Flawed Narratives – History in the old NCERT Textbooks

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Meenakshi Jain

Meenakshi Jain is an Associate Professor of History at Gargi College, University of Delhi. She was Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, Teen Murti. Her recent works include Parallel Pathways. Essays on Hindu-Muslim Relations (1707-1857). She is the co-author of The Rajah Moonje Pact. Documents on a Forgotten Chapter of Indian History.

Flawed Narratives

History in the old NCERT Textbooks


A random survey of

 Satish Chandra’s ‘Medieval India’ (NCERT 2000)

By

Meenakshi Jain


 

INTRODUCTION

 

“I would not care whether truth is pleasant or unpleasant, and in consonance with or opposed to current views. I would not mind in the least whether truth is, or is not, a blow to the glory of my country. If necessary, I shall bear in patience the ridicule and slander of friends and society for the sake of preaching truth. But still I shall seek truth, understand truth, and accept truth. This should be the firm resolve of a historian.”

– Sir Jadunath Sarkar

 

With hindsight, it must be conceded that the NCERT’s decision to discontinue textbooks authored by stalwarts of the Marxist school of historiography has triggered a veritable shift in the country’s intellectual template. And it was probably apprehending precisely such a fallout that leftist scholars had mounted a campaign of unprecedented ferocity to stall the new textbooks, even going to the extent of having sympathizers file a case in the Supreme Court against NCERT’s proposed curriculum revision.

 

Strangely, no one bothered to ask why scholars of hitherto unquestionable eminence were so perturbed at being dislodged from schoolrooms, when their status, expertise and dominance remained unchallenged at the university level, where they were also more likely to encounter students who could appreciate the finer points of their scholarship. Perhaps since these scholars were, above all, purveyors of an ideology, the indoctrination of young minds from a primary stage itself was crucial to their agenda. That is why they had in the first instance prepared history primers, which were for decades rammed down the throats of helpless school children.

 

The medieval era of Indian history was the special focus of Marxist interest. Their contribution to the study and proper appreciation of this period was not entirely a negative development. To the extent that Marxist methodology lays special stress on the role of material forces in the shaping of history, they were able to make a significant contribution in highlighting the exploitative nature of the state under Sultanate and Mughal rulers, who appropriated the bulk of the agrarian produce, leaving the peasants in abject poverty.

 

But Marxist methodology in India is not recognized for its emphasis on economic determinism alone. It is associated with an active hostility to India’s native civilization and its achievements. It is noted for its blatant bias towards the Islamic advent that commenced in this period. Non-partisan scholars describe the Islamic thrust into the sub-continent as one of the most prolonged instances of cultural encounter in world history, and accept that notwithstanding the peaceful entry of Arab traders, a substantial part of Muslim settlement was achieved by conquest. From a perusal of standard secondary works alone, J. F. Richards has noted 90 instances of military conflict between the first Arab assault on Sind and the commencement of Alauddin Khalji’s Deccan campaigns. (J. F. Richards, Power, Administration and Finance in Mughal India, Variorum, 1993). He concludes that an examination of primary sources would reveal many more such incidents. And yet, it has been an endeavour of Indian Marxists to negate this history of sustained resistance of Indians to Islamic incursions.

 

Further, they have sought to underplay the Islamic abhorrence of idolatry and polytheism and its assault on the sacred spaces of this land. Though the numerical superiority of Hindus compelled the invaders to grant them the status of dhimmis, the issue was too complex to be so resolved, and continued to exercise the Muslim mind throughout these centuries. Yohanan Friedmann has observed that the conciliatory trend in Indian Islam was always weaker than the orthodox one, and the few rulers who adopted it failed to inspire their successors  (“Islamic Thought in Relation to the Indian Context”, in Richard M. Eaton ed., India’s Islamic Traditions, 711-1750, Oxford University Press, 2003).

 

Effacing the harshness of Islamic rule in India has been the primary objective of Indian Marxist historians. Even rulers of the notoriety such as Mahmud of Ghazni and Aurangzeb have been recipients of their kind benevolence. R. C. Majumdar has drawn attention to a typical, though not so well-known, case of Marxist intellectual jugglery. A Comprehensive History of India (vol. v), published under the auspices of the Indian History Congress, he says, eulogizes the Bengal ruler Husain Shah, for his patronage of Bengali writers and Vaishnava saints, and asserts that the creative genius of the people reached its zenith under him. The truth however, Majumdar states, is that Chandidas, the greatest Vaishnava poet, preceded Husain Shah, and the two poets of distinction who lived in his reign, enjoyed no royal favours.

 

Further, the Vaishnava leader, Chaitanya had no connection whatsoever with the Bengal Sultan. In fact after he became a sannyasi, Chaitanya spent almost twenty years in exile in the Hindu kingdom of Orissa. When he once visited a locality near the residence of Husain Shah, many people in Gauda feared for his safety and begged him to depart. Contemporary Vaishnava literature attests to the hostility of the Qazi of Navadvip who even prohibited kirtans. And yet in defiance of such damning evidence, A Comprehensive History of India has no qualms in declaring that “it is almost impossible to conceive of the rise and progress of Vaishnavism or the development of Bengali literature at this period without recalling to mind the tolerant and enlightened rule of the Muslim lord of Gaur”.

 

Such double speak forms the leitmotif of Marxist literature on medieval India. The Turkish invasions are glorified for effecting the political unification of India, and ending her alleged isolation, while Mughal rule is presented as the country’s second classical age.

 

Notwithstanding lofty declarations about free debate, Indian Marxists have, in classic Soviet style, relied heavily on state patronage and control of state-sponsored institutions to disseminate their version of history. Satish Chandra’s Medieval India (NCERT 2000)[1] was part of the Marxist offensive at the school level. A brief critique of the work is hereby presented, with a view to explain to the general reader the objections that non-Marxists have to Marxist historiography, and to share a larger concern for veracity and objectivity in the presentation of the past, howsoever unpalatable the past may be. Merely labeling such endeavors as “saffronisation” cannot wish away the paramount question that confronts historians today: Should history be an honest record of the past, or should it sacrifice truth to be “Secular?”

 

It has been said that history is essentially the story of civilizational memory. That has certainly been the case in India. Both communities which constitute Hindus and Muslims today, have varying memories of their historical journey. A Marxist dictate on inter-community amity in medieval India has abjectly failed to alter civilizational memories. The gulf between the two communities even at the village level has been poignantly brought out by a Bengali writer who notes:

 

“The proud descendants of the Aryas, who propounded the six systems of philosophy, taught these to their pupils for seven hundred years after the advent of the Muslims, but never cared to know anything of the wonderful philosophical systems taught by the Maulavis in the Madrasas of the neighbouring village. The Muslim Maulanas, who did not hesitate to teach with delight the non-Islamic doctrines of Aristotle all their lives, never cared to inquire what was being taught in the neighbouring Chatuspathis. What is still most strange is that while the Muslim doctors read the Arabic translations of the medical treatises of Charaka and Susruta, they never knew that the original treatises were being taught in the tol of the neighbouring village. On the other hand, the Hindu authors of medical treatises, to the best of my knowledge, never cared to know anything or take any advantage of the Yunani system. It is often urged  that Chaitanya sought to reconcile (or harmonise) the religious scriptures of the Hindus and Muslims, but I know nothing of it. So far as I know, the chief object of Chaitanya was to reform the Hindu society. The Muslims rulers, particularly the Mughal Emperors, invited to their courts, poets, scholars, philosophers and religious men from Iran and Turan. But the Hindus never profited in any way from these learned foreigners who had not established any contact with the Hindus” (quoted in R. C. Majumdar, History of Mediaeval Bengal, G. Bharadwaj and Co. 1973).

 

Now that the Marxists no longer occupy the commanding heights of Indian academia, they have a unique opportunity to assess the actual level of acceptability their work enjoys. Perhaps its time to recognize that evasion cannot bury the past. It is only by confronting it that it can be overcome.

 

* Note

Unlike the IHC’s Index of Errors which drew on the collective wisdom of Marxist luminaries, this is an individual effort. Any inadvertent misrepresentation may kindly be condoned. In view of the seriousness of the debate, proof-reading oversights, spelling errors, minor discrepancies in definition of technical terms and other such trivialities have been overlooked so as not to derail the discussion. The emphasis is on substantive issues of interpretation and presentation, and even here, only samples of faulty reasoning and construction are enumerated. This in no way claims to be an exhaustive study.


 1.0 “Scientific” History?

 

Indian Marxists take immense pride in presenting what they claim is a scientific analysis of the past. Some examples of this ‘methodology’ are given below. It may be seen that Marxist narrative is bedeviled by a non-Indian perspective, which casts a shadow over its very veracity and motivations.

 

  1. Though purported to be a text on ‘Medieval India,’ Satish Chandra’s book begins with a discussion on Europe in the aftermath of the breakup of the Roman empire, followed by a description of European feudalism, the Arab world from the 8th to the 10th centuries, and last but not least, East and South-East Asia!

 

That India does not merit even a subsection in the opening chapter perhaps best illustrates the Marxist alienation from the Indic perspective and their utter reliance upon foreign categories and periodizations for understanding events in India. Even though the very first paragraph of the book admits that developments in Europe and Asia only “had an indirect effect an India….”(Page 1), Marxists are unable to break away from imported categories of thought, howsoever ill they fit the Indian reality. They seem incapable of viewing India in terms of itself. For them, it must always move in tandem with Europe, the Arab world, even East and South-East Asia.

 

  1. Chapter 3, on the Chola Empire, includes a discussion on the Hoysalesvara temple built by the Hoysalas, the Kannada compositions of the Rashtrakuta king Amoghavarsha, and the Chalukya patronage of Telugu writers like Nanniah.

 

  1. Chapter 5 entitled “The Age of –Conflict (circa 1000-1200)” commences with a brief account of Mahmud of Ghazni’s cataclysmic invasions of India, and provides no details of the Hindu ruling houses with whom he clashed. Ghazni’s invasions are abruptly followed by a discussion of the Rajput clan system, which breaks the narrative and detracts from the conflicts of the era under discussion. The chapter then moves on to the temple-building tradition in north India between the eighth and twelfth centuries, before returning to the subsequent conquests of Muhammad of Ghur. A peculiar sequence, to say the very least.

 

  1. Chapter 6 is entitled “The Delhi Sultanat (circa 1200-1400), The Mameluk Sultans.” The chapter begins with an account of the reigns of Aibak, Iltutmish, Raziya and Balban. It then jumps back to Iltutmish and the rulers who succeeded him in a discussion on the Mongols, which even includes Alauddin Khalji (1296-1316) who was certainly not a Mamluk. After this detour, the narrative returns to Iltutmish and Balban, to discuss their eastern campaigns. Thereafter, it again backtracks to Aibak, Iltutmish and Balban and their conflicts with the Rajput rajas. One fails to understand how such mixed chronology qualifies as ‘scientific history’.
  2. Chapter 7 tilted “The Delhi Sultanat-II (circa 1200-1400)”. Since the period upto Balban has already been covered in the previous chapter, the dating is puzzling. A brief introduction of the Khaljis and Tughlaqs is followed in that order by an account of the expansion of the Sultanate in the north under Alauddin Khalji, the Deccan campaigns of the Khaljis and Tughlaqs, the market regulations and agrarian measures of Alauddin Khalji, the experiments of Muhammad bin Tughlaq and the rebellions he faced, the nature of his nobility, the reign of Firuz and the invasion of Timur. The constant back and forth movement only serves to completely confuse the student.

 

  1. The following Chapter 8 discusses “Government, and economic and social life under the Delhi Sultanat.” Since the reigns of the Sayyids and Lodis also fall in the Sultanate period, it is odd to find no mention of them before this discussion. The chapter begins with an account of the office of the Sultan, the central administrative apparatus and local government, and then moves on to the economic and social life of the period. The condition of the peasantry and rural gentry, the state of trade, industry and merchants are all described in some detail.

 

Unexpectedly, however, the author then returns to the Sultan and his nobles. Logically this section should have been appended to the opening discussion on the Sultan. There follows a description of town life, a section on caste, social manners and customs. Thereafter, the nature of the state and religious freedom in the Sultanate are enumerated, when this should have formed part of the discussion on the Sultan, his government and nobility.

 

There seems in all this a pervasive pattern of fragmenting the narrative to prevent the emergence of a coherent perspective on the nature of the state under the Sultanate rulers.

 

  1. Chapter 10 “Struggle for Empire in North India-1 (circa 1400-1525)” opens with a reference to Timur’s sack of Delhi in 1398. Hence it would be logical to follow this with the Sayyids, since the founder of this dynasty had been handed charge of Delhi by Timur himself. This could have been followed by an account of the successor Lodi dynasty, and the various kingdoms struggling for hegemony.

 

What we have instead is an account of eastern India, then western India, in the course of which we come across Ibrahim Lodi. The Sharqi kingdom of Jaunpur follows, wherein we encounter another Lodi ruler, Bahlul. Only after this extended digression do we come to the Sayyids and the Lodis.

 

  1. Chapter 11 is titled “Cultural Development in India.” Since the bhakti movement predated Sufism in India, it should have been discussed first, rather than the other way round.

 

  1. Chapter 12. Sher Shah’s Rajput policy (pp 145-146) makes no mention of his treatment of the Rajputs of Raisin. Instead, in the subsection entitled “Contribution of Sher Shah,” after listing his measures to improve law and order, trade and commerce, his custom regulations, currency reforms, administrative restructuring, land revenue measures, reorganization of the army, judicial reforms and architectural achievements, there is a brief reference to his treacherous murder of the Raisen Rajputs with the proviso that Sher Shah was “not a bigot in the religious sphere…” (p 150).

 

This kind of whitewashing and obfuscation of the state’s dealings with native rulers and subjects is the hallmark of Marxist historiography.

 

  1. Chapter 13 on Akbar is followed by chapter 14 on the Deccan policy of the Mughals upto 1656, even though the reigns of Jahangir (1605-27) and Shah Jahan (1628-58) are dealt with in the subsequent Chapter 15.

 

  1. Chapter 15 commences with a resume of Jahangir’s reign, which is followed by a discussion of the foreign policy of the Mughals from the time of Akbar to the reign of Aurangzeb! After this comes an account of the reforms introduced in the mansabdari system by Jahangir and Shah Jahan, and finally a discussion on the nature of the Mughal army!

 

Such liberties with chronology are obviously part of a concerted attempt to prevent an integrated view of the era emerging in the minds of young students.

 

  1. The following Chapter 16 deals with “Economic and Social Life Under The Mughals,” though Aurangzeb who is very much a part of the dynasty comes up only in chapter 18. It is also surprising to find a discussion on the ethnic composition of the Mughal nobility inserted in the middle of this chapter, when it should surely have formed part of the narrative of the state under the various rulers. Be that as it may be, this surreptitious insertion also contradicts the assertions made in the main body of the text that the respective rulers gave generous representation to native groups in the nobility.

 

  1. Chapter 18 discusses “Cultural and Religious Developments” under the Mughals, again before a discussion on the reign of Aurangzeb.

 

It is no surprise if at the end of this, one is left unsure of even the basic chronology of the period.

