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social opprobrium.13 Monogamy was the norm but polygamy was by no means rare-especially amongst the rich. Marriage negotiations were undertaken by the professional broker or friends of either party. Marriage ceremonies were more or less the same as observed at present and the character of the ’ average Indo-Pakistani home and the socio-ethical ideas which influenced it have not undergone any fundamental change. The son’s duty to his parents and the wife’s duty to her husband were viewed almost as religious obligation. The household of the polygamist was a proverbial home of troubles superstitions played a prominent part in the daily life of the people. Charms were used, not merely to ensnare a restive husband, but also to secure such other ends as the birth of a son or the cure of a disease. The fear of the evil eye was ever present, and the young child was considered particularly susceptible. People believed in all sorts of omens, and astrologers were very much in demand even at the Mughal court.
The well-to-do Hindu city-dwellers wore tussore dhotis and khwasa cloth. ”On festive occasions men wore trousers called ijars and qaba or long tunic of muslin after the Mughal style. The ijars were worn very narrow and long with plenty of lines and creases. The richer classes (among the Hindus) has actually adopted ijar. Shirt (jama) and cabava with a turban as their habitual outfit. But most of them put on white stuffs and their turbans were smaller and their breeches shorter than those of Muslims. They also wore stockings under Muslim influence, but these stockings, it seems, were of leather.”14
Muslim aristocrats and offices lived in grand style15 and almost made a cult of display. ”Even in the God-forsaken corners of the country, their houses had hamams or bathrooms, a rare luxury in Bengal, while in the houses of the Mirzas there were even audience-halls decorated with rich cushions and canopies. The houses of the Muslim gentry were big and spacious with beautiful apartments and halls. Many of these were flatroofed and had beautiful gardens, green arbours and even covered walks. Some even had bathing pools and fish
The Twilight of the Mughals
[ Ch. 26
ponds. Rich Persian carpets and fine mats covered the floor in the houses of the rich. The Muslim had benches and stools as well, but they preferred to sit cross-legged on the mat and carpets. The Muslims generally shaved their heads and kept beards. The well to-do amongst them put silver on large kabas made of finest cotton cloth, silk stuffs or gold and of all the costliest things. These dresses came down to the knee, were folded around the neck and were attached in front from top to bottom. Red and white silken sashes with tasseles, from which would hang beautiful scimitars, were also used.”16
The grave manners and the elaborate etiquette of the Muslim upper classes impressed foreign visitors. In social gatherings they spoke ”in a very low voice with much order, moderation, gravity and sweetness”. Betel and betelnut were presented to visitors, and they escorted with much civility at the time of departure. Rigid forms were observed at meals. Dice was the favoured indoor game, while polo or chaugan, for which there was a special playground even at Dacca, elephant fights, hunting excursions and picnics were the popular outdoor pastimes. The grandees rode in Palkis, preceded by uniformed mounted servants. Many ”drove in fine, two-wheeled carts, carved with gilt and gold, covered in silk, and drawn by two little bulls which could race with the fastest horses.”
Muslims betrothed their children between the ages of six and eight, but the marriage was generally not solemnised before they had attained the age of puberty. Among the richer classes both polygamy and divorce are said to have been very common. Schouten notes that if a wife could prove before the qadi that she had been ill-treated by her husband or that he did not provide her with maintenance, she could secure dissolution of her marriage.17 In such cases the female children went with their mother while the boys stayed with the divorced husband. Purdah was observed very strictly.
