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Social Conditions In the Mughal Period

Social Conditions In the Mughal Period

  • Foreign travelers have emphasized on the wealth and prosperity of India and the ostentatious life-style of the ruling classes on the one hand and the grinding poverty of the ordinary people — the peasants, the artisans and the labourers.
  • Ordinary people lived in mud houses with hardly any furniture and wore scanty clothes and no shoes. Rice, millets, pulses together (khicheri) formed the staple diet. Ghee and oil were much cheaper relative to foodgrains then.
  • The landless peasants and labourer often belonged to a class of people called untouchables or ‘kamin’. The tenants were called ‘muzarian’ who generally paid land revenue at a higher rate. The peasants who owned the land they tilled were called ‘khudkasht’, they paid land revenue at customary rates.
  • India had a well diversified economy with the cultivation of a large variety of crops such as wheat, rice, gram, barley, pulses, bajra. There were also cash crops such as cotton, indigo, oil-seeds, sugarcane, chay (the red dye).
  • Silk and tusser cultivation became so widespread in Bengal during the period that there was no need to import silk from China. The cultivation of potato and red chillies was adopted during the 18th
  • The Mughal state provided incentives and loans (taccavi) to the peasants for expansion and improvement of cultivation. Although no new agricultural techniques were introduced, food grain production increased so that India exported foodgrains, especially rice and sugar to some of the neighbouring countries. The countryside was also able to feed a growing city population in the 17th
  • The nobility, along with the landed gentry, the Zamindars, formed the ruling class in medieval India. The Mughal nobility formed a privileged class. To begin with, the bulk of the Mughal nobles were drawn from the homeland of the Mughals, Turan and from its neighbouring areas, Tajikistan, Khorasan, Iran etc.
  • The Mughals never followed a narrow racist policy. Babur tried to win the leading Afghan nobles to his side, but they proved to be untrustworthy and soon defected.        Social Conditions In the Mughal Period
  • The tussle between the Mughals and the Afghans continued in Bihar and Bengal even under Akbar. But from the time of Jehangir, Afghans also began to be recruited in the nobility. Indian muslims also called ‘Shaikzadas’ or Hindustani were also given service.
  • From the time of Akbar, Hindus also began to be inducted into the nobility on a regular basis. The largest section among them was that of the Rajputs. Among the Rajputs also, the Kachhwahas predominated. The proportion of Hindus in the nobility under Akbar in 1594 was about 16%.
  • Jehangir was the first monarch who realised the importance of the Marathas and started entering the Marathas into the nobility. This policy was continued by Shah Jahan who even recruited Shahji Bhosle (Shivaji’s father) into the nobility for a brief period of time.              Social Conditions In the Mughal Period
  • The Hindus formed roughly 24% of the nobility in the times of Shah Jahan. Aurangzeb also gave service to many Marathas and Deccani muslims. Hindus accounted for 33% of the nobility in the times of Aurangzeb. Of the Hindu nobles, Marathas formed more than half.
  • The privileges extended to the nobles attracted many talented persons from foreign lands to the Mughal court such as lranis. Turanis and Arabs.                    Social Conditions In the Mughal Period
  • Jehangir introduced the fashion of men wearing costly jewels in their ears after piercing them.
  • Fruits for the Mughal emperors were imported from Samarqand and Bokhara.
  • Mir Jumla, a leading nobleman during the reign of Aurangzeb, owned a fleet of ships which carried extensive commerce with Arabia, Persia and South-East Asia.
  • The Zamindar was not the owner of all the lands comprising his Zamindari. He had the hereditary right of collecting land revenue from a number of villages. This was called his ‘Taluq’ or his Zamindari. For collecting the land revenue, they received a share of land revenue which could go upto 25% in some areas.
  • Above the Zamindars were the Rajas who were superior to the Zamindars and dominated larger or smaller tracts and enjoyed varying degrees of internal autonomy.
  • The Zamindars had their own armed forces and generally lived in forts or garhis which was both a place of refuge and a status symbol.
  • The Zamindars were found all over the country under different names such as deshmukh, patil and nayak. Many of the Zamindars had close caste and kinship ties with the land-owning cultivating castes in their Zamindari.
  • The Frenchman, Bernier said that in India in the Mughal period, a person was either extremely rich or lived miserably and that there was no middle state. This might not be true as India did have a middle class comprising of traders, merchants, bankers, shopkeepers. Also, small Mansabdars, petty shopkeepers, hakims, musicians, artists, historians, scholars, qazis and theologians and petty officials formed the middle class in Mughal India.
  • Scholars and religious divines were granted small tracts of land for maintenance by the Mughals state called ‘Madadd-i-maash’. In Rajasthan, such grants of land were termed ‘sasan’. In addition to the Mughal emperor, local rulers and Zamindars, and even nobles made such grants. Although these grants were to be renewed by every ruler, they often became hereditary in practice.
  • Jehangir put a ban on consumption of tobacco.              Social Conditions In the Mughal Period
  • The consumption of tea is first mentioned by a German trave16. Mendalstow during Shah Jahan’s time. The consumption of coffee is first mentioned by a British trader Ovington during Aurangzeb’s time.
  • Asmat Begum, mother of Nur Jahan is said to have prepared a rose perfume known as Attar-i-Jehangiri.

Medieval History


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