Medieval Society Through Travellers’ Accounts: NBSE Class 12

Medieval Society Through Travellers' Accounts
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Get summary, textual answers, solutions, notes, extras, PDF to NBSE Class 12 (Arts) History (Themes in Indian History) chapter 9 “Medieval Society Through Travellers’ Accounts”. However, the educational materials should only be used for reference and students are encouraged to make necessary changes.

Introduction

The study of the political history of 10th–12th century India relies heavily on contemporary Muslim chronicles, which provide detailed accounts of political events but lack information about the people. The primary sources for understanding social and economic conditions during this period are the accounts of foreign travellers, although none have been found from women travellers. When evaluating these accounts, historians must consider the reliability of contemporaries, the character and position of the writers, and the extent to which their accounts are corroborated by other historical evidence. Striking a balance between scientific inquiry and literature is essential in understanding the social and economic conditions of medieval India.

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Textual questions and answers

I. Very Short Answer Questions

1. When did Ibn Battuta visit India?

Answer: Ibn Battuta visited India 1333.

2. What is the estimate of Giovanni Careri about the wealth of the Mughal empire?

Answer: Giovanni Careri suggests that the Mughal Empire was extremely wealthy. All the gold and silver circulating throughout the world eventually centered in the Mughal Empire.

3. Write the name of visitors who came to India in Akbar’s region.

Answer: Some visitors who came to India during the reign of Akbar include English merchant Fitch, Jesuit missionaries Aquaviva and Monserrate, Father Jerome Xavier, Father Emmanuel Pinherio, and Brother Benedict.

4. Who is the writer of Tahkik-i-Hind?

Answer: The writer of Tahkik-i-Hind is Al-biruni.

5. What do you know about Escheat?

Answer: The law of Escheat was prevalent in the Mughal Empire. It meant that the emperor was the last heir of all nobles and grandees, and their acquisitions after death passed to the emperor. This way, treasure multiplied beyond reckoning.

II. Multiple Choice Questions

(i) Al-biruni was born in:

Answer: (i) 973

(ii) ‘Kitab-ul-Hind’ is written in which of the following languages?

Answer: (i) Pharsi

(iii) Ibn Battuta’s Book of Travels is called:

Answer:  (ii) Rihla

(iv) Macro Polo belongs to:

Answer: (iii) Italy

(v) What is Uluq?

Answer:  (i) System of Post

(vi) Bernier described Mughal cities as:

Answer: (ii) Hell

III. Short Answer Type Questions-I

1. When did Al-biruni visit India?

Answer: Al-biruni visited India in 1017 alongwith Mahmud Ghaznavi.

2. What is the name of the book about India written by Al-biruni? 

Answer: The name of the book about India written by Al-biruni is Tahkik-i-Hind.

3. Who was Marco Polo? Why did he visit India?

Answer: Marco Polo was a Venetian traveller who visited India in 1288 and 1293. He visited India as part of his journey to China, where he spent most of his time. However, he left a very informative account of what he had seen and observed in India, including the general prosperity of the country and the flourishing trade at the ports.

4. Name the countries which Ibn Batuta crossed before he came to India.

Answer: Ibn Battuta crossed several countries before he came to India. According to the knowledge base, some of the countries he crossed include Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Persia (Iran), and Afghanistan.

5. What did Marco Polo write about the food habits of the Hindus?

Answer: According to Marco Polo’s observations, the Hindus were strict vegetarians and abstained from alcohol. They contented themselves by chewing paan. They were extremely clean and avoided the contamination of drinking from common vessels.

6. What did Ibn Batuta write about the condition of the Malabar?

Answer: Ibn Battuta mentions a peculiar custom of Marmakatavam, or the law of inheritance as it has always prevailed in Malabar. According to it, a sister’s son, instead of the heir of one’s own body, legally inherits property.

7. Who was Domingo Paes? When did he visit Vijaynagara?

Answer: Domingo Paes was a Portuguese traveller. He visited Vijayanagara in 1552.

