Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India: Artisans, Labourers, Service Providers and Entertainers 9781032013169, 9781003178156

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Table of contents :
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
1. Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups
2. Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers
3. The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing
4. Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence
5. Aspects of Social Life
6. Conclusion
12 Illustrations at the end
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Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India: Artisans, Labourers, Service Providers and Entertainers
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HBK | w: 138mm; h: 216mm; sp: 28mm | Design: 14 | RAPS ticket: 288107 | Created: 20210126_135624


Nishat Manzar


Print edition not for sale in South Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan or Bhutan)

an informa business

ISBN 978-1-03-201316-9


Routledge titles are available as eBook editions in a range of digital formats


URBAN WAGE EARNERS IN SEVENTEENTH CENTURY INDIA This volume takes a pan-Indian view of different professional groups and service providers mainly based in towns. While Persian texts provide limited information on the subject, European sources in the form of travelogues, letters, memoirs and official reports unfold an interesting panorama on the subject. Here focus has been on the seventeenth century, as some prominent European share holders’ Companies established their warehouses-cum-residential complexes in India in this very century. Officials of these Companies sent to India or elsewhere, maintained proper records of their transactions and interaction with the state officials, common people, servants inside the household and outside, and through their reports attracted many European freebooters also to have a firsthand experience of the East. Here from, we get numerous details on the social life, working conditions, wages and other aspects of life of people who earned their livelihood through manual labour, as conditions in India appeared novel to them and they meticulously recorded everything with much interest. Their information is corroborated with the Indian sources. In both types of sources – Persian and European – artisans, labourers and service providers have generally been projected as ‘poor’, ‘miserable’ and ‘wretched’; who faced exploitation at all levels. Still, their contribution to the economy and society was imperative. Aspects of life of such people deserve a detailed discussion as this volume amply proves. Nishat Manzar has been teaching History of Medieval India, Medieval Central Asia and Islam at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, since the last twenty-five years. An alumnus of AMU and University of Delhi, she has presented and published papers based on contemporary Persian and European accounts on various aspects of medieval history.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India Artisans, Labourers, Service Providers and Entertainers



First published 2021 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2021 2021 Nishat Manzar and Manohar Publishers & Distributors The right of Nishat Manzar to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Print edition not for sale in South Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan or Bhutan) British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN: 978-1-032-01316-9 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-003-17815-6 (ebk) Typeset in Adobe Garamond 11/13 by Kohli Print, Delhi 110 051

To the memory of my first teacher Ummul Fareed








1. Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups


2. Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


3. The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing


4. Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


5. Aspects of Social Life


6. Conclusion










12 Illustrations

at the end


The present work seeks to take a pan-Indian view of the socioeconomic condition of the urban and rural poor during the seventeenth century. This assessment does not include a discussion on peasantry. The important components comprising the urban and some rural poor were—labourers, artisans, inferior servants, service providers and workers—both salaried and self-employed. The most common feature distinguishing different categories of labourers was that they all earned their livelihood through manual labour, and in varying degrees their earnings were low when compared with other sections of the contemporary society, such as— servicemen, traders, owners of land and few others following ‘elite’ professions under the patronage of rulers, nobles, or merchants. People of low means and small wages residing in towns and cities were classified into a number of groups, each group being separately identified with an emphasis on the nature of profession, working conditions, pattern of wages, standards of life, social customs and ceremonies or rituals performed by the members belonging to these groups. This subject has been taken up to bridge a vital gap in the socio-economic history of India, and to construct a well-integrated picture of society by focusing on the previously neglected urban and rural class of labourers, artisans and service providers in all its details. Except a few excellent works containing information about the position of some categories of artisans based on contemporary evidence, many others have treated the subject in a perfunctory manner. As such, no comprehensive study on this theme encompassing all categories of workers, artisans and labourers or wage earners has so far been attempted. Scholars have mainly focused either on peasantry or some industries, especially textile industry, highlighting the condition of weavers and those who provided allied services like spinners, dyers, printers and washers. At places, representation of these classes as exhibited in the foreign travellers’



accounts is somewhat distorted, generally formed on erroneous estimates and hasty conclusions. They failed to comprehend the underlying factors of climatic conditions, economic constraints, and requirements of simple life and milieu of society as a whole. This study aims to present a detailed and critical analysis of labourers and workers engaged in fulfilling the social and economic needs of society in towns and cities of India. This is based on contemporary and semi-contemporary sources, particularly European Factory Records and foreign travellers’ accounts, supplemented with the modern literature produced on aspects of social and economic history of India during the period under review. Here the term ‘labourer’ has been used to indicate all those persons—men and women—who were engaged in manual labour, and it includes both skilled and unskilled workers. Some of the servants, often put in the category of inferior ones, working in royal palaces and the houses of nobles have also been included in the broad framework of discussion on account of the fact that they worked as labourers as their occupations involved physical labour. Menial servants attached to the household establishments of the kings and nobles have been included with a view to compare information about all such sections of the servants working elsewhere. To some extent, landless labourers can safely be put in the category of labourers, but agrarian society being a different branch of study, details on the life of the peasantry have not been taken into account. The present study is centred on the description of artisans and labourers and self-employed wage earners in India during the seventeenth century. The discussion cuts across the geographical boundaries of neighbouring kingdoms of the Mughal Empire and takes an overview of the position and working conditions of similar groups in Golconda, Bijapur and neighbouring small states as well. These regions have also been discussed for the reason that these kingdoms became a part of the Empire in the last quarter of the seventeenth century. Since Goa, Malabar and Coromandal coast had flourishing centres of trade and commerce and such activities were carried in full vigour, relevant information has been incorporated from the sources related to these areas. Somehow, sources in re-



gional languages are left out and European accounts have been focused on. Wages of labourers and service providers in these places do not appear to have been substantially different from what was received by their counterparts in north India. Moreover, available evidence shows the existence of commercial intercourse between these regions and a regular link between traders and bankers of north and south. We also find different people from diverse professional groups like camel-men, carters, weavers, washers, porters, peons, etc., of one region employed in far-off places transcending the local or regional frontiers. They themselves, at times, moved from place to place in search of better prospects. Often they received wages in local currency. This work is divided into five chapters, excluding Introduction and Conclusion. Each chapter documents a detailed discussion on various aspects of the condition of poor classes and those doing manual labour during the seventeenth century. Chapter 1 deal with the different categories of labourers, artisans, servants and service providers, both skilled and unskilled, in a systematic manner. It has been subdivided into three sections where, in the first section labourers, artisans and other servants working in the imperial household have been dealt with. Second section of the same chapter is concerned about the nobles who maintained their own establishments on the pattern of imperial household and employed a large number of servants; and in the third section the details are of those who worked for the Europeans within and without the factory premises. Chapter 2 has been divided into five sub-sections dealing with the people involved in a variety of professions. Here all the professional groups and service providers have been discussed under different heads. Chapter 3 is devoted to the study of food habits, manners of clothing and condition of housing of all such groups in the light of evidence contained in the contemporary works. Chapter 4 is divided into two sections. It deals with the wages received by various categories of artisans and labourers and many others; mode and the rate of payment; and whether these wages were apparently sufficient for them or not. In Chapter 5 certain customs and rites observed on occasions like marriage, birth, death, and various festivals popular among these groups are taken



care of. Here an assessment has also been made of the common perceptions held in the contemporary society about such people. Four Appendices and a Glossary are affixed herewith. The first three Appendices provide the prices of various commodities. Appendix 4 is the index of units of weights, measures and currency that occur in the course of the present work. However, it is not conclusive as very basic information regarding such units is provided here to give a clue to the reader about the relative value of the weights, measures and coins in vogue during the seventeenth century. The Glossary is aimed at explaining for the benefit of the readers some of the technical terms which appear in this book. I wish to remember my first teacher Ummul Fareed (Mrs. Qamrunnisa) to whom this book is dedicated. May her noble soul rest in peace. I must express my gratitude to my teachers in Aligarh and express my sincere thanks to all of them who tried their best to inculcate in me a ‘sense of history’. I have the privilege to count myself among the students of (late) Professor K.A. Nizami, Professor Irfan Habib, Professor Iqtidar Alam Khan, (late) Professor Athar Ali, Professor Iqtidar Husain Siddiqi, (late) Professor Zahiruddin Malik, (late) Professor A.J. Qaiser and many others. I shall always remain grateful to them. However, I am solely responsible for the errors and inaccuracies that remain in this volume. I am enormously obliged to all my colleagues and friends in the Department of History and Culture, Jamia Millia Islamia. My earnest thanks are due to Professor Narayani Gupta who constantly encouraged me to complete the work. It would be ungrateful on my part if I forget to communicate my gratitude to Professor Saiyyed Zaheer Husain Jafri, University of Delhi, who generously helped me whenever I approached him for guidance during the days of my Ph.D. in the University of Delhi and even after. I am no less grateful to my parents and siblings for their unconditional support. I duly acknowledge the help I received from the authorities and staff of various libraries that I have visited in the last many years. I am especially grateful to the staff of the Centre of Advanced Study in History and Maulana Azad Library, A.M.U. Aligarh; National Archives of India, New Delhi; Maharashtra State Archives, Mumbai;



NMML, New Delhi; Central Library, University of Delhi; Ratan Tata Library, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi; Central Library, Jamia Millia Islamia and Tamil Nadu State Archives, Chennai. I am indebted to the Victoria and Albert Museum for allowing me to reproduce some of the rare paintings preserved in its collection. I should like to thank Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi and British Museum for providing me a few paintings from their collections. Much gratitude is owed to Mr. Ramesh Jain and Mr. Ajay Jain for agreeing to publish my book. NISHAT MANZAR


Arb. Beng. Coro. Eng. Eur. Fren. Guj. Ind. Ita. Kann.

Arabic Bengali Coromandal English European French Gujarati Indian Italian Kannada

Kon. Mal. Mala. Per. Port. Span. Tam. Tel. Tur.

Konkani Malayalam Malabar Persian Portuguese Spanish Tamil Telugu Turkish


A critical analysis of the social and economic structure of the Indian society during the seventeenth century will necessarily include an inquiry into the conditions of its various classes, castes and sub-castes or division of these classes, producing various agricultural and non-agricultural commodities, as well as their contribution in the growth of economy. Here, however, the primary emphasis is on the life of the lower strata or the common people, which constitute the theme of the present discussion. The main groups comprising the (medieval) Indian society were—the aristocracy, the rich merchants and bankers, scholars, landowning classes, peasants, labourers and artisans, etc. Of these, generally the last three formed the lower strata (W.H. Moreland, India at the Death of Akbar, Atma Ram edn., pp. 26-7). In his introductory chapter on ‘The Country and People’, Moreland discussed the population of India at two levels—racial classification and economic. While racial classification, involves discussion on people belonging to different religious traditions (not races), under the head of economic classification, he divided the population into two major groups—consumers and producers. In the former group, he included the court and imperial servants, professional and religious classes including mendicants and ascetics and domestic servants and slaves. In the other group, he puts those engaged in agriculture, industry and commerce. While giving his conclusion, Moreland classifies the population in the chapter entitled ‘The Standard of Life’ into three conventional segments—upper, middle and lower classes (India at the Death of Akbar, pp. 237-62). Generally, it is assumed that the so-called lower classes, i.e. the artisans, labourers and peasants were always made a subject of exploitation. Whatever information is available prior to the seventeenth century, or before the coming of Europeans in India, it is quite difficult to assess their actual condition. Late fifteenth century witnessed the



arrival of the Europeans (Portuguese) on Indian soil and hereafter one can see a gradual surge in information about the artisans and labourers employed in different capacities. This was contrary to the traditional genre of Persian court-chronicles as well as local histories where we fall short of suitable material while trying to sift desirable information regarding such groups. Most of the official and non-official histories of the period are hardly of any help in terms of information on the life and condition of the common people in India. Initially such information was confined to the coastal areas or some (geographical) pockets of the Indian subcontinent or Asia as Portuguese merchants and missionaries rarely frequented the regions other than those under their direct control. The records maintained by the Portuguese provide us a glimpse of the life and condition of such people. Their contact with the Mughal court during Akbar’s time (1579 onwards) made them record the life of the common masses in northern India as well. The arrival of European companies, initially the Dutch and the English, and then followed by the French, filled the centuries old vacuum. Information regarding the life, professions, prices and earning of different segments of society started pouring in, all in the form of daily reports of business transactions, memoirs and travelogues. Had they not recorded their transactions and experiences so meticulously, we would have remained ignorant of many significant aspects of Indian society, especially those involved in the manufacturing industry, as well as those who supported various establishments. Deviating from the convention of dividing and studying Indian society on the lines of caste, Moreland1 as mentioned before, classified it into two groups—consumers and producers. He excluded tribes inhabiting forests and mountains from either group. The fact, however, remains that division of Indian society into various groups prior to the seventeenth century and after, was largely based on profession(s), which in other words was a synonym for caste. Another fact which cannot be ignored either, is that mobility in the society was possible throughout. That is why we find people belonging to different castes/clans/background involved in a common profession, e.g. letter carriers, peons and guards, packers, brokers, carters, camel men, masons, etc. Here we can contemplate that



apparently traditional and complex structure of society had a tinge of pragmatism. Among the consumers, the kings’ dominant position remains beyond question. Apart from imperial household, courtiers and officials who held high military ranks or administrative positions consumed major portion of the resources of the Empire. They drew income from their j"ag∂rs (land grants) or received salaries in naqd (cash). They were privileged in the sense that they were paid separately for their personal expenses (against z"at ranks) and contingents (saw"ar ranks). Appointments were made on the principle of ability by the emperors themselves. They, especially highest rank holders, utilized a huge percentage of the state income. Ah"ad∂s (‘gentlemen troopers’, also termed as ‘immediate servants’) of the emperor, performed important tasks and were counted among the most trusted servants of the emperor. Some of them served as king’s messenger, while others were posted to guard the royal harem. On occasions, they were deployed in different household departments to perform variety of duties. They also accompanied the emperor and kept a watch on royal camp. Abul Fazl writes about the high salaries drawn by them, some of them receiving up to Rs. 500 a month.2 Infantry, cavalry and artillery formed the rest of the royal army employed by the emperor and his mansabd"ars (rank holders). The pay of a cavalryman varied from Rs. 7 to 25 a month. Fines and deductions could reduce this amount. For the artillery-man, the pay ranged from Rs. 3 to 7; of a watchman from Rs. 3 to 6 per month; of a porter from Rs. 2.50 to 3; and a gladiator or wrestler drew something between Rs. 2 to 15 per month. Slaves were categorized according to the demands of their duties and nature of employment. Some of them drew salary as low as one d"am a day.3 The Emperor’s entourage consisted of thousands of servants—almost 2,000 to 3,000 (apart from a sizeable cavalry, infantry and artillerymen), as has been reported by foreign travellers. For erecting the royal tents only, at least 1,000 of them were needed. Others were there to maintain the regular supply of foodstuffs, water, fodder for mules and horses and other necessities. Along with the moving camp or army, a chain of servants numbering 2,000 to 3,000 could



be seen engaged. Fruits for the imperial household and nobles were brought from far-off places like Kashmir, Kabul, Qandahar, Badakhshan and Samarqand by couriers. A considerable workforce was constantly required to look after the royal stables. For a single elephant, for example, apart from the mah"avat (driver) at least four to seven servants were needed. During hunting expeditions and for the amusement and entertainment of the royal personnel, innumerable persons having expertize in different vocations were necessary. Torchbearers, keepers of kitchen, wardrobe, carpets and tents, attendants looking after the dining place, etc., numbered in hundreds. Some others who consumed a good part of the empire’s income in the form of cash salaries or land grants were administrative officers like, shiqd"ar, am∂n, karkun, " # munsif, qanungo, " # patwar∂, " waqai" naw∂s (reporters), spies, etc. Poets, painters, calligraphers, scholars were paid for their labour from the madad-i ma’ash " (revenue grants). An individual soldier could afford at least two to three servants. The main reason was the availability of cheap labour as Della Valle noticed (about Surat) that a man of even small fortunes could have a few servants to serve his family.4 Large retinues followed the local rulers and ambassadors—both Hindus and Muslims alike. Even a man of some position could easily emulate the lifestyle of a noble. When moving out of the house, they would be accompanied with an umbrella bearer, a cup bearer and attendants to drive away flies.5 Although, by the seventeenth century, the Portuguese had lost much of their power and prestige but still continued with the tradition of excursions and social visits outside with a notable number of attendants following them into the streets. In most of the cases, the class of ‘producers’ as per the classification of Moreland, was forced to work and live in a state commonly described as ‘poor’ and ‘wretched’. To have an idea of the life of wage earners, artisans, labourers and servants inside the imperial palace, court and camp and houses of nobles, one can draw ample information from foreign travellers’ and merchants accounts. Akbarn"am"a and Åin-i Akbar∂ by Abul Fazl give us an opportunity to have a fair idea of life inside the palace, court and camp. He provides information about the identity and jobs or duties performed by the servants who almost num-



bered in thousands. There were artisans employed in mints and workshops, workers in lime, stone-cutters, bricklayers, tile-makers, glass cutters, carpenters, bamboo cutters, smiths, varnishers, lattice workers, weavers, painters, etc. Others served in the water department—to fetch and supply water; servants in the tent-department (farr"a sh kh"a n"a ); stables of elephants, cows, mules, camels and horses; well-diggers, pounders of old bricks (surkhi-kob), divers (ghot"a-khor), and those supporting the activities in the royal kitchen. In the royal k"arkhanas " " 6 and karkhanas " " " maintained by the nobles, items of luxury were produced and the artisans were paid on a monthly basis. The k"arkhan " "as of the nobles in terms of activities were the same but there commodities were not produced on such a large scale. The products, obviously, were not meant for the market. Outside the palace and houses of the nobles and rich persons, artisans and workers could undertake any profession but independently. One of the important professions was of weaving. Weavers could be classified further into various groups. As per the information contained in the records of the period, it is well known to all that during medieval centuries India had been the chief centre of cotton and silk textiles production (silk textile production began from the fifteenth century onwards). A considerable part of Indian population was involved in making different varieties of cloths. The accounts of foreign merchants and European factories’ officials are full of details regarding the weavers, people involved in rearing silk, yarn spinners and cotton carders, etc. The textile industry had attained the highest degree of perfection during the seventeenth century. Even English weavers back in England expressed their resentment on various occasions against the import of Indian cloths in their own country as it was considered responsible for ruining the fortunes of weavers in England. Sometimes weaving, dyeing and painting (printing with blocks) were done by a single person or a single family, but most of the time all such jobs required different hands. At each stage they were supervised by master craftsmen. Those who attained some expertize and happened to be in towns and cities which served as capital towns or headquarters of various provinces, even elsewhere (where royalty



and nobility resided), their services were utilized simply by employing them by merchants or nobles-latter often using force to make them work. Articles manufactured by jewellers, gold and silversmiths,7 blacksmiths or carpenters, etc., were unparalleled in quality and durability. All classes of society used jewellery—although the metal and quantity of it depended upon the socio-economic position held by each of them. Those unable to afford gold could feel satisfied with silver ornaments or of copper. Equipment of warfare and tools for peasants were produced by the blacksmiths. Oil-makers, sugar manufacturers and salt producers fulfilled the needs of different strata of society. Somehow, the costly items like fine sugar were beyond the reach of the poor. Anyway, they could not be deprived of opportunity of having coarse variety of sugar. Other significant industries operating in medieval period were—glass manufacturing, shoe-making, pottery, house building, wood and bamboo handicraft industry, etc. Not only for the emperors and merchants, ships were also built for Europeans involved in trade to sustain their seaborne commercial activities. Carpenters’ services were constantly required to repair the ships before and after voyages. Letter carriers, peons and guards, washermen, packers, carters and camelmen, toddy tappers, pearl divers, workers in diamond mines, barbers, attendants in caravan sar"a is, tailors, bakers, p"a lk∂ carriers, were some other wage earners who supported the activities taking place in the sphere of trade and commerce. During the Mughal period, villages were, to some extent, self-sufficient units, as most of the things of daily needs for the peasants and villagers could be procured within the village itself. On the other hand, villages were largely drawn into the network of international commerce and were linked well with urban centres through the system of payment of revenues in cash or transferring surplus (food grains and raw materials) to sustain activities of production for the market there. In turn, they received commodities not available locally. The rural population, apart from growing food and cash crops, remained involved in manufacturing handicrafts—primarily in the form of domestic industry. Villages were known for producing numerous kinds of non-agricultural items.8 Peasants and other land-



holding classes could sell off their holdings. Inequality and stratification in the society could be witnessed because of the caste system on the one hand, and exploitation by administration and village headmen (zam∂nd"ars) on the other. It usually led to the exploitation of subordinate peasants, landless labourers, artisans, labourers and other wage earners. Bernier lamented about the exploitation of the peasantry and nature of relations in rural society in the following words—‘Thus it happens that many of the peasantry, driven to despair by no execrable a tyranny, abandon the country, and seek a more tolerable mode of existence, either in the towns, or camps; as bearers of burdens, carriers of water, or servants to horsemen. . . . Sometimes they fly to the territories of a Raja. . . It is an indication that urban society was ready to absorb them without any hesitation.9 Part of the rural population helped the urban artisans directly or indirectly by spinning yarn, by washing finished pieces of cloth, or bleaching, etc. The movement of finished goods in different directions took place through different hands. It needed the help of others like those who helped in transportation, or who acted as a link between the merchants and their agents, officials and brokers, all providing a great impetus to the trade and commerce. The debates about the existence of village community in the rural areas still goes on, but those who helped the peasantry and others in the rural sector were commonly known as kam∂n in Punjab and north India, and baluted" ar in western India and Maharashtra. The goldsmith of the village made ornaments and extended loan on interest as well. On that account he enjoyed an influential position in the social structure of village community. He was known as potdar " , sarraf " , swarnkar " , subarngar or banik in different regions of north India, Punjab, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Bengal, etc. Occasionally he happened to be the village headman and in that capacity known as p" atil, | mandal, ^ ^ chaudhur∂, or muqaddam, kulkarn∂, pa|twar∂, " qanungo, " # kanakpith or kayeth " were the designations of village accountant in various localities. Some of them represented the state and received remunerations. Their privileged position does not qualify them to be called as artisans or labourers. Carpenters and blacksmiths occupied a central position in the village because they produced ploughshares, sickles, horse-



shoes, nails and other agricultural implements. They, in turn, were compensated with a part of harvest or a plot of land for their maintenance, given once, but almost on a permanent basis. Occasionally, a single person performed the job of a smith, carpenter and mason simultaneously, like in case of kamm"alas in south India. Potters or kumh"ars in northern and western Indian rural society were not (socially) regarded as inferior; however, they were not assigned plots of land in lieu of their services. Washermen—dhobis (or parit in Maharashtra) received food from each family including remuneration in cash. Barber—n"a∂, hajjam, " n"awi (Gujarat) or hajam (Bengal) performed multiple duties of surgeon, musician on wedding ceremonies, cook and conveyer of news and extending wedding invitations on behalf of different people. Barber and water–carriers or bhisht∂s, enjoyed their pay in kind and were also employed in the fields during the harvest season. Tanner—cham"ar, moch∂, jatia, chakkali (in Tamil Nadu) was a regular member of village community. He made whips, shoes, bags, belts for villagers. Traditionally he was allotted small land holdings for his maintenance. In regions like the Punjab, a tanner was also employed as sweeper, would collect wood, repair houses of the peasants and zam∂nd"ars and acted as a watchman of the village. In general, these artisans and labourers worked in collaboration with each other and received remunerations in both cash or kind, or plots of land to carry on cultivation on them. During the medieval centuries, as wage-earners artisans and labourers could be identified as n#ur baf " /jolahas " " /patbunia" (weavers); patwar or patwa (tape-weaver and knitter of strings); darz∂ (tailor); " ∂, domna-domn∂ " ch#urisaz " or ainasaz " " " (glass-workers); daphl ∂, miras or pawangriya (singers and musicians); bha" t| (poet reciting folk tales); bhangar (jester); kal"awangar (ballad singer); kunjra (retailer of fish and vegetables); kal"al (distiller); bhanggera (seller of intoxicating drugs); halw"a∂ (confectioner); n"anb"a∂ or n"anv"a i (baker); qass"a b (butcher); hajj" a m (barber); dhob∂ (washerman); sayy" a d (birdcatcher); tel∂ (oil-maker); kumh" a r (potter); qalaigar (tinman); nich"aband (tobbaco pipe or huqqah " maker); moch∂ (shoe-maker); n"alband (farrier); siqalgar (cutters); dhuniya or nadd"af (cottoncarder); rangrez (dyer); q"alinbaf " (carpet-makers); mal∂ " (gardener);



saqqah (water-carrier), kh"akrob (sweeper); or halalkhor " (scavenger), etc. 10 A detailed description of different castes and their professions is also made in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century illustrated account Tashr∂hul Aqw"am. Innumerable castes and subcastes are mentioned in the work, which corroborates the evidence of the preceding centuries. The castes, or nomenclature applied to different professional groups is as follows—bhojk∂ (one who played on musical instruments and danced in the temples); kapr∂ (one who performed dance items in marriages); bh"at| and kalawant " (one who played on all kinds of musical instruments, sang songs and danced in different ceremonies); kanchan, bisya, dom | or m∂ras∂ " (one who performed the same way as a kal"awant); ah∂r or ghos∂ (milkman); ga|daria" (shepherd); navik, " nakhuda " or karndhar " (sailor); khakrob, " hal"alkhor or bhang " , moch∂ or jatiya \ ∂ (sweeper and scavenger); chamar (tanner and shoe-maker); k#uchband (broom-maker); bavr∂ " or sayyad " (bird catcher); hajj"am or n"a ∂ (barber); b"ari (maker of plates of leaves); jarr"ah (wound-healer); baghban " " or m"al ∂ (gardener); kunjra (vegetable seller); thathera, | | " "ahangar or visvakarma « " (maker of utensils and iron implements); jol"aha" or nurbaf # " or nawarbaf " " (weaver); kumh"ar or zarufs # "az (potter); khilon"as"az or m#uratkar " (toy-maker); chhip∂ or rangrez (painter of cloth and dyer); k"anmail wala " " or karnshodhkar (who cleaned the ears); maimar " or raj " (mason); maifarosh or madir"a k" ar (distiller and seller of wine); najj"a r (carpenter); k"aghazs"az (paper-maker); beld"ar (digger of wells, ditches, canals, etc.); qass"ab (butcher); lakhira (worker on gumlac); boriy"ab"af or katkar (sack-cloth maker); chiqs"az (maker of cages and screens of bamboo sticks); saqilgar (maker of swords and weapons); itrs"az, itrfarosh or gandh∂ (maker and seller of perfumes); ch#una paz"an (lime-makers); luni"a (salt maker); kam" angar (bows and arrow maker), etc. Banarsi Das, famous for his autobiography known as Ardhkath"anaka, used a unique term paun∂ for a variety of professional groups and service providers, quite unknown elsewhere. ‘The word paun∂ (or paoon∂), which Banarsi uses as a synonym for s« "udra is derived from Hindi ‘pavana’, meaning ‘something received as due’. Paun∂s, as the list reveals, consisted of specific communities per-



forming certain services or following certain crafts: the reason they were called paun∂ was that they customarily received a fixed share of agricultural produce in exchange of goods supplied or services rendered over the year’. The phrase ‘thirty-six paun∂s’ (or pawan ja" ti or working castes) had become a cliché during Banarsi’s time. Poets speaking of paun∂s, spoke of them as ‘thirty-six’. The expression occurs in the works of many poets of the period. The actual number of professional classes which could be characterized as paun∂s was perhaps not so fixed. Nor should we take Banarsi as reporting faithfully from actual observation. His list is drawn both from convention as well as life. Yet, a big city like Jaunpur must have contained people belonging to most of the professions Banarsi names, if not more: Sisgar Darj∂ Tambol ∂ Rangb" a l Gv"al Barhai Sang tar"as Tel ∂ Dhob∂ Dhuni"a Kandoi Kah"ar Ka[a]chh∂ Kal"a l Kul"al M"al ∂ Kundigar K"agd∂ Kis"an Patbunia Chitera Bindhera

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

worker in glass tailor betel-leaf seller dyer (rangw"al) milkman carpenter stone-cutter man who works on oil-presser (and sells oil too) washerman cleaner of raw cotton confectioner (qandoi ) palanquin bearer; water carrier cultivator and seller of vegetables distiller and seller of wine potter flower seller presser of cloth paper maker peasant; cultivator; farmer weaver painter one who pierces holes in pearls and precious stones

Introduction B"ari Lakhera Tha | |ther"a R" a j : Patuwa

: : : :

Chapparbandh : N"a∂ : Bh"arbhuni"a : Sun"ar Luhar " Sikligar Haw" aigar Dh∂var Cham"ar

: : : : : :


maker of containers and plates of tree leaves lac worker (Åin says brick maker) manufacturer of metal utensils construction worker maker of strings of silk or cotton thread to be attached to ornaments made of silver, gold and other metals maker (and fixer) of thatched roofs barber maker and seller of puffed rice and roasted cereals goldsmith blacksmith sword maker; one who sharpens knives manufacturer of fire works fisherman tanners and leather worker11

All these professional groups or castes were (and most of them still are) found inhabiting all parts of India, though the terminologies applied to them today differ from region-to-region, depending upon the dialect or language spoken there. They were a common feature in villages and towns alike. As per the division of society, they were considered of low status everywhere, with further subdivisions among the followers of the same profession. However, they all were not at par socially and an hierarchy was always maintained; as for example, smiths and carpenters were counted respectable as compared to tanners or sweepers. William Methwold’s observation of the society of Golconda region around 1625 CE may serve as an illustration in this regard where he said that: The carpenters, masons, turners, founders, gold-smiths, and blacksmiths are all one tribe, and match into each other family; all other mecanicke trades are tribes by themselves, as printers, weavers, saddlers, barbers, fishermen, heardsmen, porters, washers, sweepers, and divers others; the worst whereof are the abhorred Piriaves, who are not permitted to dwell in any towne by any neighbours, but in a place without by themselves like together, avoided of all but their own fraternity, whom if any man casually touch, he would presently wash his bodie.12



Nevertheless they were an indispensable part of the social and economic structure of the period under review. All the professions were followed on hereditary basis as has been noted in the early seventeenth century by Pelsaert that—‘a workman’s children can follow no occupation other than that of his father, nor can they intermarry with another caste’.13 Many scholars have come out with their opinion on the issue of population in India.14 Their estimates differ depending upon the criteria they chose. As far as the distribution of population into rural and urban sector is concerned, Irfan Habib is of the opinion that around 15 per cent people lived in urban centres.15 People whose life has been discussed in the forthcoming chapters, mainly belong to the urban areas. Somehow, no restriction could be put on their background (rural or urban) as the service providers could be hired from anywhere, and by all and sundry. Major contribution in the field has been made by eminent scholars like W.H. Moreland, Brij Narain, A.I. Chicherov and few others.16 It is noteworthy at the same time that most of these scholars have focused on aspects related to economy. While Moreland introduced the subject to the readers of medieval Indian history, he and others have mainly centred their discussion on weavers, washers and painters and a few groups offering allied services. Chicherov and Moreland have given equal space to peasantry also. Brij Narain’s work is treated as a critique of Moreland’s estimate of wages and earnings of common people and prices that prevailed mainly in the seventeenth century. It was a kind of comparison between the economic conditions that prevailed before the British occupation of India and after, and to prove how the British were exploiting the Indian economy and people. Hence, survey of the conditions of tillers of soil becomes imminent. Brij Narain has included a chapter on the issue of peasantry apart from the discussion on foreign trade and shipping. His observations on wages and purchasing power of ordinary labourers and artisans are quite insightful. Chicherov also makes it obvious from the title of his work that he is more concerned with economy, but he has specifically concentrated on crafts and trade in the related field. He has not, however, neglected the social aspects of the life of common people



altogether. Hamida Khatoon Naqvi has done a remarkable work on some of the industries, especially textile, but she confined it to a few cities of north India.17 Fragments from a few chapters in The Cambridge Economic History of India, 1200-1750 (vol. I), prove to be of immense help to construct a detailed account of various classes of people who were identified as ‘common people’ in the contemporary sources. Vijaya Ramaswamy has mainly concentrated on weavers in south India in her remarkable work Textile and Weavers in South India.18 Eugenia Vanina in her work Urban Crafts and Craftsmen in Medieval India: Thirteenth-Eighteenth Centuries, has focused on two issues—analysis of various aspects of urban industries in India and comparison of evolution of medieval industries in India and in Western Europe.19 B.L. Bhadani’s work on Peasants, Artisans and Entrepreneurs: Economy of Marwar in the Seventeenth Century (1999) is a holistic approach to the economy of a particular region. It gives important insights into the world of artisans of the period. No doubt that valuable information is contained in all such works, still there are many details which have been left out. The purpose of this study is to incorporate such details and construct a history of artisans, labourers, service providers and entertainers anew. In the present work an effort has been made to construct the history of people vis-à vis the occupations they were involved in. NOTES 1. India at the Death of Akbar, Macmillan, London, 1920; Atma Ram & Sons, Delhi, 1962, p. 26. 2. Abul Fazl, Åin- ∂ Akbar∂, vol. I, pp. 216, 259-60. 3. Åin-i-Akbari, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, Ismaili Press, Delhi, 1857-8; rpt. Sir Syed Academy, Aligarh, 2005, pp. 145-8; H. Blochmen & D.C. Philliot, Calcutta, 1973, rpt. Oriental Reprint, Delhi, 1977, vol. I, pp. 259-63. 4. Edward Grey, Travels of Pietro Della Valle in India, 2 vols., Hakluyt Society, London, 1891, vols II, p. 42. 5. S.N. Sen (ed.), Indian Travels of Thevenot and Careri, National Archives of India, Delhi, 1949, pp. 143-4.



6. Francois Bernier, Travels in the Mogul Empire, tr. A. Constable, Oxford, 1934, pp. 254-5. 7. They do not fall, however, in the category of poor. 8. A.I. Chicherov, India: Economic Development in the 16th-18th Centuries, Nauka Publisher House, Moscow, 1971, p. 19. 9. Page 205. 10. M. Martin, History, Antiquities, Topography and Statistics of Eastern India, 5 vols., W.H. Allen and Co. 1838; rpt., Delhi, 1976, vol. II, pp. 145-6; 252-5. 11. Mukund Lath, Ardhakathanak, Rajasthan Prakrit Bharti Sansthan, Jaipur, 1981, pp. 225-6, 134-6. Medieval texts often speak of ‘thirty-six’ Rajput clans traditionally conveying the respectable place these clans held in Rajput society. Similarly, the word ‘thirty six paunis’ may also have been in use for people belonging of multiple professions usually taken as the lower strata of the society. Of these, at least, a sun"ar (goldsmith) was never a poor person. Inclusion of his name suggests that that he was not included among the so-called high caste people of the society. Also, Shireen Moosvi, ‘The World of Labour in Mughal India, PIHC, 2010-11, p. 350. 12. W. H. Moreland, Relations of Golconda in Early Seventeenth Century, Hakluyt Society, London, 1931, p. 19. 13. Francisco Pelsaert, Jahangir’s India, tr. W.H. Moreland, Heffer & Sons, Cambridge, 1925, p. 59. 14. While W.H. Moreland has estimated the population of India being 100 million in 1600, Ashok V. Desai has reached the figure between 64.9 and 88.3 million around the same time. Shireen Moosvi’s estimate of population of India at the end of Akbar’s reign is that it was 108.4 million for the Mughal Empire and 144.3 for the whole of India. Irfan Habib reached a conclusion that it could be somewhere between 140 and 150 million. Tapan Raychaudhuri and Irfan Habib (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History, 1982, vol. I, pp. 163-71. 15. The Cambridge Economic History, vol. I, p. 169 . His estimate is based on the fact that urban population in India on the eve of Industrial Revolution was about 13 per cent which fell to 9.3 per cent as reported in 1881 Census. 16. W.H. Moreland, India at the Death of Akbar (1920) and From Akbar to Aurangzeb, Macmillan, London, 1923; Brij Narain, Indian Economic Life, Past and Present, Uttam Chand Kapur & Sons, Lahore, 1929; A.I. Chicherov, India, Economic Development in the 16th-18th Centuries, 1971; Raychaudhuri and Habib (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History, vol. I, 1982. Few chapters in the last-mentioned work related to the theme of discussion



here are contributed by various authors. A slightly revised version of Chicherov’s book was published under a new title—India: Changing Economic Structure in the Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century, Nauka Publication House, Moscow, 1971; Outline History of Crafts and Trade, Manohar, Delhi, 1998. 17. Urban Centres and Industries in Upper India 1556-1803, Asia Publishing House, 1968; Urbanization and Urban Centres under the Great Mughals, 1556-1707, Simla, 1972; ‘Dyeing Agents in India: AD 1200-1800’, Indian Journal of History of Science, 26 (2), 1991, pp. 159-83; ‘Colour Making and Dyeing of Cotton Textiles in Medieval Hindustan’, IJHS, 15 (1) 1986, pp. 58-70. 18. Vijaya Ramaswamy, Textiles and Weavers in South India, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1985; 2nd edn., 2006. 19. Eugenia Vanina, Urban Crafts and Craftsmen in Medieval India, Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, 2004.


Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups

For students of medieval Indian history a study of the working and material condition of the different classes of low-paid groups serving the imperial households and outside, is crucial and needs investigation. The theme is vital as modern works have little information regarding the various self-employed labourers, artisans and service providers, and also about the nature of work done by these groups. We know very little about their living conditions and wages from these works. This study is an attempt not only to understand the role and contribution of these various groups, but also to provide information about common things such as the prices of commodities and food grains in the market and the purchasing capacity of skilled and unskilled service providers. Employees who were considered inferior in terms of status and wages as compared to other salaried groups who served as officers and officials of the state, formed a distinct group of imperial servants. Apart from this, many were engaged in producing commodities for the market and provided services on demand to a variety of people in a variable manner. A detailed description of their position and duties becomes necessary to understand the socio-economic condition of the lowincome groups of Indian society during the seventeenth century. The corpus of the contemporary Persian literature is not so abundant in details about the servants, slaves, artisans, labourers and self-employed people. They figure more prominently in the writings of European travellers for the later part of the sixteenth as well as for the seventeenth century.



