NCERT Solutions for Class 12 History Chapter 5: Through the Eyes of Travellers

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Chapter5. Through the Eyes of Travellers Perceptions of Society
TextbookThemes in Indian History-II
CategoryNCERT Solutions for Class 12

It is important to use NCERT Solutions for Class 12 History as they can give students a clear understanding of the syllabus. Class 12 History has fifteen chapters, and our NCERT Solutions are a detailed guide that covers each of them. It provides step-by-step solutions to all the questions in the textbook. On this page, we have provided you with complete Solution of Chapter 5 – Through the Eyes of Travellers Perceptions of Society.

NCERT Solutions for Class 12 History Chapter 5

Through the Eyes of Travellers Perceptions of Society Solutions

Q1) Write a note on the Kitab-ul-Hind.

Answer) Al-Biruni’s Kitab-ul-Hind was written in Arabic; it is simple and clear. It is divided into 80 chapters on subjects such as religion and philosophy, festivals, astronomy, alchemy, manners and customs, social life, weights and measures, iconography, laws and metrology. In each chapter, Al-Biruni follows a structure; he begins with a question, makes a description based on Sanskritic traditions, and ends with a conclusion by making comparison with other cultures.

According to scholars, this distinctive method in the text reflects geometric structure with its precision and predictability, owed much to his mathematical orientation. His works in Arabic were probably intended for peoples living along the frontiers of the subcontinent. He was familiar with Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit texts and their translations into Arabic.

Q2) Compare and contrast the perspectives from which Ibn Battuta and Bernier wrote their accounts of their travels in India.

Answer) Ibn Battuta was an early globe-trotter. He considered experience gained through travels to be a more important source of knowledge than books. He meticulously recorded his observations about new cultures, peoples, beliefs and values. He enjoyed the cosmopolitan culture of urban centres where people who spoke Arabic, Persian, Turkish and other languages, shared ideas, information and anecdotes. He highlighted unfamiliar things in order to ensure that the listener or the reader was suitably impressed by accounts of distant yet accessible worlds. For example, he described the coconut and the paan which was completely unfamiliar to his readers. Thus, Ibn Battuta described everything that impressed and excited him because of its novelty.

Francois Bernier, on the other hand, belonged to a different intellectual tradition. He tried to compare and contrast what he saw in India with the situation in Europe in general and France in particular, focusing on situations which he considered depressing. His idea was to influence the policy makers and intelligentsia to ensure that they made what he considered to be the “right” decisions. He compared Mughal India with contemporary Europe. He emphasised the superiority of Europe. His representation of India works on the model of binary opposition, where India is presented as the inverse of Europe. He also ordered the perceived differences hierarchically, so that India appeared to be inferior to the Western world.

Q3) Discuss the picture of urban centres that emerges from Bernier’s accout.

Answer) During the seventeenth century, about 15 per cent of the population in India lived in cities. This was higher than the urban population in Western Europe in the same period. In spite of this Bernier described Mughal cities as “Camp towns”. These towns owed their existence, and depended for their survival on the imperial camp. He believed that these camp towns came into existence when the imperial court moved in and rapidly declined when it moved out. He stated that these “camp towns” did not have viable social and economic foundations. They were dependent on imperial patronage.

This picture of urban centres that emerges from Bernier’s account does not seem to be correct because it is an oversimplified picture. There were all kinds of urban centres or towns i.e., manufacturing towns, trading towns, port towns, sacred centres and pilgrimage towns.

Q4) Analyse the evidence for slavery provided by Ibn Battuta.

Answer) Battuta has given a detailed description on the practice of slavery prevalent in India. Delhi Sultan-Muhammad bin Tughlaq had a large number of slaves. Most of these slaves were forcibly captured during the aggressions. Many people sold their children as a slave, because of acute poverty. Slaves were also offered as a gift during this time. Battuta when visited him, also brought many horses, camels and slaves for the Sultan to present him. Sultan Muhammad bin Tuglaq, himself had presented two hundred slaves to Nasiruddin a religious preacher.

Nobels are used to keep slave those days. Through these slaves, the Sultan used to get information about the activities of the noble and all other important events of the empire. The woman slaves served as servants in the house of the rich (nobles). These women informed the Sultan about the activities of their masters (i.e., nobles). Most of the slaves used to do domestic works and there was a lot of difference between the status of these slaves and the court slaves.

Q5) What were the elements of the practice of sati that drew the attention of Bernier?

Answer) Bernier records that at Lahore, he witnessed the practice of child sati in which a twelve-year-old widow was forced to enter her husband’s funeral pyre. He states that she was unwilling to die and wept bitterly, while being pushed by four Brahmanas and an old woman towards the funeral spot.

He writes that the victim was seated on the funeral wood and her hands and feet were tied to prevent her from running away from the sati. Finally, she was burnt alive. Bernier also notes that while some women seemed to embrace death cheerfully, others were forced to die.

