Akbar and his sons

 Akbar and his sons

Akbar had three sons Salim, Murad and Daniyal. All the three were big alcoholics and wasted their young life in intoxication. Like they say no plants can grown under a huge banyan tree, Akbar was a huge banyan tree that never allowed his sons to come out of his shadow. This led to huge frustrations in his sons minds and others manipulated their anger and frustrations to cause rift not only among the father and sons but also between the brothers. The only good thing that emerged was that the brothers like past and future generations did not attempt to kill each other for the throne or kill each others children. But did Akbar have a role to play in this rift between his sons? For the answer lets examine some points



Jehangir with Khusrau and Parvez

The unofficial crown prince the heir to throne the first born son of Akbar a child of many prayers and born to a privileged life son of a father who was richest and most powerful man in world, Salim had everything going for him. Then what exactly led to him being insecure, get addicted to alcohol and drugs and waste away his youth. Salim was always encouraged by everyone including Akbar as the next emperor of Mughal empire and received education in commensurate to his position as the unofficial crown prince. Not only this Akbar even allowed him to develop networks that would help him when he would become emperor in long term by appointing important tutors who were influential. Salim even went to battle at a young age of single digit and by 12 years he led independent command of army to wars. But as Salim grew up into an adult there seemed to crop many differences between father and son.

There were many reasons for that the major ones being

  1. There was a stark difference in Akbar and Salims nature and thinking. Akbar was a very practical man while Salims nature was more to give leeway to his emotions in decision making. Akbar never lost the sense of practicality in dealing with anyone while Salim dealt more in a emotional or need basis. He relied heavily on his coterie of friends to guide him usually who gave him advice that benefitted them not really him. Akbar also had a coterie in his navratnas and milk brothers etc but he was not really totally swayed by them while making decisions.
  2. Salim became an addict to his vices like drinking, addiction to narcotics etc and that led him to make rash decisions like ordering to kill someone for small mistakes.
  3. Salim never seemed to like his fathers coterie especially the navratnas like Man Singh, Abul Fazl etc because he felt they instigated his father against Salim(and his other close family and friends)
  4. When Salim was 22 years old in 1591-92 Akbar was down with a illness that never seemed to get cured. During this time Salim kept spies to keep watch on his brother Murad. Once Akbar was well, he was informed by Murad and Harem ladies of Salim’s behaviour and from that day Akbar grew suspicious of Salim. Not only that during this illness Abul Fazl even suggested Akbar that Salim may have poisoned him that led to more differences between father and son.
  5. Akbar started giving more important postings and war campaigns to Murad and Daniyal rather than Salim increasing his anxiety and inseurity.
  6. Not only this Akbar even took Khusrau under his care and tutored him giving him high rank of 5000 mansabdari at age of 6 years. Khusrau was incharge of the powerful imperial forces led by rajpuths and mughal seasoned fighters(pathans and mughals) at such a young age thus increasing his standing among mughal princes and making him a direct contender for throne. Khusrau was given provinces to govern at young age.

Now all the above points and many other things started causing a rift between father and son. Not only did this cause a rift between Akbar and Salim, it created a great fissure in Salims relation with his son Khusrau because they were no longer only father and son but direct contenders of the throne.

Another very important policy of Akbar totally broke Salim’s and his childrens relation. In order to keep Salims growing ambitions in check Akbar used his grandson Khusrau and Khurram(Shah Jahan) as baits. This Akbar did by taking both of them away from Jehangirs harem and bring them up in his harem under his care. Akbar was quoted in Akbarnama as stating that he loved his grandsons more than his sons. This truly created flutter in mind of Salim, Murad and Daniyal. Everyone in empire got an indication that Akbar may make his grandson Khusrau the next emperor superceding their father and uncles. If the rift between Khusrau and Salim was not deep enough he even handed a 6 days baby Khurram to his first wife Ruqaiah for upbringing although he was only living child of Salim and Jodha his third wife.

Note: Read more details of rift in post – Why Salim revolted against Akbar?

