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SalonyRoongta TheDistressduringtheMughalRuleinIndia MughalIndiaisoftentermedasthebestperiodintheIndianhistory.Thismightbetrueinalotalotof aspectsbutisveryoftenastronggroundtoarguetoo.Artandcraftflourishedalongwithasecured setupofadministration.TheMughalKingswereverydifferentfromoneanotherandveryoftenthis wasthebasisoftensionbetweentherulersandhissubjects.India,beinganagriculturalbasedcountry, waseconomicallycrushedduringthisperiod.Thepeasantswereunderimmensepressureandvery oftenwereunderheavydebtstoobecauseoftheexorbitantlyhighratesofinterestdemandedby moneylenders.Also,sociallythelifestyleofthepeoplewasalteredtogreatextents.Therefore,toregard therulingofMughalsasbeingoneofthefinestfortheIndiansocietyisfarfromtruth.MostMughal rulersjustwantedtoextractmostfromthecommonersandfilltheirowntreasuresforluxuriouslives insidethekingdomsforthemselvesandtheirfamily. SinceagriculturewasthemainpopulationofthepeopleofIndia,roughly75%ofthepopulationwas engagedinit.BeforetheMughals,theRajputstookgreatcareofthepeasantsbutuponthearrivalof Mughalsthisdynamicschangeddrastically.Thefarmerswereabletoploughandsowtwiceayearand reapgoodcropsforsurvival.TheMughals,however,hardlypaidanyattentiontotheirrigationsystem andmainlydependedupontherainfallforcropgrowth.Iftherainfallwasadequate,thepeasantshad enoughtopaythetaxotherwise,theywouldhavetoborrowmoneyfromthemoneylenderswho chargedaveryhighinterestonit.Forthesamereason,faminesduringtheMughalperiodwere extremelycommon.Also,thelandtaxwouldvaryaccordingtothewhimsandwishesoftherulers duringthattime.Forinstance,thelandtaxduringthereignofAkbarwasrdoftheyieldandduring

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thereignofShahJahnandAurangzebwasashighasoftheproduce.Ontopofthis,thezamindars toowantedsomeamountoftheearningsastheirrentforallowingthefarmerstoploughandfarmon theirlands.TheMughalsalsoconstantlychangedthemodeoftaxpayments.Akbarchangedthesystem oftaxpaymentfromtheexchangeofgoodstomonetarysystem.Inthissystem,thepeasantshadtopay rdoftheamountofwhattheyearned.Although,thiswaseasierforadministrativepurposes,during collection,thezamindarsandmoneycollectorswoulddemandtheirrespectivecutsandthisprovedto beanadditionalburdenforthefarmers.Onlyiftheregionexperiencedadequaterainfalldidthepeasants survived,otherwise,theyhadtogohungryfordaysorevenweeks.Veryoften,thefarmersranaway fromonesettlementtoanotherjustbecausethelandtaxwasalittlesubsidized.Therefore,theplightof peasantsdeterioratedduringtheMughalrule.Afterapoint,in1683,onezamindarjoinedthearmyof peasantsandrevoltedagainsttheMughalstopaythejagirdarsthetaxandwonindoingsowiththehelp ofhisvillagers. TheextravagantlifestylethattheMughalsenjoyedinthecourtwasbecauseofthetaxesthatthe commonerspaid.TheMughalswereveryartisticandhadaverygoodtasteinartandculture.Also, theyhadmultiplewivesandeachofthemhadtheirownsectioninthepalace.TheMughalsandtheir administratorsadoredhighlyexpensiveclotheswhichwereveryoftenembroideredwithgoldthreadand eventhebedsheetswereeitherprintedorembroideredonveryfinequalitycloth(SultansAmong HinduKingsDress,TitlesandIslamicizationofHindusinVijayanagar).Also,thewomenofcourtused perfumesmadeofflowers.Thecrockerywasstuddedwithexpensivestonesandmadeofsilver.Even theweaponsweremadeofgoldandjadewithverydelicatefloralwork.EmperorAkbarhadspoon madeofgoldwhichwasembeddedwithrubiesinafloralpattern(JournaloftheBritishArt

