[Akbar's Last Days]

On Monday the nineteenth of the former month of Jummaudy, of the year one thousand and fourteen,* during a paroxysm of his complaint, the inmates of my father’s harram proposed to him, previous to his taking a particular draught (the noush-e-jaun or life draught) to eat of some fruit and other delicacies presented to him. The effect of this indulgence was a violent indigestion, and as his anger was at the same time to a violent degree excited against Amein-ud-dein, whom reproaching in severe terms for his gambling propensities, this combined with the previous malady, produced results so unfavourable, that the whole of the ensuing day was passed in complete abstinence, not a morsel passing his lips. This was on the Tuesday. On the next ensuing, which must have been Wednesday, they administered to him the before-mentioned draught in some broth. Another day he spoke in terms of displeasure to Hakeem Ally, one of his physicians; who endeavoured to appease him [if it be possible to make common sense of the passage] by assuring him, that things done under the influence of alarm were always unavailing, and that his constant solicitude was the application of such remedies as were best calculated to relieve him.

My father, however, not less for the purpose of tranquillizing the alarm of his attendants than that of sustaining the remnant of life, consented to eat of some rue and vetches dressed with oil [the Indian dish called kithery, made of rue and dohl and eaten with ghee or clarified butter]. But such was the debilitated state of his bowels, that what he had eaten could not be digested, and a violent dysentery was the result. Hakeim Muzuffer, another of the physicians, now pro­nounced that his brother physician had grossly erred in his prescriptions, particularly in allowing melon to his patient, at the commencement of the attack. From a just repugnance to take away from any man his reputation, and perhaps from a disposition to forgive, I determined that Hakeim Ally should not be trodden under foot, at a mere malicious suggestion, or an accusation on the part of Mûzuffer actuated by mere jealousy. “If,” thought I, “God’s destiny and the blunders of the medical class did not sometimes concur, we should never die.” This much, on a feeling of discretion and kindness, I confessed to Hakeim Ally; but on the bottom of my heart all confidence in his skill was extinguished.

During the last ten days of his illness, I attended my father as usual for two or three quarters of time in the latter part of the day; and this I continued to do until Tuesday the fourteenth of the latter Jummaudy, when he became so greatly reduced that I remained with him from the time at which his medicine was administered in the morning for the remaining part of the day. While he was yet in a state to discriminate, he advised me on one occasion to keep away from the palace; at all events, never to enter unattended by my own guards and retainers: and it now occurred to me that it would be prudent not to neglect such advice; that at such a crisis it behoved me in my intercourse with the palace to employ the most guarded circumspection. One day I entered the citadel accordingly attended by my own retinue. The very next day, without consulting their sovereign, they dared to close the gates of the citadel against me, and actually brought forward the ordnance on the towers.

On Thursday the sixteenth, perceiving the pretence of alarm under which these men were screening themselves, I discontinued my visit to the palace altogether; and I then received by Mokurreb Khaun, a note from Maun Sing expressing on his part the expectation that I would concur in their views. On this occasion I must in gratitude observe, that Mokurreb Khaun employed his opportunities within the citadel with unceasing zeal and activity, and without allowing himself the ordinary intervals of repose, to promote my interests, and succeeded in a considerable degree in reclaiming the different Ameirs to a better sense of what was due to me. Of him I shall in this place also further observe, that holding already, under my father’s government, the rank of an Ameir of two thousand, I repeatedly urged him to point out in what way I could be of further service to him; and when my father advanced me to the order of twelve thousand, the first of my own train that I made a mûnsebdaur, or dignitary, was Mokurreb Khaun, on whom, by an additional thousand, I then conferred the order of three thousand horse; but of his sincere and unabated zeal for my ser­vice I have ever experienced the very strongest proofs.

