NCERT Textbook - Peasants, Zamindars And The State Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

History for UPSC (Civil Services) Prelims

Created by: Rajni Sharma

Humanities/Arts : NCERT Textbook - Peasants, Zamindars And The State Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


?????? ?? ???????????????? ? ? ???? ?? ???
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
about 85 per cent of the population of India lived in
its villages. Both peasants and landed elites were
involved in agricultural production and claimed
rights to a share of the produce. This created
relationships of cooperation, competition and
conflict among them. The sum of these agrarian
relationships made up rural society.
At the same time agencies from outside also
entered into the rural world. Most important among
these was the Mughal state, which derived the
bulk of its income from agricultural production.
Agents of the state – revenue assessors, collectors,
record keepers – sought to control rural society so
as to ensure that cultivation took place and the
state got its regular share of taxes from the
produce. Since many crops were grown for sale,
trade, money and markets entered the villages and
linked the agricultural areas with the towns.
? ??????????? ???? ??? ?? ?? ?? ? ??
??????????
The basic unit of agricultural society was the village,
inhabited by peasants who performed the manifold
seasonal tasks that made up agricultural production
throughout the year – tilling the soil, sowing seeds,
harvesting the crop when it was ripe. Further, they
contributed their labour to the production of
agro-based goods such as sugar and oil.
But rural India was not characterised by settled
peasant production alone. Several kinds of areas
such as large tracts of dry land or hilly regions were
not cultivable in the same way as the more fertile
Fig. 8.1
A rural scene
Detail from a seventeenth-century
Mughal painting
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
?? ?? ??? ?? ??? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ????? ????? ???? ????? ???? ????? ???? ????? ???? ????? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ????? ??? ??? ??? ????? ?? ?
?? ?? ?? ? ? ? ? ?? ???????? ?? ???????? ?? ???????? ?? ???????? ?? ?????????? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ??????????
?????
?? ???
2015-16(20/01/2015)
Page 2


?????? ?? ???????????????? ? ? ???? ?? ???
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
about 85 per cent of the population of India lived in
its villages. Both peasants and landed elites were
involved in agricultural production and claimed
rights to a share of the produce. This created
relationships of cooperation, competition and
conflict among them. The sum of these agrarian
relationships made up rural society.
At the same time agencies from outside also
entered into the rural world. Most important among
these was the Mughal state, which derived the
bulk of its income from agricultural production.
Agents of the state – revenue assessors, collectors,
record keepers – sought to control rural society so
as to ensure that cultivation took place and the
state got its regular share of taxes from the
produce. Since many crops were grown for sale,
trade, money and markets entered the villages and
linked the agricultural areas with the towns.
? ??????????? ???? ??? ?? ?? ?? ? ??
??????????
The basic unit of agricultural society was the village,
inhabited by peasants who performed the manifold
seasonal tasks that made up agricultural production
throughout the year – tilling the soil, sowing seeds,
harvesting the crop when it was ripe. Further, they
contributed their labour to the production of
agro-based goods such as sugar and oil.
But rural India was not characterised by settled
peasant production alone. Several kinds of areas
such as large tracts of dry land or hilly regions were
not cultivable in the same way as the more fertile
Fig. 8.1
A rural scene
Detail from a seventeenth-century
Mughal painting
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
?? ?? ??? ?? ??? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ????? ????? ???? ????? ???? ????? ???? ????? ???? ????? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ????? ??? ??? ??? ????? ?? ?
?? ?? ?? ? ? ? ? ?? ???????? ?? ???????? ?? ???????? ?? ???????? ?? ?????????? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ??????????
?????
?? ???
2015-16(20/01/2015)
???
expanses of land. In addition, forest areas made up
a substantial proportion of territory. We need to keep
this varied topography in mind when discussing
agrarian society.
1.1 Looking for sources
Our understanding of the workings of rural society does
not come from those who worked the land, as peasants
did not write about themselves. Our major source for
the agrarian history of the sixteenth and early
seventeenth centuries are chronicles and documents
from the Mughal court (see also Chapter 9) .
