Social Condition of Medieval India

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Socially also the condition of India was deplorable. The social condition of the time in India can be described as follows:

(1) Many Castes:

After the seventh century many new castes arose here, a phenomenon ascribed by the historians to various causes. The older caste system had divided society into four castes Brahmins, Kashatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras. We have references to Brahmins working as soldiers and the Kashatriyas working as merchants. We have also references to Vaishyas and Sudras as powerful rulers. According to a Purana ascribed to 8th century, the matrimonial relations between the men belonging to lower castes with the women belonging to Vaishya or other higher castes led to growth of many mixed castes.

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This meant that the Sudras and the Scheduled castes had been divided into thousands of sub castes. Similarly even the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas got divided into many mixed castes. The economic factors also led to growth of various sub castes. Much new occupation developed and castes were named after their occupations. In the economic set up of the time people could not move from one place to other but within their place of residence they got divided into many sub castes.

Besides many tribal’s got incorporated into the Hindu society because of the land grants given to the Brahmins in the tribal areas. The tribal’s were incorporated mostly in the Sudra or the mixed castes. Every tribe became a separate caste within the Hindu fold.

(2) Untouchability:

The evil practice of social inequality and untouchability prevailed in the Hindu society. Dining with a Sudra, mixing with him, sitting with him or getting education from him was factors which could pollute a man a higher caste. So much so that even the shadow of the Sudras was considered polluting. The people of higher castes looked down upon the people of lower castes because of which there was no feeling of brotherhood in the society.

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(3) Birth of the new caste of Rajput:

During our period we find mention of a new caste, the Rajputs. Historians differ in their opinion about the origin of the Rajputs. Many Rajputs trace their origin to the sun and moon dynasties during the time of the Mahabharata. Other scholars consider them to have descended from the foreign invaders like the Hunas and the Scythians.

Some of the Rajputs consider themselves to have originated from the Yagna performed by Rishi Agastya on the Mount Abu. Some scholars ascribe their origin to their Vaishyas Kshatryas or Brahmans who either ruled themselves or showed exemplary bravery in the army of kings. Majority of scholars agree that these brave soldiers were called as ‘Rajputras’ (son of ruler) by the kings to begin with which later on got changed to Rajputs.

(4) Position of the Women:

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During this period there was continuous decline in the position of the women. They were considered species of lower intelligence. A woman was considered as a were serving maid of the husband. They were debarred from reading Vedic scriptures. They were the victims of the rapacity of man folk.

They were married on in an early age with the result that they could not get any education. They were victims of social evils like Polygamy and Sati Pratha. Generally woman did not enjoy the right to remarry except when she was divorced by her husband or her husband renounced the world or he was impotent under these exceptional circumstances she could remarry.

(5) Education:

Education was widely spread. There were many universities and colleges where all kinds of knowledge were given. In spite of this, the lives of the most of the people were controlled by superstition.

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On the whole, the Hindu social system, with its various divisions and mutual Jealousies, was not strong enough to with stand the Mohammadan onslaught.

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