Social Life under the Mughals


  • The economic, social, and cultural conditions during the first half of the seventeenth century were flourishing like anything.

  • Ralph Fitch (a British traveler) had written about Patna (Bihar) as, “Here the women bedecked with silver and copper that it is strange to see, they use no shoes by reason of the rings of silver and copper they wear on their toes."

  • The houses of the mass of the people were made up of mud (which still can be seen in many remote parts of the country).

  • Regarding the food, rice, millets, and pulses were the staple diet; besides, fish in Bengal and in the coastal regions, and meat in the south of the peninsula were also common.

  • Ghee and oil were much cheaper than the staple food grains and hence were a staple part of the poor man's food. However, salt and sugar were more expensive.

  • The village artisans were paid for their services by means of commodities, which were fixed by custom.

  • In spite of having so much prosperity, some historians also mentioned that there were inequality and disparity, especially in the villages. The peasant who did not have his own ploughs and bullocks often tilled the land of zamindars or the upper castes, and could make out a bare existence. These peasants were popular as ‘pahis.’

  • Whenever there was a famine (which was frequent in those days), it was the lower class Peasants and the village artisans who suffered the most. Tulsidas, the sixteenth century Hindi poet, had said (about these people) that this type of cultivation was a source of misery.

  • The peasants who owned the land tilled their own land were known as “Khudkasht.” These peasants had to pay their land revenue at customary rates.

  • It has been estimated that the population in India at the beginning of the seventeenth century was about 125 million. Hence, there was an abundance of cultivable land.

  • All classes of the peasants probably had more fuel at their disposal because of the abundance of forests.

  • During this time, a peasant cannot be dispossessed off from his land until he had been paying the land revenue. Secondly, a peasant can also sell his land. Children of a peasant had the right to inherit his father’s land (after his death).

  • Cities were largely comprised of the poor i.e. the artisans, the servants, and slaves, the soldiers, petty shopkeepers, etc.

  • The salary of the lowest grade servant (as per the record of the European travelers), was less than two rupees a month. The bulk of the menials and foot soldiers were given less than three rupees a month.

  • During this period, it has been calculated that a man could maintain his family and other personal requirements merely in two rupees (for a whole month).