How deeply my feelings were agonized at the thoughts of being excluded from the sight of my father, during the period in which I thus abstained from en­tering the castle of Agrah, I for some time withheld myself from communicating to any man, resigning myself entirely to the will of God. There were, how­ever, a few on whose discretion and experience I could rely, to whom I finally made known the circumstances of pain and grief by which I was oppressed. These were Meiran Sudderjahaun, Meir Rezza-ud-dein the Kazvinian, and Khaujah Weiss of Hamadaun.

These confidential friends took occasion to remind me of what had occurred to Shah Issmâil and Sûltan Hyder Mirza, on the very night of the death of Shah Tahmasp of Persia. Certain of the ameirs had, it seems, entered into a coalition for the sovereignty of Issmâil Mirza, who resided in the citadel of the metropolis; and on the night on which it was their turn to be on guard in the citadel, they entered into a consultation with the sister of Issmâil Mirza, to whom they communicated that there was a design on foot among some other ameirs to seize the persons of the adverse party, and to raise Hyder Mirza to the throne. That same night Shah Tahmasp expired; and Hûsseyne Beg with the ameirs who sought the elevation of Hyder Mirza, receiving the intelligence, brought his brother Mûstafa Mirza immediately against the place, and commenced a most furious assault. At last, conceiving the success of their resistance rather doubtful, the garrison of the citadel, to put an end to the dispute, struck off the head of Sûltan Hyder Mirza and threw it over the walls. Losing courage at the sight, Mûstafa Mirza immediately fled with ten thousand men in his train; by whom he was, however, soon abandoned, with the exception of Hûsseyne Beg and his brothers. But Mûstafa Mirza, not long afterwards, was seized by the same Hûsseyne Beg, and delivered to the new monarch Shah Issmâil, by whom he was finally put to death.

But to resume my particular narrative. Having with the advice of my truest friends discontinued my visits to the castle, I sent my son Parveiz with an apology to my father, stating that I was prevented from attending upon him that day by a severe pain in my head. My father, lifting up his hands in prayer for my health, sent Khaujah Weissy to intreat that if possible I would come to his presence, for that he had no longer any hope of life, particularly under the violent paroxysms of his complaint. “Alas!” said he, “what a time is this that thou hast chosen to be absent from my person, when thou knowest that, on my demise, the succession to the crown is without dispute.” Perceiving the crisis at which matters were arrived, the perfidious ameirs proceeded to swear the Mûssulmans on the Korân and the Hindûs on salt, that they had but one and the same language with themselves in their hypocritical design. Sheikh Fereid the Bokharian, who passed much of his time among these hypocrites, because with all his kindred he was in attendance upon the emperor, was in constant friendly communication with the faithful Mokurreb Khaun; while Mirza Kou­kah, usually entitled Khaun-e-Auzem, after the Mûssulmans and Hindûs had taken the oaths, sent a message to Shahzâdah Khossrou, my unduteous son, to congratulate him on his approaching elevation. But he desired to know whether father and son were of one mind and one language on the subject, that, as he said, he might not be rendered odious to, or disgraced by one or other of the parties. To these absurd and selfish speculations Khossrou sent for answer, that the succession having been secured to him beyond all question, all these scruples appeared to be quite superfluous.

Both Mirza Koukah and Khossrou thus equally assured, the latter suggested to Rajah Maun Sing, that as there remained in the emperor scarcely a spark of life, it was evident that he would not be able to bear the motion of the sookpal,* and that if he should happen to expire in the removal, a heavy responsibility would rest with some one or other of them: he must there­fore caution him to be upon his guard, for that there was not the smallest necessity for conveying the sick monarch out of the castle of Agrah. The argu­ment seemed to have convinced the Rajah: nevertheless, watching the moment when my father should recover from a fit of delirium, he ventured to propose, that as the whole body of the people collected under Shahzâdah Seleim (the memorialist) were besieging the castle, if it were his pleasure it might be as well to remove for a few days to the other side of the Jumnah; and the moment his health was restored, he might return again without obstacle to his palace. The sick monarch demanded, in reply, why this was come to pass? Surely they had not shut the gates of the castle in the face of the Shahzâdah, and thus been the cause of his drawing the troops together? With the assistance of some of his attendants, the emperor turned to the other side on his bed, and Mirza Azziz Koukah, on whose brows be now for ever placed the blushing (rosy) chaplet of falsehood, observing his master reposing in that condition, entered the chamber, and making a sign with both hands, presumed to ask what were his majesty’s commands with respect to Khossrou.

