Mughal’s disciplinary and central administrative system was not acceptable by many regional independent nobles who were still strong, particularly in areas such as Gujarat, Bengal, and Bihar. All these kingdoms had a long tradition of forming separate kingdoms.
Rebels in Rajasthan
In Rajasthan, Rana Pratap’s struggle for freedom was one of the major problems for Mughal Empire. In such a case, Akbar had to deal with a series of rebellions.
Rebels in Gujarat
Gujarat remained in a state of unrest for almost two years due to a proposal for freedom by a representative of the old ruling dynasty.
Rebels in Bengal and Bihar
The most serious rebellion during Akbar period was in Bengal and Bihar extended up to Jaunpur (east Uttar Pradesh).
The major cause of the rebels in Bengal and Bihar was the strict enforcement of the dagh system or branding of the horses of the jagirdars, and strict accounting of their incomes.
Akbar’s half-brother, Mirza Hakim, the ruler of Kabul, also abetted the rebellion. A large number of Afghans in the eastern region were sullen at the loss of the Afghan power and were ready to join a rebellion.
The rebellions kept the Mughal Empire distracted for almost two years (1580-81), and hence Akbar had to face with a very difficult situation. Due to the mishandling of the situation by local officials, Bengal and Bihar passed into the hands of the rebels who declared Mirza Hakim as their ruler.
The rebellions of Bengal and Bihar even received a religious divine to issue a fatwa, assembled the faithful to take the action against Akbar.
To control the rebellions of Bengal and Bihar, Akbar sent a force (led by Todar Mal). Akbar also sent force (led by Raja Man Singh) to check the expected attack by Mirza Hakim.
Todar Mal proceeded with great strength and controlled the situation in the east. On the other hand, Mirza Hakim advanced on Lahore with 15,000 horses, but his effort was dismantled collectively by Raja Man Singh and Bhagwan Das.
In 1581, Akbar completed his success by marching to Kabul. It was the first time when an Indian ruler had entered in a historic town.
Mirza Hakim refused to accept Akbar’s suzerainty, or to come to pay personal allegiance to him, hence, Akbar handed over Kabul to his sister, before returning to India.
Abdullah Khan Uzbek, who was the hereditary enemy of the Mughals, had been gradually gathering strength in Central Asia. In 1584, he overran Badakhshan (it was the region of northeastern Afghanistan and southeastern Tajikistan), which had been ruled by the Timurids.
Mirza Hakim and the Timurid princes ousted from Badakhshan; hence, they appealed to Akbar for help. But before Akbar could take any action, Mirza Hakim died due to excessive drinking and left Kabul in a state of disturbance.
In 1586, to block all roads to the Uzbeks, Akbar sent expeditions against Kashmir and Baluchistan. Likewise, the whole of Kashmir, including Ladakh and Baluchistan, came under Mughal Empire.
Expeditions were also sent to clear the Khybar Pass, which had been blocked by rebellious tribesmen. In an expedition against them, Raja Birbal, the favorite of Akbar, lost his life. But the Afghan tribesmen were gradually forced to surrender.
The consolidation of the north-west and fixing a scientific frontier of the empire were two of the major achievements of Akbar. Further, Akbar’s conquest of Sindh (1590) also opened Punjab for trade down the river Indus.
Akbar stayed at Lahore till 1598, until the death of Abdullah Uzbek. Abdullah Uzbek’s death, finally, removed the threat from the Uzbek side.
Orissa, which was under the domination of Afghan chiefs, was conquered by Raja Man Singh. Man Singh also conquered Cooch-Bihar and parts of Bengal, including Dacca.
Mirza Aziz Koka, the foster-brother of Akbar, conquered Kathiawar in the west. Akbar deputed Khan-i-Khanan Munim Khan and prince Murad at Deccan in the south India.
Integration of States
By adopting a liberal policy of religious toleration and, in some cases, by giving important jobs, including service at the court and in the army, to the Hindus, Akbar successfully attempted to integrate all religious people.