One of the most important chronicles was the
Ain-i Akbari (in short the Ain, see also Section 8)
authored by Akbar’s court historian Abu’l Fazl. This
text meticulously recorded the arrangements made
by the state to ensure cultivation, to enable the
collection of revenue by the agencies of the state
and to regulate the relationship between the state
and rural magnates, the zamindars.
The central purpose of the Ain was to present a
vision of Akbar’s empire where social harmony was
provided by a strong ruling class. Any revolt or assertion
of autonomous power against the Mughal state was,
in the eyes of the author of the Ain, predestined to fail.
In other words, whatever we learn from the Ain about
peasants remains a view from the top.
Fortunately, however, the account of the Ain can
be supplemented by descriptions contained in sources
emanating from regions away from the Mughal
capital. These include detailed revenue records from
Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan dating from
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Further,
the extensive records of the East India Company (see
also Chapter 10) provide us with useful descriptions
of agrarian relations in eastern India. All these
sources record instances of conflicts between
peasants, zamindars and the state. In the process
they give us an insight into peasants’ perception of
and their expectations of fairness from the state.
1.2 Peasants and their lands
The term which Indo-Persian sources of the Mughal
period most frequently used to denote a peasant was
raiyat (plural, riaya) or muzarian. In addition, we
also encounter the terms kisan or asami. Sources of
the seventeenth century refer to two kinds of
peasants – khud-kashta and pahi-kashta. The former
? ??????? ? ? ????????? ??? ???? ? ????
2015-16(20/01/2015)
Page 3


?????? ?? ???????????????? ? ? ???? ?? ???
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
about 85 per cent of the population of India lived in
its villages. Both peasants and landed elites were
involved in agricultural production and claimed
rights to a share of the produce. This created
relationships of cooperation, competition and
conflict among them. The sum of these agrarian
relationships made up rural society.
At the same time agencies from outside also
entered into the rural world. Most important among
these was the Mughal state, which derived the
bulk of its income from agricultural production.
Agents of the state – revenue assessors, collectors,
record keepers – sought to control rural society so
as to ensure that cultivation took place and the
state got its regular share of taxes from the
produce. Since many crops were grown for sale,
trade, money and markets entered the villages and
linked the agricultural areas with the towns.
? ??????????? ???? ??? ?? ?? ?? ? ??
??????????
The basic unit of agricultural society was the village,
inhabited by peasants who performed the manifold
seasonal tasks that made up agricultural production
throughout the year – tilling the soil, sowing seeds,
harvesting the crop when it was ripe. Further, they
contributed their labour to the production of
agro-based goods such as sugar and oil.
But rural India was not characterised by settled
peasant production alone. Several kinds of areas
such as large tracts of dry land or hilly regions were
not cultivable in the same way as the more fertile
Fig. 8.1
A rural scene
Detail from a seventeenth-century
Mughal painting
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
?? ?? ??? ?? ??? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ????? ????? ???? ????? ???? ????? ???? ????? ???? ????? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ????? ??? ??? ??? ????? ?? ?
?? ?? ?? ? ? ? ? ?? ???????? ?? ???????? ?? ???????? ?? ???????? ?? ?????????? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ??????????
?????
?? ???
2015-16(20/01/2015)
???
expanses of land. In addition, forest areas made up
a substantial proportion of territory. We need to keep
this varied topography in mind when discussing
agrarian society.
1.1 Looking for sources
Our understanding of the workings of rural society does
not come from those who worked the land, as peasants
did not write about themselves. Our major source for
the agrarian history of the sixteenth and early
seventeenth centuries are chronicles and documents
from the Mughal court (see also Chapter 9) .
One of the most important chronicles was the
Ain-i Akbari (in short the Ain, see also Section 8)
authored by Akbar’s court historian Abu’l Fazl. This
text meticulously recorded the arrangements made
by the state to ensure cultivation, to enable the
collection of revenue by the agencies of the state
and to regulate the relationship between the state
and rural magnates, the zamindars.
The central purpose of the Ain was to present a
vision of Akbar’s empire where social harmony was
provided by a strong ruling class. Any revolt or assertion
of autonomous power against the Mughal state was,
in the eyes of the author of the Ain, predestined to fail.
In other words, whatever we learn from the Ain about
peasants remains a view from the top.