Murad Mirza 

Murad Mirza the second son of Akbar was 9 months younger to Salim and brought up by Salima Begum his third wife(but born to a cocubbine). Initially Salim and Murad had good relations but their relation deteriorated when during Akbars illness in 1592 Salim put people to keep an eye on Murad. When Akbar came to know of this, he decided to send Salim and Murad away from the imperial court. Murad was sent off to Malwa and then Deccan. Once away from Akbar, Murad started asserting himself and slowly defying his father and other commanders. He even started drinking excessively that led to his death in 1599. During his last days his defying ways made him look like a twin version of Salim giving many a heart burns to his father Akbar.

Daniyal Mirza

akbar receiving his 3 sons at fatekpur sikri

akbar receiving his 3 sons at fatekpur sikri

Daniyal Mirza was 3 years younger than his two elder brothers(born 1572) and was a favourite of Akbar till he became addicted to wine. Daniyal had many privileges assigned to him chief being the red tent that he could use exclusively that only an emperor or next heir could use. This made Salim very insecure although he never had any fight with Daniyal on this front. But Daniyal also once out of his fathers sight started drinking heavily and died drinking from a gun barrel in open defiance of Akbars orders.

Now all this policy of Akbar led to grave insecurity among the siblings and the brothers were insecure about each other being given prominence. But it must be appreciated that the three brothers did not thirst for each others blood and try to kill each other in succession war or harm each others kids like previous generations. It more of less highlighted their upbringing(by their mothers). So Akbar indirectly through his actions developed sibling rivalry among his sons(Daniyal, Murad and Salim) and even son and grandsons(Salim and Khusrau) or grandsons(Khusrau and Khurram).

Akbar may have succeeded as an emperor but failed as a father(to Salim, Murad and Daniyal) and grandfather(to Khusrau, Khurram). Its easy for a man to command his citizens and people working under him(ministers, nobels, army) but Akbar forgot his sons are not his citizens. Akbar forgot he was not only an empeeror whose commands his sons must follow but he is their father too.

As a father Akbar seems too strict and too unbending its not a two way relation between him and his sons, its a one way relation. He commands and they obey no questions asked. Where his sons wanted to find a father they only found a rigid emperor trying to protect his kingdom. Every human requires a certain amount of freedom has certain desires and likes to do things on his own accord. He never stopped to check what his sons desire, why they are rebelling, why they defy his orders, why they are spoiling their life drinking away.

You can easily say Salim, Murad and Daniyal were in a golden cage trying to get out of it. What we think was a rebellion may have been a frustration a cry for a ear from a father not a command from an emperor. This system of pitting one son against another, a grandson against son all this led to terrible consequences in long run. Friendly competition encouraged between children is fine till a certain age not after that. Akbar started this competition to check who among his sons or grandson was the best but it went to such a extent that they grew suspicious of each other.

But this tactic had another affect altogether instead of competing among the siblings, his sons grew suspicious of each move from Akbar. Each of his move made them insecure, frustrated them, scared them into what to expect next. Instead of competing with their siblings they started removing their insecurity by drinking, by defying Akbars orders, by helping Akbars enemies etc. Not only did Akbar spoil the relations between Salim , Murad and Daniyal and between Salim and Khusrau he spoiled his relation with his own sons. None of his three sons had genuine affection and respect left for him by the end of their lives and they were suspicious of his every move. Salim even openly rebelled in fear of this suspicion.

Akbar even went to the extent of using Salims own sons Khusrau and Khurram as leverage against their own father, to keep Salim in a tight leash and make him obey his orders. He messed up Salims relation with his two sons Khusrau and Khurram by not allowing them to stay in their fathers household.

Everyone ultimately paid a price for this tactic. Akbar died a lonely man none of his sons loved or respected him from heart, they all died young drinking in frustration only Salim was saved because may be he was too strong to withstand the effects of heavy drinking. Khusrau treated is father as competitor not as father and Salim too treated him same way, Khurram became so insecure that he killed all his brothers and some of their children too to become emperor, Khusrau lost his eyes first in sucession war at hands of father than his life at hands of Khurram. Salim faced rebellion from his sons Khusrau and Khurram like he had rebelled with his father. A simple policy of competition to choose best hire ultimately destroyed three generations relationships.

Note: This was the Ghenghiz Khan idea to give throne to most capable son not eldest son that was followed by Akbar that led to messing up relationships

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