The Mughals!


The Brown Pundits Clubhouse channel hosted a discussion on “the Mughals” yesterday that went on for a while. There seem to be two polarized extreme views

1) The Mughals were great Indians! Long live the Mughals.

2) The Mughals were genocidal colonizers and induced inter-generational trauma.

Most people occupy a position in the middle. As for myself, I think it is clear that the Mughals were to some extent an alien and occupying influence because that is how they viewed themselves more, or less. They were Turanian Muslims of Turco-Mongol provenance. No matter how much Rajput or Persian blood they had, their paternal lineage came down from the Turk Timur. The maternal lineage of Babur was Genghiside. If India had been mostly Islamicized this would have changed. But it wasn’t. Despite the deep cultural synthesis between Mughal culture and that of India and their indigenization of the generations, there remained a connection between ashraf Muslims and Persia and Central Asia. They were not equivalent to Muslim Bengali peasants or Ismaili traders in Gujurat.

And yet the flip side of this is that the Mughals, and Muslims as a whole, in particular Turks, drove change within Indian society. To some extent, the native reaction and response in the dialectical synthesis can only be understood in the light of the Islamic shock. More generally, an Islamicate civilization evolved that extended beyond the Mughals and included the Rajputs and Marathas (reciprocally, the Mughals internalized many Rajput values, but this is to be expected due to their long residence in India and intermarriage with Rajputs).

Those Hindus who are traumatized by the impact of Islam are free to feel this way, but I am genuinely curious about an Indian culture stripped away of Islamic influence. What would that look like? Perhaps Odisha and Sri Lanka might come close?

More generally, the excited and emotional response of both Hindus and Muslims and their inability to engage in epoché makes me think that the prospects for deeper analysis are poor. Emotion has reason by the leash.

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75 Replies to “The Mughals!”

  1. We are overestimating the influence of politics on culture. Culture tends to be influenced much more by trade links and the effect of religious/academic/entertainment networks than by what the identity and policies of the ruling clan are.

    Once North India and Central/West Asia were secured as strategic spaces, interaction was bound to grow. Food, spices and textiles would have flowed to Persia and Turkey, horses, precious stones and talented families would have come into India even if a Hindu family was ruling in Delhi. Conversion of peasant castes to Islam in India’s marginal regions would have taken place as well.

    In the same vein, even if Muslim families ruled in coastal India, we would have seen much the same culture evolve with European contact.

    Where Mughals are unique among rulers is in their emphasis on architecture as the primary expression of imperial control.

    1. Are you talking about mughal specific architecture or just an architecture based plan in general. If the latter, then consider how Mauryans too produced architecture for this effect and they were also involved in syncretism of architecture from many places like Greece and Persia. However the additional criteria of mughals viewing themselves as foreign does distinguish them even in this specific comparison.

      1. The Mauryans predated the Mughals by nearly two millennia and building grand structures to emphasize imperial authority was a bit out of date by the time the Mughals were around. Contemporaneous dynasties, especially those in Europe had expanded royal patronage to monastaries, sciences and medicine, and even adjacent Rajput kingdoms invested in observatories like Jantar Mantar. South Indian kingdoms built dams and water management structures.

        I think this was because revenue surplus was very easy for the Mughal state to maintain, with the fertile lands of the Gangetic plains and lucrative Central Asian trade.

  2. Most sensible article I’ve read about the Mughals. Has more insight than 95% of the drivel pumped out by the academics who conveniently ignore the self-proclaimed and obvious foreignness of the Mughals. Even late dynasty emperors like Aurangzeb make it very clear in their writings that they are Turani and not Hindustani.

    Bollywood also does a number by casting Punjabi types to play the early emperors like Akbar when clearly more east asiatic looking actors would be more accurate.

    1. Akbar may have have possessed Asian features but he ultimately turned native, didn’t he? Unlike his successors, I should add, (like Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb) who probably tried to compensate for their increased Indian ancestry by exalting their faith and the foreign parts of their ancestry.

    2. “Bollywood also does a number by casting Punjabi types to play the early emperors like Akbar when clearly more east asiatic looking actors would be more accurate.”

      you mean danny denzongpa? 🙂

  3. I am curious why people think that the Mughals who acknowledged their ”Turkic” ancestry considered themselves as ”foreign” or look at themselves that way in practical life. The first problem I have with this is that India was not a ”nation” during the Mughal era and and people identified primarily with their tribe/caste/ancestors than whether they were ”Indians”, so Mughals identifying or even glorifying their Turko-Mongol ancestry is not really something that is unique. I mean they were conquerors after all.. I have seen more Rajputs bragging about their ancestry today, despite limited military achievements. The second problem I have is that most Indian/Pakistani Muslims may also brag about their ”foreign ancestry”, even if they don’t have any. In practical terms though, I don’t think they ever really saw themselves as foreign Arab/Iraninan/Turk nor do they care much about this in real life.. I think ancestry brag is a very Indian/South Asian thing to do. The third reason is that the Mughals seemed very uninterested to get territory outside of the Indian subcontinent, especially in their ancestral lands. I am not sure why but someone would always want to conquer their homeland back if they really consider that their homeland. Mughals were by and large – uninterested.

    1. Did you miss the part of history where humayun/akbar ‘s cousin continued to rule over kabul? Also the campaign shah jahan launched to retake Kandahar? My lazy take is Mughals also got corrupted by the easy and luxurious life in India. Also they were cut off from central Asian horses and warriors.

      1. My lazy take is Mughals also got corrupted by the easy and luxurious life in India. Also they were cut off from central Asian horses and warriors.

        the mughals got fresh central asian warriors for generations. only later did this trail off.

