The Moghul Emperors

Part I — Timur

Timur and the mendicant

The great conqueror Timur was an ancestor of the Moghul Emperors. Timur means 'Lord of Iron'. He is also known as Tamerlane, or Timur-the-Lame. In 1398 he came from his capital of Samarkand with his forces and invaded Northern India. He overthrew the Sultan of Delhi and occupied the royal city.

One day, during his campaigns in India, Timur saw a religious mendicant praying and meditating most soulfully at the foot of a tree. Timur was not a spiritual person, but he deeply appreciated spiritual people. He was so deeply moved by the religious mendicant that he told him he could have anything he wanted from him.

The mendicant said, "I do not need anything from you."

Timur asked, "But why not?"

The mendicant replied, "Because God has supplied me with all my material needs. I am sheltered by this beautiful tree and I can draw water from the river. During the day I have the sun, at night I have the moon, and all the time I have such a vast sky over my head. What else do I need?"

Timur said, "You do not have any money!"

The mendicant said, "I do not need any money."

"Then please come and visit my palace," said Timur.

"There is no need for me to visit your palace," said the mendicant. "It is true that each place has its own outer beauty, but I care only for the inner beauty."

Finally, Timur said, "I am the Emperor. You have to accept something from me."

The mendicant said, "Then give me something that will increase my aspiration and my love for God."

Timur was puzzled. He said, "I do not have any aspiration. How then can I give you something that will increase your aspiration?"

"Aspiration is the only thing I need," said the mendicant. "Anything else that I take from you I will not be able to appreciate or utilise."

Timur said, "No, you have to ask me for something else. Since I do not have anything to increase your aspiration, give me another chance to offer you something."

At last the mendicant agreed. He said, "All right. When I meditate here, sometimes flies come and bother me. Can you stop them from bothering me?"

The Emperor tried for a few moments to stop the flies from bothering the mendicant, but they came back again and again. At last the Emperor exclaimed, "This is an impossible task! How can I do it?"

The mendicant told him, "Oh, you are a real Emperor, indeed! You cannot even save me from these flies. Yet just now you were bragging about your wealth and capacity."

Timur was deeply humiliated. He stopped disturbing the poor spiritual mendicant and went away.

Timur did not remain in India. Having subdued it, he returned to Samarkand with much wealth and many skilled craftsmen. The great Moghul Emperors all descended from the House of Timur. They were at once brave and cultured. Each Moghul Emperor regarded Samarkand as his ancestral home.

Part II — Babar: (ruled 1526-1530)

The battle of Panipat

The name of the first Moghul Emperor was Babar, 'the Tiger'. He was not as great as Akbar, who was the greatest of all the Moghul Emperors, but he still was a very great Emperor. Since he was the first to conquer India and remain as Emperor, he had to fight and fight and fight to establish his kingdom.

Babar seized Samarkand from his cousin in 1497, but was soon ousted. The young warrior took it again a few years later, but once again he was forced to abandon it. He then advanced to Kabul, which he conquered in 1504 at the age of twenty-one. He adopted the Persian title of 'Padishah', meaning 'Emperor'. He soon set his sights on the conquest of India. India had been divided between two brothers: Ibrahim Lodi and Jaunpur. Jaunpur's supporters requested Babar to help them defeat Ibrahim Lodi.

Babar was only too eager to help. He crossed into India several times to help his ally. Finally, he entered India on his own behalf to subjugate Ibrahim Lodi once and for all and seize Agra and Delhi for himself.

At this time, Babar's son Humayun was sixteen years old. Humayun means 'Fortunate'. Sad to say, a series of unfortunate events later took place in Babar's and Humayun's lives.

As they were about to embark on their campaign, Humayun said, "Father, you know our army is nothing in comparison to Ibrahim Lodi's army. He has over 100,000 soldiers and 1,500 elephants, whereas we have only 12,000 soldiers. How can you dare to fight with him?"

But Babar replied, "No, my son, we shall conquer them. Let them have the number. We have the quality and the capacity."

Humayun said, "Father, I shall always abide by your will. Let us go."

Both father and son were great heroes, and with their small army they went to conquer Ibrahim Lodi's army. There ensued a bloody battle known as the Battle of Panipat. Although Babar's forces were outnumbered by those of Ibrahim Lodi, Babar had both guns and cannons in his weaponry. Cannons were previously unknown in India, and they brought destruction to Ibrahim Lodi's soldiers and also caused his elephants to stampede. Finally, Babar's army began to overpower the vast forces of Ibrahim Lodi.

One of the commanders in Ibrahim Lodi's army said to him, "O King, do stay at the rear of the army. Do not remain in the thick of the battle. As a matter of fact, let us keep fighting to the bitter end while you make your escape from these Mongols. You can easily raise another army in the future. We want you to be safe."

The King said, "How can I do that? If my army, my friends and my relatives are ready to give their lives for me, will I run away in order to save my own life? If they are willing to give their lives, can I not also be willing to give my life?"

The King fought very bravely, but eventually he was killed by Babar's men. The commander who killed him was full of happiness that the enemy King was dead and he hurried to tell Babar the news. Babar immediately asked the commander to take him to the dead body.

When Babar got to the scene, he raised Ibrahim Lodi's head from the ground and said, "I admire you. You fought very, very bravely. Now I will take full responsibility to see that you are honoured as a King should be when he dies. I will give you a grand funeral worthy of a King and I will have a King's tomb erected. I will do everything for you. You are a real hero!"

Babar's oneness with his army

This incident took place when Babar was on his way to India. At one point, just before reaching Kabul, he and his troops encountered a severe storm. It was raining heavily and then it began to snow. There was no place for the army to take shelter. Then, to their wide surprise, they discovered a tiny cave, so they begged Babar to enter into the cave while all of them remained outside. They were ready to be drenched to the skin.

But Babar said, "How can I do that? You are my intimate friends and companions. This protection is not enough for all of us. Since it is not adequate for all, I do not need it. I cannot sleep in comfort while you remain in misery. Whatever hardship has to be faced, I will face it with you. I am more than happy to pass the night outside with you."

So Babar did not enter into the tiny cave. The storm lasted for a long time and then they were able to proceed to their destination. This was Babar's loving oneness with his friends and admirers.

Babar himself wrote about this incident in his famous memoirs, which are called Babar-nama. Babar was a good poet, a great hunter and a man of wisdom. He was extremely kind, extremely generous and extremely powerful. It is said that he swam every river on his way to India and crossed the Ganges in just thirty-three strokes.

The Kohinoor diamond

After defeating Ibrahim Lodi, Babar seized Delhi and sent Humayun with an advance army to march on Agra. In the mosque at Delhi, Babar proclaimed himself 'Padishah' of Hindustan. The people were very pleased with their new conqueror, for the former ruler had not been at all nice.

At Agra, Humayun was greeted by the wives of the Raja of Gwalior, who had been killed in the Battle of Panipat. They brought their jewels to propitiate Humayun. Among them was India's most precious diamond, the rose-tinted Kohinoor. The value of the Kohinoor was such that it could provide two and a half days' food for the whole world. (The British Government later took this diamond away from India and it now forms part of the British crown jewels.)

When Babar arrived in Agra, Humayun showed the diamond to his father and said, "Father, this is for you."

But Babar replied, "No, my son, you deserve it. You have been given it and you should keep it. I am very proud of you. You have fought so bravely. You are a great warrior. That is why you have been given this diamond. Now you keep it. I will be so happy if you do."

Babar's heart of forgiveness

Once, while Babar was away from his capital, his step-grandmother instigated one of his cousins to stand against him. This particular cousin made friends with the chief of the army and a few important figures in the kingdom. When Babar tried to return to the capital, the whole army fought against him. They would not allow Babar to come back. But Babar had quite a few followers outside his kingdom and they helped him to fight against his own people. Babar was so great and powerful that he eventually won the battle.

After he had won, Babar went and knelt down before his step-grandmother. He said to her, with folded hands, "I do not hold anything against you. If a mother likes one son more than another son, what can the less favoured son do? He should not feel miserable. True, a mother should love all her children equally, but if she does not, the ones who are not in favour should not feel sorry. They should still have the same love for their mother as the ones who stand high in her favour. So I do not hold anything against you. You have done the right thing, according to your light. Now let me have peace of mind." Then he placed his head on her lap and fell asleep.

A few hours later, Babar woke up, only to see the main culprit, his cousin, standing in front of him. He had been arrested and brought to Babar by the Emperor's loyal followers. Babar stood up and embraced his cousin. Then he said to him, "You are at perfect liberty either to stay with me or to leave my kingdom. If you want to leave my kingdom and live elsewhere, I will meet with all your expenses. If you want to continue staying here, you are free to do so. I feel no ill will towards you at all."

His cousin said to him, "Babar, I want to stay with you. If I leave you, people will try to kill me — not your favourites, but those who helped me fight against you. They will try to kill me in order to make you feel that they have become very devoted to you. So I want to stay with you. I know that you will never kill me. Not only that, I know that your forgiveness and compassion will be my eternal friends, and that you will eventually give me a high post."

Babar gave his cousin a broad smile of forgiveness and assurance.

Babar takes a life

There was nothing that the great Emperor Babar would hesitate to do for his subjects. He used to regard his subjects as his own children. From time to time, Babar used to go out of the palace grounds and walk along the streets and through the markets to mix with his subjects and see for himself the conditions in which they were living. Often, if he saw someone who was poverty-stricken, he would help that person with a little money or food. People did not recognise their Emperor during these wanderings because he would dress very simply. Also, he wore a kind of turban over his crown to disguise it.

Now it happened that there was a young man who cherished tremendous jealousy towards Babar because everybody appreciated, admired and adored the Emperor. Babar's subjects always extolled him to the skies for his bravery, kindness, nobility and other divine qualities. For this reason, the young man had been harbouring a desire to kill Babar. He had heard that from time to time the Emperor walked in the city all alone. So this young man always carried a sword, hoping that someday he would meet the Emperor when he did not have his bodyguards with him and then have the opportunity to kill the Emperor.

Usually, when Babar went out, his guards would secretly follow him to protect him. Although Babar did not want anyone to go with him, his guards were afraid for his safety. Babar was the ruler of the whole empire, but in this respect his own bodyguards would not listen to him.

One particular afternoon, Babar managed to walk out of the palace gates alone, without his guards. As usual, he went incognito. As he was walking along observing the daily activities of his subjects, he saw a mad elephant coming down the street. The elephant was trampling everything in sight. Pandemonium broke out. People were shouting and trying to escape from the elephant's path and everybody was panicking. But there was one little, helpless child who could not run fast enough to get out of the elephant's way. Everybody was frightened to death, but nobody dared to try to save the child. Just as the elephant was about to trample the little child, the Emperor ran over at top speed and snatched the child out of the way. Babar saved the child, but as he was running away with the child in his arms, his turban fell to the ground.

When the mad elephant had passed by, some men ran to pick up the turban of the brave hero. Immediately they saw the Emperor's crown inside the turban. The young man who had wanted to kill Babar was one of those who witnessed the whole scene. Although he himself had known that the child's life was in grave danger, he had not been brave enough to try to save him. He had run away, just like everybody else. When he realised what had happened, he fell at Babar's feet and said, "O Emperor, forgive me."

Babar asked him, "What have you done?"

The man replied, "I have been cherishing the desire to kill you for many years because I was terribly jealous of the admiration you receive. Now I see that you truly deserve it. As Emperor, you are far more precious to the kingdom than any of us, but you were ready to give up your own life to save an ordinary human being. What I have learned from you is that it is infinitely better to give life than to take life. This is what you have taught me. Now, instead of taking your life, I am giving you mine. Please take my life."

Then he offered Babar the selfsame sword with which he had planned to kill him.

Babar took the sword and said, "I taught you how to give life. Now I am going to take your life, but not in the way that you think. Come with me. From now on, you will be one of my bodyguards. I can see that your sincerity is truly remarkable and I am sure that you will be a faithful guard."

So Babar took the man's life, only to make it into a useful and fruitful one. Instead of killing him, instead of punishing him, Babar made the man one of his personal bodyguards.

Babar's concern for the merchant

Once a merchant was passing through the mountains with his caravan to bring goods to another town. On the way, there was a terrible storm and lightning struck the caravan. The merchant and many other people were killed, and there was nobody to take responsibility for his wares.

When Babar heard of the tragedy, he asked his soldiers to collect all the goods and keep them in a safe place. Then he sent a message to the merchant's relatives to come to him immediately. When they arrived, Babar gave everything to them. The members of the merchant's family were overwhelmed by Babar's concern and kindness. They wanted to give the Emperor an expensive gift, but he would not accept it. They begged him at least to take some reimbursement for his trouble, but again Babar refused.

He said, "No, I cannot do that. You have lost your dearest one. Now I cannot take advantage of his death. His wealth and property belong to you; it is you who deserve it."

So Babar gave everything to the merchant's relatives without accepting any reward. The merchant's family was deeply moved.

Babar sacrifices his life

When Humayun was still a young man, he fell seriously ill. Day by day his condition grew worse, until death seemed imminent. The most eminent doctors were called in, but no one was able to cure him. They all said his days were numbered. Many people prayed to Allah for Humayun's recovery, but to no avail.