Position of Hindus. In spite of the systematic efforts made by Aurangzeb to apply Muslim Law to the affairs of the State,
of Muslini Civilian in
Bk. IIJ „_.-., .
the position of Hindus greatly improved. Islamic Law had been evolved in Muslim lands and was primarily intended to regulate the affairs of a predominantly Muslim society. Its effective application to a country like India, with a predominantly non-Muslim population, occasionally raised difficult problems and even involved conflicts, but from Akbar’s days most of its provisions concerning non-Muslims remained in abeyance except under Aurangzeb. The Mughal administration was more systematically organised than the Sultanate, but the position of Hindus during this period was decidedly better than during the earlier reign. As pointed out by Sri Ram Sharma, the position of Hindus in State services in the reign of Shah Jahan was much better than the position of the Indians under the British, until the formation of the caretaker government on the very eve of the independence of India. Of course, they paractically monopolised trade and finance.18 Even in less material affairs we see a new vigour and vitality amongst Hindus. The widespread religious movements, engendered by contact between Islam and Hinduism, had produced a new religious zeal amongst the masses not possible under the older Brahmanism which was exclusive in outlook.
The Muslim historians ignore all signs of religious revival amongst Hindus, but there is enough evidence about its vigour and extent. The new regional literature, e.g. of Bengal and Maharashtra, which owed not a little to the new movement, is a clear mirror of what was taking place in Hindu society. Hindu activities in Bengal, which have been more thoroughly studied than of other areas, indicate not only the rise of a new literature, but an era of extensive temple-building and a vigorous intellectual life. According to Roychaudhuri, ”following the organisation of Bengal Vaishnavism into a wellordered sect and the simultaneous consolidation of Mughal rule, a large number of temples were built during the comparatively peaceful and prosperous years of the later seventeenth century.”19 The significance of this phenomenon becomes clear if it is remembered that practically throughout
615 Economic, Soual and Religious Condition? [ Ch. 26
the second half of the seventeenth century, Aurangzeb remained on the throne of Delhi and is stated to have followed a ceaseless campaign of temple destruction! The developments in intellectual life were equally noteworthy. The rise of Navadipa as ”a great centre of Sanskritic” learning and the vogue of Navyanyaya (new logic) belong to this period.
In relation to Islam. Hinduism was? exhibiting u ne\\ vigour, greater self-confidence and even a spirit of aggressive defiance Hinduism is not a missionary religion, and it is often thought that during Muslim rule conversions were only from Hinduism to Islam. This is, however, not true. Hinduism was by now very much on the offensive and was absorbing a number of Muslims. When Shah Jahan was returning from Kashmir, in the sixth year of his reign, he discovered earlier that Hindus of Bhadauri and Bhimbar forcibly married Muslim girls and converted them to their own faith. They were cremated at their death according to Hindu rites. Jahangir had tried to stop this practice but with no success. Shah Jahan also issued orders declaring such marriages unlawful. ”So widespread was this practice of converting Muslim girls to Hinduism that these orders discovered more than four thousand such women.”20 Many such instances were found in Gujarat and other parts of the former Punjab. Partly to deal with such cases, and partly to conform to his early notions of an orthodox Muslim king, Shah Jahan opened a department to deal with conversions. According to Sri Ram Sharma, after the tenth year of his reign, Shah Jahan seems to have left the proselytising activities of Hindus alone, but they continued. Even later, we come across several cases of the conversion of Muslims not recorded by court historians. A large number of Muslims-including at least two Muslim nobles, Mirza Salih and Mirza Haidar-were converted to Hinduism by the Vairagis.21 When the Sikh Guru Har Gobind took up his residence at Kiratpur in the Punjab, sometime before 1645, he succeeded in converting a large number of Muslims. According to the Dabistan-i Madhahib, not a Muslim was left between the hills near Kiratpur and the
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frontiers of Tibet and Khotan.22 His predecessor, Guru Arjun, ”had incurred Jahangir’s displeasure on account of his proselytising activities. Some Muslims accepted him as their religious leader and thus came to renounce Islam”. Besides, Muslims were paying homage to Hindu holy places, and, as recorded by Jahangir in his Tuzuk, Hindu shrines of Kangra and Mathura attracted a number of Muslim pilgrims.