    2. I am curious why people think that the Mughals who acknowledged their ”Turkic” ancestry considered themselves as ”foreign” or look at themselves that way in practical life.

      you’re a moron. the mughals in their own writings, starting with babur, talk about their contempt for hindustan and their yearning for lost ferghana. your concept of premodern civilizational identity is as advanced as mine when i was seven years old. (the later mughals were habituated to india, but the early ones were quite attached to their timurid ancestry)

      I think ancestry brag is a very Indian/South Asian thing to do. The third reason is that the Mughals seemed very uninterested to get territory outside of the Indian subcontinent, especially in their ancestral lands

      you’re an idiot who can’t read wikipedia. the mughals expended enormous efforts to reconquer their timurid homeland, failing every time as the uzeks easily fought them off. they wasted great treasure in keeping kandahar for this reason.

      the ashraf elite were quite proud of their white blood in contrast to the native blacks. this is well known, and the europeans commented on this.

      are you low IQ or just plain ignorant? your comment is so stupid i slapped my face. are you ugra’s muslim brother?

      1. Hey…hey..I am just a good South Indian R1a-Z93 minding his own business. My brothers are many….can’t account for all of them since they left the Indian homeland.

      2. Razib ji, I think you are being unreasonable since my comment is more inquisitive that authoritative. I must admit I don’t have a historian’s knowledge of Mughal history like yourself (19th and 20th century South Asian history is more my forte) but even I knew that Babur hated Hindustan and its climate and yearned for melons from his homeland. Even I knew that Shah Jahan lamented the loss of his ancestral tongue and his campaigns in Central Asia.. however the much maligned Aurangzeb most hated by Indian nationalists, nor do his successors, showed any real interest in Central Asia and rather concentrated his efforts on the Deccan.

        I don’t think there was any Indian identity during the Mughal era, and even if there was, how would you think any ”foreign” group would have adopted it with its stratified caste structure? Groups like Parsis that traced historical ‘foreign’ ancestry historically were also very insular (still are if you ask me) perhaps due to the same reason.

        As for Ashraf Muslims bragging white blooded to Europeans, Europeans have a vested interest in not only showing rulers of India as white blooded but also to slight their ”Ashraf” competitors.. But disregarding all that, how many Indian Hindu groups are there that brag about being more white than others? I am guessing many.

        1. But disregarding all that, how many Indian Hindu groups are there that brag about being more white than others? I am guessing many.

          yes. i am not 100% sure, but i’m 85% sure this is MUSLIM influence. why else would pandits or khatris or khamboj talk about persian ancestry? (multiple have to me)

          1. Quite possibly, there was a myth of Muslim invincibility until the Marathas, and many people want to mostly associate with conquerors/rulers rather than the ruled. It could also relate to an aspiration to be more white looking which those with West/Central Asians ancestry were.. I have seen heavy preference for white skin color and features even amongst South Indians and Srilankans despite them not having any significant history of Muslim rule.

    3. The first problem I have with this is that India was not a ”nation” during the Mughal era and and people identified primarily with their tribe/caste/ancestors than whether they were ”Indians”, so Mughals identifying or even glorifying their Turko-Mongol ancestry is not really something that is unique.

      You are using the word “nation” in anachronistic way. An entity doesn’t have to be a Westphalian nation-state for its people to consider and acknowledge their commonalities. And in the Indian context, there’s a big difference between Indians showing fidelity to their particular caste/tribe vs the Turkish conquerors glorifying their foreign origins. The former considered other castes to be part of their society just as much as their own; the latter thought of all the castes as an amalgamated mass who were destined to be ruled by them.

      1. Agreed with you about the nation state, but disagree with you on the rest. True one caste might consider another to be part of society, but they won’t consider them part of the ruling elite. And this is just the caste division, what about ethno/linguistic division? Western states are based on those and these differences absolutely exist in India too.

  4. Sri Lanka isn’t really free of Muslim influence- the (mostly Tamil) Sri Lankan Muslim community is surprisingly large, about 9-10% of the population, compared to 13% for Hindus.

  5. Gentlemen,

    Please be rest assured that the Mughals always nurtured (or pretended to nurture in later periods) an ambition to conquer their homelands beyond the Hindu Kush.

    And they made a firm decisive push for it in 1646-47. Read it here
    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.livehistoryindia.com/amp/story/cover-story%252F2020%252F08%252F19%252Fbalkh-campaign

    For all the romanticism associated with it, the practical difficulties of maintaining control over these regions was too much. But it certainly was not due to a lack of desire on the part of the Mughals.

    Nevertheless, this campaign should be taught to Indians. It has important lessons for Indian policymakers.

    1. As a side anecdote, I remember reading (when I was a kid) about this English guy Hawkins, who may have been a pirate or just an adventurer. Anyway, he’d spent some time in Ottoman lands, I believe in the service of the defunct Levant Company. When he showed in Jahangir’s court, apparently the latter was really taken by him because of his proficiency in Turkish. And he basically became Jahangir’s drinking buddy for several years.

      (This says something about what Jahangir valued, I think, despite the fact that his dad had been attempting to Indianize the dynasty and that his mom was a Rajput.)

      1. “This says something about what Jahangir valued”

        from whatever i have read about jahangir, i am prettry sure he must have valued the englishman’s taste for fine liquor much more than his proficiency in turkish.