Then a saint came to Babar and said, "If you make a great sacrifice, if you sacrifice something most precious to you, only then will your son be cured."

The Emperor Babar asked, "What kind of thing should I sacrifice?"

The saint replied, "Give away the Kohinoor diamond. It is most precious."

But Babar said, "The Kohinoor is my son's possession. What kind of sacrifice would that be? I have to sacrifice something of my own. I have so much wealth and such a vast kingdom. But the most precious Kohinoor diamond is not mine. Therefore, I cannot sacrifice it. And even if I did own the Kohinoor, it would not be a real sacrifice to give it away. Even if I were to give away all my wealth and power — my entire kingdom — I do not think this is the most precious sacrifice that I could make. My life alone is most precious. There is nothing dearer to me than my own life. Humayun is my eldest and dearest son. I am ready to give my life for my son."

After saying this, the Emperor folded his hands and circled his dying son's bed three times, praying to Allah. He said, "Allah, everybody is telling me to offer You the most precious thing so that You will kindly save my son's life. I feel that my life is the most precious thing I have to offer. Please take my life instead of my son's. Let me die in his place, and let him live on earth. This is my only prayer and my most willing sacrifice."

To Babar's wide surprise, after he had completed three rounds, his son stood up completely well. But immediately Babar fell deathly ill.

Humayun wept with gratitude and love for his father. He said to Allah, "My father is going to die, but I shall eternally treasure my father's fondness for me and my father's implicit faith in Your Compassion."

Allah listened to Babar's prayer and in three months' time Babar died. This is the kind of love that an earthly father can have for his beloved son.

Part III — Humayun: 1st Rule: 1530-1540, 2nd Rule: 1555-1556

Brother, come and save me!

The Emperor Humayun was in his palace one day when he heard a commotion. He asked his guards, "What is happening?"

One of them replied, "A messenger has come from Chittor. Queen Karmavati of Chittor has sent a message for you."

"How strange!" exclaimed the Emperor. "Let him in. I am curious to know what a Hindu Queen has to say to a Muslim Emperor."

When the Emperor opened the letter, he found a special thread. It is traditional for sisters to offer this kind of affectionate and sacred thread to their brothers once a year on the Indian festival day of Rakhi. When offering the rakhi bandhan, the sister asks her brother to protect her honour and save her if anything should happen during the coming year.

The message read: "To Emperor Humayun, this sacred thread is given by your sister to her adopted brother. Your sister needs your help to save Chittor from Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat."

Humayun said, "Karmavati! Karmavati is a Rajput Queen, a Hindu Rani, and I am a Muslim. She calls me her brother? If I am her brother, this means that all Hindus and Muslims are of one family, that Hindus and Muslims will not remain enemies forever but will one day live together as a single family. This is the happiest day of my life."

Humayun immediately rushed to Chittor with his army. Before he reached the fortress, he heard the horrible news that Karmavati had taken her own life. When her husband had been killed in battle, she had written to Humayun and had been waiting for his arrival ever since. But when she was about to be captured by the Muslim Sultan Bahadur Shah, she threw herself into the fire rather than surrender to him.

Humayun was shocked and horrified. He felt miserable that he had not come in time to save her. He cried out, "I shall take revenge. Rani Karmavati called me her brother. A Hindu Queen called a Moghul Emperor 'brother'. This brother shall not rest until he avenges his sister's death. This is my promise."

As soon as Bahadur Shah heard about Humayun's arrival in Chittor, he fled and went into hiding. But Humayun made a pledge, both to himself and before the Hindu Queen's subjects: "O Bahadur Shah, no matter where you go in Allah's entire creation, I shall find you and kill you. In this way I shall keep my promise to Karmavati. Now, my Hindu sister, you are in the other world, but I shall carry out my promise. I shall be worthy of your trust in me."

The water carrier's bravery

Once the Emperor Humayun was fighting a terrible battle against his enemy, the cunning Afghan chieftain Sher Shah. The battle took place at Chausa, near Benares. Sher Shah's army was extremely powerful and it outnumbered Humayun's army. What was worse, Humayun's treacherous brothers, Kamran and Hindal, had joined forces with the enemy in their greed to dethrone Humayun and capture the kingdom.

As Humayun's shattered army was falling back, the Emperor's horse slipped and fell into the river. The horse drowned and Humayun was badly hurt. He was being tossed around helplessly in the surging waters.

A bhisti or water carrier named Nizam, who was a humble man of low caste, saw the Emperor's dire plight and cried out, "I fear for the Emperor's life! His subjects admire and adore him as a just and great Emperor. If he drowns, we will lose our only hope for a better and more illumining life. I can see that he is wounded and will not be able to save himself. It is up to me to save him."

The water carrier inflated his buffalo-skin water bag and plunged bravely into the river. He swam to the Emperor, holding out the water bag, and begged the Emperor to cling to it so that he could float across the river to safety. Both men held the bag and the water carrier protected the wounded Emperor until they reached the other shore.

The Emperor was so moved by the water carrier's devotion and courage. He said, "You came and saved my life. Now I am helpless, but I promise you that when I go back to Agra and am once more seated on my throne, I shall give you my throne for one day. Believe me, this is my solemn promise. You are not a mere water carrier. You are the saviour of the Moghul Emperor Humayun."

The water carrier Nizam was overwhelmed. He fell at the Emperor's feet and cried, "Please, I did not expect any reward. Your safety is my only reward."

But Humayun insisted, "You, a water carrier of low caste, have shown such loyalty and love for your Emperor, whereas my own brothers have become traitors. I will always be kind to them and forgive them, for this is the promise that I made to my father when he was on his deathbed. But of all my subjects, you are the one who deserves my throne for one day. You deserve not only my throne, but my eternal gratitude. All my subjects should show you admiration and adoration for your heroic bravery."

The Emperor kept his promise and Nizam did sit on the throne of the Emperor of India for one day and give orders and make appointments for a short time.

Humayun forgives his Prime Minister

One day the Emperor Humayun was addressing his court. His Prime Minister was sitting right in front of him, but he was not paying any attention to the Emperor's talk. He was totally exhausted and he was sleeping soundly.

Humayun became more and more disappointed and disgusted with his Prime Minister. He said to him in a loud voice, "What are you doing? You are sleeping right in front of me! Have you no respect? What bad manners you have!"

The Prime Minister replied, "Your Majesty, I was not sleeping."

"Then what were you doing?" asked Humayun.

The Prime Minister said, "Your Majesty, wise people say that when an Emperor speaks, you have to listen with folded hands. When a great orator speaks, you have to look at his eyes. And when your loving and compassionate friend speaks, you have to feel his heart. While I was sitting in front of you, I was seeing you as all three persons: as an Emperor, a great orator and a compassionate friend. So I was closing my eyes and wondering what I should do — should I listen to you as the Emperor, as a great orator or as my most compassionate friend?"

Humayun smiled and said, "You are such a clever fellow, such a wonderful rogue and such a perfect flatterer! All right, you have won the case. Not only do I forgive you, but I will give you a nice reward for your extraordinary ability to save yourself."

The birth of Akbar

When Humayun was forced to abdicate by Sher Shah, he fled into the deserts of Rajputana with a small group of followers. On the way, he married Hamida Begum. One morning he was engaged in fighting a terrible battle against his enemy. The battle was raging and Humayun was leading the attack. Suddenly Humayun saw his faithful palace messenger trying to make his way towards him, but the soldiers were not allowing the messenger to come to the front of the army. Humayun issued an order that the messenger be allowed through.

Humayun took shelter for a moment in a secluded place to receive the messenger. The messenger bowed to the Emperor and said, "O great Emperor Humayun, I have just come from Umarkot. The Empress Hamida Begum has delivered a son."

Humayun was so delighted and excited. Across the battlefield, he called out, "Allah be praised! My son and heir has been born. We shall name him Akbar."

Then he said to the messenger, "Alas, this is my fate! My son has been born, yet I am still fighting my enemies and no victory is in sight. I have nothing of value with me to give you, O messenger, for bringing me the happiest news. All I have is a small quantity of musk in this tiny box. This is the only thing I have to offer you. But I tell you, one day my son's fame will cover the length and breadth of the world as the fragrance of the musk fills the air here. Like perfume, my son's fame will one day spread throughout the world."

It was the twenty-third day of November 1542. Humayun and his soldiers continued on and seized the town of Jun. A few weeks later, Hamida arrived with Akbar and Humayun saw his son for the first time. He said, "My father gave me the name 'Humayun', which means 'Fortunate'. He was right. I am truly fortunate, for I see in you, my child, all the world's fortune. I clearly see that you will be the greatest of all Moghul Emperors. I see it and I feel it."

Then he said to his wife, Hamida Begum, "I am once more leaving for the battlefield. I am a warrior. I fight with the outer enemy, while religious mendicants, spiritual people, fight with the inner enemies: anger, pride and so forth. I do not have time to fight against the inner enemies. Outer enemies are more than enough for me to cope with. But our son, Akbar, will also fight against the inner enemies. He will inwardly and outwardly be divinely great and supremely good."

Humayun spares Kamran's life

Humayun promised his father on his father's deathbed that he would always be kind to his brothers, Kamran, Askari and Hindal. When Humayun became the Moghul Emperor, his brothers became extremely greedy. They betrayed him many, many times and wanted to dethrone him. But Humayun forgave them time and again.

When Humayun's son, Akbar, was only a baby, Kamran set a cannon in a tricky way in order to kill the child. When Akbar's nurse, Maham Anaga, came to know of the plot, she shielded and protected the child with her own body.

Everybody wanted Humayun to have Kamran killed for this attempt on Prince Akbar's life, but Humayun said, "I have forgiven my brother many times. This time also I have to forgive him."

But his subjects said, "No, this time you have to listen to our request. We are so faithful to you. We offer you our constant admiration and adoration. It is your duty to listen to us."

Finally, the Emperor said, "All right, what do you want?"

His subjects said, "Blind your brother so that he cannot be of harm to us any more."

The peace-loving Humayun replied, "I am ready to send him into exile, but I do not have the heart to blind him."

His subjects would not accept the Emperor's proposal. They said, "No, if you send him into exile, in some tricky way he will escape and raise an army to attack us. So the best thing is to blind him."

Eventually Humayan was compelled to put aside his brotherly feelings and order Kamran to be blinded.

Humayun's death

In 1555, after a long campaign, Humayun won back Delhi and recovered his lost throne. His subjects were extremely happy and excited that the Emperor had returned victorious. The whole kingdom turned out to cheer him, lining the streets to the palace. All his subjects wanted to touch his feet and sing his praises.

When the Emperor reached the palace, he said to his army, "We have won, but it is all due to Allah's Grace. Otherwise, we would not have won. Let me go to the mosque and offer my gratitude to Allah."

In the mosque, Humayun offered his soulful prayer and heart's gratitude to Allah: "O Allah, You have always been kind to me. Even my own brothers, not to speak of kith and kin, have deceived and betrayed me many times. But I promised my father on his deathbed that I would be kind to them. Therefore, I have forgiven them every time. I myself have also done so many wrong things in this life, and You have forgiven me as I have forgiven my own brothers and relatives. You have always taught me that forgiveness is the answer and not revenge. To satisfy oneself, forgiveness is the only answer. Allah, accept my gratitude-life and my gratitude-heart for this great victory."

Unfortunately, Humayun was not able to enjoy his victory for long. One day, as the sunset call to prayer was heard, Humayun fell down the steep steps leading from the tower he used as a library and fractured his skull.

Shocked and horrified, his attendants rushed to his side. Humayun whispered, "Allah, this is my last prayer to You. Soon I am going to be with You. My father died while praying to You. I was dying and he prayed that You would take his life instead of mine. You listened to his prayer. He died in my place and I was cured. Now I am dying while praying to You. I pray for my kingdom, for my people and for my son. I know there is only one way to gain victory and that way is through prayer. Without prayer, there is no success and no glory. No prayer, no satisfaction.

"Allah, Allah, may Your Glory be praised in all human hearts throughout Your creation. I leave my son here on earth in Your Care. Do save him and protect him. Do give him world-glory. My last prayer is not the prayer of the great Emperor Humayun, but the prayer of a soulful Muslim mendicant-seeker who needs no one but Allah for eternal peace and eternal satisfaction. Satisfaction is what I have always needed and what I shall always need, forever and forever.

"Allah, You have given me that satisfaction now — not in the victory of the battlefield, but in allowing me to utter Your compassionate Name. Your Name is all peace. Satisfaction abides in peace and peace is satisfaction, satisfaction alone. Allah, Allah, Allah!"

Part IV — Akbar the Great: (ruled 1556-1605)

The greatest Moghul Emperor

The greatest Moghul Emperor was Akbar. It was he who wanted both the Hindus and the Muslims to be united. He was generous to the extreme and just to the extreme. Among the Moghul Emperors, he was the true ideal. In the beginning of his reign, Akbar had to fight to maintain control of the Moghul Empire, but after a few years, when he became very powerful, people loved and admired him so much that he did not have to fight any more.

