The Natural HR Theory by Dr IVNS Raju

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In the spring of 1574 there arrived at court a young man who was destined to a brilliant career; who was to become Akbar’s closest and most trusted friend, and to write the history of his achievements.

Abul Fazl was the son of a Shaikh, Mubarak, who was himself notable alike for his learning and unorthodox opinions. The year 1591-92 was the year, now not so far off, which would complete the first millennium of Islam. Such is the hypnotic effect of numbers on the human mind that, just as had happened in the Buddhist, and later in the Christian Church, the completion of a thousand years was looked forward to with much agitation, and some dramatic event was by many expected with confidence. In the Muhammadan world the event so looked for was the coming of a ‘Mahdi,’ a prophet who was to restore the clouded faith of Islam to its pristine freshness. Mubarak was attached to this religious movement, which also influenced Akbar and strengthened the growing revolt in his mind against the frigid bigotry of the orthodox teachers. Mubarak had suffered persecution at the hands of the official doctors of the law; both his liberalism and the intolerance it provoked predisposed the emperor in his favour. Moreover, it was he who, when Akbar returned from the first Gujerat campaign, had gone out to meet him, and had urged the emperor to become not only the temporal but the spiritual head of his subjects: and this pregnant suggestion was never forgotten. His two sons, of whom Abul Fazl was the younger, shared their father’s views; both shone in boyhood with precocious promise: Faizi, the elder, as a poet, Abul Fazl as a scholar. It was during the siege of Chitor, in 1567, that Faizi first presented himself to the emperor and was cordially treated: he was to become, some twenty years later, Akbar’s Laureate. Abul Fazl was introduced to the emperor by his brother; and Akbar took notice of him from the first. According to his own account, he was consumed with a longing to retire from the world, yet attracted, moth-like, by the glory of his sovereign. One day in a mosque he was meditating when Akbar happened to enter: and to his surprise and delight he was recognised and spoke to. This was the beginning of many favours. Akbar found Abul Fazl a man after his own heart. He was a courtier born. Moreover, his was an alert and flexible intelligence. Among all the courtiers the Jesuits, competent judges, found Abul Fazl preeminent in qualities of mind. It is true that he is a tedious writer. It is often a little difficult to disengage the facts recorded in the Akbar-namah, so overgrown are they with Persian flowers of speech: still the facts are there. Abul Fazl was even capable of commanding an army and conducting a ampaign with more success than some of Akbar’s generals. At this period, however, he was a young, enthusiastic student, with an immense admiration for the emperor, who was in him an invaluable ally and support in his religious adventures.

It was at the same time that noather person came to curt who, like Abul Fazl, was also to be Akbar’s historian. But from a very different point of view. Badaoni was of the straitest sect of Muslims. He was to witness with secret but increasing wrath the emperor’s lapses from the faith, and his comments grew bitterer every year: so that it became impossible for his history to be published till after Akbar was dead.

But just now Akbar was obliged to postpone the religious discussions which he had at heart and in which both these young men took, from their opposite points of view, so deep an interest. For if, to Badaoni, the spirit of inquiry was in itself reprehensible as tending to unsettle belief, he was deeply concerned nevertheless in his master’s activities. But once more a revolt had broken out, and a great expedition was being busily prepared.

This time the scene of war was Bengal. A young prince called Daud had been placed on the throne of Bengal, which, with Bihar, was held by Afghan chiefs. Finding himself master of huge army and immense treasure, he decided that he was strong enough to defy Akbar, and seized a frontier fort. Akbar was then in Gujerat. He sent orders to munim Khan, an aged and now tired general, to punish Daud. But Munim failed to do anything decisive; and at last, having sat down before Patna to lay siege to it, he felt unable to do more and besought the emperor to come himself. And Akbar came.

This was a new kind of campaign: for the Ganges was to be used for transport. Akbar sent part of his forces by land, but with the rest embarked on a fleet of great boats. The villagers on the banks were astonished to see these vessels with their crimson sails crowding the broad river; some carried elephants, others a variety of paraphernalia, others had been converted into gardens with scented flowers and foliage. From such pomp and luxury, whoever might have predicted an indolent and ornamental expedition would have been greatly mistaken. For in this campaign Akbar was to show the contempt of a Frederick or a Napoleon for time-honoured military observances. It was against all rules of Indian warfare that a campaign should be conducted in the rainy season; and great was the disgust and annoyance among the enemy when they heard that the imperial troops were advancing rapidly against them without the least regard for torrential rains and flooded rivers. This alarm increased with every day that brought Akbar nearer. He arrived before Patna; took the city with enormous booty: and Daud fled. Munim, Todar Mall, and other generals were left to finish the campaign, while Akbar returned to Fatehpur-Sikri.