Although the scope of this study is confined to an enquiry into the condition of low-income groups and the lower strata of the society, the discussion can rightly be initiated with the slaves and servants employed at different levels in the royal palace. A brief survey of them would not only enable us know about their duties and wages, but also give an occasion to make a comparison with their counterparts serving outside the four walls of a palace or the court. To Moreland, one of the outstanding facts of the period was the amount of labour expended in the services under the rulers and the influential people. He also suggests that some of them worked for free while others were slaves—but the functions assigned to them were almost interchangeable. Hence, he insists, that there is ample reason to treat them as a single group. Also, slaves were largely interchangeable with free men and on most of the occasions the two classes were treated alike.1 Though the institution of slavery is not approved in Islam, yet slaves continued to be an integral part of the royal establishment throughout the medieval period.2 They mostly worked under the direct control of the emperor and were employed in the inner apartments of the palace. They worked as guards, spies, scribes, news-reporters and servants for petty jobs.3 Male slaves welcomed the guests of the emperor while female slaves gave company to the ladies-royal everywhere, usually ‘ten or twelve female slaves who act as ladies of honour’ remained in attendance to their mistress, informed Thomas Roe.4 There is no difference of opinion as far as the multitude of servants employed by the rulers and the nobles in different capacities are concerned. Hawkins noticed with much astonishment the number of servants employed by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir: . . . of such officers (i.e. horsemen) and men as belong to the Court and Campe, there be thirty six thousand, to say, Porters, Gunners, Watermen, Lackeyed (footmen), Horse Keepers, Elephant Keepers, Small shot, Trasses, or Tentmen, Cookes, Light bearers, Gardiners, Keepers of all kinds of Beasts. All these be payd monethly out of the King’s Treasure whose wages be from ten to three Rupias. " 5

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups


In the imperial household, zanan " "a (female quarters) eunuchs occupied an extremely important position inside the residential quarters. It provided dwelling to the inmates of the harem and their servants in hundreds. They were usually guarded by eunuchs who themselves had their own following of personal female servants. Eunuchs served the kings, princes and ladies-royal alike. Often they were placed high in the hierarchy of imperial servants.6 There were principal eunuchs,7 who took care of different departments of the imperial household. Manrique counted the ‘Captain of Eunuchs’ among the principal ‘ministers’ of the empire.8 The chief eunuch was incharge of the treasury, wardrobe, expenditure, jewellery and other things of importance.9 This chief and his subordinate eunuchs were called n"azirs (guardian or superintendent). Each servant and slave inside the palace was bound to inform the n"azir before taking up the charge of his duties. All the members of the royal family had their own n"azirs to look after their property. Other subordinate eunuchs carried messages and guarded the entrances to different quarters. Any man or woman visiting these quarters was thoroughly checked by the eunuchs on duty. They also conducted the construction work inside the palace and kept the registers in which names and description of individuals were entered. In addition, identification marks on the face, or elsewhere on the visible part of the body of artisans were mentioned to avoid any misfortune. They also served the royal personnel in the dining room and brought sealed dishes and water jars from the kitchen. Some of them were there to clear the way for the emperor, princes, nobles and dignitaries with short wands in their hands.10 The chief eunuch was also given the charge of the education of the princes. He was supposed to take care of ladies-royal, princesses and concubines.11 Eunuchs were appointed as the emperor’s bodyguards. They also carried sealed letters to the addressee and brought back the reply.12 They were made to serve the emperor on the occasion of banquets held at the imperial palace or while accompanying the emperor to the houses of high-ranking nobles for the same. They attired in rich clothes of finest embroidery with gold and silver thread on silk and muslin. During such events, they would sit on either side of the emperor to pass on the dishes.13 While going out, women of the royal household were accompanied by eunuchs,


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

though not many in numbers. Only three or four of them went along.14 These eunuchs do not constitute the category of low paid servants, but had their own set of servants whose wages are important for us to make a comparison with those attendants serving the families or clients outside the imperial court. Trained in the art of fighting, female slaves were posted to guard the emperor’s sleeping chamber. Captives of war were brought from far off places like Central Asia, Eastern Europe and various parts of the country itself. They guarded the doors and carried the palanquins of the imperial household. Concubines had their own set of female slaves and servants along with well-decorated separate apartments.15 Some of the female slaves were themselves attended by their personal attendants. Only eunuchs were allowed to enter their apartments. Some selected ones had the privilege to receive reports sent to the emperor and, even, reply on his behalf. Slaves also assisted eunuchs serving the emperor and members of the royal family in the dining area. It is astonishing that they enjoyed special powers, like inflicting punishment on those who had committed mistakes inside the palace, especially the guards of their own apartments, if they failed in imparting their duty.16 The various groups of servants attending on the members of the royal household and the emperor(s), were as follows: SAR ÅFCHI+ S Sar"afch∂s were to serve food to the royal household. Apart from them, a chain of officials and servants took part in the ritual, especially in the presence of the emperor. Cooks after preparing and serving the food into dishes, sealed and covered them with linen. Youths carried the dishes to the dinning chamber with servants walking ahead. The wak∂l-i dar too, followed them. At the door, the eunuchs finally handed them to some (‘comely’) girls who served the food at the table.17 Musicians and singers were known as s"a zindeh and goyindeh respecively,18 they were supposed to sing songs full of praise on festivals, feasts, birthdays and anniversaries. The members of the royal family had in attendance their own set of singers and musi-

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups


cians. On special occasions singers and dancers not on the roll, would come from near and afar, to present their compositions and items. There is evidence of European performers (here English) who were also given a ‘chance’ to display their skills by the ‘Mogull’.19 Singing and dancing-girls known as kenchens (meaning the gilded, blooming, or glittering), were admitted in the imperial palace or harem. Dancers were also known as p"ai kuban. " " 20 In Agra, hundreds of them were quartered in front of the Akbari Darw"az"a, which was exclusively used by the emperor and the princes. Europeans, like William Finch and Manrique, out of sheer contempt, called it the Maumetan College for whores. The reason for applying such a contemptible term might be that the dancers could be called inside the ‘Moholl’ (mahal or palace) any time, generating doubts in the mind of the onlookers. These were maintained at the emperor’s expense.21 In fact, they were not prostitutes, but of a more private and respectable class who also attended the wedding ceremonies in the houses of the nobles. Aurangzeb discontinued the practice of their performing in the royal court—‘After all they were but common women, but complying with long established usage, does not object to their coming every Wednesday to the Am-Khas where they make salam from a certain distance and then immediately retire’, Bernier recorded at a certain occasion.22 Since they were treated as artiests and often received handsome amounts for performing, they do not fall into the category ‘low paid’ and in terms of income cannot be compared with those who performed in the streets or houses of the affluent. PANKHÅ BARDÅR OR FAN BEARERS Pankh"a (or fan) bearer’s duty was to drive away flies and other insects fluttering around the person of the emperor. They attended the rulers in the court and also accompanied them outside and performed their duties diligently.23 Their job was not for mere ostentation but due to abundance of flies, especially during summers when the number of insects increased manifold and one could not sit in peace and eat properly. Hence, the service of a pankh"a bearer was considered quite essential in the household and out-


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

side.24 Generally, two of them were required at a time. A third one was made to stand right in front of the emperor on a sort of scaffolding with a horse tail (like fan and where pankh"a bearer) makes havocke of poor flies, came the explanation.25 Manrique used a unique term for such persons—he called them ‘Punkarras’ using fly whisks and says that their services were ‘essential to keep the bold and importunate flies off his Imperial Majesty’.26 GURZ-BARDÅRS Gurz-bard"ars or mace-bearer served inside the palace and chiefly carried messages from the emperor to the nobles, etc.27 They cleared the way for the emperor while going out on excursions, and for nobles and guests who would come to pay a visit to the court. They were also sent to reprimand the nobles with maces in their hands, especially when they harassed the zamindars or others within their area of jurisdiction. Bernier, thus, detailed their duties as follows: ‘Gourze berdars or mace bearers [were] choosen for their tall and handsome persons, and whose business is to preserve order in assemblies and to carry the king’s orders, and execute his commands with the utmost speed.’28 UMBRELLA-BEARERS OR CHATRA-BARDÅRS They were to protect the emperor or their master from heat and rain. Europeans used terms like sumbreiro, kitisal, quitasol, or quiteasal (Portuguese, meaning umbrella) for them, and according to Peter Mundy, they were the ‘poorest sort’.29 Ovington specifically remarks that it was considered a royal privilege and even princes were not permitted to use an umbrella until scorching heat made it impossible to venture out. WATER-CARRIERS

They remained in service constantly supplying water to every department of the royal establishment, accompanied the emperor on his marches outside to near as well distant places by way of maintaining water supply and sprinkling water on the path before the

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups


emperor’s cavalcade. A section of them brought water from Ganga River, regularly for the emperor, sealed in jars, as the Mughals preferred to drink it wherever they stayed.30 ROYAL HARKÅRÅHS A hark"arah is defined as one who went on errands, made announcements of the royal orders to the public and brought reports to the court of the happenings in different parts of the empire. His job was a little different from a waq"ai-naw∂s who was appointed to give written reports, while hark"arah was to report orally. European travellers identified him as an ‘officer’ and the one ‘who harkens to all kinds of news, whether true or false, listen to everything that happens whether of movement or of no account, and reports to the Great Mogul whatever is done or spoke of ’.31 Letter carriers performed the most important duty of keeping the ruler and his officers connected. Akbar especially employed Meos—‘Meoras’, also identified as ‘Meo h"a’, for the purpose. Abul Fazl explains that they were from Mewat and were famous as runners. They performed multiple duties like that of porters and spies too. Abul Fazl comments: ‘They bring from great distance with zeal anything that may be required. They are excellent spies, and will perform the most intricate duties. They are likewise one thousand of them, ready to carry out orders.’32 Along with the darb"ans, a group of servants belonging to the class of infantry—piy"adgan—was " employed to guard the environs of the palace. They were called as khidmatiy"as. In Tuzuk-i Jahangiri they are known as piy"ada" ha-i " khidmatiy"a. Abul Fazl narrates that prior to taking them into this particular service by Akbar they were labelled as a notorious caste known as Mawis. They were involved in highway robberies and other crimes like theft and plunder (r"ahzan∂ wa duzd afsh"ar∂). Akbar got them settled by way of having ‘led them to honesty’. Their chief was given the title of Khidmat Rai who was very close to Akbar and lived in affluence. His men known as khidmatiy"as, however, were holders of monthly salary of an ordinary servant.33 Khidmatiy"as also accompanied the royal cavalcade on the occasion of hunting expeditions (nakhch∂r).34


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

PORTERS OR DARBÅN Abul Fazl describes that around a thousand porters (darb"ans), were taken into service to guard the royal palace (w"ala darg"ah). They were, perhaps, also divided into small groups and each was put under the charge of a m∂rdaha, as the salaries of the m∂rdaha were higher than the darb"ans and mentioned separately. They formed a vital corp. Literal meaning of the term darb"an is a ‘door-keeper’, and in the royal palace, some of them were posted at the entrances and doors to keep vigil. Some served as porters, while others were given the charge as ‘sentry at night’.35 CAMP-FOLLOWERS When the emperor marched out there was a miscellaneous following of artisans, dealers and common people, for erecting tents, taking carriages and to serve in other matters. In the procession of the emperor, before him and his companions, drums, trumpets and other musical instruments, canopies, flags, standards and other imperial insignia were also carried. Hundreds of such attendants accompanied the princes also.36 When out on visits, or during campaigns the emperor, princes and princesses were followed by innumerable servants, especially labourers, superintended by an officer to level the way, cut the jungles and remove other hurdles. In charge of such party was the m∂r bahr-o barr and was usually chosen out of the prominent nobles of the state, as is told by Monserrate who accompanied Akbar’s camp towards Kabul in 1581. He validates that it was needed due to rocks and crags and deep torrent beds, by sending sappers and labourers to level the way as far as possible. There were some to sprinkle water on the road walking ahead of the cavalcade, while others accompanied to sprinkle around perfumes. Once some of the English factors at Masulipatam witnessed a royal convoy (November 1623) followed by ten to twelve thousand boys or attendants.37 Abul Fazl in the Åin has included a separate section on encampment during the journeys. That, apart from the soldiers and other officers, each encampment required for carriage ‘100 elephants, 500 camels, 400 carts, and 100 bearers’. Among the bearers are not included

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups


the keepers of animals. Other than this, a thousand farr"ashes (for carrying tents & carpets), five hundred pioneers (beld"ars), a hundred water carriers (saqqahs), fifty carpenters (durogar), tent makers (khem"adoz) and torch bearers (mashalch∂s), " thirty workers in leather (charmdoz) and one hundred and fifty sweepers (kh"akrob) rendered their services.38 The royal camp was always divided into two. One set of the followers moved in advance to prepare for the next halt by moving constantly a day ahead of others. It was to facilitate the journey so that the emperor could find a camp at the proposed halt fully prepared for his reception. There was a separate body known as pesh-khan " a" (or the house that proceeds) of the carriers of tents and other necessary equipments. ‘To transport them aid of more than sixty elephants, two hundred camels, one hundred mules and one hundred men-porters is required’, noted Bernier. Big size tents with heavy poles were laden on elephants, while smaller ones were borne by camels. While luggage and kitchen utensils were loaded on mules, porters carried light and valuable articles like porcelain items, painted and guilt beds, folding tents or kharg"ahs.39 Bernier amends his earlier version considerably when on a second occasion he estimated the number of camp followers. That not less than fifty thousand camels, and nearly as many oxen or horses employed to carry the wives and children, the grain and other provisions belonging to the poor people connected with the bazaars, who when they travel take with them, like our gypsies, the whole of their families, goods and chattels. The servants in the armies must be indeed numerous, since nothing is done without their assistance.40

When Shah Jahan revolted (1622) and marched via Deccan towards Orissa and Bengal, some English factors saw him moving with ‘10 or 12,000 boyes, i.e. attendants’.42 While going out or travelling, eunuchs on horseback, and a troop of female servants, of usually Tatar and Kashmiri origin, followed the royal ladies. They were accompanied by a multitude of peons on foot with large canes in their hands to clear the way, and innumerable attendants as a part of the cavalcade would follow the elephants with princesses riding on them.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India




They were assigned the duties inside and outside the palace alike. They moved along the royal cavalcade bearing torches and lamps made up of rags, wrapped around a rod and fed at intervals with oil. They were called deotis (from Sanskrit dw∂pa) also. Their duty was to light up lamps in the night inside the premises of the palace and court. PÅLKI+ (OR PALANQUIN) BEARERS Abul Fazl discusses the p"alk∂ bearers as kahars " who were able to carry heavy loads on their shoulders, with equal ease even while negotiating the difficult terrains in the hills or valleys. Various types of p"alk∂s, chaudols, singh"asan, dol"as 42 and dol ∂s were carried swiftly and ‘evenly’ that the person inside would not feel the jolts. They were engaged permanently in the imperial household and under Akbar ‘several thousands of them’ were kept. Kah"ars coming from the region of Deccan and Bengal earned special repute.43 P"alk∂s were used when the emperor, or his family members, especially women of the household went out for visits. Female p"alk∂ carriers inside the premises of the palace carried the ladies-royal. Often the emperor too, used p"alk∂s, carried by females, mainly of Uzbek and Tatar origin who were known for their war-like temperament and sturdy stature. As a part of general ostentation, while going out members of royal family, were accompanied by carriage drivers with ‘by a small carriage which contains only one person . . . drawn by two men and the wheels are not more than a foot in diameter’, as had been noted by Tavernier on one occasion.45 For the emperor special p"alk∂s were constructed known as takhti raw"an or field-throne, which was carried on men’s shoulders. It was a kind of canopy with painted and gilt pillars with glass windows, which could be shut in bad weather. All four pillars of this litter, were stationed on ‘two handsomely clad men. They were relieved by others constantly in attendance.’46 Princes and female members of royal family enjoyed different modes of travelling. Some of them preferred richly decorated chaudols (covered carriages). Others would go out in litters suspended between

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups


two sturdy camels or elephants walking abreast simultaneously. A young well-dressed female sat with a peacock’s tail at the front opening to brush away the dust and keep away the flies. Many of them rode on elephants seated on in special howd"as known as mikdembers, each containing eight women, four on either side.46 KEEPERS OF ANIMALS, BRUTES AND BIRDS (ROYAL STABLES)

Generally, eunuchs and maid-servants were assigned the task of taming the royal pigeons. At a time, four to five hundred elephants were maintained on behalf of the emperor along with mules, wild animals, camels, and beasts of burden. Some of them were meant for war and to draw carriages of provisions in the battlefield or on marches, while others were for the use of the women of the harem and their attendants. Bernier, who had a personal experience of accompanying the royal camp and that of princes and nobles, categorically says that at least ten persons known as bhoi 47 looked after each elephant. Of them, two to ride on, two to fix on chains, two men with spears to control them, two for the fireworks, and others to remove dung and feed fodder and water to the elephants were needed. At least three attendant (khidmatguzar " an " ), were required to take care of an elephant. In the royal stable elaborate arrangements were made for each animal and bird to take its care. An elephant driver was called as f∂lban " or p∂lban " .48 Abul Fazl classifies the male elephants into seven categories saying that the number of attendants assigned to each of these was different. While to take care of a mast elephant ‘five and a half servants’49 were required, for every sherg∂r, five men were needed. For s"ada elephants four and half, while for a manjhola four servants were appointed. Similarly, a karha needed three and a half, but a phandurkiya or a mokal was looked after by only two men. For female elephants servants were appointed according to their size—a heavy one had four; a middle-sized one had three and a half and small ones were to be assigned only two persons. Among the female elephants a class is mentioned as mokal, for which two persons were enough to take care of. Abul Fazl also mentions the salaries of each of the attendants, which varied from 50 to 200 d"ams per month.50


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

To look after the horses in the royal stables (tavel"a) and those of princes, apart from high ranking officers like at"a beg∂, d" arogh"a , mushrif, ah"ad∂s and inspector (d∂da war), there were many others taking care of these animals. They were the ch"abuk saw"ars to check the speed of the horse; s"a’is (grooms),51 jilaudar, " " (runner), na’l " paik band (farrier), z∂nd"ar (saddle holder), ab " kash (water carrier), farrash " (who dusts furniture), sipandsoz (who burnt mustard seeds to drive off evil eye – nazr-i-bad or chashm ras∂dan) and kh"akrob (sweeper), etc. About the reign of Sher Shah, Rizqullah Mushtaqi refers to ch"arvadar " who was meant to feed the horses.52 There was a provision of one groom and one saddle holder for two horses. Three water carriers were assigned to a stable of forty, while in a place where thirty horses were kept two water carriers were enough. One was kept when the number of horses was less than thirty. A sipandsoz and two kh"akrobs were appointed in a stable of forty horses. A coolie (piy"adah) was required for two horses while marching out. Their wages are also mentioned in the Åin.53 Camels (shatur /pl. shut"ar) were placed under the charge of a different set of officials. Camels were categorized according to the breed.54 As a huge number of camels were kept to carry burden, to travel on, or for camel-fights, servants were also employed accordingly. Apart from officers to supervise the stable, there were servants to load-unload the burden; for harnessing and feed or graze them; to oil their nostrils, to drive, to train and to clean the stables. Some people ‘adorned with the jewel of insight’ were to examine their health.55 Special mention is made of a class of trainers known as raibar " ∂, a particular class of people of Indian origin (Hindi niz"ad )56 who taught the camels ‘so to step as to pass over great distances in a short time’. Raib"ar∂s were given responsibility of looking after the breeding of camels. Each raib"ar∂ was assigned fifty arw"anas (she camels) and for the purpose of breeding two loks (Indian breeds camels) and one bughur (double humped) was attached. Among the low-paid servants mention can be made of herdsmen (galla b"an) and farrash. " Each herdsman was assigned fifty stud-camels along with five assistants. Perhaps a herdsman could take charge of more than one herd, as Abul Fazl Says, a herdsman of two heards had to present as peshkash three arw"anas (she camels) every year,

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups


otherwise the amount equal to the price of camels was deducted from his salary. As the camels were to be sheared, state claimed a fourth part of the wool (pashm). By the time Åin was being compiled, Akbar had remitted it and instead of it the drivers were to provide their camels with wooden pegs, etc.57 The farr"ash was there perhaps to harness the camel, as one farr"ash was appointed for each camel.58 A cow stable (g"aw kh"an"a), was also a part of the stable. Bullocks, cows and buffaloes were housed here. These were classified and ranked (p"aya) according to their breed, size or having some specific quality. The purpose of keeping cows and buffaloes was to obtain milk, butter, curd and butter-milk. Oxen were needed to fetch water, drawing carriages and draw water (gardun " kashi, bahal "arai " wa "ab "awar∂). These were divided into groups of 50 or 100 and each group was put under the charge of a ‘merciful’ and an ‘honest’ keeper. Large number of oxen and bullocks were required during marches and hunting expeditions to carry burden. Male buffaloes (arna), while young, were employed in pulling carriages, but when they got old, these were used for carrying water (ba saqq"ai ). Female buffaloes were used for carrying water ("ab kashi). Oxen were also needed to carry leopard wagons. Baggage belonging to different workshops, fuel required for the royal kitchen and court, and building material for construction was also transported on these carriages. Milch-cows and buffaloes were also quartered in the same stable. 59 Servants in the cow stables were divided into certain categories. In kh"assa stables, one man (t∂mardar), " " was appointed to manage four head of cattle.60 In other stables, each attendant had to take care of six cattle. Carriages were of two types—covered (chatr∂d"ar) and uncovered. Those suited for horses were called as ghur bahal. For ten wagons (ar"abah), twenty drivers (arabchi " ) were assigned. Apart from it, a carpenter (najj"ar /durogar) also came along for the purpose of repairing the carts. One driver acted as the head (m∂rdaha). Sometimes, only fifteen drivers were allowed for ten wagons and a carpenter was also not attached. Hence, repair work, if needed, was to be carried out by the drivers themselves.61 There were two hundred keepers who acted as in charge of kh"assa


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

leopards. They were to train the leopards also to follow the command.62 At least four servants (p"asb"an) trained and took care of each brute belonging to the emperor (Akbar), since these were to be taken out daily on a (small) cart (ar"abah), horse, litter (mihaffa) or palanquin (dol ∂). Later the number was reduced to three.63 These servants were divided into two categories—senior (nakhust∂n) and junior (pas∂n), each category further divided into five for the purpose of salaries as their wages differed.64 There was a captain of elephants (shuhn"a-∂ p∂l ) enjoying a status equal to a ‘minister’. When the emperor intended to ride on an elephant, it was to be attended by twenty to thirty men. Horses for royal use, tigers (which were generally carried along during hunting expeditions to pursue the prey after the area was encircled, or qamargha" was laid out), siyah " gosh (red lynx of India), falcons and rare birds, were all kept with much care and had to be attended well.65 While hunting, various people performed a variety of duties. A common term for them who assisted in hunting is khidmatiy"a or tim"ardar " "an.66 They were to help in catching elephants, leopards, lions, deer, hawks, water fowls, etc. For hunting leopards, trained leopards were employed. These leopards were taken in dol ∂s, chaudols (kind of litters) and carriages to the site of the game. 67 Wages of such servants are mentioned in the Åin and will be discussed in the subsequent chapter. ARTISANS IN ROYAL KÅRKHÅNÅS ‘The arts in the Indies would long ago have lost their beauty and delicacy, if the Monarch and principal Omrahs did not keep in their pay a number of artists who work in their houses’, observed Bernier. However, he does not hesitate in saying that they were ‘stimulated by exertion by the hope of reward and the fear of “korrah”’. 68 However, contemporary Europeans and modern scholars usually translate the word k"arkh"an"a as workshop, but the production of these k"arkhanas " " was not meant for the market as is usual with a workshop. However, artisans and other workers were paid regularly

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups


based on uniform current rates of wages. The commodities of royal k"arkhanas " " produced within the four walls of a palace were exclusively meant for the imperial household and the emperor. Abul Fazl provides details of the techniques and organization of several products manufactured in these k"arkhan " "as at several places in his seminal work Åin-i Akbar∂. The k"arkhanas " " were set up in big halls and different works of arts and crafts were prepared in separate rooms or compartments. Painters, jewellers, silk weavers, tailors, shoemakers, smiths, and all those who could satisfy the material needs of royal household, performed the job assigned. In these halls, a large number of embroiders, goldsmiths, weavers, tailors, joiners, tanners, varnishers, tent makers, utensil makers and many others worked under the supervision of separate masters. Mughal emperors themselves paid personal attention towards these activities and a variety of articles were produced in abundance. Accomplished in their art, craftsmen from other parts of Asia and Europe also found opportunities in these k"arkhanas " " to prove their skills. In the light of the Åin, special mention can be made of the k"arkh"an"as where carpets, textiles, shawls, draperies, perfumes, paintings, guns and other weapons (arsenal), etc., were manufactured.69 Royal workshops were located in the towns of Lahore, Agra, Fathpur, Ahmadabad and other parts of Gujarat, etc., where from ‘turn out many masterpieces of workmanship’, says Abul Fazl.70 The royal kitchen was also given special attention. Somehow, information about those involved in cooking is scarce, while much attention has been paid to the officers who were to oversee the entire process of preparation and serving the victuals at the royal table (sufra). Abul Fazl, however, says that cooks ‘from all countries’ (pazandag" a n-∂ har kishwar) cooked dishes and made bread (n"an) since morning till late in the night. Since Akbar was used to taking food once in twenty-four hours, cooks were kept ready to prepare the meal within an hour of the royal order, and around hundred dishes could be served at short notice (sad q"ab ba yak s"a’at anj"am y"abad ).71 People were engaged to supply water, ice, food grains, vegetables, and other items to the royal kitchen regularly.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

BUILDING CONSTRUCTION ‘The main builder was the state’, says Eugenia Vanina.72 Masons— grihk"ar, raj " or maimars " 73 and labourers were continuously engaged in the capital and other towns where forts, mausoleums, mosques, sar"ais (inns), bridges, and other buildings were constructed under the sponsorship of the emperor, princess and princesses. Hawkins saw at least three thousand or more people employed in building the sepulchre of Akbar at Sikandara. For some reason, he was not sure of their ability. He found them being in unnecessary abundance and wrote that three of them were equal to one of his own country.74 On the other hand, we notice Monserrate admiring the buildings being built with ‘extraordinary speed, by the help of a host of architects, masons and workmen’.75 He found that there was no dearth of labour force. Even only for levelling roads ahead of Akbar’s march towards Kabul, innumerable labourers were given the task to make road (smooth) ‘as far as possible’.76 Construction of the Taj Mahal surprised many travellers and Manrique observed the process with undertones of admiration [O]n this building, as well as other works, a thousand men are usually engaged, overseers, officials, and workmen: of these many were occupied inlaying out ingenious gardens others planting shady groves and ornamental avenues: while the rest were making roads and those receptacles for the crystal waters without which their labour could not be carried out.77

Since the building activities were carried out throughout the empire in those days thousands of masons and labourers working under the supervision of architects and overseers was a common sight. Certain groups which greatly helped in construction activities were the of beldar " (unskilled labourer or digger of earth), gilk"ar (plasterer or clay worker), khisht mal"an (bricklayers), khisht paz"an (brick burners), khisht tar"ash (brick moulder), sangtarash " (stone cutter), surkh∂kob (pounder), etc. There were engaged people who specialized in specific aspects of construction as well. As far as construction workers were concerned, a recent and interesting study shows that masons and stone cutters, although remained obscure throughout,

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups


left some sort of signature on ‘their grand creations’, mainly in Devan"agar$û.78 These marks are mainly in the form of symbols similar to those used in legal documents or by goldsmiths, come along the names of the stone cutters. It suggests that they organized themselves in some sort of guilds. Stone cutters/layers could have been of any background, but an inscription in N" a gar$û , dated 4 February 1648 (9th day of the dark fortnight of the month Magha, Samvat 1704) found on the top of the first storey of Qutub Minar speaks of them of belonging to the Chand"ala (menial) caste.79 SERVANTS, ARTISANS AND LABOURERS SERVING UNDER THE NOBLES AND RICH PEOPLE

Impressed by the imposing lifestyle of the emperor and splendour of the imperial setup, nobles and moneyed men modelled their own establishments in similar fashion. They employed servants both on permanent and temporary basis, paying them on monthly or daily wages. Servants followed their masters in huge numbers according to the status of their employer. Usually they were ‘well trained in their work whether indoor or out-of-door’.80 Grandees of the empire often remained under debt as they spent most of what they received in the form of salary. It was due to the convention of making presents to the king. Also they themselves lived lavishly and spent a lot on ‘their large establishments of Wives, Servants, Camels and Horses of great value’.81 The assignees (umar"a) employed people of all sorts, except ploughmen, artificers and tradesmen, in such a number that they could not easily be counted. ‘The greatmen ride in Traines, some two hundred, some five hundred foot-men following them, and four or five Banners carried before them’, commented Thomas Roe.82 Norris, like many others, remarked that the number of darbar " ∂s and peons he keeps highlights one’s grandeur in this place.83 Nobles usually maintained the splendour of a court. Bernier closely observed that they were: . . . never seen out-of-door but in most superb apparel, mounted on an elephant, sometimes on horseback, and not unfrequently in a Palkey, attended by many of their Cavalry, and by a large body of servants on foot . . . to clear the


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

way, . . . to flap the flies and brush off the dust with tails of peacocks to carry the picquedents (p∂k-d"an) or spittoon, water to allay the Omrah’s thirst, and sometimes account-books and other papers.84

Pietro Della Valle assigns a more credible reason to this convention. He was happy to see that there was nothing to prevent a rich man living in an impressive manner, for slaves were cheap and the wealthy were not obliged, as in other ‘Muslim’ countries, to hide their riches from the covetous eyes of the monarch.85 Somehow, Bernier commenting upon the extravagance of imperial servants, expressed his displeasure that no amount is adequate to maintain them for they are in a habit of keeping ‘crowds of harpies, women, children and slaves’.86 Likewise, Thomas Bowrey saw the retinue of a ‘governor’ and put it in the following words: Attendants and Menial servants are in great number, (and) he keeps several Palanchinoes (p"alk û$ s), Stale horses and Roundels (umbrella bearers), pipes, drums and trumpets, many Pikemen, 2 or 300 Punes (peons) and Resbutes (Rajputs). Punes are . . . other than waiteinge men, waiteinge on their Masters, wherever they goe, and in time of any journey, they runne by his Palanchino or Elephant as foot boys, which is here accompted a princely piece of honour.87

Perhaps, none of the Europeans visiting India failed to spot them and express their astonishment whenever they chanced to see a noble or man of repute moving along his following. Pelsaert’s observation is also worth noting: Peons or servants are exceedingly numerous in this country, for everyone—be he a mounted soldier, merchant or king’s official—keeps as many as his position and circumstances permit. Outside the house they serve for display running continually before their master’s horse, inside they do the work of the house, each knowing his duties.88

Multitude of labourers was employed by the nobles to cut the forests ‘and to make all plaine’ whenever they went out, also sent in the areas where rebels would take position to clear the way and facilitate the movement of the armies.89 Soldiers of some rank were not far behind. Most of them employed ‘servants and slaves all depending on him for support’.90

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups


EUNUCHS, SLAVES AND THEIR SUBORDINATE STAFF Eunuchs were usually made the incharge of the entire household as the women in the harem depended upon them for their day-today needs. The chief eunuch was itself attended by female servants. Two or three eunuchs, or even more, usually faithful to their masters, were appointed for each wife ‘to ensure that she is seen by no man except her husband. They are thus held in high esteem by their master, but the women pay them still greater regard for the whole management of the “mahal” is in their hands and they (slaves/ eunuchs) can give or refuse whatever is wanted’, reasoned Pelsaert.91 These eunuchs enjoyed a lot of freedom and privileges. They could get whatever they desired—like fine horses, servants to attend on them outside and female slaves inside the premises. They were provided with clothes of fine quality ‘as fine and smart as those of their master himself ’. Thirty to forty footmen attended on the umar"a to make way for them, and walked along those carrying lances, fans, umbrella and p"alk∂s and other attendants to carry ‘Tobacco pipe, and other Pots full of water in hanging Cases of Canes’. 92 Polygamy was in vogue among most of the nobles and rich persons. To look after each woman the number of servants could go up to ‘10, or 20, 100 (attendants), according to her fortune’.93 Women slaves were gifted to a newly wed girl by her family to serve her at her in-laws house. Della Valle categorically mentions that, although, Hindus do not generally maintain female slaves or others for pleasure, besides their wives keep them only when ‘they are rich and potent and are minded to do what none can forbid, sometimes take more wives; but ‘tis not counted well done, unless they be Princes’.94 Duty of the eunuchs was to keep a watch on the actions and conduct of female inmates. Young girls too, served the females of the household. ‘Neither the Moors nor Gentues of accompt admit their Wives or Concubines to goe abroad, but keep them within Doors attended with Eunuchs and Younge Girles’, noted Thomas Bowrey. He once witnessed the chief lady of Nawab of Cuttack going along with guards and attendants numbering around ‘1,000 men, with about 100 Women and Eunuchs.’ Some


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

of them employed little boys and girls to attend on them and do necessary chores. Servants of affluent persons had to remain in constant service of their masters, and often did not get time even for themselves or to ‘nurse their owne children’.95 Some of them kept mistresses other than legal wives.96 Eunuchs were not low paid servants but their description helps us know the hierarchy of the servants under the rulers, nobles and affluent people of the society. While going on excursions, women of the household were attended by armed guards and tent pitchers and suppliers followed them to arrange for halting. Another common practice was of employing servants to rub their body with ‘pounded sandalwood and rose water or some other scented and cooling oil’. Others were kept to sing, dance or play on musical instruments. Out of the whole crowd of servants, some would ‘chafe the masters hands and feet’ or provided other recreation. They had tsaftergirs (tashtg∂r or ewer-bearer) or table servants who were counted among the chief servants to serve the master daily or on occasions like feasts arranged for the guests according to their (guests’) status. To serve food, they were to take their position along/around the table (khw"an) for the convenience of their master to help in picking the desired item. Horses were put under the care of the eluder (silahd"ar, or man at arms). Others who remained in constant service were—billewani (or belw"an) as in-charge of carriages; farrash " to pitch tents, spread carpets and to look after the diw"an-khanah " or sitting room; serriwani (or serb"an) or camel keeper, etc. Those who maintained elephants had mah"avat (the driver and tender of the elephants). Two to three persons were needed to attend on each elephant ‘according to its size’.97 Jilaud"ar (a bridle holder) or a servant who lead a horse with its reins in his hands, or lead a pack-horse or mule, was another familiar person in the retinue of nobles and rich people.98 RUNNERS (ZANTELS ) OR MESSENGERS Kept by the nobles to carry messages, runners could cover twenty to twenty-five, or at times, thirty kos in a day. They were called q"asids also. They could easily be identified with a plume on their

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups


heads and two bells tied to their belts. They ran very fast and carried post back and forth with much endurance in a short period. The reason for their ability to withstand prolonged stress was their being addicted to postibhang (opium).99 After consuming it, exhaustion resulting due to continuous running would subside. They were, as a rule, not allowed to speak to anyone on their way. They had to bear the responsibility for any delay in the dispatch of the news as it could bring disgrace to their master especially if the letter was meant for the imperial court or some influential noble, or contained news of serious nature. Generally, they were not pardoned for the negligence.100 MUSICIANS AND SINGERS Nobles maintained musicians and singers on a regular basis. Sometimes concubines entertained their masters who sang ‘melodiously with such elevated and shrill voices, strayned unto highest yet sweet and tuneable’. They could be invited from outside too, who performed in the assemblies of the noble and the rich. Christopher Farewell, who had accompanied Captain Nicholas Downton in 1614, happened to be in Ahmadabad in 1615. He noticed women dancers coming to the residence of (one of the subahd"ars) Abdullah Khan every new moon to perform, ‘so continuing till the viceroy please to dismiss them’.101 Local rulers observed a strange custom of sending their own musicians and dancers to entertain their guests and escort them to their court, in case the visitors happened to be halting at a distance.102 When Charles Dellon visited the ‘Governor’ of a place ‘Mirscon’ (Mirza Khan) south of Goa, the latter arranged for an entertainment of the guest and dancers in his service who performed in his presence.103 MISCELLANEOUS Mughal nobles and their women going to visit places, had a following of bodyguards, maids and slaves, some of them walking ahead to make way while water carriers sprinkled water. Water and perfumes were to be specially sprinkled on the roads when the nobles and princess passed by. Gurzbard"ars (mace-bearers) and


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

harkar " "as (messengers) were an essential feature of such occasions. Water suppliers (saqq"ahs or bhisht∂s / bihisht∂s) remained in constant service supplying water on marches in ‘pots full of water in hanging canes’. Their cortège included two to three hundred ‘peons’, fly drivers, carriers of baggage and umbrella bearers.104 Barbers (hajj"am) were called to massage the arms and shoulders along with their conventional job of dressing hair. Mash"alch∂s105 (lamp-bearers/or who kindle the torch or lamps) and darb"an (door keepers checking carefully each person who intended to get in) were others who were a part of the body of servants kept by the grandees for pomp. Jilaud"ar (a servant who lead the horse of the master), was considered an essential performer in this display of class.106 Europeans, who were not familiar with the lifestyle of the Mughal grandees, noticed with much amazement their lavish ways, especially the number of servants or ‘peons’ they maintained. Norris was welcomed by the governor of Surat who had a large retinue to attend on him and his guests, like trumpeters, state palanquin carriers, peons, lancers, kettle drummers, bagpipers—all in strict order. Thomas Bowrey witnessed a rich merchant of Agra going to visit the Jagannath Temple in Orissa along with a great treasure, and a retinue of ‘spectators’ to witness that year’s feast. He had in his retinue ‘500 Rashboot (Rajput), 6 Palanchinoes (p"a lk∂s or palanquins), 6 state Horses, 3 or 4 very large Stately Tents, 6,000 naked Fackeers, 6,000 more that wore theire ragged and patched coats . . . 500 labouringe men to carry burthens.’107 Bowery categorically said that that people even not having any position in the ‘state’, ‘keep above 300 in constant Sallary’.108 People having resources at their disposal could not manage without keeping servants for doing jobs like—‘fan them with large leather fly flaps and thus cool the air’, during summers. They had attendants to massage their arms that was a ‘very common practice in India, designed to stimulate the circulation of the blood’. Even those who were not exactly ‘rich’ in terms of money or resources displayed their pride, like a Dutch interpreter who was seen moving along with one

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups


umbrella bearer, two fly drivers and a cup bearer demonstrating his state by riding in a chariot (but without a cavalier of course).109 These people, when out on excursion or a visit, were followed by ‘Coolies, Duties, and Palankeen Boys who were by the very Heathens esteemed a degenerate Offspring of the Holencores (hal"alkhors or scavengers; which is not true in this case), and in earnest (excepting the Shape) they come nigh the Brutes’. 110 Different groups were to support their employers during journeys in their own capacity. About the manner in which influential and affluent persons travelled, Fryer further added to the point of discussion, comparing the situation with Europe, in the following words: These are the Machines they journey by: On the Shoulders of the Coolies they load their Provant, and what Movables necessary. The Duties (lampcarriers) march like Furies, with their lighted Massals in their hands (they Pots filled with Oyle in an iron Hoop, like our Beacons and set on fire by stinking Rags). Ambling after these a great pace, the Palankeen-Boys support them; four of them, two at each end of a Bamboo, which is a long hollow Cane, thick, light and strong, arched in the middle (which is done in cases while it is growing), where hangs the Palankeen, as big as an ordinary Couch, broad enough to tumble in; ceiled with Silk, and Bosses pendent to raise withal, and others at each Corner, as our Coaches have; underneath it is laced with strong broad Girts, over which a Quilt, Skin of a Tyger, or Hide to lye upon, and round Pillows of Silk or Velvet, to bolster their heads. At every angle turned Staves, and overspreading it a Scarlet Coverlet of London Cloath.

While himself travelling, Fryer enjoyed similar facilities and concluded by saying that: A Set of these Rascals, who are eight, in a Week’s time with this load shall run down their choicest Horses, and bait them generously shall stage it a Month together.111 Among the personal servants some were there just to fan their master and keep off flies in the day time and insects in the night. It was because of large number of insects, abundant especially between November and May when chances of catching diseases caused by mosquitoes and ‘chinces’ (chinches in Portuguese ‘for a bug’) were high. Servants were specially employed for the same, as Fryer said ‘without which there is no sleeping’.112


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India ARTISANS EMPLOYED IN THE KÅRKHÅNÅS OF THE NOBLES

Mughal nobles too maintained their own k"arkhanas " " on the pattern of royal k"arkhanas. " " Here fine fabric and clothes, jewellery, tapestry, carpets, bedsteads, mirrors, gold and silver service-bowls, perfumes, equipments for horses and elephants, decorated palanquins and weapons, etc., were manufactured for their own use. However, on most of the occasions artisans were employed by force, much against their wishes. These artisans dreaded their masters, but had a reason for it. They always feared that they would not get adequate salaries as they could be picked from anywhere and anytime. Amount of wages given after the completion of work depended upon the will of the master. In case of protest, they had to remain prepared to face a cudgel. Masons were also employed in the same way along with stonecutters, glaziers, rooters and tile makers. Some fortunate ones ‘worked exclusively for their patron (a single master)’, and perhaps were treated better, as is implicit from the words of Bernier.113 Cases of k"arkhanas " " maintained by some specific nobles are also recorded. Abul Faiz Faizi in an arzd"asht (a memorial from an inferior to a superior) sent to his patron Akbar while travelling from Lahore to Burhanpur, informs about the good works done by the h"akim of Sajawalpur (near Sironj), Khwaja Aminuddin that he maintained k"arkhanas " " (karkhanaha) " " " to manufacture cloths (parcha " b"af ∂).115 SERVANTS MAINTAINED BY THE EUROPEANS

‘And not onely they who are publick persons whatever, of whatever Country or Religion, may in these parts live with as much grandeur and equipage as he pleases; and such is the liberty here, that anyone may do, if he will and be able, as much as the King himself.’115 The Portuguese were the first to arrive in India and settle in the western coast, mainly in Goa. Although by the seventeenth century their power had declined, they still managed to spend a luxurious life keeping under them a large number of servants. On outings— umbrella bearers, cushion bearers, farr"a sh or porters of carpets,

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups


sword bearing armed servants and slaves—both men and women, accompanied them. These slaves were kept to earn money for their employers too. Male slaves were sent to the market to work as labourers and female slaves to sell embroidered pieces that they prepared at home. The master utilized their income. Another way to earn money on behalf of the master was to fetch fresh water and sell it in the streets of Goa. Likewise, female slaves did similar service by preparing all sorts of confectionery and conserves of fruits. Young and beautiful girls would then go to the markets to sell these items on behalf of their masters who thought that they might attract men in the streets by their beauty and would motivate them to buy things easily. Slaves, mostly non-Europeans, served as palanquin carriers for the Portuguese masters and their womenfolk. In Goa or other Portuguese settlements, the children of slaves belonged to the master alone.116 Jan Van Linchoten who was in Goa in 1583, noticed the Portuguese ‘gentlemen’ (though, they had by now lost much of their power), going out attended with a slave that carrieth a great Hat or Vayle over their heads . . . so when it raineth . . . a boy that beareth a Cloake of Scarlet . . . to cast over them: . . . and if it be before Noone, he carrieth a Cusion for his Master to kneele on when he heareth Masse, and their Rapier is most commonly carried after them by a boy that it may not trouble them as they walke.117

While going for outing or church, Portuguese women had the privilege of being attended by fifteen to twenty native women. These maids were to go ahead to place in position the carpet, mat, chair and cushions to support her ‘to reach the aisle’.118 The Portuguese in Goa required just an excuse to celebrate, spending time in endless ‘festivals and ceremonials of the Church and the Court, in bathing, in riding . . . or being carried in his palanquin’ (a privilege which was forbidden to them and it could be used only by officers of some rank). ‘Slaves fanned him as he ate; slaves played to him when he dressed and when he went to bed. His evenings passed in luxuriously equipped gaming-dens, . . . girls . . . played and sung; when gambling palled, tedium was beguiled by troupes of jugglers, dancers and wrestlers.’119 Till the last quarter of the seventeenth


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

century situation did not change much as Abbe Carre at Daman witnessed (in 1672) a Portuguese fidalgo making a demonstration of his status and power in the same manner. In the month of November Abbe Carre set out from Surat for Masulipatam via Daman when he received the message of the said fidalgo. He narrated the event with much curiosity: Dom Francisco Gonsalve de St. Paye, one of the richest citizens of Daman, asking me to wait an hour for him, as he wished to accompany me to Tarapur, where he was going to visit his farms and tenancies. . . , I saw my Portuguese arriving with an escort of slaves, armed with matchlocks, javelins, and some of the sort of blunderbuss, so large and bulky that its balls must have weighed at least two lb. I was amazed at the weight of the arms which these Caffres are obliged to carry, which following on foot their master’s palanquins, which go more quickly than a horse would.120

The English and the Dutch merchants too emulated the ways of the aristocracy, which they were able to do it successfully to some degree. The president of the English factory and the commendator (or chief ) of the Dutch factory went abroad with the same retinue as Mughal grandees, accompanied by a long train of attendants, sometimes by their own men on horseback, but especially by a great number of Indian servants on foot, armed in the native manner.121 Pietro Della Valle’s description in this regard based on his personal observation is very interesting. While in Surat in 1623-4, the seat of European companies’ trade in western India, he records that: I must not forbear to say that both of them live in sufficient splendour, and after the manner of the greatest persons of the Country. They go abroad with a great train, sometimes also with their own men on Horse-back; but especially with a great number of servants on foot, arm’d according to the mode, with Sword, Buckler, Bows and Arrows. For ‘tis the custom of servants in India, whether Mahometans or gentiles, to go always arm’d not onely upon a journey but also in the City, and to serve in the house all day with the same weapons by their sides, and never to lay them off, saving at night when they go to sleep. Moreover, these two Governours of the two Frank or Christian Nations, which reside in Surat, use to have carried before their Coach or Horse, when they ride, a very high Bannerol or Steamer by a man on foot; (which likewise is the custome of all men of quality here), and likewise to have a saddled horse

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups


lead by hand before them; and not only they who are publick persons, but any private person of whatever Country or Religion, may live in these parts with as much grandeur and equipage as he pleases; and such is the Liberty here. [He elaborates further that a man could live] with as much grandeur and equipage as he pleases; and such is the liberty here, that everyone may do, if he will and be able, as much as the king himself.122

