119 Years of Trust


Saturday, December 11, 1999

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Nine gems of Akbar’s court
By Gur Rattan Pal Singh

WHEN Jalal-ud-din Akbar (1542-1605) was 14 years old, his father, Nasir-ud-din Humayan died. Unlike his ancestors and descendants, Akbar did not learn the three ‘Rs’ and was actually the despair of his successive tutors. However, he had studied the basics of good governance and was endowed with an extraordinary versatility of mind, remarkable courage and uncommon physical strength. He realised the unsoundness of ill-treating the Hindus who formed an overwhelming majority of the population.

Jahangir in his memoirs had remarked that his father "in his actions and movements was not like the people of the world and the glory of God manifested itself in him".

For accomplishing his mission, Akbar, like Alexander of Macedon, could risk his life regardless of political consequences and proved to be one of the mightiest sovereigns known to history. Being conscious of his illiteracy, Akbar selected an ‘advisory council’ consisting of nine intellectuals, known as ‘nine gems’, whocould enlighten and guide him to become one of the most outstanding statesmen of the world.

Abul Fazal and his elder brother Faizi, sons of Sheikh Mubarak, who completed in four volumes,a gigantic commentary on the Koran and who died in Lahore on September 4, 1593, were the two of the nine gems of the court of Akbar, who reigned from 1556 to 1605.

Abul Fazal (1551 to 1602), born in Agra during the reign of Islam Shah, was a man of profound learning and commanding intellect.

He authored Ain-i-Akbari which was the result of seven years of painstaking labour. It gave a varied and detailed survey of Akbar’s empire. While paying compliments, Abdullah, the King of Bukhara, remarked that he was more afraid of Abul Fazal’s pen than Akbar’s arrow. Abul Fazal was an essayist, a critic, historian and the most accomplished writer in Persian. The praiseworthy feature of his works was his love for truth and accuracy of information.

Among the poets or versifiers writing in Persian, Faizi (1547-1595) was considered the best. He cared little for wealth or fame and was devoted chiefly to literary pursuits. Faizi authored Lilabati, a well-known work on mathematics. How much enamoured Akbar was of Faizi can be gauged from the fact that he appointed Faizi as the tutor to his son, Prince Murad.

In the seventh year of Akbar’s reign Mian Tansen, one of the greatest and most glorious musicians of India, joined the emperor’s court.

Owing to the qualities that he had as a musician, the emperor appointed Tansen as one of his ‘nine gems’. He is reported to have acquired the unique power of stopping the flow of the Yamuna by singing. How apt are the remarks of Abdul Fazal: "A singer like him has not been born in India for the last thousand years."

One day Akbar asked Tansen to sing Raag Deepak, and for the rhapsodist singer, it was Hobson’s choice. By saying no, he could ill-afford to invite the wrath of the emperor. But he also knew that if he sang it would create a burning sensation over his body. Moreover, there was no one who could alleviate his pain by singing Raag Malhar. Tansen expressed his predicament in vain. Akbar wanted the Raag to be sung at all costs. When Tansen sang Raag Deepak, the earthen lamps started burning and the musician felt as if his body was on fire.

When in wilderness, Tansen happened to visit Banur, he went to a well to quench his thirst where Banno, a Chhimban belonging to the tailoring class, was filling her pitcher with water. Tansen’s unusual manner of asking for water was noticed by Banno, who asked him if he had fallen a victim to Raag Deepak. Tansen pleaded "You have correctly identified the disease and let it also be cured. I shall feel indebted to you throughout my life." Banno started singing Raag Malhar which caused rainfall, thereby relieving Tansen of his physical ordeal.

Raja Todar Mal rose from humble beginnings and to the top of the emperial service by sheer merit and ability. He established a system of revenue collection, the salient features of which were survey and measurement of land, classification of land and fixation of rates. He adopted the precedents set by Sher Shah Suri relating to the revenue matters and was perhaps the best revenue expert of those times and also a good commander. In 1582, Akbar appointed Todar Mal as the Diwan-i-Ashraf.

The other gem was Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khana who was the son of Akbair’s tutor Bairam Khan. While going to Mecca, Bairam Khan was murdered and his widow Salima Begam became Akbar’s second wife. The Massiri-i-Rahimi of Abdul Bagi was complied under the patronage of Khan-i-Khana.

Raja Man Singh, nephew and adopted son of Raja Bhagwan Dass of Amber, was one of Akbar’s best generals and governors. He led two campaigns against Orissa, one in 1590 and the other in 1592.

Raja Birbal began his life in Akbar’s court as a minister but "his pure intellectuality, his quaint humour and cynical outlook on life seem to have given Akbar the nerve tonic which as a dreamer, he appears to have needed."

Fagir Aziao Din and Mullan Do Piaza were the other two gems of Akbar’s court who added glamour and dignity to Akbar’s advisory council.back

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