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Delhi Sultanate – Art and Culture

The Delhi Sultanate (Economic, Social & Cultural Life)

Delhi Sultanate – Art and Culture


• The establishment and expansion of the Delhi Sultanate led to the evolution of a powerful and efficient administrative system.
• At its zenith the authority of Delhi Sultan had extended as far south as Madurai.
• Although the Delhi Sultanate disintegrated, their administrative system made a powerful impact on the Indian provincial kingdoms and later on the Mughal system of administration.
• The Delhi Sultanate was an Islamic state with its religion Islam.
• According to the theological basis, Muslims believe that Islamic society and government should be organised on the basis of divine injunctions of the Quran. The saying and doings of Prophet Muhammad, collectively known as hadis, began to be supplemented with the above.
• The ulema (Muslim theologians) gave various religons on the basis of the Quran and the hadis to meet different situations and problems, which are together known as the Sharia (Islamic Law).
• According to secular basis, Zawabit (rules and regulations framed by the Sultans) were also used for a smooth and efficient running of the administration.
• The doctrine of farr or farrah (supernatural effulgence or radiance) was first enunciated in the Shah Namah by firdausi, according to whom the God endows the rulers with farr, which symbolises the divine favour.
• Among the Delhi Sultans, Balban was the first to exhibit his awareness of the doctrine when he remarked that ‘the king’s heart is the mirror of the divine attributer’.
• Amir Khusrau observed that Kaiqubad was endowed with the farr.
• The Sultans considered themselves as representatives of the Caliph. They included the name of the Caliph in the khutba or prayer and inscribed it on their coins.
• Although Balban called himself the shadow of God, he continued to practice of including the name of Caliph in the khutba and coins.
• Iltutmish, Muhammad bin Tughlaq and FirozTughlaq obtained mansur or letter of permission from the Caliph.
• The office of the Sultan was the most important in the administrative system. He was the ultimate authority for the military, legal and political activities.
• There was no clear law of succession during this period. All the sons had equal claim to the throne.
• Iltutmish even nominated his daughter in preference to his sons, but such nominations or successions were to be accepted by the nobles.
• Sometimes ulemas played crucial role in accepting the succession to the throne.
• However, the military superiority remained the main factor in matters of succession.
• Limits to Sultan’s authority in the framing of new rules and regulations the authority of the Sultan was circumscribed and every ruler could not govern the kingdom in complete disregard of the advice of the ulema or theologians as Ala-ud-din Khalji and Muhammad Tughlaq had been able to do. The power of the nobility also blunted their authority to some extent. When there was a weak ruler on the throne, the nobles, and the ulema particularly, dominated him.
• But during the reign of Balban, Ala-ud-din Khalji or Muhammad Tughlaq, checks by the nobles, and the ulema proved ineffective.
• The Sultans were not powerful enough to rule the land in complete disregard of the sentiments of the Hindus and, the numerical inferiority of the Muslims gave them little or no opportunity to interfere with local government.
• During the Sultanate period the administrative apparatus was headed by the Sultan who was helped by various nobles.
• There was a council of Ministers Majlis-i-Khalwat to assist the Sultan. The entire bureaucracy acted under his control and supervision. He was assisted by a number of officials, chief among whom were the following: –

– Deputy Sultan or Naib: Appointment to this post was generally made only when a ruler was weak or minor. The Naib enjoyed practically all the powers of the Sultan on his behalf and exercised a general control over the various departments of the governments.
– Wazir: He was the head of the finance department and next to the Sultan was the highest dignitary of the state. But if there was a Naib Sultan, he ranked above the Wazir. The department of the Wazir was called Diwan-i-Wazarat. He had a number of powerful assistants, three among whom deserve particular mention-NaibWazir (chief’s deputy), Mushrif-i-Mumalik (Accountant General) and MustaufiMumalik (Auditor General).
– Ariz-i-Mumalik: He was the chief of military staff and was responsible for the organisation, maintenance and control over the armed forces of the state. His department was called Diwan-i-Arz. He was not the ex-officio commander-in-chief of the forces.
– Sadr-us-Sudur: He was the head of the ecclesiastical department. He was in charge of public charities and was also responsible for enforcing conformity to Islam. It was he who made grants in cash or land for the construction and maintenance of mosques, tombs, khanqahs, Madarsas and Maktabs.
– Qazi-ul-Quzal: He was the head of judicial department and usually the post of the chief Sadr and the chief Qazi were combined in a single person.
– Dabir-i-Khas or Amir Munshi: He was the head of the records department, which was called Diwan-I-Insha. The Farmans of the Sultan were issued from his department also while all high-level correspondence passed through his hands.
– Barid-i-Mumalik: He was the head of the information and intelligence department. Dakchaukis or news outposts were also under his control.

