Monuments of India's Medieval Period
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Monuments of India's Medieval Period

Ahmedabad : India | Mar 08, 2011 at 8:04 PM PST
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Monuments of India's Medieval Period

The Taj Mahal is a stunning example of India's Mughal-era architecture

India's Medieval period is generally known as the Mughal Empire, a period that lasted from 1525 to 1860 A.D. During this era, India became united as a single nation and began to flourish economically and culturally. Builders and craftsmen, working on orders from the emperors of the era, expanded on traditional Persian styles to create palaces, mausoleums and fortresses made from gleaming white marble and and red sandstone. Today, these architectural masterpieces still have the power to leave visitors in awe of their beauty and design.

Taj Mahal

  1. As President Bill Clinton famously put it: "The world is divided into those who have seen the Taj Mahal and those who have not." The glorious Taj Majal, which was built in Agra in 1653 by Emperor Shah Jahan, represents the height of Mughal art and architecture. The dazzling architecture features the iconic marble dome and its flanking minarets made with pearl-like, luminescent marble that glows pink at dawn, sparkles in the sun and arguably looks the most breathtaking in the moonlight. Details in the interior rooms, such as walls carved with calligraphic writing, gemstone-inlaid mosaics and a series of mirrors and reflecting pools to compound its beauty, invariably astonish visitors and underscore President Clinton's statement.

Delhi Red Fort

  1. Situated in Delhi, the Lal Qila (Red Fort) is a fort and palace built in 1648, during the Mughal era. The enormous, octagonal-shaped fort is a mini-city, protected by a moat and thick, red sandstone walls with turrets, bastions and ramparts. Visitors enter from the Lahori gate, near the Hathipol---or the area where rulers and guests would dismount from their elephants---and pass through a spectacular, hand-carved, red sandstone colonnade. The interior features a once-vital city and government center, with public halls, private meeting chambers, gorgeous marble palaces and private quarters that are decorated with mirrors, intricate stone mosaics and gilded support beams. The palaces open onto splendid, elaborate gardens with a number of reflecting pools and walking paths.

Jama Masjid

  1. Located a quarter-mile from the Red Fort, Jama Masjid is India's largest mosque, built in 1650. The mosque features three graceful domes that are inlaid with alternating bands of white marble and red sandstone to create a stunning striped pattern. Visitors pass through a series of arched, carved and inlaid stone doorways to enter an expansive courtyard with minarets and towers that have carved facades and wide staircases. The courtyard can accommodate 25,000 worshipers and is open to the public. Non-Muslims can enter the Mosque only at specific times during the day.
  2. Under Sultan Sikander Lodhi (1489-1517)

    Dak chawkis
    throughout the territory served an efficient communication system. Official letters were conveyed by runners and horse-couriers. Two firmaans were despatched wherever the Sultan sent his army. One firmaan in the early morning bore instructions and the time of halt, and the second firmaan reaching in the afternoon or evening contained deatiled military instructions. The communication system was so speedy and efficient that chroniclers accorded some jin or spirit to be in his employ.

    A novel method of news transmission requires mention. After reaching Bayana (Rajasthan), Sikander Lodhi had despatched an army towards Thatha (near Karachi) and ordered the general to send news of victory the same day. Heaps of grass was laid alongside the road. Soon after victory, the grass was lit and the fire travelled fast, conveying the news of victory



A Rundown of Postal Communications during the Mughal period

The process of radical development begun by Sher Shah Suri with 3000 miles of communication network, was further expanded by the Mughals. Feeder routes synchronised with the district or provincial layout served the postal system, the Dak Chawkis dotting the route at fixed intervals.

The structure was developed as a centralised postal machinery with nodal agencies called Dak Chawkis, chaired by the Darogah-i-Dak Chawki who supervised the entire operations. While all Darogahs and postal officials were accountable to him, the Darogah-i-Dak Chawki was answerable only to the royal office.

The Dak Chawki system was divided into separate departments that operated independently, servicing the needs of security, intelligence, supervision and military. Thus, communication needs were categorized according to urgency, secrecy and nature of missive. Modes of conveyance and division of postal work were also fixed accordingly.

Chief modes of communication were the mail runner, horse courier or special speedy horse carriages drawn by fast-paced stallions, used at times of grave importance and emergency.

References to the use of royal pigeons and camels have also been found. Though camels and camel caravans were used primarily in desert areas, camels were also used in non-desert zones, specifically for carrying royal or State mail. The introduction of pigeon post is attributed to Akbar, and not Jahangir, as mentioned in several accounts. Pigeons were trained and housed in the royal palace, in the Kabutar-Khaana, found even today in the relics of Mughal palaces. They were used to carry urgent missives over short distances, exclusively for royal purpose. The practice continued to be favoured by Jahangir who extended its use to special occasions.

The racial profile of mail runners was confined to mewras or sturdy messengers belonging to lower strata of the caste system or tribal origin.

