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Mughal Empire and the Indian Identity
In a certain regard, the Mughal Empire was inherently foreign when it assumed the seat of power that would see India through several hundred years. Descendent from the same Mongolian seat of power which produced Genghis Kan and the Tartars, heavily influenced in its culture by the Persians and initiated by a royal descendent ruling in Afghanistan, the Mughal Empire is something of a hybrid. It is thus that its claims to 'Indian' heritage are called into question. However, a consideration of Indian culture today and in a retrospective regard suggests that our current understanding of the Indian identity is necessarily shaped at least in part by the Mughal influence. Therefore, as to the discussion of the Mughal Empire's claim to Indian identity, it is appropriate to suggest that it would be a prime determinant of the Indian identity as we know it today. In terms of the politics, economy and religious order of the Mughal Empire even from its earliest inception in the 16th century, many of the character traits of modern India would emerge.
This is evidenced by a consideration of such preeminent rulers as the first of the Mughal dynasties, Akbar the Great. The rule of Akbar over the Mughal Empire lasted from 1556 to 1605 and was the beginning of the Indian region's greatest success. Though his principles of geographical reign were similar to those of his predecessors', both from his family lineage and through the sultanate, directed as they were toward the expansion of the empire's borders and the augmentation of its wealth, his leadership signaled a great time of internal evolution too. Just as the size of the empire swelled, so too did the quality of its stewardship by Akbar, who is well-documented as a man in a constant state of active thought. Resourceful and receptive to the counsel of others, he was remarkable for his flexibility as an emperor, marking a stark contrast from others in such a seat of power by utilizing it for purposes of collective progress. This motive was perhaps the indication of a reciprocal relationship between Akbar and the process of human evolution. Certainly, a careful examination of Akbar's role in the history of India reveals much about social structures in his time and how they are impacted by sensible central leadership. India was in a state of transition and while it may have been a cultural force from outside of India's borders that helped to lead it there, the progress here assumed would become a distinctively Indian narrative.
The story of Akbar's rise to power helps to place the moment of transition into context. Akbar was directly preceded by his far less illustrious father, who spent much of his life in exile from the throne. It was during this period that "at the grimmest moment, in 1542, Humayun's fifteen-year-old wife gave birth to an heir Akbar, who was destined to create the greatest Indian empire since the Guptas." (Abrams, 17) It was his father though who sensed a weakness in the sultans and moved his forces into the city of Kabul, Afghanistan. From here, in 1545, he laid claim to the Indian territories that had formerly been in his family's regal possession. He was unable, in his lifetime though, to see the empire to any sustainable expansion. Dying in 1556, his throne fell to the hands of the 13-year-old Akbar. Though he would spend his first five years being represented by a regent in the affairs of expansion, he claimed independence from his ministry's control on his eighteenth birthday and began his lifelong development into a man of great reason and influence. Accordingly, Lane Poole (1970) tells that "the long reign of Akbar. . . has been represented as the golden age of the Moghul empire. It was in reality but the beginning of the period of splendour which ended with the disastrous wars of Aurangzib. Akbar was the true founder and organizer of the empire, but it is too often forgotten that it took him twenty years of hard fighting . . . There was no sudden and miraculous submission to the boy of thirteen who found himself called to an as yet unconquered throne by the accident that ended…[continue]
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