The condition of women in medieval India

women in medieval India

The Pardah system, in all probability was unknown in ancient India.

 

Women held and honored position in the vedic age and was quit competent to take part in every aspect of the social, intellectual and spiritual life of the race.

During the period that followed the Vedic Age, there was gradual deterioration in her position, but she still retained a large measure of freedom in the disposal of her own person and fortune. But with the advent of Islam, new social forces appeared on the Indian horizon. The position of women altogether changed to a great extent. Some of the special features of the condition and position of women during the Mughal period are described in below paragraphs.

The Pardah system, in all probability was unknown in ancient India.“Its general

women in medieval India

women in medieval India

adoption,” according to Dr. A.S.Altekar, “is subsequent to the advent of Muslim rule in India.” Pardah was strictly observed in their native lands. Naturally in a foreign country like India grater stress was laid on it. Even a liberal king like Akbar had to issue order that “If a young woman was found running about the streets and bazaar of the town and while so doing did not veil herself or allowed herself to become unveiled….. she was to go to the quarters of the prostitutes and take us the profession.”

            Pardah was strictly observed among high class families of both the communities during the Mughal period. Ovinton writes, “All the women of fashion in India are closely preserved by their husbands who forbid them the very sight of strangers.” Even male doctors were not allowed to face the ailing ladies of noble and princely families. Della Valle writes that unveiled ladies were supposed to be either poor or dishonest. There is very interesting to note that when a princess desired to ride on an elephant, the animal was made to enter a tent near the palace-gate and the Mahout covered his face with a clothe so that he might not see the princess when she entered into the covered howdah. If for any reason a Muslim lady of rank discarded Pardah even for a temporary period, the consequences for her were disastrous, However, Nurjahan was a notable exception who came out in public unveiled.

Pardah was no less strictly among middle class Muslim ladies who dared not move out of doors without a veil. But no such coercive Pardah system seems to have been observed among the Hindu middle class and certainly not among the Hindu masses. Hindus, however, adopted Pardah for two reason-first as a protective measure to same the honor of their women-folk and to maintain the purity of their social order and secondly as a tendency to imitate the ruling class. Hindu women had sufficient liberty to go out and enjoy the open air. They helped their husbands in their respective works.

women in medieval India

women in medieval India

            The birth of daughter was considered inauspicious. The very silence with which a female child was received was indicative of of disappointment. Even in the royal families it were the women who rejoiced and feasted on the birth of a daughter, whereas the whole court used to participate in the celebration. If a Prince was born. Even Akbar had “resolved within himself that if Almighty God should bestow a mausoleum, a distance of about 140km’s.”A wife who unfortunately happened to give birth to girls in succession was disposed and even sometimes divorced. Female in fanaticize as also popular is among the uncultured stratum of Rajput society.

            

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