The Natural HR Theory by Dr IVNS Raju

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II

WHAT was Akbar’s inheritance? What was the background of his mind?

Image: kamat.com

We have for a moment to foget the European heritage which is in our blood and to which we are so accustomed that we take it for granted: the art, the literature, the philosophy, of Greece, the imperial memory of Rome, Roman law and Roman roads, all the complex tissue of the medieval legacy. In place of them is the Muhammadan culture, not wholly separated from ours, since Islam derives so much from Judaism and Christianity and, through Arab writers, from Greece, but in art and letters looking always to the classics of Iran : Persian architecture, Persian poetry, Persian paintings, behind which, little known in actuality, but having, like Greece in Europe, a vast prestige, is the art of China. This is what Akbar brings with him into India. But Akbar had Turkish, Mongol, and Persian blood in his veins. On his father’s side he was seventh in descent from Timur (Tamerlane) : through the mother of Babur he was descended from Jinghiz Khan. The tremendous figures of these two world-conquerors dominated the historic scene of Asia. To us their conquests, wider than those of any conquerors before or since, seem almost meaningless : the tale of their fury, the obliterated cities, the smoke and flame, the shrieks and slaughter, is like the phantasmagoria of a frightful dream, followed by the absolute silence of the dead. Viewed from a like distance, would not the transient conquests of Napoleon, his ‘sheet-worry of Europe’ – it is Robert Bridges’ apt and scornful phrase – appear much the same? But Jinghiz and Timur, for all their insane lust of destruction, were no saves (Timur, when he destroyed a city, always spared its artists); they were men of prodigious ability; their armies were controlled by iron discipline; their strategy and way of war continued to be Akbar’s models He could never wholly discard that military tradition, and retained some of its ferocious observances. And yet his conquests were different in kind. Having won Hindostan, he was resolved to become Indian, to belong wholly to that India which drew him on as if by some secret and unconscious affinity.

I do not suppose that Akbar had ever heard of Asoka, the greatest ruler of India in the past. Had he known of his aims and achievements, as they are now known through the labours of European scholars, we can conceive with what extreme interest he would have studied Asoka’s career and his methods of administration. For Asoka’s empire was even vaster than Akbar’s : it embraced almost the whole of India, Nepal, and Kashmir.

 

Asoka was the grandson of Chandragupta, the Maurya king who had foiled the attempt of Seleucus, the satrap of Babylon, to renew and extend Alexander’s temporary hold on Indian territory, and who had established a firm rule over Northern India. It was thus a settled empire to which Asoka succeeded : he had not to fight for security. There were, however, outlying parts to be brought into the empire And in the thirteenth year from his accession, probably the year 261 B.C., Asoka conquered and annexed the kingdom of Kalinga, on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. This conquest was the turning-point of his whole life.

Caesar, ‘came, saw and conquered’. Asoka conquered, and then saw. He saw what war and conquest meant. He saw that through him a hundred thousand of his fellow-beings had been killed, fifty thousand more hand been taken into captivity, and myriads more had died or suffered violence. He was filled with remorse and sorrow. Thenceforth he began his new life. He resolved to be a conqueror; but the conquest was to be not of arms, but of the Sacred Law. This was a conquest ‘full of joy’, and the emperor desired for all animated beings ‘security, self control, peace of mind, and joyousness.’

Asoka had adopted the Way of Buddha. Immediately after the Kalinga campaign, he became a lay disciple; and not long afterwards he became a Buddhist monk.

The conversion of Asoka was a momentous event in the history of mankind. Buddhism, till then a somewhat obscure sect, was set on its way to become a world-religion. Asoka reigned for about forty years, and never relaxed his missionary ardour. His edicts enjoining the duties of the Law on all his people were engraved on rocks far and wide through his dominions and on stone pillars wherever suitable stone existed. Nor was he content with preaching the Buddhist gospel to his own subjects; he sent missionaries to Syria, to Egypt, to Africa, Macedonia, Epirus.

Though a monk, Asoka led no life of sequestered contemplation. He was supremely active, and insisted on activity in others. ‘Let small and great exert themselves,’ he proclaimed. ‘The welfare of the whole people’ was his incessant concern. Not only did he preach the duties of filial piety, of truth-telling, compassion, almsgiving, the sanctity of all life, and toleration for the genuine beliefs of others, but the practical details of administration occupied his thoughts. By the hot and dusty roads shady trees bearing fruit were to be planted for the comfort of both men and animals; wells were to be dug, rest-houses built, watering-places contrived, medicinal herbs were to be grown, and hospitals founded for the sick.

Here was a ruler, unique among the great rulers of mankind, who would assuredly have engaged Akbar’s sympathy and admiration, though doubtless he would have found it hard to contemplate the renunciation of war. Most of all would he have been attracted by Asoka’s precept of toleration. Not because it was a politic toleration, like the Roman toleration, springing from indifference, but because, like Akbar’s own attitude of mind, it sprang from respect for sincere faith, of whatever professed denomination. It is true that he had no such thorny problems to deal with as confronted the great Mogul. The various faiths of India had such in common; there were no such militant claims as those of Islam and Christianity. Moreover, it was in a sense easy for him to renounce war just because his empire was the inheritance of successful war.

Standing in the full daylight of history, Akbar appears to us between two shadowy yet strangely contrasted worlds : between the world of his Central Asian ancestors, a world of torrential human energy, idolizing that energy for its own sake, and possessed with the fever of the hunt, whether of beasts or of men – for Akbar’s gigantic hunts are like an echo of Tamerlane’s campaigns of slaughter – between that world of furious action, passing like a dream, and the world of India, which could revel indeed in luxuries and cruelties, but which could also produce the exalted spirits of Buddha and Asoka, speaking to us from a far remoter past than those wild conquerors, but with voices that still live and move us. Akbar, too, is possessed with insatiable energy, he seems action incarnate; and yet at the core of his nature is something alien to all that, something that craves for thought and contemplation, that seeks justice and desires gentleness.

 

 

 

 

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