Provincial Government

• The whole kingdom was divided into a number of provinces, but the provincial administration under the Sultans was neither strong nor efficient.
• In the earlier stages, a nobleman was assigned unconquered or semi-conquered territory in Jagir and he was acknowledged the governor of all the land he could subdue by his armed forces.
• With the increasing power of the Sultan a correct provincial administration was evolved wherein the whole empire was divided into a number of provinces which varied from 20-25.
• The largest number of provinces was held by Muhammad bin Tughlaq.
• The provincial administration was placed under governors or Walis or Muqtas.

Local Administration

• Provinces were divided into Shias and were headed by a Shiqdar.
• The Shiqswere further divided into Parganas which comprised a number of villages and was headed by the Amil.
• Villages were the basic unit of administration and continued to enjoy a large measure of self government.
• The most important official of the village was the village headman called Muqaddam.
• Other important functionaries were Khats, Chaudharies, etc. Most of the towns had a Kotwal and Qazi.

Caliph-Sultan Relationship

• Most of the Sultans kept up the pretence of regarding the caliph as the legal sovereign while they themselves were the caliph’s representatives.
• Most of them included the name of the caliph in the khutba (prayer) and the sikka (coin) and adopted titles indicative of their subordination to the caliph.
• As against this, three rulers emphasised their own importance.

– Balban used to say that after the Prophet the most important office was that of the sovereign and called himself the ‘Shadow of God’.
– Muhammad bin Tughlaq assumed this style during the early years of his reign and although Balban had retained the name of the caliph in the khutba andsikka, Muhammad made no mention of caliph anywhere.
– But, neither Balbannor Muhammad bin Tughlaqhad the audacity to call himself the caliph. The only person who had done this was AllaudinKhalji.

• Only three Sultans sought, and secured a mansur or ‘letter of investiture’ from the caliph.

– The first among them was Iltutmish.
– Next Muhammad bin Tughlaq tried to pacify the ulema by securing an investiture from the Abbasid caliph in Egypt.
– After him Firoz also sought and secured it twice.

• Muslims in general regarded office of the caliph as incumbent on the Sultan to show respect to the caliph, and opposition to the Sultan, who had been recognised by the caliph as his deputy, was regarded as contrary to the Law. Hence the Sultans kept up the pretense of subservience to the caliph just to exploit the popular Muslim sentiments in their favour.
• Law of Succession according to Islamic ideals, essential attributes of a sovereign required that he should be a male adult, suffering from no physical disability, a free Muslim, having faith in Islam and acquainted with its doctrines, and he should be elected by the people.

• However in practice there were several violations of the prescribed criteria for being elected to the throne.
– Raziya was raised to the throne despite her womanhood.
– Minority proved no bar in the case of Muhammad bin Tughlaq.
– Qutub-ud-din Aibak’s authority was recognised even before his manumission. Kaiqubad remained the Sultan as a paralytic.
– Nasir-ud-din Khusrau had no special reverence for Islam and yet he was accepted as the Sultan of Delhi.
– Ala-ud-din Khalji frankly admitted his ignorance of the sharia but nobody dubbled him a unfit to rule on that score.

• As far as election was concerned, it had never existed in Islam. At best, support of a few leading men was regarded as tantamount to election by the people. This farce or peculiar type of election was tried in the case of Iltutmish, Ghiyasoud-din Tughlaq and FirozTughlaq.


