Akbar, the Mughal Emperor, was a vegetarian!

Akbar was born in Umarkot (Amarkot), a province in Sindh now in Pakistan. It’s local Language is Dhatki which is one of the Rajasthani languages of the Indo-Aryan language family. It is most closely related to Marwari language of Marwar India. Incidently the Umarkot, even today is ruled by a Hindu King i.e. Rana Hameer Singh Shoda. Here is an interview with him:

The biography of Akbar has been compiled by Vincent A. Smith and was published in 1917 by Oxford at the Clarendon Press. In this book (at page 333 onward) he has given  details of taste and preferred cuisine of Akbar in these words:

Akbar was extremely moderate in his diet, taking but one substantial meal in the day, which was served when-ever he called for it, not at any fixed hour. The variety of dishes placed at his disposal was of course great, and they were presented with appropriate magnificence and elaborate precautions against poison.

  • He cared little for flesh food, and gave up the use of it almost entirely in the later years of his life, when he came under Jain influence. The following sayings of his deal with the subject:

  • Men are so accustomed to eating meat that, were for the pain, they would  undoubtedly fall on to it not them-selves.
  • Would that my body were so vigorous as to be of service to eaters of meat who would thus forgo other animal life, or that, as I cut off a piece for their nourishment, it mightbe replaced by another.
  •  Would that it were lawful to eat an elephant, so that one animal might avail for many.
  • Were it not for the thought of the difficulty of sustenance,I would prohibit men from eating meat. The reason whyI do not altogether abandon it myself is that many others might willingly forgo it likewise and .be thus cast into despondency.
  • From my earliest years, whenever I ordered animal food to be cooked for me, I found it rather tasteless and cared little for it.
  • I took this feeling to indicate the necessity for protecting animals, and I refrained from animal food.
  • Men should annually refrain from eating meat on the anniversary of the month of my accession as a thanksgiving to the Almighty, in order that the year may pass in prosperity.
  • Butchers, fishermen, and the like who have no other occupation but taking life should have a separate quarter and their association with others should be prohibited by fine.
  • It is not right that a man should make his stomach grave of animals.’

 

Love for opium and wine:

Akbar had a great liking for fruit, especially grapes, melons, and pomegranates, and was in the habit of eating whenever he indulged in either wine or opium.  He took pains to improve the supply, both home-grown and imported. He followed the practice of his family for many generations by consuming both strong drink and various preparations of opium, sometimes to excess.
His drinking bouts, naturally, were more frequent while he was young than they were in his more mature years, but it is certain that tolerably often ‘he was in his cups’ as his son puts it.
When he had drunk more than was good for him he performed various mad freaks, as when at Agra he galloped the elephant Hawal across the bridge of boats, and at Surat tried to fight his sword.
He seems to have drunk usually country liquors of sorts, rather than imported wines. In 1580 he specially fancied a very heady toddy, arrack, or palm-wine. As an alternative at that period he used to take a spiced infusion of opium (posta), and when he had had too much of either or both would sometimes drop off asleep while the Fathers were discoursing. When Monserrate, on his way to court in 1580, halted at Gwalior he took note of a sect of opium drinkers, followers of one Baba Kapur, and was told that
Akbar himself was then reputed to be a member of the fraternity. A little later the same author observes that Akbar rarely drank wine, preferring the soporific infusion
of opium. The cultivation of the poppy seems to have been encouraged.”

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