The Society of Bengal in the Mughal Period

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SLMtitle.png The Society of Bengal in the Mughal Period

By Kumar Pritish Baul

Chapter Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Learning Objectives
  3. content :
    1. Dress and Food
    2. Social Relationship
    3. Education and Literature
    4. Religion
    5. Architecture and Painting
  4. Let’s Sum-up
  5. Key Points
  6. Glossary
  7. Practice Test
  8. Answers to SAQs

SLMinto.png Introduction

We are living in the modern state of Bangladesh. Which is nowdeveloping fast.Can you think of what the statas of the undivided Bengal society? Would have been five hundered years ago!It is for sure that the social and cultural situation of Bengal in the Mughal period was somewhat different. In this period Bengal was not an independent and separate country. Rather the region became a province under Delhi. In the Mughal period direct communication with North India was established. Also relations grew with middle and western Asia and outside India. As a result, the people of Bengal came into direct contact with thoughts and ideas, and behaviors of people of different countries. These had profound impact on different aspects in their lives, incloding their dressing pattern and food habit, education,religion, art and architecture among others.

SLMobj.png Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter, you are expected to learn about:

  1. Describe the dressing pattern and food habit of Bengla in the Mugal period.
  2. Explain the social Relationship in the Mughal period.
  3. Explain system of education and literature of Bangal in the Mughal period.
  4. Analyse religion in the Mughal age.
  5. Describe and apprrciate the Mughal Architecture and Painting.

Dress and Food

Babur was the founder of the Mughal empire in undivited Bangal > During his time Bangla was not comquered. The Mughals always looked after the welfare of the subjects. The provincial administrators also shared the similar attitude. That is why peace and happiness prevailed at that time. This resulted in the Development in every field of education, culture and economy. The influence of the Mughals could be observed in the daily life of the people.


The dress and attire of the rich Hindus and the Zamindars began to change remarkably. They began to like the Mughal dress. Ornamented and pearl-studded glittering, dress, 'salwar' and 'kamiz' adorned the Hindus and the Muslims alike.In the Mughal Age, the rich and middle class women wore attractive dresses. They used to go out sometimes in Palaanquins. The condition of the villagers was not very good. They wore normal dresses and wooden sandals.


Taste in food items changed. 'Kabab' 'Rezala', 'Korma' and other Mughal foods took their places beside the usual fish, rice and vegetables of the Bengalees.

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) - 1
What is korma?
  1. Mugal food.
  2. Durbar Hall of the Sultans.
  3. Abode of the Sufis.
  4. Industry.

Social Relationship

The usual greeting system when one met another also was influenced by the Mughals. As in the Age of the Sultans, the Hindus and the Muslim had a very good relation in the Mughal Age too. This amity is expressed in the coins and stone inscriptions as well as in the literature and the accounts of the travellers of that age. Many people from other countries came to Bengal in the Mughal Age and began to live there. Especially during the time of Nawab Murshid Quli Khan and Nawab Alivardi Khan, businesspeople, officials, poets and physicians came from North India and setteled in Bengal. Many of them were Shia Muslims. The people of Bengal became familiar with the Shiate customs and ceremonies through them. The different ceremonies of the holy 'Muharram' became popular from that time.

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) - 2
In the Age of the Sultans,the Hindus and the Muslim had a very good __________ in the Mughal Age.

The different ceremonies of the holy 'Muharram' became___________from that time.

Education and Literature

In the Mughal Age too, like the Age of the Sultans, there was a remarkable Development in education and literature. The employees recruited in the period were highly educated. They had great passion for learning. People of different professions like poets, teachers, doctors, etc. came with them. Consequently, their influence and endeavours greatly helped the advancement of education in Bengal. The Revenue Minister Raja Todarmal of Emperor Akbar introduced.

Persian language in government offices. Akbar helped a lot for the spread of education. For this reason the language and literature developed considerably in Bengal durin the Mughal period.

Both the Hindus and Muslims learnt Persian to get government jobs. These Persian knowing officials were called 'Munshis'. The books of the famous Persian poet Sheikh Saadi were very popular in this country at that time. The Nawabs and Subadars like Kasim Khan, Shah Shuja, Mir Jumla, Shayesta Khan and Murshid Kuli Khan worked a lot to develop the Persian language.

The influence of the Persian language on Bengali literature during the Mughal period can very well be observed. Persian is an affluent language. When the influence of a rich language falls on another language, the grandeur of the latter is enhanced. The same happened in the case of the Bengali language too. The Bengali language began to brighten in following the subject and style of the Persian language. Gradually the use of Persian words in Bangla began to increase. The Bengali Muslims began to introduce ideas and thoughts of Persian literature in their poems. Gazals and Sufi literature began to be evolved bearing likeness to Persian literature. The Hindu poets were inspired by the Sanskrit literature instead of Persian. Nevertheless, many of them could not avoid the Persian influence. The Vaishmava Padabali was composed following the Persian style. The influence of the Persian literature can be observed in the writing of the authors like Bharata Chandra Raigunakar, etc. The Baul songs developed in Bengal during the Mughal rule. The poets at that time composed mourning songs of the Muharram also.

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) - 3
What songs developed in Bengal during the Mugal rule?

Note. Anser in 10 words.


In the Mughal Age all people could follow their respective religions independently. The concept of Islam in the worship of Allah, equality and brotherhood greatly influenced the people of the country. There was a reaction among the Hindus for this. Some changes in the Hindu society followed consequently. The influence of 'Vaishnava' Movement of Sree Chaitnya was reflected in the social and religious life of the Hindus from the Age of the Sultans. This increased further in the Mughal Age. The common people began to accept the cult of devotion and spirit of equality. The orthodox Brahmins were deeply hurt at this.

