The Natural HR Theory by Dr IVNS Raju

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WHEN, at the gates of Kabul, Monserrate offered the emperor his congratulations, the Jesuit comments on Akbar’s pleasure, with the surmise that, being greedy of glory, he hoped that through him his fame would reach Spain. In fact Akbar, now much occupied with formulating a new religion which was to unify all his subjects, was also bent on establishing some sort of contact with the Powers of Europe. How serious he was, we cannot tell. But he now decided to send a mission to Europe, with the rather fantastic proposition that he should join Portugal against the Turks. He also wrote a letter to the Pope. He insisted that Monserrate should be one of the envoys; Sayyid Muzaffar was to go with him. But what was to become of Aquaviva? It was arranged that he should stay behind and take over the tutorship of the young Murad in Monserrate’s place. Neither of the Jesuits was happy, though they felt obliged to acquiesce. The embassy to Europe never got farther than Goa. Sayyid Muzaffar, who had from the first been most reluctant, deserted and hid himself somewhere in the Deccan. The embassy was postponed; and Monserrate was ordered by his Father Provincial to Abyssinia. On the voyage he was imprisoned by the Arabs; returned to India, and died, worn out, in 1600.

As for Aquaviva, he felt that the whole mission, which he and Monserrate had undertaken with such splendid expectations, was a failure, and he longed to get away. He was now sure that the emperor would never be converted. In vain did Abul Fazl plead that Akbar, who loved to have foreigners at his court, liked the Fathers above all other foreigners; in vain did he point to the extraordinary reverence with which he had treated their Bible, far surpassing the respect he paid to a Koran presented to him on the same day, ‘though it was far more richly bound.’ Aquaviva had only a mournful smile for such trivialities. Sweet-tempered as ever – even the Hindus called him ‘the Angel’ – he was firm in his resolve to go. And at last, a year or more after Akbar’s return from Kabul, he had his way and persuaded the Father Provincial to recall him. Very loth, the emperor allowed him to depart and gave him a guard for escort. He arrived at Goa in the month of May 1583. Two months later he was murdered by a Hindu mob (true, their temples had been destroyed by the priests, and they had some cause to be enraged) and attained the martyrdom he had so long desired.

Though the embassy to Europe came to nothing, in the same year, 1583, there was a movement on the part of Europe, and this time from England. Queen Elizabeth addressed a letter to Akbar – his renown had already reached our remote island – as ‘the most invincible and most mightie prince.’ It was the first communication between the two countries, afterwards to be so intimately connected. John Newbery, a London merchant, was the envoy chosen: but there is no record of his reception. Seventeen years later Elizabeth sent another envoy, John Mildenhall, to seek trading privileges equal with those of the Portugese. He was graciously received, but when Akbar consulted the Jesuits about the matter they were in a great rage and denounced all Englishmen as spies and thieves. Mildenhall, on his side, accused the Jesuits of bribing people at court to oppose him. His accusations may have been unfounded, but the whole episode has a sordid flavor; how different an atmosphere it breathes from that of the early colloquies between Akbar and Aquaviva!

But this is to anticipate. We must return to the state of things in 1582.

The discussions in the House of Worship had been languishing for some time. Soon after the end of the Kabul campaign they ceased altogether. There came a day when Akbar found there the Jesuit Fathers, but nobody to question or oppose them in the empty hall. Recognising failure, he had the building destroyed.

All those impassioned disputations had come to nothing, had brought no agreement, but rather embittered differences. Still Akbar was tenacious of his ideas. It seemed now that if anything further was to be done in the domain of religion the initiative must come from himself.

Akbar’s ultimate ambition was to solder India into unity. His dream was to bring the whole vast country under one rule, whether by force of arms or the attraction of his prestige. Not to conquer and overrun after the manner of his Central Asian ancestors, and leave an empire that, founded on force alone, would inevitably shake to pieces after his death; but by a more gradual process, adding province to province, establishing a firm and just administration. He, a foreigner and a Muhammadan born, meant to identify himself with India. But then, as ever, diversity of religion presented itself as the inveterate difficulty and obstacle. Could it be possible to formulate a creed that should unite all men of good will?

