Physically, he was strong and could withstand hardship on campaigns. Although he seems to have been no more than five feet seven inches tall, he impressed observers as a dominating personality. Clearly, although he was illiterate, he had a powerful and original mind. His unprejudiced inquiries into Christian doctrines misled the Jesuit missionaries he invited to his court into thinking that he was on the point of conversion. He persuaded the Muslim theologians at his court to accept him as arbiter on points of Islamic law in dispute among them. Although this seems to have been little more than an expression of his systematic approach to problems, the orthodox were offended. He gave further offense by the religious discussions he encouraged between Muslims, Hindus, Parsis, and Christians. These discussions were continued by a small group of courtiers who shared with Akbar a taste for mysticism. Although their doctrines and ceremonies, known as the Divine Faith (D?n e Ilah?), assigned a central place to Akbar himself, it would be an oversimplification to ascribe political motives to these developments.
Begun in 1570 and abandoned in 1586, Akbars capital of Fatehpur Sikri, near Delhi, is evidence of the resources he could command. Its combination of Hindu and Muslim architectural styles symbolizes the contact of cultures that he encouraged. Similarly, he commissioned the translation of Sanskrit classics into Persian, giving illustrated copies to his courtiers. He also received with enthusiasm the European pictures brought by the Jesuits, and his painters incorporated European techniques of realism and perspective into the distinctive Mughal style (characterized by a vivid treatment of the physical world) that began to develop during his reign. Akbars reign was an example of the stimulating effects of cultural encounter. It has also often been portrayed as a model for future governments strong, benevolent, tolerant, and enlightened. Effective government in a country as geographically vast and as socially complex as India demands a wide measure of social support. Akbar understood this need and satisfied it.