Why does Justice Katju consider Mughal Emperor Akbar as the Father of the Indian Nation?

Amalendu Upadhyaya
Posted By -

Why I regard Moghul Emperor Akbar the Father of the Indian Nation

Why does Justice Katju consider Mughal Emperor Akbar as the Father of the Indian Nation?
Why does Justice Katju consider Mughal Emperor Akbar as the Father of the Indian Nation?
By Justice Markandey Katju

The architect of modern India was the great Mughal Emperor Akbar who gave equal respect to all religions, the only policy which can keep India, a country of tremendous diversity, united. He appointed people of all communities to the highest offices on their merits irrespective of their religion, caste, etc, e.g. Todar Mal (the finance minister), Man Singh and Birbal (army commanders).

The Emperor Akbar held discussions with scholars of all religions and gave respect not only to Muslim scholars, but also to Hindus, Christians, Parsis, Sikhs, etc. Those who came to his court were given respect, and the Emperor heard their views, sometimes alone, and sometimes in the Ibadatkhana (Hall of Worship), where people of all religions assembled and discussed their views in a tolerant spirit.

The Emperor declared his policy of Suleh-e-Kul, which means universal tolerance of all religions and communities. He abolished Jeziya in 1564 and the pilgrim tax in 1563 on Hindus, celebrated many Hindu festivals, and permitted his Hindu wife to continue practising her own religion even after their marriage. This is evident from the Jodha Bai Palace in Fatehpur Sikri which is built on Hindu architectural pattern.

In 1578, the Parsi theologian Dastur Mahyarji Rana was invited to the Emperor's court and he had detailed discussions with Emperor Akbar and acquainted him about the Parsi religion. Similarly, the Jesuit Priests Father Antonio Monserrate, Father Rodolfo Acquaviva and Father Francisco Enriques etc. also came to the Emperor's court on his request and acquainted him about the Christian religion. The Emperor also became acquainted with Sikhism and came into contact with Guru Amar Das and Guru Ram Das (see ‘The Mughal Empire by R.C. Majumdar).

Thus, as stated in the Cambridge History of India ( Vol.IV-The Mughal Period), Emperor Akbar conceived the idea of becoming the father of all his subjects, rather than the leader of only the Muslims, and he was far ahead of his times. As mentioned by Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru in ‘The Discovery of India' Emperor Akbar's success is astonishing, for he created a sense of oneness among the diverse elements of India.

In 1582, the Emperor invited and received a Jain delegation consisting of Hiravijaya Suri, Bhanuchandra Upadhyaya and Vijayasena Suri. Jainism, with its doctrine of non-violence, made a profound impression on him and influenced his personal life. He curtailed his food and drink and ultimately abstained from flesh diet altogether for several months in the year. He renounced hunting which was his favourite pastime, restricted the practice of fishing and released prisoners and caged birds. Slaughter of animals was prohibited on certain days and ultimately in 1587 for about half the days in the year.

As mentioned in Dr. Ishwari Prasad's ‘The Mughal Empire', the Jains had a great influence on the Emperor.

Having heard of the virtues and learning of Hir Vijaya Suri in 1582 the Emperor sent an invitation to him through the Mughal Viceroy at Ahmedabad, which he accepted. He was offered money by the Viceroy to defray the expenses of the journey to the then Moghul capital Fatehpur Sikri, but he refused. The delegation consisting of Hir Vijaya Suri, Bhanu Chandra Upadhyaya and Vijaya Sen Suri started on their journey and walked on foot to Fatehpur Sikri and were received with great honour befitting imperial guests.

When introduced to the Emperor he defended true religion and told him that the foundation of faith should be 'daya' (compassion) and that God is one though he is differently named by different faiths.

The Emperor received instruction in dharma from Suri, who explained the Jain doctrines to him. The Emperor was persuaded to abolish the Sujija Tax (Jeziya) and a Sulka ( a tax on pilgrims) and to free caged birds and prisoners. He stayed for four years at Akbar's court, and left for Gujarat in 1586. He obtained various concessions to his religion. The Emperor is said to have taken a vow to refrain from hunting and expressed a desire to leave off meat eating for ever as it had become repulsive to him. On Suri's departure, the Emperor presented to him Padma Sundar scriptures which were preserved in his palace. He offered them to Suri as a gift and was pressed by the Emperor to accept them. The killing of animals was forbidden for certain days.

Emperor Akbar was a propagator of Suleh-i-Kul (universal toleration) at a time when Europeans were indulging in religious massacres e.g. the St. Bartholomew Day massacre in 1572 of Protestants, (called Huguenots) in France by the Catholics, the burning at the stake of Protestants by Queen Mary of England, the massacre by the Duke of Alva of thousands of people of Holland for their resistance to Rome, and the burning at the stake of Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. We may also mention the subsequent massacre of the Catholics in Ireland by Cromwell, and the mutual massacre of Catholics and Protestants in Germany during the thirty-year war from 1618 to 1648 in which the population of Germany was reduced from 18 million to 12 million.

Thus, Emperor Akbar was far ahead of even the Europeans of his times. It was because of the wise policy of toleration of the Great Emperor Akbar that the Mughal empire lasted for so long, and hence the same wise policy of toleration alone can keep our country together, despite our diversity.

When I visited California a few years back, a gentleman,. Tasawar Jalali, a Kashmiri who is an M.Tech from Harvard, and has been living in USA for about 25 years, met me. I explained to him about the tremendous religious polarisation taking place in India, and the need to promote inter faith harmony if we wish to keep our country united. He agreed, and we formed an organisation called 'Ibaadatkhana'.

Tasawar organised a meeting of some NRIs settled in the Bay Area to discuss formation of this body. One gentleman objected to the name Ibaadatkhana, saying it had a Muslim flavour. I explained that it was the name of a building ( which still exists in Fatehpur Sikri, the new capital of the Mughal Empire which Akbar built ), in which scholars of all religions, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, etc met frequently to discuss the good points in their religion amicably. This was a unique building in the world, which brought all religions together, instead of fighting one another.

Hence the name had a historical significance and background. Thereupon everybody agreed, and we held an inaugural of the organisation in Fremont, California.

Thereafter also we have held several global webinars, which can be seen on youtube.

As explained in my article 'What is India', India is a country of tremendous diversity, as it is broadly a country of immigrants, like North America

Hence to keep it together and on the path of progress we must give equal respect to all religions, as envisaged by the great Emperor Akbar. In fact it was because of this wise inclusive policy that the Mughal Empire lasted so long, and India became the most prosperous country of the world, with 25% of the world's GDP and foreign trade.
Emperor Akbar is truly the Father of the Indian Nation.

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

Post a Comment


Post a Comment (0)