Shere Shah’s tomb at Sasseram, in Bihar, is one of the noblest monuments of the Pathan style, or the style of the earliest Muhammadan architects in India.
Akbar, “the Great,” was born at Amarkot, on the edge of the deserts of Marwar, about three years after the battle of Kanauj, when his father Humayun was a fugitive, driven from place to place by the adherents of Shere Shah. At this time the treasury of the royal house was so reduced that, when Humayun indented on it for the customary presents to his faithful followers, the only thing procurable was a single pod of musk. With the cheerfulness which was the saving grace of Humayun, he broke up the pod, and distributed it, adding the pious wish, which seemed like prophetic insight, that his son’s fame might fill the world like the fragrance of that perfume. Trained in the hard school of adversity, and inheriting the best qualities of his grandfather, Akbar was not long in restoring the faded fortunes of the Mogul dynasty. Like Babar, he succeeded to the throne at a very early age, and found himself surrounded by difficulties which would have overwhelmed a weaker character. Humayun had, indeed, fought his way back to Delhi and Agra, but he had by no means settled with all the numerous disputants for the sovereignty of Hindustan, which Sultan Islam’s death had left in the field; and his departure from Kabul had been the signal for revolt in that quarter. Akbar, accompanied by Bairam Khan, the ablest of Humayun’s generals, was in Sind when he received at the same time the news of his father’s death and of the revolt of the Viceroy at Kabul He was then little more than thirteen years old, but, like Babar under similar circumstances, he was prompt in decision and in action. Adopting Bairam’s advice, which was contrary to that of all his other counsellors, he left Kabul out of account, and pushed on to Delhi against the forces of Himu, a Hindu general, and the most powerful of his foes, who had assumed the title of Raja Bikramajit, with the hopes of restoring the old Hindu dynasty. On the historic plains of Panipat Akbar completely defeated Himu’s army, and thus regained the empire which his grandfather had won on the same field thirty years before. This great battle was the most critical point in his career, and though Akbar had to undertake many other hard campaigns before he was absolute master of the empire, his position from that time was never seriously endangered.
Until his eighteenth year Akbar remained under the tutelage of Bairam, an able general, but unscrupulous and cruel. The high-minded, generous disposition of Akbar revolted against some of his guardian’s methods, but he recognized that, for some years at least, Bairam’s experience was necessary for him. In 1560, however, he took the administration entirely into his own hands. Bairam, in disgust, took up arms against his young master, but was soon defeated and taken prisoner. With his usual magnanimity, Akbar pardoned him, and sent him off to Mecca with a munificent present; but the revengeful knife of an Afghan put an end to the turbulent nobleman’s life before he could leave India.