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By Andre Wink

Commonly considered as the best of the Mughal emperors, Jalal ad-Din Akbar (1542-1603) was once an impressive army tactician and renowned demagogue. Ascending to the throne on the age of 13, he governed for part a century, elevated the Mughal empire, and left at the back of a legacy to rival his notorious ancestor Chinggis Khan. This lucid biography offers glimpses into Akbar's everyday life and highlights his contribution to new equipment of imperial keep an eye on.

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He set out on July 2, when the monsoon had already begun and huge clouds (Abu-l-Fazl compares these to “proudlystalking elephants”) unleashed torrents of rain, causing furious floods which made it impossible to distinguish highlands from lowlands. When the imperial camp was pitched on the bank of the Chambal, a halt of two weeks was ordered to enable the entire army 38 AKBAR to cross the river – which was in full flood – in boats. After this crossing, which caused many casualties (one of the special elephants was carried away by the torrential river), the army marched to Gwalior and then halted again at Narwar, a town near the elephant forests.

Akbar, from the first day of this expedition onward, left his boat every day to hunt deer with cheetahs, again (as in the previous episode) looking for omens in the results of the hunt and the behavior of animals for the success of the larger expedition. At Etawah there was such a violent storm on the Yamuna river that many of the water houses were sunk by the waves. The orchestra was damaged too, but saved by divine intervention. Near Chunar, after three days of rest and recreation at Varanasi, the river again became so boisterous that the naval authorities became alarmed and ordered most boats to be evacuated and their passengers to travel by land.

This time, amazing everyone, he mostly rode on the back of a mast1 elephant he had chosen for its unequaled ferocity and obstinacy and which he kept under control with a special goad buried in the elephant’s head. Yet another hunt followed, at the end of which the whole herd, through ingenious means devised by Akbar, was driven into a fortress. Traveling back via Narwar and Gwalior, the same route as he had come, he arrived in Agra on October 9, almost three months after his departure. That same year huntsmen brought more good news about herds of elephants roaming in the forests near Narwar.

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