(Sample Material) IAS Mains GS Online Coaching : Paper 1 - "Modern History (Part -2)"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains GS Online Coaching Programme

Subject: General Studies (Paper 1 - Indian Heritage and Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society)

Topic: Modern History (Part -2)


The political instability in the country alter the death of Aurangzeb had its effect on the social, religious and economic condition of the people. For a long time, there was practically no authority, no admi­nistration, no law and no security in vast areas of the country. Anarchy was the order of the day. The strong prevailed over the weak. The Indians had very bad time in every way.

Social Condition

Social life in the eighteenth century was marked by stagnation and dependence on the past. There was no uniform's of culture and social patterns all over the country. People were divided by religion, region, tribe, language and caste. The social life of the upper classes was different in many ways from the life of the lower classes. There were pronounced social disparities. The higher classes and castes were over-conscious of their supremacy and superiority. The entire wealth of the country was concentrated in the hands of the higher classes while the masses lacked the barest necessities of life. The Muslim concept of equality and fratern­ity had vanished so completely that a Muslim Sharif could not bear to see a Muslim Radhil trying to come in any way near him in social status. The different castes among the Hindus were jealous of their rights and each caste and every group was isolated within its own customs and social traditions. Any deviation from established laws and conventions resulted in excommunication. The people were so much absorbed in the celebra­tion of marriages, feasts, festivals and other family ceremonies that they had no urge to create new social values.

The social system in the eighteenth century had two aspects. One aspect was a grading on ‘he basis of official power and position. The second aspect was an ordering based on religion and the traditional divisions of society. The first was a reflection of the political system. The second comprised the castes and sub-castes among the Hindus and a rigid grading in Muslim society on the basis of Kufr.

Four Castes

The Hindu society was divided into four parts, viz... the Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras. The Brahman was the priest, the sole exponent of religion as well as the teacher and guide. To quote Crau-furd. “Their caste is the only repository of the literature that yet remains; to them alone is entrusted the education of youth; they are the sole inter­preters of the law and the only expounders of their religion.” Both the ignorant and the educated were superstitious and the Brahmans exploited the innate human fear of the unknown. The hereditary occupation of the Kshatriyas was to wield temporal power. The kings, ministers and soldiers generally belonged to this class. The question whether the Kshatriyas were actually doing in this period what they were supposed ‘a do is aptly answered by Nagari Dass, the Hindi poet, who has observed that the Kshatriyas were greedy and selfish. They never did any good 10 anybody and were not compassionate. If they saw a beautiful woman in the house of a poor man, their strength of arm lay only in their effort to grab her lor themselves. The Vaisyas were the community of business­men. They had two broad divisions. One branch took to trade and the ether to agriculture. It was the former who were typical of their class. They were the usurers and the sole aim of their life was to live on the interest of the money that they gave as loans. A Bania was notorious for his love of moni’s. He was looked down upon by the society for that reason. The Sudras comprised the mass of the people. They included the aborigines admitted to the Hindu community. Their salvation was sup­posed to lie in the direct and indirect service rendered by them to the three upper classes*. Below these four castes were the Antyajas with theii-right guilds of craftsmen. They had to live at a distance from the higher rates and still rendered their services to them. The lowest of the low ‘were the Hadis. Doms and Chandalas.

The Brahmanas. Kshatriyas and Vaisyas were all divided and sub­divided into a large number of castes and sub-castes. Each caste formed .in endogamous group and it was only in this endogamous group that inter-dining was permissible. Restrictions on marriage, food and occu­pation distinguished and defined his .social status. Any deviation from the customs of a locality was considered to be a sin and one who was guilty of such an offence was liable to be excommunicated. The caste Panchayat did not readmit him -in his caste until he humbled himself publicly. The marriage had to be in the same caste in order to prevent the intermixture of blood and maintain the privy of descent.

In the eighteenth century, the people were very sensitive about the concept of Roti (bread) and Beti (daughter) . Interlining among the people of different castes was non-existent. Only the Sikhs had their institution of Iangar which was open to all. People of different castes could worship the same gods, observe the same manners and customs, hut would not exist together. As a matter of fact, no one could ever think of it as the threat of excommunication was an effective deterrent.

The question of permissible and forbidden food was an important one. As a rule, the Brahmans had to abstain from meat and intoxicating liquors. The caste prescribed different codes for different groups. Meat was not a staple diet in India. Abstinence from meat was general  practiced in the areas dominated by Jain influence. The classes that came into contact with them were generally vegetarian, while the Other* took meat as- a luxury and delicacy. Vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism was determined not so much by caste as by the religious sect to which an individual belonged. The Kshatriyas. Rajputs, Jats and other lower classes all ate meat.

Occupation was another decisive factor in the formation of caste. In spite of the general taboos, social and economic exigencies necessi­tated contacts between the twice-born and the artisan classes and the creation of relationship between the higher and lower castes. Those who practised the professions of barber, weaver, embroiderer, dyer, printer, gardener, potter, ivory-worker etc., were sometimes paid directly for the services rendered by them. More often, their remuneration was a fixed quantity of grain at the harvest time, or some money or clothes on occasions of celebration in the family.

There were certain occupations which were open to all. Trading, agriculture and even military service could be taken up by anybody who was eligible for it.
Caste regulations were strictly enforced by caste councils and Pan-ihayats and caste chiefs through fines, penances (Prayaschitta) and ex­pulsion from the caste. Caste was a major/ division force anil an element old disintegration in the India of the eighteenth century. It often split Hindus living in the same village or region into many social atoms. However, it was possible for a person to acquire a higher social status by the acquisition of high office or power as was done by the Holkar family in the eighteenth century. Sometimes, an entire caste succeeded in raising itself in the caste hierarchy.

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