François Martin was awestruck when he saw the Dutch ambassador near Golconda in 1671. The ambassador was accompanied by ten European guards and two hundred ‘natives’, and notified that ‘these numbers were to be further augmented on his arrival at Golconda’.123 Similarly, when he saw a Dutch mission at Devanapattnam going towards Gingee in the court of Shivaji, he was quite impressed with the number of Indian soldiers and flag bearers marching ahead with their own musical instruments.124 Musicians played on instruments all along the way to enhance their prestige. Musicians also followed the cavalcade of the Europeans while on deputations to the courts of Indian rulers. He noted that various musicians playing on instruments followed it.125 Friar Domingo Navarrete took keen notice of the practices of European factors in those parts, especially the English who were then (in 1670) in a commanding position in the town of Madras. There some of them maintained individually more than hundred ‘native’ servants, ‘who are most faithful, submissive and punctual in doing what they are commanded’, said he in a tone of approval. He also shares the opinion of many of his compatriots that they were quite ‘chargeable’ and could be satisfied with a little amount in wages. About French too, he wrote that going from Golconda towards Goa, he was accompanied by six ‘officers’. They came out with ‘Four colours, four trumpets, four waits, two kettledrums, sixty servants, and five palanquins, with five or six men to carry each of them; it was a train for a King’.126 A captain of an English ship could be seen walking with half a dozen Rundells (umbrella bearers) all ‘black men’. Even someone new to the country like an English ambassador (Norris?) was seen travelling in a palanquin with hundred peons. Much earlier a Persian ambassador was spotted by an overwhelmed and surprised Thomas Roe with ‘two hundred ordinary peons and attendants on baggage’ in his company.127 In


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

the beginning of the eighteenth century, Charles Lockyer noted that there were about two hundred peons in the constant pay of the Fort and Governor of Madras, and adds at the same time that the number ‘may be augmented to what Number they please’. Elsewhere he again mentions that the Governor seldom goes abroad with less than three or four scores of armed peons besides the English guards to attend on him.128 English factors, finding the charges for employing servants cheap, even carried them (treating them almost as slaves) especially from Coromandal, Bengal and Gujarat, to serve as labourers to SouthEast Asia like Banda, Bantam, etc., and sometimes even to places like St. Helena (on the African coast).129 They were sent as ‘servants’ or ‘slaves’ by the English and Dutch alike. The chief factors of English East India Company were also permitted to bring along some English servants to serve them in India. These servants arriving with the high ranking officers, like president, governor or the chief of the factory, to perform duties within the premises, were brought at the expense of the Company. By the second half of the seventeenth century, however, it was made clear that their expenses will be meted out by the employees (i.e. Company’s servants) themselves. Sometimes, security concerns made them keep ‘all English’ servants especially inside the newly constructed forts. Hence, requests were made not only to send domestic servants but also those who could be employed in productive activities, e.g. women, expert in knitting and spinning who could make cotton stockings and gloves not only for their own use but to sell to the Indians as well. They could be allowed to marry their own people as marriages with local women or other (Protestant and non-Protestant) Europeans were not appreciated.130 Indian servants were usually employed to accompany the merchants in the market. They served as porters, umbrella, palanquin or flag bearers, fly drivers, players on musical instruments, messengers, guards to protect caravans carrying goods of the Company, armed soldiers, gardeners, washers, carters, watchmen, menials, etc. Usually, they were put on permanent roll. Temporary services were required from barbers, carpenters, smiths, milkmen, masons, etc., in case when no big projects were in progress. Otherwise,

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups


European engineers were required to supervise Indian masons and others. Inside the Dutch factories, where some factors had their families, Indian female servants were employed to serve the inmates. 131 English factors were repeatedly commanded by the directors of their Company to restrict the number of servants under them. At least from 1635 CE onwards, instructions were regularly issued to them, indicating that for administration in England it was a matter of worry as huge amount of money was being incurred on account of payments made to them. They were instructed like—‘Considering the badness of times, the regular staff of the servants should not exceed ten . . . a Khidmatgar (personal servant) for the chief and second factors, a cook, a poster (messenger?), a waterman, a coachman, and four for “accidental employments”; besides the washer and a “ahalkor” (hal"alkhor or scavenger).’ At the same time the President and the Council promised to increase the number of servants under the English factors if felt necessary, but if someone kept anyone without permission, expenses were to be charged to the chief ’s account.132 The very next year, in 1638, chief factors in Masulipatam, including one Mr. Pinson were facing charges of being guilty of having adopted a lavish lifestyle. While they were allowed to keep two servants, this gentleman lived ‘at a very high and extraordinary rate in the expense of the Companie’ keeping ten horses, two oxen, two palanquins, forty to eighty servants. And while going out for ‘recreation’, he was accompanied by two flag bearers, one fencer, some roundeleeroes (umbrella-bearers), horsemen and footmen, including English and Indian servants. Another fellow was criticized for keeping twenty servants and paying part of their wages from Company’s accounts.133 To some extent, the authorities were able to bring them under control, but Englishmen were enticed by the extremely luxurious way of life of the Mughal nobles and Indians having wealth and status, hence always eager to put aside such instructions. As servants could be hired at small rates, factors at Viravasram (north of Masulipatam) kept on their roll seventy servants ‘of different sorts’ by paying a meagre amount as commodities and food grains were also cheap there. Likewise, they were further asked to avoid over-spending like on maintaining dogs inside


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

the premises. They somehow managed to take permission to entertain their European guests in Indian fashion ‘with pretty black female dancers’.134 It was taken as a matter of prestige and a show of their nations’ status to the Indian authorities. In the wake of criticism for keeping too many servants on Company’s charge, Company merchants repeatedly explained it to their masters. The practice of keeping a vast number of servants or ‘peons’—as they were called by the Europeans, was considered a symbol of status and a man who even did not have any position in the state could ‘keep above 300 in constant Sallary which is Ordinarily 2 rupees every Moone’. Similarly, state officials like a kotw"al could manage to be attended by several peons and armed soldiers; and a faujd"ar with horsemen, five palanquins and twenty to thirty peons when going out.135 All the details in this respect suggest that social milieu and low prices and wages were responsible for employing servants in large numbers. NOTES 1. India at the Death of Akbar, pp. 87, 93. 2. Akbar was an exception who abolished the practice of sale and purchase of slaves in the Empire. 3. Niccolo Manucci, Storia de Mogor 1653-1708, 4 vols., tr. William Irvine, London, 1907, vol. II, p. 358. 4. Thomas Roe, Purchas His Pilgrimes, vol. IV, p. 328. 5. Hawkins’ Voyages, ed. C.R. Markham, London, 1878, p. 420. Francois Bernier gives details of the Mughal Emperor’s entourage. Travels in the Mogal Empire, 1656-68, tr. A Constable, revd. edn., ed. V.A. Smith, London, pp. 220-1. 6. Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes, 20 vols., Hakluyt Society, 1905. Edward Terry, Purchas His Pilgrimes, vol. IX, p. 48. He adds that the ‘Master of eunuchs’ acted as steward and comptroller of the royal household. 7. Manucci, vol. II, p. 50; Thomas Roe, Purchas His Pilgrimes, vol. IV, p. 327. 8. Fray Sebastian Manrique, 1621-43, Travels of Fray Sebastian Manrique, tr. Lt. Col. Luaad, 2 vols., Hakluyt Society, London, 1927, vol. II, p. 270. 9. Manucci, vol. II, pp. 351-2.

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10. Manrique, vol. II, p. 195. 11. Harihar Das (ed.), Norris Embassy to Aurangzeb, 1699-1702, S.C. Sarkar, Calcutta, 1959, p. 264. 12. Manucci, vol. II, p. 331. 13. Manrique, vol. II, pp. 195, 215-19. 14. Jean Babtiste Tavernier, Tavernier’s Travels in India, 1641-68, ed. V. Ball and William Crooke, 2 vols. (rpt.), Delhi, 1977, vol. I, p. 312. He further says that ladies of ‘Great Moguls . . . generally go out nine O’ Clock in the morning’. 15. Manrique, vol. II, p. 184; Joaness De Laet, Empire of the Great Mogul, tr. J.S. Hoyland, Leyden, 1931, p. 99. 16. Jeaness De Laet, p. 99. 17. Father Monserrate, The Commentary of Father Monserrate, tr. J.S. Hoyland and annotated by S.N. Banerjee, Cuttack, 1922, p. 31. 18. Rizqullah Mushtaqi, W"aqiat-i " Mushtaqi, " ed. I.H. Siddiqui & W.H. Siddiqi (eds.), Raza Library, Rampur, 2002, p. 65. 19. F.C. Danvers, Letters Received by the East India Company from its Servants in the East, 1602-17, ed. William Foster, 6 vols. London, 1911, vol. V, p. 89. 20. W"aqiat-i Mushtaqi, " p. 203. 21. Manrique, vol. II, p. 161 & n. (1640-1). William Finch counted them ‘hundreds’ in number, and that they were allowed inside to perform before the Emperor or his ladies in batches, and in many cases their turn usually came once a week. Manrique gives the figure as four hundred. 22. Bernier, pp. 273-4. 23. William Finch, Purchas His Pilgrimes, vol. IV, p. 74; Edward Terry, Parchas His Pilgriems, vol. IX, p. 24. 24. John Ovington in India in the Seventeenth Century, ed. G.P. Guha, Delhi. rpt., 1974, p. 100; John Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, ed. H.G. Rawlinson (a reproduction of 1696 edn.), p. 136; Bernier, p. 261. 25. William Finch, Purchas His Pilgrimes, vol. IV, p. 74; Joaness De Laet, p. 97; Careri, Indian Travels, pp. 220, 243; Thomas Roe, Purchas, vol. IV, p. 375. 26. Manrique, vol. II, p. 163. 27. Manucci, vol. I, pp. 88-9. It is a compound of the Persian words gurz— a mace, and bard"ar—a bearer. 28. Bernier, p. 263. 29. John Ovington cf. India in the Seventeenth Century, ed. G.P. Guha, p. 140; Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689 in H.G. Rawlinson (ed.), pp. 185-6; Careri, Indian Travels, p. 220; The Travels of Peter Mundy. . . , (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 195; Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. II,



31. 32.


34. 35. 36. 37.

38. 39. 40. 41.

42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India pp. 344, 371. Word ‘Chatr’ used for canopy, and ‘bardar " ’ meaning a bearer or carrier. Thomas Roe, Purchas His Pilgrimes, vol. IV, p. 378; Manucci, vol. II, p. 70. Edward Terry in M. Azhar Ansari, European Travellers under the Mughals, 1580-1627, Delhi, 1975, p. 78; Hawkin’s Voyages (C.R. Markham), p. 420; Bernier, pp. 356, 364. Ovington cf. India in the Seventeenth Century, ed. G.P. Guha, p. 101; Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, H.G. Rawlinson, p. 137. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, p. 147; Åin-i Akbar∂ , tr. Blochmann, vol. I, p. 262; Faizi received a letter from Akbar in Deccan sent through a Meo. Insh"a-i Faizi, p. 161. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, p. 146; tr. H. Blochmann, vol. I, p. 262; Jahangir, Tuzuk-i Jahang∂ri, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, Sir Syed Academy, Aligarh, 2007, p. 268; Henry Beveridge (tr.), Tuzuk-i Jahang∂ri, pt. II, p. 83. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, p. 163; tr. H. Blochmann, vol. I, p. 293. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, p. 146; tr. H. Blochmann, vol. I, p. 261; Manucci, vol. II, p. 42. William Foster (ed.), English Factories in India, 1622-23, p. 314. Monserrate,The Commentary of Father Monserrate, pp. 80-1; English Factories, 1622-23, p. 314. Later it happened to be the cavalcade of Prince Shahjahan who had rebelled against his father and was moving in the region along with his army and attendants. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, pp. 41-2; tr. H. Blochmann, vol. I, pp. 47-9. Bernier, p. 359. Ibid., p. 380. English Factories, 1622-23, p. 314. (November 1623). Author of W"aqiat" ∂ Musht"aqi states that during the siege of Kalinjar Sher Shah had employed thirty-two thousand labourers (mazdur " ) along with the soldiers and dealers (b"az"ar∂). They were paid two lakh of tank"as, p. 144. W"aqiat-i " Mushtaqi, " p. 69. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, p. 148; tr. H. Blochmann, vol. I, p. 264. Tavernier, vol. I, pp. 312-13. Bernier, p. 370 Ibid., pp. 370-2. Ibid., p. 278. W"aqiat-i " Mushtaqi, " p. 213.

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups


49. Eleven servants were required for two elephants, five adults and a boy for each. A boy was considered ‘half ’ to a an adult servant. H. Blochman (tr.), Åin-i Akbar∂, p. 132n; ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, pp. 97-8. 50. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, pp. 97-8; tr. H. Blochmann, vol. I, pp. 132-3. 51. Grooms were also known as ch"avadar. " " Waqiat-i " " Mushtaqi, " p. 69. 52. W"aqiat-i " Mushtaqi, " p. 129. 53. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, pp. 106-7; tr. H. Blochmann, vol. I, pp. 145-7. 54. Ibid., pp. 109-10; ibid., p. 151. 55. Ibid., pp. 110-11; ibid., p. 155. 56. Blochmann translates it as ‘Hindus’. Åin-i Akbar∂, vol. I, p. 155. 57. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, p.112; tr. H. Blochmann, vol. I, p. 156. 58. Åin-i Akbar∂, p. 112, ibid., pp. 155-6. 59. Ibid., pp. 113-14; ibid., pp. 157-9. 60. Kh"assah indicates that the animals were for imperial use. 61. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, p. 114; tr. H. Blochmann, vol. I, p. 159. 62. Ibid., p. 166, ibid., p. 297. 63. Ibid., p. 166, ibid., p. 298. 64. Ibid., p. 166, ibid., p. 298. 65. Ibid., ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, pp. 163-72; ibid., p. 295-308. Monserrate, p. 200; G.P. Guha, India in the Seventeenth Century, p. 84 & John Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, H.G. Rawlinson (ed.), pp. 160-2; Manucci, vol. II, pp. 363-4; Pelsaert, p. 51; Manrique, vol. II, p. 270; Hawkins, p. 425. 66. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, pp. 163, 166; tr. H. Blochmann, vol. I, pp. 293, 297. 67. Ibid., p. 167, ibid., pp. 298-9. 68. Bernier, pp. 228-9; Monserrate, 201; Thevenot gives a vivid description of Golconda Fort where artisans were provided lodgings also. Indian Travels, p. 138. 69. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, pp. 38-9, 42, 60-1, 73-4, 84-5, 88-9; tr. H. Blochmann, vol. I, pp. 57, 78-9, 102, 115. 70. Ibid., pp. 71; ibid., p. 93. 71. Ibid., pp. 40-1; ibid., pp. 59-61. 72. Urban Crafts and Craftsmen in Medieval India (Thirteenth to Eighteenth Centuries), p. 61. 73. In Malabar masons were known as yravas. Tome Pires, The Suma Oriental, ed. Armando Cortesao, 2 vols., London, 1944, vol. I, p. 72.

66 74. 75. 76. 77. 78.



81. 82. 83. 84. 85. 86. 87. 88. 89.

90. 91. 92. 93. 94. 95.

96. 97. 98.

99. 100.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India Hawkins Voyages, p. 442; Hawkins (Purchas), vol. III, p. 51. Monserrate, p. 200. Monserrate (M. Azhar Ansari), p. 8. Manrique, vol. II, p. 172. Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi, Fathpur Sikri Revisited, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 176-84. He asserts that these symbols and signature were commonly inscribed by the stone cutters. Pushpa Prasad, Sanskrit Inscriptions of Delhi Sultanate: 1191-1526, Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 217. Though defaced at places, some names can be deciphered as Tulsi, Hiradevi Das, Madholal, Badr, etc. Joaness De Laet, pp. 83, 89-90. He adds that they stick so closely to their own task that they think it sacrilege to touch the work of another servant even with one of their fingers. Bernier, p. 213; Careri, Indian Travels, p. 243. Thomas Roe (Purchas), vol. IV, pp. 437-40. Norris Embassy to Aurangzeb, p. 194. Bernier, pp. 214, 283. Pietro Della Valle, Pietro’s Pilgrimage, ed. Wilfred Blunt, p. 243. Bernier, p. 236. Thomas Bowrey, A Geographical Description of the Countries Round the Bay of Bengal, ed. R.C. Temple, Hakluyt Society, London, 1905, p. 83. Pelsaert, pp. 61-2. English Factories, 1634-6, p. 293 (September 1636). Nobles were to pay visit to the imperial palace to mount guard every morning and evening. They were accompanied by four servants only—two behind and two before, to clear the streets for their masters. Bernier, pp. 267, 282. Bernier, p. 221. Pelsaert, pp. 65-8. Thevenot, pp. 143-4. Pelsaert, p. 64; De Laet, p. 83. The Travels of Pietro Della Valle in India, ed. Edward Grey, vol. I, pp. 31, 83. Thomas Bowrey, pp. 64, 94-5, 157, 207. He added that the reason for the‘Moors’ (Muslims) having many wives and concubines, was for prevention of adultery. Edward Terry (M. Azhar Ansari), pp. 85, 94. Pelsaert, pp. 61-2, 65, 68. English Factories, 1622-3, p. 13; Diaries of William Hedges, 1681-97, ed. Henry Yule, 3 vols., Hakluyt Society, London, 1887, vol. I, pp. 119-20. Pelsaert, p. 62. Pelsaert, pp. 61-2; Jean Dolche, Transport and Communications in India

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups



103. 104. 105.

106. 107.

108. 109. 110.


112. 113.


Prior to Steam Locomotion, 2 vols., Oxford University Press, 1993, vol. I, p. 213n. Nicholas Downton, A Voyage of Nicholas Downton, 1614-15, ed. William Foster, Hakluyt Society, London, 1931, pp. 144-5, 153; Norris Embassy to Aurangzeb, p. 115. Travels of Sig. Pietro Della Valle, London, 1665, F. Macock and Henry Herringman), pp. 123, 130. When Della Valle reached Ikkeri in November 1623 along with a Portuguese ambassador, local Naik Venkatapa’s men came to escort them, ‘came also a publick dancing woman who performed a pretty piece of Agility in his (ambassador’s) presence’. It happened twice. Charles Dellon, A Voyage to the East Indies, 1668-1679, English tr., London, 1698-9, pp. 58-9. Pelseart, pp. 61-2; Thomas Bowrey, Countries Round the Bay of Bengal, p. 83. Khan-i Azam Aziz Koka’s brother (?) was known for having five hundred mash"alch∂s in his entourage so that ‘whensoever he went from the court to his house in Agra, which was not at least a coarse (kos) no man removed foot with his torch, but stood all alongst to his house’. William Finch (Purchas), vol. IV, p. 53. English Factories, 1622-23, p. 13. Thomas Bowrey, p. 19. Ovington in India in the Seventeenth Century, ed. G.P. Guha, p. 101; Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, ed. H.G. Rawlinson, p. 137. Norris writes about the retinue of a kotwal moving with innumerable peons, and armed soldiers; Norris Embassy, p. 143. Thomas Bowrey, p. 83. De Laet, p. 83; Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 144. John Fryer, vol. I, p. 97. ‘Duties’ is from Hindi duiti or a lamp stand; here a ‘link-bearer’ or lamp-bearer; Friar Domingo Fernandez de Navarrete, Michael Fisher (ed.), Visions of Mughal India, pp. 192-3. He mentions a different kind of umbrella in Golconda, which he says is different and is of ‘large shields gilt and painted of several colours, the servents carry them on their arms, and lifting them up defend their masters from the sun’. Navarrete, cf. Michael Fisher, Visions of Mughal India, p.192. John Fryer, A New Account of East India and Persia (1672-1681), ed. William Crooke, 3 vols., Hakluyt Society, London, 1909-15, vol. I, pp. 97-8. John Fryer, vol. I (Hakluyt), pp. 99-100. Pelsaert, pp. 60-1; Bernier, pp. 255-6.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

114. Insh"a-i Faizi, ed. A.D. Arshad, Lahore, 1972. The work is a collection of arzd"ashts in the form of lataif, " collected by a nephew of Faizi by the name of Nuruddin Mohammad, p. 92. 115. The Travels of Pietro Della Valle in India, ed. Edward Grey, vol. I, pp. 41-2. 116. Mandelslo, Travels in Western India (1638-1639), ed. M.S. Commissariat, Oxford, 1931, p. 81; Pietro Della Valle, Pietro’s Pilgrimage, ed. Wilfrid Blunt, London, 1935, p. 262; Linschoten, Purchas His Pilgrimes, vol. X, p. 234, Pyrard de Lavel, p. 262; Mandelslo’s Travels in Western India, 1638-39, p. 81; Jan Van Linschoten, Purchas His Pilgrimes, vol. X, p. 231; Pietro Della Valle (W. Blunt), pp. 257-60. 117. Pietro’s Pilgrimage, ed. W. Blunt, pp. 257, 260; Linschoten, Purchas His Pilgrimes, pp. 231, 234. 118. Linschoten, (Purchas), p. 260. 119. Ibid., p. 257. 120. Vol. I (Hakluyt, 2nd series), p. 172. The term ‘Caffres’ or K"afir was generally applied by the Arabs to non-believer negroes. Portuguese and other Europeans adopted it from them and applied to Indian servants or soldiers. 121. Della Valle, European Travellers in India, M. Azhar Ansari, p. 7. 122. Travels of Sig. Pietro Della Valle (1623-24), London, 1665, F. Macock & Henry Herringman, pp. 22-3, 43. 123. Lotika Varadarajan, India in the 17th Century, vol. I, pt. I, 1981; vol. I, pt. II, 1983; vol. II, pt. I, 1984; vol. II, pt. II, 1985, Manohar, Delhi, vol. I, pt. I, p. 15. 124. Ibid. 125. Pietro’s Pilgrimage, ed. W. Blunt, p. 7; Travels of Pietro Della Valle, 1665 edn., pp. 22-3; Varadarajan, India in the 17th Century, vol. I, pt. II, p. 598. 126. Friar Domingo Fernandez de Navarette, Michael H. Fisher (ed.),Visions of Mughal India, pp.188, 195. His details on the ritual these ‘servants’ performed at the end of the day inside the Fort St. George, are interesting in the sense how Europeans had adapted to Indian customs. He says that in the evening they would come together to say ‘good night to the factor, governor or commander, and take their leave to go to their own homes to bed. They rank themselves over against the ranks of the fort; some have lighted torches in their hands, others beat kettle-drums, others sound trumpets, others play on fifes, the rest beat their spears and bucklers together for above a quarter of an hour. After this a great lanthorn (lantern) was hung on the top of the governor’s palace; he appear’d at a balcony, they all made him a low bow, and there was an end of the ceremony, which indeed was pleasant enough to see’. But he was

Low-paid Servants, Labourers and other Professional Groups

127. 128. 129. 130.



133. 134.



not happy with the Englishmen and concluded saying: ‘Those gentlemen take great state upon them; I thought it too much’, p. 188. Norris Embassy, pp. 133, 197, 206-7; Thomas Roe (Purchas), vol. IV, p. 367. Charles Lockyer, An Account of the Trade in India, London, 1711, pp.15, 24. English Factories, 1646-50, p. 312. Request from Bantam for ‘native servants’ made to Madras Council in 1650. English Factories, 1622-23, pp. 85, 105-6, 127, 229; 1668-69, pp. 129, 137, 311; 1651-54, p. 53; 1647-50, p. 334; 1661-64, pp. 369-70, 381-2. Della Valle, Edward Grey (ed.), vol. I, p. 28; Charles Lockyer, An Account of the Trade in India, p. 24. Charles Lockyer noticed in Madras that fly drivers or fan bearers in the entourage of the English Governor also acted as dubashes, or interpreters. English Factories, 1634-36, p. 115 (for the year 1635). Somehow, like Indians among them hal"alkhor was counted among not valued house servants. In 1660 too, similar instructions were issued. In 1638 one Thomas Grove being the only English man at Petapolly, was allowed to keep one porter, one cook, one horse keeper, two gardeners, two soldiers, and peon, besides the washerman and his family who were allowed to live in the premises of the Company, and two scribes as well. English Factories, 1637-41, pp. 45, 48-9 & n. English Factories, 1637-41, pp. 48-9 & n. English Factories, 1656-50, p. 261. An English factor John Drake sent from Surat to recover money from Raja Chatrasal (1636) of Bundi camping in the vicinity of Burhanpur. His grandfather had bought tapestry from the English but not paid for a long period. Drake was not happy with the arrangements, as he records ‘for the sake of money’, he had to go ‘as a private man’ (not as an ambassador or a representative of the English Company), without a present for the raja, or attendants other than ‘a porter or mesure [Hind. Mazur] (or mazd"ur), a horsekeeper and five other peons for the journey’. English Factories 1634-36, p. 257; Philip Anderson, English in Western India, 1858, p. 136. Ovington cf. India in the Seventeenth Century, ed. G.P. Guha, p. 101; Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, ed. H.G. Rawlinson, p. 228; Norris Embassy, p. 143.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India



Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


WEAVERS ‘Textiles were the foundation of Indo-european commerce.’1 Textiles of various types were so strenuously sought by all that a European was forced to write: ‘All the countries of India are filled with workers, weavers, spinners and other people who work at the cultivation of cotton’.2 A stable Mughal Empire with increased demand of goods among various groups of royalty, nobility and the rich, enhanced production in every sphere. An extensive wardrobe was needed for one who moved in the circle of the nobility and the rich. This coupled with the steady and gradually increasing demand of textiles, along with other goods, by the European companies—the Dutch, English and French and to some extent the Danes—which ultimately lead to unprecedented growth of the textile industry in India. For the seventeenth century, textile industry can be classified into two major sectors—silk and cotton. The main centres of weaving industry were: in Bengal— Dhaka, Murshidabad, Qasimbazar; in Gujarat—Surat, Ahmadabad, Baroda, Baroach; in Sind–Thatta, Sehwan and Nasarpur; in northern and western India—Agra, Delhi, Lahore, Patna, Banaras, and Multan; in the Deccan—Burhanpur, Masulipatam, Nizampattam, and many other towns and cities; in Orissa—Cuttack and Balasore; and in Malwa—Chanderi, Sironj, Sarangpur, Ujjain, etc. Almost every region, rather every city had become famous for a variety of its own. Weavers were known as p"archab " "af, miqn’abaf " or n"urbaf " .3

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


The early nineteenth century illustrated work Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am has some more words identifying the weavers, such as jol"ah, mult"an∂ jol"ah, tant bae " , koband, momin (for Muslim weavers), etc.4 In south India they were identified as k"arugar or aruvai.5 Silk textiles were not only in great demand among the nobles, rich and higher strata of the Indian society and Europeans wandered to procure exclusive varieties to take to Europe and wherever they thought it fit for sale. For the use of emperor and his household, silk was produced in the royal k"arkh" an"as. But it was not enough and best varieties were exclusively produced for the royal use at different centres of production. Merchants required them from the market to fulfil the ever-growing demand the world over. European merchants have recorded about hundred and fifty varieties of cloths produced in India. However, cotton textiles of India had no rival in the contemporary world as far as variety and volume of production is concerned. Dhaka was famous for its fine muslin and other silk and cotton stuffs which were produced alike in all the provinces of the Mughal Empire. Gujarat was famous for a special variety of calico—b"aft"a—while Banaras and Ahmadabad earned the repute of great centres of embroidered silk. At Maqsudabad, Qasimbazar and Hugli immense quantities of silk and cotton were manufactured. Peasants and others processed yarn in their home who sold it to the weavers as the reference categorically suggests. ‘It is made or spun in the out villadges by the poorest sort of people; from whence it is gleaned up by persons that trade in it’.6 Weavers often prepared it themselves, but huge demand of finished pieces of cloths prevented them to take up the basic job of winding yarn. Various sources testify that yarn was spun in villages and urban areas alike. Mostly women of peasant families and otherwise, were involved in the job and yarn was brought to the market by themselves as well as menfolk. There were merchants who collected yarn from various places and sold it in the market. Georges Roques memoir denotes that it was the merchants or brokers who purchased yarn from ‘door to door’ and then handed it over to the weavers.7 Eugenia Vanina has pointed out towards the custom of division of labour and has prepared a table in support of her statement. In this me-


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

ticulously prepared table she has shown the gradual process of division of labour in the weaving industry between twelfth to eighteenth centuries.8 In Bengal and coastal areas, cloth manufacturing was a family affair. Women usually spun the thread.9 Yarn manufacturing was in itself a profit generating industry as English and Dutch merchants used to buy a sizeable quantity of yarn to take to England and Netherlands. They required raw silk for export from here. Finished products of silk, cotton, velvet and carpets were the main objects of trade for European Companies. It would not be out of context to have an idea of the capacity of the weavers who could flood the markets with their products on daily or annual basis as many towns were having a dense population of weavers. Lakhawar weavers (near Agra) are reported for bringing out one thousand pieces of cloth daily. Nasarpur near Thatta was, as per the observation made in 1635, inhabited by nearly three thousand families of weavers. Another notable centre of cotton textiles was Sehwan in Sind where most of the time not less than one thousand households of weavers remained busy in making fine quality b"afta" . In Thatta itself three thousand families are reported to be producing varieties like chequered alejaes largely meant for Persia and Turkey, perhaps due to Thatta’s being in close proximity of these two great empires. Likewise, most of the inhabitants of Sakkhar were weavers and dyers. Only for making cotton textiles, there were about seven thousand looms in Banaras. Excellent baft " as " were prepared in Baroach where the majority of the population was of weavers. Weavers of a small town (not identified) near Surat had the capacity of producing thousands of pieces (13,420 pieces against a demand of 14,000 in 1678) in ‘emergency’. Gandeve, situated ‘nine Dutch miles’ (almost thirty to thirty-five miles) south of Surat was ‘a small town, or rather a large village’ where all the inhabitants were weavers. Adjacent localities of Masulipatam had a large population of weavers and chintz makers. Masulipatam chints were counted among the best produced in India, as Bernier remarked ‘The superior colours of Masulipatam chittes or cloth, painted by hand, whose freshness seems to improve by washing, are also ascribed (like Kashmir shawls) to the water peculiar to that town’. Near Masulipatam, Mada-

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


pollam’s identity was of an area where ‘all the countrys neare it being (populated by) weavers’. Pulicat, a Dutch settlement north of Madras, was a centre where merchants could obtain cotton cloths in an enormous quantity. Narsapur was another place in the Coromandal area which was inhabited by many weavers, painters (i.e. printers of cloth), tailors and others.10 Vijaya Ramaswamy explains the occurrence of multiplication of centres of textile production, the result of growing demand of goods generated by the European companies. She is also of the view that Europeans built their settlements near such clusters to procure goods easily, and that almost all the important towns in Coromandal were surrounded by textile producing villages.11 A seventeenth-century Dutchman Daniel Havert (1671-85), other than well-known places in the Coromandal, speaks of Warangal, Ellur, Mustabad (perhaps Mustafabad), Manglagiri, Maliporo, Ventapollam, Kanchipuram and Tanjavur, etc., as the towns, some of these newly emerging, as places where a variety of textiles could be obtained.12 The French factor François Martin gives a picturesque account of his journey from Pondicherry to Surat via Madras in 1681. En route he came across many villages, towns and cities that were full of people involved in the profession of weaving. Near Armagon townships like Krishnapatnam, Gangapatnam, Vetapalem, Manglagiri were identified by him as ‘towns of weavers and painters’. Further ahead, near Aurangabad he found a newly founded city Dharangaon which was largely inhabited by weavers where varieties of cloths were manufactured. Before Surat he passed through Erandol and Goudely, where he ‘bought’ many samples of cloths worth investing in and took them to Surat for further consideration.13 Maqsudabad in Bengal had innumerable silk ‘wynders, expert workmen and labour’, their charges cheaper by a third than elsewhere. Silk weavers of Qasimbazar alone supplied twenty-two thousand bales of finished pieces, each bale weighing one hundred ‘livre’ or sixteen hundred ounces.14 A number of places in Gujarat, Bengal, Deccan and Coromandal are reported to be well inhabited by the families of weavers, printers and washers of cloths. The Town of Shahzadpur near Kara (Allahabad) had a reputation for manufacturing and supplying good quantity of chints.15 Surat enjoyed the status of being one of


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

the chief centres of acquiring cotton and silk pieces where Parsis were considered ‘very industrious and diligent and careful to train up their children to arts and labour’. They were ‘the principal men at loom in all the country (i.e., Surat) and most of the silks and stuffs at Surat are made by their hands’, noted Ovington. Weavers at nearby port-town of Swally (Swali), before the famine of the 1630s, could bring to the market fifteen bales of cloth daily, which declined to almost nil during the period of great crisis. When the English reached Hariharpur in Orissa in the 1630s to make a warehouse there with the permission of the subahd" ar of Orissa (or Cuttack), it surprised them that the area was full of people—some of them being merchants, and around three thousand weavers had already been dwelling in the town; and also commodities being sold at cheap rates.16 Weavers required adequate space to manufacture the pieces as the reason had been noted by Robert Orme— ‘The thread is laid the whole length of the piece cloth: hence the weavers live entirely in villages, as they could work no where else in the manner’.17 Weavers usually sold their products, finished in all respect, directly in the market.18 Brokers as mediators also contacted them on behalf of Indian and foreign merchants. Hence, while supplying in bulk, weavers often handed over goods without a wash and bleach.19 One would find the comment of Orme about the multiplicity of weavers eccentric when he says that ‘it is observable, that the manufacturers of cloth prevail most, both in quantity and perfection, in those provinces where the people are least capable of robust labour’.20 In Kashmir shawls were manufactured in huge quantities, so much so that it was considered a ‘staple commodity’ of the region. People earned their ‘wealth’ by producing shawls and related items and this industry provided ‘occupation even to children’.21 Shawls were of two qualities—one made with the wool obtained from the common breed of sheep, and the other made of hair obtained from the breast of a particular species of (a wild) goat found in the upper parts of Kashmir. Shawls of the first variety were considered ‘finer and more delicate than that of Spain’. It was sold at different rates and prices could go as high as fifty rupees per piece. The second variety was known as touz, t"us or tosh, and could fetch a

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


price as high as rupees one hundred and fifty for a single piece in the market. The standard size of a shawl was ‘about an ell and a half long, and an ell broad’. At both ends embroidery was done.22 Experiments failed to manufacture similar shawls elsewhere. Though the work was done with much possible care, it never had the delicate texture and softness of ‘Kachemire shawls, whose unrivalled excellance may be owing to certain properties in the water of that country’.23 To support the textile industry and to carry out the huge demand of the finished goods the custom of d"adni, also known as ‘imprest money’ (impressed money)24 or money given in advance to the weavers to produce goods, had been an old practice which became more common in the seventeenth century. Weavers required certain amount of money in response to orders received for manufacturing cloths in bulk. Without payment of some amount in the form of contract in advance, it was rather impossible to obtain cloths by the merchant. An evidence from the Dutch sources points clearly towards the trend. In 1624, they could not send any cotton goods from Pulicat to Java and Malay region citing the reason ‘due to shortage of funds, contracts for these goods had been put out rather late. The cloths have to be procured entirely against contracts and advances and not one packet could be obtained against ready cash’.25 D"a dni, or advance money, could be extended directly to the weavers or given through a broker.26 In Bengal another term for d"adni was barhni which the Europeans used to call as ‘burgunny’.27 Finished pieces could be procured directly from the weavers at bazar rate.28 However, the preferred way was to purchase through brokers as they stood surety for procurement of the cloth. D"adni, in most of the cases, was to be extended at least ‘8 and 10 months beforehand’, or in ‘off-season’, at the end, or beginning of the year when most of the European ships would leave the Indian shores, and ‘when the demand of the goods was small and the weavers unemployed’.29 It helped the merchants procure the cloths of desired length, breadth and colour, and somewhat cheaper.30 At times they had to pay some extra amount to get made silk and cotton pieces of desired quality and size, like those measuring ‘full Jehangir


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

coved broad which is yeard (yard), half quarter English’, as an English merchant had conveyed once to his superiors. This practice common among weavers, i.e. securing partial amount in advance, was due to certain concerns. They feared that after placing the order, if such pieces were not picked by the European merchants (here English), they would not be able to find buyers for such pieces of extra length and breadth other than what was normally produced for the local markets.31 Another reason behind their anxiety was that they had to alter the loom for the purpose. It required a lot of time to fix it anew by dismantling the old one for making pieces of specific breadth (different than produced usually); and again reverting back to the former shape (to make cloths of normal size which were usually sold in Indian markets).32 Apart from this, ‘new looms’ were required (perhaps of different type than usual) to make special varieties of silk like patola—‘a soft silk stuff decorated with flowers of different colours’, according to the patterns in demand in foreign markets. As the goods for foreign markets were expected to be made of good quality yarn, weavers avoided to change their routine as weaving with thicker yarn (generally used for b"afta" ) was less time consuming than working on altered looms and using fine thin yarn for the Europeans. Hence, only big orders could keep them occupied for the whole year.33 Weavers could even ask for advance not only to buy raw material, but to alter their looms as well. Somehow, European merchants, especially the English were not sometimes sure of getting the desired material even after paying advance money. They observed that the weavers charged high rates for that and their attitude was rather discouraging; or that they ‘being full of employment in weaving sundry sorts of goods for the markettes abroad’, would not entertain them. One more reason ascribed to their reluctance was that when the Dutch were not a bit unwilling in accepting ‘short’ pieces, the weavers would not bother much about the matter and would not show a great deal of concern for the requests of the Englishmen for making pieces of specific dimension. Moreover, English merchants themselves admitted that their extraordinary consciousness and strictness in asking weavers manufacture pieces of ‘true length and breadth’ was itself an obstacle in procur-

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


ing goods of their choice. Often, weavers refused to oblige the foreign merchants to make ‘pieces more than 35 Agra covid long’, which to them was ‘exactly 8/9ths of a yard or 32 inches’. It is also noted that ‘for these they demand 1 7/8 and 2 rupees per covid if the quality is to be that of Persian patterns, or 1½ rupees if of goodness of Agra taffetaes’.34 What the English exactly demanded was—‘pieces thirty seven inches broad and fourteen yards long’, as this was the requirement of markets in England. Continuous efforts on their part showed good results as in 1665-7 they succeeded in convincing the weavers to manufacture pieces at Patna and Qasimbazar ‘to perfection through a continued and great charge’. Indian weavers could be induced to make imitations of regional varieties also.35 After temporarily abandoning their factory in Agra, English merchants persuaded Surat weavers to prepare derebends (Dari"abadi " a famous variety of Dariabad) in the town. They also attempted to get it in Agra as well, of specified length ‘13-14 yards and breadth 7/8 of a yard’. Surat weavers, however, refused to oblige as their demand for higher rates was not acceptable to the English. Similarly, an attempt to produce in Madras a variety of ‘taffaties’ of Bengal by the English in 1690s, failed for being a costly affair. The Dutch had engaged the weavers of Masulipatam to produce Bengal taffechellas there.36 It suggests that weavers were ready to emulate designs of other regions without hesitation, but demanded higher rates to execute such designs. As for the European designs, weavers had greatly impressed their clients by their ingenuity in imitating the designs from the West. Ovington admired the Surat weavers in an honest manner—‘The Weavers of Silk will exactly imitate the nicest and most beautiful Patterns that are brought from Europe’.37 Generally, weavers were engaged constantly by the same merchants, as short-term engagements could force them (the weavers) to shift to other places flourishing in trade, or find shelter with others expecting permanent employment or big contracts. There was fierce competition among the English, Dutch and French to engage weavers all over India. Fryer recorded that around Surat, English factors roamed every place to purchase calicoes which had become difficult to procure. They also had ‘to oversee the Weavers,


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

buying up the Cotton-yarn to employ them all the Rains, when they set on foot their Investments, that they may be ready against the Seasons for the Ships; or else the Chiefe Broker imploys Banyans in their steads, who is responsible of their fidelitiy’.38 An interesting reference related to Qasimbazar for the year 1670, indicates towards an atmosphere of intense competition prevailing among the rival merchants who tried to purchase more and more textiles. On this issue an English factor John March, once informed his fellow merchant John Smith who was stationed at Dacca. He reported that to avoid weavers’ possible betrayal peons were especially engaged ‘to look after the weavers and see that they did not dispose of cloth of which advances had been made, or enter the service of the Dutch, “who have not bin wanting in their endeavours to take some of them off ”’.39 Even in the days of peace and order, enormous efforts were to be made to procure textiles, sometimes from remote areas like Kandiaro (south of Bhakkar), where the English claimed themselves to be the ‘sole buyers’ and where weavers were ‘anxious’ to make the cloths of different dimensions for European clients if required. However, it was not easy to maintain such a self-proclaimed ‘monopoly’. In one such case the English Company’s agents had to stay at Kandiaro for full one year to ensure whether the pieces ordered were being manufactured according to their specification or not.40 To ensure the quality even number of threads for warp and weft (Persian, tar " o p"ud )41 were dictated. In one case we hear that when the number of threads for warp was six hundred, weavers were asked to increase it to seven hundred to achieve the desired breadth ‘which is a Guzzerat covet’ came the excuse.42 Georges Roques advises in his manual that pieces of cotton textile should have ‘certain quantity of vissas in the warp which determines the price of cloth’.43 Weavers were constantly pursued to alter their looms and would often face the rejection of their consignment too, if not found fit for export by the client. English merchants started pursuing the weavers as early as 1630s to alter their looms and special orders were issued by their President at Surat to subordinate factories to look into the matter. The President of the English factory at Surat also informed the Company accordingly. He directed his agents at

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


Ahmadabad to pick ‘duttys and baftas . . . but with caution that by altering the weavers looms they procure the long baftas to be of equal breadths with that of Baroch, and their dutteys of full yard broad and 12 yards long’.44 It suggests that Broach weavers had already been producing pieces slightly broader than their counterparts in Ahmadabad. As far as adjusting their looms according to the demands of their new clients is concerned, it is doubtful that they had yet obliged the Europeans to a considerable extent, because a reference in the following years (1634) clearly indicates that they had not been producing pieces of breadth specified by the (English) clients. All the merchants aspiring to buy finished pieces of textiles had to invest money in the form of d"adni. Generally, it was to be extended between February to April to obtain goods the following September or October, which was the season of homeward shipping. Somehow, d"adni was not a sure means of procuring goods at stipulated time. Even after receiving it, weavers could cheat people by obliging others in between, when they were expected to work for those whom they already had entered into an agreement with. However, once established themselves in the country, European (here English) merchants came to a stage where they could assert themselves and threaten weavers through brokers not to sell the goods agreed upon to anyone else (i.e. French or Dutch).45 In 1676, an auditor of the English Company in Madras expressed its reservation in the presence of the Agent of the English settlement (Mr. Longhorn), about the tradition of advancing money to the weavers, brokers and merchants—that in India merchants (i.e. weavers) could not save much due to rampant exploitation. He argued in favour of the practice that weavers: . . . feeding Brahmanys and the extortions of their Avaldars, live merely from hand to mouth, with hardly a ragg to hide their shame; and seldom able to put a peece upon the loome without the money aforehand; in so much that rather than starve, some pedling fellow traveling with his ox . . . may take advantage of their necessity and pick up here and there a little at his own prices. But far great quantitys one must either contract with them who deale up in the country, or send up factors and money distributed up and down to deliver out among the weavers, who will not undertake but at market rates.46


