How are we Tracing Changes Through a Thousand Years?
We all have heard the saying, “the only thing constant is change”. Nothing expresses this phenomenon better than a lesson in history.
- While we study history, what we are actually doing is tracing changes through ages and understanding how we got here!
- While the philosophical aspect of this question remains unanswered, thankfully the geographical one has been explained to quite an extent.
Indian Map by Al- Idris and French Cartographer
The maps by Arab geographer Al-Idrisi (1154) and French cartographer (1720) gave a large sketch of the Indian subcontinent in earlier times.
1745 Map of Southern India
- The art and science of graphically representing a geographical area, usually on a flat surface such as a map or chart is known as Cartography. It is a part of Geography. Someone who makes maps is called a cartographer.
Try yourself:Cartographer is a person who makes:
A person who draws or produces maps.
Table depicting Features of Map by Al-Idrisi and Map of French Cartographer
When historians read documents, maps, and texts from the past they have to be sensitive to the:
Different historical backgrounds.
Contexts in which information of the past was produced.
New and Old Terminologies
As you have seen meanings of words change over time. Term “Hindustan”, is known as “India,” the modern nation-state today.
Over the period of time, what changes:
(ii) Meaning of the words
(iii) Grammar and vocabulary
The Term Hindustan
Table depicts the History of Word Hindustan
A painting of a scribe making a copy of a manuscript
Historical Records Exist in a Variety of Languages
- The word ‘Foreigner’ today means a person who is not an Indian.
- In the medieval period, the word foreigner meant any stranger who appeared in the village not belonging to their society or culture.
- In Hindi, the term ‘pardesi’ was used to describe an alien.
- In Persian, it was called 'ajnabi'.
Historians and their Sources
Historians use different types of sources to learn about the past based on their period of study and the nature of the investigation. Coins, inscriptions, architecture, and textual records will provide information.
- People used paper to write holy texts, chronicles of rulers, letters and teachings of saints, petitions and judicial records, and for registers of accounts and taxes, which were called Manuscripts.
Buddhist Sanskrit Manuscript
- Manuscripts were collected by wealthy people, rulers, monasteries, and temples. They were placed in libraries and archives. These manuscripts and documents provide a lot of detailed information to historians but they are also difficult to use.
- There was no printing press in those days, so scribes copied manuscripts by hand.
- As scribes copied manuscripts, they also introduced small changes – a word here, a sentence there. These small differences grew over centuries of copying until manuscripts of the archive. A place where documents and manuscripts are stored.
- Today all national and state governments have archives where they keep all their old official records and transactions same text became substantially different from one another.
- So, the records that have to come to us are quite different from the original but no evidence is found as the original writing is not found.
- Miniature paintings were sometimes used to illustrate the texts of manuscripts.
Example of a Miniature Painting
- They were so beautiful that later collectors often took the manuscripts apart and sold just the miniatures.
- Authors revised their chronicles.
- The fourteenth-century chronicler Ziauddin Barani wrote his chronicle first in 1356.
- The second version in 1358.
- The two differ from each other, but historians did not know about the existence of the first version until the 1960s. It remained lost in large library collections.
Try yourself:A place where documents and manuscripts are stored as records for knowledge is called an _______.
The place where documents and manuscripts are stored is called an archive or a library. Documents and manuscripts, especially those which are old and in a deteriorating condition require special storage facilities like a temperature-controlled atmosphere, protection from fungal attack and bugs which can damage the material.
Archiving requires specialised knowledge on how to preserve and store these items. Some of such ancient items can be found in certain museums, where they are stored and preserved under the above ideal conditions.
New Social and Political Groups
The study of the thousand years between 700 and 1750 is a huge challenge to historians largely because of the scale and variety of developments that occurred over the period.
- It was a period of great mobility. One such group of people was Rajputs, derived from the word ‘Rajaputra’ meaning son of a ruler.
Clearing of the forests → Development of Agriculture → Forest dwellers migrate due to forest cutting → Some became farmers → Difference in land, so status difference → Division in jatis or sub-castes on the basis of backgrounds and occupations → Ranks were not fixed permanently
- Jatis framed their own rules and regulations to manage the conduct of their members. These regulations were enforced by an assembly of elders, described in some areas as the jati panchayat.
- But jatis were also required to follow the rules of their villages. Several villages were governed by a chieftain. Together they were only one small unit of a state.