The contemporary popular saints, such as Chaitanya, Kabir, and Nanak, (resided in different parts of the country) emphasized on the essential unity of Islam and Hinduism.
One of the first actions, which Akbar took, after coming into power, was to abolish the jizyah (tax), which the non-Muslims were required to pay in a Muslim state.
Akbar also abolished the pilgrim-tax on bathing at holy places such as Prayag, Banaras, etc. Further, Akbar abolished the practice of forcibly converting prisoners of war to Islam.
From the beginning, Akbar successfully attempted to gather a band of intellectual people with liberal ideas at his court. Abul Fazl and his brother Faizi were the most recognized scholars of that time. However, both of them were persecuted by the mullahs for having sympathy with Mahdawi ideas.
Mahesh Das (a Brahman), who is more popular as Raja Birbal was one of the most trustworthy nobles of Akbar’s court.
In 1575, Akbar built a hall known as Ibadat Khana (or the Hall of Prayer) at his new capital, Fatehpur Sikri (nearby Agra), which Akbar kept open for all religious people including Christians, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Jains, and even atheists.
Akbar’s Ibadta Khana horrified many theologians, and various rumors spread i.e. Akbar about to forsake Islam. However, Akbar was less successful in his effort to find a meeting place between the votaries of different religions in his territory.
The debates in the Ibadat Khana had not led to a better understanding among the different religions, but rather lead to bitterness, as the representatives of each religion criticized the other and tried to prove that their religion was superior to others. In 1582, by understanding the conflicting situation, Akbar withdrawn the debates in the Ibadat Khana.
Akbar invited Purushottam and Devi (Hindu philosophers) to explain the doctrines of Hinduism. He also invited Maharji Rana to explain the doctrines of Zoroastrianism.
To understand the Christian religion, Akbar also met with some Portuguese priests, he sent an embassy to Goa, requesting them to send learned missionaries to his court. Two Portuguese saints namely Aquaviva and Monserrate came and remained at Akbar’s court for almost three years.
Akbar also met with Hira Vijaya Suri, the leading Jain saint of Kathiawar, he also spent a couple of years at Akbar’s court.
Abd-ul-Qadir Bada’uni (an Indo-Persian historian and translator) asserted that as a result of knowing different religious views, Akbar gradually turned away from the Islam and set up a new religion, which was compounded many existing religions. However, there is very little evidence to prove that Akbar intended or actually promulgated a new religion of such kind.
The word used by Abul Fazl and Bada’uni for the so called new path was “tauhid-i-ilahi.” The literal meaning of tauhid-i-ilahi is “Divine Monotheism.”
Akbar initiated ‘Pabos’ (or kissing the floor before the sovereign), a ceremony which was previously reserved for God.
Akbar tried to emphasize the concept of ‘sulh-kul’ (or peace and harmony) among different religions in other ways as well. He set up a big translation department for translating works in Sanskrit, Arabic, Greek, etc., into Persian. Most likely, it was the time when the Quran was also translatedfor the first time.
Akbar introduced a number of social and educational reforms. He stopped sati (the burning of a widow), unless she herself, of her own free will, determinedly desired it. Further, Akbar made a strict rule that widows of tender age who had not shared the bed with their husbands were not to be burnt at all. Akbar also legalized Widow Remarriage.
Akbar was not in favor of second marriage (having two wives at the same time) unless the first wife was barren.
Akbar raised the marriage age, 14 for girls and 16 for boys.
Akbar restricted the sale of wines and spirits.
Akbar revised the educational syllabus, emphasizing more on moral education and mathematics, and on secular subjects including agriculture, geometry, astronomy, rules of government, logic, history, etc.
Akbar gave patronage to artists, poets, painters, and musicians, as his court was infused with famous and scholar people, more popularly known as the ‘navaratna.’
Akbar’s empire (as many historians claim) was essentially secular, liberal, and a promoter of cultural integration. It was enlightened with social and cultural matters.