Old NCERT Textbook (Satish Chandra): Economic and Social Life and Cultural Developments Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC

UPSC: Old NCERT Textbook (Satish Chandra): Economic and Social Life and Cultural Developments Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC

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 Page 1


SIXTEEN
Economic and Social Life
under the Mughals
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CONDITIONS
The Mughals empire reached its territorial zenith by the end of the
seventeenth century. During the period it had to face many political and
administrative problems, some of which we have already discussed. In the
economic and social spheres, the period from the advent of Akbar to the end
of the seventeenth century may be treated as one since there were no
fundamental changes although there were important social and economic
developments which we shall try to analyse.
STANDARD OF LIVING: PATTERN OF VILLAGE LIFE AND THE MASSES
During the period, many European traders and travellers came to India, and
some of them have left accounts about the social and economic conditions of
the country. In general, they have emphasized the wealth and prosperity of
India and the ostentatious life-style of the ruling classes, on the one hand, and
on the other the grinding poverty of the ordinary people—the peasants, the
artisans and the labourers. Babur was struck by the scanty clothes worn by the
ordinary people. He observed that ‘peasants and people of low standing go
about naked.’ He then goes on to describe the langota or decency cloth worn
by men, and the sari worn by women. His impression has been corroborated
by later European travellers. Ralph Fitch, who came to India towards the end
of the sixteenth century, says that at Banaras ‘the people go naked save a little
cloth bound about their middle.’ De Laet wrote that the labourers had
insufficient clothing to keep themselves warm and cozy during winter.
However, Fitch observed, ‘In the winter which is our May, the men wear
quilted gowns of cotton, and quilted caps.’
Page 2


SIXTEEN
Economic and Social Life
under the Mughals
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CONDITIONS
The Mughals empire reached its territorial zenith by the end of the
seventeenth century. During the period it had to face many political and
administrative problems, some of which we have already discussed. In the
economic and social spheres, the period from the advent of Akbar to the end
of the seventeenth century may be treated as one since there were no
fundamental changes although there were important social and economic
developments which we shall try to analyse.
STANDARD OF LIVING: PATTERN OF VILLAGE LIFE AND THE MASSES
During the period, many European traders and travellers came to India, and
some of them have left accounts about the social and economic conditions of
the country. In general, they have emphasized the wealth and prosperity of
India and the ostentatious life-style of the ruling classes, on the one hand, and
on the other the grinding poverty of the ordinary people—the peasants, the
artisans and the labourers. Babur was struck by the scanty clothes worn by the
ordinary people. He observed that ‘peasants and people of low standing go
about naked.’ He then goes on to describe the langota or decency cloth worn
by men, and the sari worn by women. His impression has been corroborated
by later European travellers. Ralph Fitch, who came to India towards the end
of the sixteenth century, says that at Banaras ‘the people go naked save a little
cloth bound about their middle.’ De Laet wrote that the labourers had
insufficient clothing to keep themselves warm and cozy during winter.
However, Fitch observed, ‘In the winter which is our May, the men wear
quilted gowns of cotton, and quilted caps.’
Similar remarks have been made about the use of footwear. Nikitin
observed that the people of the Deccan went bare-footed. A modern author,
Moreland, says that he did not find a shoe mentioned anywhere north of the
Narmada river, except Bengal, and ascribes it to the high cost of leather.
As far as housing and furniture were concerned, little need be said. The
mud houses in which the villagers lived were not different from those at
present. They had hardly any furniture except cots and bamboo mats, and
earthen utensils which were made by the village potter. Copper and bell-metal
plates and utensils were expensive and were generally not used by the poor.
Regarding food, rice, millet and pulses (what Pelsaert and De Laet called
khicheri) formed the staple diet, along with fish in Bengal and the coasts, and
meat in the southern peninsula. In north India, chapatis made of wheat or
coarse grains, with pulses and green vegetables were common. The ordinary
people, it is said, ate their main meal in the evening, and chewed pulse or
other parched grain in the day. Ghee and oil were much cheaper than
foodgrains then, and seem to have been a staple part of the poor man’s food.
But salt and sugar were more expensive.
Thus, while people had less clothes to wear and shoes were too costly, on
balance they ate better. With more grazing land, they could keep more cattle,
so more milk and milk products must have been available.