The Hindu position was so strong that at a number of places they defied Aurangzeb’s orders for the collection of jizyah. For example, on 28 January 1693, the Amin-l Jizyah for the province of Malwa sent a soldier to collect jizyah from the jagir of one Devi Singh. ”When he reached the place, Devi Singh’s men fell upon him, pulled his beard and hair, and sent him back empty-handed. The Emperor thereupon ordered a reduction in the jagir of Devi Singh.”23 Earlier, another Amin had fared much worse. He himself proceeded to the jagir of a mansabdar to collect the tax, and in these efforts was killed by the Hindu mansabdar. Similar opposition was offered to the orders for the destruction of the newly-built temples. ”In March,
1671, it was reported that a Muslim officer who had been sent to demolish the Hindu temples in and around Ujjain was killed with many of his followers on account of the riot that had followed his attempts at destroying the temples there.”24
Udaipur was at war with Delhi and, during the operations, some temples were destroyed. ”Bhim, a younger son of the Rana, retaliated by attacking Ahmadnagar and demolishing many mosques, big and small, there.”25 At places such incidents occurred without any provocation. We have referred to the letters of the Mujaddid indicating how Muslims were hindered in the performance of their religious worship during the reign of Jahangir. During the reign of Aurangzeb, ”in Gujarat somewhere near Ahmadabad, kalis seem to have taken possession of a mosque and prevented Friday prayers there. Imperial orders were thereupon issued to the provincial officers in Gujarat to secure the use of the mosque for Friday prayers.”26
Economic, Social and Religious Conditions
The Muslim historians, in order to show the extreme orthodoxy of Aurangzeb, have recorded many reports of temple destruction. On a closer scrutiny, however, there seem to be good grounds for believing that all the reports were not correct, and quite often no action was taken on imperial orders. For example, we read about the destruction of the same temple at Somnath during the reigns of Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. The second destruction took place, Sri Ram Sharma thinks, as the temple had been repaired.27 The greater likelihood is that in this and in many similar cases, in spite of orders, no destruction ever took place. The reports of the Muslim historians are not confirmed by other data relating to Aurangzeb. ”If the English factors are to be believed, his (Aurangzeb’s) officers allowed the Hindus to take back their temples from them on payment of large sums of money.”28 In course of time in Hindu areas old temples were not touched, though the new temples were closed as unauthorised constructions.
As a matter of fact, if the situation is closely examined, it appears that the Mujaddid’s complaint that under Muslim rule, as it existed in Hind-Pakistan, Islam was in need of greater protection than other religions, does not appear to have been completely unfounded. Aurangzeb, of course, tried to arrest and even reverse this trend, and some other rulers also had occasional spells of Islamic zeal, whether due to political or religious motives. But by and large, it is perhaps fair to say that during Muslim rule, Islam suffered from handicaps and discrimination, which almost outweighed the advantages it enjoyed as the religion of the ruling dynasty. This paradox becomes intelligible if the basic Muslim political theory is kept in mind, under which non-Muslim communities, so long as they paid certain taxes, were left to manage their own affairs. This local and communal autonomy severely circumscribed the sovereignty of the Muslim State, and in most matters the caste guilds and the village panchayats exercised real sovereignty, which they naturally utilised to safeguard their creed and way of life. It was this power which enabled them to evade, ignore
Bk. II ] History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan 618
or even defy unwelcome orders from the capital. A curious light on the situation, as it actually existed in the country, is thrown by the penalties and economic losses which a Hindu had to suffer on adoption of Islam. Practically till the end of Muslim rule, a Hindu who became a Muslim automatically lost all claim to ancestral property. Professor Roychaudhury says:
”That in India conversion was not so brisk was partly due to the reluctance of the rulers to permit the enjoyment of all the economic privileges and rights which a convert had before his admission to Islam, though he was at once given all the economic privileges and rights under the Muslim personal law. A Dhimmi who turned a Muslim had to surrender his rights to ancestral and family property.”29
This extraordinary position was a natural result of the application of the Hindu law, which, according to the Muslim legal system, governed Hindu society even under Muslim governments, and under which apostasy resulted in disinheritance. In the last days of Muslim rule, Shah Jahan, who began as an orthodox king, tried to redress the balance by issuing orders that ”family pressure should not prevent a Hindu from being admitted to Islam” and laid down that a convert should not be disinherited. Whether these orders could overcome, except in a few glaring case forced upon the attention of the qadis, the subtle but solid pressure of ”the joint family system” and the power of the caste panchayats must remain a matter of speculation.
