble in the Mughal Empire). Raja Man Singh had an army of faithful Rajputs, but he was by then a broken man.

The account continues. The Raja did not want bloodshed to resolve the issue of who would be the next emperor. One may well conclude that the Mughal Empire was saved from a bitter fratricidal struggle, thanks to the maturity shown by a few senior and experienced nobles.

Raja Man Singh decided to proceed to Bengal which was his province, taking the young Prince Khusrau with him. Mirza Aziz Koka also decided to move along with Raja Man Singh because he feared for life and property.

What if Raja Man Singh had decided to fight a war? He could have well withstood against the combined might of his enemies. The letter of the Jesuits stated that Salim feared only the prowess of Raja Man Singh. History could have been different

However, Man Singh understood that the Mughal Empire was at risk of collapse if war broke out between father and son. There were other forces in operation too, which were eagerly looking forward to the breakdown of the Mughal system of government. Man Singh didn't wish to destroy the empire, which Akbar had built over a long period of 49 years, and whose roots had been nourished by the blood of generations of his own clansmen! 

And how could he go after the life of Salim, who was the son of that Akbar to whom he (Man Singh) was farzand (son), to whom he had sworn his lifelong loyalty at the tender age of 11 and whom he had served with utmost honesty?

Scan 51: Mirza Aziz Koka sent his wives and children to the house of Raja Man Singh that night itself, as he was not sure of their safety after it became clear that Salim would be the new emperor. It was anyone’s guess what Salim might do to those who had opposed his claim to the throne and their families.

We saw that Mutamad Khan had stopped Salim from fleeing Agra and going to Allahabad and persuaded him to wait for 2 hours. The drama that has been narrated so far occurred in those 2 momentous hours, hours which occur rarely in history, but when they do, they change the course of history completely.

Later the nobles led by Sheikh Farid Bhukhari / Murtaza Khan and Said Khan, who had supported Salim, apprised him of the events that had ensured his victory. A satisfied (and much-relieved) Salim promised to reward all of them suitably. 

Scan 52: When Salim was convinced that he was the undisputed master of the situation, he decided to meet Akbar, along with his coterie of nobles.

The Great Mughal was on his death bed. He signalled for the turban and sword to be handed to the prince, thus silently proclaiming him as the next Emperor of Hindustan. 

********************END OF SECTION 2*********************


Let us arrive at a suitable inference from what we have read in this article.

We have gone through various Mughal records as well as the Rajput and Portuguese accounts describing the death of Mughal Emperor Akbar and the related events during his last days.

After perusing them, we can rule out the possibility of Akbar being poisoned by anyone. Though there were rumours floating around at that time that Akbar had been poisoned, the Jesuits made it clear in their letter that those were only unsubstantiated rumours. They themselves did not endorse the poisoning theory.

Later, some foreign writers recorded theories of Akbar being poisoned. But, in my opinion, they were simply an extrapolation of the conspiracy theories, which were widespread across the Mughal Empire following the illness and death of Akbar, as mentioned by the Jesuits.

One point, which is clear from the accounts is that - Akbar did not expect to die so soon, especially of a stomach illness. Otherwise the astute and responsible emperor that he was, he would have certainly declared a heir to the throne and made arrangements for a smooth transition of power.

But why did Akbar NOT declare an heir as a cautionary measure?

Akbar was lain low by his illness and bedridden. His condition was deteriorating day after day, to a point when he could no longer even speak. In such a situation, he should have normally announced his heir to clarify any confusion among the nobles. But it appears he did not do so.

This is the most puzzling piece in the jigsaw puzzle. It just doesn't fit in with the character of Akbar - a far-sighted person like him not naming his successor, is this really possible?

We read that once Jahangir was ensconced on the imperial throne, he immediately set about publicly and extravagantly honouring his deceased father. This entailed crafting a stirring eulogy with proper emotional effect on the people and the nobles; maintaining a vigil for seven days at the site of Akbar’s grave; ordering the construction of a magnificent mausoleum over his father’s grave at Sikandra; commanding the distribution of large amounts of food and sweets to the poor in honour of his father’s memory; and immediately dispatching his second son Parvez to fight the Rajput state of Mewar, which had consistently refused to acknowledge Akbar’s authority. After these steps, loyalists began almost immediately asserting that Akbar had anointed Jahangir heir to the throne toward the very end of his life.

However, except the forged version of the memoirs of Jahangir (which we saw above), neither the official chronicle of Akbar’s reign, the Akbarnama nor Jahangir’s (more genuine) memoirs, the Tuzuk-i-Jahangiriindulges in this particular assertion of imperial legitimacy of Jahangir to the throne. The emerging contours of the argument (as well as its discrepancies) are apparent in other texts written in the early years of Jahangir’s reign. Let us look at those accounts to see if we can find any hint that Akbar had signalled Jahangir to be his successor.

