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Updated: May 9

1. Al-Biruni And The kitab-ul-Hind

1.1 From khwarizm to the Punjab

  • Al-Biruni was born in 973, in khwarizm in present day Uzbekistan, which was an important centre of learning and education.

  • He was well versed in several languges: Syriac, Arabic, Persian Hebrew and Sanskrit but not familiar with Greek

  • In 2017, when Sultan Mahmud invaded khwarizm, he took Several Scholars and poets back to his capital, Ghazni, Al-Biruni was one of them.

  • Al-Biruni Started to liking the city and spent the rest of his life until his death at the age of 70. He spent years in the company of Brahman priests and learning studying religious and philosophical texts

  • Mostly he travelled in Punjab and parts of North India, his literature dealt with land as far apart as the Sahara desert in the west to the River Volga in the north

1.2 The Kitab-ul- Hind

  • Al-Biruni's kitab-ul-Hind, written in Arabic, is simple voluminous text, divided into 80 chapters on subjects Such as religion and philosophy, festivals, astronomy, weights, and measures, etc

  • In some chapters he adopted a distinctive structure begin with a question, following this up with a description based on Sanskritic traditions, and concluding with a comparison with other cultures

  • Al-Biruni, who wrote in Arabic, probably intended his work for peoples living along the frontiers of the subcontinent.



2.1 An early globe-trotter

  • Ibn Battuta's book Rihla written in Arabic provides extremely rich and interesting details about the Social and cultural life in the subcontinent in the 14th century

  • He was Moroccan traveler born in Tangier into one of the most respectable and educated families known for their expertise in Islamic religious law or shari'a

  • He considered travelling important than books as in the manner of knowledge

  • Before he set off for India in 1322-33, he had made pilgrimage trips to Mecca and had already travelled extensively in Syria, Iraq, Persia, Yemen, Oman and a few trading ports on the coast of East Africa

  • Ibn reached Sind in 1333, lured by Mohd. Tughlag, the Sultan of Delhi reputation as a generous patron of Arts and letters, set off for Delhi

  • The Sultan was impressed by his scholarship and appointed him the qazi or Judge of Delhi

  • Once the misunderstanding occurred between Sultan and Battuta, was thrown into prison As soon as it cleared he was restored to imperial service and was ordered on 1342 to proceed to China as the Sultan's envoy to the Mongol ruler

  • With this Ibn Battuta proceeded to the Malabar coast through central India. From Malabar he went to the Maldives, where he stayed for 18 months as Qazi then went to Sri Lanka Again he went Malabar and Maldives, also visited to Bengal and Assam Finally he took ship to Sumatra, and from there another ship for the Chinese port town of Zaytun (Present day Quanzhou)

  • He travelled extensively in China, but did not stay for long, deciding to return home in 1347

  • According to Ibn Battuta, it took forty days to travel from Multan to Delhi and about 50 days from Sind to Delhi while that from Gwalior to Delhi took 10 days

2.2 The "enjoyment of curiosities"

  • Ibn Battuta was an inveterate traveler who spent Several years travelling through north Africa, West Asia and parts of Central Asia, the India Subcontinent and China before returning to Morocco.

3. FRANCOIS BERNIER A Doctor With A Difference

  • Francois Bernier, a Frenchman, was a doctor, political philosopher and historian. He came in India from 1656 to 1668 and was closely associated with the Mughal Court. He was in India for 12 years 

  • Bernier was in Mughal court as a physician to Prince Dara Shukoh, the eldest son of Emperor Shah Jahan, and later as an intellectual and scientist with Danishmand khan, an Armenian noble at the Mughal court. and "West"

3.1 Comparing "East" and "West"

  • Bernier wrote accounts of what he saw, frequently comparing what he saw in India with the situation In Europe

  • His major writing dedicated to Louis XIV, the king of France, when Bernier's writings became extremely popular Bernier's works were published in France in 1670-71 and translated into English, Dutch, German and Italian within the next 5 years

4. Making Sense Of An Alien World Al-Biruni And The Sanskritic Tradition

4.1 Overcoming barriers to understand

  • Each traveler adopted distinct strategies to understand what they observed Al- Baruni discussed several" barriers" that he felt obstructed understanding However, mainly here we have three barriers

a) Language

b) Religious beliefs and practices

c) Self-absorption and consequent insularity of the local population

4.2. Al-Biruni's description of the caste system

  • Al-Biruni tried to explain the caste system by looking for parallels in other societies In ancient Persia, four categories were recognized, those of knights & Princes monks, fire-priests and lawyers; physicians, astronomers and finally peasants and artisans

  • So, social divisions were not unique to Al-Biruni

  • In spite of his acceptance of the Brahmanical description of the caste system, Al-Biruni disapproved of the notion of pollution

  • He remarked that everything which falls into a state of impurity strives and succeeds in regaining its original Condition of purity if it were not so, insisted Al-Biruni, "life on earth would have been impossible". The conception of social pollution, intrinsic to the caste system, was according to him, contrary to the laws of nature.