8. When did English merchant Fitch visit India? What did he write about Agra and Fatehpur Sikri?

Answer: English merchant Ralph Fitch visited India in 1583. He described Agra and Fatehpur Sikri as very great cities, much greater than London.

9. Who was Bernier? When did he visit India?

Answer: Francois Bernier was a French physician and traveller. He visited India in 1656 and stayed for twelve years.

10. Who was Niccolo Manucci? Give the name of the book written by him.

Answer: Niccolo Manucci was a foreign traveler who visited India during the medieval period of Indian history. He was an Italian adventurer and soldier who arrived in India in the late 17th century and served in the Mughal army. He wrote a book titled “Storia de Mogor” which runs into four volumes, recording his varied experiences and observations during his time in India.

IV. Short Answer Type Questions-II

1. Describe the features of the writings of the foreign travellers in India during the medieval period of Indian history.

Answer: The writings of foreign travellers who visited India during the medieval period are important sources for studying the social and economic conditions of medieval India. However, it is important to keep in mind that the reliability of these sources can be affected by personal prejudices and interests of the writers. The following features of these writings can be noted:

i. The writers often provided descriptions of the people, social customs, and economic conditions of the places they visited.

ii. They also recorded their observations on the political events and religious practices of the time.

iii. Some of the writers, such as Ibn Battuta and Bernier, wrote detailed accounts of their travels, while others, such as Niccolo Manucci, wrote more general histories of the places they visited.

iv. The writers often compared the social and economic conditions of India with those of their own countries.

v. The writings of the foreign travellers provide valuable insights into the cultural, social, and economic history of medieval India.

2. Write a note on the Kitab-ul-Hind.

Answer: Kitab-ul-Hind was a book written by Al-Biruni in the eleventh century about India. The book recorded numerous accurate observations on the history, character, manners, customs, and scientific knowledge of the Hindus. Al-Biruni composed about twenty books on India, both translations and original compositions, and a number of tales and legends, mostly derived from the ancient love of Iran and India. His Tahkik-i-Hind is considered the most incisive made by any visitor to India.

3. Describe the social condition of India as described by Al-biruni in the 12th century.

Answer: According to Al-biruni’s writings in the 12th century, the social condition of India was characterized by a rigid caste system that rendered unification of various groups impossible. Child marriage was prevalent among the Hindus, and widows were not allowed to marry again. The practice of Sati was also in vogue. Idol worship was common throughout the land, and vast riches were accumulated in temples which fired the lust of the people.

4. Describe the social customs and manners of Indians described by Ibn Battuta during the time of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq.

Answer: According to Ibn Battuta’s narrative, during and after the time of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq, the state began to interfere in social customs and manners of the Indians. For instance, the woman who wanted to be buried with her dead husband had to get the king’s permission. Ibn Battuta also describes the postal system which prevailed in those days in India. He was greatly amazed to see the efficiency of the runners (or Dawats) who would carry the letters from one place to that, although the Hindus observed caste regulations strictly, they were very hospitable. The practice of hoarding wealth was common and Ibn Battuta confirms Marco Polo’s observation regarding the law of debt being peculiar. If a big Amir was in debt, the creditor would block his way to the palace and shout imploring the Sultan’s aid. The debtor to his embarrassment would either be constrained to pay or make a definite promise. If necessary, the Sultan interfered and enforced payment. Ibn Battuta also mentions another peculiar custom of Marmakatavam, or the law of inheritance as it has always prevailed in Malabar. According to it, a sister’s son, instead of the heir of one’s own body, legally inherits property.

5. Compare and contrast the perspectives from which Ibn Battuta and Bernier wrote their accounts of their travels of India.

Answer: Ibn Battuta and Bernier were two foreign travelers who visited India during the medieval period and wrote about their experiences. While both wrote about India, their perspectives and objectives were different.

Ibn Battuta was a Muslim traveler from Morocco who visited India during the 14th century. He wrote about his travels in his book “Rihla” or “Travels”. His objective was to visit important Islamic centers and to explore the world. He wrote about the political, social, and cultural conditions of the places he visited. He was interested in the customs and manners of the people, their religious practices, and the architecture of the cities. He was also interested in the political situation and the rulers of the region.

