Alberuni’s Description of India
Abu Rihan Mohammad Bin Ahmad is popularly known as Alberuni who was born in 973 AD in Khiza region and one of the Jewel of Mahmud’s Courts. He was a renowned philosopher, a mathematician and a historian. He came in contact with Mahmud when he had invaded Khiva and he was presented before him as prisoner.
He came to India with Mahmud and lived here for many years. The Indian culture attracted him and he learnt Sanskrit. He studied Indian philosophy. He toured large portions of India and studied the Socio-economic condition of this land. In his book Tahqiq-i-Hind, he describe the social, political, religious and economic condition of the then India. Here, we are giving the Alberuni’s description of India to understand the socio-political-economical situation of that era.
Alberuni’s Description of India
1. Destructive effects of Mahmud's Indian invasion: Alberuni writes that, "Mahmud ended the prosperity of India and so cruelly exploited and penalized the people that the Hindus became disgruntled like the dust particles. Hinduism became a matter of history." It means that there came a downfall of Hinduism. The feeling of hatred prevailed in the hearts of remaining Hindus.
2. Shifting of educational centre: The educational centres subjugated by Mahmud, led to the disintegration of education. As a result the educational centres concentrated in Kashmir, Banaras and other places due to their distance from Islamic centres.
3. Feeling of Hindu about Muslim: Alberuni writes that Hindus suffer from some defects such as they desire to live in isolation from other countries. They considered the Muslims as `Mlechcha' as untouchables and boycotted them.
4. Political Situation: Alberuni writes that the entire country was divided into small states which occasionally used to quarrel among themselves. Malwa, Sindh, Kannauj and Kashmir were prominent states among them.
5. Social System: The caste system prevailed and the spirit of seclusion and difference existed. Early marriages were largely in vogue. Parents arranged the marriages. He does not mention about the system of dowry but he writes about the Stree Dhan which the relatives presented to her.
6. Religion: Alberuni says that the Hindus of the rural regions worshipped many gods and goddesses. But the educated Hindus considered God as "Permanent, beyond beginning and end, all powerful, omnipresent and Omniscient All-consciousness, Giver of life and Nourisher, working at His will.
7. Judiciary System: Describing the functions of Judiciary, he writes that for getting justice, it was necessary to write applications in which the points against the accused were mentioned. . There were arrangements for oral justice. Justice depended upon the witnesses. Before conducting witnesses, it was necessary to take oath.
8. Rule of law: Punishment was in accordance with Hindu traditions and softer elements based on morality. Justice was not equally awarded to all people. It was different for different castes. The Brahmans were exempted from death-sentence. If a Brahman murdered someone, he was required to repent through fasts, prayers and charity. The punishment for theft depended on the nature of big or small theft.
9. Revenue System: The king charged —6 of the produce as revenue and charged many other taxes. The Brahmans were exempted from the burden of paying taxes. Idol worship prevailed.
10. Cults and Culture: The custom of Sati was in vogue and there was negation of widow remarriage.
According to the Alberuni, people of Indian sub-continent were excellent philosophers, good mathematicians and astronomers. He criticised the hypocrisy of Brahmins Scholars because despite of explaining the scientific values of ancient text preferred to mislead the masses and keep them steeped in ignorance and superstitious.