As he travelled homeward his thoughts were full of a project which he determined at once to carry into execution. This was to build a ‘House of Worship’ wherein were to assemble learned doctors representing all schools of thought in Islam and to join in those discussions which had for him so intoxicating an attraction. Rapidly, under his eager orders, the building rose, and soon the walls resounded with the buzz of many voices in ardent disputation. Nor at first was the disputation only on abstract themes: questions of seating and precedence occupied the josling sages. So it was ordained that on the south side should sit the Learned Doctors; on the north, the Ascetics and Mystics; on the west, reputed descendants of the Prophet; on the east, such Nobles as cared for these matters. And Akbar presided over them all: not enthroned in immovable dignity, but moving in his restless way freely among them, and talking now with one and now with another.

Interminable were the disputes among the innumerable sects of Islam. Akbar was in his element; he loved to listen to discussions like those with which Milton’s angels amused their eternal leisure.

But before long a sense of dissastifaction came upon him. He became satiated with the pretentious learning and labyrinthine arguments of the Doctors, and satiety deepened to disgust.

I think there is no doubt that Akbar, a man who to all things brought the test of conduct and experience, judged of religions far less by their abstract tenets than by their fruits in the life of those professing them. And only a year after the House of Worship had risen in its bright newness, a certain piece of news was brought to the capital which greatly impressed him. The first two Christian missionaries had arrived in Bengal. Their converts had defrauded the imperial revenue: the priests thereon refused them absolution. What was this creed which set its face against dishonesty even to a foreign government? Akbar was seized with his inveterate curiosity (he had indeed made inquiries before about the Christian creed, but had gained but little information), and in 1578 sent for the Vicar-General in Bengal, Father Pereira, and questioned him. But Pereira, more pious than learned, felt helpless under the emperor’s battery of questions, and advised that some one more learned than himself should be sent for. There were plent such among the Jesuits. So it came about that a letter (the text in extant) was despatched to Goa, asking for two learned priests to be sent to Fatehpur-Sikri. After much hesitation, the invitation was accepted. Ridolfo Aquaviva, a young Neapolitan Jesuit, of noble family, newly arrived at Goa, was chosen as chief of the mission: with him was sent Antonio Monserrate, a Spaniard, who was to write the full story of the mission. Henriquez, a Persian convert from Islam, also went with them.

It has been charged against Akbar that in inviting the Jesuits to his court he was playing a perfidious part, since he really regarded the Portuguese as his enemies and hoped one day to drive them from their settlements on the Indian coast. No doubt there were for him political advantages in getting into touch with these Europeans and learning about their resources and their aims; and in his dealings with Goa he was certainly guilty at times of duplicity. But it seems to me impossible to believe that he was not perfectly genuine in his desire to know the nature and the doctrines of Christianity, or that his friendship with the Jesuit envoys was insincere. By his cordial reception of them he went far towards risking, not only his throne, but his life. What possible political advantage could counterbalance the danger at home to which, with great pertinacity and against violent opposition, he insisted on exposing himself? But it was quite in his character, while indulging his insatiable interest in religion for its own sake, not to neglect the means of pursuing at the same time other ends for political profit.

Meanwhile Akbar had gone through another of those strange experiences of the spirit which had marked his youth and early manhood.

In April 1578 one of those enormous hunts or kamargahs on a fantastic scale, in which sometimes as many as fifty thousand beaters were employed, had been ordered in the Punjab. The game was driven in from a ring measuring forty or fifty miles in circumference. For ten days the beaters had been at work preparing for the monstrous slaughter which consummated the proceedings, when suddenly and without warning all was imperiously stopped. No one was ‘to touch the feather of a finch,’ and every animal was to be let escape according to its habits.

What had happened? The somber Badaoni says that ‘a strange state and strong frenzy came upon the Emperor,’ which one ascribed to this cause and one to another, but ‘God alone knoweth secrets.’ Mr. Vincent Smith, robust in common sense, opines that perhaps he slept and had a dream or, more probably, an epileptic fit.