On the other hand, Bernier was a French physician who visited India during the 17th century. He wrote about his travels in his book “Travels in the Mughal Empire”. His objective was to compare India with Europe and to provide an account of the Mughal Empire. He was interested in the political and economic conditions of the region. He also wrote about the social and cultural conditions of India, including the customs and manners of the people.

In terms of their perspectives, Ibn Battuta wrote from a Muslim traveler’s perspective, while Bernier wrote from a European perspective. Ibn Battuta focused on the Islamic centers and the customs and manners of the people, while Bernier focused on the political and economic conditions of the region and compared it with Europe. Ibn Battuta’s account was more descriptive and focused on the people and their way of life, while Bernier’s account was more analytical and focused on the Mughal Empire and its administration.

6. Discuss the picture of urban centres that emerges from Bernier’s account.

Answer: Bernier’s account provides a detailed picture of urban centres in India during the Mughal Empire. He describes cities such as Delhi, Agra, and Kashmir, and provides interesting insights into their social and economic structures.

According to Bernier, the urban centres of India were densely populated and characterized by narrow streets and crowded markets. He notes that the cities were often dirty and lacked proper sanitation facilities, which led to the spread of diseases such as cholera and dysentery.

Bernier also describes the architecture of the cities, particularly the grand buildings and monuments that were constructed during the Mughal period. He pays tribute to the Taj Mahal, which he describes as a magnificent structure that is unmatched in its beauty and grandeur.

However, Bernier also notes several defects in the military system of the Mughals, which he believed contributed to the decline of their empire. He criticizes the lack of discipline in the Mughal army and suggests that it could be easily overpowered by a small French army.

7. Describe the condition of people of Vijayanagar as given by the Portugese traveller Paes.

Answer: According to Bernier’s account, the urban centres of Mughal India were characterized by a number of different features. He provides descriptions of several cities, including Delhi, Agra, and Kashmir, which he found interesting for various reasons. In general, he seems to view these cities as being quite different from European cities, both in terms of their physical layout and their social organization.

One of the most notable features of Mughal cities, according to Bernier, was the presence of many temples. He notes that there were often large numbers of temples in these cities, and that they were an important part of the urban landscape. However, he also observes that many of these temples were in a state of disrepair, and that the religious practices of the people were often quite different from what he was used to seeing in Europe.

In addition to the temples, Bernier also comments on the general layout of Mughal cities. He notes that they were often quite crowded, with narrow streets and many small shops and stalls. He also observes that there were often large numbers of people living in the cities, including many poor people who were struggling to make a living.

8. What did William Hawkins and Thomas Roe write about the condition of the people during the reign of Jahangir?

Answer: William Hawkins and Thomas Roe both wrote about the poor condition of the people during the reign of Jahangir. They described the miserable condition of the peasantry, the insecurity of the public highways, and the general inefficiency and supiness of the local administration. Corruption was prevalent everywhere, and even the highest officers of the state were not honest. The provincial governors behaved like despots in their territories. Hawkins and Roe both noted that there was no written law in the country, and the king ruled by his word. The great men about him were not men of noble birth, but favorites often raised to high jobs by the king at his will.

9. Analyse the evidence for slavery provided by Ibn Battuta.

Answer: According to Ibn Battuta’s account, slavery was common in the 14th century and keeping slaves, both boys and girls, was a recognized fashion of the time. However, the state encouraged the practice of manumission. It is also mentioned that riding on an ass was looked upon with contempt, and a man was flogged and paraded on an ass when he was punished for some offence proved against him.

Ibn Battuta’s account provides evidence for the prevalence of slavery in the 14th century. However, it is important to note that his account has some shortcomings, and his statements have to be accepted with great caution.

