12 Class History Chapter 5 Through the eyes of travellers Notes
|Through the eyes of travellers
Through the eyes of travellers notes, Class 12 history chapter 5 notes In this chapter we will learn in detail about Accounts of Travellers, Al-Biruni, Ibn Battuta, Francois Bernier, Other European Travellers, Women: Slaves, Sati and Labourers etc.
❇️ Purpose of traveling by different people : –
🔹 Whenever people travel to a different place, they come across a different world in terms of physical environment, customs, languages, beliefs and practices of people. Both women and men travelled for various reasons. The accounts that survive are often varied in terms of their subject matter. Some deal with affairs of court, religious issues, architectural features and monuments. Though women travelled but there are no accounts of travel left by women.
❇️ Main travelers visiting India : –
🔹 In this chapter, we will focus mainly on the travel accounts of three men namely, Al-Biruni (11th Century), Ibn Battuta (14th Century) and the Frenchman Francois Bernier (17th Century). These authors came from a very different environment. They were attentive to everyday activities and practices as compared to the indigenous writers for whom these were routine matters.
❇️ Other travelers who visited India : –
🔹 Many writers and travellers followed the footsteps of Al-Biruni and Ibn Battuta. Among the best known writers were Abdur Razzaq Samarqandi, who visited South India in the 1440s. Mahmud Wali Balkhi travelled widely on the 1620s. Shaikh Ali Hazin came to North India in 17405.
🔹 Some of them were fascinated by India. Mahmud Balkhi among them became a sort of sanyasi for a time. Others like Hazin were disappointed and disgusted with India because they expected to receive a red carpet treatment. Most of them saw India as land of wonders
❇️ Al-Biruni : –
🔹 He was born in 973 CE, in Khwarizm in present day Uzbekistan which was an important centre of learning. He got the best education and was well versed in many languages like Syriac, Arabic, Persian, Hebrew and Sanskrit. He did not know Greek but read the works of Plato and other Greek philosophers in Arabic translations.
❇️ Al-Biruni’s interest in India : –
🔹 Al-Biruni developed interest about India in Gharni. His interest development is not unusual because from the eighth century onwards, Sanskrit work on astronomy, mathematics and medicine were already translated into Arabic.
❇️ Al-Biruni’s journey in india : –
🔹 When Punjab became part of Ghaznavid Empire. contacts with local population created a friendly environment. Al-Biruni spent many years with Brahmana nana priests and scholars and learnt Sanskrit, studied religious and philosophical texts. He must have travelled widely in the Punjab and other parts of Northern India.
🔹 Al-Biruni was expert in several languages which allowed him to compare languages and translate texts. He translated several Sanskrit works including Patanjali’s work on grammar into Arabic. For his Brahmana Friends, he translated the works of Euclid, a Greek mathematician into Sanskrit.
❇️ Al-Biruni and the Kitab-ul-Hind : –
🔹 Al-Biruni wrote Kitab-ul-Hind in Arabic in simple and easy language. It is divided into 80 chapters on subjects such as religion and philosophy, festivals, astronomy, alchemy, manners and customs, social life, weights and measures, iconography, laws and metrology.
❇️ Features of Al-Biruni’s writing work in Kitab-ul-Hind : –
🔹 Al-Biruni’s style of writing was different. He used to start with a question, followed with a description based on Sanskritic traditions and conclusion was based on comparison with other cultures.
🔹 Present day scholars thought that geometric structures, remarkable precision and predictability in his writings were the result of his mathematical orientation
🔹 These texts were about different subjects like fables, astronomy and medicine. He wanted to improve these texts as he was not happy with the way these texts were written earlier.
❇️ Problem faced by Al-Biruni to understanding the Indian society : –
🔹 Al-Biruni discussed about the problems in understanding the local practices. These problems were:
(i) His first problem was Sanskrit. He said that Sanskrit was so different from Arabic and Persian and the ideas and concepts could not be easily translated from one language into another. According to Al-Biruni, learning Sanskrit was difficult. It had wide range and forms of words.
(ii) The second problem was differences in religious beliefs and practices.
(iii) The third problem was the local population were pre-occupied with their own feelings and their ignorance or lack of interest in cultures, ideas, or peoples outside their experience.