 

***

 

2.0 Missing  : Examples of Soviet style purging of Indian history – Whole dynasties and events have simply disappeared.

Purging history of its inconvenient moments having been a venerable tradition in the communist world, it comes as no surprise that India’s past too is considerably spruced up. Whole kingdoms and dynasties that flourished between the death of Harsha in AD 647 and the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate in AD 1206 find no mention in the text. This half millennium dominated by vigorous new ruling houses was an age of efflorescence, of monumental temples, literary flowering and intense philosophical speculation. And yet so much of that defining period of Indian history is simply effaced. Among rulers, dynasties and events missing:-

 

  1. The Gahadavalas, a leading ruling house of North India, in the forefront of the struggle against the Turkish invasions. They are also credited with a massive programme of temple construction in Ayodhya. One of the most important Hindu law compendium, the Kritya Kalpataru was written in their reign. But it is only the last ruler of this line, Jayachandra, who merits an unflattering mention: “Perhaps, he was not a very capable warrior because he had already suffered a reverse at the hands of the Sena king of Bengal” (p 43).

 

  1. The Chandellas of Bundelkhand are dismissed in one sentence on page 39. Believed to be of Gond (tribal) origin, they embarked on a career of greatness under Yasovarman, who finds no mention in the text. A reputed warrior, Yasovarman is even said to have allied with China to halt the onward march of the Turks. His successors aided the Shahi kings in their endeavour to repulse the Turks. Vidyadhar was the greatest of the Chandella kings. He killed the last Pratihara ruler of Kanauj for surrendering to Mahmud of Ghazni without a fight. The Chandellas were patrons of the Sanskrit littérateur Bhavabhuti, as well as of Vakpati and were also the builders of the magnificent Khajuraho temples.

 

  1. The Paramaras of Malwa who included Bhoja, one of the greatest kings of medieval India. During his reign of half a century, he thrice collaborated with other kings of north India in the drive against the Turks. He was also a formidable scholar and established a Sanskrit college within the precincts of the Saraswati temple (the present disputed Bhojashala at Dhar, M.P.).

 

  1. Eminent Chauhan kings like Ajayaraja (founder of the city of Ajayameru, Ajmer), Arnoraja and Vigraharaja IV Visaladeva, all of whom worsted the Turks. Vigraharaja IV Visaladeva, incidentally, established the Jain college at Ajmer, which was subsequently converted into the Arhai-din-ka-Jhompra mosque by Qutbuddin Aibak.

 

  1. The Kalachuris of Tripuri, an ancient ruling house whose earlier seat of power was Mahismati on the Narmada. The great kings of this dynasty included Kokalla, Gangeyadeva and Karna.

 

  1. Jayasimha Siddharaja, regarded as the greatest of the kings of Gujarat. A renowned warrior and builder of the Rudra Mahakala temple at Siddhapura , he was also the patron of the famous Jain scholar Hemachandra. Also missing are Kumarapala, renowned as the last great royal proponent of Jainism, and Naiki Devi, queen regent who defeated the forces of Muhammad of Ghur near Mt. Abu.

 

  1. The famous Karkota dynasty of Kashmir, which boasted of rulers like Lalitaditya, who made the dynasty the most powerful in India after the Guptas. Avantivarman, the sagacious ruler of the Utpala dynasty, who commissioned an engineering project for the drainage and irrigation of the valley which provided much relief from floods, besides increasing the land under cultivation, also goes unsung.

 

  1. The Sena kings of Bengal, Vijayasena and the famous Ballalasena, are ignored.

 

  1. The Shailodbhava dynasty of Orissa, the Karas, renowned for having had at least five female rulers. The Kesaris, the Eastern Gangas and the later Eastern Gangas, builders of the famous Lingaraja, Jagannath and Sun Temple, also do not merit attention. The three temples are merely mentioned in a survey on temple building in north India.

 

  1. The Chalukyas of Kalyani, including their distinguished ruler Vikramaditya VI, patron of scholars like Bilhana and Vijnaneshwara, are also missing.

 

  1. Rudramadevi of the Kakatiya dynasty, who ruled for almost 35 years, does not find even a listing.

 

  1. The text ignores the sheer dynamism of Indian society during the centuries. The movement of tribal groups from forest and pastoral settings to settled agriculture, their contribution to state formation, the rise and integration of tribal and local deities to regional and all-India status, the economic integration of the country through mobile communities of itinerant traders and merchants, are all overlooked in preference for a static and stereotyped rigidity that has long been rejected by modern scholarship. The persistent participation of Hindu peasants in warfare throughout this period is obliterated as part of the attempt to project Hindu society as a closed unit in which multiple occupations were ruled out and movement impossible.

 

  1. The evidence of the growth of urban centres and a flourishing economy in the kingdoms of the Pratiharas, Paramaras, Chahamanas, among others, are all suppressed with a view to validate the discredited thesis of the Marxist historian Prof. R.S. Sharma that  trade and economy suffered a distinct decline in the three centuries after the death of Harsha.

 

  1. There is simply no discussion on the nature of the polity established by Prophet Muhammad, and its dependence on the twin concepts of jihad and ummah. The dhimmi system and status granted to non-Muslims requires honest discussion, given that the bulk of the period grapples with the exclusivist nature of the state established by Islamic rulers in India.
  2. The Arab invasion of Sind is not only eclipsed from Marxist history, so too are four centuries of stiff Hindu resistance in Sind, Kabul and Zabul. Only the Hindushahis from the time of Jaypala are mentioned.

 

  1. The iconoclasm of Subuktigin, father of Mahmud of Ghazni, as recorded by the chronicler, Abu Nasir Utbi is overlooked.

 

  1. The sheer number of Hindu victims of Islamic invaders has been carefully excised. Fifty thousand defenders lost their lives in just one attack of Mahmud of Ghazni on Somnath, which surely deserves an acknowledgement. Somnath, it may be recalled, was razed several times thereafter.

 

  1. Sayyid Salar Masud, Mahmud’s nephew, who launched a fresh series of Turkish attacks on India.

 

  1. The highly refined system of racial discrimination practiced by the Turks in India and the fact that the so-called egalitarian message of Islam did not win any converts in the twelfth century.

 

  1. Iltutmish’s destruction of the Mahakala Deva temple in Ujjain is ignored. Indeed there is an unmistakable tendency to overlook acts of Muslim vandalism. Richard Eaton has admitted that at least 80 temples were destroyed by Muslim iconoclasts. Although this is regarded as a ridiculously low figure in some quarters, even the major instances in his list are skipped over in the textbook.

 

  1. The text nowhere mentions that all Delhi Sultans sought investiture from the Caliph as part of their commitment to the wider world of Islam.

 

  1. Alauddin Khalji’s execution of three thousand muqaddams during the campaign against Chittor.

 

  1. Firuz Tughlaq’s attack on Orissa temples is briefly referred to, but surely it should be specified that it was the famous Jagannath temple that was the victim of his iconoclastic fury. The killings of thousands of inhabitants of the region is similarly expunged.

 

  1. The Vijayanagar kingdom’s great scholar Sayana, whose commentaries on the Vedic texts are highly rated even today, finds no place in the text.

 

  1. The deportation of thousands of peasants across the Indus as part of the pacification of the countryside is ignored.

 

  1. Akbar’s massacre of 30,000 peasants who had taken shelter at Chittor Fort, and his letting 300 elephants loose on the besieged people there.  The author merely says, “many peasants from the surrounding area … were massacred”. Further, the giant statues of the Rajput warriors, Jaimal and Patta, the Emperor had erected outside Agra fort were intended as a mark of humiliation not honor, as the author would have us believe. The political motivations that dictated Akbar’s Rajput and religious policies are also underplayed.

 

  1. The chapter on Akbar is also remarkable for the absence of Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi, the leading revivalist thinker of the time; Akbar’s close links with the Chishti order; his attempts to placate orthodox Muslim opinion till as late as 1579.

 

  1. Further, the discussion on Akbar fails to explain to students that the mansabdari system gave the Mughal state a strong military base. It is surely significant that almost sixty percent of the total Jama (assessed state revenue) under Akbar was spent on maintaining a military establishment in an era which saw no foreign invasions.

 

  1. The sheer magnitude of the revenue demand under the Mughals is carefully concealed from students. In Kashmir for example, Akbar discovered that two-thirds of the crop was being extracted from the peasants and reduced it to 50 percent. The Dutch Factor Geleynssen found in Gujarat in 1629 that the cultivators had to surrender three-fourth of their produce. A farman dated 1665 reveals that some jagirdars in Gujarat were attempting to extract from the peasants more than the whole produce in revenue, by the simple device of declaring the yield to be two and a half times more than what it actually was. Apart from the high revenue demand, the peasants had to pay a number of additional taxes and cesses. Under Aurangzeb, the inhabitants of a village complained that the additional illegal demands of the revenue officials totaled nearly one-third of the jama. In many cases the total tax liability of the peasants became so enormous that they were forced to sell their wives, children and cattle to meet the state demand. Yet the text is silent on all these matters.

 

  1. The chapter on Jahangir makes no mention of his hostility to the Sikh Guru, Arjun, as he himself expressed it in his autobiography and his execution of the latter. The reaction of the Guru’s son and successor Hargobind in girding two swords, piri and miri, symbolizing the complementary of spiritual and temporal authority, his construction of the Akal Takht at the Golden Temple and his imprisonment at Gwalior Fort by Jahangir for two years, are also ignored. Jahangir’s execution of the Sikh leader is dismissed in half a sentence two chapters later, in a chapter on Cultural and Religious Developments, where it is stated: “…death of Guru Arjun by Jahangir…” (p 222).

 

  1. Jahangir’s desecration of the sacred Hindu site Pushkar is glossed over.

 

  1. While mentioning Jahangir’s dealings with Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi it is nowhere stated that after the release of the latter from prison, the Emperor conferred a robe of honour and a thousand rupees on him and gave him permission to stay on at the imperial camp, where in fact Sirhindi stayed for three years, delivering sermons, some of which were heard by the emperor.

 

  1. Shah Jahan’s destruction of the massive temple Bir Singh Bundela had constructed near his palace and construction of a mosque on the site and his order of 1633 prohibiting the repair of shrines, and destruction of new places of worship in Banaras.

 

  1. Shah Jahan’s harassment of the Sikh Guru Hargobind is not part of the main narrative dealing with the Emperor, but is again hidden in a general chapter on cultural and religious developments.

 

  1. The appropriation of revenues by a very small clique. In the year 1647-48 a mere 445 mansabdars consumed more then three fourths of the revenues of the state.

 

  1. The general unacceptability of Dara’s views within his community, is inexplicably ignored by the foremost proponents of India’s composite culture!

 

  1. The severity of the jizya tax, which had a determining role in lower caste conversion to Islam, finds no mention. It has been estimated that as much as 15 percent of the total income of the state during Aurangzeb’s time came from the jizya.

 

  1. Aurangzeb’s exclusive recruitment of Muslims nobles of the erstwhile states of Bijapur and Golcunda into Mughal service and his dismissal of Brahmin and Telugu officials, are conspicuously evaded.

 

  1. The strong tradition of rebellion and agrarian resistance in Mughal India finds little space in the text, which is truly surprising given that Marxists have generally been obsessed with the role of economic forces in determining history.

 

  1. The long-standing policy of settling Afghans in areas of resurgence with a view to effecting  their pacification, is quietly overlooked.

 

  1. Surprisingly there is no mention of Shahjahanabad and Lahore Fort in the discussion on Mughal architecture, though photographs of the former have been provided.

***


3.0 Let Truth Prevail : Samples of confusion, obfuscation, distortion

 

Sl. No. Page

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Text

14During the early period, the Arabs displayed a remarkable capacity of assimilating the scientific knowledge and administrative skills of the ancient civilizations they had overrun. They had no hesitation in employing non-Muslims, such as Christians and Jews, and also non-Arabs, particularly the Iranians many of whom were Zoroastrians and even Buddhists, for running the administration.

 

 

Observation : The Arab employment of non-Muslims was dictated by circumstances. P.M. Holt, Ann K.S. Lambton, Bernard Lewis, eds., The Cambridge History of Islam, (vol-IA, Cambridge University Press, 1978, p. 88) for example notes,

 

“The Arabs who had emigrated to the provinces from their peninsula retained, at all events to begin with, their privileges as well as the burdens deriving from military service, which was incumbent on them alone. The natives continued to devote themselves to agriculture or to the exercise of their crafts and profession as builders, cultivators, physicians, and teachers, while they also obtained employment in the administrative offices, built ships for the conquerors, and offered their services as sailors. This was because the Arabs despised work in the fields, and scorned certain crafts, for example the weaving of textiles, or lacked the necessary training; because they were afraid of the sea, and in government service could occupying only those posts which required no previous experience… Muawiya’s tolerance towards Christians can also be explained as due to his awareness of their strength.”

 

Sl. No. Page

no.

Text

218Unfortunately, they (the Indian states) weakened themselves by continually fighting against each other, sacking the towns and not even sparing the temples. Ultimately, they were destroyed by the Sultans of Delhi in the beginning of the fourteenth century.

 

 

Observation : Much has been made of attacks on images and temples by Hindu kings in times of war. The intention appears to be to demonstrate that the Turks merely followed established practices in the subcontinent. Instances of desecration by Hindu kings however are rare, and never backed by any “theory of iconoclasm”. In most cases Hindu rulers honoured the images they acquired from enemy kings, even building stately temples for them. In the Hindu case then, acquisition of images from rival kings implied only a change of proprietorship, unlike the Islamic case, which entailed the very “deconstruction” of the image. To cite a few examples –

 

In 950 AD, the Chandella ruler, Yasovarman, built the Lakshmana temple at Khajuraho to house a gold image of Vishnu he had acquired from the Pratihara ruler. The Vijaynagar king Krishnadevaraya, likewise constructed the Krsnasvami temple for an image of Balkrishna procured during a campaign against the Gajapatis of Orissa, and the Vithalasvami temple for a Vitthala image brought from an expedition to Pandharpur (for the details see R. H. Davis, Lives Of Indian Images, Princeton University Press, 1997).

 

A rare instance of vandalism by a Hindu king comes from Kashmir. King Lalitaditya once promised safe conduct to the ruler of Gauda and offered as surety the image of Vishnu Parihasakesava. He however went back on his word and had the Gauda ruler killed. An outraged group of the latter’s followers went to Kashmir disguised as pilgrims, and made for the Parihasakesava temple which housed the image. They seized a silver image of Ramasvami which they mistook for Parihasakesava and broke it to pieces, even as Lalitadilya’s soldiers pounced on them and killed them.

 

Hindu destruction of Buddhist and Jain places of worship too cannot be placed “on par” with Islamic iconoclasm. The evidence for such acts, according to Andre Wink (Al‑Hind. The Slave Kings and the Islamic Conquest. Vol. II. Brill Leiden, 1999, p. 310), is “too vague to be convincing.”

 

Shashanka, king of Karnasuvarna in the seventh century AD, described among the foremost persecutors of Buddhism, for example, is said to have cut down the Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya. But it is also said that the tree was revived, and in the course of one night grew to a height of over 3 meters, which is surely an anomalous situation.

 

Shankaravarman (883-902) of Kashmir is another Hindu ruler depicted as an iconoclast. But he never vandalized a temple or icon, contenting himself with temple lands and treasures. Harsha of Kashmir (1089-1101) certainly defiled images, but in emulation of Muslim conduct, as is evident from the epithet Harsharajaturushka bestowed on him. It is also significant that he employed a number of Turkish officers in his army. Moreover, A. Basham, the teacher of Romila Thapar, credits the heretical Ajivikas for motivating Harsha towards such iconoclasm.

 

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320-21This is also called the Rajaraja temple because the Cholas were in the habit of installing images of kings and queens in the temples, in addition to the deity…. A large number of temples were also built at other places in south India. However, it may be well remember that the proceeds for some of the activities were obtained from the plunder of the population of the neighbouing areas by the Cholas rulers.