Boiram Khan retires

The Emperor Humayun died in 1556 when Akbar was only thirteen years old. Although Akbar was proclaimed 'Padishah' or Emperor, he was too young to hold the reins of power by himself, and so for some time a very wise man named Boiram Khan ruled the kingdom in Akbar's name. Boiram Khan had been one of Humayun's faithful companions.

When Akbar finally took charge of his empire, Boiram Khan remained as one of the commanders of Akbar's army. Unfortunately, Boiram Khan became jealous of Akbar, haughty and undivine. He began doing many wrong things.

Akbar was very grateful to Boiram Khan because he had helped him so much during his youth. But complaint after complaint kept coming against this commander because he was killing people for no reason and instigating certain groups to rebel against the Emperor. Finally, Akbar said, "The best thing is for Boiram Khan to retire and go on a pilgrimage to Mecca."

In 1561 Boiram Khan unwillingly set out for Mecca. Even on the way, he was fighting and killing people. People attacked him because he had been very unkind, so Boiram Khan and his followers fought against the attackers. At one point, one of Akbar's great admirers, a brave lieutenant, came and attacked Boiram Khan. The commander and his group counter-attacked and killed the lieutenant. Suddenly, Boiram Khan's eyes became filled with tears.

His soldiers said to him, "You were such a great general. Once upon a time, you were Akbar's tutor. Then you became his only adviser. You fortified and protected his empire. We have never seen you in tears before. Why are you crying today?"

Boiram Khan replied, "My friends, what have I done with my strength? I curse my life more than anybody else on earth. Because of my strength and power, I have caused the death of hundreds of beautiful and powerful human beings and lost the affection of the Emperor. If I did not have such strength, such capacity, then I would not have been able to kill so many people and the Emperor would not have had to send me away. Those whom I have killed had so many good qualities. They were very brave and faithful to Akbar; that is why they fought. Only because I happened to be stronger was I able to kill them. This strength of mine — is it a blessing or a curse?"

Sad to say, Boiram Khan was assassinated before he reached Mecca.

The old lady and the dagger

Like his grandfather Babar, Akbar liked to wander incognito in the streets. He did this in order to be alone. At his court, people were always around him and he never had his freedom. But when he wandered outside among his subjects, he was all alone.

One day, while he was walking, he saw an old lady holding a dagger. He approached her and asked, "What are you doing with a dagger? Let me see what it looks like and how sharp it is."

The old lady handed Akbar the dagger and he held it for a few seconds. "What a shame!" the old lady said. "Had you been the Emperor, then this metal dagger would have been transformed into a golden dagger. Now it is ordinary metal, but I had a dream that if ever the Emperor himself touches it, then definitely it will be transformed into gold. I have been waiting and waiting for the Emperor to appear. I know that from time to time he likes to walk outside the palace. I am praying to Allah that he will come this way. For years I have been here, waiting in the street for Akbar. I am so sad that still I have not been blessed with his presence."

The following day, Akbar summoned the old lady to the court. Now he was wearing his robes and his crown. He said, "Here is Akbar. He does not have the capacity to transform a metal dagger into a golden one, but he does have the capacity to change your life for good. How much money do you want?"

The old lady was overwhelmed. She could not believe her eyes; she could not believe her ears. She mustered her courage and told the Emperor that she wanted a particular amount of money. But Akbar gave her much, much more, saying, "I do not have the capacity to turn metal into gold, but I do have another capacity."

So the old lady became extremely rich because of Akbar the Great.

Akbar's justice-light

It happened that the traders in Akbar's empire continually quarrelled and fought among themselves. These traders were of Arab, Indian and Portuguese origin and each one tried to exploit the other.

One day a Portuguese merchant became angry with a Muslim trader, so he tied a copy of the Koran around the neck of a dog and set the dog free. The dog started roaming along the streets, going here and there at random with the holy book hanging around its neck.

Akbar's mother, Hamida Begum, saw the dog and became furious. She said, "Our Koran is such a sacred book! How can someone put it around the neck of a dog! It is an insult to Allah."

Hamida Begum asked her son, the Emperor, to send someone to catch the dog and punish it. She also wanted Akbar to find out who the owner was so that he could be punished mercilessly.

Poor Akbar! On the one hand, he was very devoted to his mother. On the other hand, what kind of punishment could there be for this kind of crime? Suddenly a brilliant idea entered into his mind. He asked one of his servants to bring him a monkey. When the servant brought it to him, Akbar tied a Bible around the neck of the monkey and asked the servant to let the monkey loose in the street. The monkey started running and jumping along the street, going from one place to another with the Bible hanging around its neck.

When Akbar's mother heard about this, she was not satisfied. She said to her son, "What are you doing? You are making this a fight between a dog and a monkey. Is this what I wanted? I wanted the dog and its owner to be punished."

Akbar replied, "Mother, how can I do that kind of thing? Someone has created this mischief to make fun of our religion, but I do not know who the culprit is. The sacred book is innocent, the dog is innocent and nobody will confess to being the owner of the dog. So if somebody speaks ill of Muslims and puts a Koran around a dog's neck, then the best thing that we can do is to put a Bible around a monkey's neck. We can only play the same kind of trick on that person. If he makes fun of us, we can make fun of him. But more than that we cannot do. We cannot punish people for this kind of joke."

The Emperor's hidden gift

The Emperor Akbar was very kind. He used to fulfil the desires of his subjects unconditionally. One day, while the Emperor was walking along the street, he saw a mendicant singing a song. The song went thus: "Even if Allah does not give us anything, no harm; for our Emperor will give us everything."

The mendicant did not know that it was the Emperor who was walking by, since Akbar was wearing ordinary clothes. The Emperor said to him, "You come to my palace tomorrow."

"Palace?" asked the mendicant.

"Yes," replied Akbar. "I am the Emperor. You come to my palace."

The mendicant was moved and, at the same time, a little frightened, but he came to the palace the following day. The Emperor said, "Yesterday you were singing a song. I am pleased with you. I am giving you this watermelon as a gift."

Outwardly the man thanked him, but inwardly he said to himself, "I thought that Akbar would make me very rich. Now he is only giving me a watermelon. All right, let me accept this gift, since he is giving it to me."

On the way back to his house, somebody asked the mendicant if he was going to sell the watermelon. The mendicant thought, "The best thing is to get rid of this watermelon. Who wants to carry such a heavy thing anyway?" So he sold it for a very nominal price. With that money he bought some sweetmeats and ate them.

A few days later the mendicant was walking along the street and whom did he see? The Emperor. The Emperor said, "So, are you happy now?"

The mendicant confessed, "No, I am not. You were so kind to me and you invited me to come to your palace. But you gave me just a watermelon, instead of giving me something valuable. I feel that I have missed my chance."

Akbar said, "You are such a fool! You should have examined the watermelon. Inside I had put a few gold coins. I had cut out a piece and put it back, adding four gold coins."

On hearing this, the man started striking his forehead. "I am sure that the man I sold the watermelon to has got these gold coins. I do not even know who the man was!"

Akbar said, "You deserve this fate. When I saw you the first time, you were flattering me to such an extent. It is impossible for me to be more kind-hearted to humanity than Allah Himself. Out of His Compassion, Allah has given me a little wealth and a little kindness. Yet you have to flatter me to such an extent, saying that I am more compassionate than God! Is it possible? Because of your unthinkable flattery, you deserve this punishment. How can a human being have more compassion than Allah Himself? Be sincere. Then only will you be given everything. If you promise me that you will be sincere, then I will give you a little money. I will give you ten gold coins, but from now on, be sincere. The world does not need flattery. It needs sincerity. If you sincerely pray to God, God will give you everything."

Akbar prays for a son

Akbar was so sad that he had not been blessed with a son and heir. He began to despair of the future of the Moghul Empire. He knew that a Sufi saint named Sheikh Salim Chishti lived in some rocks near the village of Sikri, a distance of some twenty miles from Agra. Akbar decided to go to this saint and ask him for a boon.

On the chosen day, Akbar dressed very simply and walked with bare feet all the way to Sikri. He approached the saint and said, "O saint, please grant me a boon. I have brought peace to this vast empire, but I lack one thing: I am childless. Allah has not blessed me with a son. I have made many pilgrimages to holy shrines, I have prayed most sincerely but, alas, my prayers have been denied. You are an ascetic, a saint. I am sure that if you pray to Allah on my behalf, He will definitely listen to you."

The saint replied, "O Emperor, be patient. Allah will definitely grant you your heart's desire. Not one, but three sons will soon be born to you."

Akbar returned to the palace with great joy and in a short time he came to learn that his Hindu wife, the daughter of the Rajah of Amber, was with child. Akbar sent her to stay with the saint until the child was born. In August 1569 a boy was born and Akbar gave him the name Salim after the saint. The following year, his son Murad was born and later his son Daniyal.

In gratitude to the saint who made the happy prophecy, Akbar decided to leave Agra and move his court to Fatehpur Sikri, meaning 'the City of Victory'. In 1571 he undertook the construction of a new capital which was a synthesis of Muslim and Hindu styles of architecture. Akbar personally supervised the throngs of builders, stone-carvers and other workmen. At times he even quarried the red sandstone himself. The barren land was transformed by palaces, pavilions, gardens and ornamental pools of water.

Upon the great portal of the mosque, Akbar had an immortal utterance of the Christ inscribed:

"So said Jesus upon whom be peace: The world is a bridge; pass over it, but build no house upon it."

Akbar lived at Fatehpur Sikri until 1585 when lack of water forced him to abandon it for the more strategic location of Lahore.

The immeasurable wealth of the Moghul Empire

Once the Emperor Akbar wanted to know how much wealth he had in the treasuries of all the cities in his empire. First he wanted to see how much jewellery and gold he had in the treasury of his famous capital, Agra.

He asked his treasurer to give him a report as soon as possible. The treasurer hired one thousand men who used four hundred pairs of scales, day in and day out.

After five months, Akbar called in his son and asked, "What is the report?"

His son replied, "Father, the treasurer and his men are nowhere near the end of this monumental task. There is still so much wealth left to measure!"

Akbar asked, "How much longer will it take? How much more time do they need?"

His son said, "They have no idea how many more months it will take."

Akbar remained silent for a moment. Finally, he said, "Please tell them to stop." He realised that even the wealth of just one city, Agra, was immeasurable.

The minister's temple

Once the young Prince Salim, the future Emperor Jahangir, said to his father, "Father, how is it that you have allowed one of your Hindu Ministers to erect a temple and spend so much money? The top of the temple is even studded with diamonds. Why did you allow him to spend so much money for the Hindu religion?"

Akbar said to him, "My son, I love my own religion. Is there anything that I will not do for my religion? Will money ever stand in my way? If I wanted to build a beautiful mosque, would I care about the amount of money that it cost? The Hindu Minister also loves his religion. If he wants to spend money for his religion, what right do I have to prevent him?

"I love something because it is my very own. Does he not have the right to love the thing that is his very own? I cannot ask him not to spend money on his religion, for I know that I would do the same thing for my religion."

Akbar's secret visit to Mirabai

Although Akbar was a Muslim, he liked the Hindu spirituality and culture immensely. At his court, he retained all kinds of talented and extraordinary people from various religions. Akbar always appreciated others' good qualities. In the course of time, he came to hear about Mirabai, the great devotee of Lord Krishna. The bhajans that she sang became known throughout the length and breadth of India. Akbar decided to go and see her for himself.

At first, it seemed impossible for the Emperor to fulfil his wish. Mirabai was married to Prince Bhoja Raj of Chittor. This family and the Moghul Emperors had always been the worst of enemies! If Akbar went to see Mirabai, he would be risking his life and he would also be placing Mirabai herself in great danger. But Akbar was determined to go. He said, "I will not go as the Emperor with my army. I will go in disguise."

So he and his court musician, Tansen, dressed themselves in ochre robes like wandering sannyasins. In this disguise, they approached the temple where Mirabai was worshipping. In the temple, devotees were singing and dancing. Right in the centre was Mirabai, singing most soulfully.

Akbar and Tansen were deeply moved by Mirabai's beautiful voice and her soulful prayers to God. To show his gratitude, Akbar placed a diamond necklace at the feet of Mirabai's little statue of Lord Krishna. Those who were present were amazed at the mendicant's gesture. They wondered if perhaps somebody quite rich had come in the form of a mendicant. After Akbar had made his offering, he and Tansen quietly slipped away.

In a few days' time, it became known that it was the Emperor himself who had come. Mirabai's husband became enraged and said to his wife, "You have incurred the worst possible sin. You are a Hindu princess, but you have allowed a Muslim to look at your face. I can look at you no more. You have to go to the river and drown yourself!"

Poor Mirabai! She was so miserable at this turn of events. She was not responsible for what had happened. But even so, she was ready to enter into the river and commit suicide. She walked towards the river, accompanied by some of her followers and devotees. She was about to enter into the river when Lord Krishna appeared and grabbed her. He said to his dearest devotee, "No, I do not want you to commit suicide. You have done nothing wrong. Please leave this place and come to Brindaban. There you will see Me."

