Akbar and Salim: The Poison conspiracy

Salim tending to an aged Akbar

The Year was 1590. Akbar suddenly became gravely unwell. He had dysentery and high temperature. His condition did not became better after 2-3 days also. It only seemed to worsen with time.

Meanwhile the corridors of mughal court were ripe with conspiracy and regime change theories. Salim and Murad started gathering their supporters in case Akbar may not survive than a clash for the throne was inevitable as Akbar had not appointed a successor to himself. Daniyal was too young at 18 years but still his father in laws like Abdul Rahim were also actively getting support for his cause to ascend the throne. Everyone in mughal court was vying time on whom to support in war of succession so they shall get maximum benefits in future.

Meanwhile Akbars condition did not seem to improve after 3-4 days also with best of treatment. Akbar was in terrible pain and delusion. One day Abul Fazl, Chronicler Akbarnama came to meet Akbar and suggested that may be Akbar has been poisoned by a loved one. Akbar admonished Salim who was there that could he not wait few more years to come to throne that he poisoned his own father. Salim was shocked that his father trusted that Salim had attempted on Akbars life leading to his current illness. That too the room had a few of Akbars ministers and family members. Akbar admonishing him in front of everyone left Salim shocked. He left the room unable to control his tears.

After a few weeks Akbar did recover from that illness. Later on a detailed enquiry did reveal that Salim had nothing to do with Akbars illness and neither was Akbar poisoned. It was more a case of having eaten dead stale meat that led to severe poisoning. But the hatred had already been sown in the heart of Salim and Akbar towards each other successfully. Once Akbar got well he decided to send Murad to Malwa as Governor. He ordered Salim to go to Rajputhana to lead war against Mewar and other kingdoms. Daiyal was sent to Deccan to fight Maik Amber.Although Murad and Salim were contenders for throne at youth days, when they went to separate missions they started getting close and corresponding with each other regularly. They bonded over their love for drinks and hatred for Abul Fazl and Akbars courtiers in chief at mughal court in general even before leaving for separate missions. Murad went a step further and in his death will wanted his kids guardian to be Salim rather than Akbar, who was still alive. Murad was 29 years old when he died.

Salim on the other hand went to war against Rajputhana from 1591 to 1597. In 1598 he arrived back to agra and refused to go back to war as he felt he was needed more in agra. Than again Akbar asked him to attack Mewar in 1599 and he left unwittingly but did not reach Mewar but stopped at Ajmer and turned back to attack agra treasury. Later after reaching agra outskirts he changed his mind and left to Allahabad where he set up parallel court. Salim never forgave Abul Fazl for those false accusations against him. He kept that incident and other few incidents in his mind and finally took his revenge by killing Abul Fazl in 1602. Salim had this tendency that whenever someone accussed him he would sulk and go into silent modes rather than clarify or prove that he had nothing to do with those incidents.His enemies often took advantage of this fact and used his emotional reactions to situations rather than clever practical reactions to hurl accusations at him at every other given opportunity in mughal court.

Abul Fazl was not only hated by only Salim in mughal family but by Murad and few other of Akbars relatives. The major reason for this was that Akbar blindly trusted Abul Fazl and listened to him whether matters of politics or family matters. Akbar never consulted his children about politics or personal matters but with his friends like Birbal, Aziz Koka, Abul Fazl, Faizi etc and just announced his decisions on his children. That made many in mughal family hate Abul Fazl and Akbars cortere. Although many in mughal family had problems with Akbars friends and cortere none dared take any action about their displeasure as no one was ready to face Akbars warth. But Salim definetly was not some one who was bothered about what Akbar thought about his actions against Akbar’s favourites or about Akbars anger in general.  From youth age only Salim did what he wanted to do irrespective of what Akbar thought about it. In court when no one would dare put an opposing view on any matter about Akbars thought and decisions, only Salim would muster courage to speak against Akbars decisions. Even Akbars orders and farmans could not move Salim into action if he did not desire to do that job.

Also Salim was not that good at conveying his thoughts and emotions to Akbar may be because he had stayed very long time away from family in war fields etc. So there were definetly communication gaps between father and son. That helped Akbars cortere and Salims enemies to create further wedge between father and son at every given opportunity. Salim also rarely bothered to clarify any accusations against him. May be he felt his father should not have believed in any accusations against him and trusted him or came and clarified facts with him before assuming him guilty. Whatever the reason of mis communication between father and son, Salim’s enemies had maximum benefits of these mis communication between Salim and Akbar.

