Structure of society was that it was divided in caste system. There was a strong caste system in India that we don’t see in Europe. Since it was mainly an agriculture based society that demands caste system for an efficiently working society. Since areas were ruled individually there was difference in society structure in different areas too. They had different gods and thus different rituals. On other hand most people in Europe did farming too but they were servants, peasants or serfs.
People lived in joint family system i.e. husband wife their children grand children their wives all lived under same roof. The eldest male person was used to be the head of family. Even today in many parts of India and even in Pakistan still live in joint family system. They had importance of respecting their elders such as saying namaste (used to greet others on meeting) and they touch feet of elders, gurus and their gods out of respect. Arrange marriages were planned. Family elders used to decide where to marry their child after verifying the age, height, looks, family values, financial background of family and matching their horoscopes. There was tradition of taking dowry that we can still see in our society.
POSITION OF WOMEN
In my point of view I don’t think women had good status in India in middle ages. Their marriage, up bringing and widowhood depended upon which caste they are from. They had tradition of sati. Sati means “true wife” and the tradition was that the women whose husband died was burnt alive to prove her loyalty and love for her husband and to be with him in after life. The women who were not burnt were suppose to live very simple life, no make-up and jewelry, had to wear white sari and sleep on floor and only one meal a day without honey, meat, wine and salt. Today this is against law of India. Treating women in such way is ridiculous they should have as much right to live as men. On other hand in Europe women could remarry.
Different religions were followed in India in medieval time like Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and later Islam spread by Sufis. They had a number of religious festivals that they still celebrate today. Navratri, diwali, ganesh chathruti, durga poja, holi, rakshabandhan and dussehra are the religious festivals of Hinduism. People believe in different gods thus they have different rituals and temples. “the belief that rituals bestow authority and power was widespread and additional incentive was the promise of heavenly rewards.” (Thapar, 2002)
People of a region had usually different god than other like some people worshipped durga while other worshipped shiva and so on. But they did respect other gods too.
Later when Arabs invaded ths area Sufis came along with them and mixed up with local society and gradually preached them and converted them to Islam. It wasn’t spread by force. We can easily see the diversiy of religion in India.
In Europe Christianity was the centre of everything. Church was the centre of society. There was difference between eastern church and western church.one was called orthodox church and other was the catholic church. Islam also spread in Europe. In medieval times, Muslims governed Jerusalem. Jerusalem is sacred to both Christians and Muslims. To Christians, it is the birth place of Christ, Christ spend most of his time in this city and was crucified here. To Muslims, dome of the rock is in this city which is the very place from where Muhammad (P.B.U.H) ascended to heavens. Initially, Muslims let the Christian pilgrims to visit this holy city but in 1070s Turks conquered Jerusalem who was also Muslim. They didn’t allow Christians to visit their holy sites and mistreated them.
They also threatened Byzantium Empire. This became the basis of a series of holy wars called crusades. By the end of the 11th century, the emperor of Byzantine Alexius I was threatened by the Seljuk Turks. He asked the pope Gregory VII for assistance so that they can save themselves. Thousands of the Christians responded to this call and thus resulted in the first Crusade. The plans of Gregory VII were taken up by Pope Urban II who gave this plan a proper direction. Thus the idea of the first crusade is attributed to him.
Even though, Europeans were unable to get their required results through the crusades, the crusades affected the world in many ways.
Christians started the crusades in name of religion and their religion was affected the most. In fourth crusade western Christians on their way killed eastern Christians in Constantinople. They also killed Christians on basis that they dressed like Muslims. This was the time when Orthodox Church and Catholic Church separated completely and their conflict still remains.
The Europeans were the ones having the major positive effects as a result of crusades. One of the biggest benefits was the trade of spices and luxury textiles. They also bring along with them many medicines and ways of treatments from Arab and Persia the crusades also aided the beginning of Renaissance in Italy.
The history of Crusades in my opinion was more political than religious. It was a war for more power and authority. The Christians fought it in the name of God but the real name was different. They only wanted to make Muslims weaker. Even if we look in today’s world and all the War against terrorism, they are no more than occupying Muslim land geographically important for the west and not for any religious reasons.
Gupta Empire ended in 500 C.E. after that people ruled regionally. There were many kings ruling locally. The doctrine of mandalas was very important here which was that king of one region was enemy of its immediate neighbor and was friends with the king of neighbor’s immediate neighbor. So they make ties with other king to attack and conquer. Since religion was the most important thing at that time the temples were rich with the gifts offered by pilgrims. People offered the best they had to please their gods. The muslims invaded these areas because they wanted to capture the temples wealth not because they wanted to spread Islam. Local kings also used to do the same thing. Some dynasties that ruled the southern part were the pallavas, cera, pandyas.
