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Development during the sultanate period

Updated on March 12, 2016

Mughal India

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jamaluddin yaqut razia sultan Razia Sultan

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Muslim wedding traditions

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Islamic traditions

The pre – Islamic foreign immigrants to our court like the Greeks, the Scythians, the Hunas, the Sakas and the Kushans came as conquerors, but after settlement in India they became completely assimilated in the Indian Society. They became followers of one or the other of the Indian religions were also assimilated into the case – system. This did not happen to the Muslims because their social and religious ideas were different from those of the Hindus. They retained their distinct culture and social system and formed their own community.

But the Muslim ruling class maintained contacts with the Hindus, who constituted the vast majority of the population at many levels. The lower branches of administration, especially the departments of revenue and finance, were manned by the Hindus. Their co – operation was also essential in trade, commerce and agriculture. Conversion of the Hindus to Islam resulted in the transfer of certain Hindu customs and ideas to Muslims society. The converts retained many usages in regard to marriage and other social events which they had practises as Hindus. It is an axiom of history that when two cultures, however different, come in close contact, they are bound to be influenced by each other. This is what happened in India in the medieval period as a consequence of the contact between the Islamic Turks and other Central Asian peoples on the one hand and the Hindus on the other. The political institutions, social customs, cultures, religions and the arts of the two influenced each other. Islamic traditions and institutions made a lasting impact on these and various other aspects of Indian life.

Developments in the sultanate period

The society of the Sultanate period was divided mainly into four groups, ie., the aristocracy, the priests, the townspeople and the peasants. The aristocracy was the ruling class and had the entire power in their hands. The priests were the Brahmans amongst the Hindus and Ulema amongst the Muslims. They were considered to be the most learned and educated group. The Ulema also functioned as advisers to the sultan. The townspeople comprised of the merchants, traders and artisans. They, through trade, brought prosperity to the kingdom and were financially quiet sound. Similarly, the artisans made goods not only for local consumption, but also for export. The peasants formed the lowest stratum of the society. They worked in the fields, but led a miserable life because of the heavy burden of taxes.

Society during the time of Delhi Sultanate

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a Persian painting showing a dancer

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Cultural contributions – Rich and Poor

The three immediate successors of Akbar played an important role in preserving and promoting Mughal glory. They were Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. The first two continued the liberal political of Akbar. They opened their courts and coffers to everyone, without making distinctions on grounds of religion, set and regional identity. Aurangzeb was a pious Muslim and a loyal follower of his conscience. He strictly confined himself to the practice of the tenets of his faith.

Aurangzeb not only ruled nearly as long as Akbar did, but he ruled over more territory than his great ancestor had done. He had such a vast empire that he could not rest in peace without having to suppress and subdue one or the other rebel throughout his career. He became so involved in the Deccan political that had to spend about half of his region – period in the Deccan itself. Though he was a determined fighter, he had to experience considerable anxiety because of the problems caused by the Marathas under Shivaji and the Sikhs under Guru Gobind Singh. When he imposed a tax called jezza on non – Muslims, he lost the loyalty and respect of the vast majority of his subjects.

Cultural contributions – Rich and Poor

The nobles and the rich merchants in the Mughal empire enjoyed a high standard of living. Paying nearly half of what they produced in their farms as tax to the state, the peasants could not be happy under Aurangzeb's rule. The mercantile class proposed immensely because they maintained brisk trade with East Africa, China Russia. The European traders such as the Portuguese, the Duch and the English expanded their activities in India. The main urban centres which profited by the commercial activities were Delhi, Agra, Lahore, Surat, Masulipatnam and Madurai.

The court language of the Mughals was Persian, but their literary activities were not confined to this language alone. Hindi and Urdu also received considerable importance during this period. Among the notable scholars and saint – poets of the time were Dara Suko, Kabir and Tulsidas.

The Mughal courts, until the time of Aurangzeb, were also great centres of music and musicians. These musicians developed new styles of rendering the classical Hindustani music. The credit of introducing the thumri and the Khayal is attributed to them.

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