Cultural Conditions in India During Babar’s Reign  

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In order to appreciate adequately the extent and value of Muslim influence on the Indian culture it is necessary to obtain some idea of the picture India presented before the arrival of Islam and the Muslims. Fortunately Babar has left behind a vivid description of cultural decadence that was evident on all sides and this makes the task of judging the worth and merit of Muslim contribution easy. It may, however, be borne in mind that Muslims had begun their development activities in India quite a long time before the coming of the Mughals. Writes Babar in his memoirs, Tuzuk-i-Babari:

There are neither good horses in India, nor good flesh, nor grapes, nor melons, nor ice, nor cold water, nor baths, nor candle, nor candlestick, nor torch. In the place of the candle, they use the divat*. It rests on three legs: a small iron piece resembling the snout of a lamp is fixed to the top end of one leg and a weak wick to that of another; the hollowed rind of a gourd is held in the right hand from which a thin stream of oil is poured through a narrow hole. Even in case of Rajas and Maharajas, the attendants stand holding the clumsy divat in their hands when they are in need of a light in the night.

There is no arrangement for running water in gardens and buildings. The buildings lack beauty, symmetry, ventilation and neatness. Commonly, the people walk barefooted with a narrow slip tied round the loins. Women wear a dress consisting of one piece of cloth, half of which is wrapped round the legs while the other half is thrown over the head.”

Commenting on Babar’s observations on the cultural insolvency and backwardness of India, Jawaharlal Nehru has said :

“…..…..his account tells us of the cultural poverty that had descended on North India. Partly this was due to Timur’s destruction, partly due to the exodus of many learned men and artists and noted craftsmen to the South. But this was due also to the drying up of the creative genius of the Indian people. Babar says that there was no lack of skilled workers and artisans, but there was no ingenuity or skill in mechanical inven­tion.”1

*A crude sort of lamp made of clay, wood or iron in which mustard oil is generally burnt.

  1. Nehru, Jawaharlal: The Discovery of India, p. 218

P.S. The article has been created from the works of great Islamic scholar Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (Ali Miyan)

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