Have you realized that Akbar and Shakespeare are contemporaries?

Let me start with a question, list 10 Mughal Emperors in Indian History? Write them down somewhere..  I’ll come back to that later, but before that I need to share with you my excitement about the title of the post.

If you put British and Indian History side by side, you’ll realize that Akbar and Shakespeare are contemporary to each other. Strange? I thought they lived in different worlds. Of course they did but those different world were their different continents separated by oceans and landmasses, and their books. However, they lived their lives almost during the same years.

Yet another just like that trivia: Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, Akbar died in 1605, Shakespeare lived a decade longer and died in 1616.

All this information when laid out in this fashion makes me feel rather excited about it in general and about these people in particular. I have never put Shakespeare and Akbar together before. I knew their dates, works and their years individually within their context, and the context of say, the East India Company and the Plymouth, but never in this way, across countries. By that same logic, two years after the second battle of Panipat was fought in 1556 Elizabeth became the Queen of England. About the same time when a 14 year old Akbar makes a statement in the battle field against Hemu. Elizabeth become Queen, and begins to consolidate her English territory, and tries to bring peace!


I’ve been reading Alex Rutherford for quite a while now. I read his first two books on Babar and Humayun, subsequently, picked up Akbar and later Jahangir. I met Rutherford while visiting a friend on her bookshelf. He appeals because Mughals are one of my favourite parts in the school history textbooks. More so because, our class 7 got an amazing history teacher that year. She made us or rather me love history (I can speak for myself and not my classmates as such) and since it all began with the Mughals, it is a special love.

Back to the question I began with. If you ask me the question name 10 Mughal Emperors I would scratch my head, because I have only studied about 7. Babar, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, Aurengazeb and Bahadur Shah Zafar. Now who are the other 3 if I have to complete a 10 point list. The question is not mine, but borrowed from a Quiz show held on tv. When the quiz master revealed the answers I was taken aback to see the names!

To test if I was the only one who was taken aback and puzzled by this question and ignorant about the remaining rulers, I put forth this question to an assorted group of my friends, this is a varied group who studied in different schools in different parts of India, under different school boards. I was wishing at least one of them would give me at least an 8th name. One of the first counter questions most of them asked was “how come 10, is it a list of Mughal Emperors of India or in Mughal History as a whole starting with Timur! “Aren’t they 7”  and they all listed the names they knew in chronological order.

The problem seems to lie in the way history is taught in our schools. Between Aurangazeb and Bahadur Shah Zafar there are many Mughal Emperors, but the textbooks we studied consolidated all their names into either one or two paragraphs or to a page, when these seven were given dedicated chapters. Google and you’ll find a list. I guess we need to be a little more curious, and run with history even after school is over and done with.

Coming back to excitement about the contemporaneity, that bit of information still excites me, sharing it with you, if you too like me is beginning to see the connection.

Source: Have you realized that Akbar and Shakespeare are contemporaries?


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pins & ashes

An Aquarius Woman

41 thoughts on “Have you realized that Akbar and Shakespeare are contemporaries?”

      1. The works of Abraham Eraly (I reviewed one of his books some time back), India Discovered by John Keay, The Search for India’s Lost Emperor (that you should see on my goodreads widget to the right..). I would suggest to keep away from Romila Thapar though (reviewed her book some time earlier)! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

            1. Haha! I like her articles more than her books but all of who have studies ncert textbooks read her for early and middle Indian history, without knowing it was her during those years 🙂🙂 what your thing with her.. I’ll get back after reading the review but as a glimpse?

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              1. It was a boring book (and this comes from a person interested in history), her opinions were very leftist and therefore biased, there was no balance, and she was speaking down to you, not to you. (for the rest read the colorful review! :D)


  1. Wow.. never took Shakespeare and Akbar that ways. Plus one of my professor told that Shakespeare is called the greatest playwright but India’s Kalidas wrote plays years before Shakespeare came to scene and still all people like Shakespeare, Shakespeare although, he borrowed every play idea from here and there and just added few new things and of course language.
    This book is in Tbr for so long, saw a girl in metro reading this and bend my neck almost 180 degrees downwards to get the name of this book. My excitement has increased your posting its magic !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shal, both of them are great playwrights. We need not compare. Shakespeare is more popular because and widely read because he wrote in English the language of the British empire that colonized widy around the world. Kalidas then gets confined to our regional languages. The second part ofyour question about borrowing well he did borrow from different kinds of tales, and stitched them.together neatly and wrote plays that made the audience swoon. Even that is an art, cut copy paste, and adapt. Come and share when you finish reading Rutherford books. Take care girl.

      Liked by 1 person

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