10. What were the elements of the practice of Sati that drew the attention of Bernier?

Answer: The following aspects of the Sati practice caught Bernier’s attention:

(i) Sati was a brutal custom where a widow was made to sit alive on her husband’s funeral pyre.

(ii) Widows were often unwilling victims of this practice, being coerced into becoming a Sati.

(iii) Society lacked compassion for child-widows, who were also subjected to this cruel ritual.

(iv) The heart-wrenching cries of the women about to become Sati did not evoke sympathy or intervention from onlookers.

(v) Brahmans and elderly women within the family actively participated in or supported this harrowing process.

V. Long Answer Type Questions-I

1. Discuss Al-biruni’s understanding of the Caste system.

Answer: Al-biruni, a Persian scholar and polymath who visited India during the 11th century, provided a detailed account of the social and religious conditions of the time. His observations on the caste system are particularly noteworthy.

Al-biruni noted that the caste system had become more rigid and tyrannical during his time. He observed that it had a deep impact on the society, fostering exclusivity, sectarianism, and haughtiness among the people. This rigidity made it difficult for different social groups to come together and unify, which in turn affected the political landscape of the country.

According to Al-biruni, the caste system had degenerated society as a whole, with people becoming more exclusive and haughty. This exclusivity was also directed against foreigners, whom they regarded as impure or ‘mlechchas.’ The Hindus of the time refrained from any interaction with foreigners, fearing that such contact would pollute them.

Al-biruni also noted that women had lost their earlier respected position in society, being treated without sympathy or consideration. This degradation was, in part, attributed to the rigidity of the caste system.

Furthermore, Al-biruni observed that the caste system influenced the administration of justice. For instance, Brahmanas were exempted from capital punishment and taxation, indicating the preferential treatment given to the higher castes. On the other hand, lower castes faced harsher penalties for certain offenses, like mutilation of limbs.

Al-biruni’s understanding of the caste system highlights its detrimental effects on Indian society during his time. He observed that the rigid caste system fostered exclusivity, sectarianism, and social degradation, which made it difficult for the various groups to come together and contribute to the nation’s progress.

2. Who was Ibn Battuta? Briefly describe what does he write about the condition of India.

Answer: Ibn Battuta was a 14th-century Moroccan explorer, scholar, and traveler. Born in Tangier, Morocco, he set out on a journey to explore the Islamic world and beyond, covering North Africa, West Africa, Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and China. He documented his travels in a book called “Rihla” (The Journey), which provides valuable insights into the social, cultural, and political landscape of the regions he visited.

When Ibn Battuta arrived in India in 1333, he visited the court of Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq in Delhi, where he was appointed as the Chief Qazi (judge) of the state. He wrote extensively about the social conditions, customs, and habits of the people in India during his stay.

He observed that despite the strict caste regulations, Hindus were generally hospitable. The practice of hoarding wealth was common, and the law of debt was peculiar, with creditors seeking the Sultan’s aid for debt recovery. Ibn Battuta was fascinated by the local customs, including the law of inheritance in Malabar, where a sister’s son inherited property instead of one’s own children.

He also noted that people on the west coast of India valued education, with several schools for boys and girls in cities like Honavar. Ibn Battuta described the fertile province of Bengal and its low prices, which allowed people with small incomes to live comfortably. He mentioned that the region produced multiple crops, including rice, sesame, sugarcane, and cotton, which supported various village industries.

Regarding the political situation, Ibn Battuta described Delhi as the largest city in the eastern part of the Islamic world, with a grand palace for Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq. He also documented the efficient postal system, which enabled quick communication across the country.

In his writings, Ibn Battuta also discussed social customs like Sati (where a widow self-immolates on her husband’s funeral pyre) and the prevalence of slavery. Furthermore, he provided insights into the king’s relationship with his subjects, describing the Sultan as generous, courageous, and religious, but also capable of violence and vindictiveness.

3. Describe why Al-biruni, Ibn Battuta and Bernier visited India. What did they write and for whom they wrote?

Answer: Al-Biruni, Ibn Battuta, and Bernier were three foreign travellers who visited India during the medieval period. Each of them had different objectives for their travels and wrote about their experiences for different audiences.