So Mirabai left her husband and, with a few followers, went to Brindaban.

Akbar, Tansen and Haridas: a play in one act

Scene I

(The Emperor Akbar's palace. A large audience has assembled before Akbar. His court musician, Tansen, is singing soul-stirring songs while accompanying himself on the tampura.)

(Tansen sings.)


Kalpana go kalpana

Tumi amar bandana

Dure tomai rakhbona

Kalpana go kalpana

Mithya mohe kandbona

Kurup prane dakbona

Khudra jaye hasbona

Kalpana go kalpana

Mrittyu dake jagbona

Atma ami marbona

Bhul pathe ar chalbona

Kalpana go kalpana



Imagination, O Imagination!

You are my life's adoration.

You I shall not keep afar.

Imagination, O Imagination!

In false, binding lies I shall not cry;

I shall not welcome the life

Of impurity's ugliness.

With paltry victory

I shall not smile and rejoice.

Imagination, O Imagination!

To death's call I shall not respond.

The soul am I; no death have I.

No more, never, shall I walk

Along the wrong path.

Imagination, O Imagination!


AKBAR: Tansen, you have such a haunting voice. I have never heard anybody sing like you. Your music carries me into the highest world, and there I enjoy such happiness, such delight. Tansen, I shall give you anything you want. You can have anything from me for the asking.

TANSEN: O Emperor, you have already given me name and fame by allowing me to sing for you. What more do I need?

AKBAR: Tansen, although you get everything from me, if you have any special desire, ask me and I shall grant it. Anything that you want from me today I shall immediately give you.

TANSEN: I have everything I want. But I have one thing to tell you. You think that I am the best musician. But there is someone who is far better than I. He is the one who taught me how to sing. I am no match for him.

MINISTER: O Akbar, O Emperor, your Tansen is very clever. He wants to gain more favour from you with his false modesty. Do not believe him. He thinks that by telling you that there is somebody better than he is, he will gain more favour, more love from you. This Tansen is so clever. He is the greatest musician, but he is also the greatest trickster. Do not believe him, my Lord.

AKBAR: No, Tansen, I do not believe you. But if it is true, then you should have told me about him before this.

TANSEN: O Emperor, you will never believe me. If I had told you about him, do you think he would have come to you? He does not care for name and fame as I do. He would not want to sing here at your palace.

AKBAR: He must come and sing here. I shall force him. I am the Emperor Akbar. Everyone is at my behest. He has to come and sing. Go and bring him here.

TANSEN: I can go and bring him here, but I tell you, if you force him to sing for you, he will sing, but he will never sing his real music. He is above name and fame. He shuns society.

AKBAR: All right, then I shall go to his house.

TANSEN: Well, if you go to his house, perhaps he will sing. But he always shuns great men. If he sees that the Emperor has come, he will not sing at all. If I request him, even if I plead with him, it will be useless, because you are a great man, the greatest man on earth. Perhaps if you come with me as my servant, and if I tell him that my servant would like to hear his music, then he may grant my request.

AKBAR: All right, Tansen, I will visit your teacher as your servant. I want to hear your Master's music since you are praising him to the skies. But he had better be good!

Scene II

(Haridas' home. Enter Tansen and Akbar in the guise of Tansen's servant. Haridas is meditating.)

TANSEN: Master, here is my servant. He has been begging me for a long time to bring him to hear your music. Today I have brought him.

AKBAR (to Haridas): Lord, I will be so grateful to you if you would sing. For some time I have been longing to hear your music. Today my Master, Tansen, has brought me to you. Please sing something for us and play on your tampura.

HARIDAS: I am sorry. Today I am not in the mood to play or sing at all. I do not know why. Otherwise I would listen to your request. You look quite nice and smart. I am happy that my Tansen has such a good servant. You look beautiful, you look powerful. I am sure you are pleasing your Master in every way.

TANSEN: Master, it is true that this servant is pleasing me in every way. I am most pleased with him and proud of him and, as a reward, I have brought him here. Please sing for him just a little. It will be difficult for me to bring him here again.

HARIDAS: Tansen, when I refuse to do something, rest assured that I will never do it. I am not in the mood today. Today my mind is all concentrated on God. You came to me to learn music. I taught you many things, and now when you sing I get tremendous joy. Today I wish you to sing for me. Let your servant and me hear your music. It will transport me into the highest realm. Your music will inspire me to go deep within and commune with my Inner Pilot. Now, Tansen, please sing.

(Tansen bows to Haridas and starts singing. Soon he starts singing wrong notes.)

HARIDAS: Tansen, what is wrong with you today? Your music is absurd. You are singing like an absolute beginner. You, my greatest student! Is anything wrong in your family? Are you upset?

TANSEN: No, no, my family is all right. But today I had the greatest hope that my servant would be able to hear your music. You did not listen to my request, and that has made me very sad. Perhaps it is my sadness that is creating this problem and making it difficult for me to sing well.

HARIDAS: No matter how sad you are, Tansen, I cannot imagine how you can sing so badly.

TANSEN: Master, it seems to me that I am singing everything correctly. You are saying that I am singing badly, but I feel that I am singing everything as I used to sing before, as you have taught me.

HARIDAS: Tansen, you liar! I have not taught you to sing like this. It is all wrong.

(Haridas snatches away Tansen's tampura and starts singing the same song most soulfully and hauntingly. The music comes from another world. Akbar is in deep trance. Tansen is listening with deepest inner delight.)

(Haridas sings.)

Ekti katha ekti sur eki jhankar

Nam dhare ke dakchhe jena amai barebar

Kothai achi kothai jabo

Nai jena thikena

Ghumer ghore karchhi shudhu

Ami becha kena

Kata bhangi katai gari

Katai kari asha

Hiya khani dekhechhe mor

Andhar sarbanasha

Alor pakhi alor pakhi

Abar eso phire

Jyotir dhara bahan kare

Namo amar shire

Dak ditechho urdhe jete

Jabo keman kare

Bandhi je mor paran khani

Ekti andhar ghare

Alor pakhi alor pakhi

Alor pakhi alo

Prane amar rekhona ar

Ektu andhar kalo


One thought, one tune, one resonance —

Who calls me ever and anon?

I know not where I am,

I know not whither I shall go.

In dark amnesia,

Myself I buy, myself I sell.

All I break, again all I build.

All I hope to be mine, mine alone.

Alas, my heart is eclipsed

By dark and wild destruction-night.

O Bird of Light, O Bird of Light,

With your glowing and flowing flames

Do enter into my heart once again.

You are calling me to climb up

And fly into the blue.

But how can I?

My heart is in prison

In the strangled breath of a tiny room.

O Bird of Light, O Bird of Light,

O Bird of Light Supreme.

In me, I pray, keep not an iota of gloom.


TANSEN (at the end of the music): Master, forgive me. I know I have sung all wrong today. After hearing you I realise how badly I have sung. Forgive me, forgive me.

AKBAR (bows): I always thought that my Master was the best singer, but he was sincere enough to say that you sing far better than he does. I did not believe him. But now that I have heard you, I know that undoubtedly you are a far better singer. How sweet your voice is! I am so grateful to you and also I am so grateful to my Master for bringing me to you today.

HARIDAS: May God bless you, my son. May God bless your devoted head. You are serving your Master, who is my fondest son.

TANSEN: I am also fond of my servant.

AKBAR: Lord, I am also proud of my Master, Tansen.

(Akbar and Tansen bow and leave.)

Scene III

(Akbar's palace.)

AKBAR: Tansen, how is it that you cannot sing so well? Your Master lives in a poor cottage, whereas you have all kinds of advantages and opportunities. Even then you cannot sing as well as he. I appreciate your sincerity in telling me that he sings far better than you do, but I cannot account for this. Why is it? What prevents you from singing as well as he does?

TANSEN: O Emperor, I play for you, for human beings; I play for name and fame; I play for wealth. My teacher plays for God, the Lord Supreme. For him, there is only God. God is everything. I want to please human beings who live in the world of human pleasure; he wants to please the Absolute Supreme. When one sings for the world, one gets what he wants: appreciation, admiration, flattery. But when one sings for God, the Absolute, one gets God's boundless Grace, His boundless Blessing and transcendental Delight. God, the infinite Compassion, enters into his music and, at every moment, he sings celestial, transcendental, soul-stirring music — music that awakens the Universal Consciousness, music that feeds the Universal Consciousness, music that manifests the Universal Consciousness in aspiring souls.

AKBAR: Tansen, you are a great musician, but your sincerity is greater than your music. Your inner depth is by far the greatest. Your inner wisdom is by far the best. I bow to your music with love. I bow to your sincerity with joy. I bow to your inner wisdom with my heart's gratitude.

Biographies of the Moghul Emperors

Humayun's youngest sister was named Gulbadan, meaning 'the rose-body Princess'. When Gulbadan was over sixty years of age, Akbar requested her to write down all that she remembered of her father, Babar, as well as the events of her brother's life. Gulbadan was both a scholar and a poet. Her biography of Humayun was called Humayun-nama, and it is a most vivid and accurate account of the Emperor Humayun's life. At the same time, Akbar asked his greatest friend, Abu'l Fazl, to write his own biography, and thus the famous Akbar-nama came to be written. It was illustrated with beautiful miniature paintings by the court artists.

Akbar yields to a Jaina monk

In 1582 Akbar invited a Jaina monk to come to his court and participate in religious and philosophical debates. Akbar was very fond of these debates and he tried to include representatives from many different paths. The name of the monk whom he invited was Haravijaya. As a warrior, Akbar engaged in many battles. He was also deeply enamoured of hunting. Haravijaya knew that for him to accept the principle of ahimsa, or non-violence, in its totality would be an impossibility. At the same time, he found that Akbar saw the virtue of non-violence. So Haravijaya counselled Akbar to set aside certain days of the calendar when all hunting and killing of animals would be forbidden throughout the Empire. Although this entailed considerable personal sacrifice, Akbar agreed to this request. He also released many prisoners and caged birds on those festive occasions.

Who carries the worse luck?

One day, early in the morning, Akbar met with one of his subjects. Later that day, something unfortunate happened. While the Emperor was having breakfast, he ate a strand of hair that was in his food. He said that just because he had seen that particular man, this had happened and he wanted the man to be punished. Some others at the Emperor's court agreed that this man carried very bad luck. Akbar said, "Then he should be hanged."

The poor man was supposed to be hanged on the following day. He knew that the Emperor's court Minister, Birbal, was aware of his plight, so he went to the Minister and begged for help. But the Minister said, "The Emperor wants to have you killed. How can I dare to save you? Impossible!"

"No, you must save me, you must save me," begged the man.

"How?" said the court Minister. "I cannot prevent the Emperor's order from being executed."

Then suddenly the Minister leaned over and whispered something into the man's ear.

The following day, the time came for the man to be hanged. Akbar said to him, "Are you ready?"

The man said, "O Akbar, greatest of Moghul Emperors, you are saying that because you saw me, your fate became most deplorable. Now, can I not also say that because I saw you, my fate has become most deplorable? Had I not seen you, I would not be facing my death at this moment. I may have caused you some bad luck, true, but in my life you have caused me worse luck. You will stay here on earth, but I have to die. So I ask you, who carries the worse luck?"

The Emperor said, "I have lost the case," and the man was set free.

The foolish and the wise

Akbar once asked his Minister, "Birbal, tell me, who are the wise people on earth and who are the fools?"

Birbal replied, "Your Majesty, the wise people are those who perform their duties and do not leave anything incomplete. Once they have undertaken something, they complete it. The fools are those who never fulfil their duties."

"Why are these people fools?" asked Akbar.

Birbal replied, "They are fools because they have to come back to earth again and again. If they do not complete their work in this incarnation, they will have to do it in their next incarnation. They are fools to come back to this earth again in order to finish the work that they could have done in one incarnation."


In the spiritual life, the wise are those who want to complete their first and foremost task in this incarnation. Their only work, their main duty, is to realise God. The beginning of their work is aspiration; the end of their work is realisation.

Wise people know that there are many things to do. They know that if they do not start working, they will never be able to accomplish what they want to accomplish. So they start right away before they lose either the inclination or the capacity to do the work.

The wise do three things correctly. First they cry for God. Then they become one with God. Finally they work for God. But the fools do not cry for God. They do not care to become one with God, and they do not want to fulfil God. This is the difference between a fool and a wise man. The fools have the capacity to do this work, but they do not utilise it. Unless they utilise their capacity, unless they accomplish their duty, which is God-realisation, they will never be satisfied. So the fools have to start working like the wise.

The darkness of the mind

Akbar said to his Minister, "Birbal, for a long time I have been thinking of one question. I am sure you will be able to answer it. We see everything clearly in the sunlight, but is there anything that cannot be seen even with the help of sunlight?"

"Yes, your Majesty, there is something that cannot be seen in the sunlight. Even the sunlight fails to illumine it."

"What is it, Birbal?"

"Your Majesty, it is the darkness of the mind."


Birbal's answer is absolutely correct. The only question that Birbal might not have been in a position to answer is whether there is anything that can show us the ignorance of the mind and illumine it. Even if he had been able to answer this question, he still would not have been able to actually illumine the darkness of anybody's mind.