• After consolidating their position in India, the Delhi Sultans introduced reforms in the land revenue administration. The lands were classified into three categories:

1. Iqta land – lands assigned to officials as iqtas instead of payment for their services.
2. Khalisa land – land under the direct control of the Sultan and the revenues collected were spent for the maintenance of royal court and royal household.
3. Inam land – land assigned or granted to religious leaders or religious institutions.

Iqta System

• The institution of the Iqta had been in force in early Islamic world as a form of reward for services to the state.
• In the caliphate administration it was used to pay civil and military officers.
• After the establishment of the Sultanate iqta system was introduced by the Sultans.
• The army commanders and nobles were given territories to administer and collect the revenue. The territories thus assigned were called iqta and their holders as iqtadar or muqti.
• In essence this was a system of payment to the officers and maintenance of army by them.
• Gradually rules and regulations were laid down to organize the whole system.
• Through the years it became the main instrument of administrating the Sultanate.
• Further the sultans could get a large share of the surplus production from different parts of the vast territories through this system.
• From the 14th century Walis or muqtis who are commanders of military and administrative tracts called Iqta.
• Their exact powers varied according to circumstances.
• In due course the muqti was given complete charge of the administration of the iqta which included the task of maintaining an army.
• The muqti was to help the sultan with his army in case of need. He was expected to maintain the army and meet his own expenses with the revenue collected.
• From the time of Balban the muqti was expected to send the balance (fawazil) of the income to the centre after meeting his and the army’s expenses. This means that the central revenue department had made an assessment of the expected income of the Iqta, the cost of the maintenance of the army and the muqti’s own expenses. This process became even more strict during the time of AlauddhinKhalji.
• As the central control grew, the control over muqti’s administration also increased.
• The Khwaja (probably same as Sahib-i-Diwan) was appointed to keep a record of the income of the Iqtas. It was on the basis of this record that the Sultan used to make his revenue demands.
• A barid or intelligence officer was also appointed to keep the Sultan informed.
• During the reign of Muhmmad-bin-Thughlaq a number of governors were appointed on revenue sharing terms where they were to give a fixed sum to the state.
• During the time of Feroze Shah Tughlaq the control of state over iqtas was diluted when iqtas became hereditary.
• The peasantry paid one third of their produce as land revenue, and sometimes even one half of the produce. They also paid other taxes and always led a hand-to-mouth living. Frequent famines made their lives more miserable.
• Sultans like Muhammad bi Tughlaq and FirozTughlaq took efforts to enhance agricultural production by providing irrigational facilities and by providing takkavi loans. They also encouraged the farmers to cultivate superior crop like wheat instead of barley.
• Firoz encouraged the growth of horticulture. Muhammad bin Tughlaq created a separate agricultural department, Diwani Kohi.


• The fiscal policy of Turkish Sultans of India was modeled on the theory of finances of the “Hanafi School” of Sunni Jurists”.
• Only four different sources of revenue were sanctioned by the Quran – Kharaj, Khams, Jaziya and Zakat, but the Sultanate of Delhi charged about two dozen extra taxes. Following were the few important taxes:

– Zakat: The religious taxes were collectively known as the Zakat. This was realized from well to do Muslims amounting at the rate of 1/40th of one’s property.
– Jizya: It was levied on non-Muslims in return for the protection of life and property and exemption from military services. Women, children, indigent and the Brahmanas were exempted from it.
– Kharaj: It was the land tax realized from non-Muslims.
– Khums: It was the tax on mines, treasure trove and share in war booty.
– Sharaf: It was the irrigation tax charged at the rate of 1/10th of the produce. This was imposed by FiruzTughlaq.
– Abwafs: It was the extra taxes like housing tax, grazing tax, etc.