Al-Biruni was a Persian scholar who visited India in the 11th century. He was interested in studying Indian culture, religion, and science. He wrote a book called “Kitab al-Hind” which was written in Arabic and aimed at an Arab audience. The book was a comprehensive study of Indian culture, religion, and science. It covered topics such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Indian astronomy.

Ibn Battuta was a Moroccan explorer who visited India in the 14th century. He was interested in exploring different cultures and religions and wrote about his travels in a book called “Rihla”. The book was written in Arabic and aimed at a Muslim audience. It covered his travels across Asia, Africa, and Europe, including his experiences in India. He wrote about the cities he visited, the people he met, and the customs and traditions he observed.

Francois Bernier was a French physician who visited India in the 17th century. He was interested in studying Indian society and culture and comparing it with European society. He wrote a book called “Travels in the Mughal Empire” which was written in French and aimed at a European audience. The book covered his experiences in India, including his observations on the Mughal court, Indian society, and culture. He compared Indian society with European society and wrote about the differences he observed.

All three travellers wrote about their experiences in India for different audiences and with different objectives. Al-Biruni wrote about Indian culture, religion, and science for an Arab audience, Ibn Battuta wrote about his travels across Asia, Africa, and Europe, including his experiences in India, for a Muslim audience, and Bernier wrote about Indian society and culture, comparing it with European society, for a European audience. Their writings provide valuable insights into medieval India and its culture, society, and traditions.

4. What did the foreign travellers write about the social and cultural condition of the kingdom of Vijayanagar during the Medieval period?

Answer: foreign travellers like Niccolo Conti, Paes, and Abdul Razak visited South India during the medieval period and provided valuable information about the Vijayanagara empire. Niccolo Conti, an Italian traveller who visited the empire in 1420-21, wrote about the special customs prevailing in the empire during the time of Raya kings. He spoke about the practice of Sati and slavery, and mentioned that many of the slaves were insolvent debtors.

Fernao Nunzi, a Portuguese traveller who visited Vijayanagara in 1535, was particularly astonished by the practice of Sati and polygamy prevalent in Hindu society. He wrote that the king Deva Raya took 12,000 wives, many of whom were employed in kitchen duties, rode on horseback, and followed him wherever he went. He also mentioned that a large number of women were taken as his wives.

It is important to note that the writings of foreign travellers should be considered with caution, as their personal prejudices and interests may have influenced their accounts. However, their writings provide valuable insights into the social and cultural conditions of the medieval period in India.

5. 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.

Answer: According to Ibn Battuta’s account, he provides a detailed description of the social and cultural conditions of the medieval period in India. He talks about the various customs and practices of the people, the postal system, and the cruelty of the Sultan. However, it is important to note that his account is from the perspective of a foreign traveller, and therefore may have certain biases and limitations.

In terms of understanding life in contemporary urban centres, Ibn Battuta’s account can be useful to a certain extent. His descriptions of the architecture and layout of cities such as Delhi and Madurai provide insights into the urban planning and infrastructure of the time. Additionally, his observations of the daily lives of the people, such as their dress, food, and occupations, can provide some understanding of the social and economic conditions of the time.

However, it is important to note that Ibn Battuta’s account is limited by his own cultural background and biases. He may have viewed certain aspects of life in India through the lens of his own cultural norms and values, which may not accurately reflect the reality of life in contemporary urban centres. Additionally, his account is limited by the fact that he only visited certain cities and regions, and may not have had a comprehensive understanding of life in all urban centres.

While Ibn Battuta’s account can provide some insights into life in contemporary urban centres, it should be viewed with a critical eye and supplemented with other sources of information to arrive at a more complete understanding.

6. Who was Bernier? Describe what does he write about the social and cultural condition of India with special reference to Bengal.

Answer: Francois Bernier was a French physician and traveler, who entered into the service of Danishmand Khan, an important nobleman of the Mughal Court. Bernier is known for his work “Travels in the Mughal Empire,” which he published in 1671, a year after he left India.

