Describe the process of manuscript production in the Mughal Court.
Describe the variety of tasks involved in creation of manuscripts during the reign of the Mughals.
Describe briefly the various tasks involved in creating manuscripts during the Mughal Empire.
All the Mughal books were manuscripts. In other words, they were hand-written. The centre
where the work of manuscript production was taken was known as the imperial Kitabkhana. This
Kitabkhana was like a library and a scriptorium. In other words, it was a place where the
emperor kept his collection of manuscripts and produced new manuscripts.
A large number of people were involved in the creation of manuscript. They included the following :
(i) Paper makers who prepared the folios of the manuscript.
(ii) Scribes or calligraphers who copied the texts.
(iii) Guilders who illuminated the pages of the manuscript.
(iv) Painters who illustrated scenes from the text.
(v) Book binders who gathered the individual folios and set them within ornamental covers. In the end, all these manuscripts were considered very precious and invaluable. They were a work of beauty and intellectual wealth.
In what ways would the daily routine and special activities associated with the Mughal court have conveyed a sense of the power of the emperor?
In the Mughal court, the king was always the centre of all attractions during the daily
routine and special activities. Every activity or festivity exposed the power of the king.
The following examples can be cited in this regard :
(i) Discipline in the Court : There were precise rules to determine the status amongst the Mughal elites. The elites having proximity to the king were accorded an important place in the court. There was a perfect discipline in the court. Once the emperor sat on the throne, no one was allowed to move from his seat. Besides no one could leave the court without his permission.
(ii) Forms of Address and Courtesies : All had to follow norms in the court. They had to follow the norms of address, courtesies and speech which were acceptable in court. Even a slightest deviation in etiquettes fetched punishment on the spot.
(iii) The Forms of Salutation : There were many forms of salutation in the court. They indicated the status of the person in the hierarchy. The deeper prostration represented higher status. The complete prostration or sijda meant the highest form of submission. However, under the reign of Shah Jahan, these rituals were replaced with Chahar Taslim and Zaminbos, i.e., kissing the ground.
(iv) Jharoka Darshan : The Jharoka Darshan was introduced by Akbar. He wanted to broaden the popular faith in the imperial authority. After performing his devotional prayers, he would go to a small balcony facing the east. The crowd of people comprising of soldiers, merchants, peasants, craft persons and women had the view of the emperor. It was called as the Jharoka Darshan.
Assess the role played by women of the imperial household in the Mughal Empire.
Explain the role played by women of the imperial household in the Mughal Exmpire.
The domestic world of the Mughals was termed as the ‘harem’. The origin of the word ‘harem’ lay in the Persian language where it meant a sacred place. The Mughal household consisted of the following : (i) Wives and concubines of the emperor. (ii) The near and distants relatives of the emperor such as mother, step-mothers, father-mothers, sisters, daughters, daughters-in-law, aunts and children. (iii) Slaves and female servants. Two Kinds of Wives : The Mughal rulers had two kinds of wives such a Begums and Aghas. The Begums came from royal and aristocratic families. On the other hand, Aghas were those wives who were not noble by birth. The Begums enjoyed a higher status than the Aghas. Control Over Financial Resources and Architectural Projects : The Mughal queens and princesses exercised a significant control over financial resources. Jahanara and Roshanara, the two daughters of Shah Jahan, earned an annual income equal to that of mansabdars. Jahanara also got revenues from the port city of Surat, a famous centre of overseas trade. They also designed many architectural projects. For example, Jahanara designed the bazaar of Chandni Chowk in Delhi. She also designed an imposing double storeyed caravan serai with a courtyard and a garden. Contribution in Writing of History : Gulbadan Begum, the daughter of Babur, wrote a book entitled ‘Humayunama’. It gives a glimpse into the domestic world of the Mughals. Gulbadan Begum also wrote her memories of earlier times under Babur and Humayun. She described various conflicts and tensions that prevailed in the Mughal household. Role of Elderly Women : They played the role of mediation. They resolved the conflicts that existed between Princes and the Kings.
What were the concerns that shaped Mughal policies and attitudes towards regions outside the sub-continent?
Explain why Qandhar was a bone of contention between the Safavids and the Mughals.
“Historians have provided accounts of diplomatic relationships and conflicts with the neighbouring political powerly of the Mughal Empire.” Elaborate.
How do you think that Qandhar remained a bone of contention between the Mughals and the Safavids. Explain.
“Mughals maintained political and diplomatic relations with the states beyond their frontiers.” Explain.
