The 'Navratnas' of the Court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great

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The Mughal emperor Akbar the Great who ruled India during the 16th century AD was an illustrious ruler. Akbar is among the few great rulers of the world. He was the greatest among the Mughals and is among the most popular rulers who ever ruled the Indian

The Mughal emperor Akbar the Great who ruled India during the 16th century AD was an illustrious ruler. Akbar is among the few great rulers of the world. He was the greatest among the Mughals and is among the most popular rulers who ever ruled the Indian peninsula. This versatile ruler patronized men of letters and attracted intellectual luminaries to his court and formed an intellectual galaxy of nine erudite men in his court. This erudite and enlightened group belonged to the diverse lines of learning and knowledge. They were called the “Navratnas” or ‘Nine Jewels’.

The insight of this great emperor is praiseworthy, though he himself was illiterate. However, in spite of his illiteracy, Akbar was a great patron of art and letters. It is his passion for learning from great minds that he formed and patronized this intellectual pool or intellectual bank in his own court. The following intellectual luminaries adorned the court of Emperor Akbar.


Raja Birbal (1528-1583) was the court jester in Akbar’s court. He was a poor Hindu Brahmin who was well known for his supreme intelligence. Birbal was originally named Maheshdas. Because of his amazing intellectual accomplishments, Emperor Akbar conferred him the name Raja Birbal. Birbal was entrusted with military and administrative duties. Birbal was also close friend to Akbar who liked Birbal for his wit and humor.


Many of the witty and vivacious exchanges between Birbal and Akbar are popular. Birbal was also a poet and his collections under the pen name "Brahma” is preserved in Bharatpur Museum. During a war to quell the unrest among Afgani tribes in Northwest India, Raja Birbal was killed in action.


Raja Todar Mal was the finance minister of Emperor Asoka from 1560 AD. He was a Hindu Khatri. Todal Mal overhauled Akbar’s revenue system and introduced standard weights and measurements, revenue districts and officers. Todar Mal’s revenue collection was very effective and it became a model for the future Mughals. His measures even helped the later British administrators. Raja Todar Mal’s intellectual prowess was not confined to finances alone. He was a good warrior also and assisted Akbar in controlling the Afghan rebels in Bengal. Later, under Sher Shah’s employment also Todar Mal proved his administrative mettle.

RAJA MAN SINGH / Wikimedia Commons public domain


Raja Man Singh was trusted general in Akbar’s army. He had been the ruler of Amber, a state which was later known as Jaipur. Raja Man Singh was the grandson of Akbar’s father-in-law. Raja Man Singh’s family were conferred the status of nobles in the Mughal hierarchy. Man Singh was an efficient commander and assisted Akbar in many wars.


Miyan Tansen was a gifted musician who adorned the galaxy f ‘Navratnas’ in Akbar’s court. This gifted singer was a Hindu and was born in 1520 as Tanna Mishra. Miyan Tansen learnt music from Swami Haridas and later from Hazrat Muhammad Ghaus. At first Miyan Tansen was a court musician with the prince of Mewar. Akbar identified the genius in Miyan Tansen and recruited him as his court musician.

Miyan Tansen’s name is attributed to many classical ragas and he has emerged as a legendary musician. This illustrious vocalist is famous for a number of well known compositions. Miyan Tansen was also a great instrumentalist. Tansen popularized and improved the rabab which is of Central Asian origin.


Abul Fazl (1551-1602) is the biographer of Emperor Akbar. He authored Akbar’s biography, ‘Akbarnama’. He was also a historian and documented Akbar’s rule. He has put his historical documentation of Akber’s rule in to three books. The last volume is called Ain-i-Akbari. Abul Fazl’s brother Faizi was the poet laureate of Emperor Akbar.


Faizi (1547-1595) was the poet laureate of Emperor Akbar. Faizi was the brother of Abul Fazl. Faizi was a brilliant poet who composed beautiful poetry. He belonged to a lineage of scholars and his father Mubarak Nagori was a scholar in Islamic theology and Greek literature and philosophy.


Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana was a gifted poet in Emperor Akbar’s court. He was the son of Bairam Khan who was Akbar’s caretaker during his teenage. Bairam Khan was murdered treacherously and then his wife became Akbar’s second wife. Abdul Rahim was a poet and astrologer. The village Khankhana in Punjab in northwest India is named in honor of Abdul Rahim


Fakir Aziao-Din was a visionary advisor to Emperor Akbar. He and his words were held in high esteem by the emperor. His advice was sought for many important issues.


Mulla Do Piaza was a highly learned man who had great authority in many fields. Emperor Akbar held him in high esteem and his wise opinion was consulted for many important administrative matters.


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