Q6) Discuss Al-Biruni’s understanding of the caste system.

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

  • 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.

His description of the caste system in India was deeply influenced by his study of Sanskrit texts. According to these texts, the highest castes were the Brahmins as they were created from the head of the Brahmins. The Kshatriyas were the next caste created from the shoulders and hands of the Brahmin. The Vaishyas and Shudras were created from the thighs and feet of the Brahmin respectively.

Thus, he sought to understand the Indian caste system by looking for parallels in other societies. Nothing that ancient Persian society was divided into four categories he realized that social division was not unique to India.

But despite accepting the caste system he was against the notion of pollution. He believed that according to the laws of nature anything which becomes impure ultimately becomes pure again, e.g. the sun clears the air. The concept of social pollution is the bedrock of the caste system. Thus, the caste system was according to him contrary to the laws of nature. He failed to realize that the caste system was not as rigid as portrayed in the Sanskrit texts.

Q7) 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.

Answer) Ibn Battuta found cities full of opportunities for those who had the necessary drive, resources and skills. They were densely populated and prosperous, except for the occasional disruptions caused by wars and invasions. According to Ibn Battuta, it appears that most cities had crowded streets and bright and colourful markets. He described Delhi as a vast city, with a great population, the largest in India. In his description of Delhi, he stated, “The rampart around the city is without parallel. … It has many towers …. There are twenty eight gates of this city which are called darwaza.” The bazaars were centres of economic, social and cultural activities.

  • The Ibn Battuta’s account is useful in arriving at an understanding of life in contemporary urban centres because the description seems to be correct. For example, the older cities in India have crowded streets and bazaars full of variety of goods. Delhi was and still is a vast city. The older portion of Delhi has crowded streets and its bazaars are full of all types of goods.
  • In addition to above it may be stated that when Ibn Battuta arrived in Delhi in the fourteenth century, the subcontinent was part of a global network of communication that stretched from China in the east to north-west Africa and Europe in the west.
  • The Indian agriculture was also productive due to fertility of the soil. This led to prosperity of towns because the towns derived a significant portion of their wealth through the appropriation of surplus from villages.
  • The Indian goods were in great demand in both West Asia and Southeast Asia which fetched huge profits for artisans, merchants and Indian textiles.

Q8) Discuss the extent to which Bernier’s accounts enables historians to reconstruct contemporary rural society.

Answer) Bernier’s account does not enable historians much to reconstruct contemporary rural society. His accounts contain discussions trying to place the history of the Mughals within some sort of a universal framework. He constantly compared Mughal India with contemporary Europe, generally emphasising the superiority of the latter.

His description of rural society was far from truth. For example, he thought that in the Mughal Empire, the Empire owned all the land and distributed it among his nobles. This had disastrous consequences for the economy and society. Owning to crown ownership of land, argued Bernier, landholders could not pass on their land to their children. So, they were averse to any long-term investment in the sustenance and expansion of production. This had resulted in uniform ruination of agriculture, excessive oppression of peasantry and a continuous decline in the living standards of all sections of society, except the ruling aristocracy. He also stated that there was no middle state in India.

The above description does not give us a true picture of rural society. None of the Mughal official document suggest that the state was the sole owner of land. Abul Fazl describes the land revenue as “remunerations of sovereignty”. In fact, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centimes, rural society was characterised by considerable social and economic differentiation. At one end were the big zamindars and on the other were the “untouchable” landless labourers. In between was the big peasant who used hired labour and engaged in commodity production, and the smaller peasant who could barely produce for his subsistence.

Q9) Read this excerpt from Bernier:

Numerous are the instances of handsome pieces of workmanship made by persons destitute of tools, and who can scarcely be said to have received instruction from a master. Sometimes they imitate so perfectly articles of European manufacture that the difference between the original and copy can hardly be discerned. Among other things, the Indians make excellent muskets, and fowling-pieces, and such beautiful gold ornaments that it may be doubted if the exquisite workmanship of those articles can be exceeded by any European goldsmith. I have often admired the beauty, softness, and delicacy of their paintings.

List the crafts mentioned in the passage. Compare these with the descriptions of artisanal activity in the chapter.

Answer) The following crafts have been mentioned in the passage

  • muskets
  • fowling-pieces
  • gold ornaments
  • paintings

There were imperial Karkhanas or workshops for the artisans where embroiderers, goldsmiths, painters, varnishers, joiners, turners, tailors and shoe-makers, manufacturer of silk, brocade and fine muslins were employed. They worked the whole day and in the evening they returned to their homes. The artisans were employed in manufacturing carpets, gold and silver cloths and various sorts of silk and cotton goods. Bernier also stated that the Indian artisans were expert in copying goods that it was difficult to differentiate between the original and the duplicate.

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