NCERT Class 12 History Chapter 8 Notes Peasants, Zamindars and the State

Peasants, Zamindars and the State Class 12 History Notes

“Peasants, Zamindars and the State”

At the time of the 16th and 17th centuries, 85 per cent of the Indian population lived in its villages. Zamindars and peasants both were involved in agrarian production and had the right to share produced. This relationship built alliance, competition and disagreement between them. Rural society was made up because of the sum of this agricultural relationship.

Outsiders started entering the rural world. Other agricultural areas were linked with this state as many crops were grown for sale, trade, money and markets.

Peasants and agricultural production

Agricultural society’s basic unit was a village, where the peasants performed seasonal jobs all the year like sowing seeds, harvesting and stuff like that. Furthermore, in the production of sugar and oil, they work as labour.

Sources of information

  • The information was not given by the workers of the land. The information and the understanding of the rural areas were provided by the sources of the Mughals.
  • The historical chronology of peasants was not written by themselves. In the 16th and 17th centuries documents were the main sources of agricultural history of the Mughals.
  • The considerable chronicle was the Ain-i Akbari authored by Akbar’s court historiographer Abu’l Fazl.
  • They recorded the agreements created by the state to secure cultivation very thoroughly and also to facilitate the compilation of earnings by the agents of the state, to govern the relationship between the state and rural appeals, the zamindars.
  • The main pursuit of the Ain was to present a concept of Akbar’s kingdom.
  • In the vision of the Akbar empire, the strong ruling class provided social harmony.
  • From the 17th and 18th centuries, the states that include described revenue records and we’re dating are Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
  • The comprehensive records of the East India Company provide us with useful narratives of agrarian relations in eastern India.
  • The dispute between the peasants, zamindars and the state is illustrated in the records.
  • They give us an understanding of peasants’ perception of and their anticipations of justice from the state.

Lands of the Peasants

  • Indo-Persian sources of the Mughal period used the term most frequently to denote a peasant as raiyat (plural, riaya) or muzarian.
  • Kisan or asami were the additional terms of these.
  • References of the seventeenth century refer to two kinds of peasants – khud-kashta and pahi-kashta.
  • The retired were the citizens of the town in which they kept their lands.
  • The others did not belong to the same village and were non-citizens.
  • The principle of an individual right was the basis of cultivation.
  • The properties of the peasants were bought and sold as the properties of other land proprietors.

Technology and irrigation

  • The quantity of land available for labour and the mobility of peasants were three aspects that accounted for the constant development of agriculture.
  • The introductory endeavour of agriculture is to feed people, basic staples such as rice, wheat or millets were the most continually cultivated crops.
  • Monsoons stayed the backbone of Indian agriculture, as they are even today.
  • Additional water was required for some crops.
  • Artificial systems of irrigation had to be developed for this.
  • The most rainfall area was specially zoned for producing rice and used to receive 40 inches.
  • Peasants used technologies as agriculture was based on labour-intensive techniques.
  • The state supported the irrigation projects.

An abundance of crops

  • The kharif or autumn and the rabi or spring were the two main seasonal crops that were organised by agriculture.
  • It means that most of the areas, except that topography that was the aridest or inhospitable, cultivated a minimum of two crops a year (do-fasla), whereas some, where rainfall or irrigation ensured a continuous supply of water, even gave three crops.
  • The focus on the cultivation of essential staples did not mean that agriculture in mediaeval India was only for subsistence.
  • We repeatedly come across the term jins-i Kamil (literally, perfect crops) in our sources.
  • The Mughal state also motivated peasants to develop such crops as they brought in more revenue.
  • Cotton and Sugarcane crops were known as the perfect crops.
  • In the 17th century, new crops were introduced and listed too.
  • Maize came to India through Africa and Spain in the 17th century. In western India, it was listed as the major crop.
  • Fruits and vegetables were also introduced from various parts of the subcontinent.
  • Vegetables such as potatoes, and tomatoes.
  • Fruits such as pineapple and papayas.

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The Village Community

Peasant community members were divided into three groups: the cultivators, the panchayat and the village headman also referred to as muqaddam or mandal.

Caste and the rural milieu

  • Serious injustices based on caste and other caste-like disparities meant that the cultivators were a highly heterogeneous group.
  • Amongst those who farmed the land, there was a sizable number who worked as menials or agrarian labourers (majur).
  • Despite the quantity of cultivable land, certain caste groups were given menial tasks and therefore relegated to deprivation and poverty.
  • Though there was no census at that period, the small data that we have suggest that such groups constituted an enormous section of the village population, had the least resources and were denied their position in the caste hierarchy, much like the Dalits of modern India.
  • The lower classes of the society have a direct relation with caste, poverty and social status.