 

 

Observation : The images of kings and queens in temples only depicted them as worshippers and were not intended to supplant the images of the gods. The royal cult centres that emerged in early medieval India represented, as B. D. Chattopadhyaya (Studying Early India, permanent black, 2003) has pointed out, the integration of local cults and their centres. The deity became the ruler of the region and the monarch his representative. Well known examples are the cult of Purusottama –Jagannath in Orissa, and the relationship between the Guhila rulers of Mewar and the Saivite deity Ekalinga.

 

Temples were built from the legitimate profits of trade and hence were often found on trade routes. By linking their construction with plunder, the author seems to be  attempting to establish an artificial parity with the conduct of the Turks.

 

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421Many others (writers) took their themes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, thus bringing these classics nearer to the people… many folk or popular themes are also to be found in these literatures. popular themes which were not derived from Sanskrit and which reflect popular sentiments and emotions are called desi or rural in Telugu.

 

 

Observation : The Ramayana and Mahabharata were never inaccessible to the populace. Indeed the epics were a medium through which philosophic thoughts and insights were routinely expressed at the popular level. As H. Zimmer has pointed out, (Philosophies Of India, ed., Joseph Campbell Bollingen Series XXV I, Pantheon Books, 1953, p 26) the perfectly appropriate pictorial script of mythology preserved the philosophical ideas without in any way damaging their sense. In the symbolic form, ideas did not have to be diluted to be popularized.

 

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523In northern India, this period is considered a period of stagnation and even of decline. The main reason for this was the setback to trade and commerce between the seventh and the tenth century. This, in turn, led to a decline of towns and town life in the region. The setback to trade and commerce was, in part, due to the collapse in the West of the Roman empire with which India had flourishing and profitable trade…. As a result, there was remarkable paucity of new gold coins in north India between the eighth and the tenth century. The situation gradually changed with the emergence of a powerful and extensive Arab empire in West Asia and North Africa…. Foreign trade and commerce in northern India began to revive gradually from the tenth century onwards.

 

 

Observation :This view of the post-Gupta period has been seriously questioned and seems part of the Marxist proclivity to devalue Indian accomplishments and to link the so-called Indian economic recovery in the tenth century to the Islamic advent.

 

Andre Wink (Al-Hind, The Making of The Indo-Islamic World, Oxford University Press, 1990, vol. I, p. 220 -222), for example notes,

 

“… R. S. Sharma, whose Indian Feudalism has misguided virtually all historians of the period, not only because it is entirely written from the a priori assumption of the ‘dark age’, doggedly searching for point by point parallels with Europe, but also, more accidentally, because there has never been anything to challenge it. Following Sharma, historians have looked for an Indian parallel to European ‘feudalism’, a type of social organization characterized by general economic and cultural decline which in Europe was once explained, similarly, with reference to barbarian invasions and the rise of Islam. Sharma has repeated his view innumerable times-almost verbatim often, and hardly developing them. They can be summarized as follows.

 

The Indian economy in the seventh to tenth centuries, according to Sharma, became almost exclusively rural or agrarian-oriented, with trade and urbanism suffering a distinct decline, internally, but also externally as the India trade fell off because the Byzantines stopped importing silk from India (having introduced the silkworm from China themselves), and because of ‘the expansion of the Arabs under the banner of Islam’. Sharma says that this can be deduced from the absence of finds of Indian gold coins in these centuries and the apparent paucity of coins in general, even though texts refer to the abundant use of coined money and land charters speak of taxes in gold and there remains evidence of commercial activity on the coasts. Trade and commerce were ‘feudalized’, and India acquired ‘a closed economy’. The major positive evidence from which Sharma claims to derive his thesis (apart from the negative evidence relating to the absence or paucity of coins) are charters of grants of land or villages to brahmans, temples ‘and others’ which appear in significant numbers in many parts of the sub-continent towards the end of the rule of the imperial Guptas. These charters are evidence of the agrarian reorientation of the age, and of the ‘decentralization’ or ‘fragmentation’ of political power-the parallel of European ‘infeudation’. The origin and development of the Indian form of ‘political feudalism’ Sharma thus finds in ‘land grants made to brahmans’. In the ‘feudal’ economy the Indian village became ‘nearly self-contained’ (with ‘local needs locally satisfied’) while at the same time ‘ a class of landlords’ arose, with hierarchic control over land being created ‘by large-scale sub-infeudation, especially from the eighth century onwards’, and with vassals and sub-vassals who had to supply troops to and fight for their lord. ‘A class of subject peasantry’, i.e. ‘serfdom’, with peasants being forcefully attached to the soil, also arose in many parts of India. There was even ‘a significant link between the breakdown of slavery and enterprise of serfdom’. And finally, the process of ‘feudalization’ is accompanied by the formation of ‘regional cultural units’, the proliferation of castes, the beginnings of the development of regional and local languages (‘the local element in language was strengthened by the insulation of these areas’), regional scripts too, and ‘regional styles in sculpture and construction of temples’. It is clear that Sharma, loyal to a ‘materialist’ explanation, feels that these latter tendencies are the cultural superstructure of the ‘feudal’ economy, the increasing insularity of India’s economy which was not reversed before the eleventh century, when ‘India witnessed an expansion of commercial activities.’

 

This should be enough to show that Sharma’s thesis essentially involves an obstinate attempt to find ‘elements’ which fit a preconceived picture of what should have happened in India because it happened in Europe (or is alleged to have happened in Europe by Sharma and his school of historians whose knowledge of European history is rudimentary and completely outdated) or because of the antiquated Marxist scheme of a ‘necessary’ development of ‘feudalism’ out of ‘slavery’. The methodological underpinnings of Sharma’s work are in fact so thin that one wonders why, for so long, Sharma’s colleagues have called his work ‘pioneering’.”

 

 

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624In some of the Dharmashastras which were written during this period, a ban is put on travel beyond the areas where the munja grass does not grow or where the black gazelle does not roam, that is, outside India… Of course, not everybody took these bans seriously… Perhaps, the ban was meant for brahmanas only or was meant to discourage too many Indians going to the areas dominated by Islam in the West and Buddhism in the East for fear of their bringing back heretical religious ideas which may be embarrassing and unacceptable to the brahmanas and to the ruling groups.

 

 

Observation : There is evidence of Indian contacts with the wider world from the time of the Indus civilization. As Burton Stein (A History of India, Blackwell, 1998.) has perceptively pointed out, it was only when the Muslims came to dominate the Indian Ocean that sea-faring became a taboo for Hindus. As for the threat from the heretical ideas of Islam, the Rashtrakuta rulers had permitted Muslim traders to preach Islam in their domains. Several centuries later Barbosa records that the Vijayanagar kings allowed every man to “live according to his own creed, without suffering any annoyance, and without enquiry whether he is a Christian, Jew, Moor or heathen.” The bhakti movement, noted for its egalitarian teachings, long preceded the Islamic advent in India and several of its leaders were brahmins. Moreover the much vaunted “heretical religious ideas” of Islam were not in evidence in India, where the foreign Muslims always accorded a secondary status to Indian converts.

 

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728The caste system which had been established much earlier formed the basis of the society. The smriti writers of the period exalt the privileges of the brahmanas, and even surpass the previous writers in emphasizing the social and religious disabilities of the sudras…. It is difficult to say how far the ideas of the smriti writers were practiced in daily life. But there is no doubt that the disabilities from which the ‘lower castes’ suffered increased during the period.

 

 

Observation : Most of the Indian kingdoms were founded  by the so-called ‘lower castes’ and tribes, who were given kshatriya status after they assumed political power. Aeons ago the Mahabharata, reflecting this reality, had observed that the source of rivers and kshatriyas are difficult to trace.

 

The period between the seventh and the twelfth centuries witnessed the rise of a number of new royal lineages in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, which came to constitute a social-political category known as ‘Rajput’. Some of the major royal lineages were the Pratiharas of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and adjacent areas, the Guhilas and the Cahamanas of Rajasthan, the Caulukyas or Solankis of Gujarat and Rajasthan and the Paramaras of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Among others who also claimed to be Rajputs were the Chandellas of Bundelkhand and the Gahadavalas.  The Rajput category remained the means by which an upwardly mobile social group could enhance its status.

 

It is well recognized that hierarchical ranking was not clearly defined and operational over large parts of the subcontinent even as late as colonial times. The status of the same caste often varied from locality to locality. At the village level, the agricultural castes, the so-called sudras, were numerically preponderant and economically and politically powerful (see, for example, M.N. Srinivas, Social Change in Modern India, Allied Publishers, 1966).

 

Many Englishmen themselves commented on the flexibility of the system. The ethnographer Thurston, for example, came across a Tamil proverb to the effect that “a Kallan may come to be a Maravan, by respectability he may developed into an Agamudaiyan, and by slow degrees, become a Vellala, from which he may rise to be a Mudaliar” (quoted in Pamela G. Price, Kingship and Political Practice in Colonial India, Cambridge University Press, 1996).

 

Prior to the census operations of the nineteenth century, Shudra rank was not an embarrassment to cultivating castes like the Vellalas, who openly proclaimed their status in temple inscriptions.

 

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828-29It seems that originally people from different castes, including brahmanas and sudras, who worked in the royal establishments, were called kayastha. In course of time, they emerged as a distinct caste. Hinduism was expanding rapidly during the period. It not only absorbed large numbers of Buddhists and Jains within its fold but many indigenous tribes and foreigners were also Hindusized. These new sections formed new castes and sub-castes, and often continued their own customs, rituals of marriage ceremonies and even their own tribal gods and goddesses. Thus, society and religion became more and more complex.

 

 

Observation :  An entirely novel thesis on the origin of the Kayasthas!

B. D. Chattopadhyaya  (Studying Early India, permanent black , 2003,  p 160) however says, “one distinct social group which makes itself noticeable in the records from the Gupta period onward was that of the Kayastha, drawn from the ranks of scribes, accountants and so on; the Kayasthas crystallized into distinct north Indian subcastes and were closely associated with new royal courts.”

 

The so-called Hinduization of the tribes is also misleading, for it overlooks the fact tribal gods and goddesses were elevated to high status in the Hindu pantheon. The Jagannath cult of Orissa is the most well known example of this trend. (For details of this phenomenon see A. Eschmann et. al., The Cult of Jagannath and the Regional Tradition of Orissa, Manohar, 1978).

 

 

 

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929The Matsya Purana authorizes the husband to beat his erring wife (though not on the head or the breasts) with the rope or a split bamboo. Women continued to be denied the right to study the Vedas. Furthermore, the marriageable age for girls was lowered, thereby destroying their opportunities for higher education. The omission of all reference to women teachers in the dictionaries written during the period shows the poor state of higher education among women. However, from some of the dramatic works of the period, we find that the court ladies and even the queen’s maids-in-waiting were capable of composing excellent Sanskrit and Prakrit verses.  Various stories point to the skill of princesses in the fine arts, especially in painting and music. Daughters of high officials, courtesans and concubines were also supposed to be highly skilled in various arts, including poetry…. It appears that with the growth of the practice of large number of women being maintained by the feudal chiefs, and with the resultant disputes about property, there was a tendency for the rite of sati to spread.

 

 

Observation : A classic case of doublespeak. The author first laments the decline in the education of women and then goes on to say that even the queen’s maids-in-waiting were capable of composing excellent Sanskrit and Prakrit verses. Daughters of high officers are also described as skilled in various arts.

 

There are several examples of women participating in the political process in the Hindu kingdoms of this period. A Rashtrakuta princess, Chandrobalabbe, daughter of Amoghavarsha I, for example, administered Raichur doab for some time. The Kara dynasty boasted of at least five female rulers. Muhammad of Ghur was defeated near Mount Abu by a force led by the regent queen, Naiki Devi in AD1178-9. Kashmir in the mid-tenth century was ruled by the famous queen Didda. The Kakatiyas had a woman ruler, Rudramadevi, for almost thirty-five years (AD1261-1295). Ganga Devi, wife of Prince Kampana of Vijayanagar, composed the Madurai vijaya, described as one of the finest epics of resistance in medieval literature.

 

The phenomenon of sati was noted even by the Greeks who accompanied Alexander and can hardly be attributed to property disputes among wives. Surely Marx did not have this in mind when he talked of economic forces shaping history.

 

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1032The belief grew (among Hindus) that a worshiper could attain what he desired by uttering magical words (mantra) and making various kinds of mystic gestures. They also believed that by these practices, and by various kinds of austerities and secret rites, they could attain supernatural powers, such as the power to fly in the air, to become invisible, to see things at a distance, etc. Man has always yearned for control over nature in this manner. It is only with the growth of modern science that many of these yearnings have been fulfilled. Many Hindu yogis also adopted these practices.

 

Observations: Typical of Marxist alienation from the spiritual ethos of this land. “Uttering magical words (mantra)” is a venerable tradition dating to Vedic times. The caricature of the beliefs and practices of the Hindus is a constant refrain in Marxist writings.

 

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1132-33In course of time, the growing rigidity of Jainism and loss of royal patronage led to the decline of Jainism. The revival and expansion of Hinduism took many forms. Shiva and Vishnu became the chief gods and magnificent temple were built to proclaim their supremacy. In the process, many local gods and goddesses including the gods and goddesses of tribals who became Hinduized became subordinate to their consorts. In eastern India, the consort’s-Tara, the consort of Buddha, Durga the consort of Shiva, Kali, etc., became themselves the chief objects of worship. Nevertheless, the rise of the worship of Shiva and Vishnu signified the growth of a process of cultural synthesis. Thus, in an era of disintegration, religious played a positive part. But the religious revival also increased the power and arrogance of the Brahmanas. This resulted in a series of popular movements which emphasized the element of human equality and freedom.

 

 

Observation : The “growing rigidity” of Jainism is difficult to substantiate and forms part of the Marxist calumny to associate “rigidity” with Indic traditions. Again, Shiva and Vishnu, in their “High Hindu” form, were not the only gods instated in the magnificent temples built in these times. It was often local and tribal gods and goddesses, who were the chief deities.  Nor were they “subordinate to their consort of Buddha, Durga…”, as evident for example, at the Minakshi temple. (For details of Minakshi’s dominant position see C. Fuller, Servants of the Goddess: The Priests of a South Indian Temple. Cambridge University Press, 1984).

 

 

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1235Meanwhile, the break-up of the Gurjara-Pratihara empire led to a phase of political uncertainly in north India, and a new phase of struggle for domination. As a result, little attention was paid to the emergence of an aggressive, expansionist Turkish state on the north-western border of India.

 

 

Observation : The frontier states of Al-Hind, Sind, Kabul and Zabul resisted the Arab and Turkish invaders for almost four centuries. Predictably, this resistance finds little mention in the text. Sind held out for over seven decades. The Turkshahi and later Hindushahi dynasties offered a similar fight in Kabul and Zabul. The Rajput states of North India frequently combined against the invaders. A Rajput confederacy aided both Jaipal and Anandpal. The Chandellas, Paramaras, Chahamanas, Kalachuris and Chalukyas all consistently confronted the invaders.

 

 

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1337Mahumd’s raids into India alternated with battles in Central Asia. For his plundering raids into India the ghazis came handy to him. Mahmud also posed as a great but shikan or “destroyer of the images” for the glory of Islam…. He was able to do all this with impunity due to the fact that no strong state existed in north India at that time…. It is not correct to dismiss Mahmud as just a raider and plunderer.

 

 

Observation : Iconoclasm in Islam dates to the Prophet himself, who according to Ibn Ishaq, ordered the destruction of all idols around the Kaba.