    2. jaideep, thanks for posting the great article on mughal’s balkh campaign. i had always known about it, but ranvijay singh has written it in a popular history fashion and made it accessible to everyone.

      i may add one more episode from this campaign that is not found in ranvijay’s post. it gave an early glimpse into auragnzeb’s character. apparently during a battle with the uzbeks, the time of evening prayers of islam arrived. aurangzeb insisted on offering his prayers in the midst of the raging battle, in the face of bafflement and protestations of his officers. and thus, as the battle raged around him, he dismounted from his elephant, knelt down on the ground, and deliberately went through all the ceremonies of the prayer, in full public view of both the armies.

      when the khan of uzbeks heard about it, he was so struck by this act of foolhardy bravely that he simply disengaged from the battle.

      it was, of course a well thought out piece of theater on aurangzeb’s part. aurangzeb was emulating the precedent of imam hussain who was also supposed to have offered prayers in the midst of battle of karbala. we can call it psy-ops in modern military parlance. whatever be the case, it had the desired effect on aurganzeb’s foes both outside, and inside the empire. his fame as an islamic zealot spread far and wide and stood him in good stead during his life and death struggle with dara years later.

      i am always fascinated with the strong personalities of history (yes, i do subscribe to the “great man theory”), and i have read a lot about the great conflict between dara and aurangzeb that culminated in dara’s defeat and execution. to a keen observer it is very clear from the beginning that aurangzeb was made of much tougher fiber than dara, and the outcome of their clash was inevitable. may be some day i will write a blog on that story.

      1. This could be psyops but its in line with Aurangzeb’s character.. as this was the way of the early Muslim armies of the Rashidun Caliphate, (not just Imam Hussain). They would form groups and take turns to offer prayers openly in the battlefield, albeit protected by other columns who would then take go pray after the first group was done. The dawn and the dusk prayers were ones where Muslims can’t delay, so this was always a weakness..one example that comes to my mind was at the Battle of Yarmouk. Where the Romans attacked at dawn when they knew the Muslim army would be in prayer.

        Aurangzeb by openly emulating them against another Muslim army that wasn’t emulating them, would have caused quite a bit of religious and psychological discomfort in their ranks.

  6. The main reason for these 2 polarized positions is because Hindus {not correct type of Hindus of academia} have not been allowed equal negotiating table by either Christians or Muslims if they {Hindus} don’t agree to their {Christian or Islamic} reading of interaction with Hindus. This lack of agency accorded to Hindus by institutions created by others is the main fault-line.

  7. “why else would pandits or khatris or khamboj talk about persian ancestry?”

    I have Kashmiri Pandit family members, know tons and tons of Khatris, not one of these people has ever talked about Persian ancestry. Ever.

    Anecdotal evidence aside, these groups form some of the core voter base for the BJP. which is quite nativist. Imagine Arun Jaitley, Madan Lal Khurana and Nalin Kohli going around telling Vajpayee, Modi and Swaraj that we have Persian ancestry.

    1. perhaps your family is more lower class less cosmopolitan or saffron?

      happened to be multiple times. am i the only one? might be some ascertainment bias.

      1. Razib, I’ve observed the same as you, but it might be a diaspora thing. A very close friend is a khatri from california, and i sense that there was a desire to associate with the persian kids there who were acknowledged to have a certain panache by broader society. In India, however, I’ve never really observed this, and I think this links to something you’ve mentioned in the past. Proper Indians don’t have much of a sense of the subcontinent as part of greater Asia, the modern borders matter a lot more. As an indian-american, my mental conception of india is locating it on a world map, aware of all the adjacent countries and always wondering about the connections that migh exist.

    2. Punjabi Khatris and Kashmiri Pandits are not the most pro BJP. The two groups were chief Congress beneficiaries. It is Kashmiri Pandits who politically controlled India post independence from 1947-1984. Punjabi Khatris benefited the most through Lutyens. These two group play all sides.

      1. Less Hindu regions produce less pro BJP folks. More Hindu regions produce more pro BJP folks.

        … till the Hindus of less Hindu regions get a kick on their back side (like Khatris got from sikhs, and pandits got from kashmiris) and then run towards the BJP with their tails b/w their legs.

        But BJP knows who their real supporters are, and who plays both sides.

        1. what a ridiculously short-sighted tying up ‘hinduness’ to the fortunes of a political party

  8. arguments of the form “mughals were indian” or the “concept of indian didn’t exist back then” is high midwittery and stupid.

    the premoderns had their own form of identity and ‘nationalism.’ muslims like ibn battuta were clear about what was, and wasn’t, the darl-ul-islam. indians seem quite clear about aryavarta. buddhists pilgrims are quite clear about lands where lord budda is venerated and unknown. etc. etc.

    the mughals clearly began developing a ‘synthetic identity’ over their period of hegemony, but their identity with hindustan was mixed and halting. this is not controversial for early modern european monarchies, because european emergence of nationalism identity is less controversial. but the russian monarchy was clearly more ‘cosmopolitan’ than the russians by the 19th century despite slavophile shifts. this, despite the russian monarchy being of the same religion as the vast majority of the people they ruled (they were ancestrally mixed a lot with the overly fecund german princely lines).

    as a modern nation-state obv did not exist during the mughal period. but the existence of a hindu-indian identity is quite obvious above jati-varna. the proof is manifest in modern statistics: most indians are not muslim but remain hindu.

  9. It could also relate to an aspiration to be more white looking which those with West/Central Asians ancestry were..

    in elite muslim circles dark-skinned convert families with power an $ would intermarry with light-skinned ashraf families who had lost power and $. they were trading genes/looks for $. just like european nobility

    i have never heard a persian or arab boast about indian ancestry tho there is a non-trivial amount of that.