The question, however, of the handicaps of advantages of one community against another is not so basic. It concerns only unusual and abnormal events or periods, but the important fact is that during normal times such conditions of harmony and unusual tolerance prevailed in the Indo-pak subcontinent, as did not exist anywhere else and were a constant puzzle, even annoyance, to European visitors. ”The Jesuits, unaccustomed to religious liberty, as they had been in Europe, seem to have been as much dazzled by the toleration granted by Jahangir as they had been with Akbar.”30 The comments of contemporary
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[ Ch. 26
foreign travellers are, indeed, most interesting and revealing. Almost every one of them had commented on the general religious tolerance and religious liberty enjoyed by non-Muslims under Muslim rule. As we shall see, some of them got into difficulties on account of the official ban on the slaughter of animals held sacred by Hindus. The Jesuit Fathers, of course, bemoaned and criticised this policy of tolerance of all religions. They declared the destruction of Hindu temples by Muslims ”a praiseworthy action”31 and criticised their ”carelessness”32 in allowing public performance of Hindu sacrifices and religious practices. When Akbar granted the followers of the Raushaniyyah sect ”freedom to follow their religion and to obey and reverence the son of their prophet (as they called him),” they were frankly critical. Monserrate sadly commented: ”He (Akbar) cared little that in allowing everyone to follow his own religion he was in reality violating all religions.”3*
Even in Aurangzeb’s reign a cow could not be slaughtered even in important places like Surat. Attempts made by English factors to obtain beef by slaughtering cows often led to riots. ”In Surat the Hindus paid a fixed sum to the Mohammadans in return for sparing the cows. In 1608 a riot was caused at Surat by a drunken sailor torn Tucker who killed a calf. Similar occurrences at Karwar and Honavar led to outbreaks, in one of which the whole factory was murdered.”34 Delia Vaile noticed prohibition of cow-slaughter in Bombay, but nothing brings out the true nature of the Mughal administration and its solicitude for the susceptibilities of Hindus than the experience of the Portuguese missionary traveller, Manrique, about whom O’Malley writes:
”In a village where he stopped for the night, one of his followers, a Musalman, killed two peacocks, birds sacred in the eyes of Hindus, and did his best to conceal the traces of his deed by burying their feathers. The sacrilege was, however, detected, the whole party arrested, and the offender sentenced to have a hand amputated, though this punishment was eventually commuted to a whipping by the local official, who
Bk. II ] History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan 620
explained that the Emperor had taken an oath that he and his successors would let the Hindus live under their own laws and customs and tolerate no breach of them. ”3S
In one important sphere, however, the Mughal government did its best to stop an old Hindu practice. This was sati, i.e. ”widow burning”. The Muslim rulers had been actively discouraging it from the beginning, but, according to European travellers, it was totally suppressed by Aurangzeb. Akbar had issued general orders prohibiting sati and in one noteworthy case personally intervened, by rapid marches, to save a Rajput princess from immolating herself on the bier of her husband. Similar efforts continued to be made in the succeeding reigns. According to Pelsaert, ”Governors did their best to dissuade widows from immolating themselves, but by Jahangir’s orders were not allowed to withhold their sanction if their resolution could not be shaken. Travernier (writing in the reign of Shah Jahan), observed that widows who had children were not allowed in any circumstances to burn, and that in other cases ”governors did not readily give permission, but could be bribed to do so”. Aurangzeb was most forthright in his efforts to stop sati. According to Manucci, on his return from Kashmir (December 1663), he ”issued an order that in all lands under Mughal control, never again should the officials allow a woman to be burnt”. Manucci adds” ”This order endures to this day.”36 As pointed out by Sarkar,37 ”this humanitarian order,” though not mentioned in the formal histories is recorded in the official guide-books of the reign (Dastur al- Amal, 1030). Of course, the possibility of an evasion of government orders, e.g. through payment of bribes, exists--and continues to exist today-but European travellers clearly record that, for all practical purposes, sati had ceased to be practised by the end of Aurangzeb’s reign. Ovington says in his Voyage to Surat (1689):
”Since the Mahometans became Masters of the India, this execrable custom is much abated, and almost laid aside, by the orders which nabobs receive for suppressing and extinguishing
The Twilight of the Mughals
[ Ch. 26
it in all their provinces. And now it is very rare, except it be some Rajahs’ wives, that the Indian women burn at all.”38
Mughal Way of Life. Europe knew the Mughal rulers only as ”the Grand Mughals”. They ruled a vast empire and maintained a splendid court. This has tended to obscure those spiritual and humane qualities which characterised the Mughal way of life and have endeared the Mughal Tahdhib-o Tamaddun (Mughal culture) to the succeeding generations of Hindus and Muslims. The activity round the royal court, though important, represents a limited sphere of national life. The greatness of the Mughals lay in the fact that their influence permeated the entire society. They exercised a powerful integrating influence, and gave the society harmony, dignity and poise.