The postal work was assigned and processed by the departments of waqai navis, sawanih navis , khufia navis and dak runner. (See Part 9 for details) All postal staff except the mail runner, was accorded the rank of mansabdar, with army-type gradations. Their ranks, promotions and degradations were conveyed vide dastaks.

Categorization of state correspondence was done to ensure speedy transmission and efficiency in administration – farmans, shuqque, nishan,hasb-ul-hukum, sanad, parwanah and dastak.

This is the first time we find mention of parcels being carried as part of regular mail service. These mostly contained documents or records, and sometimes personal requirements of the ruler.

Postal rules and reforms were created. The procedure of frequent transfer of postal officials started by Babar continued throughout the Mughal regime. Jahangir’s construction of a pillar at every kos with a sign, and a well at every 3 kos, served as milestones along the routes. Aurangazeb’s introduction of the rule that a dak runner cover a fixed travel distance or be penalized is an example of the stringent measures established in the 17th century.

While transparency was introduced with a system of an open register in public offices for record of all information and reports reaching through dak chawkis, there were plenty of undercover operations and recruits involved at the same time.

Security was provided by the Subedars and Kotwals of the districts, who provided escorts and ensured safe passage through their province. To this effect, the dak runners carried a written permit duly endorsed and sealed by the Darogah-i-Dak Chawki on his outward journey. For his return passage, he carried a similar permit sanctioned by the Sawanih Navis. These permits were an obligation upon the provincial faujdar, zamindar and thanedar to render their utmost co-operation and protection to the dak runners. Babar introduced a mathematical dimension to road mapping. The precise measurements adopted by the royal clerks called tamaghachis set the precedence for calculation of mileage thereafter.

The Dak Chawki system was initially restricted to royal and official use. For urgent letters people had to make their own arrangements at personal cost or await the arrival of the regular messengers and prevail upon them to carry the same. In fact, it was this random practice of the postal employees being subject to inducements by the common public, which compelled Babar to introduce the system of transfer. News was conveyed through an efficient channel of confidential reports, supplied daily, bi-weekly and weekly by different agencies acting independently. This system ruled out erroneous information reaching the ruler, not only because of the inbuilt cross-checks but also by giving the emperor different perspectives to a situation.

Besides the news reports, weekly cash statements of the dewan and administrative dispatches by the district governor, were also conveyed vide this dak system.

The Akhbar Navis system organized by Akbar set off the nascent form of the newspaper. The waqai submitted by the wagai navis (official news reporters/ news writers) were in fact, periodical summaries of the regular communiqué. These gradually evolved into periodical newsletters. The era also saw the emergence of the official ante-typographic newspapers, which were indeed the confidential reports and special newsletters devised for instant perusal of the monarch.

From this, there emerged the akhbar, or private news periodicals, perhaps designed by the private postal operators. The contents were meant for public consumption and discussion. This was very much evident during the reign of Aurangazeb.

We also find evidences of the random private post co-existing with the Dak Chawki system. For instance the private messenger system operating from the bazaars of Patna, called Bazar kasids, and the private post at Merta. These were usually operated by the traders or businessmen serving the needs of commerce along pre-determined routes. However, exorbitant rates were charged for conveyance of such private mail.

Separate postal arrangements were made at times of war and military expeditions. Postal staff was appointed as required. A superintendent was allocated the responsibility of Ithminan Dak Chawkiyat Lashkar for management of military postal stations. His terms of appointment and working directives were also as per the situation, different from that of the regular Dak Chawki operations. Farmans, arzi waqaims and all communication between the emperor and army officials were however, delivered personally.

The system of proctectorates, like Bijapur and Golkonda, began with the signing of a Treaty called Inqiyad Nama. This meant that the importance of news transmission assumed grave importance to the Emperor, so news reporters and secret agents operated in such territories too. The simultaneous operation of a regular postal system within the protectorates and that of the median Dak Chawki system is a distinct feature of the Mughal period, post Deccan subjugation.

The parallel dak chawkis operating within these kingdoms subsequently became a part of the imperial network of dak chawkis, adopted by Aurangazeb. This perhaps paved the way to annexation of these kingdoms at a later stage.

Thus, with the extension of the Mughal dominion into the Deccan region of India, the Dak Chawki system stretched beyond Karnataka by the end of the Mughal rule.

Babar mostly continued along the lines of postal system designed by Sher Shah, with some further areas of delegation. It was particularly during the regime of Akbar that a structured postal system developed with a well-planned method. The roles and work of the postal department were well demarcated into the routine provincial reports and State correspondence on one hand, and the tri-furcated news-gathering sections on the other. Jahangir is noted for his extension of postal services and pigeon post to Bengal. While Aurangazeb’s rule ensured stringency in the postal methods and administration.

Thus it was in the early 16th century, that a systemic synergized two-way communication system began operations on a routine basis. In introspection, the Mughal period spanning two centuries, kick-started the process of an organized postal system in India that was later emulated by the Britishers, as mentioned earlier.

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Monuments of India's Medieval Period
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vishaljayswal is based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, and is a Reporter for Allvoices.
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