ADMIRABLY RESEARCHED AND WRITTEN IN AMAGNIFICENTLY EVOCATIVE, COMPELLING PROSE, IT NARRATES THE TRUE STORY OF AKBARalt39S LIFE AND TIMES, HIS SWIFT AND SPECTACULAR RISE TO ABSOLUTE POWER AND HIS REMARKABLY MODERN VISION OF APROSPEROUS,
DIVERSE AND TOLERANT HINDUSTAN, AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF HIS EVENTFUL PERSONAL LIFE.
T M V KAMATH
he Emperors Writings is a novel, not an autobiography. The title is slightly misleading.
As Dirk Collier, the author, himself notes, it is a well documented fact that Akbar was ” an illiterate savant”. Other than a signing his own name, he is not known to have written anything and his only surviving son.
Jehangir, in his memoirs confirms that his ” illutrous father” was indeed illiterate. Akbar was a great lover of literature and he had books of all kinds read out to him, but writing, he did not. What Dirk Collier has done is to attempt to paint an historically accurate picture of Akbars life and reign from 1543 to 1605, bringing into the work several of the Emperors contemporaries through a thorough study of dozens of historical records and available documents.
As Collier clearly states: ” Akbars skills and suicide, all the characters and events in the novel, are authentic, whereas the dialogues, letter and personal memoirs are not.” This has been made clear to prevent any confusion.
Again, Akbar presumably died of natural causes.
There is no historic evidence that he committed suicide.
Again the author hypothises that Akbar killed himself, not by accident, but deliberately”, ” in order to prevent civil war and ensure an orderly succession”. The fact was that his surviving son, Salim, later to be known as Jehangir, was at loggerheads with his father and Akbar was afraid that there may be several applicants to his throne leading to a fight between his son and other claimants and ending in the break- up of the empire, which he had built with so much effort.
As Collier himself writes: ” Did Akbar deserve his famous epithet of alt39 The Greatalt39? In reality, if he had many admirers, there have also been quite a few harsh critics and over the years many people have argued that his reign and persona have been grosely overidealised in popular tradition…” In todays terms he was an unshamed, ruthless imperialist, who did not hesitate to act with merciless brutality, when it suited him.” Historian Vincent A Smith is quoted as saying: ” Akbars ruling passion was ambition… His aggression made without the slightest regard to moral consideration, were not determined by a desire to better the conditions of the people in the kingdom attacked.” This, of course, comes through his book, especially considering the manner in which Hemu, the Hindu ruler who challenged him, was treated when caught; Hemu was beheaded and treated with utter disrespect, a disgrace for any decent ruler. As Bairam Khan told Akbar: ” If we donalt39t stop Hemu, it will be only a matter of time before he will drive Islam out of these lands! He is an astute general and it is obvious that before long he will have armed and mobilised the Hindu masses. They have been used to foreign Muslim rulers for centuries, but this is their chance to rise again.” But, according to Collier, Akbar – known as Hazrat Shahanshah Abul Muzaffar Jalal- uddin Muhammad Akbar – was ” fundamentally an eclectic, a rationalist, as well as a mystic who came to regard all religions as merely human attempts to honour and serve ineffable, unattainable reality.” That would explain the Din- e- Illahi cult that he advocated though, Collier reminds us that Akbar never formally renounced Islam and never converted to any other religion ” publicly or privately”. Having made these observations one can now say of this book that it is brilliantly envisaged, superbly textualised and every recorded ” conversation” sounds so authentic that one sometimes
wonders whether the author has only reproduced what was originally recorded. Akbar was the most powerful and wealthiest monarch of