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Medieval History / Mughal Sultanate

Religious Policies of Akbar and Aurangzeb

Religious policies of Akbar and Aurangzeb are somewhat conflicting in nature because Akbar was the most secular king whereas Aurangzeb was the most conservative king of the Mughal empire.

Religious Policy of Akbar

  • Religious policy of Akbar the Great was based on a Sufi doctrine known as Sulh-i-Kul (meaning of Sulh-i-Kul is Peace with All), a policy of universal brotherhood and non-discrimination.

  • In 1562, he banned forcible conversions. Pilgrimage tax was abolished in 1563. In 1564, Jizya tax was abolished by Akbar.

  • During his reign, cow slaughter was banned in India and many temples and churches were constructed.

  • Akbar married many Rajput princesses and gave complete religious freedom to them.

    • Harkha Bai, princess of Kachwaha dynasty of Amber, was given the name Mariam-uz-Zamani. She was also known as Jodha Bai and a worshipper of Krishna. Mariam-uz-Zamani is the mother of Jahangir.

    • He also married the princesses of Jaisalmer and Bikaner.

    • He made Salim to marry Jagat Gosain (also called Jodh Bai according to one tradition), a Rathore princess of Marwar.

  • In 1575, Ibadat Khana at Fatehpur Sikri was built by Akbar. It is a Worship house, where on every Thursday, a religious debate was being organized.

    By 1578, he became the most knowledgeable person in Islam. Then, he came to know that Islam is not conservative. After that, suppression of Ulemas started. Most of the Ulemas were asked to go to Mecca.

  • From 1578, the doors of Ibadat Khana of Fatehpur Sikri were opened to other religions also. In Ibadat Khana, Hinduism was represented by Devi and Purushottam, Jainism was represented by Hira Vijaya Suri, Zoroastrian (Parsi) religion was represented by Dastur Meherji Rana and Christianity was represented by Portuguese missionaries named Antonio Monserrate and Rudolf Acquaviva.

  • Ibadat Khana was active up to 1582. By 1582, he had tremendous knowledge of all religions.

  • In 1582, he developed a new religion having principles of all religions. It is known as Tauhid-i-Ilahi and later it was renamed (after death of Akbar) as Din-i-Ilahi (Divine faith). Sunday was a holiday in this religion.

    At the height of this religion, Din-i-Ilahi had only 18 followers of which only one Hindu follower named Mahesh Das. Mahesh Das had titles as Raja Birbal and Kaviraj.

  • Principles of Din-i-Ilahi - Worship of Fire God and Sun God, No non-vegetarian food, No celebration of birthdays, No marriage to elder or minor, Greeting "Allahu Akbar" (Allah is great), etc. are the main principles of Din-i-Ilahi.

Religious Policy of Aurangzeb

  • Aurangzeb was a god-fearing man. He abolished 20 kinds of taxes. In 1679, he reimposed Jizya tax. He destroyed many temples like Somnath temple, Keshava Rai temple in Mathura, Vishwanath temple in Kashi, etc. Navroz, Shab-e-Barat, Deepawali, Holi were banned.

  • He imposed more taxes on Hindu traders. He abolished Tulabhara (Jashn-e-Wazan) ceremony in the court. Jharokha Darshan was abolished by Aurangzeb.

    He removed the painters, musicians and dancers from the court as these are un-Islamic. However, Naubat, a military band was not abolished.

  • He stopped minting Kalimah (sacred lines) on the coins as he thought that he was insulting Kalimah by minting on coins as they may go to dustbin.

  • Hindus occupied 33% of higher positions in Aurangzeb's administration. Aurangzeb, who was known as Zinda Pir (Living Saint), is known for his simple living. According to a tradition, he never spent public money for luxuries.

  • Unlike the religious policy of Akbar, Aurangzeb appointed officers called Muhtasib (to preach Morals) for the expansion of Islam. Akbar never tried to expand Islam.