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

While, on one hand, these Europeans wished to get cloths made of their own choice, on the other side expected the goods from the weavers on concessional rates too. English merchants were seen constantly asking for the best quality products at cheapest rates. They had even invited the weavers from far off places—as far as Surat—to Madras to work exclusively for them, and instructed them to maintain the quality too as they did elsewhere.47 There were constant complaints about the behaviour of the weavers that they delayed the work causing immense losses to the investors. Goerge Roques the French factor at Surat, who visited various centres of textile production between Gujarat and Malwa, comes out with details on how the weavers cheated their employers through various tricks.48 To avoid embarrassment, in the Coromandal region the English would stamp the cloths ‘while still in the loom’ so that these could not be sold by others.49 Somehow, weavers had some genuine reasons for not being able to finish the work early despite their best efforts. Wars and famines often caused them much suffering. Famine followed by other calamities in Gujarat in 1630s and Madras region in 1647 much reduced the total population, and that of weavers too, who inhabited most of the towns.50 As per the reports from the Dutch factors at Surat sent to Bantam (11 or 21 December 1631), that at Swally itself, out of two hundred and sixty families of weavers, only ten or eleven survived due to the severe famine followed by heavy rains. Peter Mundy who happened to be in Gujarat during the 1630s’ calamity, reported that only 10 per cent of the population survived in Gujarat and production came down to a half, even much lesser, in important towns like Ahmadabad, Broach, Baroda and Surat. Decline in the number of weavers hit the interest of most of these merchants. The situation became so grave that in cities like Ahmadabad and neighbouring towns where weavers could earlier manage to bring in the market ‘30, 40, or 50 corge [score of pieces of cloth] a day, they (English) could now scarce get 20 or 30 peeces; this in Baroach [Broach]. Att Suratt none at all, and in Barodra [Baroda] noe Factorie att present’, testified Mundy. Weavers were not the only casuality among the textile manufacturers, a large number of washers (washermen), dyers and spinners also perished. Famine and rains resulted

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in the dearness of commodities and rise in prices of all commodities including yarn. English merchants in Surat reported to the Company authorities in England that: . . . yarne which you have formerly bought at 16 ma[hmudis] per maen (maund) is now to be had under 23; and that is not here neither (i.e. Swally and Surat), but about Brodera and Baroach; and if it beareth anywhere a lese price, it is so much further off that when it is brought together the value is equal. But this also promised to be supplied from Bengala.51

Cotton yarn became expensive in the vicinity of Aurangabad in 1682 because of the presence of Aurangzeb’s armies, as yarn was in great demand for making ropes for tethering tents, and for horses of the army. Here weavers faced hardships and volume and quality of production came down to half. English merchants were forced to inform their superiors that the price of yarn ‘having risen by 30 per cent. which made the weavers turn out worse cloth’, i.e. cheaper quality of yarn was being used to manufacture goods. Mughal occupation in Golconda in the 1680s and 1690s brought hardships to the extent that weavers were forced to abandon their homes.52 Crop failure and epidemics could be another reason for delay in producing the ordered pieces. In 1627, poor crop resulted in the rise of prices of yarn and the weavers were forced to sit idle. On the other hand, in 1664, thousands of weavers fled from Surat due to the spread of a deadly fever. It restricted the production activities there and the English and Dutch factors failed to acquire sufficient number of pieces of textiles to send home and to South-East Asia. English factors informed the Company that: ‘All the towns and villages heereabouts are full of sickness, scarce a house free; amoungst which, to your prejudice, the weavers have theire share; that what with many thousands that are fled passed yeare, and the remainder now infected, hath been a great hindrance to your investment’.53 Also, due to the multitude of buyers, in many instances they failed to fulfil the demands of all the merchants. As a result weavers along with fellow washermen and dyers were treated harshly for any discrepancy on their part. Administration usually ensured the merchants’ (not the weaver’s or dyer’s, etc.) security of their investments, hence state officials


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

often coerced weavers and dyers in case of complaints from merchants. An auditor of the English Company in Madras in 1676 raised objection regarding the payment of advance money to weavers saying that they were exploited at all levels and could hardly save money (that was given to them in advance) for investment. The reason he ascribed to it, was that unlike Europe, weavers in India were not extended protection by the state which was the reason of their wretched condition due to undue exactions by the state officials.54 In fact, practice of extortions and bribes and receiving gifts from the merchants, especially Europeans, was quite widespread, hence, subahd"ars and other state officers were obliged to safeguard merchants’ interests. In the European accounts, Shaista Khan has been projected as one of the most corrupt subahd"ars, specially while serving in Bengal. In 1672, while on the one hand, he had ordered through a parwan " a" that English in Bengal and Orissa were to be helped in procuring due debts from the weavers, etc., simultaneously, in an unusual manner, he imposed taxes on the weavers. At Dacca alone, weavers ‘were accustomed to pay the Nawab (Shaista Khan) a fixed annual sum of Rs. 1,500 for the right of making and selling their cloth’. In 1672, he increased the sum to 50,000 ‘by an order that all cloth should be “chopped” (chh"ap, stamped) and should pay a tax of 2 pice in a rupee on each piece, instead of the previous practice, requiring only a gross payment of Rs. 1,500’. As a result, business activities in the area came to a halt. This time the English merchants took the side of the weavers, ‘fearing the change would give undue opportunity of delaying the delivery of goods in order to extort money, and that it might spread all over Bengal, with a demand that English and the Dutch should make similar payments for the passage of their cloth’.55 In 1678, weavers were deceived in an unfair manner in Dharangaon, east of Surat. Due to ongoing war with the Marathas, the Mughal officers imposed a duty on the English merchants amounting to ‘one pice a piece’ on all goods brought to the (English) factory from its neighbourhood. When the English merchants resisted citing the firm"an of the Emperor exempting them from payment of duty in 1667, these officers ‘took to underhand methods such as forcing money from the factory weavers before allowing

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


them to work for it’. In some of the cases, they levied up to 5 per cent of the total value of goods, causing much hardship to the weavers.56 In 1684, while building his house in Surat, Salabat Khan (‘governor’ of Surat), forced the weavers ‘to leave their looms’ and work for him exclusively (either to make draperies and tapestry, or to provide labour). Weavers resisted by way of shutting themselves up ‘and working in the daytime by lamplight’.57 Local governors imposed restrictions on weavers by way of exercising monopoly on textile trade, as was done by the Governor of Masulipatam in 1614, and weavers were forced to sell their merchandize to the English ‘in the night as thieves do their stolen cloaks to brokers’.58 In June 1681 while on his journey from Madras to Surat, the French factor François Martin passed through a village near Petapolly (north of Madras) called Vetapalem. He gives a grim picture of the condition of the weavers and painters, which was an outcome of the insensitive behaviour of the administration and that how flourishing towns could be ruined due to their selfish policies. He wrote that four leading merchants of the area took him and his companions around and that—‘they told me that 4,000 weavers specializing in the weaving of different kinds of cloths were to be found at Vetapalem and the three neighbouring villages’. Since the English and the Dutch had vacated the place due to the differences with the Golconda Court, they now requested the French to stay there and consider their offer. Martin and his men excused themselves because of the same reasons that they too had differences with the court. He speaks about two more neighbouring towns Manglagiri and Hulebi as villages of weavers and painters but ruined due to the oppressive ‘rule’ (behaviour) of the Brahmins, especially Madanna who was the prime minister of the Golconda rulers. About Hulebi he laments the decline in production of printed chints, and wrote that Hulebi in previous times ‘used to be the centre of flourishing manufacture’, and around 2,000 ‘painters lived here, now there were only twenty of them’.59 Local raj " as " were not far behind in making the life of weavers and others associated in the process of production, miserable. On receiving orders of transfer from Orissa (1672?), Saf Shikan Khan demanded that the raja (perhaps a zam∂nd"ar of the area) of Balasore


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

pay Rs. 1,00,000. The zam∂nd"ar could manage Rs. 30,000 only, and for the rest he coerced the weavers, which eventually lead to their flight from the country, ‘disorganizing their [own] industry’.60 It suggests the presence of a large number of weavers in the town on the one hand, and that in extreme conditions, authorities or the rulers could easily bank upon them for a considerable amount, perhaps what they received in the form of d"adni. They were sure that in towns of commercial importance weavers had enough money (d"adni ) and that any amount could easily be extracted from them on short notice. In time of mutual conflicts among the local rulers, weavers and painters were subjected to extortion resulting in their abandoning their looms.61 Howsoever, some new towns also came up due to the limitless demand of textiles in the seventeenth century. Martin refers to a newly founded town Dharangaon, north-west of Aurangabad, where different kinds of cloths were manufactured and he himself took samples of some of them for the Surat factory to show to his fellow merchants for further considerations.62 Despite all kinds of odds, extortions and exploitations, money in advance had to be given in any a case. One explanation in this matter was made by the factors at Madapollam in 1670 that ‘advances for work had to be made, as by reason of the opperession of the Governors and for want of encouragement of the English Resident there’. Also that the weavers were ‘much dispersed and impoverished, so that without mony beforehand there was no possibility of any work to be done’.63 Under such circumstances, when the weavers accepted advance money or raw material to speed up the production, they were not necessarily put in a privileged position. They were now forced to live ‘in debt’ of the merchants (who paid money in advance) who would never had any scruple in forcing them to pay the money back in case of any discrepancy.64 However, merchants who extended advance money (d"adni ) to the weavers and other collateral service providers often faced charges of exploiting them. Yet, merchants were not always at fault. Incidents recorded in contemporary accounts indicate that merchants too were frequently harassed by some of the weavers (including ‘painters’, i.e. dyers). Weavers and others were often joined by the

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


brokers, whereas the latter (i.e. the brokers) were supposed to act as mediators to facilitate the transactions between the weavers and the merchants.65 When d"adni was given to the weavers, a certain amount of it could be deducted in the first stage, out of the total sum. The English factors attributed a reason to it that it was to recover the interest on the money borrowed by the merchants of the ‘Honourable Company’ which they had to pay to carry on its investments. In a consultation held at Qasimbazar in 1676 to regulate affairs of the Company, merchants and factors were asked to take care that: . . . upon all poet [pet] (or current money) Rs., which shall be out to the silk merchants or to the weavers, either upon Dadnee [d"adni, by way of advances] or afterward in full Accompts, shall be deducted Rs.1-4 annas (i.e. one rupee and four annas) " " out of every hundred Rupees at the time of the said payment; upon sicca [Sikka, newly coined rupees] shall be deducted two Rupees per cent and as much more as the Bhatt"a (difference in exchange) shall hereafter rise above one per cent; and upon gold Moors (mohars) shall be charged two annas and a halfe a peece more than the Bazar rate.66

This order was ‘to be observed in all the Factorys’. Merchants and factors, found ways to rip off weavers by deducting commissions stealthily out of this bhatt"a which was fixed officially, as per the order mentioned above (i.e. deduction on money given as advance to the weavers). In 1676, two English factors were charged in Hugli of taking ‘a commission of 2 rupees 13 annas per cent. from the silk merchants and weavers on money belonging to the Company that was paid to them’, in the form of advance. It suggests that they had been utilizing more than 50 per cent amount of commission for themselves (usual rate being one rupee four annas " " on each hundred).67 Many such incidents are recorded in these accounts about the fraudulent methods in vogue among the Company officials. Job Charnock, Chief of Qasimbazar factory (later the founder of the city of Calcutta), in 1682-3 was charged for his involvement in a [mal]practice of exacting ‘2 Rupees on ye hundred from ye Weavers for pricing their Taffaties: and to sell ye Company’s goods: and by light money, 5, 6 and 7 per cent. worse than currant, which these poor fellows, rather than loose their


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

present employment and livelihood, are forced to accept; which at last must of necessity redound to ye Company’s prejudice’. He was also found guilty of making payments in ‘light money’ to the weavers, i.e. paying in currency of lighter weight than of standard weight. Further, he was accused that he had made enormous money by way of advancing ‘Sicca Rupees for Dadny at 2 per cent, and never gives the Company credit for more than 1¼ rupee, by which he gains and putts in his owne pocket Rupees ¾ per cent of all the money he pays, which amounts to a great summe in ye Yeare, at least £1000 Sterling’.68 William Hedges was sent to Hugli as a Chief of the factory and to make enquiry of all such delinquencies. In April 1683, along with Bob Charnock’s case, came up the case of two other factors Threder and Barker, against whom weavers had strongly complained. The complaint was that they ‘tooke from them 4 or 5 tolas upon a over weight, on all their Silk brought into ye Warehouse, besides one or two of ye best Skeyns of Silk that was weighed, in every draught; which amounting to a very considerable summe of mony’. Although, both the factors denied the charges, ‘but ye skeyns out of every draught was confest, and claimed as their due, having been always the custom’. The last claim confirms the widespread practice of illegal exactions in the name of ‘custom’. Weavers kept on demanding satisfaction, but of no avail. Finally, they admitted it.69 Occasionally, strange methods were adopted to cheat, and d"adni could comprise ‘worme eaton decayed corne and pice (which is a copper coyne whereof 32¼ goes to a rupee) [read mahm"ud∂]’, which was given to them (i.e. weavers) ‘at 1 and 1½ pice over and above the rupees reall vallue’. Brokers also charged their own commission, as was witnessed in the case mentioned above. While the broker received 6¼ mahm"ud∂s per piece, he paid to the weavers not more than 53/8 mahm"ud∂s. A case reported for Qasimbazar in 1676, points out towards unrestrained practice of receiving commission in an unlawful manner by the Company brokers. In this case one Gopal Bhai along with his accomplices received Rs. 5,000 in commission from the weavers on d"a dni, at the rate of ‘one half percent’ (read one and a half ).70 When the weavers vended their products directly in the market, they had to pay a certain duty to the kotw"al. Sometimes brokers

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used their influence and prevented weavers bring their cloths in the market to sell directly to the merchants. Weavers had their own agents as brokers, who contacted other brokers of big merchants (sometimes outsiders) for selling off their goods after a good bargain.71 For all the merchants, whether foreign or Indian, it was an arduous job to contact the weavers directly. Brokers or dall"als had to be engaged necessarily for the same. Brokers who participated in transactions on a smaller scale (retail dealers), were known as paik"ars. They were responsible for maintaining a link between the merchants and the weavers.72 Such brokers did not enjoy repute for ‘Being generally poor and Litigious, and if the Picars of weavers faile, seldome pay their remaynes, but never without contest, trouble and charge’, and often failed in their duty of giving advance amount and procure goods for the clients. English merchants criticized such agents (brokers) for ill-treating the weavers, which forced them (the weavers) to divert their products to other competitors like the Dutch. In most of the circumstances, it happened due to the nonpayment of money and ill-treatment meted out to the weavers that forced them shift their loyalties. Often the brokers accepted dâdni from one client and would sell off goods to others. Hence, weavers too, did not lag in malpractices. Merchants had their own grievances against these weavers. One such information is worthy of quote: Besides, those weavers are a company of base rouges, for, notwithstanding wee give them mony aforehande [ ] part of the yeare, and that in the time of their greatest want, yet, if any pedling cloth merchant comes to buy, they leave us, and worke for him, though hee gives noe money aforehande; beeing the ordinary base make is more facill and easy to weave then ours, with which they must take some paine.73

In 1676 during the deliberations held at Qasimbazar, it was also decided not to employ such brokers further. It would not be out of context to note that European factors while entering into agreement with the weavers, and for allied services like washing, dyeing and bleaching, etc., kept record of all details. Even things minute in nature respecting the conditions of


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

contracts—like quality, colour and size of the cloth to be manufactured, were meticulously entered into the books. Record of the amount paid in the form of d"adni was also maintained. Copies of these record-books were sent annually to the authorities in the home country. When finished pieces of cloth were brought by the weavers, especially silk taffetas, 74 each piece was measured and weighed separately by the Company’s servants and particulars were noted down which were shown later to the chief of the factory. The name of the weaver and particulars of the pieces brought were entered into a ‘wast booke’ and the chief himself observed each piece personally and would price it according to the texture, weight, colour, and length. Then the details were transferred to a ‘larger Leidger’.75 In general, the weavers were admired for their workmanship and evidence says that they had earned a good reputation throughout the world.76 European merchants were very particular and careful about the quality of cloth, especially silk. For that, the yarn was weighed before delivering it to dyers (if the merchants intended to supply coloured yarn of their own choice to the weavers).77 Accounts of Europeans reveal that pieces were not bought/received in bulk according to any particular unit of weight and measure (like corg/corgis /kori, a score, twenty pieces making a corg or kori), but pricing was done ‘singly’ according to the ‘goodness’ of texture. Each piece was separately examined for its quality, ‘as used to be the custom’. Weavers, however, insisted upon mixing all the pieces and would try to make the buyers accept them.78 To avoid any discrepancy, they would often enter into an agreement with weavers regarding the number of threads in the warp and weft. A contract shows that in each piece they wanted ‘2,100 threads up and down’, and wished to have it full length as ‘close striking of threads would make cloth shorter and require more yarn’. Weavers at Sehwan were admired for the quality of b"afta, " but complaints were made that it was ‘shorter than those of Nussarpore 3 Tuttah coveds (cubits or ell), yet larger (read broader) 1½ inches’. They would cite the case of Surat, that ‘Dutteys of standard size available at Surat was of a full yard broad and 12 yards long’, or ‘a full yard broad which is Guzzeral covet’ and had ‘700 threads for warp’

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rather than 600 which was commonly done.79 Quality of cloths was meticulously judged by measuring the pieces separately and the thickness was thoroughly checked. Weavers were capable of manufacturing cloths of all sizes and variety to satisfy the requirements of the buyer. If not paid appropriately, they could shift their loyalty. 80 Various towns and cities had a reputation for manufacturing specific variety of cloths. Thatta was famous for silk and cotton cloths alike. Lahore was known for its fine white cloth, coloured pieces of silk technically known as elattachas (el"achas) " and for embroidered cloths, carpets—plain and flowered, tents and coarse woollen stuff.81 Ahmadabad was renowned for a phenomenal quality and quantity of cloth woven with gold and silver threads having floral designs. Malwa and Patna supplied fine white cloth in abundance, while Multan and Bhakkar weavers could bring out huge quantities of white and coloured cloths alike. Sironj in Malwa was one of the places where best quality muslin was produced.82 Aurangabad, Burhanpur, Baglana, Nander, most parts of Malwa and Gujarat, Dacca, Murshidabad, Maqsudabad, Hugli, Balasore, Patna, Lucknow, Agra, Delhi, etc., in north and eastern India, Masulipatam and Nizampatam and Pettapolly in Golconda/Coromandal, were of immense significance. The Coromandal Coast was studded with innumerable centres of textile production spread deep into its hinterland as well. Pettapolly was specifically known for its ‘reds’.83 All the professions were followed on a hereditary basis and boys of eight to twelve were trained in the line of work. This was an institution followed by the weavers as well.84 Owing to their perfection in the art, European merchants often tried to bring in different artisans, especially weavers, to settle them in or around their factories and make them work for them solely. For that purpose, a weaving and winding/spinning house was to be built inside the factories. While some of the weavers would not mind employment away from the home town; others, however, could decline their offer in the wake of their socio-religious values. An offer made to some Bengal weavers to come down and settle at Fort St. George Madras, could not materialize (perhaps by the Hindu weavers),


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because ‘their cast or lineage is such that they shall loose their birth right if they come up salt water’, lamented the English Company factors. Most of them wanted to work on a regular basis and any such offer would not interest them if the assignment were of temporary nature. Until the middle of the seventeenth century, the English were not able to rope in the Indian weavers to work for them exclusively, ‘for if they are not kept all the yeare in imployment, they will not serve us’, reported the merchants from Qasimbazar in December 1669.85 Some offers were rejected on the ground that it required shifting their abodes to new places, while most of them already had employment in cities flourishing and bustling with trade. Weavers and artisans generally migrated in the wake of natural calamities like famines, and fabricated disasters like wars. There were some, who for want of employment, would agree to follow the employer, but could not be entertained as they were to be provided with accommodation and other amenities.86 Textiles produced inside the European warehouses/factories were meant only for the European or other Asian markets. Their main objective was to get the stuff finished within a time limit under their own supervision and well before the departure of the ships. Cloths of certain specification were not only meant for Europe but some Asian markets (like Hurmuz/Persia) also.87 Finding it cheaper to manufacture silks on their own, in 1620, English factor Robert Hughes acquired a house in Patna to employ silk weavers there. It was an ambitious project where he got prepared certain samples and sent these for approval to Surat. The following passage reflects on his exuberance: cheapest and surest dealinge is to buye the serbanday (sarbandi, silk cocoon) and wynde it of myselfe . . . and at present have thirty men at worke thereon, purposing to increase them to a hundred, and yf you approve thereof and the price (which is 1/3 cheaper in (than in?) Agra, I may have two or three hundred silk winders to work in the house all the yeare.88

He also proposed to the President and Council at Surat to dye and dress at Patna some of the coarse sorts into ‘sleave silk’ (floss or unspun silk) for England. He wrote convincing them that for the

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purpose ‘I have taken a house in the great bazare, neare unto the cuttwalls (kotw"al, superintendent of police) choutry; the rent 63/4 rupee per month’. In less than a month, the number of weavers was increased to a hundred.89 Dutch merchants too, did not lag in competitive spirit. Realizing the growing demand of textiles, they as well sought the services of Indian weavers and dyers in Qasimbazar on a much larger scale. Bernier estimated at least seven or eight hundred ‘natives’ at their silk factory at Qasimbazar, and that English also had silk weavers and textile manufacturers in a ‘proportionate number’ in their facory in the same town. Almost at the same period the Englishmen at Qasimbazar were planning to expand the space allotted to the silk winders and weavers inside the factory premises. They pursued the Company to allow them to build an additional warehouse for them besides what had already been built for their lodgings on the ground, also that if ‘yee intend to trade in those commodities’ and procure them at cheaper rates, it was a necessity.90 Soon Qasimbazar became a landmark for silk manufactures so that so when in 1662 English factors persuaded some of them (other than those engaged by them inside their own factory) to take up the same job in Hugli, which they refused to oblige. Similar attempts were made on the part of the English again in 1664-5 in the wake of bitter relations with Nawab Mir Jumla who had been monopolizing the trade in textiles in Qasimbazar. This time the weavers refused to come to Hugli fearing the wrath of the Nawab. In 1674, Directors of the English Company asked its servants in Hugli to keep weavers and saltpetremen engaged so that goods in a desired quantity could be kept ready for shipping.91 After acquiring Bombay Island, the English Governor, George Oxinden (President of Surat and Governor of Bombay) was instructed to invite some weavers and other artisans to settle there. The Company wanted that ‘the manufacturers of all sorts of cotton and silks were to be encouraged, and looms provided to the settlers’ there. George Oxinden sent four Commissioners from Surat (one of them Captain Young as the new Deputy Governor to replace Mr. Gary), to take stock of the situation. These commissioners reported that above five thousand pieces of ‘taffeties’ were annually


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manufactured in nearby Chaul and Tannah, and they could use their endeavour to induce these weavers to settle at Bombay. In 1669, first invitation to the weavers of Chaul was given to take up the job of weaving calicoes. By April 1671, around a hundred weavers (families?) immigrated to Bombay. In 1672, the English imported thread from Surat but it was too coarse and the weavers refused to work on it. Some of the weavers were so poor that they could not construct houses for themselves and they needed some money in advance.92 According to another report some sixty-eight families of weavers came there ‘to gum and dye cotton yarne for the loomes’. They were promised allocation of land and assistance in constructing their houses in Bandra locality. Unfortunately, the request of the (English) Deputy Governor to the President at Surat for a ‘little money’ to help the weavers for the same was declined. As a result, out of six hundred immigrant families, four hundred left the Island of Bombay. Apart from this, accommodating weavers in Bombay and supplying them yarn and ‘tanna /tana’ (loom?) was considered an expensive affair. In 1673 when the Dutch besieged the Island of Bombay, most of the weavers fled. Shivaji’s war with the Siddi of Janjira also had a similar effect and the weavers complained about the rising prices in Bombay. In 1676, the English again made appeals to the weavers of nearby localities to come there on promise of houses for them to be built, as everything on the Island (of Bombay) was expensive. Weavers from Kurla were encouraged to come on a promise of exemption from ‘militia work or public duties’. As in the process of developing the Bomaby Island, Englishmen could ask people of all professions to do other duties also, not directly related to their profession. Simultaneously, ‘it was also hoped that removal of customs on the importation of cotton yarn and raw silk would encourage them to settle’. It indicates that local people were forced to render certain duties, like serve as militia and pay duty on yarn brought from neighbouring areas to the English settlement. Nevertheless, by 1680, weavers were counted as the dominant group among all the immigrants in Bombay, a big component of it coming from Chaul region. Subsequently, wars among the English, Marathas and the Mughals forced them to leave the Island once again.93 In 1681, manufacturing of

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


calicoes was discontinued at Bombay for the reason that the cloth manufactured for the English Company was too dear for its quality. It had also been one of the reasons of counter migration of the weavers from Bombay. A comparison, somehow, would not be out of context in relation to the population of Bombay and the presence of a substantial number of weavers on the Island. While Fryer estimated the total population here to be 60,000 in 1675, during the days of Mutiny in 1683-4, Captain Keigwin’s estimate of the population of Bombay being 100,000, can be taken as a considerable advance on the earlier figure. Not that all immigrants were weavers. At that time the Siddis of Janjira had also landed in the island due to wars with the Marathas, and the number of the inhabitants had increased substantially. Somehow, due to lack of encouragement many weavers left the Island during the Mutiny led by Captain Keigwin.94 A reference for the year 1675 indirectly speaks of presence of the weavers, invited and settled at Pondicherry by the French, as Martin informs us that he had been sending letters to the neighbouring ‘painters’ to come to their ‘lodge’ and also erected some structures to facilitate the work there.95 The Dutch at Hugli employed several weavers to weave sailcloth and others to make ropes. In 1682-3, the English Company also instructed its servants in Bengal and Madras to manufacture sailcloth and linens, earlier mainly supplied by the Dutch and the Flanders. They were also advised to grow flax in the region for manufacturing of sailcloth or send one or two hundred bales of linen yarn to England to manufacture goods and help the English weavers in getting employment. It was aimed at reducing the influence of the Dutch as well. In 1686, due to the tensions with the Mughal Nawab of Bengal Shaista Khan, English Presidents at Surat and Fort St. George were directed by the Company to settle weavers in Madras and that they ‘might be induced, by encouragements, to manufacture goods in the imitation of those sent from Bengal’. These instructions were repeated in 1690 again because of disturbances in Carnatic region that Bengal ‘taffaties’ could be produced in Madras by inducing the weavers but it did not seem viable as it was an expensive affair and could not be done ‘without incurring an expence of fifty per cent. difference, on the prime cost’.96 To


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

produce exclusive items like canvas, eighteen looms were fitted for the use of the English Company’s sloop in 1704. At Qasimbazar thatched rooms for weavers, winders and dyers were replaced with brick rooms inviting a heavy expenditure of fifteen to sixteen hundred rupees. In case of calamities like famines (as one occurred in Madras in 1647), factors were forced to procure food grains for the employees working for the Company to safeguard their own interests. Somehow, by 1661, the English discouraged the weavers and painters by enhancing the prices in ‘their own town’ (i.e. English town) Madras. It was due to the engrossing all grain in one hand (perhaps the Agent at Madras) and artificially creating a famine situation ‘where God sends none’ was a complaint against those involved in the fraud. It was also reported that due to increase in prices of food grains ‘painters and weavers are forc’t to sett a higher value upon their worke and cloth and consequently the Honourable company must needes feele it’. Hence, Agent and factors were strictly forbidden to purchase rice and other provisions for resale and were asked to do their best to keep such necessities at reasonable prices so that the Company’s interests were not hurt.97 Weavers, painters and those who provided allied services were often tormented and ill-treated in a variety of manners. In addition, they could be forced to migrate to new places because of commercial rivalries. When the English tried to settle at Armagon in Coromandal in 1626, Dutch merchants who had already taken position there, tried to frustrate their plans. The Dutch also persuaded some of the weavers and painters to migrate to nearby Pulicat where they had another factory. English merchants at Armagon forwarded their complaint to their superiors about the high-handedness of the Dutch and their use of force against those artisans going towards Armagon by intercepting their way and sending them back. English factors agitated that the Dutch behaved as if they had a monopoly over the weavers and painters ‘though he (the weaver or painter) came from any other place’. Almost similar complaints were made by the Dutch against their arch rivals (the English) and accused them of seducing weavers and painters away from Pulicat and by entering into league with Venkatapa Nayak of not letting them trade at nearby Cottepatnam either.98

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Weavers were ill-treated in various ways by the foreign merchants living in India. In 1681-2 in Hugli, an enquiry about the conduct of certain English factors of Patna revealed that many of them were involved in malpractices. The matter came to light when ‘a great number of silk merchants and weavers complained that they (English factors) took from them four or five tolahs (extra) upon a seer overweight on all their silk brought into the warehouse, besides one or two of the best skeins of silk that was weighed in every drought, which amounted to a very considerable amount of money’. Although the factors denied the charges of under-weighing, but the ‘merchants’ (weavers) proved it by their ‘books’ (i.e. registers). Other evidence in Factory Records show how badly the weavers and their families, who entered the premises for making cloth for the Company, were treated. These records also speak of abject poverty of the weavers who could not save enough to procure raw material and, hence, depended upon d"a dni (advance money) or forced to accept the offers of Europeans to settle inside the premises of the factories. Even brokers were chawbudked (whipped) for not procuring desired goods. At times even money was not provided to them in advance. Ill treatment often made the weavers run away from their clutches.99 At times atrocities inflicted upon the weavers by the local officials or ‘Governors’ also made them abandon their place, leaving the merchants (European, Asian or Indians alike) in a lurch. Once the ‘governor’ of Broach put the weavers and brokers in prison and caused them to be beaten because he (the governer) wanted good amount of cloth for his ‘slaves’ at his ‘slavish prizes (cheep prices)’. Weavers refused and as a protest forsook the city for Ahmadabad. Realizing the mistake, he immediately sent his men for the weavers who overtook them ‘two coorse (kos) on the way’, and were successful in persuading them on the assurance that in future no harm shall be done to them.100 Unnecessary exactions also caused much harm to the interest of the weavers and painters. In one of the cases when the ‘governor’ (in fact a n"aik) of Pulicat required some ‘fixed number of soldiers’, he put them to ‘polling and taxing . . . (that) will peradventure cause them forsake the place’. They had employment under the English and it compelled them to report it to


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

their Chief in Batavia saying that it ‘is common in theise sorte of people to exacte’.101 A rare piece of information confirms that at the time of their arrival in the market to sell finished goods, weavers were to bring their wares directly to the ‘doane’ (i.e. d∂w"an) to get it stamped. They were to pay the ‘king’ (through his officials) 1¼ pessas (pais"a) per piece. Along with it they had to pay ¼ paisa (pais"a) to the ‘macodom’ (muqaddam) of the place—‘a privilege which the king has accorded to them’,102 perhaps if the market happened to be within the territory of a village headman. Another form of exploitation in vogue was the practice of devaluation of the finished goods in terms of prices. Authorities and leading officials involved in trade would often use force to make the weavers sell their goods to them at cheaper rates—much cheaper than the current prices, arbitrarily fixed by them. Once the ‘governor’ of Cambay put embargo on the sale of cloths in December 1622. Weavers could not vend their goods to anyone but in the bazar so that he could charge duty on the goods transacted there in the market. When they complained they were whipped which ended in their running away, as did the brokers.103 Any obstruction in their way could lead them to the path of defiance. In 1630 weavers of Broach ‘grew into a mutiny’ when English factors attempted to buy huge amount of cotton yarn to export to their own country. It created conditions of (artificial) scarcity of yarn in the market resulting in the rise of price of yarns. Local weavers stopped bringing their b"aftas " to the English warehouse and continued doing so until they were assured that no such injury will be done to them in future.104 They could manipulate the situation in their own favour in the wake of a tussle among the merchants of rival nations. Ongoing wars among the English, the Dutch, and French and Golconda armies in Madras region in 1673 encouraged the local weavers raise the price of cotton yarn and textiles. As a result, customers came up with complaints regarding the quality of cloth and many weavers fled the place expecting the atrocities of brahmin tarfd"ars (brokers?). English merchants faced loss of money that was advanced to them.105 Sometimes an odd situation could also compel these weavers withdraw their goods

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


from the market causing hardships to the investors. In 1675, when the English chief imposed a tax on the local weavers meant to compensate the losses meted out during the wars with the Dutch in previous years, they shut down their shops. English merchants lamented ‘they did not vallue the summe, but the precedent’, suggesting that they were not ready to accept the new regulation of imposing an unusual tax like this and expressed their resentment in the said manner.106 Weavers were made to suffer losses at the hands of merchants who repeatedly bullied them to sell cloths on cheap rates and transported these to other cities where they could ‘make a far greater gayne’. Such (mal)practices were common among the European factors. In 1642-3 Englishmen were found involved in private trade and complaints were made by fellow factors that they used to amass cloth in Coromandal area. Also that: . . . they buy upp all cloth and paintings (printed cloths) that are vendible either in South Seas (South-East Asia) or in England at certain tymes and seasons; and when your shipps come to the (Coromandal) Coast in June or July they must have 50 per cent. Profitt; nay, if your shipps arrive upon the Coast in May, there is order given by them to all the broakers and weavers dwelling about 14 or 16 miles compasse not to sell under the price that is sett by these men. And if any weaver be so needy that hee doeth undersell their (English merchants’) price, if they heare of it, hee is presently rebuked and (deprived of?) money lent him for his present necessity.107

Sometimes, the custom of d"adni caused a lot of misery to the weavers and others, because deductions were made from the total amount (given as d"adni ) in the name of interest paid by the employer when money was procured by him from moneylenders for investment. Poor weavers were bound to accept the conditions according to the determination of the brokers and merchants whom they could hardly offend. Intrigues among the brokers prevented the weavers make cloths of better quality, or they often forced weavers not to sell their finished products against their (brokers’) will. Somehow, in exceptional situations brokers acted as saviours too, and would also come out to rescue the weavers and helped them sell goods on satisfactory rates. Weavers and others providing collateral services suffered due to market factor too. At Qasimbazar (which


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

grew in size and population, especially of weavers), Streynsham Master (1675-80) observed that while twelve to thirteen years ago the price of a piece of taffeta was Rs. 15, it came down to Rs. 6 to 7 because of huge quantity of products available then.108 Brokers also deducted certain kind of commission out of the d"a dni, extended through them. Occasionally, the duty of the brokers was assigned to the ‘peons’ of the factories, who charged like the brokers a certain percentage from the ‘merchants’. Thus, brokers made dual gains—deductions on d"adni and charges of brokerage from merchants or investors. Brokers were also involved in taking commission in the purchase of yarn, which the Europeans termed as ‘abuses’. 109 There were occasions when brokers themselves were cheated by the English and other European merchants. Often they were not paid the actual wages that was agreed upon. A broker at Qasimbazar was assured a ‘certaine stypend of wages of ten or fifteen rupees a month, where as he used to have but four or five rupees per month’. These brokers too, like the weavers, had chances of being ‘chabucked’ (beaten with a whip) if they mishandled the money. In such circumstances a person getting (one third of his) wages, much less than agreed upon, would try to compensate from other sources. For this they victimized the poor weavers. This was not the end of the fraudulent system. English factors themselves utilized part of the money, which was to be extended to merchants and weavers. The poddar " (a corruption of the fot"adar " , cash keeper) also received dastoor or commission out of the money given in advance to merchants and weavers. While a podd"ar received his wages regularly, he often received one anna " " upon a rupee as a commission. It was formerly two annas " " upon Rs. 100 and then a cowri upon a rupee. About the money given to the weavers once it was found that ‘in some of the said accompts, wherein sieca (sikk"a) Rupees were charged, there was Balta (bhatt"a) [premium] charged at about 1¼ per cent for the most part, and there was no Dustore found charged in any of the accounts of the bookes’. Another way of deceiving the weavers by unfair means was somewhat novel, where brokers and factors would amass food grains and create a famine condition so that weavers had no option but to sell their pieces to them

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at prices fixed by them (i.e. merchants, factors and brokers, etc.). 110 In turn, weavers too indulged in frauds ‘in respect of fineness, the length, and the breadth’, informed Tavernier. He closely observed the entire process and recorded to the benefit of (European, rather French) merchants: Each bale contains about two hundred pieces, among which five or six or up to ten pieces may be inserted of less fine quality, thinner, shorter, or narrower than the sample of the bale; this cannot be ascertained without examination piece by piece. The fineness is judged by the eye, the length and breadth by measurement. But a still greater refinement is practiced in India, which is to count the number of threads which ought to be in the breadth according to the fineness of the sample. When the number is lacking it is thinner or narrower or coarser. The difference is sometimes so imperceptible to the eye that it is difficult to discern without counting the threads, nevertheless this difference amounts to a considerable sum in the price of a large quantity, for it requires but little to abate an ecu on a piece when the price is from » or even two ecus » 111 15 to 20 ecus the piece. »

Another form of fraudulent practices prevalent in the cotton textile trade was related to the manner of weighing the finished pieces. Tavernier proved to be quite watchful in this regard when he wrote: The fraud in weight can be effected in two ways, the first by putting the cotton in a damp place, and by inserting in the middle of each skein some substance which increases the weight; the second is not weighing it truly when the broker receives it from the worker or from the merchant who delivers it. The fraud in quality is accomplished in only one way, which is by inserting in every maund three or four skeins of worse quality than that at the top, and in a large quantity that may amount to something considerable, for there is a variety of cotton thread which costs up to 100 ecus the maund.112

Since the Dutch Company officers faced this problem very often, their Commodore would assign the job to the Vice-Commodore and his subordinates who used to examine each piece carefully. A statement of weight and quality was prepared separately for each bale and it was attached to it with their signatures. For any discrepancy, these signatories stood responsible and bore the loss even


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

if it was discovered in the Netherlands or their main settlement at Batavia. Even then short pieces were often found mixed with those contracted for in the bales, at times ‘by many ells’. Same discrepancies were discovered regarding quality of the piece goods. English merchants also did pricing of the pieces of cloth separately when these were brought by the weavers.113 Why weavers are continuously portrayed as poor, the reason has been explained by James Forbes in his Memoirs in the eighteenth century. He records—‘Mostly the weavers were very poor and lived on a day-to-day basis by weaving. What they prepared during the day and the night, they were obliged to sell the next day itself so that the factors could not buy anything without cash’. Also that, the rainy season being off season, merchants were not usually found roaming the markets, hence whatever was produced by the weavers, they would sell it on cheaper rates, because they did not have space enough to store goods for two to three months during the rainy season. Between May and October, one could get the cloths 15 to 20 per cent cheaper than other five or six months.114 In spite of all these odds, strain and competition, Indian weavers could easily pose a challenge to others, especially to English weavers in England. It is reported that Indian textiles were ruining English weavers as demand for latter’s goods was gradually falling down. The English weavers (in England) made various complaints to the Directors of the Company. To manufacture the textiles of their own choice, a few English weavers, dyers and painters were also brought and made to work here for the Company inside the factory premises. Apart from this, in 1668, to direct the Indian weavers working for the English, experts were sent from England— but not without resentment shown by many English weavers who opposed their departure. One silk weaver along with one ‘throwster’ (who twists fibre into yarn) was sent to Qasimbazar in 1675. Both of them failed to achieve the desired results, hence, sent back. The Chief of East India Company in Bengal had employed English dyers, weavers, ‘throwsters’ (to spin thread), and to dye silk in fine black since it was never accomplished by the ‘native’ dyers and there were complaints of defective pieces and colours unevenly applied. Interestingly, they were asked to keep their art ‘secret

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


from the natives’, though it was hardly going to make a difference as demand for the goods was huge and a few English craftsmen could not fulfil this task. Subsequently their attitude changed and in 1683, William Hedges from Qasimbazar sent a set of proposals to the Company for sending craftsmen from England for the improvement in the quality of textiles, especially in Bengal. His suggestions came in the following words: I conceive, if 3 or 4 Master Weavers, and as many able Dyers, were sent out with 5 or 6 Boyes apiece to be their Apprentices, ye trade of this place might be improved, to ye Company’s great advantage; or at least if ye said Master Weavers and Dyers were but obliged for one or two years to instruct ye Natives.115

Such experiments, at times, gave excellent results. In one such case one of the English silk weavers at Qasimbazar (in 1683) was successful in producing good pieces of cloth in ‘Black, Blew, Yellow, and Green Taffaties’. The aforementioned English silk weaver left these pieces behind as samples to be copied in future.116 Until this period, such experiments were confined to weaving and dyeing silks. However, around 1700, English factors tried to make same experiment in Masulipatam when they attempted at printing chintz themselves along with some other varieties of cotton like Beeteelas and Moores.117 Patterns were regularly sent to the Company Directors for approval and back to India to translate them by the Indian weavers, dyers and painters into the fabric and designs in vogue.118 Directors justified their policy by asserting that it was for the benefit of the Company. After the 1680s, open competition with Indian (textile) products became a subject of concern and discussion in England. As a result, from England some of the weavers/workmen fled to Holland or Ireland to avoid loss in investment.119 Many Europeans speak of the ‘caste’ system and social stratification based on profession in Indian society. Weavers were treated as low caste in the society. Banarasi Das identifies them as patbuniy"as and counts them among the base people called paoon∂s or «sudras. " 120 Account of Abbe Carre about the society in Madras in 1670s does reflect on his keen observations in this regard when he noted that there was a kind of stratification among various groups of artisans. About weavers he records—


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

Hindus are also distinguished among themselves according to their business and employment. . . Gavarais are weavers, who work with the right hand, and are more esteemed than the other callings (i.e. profession), such as the goldsmiths, carpenters and blacksmiths, who work with the left hand.