The human and spiritual traditions of the Mughals began with Babur, the founder of the dynasty. A hard-bitten realist and a soldier of fortune, Babur had also a tender heart. The story of his death, which he courted to bring his son’s sufferings on himself, shows the inner character of the man. He also had a marked spiritual and religious streak, which evinced itself in his translation of the works of the Naqshbandi saint Khwajah ’Ubaid Allah Ahrar, and the devotion he displayed to his teachings. His successor Humayun was a weak ruler and a poor general, but the forbearance he showed to his brothers also reflects his gentle nature. Akbar’s spiritual interests are well known. They led him astray, and created many problems. But the spiritual ideals which he placed before himself and others had an ennobling effect on the society. He was large-hearted and intensely humane. Indeed, it is difficult not to admire the humanity of a mighty ruler who would go and sit among the artisans of the royal workshop and discuss their work with them. Even the hard drinking Jahangir had great magnanimity of character. As Abu al-Fadl says, this was for the Mughals an essential qualification for a monarch, and even for the nobility.
These qualities represented the ideals held dearest in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. The Mughals valued and nourished
Bk. II ] History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan 622
them, till they permeated in some degree the entire society, Not that there was nothing sordid or selfish. The common people suffered from poverty, superstition and disease. The court life, although distinguished by great politeness and dignity of manners, was also marked by hypocrisy, intrigue and a sickening atmosphere of sycophancy. This was, however, only a part of the picture and a side which came to the fore in the later days. From the days of Jahangir a marked demoralisation set in, but it would be unfair to ignore the counteracting influences. The rulers generally accepted high and noble spiritual standards which they tried to maintain and there were other disciplining forces. Religion may have accounted for superstitions, but it also helped the maintenance of proper moral standards. Until the increase of foreign trade brought European rarities and novelties to the subcontinent, and exercised a great corrupting influence on bureaucracy, the life even of the nobility was simple. Their requirements had to be mainly confined to what was produced within the subcontinent, and with Muslim and Hindu emphasis on the simplicity of life and the transitory nature of the world, living was essentially simple.
This was, of course, true mainly of the general public. The orderliness, dignity and poise of the Mughal court set the tone for society, and widespread spiritual influences gave mental peace and poise. The sufi emphasis was not on the increase of wants but on their reduction and a peaceful philosophical attitude of mind was encouraged. Study of ethical works like Gulistan, Boston, Akhlaq-i Jalali, Akhlaq-i Nasiri, and Anwar-i Suhaili was common during the period, and had a healthy moral influence. There were some ugly scars on the face of society but by and large a happy and healthy equilibrium had been achieved. People had learnt to live gracefully and usefully, within limited means. Even outsiders could not help ”imbibing genuine respect and admiration for the simple dignity of their lives, the quiet courtesy of their manners, their uncomplaining endurance of hardships, their unbounded hospi-
The Twilight of the Mughals