With the rise of Chola Empire in the South, the Rajputs in the western states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttaranchal, western UP and central UP, Bengal Sultanate in Bengal & Burma, Ahoms in the Assam, Reddys in Andhra Pradesh, Marathas in the Maharashtra, Yadav Dynasty in Karnataka, parts of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, Vijayanagara Empire in the Karnataka and Ganapati Kingdom in Kalinga, it is said that the middle age in India had started. Before the Mughals entered India the Southern parts of India was witness to a numerous empires and the rise and fall of these empires was the feature of this period.
And in the south Indian States various kings, dynasties, empires left their mark in the form of beautiful architecture seen in temples, palaces, carved out of mountains; Konark and Sun temple are just two examples.The typical art forms were developing in the form of music and dance that was essentially a part of the temple traditions that the south Indians still follow.
Famous paintings by Raja Ravi Varma, sculptures on the temple walls inside it and on the outer side of the walls are a world heritage site. Dances like Bharatnatyam, Mohinattam, kuchchipudi and Kathakali are a few to name. Most of their music and dance was dedicated to their deities. The Early Middle age is influenced by these incredible, incomparable sources of cultural heritage for the future generations.
An Era that was a witness…….
Middle ages are known to be from a period of 6th century to 16th century. It was an era to have witnessed a lot of change. Simple changes in the lifestyle, religion, belief system resulting from changes in the way people were ruled and who ruled them. Each king, invader, trader, trader turned colonizer, left his impression on the land and the people living on it. This was bound to happen in country like India whose history is old and had simplicity in the roots of every inch of it.
The ground was ready to be sown, sown by the seeds of new faith, new religious beliefs, new architecture, even new music, dance and musical instruments; everything changed. Mughal Invasion makes the middle age in India as a transition between ancient times and the modern world. The explosion of the Muslims and Islamic traders-invaders made India the canvas of the Arab and Turkish empires. They brought with them a rich culture, new languages, poets, new food, and even new weave of woollen woven delights – the carpets. The marble structures and minarets are a standing living evidence of their existence.
There have been a lot of fights, retaliation, invasions and conquests to acquire the most flourishing, fertile, culturally and socially rich country. Every stage of political conquest, either internal or external, has made its presence felt in the lifestyle, language, religion, architecture and even food we eat today. The monuments, fortresses, graves, gardens are all a reminder of the period of struggling period that the Indians went through during the Mughal period which is the latter Medieval Period. The Red Fort, Taj Mahal, Jama Masjid, Humayun’s Tomb, Mughal Gardens, Buland Darwaza are to name just a few…
India was in the hands of emperors like Chandragupta Maurya, of Maurya Dynasty, the Satavanas in the Deccan India and the Chola dynasty that was one of the longest-ruling dynasties in the history of southern India before the Mughals and the Turkish kings invaded India. Mohammad bin Gazni being the first to put his foot on the India sub-continent and Mohammad Ghori being his follower; both carried on the invasions and by the year 1192 Mohammad Ghori overthrew Prithviraj Chauhan, the Tomar ruler of Delhi.
Then he left India in the hands of his slave Qutubudin who reigned from 1206 to 1210. His successor Iltutmish carried forward the legacy during his rule starting from 1210 to 1236. The following Indian kings, namely, Khiljis, Tughlaqs, Sayyids and Lodis adopted the footsteps of the Slave rulers and this period was christened ‘The Delhi Sultanate’. The Mughal kings were popular for their extravagant lifestyle. In 1526 AD, Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodhi of the Lodhi dynasty in the First Battle of Panipat, and established Mughal rule in India.
Middle age in India is the period which is also known for its literature, languages and architecture that developed due to the fusion of Indian and Muslim cultures. Birth of Urdu poetry, ghazal, music, musical instruments like Pakhawaj, Tabla by Amir Khusro, Sarangi and many similar percussion instruments are a gift of the otherwise tough times seen by all Middle age Indian masses. Importance of the Kathak dance form and the changes there in brought by the arab king, all are the contributions of this period to not just India but the whole world. The two new languages that became part of Indian linguistic baggage are Arabic and Persian.
Historical writings and the paintings provide us the evidence of this most amazing history that was the gift of this period. Akbar’s books like Ain-i-akbari and Akbarnama (written by Abul Fazl, his court historian) are some sources that tell us the richness in the culture that was brought in. Akbar also followed the policy of ‘Sulhkul’ which means peace with all. Social differentiation was still based on varnas and the professions people followed. The dominating castes remained the Brahmins and Kshatriyas. There was political unification made possible due to the strong rulers of the Mughals. This led to unifying various states and dynasties of India to defeat the Mughals. These ages are better known for testifying the unity that the Indians achieved.
Theatrical performances, gambling, dance performances and musical concerts were the favourite pastime of the extravagant kings. Some other outdoor activities included animal fighting, wrestling and athletics not just amongst kings but amongst Indian rulers too. All the festivals and religious ceremonies were celebrated with great vigour and versatility. Eating meat and drinking wine called ‘sura’ and chewing betel leaf or ‘pan’ mark the royal ways of the kings, courtiers, rich merchants and ministers.
The middle ages are best known period for Sufism and Hindu bhakts, and the Sikhism. This period is the amalgamation of all the three as they all could exist together, treating each other tolerantly and with great dignity. The power hungry rulers though are known what they are known best for – creating a divide amongst the people on the basis of religion.
Yet middle ages are the witness of great Hindu saints like Mirabai, her guru – Guru Ravidass ji, Chaitnya Mahaprabhu, Surdas ji, TulsiDas ji, Namdeo, and many other saints. These saints essentially taught the people to shed the various superstitions and the caste system that was prevalent through earlier ages. They taught that God could be achieved only through love and not fear and following rituals without putting thought to them.
Guru Nanak Dev ji started the Sikhism and the essence of the religion remained the same. In the South too there were various saints who preached the message of love towards the one almighty. Nanak Dev ji said that idol worship and worshiping various Gods was meaningless till you did not know God and did not make an effort to know him. He preached the message of Ek Omkar which means that there is one and only one God.
The Sufis or the Muslim mystics who started Sufism in India spread the message of love and said that human brotherhood is the only religion. We are all the children of one Allah. A few famous Sufi saints of the times are Baba Bulle Shah, Baba Farid, Moinudddin Chisti…..
There were other religions developing too, like Jainism and Buddhism and Islam had set in their feet on the Indian soil. All these impacted on the formation of a new culture in the Indian Society.
This middle age is the age of versatility and is a period full of all the elements, whether it was love, hatred, battles, bhakti or culturally dance, singing, painting or architecture, the middle age had it all. There by developing India and shaping it for good, it left a deep impact.