The man known as Akbar the Great was the third monarch of the powerful Mughal Empire which dominated most India and much of south central Asia. He would rule more of India than anyone in history up to the era of British colonial rule. He is remembered today as a great conqueror, builder, lawgiver and a fair ruler of a very diverse population, particularly in religion. He was born Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar on November 23, 1542 in Umerkot, Sindh (modern Pakistan) to Emperor Humayun and his wife Hamida Banu Begum. When his parents were driven into exile in Persia by the Pashtuns young Akbar stayed behind and was later raised by an uncle in what is now Afghanistan. He grew up strong and determined, very athletic and adventurous but without much of a formal education. He would be illiterate for his entire life and yet, rather like Emperor Charlemagne in the west, this did not mean he was ill-informed or unrefined in taste or habits.
When his father returned during a struggle over the succession Humayun captured Delhi but died shortly thereafter. At only 13 years old Akbar succeeded to the Mughal throne in 1556 though it was still a throne he had to fight for. However, military campaigns were to take up a considerable portion of his reign and Emperor Akbar proved more than up to the challenge. In the beginning his army was often led by Bairam Khan who was also guardian of the young emperor. Eventually, however, he launched a rebellion against his former charge and it took a difficult military campaign to defeat him and for Akbar to consolidate his rule and begin expanding his empire. His forces won a number of stunning victories that destroyed the power of the Hindu kings and extended Mughal control across Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India though it took about twenty years to accomplish it. No other Mughal emperor would ever surpass his achievements on the battlefield and the Mughal Empire would never be bigger or stronger than it was during his reign. Yet,...
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