When Akbar inherited the throne, the empire was unstable and he had to face many difficulties. However, through conquests and his wise and visionary policies, he not only established a vast empire but also consolidated it.
Akbar, realizing that integration and harmony could be brought about in his kingdom not merely through political unification but through religious and social unity, tried to establish the concept of Sulh-Kul by demonstrating many personal examples. He put a tilak on his forehead and adopted Hindu practices such as Tuladan and Jharokha Darshan. Similarly, it was during Akbar’s reign that clothes such as Achkan, Sherwani gained popularity among the people. He even got some success in his attempt to check social evils like child marriage that still becomes news in our modern society. Akbar is very much known for his cultural achievements. The term ‘culture’ includes in itself the fields of literature, historical works art and architecture.
Literature during Akbar’s Reign
Although Akbar was himself an illiterate, he used to patronize scholars, poets, and historians. According to some historians, the reign of Akbar was a period of renaissance in the medieval history as he earnestly encouraged literature. During this period, rich literature was produced in Persian, Hindi, and local languages. And not only this, works of Sanskrit literature of great repute were also translated into Persian and Turki. Abul Fazal’s letters mentioned as original compositions. These letters are known as Insha-i-Abul Fazal. Even a person like Aurangzeb, a staunch critic of Abul Fazal, praised the style of his letters.
Poetry, at that time, had got a prominent place in Persian literature because it provided the best way to express the love of nature and beauty. As Akbar provided an earnest patronage to poetry, many Indians and foreigners flocked to his court. The Ain-i-Akbari has registered the names of 59 top most Persian poets who enjoyed the patronage of Akbar. Among them, some famous names are Ghizali, Faizi, Muhammad Hussain and Sayyid Jamaluddin-Urfi.
Historical works during Akbar’s reign
As Akbar had an excessive love for history, he imparted patronage to historians. Among the notable historical works produced during his reign were: Abul Fazal’s Ain-i-Akbari and Akbarnama which throw much light on Akbar’s administrations and traditions. Badayuni’s Muntakhab-ul-Twarikh has its own importance as an important source of information for the view of the opposition because Badayuni was a great critic of Akbar’s religious policy. Nizam-ud-din Ahmad’s Tabat-i-Akbari provides a detailed description of Akbar’s conquest.
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In order to fulfill his wish to bridge the gap between the non-Muslims and Muslims, Akbar got translated many literary works of different languages. For this, he created a separate Department of Translation that was placed under the charge of great scholars, of his court, like Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan, Bandayuni, Abul Fazal, Faizi.
Many outstanding Sanskrit works such as the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Atharva Veda , Leelawati (a Sanskrit work on Mathematics), the Rajatarangini and Harivansh Purana was translated in Persian. And not only this, Abul Fazal translated Panch Tantra and Faizi translated Nala-Damayanti into Persian. Babur’s autobiography Tuzuk-i-Baburi was also translated from Turiki to Persian during Akbar’s reign.
For Hindi literature also Akbar’s reign proved to be a golden period. Many high officials of his court were notable poets and writers; among them the names of Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khana, Birbal, Raja Todarmal and Raja Man Singh are prominent. Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khana’s dohas are popular even today.
Another eminent poet of Akbar’s time was the great Sant Tulsidas of the Ramcharitmanas fame. Another important poet of his age was the famous Surdas who wrote Sursagar in Brijbhasa. As Surdas was a devotee of Krishna, his Sursagar describes Krishna’s childhood activities as well as his love for Radha.
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Krishna’s other devotee-poets who made their names during the Akbar’s reign were Nand Das, Vithal Nath, Parm Nand Das, Raskhan, Meera etc. Raskhan, a Muslim and a devotee of Krishna, wrote Prem Vatika in praise of Krishna. Keshav Das was another well-known poet of this period whose well-known works include Kavi Priya, Ram Chandrika and Rasik Priya.
Architecture During Akbar’s Reign
As there was prosperity during his reign Akbar took the special interest in erecting buildings. It was the outcome of his untiring efforts that the two prevailing Hindu and Persian styles of architecture got blended and took the form of a new style of architecture which adopted, on the one hand, domes, minerates and arches from Persian style and on the other hand endorsed decoration techniques from the Hindu architecture.
The architectural beauty of Akbar’s period can be seen and relished in the buildings of his new capital Fatehpur Sikri. Its main buildings comprise Diwan-i- Aam, Diwan-i-Khas Panch Mahal, Jodhabai’s Mahal, Birbal’s Mahal, Library and the Buland Darwaza. Here one can also see Sheikh Salim Chisti’s Dargah that was built by Akbar.
It was Akbar who initiated the construction of his mausoleum at Agra, but its construction was completed by his son Jahangir. This mausoleum is considered as the best example of the architecture of Akbar’s time. It can be assessed that the buildings and Temples constructed during the reign of Akbar had a great impact on the Mughal architecture as a whole.
Painting during Akbar reign
During the reign of Akbar both styles of paintings-Persian and Indian-blended and took the form of Mughal style. The evolution of painting was shown in Turkish-i-khandan-e-Taimuyia and Akbari nama.
With an intention to promote painting Akbar formed a separate department of painting under the charge of Khawaja Abdus Samad. Akbar followed the policy of appointing painters of Calibre irrespective of their caste or creed. His court had both Indian and foreign painters. Painters of great repute of Akbar’s time were Farukh Beg, Sayyid Ali etc.