According to a contemporary Persian account {check Appendix -1 for details of this account}:

"Salim, impelled by filial affection, and carried away with love, betook himself to His Majesty’s sick-bed, and was privileged to have a sight of him...Tears came to His Majesty’s [Akbar’s] eyes, and he gave a sign from the head of the sandalwood couch that his own sword, representing the key to peace and order [sovereignty], be handed over to the Prince. Since the whole world had become powerless from the news of this heart-breaking event ... he [Salim] came out grieving with heavy heart, and went to his palace. "

We have already seen an even more dramatic version, as narrated by Murad Ragini:

When Salim approached Akbar's deathbed, the emperor signalled to his attendants to invest Salim with his personal turban, robes, and dagger. After this transpired, they all prostrated themselves before Salim and paid him homage. At that very moment, His Majesty, whose sins are forgiven, bowed and then passed away."

Over the course of the next decade, these early accounts of investiture became the basis for even more elaborate renditions of the same story. Let us see one such story below.

A contemporary Persian account {See Appendix-2 for details of this account } written in mid-1610, while no match for the melodrama of Murad Ragini, more than makes up for it by offering fresh details of Akbar's death. 

It says: 

"The sword gifted by Akbar to Salim belonged to Babur, who passed it down to Akbar’s father Humayun just prior to his own death. As well as his sword, Akbar also gave Salim his personal rosary and good luck amulets  as well as a warm hug and kiss."

Our inability to come to a definite conclusion in this regard is due to the fact that almost all the sources, accessible to us today, are from the reign of Jahangir and mostly written from his perspective, for instance, the diplomatic account of Murad Ragini. We saw some more accounts above. These contemporary accounts stop short of telling us directly that Salim was the chosen successor. Instead, they use the cover of flowery language and symbolism to convey the impression that Akbar proclaimed Salim to be his heir at the very last moment just before he passed away. They all rely on one gesture of the dying Mughal - his signalling that his robes and sword be handed over to Salim - to conclude that Akbar indeed wanted Salim to be the next emperor. 

The Akbarnama provides no substantial details about the events which unfolded around the time of Akbar's death. 

There are 2 independent, contemporary sources outside the Mughal court: the letter of the Jesuits and the biography of Raja Ram Das Kachwaha. The Jesuits clearly mention that Man Singh and Aziz Koka were working towards placing Khusrau on the throne, with the approval of Akbar. The Rajasthani biography of Raja Ram Das (who supported Salim) also quotes Aziz Koka as saying that it was Akbar's wish that Khusrau succeed him.

{We have already discussed at length how Akbar had personally groomed Khusrau from the beginning for the Mughal throne.}

If we were to rely on these 2 sources that Akbar was in favour of  Khusrau as his successor, then the question arises that why did he not announce his decision publicly? Was he waiting for the right time or occasion? Or, was he too late in making an announcement, by which time his body lost control over his power of speech? To me, this seems to be the only probable reason.

It appears to me that when Akbar saw the turn of the tables in favour of Salim, he accepted that decision and gave it his formal sanction by handing over his robes and sword to Salim just before he died. Even in his enfeebled state, Akbar might have understood that the supporters of Salim could go to any length, even armed conflict or harming Khusrau in any manner, to secure the empire for Salim. After all, he had himself witnessed one rebellion by Salim a few years back and understood his son's ambitions well. Since he had neither the time nor the power (both physically and regally) left to arrange for a smooth transition of power to Khusrau, he might have decided to go with the flow of events to safeguard the empire. After all, he might have reasoned that the empire would pass on to Khusrau ultimately after Salim.



Could only the eldest son become the Mughal Emperor?

In this article, we read about Said Khan protesting the choice of Khusrau as the heir to Akbar by quoting Chagatai customs that only the eldest son of the emperor could become the next ruler. 

However, there was no hard and fast rule among the Timurids (the Mughals descended from Timur Lang on the paternal side) that only the eldest son or any son, for that matter, could succeed their father to the throne. Their history offers a brilliant exception to this erroneous claim. In her book, The Rise and Rule of Tamerlane (Cambridge University Press, 1989, Pg-128), historian Beatrice Manz presents the following case.

The famous Mongol ruler Timur Lane who founded the Timurid Empire in Persia and Central Asia had ignored the claims of his own son Mirza Shahrukh to the throne in 1405 to designate his grandson Pir Muhammad bin Jahangir as his heir. This offers sufficient proof that the dynastic claims of living sons were sometimes ignored based on worthier considerations.


A glimpse at the next and final part of the series:

We saw that Salim received invaluable support from the nobles at the Mughal court. In fact, he didn't have to lift a finger. The nobles chose him as their ruler and did everything required to get him the throne. The final part of the series considers the reasons behind their support to Salim vis-a-vis Khusrau. It seeks to answer some of the following questions.

