No longer in our history books, Mughal history continues to be a part of Indian culture

Posted by Zulfikar Manto
August 13, 2017

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A few months after being sworn in as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, BJP leader Yogi Adityanath declared that all our problems will vanish the day we accept that Mughals were invaders. A few months later, the UP government declared the Taj Mahal as un-Indian. The hugely popular railway junction Mughal Sarai is being renamed after Deen Dayal Upadhyay. Finally the textbooks of history in Maharashtra have been sanitized of any mentions of Mughals. In both words and actions, the BJP has expressed its disgust with Mughals, which for them are another manifestation of what they despise the most, the Muslims.

It is hard to describe in words the coming of Mughals had on Indian languages, food and architecture. Urdu, the language of dissent, in which the popular slogan of ‘Inquilaab Zindaabad’ was written developed under the Mughals. There was an active effort by the Mughals to translate Sanskrit texts, notably the Hindu epics, to Persian and it was in their multilingual courts where Awadhi, Brajbhasha, Punjabi, Persian, Turkish and others blended to give Urdu its present form.

In terms of architecture, the Indian beam and lintel gates gradually moved to true arches during the Delhi Sultanate, the pre-Mughal Muslim regime in North India. The flat roofs we see in Rajpoot palaces gave way to circular domes from Central Asia. The Hindu motifs of Kalash, elephant trunks and paan leaves continued to adorn the walls, now accompanied by glazed tiles and miniature paintings. It was the Muslim rulers whom we are bent on erasing from history, who contributed to the present-day India Humayun’s tomb, Red Fort anf Taj Mahal.

Today every second non-vegetarian dish is associated with Mughlai cuisine (irrespective of whether the Mughals had anything to do with it) and Mughal is synonymous with aristocracy in popular culture. Finally to be fair, the Mughals were not the first or last Muslim rulers in India. The first Muslims in India were the Arabs torule over Sindh and in Delhi were the Mamluks. The Muslim rulers of Hyderabad and Junagadh continued to rule their kingdoms till 1947 while the Mughal empire officially ended in 1857.

This is not to say that Mughals were a secular and tolerant regime that cared only for the welfare of the subjects. Indeed Babur came to India as an invader for his own selfish reasons, but what must be noted however is that ever since the First Battle of Panipat in 1526 (where Babur defeated Ibrahim Khan Lodi) the Mughals made India their base leaving little or no ties with their roots in Central Asia. They did impose Jizya on non-Muslims but also continued giving grants for temples. It is hard to argue that the Mughals were worse or better than any other rulers in Indian history. One cannot however deny their influence on our culture.

Today it is the Mughals, tomorrow it will be Urdu, day after Rooh Afza and Biryani and a week later Kathak will be un-Indian. Very soon we will be at a point of no return in classifying every bit of iur diverse and composite culture as unIndian.

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