Fortunately, however, the account of the Ain can
be supplemented by descriptions contained in sources
emanating from regions away from the Mughal
capital. These include detailed revenue records from
Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan dating from
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Further,
the extensive records of the East India Company (see
also Chapter 10) provide us with useful descriptions
of agrarian relations in eastern India. All these
sources record instances of conflicts between
peasants, zamindars and the state. In the process
they give us an insight into peasants’ perception of
and their expectations of fairness from the state.
1.2 Peasants and their lands
The term which Indo-Persian sources of the Mughal
period most frequently used to denote a peasant was
raiyat (plural, riaya) or muzarian. In addition, we
also encounter the terms kisan or asami. Sources of
the seventeenth century refer to two kinds of
peasants – khud-kashta and pahi-kashta. The former
? ??????? ? ? ????????? ??? ???? ? ????
2015-16(20/01/2015)
?????? ?? ???????????????? ? ? ???? ?? ???
were residents of the village in which they held their
lands. The latter were non-resident cultivators who
belonged to some other village, but cultivated lands
elsewhere on a contractual basis. People became
pahi-kashta either out of choice – for example, when
terms of revenue in a distant village were more
favourable – or out of compulsion – for example,
forced by economic distress after a famine.
Seldom did the average peasant of north India
possess more than a pair of bullocks and two
ploughs; most possessed even less. In Gujarat
peasants possessing about six acres of land were
considered to be affluent; in Bengal, on the other
hand, five acres was the upper limit of an average
peasant farm; 10 acres would make one a rich asami.
Cultivation was based on the principle of individual
ownership. Peasant lands were bought and sold in
the same way as the lands of other property owners.
This nineteenth-century description of peasant
holdings in the Delhi-Agra region would apply equally
to the seventeenth century:
The cultivating peasants (asamis), who plough
up the fields, mark the limits of each field, for
identification and demarcation, with borders of
(raised) earth, brick and thorn so that thousands
of such fields may be counted in a village.
1.3 Irrigation and technology
The abundance of land, available labour and the
mobility of peasants were three factors that
accounted for the constant expansion of agriculture.
Since the primary purpose of agriculture is to feed
people, basic staples such as rice, wheat or millets
were the most frequently cultivated crops. Areas
which received 40 inches or more of rainfall a year
were generally rice-producing zones, followed by
wheat and millets, corresponding to a descending
scale of precipitation.
Monsoons remained the backbone of Indian
agriculture, as they are even today. But there were
crops which required additional water. Artificial
systems of irrigation had to be devised for this.
? ???????? ??? ???? ????
????? ???? ?? ???????? ??? ????????
???????? ?????? ??????? ?? ????
????????? ??? ?? ????? ?? ???? ?????
??????? ????? ???? ??? ???????
??????? ???? ???? ??? ?????? ?????? ??
??? ???? ?????? ???? ?? ???? ??????? ?
?? ? ? ??? ?? ??? ? ? ??? ?? ?? ???
?????????? ?????? ???????? ???
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
?? ???????? ??? ???? ??????? ??? ?
?????? ?????? ???? ?????????
?????????????????????????????
????? ??? ??? ??? ????? ?? ???? ????
???? ?? ????? ??? ?????? ??? ????
???????? ??? ?? ???? ???? ?? ?????
??? ???? ?????? ?????? ??? ????
???? ?????? ????? ??? ?? ?????? ??
???????? ????? ????? ???? ???
?????? ???????? ???????? ?????
?????? ???? ???? ???????????
???? ??? ???? ??????????? ??
?????????? ??? ?????????? ??
? ? ?? ? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?? ? ? ? ?? ? ? ?? ? ?
??? ?? ?????? ????? ????? ???? ?????
??????? ??? ???? ??? ?????? ?
???? ??????? ????????? ????
?? ? ?? ??? ??? ??? ??? ?? ? ??? ? ??? ?
???????????????????????????
???????? ??? ?? ?????
Source 1
? Describe the aspects
of agricultural life that
struck Babur as
particular to regions in
northern India.
2015-16(20/01/2015)
Page 4


?????? ?? ???????????????? ? ? ???? ?? ???