He had explored all the faiths known to him; he had found good in all, and good men professing each. Probably the attraction he found in Christianity, apart from the attraction he felt to the Gospel, was just the possibility of its proving a religion that, new to all his subjects alike, might be accepted by al. He soon saw, when he came to close quarters with Christian priests, how kdle such an expectation, if he ever entertained it, must be. The mutual hostility of Muslim and Christian was too fierce and deep: nor did the Hindus show any of the affability shown by the Japanese in the sixteenth century to Christian doctrine before political arrogance, ambition, and intrigue undid the victories of missionary fervour. Where, then, was he to turn? He had adopted, in part at least, each of the chief religions of India. But none wholly satisfied his spirit, and the idea of unity still haunted his mind.

Shaikh Mubarak, that learned and unorthodox theologian, father of his dear friend Abul Fazl, had once dropped a seed in his mind. He had appealed to him to become not only the temporal but the spiritual ruler of his empire. The seed germinated. Akbar, a mystic at heart, who never could identify religion with the forms it inhabited, began to see the needed symbol of spiritual unity in himself. After all, why not? He alone symbolized the unity of all the various jarring creeds and sects. Akbar, responsible for all, was the earthly representative of that divine idea. There was no one else who would serve. So at last in 1582 the long cherished idea came to fruit, and he promulgated the new Divine Faith which was to weld all the antagonisms of the creeds into one.

It was the year after his return from the Kabul campaigns. The Bengal rebellion no longer caused anxiety; treachery at home had been firmly dealt with; fear of invasion was over. Akbar felt secure, and powerful enough to override all opposition. He called a General Council and imparted his views to it. After dwelling on the discord which so many different religions produced in politics, he continued: “We ought therefore to bring them all into one, but in such fashion that they should be both “one” and” all”; with the great advantage of not losing what is good in one religion, while gaining whatever is better in another. In that way, honour would be rendered to God, peace would be given to the peoples, and security to the empire.’

The Divine Faith was, of course, a failure, and destined to failure. In religious societies toleration is no virtue, it is the despised offspring of lukewarmness or indifference. A creed so simple was obvious to the reproach of vagueness and emptiness. Most unfortunate of all, Akbar’s assumption of a mystic role as ‘Head of the Church’ laid him open to every kind of worldly suspicion. But the dream was not an ignoble dream. Those who have seen in it merely self-aggrandisement or astuteness surely misread Akbar’s character.

The religion, which was to have united all, pleased none. Moreover, such is the weakness of human nature, Akbar, who had revolted so far from the intolerance of his ancestral creed, now impaired his own toleration by invidious ordinances against Muhammadan practices. Just as champions of international goodwill are often found to exempt their own country from a universal benevolence, and to look on it alone with a malignant eye, so this descendant of conquerors who had treated all alien creeds with fierce contempt was warped into oppressing, of all faiths, the faith in which he was bread. As the years went on, his dislike of Muhammad and his whole religious system became more bitter. In 1595 the Jesuit Pinheiro finds in Lahore not a mosque, not a Koran: what mosques remained had been turned into stables. ‘The King has made a sect of his own, and makes himself out to be a prophet. He has already many people who follow him, but it is all for money which he gives them. He adores God, and the Sun, and is a Hindu: he follows the sect of the Jains.’ Thirteen years, then, after the promulgation of the ‘Divine Faith,’ we find Akbar still pursuing his eclectic modes of religious observance, while the new religion, centring in the emperor’s person, is evidently making little way; and perhaps unconsciously avenging its failure on the Muhammadans, who had always opposed the vagaries of his spirit.

How deeply Akbar felt the disappointment of his hopes, we do not know: perhaps he was self deceived and magnified his success with time servers and flatterers; he certainly seems to have persuaded himself that divine powers vested themselves in royalty – a persuasion not unknown to Europe. It was in any case plain that he had not the genius of a religious leader. But at least the external and material unity of his empire was an aim he could still pursue, and in that domain he was no fumbler.




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