    1. Indians never conquered Persia or Arabia and ruled it for any significant period of time, and for the most part weren’t even considered a threat by those in the west. Nor was there a lot of cultural export from east to west, especially in the last 1000 years. Therefore not very glamorous for the Persians or Arabs to claim that they have ”Indian ancestors”..

      Indian insularity is probably to blame here as well..

      As Ugra says proudly claims below that Chanakya once had to determine if the choice of a foreign wife was politically expedient for the Mauryan Emperor. He mulled over this and remarked pithily, “The child born in the womb of a foreigner can never be loyal to the kingdom.”

      While Arabs, Turks, Afghans, Farsis, and the Brits were outward looking, Hindus were inward looking and paid for it dearly.

      1. Nor was there a lot of cultural export from east to west, especially in the last 1000 years.

        this is actually totally false. indians very influential at the abbassid court in concert with turanian post-buddhists. particularly during the barmakid phase. more concretely indians and greeks were in cultural dialogue from antiquity mediated by persians, and the greeks acknowledge this explicitly (look at the legends about the life of plotinus).

        since you have a midwit’s grasp of history i’ll leave at that, as your ignorance is expected and excusable for your level of intelligence. you and ugra have much in common!

        the cultural involution of the last 1,000 years is correct and is repsonsible for the perception that began with al-biruni, which was justified, that indians didn’t care about the rest of the world. such was not always so as any child who reads ancient history would know.

        ugra is a child of medieval india, not ancient india.

        1. Saying the Barmakids were exporting ”indian culture” to the Abbasids is truly stretching it, but I will leave you to it.. Nobody denied Indo-Greek exchange from antiquity but that is more than 2000 years ago. You haven’t really addressed the point I actually made or you didn’t get it: that is Indian ancestry is not valued because Indian civilization simply does not have that kind of impact upon the Middle East or Central Asia, that the Middle East, Central Asia and the West had on India, in the last 1000 years which a more relevant time frame when determining modern attitudes. And don’t retort by talking about Buddhist exports like Ugra, how many Muslims today are claiming proudly their ancestors were Buddhists? Only ones I have seen at the Indus nation types.

          1. Nobody denied Indo-Greek exchange from antiquity but that is more than 2000 years ago.

            no. you are probably stupid and definitely ignorant. i think perhaps you have a low IQ. plotinus dates to the 3rd century, and neoplatonism to the 3rd to the 6th. this a major reciprocal vector. the sassanians invited indians (and chinese!) to the academy of gondishapur. this resulted in the cross-fertilization of greek (“yavana”) and indian medicine, as well as astronomy and astrology. gondishapur was a major later influence upon the sabians of haran who served as a vector for esoteric knowledge into the ‘abbassid house of wisdom.’

            in the period before 1000 AD indian cultural influence and civilizational prestige was not actually that low (though racial contempt was high because indians were dark-skinned and considered ugly). if you read crone’s work on millenarian iranian cults before the samanids you will see that india is seem as an influence and possible bulwark against arab islam (this was delusional, but pointed to the old sassanian era connections).

            this is not a trivial issue, and would result in a major ‘revisionism’ of the origin of eastern mediterranean/mashriq civilization btwn 500 and 1000 AD, but it is above your pay grade. just understand that you know i know a lot more than you, so spare me your midwit judgments. don’t bracket me with ugra, he’s ignorant but confident in his views like you.

            as for the other stuff, indian civilization underwent involution after 1000 AD. this is well known and clear. and it applies to the east as well as the west. indian cultural and demographic influence in SE was strong at one point, and just disappeared (though the genes and culture remain).

  10. VS Naipaul viewed the architecture of Mughals as a symbol of “plunder” and “the capacity of a country to be infinitely plundered”. He used the word “vandal” repeatedly, not just in reference to the Mughals but also other Muslim Sultanates in the Deccan.

    The “vandal” usage is interesting because the European assessment of the Vandal hand in the fall of Rome is somewhat similar to this topic.

    VS Naipaul firmly states that the events of those 500 years destroyed a “Hindu World” of which nothing remains today – and he takes this view much beyond buildings and temples. The ethics and philosophy of that era – the essence – has vanished. Like a stream that has been dammed – exposing only the gravel and the riffraff on the bed below.

    The life-force that animated many of the institutions of that era – for example, Varna and Jati – has vanished. What has remained is it’s detritus – bereft of political innovation and mindlessly applied by the masses today. Hindu Emperors would create jatis for the expedient purposes of resolving temporal problems and assign specific duties to people in the realm. All of this ground to a stop – and the English merely examined the carcass of a long dead animal – once living – to pronounce the character of caste to the European world.

    We might be still struggling with the aftershocks of that vandalism – the modern debates around reservation, attitude towards wealth, secularism are all touched by the vacant spaces in our native philosophies that vandalism inflicted.

    Chanakya once had to determine if the choice of a foreign wife was politically expedient for the Mauryan Emperor. He mulled over this and remarked pithily, “The child born in the womb of a foreigner can never be loyal to the kingdom.”

    1800 years later, the choice of Rajput wives pushed the Mughal Ulema into paroxysms of insecurity, causing them to overcompensate and create namazis like Aurangzeb, who eventually created conditions for peasant revolts in the Punjab and Deccan. 2500 years later, we have Rahul Gandhi and his pronouncements on his idea of India.

    The thinkers/philosophers of that ancient Hindu world are indeed lost to us today. More importantly, the institutions (Takshashila, Nalanda) that produced them have been lost. Everything that is India’s soft power today (Yoga, Vegetarianism, Mahabharata, Samkhya/Buddhism) were products of that ancient world.

