Akbar the third Mughul Emperor (1556-1605), was the real founder of the Mughal empire and dynasty in India. At his accession on the death of his father, Humayun, in 1556, Akbar possessed no definite territory. Late in the same year his victory in the second battle of Panipat over Himu who represented the cause of the Afghan Sur dynasty, made him the master of the Punjab, Delhi, Agra and of the adjacent territories.
Within the next five years he not only consolidated his hold over these territories but also established his sway over the valley of the Ganges and the Jumna as far east as Allahabad as well as over Gwalior in central India and Ajmer in Rajasthan. Within the next twenty years Akbar conquered the whole of northern India except Kashmir, Sind and Orissa. These three kingdoms also he annexed to his dominions by 1592, and after that he paid a famous visit to the Konark temple in Orissa, where his historian Abul Fazl, grudgingly admired the artistry and architectue of the place. Already in 1581 he had reduced to submission his younger brother Hakim who ruled as an independent king in Kabul which became a part of Akbar’s empire on Hakim’s death in 1585. Ten years later he acquired Kandahar and annexed Baluchistan.
Having thus completed the conquest of northern India, Akbar sought to conquer southern India. He stormed Ahmadnagar in 1600 and captured Asirgarh in Khandesh in 1601. That was his last conquest.
At his death four years later Akbar’s empire extended from Kabul in the west to Bengal in the east and from the foot of the Himalayas in the north to the river Narmada in the south. It was a vast empire which Akbar divided into the following fifteen subas or provinces: (1) Kabul; (2) Lahore (Punjab) including Kashmir; (3) Multan including Sind; (4) Delhi; (5) Agra; (6) Awadh (Oudh); (7) Allahabad; (8) Ajmer; (9) Ahmadabad (Gujarat); (10) Malwa; (11) Bihar; (12) Bengal including Orissa; (13) Khandesh; (14) Beraf and (15) Ahmadnagar.
Akbar was great not only as a conqueror but also as an administrator and empire-builder. He gave to his empire an administrative system which was much superior to the one that had prevailed before. His was an autocracy organised on a bureaucratic basis. Its chief aim was the enhancement and maintenance of the personal authority and revenue of the monarch. The Emperor’s will was carried out by a body of officials called mansabdars. They were divided into thirty-three classes, from mansabdars of 10 to those of 5,000. They were paid salaries in cash. Various rules were drawn up to prevent malpractices, especially the practice of fraudulent musters.
Over each suba there was a Subadar, also called Nawab Nazim, who exercised a great deal of power and held his miniature court, as under the Turko-Afghans but Akbar put an effective check on their powers by creating a new post of the Diwan who was placed in charge of the provincial finances. To improve his finances Akbar with the assistance of Raja Todar Mall organised the land-revenue system on the basis of survey according to a uniform standard of measurement, settlement directly with the ryots or cultivators, assessment at the rate of one-third of the produce which could be paid either in cash on in kind and was collected by officers appointed and paid by the State.