• During the Sultanate period, the process of urbanization gained momentum. Lahore, Multan, Broach, Anhilwara, Laknauti, Daulatabad, Delhi and Jaunpur were important among them.
• Delhi remained the largest city in the East.
• The growth of trade and commerce was described by contemporary writers. Barani, a contemporary historian, gives an excellent account of their riches.
• Political unification of major parts of India removed the political as well as economic barrirs.
• India exported a large number of commodities to the countries on the Persian Gulf and West Asia and also to South East Asian countries.
• Overseas trade was under the control of Multanis and Afghan Muslims.
• Inland trade was dominated by the Gujarat Marwari merchants and Muslim Bohra merchants.
• Introduction of the institution of dalals or brokers (dalal, meaning one who acts as an intermediary, is Arbic in origin), facilitated commercial transactions on a large scale.
• Construction of roads and their maintenance facilitated for smooth transport and communication. Particularly the royal roads were kept in good shape.
• Sarais or rest houses on the highways were maintained for the convenience of the travelers.
• Cotton textile and silk industry flourished in this period.
• Sericulture was introduced on a large scale which made India less dependent on other countries for the import of raw silk.
• Paper industry had grown and there was an extensive use of paper from 14th and 15th centuries.
• Other crafts like leather-making, metal-crafts and carpet-weaving flourished due to the increasing demand.
• The royal karkhanas supplied the goods needed to the Sultan and his household. They manufactured costly articles made of gold, silver and gold ware.
• The nobles also aped the life style of Sultans and indulged in luxurious life. They were well paid and accumulated enormous wealth.

Causes for Changes in Urban Economy

• The foremost cause was the immigration of artisans and merchants from the Islamic East to India, bringing with them their crafts, techniques and practices.
• Secondly, there was an abundant supply of docile trainable labour obtained through large scale enslavement.
• Finally, the Delhi Sultans established a revenue system though which a large share of agricultural surplus was appropriate for consumption in towns.
• Contemporary historians like Isami give us a good account of the immigration of artisans and merchants to India.
• The large number of captive obtained for enslavement in the military campaigns were trained as artisans by their captors, and they later became free artisans by obtaining or buying their freedom.
• Thus the immigration and enslavement were responsible for the growth of urban centres and crafts, and their sustenance was provided by the increase in the revenues with the establishment of the new land revenue system.
• The ruling class, who appropriated a large part of the country’s surplus, spent most of it in towns.

Coins of Delhi Sultanate

• The gold coins which Muhammad of Ghur struck in imitation of the issues of the Hindu kings of Kanauj, with the goddess Lakshmi on the obverse, are without a parallel in Islamic History.
• For the first forty years the currency consisted almost entrirely of copper and billon: hardly have any gold coins been struck and silver coins of the earlier Sultans are scarce.
• Iltutmish issued several types of the silver tanka, the earliest of which has a portrait of the king of horseback on the obverse. The latest type bears witness to the diploma in investiture he had received from the Khalifa of Baghdad, AI Mustansir.
• One silver tanka was divided into 48 jitals during the Khalji rule and 50 jitals during the Tughlaq rule.
• Gold coins or dinars became popular during the reign of AlauddinKhalji after his South Indian conquests.
• Copper coins were less in number and dateless.
• Muhammad bin Tughlaq had not only experimented token currency but also issued several types of gold and silver coins. They were minted at eight different places. At least twenty five varieties of gold coins were issued by him.
• Gold, though minted by Masud, Nasir-ud-din Mahmud, Balban and Jalal-ud-din Khalji, was not common until Ala-ud-din Khalji had enriched his treasury by conquests in south India.
• These gold coins are replicas of the silver in weight and design.
• Ala-ud-din, whose silver coins are very plentiful, changed the design by dropping the name of the caliph from the obverse and substituting the self laudatory titles, the second Alexander, the right hand of the Khalifate.
• His successor, Mubarak, whose coins are in some respects the finest of the whole series, employed the old Indian square shape for some of his gold, silver and billon. On his coins appear the even more arrogant titles, the supreme head of Islam, the Khalifa of the Lord of heaven and earth.
• Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq was the first Indian sovereign to use the title Ghazi (Champion of the faith).
• Most of the coins struck in billon by these early Sultans, including Muhammad of Ghur, are practically uniform in size and weigh (about 56 grains).
• The coins of Ala-ud-din Khalji are the first to bear dates. The earliest copper coins of this period is small and insignificant. All copper coins are dateless.
• Muhammad binTughluq, has been called the Prince of moneyers. Not only do his coins surpass those of his predecessors in execution, especially in calligraphy but his large output of gold, the number of his issues of all denominations the interest of the inscriptions, reflecting his character and activities, his experiments with the coinage, entitle him to a place among the greatest moneyers of history.
• For earliest gold and silver pieces Muhammad bin Tughluq retained the old 172.8 grain standard of his predecessors. His first experiment was to add to tesem in the first years of his reign, gold dinars of 201.6 grains and silver aslis of 144 grains weight. Muhammad bin Tughluq’s gold and silver issues, like those of his predecessors, are identical in type. One of the earliest and most curious of these was struck both at Delhi and Daulatabad, in memory of his father. It bears the superscription of Ghiyas-ud-din accompanied by the additional title, al-Shahid (the Martyr).
• The early gold and silver, of which about half a dozen different types exist, were minted at eight different places, including Delhi. And at least twenty five varieties of his billon coinage are known. There appear to have been two scales of division, one for use at Delhi and other for Daulatabad and the south. In the former the silver tanka was divided into forty eight, and in the latter into fifty jitals.
• The gold of Firoz Shah is fairly common, and six types are known. Following his predecessors example he inscribed the name of the caliph on the obverse and his own name on the reverse.
• Firoz associated the name of his son, Fath Khan, with his own on the coinage.
• Gold coins of subsequent kings are exceedingly scarce; the shortage of silver is even more apparent. Only three silver pieces of Firoz have ever come to light, but the copper coins are abundant.
• The coinage of the later rulers, though abounding in varieties is almost confined to copper and billon pieces.
• During the whole period, with but two exceptions, one mint name appears, Delhi.
• The long reign of Firoz established his coinage as a popular medium of exchange; and this probably accounts for the prolonged series of his posthumous billon coins, extending over a period of forty years.
• The coinage of the Lodhi family, despite the difference in standard, bears a close resemblance to that of the Sharqi King of Jaunpur.


