Read this article to learn about the classification of society during mughal period:
The Ruling Class:
The medieval Indian society was organized on a feudal basis. The emperor, as the absolute ruler, was the head of the social system. He claimed divine status and powers for the crown and asserted proprietary rights over the entire land in his capacity as the lord paramount of the country.
Members of the royal family together with the blood relations, friends and favourites of the king enjoyed privileged position in the society while the imperial harem and the court acted as the trend-setters in social and cultural affairs.
For instance, Nur Jahan, the First Lady of the Realm, set the standards in socio- cultural value for the aristocracy of her times. She was treated as a model of fashions.
The Mughal nobility or the ruling elite, collectively styled as umara (pi. of amir), who belonged to the first category of the mansabdari system, and the feudatory chieftains, who owned allegiance to the Mughal crown, comprised the aristocracy of the land.
The latter were also graded as mansabdars with a view to determining their dignity and status in the imperial court as well as in the society, of course, there was little honour or dignity outside the imperial service and every talented youth aspired to join it. The aristocracy was composed of Muslims as well as Hindus alike although the number of the latter was small because of the delayed entry into its fold and the slow process of Indianisation.
Major Religious Groups:
Although there were several other religious communities, such as, the Parsis in Gujarat and Bombay, Christians on our west coast especially in Cochin-Travancore, and foreign European trading communities in the several parts of the country, the sub-continent was mainly peopled by the indigenous Hindus and Indian and foreign Muslims, who were found living side by side and working together at the Mughal court, in the camp and the public offices.
Religion permeated every aspect of the medieval Indian society. The country was dotted with mosques, temples, and other places of worship erected by the people belonging to various religious denominations: the whole of India from the Himalayan peaks to Kanyakumari in the south seemed to be a holy land.
The foreigners who visited the country during the Mughal period were simply wonderstruck to see ‘the passion of people for their creed’ who built their places of worship everywhere. The prices emptied their purses and the commoners poured out the entire savings of their lives to get them built while the poor and the destitute dedicated their whole lives in the construction of these holy places without remuneration.
The Hindus thronged their places of pilgrimage in millions while the Muslims understood Ramzan (fast en masse) and went on Hay or pilgrimage to Mecca and Madina in hundreds.
The Mercantile and Professional Classes:
Nevertheless, trade and the traders continued to have a low social status. The influence of the merchants on political processes is a matter of controversy. Merchants in India were not without influence in the political quarters where their own interests were concerned. Thus, each community of merchants has its leader or nagarseth who could intercede with the local officials on their behalf. We do have instances of strikes (hartal) by merchants in Ahmedabad and elsewhere to stress their points of view. We have also noted the involvement of members of the Mughal royal family and prominent nobles, such as Mir Jumla, in trade.
The trading community in India, especially in the port towns, included some of the richest merchants who are comparable in wealth and power to the merchant prices of Europe. Thus, Virji Vohra dominated the Surat trade for several decades. He owned a large fleet of ships and was reputed to be amongst the wealthiest men of his time.
Abdul Ghafur Bohra left 55 lakh rupees in cash and goods and a fleet of 17 sea-going ships at the time of his death in 1718. Similarly, Malay Chetti of the Coromandal coast, Kashi Viranna and Sunca Rama Chetti were reputed to be extremely wealthy, and had extensive commercials dealings in India and abroad.
There were many wealthy merchants at Agra, Delhi, Balasore (Orissa), and Bengal also. Some of these merchants, especially those living in the coastal towns, lived in an ostentatious manner and aped the manner of the nobles.
European travellers mention the commodious and well-built houses in which the wealthy merchants of Agra and Delhi lived. But the ordinary sorts lived in houses above their shops. The trading community in India did not belong to one caste or religion.
The Gujarat merchants included Hindus, Jains and Muslims who were mostly Bohras. In Rajasthan, Oswals, Maheshwaris and Agrawals began to be called Marwaris. Overland trade to Central Asia was in the hands of Multanis, Afghans and Khatris.
The Marwaris spread out to Maharashtra and Bengal during the 18th century. The Chettis on the Coromandal coast and the Muslim merchants of Malabar both. It will thus be seen that India’s inter-regional trade was not in luxuries alone. The movement of these goods was made possible by a complex networks, linking wholesalers with merchants down to the regional and local levels through agents (gumashtas) and commission agents (dalals).
The Dutch and English traders who came to Gujarat during the 17th century found the Indian traders to be active and alert. There was keen competition for inside information, and whenever there was demand for goods in one part of the country, it was rapidly made good.