🔹 Despite these problems, Al-Biruni depended exclusively on the works of Brahmanas and often cited passages from the Vedas, the Puranas, the Bhagavad Gita, the works of Patanjali, the Manusmriti, etc to provide an understanding of Indian society.
❇️ Al-Biruni’s Description of the Caste System : –
🔹 Al-Biruni tried to explain caste system by comparing it with similar systems in other societies. Caste system was not unique in India. He noted that in ancient Persia, four social categories were recognised. These were:
(i) Knights and princes
(ii) Monks, fire-priests and lawyers
(iii) Physicians, astronomers and other scientists
(iv)Peasants and artisans
🔹Al-Biruni’s description of the caste system was deeply influenced by his study of normative Sanskrit texts. These texts laid down the rules for governing the system from the point of view of Brahmanas. But in real life system, it was not so rigid.
❇️ Al-Biruni Views on Pollution : –
🔹 Al-Biruni accepted the Brahminical description of the caste system but he rejected the notion of pollution. Here pollution refers to the practice of untouchability and discrimination against lower caste people by upper caste people.
🔹 According to Al-Biruni, everything that is polluted will try to regain its original condition of purity. According to Al-Biruni the concept of social pollution which is present in the caste system is against the laws of nature.
❇️ Al-Biruni’s Account on Varna System : –
🔹 As per Al-Biruni account of the system of varnas, the highest caste was the Brahmana. The books of Hindus mention that they were created from the head of Brahman, which was only name for the force called nature. Since head was the highest part of the body, Brahmana were considered as the very best of mankind among the Hindus.
🔹 The next caste were the Kshatriya, who were created from the shoulders and hands of Brahman. After them follow Vaishya, created from the thigh of the Brahman and then Shudra who were created from the feet of Brahman.
🔹 According to Al-Biruni, these classes though differ from each other, but they live together in the same towns and villages, mixed together in the same houses and lodgings.
❇️ Ibn Battuta : –
🔹 He was born in Tangier, a city in Morocco, into one of the most respectable and educated families. His family was known for their expertise in Islamic religious law or sharia. Ibn Battuta received literary and scholastic education when he was very young.
🔹 Ibn Battura considered experience gained through travels to be a more important source of knowledge than books. Ibn Battuta was an inveterate (habitual) traveller. He spent a great part of his life travelling through North Africa, West Asia and parts of central Asia, the Indian subcontinent and China.
❇️ ( RIHLA ) Texts written by Ibn Battuta : –
🔹 Ibn Battuta’s book of travels, called Rihla was written in Arabic. It has extremely rich and interesting information about the social and cultural life in the subcontinent in the 14th century.
❇️ Ibn Battuta’s Travel to India : –
🔹 Ibn Battuta reached Sind in 1333 CE, by travelling overland through Central Asia. He was attracted by the reputation of Muhammad bin Tughlaq, the Sultan of Delhi, for his generous patron of arts and letters. Hence, he moved for Delhi, passing through Multan and Uch.
🔹 The Sultan was impressed by his scholarship and appointed him as sqazi or judge of Delhi. Later due to misunderstanding between Sultan and Ibn Battuta, he was thrown into prison. When this misunderstanding was cleared, he was restored to imperial service by the Sultan.
❇️ Ibn Battuta’s Travel to China : –
🔹 Ibn Battuta was ordered in 1342 CE by Sultan to travel to China as the Sultan’s representative to the Mongol ruler. Ibn Battuta with the new assignment, proceeded to the Malabar coast through Central India. From Malabar, he went to the Maldives.
🔹 He stayed in Maldives for eighteen months as the qazi, and then decided to travel to Sri Lanka. Before going to China, he once again went to Malabar coast, the Maldives and also visited Bengal and Assam.
🔹 He took a ship to Sumatra, and from there another ship for the Chinese port town of Zaytun, presently known as Quanzhou. He travelled extensively in China, went to Beijing, but did not stay long and decided to return home in 1347 CE.
🔹 Ibn Battuta’s account was compared with that of Marco Polo, who visited China and India from his home country Venice in the late thirteenth century.
❇️ Analysis of Ibn Battuta’s Travel : –
🔹 Ibn Battuta recorded his observations about new cultures, people, beliefs, values, etc. In 14th century, travelling was more difficult and dangerous than present times.
