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Part 3 - Baber and Aber 

Baber was a descendant of Tamerlane. He himself was a Turk, but his mother was a Mongol; hence the familiar title of the dynasty known as the Moguls. Succeeding to the throne of Ferghana at the age of twelve the great conqueror's youth was full of romantic vicissitudes, of sharp reverses and brilliant achievements. He was only four and twenty when he succeeded in making himself master of Cabul. He was forty-four, when with a force of twelve thousand men he shattered the huge armies of Ibrahim at Panipat and made himself master of Delhi. His conquests were conducted on what might almost be called principles of knight errantry. His greatest victories were won against overwhelming odds, at the head of followers who were resolved to conquer or die. And in three years he had conquered all Hindustan. His figure stands out with an extraordinary fascination, as an Oriental counterpart of the Western ideal of chivalry; and his autobiography is an absolutely unique record presenting the almost sole specimen of real history in Asia. 

But Baber died before he could organise his empire and his son Humayun was unable to hold what had been won. An exceedingly able Mahometan Chief, Shir Khan, raised the standard of revolt, made himself master of Behar and Bengal, drove Humayun out of Hindustan, and established himself under the title of Shir Shah. His reign was one of conspicuous ability. It was not till he had been dead for many years that Humayun was able to recover his father's dominion. Indeed, he himself fell before victory was achieved. The restoration was effected in the name of his young son Akber, a boy of thirteen, by the able general and minister, Bairam Khan, at the victory of Panipat in 1556. The long reign of Akber initiates a new era. 

Two hundred years before this time the Deckan had broken free from the Delhi dominion. But no unity and no supremacy was permanently established in the southern half of India where, on the whole, Mahometan dynasties now held the ascendancy. Rajputana on the other hand, which the Delhi monarchs had never succeeded in bringing into complete subjection, remained purely Hindu under the dominion of a variety of rajahs. 

The victory of Panipat was decisive. Naturally enough, Bairam assumed complete control of the State. His rule was able, but harsh and arrogant. After three years the boy king of a sudden coup d'état assumed the reins of Government. Perhaps it was fortunate for both that the fallen minister was assassinated by a personal enemy. 

Of all the dynasties that had ruled in India that of Baber was the most insecure in its foundations. It was without any means of support throughout the great dominion which stretched from Cabul to Bengal. The boy of eighteen had a tremendous task before him. Perhaps it was this very weakness which suggested to Akber the idea of giving his power a new foundation by setting himself at the head of an Indian nation, and forming the inhabitants of his vast dominion, without distinction of race or religion, into a single community. Swift and sudden in action, the young monarch broke down one after another the attempts of subordinates to free themselves from his authority. By the time that he was twenty-five he had already crushed his adversaries by his vigour or attached them by his clemency. The next steps were the reduction of Rajputana, Ghuzerat and Bengal; and when this was accomplished Akber's sway extended over the whole of India north of the Deckan, to which was added Kashmir and what we now call Afghanistan. Akber had been on the throne for fifty years before he was able to intervene actively in the Deckan and to bring a great part of it under his sway.

But the great glory of Akber lies not in the conquests which made the Mogul Empire the greatest hitherto known in India, but in that empire's organisation and administration. Akber Mahometanism was of the most latitudinarian type. His toleration was complete. He had practically no regard for dogma, while deeply imbued with the spirit of religion. In accordance with his liberal principles Hinduism was no bar to the highest offices. In theory his philosophy was not new, though it was so in practical application. 

None of his reforms are more notable than the revenue system carried out by his Hindu minister, Todar Mal, itself a development of a system initiated by Shir Shah. His empire was divided into fifteen provinces, each under a viceroy under the control of the king himself. Great as a warrior and great as an administrator Akber always enjoyed abundant leisure for study and amusement. He excelled in all exercises of strength and skill; his history is filled with instances of romantic courage, and he had a positive enjoyment of danger. Yet he had no fondness for war, which he neither sought nor continued without good reason.

 

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