They enjoyed a lot of respect in Coromandal society, as Abbe Carre further informs us that if he or a Chetty, who were most respected of all the people, ‘. . . is offended and wronged, all the other shut their shops and abandon all their work and business’. This show of unity and perception of status among the weavers is a unique phenomenon of the society in Madras region.121 In the context of Bengal and Gujarat, being two important centres of textile manufacturing, weavers, dyers and painters of cloth are usually identified as ‘merchants’ by the Europeans. Carpet making was associated with the weaving industry.122 Agra and Lahore were famous for carpet manufacturing. These were exported to Europe and few Asian countries. However, the size of these carpets was a matter of concern for the Europeans. Englishmen had included the carpets in their list of exports in the early years of the seventeenth century. Company directed its merchants in Agra to place orders for carpets of different sizes. It was difficult to find pieces of choice. Although carpets were manufactured in large quantity in both the towns, but it took the weavers a lot of time for weaving and finishing the pieces, especially when made on order according to certain specifications of the clients. Obtaining large size carpets was difficult.123 A letter of the English merchants from Agra to the Company makes an interesting reading: Carpetts of such length and breadth as Your Worships desire them we shall hardly ever be able to procure; for of such sizes we find very few readymade, and we perceave, by experience of a few bespoken here, that tardiness, slownes, and poverty of the workmen to be such that it is endles labour to be speake them, and those bespoken to cost dearer than others readymade. Of th’ ordinary syzes here made we have sent you of all sorts this yeare, and a good quantity, as hereafter you will perceive; and of other syzes then these you may never expect them, unless we can perswade the workmen of themselves to make them broader; which we will endeavor.124

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President at Surat reiterated his men to persuade the weavers to manufacture carpets measuring ‘five yards by two’.125 If made on order with certain specifications, carpets would have cost more. Evidence in this regard suggests the size and price of carpets generally made by Agra weavers in the early seventeenth century. Those sold in the market were priced at ‘2½ to 3½ ruppies the coved [yard] square’, but when procured of specific size, ‘some bespoken are made from 8 to 10 ruppies per coveds’, came the explanation from those appointed to buy them in 1618. Somehow, these pieces were of finer sort.126 Apart from the prices, an idea of the size of the carpets generally made in Agra can be had from another reference of the same period. Forty-six carpets sent to England were priced at 1,066 mahm"ud∂s and a half pice collectively. The size is not mentioned, but these seemed to be of the size of a prayer carpet. Average price comes out to be around twenty-three mahm"ud∂s or Rs. 10. If the average price of a carpet is taken as three rupees a square yard, the size would have been three square yards approximately.127 Otherwise carpets were priced at much higher rates— sometimes as high as Rs. 500 a piece.128 It was a tedious and time-consuming job. Factors from Agra wrote to the Company in 1619 that in their house (perhaps carpets being manufactured inside the premises) a carpet had already been a year into making and only a little more than half was done. Furthermore, the complaint was that: ‘and they neither make them so well nor good collors as when they make them without bespeaking’.129 Despite all these reservations, Agra carpets were included in the list of goods to be essentially procured for foreign trade. These carpets were worth gifting in India and abroad. When the President of the Surat factory sent a pair of Agra carpets as gift to the Portuguese Viceroy of Goa (and some small ones) to other dignitaries, these were received gratefully and he admired them as ‘excellent’.130 Ahmadabad also had some carpet weavers who manufactured pieces suitable for export.131 Patna was another centre of carpet manufacturing. Before the arrival of the English and the Dutch in the area, Portuguese merchants generally bought these carpets to be taken down the river Ganges to Hugli.132 Indian merchants too


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

brought carpets from Bengal to Masulipatam for sale, although the origin is not specified.133 Burhanpur weavers produced some specific variety of carpets called ‘isames or jasames carpetts’, and these were preferred for European markets.134 A French Company merchant posted in Surat (1686) has included carpets in the list of products of Sironj.135 In eastern parts of India Jaunpur is also identified a place where carpets were made, but these were branded as ‘course’ (coarse). These were chiefly bought by the Portuguese for export.136 Lahore carpets were also a much sought after commodity. It was believed that although Agra weavers may supply ‘greate quantityes’ of carpets every year, ‘but Lahore is the chiefe place for that comoditye’. There weavers made varieties like ‘isams’, perhaps as"am, or prayer rugs. They weaved a particular variety unknown elsewhere called ‘necanies’ or ‘particoullored cloath carpets’. Information contained in subsequently recorded Court Minutes, the word comes out to be ‘nicanees’, and that these were striped calicoes of a somewhat higher price. Perhaps these were striped carpets like nicanees. Elsewhere these carpets are listed as ‘niquanias’ measuring 14½ ells long and 11/8 broad. These carpets were a bit narrow and in view of overseas demand, broader ones were required. Hence, weavers were persuaded to respond accordingly.137 A ‘Relation’ (account of journey) attributed to Thomas Roe, perhaps prepared by Edward Terry, gives an idea how ingeniously carpets of rich quality were produced. These carpets of extraordinary size, might have been for the royalty or the affluene but he does not give a clue to the city. It is probable though that he was speaking of the capital city of Agra: They make likewise excellent Carpetts of their cotton-Wooll, in fine mingled colours, some of them more than thre yards broad, and of great length. Some other richer Carpets they make all of Silk, so artificially mixed, as that they lively represent those flowers, and figures made in them. The ground of some of other of their rich Carpets is Silver or Gold, about which are such silken flowers, and figures . . . most excellently and orderly disposed throughout the whole work.138

Some of the pieces took lot of time in weaving and finishing, especially when made on demand according to clients’ specifica-

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tions. Large quantities of carpets could be procured from Agra and Lahore throughout the year for exports too. Carpets woven with floral designs on them were in great demand—‘the flowers and branched workes are the best in request . . .’, noted one of the English merchants.139 William Hedges noticed carpet makers of Persian origin settled in Ellore (Coromandal) and making carpets of best quality as good as there made in Persia itself.140 DYERS, PAINTERS AND PRINTERS OF CLOTH

Generally known as rangrez, p"archa rang kun, chh∂p∂, bastra/vastra rangi, or chh"appakar, " " dyers were often identified as ‘painters’ also.141 Their job was considered of immense importance in the textile manufacturing industry. In Madras region, dyers were identified as ‘Pallis’, and according to Abbe Carre they ‘. . . are painters, who do the designing and tracing of the first lines in the manufacture of printed calicoes and stuff ’. In contemporary Malabar, painters (mostly of Tamil origin) were known as Mudaliyars.142 Weavers could themselves dye and paint (print with blocks) the cloth involving their family’s labour. However, with an increased demand they could hardly afford to manage the entire work within the family. Hence, it became quite specialized in terms of division of labour. There were experts available to take up the task immediately after it came out of the weaver’s loom. If the piece of a cloth was required of uniform colour, the yarn was to be dyed beforehand. Similarly, for making special varieties like patol"a, yarn had to be dyed by the dyer in consultation with the master-craftsman. The thread was to be measured and dyed according to the pattern so that they could weave geometrical and floral designs according to a specific sample or design drawn by the master-craftsman. Indian dyers enjoyed admiration for their expertise in the field, and their appreciation can well be understood in the words of Ovington: In something the artists of India outdo all the ingenuity of Europe, viz. in the painting of chites or callicoes, which in Europe cannot be paralleled, either in the brightness as life of colours, or in their continuance upon the cloth. The gold stripes likewise in their sooseys, and the gold flower in their atlasses


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

are imitated with us, but not to perfection. And the cornelian rings with double chains of gold about them, meeting it several distances, where small sparks of diamonds, rubies or sapphires are inlaid to beautify the ring, surpass the skill of any other nation to arrive to.143

Different methods were adopted to paint fabrics.144 European merchants’ accounts are an indicative of the skills of Indian dyers and painters, where they found many hands were involved from drawing the pattern until it reached the stage of final finishing. Children from a very young age helped in painting cloth. Certain comparisons too were drawn for their workmanship, e.g. painters of Burhanpur were considered ‘better artists’ than of Swally Marine or Ahmadabad. The Dyers of Thatta enjoyed a reputation for being perfectionists in their work.145 Sironj in Malwa was famous for printing chintz which not only attracted the foreign merchants to the small town but was in great demand even within the subcontinent itself.146 Chintz was an Anglicized version for indigenous chit or chhint used for a painted or spotted cotton cloth.147 Chint makers were called chh∂p∂ or chhap " ak " "ar. There were various methods to draw designs: (a) By pencil or qalam. (b) By a ‘net’ (stencil). By this method designs were drawn or painted in the ‘same way they (chh"ap"ak"ar) ‘chop’ or marked their calicoes black instead of ink’, one explanation suggests. It is but sure that it was done with the help of stencils.148 A French document of the eighteenth century (1742) in the form of letters by a priest sent to France on the art of painting cotton cloths in Coromadal mentions the process in detail: We next come to the drawing of flowers or other designs upon the cloth so prepared. Our native workmen use nothing special beyond the pounce of our embroiderers. Having carefully made his design upon paper, the painter pricks the main outline of it with affine needle, then lays his paper on the cloth and passes over it the pounce (a little bag of charcoal powder), which penetrates through the pricked holes, and by this means the design is transferred to the cloth. With a brush or pencil he then touches up the outlines with black and red as required, and in this way the design is completely effected.149

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Painting or printing was mainly done: (a) By the technique of tie-and-dye, technically known as bandhana or gulbadan; (b) Designs woven with already dyed threads for warp and weft; (c) With wooden blocks; (d) With paint and brush. The process of employing the dyers (rangrez) and painters was the same as for the weavers. Their ‘books’ were kept by the merchants and factors of the companies who employed them. It contained all the details of colour and designs, which they desired their pieces dyed or painted in. They were usually engaged well in advance or many months before they set down to work. Similar as in case of weavers, here too, an atmosphere of contest and competition persisted among the merchants to employ the dyers and painters. Merchants of European factories had to make their best efforts to get the work done at the earliest so that they could ship them homeward, or elsewhere. Shipping (westward) season began every year generally from the month of October onwards. Dyers and painters were also engaged through extending money in advance. Painters could even be imprisoned for not conforming to the conditions laid at the time of agreement; or failure in supplying finished products on stipulated time in turn of ‘debt’ (advance money).150 To ensure a timely supply of goods, they were invited to the factories where they were to work exclusively for their employers. Here any mishandling of the fabric by the dyers and painters was usually to be borne by the merchants themselves. Cases of delay in work were common, but there were valid reasons for the delay. ‘Laziness’ was not always the ground for their failure in carrying out the job on stipulated time. Natural calamities, like famines, always caused a great misery among all classes of artisans and we are told that during the severe famine of Gujarat in 1630 (which continued for years), the majority of weavers, painters and dyers perished. Contemporary sources reveal that only one-third of the total population of Madras region survived the famine of 1647, creating scarcity of weavers and painters in the town, and consequently causing a decline in the textile industry in the region for a


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

while. Around 1696, Thatta experienced severe famine. As per the estimate of Alexander Hamilton above 80,000 people died there of which most of them were weavers.151 In the days of scarcity, to sustain them and secure their services, arrangement for food was to be made. However, it was not provided as gratis. In January, 1647, English factors at Fort St. George requested the President and Council at Surat to send one to two hundred tons of ordinary rice by the next April or May ‘to preserve the lives of those painters, weavers and washers which remaine aboute us . . . (i.e., the English)’. Where it was not without a cost, at the same time profits were accrued on it, as is further explained in the said request: ‘And no question but the rice would yield cent. per cent. Profit; for tis worth here at present two rials of eight the hundred pound weight, and by May or June next no question but it will yield halfe as much more’.152 For granting advance amount and receiving finished goods, preferably local brokers were engaged. They, however, had a tendency of cheating and oppressing the dyers and painters as they did to the weavers. They deducted a certain percentage as profit in the name of targo (brokerage) when the painters brought their goods directly to the factory. Brokers, in this way, were often accused of double crossing. They comprised a group involved in ‘gross abuses’. Regrets were expressed in a manner that the brokers ‘have underhand jougling with the washers, beaters, diers, nay to the very packers, indeed in everything; [so] that wee know not as yet where it will end’.153 In the Madras region, Brahmins had established their monopoly as brokers over the weavers and painters of the area and turned them entirely into ‘subject to themselves’. Poor fellows could not dare oppose them for their high status in the social hierarchy. In a case where they showed disobedience towards these (Brahmin) brokers, two of the families of the painters were ‘beaten and their houses pulled down’. Local rulers or officials too often played the role of exploiters. In 1627, chief of Ponnery extorted huge sums from the artisans who ‘painted’ cloths for the Dutch. It was given in the form of advance and the Dutch as well as the weavers had to bear with patience.154 Due to fierce competition with each other, the Dutch and the English factors would settle

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and employ them inside their factory premises. Best hands were picked to work inside the factories and they could be distinguished from ordinary artisans as Europeans on occasions called them ‘merchants’ and ‘tradesmen’. They were not permitted to go out and interact with others, particularly in the days of turmoil. Here the case of a muqaddam in Petapolly (Nizampattam) can be cited who was killed by the local governor in 1632 and whose men were into rebellion forcing everyone to leave the place. English factors did not permit their washers and dyers in their service to join them and struggled to seek the permission of the rebel leaders to let these washers and dyers go out to wash and dry the cloths.155 Similarly, when Shivaji was encamped at Gingee (near Pondicherry) in 1677, he appointed Brahmin administrators to extort money from the natives. François Martin records that: ‘. . . there were repeated orders that painters and other natives in the service of the Company should pay their dues. Some of them were even placed under arrest but we secured the release of all of them . . . the affairs dragged on but we refused to allow our men to make any payments.’ It signifies that they could take the risk of inviting the wrath even of the powerful rulers to protect their own interests. Hence, they ensured the safety of the painters and others in their employment and tried their best to save them from the clutches of the authorities. On an earlier occasion, out of fear of Maratha forces, they had fled to the town of Madura without informing their employers. Local authorities also subjected them to extortions. It was injurious to their own interests because painters would run away bringing the trade to a standstill causing losses to the merchants and authorities alike.156 Employers of merchants or brokers did not always oppress the dyers and painters. They would rather display their ability in bargaining in a clever manner with the Europeans and others. Often a clash between tradition and requirement resulted in dispute between the employer and the artisan. For better results dyers preferred small pieces of cloth as to them, longer pieces were difficult to process and consumed more colour. They would justify it further, as the English reported that ‘the collors [colours] will, nor


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

(sic) cannot bee soe good this way’, i.e. spread uniformly over a bigger piece. Merchants, especially Europeans, on the other hand would not like long pieces (15 or 12½ yards) to be cut into two.157 Another matter that caused anxiety and worry was the quality of dyes. In the early years of their establishment in Coromandal, the dyers who, despite their promises given to the traders of using good quality camca to dye cloths red, used chay instead and deceived English merchants. They helplessly reported to their counterparts in Patani (South-East Asia) that chay dye, compared to camca, was ‘half so cheap, which only doth give a faire gloss at first, which with continuance and heat in the ship decays and becomes black, dirty and whitish withall’.158 Demand of the Europeans was generally specific and to meet them they used to bring patterns from home countries. Information contained in Company’s correspondence suggests that by the 1640s patterns from England started being sent for specific prints, especially on material for quilts.159 An evidence about ‘1,000 pieces “gussees” dyed at Agra, using the patterns received from the Company in 1650 may be taken as a testimony to it.160 Here services of brokers to reach out to painters became important as they (painters) were capable to copy these designs to the satisfaction of their clients, and brokers were needed to facilitate the process of supply.161 In the second half of the seventeenth century, the results were ‘exceedingly well’ as prints according to the patterns were easily prepared by the printers.162 A very interesting piece of information related to 1681-2 from Madras says that Englishmen had sent a general invitation to all ‘painters’ of the town and others to come out with all the varieties of their products, including what they could ‘invent’ in the form of new designs. They also invited painters from Masulipatam to settle in Madras.163 When not satisfied with the work performed by the indigenous painters and dyers, English Company’s servants tried to make their own arrangements. Some savings on investment also had been the motive. As early as December 1614, English factors attempted at getting the calicoes dyed at Broach with the help of Indian dyers. They were, however, warned by their counterparts in Surat, that buying already dyed calicoes involved little risk, while employing

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local workmen to dye these in your supervision, ‘you are tied to take them as they shall fall forth’, i.e. will have to accept the goods in whatever form they were finished. The pricing was done after the finished goods were received from the dyers or painters, and prices were fixed for each piece according to its quality.164 Indian dyers did not specialize in certain colours (such as purple) or dyeing a few varieties of stuff. President and Council of the English Company in Surat once informed their fellow servants in Batavia (who at that time were in a process of shifting to Bantam) in January 1628 that ‘the dyers do not dye such purples as are required’. They also requested their directors in 1665 to send their own men to Bengal ‘to instruct the people in makeing and working on taffataies’ assuring them that it would be of much advantage to employ them at Qasimbazar ‘to the bettering your taffaties’. Evidence suggests that English dyers were not capable to take up the job entirely in their own hands but limited themselves to ‘instructing’ Indian dyers. In the second half of the seventeenth century, the English Company’s trade in Bengal was to a great extent connected with Fort St. George, and the principle articles obtained from Hugli and Qasimbazar were ‘taffeties’ and saltpetre. In 1672, English merchants employed one English dyer named Naylor at Qasimbazar, but he ‘proved of little help, as he was only a black-silk dyer’. When he tried colours other than black, it came out not ‘well hitting’. He was then assigned the task of winding silk, again faults occurred in his work. In the coming years dyes were brought from England to achieve better results, but they were not quite successful and ‘found it so hard to have the work done well and cheaply’. Continuous practice ultimately gave the desired results and within a couple of years English dyers at Qasimbazar became ‘expert’, but only in dyeing black silk. These goods were meant for shipping to foreign lands only.165 A project of the English for ‘erecting a workhouse’ for dyers in Ahmadabad seem to have been of great value, as they could hope of dyeing the goods under their own supervision. Same efforts were made in Ventapalem near Petapolly where building a washers’ room cost them ‘2 pagodas worth toddy trees’, and some more for their residence. In Ahmadabad they sought permission to build this ‘workhouse’ or room for dyers ‘with 1,000 rupees


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

charges’ saying that it ‘would be exceedinglie beneficiall to the Honourable Company’.166 Another way to get better results was to provide already dyed yarn to weavers. The English Company’s merchants made such experiments to avoid possible risks by supplying yarn dyed by their own dyers in choice colours.167 As a precaution silk threads were first boiled to remove gum before dyeing. It was believed that silks made after removing the gum by boiling would look limber, but could be gummed better in England to make it appear like Italian silks. In fact, in this manner the English would often pass on Indian silks fraudulently as higher quality Italian variety. After dyeing, cloths were to be sent for ‘beating and slicking’. Dyed cloths were then put to testing, especially bright colours like reds, by rubbing a lemon on it. In the process of dyeing, colour bleeding was not approved by the investors and pieces considered not up to the mark were returned, burnt, or cut into pieces to the loss of the dyer, weaver, or vendor. It was done deliberately to warn them and make them more careful.168 Some of the towns were famous where people could dye cloths of specific quality. Merta in Jodhpur was the only place in the northern region, where woollen cloth could be ‘stayned’ (stained/ dyed) ‘into severall colours’, as it once surprised the English factors that they did it ‘according to the forme which was desired by His Majesty (King of England) to be practized upon an English white cloth sent out hither to that purpose’. Colours could be applied evenly on white pieces of 4-5 yards only; otherwise, satisfactory results could not be obtained. Dyers residing in Masulipatam had the expertise in giving different colours to a single piece. They did it in their own ‘fashion’, as was once observed that it is ‘put into so many dyefatts (dye vats?) as there are severall colours, that part of which must not take the dye being covered with a kind of earth, the rest which is uncovered takes the colour of the dye whereunto it is put’. Some of the varieties like ‘tapi sarasa’, mainly produced in Coromandal, required ‘master painters’ to print them as these were patterned with birds and foliage.169 Natural dyes such as camca and chay (Morinda citrifolia, Indian Madder or Indian Mulberry)—also called chayroot /shaii or " al,

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manjit, manji|stha, | manjustha | | (Canarese), manjitti (Tam.), tamarvalli (Tel.), obtained from herbs were commonly used to dye cloths red.170 Chay chiefly cultivated in Coromandal area, especially at Armagon, was appreciated most and used predominantly in printing chintz. It was used for dyeing red and according to De Laet, was ‘rich and fast’.171 What one of the early seventeenth century Englishman William Methwold observed, may be taken as a witness in this regard. He noticed that: The painting[s] (i.e. painted cloths) of this coast of Choromandel [are] famous throughout India, and are indeed the most exquisite that are seene, the best wrought all of the pencil, and with such durable colours that, notwithstanding they be washed, the colours fade not whilst the colour lasteth; and this hapenth principally by a plant which growth only in this country, called chay, which dyeth or stayneth a perfect red, with them in as great account as scarlet with us, and is the king’s particular commoditie.172

In northern India chay was not cultivated on a large scale. However, it was considered of good quality. When chay was brought from far off places to the north, it would cost more. Dyers in Coromandal, especially Masulipatam, had a tendency of mixing it with the local variety, ‘not to the satisfaction of English Company and others’. From the Malabar region a kind of red wood called patang, also called sappan, patanga, puttungh /vattanghi (Tam.), patanga chakka (Tel.), patangu (Canarese), bakkam (Beng.), bakam (Guj.), or Brazil Wood, was brought to Gujarat regularly. Sapan or Sappan wood was also cultivated in Bengal, Arakan, Pegu, Maccassar and Tenasserim and used to dye cloths in red.173 In Surat and other parts of Gujarat ‘root roenas’, i.e. runa or fua / fuwwa (madder) was also available in plenty for dyeing cloths red.174 For the purpose of dyeing, colours were imported from Europe (here from England by the English), Persia, Arabia, and South-East Asia.175 In Coromandal there were innumerable towns and villages like Armagon, Krishnapattam, Gangapatnam and Uttukur, etc., inhabited predominantly by the communities of dyers, painters and weavers. Here too, chay root was produced on a large scale. François Martin counted the families in some of these settlements which shows that a sizeable number of them, ranging between


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

200 and 400, were dyers/painters or weavers. He calls some of these places as ‘weavers and painters villages’. A beautiful scarlet colour was extracted from gumlac, which made the commodity quite expensive especially in Bengal. An eighteenth-century treatise by an anonymous writer known as Nuskha-i Khul" a satul Mujarreb"at, on medicinal prescriptions contains a detailed chapter on dyeing and printing. The author describes seventy-seven processes of dyeing and printing and obtaining forty-eight shades of different colours. Contemporary and near contemporary sources also speak of variety of colours prepared by the dyers. Red colour was also obtained from safflower—kusum or kusumba, lac or gumlac, kirmanji or cochineal and henna (Lawsonia inermis). For extracting blue colour indigo—n∂l was the only source. For dyeing yellow tun (Cedrela toona), also known as tuna, kachla, mah-nim, toonmaram (Tam.) was obtained from a tree.176 Turmeric—identified as kurkum, hardul (Guj.), arishina (Canrese), manjal (Tam.) pampi (Tel.) or hald∂ has been a common source for dyeing cloths yellow since centuries. Lodh (Symplocos racemosa) and multani mitti or multani zard were also utilized for preparing yellow colour. Apart from these palasa (Butea frondosa) flowers, also called pal"asa, « tesu, | murukan maran (Tam.), moduga chettu (Tel.), kakri (Guj.), muttaga mara (Canarese) were a good source of yellow colour.177 For getting magenta colour flowers of kachn"ar and for black dye leaves of dhao tree (Annogeissus latifolia), also called bakli, dhawa, dhawra were made use of. Dutch sources speak of a red dye called ‘cochineal’ made from bodies of female cochineal insects.178 In south India to obtain yellow, black, orange or green colour, seed of ‘aldecay’ or ‘cadoucay’ were used differently. The nut obtained from the same tree was also used in the form of powder. It mostly grew in Malabar. In this regard some French sources of early eighteenth century have detailed information on the methods of dyeing, dyestuffs and painting on cotton and how the colours were obtained from natural sources.179 Some of the colours were not in great demand in India, but Persia.180 Before painting or printing on cloth, and to give finishing, it was to be processed in a peculiar method, especially in case of cotton pieces. For it, starch (kanji ), lemon, milk, some specific seeds, palm or coconut wine, grains of mirabolans/

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myrobalan, husks of rice, alum, wax, some specific ‘earth’ (clay), soap, sand, fat, even dung or sheep’s droppings were used. Both the stages took many days to prepare the cloth for the market and it was a labour and time consuming process.181 To boil the colours, dyers and painters used wood, straw or dried leaves. In south India banana leaves served as the ‘best fuel’.182 Bengal was known for the scarcity of fire-wood. To meet the shortage, English dyers at Qasimbazar requested in 1676 for ‘sea coal’ from ships so that they could have ‘better fire for their work’.183 SHOE-MAKERS AND TANNERS

For many centuries, shoe-makers and tanners had been placed in the lowest ranks of the society. They were identified as kafshdoz.184 They were treated in the worst manner and were often addressed as chandalon (chand"alam) or blacks.185 In Tamil region, they were called chucklers or shakkili. In northern India, they were generally called cham"ars. ‘Periavens’ " (periyar) " and ‘curriers’ (who are known as kurm$ûs in north India) were two sections of shoe-makers and tanners in south India. Peri"avens were employed in taking off the skins of dead beasts and processing it, while curriers (kurm∂s) were leather workers.186 Other terms found in the contemporary sources for them are far"as∂s and recolets (?) who made sandals. In general, their reputation was that of base and mean creatures and they were not allowed to enter the houses of upper classes or touch them.187 The leather-workers and shoe-makers are recognized as alparquerors by Manucci and other Europeans.188 They were forced to live outside the city walls. Their shadow was considered impure, and when they happened to be inside the streets of a town, they were supposed to make an announcement in the form of a voice—po po, to give a signal that a cobbler was passing. If a person of high caste was unintentionally touched by such a person, he was to take a bath to make himself pure.189 They could not enter the temples and a high caste man never sought their help, even if he being on the verge of death, because of their being impure and untouchable, and a high-born would not like to die impure. They, however, being the members of the


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

traditional village community enjoyed certain hereditary rights. As is obvious, a shoe-maker manufactured and repaired the shoes, as well as made leather bags for drawing water, leather thongs for whips, etc. He also acted as a village guide. In the Tamil region he was one of the ayangars (twelve functionaries of a village) and in Konkan one of the baluted"ars (in the village) of first rank (as they were divided into three groups). In Maharashtra they were called chamh"ars; in northern India as chamar, " charmk"ar and moch∂; and khalapa and moch∂ in Gujarat. 190 Other words to identify them were—mochkar, upant, " " dosad, " etc.191 The author of Tashr∂h-ul Aqwam " recognized mochis as sarr"aj as makers of shoes, cases for guns and saddles and differentiates between them and cham"ars.192 In almost all the villages they were required to make certain number of pairs of shoes for the village headmen. In Punjab, a shoe-maker also performed other duties like sweeping the houses of high caste, supplying wood, acting as a watchman of the village and a porter, etc. He was also to repair the houses of peasants and to work in their fields.193 There was a great demand of leather goods in and outside the country. Tanners and workers in leather made saddles and bridles for horses, scabbards for swords, jars, shoes, whips and bags, etc. Some regions like Bengal, Sind, Gujarat and Delhi were quite famous for production of leather goods. In Bengal sugar was exported in leather bags. Shoes, jars and water containers were made in Delhi and leather mats were manufactured in Gujarat. In Punjab, Sirhind was famous for its leather goods, especially shoes, greaves and sandals that, according to Monserrate, were ‘exported by traders to all the cities of the empire’. In Sahsaram (Bihar), buckles of best sort were made with the skins of ‘harna bhains’ (wild buffalo) or common sort of buffaloes. Leather goods were also exported to Arab countries. Leather-workers also accompanied on ships to stitch or repair the skins carried with the merchants.194 They were also engaged ‘to embale merchandise to defend it against wet’.195 Europeans often invited them to settle in the vicinity of their factories or forts, to work solely for them.196 A letter from Madras sent in 1664 requesting to send some shoe-makers from England, perhaps to make shoes after their own fashion, strengthens the point

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that they were desperately in need of them as in the same letter they were being assured of better wages too.197 POTTERS AND TOY MAKERS

The potter was one of the twelve functionaries of the village community. He was the only one who could produce the earthen pots for the villagers. A potter was identified differently—koom" "ar, kumh"ar, kumbhk"ar, mritpatrak"ar, subu" saz " or zarufsaz. " " 198 In south India the term applied to the potters was kumb"aran.199 Rizqullah Mushtaqi uses the term kul"al for the caste (qaum) of potters.200 In the same source according to the the profession the person is mentioned as "awunds"az.201 In villages, besides his customary services, he could be hired to work in the fields of cultivators. Besides getting remuneration in kind from each household in the countryside, they used to sell their pots outside their house or in the market. In towns where they did vend their products, they were to pay a tax for selling utensils in the market. They sold their pots to petty merchants. Bihar was famous for ‘perfumed’ pottery, while Burhanpur enjoyed fame for its glazed pottery. Earthen pots and toys with decorative designs were manufactured in Assam. Beautiful pottery was manufactured in various parts like, the Amer region, Gwalior, Ayodhya, Banaras, Lucknow, Kashmir, and Delhi. A rare evidence in Manucci reveals that individual potters used to put certain specific marks or symbols on pots manufactured by them saying that: ‘It is customary in the Mogul country for every potter to put his own special mark on his pots’.202 There were some who specialized in making toys. Toy makers were known as khilonas " az " or muratk"ar, who were expert at making beautiful floral designs and pictures of living things on the toys.203 Another professional group, rendering valuable services was that of burnt brick-makers, called as khishtpaz ashtik"ak"ar, or puj"awah w"al"a.204 TAILORS

Tailors or darz∂, khayy"at, bastra/vastra s∂nvak, vastra bhedak, parcha " 205 tar"ash, utukash, khatkash or darz∂, were always in demand as there


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

was a big market for stitched garments in India and the neighbouring countries.206 European and other foreign merchants, wanted some ready-to-wear clothes for personal use and occasionally for exports too, ‘readymade and Dyed’. Tailors were asked to stitch clothes either after European fashion or in a manner that suited the customer in the form of ‘apparel’. Design and style of such clothes largely depended upon the requirement of a customer. On arrival in India, they immediately needed some clothes suitable for the climate of the coastal towns. These were tailored in the very towns mainly where they cast anchors.207 Their interaction with the Europeans during the seventeenth century had made them masters of their craft. Ovington’s remarks about the ingenuity of tailors at Surat may be taken as a proof for it: ‘The tailers here fashion the Cloaths for the Europeans, either Men or Women, according to every Mode that prevails; and fit up the Commedes, and towering Head-Dresses for the Women, with as much Skill, as if they had been an Indian Fashion, or themselves had been Apprentices at the Royal exchange.’208 There are elaborate details about manufacturing quilts for Indian and foreign markets. English (and the Dutch too) used to engage tailors in making quilts ‘in accordance of the Company’s wishes’.209 Quilts and wall hangings were generally bought readymade by the Europeans.210 Ahmadabad was one of the great centres of manufacturing garments, especially quilts of ‘chints and pintado quilts’. After facing some losses, when Ahmadabad factors were ordered to be shut down the factory in 1621, English factors convinced the Company to reopen it saying that ‘pintados’ quilts would not be available otherwise. They further emphasized that ‘pintadoe quilts’ were very dear at Surat, while these quilts were more in demand.211 Ahmadabad was also a centre of quilts made in white calico. Englishmen also tried to get partly ‘cullored’ quilts in Ahmadabad during the early years of their stay in the town (1618). In addition, Ahmadabad was the place where tailors could make two types of quilts—close stitched and ‘slightly stitched’ quilts, much to the satisfaction of the customers.212 Demand for stitched goods, especially quilts, was so great that often these tailors failed to gratify the demand of all their customers. A complaint

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was made by the English merchants in 1618 regarding the hardships in getting tailors to work for them citing that their number in the town was quite less. It indicates towards either shortage of skilled tailors, or an increase in the demand of readymade stuff. To get dresses of their own specifications, the English Company started sending tailors from England also as is evident from a later report that speaks of the presence of one Henri Walfree in 1636 and someone called William Appleton in 1643 as the tailors in Surat factory.213 Somehow, Indian tailors everywhere were not so eager to gratify the demands of foreign customers. They could be found, otherwise, in quite a substantial number in cities like Ahmadabad. Surat was another centre of manufacturing quilts where variety of stuff ‘both of white calicoes and of all sorts of painted stuffs’ could be had in ‘abundance and very reasonable’, informed the English merchants in the early years of their stay in Surat. Surat tailors were also acknowledged for producing cotton quilts lined with taffeta. Dutch merchants used the term ‘blankets’ for the quilts made in Surat.214 Quilts of chintz manufactured in Surat were considered ‘novelties’ in London. In 1667, the Company demanded their merchants to obtain large size quilts (with purple and green flowers with a tinge of red), and that these ‘should be at least 3½ yards by 3¼’. It suggests that the quilts generally available were smaller in size than what was being asked for now. Surat tailors were compelled to fulfil the increased demands of merchants to such an extent that in ‘haste of business’ would ‘slub’ quilts leading to complaints from the foreign customers. Samples were also sent of ‘rich quilts’, implying that expensive variety was also produced for the market.215 Cambay too, was celebrated for the quality of quilts produced here. In 1517, Duarte Barbosa visited Cambay. He found skilful workers there and wrote—‘they make very beautiful quilts, beds, finely worked with painted and quilted articles of dress’. Alexander Hamilton at the close of the seventeenth and during early years of the eighteenth century categorically speaks of the goodness of quilts made in Cambay: ‘They embroider best of any people in India. Their fine quilts were formerly carried to Europe. I have seen some worth 40 £ ster’, meaning that superior quality of quilts were tailored on demand.216 Delhi also specialized


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

in quilts.217 Quilts made according to Indian designs and sizes— ‘quilts of cheentes or quilts of cotton, close [stitched and] lined with taffetye’, were readily accepted in the European society. During the seventeenth century, even when the Portuguese trade had dwindled, they used to carry annually from Gujarat varieties of things including ‘various handsome stitched quilts and hangings for bed’.218 In Bengal, Satgaon near Hugli was a popular destination to procure quilts. These were actually brought from the ‘bottom’ of Bengal and vended in Satgaon, thus earned the repute of ‘quilts of Satgaon’ or ‘Bengala quilts’. Here the tailors trimmed them with ‘silk fringe tassels and lined them partly with taffeta and partly with tessur (tasar silk), or ‘wrought with silk’.219 In Patna, quilt makers imitated ‘Sutgonge’ [Satgaon] quilts and sold these at a reasonable rate.220 In Coromandal, Petapolly and Masulipatam, tailors manufactured quilts of chintz, perhaps not on a very large scale. Dutch merchants speak of ‘cotton blankets’ made in Golconda, signifying that these were perhaps similar to the quilts.221 Quilts were made ‘elsewhere’ too, as is evident from some of the references from Gujarat.222 In a ‘Relations’ attributed to Thomas Roe, most probably prepared by Edward Terry, the author speaks of the ingenuity of weavers, quilt makers and the carpet makers. Of quilt makers his observations deserve a mention: The Natives there . . . show very much ingenuity in their curious Manufactures . . . As also in making excellent Quilts of their stained (printed) cloth, or of fresh coloured Taffta lined with Their Pintadoet, or of their Sattin lined with Taffata, betwixt which they putt Cotton-Wool, and work them together with Silk. Those of Taffata or Sattin-quilts, are excellently stitched by them, being done as evenly, and in as good order as if they had been drawn out of them, for their direction, the better to work them.223

Agra tailors also had earned a place for themselves in the records of foreign merchants for stitching various types of quilts. The details provided for the same are fascinating and give a clue how the tailors were induced to take up assignments in accordance of the requirement of the client. Here are the directions from England for the quilts required from Agra in 1619:

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some [should be], all of on kind of chinte, the lyninge and upper parte of one and the same; some differinte chintes, yet such as either side may be used; and some to have borders only of different cullers, aboute a covide deepe, to hange by the bed side on all sides alike, and the inner parte of the quilte also to bee both sides alike. This last is most used in India, and wee thinke will be most pleasinge in England. They must be a little thicker and stronger sticht then ordinary, for their better lastinge. Lawne quilts wee do [not?] conceave soe fit for England as if they were of semianoe, amberttes or sahume cloth, which will be much more lasting, stichte with birdes, beastes or workee very thicke, such used by the Moores instead of carpitts. Of this sorte there comes, itt seems from Bengala. His Lordship (Thomas Roe?) had three or four which bought at lasker [camp] stichte with cullered silke, that will [give] good contente in England; and wee doubte not, by bespeaking, you will procure them to be made of such sizes as the Companies letter doth mencion.224

Europeans also employed Indian tailors to stitch pillow covers, quilts, petticoats and shirts. English merchants employed five or six Indian tailors in Petapolly in 1631 to stitch ‘pillowbears’ or pillow-cases to take home. Surat tailors often avoided making apparel for European merchants and factors, but nearby Swally Marine had tailors (identified as ‘merchants’) who would never decline any such request from these people. In 1642, in a letter from some Englishmen from Swally to a broker in Surat, demand is made to procure a tailor ‘that knows to worke after our English manner’. They needed these clothes immediately after reaching the Indian ports, proves that there were some who had nearly acquired some expertise in tailoring clothes after European fashion. Tailors of Surat, somehow, were not so accurate in stitching the clothes for foreign customers as was observed once: ‘Taylors in Suratt are not plentifull enough to worke what wee would sett them too, and time will not permit the making of any chintees into quilts; so they may be sent to England unmade’. It indicates that tailors were most often overworked and demand was unlimited.225 Perhaps they brought their own tailors here and employed along with the natives as they had done in Madras and Ahmadabad region. Tailored clothes, like petticoats and shirts, were also shipped to England. Urban demand for tailored clothes was substantial. These were available in all the big cities like Agra and Cambay also. Tailors were well established


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

in their profession and were known as khayy"at, vastras∂nwak or darz∂ in Persian, Sanskrit and Hindustani respectively. In south India they were identified as kottali or gottali.226 Although they do not seem to have been divided on religious lines but Hamilton concludes that in Surat there were few Hindu tailors as compared to the Muslims.227 They also took up assignments for mending dresses, but not without their own biases. Ovington appreciates their craftsmenship, and at the same time says they are superstitious about mending old cloths in the morning which ‘is of a very ill abode’, and keep reserved the mornings for fashioning new cloths. Afternoons are considered proper for doing mending work.228 Embroidery is a feature related to the readymade or tailored items. Embroidered quilts in cotton and silk were in great demand. Hangings were also embroidered. The Dutch gave more importance to quilts and hangings with embroidery, especially those produced in Gujarat. Sind and Multan were other regions which produced beautiful pieces of embroidery, including unstitched pieces.229 Quilted bedspreads from Bengal with embroidery in pictorial style were often taken to Europe where scenes with animations were depicted, sometimes having European figures.230 Pieces with fine needle work in ‘Islamic style’ were also prepared in Dacca.231 CARPENTERS

Carpenters were known as d"arubhedak, kasht " tat, takshya, shakatkar, " rathk"ar, darudgar, " kharrad, " 232 sutar, " najjar, " behlsaz, " khati, " or barhai; and in south India mainly as tachchan.233 They were counted among the members of village community and received remuneration, usually, in kind. In villages, they prepared implements for peasants. In the towns, they produced items a bit different from those manufactured for the village population. Highly skilled carpenters were taken into service to work in the imperial k"arkhanas " " or of the nobles. They contributed to making furniture and wood-work in the houses. Workmanship of carpenters of Gujarat and Kashmir was well acknowledged. Lahore was famous for manufacturing good quality harness and saddles. Carpenters were sought after for mak-

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ing and repairing ships. English factors often invited them to the warehouse to live and work for them. English and other Europeans had their own carpenters on ships and, very rarely, in their factories also on a regular basis. Although they did not manufacture a variety of items for export, but their workmanship never went unnoticed as the European travellers of the period speak of them in an admiring tone. Guilded chairs, cots and items of sh∂sham wood built in Baroda were in great demand in Basra. Terry was certainly in awe of the items produced by the carpenters and craftsmen providing collateral services who made beautiful cabinets and boxes and painted them ingeniously with lac, gold and silver water.234 They were invited from outside the town as well. In the 1630s English factors at Narsapur assured Masulipatam factors to send ‘country carpenters to them if necessary’ to repair English boats there. Narsapur was a popular centre of shipbuilding as well as repairing work was extensively carried on there. Another reference shows the President of English Company being asked to send ‘one of his carpenters’ to the nearby port of Swally, indicating that they employed carpenters exclusively for their own self. Beautiful cabinets were made at Thana, north of Bombay, to which the English merchants showed much interest.235 A request sent in 1664 for English carpenters needed for Madras settlement, and a reference related to 1677 showing the chief carpenter being a ‘black’, or of Indian origin, working at Fort St. George, indicates that carpenters were maintained at a regular basis there.236 SHIP-CARPENTERS AND SERVANTS ON SHIPS

During the Mughal period, references suggest that ships varied from one thousand to fifteen hundred tonnages. Hundreds of ships travelled daily between Gujarat and the Malabar Coast. Observations of seventeenth-century merchants suggest for the entire Bay of Bengal, presence of approximately 40,000 to 50,000 ships, big and small, floating in water at different places. Ships were generally made in Konkan—especially Bombay, Daman, and at Coromandal Coast for coastal as well as Indian Ocean trade. Of Narsapur


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

in Coromandal, ships were built both by Indians and Europeans, specifically because all necessary material like timber and iron, including the services of carpenters, were easily available there. Iron in Narsapur was mainly supplied from iron mines in Golconda. Narsapur was the main destination for ships requiring repair. One added advantage was that carpenters’ services could be obtained on low wages.237 Centres where boats were made, were— Lahore, Agra, Broach, Goa, Diu, Nausari, Masulipatam, Narsapur, Dhaka, Chittagong, Allahabad and various parts of Kashmir. Carpenters for making and mending ships were in great demand, especially in Gujarat and Konkan. Carpenters employed for such jobs were not always the local people. Some of them had to be encouraged to come down to certain places, or sent to work even from far off places. They were assigned the job of procuring timber also.238 At Gingalee (Coromandal), ships were made with the help of the English by expert master-builders. Because of plenty of timber sold here at reasonable rates and availability of the artisans performing collateral services, like ironsmiths, carpenters by learning certain techniques were able to build ships ‘in a most Excellent manner’. Perhaps majority of them were Hindus (as the term Gentues is frequently used for them). They have been characterized as possessive and mean as they would not allow anyone belonging to their own professional group to go anywhere and work for ‘others’ (i.e. Europeans) as the latter were not in their good books. Thomas Bowrey lamented that ‘They poison all ship Carpenters that are Employed by any, Either Moore, Dutch, nay of the English Especially, that Undertake the building of any Ship’.239 Although in and around Surat timber was not available even for constructing houses, but due to the brisk trade in liquor, palm trees were grown abundantly. Other than drawing tary (toddy) from palm-tree, its wood was used for mending ships also. People used its trunk for making masts, anchors and hulls of ships and out of its bark, ropes and cables were prepared.240 Ovington, however, found teak in use for the purpose of building ships in Surat. The skill with which carpenters built the ships here, leaves little doubt about their ingenuity and their being in frequent employment under the Europeans:

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And the very Ship-Carpenters at Suratt will take the Model of any English Vessel, in all the Curiosity of its Building, and the most artificial Instances of Workmanship about it, whether they are for the Convenience of Burthen, or of quick Sailing, as exactly as if they they had been the first Contrivers. The Wood with which they built their Ships would be very proper for our Men of War in Europe, for it has this Excellence, that it never splinters by the Force of a Bullet, nor is injur’d by those violent Impressions, beyond the just Bore of the Shot.241

European merchants employed the carpenters from their home countries to work on their ships during the journeys. Carpenters were regularly employed to mend ships at the important ports, and immediately before undertaking a voyage.242 Indian carpenters (specifically Hindus) were averse to the very thought of going abroad on ships, as they feared of being declared outcastes.243 It suggests that sending them off to distant ports was a practice not quite widespread. As for the wages, seventeenth century sources repeatedly declare that wages of different groups of artisans and labourers, including the carpenters, were not generally high. They charged very cheap, and their work was admired being ‘substantiall and strong’. At places like Bombay, where good timber at cheap rates was also available, their services were sought for making or repairing ships more frequently. The contemporary merchants hugely admired their workmanship in the field.244 Certain restrictions were imposed by the administration on the foreign merchants who employed Indians to build or repair their ships, certainly due to the dearth of such craftsmen as in case of Broach where the kotw"al hardly allowed the carpenters to go and work on European ships harbouring at Surat/Swally. Their services were desperately required ‘for house building as [well as] for shippinge’. In one particular case, these carpenters expressed their wish to return ‘alleging that they were not paid the terms agreed upon’.245 It points towards their entering into a kind of agreement prior to taking up the assignment. They enjoyed protection from the side of administration also. In such cases foreign merchants petitioned for mutual help. Once at Gandevi or Nausari, English factors not hoping for any help from the local ‘governor’, asked the Portuguese at Dahanu to assist them with men and material. Therefore,


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

they sent ‘two smiths, two sawyers and an able carpenter named Daniell Burrell to superintend the work; while William Pitt was nominated to make all necessary disbursement’. They maintained their own smiths from their home countries to tackle the problem of scarcity of skilled smiths.246 There are reports, however, that non-European carpenters and caulkers were ill treated on ships and often forced to starve. On the ships plying in the Indian Ocean, Arabs and Abyssinians were employed (here by the Portuguese) to do menial work, who served them ‘for small money’. The manner they were treated in was quite inhuman as they were often beaten mercilessly. Their condition was worse than slaves, and these were treated ‘like Dogs, which they beare very patiently, not once speaking a word’. Their families usually accompanied them on ships. While Portuguese were appointed as captains, Arabians were kept as chief boat waine or ‘Moca don’ (muqaddam or n"akhuda?) to help during voyages. The Captain was given the charge of these Arabians and Abyssinians and treated them as subjects or, rather, slaves.247 BLACKSMITHS

In village society, involvement of a blacksmith was chiefly related to the needs of the peasant households.248 He was counted among the members of the village community. There he was traditionally paid in the form of kind and often enjoyed tax-free holdings. In villages he worked along with the village carpenter to produce tools and implements required for farming.249 In the towns he did the same work and produced tools and agricultural implements of vari251 ous types.250 He was known as ahangar, " lohk"ar, lohpatrak"ar, ∂sk"ar 252 or loh"ar, etc., and the profession was followed among the Muslims and Hindus alike. In the Madras region blacksmiths were called kollan,253 along with carpenters, were considered inferior to weavers and painters and were identified with those who ‘worked with the left hand’.254 Indians were fully aware of the art of purifying iron, which was rather a complicated process.255 The best variety of steel was used for making swords. Sword makers were known as saqilgar if they happen to be Muslims, or asidh"avak, if Hindus.256

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The Dutch exported Indian iron products to Batavia in the seventeenth century. About the ironsmiths of Madapollam in Coromandal, Thomas Bowrey wrote in the 1670s that ‘any sort of iron work is here ingeniously performed by natives, as spikes, bolts, anchors, etc.’257 At the end of the seventeenth century we find that ‘coast anchors for ships in moulds’ were also being manufactured in Balasore.258 Smiths were usually hired on daily wages. Iron was obtained from Nirmal or Shisha hills out of hornblende state or schist. Other famous iron mines were located at Dimdurti (on the Godavari), Kalinjar, Gwalior, Kumaon and Ajmer. Swords were made in great quantities in Lahore, Agra, Sialkot, Multan and in different towns of Gujarat and Golconda. Best matchlocks were made at Sialkot and in some parts of Mewar. For the use of common people, weapons were manufactured locally. Monserrate is full of appreciation for Sonipatum (Sonipat) when he speaks of the workmanship of the ironsmiths of the town in the following words: Sonipatum . . . a small town, but more famous than many a city on account of the swords, scimitars, daggers, poniards, and steel points for spears, files and javelins, which are skillfully manufactured here and exported to all parts of the empire.