🔹 According to Ibn Battuta, it took forty days to travel from Multan to Delhi, about fifty days from Sind to Delhi, about forty days from Daulatabad to Delhi and about ten days from Gwalior to Delhi.
❇️ Experience of Ibn Battuta’s travels : –
🔹 Ibn Battuta reached Delhi in the 14th century. The subcontinent was part of a global network of communication i.e. from China in the East to North-West Africa and Europe in the West.
🔹 He visited sacred shrines, spended time with learned men and rulers. He enjoyed cosmopolitan culture as people spoke Arabic, Persian, Turkish and other languages. They shared ideas, information and anecdotes.
❇️ The Coconut and the Paan : –
🔹 Ibn Battuta described about coconut and paan which were completely unfamiliar to his people. He described that the coconut trees were similar to date-palms but the difference was that while date-palms produced dates, coconut trees produced nuts.
🔹 Coconut : – The coconut’s fibre was used for making cords which were used to sew ships instead of using iron nails and they also made cables for vessels using this fibre.
🔹 Paan : – He also described another fascinating thing i.e. paan. He described that betel is a tree which has no fruit and was grown only for the sake of its leaves.
❇️ Ibn Battuta and Indian Cities : –
🔹 According to Ibn Battuta, Indian cities were full of opportunities for those who had the necessary drive,
🔹 Most cities had crowded streets and bright and colourful markets that were arranged with a variety of goods. He described Delhi as a big city, with a great population, the largest in India. Daulatabad in Maharashtra was also equal in size with Delhi.
❇️ Ibn Battuta’s Views about Delhi : –
🔹 According to Ibn Battuta the city of Delhi covers a wide area and had a large population. The defensive wall around the city had no comparison. The breadth of the wall was eleven cubits. There were houses inside for night sentry and gate keepers. There were also store-houses for storing edibles, magazines, ammunition, ballistas and siege machines.
🔹 City of Delhi also had a fine cemetry in which graves had domes over them and those without dome had an arch.
❇️ Description of Indian market ( bazaars ) by Ibn Battuta : –
🔹 The bazaars were not only places of economic transactions, but also the hub of social and cultural activities. Most bazaars had a mosque and a temple, and in some of them at least, spaces were marked for public performances by dancers, musicians and singers.
❇️ Ibn Battuta’s views about Daulatabad : –
🔹 In Daulatabad there is a market place for male and female singers, which is known as Tarababad. It is one of the greatest and most beautiful bazaars. It had numerous shops and every shop had a door which leads into the house of the owner.
🔹 In the middle of the market place, there was a large domed building known as cupola which was carpeted and decorated. Here the chief of the musicians took his place every Thursday after the dawn (morning) prayers with his servants and slaves.
🔹 There were mosques in the bazaars where prayers were offered. Whenever a Hindu or Muslim ruler arrives at the domed building and passed by the market places, female singers would sing before them.
❇️ Ibn Battuta’s views about Indian Agriculture : –
🔹 Ibn Battuta found Indian agriculture very productive because of the fertility of the soil. This fertility allowed farmers to cultivate two crops a year. The subcontinent was well connected and integrated with inter-Asian networks of trade and commerce.
❇️ Ibn Battuta’s views about Trade : –
🔹 The Indian manufacturers were in great demand in both West Asia and South-East Asia, and this brought huge profits for artisans and merchants.
🔹 There was great demand for Indian textiles like cotton cloth, fine muslins, silks, brocade and satin. Few varieties of fine muslin were so expensive that only nobles and very rich class could afford it.
❇️ Ibn Battuta’s Description about Indian Postal System : –
🔹 Ibn Battuta was surprised by the efficient postal system of India. The postal system not only allowed merchants to send information and remit credit across long distances, but
also dispatched goods required at short notice. It took fifty days to reach Delhi from
Sind, but it
🔹 Indian postal system was of two types :
(i) The horse-post was called ulug which was ran by royal horses stationed at a distance of every four miles.
(ii) The other was foot-post called dawa, which had three stations per mile.
🔹 At every third of a mile there was well-populated village where there were men present to carry the courier. When a courier starts from the city, he holds the letter in one hand and the rod with copper bells on the other and ran as fast as he can.