Following were the main concerns that shaped Mughal policies and attitudes towards regions
outside the subcontinents:
(i) Control over posts of military importance : Political relations between the Mughal emperors and neighbouring countries of Iran and Turan were dependent upon control of the frontier designed by Hindukush mountains. All conquerors who wanted to conquer the Indian sub-continent had to cross Hindukush to have an access to north India. That is why there was a constant policy of Mughals and that was to ward off this potential danger by controlling strategic outposts, i.e., Kabul and Qandhar. Qandhar was a bone of contention between Safavids (Iran) and the Mughals. This fort city was initially under the control of Humayun. Akbar reconquered it in 1595 C.E. Although Safavids maintained their diplomatic relations with the Mughals but they continued to stake claim over Qandhar. Jahangir, in 1613, sent a diplomatic envoy to the court of Irani ruler Abbas Shah. His objective was to plead the Mughal right over Qandhar but this envoy failed to meet its objective. Safavid army besieged Qandhar in 1622 C.E. The Mughal army was not fully prepared for this. As a result it was defeated and had to surrender fort and city to the Safavids.
(ii) Ottoman Empire : Pilgrimage and trade : The main objective of Mughal’s relations with the Ottoman empire was to maintain a free movement for pilgrims and merchants in the territories under control of the Ottoman empire. This was true especially for the Hijaz i.e., that area of Ottoman Arabia where Mecca and Madina, important pilgrim centres were located. Mughal emperors generally combined commerce and religion. They used to export valuable things to Aden and Mokha, both ports of Red Sea. They even used to distribute the income from the sale of these goods in charity and keepers of Shrines. But when Aurangzeb came to know about the misappropriation of funds sent to Arabia then he stressed on their distribution in India because he believed that, ‘‘it was as much a house of God as Mecca”.
(iii) Jesuit Missionaries in the Mughal Courts: Europe came to know about India from the accounts of Jesuit missionaries, travellers, merchants, etc. Jesuit accounts are the earliest impression of the Mughal court recorded by Europeans. At the end of 15th century, Portuguese merchants established a network of trading centres in coastal cities. Portuguese emperor was also interested in the propagation of Christianity through Jesuit missionaries. Jesuit missions came to India in 16th century and were a part of process of trade and empire building.
Akbar wanted to know something about Christianity and therefore sent an embassy to Goa to invite Jesuit priests. First Jesuit mission reached the Mughal court of Fathepur Sikri in 1580. It remained there for two years. They held discussions with Akbar on Christianity and debated with Ulema’s about its virtues. Two other Jesuit missions were sent to Mughal Court in 1591 and 1595 C.E.
The Jesuit accounts are based on personal experiences. They shed light on mind and character of the emperor. Jesuit people were given place near to Akbar’s throne in public assemblies. They accompanied him on his campaigns and used to teach his children. They were generally his companions during leisure hours. Jesuit accounts corroborate the information given in Persian history about state officials and general masses.
Discuss the major features of Mughal provincial administration. How did the centre control the provinces?
Explain the chief characteristics of provincial administration of the Mughal Empire.
The Mughal state had provinces which were called the Subas. These Subas were looked after by
Diwan, Bakhshi and Sadar. The head of the provincial government was the Governor (Subedar)
who reported directly to the emperor.
Each Suba was divided into various sarkars. Then there were districts which were looked after by faujdars. Then there was pargana, that is, sub-district. It had three semi-hereditary officers such as the qanungo (keeper of the revenue records), the chaudhari (incharge of revenue collection) and the Qazi. Each department of administration had a large number of clerks, accountants, auditors and messengers. Besides there were technically qualified officers who functioned in accordance with fixed rules and procedures.
Discuss, with examples, the distinctive features of the Mughal chronicles.
The Mughal chronicles were dynastic histories. They had the following features: (i) Court Historians : The chronicles were written by the court historians on the request of Mughal rulers. They give an account of the achievements of the Mughal rulers and recorded all major events. (ii) Chronological Record of Events : The chronicles present a continuous chronological record of important events. They are an indispensable source of information about the Mughal history. They explain the true intentions of the Mughal emperors behind many of their decisions. (iii) Pictorial Images : The chronicles include many images which describe an event in the visual form. The pictures give a visual expression to many events. They expressed what was otherwise difficult to be conveyed through the written medium. (iv) Similarity between Court and History of the Emperor : The chronicles written during the reign of Akbar, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb were titled as Akbarnama, Badshahnama and Alamgirnama respectively. They indicate that in the eyes of the authors, the history of the emperor was synonymous to the history of the empire or royal court. (v) Language : Most of the Mughal court chronicles were written in Persian. Akbarnama, the official Mughal history, was written in Persian. In the same way, the memories of Babur were translated from the Turkish into the Persian and was known as Baburnama. (vi) Important sources of Mughal History : The chronicles give the historians a glimpse into the Mughal history. They recorded all the important historical events during the reign of various Mughal rulers. They were a repository of factual information about the institutions of the Mughal Empire.
To what extent do you think the visual material presented in this chapter corresponds with Abul Fazl’s description of the taswir (Source 1) ?