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
about 85 per cent of the population of India lived in
its villages. Both peasants and landed elites were
involved in agricultural production and claimed
rights to a share of the produce. This created
relationships of cooperation, competition and
conflict among them. The sum of these agrarian
relationships made up rural society.
At the same time agencies from outside also
entered into the rural world. Most important among
these was the Mughal state, which derived the
bulk of its income from agricultural production.
Agents of the state – revenue assessors, collectors,
record keepers – sought to control rural society so
as to ensure that cultivation took place and the
state got its regular share of taxes from the
produce. Since many crops were grown for sale,
trade, money and markets entered the villages and
linked the agricultural areas with the towns.
? ??????????? ???? ??? ?? ?? ?? ? ??
??????????
The basic unit of agricultural society was the village,
inhabited by peasants who performed the manifold
seasonal tasks that made up agricultural production
throughout the year – tilling the soil, sowing seeds,
harvesting the crop when it was ripe. Further, they
contributed their labour to the production of
agro-based goods such as sugar and oil.
But rural India was not characterised by settled
peasant production alone. Several kinds of areas
such as large tracts of dry land or hilly regions were
not cultivable in the same way as the more fertile
Fig. 8.1
A rural scene
Detail from a seventeenth-century
Mughal painting
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
?? ?? ??? ?? ??? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ????? ????? ???? ????? ???? ????? ???? ????? ???? ????? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ????? ??? ??? ??? ????? ?? ?
?? ?? ?? ? ? ? ? ?? ???????? ?? ???????? ?? ???????? ?? ???????? ?? ?????????? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ??????????
?????
?? ???
2015-16(20/01/2015)
???
expanses of land. In addition, forest areas made up
a substantial proportion of territory. We need to keep
this varied topography in mind when discussing
agrarian society.
1.1 Looking for sources
Our understanding of the workings of rural society does
not come from those who worked the land, as peasants
did not write about themselves. Our major source for
the agrarian history of the sixteenth and early
seventeenth centuries are chronicles and documents
from the Mughal court (see also Chapter 9) .
One of the most important chronicles was the
Ain-i Akbari (in short the Ain, see also Section 8)
authored by Akbar’s court historian Abu’l Fazl. This
text meticulously recorded the arrangements made
by the state to ensure cultivation, to enable the
collection of revenue by the agencies of the state
and to regulate the relationship between the state
and rural magnates, the zamindars.
The central purpose of the Ain was to present a
vision of Akbar’s empire where social harmony was
provided by a strong ruling class. Any revolt or assertion
of autonomous power against the Mughal state was,
in the eyes of the author of the Ain, predestined to fail.
In other words, whatever we learn from the Ain about
peasants remains a view from the top.
Fortunately, however, the account of the Ain can
be supplemented by descriptions contained in sources
emanating from regions away from the Mughal
capital. These include detailed revenue records from
Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan dating from
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Further,
the extensive records of the East India Company (see
also Chapter 10) provide us with useful descriptions
of agrarian relations in eastern India. All these
sources record instances of conflicts between
peasants, zamindars and the state. In the process
they give us an insight into peasants’ perception of
and their expectations of fairness from the state.
1.2 Peasants and their lands
The term which Indo-Persian sources of the Mughal
period most frequently used to denote a peasant was
raiyat (plural, riaya) or muzarian. In addition, we
also encounter the terms kisan or asami. Sources of
the seventeenth century refer to two kinds of
peasants – khud-kashta and pahi-kashta. The former
? ??????? ? ? ????????? ??? ???? ? ????
2015-16(20/01/2015)
?????? ?? ???????????????? ? ? ???? ?? ???
were residents of the village in which they held their
lands. The latter were non-resident cultivators who
belonged to some other village, but cultivated lands
elsewhere on a contractual basis. People became
pahi-kashta either out of choice – for example, when
terms of revenue in a distant village were more
favourable – or out of compulsion – for example,
forced by economic distress after a famine.
Seldom did the average peasant of north India
possess more than a pair of bullocks and two
ploughs; most possessed even less. In Gujarat
peasants possessing about six acres of land were
considered to be affluent; in Bengal, on the other
hand, five acres was the upper limit of an average
peasant farm; 10 acres would make one a rich asami.
