Akbar’s letter to Salim

My Dear Omrah,

The words of kings resemble pearls; they are not meant for every ear. So listen as you seek the ‘true north’ in this sea of all-pervasive turmoil. Our grandfather, the defender of the faith who rests in paradise, Jahiruddin Muhammed Babur Mirza, was often a king without a kingdom, but the fire of ambition burning in his heart steeled his will to conquer the lands beyond daria Sind. The cruel showers of adversity made him not cynical, but wise and he wrote, “All ill, all good in the count, is gain if looked at aright.” We, the Sublime Radiance, believe monarchs should be ever intent on conquest. If not, those upon throne of wrath and vengeance will have enemies rising in arms against them. Make your mothers’ milk resplendent by growing the boundaries of your empire.

Akbar, Prince Salim and his sister

Akbar, Prince Salim and his sister

Be magnanimous, but if your magnanimity is taken for weakness, be decisive. A powerful clan of Uzbegs who did not let the ever-vernal flower of union and cordiality bloom was pardoned twice by us. Still, they would not cleanse the fountains of disagreement and the third time, committed the treasonable act of proclaiming Muhammed Hakim, our step-brother, as their king. We had them trampled to death.

Believe in luck but take your chances. While storming the fort of Chittor, on the night of Tuesday, 23rd February, 1568, we saw a regal Rajput supervising repairs. We lifted Sangram, our favourite gun, and shot him down. The unlucky man happened to be General Jai Mal. One lucky shot turned the cold winter of defeat into the spring of victory.

We, the Star of India, made powerful allies, so that wheel of the Mughal Empire could roll on with their help. As antagonists, Rajputs could be angry wasps, as Rana Pratap was, but they could be invaluable as allies. Though racial and religious considerations are important in our times, they are never as important as political considerations.

When the sword of the tongue is drawn, it inflicts deeper cuts than the sharpest blade. The harder the bow is drawn, the more the wood complains. As the rigours of the empire grow, there will be revolts. There were no less than 144 revolts against us. There will be times when those close to your heart will cross swords with you. Do what is needed, but treat them with respect.

When Bairam Khan our mentor, fought with us and was brought in our royal presence after his defeat in battle, we raised him from the ground and embraced him. We made him sit to our right-hand side, as had been the rule when he was prime minister.

The nine Stars who bestow their advice on us are our most precious jewels. In 1589, when Raja Todar Mal submitted a petition asking for permission to resign so that he might go to the banks of Ganga and spend his last breath remembering God, we agreed, but realised our folly. We immediately sent admonitions saying that no worship of God was equal to the soothing of the oppressed, and that it would be better for him to spend his least breath in serving man and to make that the provision for his final journey. It’s another matter that he turned back but died on the way.

All Padshahs need a great Munshi, and we chose Abul Fazl. We put on his shoulders the task of chronicling our reign, and he wrote with a pen perfumed with sincerity the account of the glorious events and of our dominion-increasing victories. And when one of our testicles was lacerated in a deer hunt, the application of the medicine was left to – who else, but the writer of the book of fortune.

Overlook defects if the Farzand is worthy of being in your presence. Raja Todar Mal was our manager of money, possessing a sharp intellect for the ins and outs of political and financial affairs, but we did not like his pride. Would that he had not been spiteful and revengeful so that a little opposition would cause dislike to spring up in his heart. But in spite of these defects, if we look to the nature of men in service, in diligence and skill, he was a man such as is seldom seen. We personally consoled him when his idols were lost while moving camps and when he abandoned sleep and food.

We never reveal ourselves to anyone. Some days we can be honest and candid, but in reality we are close and self contained with twists of words and deeds ever so divergent from the other, and most times so contradictory that even by much seeking one could not find any clue to our thoughts. Even our closest observers know no more about us on the last day than they know on first.

Never let fall from the hand, the reins of self control. We allow no sloth or idleness to find its way to us. We wake up three hours before day break. We eat once a day and leave before we are full.

We are busy with work till late at night. Bring reforms constantly, as new problems arise from new regulations. Two major reforms we carried out were creation of a centralised bureaucracy and a standard of military grading. Though the royal revenues increased, our 2000 mansabdars and their followers consume 82% of our annual budget as their pay. But then, all empires are sustained on a machinery of coercion.

We were illiterate but we had an insatiable thirst for knowledge. We have 24,000 volumes in our library and books are read to us regularly. Some of our distinguished Amirs are distinguished scholars.

For example, Abdul Rahim, the Khan-i-Khanan, is fluent in Persian, Arabic, Turki, Sanskrit, and Hindi. When we first ascended the throne, Omrah numbered 51, all non-Indian muslims. By 1580, their numbers increased to 222, nearly half-Indian and including 43 Rajputs. Be inclusive. Be firm with the great, kind to those of low estate, just to all men, high and low, neighbour or stranger, so that every man believes the king is on his side. We were sent into the world by providence to live and labour, not for oneself but for others.

We have set down of good and bad whatever we know, concerning kinsman and stranger: of them all I have set down carefully the known virtues and defects.

May God preserve you at all times!

Emperor of Islam, Emir of the Faithful, Shadow of God on earth, Abul Fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar Badshah Ghazi

Facts borrowed heavily from “Emperors of The peacock throne”

This is believed to be collection of a series of letters sent by Akbar to Salim advicing him on how an emperor should be etc life skills from father to son.

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