Visual material presented in this chapter are coloured paintings. Few buildings like Buland
Darwaza are shown. This visual material corresponds quite a lot with Abul Fazl’s description
of the taswir.
(i) This picture is the proper presentation of the things shown in the picture.
(ii) These express great interest of the Mughal rulers for paintings and architecture. They made every possible effort to encourage this art and even established royal art room for this purpose.
(iii) After looking at the given pictures we can say that most proficient artists were available in that age. Their creations could be kept in front of great creations of European artists who achieved popularity in whole of the world.
(iv) Abul Fazl described painting as a magical art and these pictures look like that they had the power to make inanimate objects look as if they possessed life.
What were the distinctive features of the Mughal nobility? How was their relationship with the emperor shaped?
Why has Mughal nobility been considered as an important pillar of the Mughal state? Explain.
According to the Mughal chronicles, more particularly the Akbarnama, the power to rule and
govern solely rested with the emperor. All the people of the kingdom followed the orders of
the king. However there were a lot of officers in the Mughal state. They were the pillars of
the kingdom. The historians have collectively referred to them as the nobility.
Functions of Nobility : The nobility consisted of diverse ethnic and
religious groups. They did not allow any one or any faction to challenge the authority of
the State. They were like a bouquet of flowers held together by loyalty to the emperor.
There were many Turani and Iranian nobles in the imperial service of Akbar. They performed
the following functions :
(i) They participated in military campaigns with their armies.
(ii) They served as officers of the empire in the provinces.
(iii) Each military commander recruited, equipped and trained the cavalry of the Mughal army.
(iv) The troopers maintained superior horses.
Recruitment : The nobility rendered the imperial service. In this way, it acquired not only power but also wealth and the highest possible reputation. If a person wished to join this service, he petitioned through a noble. The noble presented a proposal (tajwiz) to the emperor in this regard. If the candidate was found suitable, he was granted a mansab. The Mir Bakshi (paymaster general) stood by the right side of the emperor in an open court. He presented appointment or promotion to all the candidates.
Advisory Body of Important Ministers : In the Mughal Court, two ministers were very important. The first was the Diwan-i-Ala (finance minister). The second was the Sadr-us-Sudur (minister of grants or Madad-i-maash). He was also the incharge of appointing local judges or qazis. These three ministers never sat together as an advisory body. The Mir Bakshi, the Diwan-i-Ala and Sadr-us-Sudur were independent of each other. However they advised Akbar in all the fiscal and monetary matters and helped him in shaping his administrative institutions.
Reserve Nobles : A few nobles remained stationed at the court. They were called Tainat-i-rakab. They served as a reserve force to be sent to a province or military campaign. They were duty bound to appear before the emperor twice a day daily. Both in the morning and evening, they had to express submission and loyalty to the emperor in the public audience hall. They guarded the emperor and his house-hold round the clock.
Relationship with the Emperor : The nobility was very loyal to the emperor. It was also very obedient and submissive. It served as officers of the empire. The emperor personally reviewed changes in their rank, titles and official postings. Akbar himself designed the mansab system. He also established spiritual relationships with a selected band of his nobility. He treated them as if they were his disciples (murid).
Identify the elements that went into the making of the Mughal ideal of Kingship.
There were many elements that led to the formation of the Mughal period as an ideal of
(i) King as Symbol of the Divine Power: According to many chronicles, the Mughal rulers derived their power directly from God. They were on the top of the list of those who received the light emanating from God (farr-i-izadi). The transmission of the Divine Light to the king made them the source of spiritual guidance for their subjects.
(ii) Sulh-i-Kul : The source of a Unifying Force: The Mughal Empire comprised of many religious communities such as the Hindus, the Jainas, the Zoroastrians and the Muslims. However the Mughal kings stood above all religious and ethnic groups. They mediated between people belonging to the different religious communities to ensure peace, stability and justice. According to Abul Fazl, the ideal of Sulh-i-Kul was the corner stone of enlightened rule and absolute peace. Nobody was permitted to undermine the authority of the State. Similarly, all were exhorted not to fight with each other. In fact, the Mughal rulers instructed all their officers to follow the ideal of Sulh-i-Kul in administration.
(iii) Just Sovereignty as Social Contract : Abul Fazl defined sovereignty
as a social contract. In other words, the emperor protected the following four essences of
his subjects :
(a) Life (Jan)
(b) Property (Mal)
(c) Honour (Namus)
(d) Faith (Din)
In lieu of this protection, people expressed their obedience and submission to the kings. They also contributed their share of resources. As the sovereigns were just, they honoured the contract with power and Divine Guidance. That is why, many symbols were used by the artists. There was a popular motif of the lion and the lamb. Both lived peacefully in the company of each other. It signified that the Mughal reign was a realm of peace and justice where both the strong and the weak could exist in harmony.