Abul Fazl’s account, clothed in roseate rhetoric though it be, is, I think, more worthy of belief. To Akbar on this day of May, as on that other day long ago when, a boy, he had spurred out into the solitude of the plain, came once more a moment of intense illumination. He had the sense of union with God. In that moment a vast revulsion overcame him from all his tremendous activities in the world, from his earthly pomp and splendor, nay, from his very throne. How much better to abdicate it all; to be, like the humble hermits, alone with the light of the mind. In such a moment of exaltation the thought of the huge and horrible massacre of unoffending animals that was preparing seemed suddenly a frightful and stupid crime. For all life, in the Creator’s eyes, was one. It was under a tree where he was resting, as two thousand years earlier it had been with the Buddha, that the moment of illumination came to Akbar.

But once again, when the ecstasy had departed, the imperious demands of state affairs, the habit of activity, the needs of the exuberant body, recaptured this soul from its errancy into the infinite. Akbar was once more the emperor, the unwearied worker, the guardian of his people. In the intervals of leisure he resorted again to the House of Worship; but this had by now become the tumultuous scene of the most acrimonious disputation. Two rival sects were in bitter opposition, each claiming to possess the only truth. But who can be sure that he is right? Akbar’s thoughts always returned to this question. The confident bigotry of these Muslims was a thing inconceivable to himself; and the more positive they became, the more he doubted. Islam was parading before him all that he least admired, and ended by estranging him altogether.

But where was the truth, which he so longed to find? Perhaps if members of other faiths were invited to the debates, something might emerge and be discovered. All religions were made welcome; and beside the sects of Islam, the Sunnis, the Shias, and the Sufis, might now be seen Hindus, Jains, Parsees, Zoroastrians, Jews, and finally Christians.

For in February of 1580, after some months of travel, Aquaviva and his companions at last arrived. They were astonished at the magnificence of the capital. As they passed through the streets every one stopped to stare at these strange people, robed in black, with shaven faces and tonsured hair, and unarmed. Strange figures they appeared, too, at their first audience of the emperor, so plain and austere among the Mogul grandees with their ropes of pearls, their silken dresses, and air of splendor. An artist of Akbar’s court has portrayed the scene. Aquaviva, short sighted, untidy, and absent-minded – he was always looking for his mislaid hat or spectacles – was so shy that he blushed when called on to reply to the emperor or address him. But he had a hero’s soul. Elated beyond measure at the Heaven-accorded opportunity of converting this mighty potentate, he secretly cherished one desire only, to win the crown of martyrdom. When will they martyr us? He would sigh, weary of being protected and caressed.

Akbar received the Jesuits kindly and ordered a large present of money to be given them. This was of course refused, and the refusal was repeated. Akbar admired such self-control; so new to his experience. Before attempting the desired conversion, the Fathers sounded Pereira as to the emperor’s attitude towards utmost reverence for Christ and delighted in the Gospel: but when he heard that there are three Persons in the one God, and that God had begotten a son from a virgin then, ‘the king’s judgment was dulled and clouded.’ Also the forbidding a man to have more than one wife seemed very strange; decidedly inconvenient to a monarch with three hundred wives in his harem. However, he spoke very slightingly of Muhammad: and this at least was a good sign.

So it was not without hope that they attended Akbar’s summons, bringing with them as a present a Bibile written in four languages and bound in seven volumes. Akbar kissed it and placed it on his head. Next, the Fathers were invited to debate with the doctors of Islam.

The first discussions were on the Koran, with which the Jesuits were well acquainted in a Latin translation; and this unexpected familiarity both astonished Akbar and disconcerted the Muslims. They ended with a challenge by the Muhammadans to an ordeal by fire. One of them, carrying the Koran, and one of the Christians, carrying the Bible, were to walk through a fire; and the book which passed through the fire unharmed was to be adjudged true. The priests replied that their faith needed no miracles to confirm it: but afterwards Aquaviva sought out the emperor privately and said they were quite willing to ascend the pyre, if he ordered them, though they did not expect any miracle to be performed on their behalf. Then Akbar, who had in public urged them to accept the ordeal, confided to Aquaviva that he had a secret motive of his own. There was a certain Mullah, who professed great sanctity but was really a depraved, wicked fellow: and Akbar’s design was that this man should mount the pyre and perish in the flames. He apparently anticipated no miraculous intervention, at any rate on behalf of the Koran. Aquaviva replied that priests were forbidden not only ‘to take life but even to help to bring about a man’s execution or death.’ ‘But,’ said Akbar, ‘I don’t want you to undergo the ordeal, only to say that you are willing.”