How do we illumine the mind? We illumine the dark, unlit, obscure, impure mind by bringing to the fore our inner sun. The outer sun can show us only earthly objects, but the inner sun can show us what the mind is, how it operates and what it contains. We bring the inner sun to the fore by digging deep within. When we dig very deep into the ground we reach water. Similarly, when we dig very deep into ourselves, we reach our inner sun.

There is not only one inner sun, but many. How many we bring to the fore depends on how we dig and how deep we dig. If we dig deep within most soulfully, in the way the Supreme wants us to dig, then we discover many inner suns, and we can easily bring them to the fore.

Yet, when we have brought our inner suns to the fore, our role is not over. First we illumine our own inner and outer existence, and then we try to illumine the world around us: our friends, our relatives, our dear ones. Finally we try to illumine the entire world. But first we have to dig deep within in order to get in touch with our own inner suns.

The power to punish

Once Akbar asked his ministers, "Tell me, who is superior, God or me?"

The Ministers were all amused by this question. Outwardly they acted very serious and made the Emperor feel that he had asked a most significant and difficult question, but inwardly they were all laughing at Akbar for being foolish enough to try to compare himself with God.

At last Birbal came forward and said, "I can answer this question. Undoubtedly you are far superior to God."

Akbar was outwardly amused, but inwardly he was deeply pleased. He challenged Birbal, "Prove that I am superior to God."

Birbal said, "Your Majesty, when somebody commits a very serious crime, you have the power to punish him. You have the power to place him in a prison cell for the rest of his life. But poor God! He created everything and the whole creation belongs to Him, yet He does not have the power to give a lifelong sentence to anybody. His Power of Compassion is infinitely more powerful than His Power of Justice. He cannot punish anybody the way you do. So you are far superior to God, because you have the power to punish severely."

Akbar was satisfied and pleased with this answer, but the ministers were all amused.


The judgement of equals is condemnation and punishment. But the judgement of the One who is really superior is identification and illumination.

Universal jealousy

Akbar asked Birbal, "How is it that there is no hair on my palm? There is hair everywhere else on my body. How is it that there is none on the palm of my hand?"

Birbal answered, "It is because you always have plenty of money in your hands, and you give it away in charity. Your palms are being rubbed constantly, so the hair there has all been rubbed away."

"But how is it that you do not have hair on your palms either?"

"Just because I constantly receive money from you, my palms are always being rubbed. You are constantly giving me money and I am constantly receiving it. That is why we have no hair on our palms."

"But what about those who do not get money from me the way you do? Why do they not have hair on their palms?"

"Oh, that is because they are very jealous. Jealous people are always thinking of the money that you are giving me and that I am receiving from you. They constantly rub their hands together in anticipation of receiving some money. They are always burning with jealousy and greed, and so they just rub and rub their palms together. That is why they do not have any hair on their palms either."

Akbar was highly amused and pleased; but those who were listening to Birbal were terribly embarrassed at his accusation, and they bowed their heads in shame.


By being jealous of what the giver has or of what the receiver gets, one can never have joy or peace of mind. In order to be constantly happy, one has to identify himself with Reality's source and Reality's course, with Reality's glow and Reality's flow.

Heaven and hell

Akbar once asked Birbal, "After death, who are the people that go to Heaven and who are the people that go to hell?"

"Your Majesty," replied the Minister, "only clever people go to Heaven after death. The fools go to hell."

"Why is that?" asked the Emperor. "Why do the clever people go to Heaven? How do they become clever?"

"They become clever by knowing that there is only one thing worth having, and that is love. When they give love to the world and receive love from the world in return, everything is done. Only those who love the world and get love from the world are clever, and they go to Heaven. Those who do not love the world and do not get love from the world go to hell."

The Emperor was silent.


Birbal's answer is almost perfect. His only mistake is to say "clever" when what he really means is "wise." Now we have to know whether we love the world for its own sake, or whether we love God inside the world. If we feel that the Creator and the creation are one, then by loving the Creator of the world we can love His creation as well. Otherwise, we will love the world and expect love from the world in return. And if we do not get love from the world, we will feel sad and miserable.

According to spiritual philosophy, only those who love God in mankind and do not expect anything in return go to the real Heaven. Only those who offer love constantly and unconditionally to God in man can go to the highest abode of peace, light and bliss after death. Those who do not do that will naturally go to an inferior world where these divine qualities are found in less than sufficient measure.

Again, where is Heaven? Heaven is not just a place where we go after death. We go to Heaven and hell every day. Heaven and hell are states of consciousness. In the perfection of the mind, in the peace of the mind, Heaven abides. In the frustration of the mind, in the depression of the mind, hell lives. Every day we experience Heaven and hell in our lives. Frustration, depression, insecurity, worry, doubt, fear, anxiety and jealousy all make us live in hell. Security, beauty, joy, peace, light and love all allow us to dwell in Heaven at every moment.

Akbar is superior to Indra

Once Akbar asked his ministers and the others present in his court, "Tell me frankly, who is superior: Indra, the Lord of the Gods, or me? Be very frank."

Everybody was shocked, and nobody dared to answer. If they said that Indra was superior to Akbar, Akbar would be displeased. And if they said that Akbar was superior to Indra, it would be a real lie. So they all kept silent.

Finally Birbal came forward and said, "I have the answer."

"Then tell me," said Akbar.

Birbal proclaimed, "You are superior."

Akbar was outwardly amused and inwardly pleased. "Prove it," he said.

"That is very easy," replied Birbal. "When the Creator created you and Indra, He put both of you on a scale. On one side He placed you, and on the other side He placed Indra. Just because you were heavier than Indra, you dropped down to earth and Indra remained up in Heaven. So you see, you are superior because you are heavier. You are more fulfilling for earth. That is why you have become the Emperor of the world."

Akbar was very happy. He thought, "Indra remains high because he is light. I came down because of my superior weight. That is why I remain on earth."


Everybody was happy with this answer. But poor Akbar did not get the point. He did not understand that Birbal really meant that Indra was superior. Akbar thought that just because he was heavier in weight, he had more power.

In the spiritual life, a seeker sits on the scale every day. God places his wisdom on one side of the scale and his ignorance on the other side. The seeker always finds that his ignorance is heavier, much heavier than his knowledge and wisdom. Then he feels miserable. So he tries to pray, he tries to meditate, and gradually he increases his knowledge and inner wisdom. Simultaneously, on the other side of the scale, his ignorance becomes lighter and lighter.

Finally, a day comes when he has only knowledge. His ignorance has all been devoured or illumined by his inner knowledge. When there is nothing on the other side of the scale, the knowledge side drops down to earth again and the seeker enters into the world to work for mankind with his newly acquired wisdom. With this wisdom-power he tries to conquer the ignorance of the world.

The son of an ass

Birbal was not only a Minister but also the court jester. He used to amuse Akbar with his wit, his talent and his earthly wisdom. As a result, Akbar was very fond of Birbal.

One day the Emperor was a bit upset. Birbal happened to displease him while he was in this mood, and he burst out, "You are the son of an ass!"

Birbal immediately replied, "You are perfectly right in your statement. That is why I consider you to be my true father."

Stand up then!

The Prime Minister and the other ministers were jealous of Birbal because he was Akbar's favourite.

One day, in front of the Emperor, the Prime Minister said to Birbal, "Well now, the Emperor and I have decided to give you a job. We feel that you will be able to do this job better than anybody else."

The Minister asked, "May I know what the job is?"

"From now on you will be the master of all the dogs in the Empire. You will be in charge of them, and they will have to obey you."

Immediately the Minister said, "Since you have given me this post, let me ask you to stand up. I am the master of all the dogs in the Empire, and you also belong to that group, so you have to listen to me. Stand up then!"

Akbar was most amused by this reply.

Of the same caste

One of the palace dogs was hungry, so Birbal placed some food before him and Akbar did the same. The dog did not touch the food offered to him by the Minister, but he ate all the food given to him by the Emperor.

Akbar asked Birbal, "How is it that the dog did not touch your food, whereas he ate up all of my food?"

The Minister's reply was, "Your Majesty, you should know that even a dog wants to remain faithful to his caste!"

Only the coat, and not the donkey

Akbar and Birbal were walking together along the street. It was a very hot day, and after a while the Emperor took off his new coat and handed it to the Minister to carry. The Minister received the coat gladly, and they continued walking.

All of a sudden the Emperor said, "I am sorry that you are carrying my coat. It is so heavy. You are carrying the load that a donkey should carry."

Birbal replied, "I am happy that I am carrying only the coat of a donkey, and that the donkey itself is not on my back."

Four first-class fools

Once Akbar asked Birbal to bring him four of the world's worst possible fools. So the following morning Birbal began looking for the fools.

The first fool he saw was a Brahmin. This Brahmin was running very fast carrying a plate of betel-nut, rice and a few other things. When the Minister asked the Brahmin why he was running, the Brahmin answered, "My wife has just given birth to a son, and I am bringing her the ceremonial foods. Unfortunately, the boy is not my child, but his father will also be there. So I am going to bless the new father and mother, and the baby. That is why I am running."

"Ah!" thought the Minister, "I have got my first fool," and he told the Brahmin to come to the court with him.

"No, no, no! I cannot come to the court," protested the Brahmin. "I have to see my wife."

Birbal declared, "I am the Emperor's Minister. It is the Emperor's command that I take you," and he showed the Brahmin his identification. So the foolish Brahmin had to go to Akbar's palace.

On the way, they saw a man sitting on a horse. On his shoulders was a very heavy load. Birbal asked him, "Why are you carrying that load on your shoulders?"

The man replied, "My horse is a mare, and she is pregnant. I do not want to hurt this poor animal by making her carry such a heavy burden, so I have put the load on my own shoulders."

Birbal said, "If you are sitting on the horse, the weight will be the same whether it is on your shoulders or on the back of the horse." But the man insisted that he was taking half the burden on his own shoulders.

"Here is another fool," Birbal said to himself, and he commanded this fellow to come along to the Emperor.

"Your Majesty," proclaimed the Minister when they came before Akbar, "here are your fools."

"I asked you to bring me four fools, did I not?" said Akbar. "Where are the other two?"

"I have two here," replied Birbal, and he narrated their foolish actions to the Emperor. Then he said, "The third fool is you, your Majesty. Who but a fool is interested in seeing fools? You get pleasure in knowing that there are horrible fools in your Empire, whereas a wise Emperor would like to know whether there are wise men in his Empire. Since fools give you pleasure, you also belong to their group, for birds of a feather flock together.

"And I am the fourth fool. I listen to your foolish commands and waste my precious life carrying them out. Only a fool would obey the commands of a fool, so that makes me the fourth fool."

The marriage of courage and fear

Once Akbar asked Birbal to bring him the bravest person and the most cowardly person he could find. The following day the Minister brought only one person to the Emperor. The Emperor became angry. "How is it that you have brought only one person?" he shouted. "I wanted to see two different persons with two different characters."

"Please do not be angry, your Majesty," said Birbal. "You wanted to see both cowardice and bravery. If I can show you both these qualities in one person, will you not be satisfied?"

"Certainly I will," replied Akbar. "But it is impossible for someone to be at once the bravest and the most cowardly person."

"No, it is not," said the Minister, "and I will prove it to you." With that, he presented to the Emperor a young and beautiful woman.

"I will tell you in what way she is very brave, and in what way she is very timid. This girl will walk miles through the pouring rain on a deserted road at midnight in order to visit her boyfriend. At that time of night no man would dare go where she goes alone without a thought for her own safety. But when this girl is at home with her husband, if a tiny mouse makes a noise or a little cockroach crawls by, she will be frightened to death. She will stand on a chair and scream until someone chases it away. So you can see that she is at once the bravest and the most cowardly person."

Akbar was satisfied with his Minister's choice.

The depth of gratitude and the height of ingratitude

Akbar wanted to see two creatures: the most ungrateful and the most grateful beings on earth. So he asked Birbal to bring before him, on the following morning, the most ungrateful creature and the most grateful creature on earth.

The poor Minister was thrown into a sea of doubt and worry. Whom should he select? Birbal had never lost in any of his little games with the Emperor, but if he could not bring these two creatures to the palace the next day, the Emperor would be terribly disappointed. Also, everybody would know that at last the Minister had been beaten in the game, and perhaps the Emperor would appoint somebody else to take his place. Birbal thought and thought, and at last he decided whom he would take to the Emperor.

The following day he asked his son-in-law to come with him to the palace, and he also brought his own dog. When he entered Akbar's presence with his dog, Akbar became angry. "You fool," he shouted. "Why are you bringing your dog into my palace?"

"Please wait, your Majesty," said Birbal.

"I told you to bring me the most grateful and the most ungrateful beings on earth," said the Emperor. "I see only one person and this dog. Now, how are you going to fulfil the wish I expressed yesterday?"

