Was King Akbar really great? The real facts will shock you!

India’s history is filled with invaders, some of whom looted and went their way, some who stayed and ruled thereafter. Almost all of them possess the image of being ruthless, and unethical, except one – Akbar.

Akbar, the third-generation Mughal emperor lived from 1542-1605 A.D. He is regarded as the greatest of all Mughals.Unlike others, he’s said to have been noble and truly secular.

But this definition isn’t quite accurate. Contemporary records present a remarkably different picture of the man.


Akbar’s ancestry wasn’t pious and anywhere close to divine. His ancestors were barbarous and vicious, as were his descendants like Aurangzeb and others down the line.

Vincent Smith in ‘Akbar – The Great Mogul’ writes, “Intemperance was the besetting sin of the Timuroid royal family, as it was of many other muslim ruling houses. Babur (was) an elegant toper…Humayun made himself stupid with opium…Akbar permitted himself the practices of both vices…Akbar’s two sons died in early manhood from chronic alcoholism, and their elder brother was saved from the same fate by a strong constitution, and not by virtue.”

Col. Tod describes the pleasure that Babur used to get after raising tower of heads of people he slaughtered as “triumphal pyramids were raised of the heads of the slain, and on a hillock which overlooked the field of the battle, a tower of skulls was erected and the conqueror Babur assumed the title of Ghazi.”

Humayun, the son of Babar, was even more degenerate and cruel than his father. After repeated battles, Humayum captured his elder brother Kamran and subjected the latter to brutal torture. A detailed account is left by Humayun’s servant Jauhar and is quoted by Smith, which says, “…(Humayun) had little concerns for his brother’s sufferings. One of the men was sitting on Kamran’s knees. He was pulled out of the tent and a lancet was thrust into his eyes. Some lemon juice and salt was put into his eyes. After sometime he was put on horseback.”

Humayun was also a slave to opium, engaged in excessive alcohol consumption and a lecherous degenerate when it came to women. He is known to have married a 14-year old Hamida Begum by force.

Akbar’s ancestors just like his descendants were of the same nature – brutal, alcohol addicts, and womanizers. It would be very hard to believe that all these traits skipped Akbar. Also if Akbar was so noble, why did he let his contemporaries and Generals, like Peer Mohammad, loot and rape the helpless citizenry that he was ruling?

Lust for Women

Akbar’s lust for women was no different from others in his family. He didn’t even  spare the wife of his bodyguard Bairam Khan. After killing him, he  married his wife.

Historical documents like AbulFazal’s Ain-I Akbari state that there was a market near the Red Fort which was known as Mina Bazaar. On New Year, every woman of the state had to appear before Akbar and he would choose from them according to his taste.It’s said there were almost 5000 women in his harem from around the country.

Another excerpt from Ain-i-Akbari says, “…His majesty has established a wine shop near the palace. The prostitutes of the realm collected at the shop could scarcely be counter, so large was their number. The dancing girls used to be taken home by the courtiers. If any well known courtier wanted to have a virgin they should first have His Majesty’s permission. In the same way, boys prostituted themselves, and drunkenness and ignorance soon lead to bloodshed. His Majesty himself called some of the prostitutes and asked them who had deprived them of their virginity?”

It is said that Akbar remained monogamous throughout his life. But this is yet another lie. V.Smith went on to write, “…Akbar, throughout his life, allowed himself ample latitude in the matter of wives and concubines! Akbar had introduced a whole host of Hindu the daughters of eminent Hindu Rajah’s into his harem.”

A certain Dr. Srivastava wrote the following in his book ‘Akbar – The Mogul – “(after the ‘Jauhar’ that followed the killing of Rani Durgawati) the two women left alive, Kamalavati (sister of Rani Durgawati) and the daughter of the Raja of Purangad (daughter-in-law of the deceased queen) were sent to Agra to enter Akbar’s harem.”

Inducting women of killed or abducted Hindu warriors into his harem as slaves and prostitutes cannot in any way be deemed as a righteous and noble act. One can say that the whole of India was turned into a brothel during the rule of Mughal emperors, and Akbar was no different.

Barbaric Akbar

Another myth is that Akbar refused to strike the helpless and the injured. At the age of 14, Akbar slashed the neck of his Hindu adversary Hemu with his scimitar who was brought before him unconscious and bleeding. Not only this but then the bystanders went on to plunge their swords into the bleeding corpse. Hemu’s head was sent to Kabul and his trunk was hung at one of the gates of Delhi.

This ‘tower of heads’ tradition was preserved by the so called noble and magnanimous Akbar.