To this the sick monarch replied, “the decree is God’s decree, and of him alone is the sovereignty. For my own part, with one mind I retain a thousand hopes. Surely, in giving a loose to such language in my presence, you have abandoned me to the jaws of death. Nevertheless it may happen that I have still some portion left in this life. If, however, the awful crisis be at hand—if the hour of departure be arrived, can I have forgotten the military promptitude, political sagacity, and other qualities indispensable to the successful exercise of sovereign power, which at Allahabad I witnessed in Seleim Shah? Neither do I find that the love and affection which I have ever borne him has for a moment been diminished. What if, through the misguidings of the evil one, he should for an instant have been led astray from his filial duty, is he not my eldest born, and, as such, the heir to my throne: to that throne which by the institutes of my race belongs to the eldest son, and never descends to him who is in years the younger? But the six months’ wide territory of Bengal I bestow upon Khossrou.

Having received these assurances from my father’s lips, the specious hypocrites repaired in numerous groups to my presence, in such throngs, indeed, that the people had scarcely room to breathe. What, however, they thought necessary to communicate to me, they made known through Meiran Sudderjahaun Meir Jummaul-ud-dein Hûsseyne Anjû and Eidy Khaujah, and this was to the follow­ing effect: “The emperor, our sovereign, in giving to your son Khossrou every augmentation of rank, always instructed him to address your highness by the appellation of Shah-Bhye;* our prayer to your highness therefore is, that your treatment of your son shall be in every respect paternal.” My answer was, that in his conversation with me, my father never addressed me by any other name than that of bâba (child): it cannot, therefore, be denied, that on such occasions I was acknowledged as your future emperor; for the son can never be either brother or father.

By this answer the ameirs appeared to be involved in some perplexity, neither was it in their power to make any thing of a reasonable, much less a satisfactory reply. They seemed penitent of the part they had taken, and acknowledging their folly, cordially resolved on yielding to me, without further opposition, every proof of submission and allegiance; with the exception, however, of Mirza Koukah, who conveyed to me a second time his request for a private and confi­dential interview. In answer, I sent to apprize him, that in consideration of many important services formerly rendered to my family, I had overlooked a long list of offences, some of them of considerable magnitude; and I had so overlooked them, because men sometimes expose themselves to the bitterness of remorse, without designing to offend. Would to God that I myself had no offence to answer for! “How often,” said I, “have I not surrendered to thee the very inmost recesses of my heart, the repository, as far as thou wert concerned, of every kind feeling, liberality, and indulgence?” What more than this could he desire? Nevertheless, after so many proofs of my benevolence, if, in default of this interview, our intercourse was to cease, I consented to his request.

On Saturday, the eighteenth of the latter Jummaudy,* Sheikh Fereid the Bokharian came to do homage to me, and for thus anticipating his compeers in attention to my interests, he received from me the pre-eminent trust of principal functionary in all affairs, whether civil or military, together with the usual appendages of a scimitar, jeighah, and charger superbly caparisoned, together with one lak of rupees in specie. After him came Rajah Maun Sing, whom I also presented with an enriched kreisse and baldric, a horse and furniture, and other­wise treated with friendship and distinction. The day following Khossrou him­self, accompanied by the same Rajah Maun Sing* and Mirza Azziz Koukah, was admitted to my presence; the latter urging me upon the request that the province of Bengal should be bestowed in full sovereignty upon Khossrou, and that Payendah Mahommed Teheghal should be sent to attend or assist him in his government.

