Write about the socio, economic and religious conditions during Qutb Shahi period
As usual our Indo-Persian chronicles deal more with life at the court than with the life of the common man, while on the other hand the description of the people, as given by European travellers and merchants, gives us a fair insight into the life of the generality. There may be stray reference to the social set-up in the Indo-Persian chronicles, but that is always by the way and sometimes even in a sneering tone. The reason why European travellers take pains to delineate the ways of the people, Hindu and Muslim, is that everything seems so totally strange to them. It is rather quaint that as Europeans were familiar with Spanish muslims whom they called Moors, so the European travellers call the ruling aristocracy in the Sultanates of the Deccan, “Moors” in contrast with the name gentile or “Gentoos” given to the Hindus.
(i) Music and Dance: The gradual laxity in the moral of the court and people naturally led to the increase in the number of public women in the capital. Evidently they had to be registered and licensed, and Tavernier notes that the names of as many as twenty thousand were entered in the Daroghas book. Thevenot says that no stigma was attached to those who frequented the rooms of these whores, while Tavernier is more romantic in his description and says. In the cool of the evening they stand by their doorways, and when night comes they light a candle or a lamp for a signal. In rather a lell-tale sentence Methwold remarks that “all meat is common to them and they themselves are common to all”! Methwold, enchanted by the dances that he saw (they must have been of the Kathakali and the Kuchipudi variety) says that they were admirable to behold and impossible to express in words; but avers that music and dance had become the monopoly of the prostitutes.57 Evidently the best among the dancers had to dance before the king or the provincial governors, as the case might be, at least once a year. They were also invited to sing or dance not merely at social functions such as wedding or circumcision but also when large vessels arrived at a port, and even at the celebrations of religious festivals such as the month long celebrations of the prophets birthday.
There were also the Devadasis attached to Hindu temples whose profession was to dance before the idols. To the foreigners these temple dancers were not greatly different from the public women. One of them says that there were cases when a Owan’s children did not survive, she vowed that if the new born girl were to live she would make her a prostitute its meaning that she would dedicate her to the life of a devadasi.
- ii) Dress: The close relationship of the Government of Vijayanagar with that of Golconda during the early years of the reign of Ibrahim Qutb Shah led to the dovetailing of cultures and incidentally to the similarity in apparel. The “Kuleh” (pers, kulah, cap) and the Cabaya (Arab, Qaba, long coat) became parts of the dress of the elite, both Hindu and Muslim. Among women the sari of twelve cubits covering a bodice with sleeves coming up to the elbows, was the rule, while the heads of women were usually covered when they went out. Some Hindu women wore only saris without a bodice, others a short bodice covering only the breasts while some wore a bodice which might be long enough to cover the navel. Among the more affluent classes of society the sari as well as the bodice had borders of varying width of gold and silver embroidery. Among the Muslim women the alternative dress was the dopatta of about four and half yards of cloth, one end of which was tucked on to the paijama or trousers, which were embroidered and kept in check by girdles with embroidered ends.
Mughal influence was slowly but surely in filtrating into the realm of men’s dress, and the peculiar Mughal turban, the nima and the jama and the large kerchief tied on the belt, became the dress of the upper classes, both Hindu and Muslim. The only visible difference was the Hindu caste mark or just a coloured dot between the eyebrows. Certain castes had large tufts of hair left on the back of their heads which were tied into a kind of top-knot. The common people among the Hindus had the upper part of their bodies bare with a dhoti reaching the knees, and they contend themselves with a small lion cloth while at hard work.
iii) Ornaments: The Qutb Shahis reign was very rich and the people were affluent, it is no wonder that not merely women were laden with ornaments but even men wore ear-rings, and these who could afford it had strings of pearls loosely hanging round their necks and jewelled bands round their arms, women wore ear-rings. Sometimes six or
seven in each ear, finger rings, toe rings, gold or silver bands round their waists, many varieties of neck ware and ornaments round their wrists, arms and neckles, even a ring or a jewel on the side of the right-nostril and sometimes even on the bridge of the nose.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND EDUCATION:
The Qutb Shahi rulers gave religious freedom to both Hindu and Muslim could attain the highest office in the state at the bidding of the Sultan. In some respects, the knowledge and skill of the Brahmans made them indispensable to the administration, because while they were employed by the moores for writing and keeping accounts on palm leaves with a pen of iron, they are competent astronomers observing the course of the seven planets. Polygamy, though permitted, was not generally practiced. It is interesting that the practice of sati was not merely discouraged but actually prohibited and women were sometimes prevented from burning themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands.
Education seems to have been fairly general, for the moores have their children taught to read and write if they are capable. Some of the gentoos have also their children taught to read and write, and when they are fit, to learn the craft pertaining to their hereditary caste.
The Golconda Sultans took great interest in two muslim religious anniversaries, namely the birthday of the Prophet and the Day of the Martyrdom of Imam Hussain. The latter anniversary was sacred to the Shiah, the persuasion to which the Sultan and the royal family belonged, and the celebrations continued for ten days of the month of Muharram, the first month of the Hijri year; the former fell in the month of Rabi-ul-Awwal, the celebration of which had gone out of use during the reign of the kings father, Sultan Muhammad Qutb Shah. The Qutb Shahi rulers gave more important to Muharram. The drinking of wine as well as meat eating, cutting of hair, even the sale and purchase of betel leaf, was prohibited for fifty days. It is further specifically related that the first ten days of Muharram were held sacred not only by the muslims, shiahs and the sunnis, but also by the Hindus.
The other festival was the Prophets Birthday. It is strange indeed that even on this sacred occasion the general rejoicings and illuminations lasting for a whole month, and alms-giving which reached the limit of thousands of hons, were accompanied by song and dance musicians and dancers from Hindustan and Iran performed before eager audience. We are also told that wine drinking was the order of the day during the month. Scents were used by all and sundry and betel leaves distributed in lakhs.