Latest topics

'Akbar had no real love of his life'

View previous topic View next topic Go down

'Akbar had no real love of his life'

Post by pollyanna on 2013-10-14, 15:06

'Akbar had no real love of his life'


Belgian writer Dirk Collier has written a fictional autobiography of emperor Akbar, laced with facts, titled The Emperor's Writings. Written in the form of a letter to his Jahangir, it chronicles the life and times of the Mughal emperor. The author talks about being inspired by Akbar, the emperor's 5,000 wives and more!



How much of the book is fiction and how much non-fiction?

Other than the storyline of the first and last chapters (as far as we know, Akbar was dyslexic and never wrote any letter, to Jahangir or to anyone else), the events described in the book are historical. And in order to avoid any misunderstandings about what is fact and what is fiction, I have added rather extensive historical notes and references at the end of my book, so that the reader can find out for him- or herself, what "real" history has to say about Akbar.

What did you learn about Akbar and his wives?

Unlike other Great Mughal emperors (including Jahangir and Shah Jahan), it seems Akbar was not a very romantic man. While he did sleep with countless many women, particularly when he was still young, it seems he had no real "love of his life". It is however well documented that his cousin Salima Sultana, whom he married after Bairam Khan's death, was clearly his favorite, in spite of the fact that she did not bear him any children. She was highly influential, probably much more than Akbar's mother was, and Akbar greatly valued her opinion. She appears to have been intelligent, exceptionally well-read, and an accomplished poetess, but to my knowledge, she has not left any published memoirs to posterity.

It is reported that no less than 5,000 women lived in Akbar's palace, of whom, chroniclers hasten to reassure us, "only" about 300 (still a highly impressive number) were his wives or concubines. It should be remembered, though, that these unions were, above all, politically inspired: many a local ruler was more than eager to send one of his daughters to the imperial palace and thus establish a family link between himself and the emperor.

It is also well documented, that the ladies in the imperial palace were quite influential and active in society. Many mosques, madrasas and other monuments of the Mughal era have in fact been commissioned by women! It is also reported that the princess of Amber (Akbar's first Hindu wife and Jahangir's mother) was a highly astute business woman, who ran an active international trade in spices, silk, etc., and thus amassed a private fortune which dwarfed the treasury of many a European king...

What is your favourite part of the book? What did you learn about Akbar during research?

From the reactions of my readers, I know that many of them prefer different parts. My wife Anne, for instance, very much enjoys the psychological, personal side of the story: the drama of the rivalry and conflict between father and son, the relationship between Akbar and his favourite wife, etc. Other readers are interested in the story of the making of a great empire: the military campaigns, the court intrigues, etc. I personally enjoy the philosophical and religious discussions very much – in particular the views expressed by Akbar's teacher Mir Abdul Latif and his advisor Abu'l Fazl. But again, this is all very personal: most readers will find something different they like.



My main ambition was to write a book that Akbar himself would have liked. Thinking about his life, I found it fascinating to get to know him, not only as the invincible emperor, but also as the vulnerable human being, struggling to preserve everything he held dear.

What prompted The Emperor's Writings?

My original plan was to write about the Catholic Inquisition, and to place the action in Goa, so that I could add an interesting non-Western perspective to my story. Reading about Goan history, I was surprised to find that the so-called Great Mogol of Hindustan had invited several missions of Jesuit priests to his court, to instruct him in the Christian faith and to debate with representatives of Islam and other faiths.

At a time when Europe found itself plagued by fanaticism, persecution and bloody religious wars, this seemed to be a remarkably tolerant and open-minded attitude for an absolute monarch, and a Muslim king at that.

I soon found myself fascinated with Akbar's story: his swift and spectacular rise to absolute power, amidst strife and intrigues, often against overwhelming odds; his exotic, yet remarkably modern vision of a prosperous, diverse and tolerant India; and his eventful, not to say tragic personal life, with the bitter and never fully resolved conflict with Salim (Jahangir), his only surviving son and successor. And while I will readily admit (as I'm sure, he would do as well) that he was by no means a saint, I found true greatness in him.

What is the message of his life and the book?



While he lived and died as a Muslim, Akbar fundamentally was an eclectic, a rationalist as well as a mystic, who came to regard all religions as merely human attempts to honor and serve an ineffable, unattainable Reality. In his own words: Each person, according to his personal condition, gives the Supreme Being a Name, but in reality, to name the Unknowable is vain. That is why he behaved himself with equal respect and humility in a Parsi or Hindu temple as in a mosque or a catholic church: he was profoundly convinced that all humankind constitutes a single brotherhood, created by the same God, and fundamentally equal before Him. God, he firmly believed, is much, much greater than all the differences that divide us.



What makes Akbar relevant today?