Although it must be considered inconsistent with the ordinary maxims of policy to have allowed of the absence of Khossrou from my presence at the very commencement of my reign, obnoxious as he was to the suspicion of such ambi­tious views, and all about my person concurring in the opinion, I ventured, nevertheless, to comply with this request. I directed, at the same time, that they should embark and cross the Jumnah without entering the castle of Agrah, assuring them that as soon as the impending mournful event should have taken place, they would be permitted to proceed towards Bengal.

At this crisis of anxious suspence, my father sent me one of his dresses, with the turban taken from his own brows, and a message, importing that if I were reconciled to live without beholding the countenance of my father, that father, when I was absent, enjoyed neither peace nor repose. The moment I received the message, I clothed myself in the dress, and in humble duty proceeded into the castle. On Tuesday, the eighth of the month, my father drew his breath with great difficulty; and his dissolution being evidently at hand, he desired that I would despatch some one to summon every ameir, without exception, to his presence: “for I cannot endure,” said he, “that any misunderstanding should subsist between you and those who for so many years have shared in my toil, and been the associates of my glory.” Anxious to comply with his desire, I directed Khaujah Weissy to bring the whole of them to the dying monarch’s sick chamber. Their names, were I separately to enumerate, would render our narrative unnecessarily tedious.

My father, after wistfully regarding them all round, intreated that they would bury in oblivion all the errors of which he could be justly accused,* and pro­ceeded to address them in the following terms, arranged in couplets:

“Remember the repose and safety which blessed my reign,
The splendour and order which adorned my court, O remember.
Remember the crisis of my repentance, of my oft-revolving beads,
The canopy which I prepared for the sanctuary of the Kaabah.
Let the tear of affection shed rubies over my dust.
In your morning orisons turn your thoughts to my soul:
Let your evening invocations irradiate the gloom of night.
Do not forget the anguish of the tear-flowing eye.
When the chill winds shall visit your courts like the autumnal blast,
Think on that cold hand which has so often scattered gold among you.”

He added the following stanza of four lines:

“Didst thou see how the sky shed around its flower-like fascinations?
My soul is on the wing to escape this cage of darkness.
That bosom, which the world was too narrow to contain,
Has scarcely space enough to inspire but half a breath.”

Here I perceived that it might indeed be this mighty monarch’s latest breath, and that the moment was arrived for discharging the last mournful duties of a son. In tears of anguish I approached his couch, and sobbing aloud, I placed my head at my father’s feet. After I had then passed in solemn sorrow thrice round him, the dying monarch, as a sign auspicious to my fortune, beckoned to me to take his favourite scimitar futtah-ul-moulk,* and in his presence to gird it round my waist. Having so done, and again prostrated myself at his feet, I renewed my protestations of duty. So nearly was I indeed exhausted in these paroxysms of sorrow, that I found at last the utmost difficulty in drawing breath.

On the evening of Wednesday,* when one watch and four sections of the night were expired, my father’s soul took flight to the realms above. He had, however, previously desired me to send for Mêiran Sudderjahaun, in order to repeat with him the Kelmah shihaudet,* which he said it was his wish to post­pone to the last moment, still cherishing the hope that the almighty Disposer of Life might yet bestow some prolongation. On his arrival, I placed Sudderja­haun on both knees by my father’s side, and he commenced reciting the creed of the faithful. At this crisis my father desiring me to draw near, threw his arms about my neck, and addressed me in the following terms:

“My dear boy (bâba), take this my last farewell, for here we never meet again. Beware that thou dost not withdraw thy protecting regards from the se­cluded in my harram—that thou continue the same allowance for subsistence as was allotted by myself. Although my departure must cast a heavy burden upon thy mind, let not the words that are past be at once forgotten. Many a vow and many a covenant have been exchanged between us—break not the pledge which thou hast given me—forget it not. Beware! Many are the claims which I have upon thy soul. Be they great or be they small, do not thou forget them. Call to thy remembrance my deeds of martial glory. Forget not the exertions of that bounty which distributed so many a jewel. My servants and dependants, when I am gone, do not thou forget, nor the afflicted in the hour of need.— Ponder word for word on all that I have said—do thou bear all in mind; and again, forget me not.”