The main kingdoms in northern areas were chaulakyas, dantidurga, Al-Balhara, Al-jurz or gurjara pratihara and dharma palas. All of them wanted to have control over Kanauj to have better strategic control since it was the central point. These kingdoms declined because they knew each others strengths and weaknesses and were attacked by Arabs. Arab forces entered India through Khyber pass, bolan pass and gomal pass. In 9th and 10th century rajputs became prominent. Muhammad bin Qasim conquered sindh in 712 C.E. Number of small kingdoms rose with rulers of Turkish origin. Among them was a kingdom with a ruler Mahmud centered at Ghazni (in Afghanistan). ‘For him, India was a wealthy land always appearing rich and attractive from the barren mountains of Hindu Kush’. (Thapar,2002) His aim was to capture the temples to take away the wealth. He destroyed the temple of Somnatha for the very reason.
In 1026, Mahmud raided Somanatha, desecrated the temple and broke the idol. The event is described in Turko-Persian and Arab sources. The popular view is that Mahmud’s raid on Somanatha was such a trauma for the Hindus that it became seminal to the Hindu-Muslim antagonism of recent times. Yet there is no reference in contemporary or near contemporary local sources of the raid on Somanatha. Jaina sources describe the renovation of the temple by Kumarapala, the Chaulukya King, due to lack of maintenance by local officers and natural decay of age. It would seem that Mahmud’s raid had not left a long-lasting impression.
The earliest claim that the raid resulted in trauma for the Hindu was made not in India but in Britain, during a debate in the House of Commons in 1843.’ (Thapar, 2002) Muhmud Ghuri also attacked India. Thus we can see the diversity in India very clearly. Sufis came here with invaders, scientists and philosophers also came here. Thus there was a exchange of culture and thus the diversity of Indian culture continues. On the other hand Europe had religious conflicts between eastern Europe and western Europe. Arabs also attacked and conquered them. European kings felt so threatened and their result we can see in form of crusades. Spain became great Muslim centre where dynasties like Abbasis, Ummaids and Fatmids ruled. In Europe we can’t see as much diversity as we do in India.
People of India used to do basically farming. Their major occupation was agriculture for which caste system developed. This was also one reason why Islam didn’t spread in India in beginning because they needed caste system for agriculture and Islam teaches equality. India was very rich in agriculture and produced spices and traded them.
Some cities were important with trade point of view. Cities like Madurai, Vanji, Vatapi, Tamraliptri, Kanauj, Ujjain, Broach and Pataliputra were considered as trade centres. Trade was done through both land and sea.
Silk route was a major trade route. Other trade routes included port of Varanasi, Goa, Mathura, Puna and Patna.
India did trading with Arabia, Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Java, Sumatra, Indo-China and China. Europe came to know about Indian products very well after crusades infact major reason of crusades was to start trade with India.
Silk, gems, bleached cloth, pearls, spices, ivory and diamonds were exported. Pepper, cinnamon, opium and indigo were exported to Europe in exchange of gold and silver.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
Like all other factors art and architecture of India was also very diverse. There was different style of architecture in north than south side of India. Temples of south India were built in Dravadian style of architecture with carved sculptures. In north side nagara style of architecture was used. In the regions in between north and south vasera (hybrid style) was implemented. When muslims came here they made buildings in their own style of architecture. Beautiful mosques, tombs, havelis and forts were made in medieval time.
Mahabodhi temple Mahakeleshwar temple
Muslims built qutub minar delhi mosque etc. which have architecture entirely different than temples.
There were number of different languages. Each region had a language of their own and there was a single language that was used as official language. Vedic scriptures puranas etc were compiled. Quran and sunnah was being compiled by Arabs.
In Europe church was most dominant. All the art and architecture was devoted to the church. The main architectural styles developed were gothic and Romanesque. Romanesque church followed horizontal lines whereas gothic was much heightened and detailed. Gothic style pointed arch is used that can take more load and flying buttresses were introduced. Castles were built for defence purposes. They consist of small square towers, usually of wood, planted on hilltops or artificial mounds and had small windows. Material used for construction was stone, mortar and wood.
Wells cathedral (Gothic style)
The churches were decorated with sculptures and paintings. Since it was a religion based society they worked for churches without wages. Church was in centre of city built on highest mound or hill and was highest and other buildings were built around it having low heights.
Muslims also made mosques in Europe too.
EDUCATION AND TECHNOLOGY
Most people in India were educated. They had gurus, scholars and there was the oldest university in Taxila. A British scholar leigtner said in later British rule that these are educated people and they should be taught in their own native tongue. Whereas in Europe there were monasteries that only gave religious education. They weren’t aware of scientific knowledge until they came across Arabs and Indians. Mahmud of gazni when came to India brought along a philosopher named Al Beruni who wrote book on India names tahqiq al hind. Main invention in medieval time were weapons, nautical inventions, clock, numbering system, astrolabes, sundial, compass etc.
Keeping in view all the points mentioned above we can say that India is very rich in culture at all times. Its history is so diverse in all aspects whether its society, culture, religion, politics, economy, art and architecture. In general it is said that there were dark ages throughout the world which based upon above discussion is not true. Dark ages were only in Europe since there were wars and was only religious based society and there was no advancement technologically whereas India was progressing and by looking at its diversity and advancements tells us that it wasnt in dark ages at all.
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