Cultivation was based on the principle of individual
ownership. Peasant lands were bought and sold in
the same way as the lands of other property owners.
This nineteenth-century description of peasant
holdings in the Delhi-Agra region would apply equally
to the seventeenth century:
The cultivating peasants (asamis), who plough
up the fields, mark the limits of each field, for
identification and demarcation, with borders of
(raised) earth, brick and thorn so that thousands
of such fields may be counted in a village.
1.3 Irrigation and technology
The abundance of land, available labour and the
mobility of peasants were three factors that
accounted for the constant expansion of agriculture.
Since the primary purpose of agriculture is to feed
people, basic staples such as rice, wheat or millets
were the most frequently cultivated crops. Areas
which received 40 inches or more of rainfall a year
were generally rice-producing zones, followed by
wheat and millets, corresponding to a descending
scale of precipitation.
Monsoons remained the backbone of Indian
agriculture, as they are even today. But there were
crops which required additional water. Artificial
systems of irrigation had to be devised for this.
? ???????? ??? ???? ????
????? ???? ?? ???????? ??? ????????
???????? ?????? ??????? ?? ????
????????? ??? ?? ????? ?? ???? ?????
??????? ????? ???? ??? ???????
??????? ???? ???? ??? ?????? ?????? ??
??? ???? ?????? ???? ?? ???? ??????? ?
?? ? ? ??? ?? ??? ? ? ??? ?? ?? ???
?????????? ?????? ???????? ???
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
?? ???????? ??? ???? ??????? ??? ?
?????? ?????? ???? ?????????
?????????????????????????????
????? ??? ??? ??? ????? ?? ???? ????
???? ?? ????? ??? ?????? ??? ????
???????? ??? ?? ???? ???? ?? ?????
??? ???? ?????? ?????? ??? ????
???? ?????? ????? ??? ?? ?????? ??
???????? ????? ????? ???? ???
?????? ???????? ???????? ?????
?????? ???? ???? ???????????
???? ??? ???? ??????????? ??
?????????? ??? ?????????? ??
? ? ?? ? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?? ? ? ? ?? ? ? ?? ? ?
??? ?? ?????? ????? ????? ???? ?????
??????? ??? ???? ??? ?????? ?
???? ??????? ????????? ????
?? ? ?? ??? ??? ??? ??? ?? ? ??? ? ??? ?
???????????????????????????
???????? ??? ?? ?????
Source 1
? Describe the aspects
of agricultural life that
struck Babur as
particular to regions in
northern India.
2015-16(20/01/2015)
???
???????????????????????????
???? ? ?? ? ?? ? ?? ?????? ????? ??? ? ?????? ????? ????? ?????????? ???
??????????? ???????? ???? ???????? ????????? ??? ????????? ??????
?? ? ? ? ??? ? ??? ?? ?? ? ? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ? ? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ? ? ?? ?? ? ? ?? ??
????? ??????? ???? ?????? ???? ??????????? ?????? ????? ??? ???????
?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
???????????? ?????? ???? ?????????? ??????? ?????? ????? ??? ???
????????? ??? ???? ?????? ???????????? ???? ???????? ??? ??? ????? ??????
?????? ????? ????? ????? ??? ?????? ?????? ?????????? ? ??? ?????? ?????
?????? ??? ????? ??? ????? ??? ?????? ??? ???????? ??? ??????? ?
??? ???????? ????????? ?????? ??? ???????????? ?????????? ???? ?????
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
???????? ??? ????? ????? ??????? ??? ????? ???? ??????? ??? ???? ?????? ???
??????? ??? ????? ???????? ?????? ???? ??? ?????? ??????? ?????????
??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
???? ???????????? ??? ???? ???? ??? ???? ??????????? ?? ??????? ?????? ??
??????? ???? ?????? ??? ??? ???????? ??? ??? ???????? ?????? ???? ????? ?????
???? ???????? ??????? ???? ?????? ?????? ??? ???? ?????? ??? ???? ??????
????????? ???? ????? ???? ?????? ????? ???? ????????? ??? ???????? ?
