Often considered the true founder of India’s Mughal Empire,
Akbar ruled from 1556 to 1605. His realm eventually stretched
from Afghanistan to the Bay of Bengal,
and from the Himalaya to the Godavari River.
Akbar established an efficient administrative system,
stimulated trade, encouraged the arts,
and adopted a policy of religious tolerance. (source)
Akbar brought major tax reform and economic innovation to his realm. He was also a vegetarian.
Akbar loved the arts, respecting Hindu architecture, and all forms of painting, poetry, literature, music and philosophy. His court was culturally diverse.
His love of wit, humor, and intellect shows in the story of his intimate friend
"It is said that Akbar came across a young man named Mahesh Das on one of his hunting trips. In the meeting that occurred, Akbar was highly impressed with the young man's wit. The Emperor gave Mahesh Das his ring and asked him to come and visit him in his palace any time."
Akbar loved Birbal for his wit, wisdom, poetry and loyalty.
Our friend Salman Rushdie (read below) gives us an intimate, albeit fictional, look at Akbar the Great in the current New Yorker:
The Shelter of the World
by Salman Rushdie February 25, 2008
At dawn the haunting sandstone palaces of the new “victory city” of Akbar the Great looked as if they were made of red smoke. Most cities start giving the impression of being eternal almost as soon as they are born, but Sikri would always look like a mirage. As the sun rose to its zenith, the great bludgeon of the day’s heat pounded the flagstones, deafening human ears to all sounds, making the air quiver like a frightened blackbuck, and weakening the border between sanity and delirium, between what was fanciful and what was real.Jack