• There was little change in the structure of the Hindu society during this period. Traditional caste system with the Brahmins on the upper strata of the society was prevalent.
• The subservient position of women also continued and the practice of sati was widely prevalent.
• The seclusion of women and the wearing of purdah became common among the upper class women. The Arabs and Turks brought the purdah system into India and it became widespread among the Hindu women in the upper classes of north India.
• The Muslim society remained divided into several ethnic and racial groups. The Turks, Iranians, Afghans and Indian Muslims developed exclusively and there were no intermarriages between these groups. Hindu converts from lower castes were also not given equal respect.
• The Muslim nobles occupied high offices and very rarely the Hindu nobles were given high position in the government.
• The Hindus were considered zimmis or protected people for which they were forced to pay a tax called jiziya. In the beginning jiziya was collected as part of land tax.
• FirozTughlaq separated it from the land revenue and collected jiziya as a separate tax. Sometimes Brahmins were exempted from paying jiziya.
• Autonomous Chieftains constituted the most prosperous rural section Though they were now a defeated ruling class, they were still powerful in their respective areas and continued to live a luxurious life as in the pre-Muslim period.
• Maqaddams and Small Landlord had a better standard of life, for they readily misused their power in order to exploit the ordinary peasants.
• The peasantry, known as the balahars, paid one third of their produce as land revenue, sometimes even one half of the produce. Besides land revenue, they paid certain other taxes which prove that taxation during this period was as much, if not higher than, as in the previous period.
• The peasants were always living at the subsistence level which was easily denied by the frequent wars, thus resulting in large scale, and not so infrequent, famines.


• The art and architecture of the Delhi Sultanate period was distinct from the Indian style.
• The Turks introduced arches, domes, lofty towers or minarets and decorations using the Arabic script. They used the skill of the Indian stone cutters.
• They also added colour to their buildings by using marbles, red and yellow sand stones.
• In the beginning, they converted temples and other structures demolished into mosques.
• For example, the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque near QutubMinar in Delhi was built by using the materials obtained from destroying many Hindu and Jain temples, but later, they began to construct new structures.