The standard of living ultimately depended upon income and wages. It is
difficult to determine the income of the large mass of the peasants in real
terms, for money hardly entered into transactions in the villages. The village
artisan were paid for their services by means of commodities which were
fixed by custom. It is difficult to compute the average size of the holding of
the peasant. The information available to us shows that there was a great deal
of inequality in the villages. The peasant who did not have his own ploughs
and bullocks often tilled the land of the zamindars or the upper castes, and
could eke out a bare existence. The landless peasants and labourers often
belonged to the class of people called ‘untouchables’ or kamin. Whenever
there was a famine—and famines were frequent—it was this class of peasants
and the village artisans who suffered the most. The peasants who owned the
land they tilled were called khudkasht. They paid land revenue at customary
rates. Some of them had many ploughs and bullocks which they let out: to
Page 3


SIXTEEN
Economic and Social Life
under the Mughals
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CONDITIONS
The Mughals empire reached its territorial zenith by the end of the
seventeenth century. During the period it had to face many political and
administrative problems, some of which we have already discussed. In the
economic and social spheres, the period from the advent of Akbar to the end
of the seventeenth century may be treated as one since there were no
fundamental changes although there were important social and economic
developments which we shall try to analyse.
STANDARD OF LIVING: PATTERN OF VILLAGE LIFE AND THE MASSES
During the period, many European traders and travellers came to India, and
some of them have left accounts about the social and economic conditions of
the country. In general, they have emphasized the wealth and prosperity of
India and the ostentatious life-style of the ruling classes, on the one hand, and
on the other the grinding poverty of the ordinary people—the peasants, the
artisans and the labourers. Babur was struck by the scanty clothes worn by the
ordinary people. He observed that ‘peasants and people of low standing go
about naked.’ He then goes on to describe the langota or decency cloth worn
by men, and the sari worn by women. His impression has been corroborated
by later European travellers. Ralph Fitch, who came to India towards the end
of the sixteenth century, says that at Banaras ‘the people go naked save a little
cloth bound about their middle.’ De Laet wrote that the labourers had
insufficient clothing to keep themselves warm and cozy during winter.
However, Fitch observed, ‘In the winter which is our May, the men wear
quilted gowns of cotton, and quilted caps.’
Similar remarks have been made about the use of footwear. Nikitin
observed that the people of the Deccan went bare-footed. A modern author,
Moreland, says that he did not find a shoe mentioned anywhere north of the
Narmada river, except Bengal, and ascribes it to the high cost of leather.
As far as housing and furniture were concerned, little need be said. The
mud houses in which the villagers lived were not different from those at
present. They had hardly any furniture except cots and bamboo mats, and
earthen utensils which were made by the village potter. Copper and bell-metal
plates and utensils were expensive and were generally not used by the poor.
Regarding food, rice, millet and pulses (what Pelsaert and De Laet called
khicheri) formed the staple diet, along with fish in Bengal and the coasts, and
meat in the southern peninsula. In north India, chapatis made of wheat or
coarse grains, with pulses and green vegetables were common. The ordinary
people, it is said, ate their main meal in the evening, and chewed pulse or
other parched grain in the day. Ghee and oil were much cheaper than
foodgrains then, and seem to have been a staple part of the poor man’s food.
But salt and sugar were more expensive.
Thus, while people had less clothes to wear and shoes were too costly, on
balance they ate better. With more grazing land, they could keep more cattle,
so more milk and milk products must have been available.
The standard of living ultimately depended upon income and wages. It is
difficult to determine the income of the large mass of the peasants in real
terms, for money hardly entered into transactions in the villages. The village
artisan were paid for their services by means of commodities which were
fixed by custom. It is difficult to compute the average size of the holding of
the peasant. The information available to us shows that there was a great deal
of inequality in the villages. The peasant who did not have his own ploughs
and bullocks often tilled the land of the zamindars or the upper castes, and
could eke out a bare existence. The landless peasants and labourers often
belonged to the class of people called ‘untouchables’ or kamin. Whenever
there was a famine—and famines were frequent—it was this class of peasants
and the village artisans who suffered the most. The peasants who owned the
land they tilled were called khudkasht. They paid land revenue at customary
rates. Some of them had many ploughs and bullocks which they let out: to
their poorer brethren, the tenants or muzarian who generally paid land
revenue at a higher rate. These two groups were the largest section among the
cultivators in the village.
Thus, the village society was highly unequal. The khudkasht who claimed
to be the original settlers of the village often belonged to a single dominant
caste or castes. These castes not only dominated the village society, they
exploited the other or weaker sections. In turn, they were often exploited by
the zamindars.