He elaborates that in the neighbouring Himalayas, there are mines where iron (ore) is obtained from, that is why ‘very many manufacturers of this kind of weapons live here’.259 Some of the smiths adopted the profession of utensil-making, and they usually made utensils of copper and brass. They were 260 called k"anskar, " kupia, " " | | patrkar, kasera" or thathera. They were persuaded to settle in newly-founded cities and townships. Europeans especially assigned them proper quarters in such cases. English officers had asked the Company for some smiths and carpenters for Madras in 1664.261 Mutual fights between the smiths and their brethren carpenters were not uncommon, which would often lead to a precarious situation for the employer. In 1670, a long drawn conflict between them at Masulipatam had grown to such a pitch that they all had to run away, without much hope of return, leaving their English clients in a lurch.262 At times the n"alband (farrier), or those who fixed the horseshoe,


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

were mistaken for smiths. In 1678, English at Bombay were in an urgent want of ‘a good smith to shoe the horses, as one was not procurable at Bombay, and those at Surat were disinclined to go to live there’, pointing to their indifference towards changing their base.263 For the entire seventeenth-century Englishmen faced difficulties in having services of good smiths from their own country. A case of Madras makes it evident that they had no choice but to seek help from ‘Black Fellows for what they have Occasion for those ways’.264 BAMBOO WORKERS AND MAKERS OF MATS

A group who specialized in such a job made mats, baskets, sunshades, huts and roofs. In Sind, the same class of people made palanquins also. In Kashmir, bamboo workers manufactured beautiful items of utility and decoration. It was a rural as well as urban industry and widely spread all over India. The makers of mats, fans, thatches and stools—mondh"as, using the reed and bamboo, were called boryab " af " , bajjankar " , or katkar " . Those who made cages and curtains of bamboo sticks—chiq, were known as chiqs"az or dw"ar "achh"adank"ar. Muslims and Hindus both were likewise engaged in this profession. Monserrate praises the craftsmen of Sirhind for producing excellent quality bows and quivers.265 PAPER MANUFACTURERS AND BOOK BINDERS

They were called k"aghazsaz " or kagad∂. " Patna, Delhi, Rajgir, Sialkot, Lucknow, Ahmadabad, Gaya, Murshidabad, Zafarabad, and Shahzadpur near Allahabad were chief centres of paper manufacturing. In imperial k"arkhanas " " paper was made for official use. Paper manufacturing industry was an urban industry. Different varieties of paper were available in the market, but only that of high quality was required for maintaining records, writing accounts and letters, and drafting imperial orders—farm"ans. Books were in great demand among the nobles, the affluent and the literate class. Paper of ordinary quality was needed to prepare small paper bags (kharit"as), or it was used for wrapping. Paper was dyed in different colours too.266 Mir"at-ul Istilah " refers to coloured paper used for making

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kites. John Van Twist (1634) mentions that ships from Gujarat brought many commodities to Goa, Diu and Daman, including old (fish) nets ‘useful for the paper makers’.267 It was used for making artistic objects too. Bookbinding was a profession with huge prospects, and binding was also done in imperial k"arkhanas. " " The profession of book binders known as jilds"az, was distinct from that of paper manufacturers. Europeans mainly imported paper from their home countries that they considered superior to Indian paper. Technique of preparing pulp for paper is discussed in detail in the sources of later period, like Bay"az-i Khushb"ui.268 Unfortunately, no such specific details can be found for the period of our study (Except in the Åin). WORKERS IN GLASS, STONES, BEADS AND OTHER MATERIALS Known as sh∂sh"agar and bindhera (one who drills stones and pearls)269 in medieval India, manufacturers of glass articles were quite famous for their talent. During the Mughal period, cutware bottles, huqqa bowls, dishes, dish covers, spittoon, flower pots, mirrors were made at different places. Kolhapur, Satara, Sholapur, Bid, Ahmadnagar, many cities of Gujarat and Bihar, Agra, Gorakhpur were famed centres for manufacturing glassware. Mirrors of superior quality used by the rich, nobles and kings, were generally imported through Europeans. Mirrors were also used in embroidery and decorating walls, especially of kings’ and nobles’ chambers, or fixed in windows as window-panes. Stone polishing, stone cutting, bottle making and window cutting was done all over the places. In Kashmir trays, lamps, dishes and other fancy items were prepared of glass. Articles of rock salt were manufactured near the salt mines in Punjab. Those Europeans visiting India in the seventeenth century, frequently noticed makers of vessels of stone. In Agra, Thevenot witnessed a class of skilled artisans who made vessels of crystal and agate and beautified them with circles of gold or encased stone upon the engraved flowers and other figures. Those who were in the profession of engraving were known as naqq"ash"a n (sing. naqq"a sh) or kh"a tam band"an.270 They also used leaves of gold to fill up the void spaces


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

skilfully. In this trade, they employed ‘poor people’, and sometimes little boys who were expert at doing it quickly with much skill. They could perfectly beat and flatten the rods of gold meant to fill engravings.271 Thevenot found that (apart from cotton goods) there was no other trade in Broach ‘but of Agates’, which were sent to Cambay. Of Cambay he wrote that cups, ‘Chaplets and Rings’ of agate and ivory bracelets were produced in ‘vast numbers’. In his account Careri praises the ‘curiosities made in most valuable Agate’ in Cambay, marketed in Ahmadabad and brought to Europe.272 Tavernier specifically reminds his readers that ‘agates which come from India (in Europe) are cut into cups, handles of knives, and beads and other objects of workmanship’ that were prepared at Cambay.273 Hamilton identified Surat as a place where excellent cabinets were made by the (Parsee) craftsmen using ivory and agate.274 Charles Lockyer also has a word of praise for the ‘artists’ of Surat who worked in ivory and items which were made for domestic and foreign markets. His remarks are worthy of quote: Their Artists are very ingenious, especially in Inlaying, and working in Ivory, which is always a Staple Commodity among them; tho’ vast Quantitys are Yearly imported from the Coast of Africk, and other Parts; insomuch, that ’tis surprising to think, what a consumption there must be of it in the Mogull’s Dominions. It is often times to be met with in small Parcels at the Cape of Good Hope.275

However, Cambay had been the place around which the agate and carnelian industry revolved because these were found in the rivers of the place. Charles Lockyer categorically mentions about the bazar of Surat that ‘it is always full of Cambay Stones, as Agates and Cornellans, from a Pice a Corge, to a Rupee a Piece’.276 Sixteenth century Portuguese traveller Tome Pires also counts the carnelian industry as one of the main industries of Cambay.277 By using these two stones, craftsmen produced a variety of elegant items. Of cornelian they made rings, stones of signets; while of agate cabinets were made in a way that except the lids the entire body of it was done in agate. Hamilton keenly took note of these items and informs that he saw some of such cabinets ‘14 or 15 inches long, and 8 or 9 deep’. Including these valued items, they

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


also made bowls, spoons, handles of swords, daggers, knives and buttons and snuff boxes, etc., either completely of agate or by setting the stone in certain other items.278 Speaking of the ingenuity of craftsmen in India, Edward Terry greatly admired the way they made cabinets, standish, boxes, trunks inlaid with ivory, mother of pearl, ebony, tortoise shell and wires of precious metals. He also includes in the list cups and other items made of agate and carnelian, which he says were made by people with much perfection. Continuing with the same matter, he speaks of others involved in ‘diverse vocations’, about those he says that they paint Staves, or Bed-steads, or Chests of Boxes, or Fruit Dishes, or large Chargers, extreme neatly, which, when they be not inlaid (as before) they cover the Wood (first being handsomely turned) with a thick Gum, then put their Paint on, most artificially made of liquid Silver, or Gold, or lively Colours, which they use; and after make it much more beautiful with a very clear varnish put upon it.279

In Goa also some items were prepared of stones. Here other types of stones were also available, especially one variety called ‘Snake Stone’ and the other one as ‘Magnetic square stone’. These were popular for having some medicinal qualities, but to the utter despair of Charles Lockyer, who tried these, all were without effect. In Madras also a variety of stone called ‘Manooch’s Stones’ were prepared which were similar to ‘Goa Stones’.280 At Sahsaram (Bihar), Mundy had an encounter with harn"a bhains (wild buffaloes) whose horns were used by local craftsmen in the manufacture of ‘Indian [composite] Bows, addinge diverse other materials, as sinnewes, strong glew, wood etts., beinge of the same forme of your Turkish bowes and as faire and rich’. He adds information about the articles made of the horns of gainda (rhinos) in the same area. People made ‘Cupps, rings and Churees (bracelets or bangles), Circles or small hoopes, which woemen wear on their wrists, they being of great esteeme, as are the rings and Cupps, especially of some sorts’.281 In Multan, Hamilton saw people making bows and arrows of buffaloes’ horns which he found to be ‘the best’ of all manufacture in the entire world.282 Coral beads were in great demand in Bengal and Patna was a


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

place where large number of merchants dealt with items made of coral beads. For vending in Bengal by making Patna as base of their trade, English factors were willing to invest in coral beads as early as the 1620s, and were pretty sure that they ‘will yearly vend 50 or 60000 rup[ees]’ value of goods there. The problem, however, was that at Patna there was dearth of skilled workers to polish them. 283 In the same sequence, their counterparts in Masulipatam wrote to the President and council in Surat in 1621 about the dim prospects in coral beads’ trade in that city. Somehow, they explored the possibility for the same in a town in Bijapur territory called Lantegree and wrote that ‘there reside most of those artificiers which are accustomed to pollish corrall for which they have 10 pag[odas]per maen for their workemanship’. It, without a doubt, indicates that they charged on the basis of weight for polishing the beads.284 MASONRY WORKERS Building activities were not confined to any quarter or region, and expert services of masons were commonly available, with certain exceptions. House builders, canal and pond diggers, stone cutters, brick makers, timber sawyers, wood carvers, manufacturers of bamboo articles, varnishers, glaziers, roof-makers, lime-makers, welldiggers and cleaners, etc., provided valuable support to the building construction activities. They were known as raj " or maimar " .285 A reference for the year 1677 shows English factors in Madras appointing a ‘black’ as the chief bricklayer to carry on repair work. However, for the construction of forts or other impressive and important buildings, extremely expert ‘engineers, workmen, soldiers and materials to make the work firm for defence and opposicion’ were sought for. Disputes between Indian masons (here called ‘bricklayers’) and Europeans were common, and could invite the wrath of local state officials.286 Unfortunately, there are reports about their being oppressed by the state officers like bakhsh∂s, d∂w"ans, kotw"als or subahdars, " etc. They were often seized in their houses or streets, and were forced to work for nobles and powerful officers. They were beaten with whip if they refused to oblige.287 Work-

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manship of masonry workers is quite evident in the contemporary monuments. Men, women and children—all were employed in the construction activities. They could be called from distant places, as in one case they were carried from Surat to Bombay in 1668 to be employed in building the fort as locally available masons were found ‘very ignorant and lazy’.288 Likewise, English President from Batavia factory wrote in March 1624 to the English factors settled in the eastern coast of India, to establish a factory in Tanjur (Tanjavur). He also asked to send ‘from thence 15 bricklayers that have skill to lay plaister of pallist (plaster of Paris, probably chunam or lime is intended) and 15 coulies to labour, which you shall buy, though they cost 20 rials per piece (person, slaves intended here) and upward’.289 They worked under a chief or muqaddam and a chief architect (maim"ar). One interesting episode related to Bombay is that these muqaddams enjoyed their status and exploited bricklayers and masons under them. One such muqaddam was charged for malpractices in 1680, ‘such as their employing coolies to bring their (muqaddam’s) meals and their taking the percentage of the workmen’s wages’, i.e. those engaged in the work of fortification of the Bombay Fort.290 LABOURERS AND COLLATERAL SERVICE PROVIDERS

WASHERMEN, OR ‘BEATERS’ AND BLEACHERS OR ‘WHITENERS’ The last stage in the process of manufacturing textiles was of washing/bleaching and applying starch. All types of cloths, especially cotton cloths were to be washed after weaving and dying. Washermen were called g" a zur, 291 vastra shodhak, rajjak, dhobi 292 or mainati [from mehnat /labour] in the Chawl region of Konkan, or vannathamars in Malabar. Anand Ram in Dast"ur-ul Amal identifies bleachers as forming a separate caste.293 Unwashed and unfinished (white) cloths were known as ‘brown’, and they were to be ‘cured’ or washed, bleached and starched prior to packing. Often the pieces were brought ‘browne from the loome’ and forwarded


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

to the bleachers and washers by the merchants themselves. After washing and bleaching cloths were starched and stiffened ‘with rice water’. This process was also called ‘gumming’. Boiled rice water, called conjee [starch, Tamil kanji], was commonly used to starch cotton cloths. Same substance was called m"andi also. Dastur" ul Amal of 1065 AH refers to abraq (mica) used by washermen as a finishing agent to give a shine to the washed or cured cloths.294 To whiten these pieces n∂ll (n∂l, indigo) was also applied which would bring a kind of shine to the white pieces. However, over-stiffening would often make it impossible to have an idea of the actual quality of the fabric.295 Washermen were normally booked in advance, sometimes five to six months prior to the final packing, so that the goods could be dispatched in time. If the merchants failed to contact them at the right moment, washermen could divert their services to other merchants as was done by their other brethren—weavers, painters and dyers. No matter how cautiously the merchants moved, their attempts did not always bear the desired consequences. Once the English factors at Ahmadabad asked their fellow merchants in Broach in April to book for them washermen for the coming season, i.e. September in 1622-3, and their request met with a failure. Reason assigned to it was that ‘after the rains their washers will be fully employed, besides the double packing’ (additional work) gives trouble.’ Thatta was a great centre of cotton manufacturing industry. Here goods were sent ‘elsewhere’ for washing because of the busy schedule of washermen.296 They were called from adjoining areas in the wake of increase in demand of Indian textiles world over in the seventeenth century. When the English settled in Petapolly (Pettapollee/Nizampattam), they brought ten or more families of washermen in October 1632 from a place called Vantapooly (Ventapalemu) lying 23 miles south-west of Petapolly. They were to be provided accommodation as well along with a washers’ room which was built spending ‘two pagodas worth of toddy trees’, with whatever else was necessary, and they also decided to build them a house in their ‘great court(yard) next to the cookroome’. In the next decade when there was a surplus, ten families of washermen were sent to the English factory in Masulipatam in October 1632

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as heavy rains hindered the processing of textiles there and goods could not be made ready on time. Similarly, in the same season only two washermen could be provided with much difficulty from Masulipatam for Petapolly saying that ‘through the great imployment they receave here from Dutch, Danes and Moores’. The very next year (1633) we hear again of similar request made by the factors of Masulipatam to those in Petapolly, indicating that it had become an immense problem to find washermen in the area during summers and after. Since, there was just one merchant in Petapolly factory he was advised that he should not maintain more than one family of washerman.297 Viravasram near Masulipatam, was known for the quality service provided by its washermen ‘and noe cloth in all those countrys better cured that at Verashroone nine miles north-west of Madapollam’, admired one of the English merchants. Merchants at Madapollam often faced shortage of washermen. English factors at Masulipatam, time and again, would help their fellow servants by way of sending washermen already in their regular service to help them cure their cloths.298 After acquiring the township of Madras, English Company’s servants tried to solve the problem of scarcity of washermen by demarcating a specific quarter on the western side of Fort St. George as ‘washermens’ town’. They settled them here permanently. To avoid any chance of betrayal, English merchants asked the Company for some soldiers so that they could keep a watch on these washermen and in their spare time help in packing the goods into bales also. In nearby Masulipatam also, only solution found to meet the demand for washermen was by giving them employment on a permanent or regular basis.299 When Bombay was transferred to the English, washermen were too invited to settle there. It is stated that those already inhabiting the Island, were not eager to provide services to foreign merchants, and ultimately were found of no ‘qualitie and estate’, too. Europeans, on certain occasions sent washermen to other settlements outside India also. President and Council of English factory at Surat sent two washermen to their chief factory in Batavia in December 1622 for one year and their salaries were to be paid in Batavia only. They were, perhaps, on the roll of Surat factory. By


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

the return ship, in April 1623, they received the acknowledgement from their staff in Batavia. Evidence shows the presence of Indian washermen in Bantam in the following decades too when the President informed in July 1642 that one of Surat’s ‘washers’ had been allowed to return, he ‘being a quarrelsome old knave’. He also requested to send someone in his place with ‘three or four baskets of good Suratt soap’.300 A single European factory or merchant house could acquire thousands of unwashed pieces of textiles from its neighbouring areas as well as specialities were brought from remote places also. Some pieces required special treatment and for better finishing could be sent to distant places where these were processed in a better way. There were orders from England that derebands (dariab " ad " ∂, a fine quality cotton cloth) from Agra was to be ‘whited’ (washed) preferably at Broach. A credible reason for it was that lemon was a necessary ingredient for bleaching the white pieces and it was grown in abundance in the vicinity of Broach and Navasari, as Tavernier remarked that ‘for cotton cloth can never be well bleached if they are not steeped in lemon juice’. Similarly, in small towns like Samana where merchants from outside did not have much to do except buying cotton pieces, they had to stay there to supervise the process of washing. In such one case, two English merchants had to stay there for a year that proved to be a costly affair, when not only personal expenses increased the cost of the goods but charges of brokers to engage the washermen had also to be paid. Nonetheless, there are contradictory reports about washermen’s services at Broach. Information says that cotton cloths from Broach were itself forwarded to Ahmadabad as these were specially ‘whited’ there.301 On one of the occasions, the President and Council at Surat instructed their agents at Ahmadabad not to leave behind their calicoes at Broach for ‘bleaching’. The reason assigned to it was that as far as ‘curing of brown cloth’ was concerned, it could be done at cheap rates at Broach, while washermen at Baroda did the job more perfectly but charged higher rates.302 That is why the practice of buying calicoes ‘browne’ at Agra and Lucknow and having them bleached at Broach, effected a good saving. ‘Beating’ of finished pieces while washing was not approved, hence, cotton

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


goods were brought down from these regions, especially Khairabad, to Broach, Baroda and Ahmadabad for washing and bleaching, and the entire process was known as ‘curing’.303 Another valid reason for buying textile pieces unwashed was that it were starched in a deceitful manner and one could not have any idea of its actual quality; or to conceal the defect of ‘weaving being more hollow and deceitful, . . . by reason of extraordinary gumming and beating’, weavers cheated the merchants.304 Thus inferior quality cloth could be passed on at higher rates. Moreover, buying the cloth ‘brown’, merchants could save some amount, as a reference for Lakhawar and Patna indicates that ‘in buyinge the browne cloth the buyer payeth no brokerage’; that was to be given to brokers to get finished goods. Besides that, in Patna region a strange custom was followed by the washermen where they would tear a piece or fragment (reza), from the length of brown amberty (a fine cotton cloth). They would then sell separately these pieces for their gain and cured (washed) the rest, ‘which custome neither have nor purpose to follow, but to white the intier pece as bought from the loome’, wrote one of the English Company factors to the President in Surat with much worry. At Samana, for getting cloths washed and bleached, one had to stay, at least, for a year. Similarly, when purchased brown at Samana, the price paid was ten per cent higher than those bought in Agra; whereas, bleached and washed pieces yielded a margin of 5 per cent only. In this way, charges of brokerage could also be saved.305 Since availability of a good quantity of water was a must for washing cloths, river water was preferred for better results. Sometimes properties of water were linked with the results.306 Tavernier explained the reason for calicoes (and other material) brought from far off places to be washed and bleached at Broach—that water of the river (Narmada) is supposed to possess special qualities giving good results. About washing of b"aftas " or coloured pieces of cloth in Agra and Ahmadabad, he was sure of the properties of water that gave good lustre to it as he wrote—‘the Indians know how to pass some of these cloths through a certain water which causes them to appear like a waved camlet, and these pieces are the dearest’. Englishmen, however, assign the reason to perfection on the part


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

of the washermen of Broach saying that ‘towne yet retaynes its wonted perfection and hath the preference before all other places’.307 There are references about cotton textiles sent from Masulipatam to Surat, or Masulipatam to Petapolly for bleaching.308 Crude silk was always yellowish in colour which had to be cured carefully. People of Qasimbazar enjoyed the reputation of having knowledge of a special method of bleaching it white ‘with a lye made of ashes of a tree’ called ‘Adam’s fig’, giving it white colour as that of white silk of Palestine.309 Washing, bleaching and dyeing was preferably done in March or the season preceding monsoon which would put people associated with these professions under immense pressure as they had to finish ‘maximum pieces in a day’. Summers eased the process of drying of washed and dyed pieces, but shortage of water hindered it as in the month of June ‘all the wells and tanks lay dry’, reported an English merchant the reason behind the delay in work. Contrary to it, when rainy season witness abundance of water, ‘besides the want of the sunns heat through the cloudes interposition, overswelling their bankes become in their course more impetuous, their waters muddy and unfit for washing’, English merchants explained to their superiors showing their helplessness in the delay of work. It was in the month of September when they could resume their work, but it was hampered again and it had to be clarified that ‘all the dyers, beaters, weavers and washers are soe employ’d that we can hardly get your businesse done for the seasonable dispatch of your ships’.310 Generally these washers and beaters were engaged on temporary basis; and occasionally they were put on permanent role inside the warehouses of Dutch, English, Danes or French along with their families and those of dyers and weavers. They were to be provided with all commodities required for washing from their employer, like lime or chunam to wash cloths with, and pots used for washing. The reason for providing (big) pots was that when they were called from outside (the town) they could not carry such big pots. To give a good lustre, pieces of cloth were to be boiled with powder having properties of caustic. Hence, they were to be provided with a room fitted with big pots to boil (white)

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


cloths before washing.311 From Gujarat a kind of soda called sajji was brought to other places, especially Goa, for washing pieces of cloths, as well as nets, for which it was considered very ‘serviceable’.312 Another variety of soap popular in Gujarat was Iraqi which was considered very effective. Later sources refer to kh"ar or carbonate of soda and sulphur used as bleaching agent.313 Similar to other fellow artisans, e.g. weavers and dyers or painters, washers and beaters were repeatedly made to undergo many hardships and face atrocities. Brokers and agents of merchants pressurized them to do the work fast. Their inability to provide finished pieces on stipulated time had its own reasons. Accepting an assignment during summers meant bearing with a general shortage of water in the season. It was explained that during this period ‘wells and tanks are most drye’. Following summer, as most of India experienced monsoon beginning in May-June, or July, and which extended unto September when excessive rain hindered the work and it was not considered ‘seasonable for whiting of cloth’. Incidentally, the month of October was the season for ships’ departure towards Europe. Now only the schedule of washing could be properly resumed. Being in much demand, washermen would now negotiate for higher charges. Famines, excessive rains, wars and other calamities, could force them to either migrate to safer places or perish. Natural calamities like famines and heavy rains affected the services of washermen and others alike and merchants and traders dealing in textiles could easily feel their shortage. During the 1630s Gujarat and 1640s Madras the region witnessed ‘unspeakable mortality’ of washermen who either fled to safer areas or perished along with weavers and others and it became extremely difficult to procure their services and any quantity of cloth for export.314 If the pieces of cloth were spoiled due to rains or otherwise, it was the responsibility of the person concerned to re-wash and re-pack them.315 Fraudulent practices were common among them too. For bleaching white pieces, lemon was used for better results. They, however, to save some money on lemon, would beat the pieces of cloth on stones so vigorously that it greatly injured the fabric and reduced its fineness, hence bringing down the price of the goods. Accord-


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

ing to a reference about the Coromandal region, most of the washermen are said to have been opium addicted. They would put their client in a difficult situation when for a little amount they would forward the cloths to local people to wear while these were given for washing and bleaching by the merchants. English merchants detected it quite early when they repeatedly discovered holes in those pieces washed and bleached strongly after such use. Washermen would then fold them nicely to conceal the holes and cheat the owner. They frequently shocked their clients by cutting short the pieces and retaining the tit-bits with them, bringing embarrassment to the merchants in the market.316 They applied a lot of starch (canji ), at the behest of weavers to make it look thick and heavy as sometimes finished goods were subjected to weighing to evaluate their prices.317 Brokers were to recover goods from them and if required chewback (ch"abuk, whip) was also used to make them obey. They were harshly treated if the goods related to the merchants were lost. They were taken before a cazie (q"az∂ or judge) ‘whose busynis it is’, i.e. to impart justice. In the absence of any satisfactory explanation in front of the q"az∂, the washers had to ‘sattisfie’ the owner by way of compensations. Cases of theft were reported to the faujd"ar also, who could seldom do anything but to imprison them.318 In case of a theft, if witnesses proved it and reason of the loss of goods too seemed convincing, the loss had to be borne by the owner ‘in whose custodye soever’, it ‘being the custom of this country’. In case a defect could not be detected immediately (but after sometime), as per the ruling of the ulama, the liability of it was to be shared equally by the merchant and the washerman.319 Merchants had to bear these difficulties, as without washing and bleaching, cotton cloths, especially whites, could not be sent to (foreign or Indian) markets for sale. Owing to this fact, washermen were called even from distant places. They were supported in time of need so that they could continue with their work. At the European factories, and along with the ledgers, a ‘washers booke’ was also maintained. Often brokers were found running after them, and they (washermen) themselves would panic if they ever went out of a job. In such a situation, they would plead the brokers to retain

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


them or get them find some work. Brokers charged certain commission from them too.320 As far as the social composition was concerned, the profession of washerman was common among both Hindus and Muslims.321 PACKERS Traders and merchants would put professional packers into service to pack goods properly to avoid any damage. Packers were known as b"ar-band (one who ties up weight/bales), or barbinder " (Anglicized form of b"ar-band, bar " meaning weight, hence binder of weight or bales). Bales were called bast"a in Persian.322 They rendered invaluable services for packing the finished goods and all commodities meant for inland transport or export to distant parts of the globe. These goods had to be protected from rain, heat, dampness, jerks, scratches and things that could spoil them. For packing, they used gunny bags and tied them with ropes. They were employed near harbours and on ships also. They were not always found with ease, then had to be called from neighbouring towns for packing goods for transport. Europeans faced the shortage of packers, especially during the shipping season, since the early days of their establishment in India. They started engaging them almost on permanent or regular basis. In 1614 English factors in Surat sent six packers to their friends in Broach on demand, calling them ‘our packers’. In February 1622, English factors at Broach requested fellow merchants at Surat to send some packers ‘if available’; and in response, four packers were sent. Request was made on 8 February and these packers reached on 14 February and another letter dated 2 March of the same year shows them back in Surat indicating their temporary stay in Broach. In coastal settlements, Englishmen largely depended on each other, like Petapolly factors asked for various things from Masulipatam factors, so also for packers.323 However, they were somewhat reluctant to go and work at places not familiar to them. Hence, they had to be lured with travel allowance back and forth, including the facility of lodging at the place of packing. They feared that having no one known to them in such unfamiliar places, in case of any kind of sufferings, they would not be able to find any help.324


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

For packing goods, variety of options were available. Sacks of gunny,325 hemp, cloth, cotton wool, mats (to wrap), hides (skin of buffaloes and oxen), momj"ama" (wax cloth), dutties (dhot∂s, a variety of cotton cloth), ‘cere cloth’ and ‘hair cloth’ (?), casks and jars (for packing pepper, gun-powder, or liquid items like ghee, oil, and quick-silver, etc.), coconut shells (to take quick-silver), baskets, wooden chests (made of boards), straw, etc., were in common use. Rope twine and thread for packing was to be supplied by the employer. The Company merchants often imported sack from Europe. For their own satisfaction, the Company factors also brought in rope makers from England and if one wished to return, demand was made to make a replacement. Best quality ‘wrappers and cotton wool’ was, however preferred and considered ‘useful’ for packing Company’s goods. In Coromandal dongere or dungarees (Hindi dungri, a coarse cloth) was also used for packing.326 Items like quick silver was filled in leather bags, jars or coconut shells for safe transport. Fine silk and expensive cotton cloths needed extra care during packing, and were ‘packed with cotton woolin “dutteys”, a cere cloth, a hair cloth, and then stronge gunnee or course canvas’.327 Supply of packing material, just as leather strings, could be hampered in peculiar situations. Passing through a territory controlled by a Hindu r"aja" , or point of collection of goods being in any such place would make it difficult to find hides for ban on slaughter of cows was enforced in many places. Even presence of an influential Hindu, like a Mughal noble, would make it difficult to find hides for packing as they would not allow killing of cows in their presence. Similarly, in the areas dominated by the Hindu zam∂nd"ars, animal hides were hard to find. Brisk trade would also hamper availability of packing material in commercially busy towns like Surat where dutties for packing were often brought from Dabhol, as these were cheaper also in the said town (Dabhol). Ships from Malabar also brought ‘coir or coconut fibre’ to Gujarat of which ropes were made.328 Bags of cotton fabric could be reused ‘twice if not thrice’, or had a life of two to three years. Prices of such bags are rarely mentioned but in a (rare) reference related to Gujarat of the year 1630, we find its cost being 1½ mahm"udi.329 Packers were expected to pack the goods neatly and were in-

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structed to use clean knives having no rust, as rust could damage the items in the bales. Expert hands were picked to pack all types of commodities like textiles, spices, aloes, pickles, ghee/butter, coffee, gum-lac, saltpetre, indigo, metals, money, etc.330 They had to be quite skilled at doing their job, that is why their services were procured from nearby or distant regions without caring much about the cost they might incur as labour charges. Fares were to be paid and lodging was to be provided to these packers. Non-availability of packers often caused panic among the merchants and traders. Merchants took due care while goods were packed. They personally supervised the process, so that the goods could not be damaged on the way to destination or harbours. ‘Mattes (mats) of canes . . . (were used) for dennedge (i.e. for placing under and between the bales in stowing them in the ship)’ to prevent damage by way of splatter of water and to avoid dampness. After packing bales were finally sealed and stamped with a seal or chh"ap. Packers were sent to pack goods on ships as well.331 Packers, in general, were contacted through a broker and were supervised by a warehouse-keeper (appointed in different Companys’ warehouses, he being generally a European) who was paid handsome wages (£40 per annum in case of English factory). Although there are no direct references to an organized body of packers in towns of commercial importance, but the impression is that they worked under some organization and would not take up job elsewhere without its nod; or packers enjoyed some kind of monopoly in their home towns. It is evident from an incident of 1614, when English factors in Broach sent a request to Surat factors for packers, the latter obliged by emphatically calling these as ‘our packers’, saying that they were reluctant to come there (i.e. Broach) ‘fearing they shall not be permitted to work there’. They were showered with promises of fare back and forth, and a place to stay at, most probably inside the Europeans’ warehouse.332 They had to be employed for opening the bales too. Fraudulent practices were common in this field as well. On occasions, packers were found involved in cases of cheating along with brokers, subbrokers, peons, measures (mazd"ur, a carrier), weighers and skinners. Such actions were common in port towns. Packers, bullock


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

cart drivers, and in many instances English sailors were found guilty of stealing goods from the bales. In one such case, sand and stones filled in place of indigo was detected. Special care was to be taken while packing expensive items, including fine varieties of cotton cloths. Packers were made responsible for the loss of goods at the time of packing. The incharge of the warehouse also shared the responsibility for deficiency in packing of goods. Repacking had to be done in case of defective packing.333 Packers were issued a ‘certificate’ by the supervisor for the number of bales they packed to enable them claim their charges. Packed bundles were known as bales, chakar, chowkrie, bast"a, buqcha, roll, chests, fardles or churls.334 These bales, especially of cloths, sugar and indigo, were preferably to be made in square shape and equal size to facilitate the process of lading on ships as it was easy to adjust them closely and save space on ships. Ill-packed bales in irregular shapes caused problems in storage and loss of tonnage on ships. Since there were few large ships in the European Companys’ service having extra space, but this space could not be utilized properly and ships often voyaged without the required tonnage. Weight of these bales was not fixed. Some references specify the weight in case of an indigo fardle being of five maunds; or 4½ maunds in one case (commodity not specified). Another evidence from Isfahan suggests the weight of a bale being 250 lbs ‘suttle’ (the weight when the tare has been deducted, and tret is yet to be allowed), and two bales laden on a camel considered light in the sense that Persian camels were physically weaker and could bear no extra weight. Another piece of information gives an idea of silk bales of 180 lbs in weight.335 Bales of cotton cloth contained around twenty-five pieces of standard length varying from 12 to 15 yards. A churl or fardle (size of a bundle by which indigo was generally bought), was a little over 5 maunds while the smaller one weighed 4 maunds. In Masulipatam, a fardle was commonly contained 7 maunds of weight (or 168 lbs), while in Bengal a fardle weighed 80 lbs.336 A chart of weight of bales prepared by W.H. Moreland337 comprising different commodities is shown below:

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers




Contents of bale

Means of transit


Indigo ’’ ’’ ’’ Sugar Saltpetre Silk Cotton yarn ’’ Piece goods Piece goods ’’

Agra ’’ Gujarat ’’ ’’ ’’ Bengal Coromandel Surat Agra Gujarat ’’

220 lb net 230-240 lb 148 lb net 144-145 lb 296 lb 295 lb 143 lb 165 lb 188 lb 110 calicoes 100 pieces baft"as 200 bairamis (6 yards) 25 pieces long cloths (36 yards)

Camel ’’ Not stated ’’ ’’ ’’ ’’ ’’ ’’ Buffalo Not stated ’’

English records Dutch record English records Dutch record Dutch record ’’ ’’ ’’ ’’ ’’ ’’ ’’




East coast

This list indicates that only bales of light weight could be loaded on buffaloes/oxen, and of slightly lighter weight on camels. Since the actual weight of the bales of cloths is not clear, a rough calculation yields the length of cloth varying between 900 and 1,200 yards packed in a bale. Weight of cloth in a bundle depended on the variety of textile. PORTERS AND COOLIES Porters were variously styled as kah"ar338 or cah"arres (Anglicized), mazur " , mazdur " , or massoores, majoor, bojhia, coolies or coolees, begar " ∂ (Persian be-kar " , out of work; or begar " , one who is to do forced labour; here the word is used in the sense of wage-labourer or a porter); chacores or ch"akar (servant or porter), or boes (‘boys’, generally in Portuguese settlements; or sometimes used as porters belonging to the Bhoi caste in Maharashtra as well), etc. They ported all kinds of goods to near and far off places, sometimes porting hides and liquor (as in one case they carried it from Surat to Broach). Often a very strange term adowyas, especially in Gujarat, was applied to them. They carried the baggage of travellers walking along the


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

palanquin-carriers, or sometimes carried p"alk∂s themselves. They could be found in the port towns easily, especially when the ships anchored in these ports. With the arrival of the European merchants and Companies in India, because of regular interaction they had acquired some knowledge of a few European languages also. When Thomas Herbert landed in Swally along with others in December 1626, he hired ‘Pe-unes (or black foot boyes)’ to go to Surat who could ‘pratle some English’. He specifically noted that when ships anchor in the (Swally) Road, one can see large number of the banyas selling their stuffs in stalls and ‘also there is constantly many little boyes or pe-unes, . . . who are ready to serve you, either to interpreter, to runne, go arrands or the like’. Many of them could converse in ‘several languages’, as noted Friar Navarrete, but most often Portuguese, with their employer, especially those who were engaged in south India.339 The Portuguese kept coolies as slaves who not only served them in ports and at sea, but also as menial servants. In turn they were just given ‘their diet alone’. An unusual incident suggests that such ‘coolies’ were treated in a better way when taken into service by the English from the Portuguese ‘master’ and given wages on daily basis.340 Hence, they served in varied manners. Not only porting the goods and escorting people, their social role was quite important. It was they who not only facilitated the transaction in the market, but also in obtaining information from people on behalf of the employer who later recorded it for their contemporaries wishing to know about India in almost an accurate manner. This again became the basis of writing socio-cultural history of different regions. Della Valle (1623) going from Cambay to Surat in the company of some others had to hire porters to cross a river. They helped in taking the carriages across by holding them with their hands so that these could not float away and goods holding high on their heads to save them from wetting.341 Abbe Carre, while travelling on a ship between Surat and Masulipatam via Daman in 1672, identified them as ‘coolies’ and ‘Canarins’ (Kanarese, or Kannada) servants who, besides carrying goods, were to carry palanquins as well. Careri mentions them as beg"ar∂ and Canarine. When starting his journey from Goa and travelling in Deccan, he employed some