In his work, Bernier provides a detailed account of the social and cultural conditions of India during the Mughal period. He describes the customs, traditions, and religious practices of the people, as well as the political and economic systems of the time. With a special reference to Bengal, Bernier writes about the agriculture, commerce, and industry of the region, as well as the social and cultural conditions of the people.

Bernier’s account of Bengal highlights the diversity of the region, with people from different religions, castes, and occupations living together. He notes the prevalence of agriculture in the region, with rice being the main crop. He also describes the textile industry, which was a major source of employment for women. Bernier provides an interesting insight into the lives of women workers, noting that they were often mistreated and underpaid.

Bernier also writes about the caste system in India, which he found to be deeply ingrained in the society. He notes the discrimination faced by lower-caste people, who were often denied access to education and employment opportunities. He also describes the role of religion in Indian society, noting the influence of Hinduism and Islam on the people.

7. Discuss the extent to which Bernier’s account enables historians to reconstruct contemporary rural society.

Answer: Bernier’s account provides a valuable perspective on the contemporary rural society of Mughal India, but it has its limitations. His writings offer insights into the social, economic, and political conditions of the time, but historians must also consider the biases and inaccuracies present in his accounts.

Economic conditions: Bernier’s accounts highlight the oppressive rule of provincial governors and the impact of their tyranny on peasants and artisans. He describes how peasants and artisans were deprived of basic necessities due to the excessive demands of the local governors. This information helps historians to understand the economic challenges faced by rural communities during that time.

Social structure: Bernier’s writings mention the preference for fair complexions in the Mughal society and the prevalent practice of taking wives from Kashmir among high-ranking officials. This information can help historians understand the social dynamics and prejudices in the Mughal Empire.

Trade and commerce: Bernier’s accounts of flourishing trade and commerce in Bengal, along with the export of goods like cotton, silks, calico, and saltpetre, provide valuable information about the economic activities of rural society.

Religion and conversion: Bernier’s accounts of the Portuguese people forcibly converting people to Christianity and their actions of carrying away entire village populations shed light on the religious tensions and interactions of the time.

However, historians must also consider the limitations of Bernier’s accounts:

Personal biases: Bernier’s writings often reveal his own biases, such as his belief in the superiority of French institutions. This could lead to distortions or exaggerations in his descriptions of contemporary rural society.

Reliability of sources: As Bernier himself admitted, he relied on various sources of information, some of which may not have been entirely accurate. This can affect the reliability of his accounts.

Idealism: Bernier, as a highly cultured man, occasionally found it difficult to separate reality from idealism. This could result in inaccurate portrayals of certain aspects of rural society.

Inaccuracies: Bernier’s accounts sometimes contain inaccuracies, as evident in his description of the middle class in Delhi, which contradicts other historical records.

Thus, while Bernier’s accounts offer a valuable perspective on the contemporary rural society of Mughal India, historians must critically assess the information he provides, taking into consideration his biases, the reliability of his sources, and the accuracy of his observations. By corroborating Bernier’s accounts with other sources and evidence, historians can achieve a more comprehensive and accurate reconstruction of the rural society of that time.

VI. Long Answer Type Questions-II

1. Compare the objectives of Al-Biruni and Ibn Battuta in writing their accounts.

Answer: Al-Biruni and Ibn Battuta were both scholars who traveled to India and documented their observations, but they had different objectives in writing their accounts.

Al-Biruni’s primary objective was to provide an accurate and comprehensive account of India’s culture, society, and sciences to people living on the frontiers of the subcontinent, as well as to the wider Arabic-speaking world. He aimed to offer a sympathetic and detailed study of the manners, customs, and institutions of the Hindus in the 11th and 12th centuries. His work, “Kitab-ul-Hind,” covers a wide range of subjects, including religion, philosophy, festivals, astronomy, alchemy, social life, and laws. Al-Biruni’s approach involved a distinctive structure in each chapter, where he began with a question, followed it with a description based on Sanskrit traditions, and concluded with a comparison to other cultures. His interest in India was largely academic, and his goal was to create a better understanding of the Indian civilization among Arabic-speaking people.