Why did the nobles support Salim? 
Did Salim get support only from these nobles or were there some other forces operating in the background, who were not mentioned in the above accounts? 
Had Salim done some groundwork in the years preceding the death of Akbar, which came in handy at this time? 

Why did these nobles seek a promise from Salim that he would protect and uphold Islam? 
Did the clerics and orthodox elements also back Salim? 
If yes, in what form did their support help Salim gain the throne?
No such religious force was visible during the reign of Akbar; then how did it suddenly gain prominence just when he was dying?

How could Raja Man Singh and Mirza Aziz Koka, despite being the most powerful and experienced nobles in the Mughal court, fail in their strategic and tactical planning to secure their aim? 
How is it possible that they couldn't see which way the wind was blowing, and remained complacent that it would be smooth sailing for Khusrau when a highly ambitious Salim was still present on the scene? 

How did the general public in the Mughal Empire react after the death of Akbar?
Do we have any contemporary account which describes the feelings of the people at this time? If yes, then what were those feelings? 
Did the public accept Salim readily as the next emperor?

The questions are many, but the answers would be given only in the final and third part of this series. 

*********************THE END********************

Appendix - 1

There is a Persian chronicle called the Tarikh-i Khan Jahani wa Makhzan-i-Afghani, written by Khwaja Nimat-ullah who lived during the reign of Jahangir. He wrote a history of the Afghans. In this chronicle, he also briefly recorded historic events, which he witnessed. Unfortunately mainstream historians have not explored this Persian book much. 

This book reveals a shocking detail. Salim had decided to execute the entire clan of Raja Man Singh as punishment for supporting Khusrau, but, for some reason, he did not act in this direction. A scan of the Persian version of the book, stating this, is provided here. 

A Scan of the Persian Chronicle by Khwaja Nimat-ullah

The cover of the Tarikh-i Khan Jahani wa Makhzan-i-Afghani by Khwaja Nimat-ullah, ed. S.M. Imam al-Din (Dacca: Asiatic Society of Pakistan, 1960), Volume-2. 


Appendix - 2

It was the account of Sheikh Nurul Haq al Mushriqi al Dehlawi al Turk al Bukhari that offered "fresh" details about the death of Akbar (as discussed in Section 3 above). 

Sheikh Bukhari (different from Sheikh Farid Bhukari) was an Arabic scholar and the Qazi of Agra. He died at Delhi in 1662 AD at the age of 90. He wrote a general history of India, beginning from the reign of Sultan Mu'iz-ud-din Bin Sam (better known as Mohammad Ghori) to the accession of Jahangir in 1605 AD.

Jahangir did not approve of his account, Zubdatu-l-Tawarikh and banished him to Kabul in 1628. It was during the time of Shah Jahan that he continued writing his account and added some details about Din-e-Ilahi and the later years of Akbar.

Nurul Haq desisted from going into depth about the Din-i-Ilahi and its rituals. He touched upon only those aspects of Akbar's religious beliefs which he could "defend". The reason appears clear - Nurul Haq was a religious person and did not write anything which violated the tenets of Islam.

Among his works were a Persian commentary on Sahih al Bukhari. At the beginning of the reign of Jahangir, he wrote two Persian commentaries on the collection of Hadith, Taysir al Qari Fi Sharh Al Bukhari and Manba Al Ilm Fi Sharh ahih Muslim.

His account is in Persian and no English translation exists, as far as i know.


Appendix - 3

Hakim Ali Gilani, Akbar's personal physician, wrote a book Qanun-e-Sherha related to the field of medicine, which runs into thousands of pages in 5 volumes. 

The first volume deals with the human body, causes and complications of diseases, hygiene, signs and symptoms of diseases, pulse, urine diseases of the new born and children, physical exercise, food, drink, health of old people, and so on. 

The second volume begins with the principles relating to simple herbs and drugs, their temperaments and their different categories. Botanical herbs, animal and mineral substances are also mentioned in alphabetical order. For each herb / drug, its properties and use in different diseases are also described. 

The third volume, a continuation of the second, is about simple drugs. The fourth volume contains a full account of fevers, skin diseases and antidotes.

In his work, he stated the process of digestion of food. He writes," It is also essential for the digestion of food that food should be encircled by that stomach and it should churn (the food constituents) in such a manner that the rotatory movement (inside the stomach) may be caused with the help of its gastric juice and generated animal heat. It should cook the food constituents and convert them into minute particles of food so as to form a homogeneous substance, so that the digestive action may continue simultaneously with the whole of the food particles."

Gilani also seems to have pondered over the function of the heart muscle and its valves, in the inflow and outflow of blood through them. Another less well-known work of Gilani is Mujurrabat-Ali-Gilani, where the documentation of his medical experiences is present.

He had considerable knowledge in fields like asteology (study of bone structures), mycology (study of muscles), angiology, neurology and the digestive system. 


Thanks to Radhika for her inputs.
Do share your views below. It is your feedback which keeps me going!

Article Category : Mughals (Akbar)

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