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


porters to hold his provisions and utensils for some days and ‘for Dressing of Meat’ too. He also took a ‘boy’ of Golconda along who knew some Portuguese, to be his interpreter. It unmistakably points to the multiple functions these ‘peons’ performed while rendering services to the travellers.342 In peculiar situations like non-availability of ware-houses, they could be left with goods or provisions, and were asked to keep a watch when the employer looked for a suitable place to lodge at. Porters were preferred to transport fragile items, like porcelain or China-ware, crystal or brittle ware, meat or liquids like wine, quicksilver, as transporting them on carts was a risky affair. They transported all these commodities in wares on their heads or packs hanging from both ends of a bamboo (not stiff but flexible) lying on their shoulders. They walked on a brisk pace covering a distance of 25 to 30 miles a day with as much as half a quintal of weight. When ‘great men’ travelled, they carried along many kah"ars for the purpose aforesaid. Although nobles and princes employed their own porters at regular basis, they often required other porters’ services while marching through country, which sometimes resulted in a scarcity of porters in a particular area.343 Precious metals and currency was also handed over to them for transportation. Wide-ranging information about their social organization is not available, but from Fryer’s account of Bombay we come to know that porters worked under the supervision of a Mandadore (from Portuguese mandador, ‘one who commands’), ‘or Superintendent, who give(s) an account of them to the English’. These mandadores usually behaved in a strict manner with his own people. We are also informed that they were often employed to do menial services in turn ‘for their diet only’. Although the impression recorded by a contemporary traveller about the life of porters was that—it ‘being as it were of slaves [and] hard wearied labourers’. But, one way or another, they could not be ignored for the want of their services, as once admitted Henry Oxinden, Deputy Governor of Bombay in 1678 that ‘without them we would be put to great streights’. Poor porters and coolies were made to bear the brunt along with their masters when caught by the enemy of the latter. 344 Porters working at custom houses in the port cities, made a dis-


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

tinct category of their own. They were certainly distinct from ‘coolies’ who generally charged higher amount for accepting any assignment of transporting goods.345 The port officers recruited them and their responsibilities were multiple. When ships arrived in the bar at a distance from the custom house, these porters, commonly known as ‘peons’, would unload the goods, lade them on small boats, and make the passengers seated. They were to guard the boats also to avoid slipping of goods into the hands of merchants prior to reporting at the custom house. On reaching the gates of the custom house, they would go down in waist-deep water to pick the goods and escort passengers to the custom house, known as banks"al. In case of the custom house being closed, which was usually the case in the afternoons, for the reason of low tides, these peons were set over there and had to keep a constant watch so that none entered the ships/boats and come out. Their services were not without a charge. About their way of functioning, Thevenot’s remark of Surat port and its porters is worthy of notice. It would begin after the ships reached the port. In the meantime there are upon the River side, a great number of Pions, who are Men ready to be employ’d in any kind of Service, and to be hired by the Day, if one pleases, as the Staffieri in Italy are. These Pions of the Custome-house have great Canes in their Hands to keep off the people with, that those who come ashore may not have the least communication with anybody; for greater security, they draw up in both sides, and make a Lane for Passengers. This is no inconsiderable service to new comers, for if anybody came near them, they would certainly be accused smuggling of Goods.346

In hilly terrains porters in an unimaginable number could be employed as most of the porters turned out to be poor. Bernier’s estimate in this regard serves as the best example where he says that only between Bhimbar to Srinagar, the Mughal Emperor could assemble around thirty thousand porters.347 BARBERS The barber’s services were universally required by all, rich and poor, and in cities and villages alike. ‘The people shaved them constantly’, noticed Edward Terry in 1616, and that the habit of

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theirs produced ‘excellent barbers’.348 They did trimming of beard, cutting of hair and shaving the facial hair. They usually roamed around (rather than sitting at one fixed place) offering their services, and for that purpose carried their instruments along for shaving and some small ones to clean nails and pare them. Among the instruments carried were a round mirror made of ‘steel’—exceedingly clean which ‘they often presented it unto men and when they found them sitting still, a sort of sign offering their services’.349 The rich called them to their own house not only for shaving off their heads or dressing their hair and beard, also for ‘tenderly gripe and smite their Armes and other parts of their bodies, instead the exercise, to stirre the bloud’, writes Terry. He added that ‘It is pleasing wantonnesse, as much used in those hot climes’.350 This tradition of gripping the body or giving massage was more common among affluent people during summers. A separate group undertook giving massages with odoriferous oils, paste made of fragrant flowers, saffron and sandalwood, etc., was identified with different nomenclature such as ghul"am, d"as, saurandhra, khidmatgar " and khwas " . Their other employment was to help the rich and noble in dressing-up, fanning them and other personal duties. Their women served female members of the household. Formerly people born of kah"ar mother did such service, but in the late eighteenth century, people of various backgrounds got involved.351 Foreign merchants and travellers also required the services of Indian barbers. Barbers were often sent to other European colonies as well. In December 1622, two barbers were sent from Surat by the President of English factory to his counterpart at Bantam, but only for one year. Their pay was also fixed here in ‘rials of eight’ which they, perhaps were supposed to receive in Bantam. A letter from Batavia dated 17 April 1623 confirmed their arrival.352 There are references about orders from English Company (London) in 1663 to the factors at Madras to purchase (perhaps as slaves) ‘a couple of Gentue barbers, such as are more expert amongst them letting of blood and send them to St. Helena Islands and to let them remain in the service of English factors; or to purchase two Gentue Barbers’ to be sent the said island.353


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

Barbers were known differently as n"a∂, nani, " nhavi, " mangali (in Telangana), and ambattan and n"avidar354 (in Tamil Nadu), and sen bhagat in Bengal.355 In northern India, they were commonly styled as n"a∂ or hajj"am.356 Other names applied to them were mu" tar"ash, sar tar"ash, khashori, ban bharat or ban bhairo (those born in forests), golak or gola (those born in towns).357 A barber, along with his customary duties, performed some additional ones, especially in the rural areas. He acted as maternity surgeon and a healer of wounds (jarr"ah). For this reason he was also known as barn/varn pushti, barn shuddhi, barn s∂nvak, etc.358 He also played musical instruments on the occasions of marriage and festivities. He was also called upon to carry news and convey messages from one place to another. Barbers attached to families accompanied the Brahmins carrying proposal of marriage. For such services, in rural areas no remuneration was made in cash but only in kind. Sometimes barbers were called for auxiliary work in the peasants’ fields. He worked as a marriage broker also. Inside European factories a barber was kept in regular service though not always residing inside the premises. 359 At pilgrim centres venerated by Hindus, barbers usually did a brisk business. Pelsaert narrated an absorbing scene at Mathura where he saw innumerable barbers busy shaving men and women since these devotees were not let inside the temples by the Brahmins without getting themselves shaved of hair and after a dip in the holy Jamuna. The Brachmanae do not allow these pilgrims to enter the temple till they have been to the river-side and shaved off their hair and beards in the case of men and eye-brows in the case of women; then they must dip several times into the river that the water may wash away their sins: . . . it is an extraordinary sight; for there are more than three hundred barbers, who very swiftly shave a huge multitude both of men and women standing upto their waistes in the river, on steps which have been built there.360

Peter Mundy took special notice of the barbers of Etawah who were quite popular for their ‘neatness in shavinge and artificial Champinge’. He dealt with the matter at length by explaining the whole process of ‘champinge’ or champi.

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


(It) is a kind of Custome used all India over, att tyme of rest especiallye, which is to have their bodies handled as wee knead in England, but this with gripeing their hands; and soe they will go all over a mans body as hee lyes along, vizt. Armes, shoulders, back, thighs, leggs, feete and hands. Then will they pull and winde you in such a manner that they dobb you, which is thumpinge with their fists (as Children beat upon a board when they would imitate a Drumme). This they doe a long tyme together, varyinge from one tyme to an other; and this is here accompted to bee verie healthfull. Also the oyle of Chambelee [chameli, jasmine], of this place is much esteemed for goodness and cheapness, with which men, but especially woemen, annoynt their heads dayly, and their bodies when they wash (which is verie often); accompted also verie wholesome.361

Interaction with Europeans had made them familiar with the style and cuts popular among them (i.e. the Europeans). Barbers could imitate European manner of dressing hair well, but sometimes created a bizarre situation leading to a complete change in the customer’s identity. In 1623, Italian traveller Della Valle met an ‘odd Barber’ whom he says that he ‘advanced my mustachios according to the Portugal Mode, and in the middle of my chin, shaven after the Persian Mode, he hath left the European tuft’.362 It, somehow, suggests that barbers were not averse to new ideas. Although, there is not much known about their religious composition, Hamilton specifies that that while majority of craftsmen are Muslims, many barbers (also tailors) were Hindus.363 WATER SUPPLIERS For using a skin bag pakh"al 364 to carry water, water carriers were generally identified as pakh"ali, again a derivation of Sanskrit words pyas (water) and khalla (skin). In the seventeenth-century European sources, the word appears in different manners, like puccalls, puckaul, paccal, packaly, puckauly, pickallers or saqqah (Arabic/ Persian, vendor of water) carrying a mussuck (mashak, or skin bag to carry water). A more common term applied to them was kah"ar. They were also styled as jal bikarya /vikraya, jal b"ahak.365 The rich and affluent had their personal water carriers to fill up water in casks inside the house and to sprinkle water on the road when


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

their master ventured outside. Kah"ars carried water to the imperial camp wherever the Emperor encamped. Peter Mundy described their functioning in detail. During his journey from Surat to Agra, at Sarai Jagdish he saw ‘a score of Cahares’ carrying water for the Emperor in ‘Coozars or Gurgaletts’ (kuza or goglet, Portuguese ‘gorgoleta’ a long necked earthen water bottle). He explains the manner a water carrier supplied water to distant places: A Cahare is a fellow that on a peece of Bamboe (or great Caine) which lyes on his shoulder, to carry att either end thereof well ½ a Quintall [cwt.], with which hee will travel 25 or 30 miles a daye, for hee goes a kinde of an easie leaping pace, or as it were gently runninge. The Bamboe yeildinge and bendinge att everie stepp, soe that they carrie more steddie then any other kinde of Invention that I knowe.366

Others supplied water daily to those who required it by paying some amount (perhaps monthly). European factors used to take water from them in their factories for daily use and on seashores to fill up the casks on ships ready for long voyages.367 A water carrier was the member of the group of functionaries in a village community.368 They also supplied water to merchants and other travellers during journey. Along with their usual job, they, at times, earned their livelihood as porters, fishermen, bird hunters and by working in the fields of the peasants also. Their services were considered useful in transporting goods to neighbouring cities or towns as well.369 However, the most common job allied to it was of carrying palanquins.370 Hindus and Muslims followed this profession alike, both serving their own communities respectively. They formed a distinct caste. Among Muslims Bernier saw ‘Patans’ supplying water who appeared to him ‘high spirited and warlike’.371 GARDENERS Gardening was a separate profession than cultivation. Gardeners were called m"al ∂ or baghban, " " phul " wala, " " hamail " saz, " pushp batikakar, " " " chatush panth bandhan (maker of beds of flowers, etc.), biraksh/ viraksh r"upi, and formed a distinct caste of themselves.372 They are also identified as k"ajhi.373 There were some who maintained their own orchards and sold flowers or garlands in the market. These

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


sellers of flowers were known as gulfarosh, while makers of garlands as gajr"asaz. " Some of them specialized in selling of vegetables and were called sabz∂farosh or kunjr"as. The nobles and the affluent sometimes hired the gardeners to look after their own gardens.374 Europeans employed them on a regular basis to look after their gardens located outside the towns where they had their factories or settlements. These gardens were popularly called ‘Company’s gardens’.375 However, during his visit to Kashmir, Bernier lamented about the poor quality and quantity of fruits. He attributed the reason not to the unsuitable soil but ignorance and lack of interest of the gardeners in this respect ‘for they do not understand the culture and grafting of the trees as we do in France. They also lack in interest in introducing graft from other countries.’376 He, however, managed to see some fruits of ‘excellent quality’. ATTENDANTS IN CARAVAN SARÅIS Caravan sarais " , or places for lodging served as halting stations (during journeys) for men and cattle. Usually the rulers and their officers constructed sar"ais in the name of welfare of subjects. These were meant to facilitate trade by providing shelter to merchants and travellers of all sorts. An interesting statement about the reign of Sher Shah suggests that some kind of segregation was observed in these sar"ais where earthen jars (kham-ha-i " "ab) for drinking water were placed separately for Hindus and Muslims.377 Sar"ais provided employment to a large number of people as these studded the entire landscape of north and western India. References of sar"ais are numerous for the Golconda region too, but for Canara and Malabar there are none. Many rich people ‘for their workes of Charitie build sarraes, or make wells, or Tanks neere the High wayes that are much traveled. . .’ informed Edward Terry. Similarly, Manrique elaborated upon the subject that ‘Most of the Caramossoras are located on high roads frequented by travellers. They are sometimes erected at the expence of the neighbouring villages, sometimes at the cost of Princes or rich and p[owerful] men, who erect them in order to keep their memory green or to satisfy their conciousness.’378


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

De Laet noticed between Agra and Lahore scores of sar"ais built by the king or a noble at regular distance (5 or 6 cos), where travellers could obtain accommodation for themselves and space for their mules, and added that ‘once a traveler has occupied the rooms allotted to him, nobody else may turn him out’.379 Sar"ais were not only constructed (mainly) on the outskirts of the towns and cities, also dotted the trade routes which were marked by milestones or kos min"ar. Travellers and their cattle were taken care of in these sar"ais by the inn-keepers or attendants residing there along with their families and managing the affairs of a sarai " . Sarai " was a kind of building having rooms to dwell in and chambers, with a male or female ‘Regent’ (attendants), a mosque or a place for prayer and a courtyard for cattle.380 Those living there permanently as caretakers to serve the travellers were called bhaty | "ar"as and bhaty | ar " ∂s (male and female attendants respectively). They cooked food for travellers staying there, and simultaneously acted as shopkeepers selling flour, rice, butter and vegetables to the visitors, along with providing fodder for their cattle. Food could be purchased from outside, especially in big cities where cooks in bazars offered a lot of variety. ‘Cottes’ or kh"at (cots, a rope-bed or a trestle) and necessary furniture were made available in the sar"ai itself. Travellers, however, were supposed to carry their beddings along (‘Godorim’, or gudri, a light mattress, in the words of Manrique), as these were not necessarily arranged for them by the dealers of these sar"ais.381 They were sometimes called as metres and meteranis too.382 Their duty was to keep the rooms clean, supply hot water (if needed) for the travellers and prepare meal for them. They did all types of duties essential to the comfort of the guests. Manrique was so overwhelmed with their behaviour that he could not stop himself but compare them with his fellow countrymen ‘(These Indians) uncivilized and heathens though they are, they surpass our stable-men and innkeepers of Europe, who, being Christians, are under some obligation to be most moderate in all things, outwardly and inwardly’.383 They in turn of some amount, served horses and mules of the visitors m"ung (green gram), ‘chick-pea’ and jaggery. In some of the sar"ais, travellers (halting there) had to cook meal for themselves.

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


To tackle such a situation, some of them carried their own servants and provisions along.384 It is interesting to note that some of the Europeans found Indian sar"ais better than what they saw in other countries of Asia.385 Contrary to it, some others were not satisfied with the atmosphere of these halting places, as Bernier found the sar"ais hot and suffocating as travellers (to him ‘hundreds of human beings’) mingled with their horses, mules and camels inside the enclosure.386 Thevenot, somehow, was not disappointed to see the sar"ais of India, which, to him, were somewhat better. There were sar"ais big enough to accommodate 800 to 1,000 travellers along with their horses, mules, and cattle. There were large sar"ais also as they contained hundreds of rooms with halls and warehouses along with the quarters for the inn-keepers who served the travellers and merchants. In metros like Agra, which was the hub of all activities in the seventeenth century, well-built and spacious sar"ais dotted the landscape. Thevenot estimated the number of these ‘Quervanseras’ (caravan sar"a is) in Agra alone, which to him were ‘above three scores in number’ (i.e. 3 × 20 or more than that). He elaborates that ‘some of them have six large Courts with their Portico’s that give entry to very commodious Apartments, where stranger merchants have their Lodgings’. Noor Mahal’s sar"ai in Agra, built by Noor Jahan, could accommodate two to three thousand people. This would naturally have required the services of various families of bhatiy | ar " "as and bhatiy | ar " ∂s (inn-keepers), as it was not possible for a few attendants to look after a multitude of people simultaneously. Della Valle similarly extolled the huge structure and capacity of sar"ais in Ahmadabad insisting that such sar"ais were found in all parts of the Empire which were meant for strangers and in terms of safety were better than those in Persia and Turkey. Thevenot had happened to be in Hyderabad too, and stayed in a sar"a i called ‘Nimet-ullah’. It was a delightful experience for him and made him think highly of the beauty of its location and layout. While he found all the sar"ais in the city equally ‘handsome’, none could compete with this one named Niamatullah located ‘in great street opposite to the King’s Garden’, and confirms that ‘It is a spacious squire, and the court of it adorned with several Trees of different kind, and a large Bason (hauz/pond) where the Mahomatans per-


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

form their Ablutions’. Those who intended to live for longer duration could hire rooms by paying monthly rent. The attendants usually were not in a habit of cheating and charged only one or two paisa for cooking food. In some of the sar"ais these attendants sold fruits and herbs also.387 It is very strange that sar"ais were rarely found in southern India. Hospitality was, however, offered by those living along the most frequented and popular routes. Abbe Carre, on his return journey from Madras to Surat on an English ship in 1673, stayed for a while in Cochin and visited nearby villages in the company of some Nair guides. He was entertained by ‘Taybes’ or Tiyyans (to him they were Hindus, but following Hinduism ‘in a low form’). His description is of immense interest: These are people without any superstitios whose custom quite differ from those of Nairs and Brahmans, as they receive the strangers in their houses in the same way as we do in Europe. My Nairs left me and my servants with these Taybes and told them to furnish me with all I wanted. They then returned to those of their own caste religion.388

It was all because of the observation of strict norms of caste system in the society of south India that people did not entertain Europeans in their houses, and only a few classes offered hospitality to strangers.389 Contrary to it, in north India, major routes were studded with sar"ais, in most of the cases beautiful in structure and providing comfort. Manrique admired the terrain between Lahore and Multan for its fertility and each hamlet having excellent caravan sar"ais ‘its being the halting-place of all the Cafilas coming from Persia, Corazane and other distant kingdoms’. The only exception was the route beyond Ajmer via Jalore leading towards Gujarat. On this route, as per the information of Peter Mundy, one could hardly see any ‘Sarae in eight or ten dayes Journie, and there was Nothinge [like] soe good accommodation this way as there is from Agra towards Puttana, where there store of good Townes, tillage [cultivated fields], talaoes [talao, tank] and faire Saraes every foote’. The reason behind absence of sar"ais in western India might be attributed to the thin population and aridity in the region. The route was infested by robbers and travellers usually avoided this route for fear of theft and plunder.390

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


In most of the cities of northern India where caravan sar"ais was an essential feature even of a small town, we do not hear of any kind of segregation. Somehow, a casual reference in the memoir of Manrique about Agra suggests that some of the communities or trading groups maintained a distance from other merchants and travellers, and had their own exclusive sar"ais. In December 1640, Manrique stayed in Agra in a ‘caramosorras’ (caravan sarais) of Armenians, implying that they could accommodate Europeans other than Armenians, if not Asian merchants. A plausible reason could be that in Agra, it being one of the busiest cities of the Mughal Empire, Armenian merchants, like many others, frequented the city regularly. We often hear of sar"ais crowded with merchants and others and many visiting the city not finding appropriate place to stay at. Hence they would have found a solution in building a sar"ai for themselves to avoid discomfort.391 Another reference from Manrique again suggests that sar"ais were also built by the Europeans for themselves where they could indulge in rituals of their own religion too. He visited Lahore in 1641 when Shah Jahan was camping in the city and it had turned into an extremely crowded town. He had heard about the place and after much enquiry he found accommodation in the ‘caramsorra of Franguis’ and met one Father Joseph de Crasto of the Society of Jesus. On the other hand, a devout Jain like Banarasi Das who frequented many places of north India in the first half of the seventeenth century, stayed on various occasions in the sar"ais of different towns without any hesitation.392 Norris witnessed many big sar"ais, some of them like castles, on Surat-Burhanpur road, built to defend the travellers from the onslaught of robbers.393 Information on sar"ais suggests the services provided by the attendants—bhatiy | "ar∂s and bhatiy | "aras " , was usually satisfactory. BAKERS This profession was quite common especially in the urban towns. Bakers were called n"anb"a∂. In coastal areas they prepared bread and biscuits for crew on ships setting out for voyages. The European bakers inside their factories, however, prepared biscuits themselves. Bernier’s observation in this regard is fascinating when he


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

says that although people of Bengal prefer rice over wheat but they grow wheat in abundance and supply it ‘for making of and [sic] cheap sea biscuits, with which the crew of European ships, English, Dutch and Portuguese are supplied’.394 English factors often needed to hire bakers’ services, along with others, and charges were paid according to weight of bread prepared. For making bread, a room had to be arranged and bakers were supplied with water and flour. In 1675, English in Bombay sent a requisition to Surat for bakers to make biscuits for the Island garrison.395 There are references that they could prepare a hundred maunds of bread within a short span of two days. They were capable of preparing huge quantities of bread at one stretch. They were supposed to take care to preserve it too—by putting them in a ‘close dry house well fenced with dutty (dhoti, a cotton cloth) etc.’. It was then, packed in casks or coopers rather than bags.396 Tavernier noticed the bazars of Lahore having innumerable shops where bread was sold of different varieties meant for the rich and the poor.397 Monserrate took keen notice of bakers in Lahore while travelling along with the imperial camp in 1581 and found most of them being ‘Casmirini’ (Kashmiris) who acted as ‘eating-housekeepers’ or looking after the catering houses as well. Bernier saw some bakers in Delhi, but found their ovens ‘defective’ and he did not like the quality of their bread. To him it was ‘neither well made nor properly baked and full of sand and dust’ also. However, he did not have any complaint against the bread makers preparing bread inside the imperial palace and nobles’ houses.398 N"anb" a∂s were also employed to prepare bread for garrisons.399 Caterer were called tabb"akh.400 Edward Terry makes a general statement about the cities and towns of ‘Hindustan’. He refers to people selling provisions such ‘as bread and flower (flour) cakes made of Sugar and fruits, and other things’, outside their house or taking it to bazar ‘twice a day’.401 Bakers, perhaps, were to acquire a ‘licence . . . to keep a bazaar’ from the governor. At least, a case related to Surat and Swally indicates towards it when one Joseph Hopkinson from Surat wrote to the English President visiting Swally on 25 September 1623 that he had met the ‘governor’ Bahadur Khan and requested him to

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


‘licencing the bakers and Parses’ to put shops on ‘Swally sands’. These bakers could not reach Swally until 28 September because the custom-house at Surat did not issue a chittee [Hind. chitthi, a pass] without some feeling [feeing?]’. On being threatened that they would go to the governor again, the ‘screete’ or permission was finally granted. We can have an idea of the social background of these bakers here, that there were Parsis too, catering to the need of the English/Europeans.402 PEONS

‘Peon’ is a term used so frequently by the Europeans for different classes of porters, guards, household servants, etc.403 Peons were employed during journey to keep a watch on luggage and provide protection to the employer from thieves and beasts. Enormous information is available about both—‘peons’ and ‘guards’ in the contemporary travellers’ accounts during the Mughal period. Often both the terms—peons and guards—have been used interchangeably. When used in two different senses, it indicated bifurcation of duties and difference in nature or responsibilities assigned to them. They could be employed in any a number depending upon the need of a traveller, merchant, or others. Peons served different purposes. Sometimes they acted as letter carriers or messengers, while also enrolled as footmen (soldiers) in the company of a person. They often accompanied their masters to the market. On certain occasions, they performed strange duties, like, for English and Portuguese they would indulge in combats with their (masters’) enemies and were employed to take revenge also.404 They might be sent on a dangerous assignments, like to go and hunt down a tiger for the master.405 It would be of some interest to know that they were sent as interpreters too.406 In specific cases, their services were hired for the safe transit of money or treasures too. Peons also helped in recovering lost goods. There are instances when they were left to keep a watch along the coast line so that the goods were not stolen from the boats carrying goods, that was unloaded from the ships to the custom house.407 Their common duty, somehow, was to carry goods as porters and accom-


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

pany the caravans.408 They could also be assigned the job of collecting goods on behalf of the merchants and deliver the commodities to a specific destination or certain individual.409 A body of peons hired for the safe transit of the goods was known as chowki. They also accompanied boats laden with goods.410 In particular cases, almost an army of peons was required to convey goods. One instance suggests that as much as three hundred ‘peons’ were employed to transmit English goods from Ahmadabad to Broach.411 Personal servants of rich people served as peons and carried letters not only of their masters, but of others too. It is obvious from a letter of Thomas Kerridge at Agra to Thomas Aldworth at Surat acknowledging that ‘I received your Worship’s letter . . . by Hoghee Nasaune’s peon’; or, ‘My last (letter) unto you was from Polasha, per a peon of Cojanajam’s (Khwaja Najam)’. Services of those in the employment of dignitaries, like a ‘nabob’, could also be availed for not only forwarding letters but goods also when these carriers were found carrying (only) letters and messages of their masters towards a certain direction.412 Generally people trusted them, and in the words of De Laet ‘Praise must be given to the faithfulness of Mahumetans (Muslims) and heathen (Hindus) servants who look after foreign travelers so well that they can journey in perfect safety in all directions: they accompany their masters on foot equipped with arms: their wages are low’.413 The word ‘peon’ is believed to be a derivative of Portuguese peao (or pe, meaning ‘foot’ and thus) a ‘footman’. Persian piy"ada can also be taken as a synonym for it, meaning the same as ‘footman’. They are also identified as ‘piones’ and as ‘foot soldiers’. In Gujarat a peculiar word in different forms adowyas, adowiaes, adowais, adowayadge or addowaye (from adhovaya, meaning a carrier) was in vogue for the same class of peons. The same term was applied to the ‘chief ’ of the caravan as well. Peons were, occasionally, called as cah"ar / kahar " for acting as porter of water, wine and eatables.414 The word peon was used for footmen (or foot soldiers) is apparent from the information about a broker-cum-interpreter in the service of the English, identified as Jadow. He had ‘peons who were his footmen to attend him’, illustrate the dual nature of work done by the armed peons.415 In the markets, they accompanied their employer to make way for their masters ‘with their spears and other weapons

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running before the coach or horse, crying Poyee Poyee, (to) give way there’.416 They were also maintained by the Europeans as gillopdares or jilaud"ar, a person who was to lead a horse.417 They often carried arms along to meet any threat from the opponents of their employers and to protect them from robbers. They would put their life in danger, could even sacrifice their life for the employer in case the caravans were attacked.418 They could be seen offering their services everywhere, and could be employed by ‘soldiers, the merchants and the officials alike’, proportionate to their resources and needs. Presence of a luminary, like a ruler, prince or a high ranking officer in a particular city or area would often result in the ‘shortage’ of peons, as large number of them were put in service to port their baggage.419 They were both hired, or could be kept in permanent service. They could also be taken into service from another person’s entourage by paying daily and monthly wages.420 They were made incharge of goods of the merchants, even money and valuables could be left in their custody. In port towns they were made to take care of goods unloaded of ships and kept ready for overland dispatch, or stacked for loading. When the custom officials captured boats laden with goods, peons were usually sent to get the boats or boatmen released.421 Europeans often assigned these peons the job of selling their commodities. However, severe punishment was inflicted upon them if they committed any mistake, and were often whipped for the loss of goods. When in permanent service of a person, the peons exacted certain charges on behalf of their masters from the merchants who hired them for a specific period on temporary basis. In other words, borrowing them from others in emergency was not a free of cost affair. Other duties assigned to them were—looking after the gardens, collecting fruits, serve food and water to their employer, act as ewerbearers. They were to protect the goods stored inside the factories and warehouses, especially when Europeans were forced to leave their factories temporarily. Along with the additional duty of lettercarriers, one might be asked to provide intelligence about the people and the town ‘of what passeth there at no great charge’. Inside the warehouses peons were to keep an eye on the washermen and bleachers ‘for quickening up’ them.422 In the warehouses (or factories) of the Europeans they were


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

employed on a monthly basis. They were put under the charge of a superior, at times called ‘captain’, who was paid a little higher than other fellow peons. In most of the towns a ‘head’ or a ‘chief ’ conducted them. An interesting example from Abbe Carre is worth noting. While returning from Madras to Surat on an English ship, he reached Bombay and happened to meet the English President there. He expressed his wish to travel up to Surat via land route and sought the President’s help in arranging three or four trustworthy men to escort him ‘because of the many dangerous places on the way, in passing which precautions were necessary’. He later recalled ‘The English President immediately called the head of his Moor peons and ordered him to bring four men who were from Surat and had served him with great fidelity for a long time.’423 They were put under scrutiny while going out, but, generally, they enjoyed the reputation of being honest. Their fidelity could be vouchsafed to such an extent that even ‘considerable gold and silver’ could be transferred ‘dexterously’ by them. They earned the reputation of being ‘faithful to a rupee’. They were made to stay inside the premises and while going out had to seek permission from the President or chief factor. It was the duty of the employers to provide them expenses for their ‘diet’. When the President and his factors rode outside the factory, the captain of the peons ascending a horse led (sometimes) ‘forty or fifty of them’ who attended the President on foot. They were expected to act as ‘police’ too.424 Thevenot recalled quite laudably the degree of faithfulness of this creed called Pions. He appreciates that: . . . these men are always by the side of their master’s Chariot or Waggon . . . when one comes to any place to bait (rest) at, they will do anything out of the kitchen, but they will not venture to dress Meat which those of their sectt would not eat . . . they are in all things else very serviceable; they will buy what is necessary, look their masters’ things exactly and stand sentinal all night long; they are armed with Sword and Dagger, and have besides the Bow, Musket or Lance and are always ready to fight against all sorts of Enemies. There are to them both Moors and Gentiles.425

Carreri, however, critical of those employed to carry his luggage from Goa to Golconda, was forced to document: ‘. . . because they

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will never do good service either for fair words or money, but run away as soon as they can, and on the other side when thrashed they load themselves like assess’.426 They were forced to serve the princes or nobles if the latter happened to be in the neighbouring area. Even if already entered into some agreement with a party, they could postpone serving them in the wake of the presence of dignitaries in the same area, as per the tradition their goods were to be ‘dispeeded’ first. Here fear factor, not monetary gain, was usually involved. On many such occasions Europeans or other merchants were left in the lurch, made to wait for days to find them back.427 Elaborate arrangements were to be made for these peons or others when accompanying the travellers, especially on long journeys, by the employer himself. A horse and furniture, camel ropes, t"ant (thread, fibre), hide to mend ‘fardles’ (bundles), a deg (a large cooking pot), sarposh (a cover), tent and furniture, massack (mashak, a leather water bag), bows and arrows, etc. were the usual baggage to be taken along. Peons depended for all these things on their employer.428 To Thevenot, these ‘pions’ would ‘do anything out of the Kitchen, but they will not venture to dress Meat, which those of their Sect would not eat’. 429 GUARDS AND GUIDES Seventeenth-century sources indicate that guards-cum-guides formed a somewhat different category than peons. Thevenot categorically writes that ‘Travellers Guards’ were known as teherons (?) and that they made a distinct caste.430 Guards were employed either on daily or regular basis, or sometimes engaged for the entire period of journey to accompany the merchants and travellers for keeping an eye on their goods and to provide security to the employer. The basic difference between a peon and a guard was that, unlike a peon, a guard was not supposed to render duties as a porter while travelling, regardless of the fact that the terms ‘guard’ and ‘peon’ were often taken as compatible. Further, guards always came out armed to serve their employers. They were mostly Baluchis,431 Pathans or Rajputs, and are depicted as stout and daring men. A


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

man could travel in their company with treasures of gold and jewels, especially on the routes that were infested with robbers or covered with dense forests. They always remained well prepared to undertake long journeys and accompanied their employers with swords and bucklers, or bows and arrows for their defence. They were paid for the whole journey and they could be hired in big numbers. They usually demanded considerably ‘meagre’ wages, as has been recorded in the contemporary accounts. They could be found everywhere, ‘ready to serve’, especially in the bazars of towns and cities.432 Thevenot’s narrative is of immense aid as he informs about the actual number and the way armed guards served during the journey. He illustrates: When a Merchant conveys anything of consequence, he ought to have four Soldiers, or four Pions, by the sides of the wagon; to hold the ends of the Ropes that are tyed to it, to keep it from overturning, if it come to heeld in bad way; and that way used in all Caravans, though commonly they consists of above two hundred waggons.433

Relay service was also in vogue when guards would take up the responsibility of escorting a passenger up to the next destination or halting place, and then hand over the person to others in the same profession to conduct the traveller further. On few occasions, armed guards in the employment of nobles or influential persons could be taken into service provisionally, especially when they travelled on a certain route not along with their master, but only on some assignment.434 Warehouses of European Companies also required their services to keep a watch on the goods stored there. They were kept on permanent basis to convoy the Chief of a factory or the President outside their premises. They could be assigned tough jobs like recovering looted goods from robbers.435 Abbey Carre, while travelling through Canara territory, took notice of Nairs who were employed as guards. About their efficiency, he recalls that: Nairs accompany the Travellers through those Parts that are infested with Robbers, and if they happen to presume to Rob any man, they all Meet and pursue the Felous till they utterly extirpate them. Thus one Boy with a Rod in his Hand makes it safe Travelling throughout all Canara, though it be

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


through Woods, and over Mountains, and a Traveller for a small Matter may have one from one Village to another. . . .436

Similar is the observation of John Fryer about ‘Nairoes’ or Nairs of Malabar region whom he found very sturdy and who provided services as guide-cum-guards. He found the area between Mangalore and Cannanore very dangerous and that ‘if a Man fall single, salvage beasts are more compassionate; but if have a Boy with you of their (Nair) Cast, you may travel secure enough’.437 In Agra region Jats offered their services as guards, especially on routes from Agra to some parts of Gujarat.438 While they generally walked on foot along the caravans or individual travellers, in Sind, most of them rode on horses. 439 They were generally faithful to their trust. Their loyalty could be vouchsafed, as they were very trustworthy and always ready to sacrifice their lives in defence of the property and life of their master. Edward Terry expressed his contentment over the way these armed guards rendered their services: ‘I must . . . commend the Mahometans and Gentiles for their good and faithful Service amongst whom a stranger may travel alone with a great Charge or money or goods, quite through the Countrey, and take them for his guard, yet never by neglected or injured by them.’ 440 These guards were employed through some influential person of the town, or ‘chief ’ of the clan they belonged to. The chief vouchsafed for their good conduct during the period of their service. In turn for providing employment to these men, he received a monthly commission of two rupees from each of them. These guards were like soldiers kept privately, and in their dealings with their employers showed exemplary loyalty, courage and honesty. All they required was the salary ‘every new moon’, which was to be paid in advance for a month or on the due date whatever may be the case. They provided services from village to village too.441 Though no preference was given to the social background of the service providers, still some specific duties were assigned only to ‘Balluches’ (or ‘Balloches’), or ‘Patans’ (Path"ans), like recovery of looted goods. However, it could not be done without possessing an ‘authority letter’, perhaps from the local authority. They were also preferred in cases of delivering prisoners. In turn, they were


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

rewarded with enaume (in"am). They were considered best when a watch was to be kept over commodities purchased for transporting to other parts and stored temporarily at an unfamiliar place.442 When the English acquired the Island of Bombay, they employed local ‘bandarins’ (bhand"ar∂s, toddy drawers) as armed ‘peons’ also to fight against their enemies.443 In alien lands, a company of guides was considered essential as they frequently travelled and had a good idea about the routes. At halting places, they were ready to take the responsibility to make arrangement for the travellers in sar"ais, in turn for some payment. Complaints against their behaviour or their hand in robberies on the way were common. These complaints were usually brought to the court of local q"az∂s, who could issue a certificate ‘necessary to make a claim for restitution’; or a ‘local authority’, or ‘governor’ regarding the recovery of stolen goods during a journey. In Sind many Balochs and Makrani people suvived only on robberies. When Hamilton visited Thatta, he saw the naw"ab of the place sending ‘100 or 200 Horse’ along with the traders’ caravans for their safety. Often these robbers outnumbered the guards and Hamilton suspected them being into a kind of league and that these so called ‘Protectors’ afterwards shared the booty with the robbers. At another place he, somehow, appreciated the role of armed guards who once saved his caravan much to the satisfaction of all the merchants. 444 Archers (t∂rand"az), also acted as guards and, perhaps, formed a separate social group. Band"uqd"ars (gunners) were frequently required on dangerous routes. It is interesting to know that nonEuropean private band"uqdars " were obtainable on such routes and their services could be hired without much difficulty. Manrique had the opportunity of getting the services of musketeers as guards during his journey from Jaleshwar to Narayangarh in Orissa in 1640.445 Though not very often but rarely, for transporting precious commodities, European merchants, like Englishmen, preferred their own men as guards. Some references are available about musketeers, who were sent along carts carrying treasures of the Company. Some of these references are not specific about their background, but have some indication that they were Englishmen.446

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CAMEL DRIVERS Heavy traffic in merchandise and exchange of goods between towns required suitable medium of transport. Camel drivers extended their services to all and were hired to carry luggage of the travellers. In northern and western India, they were more commonly seen and they charged on the basis of the weight of goods or number of camels laden with luggage.447 Camel was the common mode of transport in medieval period. Camels could be hired in hundreds as these were without difficulty available at any place. Camels were preferred for transporting goods as they walked at a swift pace and some of them could cover a distance of fifty to hundred kos in a day.448 Camelmen were known as shut"ari, shaturban, " ushturpalak, " bhakar, oontw"al, karb chalak, " karb charak, " raibar∂, " bolakman, " etc.449 In Gujarat a different term adowayahs or adowayadge, adhowiah (adhovaya, or carrier) was applied to the carriers of goods, carriages and camelmen alike. It is quite interesting that the term was popular in many parts of northern India—as far as Bayana.450 A muqaddam (headman) or ‘chawdrees’ (ch"audhur∂s) (just as the peons and guards who were similarly controlled by a chief ) conducted these camelmen. They accompanied the caravans in person to solve the matters and manage the affairs of their own people when large numbers of camels or camelmen were engaged. The muqaddam was made to compensate for the loss resulting due to the negligence of camelmen.451 Camelmen were often treated harshly if they committed any mistake or cheated the merchants, and could be imprisoned if money or goods were not restored.452 Though the camels and camelmen could be taken into service easily, it was considered more risky and expensive in comparison with other modes of travel and transport. Sometimes it was counted among the inferior and unsafe modes of transport too, and more preference was given to carts for the safe transit of goods.453 Yet, on specific routes and in particular regions, camels proved cheap even when compared to waterways and boats (which were, otherwise, considered cheapest of all the modes of transport). Big caravans of camels traversed the trade routes, often numbering in hundreds. While from Lahore to Thattah commodities could easily be sent in boats down the different streams involving less amount of charges,


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

for sending back the goods camels were considered more economical (as now goods could not be easily sent up the streams) especially if the route via Jaisalmer was taken. It required only 35-40 days to reach Lahore and meagre charges were involved. However, taking goods to Persia (here Isfahan) on camels involved exorbitant charges (Rs. 100 a camel) and the preferred option was buying the camels for the journey.454 They were hired on those routes too which were traditionally covered on carts, like Gwalior to Surat or so. A caravan of camels on the route between Bayana and Surat usually took less than forty-five days.455 Camels proved of much help if heavy items, such as saltpetre was to be transported. Nonavailability of carts often forced people to hire camels. Heavy bales of goods (other than saltpetre) could be safely laden on camels when other means like carts, oxen or cah"ar (porter) failed the test. Interestingly, heavy bales to be transported on camel-back were specifically known as ‘camel-bales’. These camel-bales were given particular marks so that they did not get mixed up at the time of loading and unloading.456 Spare camels were also taken along the caravans to meet any eventuality. Heavy bales (‘camel bales’) could be ported on camels only.457 The exact weight which could be loaded on the camels is difficult to know. However, a reference in the Åin about the royal stables says that Akbar had fixed the weight to be loaded on camels. It was fixed between 6 to 10 maunds.458 It would become difficult to procure camels for transportation of goods if imperial camp ever happened to be in the neighbourhood. In some cases the only way to proceed safely was by way of paying toll to the kings’ men. Often, natural calamities also troubled the merchants on this account.459 Road dues termed as jaggat " or jak"at (zakat " ?) were paid by the camel drivers themselves (and not by the travellers) out of the wages they received, but only when it was agreed upon. Another option was that they would demand lesser amount and the merchants would take care of the road dues. These services were offered by some contractors or brokers as well who were generally called adowyaes or adaviyas in western India and had to go along with the caravan. One more possibility was that these camelmen themselves took the contract and would bear the hazards of paying all the customs

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‘to his profittor loss’.460 They were not only to carry goods but, though seldom, heavy amount of cash or passengers too.461 In case of any theft, camelmen and their muqaddams could be dragged to the court of the qaz " ∂s or in the presence of state officials. They had to compensate for the loss of goods in transit, especially, if proved guilty of looting the goods themselves or helping the robbers secretly in the crime.462 CARTERS Carts were useful for both transporting goods and travelling. Concerning the means of transport, types of conveyances and manner of travelling in India, Tavernier thought it relevant to speak about the utility of carts, he says: . . . which, in my opinion is not less convenient than all the arrangements for marching in comfort either in France or in Italy. Differing from the custom in Persia, you do not employ in India in caravans or journeys asses, mules, or horses, everything here being carried on oxen or by wagon, as the country is sufficiently level . . . and there are some of them (oxen) whose paces are as easy as our hacks. But you should take care when you buy or hire an ox for riding that he has not horns longer than a foot, because, if they are longer, when the flies sting him, he chafes and tosses back the head, and may plant a horn in your stomach, as has happened several times.463

About harnessing, Tavernier further elaborates that: . . . these oxen allow themselves to be driven like our horses, and have for a bridle only a cord, which passes through the tendon of the muzzle or the nostrils. In level tracts, where there are no stones, they do not shoe these oxen, but they always do so in rough places, both on account of pebbles and because of the heat, which may injure the hoof. Whereas in Europe we attach our oxen by the horns, those of India have a large hump on the neck, which keeps in position a leather collar, about four fingers wide, which they have only to through over the head when they harness them.464

De Laet was quite overwhelmed with the way these oxen were looked after and trained, and found these so swift to have covered a distance of ‘20 miles a day’.465