It has been estimated that the population of India at the beginning of the
seventeenth century was about 125 million. Hence, there was plenty of
cultivable land available, and it may be surmised that a peasant would
cultivate as much land as his means and family circumstances would allow,
subject to social restraints. Unlike many other countries in Asia and Africa,
India had a well diversified economy, with the cultivation of a large variety of
crops such as wheat, rice, gram, barley, pulses, bajra, etc., as also crops which
were used for manufacture and could be processed locally. These were cotton,
indigo, chay (the red dye), sugarcane, oil-seeds, etc. These crops paid land
revenue at a higher rate, and had to be paid for in cash. Hence, they are often
called cash crops or superior crops. The peasant not only shifted his
cultivation from one crop to the other depending on prices, but was also
willing to adopt new crops, if he found it profitable to do so. Thus, during, the
seventeenth century, two new crops were added—tobacco and maize. Silk and
tusser cultivation became so widespread in Bengal during the period that
there was no need to import silk from China. The adoption of potato and red
chillies happened in the eighteenth century. Regarding efficiency of
production, it should be noted that the countryside was able to feed a growing
city population during the seventeenth century. India also exported food
grains, especially rice and sugar to some of the neighbouring countries. It was
also able to provide the raw materials needed for the expansion of
manufactured goods during the period, especially the manufacture of textiles.
The Mughal .state provided incentives and loans (taccavi) to the peasants for
expansion and improvement of cultivation. But the expansion and growth
would hardly have been possible without local efforts, initiative and
investment.
Page 4


SIXTEEN
Economic and Social Life
under the Mughals
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CONDITIONS
The Mughals empire reached its territorial zenith by the end of the
seventeenth century. During the period it had to face many political and
administrative problems, some of which we have already discussed. In the
economic and social spheres, the period from the advent of Akbar to the end
of the seventeenth century may be treated as one since there were no
fundamental changes although there were important social and economic
developments which we shall try to analyse.
STANDARD OF LIVING: PATTERN OF VILLAGE LIFE AND THE MASSES
During the period, many European traders and travellers came to India, and
some of them have left accounts about the social and economic conditions of
the country. In general, they have emphasized the wealth and prosperity of
India and the ostentatious life-style of the ruling classes, on the one hand, and
on the other the grinding poverty of the ordinary people—the peasants, the
artisans and the labourers. Babur was struck by the scanty clothes worn by the
ordinary people. He observed that ‘peasants and people of low standing go
about naked.’ He then goes on to describe the langota or decency cloth worn
by men, and the sari worn by women. His impression has been corroborated
by later European travellers. Ralph Fitch, who came to India towards the end
of the sixteenth century, says that at Banaras ‘the people go naked save a little
cloth bound about their middle.’ De Laet wrote that the labourers had
insufficient clothing to keep themselves warm and cozy during winter.
However, Fitch observed, ‘In the winter which is our May, the men wear
quilted gowns of cotton, and quilted caps.’
Similar remarks have been made about the use of footwear. Nikitin
observed that the people of the Deccan went bare-footed. A modern author,
Moreland, says that he did not find a shoe mentioned anywhere north of the
Narmada river, except Bengal, and ascribes it to the high cost of leather.
As far as housing and furniture were concerned, little need be said. The
mud houses in which the villagers lived were not different from those at
present. They had hardly any furniture except cots and bamboo mats, and
earthen utensils which were made by the village potter. Copper and bell-metal
plates and utensils were expensive and were generally not used by the poor.
Regarding food, rice, millet and pulses (what Pelsaert and De Laet called
khicheri) formed the staple diet, along with fish in Bengal and the coasts, and
meat in the southern peninsula. In north India, chapatis made of wheat or
coarse grains, with pulses and green vegetables were common. The ordinary
people, it is said, ate their main meal in the evening, and chewed pulse or
other parched grain in the day. Ghee and oil were much cheaper than
foodgrains then, and seem to have been a staple part of the poor man’s food.
But salt and sugar were more expensive.
Thus, while people had less clothes to wear and shoes were too costly, on
balance they ate better. With more grazing land, they could keep more cattle,
so more milk and milk products must have been available.