??????? ??? ???? ?????? ???? ?????? ???????? ????? ???? ????????? ???
????? ????? ???? ?????? ??? ????????? ???????????
??? ?????? ???????? ?? ??????? ????? ??? ?? ?????????? ?????? ????????
???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
?????????? ????? ???? ??? ?? ????? ??? ?????? ??????? ?? ??????? ????????
???????? ???? ??????? ???? ?? ????? ??? ?? ?????? ???????? ???? ???? ????
????? ?? ???????? ??? ? ? ??? ???? ?? ???? ??? ? ? ?? ???? ???? ???? ? ?? ?? ????? ?
????? ?????? ???? ????????? ???????? ?????? ???? ???????
? Compare the
irrigation devices
observed by Babur with
what you have learnt
about irrigation in
Vijayanagara
(Chapter 7). What kind
of resources would each
of these systems
require? Which systems
could ensure the
participation of peasants
in improving
agricultural technology?
Fig. 8.2
A reconstructed Persian
wheel, described here
Source 2
? ??????? ? ? ????????? ??? ???? ? ????
2015-16(20/01/2015)
Page 5


?????? ?? ???????????????? ? ? ???? ?? ???
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
about 85 per cent of the population of India lived in
its villages. Both peasants and landed elites were
involved in agricultural production and claimed
rights to a share of the produce. This created
relationships of cooperation, competition and
conflict among them. The sum of these agrarian
relationships made up rural society.
At the same time agencies from outside also
entered into the rural world. Most important among
these was the Mughal state, which derived the
bulk of its income from agricultural production.
Agents of the state – revenue assessors, collectors,
record keepers – sought to control rural society so
as to ensure that cultivation took place and the
state got its regular share of taxes from the
produce. Since many crops were grown for sale,
trade, money and markets entered the villages and
linked the agricultural areas with the towns.
? ??????????? ???? ??? ?? ?? ?? ? ??
??????????
The basic unit of agricultural society was the village,
inhabited by peasants who performed the manifold
seasonal tasks that made up agricultural production
throughout the year – tilling the soil, sowing seeds,
harvesting the crop when it was ripe. Further, they
contributed their labour to the production of
agro-based goods such as sugar and oil.
But rural India was not characterised by settled
peasant production alone. Several kinds of areas
such as large tracts of dry land or hilly regions were
not cultivable in the same way as the more fertile
Fig. 8.1
A rural scene
Detail from a seventeenth-century
Mughal painting
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
?? ?? ??? ?? ??? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ????? ????? ???? ????? ???? ????? ???? ????? ???? ????? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ???? ? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ????? ??? ??? ??? ????? ?? ?
?? ?? ?? ? ? ? ? ?? ???????? ?? ???????? ?? ???????? ?? ???????? ?? ?????????? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ??????????
?????
?? ???
2015-16(20/01/2015)
???
expanses of land. In addition, forest areas made up
a substantial proportion of territory. We need to keep
this varied topography in mind when discussing
agrarian society.
1.1 Looking for sources
Our understanding of the workings of rural society does
not come from those who worked the land, as peasants
did not write about themselves. Our major source for
the agrarian history of the sixteenth and early
seventeenth centuries are chronicles and documents
from the Mughal court (see also Chapter 9) .
One of the most important chronicles was the
Ain-i Akbari (in short the Ain, see also Section 8)
authored by Akbar’s court historian Abu’l Fazl. This
text meticulously recorded the arrangements made
by the state to ensure cultivation, to enable the
collection of revenue by the agencies of the state
and to regulate the relationship between the state
and rural magnates, the zamindars.
The central purpose of the Ain was to present a
vision of Akbar’s empire where social harmony was
provided by a strong ruling class. Any revolt or assertion
of autonomous power against the Mughal state was,
in the eyes of the author of the Ain, predestined to fail.
In other words, whatever we learn from the Ain about
peasants remains a view from the top.
Fortunately, however, the account of the Ain can
be supplemented by descriptions contained in sources
emanating from regions away from the Mughal
capital. These include detailed revenue records from
Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan dating from
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Further,
the extensive records of the East India Company (see
also Chapter 10) provide us with useful descriptions
of agrarian relations in eastern India. All these
sources record instances of conflicts between
peasants, zamindars and the state. In the process
they give us an insight into peasants’ perception of
and their expectations of fairness from the state.