Try yourself:_________, is a name derived from Rajaputra - the son of a Ruler, a body of warriors who claimed Kshatriya caste status.
Rajputs is a name derived from "Rajaputra", the son of a ruler. Between the eighth and fourteenth centuries, the term was applied more generally to a body of warriors who claimed the Kshatriya caste status.
Region and Empire
- Large states like those of the Cholas, Tughluqs, or Mughals encompassed many regions.
- A Sanskrit prashasti that praises Delhi Sultan Ghiyasuddin Balban tells that he was the ruler of a vast empire that stretched from Bengal in the east to Ghazni in Afghanistan in the west and included all of South India (Dravida).
- There were considerable conflicts between various states. And the people of different regions fled from his armies.
- When the Mughal Empire declined in the 18th century, it led to the re-emergence of regional states.
- Amir Khusrau noted in the 13th century, many different languages in every region of this land: Lahori, Kashmiri, Dvarsamudri, Telengani, Gujari, Awadhi, and Hindawi.
- He claimed that only Sanskrit did not belong to any region. It was an old language that common people did not know; only the Brahmans knew.
Old and New Religions
- Religion was often closely associated with the social and economic organization of local communities.
- It was during this period that important changes occurred in the Hindu religion. It included the worship of new deities, the construction of temples by royalty, and the growing importance of Brahmanas in the Hindu religion.
- Knowledge of Sanskrit helped Brahmins to earn respect.
Brahmin Reading Sanskrit
- Another development in religion.
- The idea of bhakti – of a loving, personal deity that devotees could reach without the aid of priests or elaborate rituals.
- Many religions came to India at this time.
- Merchants and migrants first brought the teachings of the Holy Quran to India in the seventh century.
- Muslims regard the Quran as their holy book and accept the sovereignty of the one God, Allah, whose love, mercy, and bounty embrace all those who believe in him, without regard to social background.
Muslims reading Holy Quran
- Many rulers were patrons of Islam and the ulama – learned theologians and jurists.
- There were other important differences between the various schools of law (Hanafi and Shafi’i mainly in India) and in theology and mystic traditions.
Try yourself:Who brought the teachings of holy Quran to India?
Merchants and migrants first brought the teachings of the Holy Quran to India in the seventh century. Muslims regard the Quran as their holy book and accept the sovereignty of the one God, Allah, whose love, mercy and bounty embrace all those who believe in him without regard to social background.
Thinking about Time and Historical Periods
- As per historians, time is not just a passing of hours, days, or years-as a clock or a calendar, it also reflects changes in social and economic organization, in the persistence and transformation of ideas and beliefs.
- The study of time made it easier to divide the past into periods that possess shared characteristics.
- The British historians divided the history of India into three periods: Hindu, Muslim and British. This division was based on the idea that the religion of the rulers was the only important historical change and that there was no other significant development.
- Most historians look to economic and social factors to characterize the major elements of different moments of the past.
- The life of hunter-gatherers, early farmers, and early empires were called early societies.
- The growth of imperial state formations, the development of Hinduism and Islam as major religions, and the arrival of European trading companies were called the medieval period.
- The last era was called modernity which carried a sense of material progress and intellectual development.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q.1. What are the sources used by historians to study the past?
Ans: Historians use a variety of sources to study the past. It depends upon the period of their study and nature of study. They use those resources that provide some continuity. Historians still rely on coins, inscriptions, architecture, and textual records.
There appeared some discontinuity as well. The variety of textual records increased from 700 to 1750. They slowly replaced other types of available sources. During this period paper gradually became cheaper and easily available.
Q.2. How is the study of the thousand years between 700 and 1750 a huge challenge to historians?
The study of the thousand years between 700 and 1750 is a huge challenge to historians because of
- Scale and variety of developments that occurred during this period.
- At various moments in this period, new technologies made their appearance.
- All the innovations, new technologies, and crops came along with people. They brought other ideas with them as well.
- In this way, this was a period of economic, political, social, and cultural changes.
Q.3. What developments have taken place in religious traditions during this period?
Ans: During the thousand years there were many developments in religious traditions. People’s belief in the divine was personal and collective. The collective belief was in supernatural agency-religion. It was connected to the social and economic aspects of local communities. With the changes in social aspects, the religious beliefs also changed.