Babur [right] and Humayun with Courtiers (Detail), Late Shahjahan Period, ca. 1650.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The meaning of Medieval India to a layman

After interacting with many people who are definitely not much interested in history I’ve come to the conclusion that medieval India is mostly linked with the Mughals. Or let’s put it this way most people think that medieval Indian history is the history of the Mughals.


The concept of the early medieval period is not at all there. Actually in schools people hardly come across the term ‘early medieval.’ To most people Sultanate rulers are a non-entity. They probably have heard the name of Iltutmish, Balban etc but they are certainly not as glorious as the Mughal rulers. It is also seen that some tend to confuse between the sultanate rulers and the Mughals thinking they belong to just one very long dynasty. Moreover many also think that muslim rule in India means the rule of the Mughals.


Last year in the college trip to Rajasthan we came across this guide in Chittor who while showing us Padmini’s mahal said that Alauddin Khalji, the Mughal ruler attacked Chittor. He even said that Padmini was the princess of a land beside Srilanka known as Ceylondesa!! But jokes apart this shows that the imposing stature of the Mughals has definitely undermined other medieval dynasties. It is generally overlooked that sultanate formed the very basis of Mughal rule. It laid down the basic framework.


In order to generate interest in history generally the glorious topics are taught extensively at school level. But to understand history properly the uninteresting portions(obviously to some people) are also to be taught with equal stress. This concept of equalizing the Mughals with medieval India should be rectified.Moreover people also think that the Mughals conquered the whole of India and there was no indigenous ruler at that time. The Mughals certainly exerted their influence over most part of the subcontinent but there were some stray places where there existed indigenous rulers. Though Alauddin Khalji invaded south it never remained the core area of the later rulers.


Medieval Indian history means lots of other things rather than Mughals. It is our duty to bring these things forward and try to clear these little but grave misconceptions in our own little way.


- Chandreyee Dasgupta, Second Year, Presidency College.

5 comments:

Pratyay said...

Chandreyee, your points are extremely well-made and your observations regarding the common-man's perception of medieval Indian history very keenly noted indeed.

As we all know, history is the institutionalised way of recording and analysing the past. But outside this lies the vast realm of perceiving, remembering, recording and memorialising the past by the commmon man in an infinite number of ways. How your guide in Chitor remembers Alauddin Khalji's invasion of the fort and the latter's association with Padmini is a graphic instance of this process of remembering and retelling the past in diverse ways. Such oral traditions about the past can often be extremely interesting. Even apart from the neglected areas of the medieval times [which obviously need to be discussed elaborately for a more informed understanding of history], these oral histories also merit great deal of attention and interest by their own right.

somak said...

yes pratyayda, such retelling definitely form a part of the oral traditions of history and shape our perceptual histories to a great extent. but at the same time, i do feel that the sultanate period is not all uninteresting. coming from a non-history background, i was much engaged by the theories of kingship during ths period as well as the reigns of alauddin and md. bin tughluq, to mention a few. it all depends on how u teach a discipline. general facts and figures one can easily obtain from the books, mentioning them too often makes the class repetitive and dreary. dynamism counts, chandrayee.

Aman said...

The post clearly brings out the problems in teaching of Medieval History. Even I being a History student. Used to think before taking Honours that Medieval History is mostly the history of Mughals. Sultanate was not so important for us in the school. But after 1 year in the honours class now I understand how important is the Early Medieval and the Delhi Sultanate phase. There fore as Somak points out the way of teaching must be made such that students don't feel that apart from Mughal era there is nothing important in the Medieval history of India.

sanmitra said...

WELL WRITTEN CHANDREYEE...THIS SIMPLY HIGHLIGHTS THE PROBLEMS OF TEACHING HISTORY.....SULTANS OF DELHI CONTRIBUTED A LOT AND HAS DONE MANY GREAT WORKS...KHILJIS MARKET CONTROLE IS A LANDMARK OF ECONOMIC HISTORY....EVEN MUHAMMAD-BIN-TUGHLAQ WAS A MAN OF EXELLENCE....SO EQUAL IMPORTANCE SHOULD BE GIVEN TO THEM ALSO.....MEDIEVAL IS NOT ALL ABOUT THE MUGHALS,AND IF WE CONCEIVE THIS FACT SOON,IT WILL BE GOOD FOR HISTORY.....

arijit said...

You said that "Medieval Indian history means lots of other things rather than Mughals ."I am agreed with your views .
in the lower classes , history is not studied like that of other subjects especially of science subjects . People wrongly believed that history is the Dead subject concerning about politics and warfare ...especially the medieval history is biased as the Muslim period .. though that concept of religious basis period was canceled by our historians but that root in ordinary people is not destroyed ...... the wrong concept of medieval is not changed in our society .the discussion and researches which were going on the universities , not to reach the ordinary people .... so your club and we ,the history students can do it ... men can thus know the simple life and social activity of the people of that time and compares it with their culture .... though i am not student of concerning university ....MY email "arijitk2@gmail.com"