Ibn Battuta, on the other hand, was a Moroccan traveller and theologian who visited India during the reign of Muhammad Tughlaq in the 14th century. His primary objective was to document his personal observations and experiences during his extensive travels, which included India, Egypt, Palestine, Arabia, and Persia. Ibn Battuta’s account, “Rihla,” serves as a travelogue, providing insights into the political, social, and cultural conditions of the places he visited. He offered detailed descriptions of the cities, customs, and habits of the people he encountered, as well as the administration and governance of the regions. While Ibn Battuta’s interest in India was more focused on his personal experiences and the peculiarities he encountered, his work also contributed to a better understanding of the Indian society and its interactions with the Islamic world.

2. What were the Architectural features that Ibn Battuta noted?

Answer: Ibn Battuta does not provide extensive details on specific architectural features in his accounts. However, he does mention some aspects of architecture that he encountered during his travels in India. Some of these include:

Delhi and King’s Palace: Ibn Battuta describes the palace of Muhammad Tughlaq in Delhi. He mentions that visitors had to pass through three lofty, heavily guarded gates to enter the palace. He also describes the “court of a thousand pillars,” a massive hall supported by polished wooden pillars and adorned with various costly materials and furnishings. This was where the Sultan held his public court.

Daulatabad: Ibn Battuta mentions that Daulatabad rivaled Delhi in size and had a marketplace for male and female singers called Tarababad. The bazaar was described as one of the greatest and most beautiful, with shops decorated with carpets. In the center of the bazaar, there was a swing on which a female singer, adorned with finery, would sit and be swung by her attendants.

Postal System Towers: Ibn Battuta describes the towers that were built for the purpose of facilitating the postal system in India. These towers were used by runners who were stationed every mile or so to quickly relay messages from one part of the country to another.

While Ibn Battuta’s account does not delve deeply into architectural features, his descriptions provide a glimpse of some aspects of architecture during his travels in India.

3. Why did scholar like Bernier choose to compare India with Europe?

Answer: Bernier visited several parts of India and wrote accounts of what he saw. He frequently compared what he saw in India with the situation in Europe. He dedicated his major writings to Louis XIV, king of France. Many of his works were written in the form of letters to influential officials and ministers. Bernier described what he saw in India as a bleak situation in comparison to Europe. But his assessment was not always correct.

One reason why scholars like Bernier chose to compare India with Europe was to understand the differences between the two regions. Bernier was a European scholar and his background and education were shaped by European ideas and values. Therefore, it was natural for him to compare what he saw in India with what he knew about Europe. By comparing the two regions, Bernier was able to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Another reason why scholars like Bernier chose to compare India with Europe was to provide a basis for cultural and political critique. Bernier was critical of the Mughal Empire and its political and social systems. By comparing India with Europe, he was able to argue that the Mughal Empire was inferior to Europe in terms of political and social development. This allowed him to make a case for the superiority of European culture and values.

Scholars like Bernier chose to compare India with Europe to better understand the differences between the two regions and to provide a basis for cultural and political critique. While these comparisons were not always accurate or fair, they played an important role in shaping European perceptions of India and its people.

4. Why did the lives of ordinary women workers not attract the attention of travellers such as Ibn Battuta and Bernier?

Answer: It can be inferred that the focus of the foreign travellers during the medieval period was primarily on the political, social, and cultural aspects of the regions they visited. They were more interested in documenting the lives of the ruling elites, the religious practices, and the architecture of the region rather than the lives of ordinary women workers.

Moreover, it is possible that the lives of ordinary women workers were not considered significant enough to be documented by the travellers. Women’s work was often seen as secondary to men’s work, and their contributions were often overlooked. Additionally, the travellers may not have had access to the spaces where women worked, such as households or fields, which could have limited their ability to document their lives.

