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Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

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Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

Post by adianasr on 2014-05-10, 23:30

Dear frnds am making this weekend post on Akbar.

The EK show on Jodha Akbar - though touted as a love story (with a dubious premise - you may read my thread on forum Jodha Akbar - The premise of a Love Story' with all the comments that I have made here to know why I say so) has got all of us intrigued by this unusual Emperor of the 16th Century India - who had the bold vision to dream of a Nation State where all his people could live in harmony - a leader who went beyond politicking to being a leader - a man who believed that more than just reading the prayers, what is important is to find the Self'.

This thread will have different posts made on some of the facets of this multi-faceted personality who even today inspires with his thirst for knowledge.
In April 1580 the Jesuit father Francis Henriques reported from Fatehpur Sikri that 'Akbar knows a little of all trades, and sometimes loves to practise them before his people, either as a carpenter, or as a blacksmith, or as an armourer. Monserrate claimed to 'have even seen him making ribbons like a lace-maker and filing, sawing, working very hard.' In his Commentary written later, Monserrate recalled that -

Zelaldinus [Akbar] is so devoted to building that he sometimes quarries stone himself along with the other workmen. Nor does he shrink from watching and even himself practising for the sake of amusement the craft of an ordinary artisan. For this purpose he has built a workshop near the palace where also are studios and work-rooms for the finer and more reputable arts, such as painting, goldsmith work, tapestry-making, carpet and curtain-making, and the manufacture of arms. Hither he very frequently comes and relaxes his mind with watching those who practise their arts.
Sources -
1. Letters from the Mughal Court: The first Jesuit Mission to Akbar (1580-83), ed. [& tr.], with an Introduction by John Correia-Affonso, Bombay/Anand, 1980, p.22.
2. Monserrate, Commentary on his Journey to the Court of Akbar, tr. J.S. Hoyland and S.N. Banerjee, Cuttack, 1922, p.201. See also Pierre du Jarric's account based (ultimately) on Jesuit letters in Akbar and the Jesuits, tr. C.H. Payne, London, 1926, p.206 ('the next moment he would be seen shearing camels, hewing stones, cutting wood, or hammering iron').

Akbar had a fascination for water works and architectural innovation. One can therefore understand how any fanciful device involving both would attract his interest. The range of Akbar's technological interests is undoubtedly impressive, from textiles to ship- building, and from cooling to gearing devices. Even if he was not the author of all the inventions, which were made at his court, the spate of technological activity derived essentially from his interest and patronage. Such purposeful attention to technology had little precedent in our known history, and there came very little to match it in the subsequent period during which Europe advanced inexorably to its position of global technological supremacy.

It is quite obvious from some European and indigenous accounts of Akbar's character that he had more than a passing interest in science and technology. His minister and spokesman Abu'l Fazl devotes several sections to things scientific and technological in his A'in-i Akbari.
All the information collected and presented here are from various sources - from reseach papers of prominent researchers like Irfan Habib, from the translations of Ai'n and Akbarnama by various authors, from the biographies written by Vincent Smith and Ferdinand Noer and other books on Akbar and the Mughal rule. Wherever needed the sources have been quoted. In fact I have not even changed the words of these writers and researchers!!! Just quoted them as is!!!!

Hope you all have as much fun reading about Akbar as I did both reading and writing about him.


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Re: Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

Post by adianasr on 2014-05-10, 23:31

Akbar and Scientific Concepts

The section entitled A'in-i Paida'ish-i Filizzat ('Description of Genesis of Metals') contains the Aristotelian theory of four elements of all matter and natural phenomena.
Akbar's own interest in technology enabled him to 'invent' an alloy made up of two parts white bronze and one part copper, which was 'beautiful and lustrous' (A'in-I Akbari).

Although it was a part of the usual sycophancy to credit new inventions to the emperor, in this case one could believe Abu'l Fazl, for Akbar's work in the workshop has been remarked upon by contemporary Jesuit writers as well (See Monserrate, Commentary on his Journey to the Court of Akbar, tr. J.S. Hoyland and S.N. Banerjee, Cuttack, 1922, p.201; and Du Jarric's account in Akbar and the Jesuits, tr. C.H. Payne, London, 1926).

On Sounds

Akbar enjoyed discussions on science, and interesting accounts of discussions on the movement of sound and on colours are available in the A'in, though they are more in the form of digressions than direct or consistent description. Thus, sound is dealt with in a chapter on calligraphy, the linkage being established when Abu'l Fazl takes about the letters of the alphabet and then how they sound. It is here that he draws upon the theories propounded by the secret brotherhood of rationalists, the Ikhwan u's safa and Ibn Sina, when he says, 'sound is produced by the striking together or the breaking of any hard substance. In both cases the air lying in between is set into wave-like motion and thus the state known as sound, is produced' (A'in., I, p.127. Ibn Sina, Risala al Mausiqi, Hyderabad, A.H.1353, p.10, and Rasa'il Ikhwan u's Safa, Bombay, 1886, I, p.1188).

Here, we have atoms and wave-theory on the propagation of sound, both in very clear, unambiguous terms. A'in has more information on the modifying influences on sound follows, which can be read by anyone who is interested.

It is to Akbar that due credit be given for patronizing and promoting men like Abu'l Fazl and Fat'hullah Shirazi, men who could help him introduce more scientific syllabi in the schools and more effective techniques in technology, and to initiate discussions on scientific theories (M.A. Alvi and A. Rahman, Shah Fat'hullah Shirazi, a 16th Century Indian Scientist, New Delhi, 1976).

Nonetheless, the socio-economic and ideological stimulants that this was producing were not apparently provocative enough to bring about a paradigm change in the structure of Indian science. Hence Abu'l Fazl's lament in the A'in that exchanges between scientists of various religious persuasions were not taking place because of 'the blowing of the chill blast of inflexible custom (taqlid) and the low flicker of the lamp of wisdom.'


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Re: Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

Post by adianasr on 2014-05-10, 23:31

Akbar and Technology - (This is one of the most interesting and extensive part and hence will be splitting this into 3 posts)

Akbar had a natural inclination towards industrial crafts; and this was undoubtedly a source of his concern with technological innovation, which is presented under various heads -

'Prefab' and Movable Structures

An early testimony to Akbar's interest in technology comes from 'Arif Qandahari. Writing in 1579, he says:
His high and majestic nature is such that when he journeys, the tents of His Majesty's encampment are loaded on five hundred camels. There are eighteen houses, which have been made of boards of wood, each including an upper chamber and balcony that are set up in a suitable and attractive place. At the time of departure, each board is dismantled, and, at the time of encamping, the boards are joined together by iron rings. The insides of these houses are clothed with covers of European brocade and European velvet, and the outside thereof is covered with broadcloth. ('Arif Qandahari, Tarikh-i Akbari, ed. Muinuddin Nadvi, Azhar Ali Dihlawi and Imtiyaz Ali Arshi, Rampur, 1962, p.43.)

The supplementing of tents by wooden boards to create prefabricated and movable structures was an interesting innovation, which, though described later in some detail by Abu'l Fazl in the A'in-i Akbari, appears to have escaped general attention, especially since Blochmann's translation does not bring out the fact that the structures were essentially of wood, not of cloth or canvas.

The A'in describes these structures as elaborate ones and further describes all the various parts. A wood-and-bamboo palace, like the 'wooden rawati' and a double-storeyed structure, like the Do-ashyana, could be set up and dismantled at each stage of journey. Blochmann's translation suggests that 'bolts and nuts' were put into use to attach the several parts (A'in-i Akbari)

This, if correct, would be testimony to an early use of screw as an attachment, though even in Europe, the screw did not come into use in carpentry before the sixteenth century. Though the words, dhan jama, iron-cover, are, however, decisive in excluding the screw. Obviously, what we are told of are short iron-tubes that clothed the ends of masts and beams, with protrusions ('male') designed to fit into hollows ('female') of corresponding tubes fitted to other masts and beams, and vice-versa.

Textiles

'Arif Qandahari is also the earliest source for Akbar's interest in textile technology. He says:
His Majesty has such an eye for the finer things that he has introduced silken clothes, brocade, tapestry and carpets of silk and brocade in India, and instructed highly skilled masters in that art, so that the work in India is now much better than the work of Persia and Europe. He has so well practised the making of designs (tarrahi) that if Mani [the great artist] was alive, he would bite his fingers in astonishment at such design-making and dyeing (Tarikh-i Akbari, p.45)

This passage is important in showing that Abu'l Fazl did not invent Akbar's reputation for innovativeness in the realm of textile craft, and that this was widely recognized much before he began to write the A'in-i Akbari. In a short while, the sagacious emperor obtained familiarity with all theoretical and practical aspects of that art, and, from his patronage, skilled masters of ready understanding belonging to this country also learnt it (A'in-i Akbari).

The context makes it clear that here what was involved was the diffusion, under Akbar's patronage, of the pattern-weaves of Iran, China and Europe. Though experts could only have come from Iran, the use of the draw-loom was common to the weaving techniques in all three regions. It is tantalizing not to be certain whether Abu'l Fazl is speaking of the introduction of this technique; but it is not unlikely.

Printing-block designs would be connected closely with the application of colours, and Akbar's expertise in both is indeed praised by 'Arif Qandahari. Abu'l Fazl tells us of Akbar's experiments with the dyeing of shawl-wool. Until now tus-wool had been used un-dyed, but Akbar set himself to dye it and found that it would not take red colour. Further, ]the white alcha also called tarhdar, has natural colours. Its wool is either white or black in colour. It is woven in three ways: (all) white, (all) black or mixed. The first (white) in old times could take no more than three or four colours. But His Majesty has made it many-hued (gunagun) [i.e. suceeded in applying many colours to it]' (A'in-i Akbari,).

Clearly, then, there was much effort made and experimentation undertaken by Akbar to see what dye the wool would take.


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Re: Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

Post by adianasr on 2014-05-10, 23:31

Akbar and Technology - (Part - 2)

Aircooling and Refrigeration

Abu'l Fazl says that India used to be censured for 'the absence of cold water and the excess of heat', and so Akbar sought to remove the cause of the latter complaint by popularising Mas- frames:
There is a fragrant root, very cool, which is called khas. By His Majesty's command, it became common to make huts of bamboo frames (nai-bast khana-ha) stuffed with it. When water is thrown on it, winter seems to arrive in the midst of summer (A'in-i Akbari).

It is to be investigated if before Akbar the practice of cooling houses or rooms through the wetting of khas-frames was at all prevalent. It is not to be found in Babur's description of India. 'Bahar' (1739) defines khas-khana as something peculiar to India and illustrates it with a fair range of verses, but two of the three poets quoted are known to belong to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Bahar-i 'Ajam, I, Delhi, AH 1282, p.569, s.v.khaskhana: 'Hut made of khas in which people sit in summer, and this fragrant khas [or grass] and such hut are peculiar to India'. The poets quoted are: 'Qubul', Hakim Sadiq, and Mulla Abu'l)
Abu'l Fazl's ascription of the invention to Akbar may, therefore, be quite accurate.

Of still greater interest is Akbar's device to cool water. This was through the use of saltpetre. Abu'l Fazl quotes Akbar as claiming to have made the discovery (A'in-i Akbari) and he himself more than once attributes the invention to Akbar without any qualification (A'in-i Akbari).

Although Abu'l Fazl does not explicitly date the invention, he says, immediately after the above passage, that Akbar's shift of headquarters to Lahore in 1585 enabled him to get snow to cool water. This suggests that the use of saltpetre for cooling water had been discovered when Akbar was at Fatehpur Sikri and Agra, i.e. well before 1585. No earlier description of the method exists, so that Abu'l Fazl's claims for his master as the inventor seem justified. Subsequent descriptions, particularly of European travellers, are fairly numerous. These emphazise that it was a practice found only in India. Akbar's invention, if made before 1585, had a clear precedence in time over chemical devices for refrigeration in Europe, which moreover required snow for initiating the process.

Geared Waterlift

Babur had been greatly attracted by the device of gear-and-chain water-lift, to which Anglo- Indian usage later gave the name of 'Persian wheel'. He had apparently never seen it in Central Asia and Afghanistan and had the first sight of it at Bhera, West Panjab, in 1519. In his account of India he provides us with the earliest scientific description of the device.

It is not surprising that Akbar should have been interested in these wheels, and it is certainly shown very frequently by his artists in the book illustrations that he commissioned. (Cf. S.P.Verma, Art and Material Culture in the Paintings of Akbar's Court, New Delhi, 1978, p.109)
Abu'l Fazl attributes to Akbar certain inventions here as well:
His Majesty made such water-wheels (daulab-ha), and such (gear) wheels (gardun-ha) were fixed thereon, that water may be carried to a height from distant low-lying places; two oxen may turn four wheels (charkh) simultaneously; and, further, with one ox, turning two wheels, water may be brought up from two wells, and a water-mill be turned (A'in-i Akbari).

The great wells, with provision for lifting water in successive stages, and the great network of viaducts are described in much detail by E.W. Smith in his survey of Fatehpur Sikri, but without any speculation as to the 'machinery' or the means by which the water could be lifted. He could have seen it in the Khamsa-i Nizami illustrations. In any case, the great water-works of Fatehpur Sikri make it certain that the above described invention was in full use in the 1570s (Edmund W. Smith, Moghul Architecture at Fatehpur Sikri, Allahabad, 1896, Part II, pp.19, 32-1, 38-40).


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Re: Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

Post by adianasr on 2014-05-10, 23:31

Akbar and Technology - (Part - 3)

Other Applications of Gearing: Cart-mill & Gun-barrel Boring

First, the cart-mill:
Invention of a wonderful cart ('araba), which became the means of comfort for the people of the world. During the time it is used for travel and transport, it mills various kinds of grain into flour (A'in-i Akbari).

The statement that it milled 'various kinds of grain', surely suggests the presence of more than one or two mills carried by the cart. It is surmised that four different kinds of grain could be turned into flour simultaneously. This invention must have been made in the 1580s during Fathu'llah Shirazi's presence at Akbar's court. It has, therefore, precedence in time over the European wagon-mill, which in its first version (made c.1580 and described in 1607 by Zonca) did not mill when in transit, but had its mill-wheel rotated when it was itself stationery.

Mills geared to cart-wheels and thus working as the cart moved are known in Europe only from the seventeenth century. (Seems Akbar and his Hindustan was ahead of Renaissance Europe  lazee )
Finally, the machine for smoothening gun-barrels, which could be the same (or act on the same principle) as the machine said to have been invented by Fathu'llah Shirazi.

Handguns and Cannon

Akbar's interest in handguns and artillery is emphasized in the A'in-i Akbari, and in a long passage we are told how the gun was again and again submitted to him by the imperial gunsmiths for testing and instructions at all stages of manufacture. Abu'l Fazl assigns to Akbar the invention of a technique which led to the strengthening of the gun-barrel.

Akbar's arsenal thus claims to have introduced a new method of making the gun barrel, by (a) twisting a flat iron sheet, continuously fired, to fold round and round in an elongated fashion with its edges overlapping one another, and then (b) joining such twisted heated pieces over an iron rod to create a barrel. There would then be no weak joints in the barrel. Short of casting, this would appear to produce the greatest strength in the barrel and make it withstand high explosive pressure.

Abu'l Fazl in his short chapter on cannon-pieces (A'in-i-Akbari), attributes to Akbar two inventions which need more than passing consideration. First, 'he had one [cannon-piece] made, which they can easily transport during expeditions by separating the parts. When it needs to be fired, it can be very well assembled together'. The second invention was that 'he imparted to seventeen [cannon-pieces] such unison that one match can fire all of them'.


Ship-Building

An aspect of Akbar's innovativeness that has received inadequate notice is his interest in construction of ocean-going ships, which may be rather surprising in a ruler whose capital seats (Agra, Fatehpur Sikri and Lahore) were so far from the sea, and who had gone about on a boat in the sea only once (December 1572, at Cambay). The systematic and detailed description in the A'in-i Akbari of the duties and functions of the captain and crew of ocean-going ships, with even the wages specified, according to ports, strongly indicates imperial concern with sea-navigation. Large imperial ships were built at the ports 'to become sources of comfort for those undertaking sea-travel'. But, what is still more interesting, 'ships were also built at Ilahabas (Allahabad) and Lahore and conveyed to the sea [by river]' (A'in-i Akbari).

Sind was annexed to Akbar's empire only in 1591, so that the port of Thatta (with its outer port at Bandar Lahiri) now passed into his hands. Sind lacks timber, and so Akbar had the ingenious idea of building ships at Lahore, some 650 miles distant from Thatta as the crow flies, but linked to it by the Indus river-system. Lahore, in turn, had the advantage of proximity to Himalayan sources of timber.

According to Abu'l Fazl, the construction of the first great ship by the side of river Ravi at Lahore was completed in June 1594. It was obviously difficult to find enough water in the Ravi to accommodate a sea-going vessel. However, it ultimately reached Bandar Lahiri. Another contemporary narrator tells us that this ship was made and sent to 'the port of Sind' for undertaking voyages to Mecca, i.e., the Red Sea.

Abu'l Fazl says that the difficulty the first ship had experienced in drawing water in the Ravi led Akbar to try out the idea of building the next sea-going ship upon a big barge capable of carrying a burthen of 15,000 mans (370 tons in weight) or more. The ship began to be constructed around mid-July and was completed about mid-December 1596. Carried by the barge, the ship was conveyed conveniently to Bandar Lahiri (Akbarnama).

Apparently the barge, on which the vessel was built and carried, was there scuttled, enabling the vessel to enter sea water. This device anticipated the 'camel' (invented in Dutch dockyards in 1688), which was a barge that could be submerged to let a ship come over it and then be raised to carry the ship over shallows.

Akbar was so interested in sea shipping that he even built a vessel, modeled after a sea-going ghurab (small vessel, galley), to ply on the Jhelam river and the linked lakes in Kashmir. This is said to have caused general wonder among the beholders; and Akbar himself took a ride on it in July 1597 (Akbarnama).

With this I complete the part on Akbar's interest in Technology.


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Re: Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

Post by adianasr on 2014-05-10, 23:32

res

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Re: Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

Post by adianasr on 2014-05-10, 23:32

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Re: Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

Post by adianasr on 2014-05-10, 23:32

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Re: Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

Post by adianasr on 2014-05-10, 23:33

Hey all, Updated for first part. will post the remaining in the next few days. Do keep visiting the page 1 - you will get interesting info every day.  hpee 

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Re: Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

Post by neha on 2014-05-10, 23:37

Great Post ! Akbar was indeed a man born with talent, his illiteracy could not stop his hunger for knowledge, hats off to this man !  cheers 

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Re: Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

Post by Jiggy on 2014-05-10, 23:54

great post !!! Thumbsup  Thumbsup

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Re: Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

Post by amimus on 2014-05-11, 00:12

Great post. I love reading about Akbar n the Mughal Era. Looking forward to more posts

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Re: Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

Post by adianasr on 2014-05-11, 00:12

Thanx Neha and Jiggy. Will be updating this post every day with specific info on his various talents - it is mind boggling what all this man was interested and involved in - and many of what he had worked at and patronized was way ahead of even Europe - it is sad that there was none like him after to have taken his work and interests forward - if there had been some more like him ours would have been a different story altogether!!!!

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Re: Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

Post by mandygi on 2014-05-11, 01:57

thx adi, i will be visiting your thread daily for updates, i just cannot have enough reading on this great emperor!

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Re: Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

Post by adianasr on 2014-05-12, 22:00

hey frnds, just updated the post and completed the part of Akbar and Technology. Will post his interest in Music tomorrow.

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Re: Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

Post by fatma201 on 2014-05-13, 09:52

Great post, you have done alot of research and  devoted your time to post them. I have learnt many things about this great Emperor. Thanks

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Re: Akbar - A Multi-faceted Man, A Multi-talented Emperor - Updated 12th May

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