"Your Majesty, this is my son-in-law," explained Birbal. "No matter what I give him — thousands of rupees, clothes, furniture, anything — he is never grateful. On the contrary, he always feels that he deserves more. He feels that he has done me the greatest possible favour by marrying my daughter. All sons-in-law think that when they marry someone's daughter they are doing him a tremendous favour, so naturally they deserve everything from him. So you see, I have given him my dearest daughter, my money, my house, my prestige, everything, and still he is not satisfied. He will never be grateful.

"Now look at this dog. I give the dog practically nothing — just a little food (and sometimes I even forget to give him that) and a floor to sleep on. But how grateful, how faithful, how devoted he is. All the time he stays in front of my door, eager to protect me. If somebody wanted to commit a theft or hurt me, he would bark and bite, and chase the culprit away. All dogs are like this. Give them a piece of bread and they are ready to die for you. Look at the gratitude of the dog. This is the difference between the most ungrateful being and the most grateful being."

Then Akbar cried, "Why should we keep this ungrateful being on earth? Your son-in-law must be killed immediately. All ungrateful persons should be killed!"

But the Minister quickly responded, "Why only my son-in-law? If my son-in-law must be killed, then all sons-in-law must be killed, for they are all ungrateful to almost the same extent."

"Yes," agreed Akbar, "all sons-in-law have to be killed. Since all sons-in-law fall into the same category, they all have to be killed!"

The Emperor was about to order all sons-in-law to be brought to the palace and executed when the Minister said, "Wait, your Majesty."

"Why?" asked the Emperor.

"You are also somebody's son-in-law," said the Minister. "Why, the Queen's father is living right here in the palace. That means you also have to be killed."

At this, Akbar changed his mind, and nobody was killed.

The blind always outnumber the men of sight

One day Akbar asked Birbal, "In this world are there more blind people or more people who have sight? Tell me who outnumber whom — the men with sight or the men without sight?"

Birbal immediately answered, "The men without sight by far outnumber those with sight. There are many more blind people on earth than people with vision."

"You have to prove it," said the Emperor.

Birbal replied, "I shall prove it tomorrow."

Every morning the Minister used to enter the palace at nine o'clock, but the following day, instead of going in as usual, he sat at the palace gate sewing a piece of cloth. He had a needle and thread and a piece of cloth, and he was sewing like a girl. One by one, as his fellow ministers and other officials passed him on their way in, they all asked, "What are you doing here?"

As soon as each person asked, "What are you doing?" Birbal wrote his name on a list.

After a while, Akbar himself passed by, coming in from his morning walk. "What are you doing out here?" he asked the Minister. The Minister just smiled and put Akbar's name at the very top of the list.

Now the Prime Minister was a shrewd man, and he always used to find fault with the other ministers. When he came by, he said, "Why are you sitting out here sewing? You lazy fellow, it is high time for you to enter the palace. There is much work for you to do. Is this your job, this silly sewing? You are neglecting your real work." The Prime Minister was the only one who actually mentioned what Birbal was doing, while scolding him for neglecting his real duty. His was the only name that did not go on the list.

After an hour or so, Birbal went to the Emperor and said, "Now, your Majesty, I can prove to you that the blind people are more in number than the men with vision."

"Tell me how you can prove it," said Akbar.

Birbal replied, "Here is the proof!" and he handed his list to the Emperor.

Akbar saw his own name at the top of the list and exclaimed, "I am blind?"

"Yes," said Birbal. "You are the Emperor, the father of this Empire. You are the eye of this vast Empire, but you are blind. When you saw me sewing in front of the palace this morning, you asked me what I was doing. I had a needle, I had thread, I had cloth, and I was obviously sewing. But you and all the other people on this list asked me what I was doing. The only man who did not ask me what I was doing was the Prime Minister. He just scolded me and insulted me because I was neglecting my duties here. He is the only one with sight."

You are worse than a ghost

Once Akbar grabbed Birbal and said, "Now let me see how much strength you have. Can you release yourself? Can you escape from my grip?"

Birbal did not struggle or try to force his way out of the Emperor's grip. He simply started repeating, "Rama, Rama, Rama, Rama, Rama, Rama, Rama!"

Akbar cried, "What is this? By repeating 'Rama, Rama, Rama,' do you think that you will be able to release yourself and escape? I am holding you very tightly. 'Rama' will never release you. You fool! Exercise your power to come out of my grip!"

Birbal said, "You know that when one is haunted by a ghost, repeating Rama's name makes the ghost leave the body. It seems that you are worse than a ghost."

Akbar said, "No, no, no! I do not want to be worse than a ghost!" And he immediately released the Minister, who laughed and laughed.

Do not insult a fool

One day Birbal asked Akbar, "Why is it that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west every day? Can it not sometimes rise in the west and set in the east?"

The Emperor said, "Only a fool like you can ask this kind of question, and only another fool can answer it."

"Yes, I know that," replied the Minister. "That is why I have come to you."

As much and as little as possible

Birbal had a young daughter who was very smart, just like her father. One day his little daughter went with him to the palace, and Akbar, just to have some fun, asked her, "Do you know how to talk?"

She was only a little child, but she said, "Yes, I know how to talk much, and I know how to talk little."

The Emperor said, "What is this? How to talk much, and how to talk little? How do you do that?"

The little girl answered, "When I speak to my superiors I speak little, and when I speak to my inferiors I speak much."

"Why do you do that?" asked the Emperor.

The Minister's daughter replied, "From my superiors I learn. So when I speak to them, I speak as little as possible and listen as much as I can. But when I speak to my little brother, I speak as much as possible, because he does not know anything. He has to learn from me."

This was the child's wisdom.

The distance between truth and falsehood

One day Akbar asked Birbal, "Can you tell me the distance between truth and falsehood? How far are they from one another?" Birbal replied, "It is the distance between the eye and the ear. What we see with the eye is the truth, and what we hear with the ear is all gossip, all falsehood. So the distance between truth and falsehood is about three inches."

The death of Birbal

Birbal was one of the nine gems of Akbar's court. He came of a poor Brahmin family from Trivikrampur (now known as Tikawanpur) on the banks of the river Yamuna. Though popularly known as Birbal, his real name was Maheshdas. He also wrote poetry under the pen-name "Brahma".

By virtue of his wisdom and wit, he rose to be Akbar's favourite Minister and court jester. He was also an excellent soldier and administrator.

When Akbar formed his own faith, the Din-e-Elahi, which was a synthesis of Muslim and Hindu beliefs, there was only one Hindu among its followers — Akbar's true friend and sympathiser, Birbal.

Birbal met his death in battle while on an expedition to Afghanistan. Akbar was so grief-stricken that he burst forth:

"Birbal, you never hurt the helpless.

You always gave them whatever you had.

I am helpless now, and yet you have left nothing for me."

Akbar and the poet

Akbar was very fond of poetry. He used to honour poets all the time, giving them gold and diamonds. Sometimes if a poem was extremely beautiful, he would ask the poet to stand on one side of a scale, and on the other side the Emperor would put gold coins to equal the poet's weight. Then he would give the poet all the coins.

Once a poet wrote a very beautiful poem, and the Emperor was very pleased with him. Unfortunately, the poet was very greedy. When the Emperor was discussing how much the poet would get, the man became so restless that he could not wait to hear the outcome. So he said to the Emperor, "Perhaps you will give me one lak of gold coins. May I see how many coins that is and how much it weighs?" The poet only wanted to see the coins. He did not actually know how much he would be getting.

Akbar was amused and said, "All right, bring one lak of gold coins to show him."

When the money was placed in front of the poet, Akbar said to him, "Now, what is happening inside you? Tell me!"

The poet said, "I am admiring you and appreciating you for having shown me all these coins. I have never seen so much money in my life, and perhaps I will never again see a lak of gold coins at one time. I have never seen such a huge amount!"

The Emperor said, "I want you to be grateful to somebody else, and not to me."

"Who is that person?" the poet asked.

The Emperor put all the coins in the poet's hands and said, "Look up. Now be grateful to Allah. I am giving you these coins in His Name. So please be grateful to Allah and not to me."

Akbar visits Guru Nanak

Akbar always used to appreciate the good qualities in everybody — artists, musicians, singers, architects, poets and so on. He especially used to admire and adore religious people. At one time, he decided to visit Guru Nanak. Nanak was praying and meditating with his disciples. Akbar was so moved by Nanak's spirituality that he wanted to give Nanak something in return.

Akbar said to Nanak, "I am the Emperor. Please take something from me. I am ready to give you land or anything else that you wish."

Nanak replied, "No, no, no, I cannot accept anything from you."

Then Akbar went to Nanak's wife and repeated his offer, but she also said the same as her husband.

Finally, Akbar went to Nanak's daughter and said to her, "I am giving you a vast plot of land." The Emperor was so adamant that she could not refuse his gift. So Akbar was successful in giving Nanak something indirectly through his daughter.

Salim's betrayal

Although Akbar had eagerly welcomed the birth of his sons, each one proved to be a disappointment to him and Salim, the eldest, openly betrayed Akbar. While Akbar was waging war in the south of India, Salim proceeded to Allahabad and proclaimed himself Emperor. He then advanced on Agra with his army.

Akbar dispatched his faithful and much-favoured vizier or Prime Minister, Abu'l Fazl, to negotiate with Salim on Akbar's behalf, but Salim ordered his men to ambush the scholar-Prime Minister and assassinate him. The head of Abu'l Fazl was then sent to Salim to prove that his order had been carried out.

Akbar's grief knew no bounds. He decided to make Salim's eldest son, Khusrau, his heir instead of Salim. But a reconciliation between father and son was brought about by the female members of the family and Salim came to Agra to see his father. At this meeting, Akbar placed his own turban on Salim's head, thus acknowledging him to be his heir.

Then Akbar warned his ambitious son, "You hope to become Emperor after my death; but if you rule in the same manner in which you have acted so far, your empire will not last long."

Hamida Begum's plea for her grandson

A few months later, Salim rebelled again and Akbar decided to march against him. Akbar's mother, Hamida Begum, who was now almost eighty, came to Akbar and said, "My son, I beg of you, do not attack my grandson. You are such a great warrior. You have conquered the whole world. I can clearly see that my grandson has no chance of defeating you. My other grandsons, Murad and Daniyal, have both died. Do spare the life of this one. He is your only remaining son and I love him dearly. Do forgive him once more. If not, I shall not be able to go on living." But Akbar would not listen to his mother. He set out for Allahabad with his army. On the way, he heard that his mother had become seriously ill. He turned back to Agra, but she died a few days after he arrived. Grief-stricken, Akbar negotiated peace with his son.

The passing of Akbar

The death of Birbal, the murder of Abu'l Fazl, the uprising of Salim and the most recent loss of his mother together broke Akbar's heart. In 1605 he fell ill with dysentery, and this attack was to prove fatal.

During Akbar's last days, Prince Salim came to pay his respects to his father. In silence, Akbar motioned to his son to place the imperial turban on his head and take up the Emperor's sword which had belonged to Humayun. Then he signalled Salim to leave the room.

Only Akbar's thirteen-year-old grandson, Prince Khurram, and a few close friends remained with the dying monarch. When Khurram's mother tried to persuade him to go outside the room, he replied, "No! So long as there is a breath of life in Shah Baba [Akbar], nothing can induce me to leave him."

The indomitable Akbar died on October 27th, 1605 after a reign of almost fifty years. He bequeathed to Salim an empire that stretched from the doorstep of Persia in the west to Bengal in the far east of the sub-continent and southwards as far as the Deccan. It was one of the greatest and most glorious empires in the history of the world.

Part V — Jahangir: (ruled 1605-1627)

The Emperor Jahangir punishes his son

Prince Salim took the name of Jahangir, meaning 'World Seizer'. He was thirty-seven when he became Emperor and, unlike his father and grandfather, he inherited a stable empire.

One day Jahangir received a serious complaint against his eldest son Khusrau. What had happened was this: Khusrau had very happily and proudly ridden his elephant from the palace to a particular place in the kingdom. Along the way, the prince had seen the wife of a low-class man and he had thrown a piece of betel-nut at her in a very offensive way. When the husband came to know that his wife had been insulted by the prince, he went to Jahangir's court and lodged a formal complaint.

Jahangir became furious and made enquiries to find out if what the man had said was true. After some investigation, he learned that the story was correct. Jahangir immediately ordered that the low-class man should ride on the prince's own elephant from the palace to the same place where the prince had gone. Khusrau's wife would stand at the same spot where the man's wife had been standing. Then, when the low-class man passed by, he would throw a piece of betel-nut at the princess.

"This will be the only adequate compensation," the Emperor said.

The Emperor's decision was not at all popular. People asked, "How can the Emperor do this? She is the princess and this man is just a low-class person. They are not at all equal, so how can the punishment be equal? Plus, it will be so humiliating for the princess to endure this insult."

Jahangir replied, "No, my son has to learn that he cannot do this kind of thing. My order is my order. You have to execute it. Otherwise, both my son and his wife will be even more severely punished."

Finally, the low-class man ran out of the palace, crying, "I do not want them to be humiliated and I do not want them to be punished. I forgive your son."

Then Jahangir said, "Since he has forgiven my son, I have nothing to say." The Emperor turned to his son and told him, "He has forgiven you, my son. That is the only reason why I am forgiving you."