The common Hindus opposed the religion of the orthodox Hindus and gave their attention to the worship of Mansha, Chandi etc. A mixed variety of Sufism emerged out of combination of the doctorine of Bhakti of Bengal with the Sufism of Persia during the Mughal period. In the way, Faqiri, Darves.hi, Baul and other mystic doctorines originated.

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) - 4
Mughal Age people what to do?

Note. Answer in 10 words.

Architecture and Painting

Many beautiful buildings were built all over India during the Age of the Mughals. From Delhi and Agra, almost everywhere, there are specimens of Mughal architecture. Not only the Emperors but also the Mughal Subadars and high officers encouraged architecture greatly. That is why architecture flourished profusely during the Mughal period.

The Muslim architecture differed from the Hindu architecture. Generally speaking, Muslim architecture implies mosques, Idgahs, forts, mausoleums, monumenst etc. The design and beauty of the architecture of the Mughal Age differed from that of the other ages. The Mughal rulers did not like the architecture of the Sultani period in Bengal. The domes of the mosques of the Mughal period were matched. The surface of the domes were decorated with mosaic. The sides of the arches were decorated with floral designs. The pinnacles of the domes were long and pointed. The walls of the mosques were ornamented with floral designs. The size and shape of the buildings in Mughal period were big and massive. Some big 'darawjas' (doors) were built in Bengal during the Mughal Age. Also some buildings called 'katra' were built in the Mughal Age. These were guest houses. A 'katra', a tall minaret and a mosque were built in old Maldah during the time of Emperor Akbar. Many important buildings in the Mughal age were built in Dhaka. Subadar Islam Khan established the capital in Dhaka during the period of Emperor Jahangir. Mughal architecture started to develop in Dhaka from that time.

Subadar Shahjada Azam built some buildings in Dhaka. He built a huge 'katra' on the bank of the river Buriganga. The 'Shahi Masjid' in Lalbagh was built in his time. He started constructing the Lalbagh Fort. Subadar Shayesta Khan took steps to complete it. But he could not be complete it. As a result, the construction of the Lalbagh Fort remained incomplete. This fort is the greatest example of Mughal architecture in Bengal. The mausoleum of the daughter of Shayesta Khan, Paribibi, is inside the fort. It is an attractive specimen of the Mughal architecture. The grave lies in the centre of the mausoleum and was made of marble stone. The floral designs are found on this grave. Apart from this, another structure called 'Choto Katra' was built in the time of Shayesta Khan. The name of Shayesta Khan is associated with the mosque of Chowkbazaar, the mosque on the bank of the River Buriganga and the 'Saat Gombuz Mosque'.

Many buildings were also built during the period of the Nawabs in Bengal. The Zinjira Palace is their achievement. During the time of Murshid Kuli Khan the capital was transferred from Dhaka to Murshidabad. Many buildings were built there during that time. Murshid Kuli Khan built a katra and a mosque. A Palace named 'Chehel Setun' was built during his period. It was a huge 'Darbar' (assembly) building. Apart from these establishments, many 'Eidgahs', 'Hammam Khana', 'Chillakhana' and bridges were made during the Mughal period.

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) - 5
How many buildings were built during Nawabs period in Bangal?
  1. 100
  2. 1000
  3. 10000
  4. Many.

SLMsum.png Results

SLMkp.png Key Points

The key points of this chapter are as follows:

  1. Mughal
  2. Zamindars
  3. Palaanquins
  4. Shiate customs
  5. Munshis
  6. Sree Chaitnya
  7. Sultani period
  8. arawjas
  9. katra
  10. Eidgahs
  11. Hammam Khana
  12. Chillakhana

SLMgloss1.png Glossary

Shiate customs

SLMtest1.png Practice Test

Short answer questions

  1. Describe the changes that took place in dresses and food items during the Mughal Period.
  2. What was the influence of the Persian language on Bengali literature in the Mughal Period?
  3. What were the characteristics of architecture in Bengal during the Mughal Period?

Essay type questions

  1. Describe the social and cultural life in Bengal during the Mughal period.
  2. Give an account of the economic condition of Bengal during the Mughal period.

SLMfeedb.png Answers to SAQs
  1. SAQ 1. Korma is a Mughal food.
  2. SAQ 3. The Baul songs developed in Bangla during the Mughal rule.
  3. SAQ 4. In the Mughal Age all people could follow their respective religions independently.
  4. SAQ 5. Many buildings were built during the Age of the Mughals.

SLMref.png References and Further Readings
  1. The Art of the Pala Empire or Bengal, p.4.
  5. Alexander Cunningham, Archaeological Survey of India Report, Vol xv, Calcutta, 1882
  6. Abid Ali Khan, Memoirs of Gaur and Pandua, (Edited and revised by HE Stapleton), Calcutta, 1931
  7. Hakim Habibur Rahman, Asudgan-i-Dhaka (Urdu), Dhaka, 1946
  8. AH Dani, Muslim Architecture in Bengal, Dacca, 1961
  9. ZA Desai, Islamic Culture, 1972
  10. AH Dani, List of Ancient Monuments on Bengal, Calcutta, 1986
  11. Asma Serajuddin, 'Mughal Tombs in Dhaka', Dhaka: Past Present Future, (Ed by Sharif Uddin Ahmed), Dhaka, 1991.