The standard of living ultimately depended upon income and wages. It is
difficult to determine the income of the large mass of the peasants in real
terms, for money hardly entered into transactions in the villages. The village
artisan were paid for their services by means of commodities which were
fixed by custom. It is difficult to compute the average size of the holding of
the peasant. The information available to us shows that there was a great deal
of inequality in the villages. The peasant who did not have his own ploughs
and bullocks often tilled the land of the zamindars or the upper castes, and
could eke out a bare existence. The landless peasants and labourers often
belonged to the class of people called ‘untouchables’ or kamin. Whenever
there was a famine—and famines were frequent—it was this class of peasants
and the village artisans who suffered the most. The peasants who owned the
land they tilled were called khudkasht. They paid land revenue at customary
rates. Some of them had many ploughs and bullocks which they let out: to
their poorer brethren, the tenants or muzarian who generally paid land
revenue at a higher rate. These two groups were the largest section among the
cultivators in the village.
Thus, the village society was highly unequal. The khudkasht who claimed
to be the original settlers of the village often belonged to a single dominant
caste or castes. These castes not only dominated the village society, they
exploited the other or weaker sections. In turn, they were often exploited by
the zamindars.
It has been estimated that the population of India at the beginning of the
seventeenth century was about 125 million. Hence, there was plenty of
cultivable land available, and it may be surmised that a peasant would
cultivate as much land as his means and family circumstances would allow,
subject to social restraints. Unlike many other countries in Asia and Africa,
India had a well diversified economy, with the cultivation of a large variety of
crops such as wheat, rice, gram, barley, pulses, bajra, etc., as also crops which
were used for manufacture and could be processed locally. These were cotton,
indigo, chay (the red dye), sugarcane, oil-seeds, etc. These crops paid land
revenue at a higher rate, and had to be paid for in cash. Hence, they are often
called cash crops or superior crops. The peasant not only shifted his
cultivation from one crop to the other depending on prices, but was also
willing to adopt new crops, if he found it profitable to do so. Thus, during, the
seventeenth century, two new crops were added—tobacco and maize. Silk and
tusser cultivation became so widespread in Bengal during the period that
there was no need to import silk from China. The adoption of potato and red
chillies happened in the eighteenth century. Regarding efficiency of
production, it should be noted that the countryside was able to feed a growing
city population during the seventeenth century. India also exported food
grains, especially rice and sugar to some of the neighbouring countries. It was
also able to provide the raw materials needed for the expansion of
manufactured goods during the period, especially the manufacture of textiles.
The Mughal .state provided incentives and loans (taccavi) to the peasants for
expansion and improvement of cultivation. But the expansion and growth
would hardly have been possible without local efforts, initiative and
investment.
Thus, the Indian cultivator was not as conservative and resistant to change
as he has often been made out to be. Although no new agricultural techniques
were introduced, Indian agriculture was, on balance, efficient and played a
definite role in the growth of the manufacturing sector and trade during the
period.
In medieval times, a peasant was not dispossessed from his land as long as
he paid the land revenue. He could also sell his land if he could find a buyer,
and if the rest of the community raised no objections. His children inherited
his land as a matter of right after his death. The state dues were heavy,
sometimes amounting to nearly half of his produce so that the ordinary
peasant was left only with barely enough to keep body and soul together, and
was in no position to invest anything for the improvement of land or
extension of cultivation. Although the life of the peasant was hard, he had
enough to eat and to meet his simple requirements, i.e., production and
reproduction. The pattern of his life was fixed partly by the seasons and partly
by custom and tradition in which fairs, pilgrimages, ceremonies, etc., had
their due place. The condition of the landless and a section of the artisans
including the menials, must have been much harder. However, not all
peasants lived at this low level. Resident cultivators (khudkasht) had generally
larger lands to cultivate, and a small section among them had large areas of
land, and many ploughs and oxen for cultivation. They could also let out a
part of their lands to the ordinary cultivators (muzarian) on profitable terms.
These sections and village zamindars could and did invest in the expansion
and improvement of cultivation.
As far as the cities were concerned, the largest section consisted of the poor
—the artisans, the servants and slaves, the soldiers, manual workers, etc.
The salary of the lowest grade of a servant, according to European
travellers, was less than two rupees a month. The bulk of the workers and foot
soldiers began at less than three rupees a month. It has been calculated that a
man could feed his family on two rupees a month. Moreland, who wrote in
the early part of the twentieth century, observed that during the period there
was little change in the real wages of workers—they had a more balanced diet
but clothes, sugar, etc., were more expensive. Moreland concluded from this
that the conditions of the Indian people had not worsened under the British
Page 5


SIXTEEN
Economic and Social Life
under the Mughals
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CONDITIONS
The Mughals empire reached its territorial zenith by the end of the
seventeenth century. During the period it had to face many political and
administrative problems, some of which we have already discussed. In the
economic and social spheres, the period from the advent of Akbar to the end
of the seventeenth century may be treated as one since there were no
fundamental changes although there were important social and economic
developments which we shall try to analyse.