1.2 Peasants and their lands
The term which Indo-Persian sources of the Mughal
period most frequently used to denote a peasant was
raiyat (plural, riaya) or muzarian. In addition, we
also encounter the terms kisan or asami. Sources of
the seventeenth century refer to two kinds of
peasants – khud-kashta and pahi-kashta. The former
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2015-16(20/01/2015)
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were residents of the village in which they held their
lands. The latter were non-resident cultivators who
belonged to some other village, but cultivated lands
elsewhere on a contractual basis. People became
pahi-kashta either out of choice – for example, when
terms of revenue in a distant village were more
favourable – or out of compulsion – for example,
forced by economic distress after a famine.
Seldom did the average peasant of north India
possess more than a pair of bullocks and two
ploughs; most possessed even less. In Gujarat
peasants possessing about six acres of land were
considered to be affluent; in Bengal, on the other
hand, five acres was the upper limit of an average
peasant farm; 10 acres would make one a rich asami.
Cultivation was based on the principle of individual
ownership. Peasant lands were bought and sold in
the same way as the lands of other property owners.
This nineteenth-century description of peasant
holdings in the Delhi-Agra region would apply equally
to the seventeenth century:
The cultivating peasants (asamis), who plough
up the fields, mark the limits of each field, for
identification and demarcation, with borders of
(raised) earth, brick and thorn so that thousands
of such fields may be counted in a village.
1.3 Irrigation and technology
The abundance of land, available labour and the
mobility of peasants were three factors that
accounted for the constant expansion of agriculture.
Since the primary purpose of agriculture is to feed
people, basic staples such as rice, wheat or millets
were the most frequently cultivated crops. Areas
which received 40 inches or more of rainfall a year
were generally rice-producing zones, followed by
wheat and millets, corresponding to a descending
scale of precipitation.
Monsoons remained the backbone of Indian
agriculture, as they are even today. But there were
crops which required additional water. Artificial
systems of irrigation had to be devised for this.
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?? ? ? ??? ?? ??? ? ? ??? ?? ?? ???
?????????? ?????? ???????? ???
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?? ???????? ??? ???? ??????? ??? ?
?????? ?????? ???? ?????????
?????????????????????????????
????? ??? ??? ??? ????? ?? ???? ????
???? ?? ????? ??? ?????? ??? ????
???????? ??? ?? ???? ???? ?? ?????
??? ???? ?????? ?????? ??? ????
???? ?????? ????? ??? ?? ?????? ??
???????? ????? ????? ???? ???
?????? ???????? ???????? ?????
?????? ???? ???? ???????????
???? ??? ???? ??????????? ??
?????????? ??? ?????????? ??
? ? ?? ? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?? ? ? ? ?? ? ? ?? ? ?
??? ?? ?????? ????? ????? ???? ?????
??????? ??? ???? ??? ?????? ?
???? ??????? ????????? ????
?? ? ?? ??? ??? ??? ??? ?? ? ??? ? ??? ?
???????????????????????????
???????? ??? ?? ?????
Source 1
? Describe the aspects
of agricultural life that
struck Babur as
particular to regions in
northern India.
2015-16(20/01/2015)
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???? ? ?? ? ?? ? ?? ?????? ????? ??? ? ?????? ????? ????? ?????????? ???
??????????? ???????? ???? ???????? ????????? ??? ????????? ??????
?? ? ? ? ??? ? ??? ?? ?? ? ? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ? ? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ? ? ?? ?? ? ? ?? ??
????? ??????? ???? ?????? ???? ??????????? ?????? ????? ??? ???????
?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
???????????? ?????? ???? ?????????? ??????? ?????? ????? ??? ???
????????? ??? ???? ?????? ???????????? ???? ???????? ??? ??? ????? ??????
?????? ????? ????? ????? ??? ?????? ?????? ?????????? ? ??? ?????? ?????
?????? ??? ????? ??? ????? ??? ?????? ??? ???????? ??? ??????? ?
