Political System in Medieval Period
The political developments in Indian history had far-reaching consequences on administrative institutions, across the subcontinent.
The CHOLA PERIOD was an enterprising period when trade and the economy expanded, accompanied by urbanization. The administrative machinery was reorganised during Chola rule. The basic unit of local administration was the village (ur), followed by the sub-region (nadu) and district (kottam). Tax-free villages granted to Brahmins were known as brahmadeya. Marketing centres and towns were known as nagaram. The ur, nadu, brahmadeya and nagaram each had its own assembly. They were responsible for the maintenance and management of the water resources and land; the local temples; resolving local issues and disputes; and for collecting the taxes due to the government.
While the Chola state did not intervene in this fundamental system of local administration, they introduced innovations in revenue administration by creating new revenue divisions (mandalam and valanadu). Several new taxes on agriculture and commerce were also introduced. The second notable feature was the great increase in the construction of temples. This had two dimensions: new temples were constructed, and existing temples became multi-functional social and economic institutions. The construction of great temples also was a reflection of the growing prosperity in the kingdom, since the activity involved great expenditure. The temple was no longer a mere place of worship, but became an important economic entity as an employer, consumer and land owner.
The establishment of Islamic Rule in Delhi made a big impact on Indian society. Initially, Islam did not cause any social tension. Arab merchants, for instance, when they came and settled on Kerala coast, married local women and led a peaceful life. The situation changed when Islam became a state power. For a medieval ruler one way of asserting imperial authority was to demolish the place of worship of the enemies. Otherwise Islam as a monotheistic religion had its positive impact in Indian society. It played a decisive role in the evolution of a composite culture.
Muslim kingdoms in Delhi, as well in the Deccan, also attracted migrants from Persia and Arabia who moved to India and took up service in these states and many became important and wellknown statesmen. This also opened up Indian society to steady interaction with west Asia resulting in the transfer of cultural and technical influences. Muslim merchants and craftsmen also migrated from the north of India to the south in the wake of the military expeditions. Society became more heterogeneous and hybrid in character. A new composite culture evolved. This could be seen most vividly in the Deccan sultanates of Bijapur and Golkonda whose rulers were extremely broad-minded and secular in outlook.
A notable development was the profusion of contemporary historical accounts of the Muslim Sultanates by Arab and Persian historians. Al beruni, Ibn Batuta, and Ferishta are among the best known of the Muslim historians. These historians provide valuable information about the rulers and events of the medieval period. They also provide an alternate historical point of view of Islamic rule in India as seen through the eyes of Muslim writers.
The establishment of the VIJAYANAGAR EMPIRE changed the administrative and social institutional structure of south India, especially in the Tamil country. Perhaps because the new kingdom was threatened from the beginning by the hostility of the Bahmani sultanate in the north, Vijayanagar evolved as a militaristic state. This empire needed two kinds of resources to feed its military establishment – revenue and men. This was achieved through re organizing the administration of the conquered territories, especially in the Tamil region. Military officers, known as ‘nayakas’, were appointed as chiefs of various localities in Tamilnadu and received land grants from the emperor. There were also lesser military leaders known as palayakkarar who essentially supplied the manpower for the army. Many forts were also built which were under Brahman commanders.
Three major nayaka kingdoms, owing allegiance to the Vijayanagar emperor, came up between 1500 A.D. (C.E.) and 1550 A.D. (C.E.) in Madurai, Tanjavur and Gingee (Senji). These nayakas had formal roles in court ceremonials at Vijayanagar. This became the new political order in Tamilnadu during the sixteenth century. The nayaka chieftains as well as the three nayaka kings were all strong supporters of Hindu temples. The three capitals became great cultural centres under the patronage of the nayaka rulers who promoted literature and the performing arts.
Resources realized from the land were transferred to the empire by the nayakas not as tax revenue, but as tribute. Thus, the resources of the core regions, especially in the Tamil region, were utilized for military purposes. Thisadministrative set-up effectively destroyed the decentralized, local institutions which managed local resources, temples and affairs which had come up during Chola rule. The appointment of Telugu nayakas also resulted in the migration of Telugu-speaking people from the north. These included soldiers, agriculturists, craftsmen and Brahmins.
The MUGHAL EMPIRE transformed the economy and society of north India. The empire was consolidated under Akbar through his policy of co-opting the Hindu Rajput rulers under the umbrella of Mughal rule. He also reversed the policy of discriminatory measures against the Hindus. He employed Hindu administrators like Todar Mal in key positions of authority. These initiatives earned the emperor the loyalty and trust of the majority community. As the empire stretched across north India, the entire region was brought under a uniform administrative structure. The political stability of the large empire led to impressive growth of the economy and trade. At the height of its power the Mughal empire was one of the largest, richest and most powerful empires in the entire world.
In part due to Aurangzeb’s reversal to orthodox Islamic principles of governance which alienated the Rajput rulers and the Hindu subjects, the over-extended empire began to collapse under its own weight by the beginning of the eighteenth century. The viceroys of many Mughal provinces – Bengal, Awadh (Oudh), Hyderabad,Arcot–became independent rulers of the successor states after the death of Aurangzeb. These states became centres of distinctive local cultures, including styles of cooking like Luckhnavi and Hyderabadi cuisines.
The ARRIVAL OF THE EUROPEANS in India ultimately culminated in the establishment of colonial rule in India under the British, and this is what is considered foremost when discussing the impact of the European presence. But the coming of the Europeans was important for many other reasons. The growing presence of the European trading companies also witnessed an influx of European travellers into India. They left exhaustive accounts of their travels in India,commenting on virtually all aspects of life in India. These accounts are important contemporary sources of information on the economy, society, political developments and institutions in India.
The Europeans came to India primarily in search of spices. But soon there was an explosion in the demand for Indian textiles in the European markets, often referred to as the ‘Indian craze’. This led to a significant expansion of textile production in India, which was accompanied by an expansion of the production of commercial crops like cotton and indigo and other dyes.