Social Conditions in 18th Century


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  • Social life and culture in the 18th century were marked by stagnation and dependence on the past.

  • There was, of course, no uniformity of culture and social patterns all over the country. Nor did all Hindus and all Muslims form two distinct societies.

  • People were divided by religion, region, tribe, language, and caste.

  • Moreover, the social life and culture of the upper classes, who formed a tiny minority of the total population, was in many respects different from the life and culture of the lower classes.

Hindu

  • Caste was the central feature of the social life of the Hindus.

  • Apart from the four vanes, Hindus were divided into numerous castes (Jatis), which differed in their nature from place to place.

  • The caste system rigidly divided people and permanently fixed their place in the social scale.

  • The higher castes, headed by the Brahmins, monopolized all social prestige and privileges.

  • Caste rules were extremely rigid. Inter-caste marriages were forbidden.

  • There were restrictions on inter-dining among members of different castes.

  • In some cases, persons belonging to higher castes would not take food touched by persons of the lower castes.

  • Castes often determined' the choice of ' profession, though exceptions did occur. Caste regulations were strictly enforced by caste councils and panchayats and caste chiefs through fines, penances (prayaschitya) and expulsion from the caste.

  • Caste was a major divisive force and element of disintegration in India of 18th century.

Muslim

  • Muslims were no less divided by considerations of caste, race, tribe, and status, even though their religion enjoined social equality.

  • The Shia and Sunni (two sects of Muslim religion) nobles were sometimes at loggerheads on account of their religious differences.

  • The Irani, Afghan, Turani, and Hindustani Muslim nobles, and officials often stood apart from each other.

  • A large number of Hindus converted to Islam carried their caste into the new religion and observed its distinctions, though not as rigidly as before.

  • Moreover, the sharif Muslims consisting of nobles, scholars, priests, and army officers, looked down upon the ajlaf Muslims or the lower class Muslims in a manner similar to that adopted by the higher caste Hindus towards the lower caste Hindus.



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