NCERT Solutions For Class 12 History Chapter 5 Through the Eyes of Travellers Perceptions of Society

Q1. Write a note on the Kitab-ul-Hind.

Ans:- Kitab-ul-Hind was written by Al-Biruni in 1031. It was considered with India and also known by the name of Tarikh-ul-Hind and Tahqiq-ma-ul-Hind. It was written in Arabic. It is divided into 80 Chapters. They have thrown a detailed light on Hindu religions and philosphy, festivals, customs and tradition, the social and economic as well as political life of the people. In each chapter he adopted a distinctive style and had a question in the beginning. It was followed by a description based on Sanskrit tradition, At last he compare the India culture with other culture. This geometric structure he followed is known for its precision and predictability. The main reason for this structure was Al-Biruni’s mathematical orientation.

Q2. Compare and contrast the perspectives from which Ibn Battuta and Bernier wrote their accounts of their travels in India.

Ans:- Ibn Battuta was an early globe-trotter. He considered experience gained through travels to be a more important source of knowledge than books. He meticulously recorded his observations about new cultures, peoples, beliefs and values. He enjoyed the cosmopolitan culture of urban centres where people who spoke Arabic, Persian, Turkish and other languages, shared ideas, information and anecdotes. He highlighted unfamiliar things in order to ensure that the listener or the reader was suitably impressed by accounts of distant yet accessible worlds. For example, he described the coconut and the paan which was completely unfamiliar to his readers. Thus, Ibn Battuta described everything that impressed and excited him because of its novelty.

Francois Bernier, on the other hand, belonged to a different intellectual tradition. He tried to compare and contrast what he saw in India with the situation in Europe in general and France in particular, focusing on situations which he considered depressing. His idea was to influence the policy makers and intelligentsia to ensure that they made what he considered to be the “right” decisions. He compared Mughal India with contemporary Europe. He emphasised the superiority of Europe. His representation of India works on the model of binary opposition, where India is presented as the inverse of Europe. He also ordered the perceived differences hierarchically, so that India appeared to be inferior to the Western world.

Q3. Discuss the picture of urban centres that emerges from Bernier’s accout.

Ans:- During the 17th century nearly 15% of population was living in town. This was average proportion of urban population of western Europe. Bernier described Mughal towns as court towns. By it he meant those towns which depended upon the imperial court for their existence and survival. These towns came into existence with the imperial court and declined with the impanel court when they moved to other places. In his travel accounts, Bernier described many big towns and cities such as Delhi, Mathura, Kashmir, Surat, Masulipatnam and Golconda. These gained importance as manufacturing centres, trading towns, and sacred towns. The merchant communities had deep influence in these cities. They remained organised due to their own caste and occupational bodies. These trading groups were known as Mahajans in western India. Their head was called Sheth. In Ahmedabad, the chief of Merchant community was known as nagarsheth. Besides the trading groups, musicians, architects, painters, lawyers, calligraphies, etc. lived in towns.

Q4. Analyse the evidence for slavery provided by Ibn

Ans:- Battuta has given a detailed description on the practice of slavery prevalent in India. Delhi Sultan-Muhammad bin Tughlaq had a large number of slaves. Most of these slaves were forcibly captured during the aggressions. Many people sold their children as a slave, because of acute poverty. Slaves were also offered as a gift during this time. Battuta when visited him, also brought many horses, camels and slaves for the Sultan to present him. Sultan Muhammad bin Tuglaq, himself had presented two hundred slaves to Nasiruddin a religious preacher.

Nobels are used to keep slave those days. Through these slaves, the Sultan used to get information about the activities of the noble and all other important events of the empire.

The woman slaves served as servants in the house of the rich (nobles). These women informed the Sultan about the activities of their masters (i.e., nobles). Most of the slaves used to do domestic works and there was a lot of difference between the status of these slaves and the court slaves.

Q5. What were the elements of the practice of sati that drew the attention of Bernier?

Ans:- The practice of sati according to Bernier showed the difference in the treatment of women in western and eastern society. He noticed how a child widow were forcefully burnt screaming on the funeral pyre while many of the older women were resigned their fate.

The following elements drew his attention.

(i) Under this cruel practices an alive widow was forcibly made to sit on the pyre of her husband.
(ii) People had no sympathy for her.
(iii) The widow was an unwilling victim of the sati-practice. She was forced to be a Sati.