 

Andre Wink (Al‑Hind. The Slave Kings and the Islamic Conquest. Vol. II. Brill Leiden, 1999, pp 321-8) has pointed out that Mahmud’s reputation in the Islamic world rested on the two inter-related accomplishments of “breaking the idols” and “de-hoarding the temple treasures of al-Hind.” He says –

 

“The idol of Somnath was believed by some to have been brought from Mecca before the time of the Prophet. Its destruction was hailed, by contemporary and later authors, as the crowning glory of Islam over idolatry, and elevated Mahmud to the status of a hero”.

 

Further Wink points out that Islamic iconoclasm was almost always directed against non-Islamic objects. When Mahmud attacked the Ismailis of Multan, he did not destroy their mosque, but left it to decay. It may be noted here that Ismailis were regarded as apostates and heretics by devout Sunni Muslims such as Mahmud.

 

Much has been made of Mahmud’s Central Asian ambitions. As Kulke and Rothermund observe, “he regarded it (the Central Asian Empire) with as much indifference as he did India and only paid it attention at times of unrest” (A History of India, Dorset Press, 1986, p 164). In making these claims Indian Marxists seem motivated by the desire to suppress the indelible link between Islam and iconoclasm.

 

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1438But their (the Rajputs) basic weakness was their tendency to form exclusive groups, each claming superiority over the others. They were not prepared to extend the sense of brotherhood to non-Rajputs. This led to a growing gap between the Rajput ruling groups and the people most of whom were non-Rajputs.

 

 

Observation : The open nature of the Rajput category has been acknowledged by several historians. Dirk Kolff (Naukar, Rajput and Sepoy. The ethnohistory of a military labour market in Hindustan, 1450‑1850, Cambridge University Press, 1990), for example, notes the inclusion of many categories of peasants amongst them. He cites the example of Pasis, several of whom became Rajputs by giving their daughters to Panwars and other Rajput families (pp 118-9).

 

 

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1541The Sufis preached the gospel of love, faith and dedication to the one God. They directed their preachings mainly towards the Muslim settlers but they influenced some Hindus also. Thus, a process of interaction between Islam and Hindu religion and society was started. Lahore became a centre of Arabic and Persian languages and literature. Hindu generals, such as Tilak, commanded the Ghaznavid armies in which Hindu soldiers also were recruited.

 

 

Observation : Most Sufis at one time or another regarded conversion as one of their primary objectives in India. The establishment of the Chishti hospice at Ajmer and the Suhrawardi khanqah in Multan in the thirteenth century were as much a missionary as a religio-mystical activity. Ajmer, it has been pointed out, was the heartland of the Hindu military aristocracy.

 

Sufis are also known to have participated in warfare. “Warriors Sufis” were active in the Deccan during the years 1296-1347. Bengal was also said to have been won not by Muslim cavalrymen, but by the bara auliyas, the twelve legendary Muslim militant saints.

 

The Sufis were not indifferent to the success of the Islamic enterprise in India. The Chishtis, for example, closely identified with the political fortunes of Indo-Muslim states. As Richard Eaton has pointed out, by effectively injecting a legitimizing “substance” into a new body politic at the moment of its birth, the Chishti Shaikhs contributed positively to the process of Indo-Muslim state-building (Essays on Islam and Indian History, Oxford University Press, 2002, p 104).

 

As for the enlistment of Hindu soldiers in Ghaznavid armies, is it being argued that the Turkish conquest was a joint Indo-Muslim enterprise?  Hindu soldiers were recruited in the colonial army as well. Did that make the British conquest an Indo-British venture?

 

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1649She (Raziya) sent an expedition against Ranthambhor to control the Rajputs, and successfully established law and order in the length and breadth of her kingdom.

 

 

Observation : The Ranthambor expedition and the one against Gwalior were the only two campaigns undertaken in Raziya’s reign and both ended in failure. Her reign was so turbulent that there was no question of her successfully establishing law and order. This is part of the Marxist tendency to glorify even the failures of the Turkish rulers.

 

 

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1749But there is no doubt that with his (Balban’s) accession to the throne there began an era of strong, centralized government.

 

 

Observation : Balban has been erroneously presented as a strong monarch. M. Habib, and K.A. Nizami, (eds., The Delhi Sultanate, Vol.5 of, A Comprehensive History of India,  People’s Publishing House,1970, p. 292) have highlighted many instances of his military weakness and concluded that, “Balban, his officers and his army,…, proved themselves extraordinarily inefficient and clumsy.”  They point out for example, that it took Balban more than six years to crush the rebellion of Tughril Khan in Bengal. Balban also dared not challenge any of the great Hindu rais, and failed to check the raids of frontier Mongol officers. “Both in the civil and the military field”, they conclude, “Balban and his governing class had been tried and found wanting” (Ibid, p. 303).

 

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1849In order to prove his claim to noble blood, Balban stood forth as the champion of the Turkish nobility.

 

 

Observation : Balban has in fact been accused of weakening Turkish power in India by eliminating several members of the slave aristocracy. Some scholars point out that his objective in vanquishing the Shamsi nobles was to promote his own slaves (Peter Jackson, The Delhi Sultanate, Cambridge University Press, 1999).

 

 

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1957Jalaluddin Khalji ruled only for a brief period of six years. He tried to mitigate some of the harsh aspects of Balban’s rule. He was the first ruler of the Delhi Sultanat to clearly put forward the view that the state should be based on the willing support of the governed, and that since the large majority of the people in India were Hindus, the state in India could not be a truly Islamic state.

 

 

Observation : This is a perverse distortion of Jalaluddin’s position. He in fact, had a strong desire to be recognized as the Mujahid fi sabilillah (fighter in the path of God) and deeply regretted his inability to enforce the full gamut of Islamic laws and regulations in the country. He lamented to his relative, Malik Ahmad Chap,

 

“We cannot compare ourselves with Sultan Mahmud and Sultan Sanjar that we should do the same what they had done…Don’t you see that the Hindus, who are the greatest enemies of God and Islam, pass below by palace every day, beating their drums and trumpets, and go to river Jumna for idol worshipping. They practice polytheism and infidelity before our very eyes and we, who lack religions zeal and yet claim to be the king of the Musalmans, they are not afraid of our dignity and royal strength. Had I been King of Islam (meaning a Caliph), righteous king or a born prince, and a powerful refuge of true faith, I, for the honour of religion, would not have spared the enemies of Islam, particularly the Hindus…”

 

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2058Although the historians of the time accuse Khusrau of being anti-Islamic and of committing all types of crimes the fact is that Khusrau was no worse than any of the preceding monarchs. Nor was there any open resentment voiced against him by the Muslim nobles or by the population of Delhi. Even Nizamuddin Auliya, the famous Sufi saint of the Delhi, acknowledged Khusrau by accepting his gifts. This had a positive aspect, too. It showed that the Muslims of Delhi and the neighbouring areas were no longer swayed by racist considerations and were prepared to obey anyone irrespective of his family or racial background. This helped in broadening the social bas of the nobilities still further.

 

 

Observation : Again, half-truths, untruths, no truths.  Aziz Ahmad (Studies In Islamic Culture In The Indian Environment, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1964. p 96) for example says,

“The contemporary Muslim historians record that there was general rejoicing in the Hindu population that Delhi had once more come under Hindu rule and that the Muslims had been superseded and dispersed”.

 

Further

 

“His apostasy, in any case, continued to retain an element of syncretism, if one may judge by the lavish grant of money he presented to Nizam-al-din Awliya to pray for him. His rule, which lasted only four months, was much too short to assess what the real reactions of the Muslim governors would have been when most of them, like Ghazi Malik, became fully aware of the danger of Muslim survival in India”( p 97).

“The declared objectives of Ghazi Malik’s jihad were three: ‘to purify the light of the True Faith from the dust of paganism in this dangerous land and to re-establish the glory of Islam; secondly to reconquer this Empire from the Hindu to restore it to its true heir, a Khalji prince if one still survived; thirdly to punish the traitors for their treachery’ (p 98).

 

 

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2161Alauddin also overran Jalor which lay on the route to Gujarat. Almost all the other major states in Rajasthan were forced to submit to him. However, it seems that he did not try to establish direct administration over the Rajput states. The Rajput rulers were allowed to rule but had to pay regular tribute, and to obey the orders of the Sultan. Muslim ‘garrisons were posted in some of the important towns, such as Ajmer, Nagaur, etc. Thus, Rajasthan was thoroughly subdued.

 

 

Observations : Habib and Nizami (ibid., p 397) say that “the plan of annexing Rajasthan was attempted in part and then given up as impracticable.” Clearly this does not match the author’s perception.

 

 

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2265Although Barani writes as if all the measures mentioned above were directed solely against the Hindus, it is clear that they were, in the main, directed against the privileged sections in the countryside. Alauddin’s agrarian policy was certainly harsh and must have affected the ordinary cultivators also. But it was not so burdensome as to drive them into rebellion, or flight…. The land revenue reforms of Alauddin marked an important step towards closer relationship with the rural areas.

 

 

Observation : A classic case of being too clever by half. The “privileged sections in the countryside”, alluded to here all happened to be Hindus. The overall effect of Alauddin’s policies was to transfer a significantly larger share of the agricultural surplus from the Hindu chiefs to the Muslim governing class.  The land revenue reforms uniformly recognized as extremely severe, can hardly be described as an important step in bringing the sultan closer to the countryside.

 

 

 

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2366It appears that the sultan wanted to make Deogir a second capital so that he might be able to control south India better… Though the attempt to make Deogir a second capital failed, the exodus did have a number of long-range benefits. It helped in bringing north and south India closer together by improving communications. Many people, including religious divines who had gone to Daulatabad settled down there. They became the means of spreading in the Deccan the cultural, religious and social ideas which the Turks had brought with them to north India. This resulted in a new process of cultural interaction between north and south India, as well as in south India itself.

 

 

Observation : According to some modern historians, the project was dictated by the paucity of Muslims in the Deccan and the Sultan’s desire to make Daulatabad a centre of Islamic culture.

 

 

 

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2468Muhammad Tughlaq undertook a number of measures to improve agriculture. Most of these were tried out in the doab region. Muhammad Tughlaq did not believe in Alauddin Khalji’s policy of trying to reduce the khuts and muqaddams (headmen in the villages) to the position of ordinary cultivators. But he did want an adequate share of the land revenue for the state. The measures he advocated had a long term impact, but they failed disastrously during his reign… Historians are of the opinion that the trouble started due to over-assessment. Although the share of state remained half as in the time of Alauddin, it was fixed arbitrarily, not on the basis of actual produce Prices were also fixed artificially for converting the produce into money.

 

 

Observation : Muhammad bin Tughlaq in fact resorted to even more stringent measures than Alauddin Khalji. To begin with, the oppressive taxation system, hitherto confined to the Doab, was extended to other territories, including Gujarat, Malwa, the Deccan, and Bengal. Secondly, the rate of taxation was greatly enhanced. Whether the Sultan imposed additional taxes or recalculated existing ones in a manner detrimental to the peasantry, it is indisputable that the extraordinarily harsh exactions provoked widespread peasant revolts.

It is not clear what the author means by saying that “The measures he advocated had a long term impact, but they failed disastrously during his reign…” Does it imply that subsequent Islamic rulers were more effective in implementing Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s harsh economic agenda? His father Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq had reduced the pressure on the khots and muqaddams only because he realized that they were indispensable for revenue collection. He however was clear that they should be kept “in such a condition that (they) should not become oblivious (of the authority of the government) and rebellious and refractory from excessive affluence.”

 

 

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2570Firuz led a campaign against the ruler of Jajnagar (Orissa). He desecrated the temples there and gathered a rich plunder, but made no attempt to annex Orissa. He also led a campaign against Kangra in the Punjab hills.

 

 

Observation : It should have been clarified that the temple attacked in Orissa was the great Jagannath temple. Also the annexation of Orissa was beyond Firuz’s capacity. It can hardly be cited as an example of his magnanimity.

 

 

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2671These narrow views of Firuz Tughlaq were certainly harmful. At the same time, Firuz Tughlaq was the first ruler who took steps to have Hindu religious works translated from Sanskrit into Persian, so that there may be a better understanding of Hindu ideas and practices. Many books on music, medicine and mathematics were also translated from Sanskrit into Persian during his reign.

 

 

Observation : It was mainly medical works that Firuz ordered to be translated from Sanskrit into Persian. Other works translated were also for their practical knowledge, as for example, a treatise on Hindu astronomy and astrology and works on music and wrestling.

 

 

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2771Firuz also took a number of humanitarian measures. He banned inhuman punishments such as cutting of hands, feet, nose, etc., for theft and other offences. He set up hospitals for free treatment of the poor, and ordered the kotwals to make lists of unemployed persons, and provided dowries for the daughters of the poor. However, it is likely that these measures were basically designed to help Muslims of good families who had fallen into bad times. This, again, shows the limited nature of the state in India during the medieval times. However, Firuz did emphasize that the state was not meant merely for awarding punishments and collecting taxes, but was a benevolent institution as well. In the context of the medieval times, the assertion of this principle of benevolence was a valuable one, and Firuz deserves credit for it.

 

 

Observation : This is a deliberate attempt at obfuscation. The author himself admits that Firuz’s acts of benevolence were confined to Muslims. To then praise him for asserting the principle of benevolence can only be described as misleading. Firuz was known for his harsh treatment of his Hindu subjects and his fanaticism.

 

 

 

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2873The raid into India (by Timur) was a plundering raid, and its motive was to seize the wealth accumulated by the sultans of Delhi over the last 200 years… Timur then entered Delhi and sacked it without mercy, large number of people, both Hindu and Muslim, as well as women and children losing their lives.

 

 

Observation : Timur repeatedly states in his memoirs, the Tuzuk-i-Timuri, that he had  a two-fold objective in invading Hindustan. “The first was to war with the infidels,” and thereby acquire, “some claim to reward in the life to come.” The second motive was “that the army of Islam might gain something by plundering the wealth and valuables of the infidels.” He further says “Excepting the quarter of the saiyids, the ulema and other Musulmans, the whole city was sacked.”

 

 

 

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2978All the peasants did not live at the level of subsistence. The village headmen (muqaddams) and smaller landlords (khuts) enjoyed a higher standard of life. In addition to their own holdings, they held lands for which they paid revenue at concessional rates. Sometimes, they misused their offices to force the ordinary peasants to pay their share of the land revenue also. These people were prosperous enough to ride on costly Arabi and Iraqi horses, wear fine clothes, and behave like members of the upper classes. As we have seen, Alauddin Khalji took stern action against them and curtailed many of their privileges. Even then they continued to enjoy a higher standard of living than the ordinary peasants. It seems that after the death of Alauddin, they were able to resume their old ways.

 

 

Observation : Again an attempt at deception. The situation did not improve under the successors of Alauddin. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq levied land revenue on the basis of the actual produce and not on the basis of estimated yields. Muhammad bin Tughlaq resorted to even harsher measures than Alauddin Khalji. He extended the oppressive taxation system, hitherto confined to the Doab, to other territories, including Gujarat, Malwa, the Deccan, and Bengal. Besides, he greatly enhanced the rate of taxation.  The extraordinarily harsh exactions provoked widespread peasant revolts.

 

 

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3079These wealthy merchants and the skilled craftsmen lived a luxurious life, and were accustomed to good food and clothing. The merchants, Hindu and Muslims, were attended by pages bearing swords with silver and gold work. In Delhi, the Hindu merchants rode horses, with costly trappings, lived in fine houses, and celebrated their festivals with great pomp and show.

 

 

Observation : The severe policies of the Khaljis and Tughlaqs are well-known. Which period is the author referring to? The conditions described seem to be a figment of his imagination.

