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|Chapter Name||Through the Eyes of Travelers Perceptions of Society|
|Number of Questions Solved||9|
NCERT Solutions for Class 12 History Chapter 5 Through the Eyes of Travellers Perceptions of Society
Write a note on the Kitab-ul-Hind.
- The Kitab-ul-Hind is written in Arabic and is simple and lucid.
- It has 80 chapters on subjects such as religion, and philosophy, festivals, astronomy, alchemy, manners and customs, social life, weights and measures, iconography, laws and metrology.
- Al-Biruni adopted a distinctive structure in each chapter, beginning with a question, following this up with a description based on Sanskritic traditions, and concluding with a comparison with other cultures. This almost geometric structure is remarkable for its precision and predictability.
- He probably intended his work for peoples living along the frontiers of the subcontinent.
Compare and contrast the perspectives from which Ibn Battuta and Bernier wrote their accounts of their travels in India.
Both have written them accounts in their different prospectives. While Ibn Battuta describe everything that impressed and excited him because of his novelty, Bernier had followed a different intellectual tradition. He wrote whatever he saw in India.
Bernier wanted to pin point the weakness of the Indian society and considered the Mughal India Inferior to European society. In his description Ibn Battuta recorded his observation about new culture, people, believes and values.
Discuss the picture of urban centres that emerges from Bernier’s account.
During the seventeenth century, about 15 per cent of the population in India lived in cities. This was higher than the urban population in Western Europe in the same period. In spite of this Bernier described Mughal cities as “Camp towns”. These towns owed their existence, and depended for their survival on the imperial camp. He believed that these camp towns came into existence when the imperial court moved in and rapidly declined when it moved out. He stated that these “camp towns” did not have viable social and economic foundations. They were dependent on imperial patronage.
The above picture of urban centres that emerges from Bernier’s account does not seem to be correct because it is an oversimplified picture. There were all kinds of urban centres or towns i.e., manufacturing towns, trading towns, port towns, sacred centres and pilgrimage towns.
Analyse the evidence for slavery provided by Ibn Battuta.
Travellers who left written accounts, sometimes took special inequalities for granted as a “natural” state of affairs. For example, is the evidence for slavery provided by Ibn Battuta that is as given below :
- Slaves were openly sold in markets, like any other commodity and were regularly exchanged as gifts.
- When Ibn Battuta reached Sind, he purchased “horses, camels and slaves” as gifts for Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq.
- When he reached Multan, he presented the governor with, “a slave and horse together with raisins and almonds”.
- Muhammad bin Tughlaq, informs Ibn Battuta, was so happy with the sermon of a preacher named Nasiruddin that he gave him “a hundred thousand tankas (coins) and two hundred slaves”.
- According to Ibn Battuta’s accounts there were female slaves in the service of the Sultan. They were experts in music and dance. Female slaves were also employed by the Sultan to keep a watch on his nobles.
- Slaves were generally used for domestic labour, particularly for carrying women and men on palanquins or dola.
What were the elements of the practice of sati that drew the attention of Bernier ?
Bernier chose the practice of sati for detailed description. The elements of the practice of sati that drew the attention of Bernier were that while some women seemed to embrace death cheerfully, others were, forced to die. For example at Lahore, he saw a most beautiful young widow sacrificed. She was hardly twelve years of age and was forced by the Brahmanas and others towards the pyre and was burnt alive.
Discuss Al-Biruni’s understanding of the caste system.
Al-Biruni’s description of the caste system in India was as given below :
- He tried to explain the caste system by looking for parallels in other societies. For example, he noted that in Ancient Persia, there were four categories i.e., knights and princes; monks, fire-priests and lawyers; physicians, astronomers and other scientists; and finally, peasants and artisans. Thus, he stated that social divisions were not unique to India. He, however, pointed out that within Islam, Ml men were considered equal, differing only in their observance of piety.
- He accepted the Brahmanical description of the caste system but disapproved of the notion of pollution. The conception of social pollution was, according to him, contrary to the laws of nature.
Thus, Al-Biruni’s understanding of the caste system was deeply influenced by his study of normative Sanskrit texts which laid down the rules governing the system from the point of view of the Brahmanas.
Do you think Ibn Battuta’s account is useful in arriving at an understanding of life in contemporary urban centres? Give reasons for your answer.
Battuta’s observation about the cities of India.
(i) According to him, Indian cities had many exciting opportunities and are useful for those who had the necessary drive, skill and resources.
(ii) The Indian cities were prosperous and densely populated.
(iii) These cities had colourful market trading in different kinds of goods.
(iv) Delhi was the largest city of India and had a lot of population. Daultabad was an another important city of India which challenged Delhi in size.
(v) The cities were not only the centre of economic transactions but also the centres of! social and cultural activities.
(vii) Most of the bazars in the cities had temple and mosques.
(viii) Cities also had fixed places for public performances by dancer, musicians and singer. He found that many towns derived their wealth and prosperity through the appropriation of surplus from villages.
(ix) Indian goods were in great demand in west Asia and South-east Asia. So the artisans and merchants earned huge profit.
Discuss the extent to which Bernier’s account enables historians to reconstruct contemporary rural society.
Bernier’s account does not enable historians much to reconstruct contemporary rural society. His accounts contain discussions trying to place the history of the Mughals within some sort of a universal framework. He constantly compared Mughal India with contemporary Europe, generally emphasising the superiority of the latter.
His description of rural society was far from truth. For example, he thought that in the Mughal Empire, the Empire owned all the land and distributed it among his nobles. This had disastrous consequences for the economy and society. Owning to crown ownership of land, argued Bernier, landholders could not pass on their land to their children. So, they were averse to any long-term investment in the sustenance and expansion of production. This had resulted in uniform ruination of agriculture, excessive oppression of peasantry and a continuous decline in the living standards of all sections of society, except the ruling aristocracy. He also stated that there was no middle state in India.
The above description does not give us a true picture of rural society. None of the Mughal official document suggest that the state was the sole owner of land. Abul Fazl describes the land revenue as “remunerations of sovereignty”. In fact, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centimes, rural society was characterised by considerable social and economic differentiation. At one end were the big zamindars and on the other were the “untouchable” landless labourers. In between was the big peasant who used hired labour and engaged in commodity production, and the smaller peasant who could barely produce for his subsistence.
Read this excerpt from Bernier :
Numerous are the instances of handsome pieces of workmanship made by persons destitute of tools, and who can scarcely be said to have received instruction from a master. Sometimes they imitate so perfectly articles of European manufacture that the difference between the original and copy can hardly be discerned. Among other things, the Indians make excellent muskets, and fowling-pieces, and such beautiful gold ornaments that it may be doubted if the exquisite workmanship of those articles can be exceeded by any European goldsmith. I have often admired the beauty, softness, and delicacy of their paintings.
List the crafts mentioned in the passage. Compare these with the descriptions of artisanal activity in the chapter.
(a) The following crafts have been mentioned in the passage :
- gold ornaments;
(b) There were imperial Karkhanas or workshops for the artisans where embroiderers, goldsmiths, painters, varnishers, joiners, turners, tailors and shoe-makers, manufacturer of silk, brocade and fine muslins were employed. They worked the whole day and in the evening they returned to their homes. The artisans were employed in manufacturing carpets, gold and silver cloths and various sorts of silk and cotton goods. Bernier also stated that the Indian artisans were expert in copying goods that it was difficult to differentiate between the original and the duplicate.
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