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1. Write a note on the Kitab-ul-Hind.
Ans. Kitab-ul-Hind was written by Al-Biruni in 1031. It was considered with India and also known by the name of Tarikh-ul-Hind and Tahqiq-ma-ul-Hind. It was written in Arabic. It is divided into 80 Chapters. They have thrown a detailed light on Hindu religions and philosphy, festivals, customs and tradition, the social and economic as well as political life of the people. In each chapter he adopted a distinctive style and had a question in the beginning. It was followed by a description based on Sanskrit tradition, At last he compare the India culture with other culture. This geometric structure he followed is known for its precision and predictability. The main reason for this structure was Al-Biruni’s mathematical orientation.
2. Compare and contrast the perspectives from which Ibn Battuta and Bernier wrote their accounts of their travels in India.
Ans. Both have written them accounts in their different prospectives. While Ibn Battuta describe everything that impressed and excited him because of his novelty, Bernier had followed a different intellectual tradition. He wrote whatever he saw in India.
Bernier wanted to pin point the weakness of the Indian society and considered the Mughal India Inferior to European society. In his description Ibn Battuta recorded his observation about new culture, people, believes and values.
3. Discuss the picture of urban centres that emerges from Bernier’s accout.
Ans. During the 17th century nearly 15% of population was living in town. This was average proportion of urban population of western Europe. Bernier described Mughal towns as court towns. By it he meant those towns which depended upon the imperial court for their existence and survival. These towns came into existence with the imperial court and declined with the impanel court when they moved to other places. In his travel accounts, Bernier described many big towns and cities such as Delhi, Mathura, Kashmir, Surat, Masulipatnam and Golconda. These gained importance as manufacturing centres, trading towns, and sacred towns. The merchant communities had deep influence in these cities. They remained organised due to their own caste and occupational bodies. These trading groups were known as Mahajans in western India. Their head was called Sheth. In Ahmedabad, the chief of Merchant community was known as nagarsheth. Besides the trading groups, musicians, architects, painters, lawyers, calligraphies, etc. lived in towns.
4. Analyse the evidence for slavery provided by Ibn Battuta.
Ans. Battuta has given a detailed description on the practice of slavery prevalent in India. Delhi Sultan-Muhammad bin Tughlaq had a large number of slaves. Most of these slaves were forcibly captured during the aggressions. Many people sold their children as a slave, because of acute poverty. Slaves were also offered as a gift during this time. Battuta when visited him, also brought many horses, camels and slaves for the Sultan to present him. Sultan Muhammad bin Tuglaq, himself had presented two hundred slaves to Nasiruddin a religious preacher.
Nobels are used to keep slave those days. Through these slaves, the Sultan used to get information about the activities of the noble and all other important events of the empire.
The woman slaves served as servants in the house of the rich (nobles). These women informed the Sultan about the activities of their masters (i.e., nobles). Most of the slaves used to do domestic works and there was a lot of difference between the status of these slaves and the court slaves.
5. What were the elements of the practice of sati that drew the attention of Bernier?
Ans. The practice of sati according to Bernier showed the difference in the treatment of women in western and eastern society. He noticed how a child widow were forcefully burnt screaming on the funeral pyre while many of the older women were resigned their fate.
The following elements drew his attention.
(i) Under this cruel practices an alive widow was forcibly made to sit on the pyre of her husband.
(ii) People had no sympathy for her.
(iii) The widow was an unwilling victim of the sati-practice. She was forced to be a Sati.
6. Discuss Al-Biruni’s understanding of the caste system.
Ans. Al-Biruni’s description about caste system as he understood. Al-Biruni tried to explain the caste system by looking far parallels in other societies. He described that in ancient Persia, four social categories were recognised.
(i) knight and princes.
(iii) fire-priests and lawyers; physicians, astronomers, other scientists;
(iv) Finally, peasants and artisans. He attempted to suggest that social divisions were not unique to India.
His description of the caste system in India was deeply influenced by his study of Sanskrit texts. According to these texts, the highest castes were the Brahmins as they were created from the head of the Brahmins.
The Kshatriyas were the next caste created from the shoulders and hands of the Brahmin. The Vaishyas and Shudras were created from the thighs and feet of the Brahmin respectively.
Thus, he sought to understand the Indian caste system by looking for parallels in other societies. Nothing that ancient Persian society was divided into four categories he realized that social division was not unique to India.
But despite accepting the caste system he was against the notion of pollution. He believed that according to the laws of nature anything which becomes impure ultimately becomes pure again, e.g. the sun clears the air. The concept of social pollution is the bedrock of the caste system. Thus, the caste system was according to him contrary to the laws of nature.
He failed to realize that the caste system was not as rigid as portrayed in the Sanskrit texts.
7. 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.
Ans. Battuta’s observation about the cities of India.
(i) According to him, Indian cities had many exciting opportunities and are useful for those who had the necessary drive, skill and resources.
(ii) The Indian cities were prosperous and densely populated.
(iii) These cities had colourful market trading in different kinds of goods.
(iv) Delhi was the largest city of India and had a lot of population. Daultabad was an another important city of India which challenged Delhi in size.
(v) The cities were not only the centre of economic transactions but also the centres of ! social and cultural activities.
(vii) Most of the bazars in the cities had temple and mosques.
(viii) Cities also had fixed places for public performances by dancer, musicians and singer. He found that many towns derived their wealth and prosperity through the appropriation of surplus from villages.
(ix) Indian goods were in great demand in west Asia and South-east Asia. So the artisans and merchants earned huge profit.
8. Discuss the extent to which Bernier’s accounts enables historians to reconstruct contemporary rural society.
Ans. Bernier’s assessment about Indian rural society was not correct. It was far away from the truth, but it is not acceptable. There are some truth in his description which are evident from the following facts.
(i) According to his account, mughal empire was the owner of the land and distributed among its nobles. It had a disastrous impact on the society.
(ii) According to him the system of crown of ownership of land was good. It was because, the land holders could not pass on their land to their children. They did not make any long term investment on the land.
(iii) As there was no private property in land, there was not any improvement in the landlord class. This system ruin agriculture and led to opinion of peasants. Bernier’s view regarding Indian society had the following features:
(i) The rich people Were in minority.
(ii) It had the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich, no middle class existed there.
(iii) All the cities and towns were reined and had contaminated air.
9. Read this excerpt from Bernier:
List the crafts mentioned in the passage. Compare these with the descriptions of artisanal activity in the chapter.
Ans. I. Names of the crafts mentioned in this passage.
In this passage the crafts such as making of muskets and following pieces and making beautiful gold ornaments are mentioned. These products were beautifully made. Bernier was amazed to see these products.
II. Comparison of crafts referred in the passage with the description of artisanal activity in the chapter.
(i) In the chapter boat manufacturing and terracottan sculpture and temple architecture has been mentioned.
(ii) Art of painting has been referred.
(iii) Art of carpet manufacturing has been referred.
(iv) Art of dance, music and calligraphy have been referred in the chapter.
(v) Description about Rajal Khamos have also been mentioned.
10. On an outline map of the world, mark the countries visited by Ibn Battuta. What are the seas that he might have crossed?
Ans. Countries visited by Ibn Battuta:
(xi) Sri Lanka
(xii) Sumatra (Indonesia)
Name of Seas:
(i) North Atlantic Ocean
(ii) South Atlantic Ocean
(iii) Indian Ocean
(iv) Red Sea
(v) Arabian Sea
(vi) Bay of Bengal
(vii) South China Sea
(viii) East China Sea.