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Class 12 History Chapter 5 Through The Eyes of Travellers Perceptions of Society

Class 12 History Through The Eyes of Travellers Important Question and Answers​

The Name “Through the eyes of travellers’ perceptions of the society ” of class 12 History chapter 5 gives students comprehensive knowledge about the many travellers who came to India and her accounts of Indian society. In this chapter notes, students read about Al-Biruni and her travel account on India name was Kitab-ul-Hind, and compare and contrast the perspectives from which Ibn Battuta and Bernier wrote their accounts of their travels in India. This chapter was the first choice of examiner for your class’s 12th board exam in the past year exam questions where many questions came from this chapter. Memorysclub history team of teachers provides the most suitable exam-oriented solutions for class 12 history through the eyes of travellers.

1. Write a note on the Kitab-ul-Hind.

The Kitab-ul-Hind, also known as Tarikh-ul-Hind and Tahqiq-ma-ul-Hind, was written by Al-Biruni in 1031 in Arabic. This extensive work is divided into 80 chapters and provides an in-depth exploration of Indian society, culture, religion, and philosophy during the medieval period.

Al-Biruni employed a unique and structured approach in each chapter, beginning with a question, followed by a detailed description based on Sanskrit tradition, and concluding with a comparison between Indian culture and others. This precise and predictable geometric structure was likely influenced by Al-Biruni’s mathematical background.

The Kitab-ul-Hind is highly regarded for its valuable insights into Hindu festivals, customs, and traditions, as well as the social, economic, and political life of the Indian people. While Al-Biruni’s perspective on Hinduism and other Indian religions is influenced by his Muslim background, his work is widely studied and respected by scholars around the world.

2. Compare and contrast the perspectives from which Ibn Battuta and Bernier wrote their accounts of their travels in India.

Ibn Battuta was a globe-trotter traveller and explorer of the 14th century who believed that experiences gained through travel were far more valuable than those acquired from books. His travelogues provide a detailed account of his encounters with diverse cultures, beliefs, and values, which he meticulously recorded in order to broaden his understanding of the world.

Ibn Battuta’s travels took him across the Muslim world, where he encountered a cosmopolitan culture of urban Centres that fostered the exchange of ideas and information across linguistic and cultural divides. He was particularly drawn to the novelty of these new experiences and highlighted unfamiliar things to impress and excite his readers. For instance, he described the coconut and Paan, which were unknown to his readers, in great detail.

Through his writings, Ibn Battuta aimed to capture the essence of the places he visited and to provide a vivid account of the people, customs, and beliefs he encountered. He believed that by doing so, he could expand his own knowledge and understanding of the world and also broaden the perspectives of his readers. Therefore, he paid close attention to every detail that impressed him and recorded it in his travelogues for the benefit of others.

Unlike Ibn Battuta, Francois Bernier, a 17th-century French physician, was more concerned with using his observations of India to influence the policies and attitudes of European intellectuals and policymakers. He often compared India to Europe, particularly France, and sought to highlight what he considered to be the negative aspects of Indian society and culture.

Bernier saw India as the opposite of Europe and used a binary opposition model to describe the perceived differences between the two. He also arranged these differences in a hierarchical order, portraying Europe as superior to India. His main aim was to convince his readers that Europe was the more advanced and civilized of the two regions.

Rather than focusing on the novelty of his experiences, Bernier was more interested in using his observations to further his own ideas and influence the opinions of others. In his accounts of India, he often highlighted what he perceived as negative aspects of Indian society and culture in order to show the superiority of Europe.

3. Discuss the picture of urban centers that emerges from Bernier’s account.

During the 17th century, urbanization in India was at a similar level to that of western Europe, with around 15% of the population living in towns. Francois Bernier, in his travel accounts, describes the towns and cities of Mughal India as court towns, meaning that their existence and survival depended on the imperial court. When the court moved to another location, these towns also declined.

Bernier’s accounts provide detailed descriptions of several significant towns and cities, including Delhi, Mathura, Kashmir, Surat, Masulipatnam, and Golconda. These urban centres were important for various reasons, such as being centres of manufacturing and trade or being considered sacred towns. The merchant communities in these cities held significant influence and were organized according to caste and occupational bodies. For example, the trading groups were known as Mahajans in western India, and their leaders were called Sheths. In Ahmedabad, the chief of the merchant community was known as Nagarsheth.

In addition to the trading groups, various other professionals and artisans also lived in these towns. Musicians, architects, painters, lawyers, calligraphers, and others contributed to the vibrant culture of these urban centres. Overall, Bernier’s accounts present a picture of Indian towns and cities as dynamic and diverse, with a wide range of economic, social, and cultural activities taking place.