 

 

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3182Slavery had existed in India as well as in West Asia and Europe for a long time. The positions of different types of slaves –one born in the household, one purchased, one acquired and one inherited is discussed in the Hindu Shastras. Slavery had been adopted by the Arabs and, later, by the Turks also. The most usual method of acquiring a slave was capture in war. Even the Mahabharata considered it normal to enslave a prisoner of war. The Turks practiced this on a large scale in their wars, in and outside India… It can be argued that the condition of slave was better than that of a domestic servant because the master of the former was obliged to provide him food and shelter, while a free person may starve to death.

 

 

Observation : Andre Wink’s study  indicates that the slave trade in the Arab world cannot rightly be compared with practices mentioned  in the Mahabharata. He notes that –

“the number of black slaves which was exported by Arabs across the trans-Saharan trade route reached a total of 1,740,000 in the period 900-1100 AD. In the period 850-1000 AD, the number of black slaves exported across the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean to Islamic Asia and to India was near to 10,000 per year. Perhaps the conclusion is justified that the importation of black slaves to Islamic countries from Spain to India over a period of twelve centuries surpassed in numbers the African slave trade to the New World. But Islam by no means restricted enslavement to Africans…  The main source of military and elite slaves were the Turks of the Eurasian steppes” (Al‑Hind. The Making of The Indo-Islamic World, Oxford University Press, 1990,  vol. I. p 14).

 

 

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3283During this period, the practice of keeping women in seclusion and asking them to veil their faces in the presence of outsiders, that is, the practice of purdah became widespread among the upper class women. The practice of secluding women from the vulgar gaze was practiced among the upper class Hindus, and was also in vogue in ancient Iran, Greece, etc. The Arabs and the Turks adopted this custom and brought it to India with them. Due to their example, it became widespread in India, particularly in north India. The growth of purdah has been attributed to the fear of the Hindu women being captured by the invaders. In an age of violence, women were liable to be treated as prizes of war. Perhaps, the most important factor for the growth of purdah was social-it became a symbol of the higher classes in society and all those who wanted to be considered respectable tried to copy it. Also, religious justification was found for it. Whatever the reasons, it affected women adversely, and made them even more dependent on men.

 

 

Observation :All this obfuscation to underplay the fact that purdarh was the direct consequence of the Islamic advent in North India.

 

 

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3384-85As for the Hindu subjects, from the time of the Arab invasion of Sindh, they had been given the status of zimmis or protected people who accepted the Muslim rule and agreed to pay tax called jizyah. This was really a tax in lieu of military service, and was paid on a graduated scale according to means, women, children and the indigent, who had insufficient means, being exempt from it. The brahmanas also remained exempt, though this was not provided for in the Muslims law. At first, jizyah was collected along with land revenue. In fact it was difficult to distinguish jizyah from land revenue since all the cultivators were Hindus. Later, Firuz while abolishing many illegal cesses, made jizyah a separate tax. He levied it on the brahmana also. Sometimes, the theologians who were in charge of collecting it tried to use it to humiliate and harass the Hindus. However, jizyah by itself could not be a means to force the Hindus to convert to Islam. In general, it might be said that medieval states were not based on the idea of equality, but on the notion of privileges. Before the Turks, the Rajputs and, to some extend; the brahmanas formed the privileged sections. They were replaced by the Turks.

 

 

Observation : The principal reason that the jizyah was not continually levied on Hindus throughout the Sultanate period was that the state did not have the administrative apparatus required for this enormous exercise. The Muslim hold on power was also tenuous and sporadic beyond the principal centres of their authority. In the countryside, jizya was subsumed within the land tax and not collected separately. In urban areas, however, where Hindus were in more direct contact with Muslim authorities, jizya was charged on an individual basis and was a true poll tax.

 

Jizya symbolized discrimination on religious grounds since it was imposed only on non-Muslims. Medieval chronicles attest that it was used to convert poorer sections of society. Firuz Tughlaq confessed in his autobiography,

 

“I encouraged my infidel subjects to embrace the religion of the Prophet, and I proclaimed that every one who repeated the creed and became a Musalman should be exempt from jiziya or poll-tax. Information of this came to the ears of the people at large, and great numbers of Hindus presented themselves and were admitted to the honour of Islam.”

 

To see no difference between Rajputs, Brahmins and Turks only reiterates the non-India perspective of the Marxists.

 

 

 

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3485But as soon as the Turks were settled, they started building their own mosques. Their policy towards temples and places of worship of the Hindus, Jains, etc., rested on the Muslim law (sharia) which forbade new places of worship being built “in opposition to Islam”. But it allowed the repair of old temples “since buildings cannot last for ever”. This meant that there was no ban on erecting temples in the villages, since there were no practices of Islam there. Similarly temples could be built within the privacy of homes. But this liberal policy was not followed in times of war. Then the enemies of Islam, whether human beings or gods, were to be fought and destroyed.

 

 

Observation: How does one counter such blatant dishonesty? Hindu temples, the author says, could be built in homes and villages. Surely it would be difficult to accommodate the grandiose structures of Hindu temples within the precincts of homes. Further, to permit temple construction in villages because Muslims were not present there cannot be hailed as a proof of liberalism. If temple construction did indeed take place in the villages, where are those temples?

 

As Andre Wink has pointed out, the Muslim invasions, apart from destroying temples, interrupted the evolution of Hindu temple architecture.  Nowhere in the north, he says, did the Hindu temple building tradition perpetuate itself without hindrance. (Al‑Hind. The Slave Kings and the Islamic Conquest. Vol. II. Brill Leiden, 1999, pp 325-7)

 

 

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35105-106A brilliant period began under the enlightened rule of Alauddin Hussain. The sultan restored law and order, and adopted a liberal policy by offering high officers to the Hindus. Thus, his wazir was a talented Hindu. The chief physician, the chief of the bodyguard, the master of the mint were also Hindus. The two famous brothers who were celebrated as pious Vaishnavas, Rupa and Sanatan, held high posts, one of them being the sultan’s private secretary. The sultan is also said to have shown great respect to the famous Vaishnavite saint, Chaitanya.

 

 

Observation : This is a complete distortion of facts.

 

When Husain Shah asked Sanatana to accompany him on the Orissa expedition, the latter refused saying “you are going to desecrate Hindu temples and break images of Hindu gods; I cannot accompany you”. The furious king thereupon imprisoned Sanatana who however managed to escape by bribing the prison guards. Both brothers thereafter renounced the world and went to Vrindaban, where they wrote treatises on Gaudiya Vaishanavism. As for Chaitanya, R. C. Majumdar has pointed out that Husain Shah had no association with him. In fact when Chaitanya visited a locality near the residence of Husain Shah, the people begged him to leave as early as possible, and described Husain Shah as a sworn enemy of Hinduism. Further, after becoming a sannayasi Chaitanya spent 20 years in the Hindu kingdom of Orissa, which is surely a comment on Husain Shah’s “respect” for him.  Vaishnava literature of the time also refers to the orders of the Qazi of Navadvip prohibiting kirtans and maltreating Vaishnava singers of kirtans (R. C. Majumdar, History of Mediaeval Bengal, G. Bharadwaj and Co. 1973).

 

 

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36129The basic concepts of the (bhakti) saint-poets were reciprocated to a remarkable degree by the Sufi poets and saints of the period. During the fifteenth century, the monistic ideas of the great Arab philosopher, Ibn-i-Arabi, became popular among broad sections in India. Arabi had been vehemently denounced by the orthodox elements and his followers persecuted because he held that all being is essentially one, and everything is a manifestation of the divine substance. Thus, in his opinion, the different religions were identical. Arabi’s doctrine of Unity of Being is known as Tauhid-i-Wajudi (unity of being). This doctrine kept on gaining in popularity in India and became the main basis of the Sufi thought before the time of Akbar. Contact with yogis and Hindu saints went a long way in popularizing the concept of pantheism. The Indian Sufis started taking more interest in Sanskrit and Hindi and a few of them, such as Malik Muhammad Jaisi, composed their works in Hindi. The Bhakti songs of the Vaishnavite saints written in Hindi and other languages touched the hearts of the Sufis more than Persian poetry did. The use of Hindi songs became so popular that an eminent Sufi, Abdul Wahid Belgrami, wrote a treatise Haqaiq-I Hindi in which he tried to explain such words as “Krishna”,  “Muli”, “Gopis”, “Radha”, “Yamuna”, etc., in Sufi mystic terms.

 

 

Observation : Aziz Ahmad (Studies In Islamic Culture In The Indian Environment, Clarendon Press, 1964, p 134) notes that,

 

“Due to what Butterfield would describe as the ‘whig’ conception of history, the role of Sufis in India has been over-estimated and over-idealized as eclectic and as a bridge between Hinduism and Islam. Majumdar is much nearer the truth in pointing out that the role of both Hindu mysticism and Sufism and their interaction in the culture of medieval India have often been exaggerated beyond all proportion. In fact the relationship between Sufism and Hindu mysticism is multi-positional and ranges from polemical hostility through missionary zeal to tolerant co-existence.”

 

He further adds that Sufis played an active role in conversion –

 

“Moplahs of the south coast were converted to Islam by the disciples of Malik ibn Dinar (d. 744), the Dudwalas and Pinjaras of Gujarat by al-Hallaj (d. 921), Labbes of Trichinopally by Nithar Shah (d. 1039), Memons of Cutch by Yusuf al-din Sindi, the Daudpotas of Sind and Baluchistan by the Qaramite missionaries of Sind, Bohras of Gujarat by ‘Abdullah Kharrazi, tribes of Wakhan and the Afridi Pathans by Nasir-i Khusrau, and the Khojas of Gujarat by Ismaili missionaries like Nur Satgar. In the Ghaznawi Lahore organized proselytizion was begun by Shaykh Isma’il Bukhari (c. 1005); and al-Hujwiri is reported in hagiological tradition to have converted Rai Raju a Hindu general of the Ghaznawids to Islam. The foundation of the Chishti hospice at Ajmer and the Suhrawardi hospice at Multan in the thirteenth century was as much a missionary as a religio-mystical activity. The choice of Ajmer by Mu ‘in al-din Chishti in the very heartland of Hindu military aristocracy is especially significant. Shaykh Farid al-din Ganj-i Shakar and Abu ‘Ali Qalandar (d. 1324) among Chishti mystics are specially noted in hagiographies for their missionary achievements. The Chishti missionaries resumed their work, after two generations of inactivity under Nizam al-din Awliya and his immediate successors, under pressure from Muhammad bin Tughluq.

 

In the Qadiri order missionary work was undertaken by Da’ud Kirmani in the sixteenth century and was later taken up as a common practice by that order. The Kubrawiya order applied itself to conversion on a large scale and Sayyid ‘Ali Hamadani is credited to have taken with him an entourage of 700 masha’ikh to undertake the proselytization of Kashmir” (p. 84).

 

Jayasi’s Padmavat was recognized as an Indian fable (afsana-Hindi) and not a work on Islamic mysticism in Hindi.

 

 

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37129Sanskrit continued to be a vehicle for higher thought and a medium for literature during the period under review. In fact, the production of works in Sanskrit in different branches was immense and perhaps greater than in the preceding period. Following the great Sankara, works in the field of Advaita philosophy by Ramanuja, Madhva, Vallabha, etc., continued to be written in Sanskrit. The speed with which their ideas were widely disseminated and discussed in different parts of the country showed the important role which Sanskrit continued to play during the period. There was a network of specialized schools and academies in different parts of the country. Including areas under Muslim domination. These schools and academies were not interfered with and continued to flourish. In fact, many of them took advantage of the introduction of paper to reproduce and disseminate older texts.

 

 

Observation : A. Ahmad, (Studies in Islamic Culture In The Indian Environment, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1964, p 218) says,

 

“The main stream of Hindu religious and intellectual consciousness continued to flow through Sanskrit literature, which almost ignored the Muslims presence. It was written for the most part in the Hindu states of south India and in Orissa under the patronage of Rajput rajas. It continued to develop traditions and genres which were purely Hindu in religious and secular writing alike…To this essentially Hindu creative activity Muslim contribution in the way of participation was nil, and in the way of patronage insignificant.”

 

Satish Chandra is perhaps trying to credit Muslim rulers with whatever vitality and creativity was shown by Hindu philosophers in this period. However, it goes without saying that while Sankara largely preceded the Islamic reign in India, Ramanuja and Madhvacharya were basically outside Islam’s sphere of influence.

 

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38129-130A large number of commentaries and digests on the Hindu law (Dharmashastras) were prepared between the twelfth and the sixteenth century. The great Mitakshara of Vijnaneshwar, which forms one of the two principal Hindu schools of law, cannot be placed earlier than the twelfth century. Another famous commentator was Chandeswar of Bihar who lived in the fourteenth century. Most of the works were produced in the south, followed by Bengal, Mithila and western India under the patronage of Hindu rulers. The Jains, too, contributed to the growth of Sanskrit. Hemachandra Suri was the most eminent of these. Oddly enough, these works largely ignored the presence of the Muslims in the country. Little attempt was made to translate Islamic works or Persian literature into Sanskrit. Possibly, the only exception was the translation of the love story of Yusuf and Zulaikha written by the famous Persian poet, Jami. This might be taken to be an index of the insularity of outlook which had been mentioned by Albiruni earlier. Refusal to face the existing reality may be one reason why much of the writing of the period is repetitive and lacks fresh insight or originality.

 

 

Observation : Sheldon Pollock (“Deep Orientalism? Notes on Sanskrit and Power beyond the Raj”, in Carol A. Breckenridge and Peter van der Veer eds., Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993) has noted the “luxurious efflorescence” of dharmasastra works in the courts of Hindu kings. He asks why these treatises which define what may be viewed as the total society (varnasramadharma) were composed at this time. Was it because,

 

“for the first time since the development of the dharmasastras that way of life confronted, in the Central Asian Turks, something radically different, a resolutely un-assimilating social and religious formation? The fact that the production of dharmanibandha discourse, …, almost perfectly follows the path of advance of the Sultanate from the Doab to Devagiri to the Deccan suggests, on the one hand, that totalizing conceptions of society became possible only by juxtaposition with alternative lifeworlds, and on the other, that they became necessary only at the ‘moment when the total form of the society was for the first time believed, by the privileged theorists of society, to be threatened.’”

 

To describe such works as repetitive, lacking in originality and reflective of an insular attitude, is but another instance of the Marxist lack of sync with this land.

 

 

 

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39130Amir Khusrau took pride in being an Indian. … Khusrau’s love for India shows that the Turkish ruling class was no longer prepared to behave as a foreign ruling class and that the ground had been prepared for a cultural rapprochement between them and the Indians.

 

 

Observation : Amir Khusrau pioneered a genre of writing called ‘epic of conquest’, which laid “thematic emphasis on the glorification of the Turk against the Hindu” and highlighted the destiny of the Turk “to hold the Hindu in subjugation.” Amir Khusran’s works, like the Miftah al-futuh, the Khazain al-futuh, the Nuh Sipihr, and Tughluq Nama are all “full of religo-political fervour.” He writes for example, “Happy Hindustan, the splendour of Religion, where the (Muslim holy) Law finds perfect honour and security… The strong men of Hind have been trodden underfoot and are ready to pay tribute. Islam is triumphant and idolatry is subdued.” (Aziz Ahmad, “Epic and Counter-Epic in Medieval India”, in Richard M. Eaton, ed. India’s Islamic Traditions, 711-1750. Oxford University Press, 2003, pp 38- 39).

 

His “assertive pride” in his Indian origins has been linked to the tensions between the foreign and Indian Muslims nobles in the Sultanate period.