  • His description of the caste system was deeply influenced by his study of normative Sanskrit texts which laid down the rules governing the system from the point of view of the Brahmanas. However, in real life the system was not quit as rigid



  • Ibn Battuta described the coconut and the paan, two kinds of plant produce that were completely unfamiliar to his audience.

5.2 Ibn Battuta and Indian cities

  • It appears from Ibn Battuta's account that most cities had crowded streets and bright and colorful markets that were stacked with a wide variety of goods

  • He described Delhi as a vast city, the largest in India

  • However Daulatbad (in Maharashtra) was no less, and easily rivalled Delhi in size

  • The bazaars were the places of economic transactions, hub of Social and cultural activities.

  • Mostly bazaars had a mosque and a temple, some of them places marked for public performances by dancers and musicians

  • Historians used his account to suggest that towns derived a significant portion of their wealth through the appropriation of Surplus from villages He found India' agriculture very productive as it allowed farmers to cultivate two crops a year.

  • Indian textiles, particularly cotton cloth, fine muslins, silks, brocade and Satin were in great demand in both West Asia and Southeast Asia fetching huge profits for artisans and merchants.

5.3 A unique system of communication

  • Battuta was amazed by the efficiency of the postal to system which allowed merchants not only Send information and remit credit across long distances, but also to dispatch goods required at Short notice

  • The postal system was so efficient that while it took fifty days to reach Delhi from Sind, the news reports of Spices would reach the Sultan through the postal system In just five days

6. Bernier And The "DIGENERATE“ East

  • Ibn Battuta chose to describe everything that impressed and excited him whereas Francois Bernier compared and Contrast what he saw in India with the situation in Europe in general. Focusing on situation which he considered depressing. 

  • Bernier ideas seem to have been to influence policy makers his Travels in the Mughal Empire is marked by detailed observations, critical insights and reflection. Generally, ordered the perceived differences hierarchically so that India appeared to be inferior to the western world

6.1 The question of land ownership

  • According to Bernier, one of the fundamental differences between Mughal India and Europe was the lack of private property in land in the former

  • He thought that in the Mughal Empire, the emperor Owned all the land and distributed it among his nobles, and that this had disastrous consequence on economy and Society.

  • Literally, this perception was not unique to Berner, but is found in most traveller's accounts of the 16th and 17th centuries

  • Bernier argued, landholders could not pass on their land to their children due to owing to crown ownership of land. And this would led to emergence of the class of improving landlords which would cause oppression of the peasantry and a continuous decline in living Standards of all sections of society, except the ruling aristocracy


  • Bernier confidently asserted "There is no middle state in India"

  • Curiously, none of the Mughal official documents suggest that the stage was the sole owner of land

  • Abul Fazl, the 16th century official chronicler of Akbar's reign, describes the land revenue as remunerations of Sovereignty, a claim made by the ruler on his subjects for the protection he provided rather than rent on land that he owned

  • European traveler's regarded such claims as rent however this was actually not a tent or even a land tax, but a tax on the crop

  • Berner descriptions influenced western theorists from the 18th century onwards

  • The French philosopher Montesquieu used this account to develop the idea of oriental despotism.

  • According to this rulers in Asia enjoyed absolute authority over their subjects, who were kept in conditions of Subjugation and poverty, arguing on the basis of crown ownership

  • This idea was further developed as the concept of the Asiatic mode of production by karl Marx in 19th century.

  • He argued that imperial court presided over these villages communities, respecting their autonomy as long as the flow of surplus was unimpeded. This was regarded as a stagnant system.

6.2 A more complex social reality

  • Bernier's descriptions occasionally hint at a more complex Social reality

  • He conceded that vast quantities of world's precious metals flowed into India, as manufactures were exported in exchange for gold and silver

  • He noticed the existence of a prosperous merchant community engaged un long-distance exchange


  • Travelers who left written accounts were generally men ,sometimes intrigued by the condition of women in the subcontinent

  • It appears from Ibn Battuta's account that there was Considerable differentiation among slaves ,Female slaves were also employed by the Sultan to keep a watch on his nobles

  • Slaves were generally used for domestic labor and Ibn Battuta found their services particularly indispensable for carrying women and Men on palanquins or dola.

  • The prices of slaves, particularly female slaves required for domestic labor was very low and most families who could afford to do so kept at least one or two of them

  • Contemporary European travelers and writers often highlighted the treatment of women as a crucial, marker of difference between Western and Eastern Societies

  • Bernier chose the practice of sati for detailed description

  • He noted that while some women seemed to embrace death cheerfully, others were forced to die However, women were confined to the private spaces of their homes

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3 days ago
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Very helpful 👍🏻


May 11

hi, the notes are really helpful but there are some errors for example in the very first topic second point , you've written when sultan mahmud invaded in "2017" while it should be 1017, so kindly look for such mistakes to avoid any confusion



Sep 24, 2023
Rated 4 out of 5 stars.

This notes is better for deep study and also for revision


Aug 12, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.



Aug 08, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

thank u

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