Ashoka the great
The Mughal history of India of the medieval period records Akbar as the great emperor. Before him, there is another Indian ruler by the name of Ashoka who too is recorded as the great Indian monarch in the history of India. What is it that distinguished the above two emperors to be termed as great? The available history does not provide any laid-down rules or the essential ingredients to be considered for referring any king or monarch as the great.
The early historians are also silent on this point and leave it to the present historians to continue referring to these two monarchs as ?the great?. My own research in this context establishes that the greatness attached to the monarchs must only lead to calculate their personal characters connected to their public duties and be further looked at the expanse of their geographically conquered territories.
Definitely, Ashoka conquered almost the whole of Indian subcontinent including Bengal and Asom (Assam) till he further conquered Kalinga (present Orissa). He gave up his further ambition of going Southward to capture what was called Lanka. That country was very well known even in those days. The bloodshed done by him as a kshatriya warrior belonging to Hinduism actually revolted within him. Looking at the wastefulness of his conquests he abandoned his further onslaughts. He took up to Buddhism. He began respecting its rule of non-violence doctrine. He spent his further life in spreading the message of Buddhism. He did not act like his almost contemporary Alexander to advance further for more conquests by doing more and more bloodsheds. He trained best of his generals including his own son and daughter to learn more about the Buddhist Gospel. He gave up his earlier dream of becoming a Hindu chakravarti monarch. He had earlier dreamt of bringing Lanka, Tibet and some other known areas adjacent to Bharatvarsha of those days under his own authority. He became a changed monarch and spent his life as a Buddhist monk. He was never attacked by any of his adversaries. Many other kingdoms within the sub-continent of India respected the geographical extent of his sovereignty and the suzerainty. This made him greater than any monarch before. He thus combined the traits of high imperialism with his own high valued personal characteristics. He is said to have lived in the service of the people he conquered for over 12 years of his life. While he had the capacity to conquer more, he voluntarily gave up. His authority as a monarch and his personal character traits justify his being rated and referred to as Ashoka the great. He was an unparalleled and a successful monarch yet chose to live as a Buddhist bhikshu by giving up his inner living ambitions.
Akbar the great
Now let us look at the second Indian emperor. He was actually on the run almost following the footsteps of his father Humayun. He was running to escape from Hindustan to Afghanistan when Hemu was pursuing to throw out the Mughals from India. Akbar was about 15 years of age when his picked up guard Behram Khan persuaded him to face Hemu at Panipat where second battle of Panipat was fought between Hemu and Akbar. Hemu is said to have mustered the support of many other small Rajput kingdoms but his being less than belonging to the blue blood of the royals saw some of his supporters abandoning him and going to the other side. Many small kingdoms openly supported and joined the opposing forces of Akbar. It is not intended to go into the details of Hemu losing and Akbar winning this battle by returning from Jalandhar to Panipat and to capture Hemu. He was badly wounded by an arrow. Lakhs of soldiers, who were really no soldiers but only small-time traders, are said to have died. Akbar was made to personally behead Hemu in order to earn the title of Ghazi (the slayer of an infidel). This was done on the advice of mullahs. Akbar returned to rule over Delhi and later over Agra. He ruled from 1549 to 1605. Much of his time while he grew up, he is said to have learnt more about Hindustan.
His appointed ministers, military generals and high civil officials like Raja Todarmal and Birbal helped him rule over India. He did not immediately learn the benefits of adopting tolerance towards Hindus since he was all the time more under the influence of Muslim clerics than other able persons. Much of his time as a ruler was consumed in fighting mostly the Rajputs for which purpose he embarked upon several Rajputna attacks. He was young and full of lust.
Akbar who is said to have treated Jodhabai, sister of Man Singh, as his senior queen never once permitted her to come out of Zanana as per laws of Shariat. Besides Jodhabai, he is famous for his Harem having 5000 more women so to say as his wives. Mughal history proudly records his personal traits of violence and picking up women from what has come to be recorded as Meena Bazaars.
Akbar could never geographically conquer the whole of Hindustan. Even his Rajputana conquests were victories of temporary nature. It can, therefore, be examined as to how and why Akbar came to be recorded and referred to as Akbar the great. He was neither in possession of the entire sub-continent as its ruler nor did he possess any personal traits of secularism? He simply permitted his ministers and officials like Raja Todarmal to continue following the civil and revenues rules made by his predecessor Sher Shah Suri. He did casually assemble some religious representatives of different faiths to write his own theme of Din-e-Illahi at Fatehpur Sikri. None knows the real reasons as to why Akbar is graded as Akbar the great. The recorded history of those days was really written by the historians appointed by the rulers against promise or payment of rewards in cash or in the form of jagirs. Readers may themselves see the corruption of history.