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Department of History

H434 Religion, State And Society In Mughal North India I

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2016/17
Unit value:

The course addresses the period of Mughal rule in north India, with a particular focus on religion from the late sixteenth to the late seventeenth century. Using the high imperial age to provide the chronological parameters for the study allows examination of the relations developed at imperial and sub-imperial levels between patrons, religious institutions, their functionaries, and followers. Yet popular religious movements, often remote from any courtly or patronage networks are of equal concern. Attention is paid to specific examples of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Jain thought and praxis within the Mughal environment; to changing relationships between and within such religious communities; bhakti and sufi movements and orders; formal and informal modes of religious education; gender roles, conversion processes and patterns; religious symbolism in architecture, art and music; pilgrimage experiences, and influences from outside India, both Asian and European. 

This course aims, on the basis of a wide range of primary sources (translated from Persian and other languages) to allow some new perspectives on the complex development and interactions of religious ideas, movements, institutions and communities during a period often viewed from the single perspective of state religious ideology.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The objective of this course is to provide students with an advanced understanding of Indian society during the Mughal period of rule and patronage in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. By studying this society primarily from the perspective of religious experience, expression and debate the student will achieve a critical understanding of the mind-sets, preoccupations, and interactions of religious preceptors, patrons, and their initiates during one of South Asia’s most sophisticated and culturally productive ages. 

In addition to the intellectual benefits of close study of this significant period for the richness, variety and complexity of its literary and visual forms of expression, close attention to the documentary bases for understandings of the Mughal period will have the secondary but very important learning outcome of providing criteria to adjudge the uses which have been made of the Mughal ‘religious’ past for the furtherance of political agendas during subsequent periods of South Asian history, not least the present.

The course makes extensive use of primary material: students will be required to develop advanced skills in the assessment and use of that primary evidence.

Suggested reading

  • Catherine B. Asher and Cynthia Talbot, India before Europe (Cambridge, 2006), chaps. 4, 5, 7 and 8
  • Mukhia, Harbans, The Mughals of India (2004)
  • Robinson, Francis, The Mughal Emperors and the Islamic Dynasties of India, Iran and Central Asia (London, 2007)
  • Ernst, Carl W. and Lawrence, B., Sufi Martyrs of Love: The Chisti Order in South Asia and Beyond (2002), chs. 2-4
  • Lal, Ruby, Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World (Cambridge, 2005)