Saturday, June 23, 2001
M A I L  B O X

What makes a man great?

IN the article "What makes a man great?" (June 9) Khushwant Singh rightly says that Ashoka, Chandragupta Maurya, Akbar and Ranjit Singh became great because of their humane qualities that endeared them to their subjects. Akbar was considered great because he discussed problems of the common people with governors of states and lived a simple, austere life.

Real greatness is born out of goodness and not by acquiring wealth and grandeur. People who live in the lap of luxury rarely become great. Suffering is what makes men great. Real greatness lies in suffering for the common people.



Akbar was undoubtedly the best of the Mughal emperors from Babur to Aurangzeb. He was a humane ruler. Akbar was so tolerant of other faiths that he restored the temple at Asir Fort, which had been converted into a mosque to the Hindus. Despite all this Akbar cannot be compared with Ashoka or Chandragupta Maurya.

Akbar liked the beauty of Rajasthani women. He stocked his harem with hundreds of selected beauties while Ashoka had no harem. Chandragupta Maurya had no weakness for women either. Of course, Maharaja Ranjit Singh did have chosen beauties in his palace, besides his wedded wife Jind Kaur. While Akbar constantly engaged himself in extending his empire, Ashoka — shocked by the battle of Kalinga — turned to Buddhism.



The writer has described the qualities that contributed to the greatness of Akbar. What made Akbar really great was his virtue of religious tolerance. When Akbar abolished the jiziya tax on Hindus in 1579, he lived upto his principles of tolerance. His institutions drew inspiration from the successful experiments of ancient India, the Delhi Sultanate and Sher Shah Suri’s practices. He rewarded Hindu chieftains with jagirs for their loyal service. Thus he endeared himself to his subjects and came to be known as the greatest Mugal Emperor.

New Delhi

A correction

In the article "Journey of journals in Shimla" by Shriniwas Joshi (May 5), it was inadvertently published that Bhartendu Shikhar faced closure. The error is regretted.

Grand havelis of Haryana

Ranbir Singh’s "Tryst with tradition" (June 9) was an incisive piece. Rural Haryana is known for its magnificent havelis built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by the prosperous Mahajan and Bania communities. I have had a chance to look at some of these havelis in Hisar district built by prosperous Jains. The villagers call them Sarogis’ (rural terminology for Jains) havelis.

These havelis are now virtually on the last run of their lives. There is no one to look after these huge structures, for the owners have since left for urban areas in search of a living.