• The most magnificent building of the 13th century was the QutubMinar which was founded by Aibek and completed by Iltutmish. This seventy one metre tower was dedicated to the Sufi saint QutbuddinBakthiyar Kaki. The balconies of this tower were projected from the main building and it was the proof of the architectural skills of that period.
• Later, AlauddinKhalji added an entrance to the QutubMinar called Alai Darwaza. The dome of this arch was built on scientific lines.
• The buildings of the Tughlaq period were constructed by combining arch and dome. They also used the cheaper and easily available grey colour stones.
• The palace complex called Tughlaqabad with its beautiful lake was built during the period of GhyasuddinTughlaq. Muhammad bin Tughlaq built the tomb of Ghyasuddin on a high platform.
• The Kotla fort at Delhi was the creation of FirozTughlaq.
• The Lodi garden in Delhi was the example for the architecture of the Lodis.


• New musical instruments such as sarangi and rabab were introduced during this period.
• Amir Khusrau introduced many new ragas such as ghora and sanam. He evolved a new style of light music known as qwalis by blending the Hindu and Iranian systems.
• The invention of sitar and table was also attributed to Amir Khusrau.
• The Indian classical work Ragadarpan was translated into Persian during the reign of FirozTughlaq.
• PirBhodan, a Sufi saint was one of the great musicians of this period.
• Raja Man Singh of Gwalior was a great lover of music. He encouraged the composition of a great musical work called Man Kautuhal.


• The Delhi Sultans patronized learning and literature and many of them had great love for Arabic and Persian literature.
• Learned men came from Persia and Persian language got encouragement from the rulers.
• Besides theology and poetry, the writing of history was also encouraged.
• Some of the Sultans had their own court historians. The most famous historians of this period were HasanNizami, Minhaj-us-Siraj, ZiauddinBarani, and Shams-SirajAfif.
• Barani’sTarikhi- FirozShahi contains the history of Tughlaq dynasty.
• Minhaj-us-Siraj wrote Tabaqat-i-Nasari, a general history of Muslim dynasties up to 1260.
• Amir Khusrau (1252-1325) was the famous Persian writer of this period. He wrote a number of poems. He experimented with several poetical forms and created a new style of Persian poetry called Sabaqi- Hind or the Indian style. He also wrote some Hindi verses.
• Amir Khusrau’sKhazain-ul-Futuh speaks about Alauddin’s conquests.
• Sanskrit and Persian functioned as link languages in the Delhi Sultanate.
• Zia Nakshabi was the first to translate Sanskrit stories into Persian. The book Tutu Nama or Book of the Parrot became popular and translated into Turkish and later into many European languages.
• The famous Rajatarangini written by Kalhana belonged to the period of Zain-ul-Abidin, the ruler of Kashmir.
• Many Sanskrit works on medicine and music were translated into Persian.
• In Arabic, Alberuni’sKitab-ul-Hind is the most famous work.
• Regional languages also developed during this period.
• Chand Baradi was the famous Hindi poet of this period.
• Bengali literature had also developed and Nusrat Shah patronized the translation of Mahabaratha into Bengali.
• The Bakthi cult led to development of Gujarati and Marathi languages.
• The Vijayanagar Empire patronized Telugu and Kannada literature.


• Abu’lRayanAlberuni was a philosopher scientist, whoseDitab-al-Hind was the first and most important discussion on Indian sciences, religion and society by an outsider.
• Alberuni’s knowledge and interest covered many other areas such as astronomy, geography, logic, medicine, mathematics, philosophy, religion and theology.
• He was attached to Mahmud’s court and accompanied him to India during various raids.
• Alberuni’sKitab al Hind or Tahkik-i Hind is the survey of Indian based on his study and observations in India between 1017 and 1030.
• To get a proper grip of the situation, he learned Sanskrit so that he might go to the sources of Hindu thought and religion.
• He learnt Sanskrit to acquire first hand information. He read the religion texts and met the learned Indians.
• His approach was scientific and religious prejudices do not mar the quality of his observations.
• He Quoted form the Bhagavat Gita, Vishnu Puran, Kapil’sSankhya and the work of Patanjali.