STANDARD OF LIVING: PATTERN OF VILLAGE LIFE AND THE MASSES
During the period, many European traders and travellers came to India, and
some of them have left accounts about the social and economic conditions of
the country. In general, they have emphasized the wealth and prosperity of
India and the ostentatious life-style of the ruling classes, on the one hand, and
on the other the grinding poverty of the ordinary people—the peasants, the
artisans and the labourers. Babur was struck by the scanty clothes worn by the
ordinary people. He observed that ‘peasants and people of low standing go
about naked.’ He then goes on to describe the langota or decency cloth worn
by men, and the sari worn by women. His impression has been corroborated
by later European travellers. Ralph Fitch, who came to India towards the end
of the sixteenth century, says that at Banaras ‘the people go naked save a little
cloth bound about their middle.’ De Laet wrote that the labourers had
insufficient clothing to keep themselves warm and cozy during winter.
However, Fitch observed, ‘In the winter which is our May, the men wear
quilted gowns of cotton, and quilted caps.’
Similar remarks have been made about the use of footwear. Nikitin
observed that the people of the Deccan went bare-footed. A modern author,
Moreland, says that he did not find a shoe mentioned anywhere north of the
Narmada river, except Bengal, and ascribes it to the high cost of leather.
As far as housing and furniture were concerned, little need be said. The
mud houses in which the villagers lived were not different from those at
present. They had hardly any furniture except cots and bamboo mats, and
earthen utensils which were made by the village potter. Copper and bell-metal
plates and utensils were expensive and were generally not used by the poor.
Regarding food, rice, millet and pulses (what Pelsaert and De Laet called
khicheri) formed the staple diet, along with fish in Bengal and the coasts, and
meat in the southern peninsula. In north India, chapatis made of wheat or
coarse grains, with pulses and green vegetables were common. The ordinary
people, it is said, ate their main meal in the evening, and chewed pulse or
other parched grain in the day. Ghee and oil were much cheaper than
foodgrains then, and seem to have been a staple part of the poor man’s food.
But salt and sugar were more expensive.
Thus, while people had less clothes to wear and shoes were too costly, on
balance they ate better. With more grazing land, they could keep more cattle,
so more milk and milk products must have been available.
The standard of living ultimately depended upon income and wages. It is
difficult to determine the income of the large mass of the peasants in real
terms, for money hardly entered into transactions in the villages. The village
artisan were paid for their services by means of commodities which were
fixed by custom. It is difficult to compute the average size of the holding of
the peasant. The information available to us shows that there was a great deal
of inequality in the villages. The peasant who did not have his own ploughs
and bullocks often tilled the land of the zamindars or the upper castes, and
could eke out a bare existence. The landless peasants and labourers often
belonged to the class of people called ‘untouchables’ or kamin. Whenever
there was a famine—and famines were frequent—it was this class of peasants
and the village artisans who suffered the most. The peasants who owned the
land they tilled were called khudkasht. They paid land revenue at customary
rates. Some of them had many ploughs and bullocks which they let out: to
their poorer brethren, the tenants or muzarian who generally paid land
revenue at a higher rate. These two groups were the largest section among the
cultivators in the village.
Thus, the village society was highly unequal. The khudkasht who claimed
to be the original settlers of the village often belonged to a single dominant
caste or castes. These castes not only dominated the village society, they
exploited the other or weaker sections. In turn, they were often exploited by
the zamindars.
It has been estimated that the population of India at the beginning of the
seventeenth century was about 125 million. Hence, there was plenty of
cultivable land available, and it may be surmised that a peasant would
cultivate as much land as his means and family circumstances would allow,
subject to social restraints. Unlike many other countries in Asia and Africa,
India had a well diversified economy, with the cultivation of a large variety of
crops such as wheat, rice, gram, barley, pulses, bajra, etc., as also crops which
were used for manufacture and could be processed locally. These were cotton,
indigo, chay (the red dye), sugarcane, oil-seeds, etc. These crops paid land
revenue at a higher rate, and had to be paid for in cash. Hence, they are often
called cash crops or superior crops. The peasant not only shifted his
cultivation from one crop to the other depending on prices, but was also
willing to adopt new crops, if he found it profitable to do so. Thus, during, the
seventeenth century, two new crops were added—tobacco and maize. Silk and
tusser cultivation became so widespread in Bengal during the period that
there was no need to import silk from China. The adoption of potato and red
chillies happened in the eighteenth century. Regarding efficiency of
production, it should be noted that the countryside was able to feed a growing
city population during the seventeenth century. India also exported food
grains, especially rice and sugar to some of the neighbouring countries. It was
also able to provide the raw materials needed for the expansion of
manufactured goods during the period, especially the manufacture of textiles.