A lover of justice

The Emperor Jahangir was a lover of justice and was always willing to listen to his subjects' complaints. Sometimes they would file complaints through the proper channels, and then the Emperor would do the needful. At other times, the Emperor had a special way of receiving complaints. Outside the main gate of his palace at Agra, he kept a big gong. Anyone who had a complaint could come and sound the gong. If the injured party sounded the gong only once, it meant that he had lost a quarrel with someone which he felt he should have won. If the gong sounded twice, it meant that somebody always worked very hard but felt he was not getting the proper wages. If it sounded three times, it meant that somebody's house had been robbed and he was looking for the thief. And if the gong sounded four times, it meant that a murder had taken place.

The Emperor's soldiers used to watch and see how many times the person lodging the complaint struck the gong. Then they would immediately bring the person before the Emperor and announce the nature of the complaint.

One day a man struck the gong four times, which meant that there had been a murder. The soldiers asked him, "Who has killed whom?"

The man replied, "Somebody killed my father."

The soldiers asked, "When was he killed?"

"Forty years ago," the man answered.

The palace guards could not believe their ears. "Only now you want punishment?" they asked.

"Yes," said the man. "I just came to know that my father had been killed. My mother told me this morning."

The guards asked, "Why did your mother not tell you before now?"

The man said, "Because if she had told me, then I would have killed one of the Emperor's Ministers. This particular Minister killed my father forty years ago, and he is still in office!"

"Are you saying that the Minister should be executed?" they asked.

"Exactly," the man said.

The palace guards brought the man before the Emperor and told the Emperor the whole story. The Emperor turned to his subject and said, "You have to know who asked the Minister to kill your father. The Minister was only carrying out my order. Are you saying that I should be punished as well?"

The man responded, "I cannot go so far as to say that. But I have not seen my father for forty years. Indeed, that has been a tragic loss for me. During these forty years, the Minister has earned so much salary. As compensation for my father's death, may I receive only one month of the Minister's salary?"

The Emperor said, "I am ready to give you the equivalent of forty years of the Minister's salary — whatever money he has earned from the day he killed your father. Go and find out the exact date of your father's death from your mother and then come back and tell me."

The man's mother had forgotten the day, the year — everything. But the Minister had kept a record. It had only been thirty-five years. Jahangir summoned the man back to the palace to give him the money and told him, "Here in my hand is the Minister's salary and here, on the Minister's body, is his head. Which one do you want? I can give you either the Minister's head or the full salary that he has received over the years."

The man quickly said, "The Minister's salary, not his head!"

A favourite of Akbar

When Akbar's third grandson was born, Akbar named him 'Khurram', meaning 'Joyous'. Khurram became Akbar's favourite. When Prince Khurram was sixteen years old, however, his health was very poor. In addition, astrologers were making dire predictions about the future. So Jahangir held a special ceremony to try to change the fate of his son. He weighed the Prince and then distributed to the holy men and the poor an equal weight of gold, cloth, grains and other items. Khurram went on to become Emperor Shah Jahan and he reached more than seventy years of age.

An age of culture

Jahangir was a connoisseur of art and a lover of poetry. He surrounded himself with artists and other cultured people. The gardens that he designed at Srinagar attempted to create Paradise on earth. He transformed the Moghul court into a centre of cultural splendour and refinement. Unfortunately, Jahangir fell increasingly under the influence of his powerful wife, the beautiful and intelligent Nur Jahan ('Light of the World'), who was the daughter of Jahangir's Prime Minister. In the Emperor's later life it was she who made most of the decisions and held the reins of power.

Part VI — Shah Jahan: (ruled 1628-1658)

The reign of Shah Jahan

After Jahangir's death, Khurram defeated his brother Shahriyar, eliminated all other claims to the throne and proclaimed himself Emperor. He took the name Shah Jahan, meaning 'Sovereign of the World'. He then exiled the still influential Nur Jahan to Lahore and quickly subdued Rajput opposition. Shah Jahan's reign thus began on a powerful and decisive note.

Shah Jahan waged war in Southern India and Persia and he was able to expand and consolidate the Moghul Empire considerably. He also constructed many important buildings and mosques. He even built his own city, Shahjahanabad [now Old Delhi], at Delhi.

Upon the entrance to his Hall of Private Audience in his palace, he placed a Persian inscription in letters of gold: "If there be Paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this."

Mumtaz Mahal

One day, when Khurram was a young man, Nur Jahan invited him to come to a special fair. This fair was organised by the palace women. They had little stalls where they sold trinkets, fabric and other items. There Khurram first saw Arjumand Banu, who was Nur Jahan's niece. To Nur Jahan's great joy, he fell in love with this young girl and later married her, thus strengthening the Persian presence at the court. Arjumand Banu was henceforth called Mumtaz Mahal, 'Chosen One of the Palace'. Shah Jahan loved her above all others and she was to bear the Emperor fourteen children.

Shah Jahan's thirst

Once Emperor Shah Jahan went out on an expedition with some of his relatives, friends and admirers. He was walking quite fast ahead of his entourage and, at one point, he became separated from the group. The Emperor was not familiar with the area and, unfortunately, he got lost. His friends and relatives searched and searched for him, but they could not trace him.

After some time, the Emperor became very thirsty. Alas, there was no water nearby. Then Shah Jahan saw an old man carrying a container of water on his back.

The Emperor said to him, "My friend, I am parched with thirst. Can you spare some water for me?"

The old man did not recognise the Emperor. He replied, "All right, since you are so thirsty, I shall give you some." He poured a large quantity of water into a container and offered it to the Emperor. The Emperor began drinking the water very quickly.

The old man became worried, for he felt that it was not advisable for anyone to drink so fast. Since he was also carrying a sack of grass on his back, he took a handful of grass and threw it into the container from which the Emperor was drinking.

Shah Jahan became furious. He said, "What are you doing? Why did you throw grass into my water? You were so kind to give me this water. You have saved my life. Now why are you preventing me from drinking the remainder of the water?"

The old man explained, "My good friend, I have a number of asses and I never allow them to drink water rapidly. If I put grass in their water, they drink more slowly and carefully. If you drink too fast, you may develop colic pain. I was only trying to be considerate of your health."

In the meantime, Shah Jahan's friends and admirers had discovered the Emperor. From a distance, they saw the old man throw grass into the Emperor's water and immediately they became furious. They came running to the scene in order to strike and beat the old man mercilessly.

But Shah Jahan stopped them. He said, "No, no, no! This man has saved my life. It was only out of concern for me that he put grass into my water."

Then the Emperor turned to the old man and said, "You do not have to make your living by working with asses any more. I am all gratitude to you. I am making you the head of a village because you have saved my life."

Shah Jahan teaches his officer a lesson

Another time Shah Jahan went out on an expedition with some soldiers and officers in his army. Suddenly, a man came up to him crying, "Your Majesty, your Majesty, I have a complaint to make against one of your officers."

The Emperor asked, "Is he here? Who is it?"

The man pointed to one of the officers and said, "Yes, he is here, sitting on that horse. I work for him, but for the last four months he has not paid me. I assure you, your Majesty, I work very, very hard."

Shah Jahan asked the officer in question if this accusation was true. The officer remained silent and then, with his head bowed, he admitted that it was.

Shah Jahan ordered the officer to dismount. Then he turned to the servant and said, "Now, you get on the horse. You will ride with the others in my army who are coming with me on this expedition. Wherever I go, you follow me on this horse."

Then the Emperor turned to the officer and said, "You have to remain on foot and follow the expedition wherever we go. You have to run at our speed. This is my command."

The officer started running, following Shah Jahan wherever he rode. Soon he started panting and after a short time, he cried out, "I am dying, I am dying, I am dying!"

The Emperor stopped his horse and said to the officer, "You deserve to die. I give you money because you serve me. This innocent man serves you day in and day out. How is it that you do not pay him? You must pay him his back salary right now."

The officer said, "I am more than ready, but I do not have the money with me right now."

The Emperor said, "Then take the money from me."

The officer took the money and gave it to his servant. Then Shah Jahan said, "As you know, I never give loans. Whenever I give something, it is always as a gift. But promise me that from now on you will always pay this man. If you break your promise, I will give him your post and make you his lifelong servant."

Needless to say, the officer gave his solemn promise to the Emperor.

The Muslim mendicant

Shah Jahan had heard many good reports about a particular Muslim mendicant. People said that he was constantly praying to Allah and that he was very pious and spiritual. Everybody felt that this mendicant said and did the right thing at all times, and they greatly appreciated and admired him. The Emperor was also full of appreciation for him and he had a strong desire to meet him. Of course, since he was the Emperor, Shah Jahan could have asked to see the mendicant at any time. But Shah Jahan never wanted to summon him or in any way force him to come to the court.

One day, when Shah Jahan was on the third floor of his palace with some of his close friends and relatives, this particular mendicant happened to pass by the palace gates. The Emperor's companions saw him from the window and said to the Emperor, "Look, here is the mendicant whom you have wanted to meet for such a long time."

Shah Jahan said to them, "Since he is near the palace, please tell him that I would be extremely grateful if he would come to see me for a few minutes. Tell him that he does not even have to walk up the stairs. We will hang a basket off the balcony by a rope and lift him up to the third floor."

The mendicant was a very humble man and he was extremely surprised to hear that the Emperor himself wanted to see him. He said, "If His Majesty wants to see me, how can I refuse?"

So he sat in the basket and Shah Jahan and a few others pulled him up. The Emperor welcomed the mendicant respectfully and said, "I am so happy and grateful that you have accepted my invitation. Today I wish to discuss spiritual matters with you. All the time I am with people who do not practise spirituality and I am also in that same category. If I wanted to, I could make time for my spiritual life. Unfortunately, I do not have sincere aspiration. But I do appreciate you and admire you very much."

The mendicant said, "Your Majesty, I do not deserve your appreciation and admiration. You and your subjects see only my face; you do not know what is going on inside my mind. My mind is uglier than the ugliest. I have so many bad thoughts. Outwardly I may appear very calm and peaceful, but inwardly my mind is very undivine. So I do not deserve your appreciation."

The Emperor smiled and said, "I deeply appreciate your sincerity, but I know and I also feel that you are truly a very pure and pious man. Please tell me how you have become so close to Allah. Is it because you pray and meditate all the time?"

The mendicant said, "No, no, no! You think that I am close to Allah, and many others also believe the same. But I tell you, I am not closer to Allah than any of His other children. It is like the relationship between an Emperor and his subjects. I am one of your most useless subjects. I have no capacity. Would I ever have dared to request an audience with a great Emperor like you? A beggar, an insignificant creature like me, would never ask you to grant him an audience. It is your kindness, your affection, your love and your concern for a useless fellow like me that enabled me to come and speak with you. I do not deserve to see you at all.

"You wanted to see me and honour me. If I had cherished pride and haughtiness, I would not have come to see you. I would have thought: 'Oh, although he is the Emperor, he does not pray or meditate. So why should I go to him? I do not need him!' But I know that I am nothing by myself. I was also moved by your invitation.

"Similarly, I am moved by the Call of Allah. Allah does not need an insignificant creature like me. Allah does not need anyone. Out of His infinite Love and Compassion, He calls me and I respond. In this way, He calls each and every person in secret. But very few are lucky enough to be able to respond to His unconditional Call. Because I have been fortunate enough to respond to His Call, I am becoming close to Him. It is not my capacities or qualities that have brought me close to Allah, but His unconditional Love and Compassion for His creation. In the same way, He can and will call each and every human being on earth. Alas, how many will ever respond to His Call?"

The arrogant officer

Every evening, the Emperor Shah Jahan held an open audience with anyone who wanted to see him. Hundreds of his subjects would attend and the Emperor would listen to their problems and chat with them for about an hour.

Nobody was allowed to sit directly in front of the Emperor. One evening, an officer deliberately sat down in the forbidden area. The Emperor and the members of his court were all furious. Shah Jahan said to the officer, "How dare you show such disrespect by sitting right in front of me! I want you to leave this palace immediately. I am dispensing with your services and you will never again be given another position in my government. From now on, you can only perform ordinary, menial jobs."

The very next day after the officer had been dismissed, he again came to the public audience and sat down in the exact same spot right in front of the Emperor. The previous day, he had at least shown the Emperor a little bit of respect, but this time he had absolutely no respect. His face showed extreme haughtiness.

Shah Jahan said to him, "What is the matter with you? Yesterday I dispensed with your services for good. I had you thrown out of the palace and said that you cannot work here any more. Why are you now being even more disrespectful?"

The man replied, "Your Majesty, yesterday I was dependent on you for my salary. Since I was dependent on you, I was always obedient. Now I am not serving you any more, so I am independent. I can do anything I want to with my life. Previously I was at your mercy, but now I am on my own. I do not have to obey you any more because I am no longer serving you."

All those who were present were shocked at what the former officer was saying and they wanted to thrash him for his insolence. But Shah Jahan stood up and embraced the man, saying, "I want all my subjects to have this kind of independent spirit." Then Shah Jahan gave the man back his job and also gave him a bag of gold coins.