Panchayats and headmen

  • The village panchayat was a community of elders, usually important people of the village with inborn rights over their property.
  • An oligarchy, the panchayat illustrated different castes and communities in the village, though the village menial-cum-agricultural worker was far-fetched to be portrayed there.
  • The Panchayat’s decisions were restraining the members.
  • The latter was a severe action and was in most circumstances allocated out for a restricted period. It meant that an individual compelled to leave the town evolved into an outcaste and lost his ownership to practise his profession.

Village artisans

  • Families of the cultivators and themselves used to participate in craft production like baking and firing of pottery, textile printing, dyeing, and repairing agricultural tools.
  • Carpenters, blacksmiths, potters, barbers, and even Goldsmiths were the village artisans who provided exceptional services and villagers compensated them with various means.
  • Means such as land allotments, and share of the harvest and usually decided by the panchayat.

Women in Agrarian Society

  • The production procedure usually implicates men and women accomplishing certain specified roles. In the contexts that we are inquiring into, women and men had to work shoulder-to-shoulder in the fields.
  • Men planted and ploughed, while women planted, weeded, threshed and winnowed the harvest.
  • Unpretentiously, gendered segregation between the home (for women) and the world (for men) was not possible in this context.
  • However, biases related to women’s biological functions continued. Menstruating women, for instance, were not permitted to touch the plough or the potter’s wheel in western India or enter the groves where betel leaves (paan) were cultivated in Bengal.
  • Artisanal duties such as spinning yarn, sifting and kneading clay for pottery, and embroidery were among the multiple aspects of production dependent on female labour.
  • The more commercialised the product, the greater the demand for women’s labour to produce it.
  • Peasants and artisans women worked in the field as well and they went to the employer’s houses and markets if required.
  • In agricultural fields and society, women played an important role in society.
  • Marriages in many rural communities required the payment of bride price instead of dowry to the bride’s family.
  • Remarriage was legal and allowed for both divorced and widowed women.
  • In the 18th century, women zamindars were known in Bengal.

Forests and Tribes

Beyond settled villages

  • There was more to rural India than stagnant agriculture.
  • Forest residents were termed as jangli in contemporaneous texts. Being jangli, nonetheless, did not mean an absence of “civilisation”, as widespread usage of the term today seems to connote.
  • Instead, the term is described as those whose livelihood came from the assemblage of forest produce, hunting and shifting agriculture.
  • These activities were mostly season-specific.
  • Forest produce was done in the months of springs, fishing was done in the months of summers, cultivation was done in the months of monsoons and hunting was done in the months of autumn and winter.

Inroads into forests

  • The reach of retail agriculture was a significant external aspect that impinged the lives of those who lived in the forests.
  • Exterior powers came into the forest in various methods. For illustration, the state-mandated elephants for the army. So the peshkash levied from the forest populace frequently comprised a supply of elephants.
  • Ahom kings declared the monopoly of the wild elephants.

The Zamindars

  • There were the zamindars who were anchored owners who also enjoyed distinct sociable and financial freedoms of their exceptional status in rural society.
  • The zamindars held comprehensive individual lands termed as milkiyat, meaning property.
  • Milkiyat lands were developed for the individual usage of zamindars, usually with the support of hired or servile labour.
  • The raised status of the zamindars happened because of two reasons.
  • One reason is because of the caste. The caste factor helped them to elevate.
  • Another reason was the services that they provided to the state.
  • The services provided by zamindars to the state also helped them elevate their status.

Land Revenue System

  • Earnings from the land was the financial mainstay of the Mughal Empire.
  • It was consequently vital for the state to build a managerial apparatus to ensure supervision over agricultural production and to rectify and accumulate revenue from across the length and breadth of the rapidly expanding empire.
  • Forests wrapped enormous regions of the subcontinent and accordingly remained unmeasured.
  • The whole area has not been measured successfully yet.
  • The two stages of the revenue arrangements of the land are, first the examination and the second the actual collection.

The Flow of Silver

  • The Mughal Empire was amongst the immense territorial empires in Asia that had organized to bring together power and resources during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
  • The empires were from China, Turkey and Iran, also known as Ming, Ottomans and Safavid.
  • These empires accomplished political stability by creating networks and trade from China to the Mediterranean Sea
  • A developing trade brought massive quantities of silver bullion into Asia to pay for goods procured from India, and an extensive part of that bullion gravitated towards India.

The Ain-i Akbari of Abu’l Fazl Allami

  • The Ain-i Akbari was the completion of a gigantic historical, administrative undertaking of classification undertaken by Abu’l Fazl under the rule of Emperor Akbar.
  • It was completed in 1598, the forty-second regnal year of the emperor, after having gone through five revisions.
  • The Ain thoroughly departed from this tradition as it recorded information about the empire and the populace of India, and therefore constituted a benchmark for researching India at the turn of the seventeenth century.
  • The value of the Ain’s quantitative evidence is agreed upon where the study of agricultural references is concerned.

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