The Status of Women in India

1300 to 1526 A.D.

Slavery: Slavery was quite common and Ibn Batutah carried out the acquisition of slave girls in lots and their distribution as gifts. Sadly, a sort of communal spirit seemed to have prevailed in the matter. The Muslims took pleasure in enslaving Hindu women enmass. Muhammad Bin Tughlaq sent as presents to the Chinese emperor, 1,00,000 male slaves and 1,00,000 slave dancers from among the Indian infidels. On the other hand, Muslim women were turned by the Rajputs into slave girls and taught the art of dancing.

Marriage: Girls continued to get married early, except those from Kshatriya families who got married around 14 or 15. The reason behind that was the worry of Kshatriya families that if the daughter got married at a young age and her husband died in war, how she manage widowhood before she came of age. Another reason was that many Kshatriya women were called to accept governmental responsibilities, so they were needed to be trained in administrative duties and military exercises. For girls who got married early, education was not possible.

Marriages within the same caste became more common, although upper caste did marry more than once - within their own and outside their caste. As in the earlier period, marriage within the same gotra was forbidden and girls were given away in marriage before the age of puberty. Widow remarriage was forbidden during this period. The features of marriage in the previous period continued in this period too.

Sati: This system was more prevalent during this period than in earlier periods. It is best brought out with this quote from the Prabuddha Bharata issue of November 2000, “After Maharana Sanga dies, his son Vikramditya (1531-36) sat on the throne of Chitor. The king was weak. Seizing the opportunity, the Pathan kings of Gujarat and Malwa attacked Chitore. The King lost the battle and run away. The Pathans entered the fort. It was usual for women of those days to commit jouhar i.e.-mass self-immolation to protect their womanhood. The wife of the king, Jawaharbai was a lady of rare qualities. Riding on a horse back, the women army attacked the surprised pathans. Blood flowed, many Pathans were killed. Almost all the women laid their lives down fighting and the rest committed jouhar”. Hats off to those women, they were made of steel.

Place in Chittorgarh fort where jauhar was committed.

Purdah: The purdah had become a common practice during this period but was unknown among lower classes of society, especially in the rural areas. Muslim rule was weak in the South and found limited acceptance there.

General Position of Women: The position of women was not made worse but actually strengthened on some points. The old rules enjoining upon the guardians, the responsibility for marrying their girls early, along with the right to the girl to make her choice of husband continued. Also, the revocation of marriage with a bridegroom under special circumstances was allowed. The rules relating to sinful women continued, with less severity though. The wife was to continue to look after husband and family and the husband’s reciprocation of maintaining the faithful wife continued. As earlier, the husband was to pay compensation extending to one third of property to his supreseded wife.

However, the feeling that women are symbols of conquest became stronger during this period.

A widow was considered to be the foremost heir of her sonless and divided husband, as also a woman’s complete ownership of her stridhana (certain kinds of property acquired by a woman on specific occasions and at different stages of life).

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