Alberuni’s observation of Indian society can be studied under six major sub-heads:

• Caste-ridden Society

– The complete caste structure of Indian society did not go unnoticed by Alberuni.
– One notable observation of Alberuni was that the Vaishyas were also fast degeneration to the rank of Sudras.
– He noted the absence of any significant difference between the Vaishyas and the sudras, who lived together in the same town and village and mixed together in the same house.
– By the 11th century it seems that the Vaishyas come to be treated as Sudras virtually and legally.
– The alliance of convenience between the Brahmanas and the ruling Kshatriyas was a fact that Alberuni refers to indirectly.
– He also refers to a class of untouchables which existed in the society called antyaja.
– Alberuni lists eight antyaja castes below the status of the Sudras.
– Some of the names of untouchable castes that are mentioned by him are: Bhodhatu, Bhedas, Chandala, Doma, and Hodi.

• Closed Society

– The closed attitude of society, lacking dynamism did not go untouched by Alberuni..
– The area within which a Brahmana could live was fixed and a Hindu was not generally permitted to enter the land of the Turks. All this makes sense in the context of “feudal localism” which ruled out or other types of connection between one region of the country and another.
– According to Alberuni the isolationist attitude of Indians was further buttressed by a false sense of superiority.
– In his opening chapter Alberuniwrote that the Indians belived that there is no county like theirs, no nation like theirs, no king like theirs, no religion like theirs, no science like theirs.” The Indian are by nature niggardly in communication what they know and they do not believe in exchange of ideas. They take the greatest possible care to with hold their knowledge from men of another caste, from among their own people, and even more from any outsider.

• Stagnant Knowledge

– While the rich heritage of the past knowledge is highlighted by Alberuni when he refers to the various ‘sidhantas’ and the progress made in astronomy and mathematics, but he paints a very pathetic picture of the 11th century.
– According to Alberuni, “The Indians are in a state of utter confusion, devoid of any logical order, and they always mix up with silly notions of the crowd.I can only compare their mathematical and astronomical knowledge to a mixture of pearls and sour dates. Both kind of things are equal in their eyes since they cannot raise themselves to the method of a strictly scientific deduction.”

• Social Evils

– Alberuni mentions evil social practices within the Indian society like child-marriage, sati,low position of women in general and widows in particular.
– He mentions that Hindus marry at a very young age.
– If a wife loses her husband due to death she cannot remarry.A widow has only two options, either the remain a widow as long as she lives, or to burn herself (sati). The latter option was generally preferred because as a widow she was ill-treated.

• Religious Beliefs and Practices

– Alberuni, who had carefully studied the Hindu religion’s philosophy and institutions, found no difficulty in marking out the trinity gods (three deities of the Hindu religion) and philosophy of the Upanishads.
– He says that the belief in a multitude of gods is vulgar and is a typical of the un-educated. Educated Hindus believe god to be one and Enternal. Hindus considered the existence of god as real because everything that exists, exists through god.
– Alberuni also learned all about the Hindu concept of transmigration of soul. He explains that Indians believed that every act of this life will be rewarded or punished in the life to come, and the final emancipation of a human being is possible only through true knowledge. He terms all these beliefs of the Indian as narrow-mindedness.
– According to Alberuni, insularity at every level was the characteristic feature of India in the 11th century and the price of this insularity was the disruption of the country by the coming of the Turks.

• Scientific Knowledge and legal System

– Although Alberuni is critical of the scientific knowledge of Indians, sometimes he has praised their knowledge.
– He made great effort to understand the Indian legal system.
– He noted every practical aspect of the legal system and points out the difference between these and the legal theories as expounded in the law books like Manusmriti,
– He also praises the weights and measure system and distance measurement system of Indians.
– He also notices the many variations of the Indian alphabets.
– He provides interesting geographical data and took into account local astronomical and mathematical theories.
– While making his profound observation, Alberuni, did not pay a partisan role and condemned Mahmud Ghazni’s destructive activities.
– He was perhaps the first Muslim to have undertaken the study of Indian society on such a major scale.
– Where Alberuni was not very sure of his own knowledge, he frankly admitted it.
– According to Alberuni,the fact that Indians had started depending on tradition heavily was a hindrance to genuine intellectual quest. He felt that learning and scientific spirit suffered because they had been sub-ordained to religion.

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