4. Analyze the evidence for slavery provided by Ibn Battuta.

Ibn Battuta provided a detailed account of the prevalence of slavery in India during his travels. He noted that Delhi Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq possessed a large number of slaves, who were either captured during military campaigns or sold by families in dire economic straits. Slaves were also gifted to the Sultan as a sign of respect or to gain favor. Ibn Battuta himself presented horses, camels, and slaves to the Sultan as gifts.

Nobles used slaves to keep themselves informed about the activities of other nobles and the state of the empire. Women slaves served as household servants for wealthy nobles, and they often provided information to the Sultan about their masters’ activities. The status of domestic slaves was quite different from that of court slaves, who held higher positions in the hierarchy of the Sultan’s court.

5. What were the elements of the practice of sati that drew the attention of Bernier?

Bernier observed that the practice of sati highlighted the stark contrast in the treatment of women between western and eastern societies. He witnessed young widows being forced to immolate themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre, while older women appeared to resign themselves to their fate. The horrific practice involved the live widow being placed on the pyre against her will, with little to no sympathy from the surrounding community.

  • Under these cruel practices an alive widow was forcibly made to sit on the pyre of her husband.
  • People had no sympathy for her.
  • The widow was an unwilling victim of the sati-practice. She was forced to be a Sati.

6. Discuss Al-Biruni’s understanding of the caste system.

Al-Biruni’s description of the caste system as he understood. Al-Biruni tried to explain the caste system by looking for parallels in other societies. He described that in ancient Persia, four social categories were recognized.

  • knight and princes.
  • monks
  • fire-priests and lawyers; physicians, astronomers, other scientists;
  • Finally, peasants and artisans. He attempted to suggest that social divisions were not unique to India.

Al-Biruni understood the caste system as a hierarchical social structure that was based on occupation and birth. According to him, the caste system was divided into four main categories: the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. He noted that each of these castes had a specific occupation and that it was almost impossible to move from one caste to another. Al-Biruni also observed that the caste system had a religious basis, as it was closely tied to the Hindu belief in reincarnation and karma.

7. Do you think Ibn Battuta’s account is useful in arriving at an understanding of life in contemporary urban centres ? Give reasons for your answer.

Ibn Battuta’s observations provide valuable insights into the urban life of his time. He observed that the cities were bustling with opportunities for those with industry, resources and skills. They were thriving, with high population densities and prosperous economies, with the exception of occasional wars and invasions. In most cities, he noted the presence of vibrant and colourful markets and busy streets. In particular, his description of Delhi as the largest city in India is noteworthy, with its massive ramparts, many towers, and twenty-eight gates known as darwazas. The bazaars were the hub of economic, social, and cultural activities in these cities. Additionally, Battuta’s accounts also demonstrate the interconnectedness of India with the wider world, as he notes the global network of communication that existed during his time. The flourishing agriculture, coupled with the demand for Indian goods in West Asia and Southeast Asia, contributed to the wealth of the towns and cities and their inhabitants.

Ibn Battuta’s observations provide valuable insights into the bustling and prosperous nature of urban life during his time. His vivid descriptions of crowded streets, colourful markets, and vast cities such as Delhi reveal a glimpse of the economic, social, and cultural activities that characterized urban centres in the past. Today, many older cities in India still maintain their vibrant bazaars and crowded streets, which are reminiscent of the scenes Ibn Battuta encountered. His account serves as a valuable source for understanding the evolution of urban centres and their continued significance in contemporary society.

During the fourteenth century, when Ibn Battuta visited Delhi, the Indian subcontinent was connected to a vast communication network that spanned from the eastern regions of China to the western parts of North Africa and Europe.

The prosperity of towns in India was supported by the productivity of agriculture, which was enabled by the fertility of the soil. This allowed for the appropriation of surplus from villages, which contributed significantly to the wealth of urban centres.

The demand for Indian goods was high not only in West Asia but also in Southeast Asia, resulting in significant profits for Indian artisans, merchants, and the textile industry.

8. Discuss the extent to which Bernier’s accounts enables historians to reconstruct contemporary rural society.

Bernier’s assessment about Indian rural society was not correct. It was far away from the truth, but it is not acceptable. There is some truth in his description which is evident from the following facts.

  • As per his narrative, the Mughal Empire had complete control over the land and distributed it among the nobles. This had a detrimental impact on the social fabric of the society.
  • Bernier believed that the system of crown ownership of land in India was beneficial, as the landholders were not allowed to pass their land down to their children and thus did not make any long-term investments in it. However, as there was no private property in land, there was no improvement in the landlord class. This system led to the ruination of agriculture and the oppression of peasants. Bernier also observed that Indian society had a few rich people, with the majority being poor. There was no middle class. He also described all cities and towns as being ruled and having polluted air.

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