On watching the BBC Documentary "The Story Of India" by Michael Wood, I was reminded of a little line I remember reading in my history text book about something known as Din-i-illahi - a "religion" that Akbar was said to have started. On pondering a bit about it, the freedom movement and the problems that India is facing now it seemed extremely important to me to look into this a bit more.
It turned out that Akbar never did start a "religion"per say, but rather built a great hall called the Ibadat Khana where he invited the leading thinkers of all major religions to sort out their differences and reach a common ground. As it turns out in most such cases, these debates turned ugly and bitter and lead to so much animosity amongst the parties that Akbar was forced to cancel these discussions. But Akbar did manage to gauge that there did exist a common thread amongst these various religions and bring out a "syncrectic" doctrine which eventually became known as Din-I-Illahi. But all this is probably something you already knew as it was one of the reasons that Akbar was titled "The Great".
But a lesser known attempt at something of the same nature was by Akbar's grandson Dara Shikoh (Shiekh?). An intellectual at heart, among other things he was instrumental in bringing out the Majma-Ul-Bahrain (The meeting of the two oceans) which according to wikipedia was "devoted to the revelation of the mystical and pluralistic affinities between Sufic and Vedantic speculation".
This to seems like a very bold step to foster the growth of a unified India by him and is probably one of the rather first attempts at truly searching for a global faith. A far greater feat of significance and grandeur than what is father had accomplished if you ask me.
However, as many times in history, human fears and ego got the better of the Mughal family. The war of succession that ensued after Shah Janah fell ill lead to the defeat of Dara Shikoh and his younger brother Aurangzeb became the emperor who was not as forward thinking as his older brother or his grandfather. And with ended the great open-mindedness of the Muslim rulers in India.
What I wonder at this point is what might have happened if Aurangzeb had not become the ruler of India. What might have happened if Akbar's and Dara Shikoh's ideas were further promulgated into the Indian psyche?
Would the British have ever succeeded in their policy of "Divide & Rule"? Would there be a state called Pakistan? Would terrorism be a problem in India today?
But all I can do is wonder....