🔹 The other men in next dawa, when hears this bell he gets ready and as soon as courier reaches them, he takes it and transfers it to next dawa. This continues till it reaches its destination. The foot-post was quicker than the horse-post and was used to transport fruits of Khurasan which were much desired in India.
❇️ Francois Bernier : –
🔹 He was a doctor, political philosopher and historian from France. He came to Mughal Empire in search of opportunities and was in India between 1656 and 1668 CE. He was closely associated with the Mughal court. Later he worked as an intellectual and scientist with Danishmand Khan (an Armenian noble) at the Mughal court.
❇️ Bernier’s Book ‘Travels in the Mughal Empire : –
🔹 ‘ Bernier’s book ‘Travels in the Mughal Empire has detailed observations, critical insights and reflection of Mughals. He compared Mughal India with contemporary Europe and stressed on the superiority of the Europe.
❇️ Publishing of Bernier’s Works : –
🔹 Bernier’s works were published in France in 1670-71 CE and translated into English, Dutch, German and Italian within the next five years. He dedicated his major writing to Louis XIV, and many of his other works were written in form of letters to influential officials and ministers.
🔹 His account was reprinted in French eight times between 1670 and 1725 CE and by 1684 CE, it had been reprinted three times in English. As compared to it, Arabic and Persian accounts were circulated as manuscripts and were not published before 1800 CE.
❇️ Bernier Comparing East and West : –
🔹 Bernier in European Clothes Comparing East and West Bernier travelled to several parts of India. He wrote accounts about what he saw and compared them with the situation in Europe in general and France in particular.
🔹 He described the situation in India as not hopeful and not so encouraging compared to the developments in Europe. His main focus was on things which were depressing and he wanted to influence the policy makers and the intelligentsia to make right decisions.
❇️ Description of land ownership by Bernier ( The Question of Land Ownership ) : –
🔹 Bernier pointed out the major difference between Mughal India and Europe was that of ownership of land. In India, there was lack of private property in land. He strongly believed that it was good to have private property for both the state and its people.
🔹 He thought that in the Mughal Empire, the emperor owned all the land and distributed it among his nobles and this method had disastrous consequences for the economy and society. This perception was also found in other travellers’ accounts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
❇️ Disadvantages of Ownership of Land System in India : –
🔹 According to Bernier, in crown ownership of land, landholders could not pass on the land to their children. This discouraged landholders to invest in the maintenance and expansion of production.
- The absence of private property in land prevented the emergence of the class of landlords who focus on improving their lands as in Western Europe.
- This practice had led to the uniform destruction of agriculture, excessive oppression of the peasantry and continuous decline in the living standards of all sections of society except the ruling aristocracy. Truth about Ownership of Land
❇️ Truth about Ownership of Land : –
🔹 Mughal official documents does not show that state was the sole owner of land. The sixteenth century official chronicle Abu’l Fazl during Akbar’s reign describes the land revenue as ‘remunerations of sovereignty’.
🔹 This means that a ruler can claim on his subjects, for the protection he provided for the land and not the rent on land that he owned. European travellers assumed this claim to be rent because land revenue demands were very high in those times. But in reality this was not a rent or a land tax, it was a tax on crop.
❇️ Bernier’s Views on Peasantry : –
🔹 Bernier described the exploitation of peasants in his travel accounts. He pointed that there were vast tracts of land in the empire of Hindustan and most of the land was barren, badly cultivated and sparsely populated.
🔹 A little fertile land was untilled (wasted) because of the lack of labourers. When poor people could not meet the demands of their cruel and greedy lords, they are not only deprives of the means of livelihood but also their children are carried away as slaves. Thus, peasantry is drove to despair by cruelty and ultimately they abandon the country.
🔹 During 17th century, about 15 per cent of the population lived in towns. This was an average higher than the percentage of urban population in Western Europe in the same period. In spite of this, Bernier described Mughal cities as ‘camp towns’ which meant that these towns existed and depended on the imperial camp for their survival.
🔹 He believed that these towns came into existence when imperial court came and rapidly declined when it moved out. He pointed out that these towns did not have viable social and economic foundations and were dependent on imperial patronage (protection).
🔹 However, Bernier had drawn an oversimplified picture about towns. In reality there were all kinds of towns like manufacturing towns, trading towns, port-towns, sacred centres, pilgrimage towns, etc. Their existence was an index of the prosperity of merchant communities and professional classes.