Akbar faced the same difficulty as the one we are facing in today's world: he ruled over a vast, extremely diverse empire, inhabited by people of countless many creeds, castes and ethnic origins. As a matter of principle, but also for pragmatic, "imperialist" reasons, he wanted them to be united – if not in brotherhood, then at least in mutual respect and harmony. Quite early in his reign, he became convinced that the essence of a king's duty is to guarantee universal tolerance and equality for all his subjects, regardless of their creed and ethnic origin (Sulh-i-Kul, or Peace for All, as his teacher Mir Abdul Latif called it). That is why he attempted to rule in strict neutrality; that is why he did not require his wives or courtiers or anyone else to abandon their religion; that is why he spent countless hours convincing himself and others that even rigorously orthodox Islam is perfectly compatible with universal tolerance and pluralism. These are insights that remain as relevant in our own 21st century as they were in his own time...

Do you think non-fiction is finally gaining popularity in India? How has the response to the book been?

Judging by the reaction of literally every reader I have met so far, I am convinced that the Indian audience will thoroughly enjoy this book! If I say so myself, it not only offers them a wealth of information about one of the most important kings in their national history, but it brings that history back to life in a tangible way. Based on what history knows about Akbar, I have attempted to reconstruct the thoughts that must have entered his mind, the things that preoccupied him, the way he looked at himself and the world around him, in short: the kind of man he must have been. In this respect, books like my Emperor's Writings have a valuable contribution to make to historical understanding, in putting, so to speak, new flesh on the dry bones of historical fact. It bridges the divide between "fiction" and "non-fiction", and offers literary entertainment as well as historical information.

Let me give you an example from The Emperor's Writings: we know from historical records that Akbar's favourite wife Salima personally travelled to Allahabad and brought about the official reconciliation between Salim (Jahangir) and his father. This is where "real" history ends. Historical fiction, however, wants to bring that argument back to life. How angry / frustrated / frightened were the protagonists? Which arguments did they use to convince each other?

How long did the book take to write and what was the kind of research involved?

All in all, it has taken me over 7 years to write The Emperor's Writings. Quite a lot of research and study was involved, as I'm sure you can imagine. The book therefore ends with an extensive bibliography, indicating which sources I am most indebted to. I should point out that I have not only read most history books of our age (the work of professors Eraly, Habib, Majumdar, Smith, Schimmel, Gascoigne and others), but also translations of contemporary Mughal sources, including the highly critical Tarikh-i Badauni, and the 5,000 pages of Abu'l Fazl's monumental Akbar Nama and A'In-i-Akbari...



Your next book focuses on Ahmed Lahori, the chief architect of the Taj Mahal and its creator Shah Jahan... what kind of research does it involve?

I'm afraid that is still very much in the conceptual / planning / dreaming phase at this stage... But yes, it's a book I would very much like to write. Like so many millions all over the world, I find myself mesmerized by the absolute perfection of the Taj. I thought it would be interesting to take this building and its construction, and make that story the focal point of a narrative about Shah Jahan's life and reign. We'll see how it goes.





credit--TOI

pollyanna
Channel Moderator
Channel Moderator

Posts : 5890
Join date : 2013-02-02
Location : Bangalore,India

Back to top Go down

Re: 'Akbar had no real love of his life'

Post by neha on 2013-10-14, 15:26

Akbar never had 5000 or nor even 300 wives..these 5000 women in his harem includes widows of his father and uncles,his aunts,sisters,cousines,their children,his wives,concubines,slave girls. Whenevr he got married, his bride used to bring her own daasis n slave girls from their mayka..he had 30 wives as per an official record which was a very common thing for an emperor in those times..he wasnt romantic comapred to salim..but he had great affection and respect for all the 3 chief consorts of him..i dont know on what basis these foreign author has written about akbar but as a reader of tuzuk-I-jahangiri and akbarnama I find most of the facts modified as per authors convenience

neha
Glittering Gold
Glittering Gold

Posts : 1189
Join date : 2013-10-02
Age : 26
Location : Pune

Back to top Go down

Re: 'Akbar had no real love of his life'

Post by pollyanna on 2013-10-14, 15:29

true Neha...all the authors interpret history in their own way...

pollyanna
Channel Moderator
Channel Moderator

Posts : 5890
Join date : 2013-02-02
Location : Bangalore,India

Back to top Go down

Re: 'Akbar had no real love of his life'

Post by neha on 2013-10-14, 15:35

Yup..i dont understand y dont they refer the official documents like all the 3 volumes of akbarnama. These were written when the emperor was very much alive and he himself approved them. He wouldnt have agreed to these documents if abul fazl and faizi would have written something untrue.

neha
Glittering Gold
Glittering Gold

Posts : 1189
Join date : 2013-10-02
Age : 26
Location : Pune

Back to top Go down

Re: 'Akbar had no real love of his life'

Post by Sponsored content Today at 20:05


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top


 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum