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The Mughal Emperor Abu’l-Fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar, who is widely known as Akbar, The Great, is one of the most prominent Mughal rulers. Raised by his father Humayun and mother Hamida Banu Begum along with foster mother Maham Anga, Akbar went on to become the third ruler of the Mughal empire. His reigning period from 1556 to 1605 is known to be one of the most beautiful pre-independent years of India. He extended the Mughal power to almost the entire Indian subcontinent. Also, Mughal architecture flourished during his times, the residues of which are found even today. Apart from all of these, it is necessary to talk about the merit that Emperor Akbar gave to art and learning. His court was filled with many talented scholars and artists. Out of all of them, nine popular and famous men talented in different circles, were called the “Nine Gems” or “Navratnas” his court. Therefore, in this article, let us read and understand about the Nine Gems of Akbar’s Court in detail.
Nine Gems of Akbar’s Court
Emperor Akbar is known to be the Greatest of Mughal Emperors of all times. During his reigning period, he extended the Mughal dynasty to such soaring places in the Indian subcontinent. No other ruler could achieve what he did back then. Also, the ruling period of Emperor Akbar is known to be a flourishing era for arts, architecture, literature, etc. During the times back in 1556, he incorporated the non-muslims (Rajputs, mostly) into the activities of the empire. This is still remembered as one of the most thoughtful actions carried out by Emperor Akbar.
Even though many of the historians anticipate that Emperor Akbar was an illiterate person himself, his love for arts, culture, literature and architecture was thoroughly reflected in his ruling period. Due to this very reason, the court of emperor Akbar was filled with fine talents from various fields. He supported writers, artists and scholars from all spheres of life. Out of all the scholars present in Akbar’s court, nine of them who were highly talented, went on to be known as Nine Gems of Akbar’s Court. Popularly called the ‘Navratnas’ , they were the true jewels of Akbar’s Court. So, let us read about the Nine Gems of Akbar’s Court here.
To begin with, the following are the names of the Nine Gems or Navratnas who happen to be the most learned men of Emperor Akbar’s court.
- Raja Todar Mal
- Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana
- Raja Birbal (Mahesh Das)
- Fakir Aziao-Din
- Raja Man Singh I
- Mulla Do-Piyaza
In the upcoming sections let us read about each one of the Nine Gems in detail.
One of the respectable figures in the court of Emperor Akbar was Abul-Fazal. He was born in Agra on 14th January in the year 1555. Born as the second son of Sheik Mubarak, who was a Great Teacher and Scholar, he started to read and write in Arabic language at the age of Five. Even though his father taught him the various branches of Islamic Sciences, Abul-Fazal was not so keen on conventional learning.
One of the most famous incidents that reflects the genius in Abul-Fazal is as follows. When Abul Fazal found a dictionary of “Ishefani” that was half eaten by white ants, he gave a try to reconstruct it. He found out the fragments (beginning and ending) and matched them to construct a whole new copy of the dictionary. To everyone’s surprise, at the end, only three major differences were found between abul Fazal’s copy to the original dictionary.
Later in 1575, he first came into Emperor Akbar’s court. Here, he was deeply moved by the liberal religious views of The Great Akbar. He was appointed as a Military Commander and hence was given his first office in Deccan. He led the Mughal Army in their battle against the Deccan Sultanates.
Some of his most well known literary works include:
- The Akbarnama
It is basically a three volume long history of the Emperor Akbar’s reign as well as his ancestors from Timur to Humayun.
This literary work comprises a set of exclusive letters from Abul fazl to various people including Mural, Daniyal, Akbar’s queens and Daughters, etc.
- Inshā-i-Abu’l Fazl
All of the official documents written by Abul Fazal is compiled in The Inshā-i-Abu’l Fazl which is also called as the Maqtubāt-i-Allami
Abul Fazal’s death was an assassination done by Vir Singh Bundela on his return journey from Deccan on 22 August in the year 1602 . He was aged 51 years at the time of his death.
Raja Todar Mal
Another noteworthy person who decorated the court of Emperor Akbar was Raja Todar Mal. he was born on 1st January 1500, in Laharpur, Uttar Pradesh. Raja Todar Mal had a very difficult childhood as his father died at a very young age. He struggled a lot to make both ends meet for his survival.
His beginning was very humble as a writer. Later , Sher Shah Suri of Sur Dynasty made him in-charge of building a fort in Punjab. As history says, the Mughal Dynasty overtook the Sur Dynasty. However, Raja Todal Mal continued to work for the ruling dynasty. Under the reign of Emperor Akbar, he was appointed as the in-charge of Agra. Later, he was made the Governor of Gujarat also.
One of the most memorable contributions made by Raja Todar mal during his times as the Finance Minister in Akbar’s court was the introduction of the revenue system. Astonishingly, we follow it even today!
Raja Todar Mal died on 8th November 1598, in the present day Lahore. He was aged 89 years at the time of his death.
Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana
Khanzada Mirza Khan Abdul Rahim was born on 17th December 1556 in Delhi. Renowned as “Rahim”, he was one of the great poets of Emperor Akbar’s court. The childhood of Rahim was filled with woes too. After his father Bairam Khan got killed in Patan, Gujarat, the young Rahim along with his mother was brought to Akbar’s court. Here, he gave rahim the title of ‘ Mirza Khan”. Later he became a mentor and one of the Navaratnas of Akbar’s court. Apart from these, he served as the defence minister during the reign of Akbar.
Rahim’s poetic couplets were a crowd favorite during the Mughal rule. It is remembered and studied fondly by literary lovers throughout the globe. He was later given the title “Khan-i-Kahn” which translates to “The Khan of Khans”.
Rahim was known popularly for his helping mentality. He helped the poor people whenever possible. However, one thing that distinguished him from others is that he always lowered his gaze when giving alms. He never looked into the eyes of the person he was giving alms to. When the famous poet Tulasi Das asked him about this act, he replied with a couplet that reads as follows:
“देनहार कोई और है, भेजत जो दिन रैन
लोग भरम हम पर करे, तासो निचे नैन”
This translates to – “The Giver is someone else, giving day and night. But the world gives me the credit, so I lower my eyes.”
This is one such beautiful couplet penned by Rahim that is relevant and significant at all times.
Some of his major works include the following
- Translation of Baburnama, from Chagatai Language to persion Language.
- Thousands of beautiful couplets popularly called as “Doha”
- Two famous Books on Astrology called Khetakautukam and Dwatrimshadyogavali
He died on 1st October 1627, aged 70 years. His tomb is situated at Nizamuddin East (Delhi), next to the tomb of Humayun.
Raja Birbal (Mahesh Das)
Mahesh Das popularly known as Birbal was born in the year 1528 in Sidhi, Madhya Pradesh.He was born as the third son of Ganga Das and Anabha Davito. During his childhood, he learnt Hindi, Sanskrit and Persian languages. He was the Mukya Senapati or Chief commander in Mughal Army during the reign of Akbar.
Before arriving at Akbar’s court and becoming one among the courtiers, Mahesh Das served as “Brahma Kavi” for Raja Ram Chandra of Rewa of Madhya Pradesh. However, his popularity increased on his arrival at Akbar’s court. Within very few years of appointment he became one of the favorite poets of Akbar. Therefore, Akbar gave him the name Raja Birbal which means hasir javab or quick thinker.
Positions of Birbal in Emperor Akbar’s Court
- Religious Advisor
- Military Leader
- Outstanding Poet
- Well Known Singer
Undoubtedly, Birbal was one of the favorites of the Nine Gems of Akbar’s Court. Birbal died in an unfortunate incident that is regarded as the largest military loss of Mughal Empire. Birbal along with 8000 other soldiers were killed by the Afghan Army in a battle. Moreover,, it is said that Emperor Akbar could not believe the death of Birbal and was so saddened by the news that he didn’t care to drink or eat for two days!
Akbar- Birbal Folktales
The Folklore and legacy of Akbar- Birbal stories are popular in our country even today. They have been passed on from generation to generation mainly through oral means. These stories tell about the quick wit nature of Birbal and why he was so much loved by Emperor Akbar. In these stories, Birbal always overcomes a seemingly impossible situation with ease, thus impressing the entire court.
Sheik Abu al-Faiz ibn Mubarak was born on 20th September 1547 at Agra. He was the elder brother of Abul Fazal who was one among the Nine Gems of Akbar’s Court.
Popularly known as “Faizi” which appears to be the pen name of Sheik Abu al-Faiz ibn Mubarak, he was educated mostly by his father himself.
After reaching Akbar’s court, he made a mark in Akbar’s heart and impressed him with his talent. Subsequently, Emperor Akbar appointed him as a tutor to teach his sons- Salim, Murad and Daniyal. Some other positions that he adorned during his period at Akbar’s Court are as follows:
- Appointed as Sadr of Agra, Kalipi and Kalinjar.
- Most loved Poet Laureate of Akbar’s Court.
- Appointed as Mughal Envoy.