 

 

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40150Sher Shah also patronized the learned men. Some of the finest works in Hindi, such as the Padmavat of Malik Muhammad Jaisi, were completed during his reign.

 

Sher Shah was not a bigot in the religious sphere, as is evident from his social and economic policy.

 

Observation : Malik Muhammad Jaisi lived in the Sharqi kingdom and received no patronage from Sher Shah, though he did write in appreciation of the Sur ruler.

 

Sher Shah imposed the jizya, favoured Afghans in appointments, and was ruthless in his dealings with the Rajputs of Raisin, who were either put to sword or trampled to death by elephants. Badauni places the number of such victims at ten thousand.

 

 

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41163Akbar’s Rajput policy was combined with a policy of broad religious toleration. In 1564, he abolished the jizyah which was sometimes used by the ulama to humiliate non-Muslims. He had earlier abolished the pilgrim tax, and the practice of forcible conversion of prisoners of war.

 

 

Observation : Akbar made efforts to placate orthodox Muslim sentiment at least till around 1580. The fathnama issued after the fall of Chittor express the intolerant attitude of the emperor. Abul-qasim Namakin’s, Munsha’ at-i Namakin quotes Akbar as saying,

 

“As directed by the word of God, we, as far as it is within our power, remain busy in jihad and owing to the kindness of the Supreme Lord, who is the promoter of our victories, we have succeeded in occupying a number of forts and towns belonging to the infidels and have established Islam there. With the help of our bloodthirsty sword we have rased the signs of infidelity from their minds and have destroyed temples in those places and also all over Hindustan.”

 

Other evidence of orthodoxy includes a farman of Akbar, probably of this period to Qazi Abd al-Samad, the muhtasib of Bilgram, and other officials of the town

 

“to prevent the Hindus of that pargana from practicing idol-worship and take such other steps as might help in eradicating the manifestations of heresy and deviation from that pargana.”

 

The re-organization of the Department of Sadarat the 1570s was also dictated by the desire to increase Akbar’s acceptance among greater sections of Muslims, by extending state patronage to Indian Muslims and disregarding the distinction between “the learned’ and “the illiterate”.  The Mahzar of 1579 was likewise an expression of Akbar’s desire to be recognized as the sole head of orthodox Muslims in India.

 

Akbar’s hostility to the Mahadavis, attempts to deliver the Friday sermon, relations with Salim Chishti, were all reflective of the same mindset. This policy changed around 1580, after the massive revolt in which Turani and Persian nobles participated.  For details see Iqtidar Alam Khan, “ The Nobility Under Akbar and the Development of His Religious Policy, 1560-80,” in R. M. Eaton, ed., India’s Islamic traditions, 711-1750, Oxford University Press, 2003.

 

A number of scholars have recognized that the date 1564 provided by Abul Fazl for the abolition of the jizya is incorrect, and Badauni’s claim that the tax was revoked in 1579 is closer to the truth. Abul Fazl’s date does not match the conditions prevalent in 1564. The Gujarat campaign, for example, had not taken place, nor the siege of Chittor, or the suppression of the Afghan rebels in Bengal.  This was also the period when the Emperor maintained close ties with the Chishtis.

 

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42165Akbar’s Rajput policy was continued by his successors, Jahangir and Shah Jahan.

 

 

Observation : Again misleading. After recalling Man Singh from the governorship of Bengal, Jahangir did not appoint any Rajput as subedar. Shah Jahan appointed only two Rajputs as governors from a total of 152 such appointments made by him. A study of 172 appointments to the post of faujdars made by Shah Jahan reveals that the Rajput share was a paltry 4. Similarly, only 14 of 86 appointees to the post of qiladars examined by scholars, were Rajputs.

 

The position of Rajputs declined further under Aurangzeb. In 1671 Jaswant Singh was appointed to the low post of thanedar of Jamrud, while Ram Singh of Amber was dispatched to the east. Both were made to languish in these outposts for considerable periods. (See Firdos Anwar, Nobility under the Mughals (1628-1658) Manohar, 2001. and Afzal Husain, The Nobility under Akbar and Jahangir. A study of Family Groups, Manohar, 1999) Aurangzeb also began to clamp down on promotions of Rajputs early in his reign.

 

 

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43168One of the first actions which Akbar took, after he had taken power in his own hands, was to abolish the poll tax or jizyah which the non-Muslims were required to pay in a Muslim state. Although it was not a heavy tax, it was disliked because it made a distinction between subject and subject. At the same time, Akbar abolished the pilgrim tax on bathing at holy places such as Prayag, Banaras, etc. He also abolished the practice of forcibly converting prisoners of war to Islam. This laid the essential foundation of an empire based on equal rights to all citizens, irrespective of their religious beliers.

 

 

Observation : Jizya cannot be described as a light tax. It has been calculated that it amounted to one month’s wages of an unskilled urban labourer.  Irfan Habib has described the tax as “extremely regressive” and one that “bore the hardest on the poorest”. (The Agrarian System of Mughal India, 1556-1707, Oxford University Press, 1999).

 

 

 

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44169-170The Declaration which was signed by the leading ulamas has been wrongly called a “Decree of Infallibility”. Akbar claimed the right to choose only when there was a difference of opinion among those qualified to interpret the Quran. At a time when there were bloody conflicts between the Shias, the Sunnis and the Mahdawis in different parts of the country, Akbar wanted the widest toleration. There is little doubt that the mahzar had a salutary effect in stabilising the religious situation in the empire.

 

 

Observation : The Mahzar was intended to strengthen Akbar’s position  among orthodox Muslims. It cannot be described as an attempt at “the widest toleration”. If it “had a salutary effect in stabilising the religious situation in the empire”, why was it abandoned and why did Abul Fazl not even refer to it?

 

 

 

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45171Akbar also revised the educational syllabus, laying more emphasis on moral education and mathematics, and on secular subjects such as agriculture, geometry, astronomy, rules of government, logic, history, etc. He also gave patronage to artists, poets, painters and musicians so much so, that his court became famous for the galaxy of famous people there or the navaratna.

 

 

Observation : Only Persian poets were patronized by Akbar. Badauni puts their number at 168.  Akbar was also the first Indo-Islamic king of north India to formally declare Persian as the sole language of administration (in 1582). Ghulam Husain Tabatabai records,

 

“Earlier in India, the government accounts were written in Hindi according to the Hindu rule. Raja Todar Mal acquired new regulations (zawabit) from the clerks (nawisindagan) of Iran, and the government offices then were reorganized as they were there in Wilayat.”

 

Iranian clerks were recruited in large numbers and remained in “noticeable control” of accounts in the Mughal Empire.

 

Akbar modified the prevailing curriculum in the madarsas with a view to popularizing Persian language and culture among the Hindus. In his reign a large number of Hindus availed of madarsa education to acquire proficiency in Persian which was the means of obtaining government service.  Attempts were also made to cleanse Persian of Indian usages, words, phrases, and ideas. (For details see Muzaffar Alam, “The Pursuit of Persian; Language in Mughal Politics”, Modern Asian Studies 32, 2, 1998).

 

 

 

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46201Although the state dues were heavy, sometimes amounting to nearly half of his produce, there is no reason to believe that the peasant was left only with enough to keep body and soul together, and was in no position to invest anything for the improvement of land or extension of cultivation. Although the life of the peasant was hard, he had enough to eat and to meet his simple requirements, i.e. production and reproduction.

 

 

Observation : Often neither production nor reproduction was possible! Irfan Habib has provided the most graphic account of the plight of the peasants in Mughal India, their flight from the land and the sale of their wives, children and cattle in order to meet their revenue obligations.

 

 

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47202Thus, during medieval times as during earlier times, India continued to provide a home to many people who came from outside. But these immigrants rapidly assimilated themselves into the Indian society and culture, while at the same time, retaining some of their special traits. This accounts for the richness and diversity which has been a special feature of Indian culture. Under Jahangir and Shah Jahan, the bulk of the nobles already consisted of those who had been born in India. Simultaneously, the proportion of Afghans, Indian Muslims (Hindustanis), and Hindus in the nobility continued to rise.

 

 

Observation : The Islamic invasions differed from the invasions of antiquity in that while the early foreigners embraced the spiritual ethos of this land, Islam sought to impose its faith, script, language, laws and customs. It faced resistance from an evolved native faith that resisted being supplanted in its ancestral home. As for the misleading statement on the nobility, it has been dealt with elsewhere in this survey.

 

 

 

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48203Although spending, not hoarding was the dominant characteristic of the ruling class of the time, with only a few nobles remaining out of debt and bequeathing large sums of money to their children, the nobility did, directly or indirectly, contribute to the development of the economy.

 

 

Observation : Irfan Habib has totally repudiated this view point. He has described the Mughal nobility as contributing little to economic growth.  (See “The Social Distribution of Landed Property in Pre‑British India” in R.S. Sharma and V. Jha eds., Indian Society : Historical Probings, People’s Publishing House, 1974).

 

 

 

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49221By the time of Akbar, knowledge of Persian had become so widespread in north India that he dispensed with the tradition of keeping revenue records in the local language (Hindawi) in addition to Persian.

 

 

Observation : It was Akbar who declared Persian the sole language of administration. Persian does not seem to have enjoyed a special position under the Afghans, most Afghan chiefs being unable to speak the language. The Lodis are said to have introduced the practice of providing transcriptions in devanagari of their Persian chancellery rescripts. The Surs continued this practice.

 

 

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50221Medieval Hindi in the Brij form, that is the dialect spoken in the neighbourhood of Agra, was also patronized by the Mughal emperors and Hindu rulers. From the time of Akbar, Hindi poets began to be attached to the Mughal court. A leading Mughal noble, Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan, produced a fine blend of Bhakti poetry with Persian ideas of life and human relations. Thus, the Persian and the Hindi literary traditions began to influence each other. But the most influential Hindi poet was Tulsidas whose hero was Rama and who used a dialect of Hindi spoken in the eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh. Pleading for a modified caste system based not on birth but on individual qualities, Tulsi was essentially a humanistic poet who upheld family ideals and complete devotion to Rama as a way of salvation open to all, irrespective of caste.

 

 

Observation : Aziz Ahmad has drawn attention to the fact that parallel Hindu and Muslim intellectual traditions developed at Abkar’s court. Persian literature of this period was uninfluenced by Sanskrit even as Sanskrit and Hindi remained immune to Persian cultural traditions. He says

 

“remarkable in the Persian poetry written in India, except for a few specimens by Amir Khusrau, is the complete rejection of Indian life and landscape as valid poetical material… This foreign imagery woven into complex and multiple patters became the accepted stock-in-trade of Indo-Persian and later, Urdu conventional poetic diction” (Studies In Islamic Culture In The Indian Environment, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1964, p 232).

 

Tulsidas moreover received no patronage whatsoever from Akbar.

 

 

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51223Thus, there was no atmosphere of confrontation between the Sikhs and the Mughal rulers during this period. Nor was there any systematic persecution of the Hindus, and hence, no occasion for the Sikhs or any group or sect to stand forth as the champion of the Hindus against religious persecution. The occasional conflict between the Gurus and the Mughal rulers was personal and political rather than religious. Despite some display of orthodoxy by Shah Jahan at the beginning of his reign and a few acts of intolerance, such as the demolition of “new” temples, he was not narrow in his outlook which was further tempered towards the end of his reign by the influence of his liberal son, Dara. Dara, the eldest son of Shah Jahan, was by temperament a scholar and a Sufi who loved to discourse with religious divines. With the help of brahmanas of Kashi, he got the Gita translated into Persian. But his most significant work was an anthology of the Vedas in the introduction to which Dara declared the Vedas to be “heavenly books in point of time” and “in conformity with the holy Quran”, thus underlining the belief that there were no fundamental differences between Hinduism and Islam.

 

 

Observation : Jahangir clearly stated in his autobiography that his hostility to Guru Arjun had a religious dimension. “In Goindwal, which is on the river Biyah (Beas),” he wrote, “there was a Hindu named Arjun, in the garments of sainthood and sanctity, so much so that he had captivated many of the simple-hearted of the Hindus, and even of the ignorant and foolish followers of Islam, by his ways and manners, and they had loudly sounded the drum of his holiness. They called him Guru and from all sides stupid people crowded to worship and manifest complete faith in him. For three or four generations (of spiritual successors) they had kept this shop warm. Many times it had occurred to me to put a stop to this vain affair or to bring him into the assembly of the people of Islam.”

 

After the execution of the Guru by Jahangir, his son and successor, Guru Hargobind, took to martial activities. He girded two swords, Piri and Miri, to symbolize the complementarily of spiritual and temporal authority.  He encouraged his followers to engage in martial activity and built the fort of Lohgarh for defensive purposes. He was imprisoned by Jahangir for two years and harassed by Shah Jahan as well. He left the province of Lahore to reside in the territory of a Rajput vassal of the Mughals due to this persecution.

 

Dara’s views on the Gita and the Vedas elicited little support among the political and religious elites in his community. His anthology pertained to the Upanishads, not to Vedas proper.

 

 

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52223-224Among the Muslims, too, while the trend of tauhid continued apace, and was supported by many learning Sufi saints, a small group of the orthodox ulama reacted against it and the liberal policies of Akbar. The most renowned figure in the Muslim orthodox and revivalist movement of the time was Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi… It will thus be seen that the influence of the orthodox thinkers and preachers was limited, being necessarily confined to narrow circles… The recurrent cycles of liberalism and orthodoxy in Indian history should be seen against the situation which was rooted in the structure of Indian society. It was one aspect of the struggle between entrenched privilege and power on the one hand, and the egalitarian and humanistic aspirations of the mass of the people on the other.

 

 

Observation : The dominant trend among the Sufis and ulama was in fact towards orthodoxy. After Sirhindi, Shah Waliullah began a movement to purge Islam of all pagan (Hindu) influence and practice. The Wahhabi movement has been described as “the practical culmination of the religio-political thought” of Shah Walliullah. To describe this dominant trend in Indian Islam as a conflict between privilege and egalitarianism is typical of Marxist doublespeak.  Yohanan Friedmann in (“Islamic thought in Relation to the Indian context,” in R. M. Eaton, ed., op. cit, p. 51) has noted that the

 

“conciliatory trend (in Indian Islam) was always weaker than the orthodox one. The few rulers who adopted it failed to inspire their successors, and the religious thinkers who developed it had few disciples who continued to walk on the path of inter-religious harmony and compromise”.

 

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53227After Dharmat, Dara made frantic efforts to seek allies. He sent repeated letters to Jaswant Singh who had retired to Jodhpur. The Rana of Udaipur was also approached. Jaswant Singh moved out tardily to Pushkar near Ajmer. After raising an army with the money provided by Dara, he waited there for the Rana to join him. But the Rana had already been won over by Aurangzeb with a promise of a rank of 7000 and the return of the parganas seized by Shah Jahan and Dara from him in 1654 following a dispute over the re-fortification of Chittor. Aurangzeb also held out to the Rana a promise of religious freedom and “favours equal to those of Rana Sanga”. Thus, Dara failed to win over even the important Rajput rajas to his side.

 

 

Observation : Aziz Ahmad (Studies In Islamic Culture In The Indian Environment, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1964, p 195), states,

 

“From the very beginning in the war of succession, Aurangzeb’s line of challenge against Dara Shikoh was the latter’s alleged apostasy and his association with Hindu theologians and mystics. The division of the loyalties of the Hindu generals during this civil war does not alter the situation of the challenge. In any case the most powerful of Hindu nobles, Jaswant Singh, who changed sides more than once was primarily a partisan of Dara Shikoh, and first of the Mughal generals to fight a pitched battle against Aurangzeb. Many of Jaswant Singhs’ Muslims officers were secretly in league with Aurangzeb, and it was the fear of their desertion that impelled him to change sides. In fact Dara Shikoh could rely only on the absolute loyalty of Rajput elements of his army and his personal retainers in his struggle against Aurangzeb. Even Jai Singh whose loyalty to Aurangzeb remained unswerving, was suspected on one occasion of having let Dara Shikoh escape to Siwistan.”

