There have been plenty of emperors since Bimbisar, a contemporary of Gautam Buddha, who formed the first empire in the subcontinent. So Akbar is not responsible for uniting India geographically. But Akbar’s contributions go far beyond that.
Akbar’s political contributions extend to politically uniting different existing kingdoms under one umbrella. The Rajput kingdoms under Akbar’s Mughal empire were not merely tribute-contributing vassals. They were almost an integral part of the empire despite maintaining much of their freedom and often fought wars with the Mughal army under a common banner.
Akbar and his minister Todar Mal devised a land measurement and tax collection system that worked right till the end of British rule. In fact, any time that the British tried to impose their own system of tax collection, it had usually resulted in famines. Akbar’s system was resilient and unbreakable for centuries.
Modern India’s ideas of secularism is almost entirely based on Akbar’s ideals. French secularism devises a system in which the state completely ignores the religious affinities of the people and considers religion strictly private, to the extent that showing religious affinity in public might be considered an affront. On the contrary, in the Indian system, the state encourages you to practice your religion in the open without fear of persecution. It’s a religion-affirming system which forbids people from harassing people based on their religious affinities. The foundation of this idea was laid by Akbar.
Akbar donated state land for Hindu and Sikh temples (Golden Temple). Jain-majority areas were often declared meat-free as a mark of respect in the same way certain Hindu pilgrimage centers like Haridwar are declared vegetarian zones by the government today. Akbar banished Ulemas from his court when he felt that religion was exerting an undue influence in political matters of the court. This was an instance of separation of religion from state almost 200 years before the French Revolution. However, people’s personal laws were still governed by their religious ideals in Akbar’s India much like today. In the 16th century, this meant that despite his resistance, Sati was allowed to persist because it was considered a matter of faith. Much like today’s India, religious personal laws therefore didn’t always help people in need.
All this means that Akbar can indeed be referred to as someone who united India, not in the geographical sense but in a cultural and legal framework. The Mughal cultural framework still forms the superstructure (in Marxist terms) under which the Indian Constitution, based on the English Common Law, functions i.e. the interpretation of laws and ideals like secularism are derived from Mughal ideas of government.rn India who traded sovereignty for the comfort of their families? Tipu lost everything, including his own family, in his fight to the finish against the British East India Company. Would you rather be proud of the Diwans of Travancore, who used the East India Company against his own people to crush a mutiny? Are you saying you are not proud of Hindustani music patronized by the Lucknow Nawabs, or their donation of land in Ayodhya to build dharmshalas for Hindu pilgrims? Are you saying Akbar donating land for the construction of Golden Temple is not part of Indian culture that you are proud of?