Historian Vincent Smith says that after the capture of Chittor – “…Akbar exasperated by the obstinate resistance offered to his arms, treated the town and garrison with merciless severity. The 8000 strong Rajput garrison having been zealously helped during the siege by 40,000 peasants, the emperor ordered a general massacre which resulted in the death of of 30,000 (even thought the struggle was over). Many were made prisoners.”

Neither temples nor towers of defeated rules pardoned, all were destroyed under Akbar. There were events where intolerant Akbar ordered the excision of one man’s tongue, trampling opponents to death by elephants and other private or informal executions and assassinations.

After a victorious battle at Ahemadabad, a pyramid was built with the heads of the rebels, more than 2,000 in number. At one time, enraged on seeing a hapless lamplighter coiled up near his couch, Akbar order that the servant be shreded into thousand pieces!

Wait, the highlight of his cruelty is yet to come. Vincent Smith writes – “An extraordinary incident which occurred in April while the royal camp was at Thanesar, the famous Hindu place of pilgrimage to the north of Delhi, throws a rather unpleasant light on Akbar’s character. The Sanyasins assembled at the holy tank were divided into two parties, called the Kurs and Puris. The leader of the latter complained to the King that that the Kurs had unjustly occupied the accustomed sitting place of the Puris who were thus debarred from collecting the pilgrims’ alms.”

They were asked to decide the issue by mortal combat. “Akbar seeing that the Puris were outnumbered gave a signal to some of his savage followers to help the weaker party.”

Eventually, Akbar saw to it that both the sects were completely annihilated by his own soldiers. What a great ruler he was to have enjoyed the killings of holy Hindu men who’d come to him for justice!

Akbar’s reign was nothing but terror and tyranny, riddled with horrid killings of Hindus and the weak to satisfy his sordid pleasures.

Hatred towards Hinduism

The infamous Jiziya tax, which was a special tax exaction from the Hindus, was never abolished by Akbar. It has often been portrayed like it was abolished but that’s untrue. The exemption was issued many times, but never was actually implemented.

Throughout Akbar’s reign, temples used to razed to the ground or misappropriated as mosques and cows were slaughtered in them, as happened in the battle at Nagarkot. No symbol of Hindu origin and design was spared.

Xavier, a Jesuit in Akbar’s court, gives a typical instance of Akbar’s perfidy in making people drink water in which his feet had been washed. Smith writes, “…as a Prophet, wishing it to be understood that he works miracles through healing the sick by means of the water in which he washed the feet.”

Badauni says that this special type of humiliation was reserved by Akbar only for Hindus – “…if other than Hindus came, and wished to become disciples at any sacrifice, His Majesty reproved them.” Religious tolerance anyone?

Yet another one of Xavier’s letter states, “The Christian fathers got little opportunity of holding religious discussions with Akbar or influencing him in favour of Christianity. Akbar silenced Xavier by telling him that the freedom accorded to him in preaching his religion was itself a great service.”

Hindus were treated as third class citizens in Akbar’s reign as is evident from the Ain-i-Akbari. Abul Fazal writes, “…he [Husayn Khan, Akbar’s governor at Lahore] ordered the Hindus as unbelievers to wear a patch (Tukra) near the shoulders, and thus got the nick name of Tukriya (patcher).”

The holy Hindu cities of Prayag and Banaras were plundered by Akbar because their residents were rash enough to close their gates! No wonder Prayag of today has no ancient monuments – whatever remainsis rubble! Akbar’s subjects, especially Hindus, were horrified and scared upon the his arrival into their city. If at all Akbar was so magnanimous, why then did not the people come forward and greet him?

Monserrate, a contemporary of Akbar, writes, “the religious zeal of the Musalmans has destroyed all the idol temples which used to be numerous. In place of Hindu temples, countless tombs and little shrines of wicked and worthless Musalmans have been erected in which these men are worshipped with vain superstition as though they were saints.”

Akbar’s was a fanatical reign. He had neither love nor any compassion for Hindus.They were stigmatised and received degraded treatment.

The sad part is that Akbar is almost revered in today’s India by the common people as being one of the greatest and noblest of rulers ever. This is the doing of distorted history presented to us, a glorified image of Akbar taught to us in schools, and obviously his portrayal in popular media.

This is not to say that Akbar didn’t do any good or wasn’t at all capable as a ruler, but his sins definitely outweigh his good deeds. He enjoys an image today which is so utterly falsified especially with regards to his treatment of Hindus, and his magnanimous nature.

Also, Bollywood never fails to falsely glorify such icons for money. Unfortunately, it has a huge impact on us. More people today know about Akbar from the movie ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ than from actual texts of people who’d seen or lived with Akbar. If you oppose Akbar to a common Indian, he’d more likely quote some incident from the movie defending Akbar.

Vinayak Jain