 

 

 

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54229Thus, apart from being an orthodox Muslim, Aurangzeb was also a ruler. He could hardly forget the political reality that the overwhelming population of India was Hindu, and that they were deeply attached to their faith. Any policy which meant the complete alienation of the Hindus and of the powerful Hindu rajas and zamindars was obviously unworkable… Later, in the eleventh year of his reign (1669) Aurangzeb took a number of measures which have been called puritanical, but many of which were really of an economic and social character, and against superstitious beliefs. Thus, he forbade singing in the court and the official musicians were pensioned off. Instrumental music and naubat (the royal band) were, however, continued. Singing also continued to be patronized by the ladies in the harem, and by individual nobles. It is of some interest to note, as has been mentioned before, that the largest number of Persian works on classical Indian music were written in Aurangzeb’s reign and that Aurangzeb himself was proficient in playing the veena.

 

 

Observation : Is the author trying to applaud Aurangzeb for his sensitivity to Hindus? The fact is that the Emperor alienated every section of Hindu society, even Rajput royal families which had served the Mughals for centuries. The Hindu zamindars mentioned here, revolted continually in his reign. The invocation of an economic dimension to the puritanical polices of the Emperor is comical. As for the Persian works in Indian classical music, since they were not the result of the emperor’s patronage, they cannot be cited as an achievement of Aurangzeb’s reign.

 

 

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55230To promote trade among the Muslims who depended almost exclusively on state support, Aurangzeb at first largely exempted Muslim traders from the payment of cess. But he soon found that the Muslim traders were abusing it, even passing off the goods of Hindu merchants as their own to cheat the state. So Aurangzeb re-imposed the cess on Muslim traders, but, kept it at half of what was charged from others… Similarly, he tried to reserve the posts of peshkars and karoris (petty revenue officials) for Muslims but soon had to modify it in the face of opposition from the nobles and lack of qualified Muslims.

 

 

Observation : The discriminatory treatment of Hindu traders and the partiality towards Muslims was motivated by communal considerations. The posts of peshkars and karoris were reserved for Muslims in order to encourage conversions.  In an article in Essays on Medieval Indian History, (Oxford University Press, 2003, pp 333-4), Satish Chandra himself notes that the bulk of the recorded cases of conversions involved either small zamindars or petty state employees or their wards-

 

“Such converts either expected confirmation or grants of zamindari, or preferential treatment after their conversion, competing with the Muslims for official posts which were in short supply.”

 

The limited success of Aurangzeb’s partisan policies cannot eliminate their communal overtones.

 

The fact that even Guru Tegh Bahadur was asked to accept Islam in return for his life, shows that conversion was an ideal cherished by the Emperor.

 

 

 

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56230-231Aurangzeb’s order regarding temples was not a new one. It reaffirmed the position which had existed during the Sultanat period and which had been reiterated by Shah Jahan early in his reign. In practice, it left wide latitude to the local officials as to the interpretation of the words “long standing temples”. The private opinion and sentiment of the ruler in the matter was also bound to weigh with the officials. For example, after the rise of the liberal-minded Dara as Shah Jahan’s favourite, few temples had been demolished in pursuance of his order regarding temples. Aurangzeb, as governor of Gujarat, ordered a number of temples in Gujarat to be destroyed, which often meant merely breaking the images and closing down the temples. At the outset of his reign, Aurangzeb found that images in these temples had been restored and idol worship had been resumed. Aurangzeb, therefore, ordered again in 1665 that these temples be destroyed. The famous temple of Somnath which he ordered to be destroyed earlier in his reign was apparently one of the temples mentioned above.

 

 

Observation : What does the author mean by saying local officials had “wide latitude” regarding temples and then claiming that “the private opinion and sentiment of the ruler” was also bound to influence them? Shah Jahan despite his fondness for Dara, was orthodox in his religious beliefs. Dara’s views on the Upanishads had no adherents in his community. And as the author himself admits, Aurangzeb as governor under Shah Jahan, destroyed temples in Gujarat.

 

 

 

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57231However, it does not seem that Aurangzeb’s order regarding ban on new temples led to a large-scale destruction of temples at the outset of the reign. As Aurangzeb encountered political opposition from a number of quarters, such as the Marathas, Jats, etc., he seems to have adopted a new stance. In case of conflict with local elements, he now considered it legitimate to destroy even long standing Hindu temples as a measure of punishment and as a warning. Further, he began to look upon temples as centres of spreading subversive ideas, that is, ideas which were not acceptable to the orthodox elements. Thus, he took strict action when he learnt in 1669 that in some of the temples in Thatta, Multan and especially at Banaras, both Hindus and Muslims used to come from great distances to learn from the brahmanas.  Aurangzeb issued orders to the governors of all provinces to put down such practices and to destroy the temples where such practices took place…It was in this context that many temples built in Orissa during the last ten to twelve years were also destroyed. But it is wrong to think that there were any orders for the general destruction of temples. However, the situation was different during periods of hostilities. Thus, during 1679-80 when there was a state of war with the Rathors of Marwar and the Rana of Udaipur, many temples of old standing were destroyed at Jodhpur and its parganas, and at Udaipur.

 

 

Observation: Except for attempting to exonerate Aurangzeb, it is difficult to comprehend Satish Chandra’s analyses of the Emperor’s policy on temples. The fact remains that the destruction of temples was a recurring feature of Aurangzeb’s reign. J.S. Grewal, (The Sikhs of the Punjab. The New Cambridge History Of India, 1990, p 67) for example notes,

 

“In the first half of his reign Aurangzeb adopted an aggressive social and political policy. He destroyed some important Hindu temples even in times of peace.”

 

After 1670 iconoclasm was ordered in a general manner, and many old temples desecrated. There are instances of vandalism in the south even in the last years of Aurangzeb reign. In 1698, for example, a temple in Bijapur was destroyed and a mosque built in its place on imperial orders. Some time after 1700, Aurangzeb appointed hatchet men to dig up the foundations and destroy the stone temples in Maharashtra, including the famous shrine of Pandharpur.

 

There is no evidence that temples served as centres of subversion. The very fact that the Emperor objected to Muslims learning from Brahmins reveals his narrow outlook.

 

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58232There has been a considerable discussion among historians regarding Aurangzeb’s motives for the step (reimposition of the jizyah). Let us first see what it was not. It was not meant to be an economic pressure for forcing the Hindus to convert to Islam for its incidence was too light-women, children, the disabled and the indigent, that is those whose income was less than the means of subsistence were exempted, as were those in government service. Nor, in fact, did any significant section of Hindus change their religion due to this tax. Secondly, it was not a means of meeting a difficult financial situation. Although the income from jizyah is said to have been considerable, Aurangzeb sacrificed a considerable sum of money by giving up a large number of cesses called abwabs which were not sanctioned by the shara and were hence considered illegal. The re-imposition of jizyah was, in fact, both political and ideological in nature. It was meant to rally the Muslims for the defence of the state against the Marathas and the Rajputs who were up in arms, and possibly against the Muslims states of the Deccan, especially Golconda which was in alliance with the infldels. Secondly, jizyah was to be collected by honest, God-fearing Muslims, who were especially appointed for the purpose, and its proceeds were reserved for the ulama. It was thus a big bribe for the theologians among whom there was a lot of unemployment. But the disadvantages out weighted the possible advantages of the step.

 

 

Observation : The proceeds from the jizya have been estimated to constitute about 15 percent of the total state income towards the end of Aurangzeb’s reign. In the villages jizya was levied at a flat rate of 4 per cent in the khalisa and jagirs lands. Income from the towns under this head was also considerable.

 

Complaints against the high rate of the jizya tax came from several parts of the country. In Burhanpur, for example, while Rs. 26,000 was collected as jizya in one year, the following year the amount was raised to Rs. 108,000 for half the city wards.

Jizya always had a religious dimension which is why it could rally Muslim opinion. By stating that the jizya was to be collected by God-fearing Muslims, is the author implying that the Hindus therefore had no objection to paying the tax? Further, what is the evidence of unemployment among the theologians? The fact that the Emperor was solicitous of their welfare surely has some implications.

 

 

 

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59232-233Although Aurangzeb considered it legitimate to encourage conversion to Islam, evidence of systematic or large-scale attempts at forced conversion is lacking. Nor were Hindu nobles discriminated against. A recent study has shown that the number of Hindus in the nobility during the second half of Aurangzeb’s reign steadily increased, till the Hindus including Marathas formed about one-third of the nobility as against one-fourth under Shah Jahan.

 

 

Observation : Since the mis-representation of facts is so blatant, it would be in order to quote Athar Ali (The Mughal Nobility Under Aurangzeb, Asia Publishing House, 1970, p.17). He says,

 

“It is clear from these figures that there had been a distinct decline in the number of nobles directly coming from foreign countries since the time of Akbar, and in the course of Aurangzeb’s long reign, direct recruitment of foreigners declined even more sharply as is apparent from the proportionately lower number of foreign-born nobles in the second period as compared to the first….”

 

It is possible to point out various reasons for this decline. The Uzbek and Safavid Kingdoms were no longer as powerful as they had been earlier and consequently the same number of nobles of administrative experience and status no longer came to India from those lands for recruitment to the Mughal nobility. Moreover, Aurangzeb’s attention was concentrated for the most part of his reign on the Deccan and he never aspired to follow a forward or militaristic policy in the North-West like his father or great grand-father. He was, therefore, not likely to go out of his way to offer exceptional inducements to Turani and Irani nobles to desert their masters for Mughal service.

 

On the the hand, there is no evidence that Aurangzeb ever consciously set out to ‘Indianise’ the nobility. Such ‘Indianisation as occurred was purely the result of historical circumstances, and not of a deliberate policy.”

 

(Ibid., p.32 ) “It will be noticed that in the first part of Aurangzeb’s reign, the position of Hindu nobles decline slightly, but in the last twenty-nine years it improved appreciably with the result that during this time there were more Hindus in service proportionately than under Shahjahan or, indeed, at any former period.

 

These tables, would therefore, provide a fine lawyer’s answer to any charge that Aurangzeb discriminated against Hindu mansabdars. Yet the matter is not really so simple. The number of Hindus in the period is inflated because of the influx of the Marathas, who began to outnumber the Rajputs in the nobility. They were not recruited to the service on account of a policy of religious tolerance, but had practically forced their way in. Before Aurangzeb’s fatal involvement in the Deccan had compelled him to begin admitting Marathas wholesale in order to secure their submission, he had in fact tried to reduce the number of Hindu nobles. This is clear from the figures for 1658-78. As we have seen, the number of the Rajputs began to decline towards the end of this period, and continued to go down in the next. However, not much can be built either way exclusively on these figures, and the fact remains that despite Aurangzeb’s avowed policy of religious discrimination, the Hindus continued to form a large section of his nobility.

 

From the foregoing account it should be clear that a marked expansion of the nobility did not take place till Aurangzeb embarked on the policy of annexing the entire Deccan. As a result of fresh recruitment made during this period, the internal composition of the nobility changed in some material respects. The Deccanis, including the Marathas, came to form a high proportion of the nobility, a particularly in the higher ranks. There was a corresponding decline in the position of some of the older elements, such as the Rajputs, Saiyids of Barha, and others. The Turanis and Iranis also lost a little of their previous eminence. The Afghans improved their positions owing to the influx of the Afghan officers who had been previously in the service of Bijapur.”

 

 

 

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60233Thus, Aurangzeb did not try to change the nature of the state, but re-asserted its fundamentally Islamic character. Aurangzeb’s religious beliefs cannot be considered the basis of his political polices. While an orthodox Muslim and desirous of upholding the strict letter of the law, as a ruler he was keen to strengthen and expand the empire. Hence, he did not want to lose the support of the Hindus to the extent possible. However, his religious ideas and beliefs on the one hand, and his political or public policies on the other, clashed on many occasions and Aurangzeb was faced with difficult choices. Sometimes this led him to adopt contradictory polices which harmed the empire.

 

 

Observation : The state, the author concedes, was “fundamentally Islamic (in) character.” Yet he argues that religious beliefs were not the basis of Aurangzeb’s policies. Whether Aurangzeb adopted contradictory polices or not, the author is certainly contradictory.

 

 

 

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61237The official explanation for this as given in some later Persian sources is that after his return from Assam, the Guru, in association with one Hafiz Adam, a follower of Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, had resorted to plunder and rapine, laying waste the whole province of the Punjab. According to Sikh tradition, the execution was due to the intrigues of some members of his family who disputed his succession, and by others who had joined them…For Aurangzeb the execution of the Guru was only a law and order question…

 

 

Observation : The uproar this interpretation created and the unreliability of the Persian sources quoted is well-known and forms part of the Marxist endeavour to underplay the severity of Muslim rule. Guru Tegh Bahadur was deeply concerned about the religious persecution of Hindus in his time and decided to court martyrdom to uphold his beliefs. He was arrested by the Mughals and kept in custody for four months before being brought to Delhi in 1675 where he was asked to perform a miracle as proof of his closeness to God. The Guru refused and was then asked to accept Islam. Three of his companions were executed in his presence in a bid to intimidate him. Upon his failure to embrace Islam, he was beheaded in Chandni Chowk on imperial orders. To say that Aurangzeb viewed the execution of the Guru as only a law and order question flies in the face of all available evidence.

 

 

 

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62238Although Guru Govind Singh was not able to withstand Mughal might for long, or to establish a separate Sikh state, he created a tradition and also forged a weapon for its realization later on. It also showed how an egalitarian religious movement could, under certain circumstance, turn into a political and militaristic movement, and subtly move towards regional independence.

 

 

Observation : After devaluing the Sikh resistance to Mughal rule throughout the text, the author here ominously talks of regional independence, by implication casting a shadow on the movement. Further the circumstances in which “an egalitarian religious movement” turned into “a political and militaristic movement,” should be clarified.

 

 

 

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63241The breach with Marwar and Mewar weakened the Mughal alliance with the Rajputs at a crucial period. Above all, it created doubts about the firmness of Mughal support to old and trusted allies and trusted allies and the ulterior motives of Aurangzeb. While it showed the rigid and obstinate nature of Aurangzeb, it did not, however, show a determination to subvert Hinduism as has been alleged, because during the period after 1679, large numbers of Marathas were allowed entry into the nobility.

 

 

Observation : It is surely well known that the recruitment of Marathas was part of Mughal strategy and in no way implied cessation of conflict with them. Further, Marathas were not appointed to top posts. They mostly served as troop captains for Mughal generals in the Deccan. No matter how strenuous the Marxist exertions in favour of Aurangzeb, they cannot succeed in presenting him as a champion of Hinduism.

*
4.0  Sic!

 

This is a random, brief selection of bloopers in Satish Chandra’s textbook. The intention is merely to highlight the genuine problems of comprehension  faced by the student reader.