Q6. Discuss Al-Biruni’s understanding of the caste system.

Ans: Al-Biruni’s description about caste system as he understood. Al-Biruni tried to explain the caste system by looking far parallels in other societies. He described that in ancient Persia, four social categories were recognised.

(i) knight and princes.
(ii) monks
(iii) fire-priests and lawyers; physicians, astronomers, other scientists;
(iv) Finally, peasants and artisans. He attempted to suggest that social divisions were not unique to India.

His description of the caste system in India was deeply influenced by his study of Sanskrit texts. According to these texts, the highest castes were the Brahmins as they were created from the head of the Brahmins.

The Kshatriyas were the next caste created from the shoulders and hands of the Brahmin. The Vaishyas and Shudras were created from the thighs and feet of the Brahmin respectively.

Thus, he sought to understand the Indian caste system by looking for parallels in other societies. Nothing that ancient Persian society was divided into four categories he realized that social division was not unique to India.

But despite accepting the caste system he was against the notion of pollution. He believed that according to the laws of nature anything which becomes impure ultimately becomes pure again, e.g. the sun clears the air. The concept of social pollution is the bedrock of the caste system. Thus, the caste system was according to him contrary to the laws of nature.

He failed to realize that the caste system was not as rigid as portrayed in the Sanskrit texts.

Q7. Do you think Ibn Battuta’s account is useful in arriving at an understanding of life in contemporary urban centres? Give reasons for your answer.


  • Ibn Battuta’s account is useful in arriving at an understanding of life in contemporary urban centres.
  • He mentions in his account that cities offered many opportunities for those who had resources and skills.
  • Most of cities were densely populated and prosperous.
  • They had crowded streets and bright and colourful markets and a wide variety of goods were sold.
  • Ibn Battuta described Delhi and Daulatabad (in Maharashtra) as big cities with a great population.
  • Bazaars were places of economic transactions as well as a hub of social and cultural activities.
  • There were many mosques and temples, and separate spaces for public performances by dancers, musicians and singers.
  • Historians have used Ibn Battuta’s account to suggest that towns derived a significant portion of their wealth through the appropriation of surplus from villages.

Q8. Discuss the extent to which Bernier’s account enables historians to reconstruct contemporary rural society.


  • Bernier thought that in the Mughal Empire, the emperor owned all the land and distributed it among his nobles.
  • Subjects in the empire had to depend on the ruling elites for survival, and it had disastrous consequences for the economy and society.
  • According to him, nobody owned private property, and the ‘crown ownership of land’ had created a class of landless poor and a small minority of a very rich ruling class, without any middle section.
  • However, historians do not take this description as right perspective to reconstruct contemporary rural society.
  • There is no evidence to prove the theory of ‘crown ownership of land’.
  • Even Abu’l Fazl, a chronicler during Akbar’s reign, describes the land revenue collected by the emperor as “remunerations of sovereignty” for the protection of subjects, and not as land revenue for the ‘crown ownership of land’.
  • Historians aIso cia im that the contempara ry ruraI society was characterised by considerable social and economic differentiation.
  • There were big zamindars with superior rights in land, the “untouchable” landless, and in between, there were big peasant and small peasant groups.

Q9. Read this excerpt from Bernier:

Numerous are the instances of handsome pieces of workmanship made by persons destitute of tools, and who can searcely be said to have received instruction from a master. Sometimes they imitate so perfectly articles of European manufacture that the difference between the original and copy can hardly be discerned.Among other things, the Indians make excellent muskets, and fowling pieces, and such beautiful gold ornaments that it may be doubted if the exquisite workmanship of those articles can be exceeded by any European goldsmith. Ihave often admired the beauty, softness, and delicacy of their paintings.

List the crafts mentioned in the passage. Compare these with the descriptions of artisanal activity in the chapter.


  • Crafts mentioned in the passage are muskets, and fowling pieces, and gold ornaments.
  • Bernier’s account provides a detailed account of the working of the imperial karkhanas (large halls for workshops) for artisans.
  • According to him, halls of workshops were filled with many craftspersons. Embroiderers were busily employed under supervision of a master.
  • Goldsmiths, painters, varnishers in lacquer-work, joiners, turners, tailors, shoe-makers, and manufacturers of silk, brocade and fine muslins were other important artisans.
  • The artisans came every morning to their karkhanas and produced goods the whole day, and returned their homes in the evening.

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