Chapter 1. Tracing Changes Through a Thousand Years

Overview
• The terms and meaning of words change over time. For example, ‘Hindustan’, today means ‘India’, a country whereas in thirteenth century, Minhaji-Siraj, a chronicler who wrote in Persian, used term to refer to areas of Punjab, Haryana & lands between Ganga and Yamuna.

Historians and their Sources
• Historians rely on coins, inscriptions, architecture and textual records for historical information, but significance of texual records have increased during this period (700 – 1750).
• People used paper to write holy texts, chronicles of rulers, letters & teachings of saints, petitions & judicial records and for registers of accounts and taxes.
• 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 difficult to use.
• There were no printing presses and texts were copied by hands which led to slight changes in them over time. It is very difficult to find original manuscript of author today. We are totally dependent upon copies made by later scribes.
• Ziyauddin Barani was a 14th century chronicler, he wrote his chronicle first in 1356 and another two years later.

New Social and Political Groups
• The study of 1000 years spanning 700 and 1750 is a challenge. The scales and variety of developments that occurred over period are huge. At different moments in this period, new technologies made their appearances – like Persian wheel in irrigation, spinning wheel in weaving and firearms in combat.
• New foods and beverages arrived in subcontinent – potatoes, corn, chillies, tea & coffee. All these new technologies and crops came along with people, who brought other ideas with them as well, thus resulting in a period of economic, political, social & cultural changes.
• Rajputs name derived from ‘Rajaputra’, son of a ruler, became quite popular during this period. The term Rajputs between eighth and fourteen centuries was applied usually for a group of warriors called Kshatriya, including not just rulers and chieftains but soldiers and commanders who served in armies of different monarchs all over subcontinent. Other groups were Marathas, Sikhs, Jats, Ahoms & Kayasthas.
• Many forest-dwellers migrated during this period due to change in habitat. There was a gradual clearing of forests and extension of agriculture, faster & more complete in some areas than in others.
• Peasants were required to pay taxes and offer goods and services to local lords such as Zamindar etc. As a result, significant economic and social differences emerged amongst peasants.

Caste and Jati System
• As society became more differentiated, people were grouped into jatis or sub-castes and ranked on basis of their backgrounds and their occupations.
• Ranks were not fixed permanently and varied according to power, influence & resources controlled by members of jati. The status of same jati could vary from area to area.
• Jatis framed their own rules and regulations to manage conduct of their members. These regulations were enforced by an assembly of elders, described in some areas as jati panchayat.
• Jatis were required to follow rules of their villages. Several villages were governed by a chieftain. Together they were only one small unit of a state.

Region and Empires
• Around 700, many regions already possessed distinct geographical dimensions and their own language and cultural characteristics.
• There was considerable conflict between these states and occasionally, dynasties like Cholas, Khaljis, Tughlaqs & Mughals were able to build an empire that was pan-regional but not all these empires were equally stable or successful.
• A Sanskrit prashasti praising Delhi Sultan Ghiyasuddin Balban (1266-1287) states-he ruled over a vast empire stretching from Bengal (Gauda) in east to Ghazni (Gajjana) in Afghanistan in west and included all of south India (Dravida).
• Through thousand years between 700 and 1750, character of different regions did not grow in isolation. These regions felt impact of larger pan-regional forces of integration without ever quite losing their distinctiveness.

Old and New Religions
• It was during this period that important changes occurred in what we call Hinduism today. These included worship of new deities, construction of temples by royalty and growing importance of Brahmanas, priests, as dominant groups in society.
• One of major developments of this period was emergence of idea of bhakti – of a loving, personal deity that devotees could reach without aid of priests or elaborate rituals.
• There were two beliefs in Muslims, one of Shia and other is Sunni. Shia believed that Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law, Ali, was legitimate leader of Muslim community. Sunni Muslims who accepted authority of early leaders (Khalifas) of community and succeeding Khalifas.
• There were other important differences between various schools of law (Hanafi and Shafi’s mainly in India) and in theology and mystic traditions.

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 reflects changes in social and economic organisation, in persistence and transformation of ideas and beliefs.
• In middle of nineteenth century, British historians divided history of India into three periods:
1. Hindu
2. Muslim
3. British
• The idea of division was based on Religion only and ignored rich diversity of continent.
• 1000 years of Indian History witnessed a considerable change. Hence, describing entire period as one historical unit has its issues. The medieval period is often contrasted with modern period.
• Modernity carries with it a sense of material progress and intellectual advancement, suggesting that medieval period probably lacks any change whatsoever.
• During these thousand years societies of subcontinent were transformed often and economies in several regions reached a level of prosperity that attracted interest of European trading companies.

Language and region
• In 1318 poet Amir Khusrau noted that there was a different language in every region of this land:
1. Southern Karnataka – Sindhi, Lahori, Kashmiri, Dvarsamudri
2. Andhra Pradesh – Telangani
3. Gujarat – Gujari
4. Tamil Nadu – Ma‘bari
5. Bengal – Gauri
6. Eastern Uttar Pradesh – Awadhi
7. Delhi – Hindawi
• Amir Khusrau went on to explain that in contrast to these languages there was Sanskrit which did not belong to any region. It was an old language and ‘common people do not know it, only Brahmanas do’.

Important Keywords:
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.
• Manuscript: Manuscripts can be defined as a handwritten record of information. These are useful sources of information about past which could be in form of a letter, on leaves & barks of trees or scrolls.
Jati: Jati or caste established a social hierarchy. Ranking of a person in society was determined by caste to which he/she belonged.
Periodization: Periodization is process or study of categorizing past into discrete, quantified named blocks of time. This is generally done in order to facilitate study and analysis of history, understanding current and historical processes and causality that might have linked those events.
Foreigner: According to medieval period, any stranger who did not belong to a certain society or culture and was not a part of that particular village was regarded as a foreigner.
Chronicler: A person who writes accounts of historical events, in order of their occurrence is known as a chronicler.

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