    What did we produce in the last 1000 years? The answer to this should settle the question of Mughals. I do not accept a single white building or other domed structures as evidence of creative output. They will eroded by Nature in the course of time.

    1. Naipaul did indeed deplore what the Muslim invaders and conquerors did, but he was hardly glorifying the culture and society that existed before those invasions. I’ve seen lots of people cherrypick his comments about the invaders while conveniently ignoring his simultaneous exhortation for Hindus to accept that the old Hindu society is dead and ought to be forgotten. Because, by holding on to an antediluvian system that outlived its use and purpose many centuries ago, our society can’t progress. Our present day Hindu nationalists use Naipaul selectively and argue that we need to “return to Ram Rajya”, while Naipaul himself argued for something quite the opposite.

      Here’s the relevant interview of Naipaul from which he’s often selectively quoted: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dv5Opbksx7o. Watch it completely to get the full context of his remarks.

      1. The topic at hand is not Naipaul. But if you are trying to co-opt Naipaul into a Nehruvianesque mold with one interview, you are mistaken. He wrote over 25 books and countless articles. The fact that he was not felicitated with any Indian award of significance – shows how far he was removed from the secular marxism of the Indian state. His Nobel citation calls him the “chronicler of suppressed histories…..the history of the vanquished”.

        “… system that outlived its use and purpose many centuries ago, our society can’t progress…”

        Seriously?? Are you spouting lines from a schoolboy’s red manual?

  11. Razib says
    but I am genuinely curious about an Indian culture stripped away of Islamic influence. What would that look like? Perhaps Odisha and Sri Lanka might come close?
    Not Sri Lanka, 500 years of European Colonial Rule. Initially Coast line by the Portuguese and ending with Brits occupying the whole country in 1817

    Quereshi says
    I have seen heavy preference for white skin color and features even amongst South Indians and Srilankans despite them not having any significant history of Muslim rule.
    500 years of European colonial influence. However, no one I know acknowledges their light skin is due to Europeans. Most likely because it would male mediated.

    My maternal relatives have no issue with Euro ancestry, cant say proud, acknowledged. Maybe because from female side. My grandmother is the daughter from an Irish nanny by my grandfather.

    Signal is quite clear in my DNA, 9.7% Brit/Irish
    https://imgur.com/gallery/VnqOo5f

    1. It depends on what you mean by light skin. European light skin or what would be considered light skinned from the south Asian perspective. If the latter then that is much older than any European contact, and I think also older than Indo-European contact in general. Razib has noticed that the frequency of the derived alleles for SLC45A2 in south Asia is lower than what would be expected from the Indo-European ancestry, but the SLC24A5 derived frequency is higher. The selection for the A5 gene has probably been going on for quite some time, and it has been suspected that it is also selected for things other than just light skin, that is, it may have other effects as well.

      1. Already written about SLC24A5 (rs1426654). Basically for South Asians if rs1426654 SNP is AA then light skin, if AG then medium dark and GG dark (see graph). My rs1426654 is AG and I am medium dark

        Both the Mallick et al (2013) and Soejima et al (2009) both say very low selection in South India, To quote Soejima SLC45A2 allele is a more specific AIM than the SLC24A5 allele because the former clearly distinguishes the Sri Lankans from the Europeans.

        Unhappily, I dont have SLC45A2 (rs80231287) in my raw data.

        So the question is from where did I get SLC24A5 (rs1426654). Thru North-West India or direct from Europe.

        http://sbarrkum.blogspot.com/2013/11/dna-and-skin-color.html

  12. More generally, the excited and emotional response of both Hindus and Muslims and their inability to engage in epoché makes me think that the prospects for deeper analysis are poor. Emotion has reason by the leash.

    That’s such a middling equivocating statement to end for a piece. But Razib, did you ever take into account the the voluminous amount of economic literature out there into account? You keep dealing in cultural merch all the time.

    Maddison, JF Richards, Tapan Raychaudhari (Cambridge Economic History of India) have all published extensive volumes on the economic aspect of the Mughals. Quite unequivocal – the Mughals pauperized the peasantry of North India.

    Maddison estimates that the tax revenue of Akbar’s court amounted to 15-18% of the national income of its provinces. Much much higher compared to prevailing rates in the European courts. This impoverished the traders, peasantry and the middle castes year after year.

    The Dutch traveller, Francisco Pelsaert, spent 7 years in Agra at the peak of Mughal rule at the court of Jahangir (a little after Akbar passed away). He writes, “……the rich in their great superfluity and absolute power, and the utter subjection and poverty of the common people – poverty so great and miserable that the life of the people can be depicted or accurately described only as the home of stark want and the dwelling place of bitter woe…

    He also noted that the European peasantry were much better clothed and fed. They also had disposable income which allowed them to buy appliances and weapons that slowly led to the pre-industrial springboard in Central Europe.

    You got one thing right, though, about intergenerational trauma. It is evident even today in the economic disparity within India. All the modern economic powerhouse states of India were the first regions to either throw of the Mughal yoke or were not under its heel at all.

    Maharashtra – the earliest region to properly de-Mughalize with the Maratha rearguard.
    Tamilnadu – Never under Mughal sahibdari for any significant amount of time.
    Karnataka – Again crossed from the shadow of the Vijayanagara Empire into Bahmani Sultanates and then back under Maratha lordship.
    Punjab/Bengal – They broke away the first from the Mughal core with actions from the Sikh rebels and European intervention.

    The evidence goes both ways. The core Mughal area – Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan – that spent the longest time under Mughal administration are today the worst performers in economic status (BIMARU states – literally sick).

    The Europeans continued their own exploitative campaigns in the whole of India – but for the North, it was too much to bear – one after the other.