Salim waited almost more than a decade after Abul Fazl accussed him of poisoning Akbar and than finally gave orders to Bundela Raja Bir Singh to kill Abul Fazl. Abul Fazl went to Deccan to meet Daniyal and while returning near Madhya Pradesh was attacked and killed by Bir Singh Bundela, Orccha King later. Salim after becoming emperor made Bir Singh Orccha King in Madhya Pardesh and allowed him grants to build temples at Mathura and few other places. This was reward by Salim for killing Abul Fazl to Bir Singh and his family. Salim even married a princess of Bundela clan. Thus enemity of Abul Fazl and Salim ended in a bloody note. Abul Fazl may have felt that to please his master Akbar he can go on instigating Akbar against Salim and Salim would not dare act against it as he has Akbars blessings. Anyways if you read Akbarnama you can get to know Abul Fazl was one who did everything to please his master rather than say the truth on face like an adviser should actually do.

Salim waited patiently unlike his real nature in other matters of showing anger and acting immediately without much planning and bidded his time to take the ultimate revenge. With Abul Fazl’s murder Salim sent a clear message of warning out to all his enemies in mughal court(which he had in plenty among his own relatives and courtiers) that he shall not hesitate to act decisively against anyone even when they have Akbar’s blessings or are Akbar’s favourites. Akbars blessings and protection shall not make Salim’s enemies immune to any attacks or guarantee of no retributions from Salim in future like it had happened till 1602. And Salim also sent a message to Akbar through this murder that Akbars displeasure and fear of punishment shall not weigh on his decisions henceforth to act against all those people that he deems are against him or filling Akbars ears against him. Thus with one stone Salim killed many birds by this one act of his. Thus Abul Fazl’s murder is turning point in mughal history. But the roots of this murder was sowed decades back by Abul Fazl’s hatred for Salim and his constant instigation of Akbar to act against Salim’s interest whatever his reason for that was.

Mughal court was filled with such syphocants who enjoyed instigating father against son or brothers against brother and enjoying the benefits of those enemities. Surprisingly Salim and his brothers had a better healthy relationship except on some occasions like Akbars grave illness in 1590 unlike the other generation mughal siblings. Salim, Murad and Daniyal although instigated against each other by their relatives and cortere maintained a healthy relationship till the end and never really were after each others life like other generation of mughal siblings. Credit must be given to them for maintaining an healthy relationship and not letting others drive wedge in their sibling relationship although constant instigation must have taken place. Salim often searched and sent exotic and beautiful animals to Daniyal who was an animal lover wherever wars and work took him or Daniyal often sent him poetry he had written in leisure times to provide his opinion on them.  Salim even praises Daniyals poetry long after he died in Jehangirnama and remembers Daniyals love for animals after seeing an exotic breed of horse in his autobiography. Murad and Salim too communicated often with each other although one was in Malwa other in Rajputhana. Murad knew of Salims love for paintings and sent him unique paintings or drawings about nature and animals.   

Its only a few months before Akbars death that finally father and son reconciled. Till than Salims enemies and Akbars courtiers had a field day for several years or decades as father and son were not really on taking terms or avoided communicating their thoughts to each other. Akbar felt may be Salim is younger and son and has to communicate with him first. Salim may have felt Akbar as father should understand him and not believe his cortere and relatives who are instgating Akbar against him without Salim clarifying anything. Thus in their ego clashes or individual personalities decades went away without proper communication and misunderstandings. The biggest beneficiary in this ego clash was Akbars cortere and Salims cortere. Both had field day for decades instigating father against son and son against father and reaping benefits of this no communication between father and son. Same issue happened between Salim and Khusaru and Salim and Khurram later on. Decades of being away from kids because of wars and other duties or revolt ensured that Salim and his sons also never had a father and son relationship ever. For all purposes Khusrau and Khurram considered Akbar as father as Salim was an absentee father at most in their life. Further Akbar pitching father and sons as contender for same throne never helped to build any relationship between Salim and his sons. Khusrau and Khurram were brought up in Akbars household rather than by Salims wives in Salims household. The seeds of hatred and revolt during Salims regime by his sons were sown decades back only

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