Through the Eyes of Travellers


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


During the 17th century nearly 15% of population was living in town. This was average proportion of urban population of western Europe. Bernier described Mughal towns as court towns. By it he meant those towns which depended upon the imperial court for their existence and survival. These towns came into existence with the imperial court and declined with the impanel court when they moved to other places. In his travel accounts, Bernier described many big towns and cities such as Delhi, Mathura, Kashmir, Surat, Masulipatnam and Golconda. These gained importance as manufacturing centres, trading towns, and sacred towns. The merchant communities had deep influence in these cities. They remained organised due to their own caste and occupational bodies. These trading groups were known as Mahajans in western India. Their head was called Sheth. In Ahmedabad, the chief of Merchant community was known as nagarsheth. Besides the trading groups, musicians, architects, painters, lawyers, calligraphies, etc. lived in towns.


Through the Eyes of Travellers

Q 1.

On an outline map of the world, mark the countries visited by Ibn Battuta. What are the seas that he might have crossed?

Q 2.

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.

Q 3.

Write a note on the Kitab-ul-Hind.

Q 4.

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

Q 5.

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

Q 6.

Read this excerpt from Bernier:
List the crafts mentioned in the passage. Compare these with the descriptions of artisanal activity in the chapter.

Q 7.

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

Q 8.

Analyse the evidence for slavery provided by Ibn Battuta.

Q 9.

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

Q 10.

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