After expressing himself as above, he directed Sudderjahaun once more to repeat the Kelmah, and he recited the solemn test himself with a voice equally loud and distinct. He then desired the Sudder to continue repeating by his pil­low the Sourah neish, and another chapter of the Korân, together with the Adeilah prayer, in order that he might be enabled to render up his soul with as little struggle as possible. Accordingly Sudderjahaun had finished the Sourah neish, and had the last words of the prayer on his lips, when, with no other symp­tom than a tear-drop in the corner of his eye, my noble father resigned his soul into the hands of his Creator.

[Here follow thirteen couplets, of which we shall content ourselves with giving the sense of the four last.]

“That tall cypress, which was the glory of the garden, have they laid pros­trate on the bed of desolation. Ever shifting world! who is exempt from the effect of thy fascinations? Rapid and undistinguishing in thy stroke, the noblest blood has no sparing from thee. From thy snares there is no escape. There is nothing certain but destiny—nothing adequate on the part of man, but resig­nation.”

The venerated remains of my father were now laid on those boards, equally allotted to the prince and the pauper; whence, after being bathed in every de­scription of perfume, camphor, musk, and roses, a shroud for his vestment, a coffin for his chamber, they were conveyed to their last repose. One foot of the bier was supported on my own shoulder, the three others by my three sons, until we passed the gates of the castle. Hence my sons, and the principal officers of my household, alternately bearing the coffin on their shoulders, proceeded all the way to Secundra, where all that was mortal of the renowned Akbar was consigned to the care of heaven’s treasury. Thus it was, and thus it will be, while this lower world continues to exist.

Seated at the head of his hallowed grave, we mourned for seven days after­wards, observing in every particular the solemn rites of sepulture. I appointed especially twenty readers, to recite by his grave without ceasing, throughout the night, the sacred lessons of the Korân, and I immediately allotted five laks* of five-methkaly ashrefies for the erection of a lofty mausoleum over the tomb. During the seven days of our mourning, I also directed two hundred lungurs (or services) of food, and the same number of services of sweetmeats, to be dis­tributed morning and evening to the poor who might attend. After this, the whole of the ameirs and other distinguished members of my court, who had accompanied in the solemnization of these funeral rites, returned to Agrah; and thus terminated the life of my father, at the age of seventy-five years eleven months and nine days.

I shall here briefly repeat, that at the period of my father’s death the greater part of the ameirs of the empire were combined in a plan adverse in every respect to my accession, and sought, by all the means in their power, to elevate my son Khossrou to the throne of Hindûstaun; designing, in fact, to leave to him the name only, while they retained to themselves the substantial exercise of the impe­rial authority. But the Supreme Disposer of events was on my side. The influ­ence of the immaculate spirits of the imaums was in my favour. To the aid of no human exertion was I indebted for my crown; and a charge so momentous having been delegated to me by Him alone who knows neither change nor decay, I solemnly resolved, in my transactions with mankind, in the administration of justice, in protecting the defenceless, and in cherishing the poor and needy, to look to Him only to whom I owed my elevation, without the slightest regard to children or kin, or to any description of dependents whatever.

I have heard that one festival morning as he was quitting his bath, some one by accident threw a quantity of ashes on the head of Sheikh Bayezzid. Shaking the filth from his beard, and rubbing his hands across his chin, as if with a feeling of satisfaction, he exclaimed: “my soul, have I then been found thus worthy—has this unlucky face of mine been worth a shower of ashes?—True greatness depends not either on reputation or report—elevation of mind belongs not either to the proud man or the boaster—humility will raise thy head above thine equals—pride will prostrate thee in the dust. The haughty and the arro­gant behold head downwards—dost thou wish for distinction, seek it not.”