❇️ Merchants and Other Professionals in Towns : –
🔹 Merchants had a strong community and kin ties were organised into their own caste-cum-occupational bodies. In Western India, these groups were called Mahajans, and their chief, the sheth.
🔹 In urban centres such as Ahmedabad the Mahajans were collectively represented by the chief of the merchant community who was called the Nagarsheth.
🔹 There were other professionals existed in towns like physicians (hakim or vaid), teachers (pundit or mulla), lawyers (wakil), painters, architects, musicians, calligraphers, etc. Some of obuce profaccionale depended on imperia
❇️ Criticism of Indian Society by Bernier : –
🔹 Bernier criticised Indian society that it consisted of undifferentiated masses of poor people, suppressed by a small minority of very rich and powerful ruling class.
🔹 He stated that there was no middle state in India i.e. in between the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich, there was no social group or class. Mughal Empire king was the king of beggars and barbarians.
🔹 Subcontinent’s cities and towns were ruined and polluted with bad air and its fields were overspread with bushes and full of infectious waterlogged areas. Crown ownership of land was responsible for all this bad state of affairs.
❇️ Bernier’s Account on Imperial Karkhanas : –
🔹 Bernier was the only historian who provided a detailed account of the working of the imperial karkhanas or workshops. He stated that large halls were seen at many places called karkhanas or workshops for artisans.
🔹 In each hall, different craftsmen were present superintended by a master like embroiderers, goldsmiths, painters, varnishers in lacquer-work, joiners, turners, tailors, shoe-makers, manufacturers of silk, brocade and fine muslins.
🔹 He pointed out that artisans came to their karkhanas every morning and remain employed the whole day and return to homes in evening. He criticised that in this way their time passes away and no one aspired for any improvement in the condition of life.
❇️ Reality of Rural Society : –
🔹 The picture depicted by Western thinkers about subcontinent’s rural society was not real. Rural society was characterised by considerable social and economic differentiation during 16th and 17th centuries.
🔹 On one hand, there were big zamindars with superior rights in land and on the other, there were untouchable landless labourers.
🔹 Between them, there was the big peasant who used hired labour and engaged in commodity production and the smaller peasant who could barely produces for his livelihood.
❇️ Abdur Razzaq’s Account on India : –
🔹 The travelogue of Abdur Razzaq written in the 1440s was an interesting mixture of emotions and perceptions about India. He did not appreciate what he saw in the port of Calicut in Kerala, which was populated by people as their likes were very different from the Abdur Razzaq’s imagination. He described them as a strange nation.
🔹 Later, when he visited India, he arrived in Mangalore and crossed the Western Ghats. Here when he saw a temple, he was full of admirations. He described the temple that, such a kind of idol house could not be found anywhere in the world. He was amazed by the craft and artisanship of the temple.
❇️Slaves : –
🔹 Slaves were openly sold in markets, like other commodities and were exchanged as gifts. Ibn Battuta himself bought slaves along with horses and camels when he reached Sind, as gifts for Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq. After reaching Multan, he gifted a slave and horse along with raisins and almonds to the Governor.
🔹 Muhammad bin Tughlaq became so happy with the sermon of a preacher named Nasiruddin and gave him a hundred thousand tankas (coins) and two hundred slaves.
❇️Use of Slaves : –
- Ibn Battuta’s account shows that there was considerable differentiation among slaves. Some female slaves in the service of the Sultan were experts in music and dance.
- Female slaves were also employed by Sultan to keep a watch on his nobles.
- Slaves were also used for domestic labour and Ibn Battuta found their services absolute necessary for carrying women and men on palanquins or dola.
- Price of female slaves required for domestic labour was very low, therefore most families who could afford slaves, kept at least one or two of them.
❇️European Traveller’s Views on Condition of Women : –
🔹 Many contemporary European travellers and writers often highlighted the treatment of women as a crucial marker of difference between Western and Eastern societies.
🔹 Bernier chose the practice of Sati for this detailed description. He noted that while some women seemed to accept death cheerfully, others were forced to die.
🔹 Women were also involved in other things. Their labour was crucial in both agricultural and non-agricultural production.
🔹 Women from merchant families participated in commercial activities, sometimes even taking mercantile disputes to the court of law.