Monday, July 18, 2011
MEMORIES OF AKBAR THE GREAT BY DIRK COLLIER-A BOOK REVIEW
THE EMPEROR’S WRITINGS-MEMORIES OF AKBAR THE GREAT : DIRK COLLIER : AMARYLLIS PRESS : PAGES : 629 : PRICE : RS 695/-
The author researched for seven years while simultaneously writing his in-depth debut novel on Akbar who was considered to be the best of the Mughal Emperors. While researching the Spanish Inquisition, Dirk Collier, a Belgian historian and writer, first came across references to Akbar who had invited Jesuit priests to his court to learn about Christianity. Written in the form of a long letter from Akbar to Jehangir, the book is a compilation of all that he wanted to convey to his dear son who was a rebel. Well-known for his secular outlook which led him to attempt a fusion of three religions- Hinduism, Christianity and Islam which he named Din-e-Illahi which unfortunately failed, Akbar held a modern vision of a prosperous and tolerant country with rich diversity and unity. He conquered the strife and intrigues in the palace and rose spectacularly to absolute power. He had a harem of 5000 women out of which 300 were his real companions. Dirk Collier refers to Akbar as basically “an eclectic, a rationalist as well as a mystic”. His Hindu queen Jodha amassed huge wealth derived from her commercial skills of trading in silk and pepper about which Akbar often discussed with her. Akbar ruled for 49 years till his death in 1605. Jehangir valued his father more when dead than when alive. The conflict between father and son was bitter and never fully resolved. Akbar’s favourite wife Salima personally travelled to Allahabad and brought about the official reconciliation between father and son. Jehangir who held his father with the highest respect often visited his father’s tomb, dismounted, knelt down and rubbed his forehead on the doorstep of the mausoleum. The book is well written and a compelling read. It relates the true story of Akbar’s life and times and can be considered to be an authentic genre in historical fiction.