Famous works of Faizi
- Tabashir al-Subh- Collection of Poems
- Wrote Persian Imitations of some famous books Famous books. Examples are the Nal o Daman, the Markaz ul-Advar (The Centre of the Circle),the Sulaiman o Bilqis (Solomon and Balkis – the queen of Sheba), the Haft Kishvar (The Seven Zones of the Earth) and the Akbarnama (The History of Akbar).
- Authored two arabic books “Swati al-Ilham” and “Mawarid al-Kalam”
- Translated Bhaskaracharya’s famous book “Lilavati” into Persian language.
Faizi died on 15th October 1595 at a young age of 48. The reason for his death is known to be asthma and other illnesses.
One of the most elated figures of the Emperor Akbar’s court was Fakir Aziao-Din. He was born on 18th September 1508, Fakir Aziao-Din. Even though other personal details regarding his childhood and life are unknown, he is believed to be a mystic in Akbar’s court. He served to be a religious minister to Akbar and provided advice and information to Akbar regarding Religious matters whenever and wherever necessary. He died on 11th January in the year 1572.
Ramtanu Pandey popularly known as Tansen, is believed to have been born in either 1493 or 1500. The exact date of birth of this musical legend of Akbar’s Court is still unknown to us.
He perfected his musical skills at a very young age. Eventually he began his career at the court of Hindu King of Rewa, Madhya Pradesh. He became immensely popular, thus bringing him to the court of Emperor Akbar.
His fame and name soared to greater heights at the Emperor Akbar’s court. And consequently he was known to be one of the Nine Gems of the Akbar’s Court who had a great fan following of his own. As an honour, the Emperor gave him the title of “Mian”. Later he was known as Mian Tansen. Also, by the arrival of Tansen to the court of emperor Akbar, it opened ways to integrate the Hindu and Muslim traditions within the mughal culture.
Just like the birth of Tansen, this legendary musician’s details about death are also unclear to us. However, it is believed that Tansen died on 26th April 1589 at Agra in Delhi.
Popular Movies Based on the Life of Tansen
The life of Tansen has amazed many people around the world. And therefore, movie producers have turned his life into movies. Some of them are listed below:
- Tansen (1943)- A musical hit by Ranjit Movietone
- Tansen (1958)
- and Sangeet Samrat Tansen (1962).
Raja Man Singh I
Raja Man Singh was born as the son of King Bhagwant Das and Queen Bhagawati of Amer on 21st December 1550. He was one of the trusted Generals of Emperor Akbar. He fought many battles for the Mughal Army. His extraordinary leadership skills easily brought him the title of Mirza and the mansaab of 5000. Also,later in 1605 he became the mansabdar of 7000 cavalry in Mughal Army.
At the age of 63, he died a natural death on 06th July 1614 at Ellichpur in Maharashtra.
The ninth gem of Akbar’s court is believed to be Mulla Do-Piyaza. He lived between 1527 and 1627. He played the role of Home Minister in the court of Emperor Akbar. He also served as an advisor to the Emperor and took care of all the internal affairs of the court.
He was believed to be very witty. However, some people claim Mulla to be only a fictional character. There are numerous folk tales revolving around his name in the history.
Role of Nine Gems of Akbar’s Court
The Nine Gems of The Great Mughal Emperor Akbar’s Court are known widely for their talent and skill in respective fields. Each one of them played a distinct and significant role during the monarch of the Mughal Empire, particularly, during the reign of Emperor Akbar.
In order to make it easier for our readers, we have tabulated the Nine Gems of Akbar’s Court and their roles here. Have a look.
|1||Abul-Fazal||Prime Minister or Grand Vizier of Akbar’s Court|
|2||Raja Todar Mal||Finance Minister of Akbar’s Court|
|3||Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana||Defence Minister of Akbar’s Court|
|4||Raja Birbal (Mahesh Das)||Foreign Minister of Akbar’s Court|
|5||Faizi||Education Minister of Akbar’s Court|
|6||Fakir Aziao-Din||Religious Minister of Akbar’s Court|
|7||Tansen||Cultural Minister of Akbar as well as Singer|
|8||Raja Man Singh I||Chief of Mughal Army|
|9||Mulla Do-Piyaza||Home Minister|
That is a Wrap!
The period during which the Mughal Emperors ruled India is considered to be one of the most beautiful periods in Indian History. The era claims to be rich in art, architecture, culture and what not! Out of all the rulers, the reigning period of The Great Emperor Akbar will always be remembered for his just ways of ruling which was made possible by the Nine Gems of Akbar’s Court. Adding to this is his love and encouragement to learn and flourish has indeed left impending prints in Modern India!