    Thats why today the longest ruled ex-Mughal regions are the shittiest places in India. They went through coterminous exploitation for several centuries. The Mughals depressed the quality of life to levels unimaginable for several generations in the core zone

    Hindus are not emotional people – they are sober, articulate and their grievances are backed by various economic historians (even marxist! Irfan Habib). You have chosen not to look at the economic data – and in your ignorance the Mughals become some kind of “mild cultural synthesizers”. They were also parasites.

    If not for the Mughals, the whole of India would be like Maharashtra or Tamilnadu economically and Hindutva would still be in its bubble-wrap.

    1. you can also add parts of ‘ hydrabad karnataka and its counter part in today’s maharastra- latur etc’. these parts are the most backward areas in karnataka and maharastra.
      on the other hand ‘ bombay karnataka’ i.e belgaum, dharwad etc are more advanced.

    2. Thats why today the longest ruled ex-Mughal regions are the shittiest places in India. They went through coterminous exploitation for several centuries. The Mughals depressed the quality of life to levels unimaginable for several generations in the core zone

      google “maratha mindset” on BP. i’m circling around the same issue.

      i think there is something to what you say here. though i haven’t read enough indian economic history to make a strong judgment.

      1. I’m not sure this is true (i.e., borne out by the facts). The Doab region, including Haryana was a core Mughal region, is among the more prosperous parts of the country today. Punjab was part of the Mughal dominions from day 1, and is doing well. Of course, these regions were helped by high infrastructure investment during the British Raj, but were they really basket-cases before that?

        Bengal was considered to be a very prosperous region during late Mughal rule. That’s why the English set up trading posts there and very soon made it their main India headquarters.

        On the other hand, a better correlation can be observed between the length of rule by the East India Company and poverty rates. Bihar, which was seized by the British after Buxar, probably still remains the byword for poverty in India. The coastal regions of Orissa and Andhra came under British rule not too long after, and are also among the poorer regions of the country.

        1. I would say that coastal regions everywhere around the world have seen massive growth rates in the last few decades due to international trade and globalization, while inner regions have been left behind. The current economic dynamics have a lot to do with recent changes in global economy than some empire 300 years ago..

        2. @Numinous

          Do you even know the history of the Punjab/Doab during the Mughal period? Why did the Gurus/Panth get so famous in the Jat heartland? For dispensing spiritual wisdom??

          One of the most important things that they did was to exhort the Jat peasantry to stop paying Mughal taxes. They were solely responsible for maintaining the living standards of the Jat farmer

          This was a major economic reason for all the Mughal-Sikh wars. They also inspired the Jat cultivators to arm themselves to resist taxation (including jazya). The Punjab/Doab region was only a Mughal suzerainty in name – the taxes kept falling. Also a major reason why Hindu/Rajput allies of the Mughals went to war with the Sikhs.

          Jat farmers resisting interference into their agricultural affairs…..ring any bells for you?

        3. @Ugra
          You are wasting time on @Numinous and @Qureishi. Both of them don’t know that Punjab and Maharashtra were the first places to throw/fight off Mughal rule.

          While @Numinous is a liberal arts graduate who is all opinions and no facts, @Qureishi is a brainwashed muppet who thinks he is wannabe mughal empire inheritor. It is tragic that @Qureshi thinks he is a torchbearer of mughals when his ancestors did everything to fight them off.

          1. Takes one to know one, eh? 🙂 Unsurprising as you seem to be impressed by Ugra’s sophomoric logic.

            I’m actually a CS PhD. As part of our basic education, we get a solid grounding in logic, not just in its application to the field but in understanding (and reasoning about) what the nature of logic and logical frameworks themselves are. The programs that people develop are ultimately written by code monkeys on the basis of specs, but it’s this logical foundation which ensures that the program will give you the output as per the specification everytime.

            Of course, from what I’ve seen in online conversations, Hindutva types would understand logic if it bit them in the ass.

          2. @fulto

            I don’t know man, I’m not from Punjabi peasantry but an ”Ashraf Muslim” as you would call it, so basically I would probably be pretty much what you would deem a ”Mughal inheritor”. Weirdly enough, I don’t care about the Mughal empire that much nor about such and such ancestry.

            Don’t know why so much emphasis is placed on what our ancestors did.. its nauseating. I see inherent IndoPak culture of blindly imitating ancestors manifesting in this type of worldview. Insular and incapable of adopting something new.

          3. i empathise with S.Qureishi abt obsession with past. Best thing abt the past is it is dead and gone

        4. On the other hand, Madras area was colonized early by the Brits and its prosperous today.

          I’m no fan of either the British Empire or the Mughals, but I think the reasons why different regions are more prosperous than others is complex, there are a lot of contingencies involved, and I’m not sure anyone yet has figured out the answer. Wasn’t there a guy on Brown Pundits a while back arguing that it came down to irrigation and dams, i.e. a “hydraulic” theory of development?

      2. What’s a good non-academic book to read more about the economic history of India?
        (including one that covers the Mughal period)

        1. @Prats

          There is never a good non-academic book about economic history 🙂 at least in the Indian context. There are tons of books about the effects of colonialism and European exploitation. In this time period, I would recommend Darlymple’s “The Anarchy”.

          I can summarize the current mainstream theory about economic history. Researchers are always puzzling about the “Great Divergence”. Why did Europe start becoming way more richer than Asia? When did this process start? India and China were the primary giants of Asia. So what happened?

          The handy culprit was always colonialisation. So everyone estimated that somewhere in the 18th century, Europe started pulling way ahead of Asia.

