Akbar the Great was a more complete Renaissance monarch than any European contemporary. While doubling the Mughal dominions through conquest, he was an innovative and tolerant ruler, even inventing (but not imposing) his own ‘fusion’ religion. The Mughals were a multifaceted dynasty: Shah Jahan erected both the Taj Mahal, in his wife’s memory, and langars, (‘soup-kitchens’) for Deccan famine victims (1630–32). Babur, the Afghan warlord who founded the dynasty, ruthlessly subdued the Gangetic plain, but vividly described its parrots in his autobiography. Aurangzeb lacked these contradictions: a Muslim hardliner, his relentless campaigning almost doubled the empire again. But the harshness of his rule, particularly the jizya, a war tax levied on non-Muslims, turned his declining years into a futile struggle against incessant insurgency. Rajputs, Sikhs, Jats all rebelled. The Marathas were virtually ungovernable; the Satnamis looted the great Akbar’s tomb and made a bonfire of his bones (1681).
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