Overall, the lack of attention given to the lives of ordinary women workers by foreign travellers such as Ibn Battuta and Bernier may have been due to a combination of factors, including the travellers’ interests and priorities, societal attitudes towards women’s work, and limitations in access to women’s spaces.

Extra/additional questions and answers

1. What are the four considerations to keep in mind when weighing the value of any historian’s source material?

Answer: First, contemporaries are never good judges. Second, the character and position occupied by the contemporaries should be taken into account. Third, the acid test for the versions of the contemporaries is how far they are corroborated by other historical evidence. Lastly, the writer has to be extremely impartial when associating historical data.

2. Who was Al-biruni and what was his work “Kitab-ul-Hind” about?

Answer: Al-biruni was a traveler who came to India with Mahmud Ghaznavi and stayed in the country for some time. His work “Kitab-ul-Hind” is a voluminous text divided into 40 chapters on various subjects such as religion, philosophy, festivals, astronomy, alchemy, manners, customs, social life, weights and measures, iconography, laws, and metrology.

3. What does Al-biruni’s account say about the political, social, and religious conditions of India during the medieval period?

Answer: Al-biruni writes that the country was parcelled out among many petty chiefs, all independent of one another and often fighting among themselves. Child marriage, the practice of Sati, and idol worship were prevalent. There was no one popular religion, with as many as forty-two religions in the country. Hinduism had adopted many new things, making it different from old Hinduism of the Vedic days.

4. According to Al-biruni, what were some degenerations of Hindu society during the medieval period?

Answer: Al-biruni points out that the caste system had become more rigid and tyrannical, people had become more exclusive and sectarian, women had lost their old honored position in society, and people had become more superstitious with an unprogressive outlook.

5. What does Al-biruni’s account reveal about the administration of justice and taxation during the medieval period in India?

Answer: The administration of justice was crude and primitive in many ways but liberal and humane. Cases were decided on the testimony of witnesses, criminal law was mild, and certain offences were punished with mutilation of limbs. Taxes were mild, with the state taking only one-sixth of the produce of the soil from peasants, and Brahmanas were exempted from taxation.

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45. Describe Bernier’s account of the economic situation in Mughal India, including the condition of artisans and the state of trade and commerce.  

Answer: Bernier mentioned that the Karkhanas (workshops) were numerous in Mughal India, resulting in a large number of artisans. However, the nobles often forced the artisans to work for them, and artisans sometimes received lashings as partial payment. Despite these hardships, trade and commerce flourished in the Mughal period, particularly in Bengal, which Bernier confirmed as a very prosperous province. Numerous goods, such as cotton, silks, calico, and saltpetre, were exported from India. Bernier inaccurately stated that in Delhi, there was no middle class and that one must either live in the highest state or live miserably. Additionally, he mentioned that preference was shown for fair complexions, and high-ranking officers often preferred wives from Kashmir. Bernier also described the Portuguese people as acting with great impunity, forcibly converting people to Christianity and boasting about it.

Extra/additional MCQs

1. Who was the foreign traveler that came to India with Mahmud Ghaznavi?

A. Ibn Battuta B. Al-biruni C. Marco Polo D. Niccolo de Conti

Answer: B. Al-biruni

2. What was the name of Al-biruni’s famous book?

A. Kitab-ul-India B. Kitab-ul-Hind C. Tahqiq-ul-Hind D. Risala-ul-Hind

Answer: B. Kitab-ul-Hind

3. How many religions did Al-biruni mention were present in India during his time?

A. 12 B. 25 C. 42 D. 60

Answer: C. 42

4. Which of the following practices was prevalent among Hindus, according to Al-biruni?

A. Child marriage B. Widow remarriage C. Monogamy D. Equality among castes

Answer: A. Child marriage

5. According to Al-biruni, which practice was in vogue during his time in India?

A. Polygamy B. Sati C. Female infanticide D. Human sacrifice

Answer: B. Sati

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75. What did Bernier criticize the Mughal army for? 

A. Size B. Weapons C. Discipline D. Strategy

Answer: C. Discipline

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