          But in 2014, a group of LSE researchers (Broadberry, Bishnupriya and Custodis) published a landmark paper that concluded that the slide started in the 16th century way before any significant European involvement in Asia.

        2. I think it’s hard to write a book on this topic that isn’t largely based on conjecture, because we don’t have hard numbers and surveys of the kind that economics relies on but rather estimates based on anecdotes and educated guesses. Angus Maddison is the go-to person for this, and one who seems to be respected by basically everyone in the field.

          Many years ago, someone recommended books by Andre Gundar Frank, in particular “Re-Orient”, which claimed that the European conquest of the Americas provided the big fillip whereby silver from the New World was used to purchase goods from Asia and resell at a premium in Europe, thereby enriching the European trader class and their stakeholders (kings, aristocracts, politicians). Now there’s something to this, but I don’t know if it’s the final word on the topic. (I was never sufficiently interested in reading the book myself, but you can try and seek it out. For whatever reason, Frank’s books are now unavailable on Amazon.)

          Probably European economic history has been better studied, though there’s a fair amount of conjecture there too. One thing historians agree on is that Western European countries started doing a lot better than Eastern European countries after the Black Death, thought there is no consensus on the reasons for this.

        3. @Ugra @Numinous

          Thanks for the references. I’ll check out Broadberry et al and Gundar Frank. I was mostly only familiar with Angus Maddison earlier courtesy some of the threads by Pseudorasmus on Twitter.

    3. Not sure there is a causal relationship. It’s not like TN/Madras was all spiffy post-Mughal peiod. TN/Madras was pretty much a basket case in the 40s/50s, probably even worse than the “BIMARU” states of the same period. Neighboring Mysore, Travancore and Hyderabad were doing much better (generally princely states were doing better than those provinces under direct British rule). I believe TN was able to leapfrog the “BIMARU” states because of land reforms, social reforms, state investment in infrastructure, industry, education and poverty alleviation, which the “BIMARU” states failed to do.

      1. @Naveen

        IMO the impact of social reforms in TN’s development is overstated. Even though the state may have been as poor as Bihar at the time of independence, the initial conditions in the two places were markedly different.

        TN/Madras had Chennai as a major city with significant investment from the British. The city also got access to modern western education a good generation or two before most of the country. So it could serve as an engine of the economy. Even today, a large chunk of the state’s GDP comes from the city. The situation is similar in most industrial states barring Gujarat, where a significant portion of economic activity is concentrated in one city.

        Most of BIMARU regions did not receive any such investment from the British. Or from the independent Indian government.

        As for social reforms, the chief malaise of UP and Bihar at least has been the zamindaari system, which was established under the Mughals and institutionalised under the British. This is as opposed to the ryotwari system in Bombay and Madras, which gave ownership of the land directly to the cultivators. There’s research on the long term impact of this.

        1. The initial conditions were different alright – on one-side you have the most fertile plains in the world, mineral-rich hills, strength in numbers and on the other side you have mostly rain-fed rocky plains with only seasonal cultivation. Wonder what’s holding them back.

          If anything you are overstating the “significant investment from the British”. Colonial British only cared about extracting revenue, so they invested just enough to educate a clerical class (not the same Western education they had back home). British in their stupid wisdom, they “hierarchized” a pretty fluid caste system and put the priestly caste at the top, who were able to corner all the clerical/administration jobs, urbanize and spend their leisure in arts and culture. The other “upper” castes saw the success of the priestly castes and wanted a piece of that pie. The “Justice” party was born and all those upper castes did taste power with the Dravidian movement. The “middle” castes saw this graph and wanted a piece of the same pie; with their strength in numbers they are in power in TN now. So, what’s happened over the last 100 years in TN is the “democratization” of power, if you don’t prefer to ascribe the term “social reforms” to this phenomenon.

          IMO equating the success of TN with that of Chennai may be true till the 70s, but after that it’s the success of urbanization and small-scale industries in TN. You have the whole Western belt humming along nicely at their own small scale which is the corner-stone of TN’s success – Salem, Erode, Tirupur, Coimbatore, Namakkal, Karur. Even a far-away semi-arid place like Sivakasi is a success story with their fireworks and printing presses.

          1. Having ur own cake, and eating it too

            TN right from independance has played both good cop-bad cop to the hilt with the centre, pushing the centre to fight their wars (with SL) , and also blackmailing (espcially during the coalation era) to get the goodies. While Dravidian parties played the bad cop in the 50s and 60s, u had Rajaji and Kamraj playing the good cop, pushing the centre to acquiese to their demands like freight equlaization and sort , lest they secede.

            When the good cops were done (and dumped) the 70s saw the Dravidan party split and taking their roles alternativly with one siding with the opposition and one with the centre. This allowed them to be in power regardless of who controlled India. Like today, the BJP is moving heaven and earth to keep the AIDMK united and spending money like crazy , in a state where it perhaps the most hated. That has been the Dravidian scheme.

            Contrast this to states like Bengal and Punjab who thorouhly imbimbed oppoistion to the centre regardless of who is in power (even during the times they were really in power) and have paid the price for it.

          2. @Saurav

            When India gets involved in East Pakistan it’s called India-Pakistan War 1971; when India gets involved in Sri Lanka, it’s India fighting “their” war. OK.

            Find out how much TN vs the BIMARU states get for every dollar they pay into the Central kitty. Then you will see who is doing the “blackmailing”. You can complain about freight equalization or complain about getting less for a dollar paid to the Central kitty, but not both.

          3. When India got ‘involved’ in W-Pakistan, it was fighting a war with a country which it has fought twice before. What were we doing in Sri Lanka? Defeating Ravana and getting Sita back, or what?