The Mughal .state provided incentives and loans (taccavi) to the peasants for
expansion and improvement of cultivation. But the expansion and growth
would hardly have been possible without local efforts, initiative and
investment.
Thus, the Indian cultivator was not as conservative and resistant to change
as he has often been made out to be. Although no new agricultural techniques
were introduced, Indian agriculture was, on balance, efficient and played a
definite role in the growth of the manufacturing sector and trade during the
period.
In medieval times, a peasant was not dispossessed from his land as long as
he paid the land revenue. He could also sell his land if he could find a buyer,
and if the rest of the community raised no objections. His children inherited
his land as a matter of right after his death. The state dues were heavy,
sometimes amounting to nearly half of his produce so that the ordinary
peasant was left only with barely enough to keep body and soul together, and
was in no position to invest anything for the improvement of land or
extension of cultivation. Although the life of the peasant was hard, he had
enough to eat and to meet his simple requirements, i.e., production and
reproduction. The pattern of his life was fixed partly by the seasons and partly
by custom and tradition in which fairs, pilgrimages, ceremonies, etc., had
their due place. The condition of the landless and a section of the artisans
including the menials, must have been much harder. However, not all
peasants lived at this low level. Resident cultivators (khudkasht) had generally
larger lands to cultivate, and a small section among them had large areas of
land, and many ploughs and oxen for cultivation. They could also let out a
part of their lands to the ordinary cultivators (muzarian) on profitable terms.
These sections and village zamindars could and did invest in the expansion
and improvement of cultivation.
As far as the cities were concerned, the largest section consisted of the poor
—the artisans, the servants and slaves, the soldiers, manual workers, etc.
The salary of the lowest grade of a servant, according to European
travellers, was less than two rupees a month. The bulk of the workers and foot
soldiers began at less than three rupees a month. It has been calculated that a
man could feed his family on two rupees a month. Moreland, who wrote in
the early part of the twentieth century, observed that during the period there
was little change in the real wages of workers—they had a more balanced diet
but clothes, sugar, etc., were more expensive. Moreland concluded from this
that the conditions of the Indian people had not worsened under the British
rule. But the matter has to be seen in a wider context. While there was a vast
increase in wealth and rise in real wages in Europe during the period, there
was overall stagnation, if not decline, of living standards in India under the
British rule.
THE RULING CLASSES: THE NOBLES AND ZAMINDARS
The nobility, along with the landed gentry, the zamindars, formed what may
be called the ruling class in medieval India. Socially and economically, the
Mughal nobility formed a privileged class. Theoretically, the doors of the
Mughal nobility were open to everyone. In practice, persons belonging to
aristocratic families, whether they were Indians or foreigners, had a decided
advantage. To begin with, the bulk of the Mughal nobles were drawn from the
homeland of the Mughals—Turan and from its neighbouring areas,
Tajikistan, Khurasan, Iran, etc. Although Babur was a Turk, the Mughal
rulers never followed a narrow racist policy. Babur tried to win the leading
Afghan nobles to his side, but they proved to be restless and untrustworthy
and soon defected. The tussle between the Mughals and the Afghans
continued in Bihar and Bengal even under Akbar. But from the time of
Jahangir, more Afghans began to be recruited in the nobility. Indian Muslims
who were called Shaikhzadas or Hindustani were also given service.
From the time of Akbar, Hindus also began to be inducted into the nobility
on a regular basis. The largest section among them consisted of the Rajputs.
At first, among the Rajputs, the Kachhwahas predominated. According to a
modern calculation, the proportion of Hindus in the nobility under Akbar in
1594 was about 16 per cent only. But these figures do not give any adequate
idea of the position and influence of the Hindus. Both Raja Man Singh and
Raja Birbal were the personal friends and boon companions of Akbar, while
in the spheres of revenue administration, Raja Todar Mai had a place of great
influence and honour. The Rajputs who were recruited to the nobility were
either hereditary rajas or belonged to aristocratic families related to or allied
to the raja. Thus, their incorporation into the nobility strengthened its
aristocratic character. Despite this, the nobility did provide an avenue of
promotion and distinction to persons drawn from the lower section of
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