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Museum,32).Thecrownofthekingswereheavilystuddedwithpreciousstonesandwasmadeonthe baseofgold.TheMughalkingShahJahn,madetheTajMahal(anexoticmonumentmadeofonlywhite marble)asatokenofloveforhiswifeduringthetimeoffamineandlater,afterthecompletionofthe monument,cutoffboththehandsofalltheworkerssothattheycouldntmakeasimilarmonumentfor anyoneelseeveragain.Whiletheupperclasswereenjoyingsuchluxuries,thepoorwerefindingiteven difficulttofeedthemselves.Remarkeddifferencewasobservedbetweenthedressingstyleoftherich andthepoor.TheMughalpaidverylittleornoattentiontothisandcontinuedexploitingandusingthe taxpayersmoneyfortheirowngood.Therefore,theMughals,likeotherconquerors,didnottreatthe commonersastheirownbutasagroupofpeoplewhocouldbeexploitedforselfsatisfactionand luxury. Religionplayedanextremelyimportantroleinthelivesofthepeopleinancientera.TheMughalswere MuslimconquerorsinIndiawhoruledthesubjectswhoweremainlyHindus.Theearlierexistence betweentheMuslimsandHindushadbeenpeacefulandquiet,butaftertheMughalsconquered,the peacefulexistencedisappearedforever,andtilldatethereareconflictsinIndiabetweenthetwogroups. MughalemperorsgavebenefitstotheMuslimsandtookawayrightsfromtheHindus.Muslimswere givenhighprofileadministrativejobsandwerealsogivensomeformofsubsidyonthetaxeswhichhad topaid.Onthecontrary,notmanyofficialsinthecourtwereHindus,although90%ofthesubjectswere Hindus.TheHindushadtopayunusuallyhightaxesandhadtopayjizyataxtoo.Therefore,thetension betweenthetwogroupskeptgrowinguntiltherewasabreakingpointandrevoltsstartedtakingplace. Aurangzebwasaparticularlyintolerantruler.HewasaSunniMuslimandhenotonlybroughtbackthe jizyatax(whichwasabolishedbyAkbarduringhisownreign),butalsostarteddemolishingtemplesand

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churches.HepassedalawstatingthatnomoretemplescouldbebuiltintheEmpire.Healsoputaban ondrinking,singinganddancingforall.Singinganddancinghavebeenanintegralpartofworshipfor HindusrightfromtheVedicage.Since,theinfluenceoftheMughalswasfarlessdownsouthinIndia, peoplestartedmovingtothesouthernportion.Also,therewereconstantrevoltsagainsttheMughalsin theNorthernregionofPunjab.Therefore,alltheseharshlawsandreligiousdiscriminationstirredan unsteadyandinsecureenvironmentthroughouttheMughalempireintheIndiansubcontinent. TheMughalsocietywasasexiestone.Thediscriminationbetweenthegenderswasimmense.The womenwerekeptunderpurdahbytherulers.TheHindus,however,didnotbelieveinthatbutifthe womenwereseenwanderingaroundthestreets,theywereharassedbytheMughalofficials.Eventually, thepurdahsystembecameprevalentevenamongsttheHindusinordertoprotectthewomenoftheir householdfromtheMuslims,since,polygamywaspracticedbyMuslimmen.Thefreedomofwomen wasalwaysrestrictedinthecountry,butuponthearrivaloftheMughals,thesituationworsened.Sati practice(burningthewifeinthepyreofherdeceasedhusband)toostartedtakingplaceandchild marriagebecamecommon.Thegovernmentdidalmostnothingtohandlethissituation.Infactthesati practicebecamemoreandmorecommonduringtheMughalera.Hence,thesocialstatusdidnotshow toomuchofimprovementduringtheMughals. But,inalotofways,Mughalsdidimprovethequalityoflifeforcommoners.Theywereknownfortheir exotictasteinartsandcrafts.Theybuiltamazingpalaceswhichdrawtouristsfromaroundtheworld eventoday.Theybuiltbridges,highwaysandroadsforinlandtransportation.Thisincreasedtrade betweenotherinlandcountriesandalsomadeadministrationeasierforthem.Theartistsandcraftsmen