            Also where was this patriotism in the 50s and 60s when Indian tamils themselves were agitating to secede from India? So lets not play this whole ‘India’s war’ thing. We fucked up a perfectly OK-ish relationship with Sri Lanka, for which we still paying the price.Espcially when rest of India didnt even know that we were fighting a war.

            On central kitty, MH and Gujarat also pay higher than thier mandated share. Also if BIMARU’s were half as blackmailing then rest of India wouldn’t have gotten a dime, considering that 90 percent of time any govt which has been formed in India has been from represntatives elected from BIMARU states.

          4. @Saurav

            If we already fought with another country twice, may be it’s logical not to get involved in their sovereign matters. Of course, that would be a silly argument when you had thousands of Bengali refugees streaming in to India. So it’s reasonable to fight in East Pakistan when Bengalis are slaughtered but when it’s the Tamils getting slaughtered we don’t want to get involved in another sovereign country. OK. If you didn’t want to get involved and maintain your perfectly OK-ish relationship with Sri Lanka, why was RAW/IA training LTTE/TELO in Dehra Dun and supplying them arms, before there was anything close to a civil war in Sri Lanka?

            I think you have your characters and timelines mixed up. Tamils were not agitating for a separate state – it was DMK (and inconsequential party in the 50s) who were agitating. DMK became a viable party only after they completely abandoned their secessionist policies right after the 1962 Sino-Indian war.

            BIMARU states can definitely try their blackmailing during the next delimitation in 2026. It’ll be very interesting.

          5. U seem to think i have some soft corner for Bengalis or something. Perhaps u have not been on the blog long enough to know my views on Bengalis. Or worse still, u seem to think i am one . LOL

            Also it was unreasonable to fight for either Bengalis or Tamils. Perhaps u got the timelines mixed up. The 71 war was precipitated by Pakistan attacking India, not the other way round. And on RAW training LTTE cadres,yeah that was the whole point we shouldn;t have done that. What did u get from response?

            On the seccestionist tendenices of Tamils, the less said the better. As i have said earlier, not intrested in playing all this patriot games. On 2026 delimitation, the North is quite happy and statisfied with the political representation it has. Thats y the delimiation date was pushed to 2026 in the first place.

            U see unlike some other regions, the North doesn’t think the centre as some sort of entity to barter for their pound of flesh. The North sees itself as the centre. Always.

  13. Land ownership and land reform are major contributors to overall progress in much of southern India. Land reform allows the poorest people to spend less time on brutal manual labour and more resources on education for their children, health, etc. This inevitably leads to more flattening of the social hierarchy.

    Places that still operate under a zamindari system tend to be more backwards. A lot of issues in the subcontinent can be viewed through this lens.

    The Afghan resistance to Soviet occupation was primarily led by their land holding rural class. You see something very similar play out with Jats in the northwest of India but the state there seems far more resourced to deal with it. Pakistan is tricky and someone from there can chime in but my impression is that Pakistan is controlled by the feudal elites – ie the state and the landholding class are the same people.

    The really odd thing about south India is that in many cases the land reforms were initiated by the elites themselves (EMS Namboodiripad as an example). Maybe something similar occurred in Bengal / Bangladesh?

    1. Land ownership and land reform are major contributors to overall progress in much of southern India.
      The really odd thing about south India is that in many cases the land reforms were initiated by the elites themselves

      The same in Sri Lanka land reform made a huge difference among the rural poor.
      1958 Paddy Lands act by SWRD Bandaranaike*
      1973 Land Reform by his widow Srimavo Bandaranaike.

      Only 50 acres per family (parents and children below 18) or 25 acres of paddy land.

      The big tea estates in the south (low country) were broken up. 1-2 acres were given to villager. They make about 2 lakhs (USD) per month just on the tea.

      Of this, smallholders, often following a multi-crop model on landholdings of less than ten acres, cultivate about 60 per cent of the total tea land and account for more than 70 per cent of the total production. The smallholder subsector is better off than the corporate plantation sector in terms of productivity. ”

      There was no way the hill country estates were going to be given en masse to the Estate Tamils. Racism and Political suicide. So the hill country Tea estates became Govt/State owned, and run by either the Govt entity, Janawasama or leased to Private companies like Mackwoods. The land is still owned by the state.

      *Solomon West Ridge Dias Bandaranaike

    2. Land reforms didn’t help TN and Kerala. Agriculture Census reports since 1970s is testimony to it. No states were helped by land reforms specially the ceiling Acts passed by various governments. Tamil Nadu is better than BIMARU states because it has mineral wealth reserves much more than Bihar and UP. Though Dravidian parties are blamed for socialist policies and other business hurting policies, they were still the inheritors of Madras Presidency. Kerala had 48% literacy in 1956 when it was formed thanks to Travancore kingdom’s efforts. Tamil Nadu had 25% in 1961. Kerala has high income primarily due to remittances sent (Estimates vary from $15 billion to $30 billion). TN have progressed much better than Kerala based on its ports economy and Industrial legacy of the British and later Indian Industrialists.

  14. one more thing to note about the influence of mughal rule on languages like kannada is interesting. kannada in north karnataka is heavily persanised, while there is significant persian influence on kannada in south karnataka. there are extensions (districts) places in mysore city called mohallas, ( kille mohalla, etc),

    1. Gulbarga kannada is interesting that way. Not to nitpick but its not mughal influence per se, but “turuki” tughluqid, bahamani, adil shahi and nizami ect. The interesting thing is that the more demotic the register, the more persianized vs the sanskritized urban/savarna dialect

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