This is the story of Jahangir.
Akbar the great had conquered the entirety of the Indian subcontinent but he still longed for something he didn’t have, an heir to his throne. All this effort of building a large kingdom would go in vain if he left this world without fathering a male child. Of course, he had tried, but two of his children had died in infancy. So he sought the blessing of a Muslim holy man, Shaikh Salim Chisti. And either by luck or blessing, Jahangir was born. He was named Salim, honouring the blessing of Salim Chisti.
Due to dire conditions, Akbar never learned to read and write. He made sure his child didn’t face the same fate. Right from an early age, Salim had teachers teaching him the languages of Hindi, Turkic, and Persian. Salim became a great observer of art including singing, dancing, and poetry. He spent most of his time in either library or in the court watching dances and sipping on wine.
Any story of Jahangir would be incomplete without the mention of Anarkali. Anarkali was a dancer in the court of Salim. A young Salim fell in love with her. He wrote poems about her describing her big hypnotizing eyes and graceful dance moves. The wind of this love affair was sniffed by king Akbar. Akbar couldn’t afford a common courtesan to marry his son and hence he disapproved of this relationship instantly. Though Akbar was quick to suppress this event, he wasn’t fast enough. Anarkali and Salim’s love became a part of Indian folklore. Even some western travellers wrote of it. Poems, books, dramas, and even movies have been made about their love.
Akbar was disappointed with the character Salim was developing. He was an alcohol addict with no interest in politics and war. The life of luxury was making him weak. Hence Akbar decided to send him to Kabul and give him some taste of power. Salim was given a personal army of 1200 men with cavalry and was posted as the governor of Kabul. Salim never faced any real threat as the Mughals had good relations with their neighbours, the Ottomans.
But ruling Kabul did make him a better administrator. He would schedule public courts where he would solve the problems of people. And if some problem became repetitive he would try finding a solution to it.
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After the death of Akbar, Salim was made the new ruler of the Mughal dynasty. His practice of improving and not changing worked well for both him and the dynasty. He kept improving the systems that were placed by Akbar including religious secularity. And with fewer wars to fight, he became a beloved and benevolent king. He was given the title of ‘Jahangir’ meaning the King of the world. During his era, Mughal architecture flourished. He was a lover of artistry as well had the resources to invest. He reigned for twenty-two years until his death.
While Jahangir’s story is lacklustre for being born with a silver spoon, he did something that most in history failed to do. He was the follow-up act to one of the greatest Kings of India and yet retained all his glory and respect. His way of governance is an excellent example of the saying ‘Don’t fix what’s not broken.’