 

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1 These tribes came in may waves, and indulged in a great deal of ravaging and plundering in the territories of the old Roman empire.
1 The Byzantine empire was a large and flourishing empire which continued to trade with Asia after the collapse of the Roman empire in the West.
3 No king could hope to maintain out of his own resources the large body of cavalry needed and to provide them with armour and equipment. Hence, the army was decentralized, assigning to the fief-holders the responsibility of maintaining a fixed force of cavalry and infantry for the service of the king.
3 It also made possible a cavalry charge with lances held tightly to the body, without the rider being thrown off by the shock of the impact. The earlier device was either a wooden stirrup or a piece of rope which only provided a toe-hold.
3 The Pope, who was the head of the Catholic Church, became not only a religious head, but one who exercised a great deal of political and moral authority as well.
3 However, some of the monasteries which became exceedingly wealthy began to behave like feudal lords.
4 Although the Abbasid Caliphs were orthodox Muslims, they opened wide the gate of learning from all quarters as long as it did not challenge the fundamental tenets of Islam.
5 China’s society and culture had attained a climax in the eighth and ninth centuries under T’ang rule.
5 The Mongols wrought great death and destruction in China. But to their highly disciplined and mobile cavalry forces, the Mongol rulers were able to unify North and South China under one control for the first time.
6 According to a ninth century Arab writer, the empire was so large that even the fastest vessel could not complete a round trip of it in two years.
7 Make a chart showing the hierarchy of the authority of the feudal system of Europe.
8 Each of these empires, although they fought among themselves, provided stable conditions of life over large areas, and gave patronage to arts and letters.
10 During the eighth and ninth centuries, many Indian scholars went with embassies to the court of the Caliph at Baghdad.
10-11 The kingdom was founded by Dantidurga who fixed his capital at Manyakhet or Malkhed near modern Sholapur.
12 He (the king) sat in a magnificent darbar. The infantry and cavalry were stationed in the courtyard.
12 The court was not only a centre of political affairs and of justice, but of cultural life as well. Dancing girls and skilled musicians attended the court.
12 Thinkers of the time emphasized absolute loyalty and obedience to the king because of the insecurity of the times.
12 While kings strove to maintain law and order within their kingdoms, their arms rarely extended far enough.
13 Elephants were supposed to be elements of strength and were greatly prized.
13 The regular troops were often hereditary and sometimes drawn from different regions all over India.
13 When called upon sometimes, a son of the vassal chiefs was required to stay in attendance of the overlord to guard against rebellion.
13 The visayapatis and these smaller chiefs tended to merge with each other, and, later on, the word samanta began to be used indiscriminately for both of them.
13 It seems that their main purpose was the realization of land revenue and some attention to law and order.
14 But he did have the general duty of protecting brahmanas and the division of society into four states or varnas.
14 This really meant that politics and religion were in essence, kept apart, religion being essentially a personal duty of the king.
16 By the end of the 9th century, the Cholas had defeated both the Pallavas of Kanchi and weakened the Pandyans, brining the southern Tamil country (Tondamandala) under their control.
16 In the north, Rajaraja annexed the north-western parts of the Ganga region in north-west Karnataka, and overran Vengi.
18 The Venetian traveller, Marco Polo, who visited Kerala in the thirteenth century, says that all the soldiers in the body-guard burnt themselves in the funeral pyre of the monarch when he died-a statement which may well be an exaggeration.
23 Generally speaking, new elements as well as elements of continuity are found in every historical period but the extent and direction of change varies.
25 Much of the trade to China was carried in Indian ship, the teak-wood of Malabar, Bengal and Burma providing the base of a strong tradition of ship building.
25 Thus, growth of India’s foreign trade in the area was based on a strong naval tradition, including ship building and a strong navy, and the skill and enterprise of its traders.
25 An important factor in the growth of the Chinese ships was the use of a primitive Mariner’s compass-an invention which later traveled from China to the West.
29 As in the earlier period, women were generally considered to be mentally inferior.
38 The Rajput organization of society had both advantages and disadvantage. One advantage was the sense of brotherhood and egalitarianism which prevailed among the Rajputs. But the same trait made it difficult to maintain discipline among them.
40 After the Ghaznavid conquest of the Punjab, two distinct patterns of relations between the Muslims and the Hindus were at work. One was the lure for plunder which resulted in raids into the Gangetic valley and Rajputana by the successors of Mahmud.
41 Meanwhile, events had not been standing still in north India. The Chauhan power had been steadily growing. The Chauhan rulers had defeated and killed a large number of Turks who had tried to invade Rajasthan, most probably from the Punjab side, and had captured Delhi (called Dhillika) from the Tomars around the middle of the century.
43 Thus, the battles of Tarain and Chandawar laid the foundations of the Turkish rule in north India. The task of consolidating the conquest thus won proved, however, to be an onerous task which occupied the Turks for almost 50 years.
43 Moving very stealthily, the Khalji chief disguised himself as a horse-merchant, and a party of 18 persons entered the Sena capital.
44 Due to the large number and size of the rivers, Bakhtiyar Khalji found it difficult to keep hold of Nadia.
44 Tired and weakened by hunger and illness, the Turkish army had to face a battle in which there was a wide river in front and the Assamese army at the back.
47 He was succeeded by Iltutmish who was the son-in-law of Aibak. But before he could do so, he had to fight and defeat the son of Aibak.
48 While he made raids on the territory of his neighbours, the Sena rulers of East Bengal, and the Hindu rulers of Orissa and Kamrup (Assam) continued their sway.
49 Balban constantly sought to increase the prestige and power of the monarchy, because he was convinced that, that was the only way to face the internal and external dangers facing him.
50 The historian, Barani, who was himself a great champion of the Turkish nobles, put the following words in Balban’s mouths: …
50 In order to impress the people with the strength and awe of his government, Balban maintained a magnificent court.
50 Balban died in 1286. He was undoubtedly one of the main architects of the Sultanat of Delhi , particularly of its form of government and institutions.
51 Due to the fluid situation in West Asia, the Delhi Sultanat was not able to attain these frontiers, posing a persistent danger to India.
62 This emboldened the sultans to undertake a series of internal reforms and experiments, aimed at improving the administration, strengthening the army, to gear up the machinery of land revenue administration, and to take steps to expand and improve cultivation and to provide for the welfare of the citizens in the rapidly expanding towns.
72 The local zamindars and rajas took advantage of the situation to assume airs of independence.
73 Disintegration of the political fabric was, thus, just beneath the surface and any weakness in the central administration set off a chain of events leading to political disintegration.
80 The runner continually clanged a bell as he ran so that the man on the next relay may be able to see him from the tower and get ready to take his burden.
80 Not all these crafts were new, but their expansion and improvement, based on the legendary skill of the Indian craftsman, and agricultural growth were two of the most important factors which made the second half of the fourteenth century a period of growth and relative affluence.
81 These robes generally consisted of imported cloth velvet, damask or wool on which brocade, velvet and costly materials were used.
81 Alauddin sternly repressed the nobles, but the gay mode of life revived under his successors.
83 Regarding property, the commentators uphold the widow’s right to the property of a sonless husband, provided the property was not joint, i.e., had been divided.
87 Describe the conditions during the Sultanat period of women in society.
96 He cherished his subjects, and his solicitude for their welfare became proverbial.
96 His reign marked a new era in Telugu literature when imitation of Sanskrit works gave place to independent works.
96 In a series of wars he completely defeated the Bijapur ruler to inflict humiliating defeats on Golconda and Ahmadnagar.
97 The concept of kingship among the Vijayanagara rulers was high.
121 The tomb of Ghiyasuddin marks a new trend in architecture. To have a good skyline, the building was put upon a high platform.
122 Another device used by the Lodis was placing their buildings, especially tombs, on a high platform, thus giving the building a feeling of size as well as a better skyline.
131 In course of time, Persian became not only the language of administration and diplomacy, but also the language of the upper classes and their dependents, at first in north India and later of the entire country with the expansion of the Delhi Sultanat to the south and the establishment of Muslim kingdoms in different parts of the country.
131 The rise to maturity of many of these languages and their use as means for literary works may be considered a striking feature of the medieval period.
133 Explain how the cultural features of Persia and India got assimilated into the culture of the Sultanat period.
136 Babur had crossed the Indus with a force of 12,000, but this had been swelled by his army in India, and the large number of Hindustani nobles and soldiers who joined Babur in the Punjab. Even then, Babur’s army was numerically inferior. Babur strengthened his position by resting one wing of his army in the city of Panipat which had a large number of houses, and protected the other by means of a ditch filled with branches of trees.
139 Since artillery was expansive it favoured those rulers who had large resources at their command. Hence the era of large kingdoms began.
139-140 Babur introduced a new concept of the state which was to be based on the strength and prestige of the Crown, absence of religious and sectarian bigotry, and the careful fostering of culture and the fine arts.
141 Bahadur Shah did not dare face the Mughals. He abandoned Chittor which he had captured, and his fortified camp, and fled to Mandu after spiking his guns, but leaving behind all his rich equipage.
147 No one was allowed to levy customs at roads, ferries or towns any where else.
147 Sher Shah directed his governors and amils to compel the people to treat merchants and travelers well in every way, and not to harm them at all. If a merchant died, they were not to seize his goods as if they were unowned.
147 His attempt to fix standard weights and measures all over the empire were also helpful for trade and commerce.
148 Sher Shah’s excessive centralization of authority in his hands was a source of weakness, and its harmful effects became apparent when a masterful sovereign like him ceased to sit on the throne.
150 Sher Shah was not a bigot in the religious sphere, as is evident from his social and economic policy.
152 The leaderless Afghan army was defeated, Hemu, was captured and executed. Thus, Akbar had virtually to reconquer his empire.
154 Apart from Ajmer, important conquests during this period captured earlier were that of Malwa and Garh-Katanga.
156 But it was soon found that the fixing of central schedule of prices often led to considerable delays, and resulted in great hardships to the peasantry. Since the prices fixed were generally those prevailing at the Imperial Court, and thus were higher than in the countryside, the peasants had to part with a larger share of their produce.
159 The horses were classified into six categories, and the elephants into five according to quality, the number and quality of horses and elephants being carefully prescribed.
164 Therefore, Rana Pratap’s refusal to bow before the Mughals had little effect on most of the other Rajput states which realized that in the existing situation, it was impossible for small states to stand out for long in favour of complete independence. Moreover, by allowing a large measure of autonomy to the Rajput rajas, Akbar established an empire which those Rajput rajas did not consider harmful to their best interests.
165 The younger son of Maldeo, Chandrasen, who was the son of the favourite queen of Maldeo, succeeded to the gaddi.
168 A true ruler was distinguished by a paternal love towards his subjects without distinction of sect or creed, a large heart so that the wishes of great and small are attended to, prayer and devotion and a daily increasing trust in God who is considered as the real ruler.
168-169 We are told that that he spent whole nights in thoughts of God, continually pronounced his name, and for a feeling of thankfulness for his success, he would sit many a morning alone in prayer and contemplation on a large flat stone of an old building near his palace in Agra.
169 At first, Abdun Nabi was sheared of his power, and sardrs were appointed in every province for distributing charitable lands.
170 Badayuni says that the members had four grades of devotion, viz., sacrifice of property, life, honour and religion.
171 Badayuni ascribed to Akbar’s head being turned by many unworthy flatterers and panegyrists who suggested to him that he was the insan-i-kamil  or the “Perfect Man” of the age. It was at their instance that Akbar initiated the ceremony of pabos or kissing the floor before the sovereign, a ceremony which was previously reserved for God.
179 However, the long-range benefits to Ahmadnagar for reopening the dispute with the Mughals may be considered doubtful. It led to the situation in which Shah Jahan decided that he had no alternative but to extinguish Ahmadnagar as an independent state.
179 Having commanded two expeditions to the Deccan as a prince and spent a considerable period in the Deccan during his rebellion against his father, Shah Jahan had a great deal to experience and personal knowledge of the Deccan and its politics.
186 Like Akbar, Jahangir realized that conquest could be lasting on the basis not of force but of securing the goodwill of the people.
187 Some modern historians are of the opinion that along with her father and brother, and in alliance with Khurram, Nur Jahan formed a group or “junta” which “managed” Jahangir so that without its backing and support no one could advance in his career, and that this led to the division of the court into two factions-the Nur Jahan “junta” and its opponents.
188 Shah Jahan’s reign (1628-58) was full of many-sided activity.
189 The rise of a Shiite power in Iran made the Ottoman Sultans conscious of the danger to their eastern flank, that the rise of the Safavids would encourage Shiism in their own territories.
189 As it was, the Mughals were chary of a closer relationship with Turkey since they were not prepared to countenance the claim to superiority made by the Turkish sultan as successor to the Caliph.
190 Abul Fazl says that the Khyber Pass was made fit for wheeled traffic, and that due to fear of the Mughals, the gates of Balkh were usually kept closed.
191 The dread of Uzbek power was the most potent factor which brought the Safavids and the Mughals together, despite the Uzbek attempt to raise anti-Shia sentiments against Iran and the Mughal dislike of the intolerant policies adopted by the Safavid rulers. The only trouble spot between the two was Qandhar the possession of which was claimed by both on strategic and economic grounds, as well as for considerations of sentiment and prestige.
191 The trade from Central Asia to Multan via Qandhar, and thence down the river Indus to the sea steadily gained in importance, because the roads across Iran were frequently disturbed due to wars and internal commotions.
195 By devising a careful scale of gradations and laying down meticulous rules of business, the Mughals bureaucratized the nobility. But they could not take away their feudal attachment to land. This, as we shall see, was one of the dilemmas facing the Mughal nobility.
196 The cavalry, as we have noted, was principal arm of the Mughal army and the mansabdars provided the overwhelming proportion of it. In addition to the mansabdars, the Mughal emperors used to entertain individual troopers, called ahadis.
196-197 In addition to the ahadis, the emperors maintained a corps of royal bodyguards (walashahis) and armed palace guards. They were cavalrymen but served on foot in the citadel and the palace.
197 The footmen (piyadgan) formed a numerous but miscellaneous body. Many of them consisted of matchlock-bearers (banduqchi) and received salaries ranging between three and seven rupees a months.  This was the infantry proper.
197 The artillery consisted of two sections-heavy guns which were used for defending or assaulting forts; these were often clumsy and difficult to move. The second was the light artillery which was highly mobile and moved with the emperor whenever he wanted. The Mughals were solicitous of improving their artillery and, at first, many Ottomans and Portuguese were employed in the artillery department.
197 The development of the infantry had taken a different road in Europe.
197 The success of the Mughals against the Uzbeks who could match themselves with the Persians at the time of the Balkh campaigns suggests that the Mughal army was not inferior to the Central Asian and Persian armies in an open contest. Its major weakness was in the naval sphere, particularly in the field of sea-warfare.
200 The peasant not only shifted his cultivation from one crop to the other depending on prices, but was also willing to adopt new crops, if he found it profitable to do so.
203 Though essentially feudal in character, since land was its main source of income, it had developed many characteristics of bureaucracy. It was also becoming more commerce and money-minded.
212 In the Panch Mahal built for taking the air, all the types of pillars used in various temples were employed to support flat roofs.
220 They created a living tradition of painting which continued to work in different parts of the country long after the glory of the Mughals had disappeared.
223 Tukaram, who states that he was born a sudra used to do puja to the god with his own hand.
253 Thus, individual failure and the breakdown of the system reacted on each other.

 

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[1] Though this textbook was first published by NCERT in 1978, and reprinted until 1990 when it was revised and reprinted yearly after that, there continue to be small typographical and grammatical errors throughout. The first edition of Meenakshi Jain’s textbook also had a few typos which is understandable [Vishal Agarwal].

 

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Meenakshi Jain is an Associate Professor of History at Gargi College, University of Delhi. She was Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, Teen Murti. Her recent works include Parallel Pathways. Essays on Hindu-Muslim Relations (1707-1857). She is the co-author of The Rajah Moonje Pact. Documents on a Forgotten Chapter of Indian History.

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