‘We can’t do even that.”

“Well, then, consent to this. I will announce that you will pass through the fire. You shall be silent.”

“If you do so, we shall as publicly announce that we will do no such thing. If this man deserves punishment, why not punish him in a straightforward manner, instead of by this tortuous device?”

Such is Monserrate’s account of this strange incident. Abul Fazl says that it was the Jesuits who proposed the ordeal, and that the mean-spirited Mullahs had only angry words in answer. Badaoni, on the other hand, asserts that the fire was made (and in an illustration to one of the MSS of the Akbar-namah the scene is depicted with the fire in the midst of the disputants), and that a Shaikh pulled one of the Fathers by the coat and dared him to enter it, but he had not the courage. I think Monserrate is the most worthy of credence. It is plain that Akbar had no real belief in the efficacy of the ordeal, though he had enough of superstition in him (it comes out on other occasions) to wish perhaps to put it to the test. And even the singular and rather childish plan for getting rid of a Mullah whom he disliked and distrusted, a plan which seemed so base and disingenuous to Aquaviva, may well have appealed to him grim sense of humour. It seems that the challenge was repeated more than once, but never came to anything.

Akbar was impressed with the transparent honesty and outspokenness of Aquaviva; he came to esteem and like him more and more. But he was in a difficult and delicate position. It seems wonderful indeed that his falling away from the creed of his ancestors, a creed so inflexible and intolerant of all rivals, should have been accepted without more open resentment than was shown. Alarm, distrust, and bitter feeling is certainly evoked in all the Muhammadans. To some extent, no doubt, the fierce disputes among their many sects weakened the effectiveness of their opposition. Moreover, Akbar’s throne was buttressed by the Hindus, to whom he had given posts of trust and authority. He was backed by Abul Fazl and men of his way of thinking, though these were few. But Akbar’s main reliance was on his own personal ascendancy.

Christianity did not, however, appeal to him so much on further acquaintance. Probably if Aquaviva and Monserrate had been men of a different stamp, and not the honest and devoted men they were, Akbar would have soon ceased to coquet with the creed they sought to bring him to. But it was evident that they wished to take sole charge of him, and meant, if he would let them, entirely to subdue his mind and will to theirs. They were determined that he should first change his way of life and put away all his wives ave one, and also give up far more time to private instruction at their hands and curtail the hours devoted to business and sport. This he had no mind to do at all. But for the moment he told them that, deeply as he reverenced the Gospel and the person of Christ, he could not understand the doctrines of the Trinity and the Virgin Birth, and while he remained without this understanding he could not accept in its fullness the Christian religion. To which, of course, Aquaviva replied that he must pray for enlightenment and humble his intellect before the power of faith.

From the first Akbar had occasion to warn the Fathers to be cautious with the Muhammadan leaders and not too violent in their denunciations of the Prophet. They were indeed outspoken to a degree, but tried to be moderate in their beheaviour, though their feelings were outraged on every hand by the homage paid to the ‘infernal monster’ Muhammad. In a letter to the Rector of Goa, Aquaviva writes that ‘We cannot speak the truth out, lest, if we go too far, we endanger the life of the King.”

Here, then, was a most complex situation. On the one side, Aquaviva, still young and inexperienced in the world’s ways – he was not thirty when he arrived at Goa – delicate in health but inflexible of will, a natural saint, to whom had appeared the glorious vision of the converting to the Faith this magnificent and mighty monarch in a vast country of the infidels which as yet knew nothing of the Gospel; but though actually installed in the palace (for after Easter on Akbar’s invitation the Jesuits moved thither from their uncomfortable inn) and received with gracious welcome and all manner of kindness, finding an impalpable veil between him and the soul he longed to win.

On the other side, Akbar, living the life of ten men at once, holding all the threads of the government of a vast dominion in his own hands, committed to an incessant and multifarious activity, both bodily and mental; how, without abdicating, without denying all the instincts of his being, could he yield himself into the hands of one who demanded complete submission and the utter change of all his ways? And Aquaviva, who lived for his religion and that alone, who loved solitude, who mortified his flesh continually with fasting and self-flagellation, who comforted his spirit with the singing of little songs which he improvised to the honour and glory of the Virgin, who longed for release by martyrdom – how could Aquaviva understand? Mutually attracted as human beings, they were in reality worlds apart.

 

 

 

 

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