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tooflourishedintheMughalempire.Therefore,althoughtheybuilttransportationroutesfortheirown purpose,itwasusedbyallanditindeedhelpedtradegrowbetter. AlthoughmostoftheMughalrulerswerenotverytoleranttowardsotherreligions,itwasnotthecase withtheMughalrulerAkbar.Hewasparticularlytoleranttowardsallreligionandhadinfactmarrieda HinduRajputprincestoo.Althoughthemarriagewasmoreofapoliticalalliance,theRajputprincess wastheonewhoborethekingsheirtothethrone.Healsoformedanewreligionkeepinginmindthe keypointsoffaithfromalltheotherreligions.Hewastheonlyrulerwhousedtogivelandsand resourcesfortheconstructionofHindutemples.Healsohasbeenknowntograntlandsforthe constructionofChurchesinthewesternpartofIndia,namelyGoa,wherethepresenceofPortuguese andDutchhadbroughtChristianityintoexistence. EventhoughtheMughalswereinterestedmainlyinartandarchitecture,scienceandmathsflourished tooduringthatperiod.Mughalkingsbuiltschoolsintheirkingdoms.Althoughtheywerevery conservativeabouttheupperclasswomengainingeducation,themiddleclassandthelowerclass womenweregivenopportunitytolearn.Separateschoolswerebuiltforgirlsandboys,sinceboththe sexescouldnotattendthesameschool.Thegirlsweremainlytaughttheartofkeepingthehomewell decoratedandthefloralembroideries.Butthecurriculumforboyswasbasedonmathematicaland scientificskills.TheboyswerealsomadetolearnthebasicprinciplesofQuraninthemosques. NotallMughalKingswereselfish.KingslikeAkbarwereconstantlytryingtoincludetheHindu ideologiesintodailylife.Akbarwasanallrounderwhenitcametohispersonality.Hisrulehasoften beendescribedastheGoldenPeriodofMughalDynasty.Heobservedreligioustolerance,wasfond

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ofartandarchitecture,marriedHinduprincessandalsoopenedschoolsforfemalesseparately(The CambridgeEncyclopediaofIndia,103).HealsohadtheNavaratansormorecommonlyknownas theninejewelsinhiscourt.Hewaslovedasakingandrespected.Hethoughtofthepeopleashis subjectsforwhomheworkedanddidntseethemashumanswhocouldbeexploited.Therefore,he wasoneofthemostintelligentoftheMughalKings. Hence,weseethatmostofthedevelopmentthattookplaceduringtheMughalperiodwasinthefield ofarts,sciencesandarchitecture.Socialissueswerenottakencareof.Womenweremaltreatedand farmerswereoppressed.Theadministratorstookilladvantageoftheirpowers.Religioussentiments werehurteverynowandthenandthechildrenwereoftendeniededucation.Therichbecamericherand poorbecamepoorer.Thedifferencebetweentherichandpoorstartedtoincreasealthoughthe middleclasspeopleexistedinsilenceandadequatecomfort.Therulersandtheiradministratorsliveda luxuriousanddefinedlifewhereas,thepooronlysloggedfordailyincomeforsurvival.Hence,the MughalDynastywasverydynamicandkeptdifferingassoonastherulerchanged.Itisobservedthat brothersusedtokilleachotherandsometimesevenfathertocometothrone.Theyruledaccordingto theirownsetofrulesevenifitdifferedmarkedlyfromthepreviousones.