The following evening, everybody was wondering where the officer would sit, now that he had his job back. Finally, they noticed him sitting at the very back of the Audience Hall. Someone asked him, "What are you doing there?"

The officer answered, "An arrogant person can fight with another arrogant person, but he cannot fight with a man of boundless compassion and forgiveness. That is why I cannot fight with the Emperor any more."

Shah Jahan's tomb for his wife

When Mumtaz Mahal died in 1631 while giving birth to her fourteenth child, Shah Jahan was overwhelmed with grief. In order to pay homage to his beloved wife, he began the construction of a magnificent tomb made of white marble. It was built at Agra, on the banks of the Yamuna River. This 'Tomb of Light' is now known as the Taj Mahal and it is one of the wonders of the world. Tagore has written about the Taj Mahal, "Only let this one teardrop, the Taj Mahal, glisten spotlessly bright on the cheek of time for ever and ever. O King! You sought to charm time with the magic of beauty and weave a garland that would bind formless death with deathless form!"

Jahanara's last wish

After reigning for almost thiry years, Shah Jahan fell seriously ill. Each of his four sons laid claim to the throne. Their names were Dara Shikoh, Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad. The most ambitious was Aurangzeb and he quickly seized Agra. To everybody's suprise and Aurangzeb's great disappointment, however, Shah Jahan did not die. So in 1658 Aurangzeb incarcerated his father in the Red Fort.

Shah Jahan's only daughter was Jahanara. Jahanara was extremely beautiful, extremely soulful and extremely self-giving. When her father was imprisoned, she decided to remain with him in prison to serve him and console him. She stayed with her father until his death, eight years later. In every way, she tried to keep him happy and well.

Long before he was imprisoned, Shah Jahan had built the Taj Mahal, one of the great wonders of the world, in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, whom he had loved very much. From a window in the Red Fort, Shah Jahan could look out across the Yamuna to the Taj Mahal.

Who knows what he would have done if Jahanara also had died before him? True, by that time he was no longer the Emperor, but he would perhaps have begged his most notorious son to do something very special for his all-giving daughter, Jahanara.

When Shah Jahan died, Jahanara greatly mourned the loss of her father. She now had full freedom to come out of her self-imposed prison-life and enjoy life as a member of the royal family. But Jahanara said, "How can I be happy when my brother is so cruel and undivine?" She felt that her life had no meaning without her beloved father. So she continued living in prison for her few remaining years on earth.

Jahanara's last wish was not to have a canopy over her grave. Instead, she wanted only grass to grow on top of her grave. She wanted a most humble funeral ceremony, just like that of an ordinary person. She said, "I have not lived the life of a princess for many years. I have tried to live a life of simplicity, humility and purity. So let my passing also be all simplicity, humility and purity."

Let Allah's will be done

The Crown Prince Dara Shikoh was good, sincere and pious. He studied the Hindu Upanishads and translated them. He was a sincere spiritual seeker, but his younger brother, Aurangzeb, was undivine to the extreme. When Shah Jahan fell ill, Aurangzeb was determined to prevent Dara Shikoh from becoming the Emperor, so he gathered a large army and started fighting against him.

The commander of Dara Shikoh's army said to him, "We will definitely win. Our army is much more powerful, and I am sure that it is Allah's wish that we win."

Dara Shikoh replied, "I do not know what Allah's wish is, but I am praying to Allah that His Will be done. Whomever He chooses to be Emperor, I will be equally happy. If He thinks that my brother will take better care of the empire than I will, then Allah should allow my brother to defeat me and proclaim himself the Emperor. I want Allah's children — all our subjects — to be well protected and well guided. Right now, my brother may be very undivine. But, who knows, if he becomes Emperor, perhaps he will be transformed. Perhaps he will become very nice, kind and pious. I do not know the future. If Allah feels that my brother will far surpass me in good qualities and that, under his rule, the empire will prosper much more, then I feel that my brother should be victorious and not me. I want only Allah's Will to be done so that His children can be really happy."

Although he had an heroic soul and would have made an excellent Emperor, in a short space of time Dara Shikoh was executed by his cruel younger brother, Aurangzeb.

A monument to love

This incident happened many years after Shah Jahan's passing. In 1836 an English colonel and his wife went to visit the Taj Mahal, the most beautiful tomb in the world. They pitched their tent on the lawn in front of the main building. Then the colonel said to his wife, "Tell me, what do you think of this tomb?"

The wife replied, "If you ask me what I think about it, I will speak about the architecture, the workmanship and so forth. But if you ask me what I feel about it, then I will tell you my real feelings. Will you honour my feelings?"

The colonel said, "Of course. I want to know your feelings and definitely I will honour them."

His wife continued, "All right. Then I must tell you that I would be willing to put an end to my life tomorrow if you would build a Taj Mahal like this one for me. Are you prepared to do so? I am ready to take my life at this moment, but are you prepared to build another Taj Mahal for me? Do you have that kind of love for me?"

The husband was speechless. The wife went on, "I can fulfil my promise at any moment, but I can see that you are not ready to give me your promise. You will not even dare to promise to build another Taj Mahal for me. You do not have that kind of love for me!"

The poor husband looked at his wife in silence.

Part VII — Aurangzeb: (ruled 1658-1707)

Suleiman's wish

In his ambition to seize the throne, Aurangzeb was extremely cruel towards his three brothers. He had his brother Shuja pursued into the jungles of Burma, where Shuja disappeared. Aurangzeb then executed his younger brother Murad. Finally, he turned his attention to his older brother, Dara Shikoh. Dara Shikoh was captured and paraded through the streets of Delhi before being decapitated. The citizens of Delhi were heartbroken at the death of their beloved Crown Prince.

Dara Shikoh's son, Suleiman, went to Srinagar for asylum, but the King of Srinagar, instead of giving him shelter, arrested him and sent him to Aurangzeb, who had proclaimed himself Emperor. Aurangzeb's name means 'Ornament of the Throne'.

When Suleiman was brought before Aurangzeb, Aurangzeb felt a momentary sadness that his nephew was in such a miserable state. He asked Suleiman what he wanted. He assured his nephew that if he wanted to leave, he would not be killed. But Suleiman said, "If you want to fulfil my only desire, then kill me immediately. You have killed my beloved father. Now I do not want to remain on earth."

Aurangzeb said, "What are you talking about? I shall not kill you. I shall allow you to go your own way."

Suleiman said, "I do not need that favour from you, uncle. Only one favour I want: kill me here and now."

This was Suleiman's oneness with his father. Alas, Aurangzeb's pitiless nature came to the fore and he imprisoned his nephew. Each day a powerful dose of opium was administered to Suleiman and his physical condition deteriorated. Finally, he was strangled by the prison guards.

Shivaji and Aurangzeb

There was a great Hindu king who fought against the Moghuls. In every way, he was a hero supreme, and he was appreciated, admired and adored by all Indians without exception. His name was Shivaji. He wanted to have freedom for his country, especially for the part where he was born, which is called Maharashtra.

In 1666 Shivaji received a letter from Emperor Aurangzeb inviting him to come to the royal court at Agra. Although Shivaji knew that the Emperor was capable of treachery, he accepted the invitation because he did not want to appear to be afraid of Aurangzeb. Shivaji arrived in Agra with his eldest son, Shambhuji, and a small contingent of soldiers on the 12th of May, which happened to be the Emperor's 50th birthday.

When Shivaji entered the Audience Hall and placed his offerings before Aurangzeb, the Emperor did not speak a single word of welcome to him. Instead, Shivaji was led to an inferior position at the back of the hall. It now became obvious that the great Maratha hero had been led into a trap. He and his son were captives of the Emperor.

Shivaji and his son were imprisoned in the Moghul capital for several months. However, Shivaji did not despair, but began making plans for his escape. One evening Shivaji and Shambhuji hid inside two huge fruit baskets. Shivaji had arranged for the baskets to be taken out of the palace and left at a lonely spot outside the city. Shivaji and Shambhuji waited until the porters had gone and then they emerged from the fruit baskets. They besmeared their bodies with ashes and made their way back to their own kingdom disguised as mendicants.

Shambhuji's capture

When Shivaji died in 1680, he was succeeded by his son, Shambhuji. Aurangzeb was determined to subdue the son of his old adversary and regain control of Maharashtra. In 1689, Moghul troops captured Shambhuji and tortured him mercilessly. When he refused to convert to Islam or to reveal where the Maratha treasure was hidden, they blinded him and cut out his tongue. A few days later, Shambhuji was executed. The brutal death of Shambhuji caused all the Marathas to unite under the leadership of Rajaram, Shivaji's second son, and to renew their efforts to resist the Moghul domination of India.

The Emperor gives up grapes

Once one of Aurangzeb's generals fell ill. This general happened to be the Emperor's dear friend. For months the general suffered, and then his case started getting worse and worse. Finally, the Emperor called in a Greek doctor to help the patient. The doctor gave the general some medicine and told him that he should not eat grapes. He said grapes were not good for him and were creating serious physical problems.

The general started arguing with the doctor. He could not understand how abstaining from grapes could improve his condition. Since he was very, very fond of grapes and they were one of his favourite foods, he was reluctant to give them up. But the doctor told him, "I am sorry. You must not eat any more grapes."

The Emperor had faith in the doctor's opinion. Again, he was extremely fond of the general and did not want to see his dear friend suffer unnecessarily. So he made a bargain with the general. He said, "You like grapes and I also like grapes. But if you promise not to eat grapes, I will also make the same promise. Then, when you are cured, you, Allah and I will all eat grapes together. But if anything should happen to you, if you do not survive your illness, then I will never eat grapes again."

The general was deeply moved by the Emperor's love for him and he promised not to eat grapes until he was cured.

Washing the teacher's feet

Aurangzeb's son studied the Koran under a private tutor. In those days, the teachers were worshipped by their students and it was the custom for a student to wash his teacher's feet after he had taken a lesson.

One day, while the Prince was washing his teacher's feet, the Emperor happened to pass by. The Prince became frightened and the teacher also started trembling. How could the Prince wash the feet of an ordinary man?

When the Emperor saw the Prince hesitating, he began to scold the Prince: "My son, I clearly see that you are not washing your teacher's feet with utmost devotion and humility. Stop neglecting your duty and wash your teacher's feet properly!"

The Prince washed his teacher's feet with utmost devotion and Aurangzeb was very happy. The Emperor wanted his son to learn the lesson of humility. Meanwhile, the teacher was trembling the whole time!

Aurangzeb forgives the mosque attendant

Towards the end of his life, Aurangzeb repented for the many undivine things that he had done during his life and he often went to the mosque to pray.

One day, while Aurangzeb was praying at the mosque along with many other people, one of the mosque attendants noticed a hole in the carpet near the place where the Emperor was kneeling. The man cried out, "What will the Emperor think if he sees such a hole?"

The Emperor overheard the attendant and became upset. The man apologised profusely and said, "Please forgive me, O Emperor. Next time when you come here, there will be no hole in the carpet. It will be a brand new carpet."

Aurangzeb said, "You fool! That is not why I am angry. Why should you beg my forgiveness for a hole in the carpet? In my palace, if I had seen such a hole, I would have been really furious. There I would not tolerate such a thing. But I have come here not as the Emperor; I have come as an ordinary person, as one of you. I have come as a beggar to pray to Allah. This is Allah's special place, and Allah does not care for luxury and pomp. Here, simplicity and poverty are the real perfection. So do not worry about the hole; let it remain. Only if I pray in a simple place will I have true aspiration and true love for Allah!"

Aurangzeb requests a glass of water

Late one night, Aurangzeb asked one of his personal attendants to bring him a glass of water. He wanted to have something to drink and also he wanted to wash his face, ears and nose before beginning a special midnight worship. The attendant was half asleep and he went out of the room in a terrible hurry to fetch the water. While returning with the water, by accident he fell on top of the Emperor and almost kicked him. When he realised what he had done, the attendant immediately knelt down in front of the Emperor and begged for forgiveness. The Emperor said, "Forgive you? Why do I need to forgive you? This was only a silly accident. I am planning to ask Allah to give me more inner wealth, so in which way are you inferior to me? In which way are we different? We are both beggars."

The end of the Empire

The Emperor Aurangzeb's last years were lonely and solitary. To his eldest son, Azam, he lamented: "I have not been the protector and guardian of the empire. Life, so valuable, has been squandered in vain."

As death approached him, Aurangzeb wrote to his youngest son, Kam Bakhsh:

"For every torment I have inflicted, every sin I have committed, every wrong I have done, I carry the consequences with me. Strange, that I came into the world with nothing, and now I am going away with this stupendous caravan of sin!...Wherever I look, I see only Allah...I have sinned terribly, and I do not know what punishment awaits me...."

Aurangzeb passed away in 1707 at almost ninety years of age. The dynasty continued through his heirs, but they were too weak to maintain control of the once glorious Moghul Empire.

Sri Chinmoy Peace-Blossoms-Family

The Taj Mahal, Agra and Delhi —

all synonymous with the Moghul Empire —

have now joined

the Sri Chinmoy Peace-Blossoms-Family.

From:Sri Chinmoy,The Moghul Emperors, Agni Press, 2001
Sourced from