??? ???????? ????????? ?????? ??? ???????????? ?????????? ???? ?????
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
???????? ??? ????? ????? ??????? ??? ????? ???? ??????? ??? ???? ?????? ???
??????? ??? ????? ???????? ?????? ???? ??? ?????? ??????? ?????????
??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
???? ???????????? ??? ???? ???? ??? ???? ??????????? ?? ??????? ?????? ??
??????? ???? ?????? ??? ??? ???????? ??? ??? ???????? ?????? ???? ????? ?????
???? ???????? ??????? ???? ?????? ?????? ??? ???? ?????? ??? ???? ??????
????????? ???? ????? ???? ?????? ????? ???? ????????? ??? ???????? ?
??????? ??? ???? ?????? ???? ?????? ???????? ????? ???? ????????? ???
????? ????? ???? ?????? ??? ????????? ???????????
??? ?????? ???????? ?? ??????? ????? ??? ?? ?????????? ?????? ????????
???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
?????????? ????? ???? ??? ?? ????? ??? ?????? ??????? ?? ??????? ????????
???????? ???? ??????? ???? ?? ????? ??? ?? ?????? ???????? ???? ???? ????
????? ?? ???????? ??? ? ? ??? ???? ?? ???? ??? ? ? ?? ???? ???? ???? ? ?? ?? ????? ?
????? ?????? ???? ????????? ???????? ?????? ???? ???????
? Compare the
irrigation devices
observed by Babur with
what you have learnt
about irrigation in
Vijayanagara
(Chapter 7). What kind
of resources would each
of these systems
require? Which systems
could ensure the
participation of peasants
in improving
agricultural technology?
Fig. 8.2
A reconstructed Persian
wheel, described here
Source 2
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2015-16(20/01/2015)
?????? ?? ???????????????? ? ? ???? ?? ???
Irrigation projects received state support as well.
For example, in northern India the state undertook
digging of new canals (nahr, nala) and also repaired
old ones like the shahnahr in the Punjab during Shah
Jahan’s reign.
Though agriculture was labour intensive, peasants
did use technologies that often harnessed cattle
energy. One example was the wooden plough, which
was light and easily assembled with an iron tip or
coulter. It therefore did not make deep furrows, which
preserved the moisture better during the intensely
hot months. A drill, pulled by a pair of giant oxen,
was used to plant seeds, but broadcasting of
seed was the most prevalent method. Hoeing and
weeding were done simultaneously using a narrow
iron blade with a small wooden handle.
1.4 An abundance of crops
Agriculture was organised around two major
seasonal cycles, the kharif (autumn) and the rabi
(spring). This would mean that most regions,  except
those terrains that were the most arid or
inhospitable, produced a minimum of two crops a
year (do-fasla), whereas some, where rainfall or
irrigation assured a continuous supply of water, even
gave three crops. This ensured an enormous variety
of produce. For instance, we are told in the Ain that
the Mughal provinces of Agra produced 39 varieties
of crops and Delhi produced 43 over the two seasons.
Bengal produced 50 varieties of rice alone.
However, the focus on the cultivation of basic
staples did not mean that agriculture in medieval
India was only for subsistence. We often come across
the term jins-i kamil (literally, perfect crops) in our
sources. The Mughal state also encouraged peasants
to cultivate such crops as they brought in more
revenue. Crops such as cotton and sugarcane were
jins-i kamil par excellence. Cotton was grown over a
great swathe of territory spread over central India
and the Deccan plateau, whereas Bengal was famous
for its sugar. Such cash crops would also include
various sorts of oilseeds (for example, mustard) and
lentils. This shows how subsistence and commercial
production were closely intertwined in an average
peasant’s holding.
During the seventeenth century several new crops
from different parts of the world reached the Indian
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?????? ??? ????? ??????? ??? ??
?? ??? ??? ?? ????????? ???? ??
? ?? ?? ? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ? ? ?? ? ?? ? ?? ?
???? ??? ??????? ???? ????? ??? ???????
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??? ??? ???? ??????????? ??????? ?
???????? ??? ??????? ?? ?????
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????????????? ??????????? ???
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???????? ????????? ???????????
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2015-16(20/01/2015)
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