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

Moreland believes that carting was practical mainly in case of valuable goods, such as treasures or indigo, and for passenger traffic lighter carts drawn by oxen were available. He elaborates that p"alk∂s were rather more frequently used by the passengers.466 Contrary to his view, our evidence are consistent on this point where we see that caravans of carts were frequently witnessed by the travellers. Carts were such a common mode of travel that they often faced shortage whenever a man of rank happened in the vicinity, as they would employ most of them for transporting their own luggage. Carts were deployed for all purposes. For travelling, different types of carts were in use, different from those deployed for carrying goods. While the first ones were light with wheels having at least eight spokes in each, the latter were quite heavy as the wheels were made of solid wood without spokes. Thevenot specifically differentiates between the two, and says that wheels of the carts meant for transporting goods ‘were made of whole piece of solid Timber, in form of a Mill-stone, and the bottom of the Cart, is always a thick frame of Wood’. Moreover, that, those meant for travel were drawn by two oxen, while the one used for transporting merchandise were drawn by eight or ten oxen.467 Carters formed a distinct category of their own. Carts along with drivers could be hired to carry goods by paying separately for each cart. Charges were paid on the basis of weight loaded on a cart. Carters were to be paid a certain minimum in advance before starting on a journey.468 Three or four bales could be loaded comfortably on a cart. Carts were always in such a great demand that owners remained prepared to be hired in any a number, and often could be obtained in hundreds at a time.469 There are but few references about the large size ox-driven wagons where three pairs of oxen were harnessed to carry weight between 40-80 maunds.470 Carters were known as bailw"an and a cart as arabah " or bailg"ar∂, for oxen (bail ) usually pulled these carts. Some of the Europeans identified carts or carriages as d"andi, as one of them observed—‘it is very usual in India, not only in cities, but also in journeys which are of sufficient length’. They often called these carriages ‘chariot’ or ‘wagon’, or in the words of Banarasi Das too, a rath (chariot). Della Valle identifies them as ‘coaches’ ‘carts’ and ‘Carr’ and that

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in Mughal territory these were made ‘in abundance’ (He had seen one such coach in Qazwin that the Indian ambassador had presented to the Shah of Persia.) He equates these with ‘Indian Chariots’ described in some ancient classics. Coaches and oxen meant to draw them, were bedecked lavishly. Coaches were covered with crimson silk with fringes in a contrast colour and curtains also. Oxen were covered with the same stuff and bells were fastened around the neck. He further points out towards the extensive use of these bedecked carts that with these kinds of coaches in India, they not only go in cities, but also for most part travelled in the country.471 A small two-wheeled chariot ‘chhakr"a, or Indian Hackrey drawn by swift little Oxen’, was another option for travelling.472 Charles Lokcyer found ‘hackreys’ in common use in Surat in the early eighteenth century.473 Friar Domingo Navarrete mentions one more type of carriages in vogue in Golconda calling them ‘half coaches, half carts, drawn by oxen, and well cover’d’, but fails to specify them.474 A late sixteenth-century reference says that for carrying women of noble families special carts ("arab-ha) " " were fitted with boxes (sand"uq). In each box a woman was seated and it was then locked. Such boxes were also carried on palanquins covered with thich sheets of cloth.475 Just like camels and camelmen, carts or carriages could be obtained on hire through a muqaddam or chaudhuri—head or overseer of the organization of the carters—in a particular area, or through a village headman. Those who provided allied services like porters and carriers (identified as adowyas or adowaye) too helped in finding carts in busy towns. Brokers owned their own fleet of carts and brought them forth for hire. Same people were expected to arrange carts for the lasker (lashkar, comprising camp, army and entourage) of princes and nobles while marching out, otherwise, were forced to ‘paye some of mony towards the accomplyshinge of the same’. Non-cooperation or disobedience resulted in imprisonment or punishment at the hands of these nobles and princes. Big caravans were frequently accompanied by these muqaddams or chaudhuries to sort out problems, mutual or otherwise, and manage affairs of the carters and others. Peter Mundy also applied English term ‘Majorall’ (mayoral) for a conductor or in-charge of a caravan or


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

train of beasts of burden. He is of the view that one or two efficient ‘majorall’ of the same profession is desperately needed to accompany carters and camelmen, as its only he who ‘knowes how to deale with them, to allow them what is fittinge, to compound their differences, to see them fitted[out, supplied] and that they performe their Taske’. He expressed similar feeling for the need of keeping trusted men (one or two) who could assist a merchant by keeping the charge of the ‘Caphila’, to ease him and to stand by him ‘in compoundinge of differences and quarrels’ which recurrently took place in a caravan. He ascribes a credible reason behind these repeatedly occurring differences, that it was the presence of diverse elements of different professions in a caravan like, ‘Cammellers, Carters, Balloaches [Bal"uchi], Jutts [Jats], often tymes fightinge among themselves to mortall wounds, pillageinge one another like deadly enemies’. One of his casual references testifies the presence of ‘Cheifes’ for each of these diverse groups mentioned above, in his caravan. On occasions, they indulged in fighting each other. Carts and camels laden with goods could be left in their supervision in case a merchant had to make some arrangements or proceed fast towards a certain direction.476 Since princes and nobles required them in a large number to transport their huge establishments, it at all times resulted in a scarcity of the carts within the areas of their movement.477 On behalf of the rulers, authorities preferred carts to shift treasure and valuable items, sometimes such a large number of carts were deployed that it compelled the merchants and travellers to halt and keep waiting till the needs of the high and mighty were fulfilled.478 Carts were difficult to procure during rainy season too. Natural calamities played havoc among the carters and other sections of society alike, as during famines followed by excessive rains in Gujarat in the 1630s, large part of the population perished there. It resulted in a shortage of carters as well. Also, during the period of scarcity, grains were supplied to the deficit areas. It may again hamper the procurement of carts because on such occasions hundreds of them were to be pressed in service. Keeping in mind all these eventualities, spare carts were taken along to meet any such contingency. Carts were also arranged by merchants, especially Europeans, for fellow merchants

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stranded in other towns to bring commodities back.479 During rains, acquiring oxen for transportation or carriages would become very difficult, and carrying goods was considered ‘dearer than uppon carts’. Also that during rainy season roads would turn muddy, and when dried at the end of the season, uneven and jerky. Carts were covered with oil cloths so that ‘not a drop of water came through’, said Navarette. However, for the difficulties faced during rainy season, English factors assigned a different reason to it. At one occasion they expressed their concern in these words ‘[For] in these countries here are not beaten roads or mending of highways; but the first carted (when the roads had dried after rains) that travail [sic] must cut them anew with their wheels, that makes it very tedious and troublesome travelling in the first of the yeare’.480 In such circumstances boats were preferred. Besides, carts were arranged from far off places also, or sent to other places to fetch the goods of the merchants.481 Rates of hiring were affordable, but fierce competition among Europeans for acquiring goods and transport them to the porttowns or factories in due time before the departure of the ships, would cause the rates of hiring to shoot up.482 Taking luggage by carts was considered easier and comfortable than any other mode. The reason for preference of carts over camels was that camels had to be unloaded every night, or at every halting place. It required manual help and, indeed, was a time conserving affair. At times around five hours were needed to load and unload them, requiring help of a substantial number of attendants. There were more chances of theft as the thieves could silently slip camels away from the herd (of hundreds) behind the bush. On the contrary, carts were considered cheaper in the sense that these needed not to be unloaded, required less number of attendants, moved equally faster (saving time for not loading and unloading everyday) and goods were less prone to damage (like bruises). Carts could be changed at different destinations in the course of journey, and could be obtained for return journey at the same time.483 Guards and peons accompanied the carts and travellers or merchants, but safety could not be assured in case the robbers outnumbered them. Kah"ars were taken along to load and unload the luggage.484


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

When agreed upon, road dues or toll tax—jakat " , jaggat " , custome or r"ahdaree—was " often paid by the carters out of their own wages, but only when it was prior agreed upon. On occasions, the contractors or intermediaries offered to conduct the caravan and take the responsibility of paying toll or road duties. It was a hectic affair. Peter Mundy is more clear about the custom of paying tolls by the merchants, or contractors or the carters. To him the best way of making a journey with goods in hand, is to give contract to people (adowyaes, peons or contractors), especially on the AgraAhmadabad or Surat route. The reason assigned by him is that one had to pay customs frequently to the officials and some areas being infested by robbers, or local zam∂nd"ars demanding their share. He detailed that there are two sorts of Contracts, one to give him (‘adowyae’) so much of his paines to go alonge with us to compound the Jaggat [jagat] and wee to pay it on our owne hands, Another to give him soe much per Cart or Camell, and hee to pay the said customes to his profitt or loss. This latter I made choice of.485

Sometimes official help was sought (like that of governor/ subahd"ar) for the safe conduct of goods, as carters often refused to undertake the journey with excuses like ongoing wars on the way towards their destination, rainy season, or danger posed en route by recalcitrant elements, etc. In case of unnecessary delay on the part of employer or toll officers, carters had the privilege of charging extra. In all cases, there was no choice but to hire them. Carters were often found guilty of cheating and extortion.486 Travellers, or rich men, might require horses and keepers with the help of local officials to conduct them to their destination. Horses were easily available in Golconda (Bagnagar) on hire for riding.487 Even then, carts were preferred by individuals, as these were largely covered like coaches. Europeans greatly admired that carts ‘not only protect one from the inclemencies of the weather but also from bodily concussions, as most of these roads are level . . . instead of swift horses, they attach in these parts halting, slow paced oxen’. Another reason was that covered carts or ‘coaches’, as they called them, protected one from dust and dirt as well.488 For

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women covered coaches were preferred even by the Europeans. Fryer travelled from Bombay to Surat in carts along with some English women travelling in separate coaches. His description is worthy of notice ‘The coaches where the women were, was covered with cheeks, a sort of hanging curtains, made with bents variously Coloured with Lacker, and Chequred with Packthred so artificially, that you may see all without (outside), and yourself within unperceived’.489 De Laet found that it was not much difficult to switch over to various options, as he put that ‘the poorer people both men and women ride on horses, donkeys, mules and camels, or sometimes in carts . . . drawn by oxen.’490 Company merchants kept bullocks and bullock carts inside the factories for personal use and employed carts during journeys, calling it an ‘Indian norm’.491 Oxen were, but rarely, used for travelling. Ovington’s observation is interesting in this context, as he noted that ‘. . . The vulgar . . . are pleas’d with getting on a small Ox, as their Pad, to carry them in the Town, or round the Country.’ Della Valle saw a young Portuguese boy, about twelve years old, riding to ‘school’ on a ‘Carnero (Spanish and Portuguese word for a sheep or ram respectively, for the same), ‘or wether without horns’.492 In case of non-availability of a conveyance, people could be forced to ride an ox. It happened with Careri who was to visit the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb at Galgala in Deccan and because of the presence of the camp of a Mughal noble in the vicinity, failed to find a horse and was forced to take an ox. He later bought a horse at Ponda lamenting that ‘He . . . that has not a horse of his own must mount an Ox.’493 Oxen or boats, however, were the preferred mode during rainy season ‘due to the rottenes of the wayes’ when the movement of carts would become quite difficult.494 Oxen were hired in Golconda (Bagnagar) to carry goods, as it was difficult to move in the craggy terrain in carts.495 An ox in Surat in 1647 could be bought for ‘7 1/2 or 8 rupees each’. At the same time, it is also clarified that in that particular year buying oxen was cheaper than the previous year. Oxen were, somehow, put into service by the European factors for the carts they maintained in their factories. Oxen and buffaloes were bought or hired to transport luggage also. These


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

were arranged, again, with the help of some adowayes (porters or contractors) who, perhaps, acted as middlemen also.496 Other mules were also engaged in transporting goods and other necessities. Fryer during his visit of Masulipatam found ‘Oxen, Buffaloes, Camels, Asses, which they’ (people following different professions) ‘use for burthen, to carry Packs, Water in Leathern Sacks about the Town for every Family, and any other Slavery’.497 Complaints for any kind of atrocity against the carters were entertained by the local q"az∂ and one could land in trouble for hitting them.498 Oxen drivers or banjar " as " , though do not fall in the category of artisans and labourers, but their services were often hired by merchants for transportation of their food grains or salt, as it were banjar " "as only who accepted such kind of assignment and specialized in it. They moved in caravans of thousands along with their families, and were governed by a chief of their own. They, to transport food grains and salt, used only oxen. They supplied food grains to urban markets, imperial camps, or deficit areas alike. If hired to carry goods of others, other than their own clan, they were paid for the whole journey.499 Weight loaded on an ox in the form of a ‘gunny’, as per a reference, could be a ‘aboutt 10 Suratt maen (maunds)’. 500 Although, Barbosa writes about horse-drawn carriages in Cambay, which to him, were used commonly, but such references are few for the period of our study. It may be inferred that these might have been in use of the rich only.501 BOATMEN Ferrying goods on boats was considered cheaper than other modes of transportation. Boats had more capacity of loading, sometimes up to ‘a thousand maunds of goods apiece’. Boatmen were made responsible for the loss of goods. Or else, they were handed over to kotw"al.502 Boatmen were employed on regular basis also, mainly in coastal areas, generally by all the merchants involved in seaborne trade, including the Europeans.503 When the ships arrived in sight of the road, a ‘Company of Maqua-men’ or boatmen was sent to bring news about the owners of ship and the actual destination of it. In turn they charged some amount for it.504 In north India they

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were known as kistiwan " or kishtiban " , mall, dh∂var, jh∂nmar, keorat;505 506 and d"and∂s in Bengal. The river system of Ganges and Indus carried a heavier traffic. William Fitch describes his journey from Agra to Bengal with a fleet comprising 180 boats. Traffic on Indus too was quite significant. Large size boats plied between Lahore via Multan up to Sind. River Yamuna also attracted much traffic down till Allahabad.507 Sip"ais (sipah∂s) " or mercenary soldiers were sent along the boats and vessels for defence.508 PÅLKI+ -BARDÅR OR PALANQUIN CARRIERS One of the Europeans who travelled far and wide during the seventeenth century put his observations about the mode of travel of different classes in the contemporary society in the following manner: All who have any considerable pay, whether Moores or Gentiles, are carried through the Town in Palanquins well attended; or The inferior sort walked the distance, their women ride on little Oxen and their children on Assess, Horses, Mules, Camels or Dromedaries . . . the better sort ride on Elephants or else are carried upon mens shoulders alone in a slight thing they call Palankee.509

The affluent persons kept their own p"alk∂s (termed as palanquins in European sources) and servants to carry them. P"alk∂s, along with p"alk∂ carriers could be hired easily anywhere as it was a common mode of travel. P"alk∂ was a kind of bed or litter, 6 or 7 feet long and 3 feet wide, hanging in a cane and covered with cloth on all four sides and roof, having a small entrance. A p"alk∂ was carried by four, six, or eight persons and they could travel 20 to 30 miles or even ‘thirteen or fourteen leagues a day’.510 During long journeys at least eight persons were engaged to carry a p"alk∂—four at a time and another four to relieve them at turns. Frequent relays were necessary after certain interval. Some of the Europeans found p"alk∂s much comfortable ‘whose carriage is as easie and pleasant as that of our Chairs in the Streets of London, but far surpasseth them in point of State and quick dispatches of a Journey’, said Ovington.511 Careri, who journeyed in western coast from Gujarat


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

to Malabar, was astonished to see the lifestyle of the Portuguese who employed all kinds of slaves and servants including carriers of Palanchines. They were also attended by umbrella bearers (umbrellas made of palm) while stepping out of their houses on foot or in a p"alk∂. During rainy season they were carried in different types of carriages known as andora (Portuguese—a litter), which was similar to a p"alk∂. Going out in palk∂s " or andora was a symbol of prestige and an indication of respect one enjoyed among class-conscious people. The majority of the clergy preferred such a comfortable mode to visit places, as can be seen in the pages of Careri’s memoir—‘A religious man of any note, never being seen abroad in India, but in an Andora or Palankine, attended by many slave’. 512 Dol∂s were like small p"alkis, almost one-third in size as compared to a p"alk∂ and carried by two men only. These have been termed as ‘travelling cots’ by many. Dol∂s were meant for local visits, or to cover short distances. These were closely covered and commonly employed to carry women wherein one could sit crosslegged. One more variety of p"alk∂ was ambari, which resembled a little coach, fastened on elephants’ back with the help of a rope and ghirn∂ (pully). Another variety in use of kings and nobles was chowndolee identified in varied manner as chaudol, chandoli, chaundoli, or sh"ahdol. It was carried between two elephants in the manner of a litter, all four sides covered with khus (fragrant grass) woven on canes. The advantage associated to it was that a person sitting inside the chaudol /sh"ahdol, was not visible to the outside world, but could see through the khus screens everything around clearly.513 One kind of a p"alk∂ was a sort of field bedstead or sofa, called by the Europeans as catele. It was mainly used for ill and fatigued passengers, and four men were required to carry it.514 Brides belonging to well to do families, were given special treatment on the day of their wedding when they were taken in a p"alk∂ much different from the usual ones. Not of an ordinary type that hanged upon a pole in the middle and carried on the shoulders of the p"alk∂ carriers walking ahead the litter and behind, these were erected on a frame made of four poles fixed in the shape of a square and two poles horizontally fixed on right and left side, and some-

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what longer than the rest two. Four men—one at each corner— picked the small p"alk∂ resting above these vertical poles on each corner. These were decorated in a lavish manner with silk covers all over.515 In Goa, Pietro Della Valle (July, 1623) came across one more variety of carriage which Portuguese used to call Rete resembling a hammock. He enjoyed a ride on it near Goa. He later put his experience to words that it was nothing but . . . a net of cords ty’d at the head and feet, and hanging down from a great Indian Cane; in which Net is to the length of a Man, and so wide that opening in the middle (for the two ends are ty’d fast to the cane) ’tis capable of one person, a man llyes alone very conveniently with a cushion under his head, although somewhat crooked.

It was carried by two or four persons depending upon the weight of the passenger. He further supplemented the information that this mode of carriage had been quite usual not only to travel within the town but also to go to far off places.516 Della Valle’s travelogue contains some sketches depicting different forms of p"alk∂s. One of them shown is a ‘Cojavas’ or kaj"awa" (Persian gazavah) " which was 517 fixed on a camel, usually covered from all four sides. P"alk∂s were often used for a purpose very different from usual, like transporting cloths and victuals, or costly items to avoid exposure to rain and sun or damage of any other kind, as p"alk∂s were generally covered with ‘oiled’ or waxed cloth allowing no rainwater to come through.518 Palk∂s were preferred over horses for individual riding, because when travelling on a horseback chances were there that one ‘shall be dabled with dirt even to his wast (i.e. waist)’, much to the agony of (some of the) Europeans.519 P"alk∂ carriers were called cahar " or kahar " and gaulas, " and in Konkan area as ‘boys’ or boes too, especially in the towns under Portuguese domination. They generally formed a caste of their own. Gaul"as, who mainly reared cows and buffaloes served as wine carriers or messengers too. P"alk∂ carriers, otherwise, were commonly called as kah"ars in north and western India.520 Finest of the palk∂s " were made 521 at Thatta. William Methowld’s remark about their being sturdy and steadiness is quite interesting. He articulates:


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

. . . of the porters who carry the palamkeens[palanquins], a litter so contrived every way as to carry a man, his bed and pillowoes, which eight of these porters will those league in a day, which are 36 of our miles, supporting it on their bare shoulders, and running under it by turns, foure at a time; from which continuall toyle, aggravated by the extreme heate, their shoulders are become as hard as their hoofes; yet this their education makes easie to them, for when their children can but go alone, they lay a small sticke on their shoulders, afterwards a logge, which they make them carry, with proportionable increase, untill, Roman Milo like, they are able to run under a palamkeene, and in that sometimes perchance on oxe.522

They were known for their adroitness and supple pace and could cover a distance between 25 and 40 km a day. Tavernier says they could cover 13 to 14 leagues in a day while Thomas Bowrey recounts that they were able to travel 40 miles in a day.523 P"alk∂ carriers organized themselves into groups according to the custom of their caste. In almost all the towns where they were hired from, their interests were protected by their headman by way of paying a rupee to him. In turn, the headman also would take the responsibility of their conduct and honesty.524 KOL+I S Kol ∂s belonged to a nomadic tribe of western India and Gujarat, and they roamed from place to place doing odd jobs in turn of wages. They could be employed to carry bills of exchange—hund∂s on behalf of merchants. At the same time, they also acted as cotton dressers, p"alk∂ bearers, or, even as painters of cloths. Thevenot is perhaps the only traveller who noticed them doing the job of cotton dressers when he was at a town called Gitbag, 64 kos north of Broach. He noted down that, there ‘we met a great many Colies which are a People of a caste or tribe of Gentiles, who have no fixed Habitations, but wander from Village to Village, and carry all they have about with them. Their chief business is to pick and clean the Cotton, and when they have no more to do in one Village, they go to another’.525 Its quite obvious that the nature of work did not allow them stay at one place and their services must have been considered important in this cotton growing zone of India.

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LETTER CARRIERS AND MESSENGERS OR PATTÅMÅRS One of the most frequent words identifying the letter-carriers in the seventeenth century was patt" a m"a r or pathm" a r. The word patt"amar, " or ‘foot-post’, is derived from Konkani language— pathmar, " 526 meaning a courier. Another commonly used word was harkar " a" . Along with these terms, there were different other terms to identify them, such as q"asids, k"asid, cossids or cassets, etc., in the contemporary sources. In Coromandal, a term pingo or bangi (bangi, a bearer) was applied to them. Carriers of messages or letters were known as maz"ur also, a term popular for porters or labourers. In Marathi-speaking region, a term j"asud or jesud (jasus? " ) was in vogue for the messengers. A popular term adowiah (adowyae, adhovaya, or a carrier, used differently in many parts of western and northern India for different classes of porters, intermediaries, contractors, brokers and peons as well), was in vogue for letter carriers also. State messengers on official duty were specifically called yas"awal.527 Sometimes a jilaud"ar (or a bridle-holder) meant for holding the reins of a horse or packed horse or mule, also acted as a messenger.528 They carried letters on foot, often ‘faster than horsemen’. A letter containing the news of the death of Akbar and the chaotic atmosphere that prevailed in the country, reached Jaunpur from Agra in ten days only.529 There were two ways of sending post— one through the d"ak-chowk∂s erected by the state at a particular distance, or by hiring the services of a patt"am"ar privately. On each route, for official post, at a distance of six miles a hut was constructed and when a patt"amar " on state duty reached there, he would throw the letter on the ground. This was picked up by another patt"amar " posted there who carried it to the next post. The highways were marked by trees on either sides, or a leap of stones at a distance of five hundred paces.530 These foot-messengers could be sent to the remotest part of the country and abroad too. An interesting observation of Georges Roques (a French factor posted at Surat and who visited various cities) is worth quoting. He talks of the activities in bazars, that these are ‘public places’ and that ‘the post offices are there’. Elaborating on it he adds that merchants and brokers kept a tab on happenings in other parts


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

through letters which they frequently received, and engage the clients according to the trend in various places and nearby markets.531 Many letter carriers shuttled frequently between important commercial towns like Surat and Isfahan or Shiraz in Persia.532 In coastal areas, they delivered post travelling on boats or ships also. In emergency, in coastal areas, boats—jengatha (a boat or a raft) or catamaran/cattamaronce (a small boat) were specially hired for the same, but sometime only for short distances.533 Letter carriers were also kept privately, or their services could be obtained by paying them bhatta or subsistence money along with some tashr∂f /tashref— a present. Bhatt"a and tashr∂f were claimed along with the wages also. Return post could also be sent through them. While in waiting, they were entitled for a daily allowance. A rare evidence for September 1636 gives the amount paid to one letter carrier from Masulipatam kept in waiting at Surat, at the rate of ‘3 pice a day’. He collected a substantial amount on this account that made the President of the English Company lament that (this man) ‘so comes to cost more brass (coins) than his body weighs’.534 Sometimes they worked as guides also for the travellers.535 A courier could oblige others while in the (regular) service of someone else. They also accepted the assignment of carrying bills of exchange, precious metals like gold, currency, account books, rolls of paper, or various types of small items, etc.536 They accepted long distance assignments as far as Aleppo (then) in Turkey.537 On such occasions, life of a patt"am"ar was put at risk as one might had an encounter with robbers or could likely be attacked in the war zone.538 Abbé Carre did not forget to acknowledge the services of the letter carriers or couriers and their mode of survival during the long course of arduous journey. In 1672, while travelling from Surat to Golconda, he recorded in his memoir: It is a most remarkable thing in this country that the pattamars, that is couriers who carry letters and urgent dispatches, travel more quickly than men on horseback or in carts or in other conveyances, because they go on foot day and night, resting only an hour or two under a tree or by a tank or river bank. For food they have some thin pancakes, folded like paper in a little packet, or a little cooked rice, which they carry with them; and for dessert they smoke tobacco, while on their way, this being their greatest treat and support.539

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Somehow, a few of the well-known travellers like Ovington, did not find them up to the mark and he was forced to write that ‘. . . the Indians in sending their letters abroad have not learnt the convenience of the quick dispatches of our post, since, while sending letters anywhere a person was sent ‘on purpose upon the errand’.540 These Europeans’ accounts are of immense help in getting an idea of their actual speed and method of functioning. It is evident from their accounts that letter carriers completed their journey at a much faster pace-taking 2/3 of the total time usually needed to reach a specific destination on foot, cart or camel.541 A ‘fast messenger’ reached Mandu from Surat and back (in 1617) in sixteen days while an ‘ordinary one took more than twenty days for the same assignment. As per the information related to the Governor and his Council’s discussion in Madras in 1662, a patt"amar " ordinarily took twenty days to cover a journey between Madras and Goa—a distance of about 450 miles. Distance between Surat and Masulipatam could be covered by a patt"amar " in twenty to twentyfive days ‘except [if ] some extraordinary accident befall him in the way’. Similarly, a letter carrier from Patna to Hugli accomplished the task in twelve days covering a distance of 270 miles in 1679. This tends to suggest that the range of their speed varied from 18 to 22.5 miles a day. Late delivery of the letters could be due to the interception on the part of an enemy, war, or imprisonment of the carrier on his way.542 A messenger named Banarasi conveyed the news of Jahangir’s death from Rajauri in Kashmir to Shah Jahan staying almost 1,000 miles away at Junnar in Deccan, in mere twenty days running almost 50 miles a day. This was, however an exceptional case where both risks and rewards were great.543 There were two classes of carriers—‘bazar’ and ‘express’. The former ones were construed to represent a commercial post established on the busy trade routes. Express messengers moved at a faster pace, hence, were certainly expensive. Express service was available for neighbouring countries like Persia also. Some of them were identified as ‘return express’. They made ‘special return journey’ to and fro from a certain destination taking shorter time than usually taken by a courier of the ‘bazar’ category. Express patt"amar " helped in bringing news about the activities of their competitors as the


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

European factors would always hang around to hear about the activities of their rival companies’ merchants. Occasionally, Europeans factors too employed messengers to carry ‘express’ message or letter.544 References speak about the ‘mounted courier’ also, known as ch"ar pa, as was common in Persia. ‘Mounted couriers’, however, were commonly put into service by the Mughal officers like waq"a’i-naw∂s (news reporter) for transmitting information to the court or to other high-ranking officers and nobles like viz∂r. English ambassador Norris representing the New Company around 1700 CE, realized that letters concerning serious business could be dispatched quickly if sent through the men of waq"a’i-naw∂s as these 545 were delivered ‘by horse-riding patt"amars’. " Letters were also sent ‘under cover’ to communicate secret or important news, like death of an emperor, and explaining further strategy.546 Though most of them were regarded as truthful, they could give trouble to their employer in specific circumstances—just as the late delivery of bills of exchange, delay of which could result in losses. Some of the couriers or letter carriers, hand in glove with the sarr"afs (money changers/lenders or bankers), would accept bribes and by their ‘tardy delivery’ of bills of exchange caused losses to the merchants.547 In case a patt"amar " was unable to deliver a letter due to the unavoidable circumstances, like war or rebellion en route or in the delivery zone, he would perform a customary ritual, which is, cut a tree at the last point he had reached unto and return. In the days to come it could serve as a testimony of his sincerity towards his duty and a proof of how far he had proceeded. Chances of being robbed were always there. They often risked their lives for the same.548 They often consumed opium and could ‘undertake a journey of several hundred miles’ in hope of a good reward.549 There is hardly any information about their social background or whether they formed a caste or not. General impression is that they came from various backgrounds of both Hindus and Muslims. Somehow, a chance discovery in a sixteenth-century Portuguese traveller Tome Pires’ account of patt"am"ars in Cambay (whom he writes as patt"ars), makes the point somewhat interesting. He

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counts them among the most respectable people, includes them among the Brahmins, who along with Banians ‘have the cream of the trade’ in the town. His information is quite surprising as he emphatically says that for their background they could never be attacked or molested by any: The Patta[ma]rs of Cambay are the most honoured Brahmans. They are originally descended from the kings of Cambay, because in older times the kings were Brahmans, as they are in Malabar today. These [Pattars] take the merchandise through the country, and the merchants are greatly esteemed. Even when going through robber infested country, the merchants are not molested if they are accompanied by a Pattar; and they have this distinction in this part. And if they rob them, they kill themselves with daggers, and the other Brahmans anoint the images with their blood and drag them along, until justice is done, and they do it and give them back what is theirs. The Brahmans are held in great esteem among the heathen; and these are the most honoured because they do not eat anything that has been living. These are the ones who carry the letters, if they come as couriers, because they are safe from the thieves.550

In the seventeenth-century sources, although their Brahmin status is not emphasized, but the account strongly suggests that traditionally other patt"amars " also enjoyed that same immunity in the society. It can be emphasized in the wake of nature of information in the subsequent period where we hardly ever find a letter-carrier being attacked by robbers or enemy per se. MENIALS AND SCAVENGERS Menials and scavengers were commonly counted among the lowest section of the traditional Indian society, even below the sudras «" and malechhas who were always regarded impure and outcastes. ‘The fourth class is called charades or Soudra . . . the remainder of the people, who do not belong to either of these four castes, are called Pauzecour (?)’, observed Tavernier.551 In Malabar boys aged twelve or thirteen were engaged to clean houses.552 The Majority of the «s"udras were shoe makers counted among those who performed the most degraded jobs. Even the shadow of


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

these people was considered impure and they could not dare touch the people of other three classes of upper castes. Sudras ® " were known as kurmi (or curmi ) also. They could (but were rarely), be sent on ships to stitch the skins (bags) or planks, or to serve as foot soldiers too.553 Lower to them was a fifth class of malechhas who were assigned the job of scavengers. Here they were known as hal"alkhor, meaning differently, like—‘the eater of the lawful food’; ‘one to whom all foods are lawful’; ‘one who accounts it lawful to eat anything’; ‘eat alls’ or ‘eaters at large’.554 Bernier’s is the only exception that identifies ‘menials’ (perhaps a few of them) as being Patans (Path"ans, most probably Muslims).555 A sweeper was also identified as kh"akrob.556 The other nomenclature for them was s"upach (one who can digest unclean food), sum m"arjan∂kar, " buhar∂ " wala, " " ch"andal " or bhang∂.557 They cleaned the houses of all and disposed off the refuse. They were paid monthly wages on the basis of the size of family they worked for, and accepted every thing eatable given by Hindus and Muslims alike. They made the use of donkeys to carry the refuse and sweepings from houses to the fields. Another term applied to them was chand"alam or blacks, or der. In coastal areas of south India, they were known as perrear also.558 Della Valle gives a vivid description of their wretched condition in the following manner: . . . all people in general abhor not onely to converse with, but even to touch them. Concerning Religion, I have heared nothing particular of them, but believe them Gentiles, as the rest, or perhaps, Atheist, who may possibly hold everything for lawful, as well in believing as as in eating. They are all sufficiently poor, and live for the most part by begging, or exercising the most sordid Trade in the Common-wealth, which others disdain to meddle with; but they either because their Rites teaches them so, or necessity’, inforces them, are not at all shie of.559

Peter Mundy also depicts their plight in almost similar words: Hallalcores [hal"alkhor, scavenger, sweeper], are a kinde of base, abject and contemned people or Cast, most comonlie put to emptie howses of Office, which goe not with vault as ours. . . . They are also putt to bring upp, carry aboute and keepe great mens dogs (as unclean beasts). . . . They are putt to Cutt of Condemened Mens heads. . . . Any man that touches any of them

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thinkes himselfe polluted, soe vilely are they accounted. Yett are they in all great mens howses for the uses aforesaid.560

They were treated in a most contemptible manner, although their services were considered extremely necessary. Apart from doing menial work like cleaning streets and carrying away human excreta, they were also made to wash the dead bodies (of Hindus) and helped in ‘conveying them to their proper places of sepulture’. They avoided touching anyone for fear of offence and attempted to keep themselves at a distance from all. They were shunned by all and it was ‘one of the greatest mark of ignominy when any person is reflected on, is to be called Hal"alchor (hal"a lkhor), an astonished Ovington diagnosed.561 They were seen as the most inauspicious people and this was regarded an irremediable contamination if a higher caste (especially Hindu) man was found guilty of talking to them, or touching, or entering in or eating at their houses. The upper caste people, who considered themselves pure, preferred to die unheeded than to be touched by the «s"udras or ch"andalas " or halalkhors. " People faced expulsion from their respective community, if they were found committing errors mentioned above. They were supposed to live outside the four walls of the city or town occupied by the people of three upper castes. If any of the ‘impure’ accidentally touched the pots of members of pure caste, the pots were either thrown away or given to these menials itself. They did not have the right to enter the temples or take water from the wells belonging to others. If a high caste person felt the mere breath or shadow of a man of this class, he thought himself polluted and considered the poor man (malechha, hal"a lkhor or ch"andal " ) worth killing and would make one pure by certain ceremonies.562 These poor people were forced to move in the streets by making a loud voice po po, so that others could take care of themselves. FISHERMEN

In the second half of the sixteenth century, while describing the Indian society, Jan Van Linschoten said about the fishermen that


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

in the Malabar Coast they were called poly"as who lead a miserable life. They could not touch or talk to high caste people. They could not even dare look at people belonging to so-called ‘higher caste’, and could not mingle with others but their own people. In northern parts of the country, they were known as m"ah∂g∂r. In the Tamil region, they were identified as muevas or mukkuwar and rendered their services to foreign mariners if they required wooden planks and boats for hire.563 Fishermen were also called coolies or kolis. In Konkan they had to pay a certain type of tax known as colouria or coita meaning a ‘knife tax’. This tax was symbolic in respect of the knives used by them in cutting fish.564 Careri mentioned different ‘tribes’ of fishermen. He wrote that fishermen were divided into many tribes or races, ‘call’d coles, Mavis, Purubi"as, Vaitis, Birmassis’. Sonkali was a synonym to kol ∂s, and ‘vaiti to Gabits or Kharuis— who were a degraded section of Sonkal ∂s’.565 They were called boyi in Telugu.566 Another popular nomenclature in use for them was mall, which often opted for wrestling too.567 On the Coromandal Coast, fishermen were conducted by a hereditary headman and laws of simplest nature were followed by them. If a fisherman committed a kind of mistake, he was made to pay a fine which was in the form of a fish paid to the headman.568 The occupation of fishing was ranked low in the social hierarchy.569 In coastal areas, however, it was the chief profession of innumerable people. Fishing was also done in plains and hills alike in lakes, ponds and rivers. Fish has been a part of the staple diet of people living in coastal areas. Those who carried boats into sea were called n"avik, karnadh"ar, jalpariksha, mastuli or n"akhuda.570 In a metropolis like Delhi, fish was somewhat of a delicacy. An interesting remark points to the indolent behaviour of the fishermen of Delhi that they would not go for fishing during winters for fear of catching cold. Nobles (umara), however, would not mind exercising force to make them catch fish in any a season by the use of korrah (a whip).571 In Bombay, under the English, fishermen were assisted with loans to repair or buy new boats especially to counter the Portuguese against their violation of the Bombay waters.572

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PEARL-FISHERS In coastal areas, certain people were engaged in the profession of pearl fishing. Contemporary sources reveal that most of them spent a miserable life, and a common proverb for them was that they could have left the job had they found another. In this profession, they could hardly earn much, but only what was barely essential for their survival.573 Sometimes, they did not even have enough money to purchase food. For that reason, in the season of fishing pearls, they were forced to borrow money paying a certain monthly interest ‘from 3 to 4 per cent’, to resume their efforts in the hope of better returns.574 With this borrowed amount, if they failed to field pearls up to a required value out of a specific number of oysters, they were forced to discontinue fishing pearls further. Tavernier records that they would take an idea beforehand if the attempts that particular year will pay or not, because fishing did not take place every year. He further elaborates: In order not to be deceived they (contractors) send to the fisheries seven or eight boats, each of which brings back 1,000 oysters, which are opened, and if there is not found in every thousand oysters the value of 5 fanos of pearls—that is to say a half ecu » of our money—it is accepted as a proof that fishing will not be good, and that these poor people will not recover the outlay which they have had to incur. Also that—‘If, at the worst, 1,000 oysters do not yield 5 fanos worth of pearls, they do not fish that year’.575

Therefore, it was always a kind of trial and error situation. Those who chose to work further had to go to other locations for fishing pearls, which were only a few in the Coastal India, mostly in Tuticorin and its adjacent areas. Fishing in the ‘eastern seas’ used to take place twice a year, once in March and April, and then in August and September. 576 A contemporary of Tavernier, Philip Baldaeus who visited Coromandel and Malabar in 1640, records purposely the pearl fishing in the Tuticorin area. He is, perhaps, the only one who identifies the people involved in the profession as ‘Paruas’ (most probably Perias). Since all those Europeans who visited Malabar from the


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

fifteenth century onwards, Baldaeus also noticed their low status and the wretched conditions they lived in. Fishing was not done every year. A trial was first made by way of taking out of a few shells from the sea by the divers. If quality and quantity would be satisfactory, they would resolve upon fishing. He noted that ‘Inhabitants of the circumjacent Parts come in great Numbers with their Families and Boats and pitch their Tents near the Seaside, where they remain till the Fishery is over’. It very clearly suggests that they owned the boats and these were not supplied by their employers. They had to pay certain amount to the Dutch Company here as protection money as they were controlling the trade there. Another observation of Baldaeus about these ‘Paruas’ indicates towards their involvement in a subsidiary trade as they would also dive for hours to collect sea-snails called ‘Chancos [shankh], whereas they make Rings, that bear a good Price at Bengale’.577 An Englishman Caesar Frederick (1563-81) had been one of the pioneers who gave a vivid description of pearl fishing in the sea ‘that lyeth betweene the Coast which decseneth from Cape Comori to the low land of Chilao, and the Iland of Zeilon (Ceylon)’. He informs that the season for the same lasted from March or April to the next fifty days and fishing in a single area was not done every year. He adds that the area for pearl fishing was the same but they would shift to nearby shoreline every year for better results. They first employed expert divers to explore where the biggest heaps of oysters could be found, then they would camp in the area. It would turn into a small township, as Frederick notices ‘right against that place where greatest store of Oyster be, there they make or plant a Village with houses and Bazaro, all of stone, which standeth as long as the fishing time lasteth, and it is furnished with all things necessarie, . . .’578 These settlements often could be at far off places than inhabited areas. During the period of fishing there were employed ‘three or four Fusts armed to defend the fishermen from Rovere’. About the method of fishing pearls, on the basis of his personal observation, Frederick goes on telling that three or four ‘barkes’ or

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small boats were made ‘consort together’, having seven or eight persons on each. They would anchor at a convenient place ‘in fifteene or eighteene fathom of water, which is the ordinary depth of all that Coast’, with the help of a big stone tied to a rope dropped in water. Now a diver with ‘his nose and ears well stopped, and anointed with Oyle’, would go down with a basket about his neck or left arm and fill it with as much oysters as he could. Giving a signal by shaking the rope, he was pulled up and oysters were heaped in the boat till it was full. All these oysters were put in heaps along the coast by each group separately. At the end of the season, when the oysters were completely dried and brittle, these were broken to obtain pearls. First, the experts known as Chitini evaluated the found and then merchants ‘of every Countrey . . . ready with their money in hands’ would buy these.579 A French adventurer Charles Dellon (1668-79) also identified Cape Comorin as the source of pearls, and that these were brought to Surat for trade.580 In the closing years of the sixteenth century, a Jesuit visitor Nicholas Pimenta happened to be in the region sometime in 1597. He speaks of pearl fishing in the area around Talemanare on Malabar near the Cape at the entrance of Ile Manare (Tamil Manar). He stayed in a tent of fishermen for a while and his information about the number of hands involved in the said profession in a fishing year based on eye-witness is astonishing. He wrote about these pearl fishers that ‘. . . there come from the Regions about sixtie thousand into these Tents of Fishermen, bringing all their families’.581 Linschoten (1583-92) is another contemporary who recorded in his account some details about fishing pearls in the same area.582 John Fryer also witnessed ‘dragging’ of pearls near Tuticorin.583 Tavernier lists some more names of the location as he says that ‘there is a pearl-fishery . . . in the sea near a large town called Manar, in the island of Ceylon. The pearls found there are the most beautiful, both as regards water and roundness. . . .’ Tavernier also gives some details about fishing of pearls in the same region. Himself a great merchant dealing in diamonds and pearls, Tavernier has valuable information in his travelogue about


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

pearl fishing in the Manar region. He showers praise on the pearlfishers of Manar area that they were better than those of Bahrein and Al-Qatif (Arabian town in Persian Gulf ) for they could remain inside the sea for a longer period, ‘seven to eight minutes’ and would come out after finishing their job.584 In the region of Manar around Cape Comorin, most of the pearlfishers were Christians at the time when Caesar Frederick and Nicholas Pimenta visited the area. They had been under the domination of the Portuguese paying a certain duty ‘to the King of Portugall, and to the Churches of the Friers of saint Paul. . .’ Nicholas Pimenta appended it that a Jesuit priest was also brought along who said ‘Masse in the Churches erected on the shore’ whose job was also to ‘appease tumults’.585 Building identified as ‘churches’ in the neighbourhood, is also an indication of the presence of a great number of people in the area. When the Dutch ousted the Portuguese from the area, they assumed the role of extracting duty from the fishermen. When the Portuguese used to levy tax from each boat, the Dutch demanded it at the rate of ‘8 piastres from each diver, and sometimes upto 9; this yields them a revenue in the best years amounting to 17,200 reals’. The reason they ascribed to it was that they wanted to protect these fishermen from their enemies, ‘the Malabaris, who come with armed boats to capture and enslave the fishers’.586 Perhaps participation of other religious groups in the profession increased in the seventeenth century when sources speak about both Hindus and Muslims’ presence in the area involved in pearl fishing. Tavernier is one of those who specifically mentions the background of those associated with it, and goes on telling that ‘The fishermen are for the most part idolators, but there are also Musalmans, . . . they never mingle with one another’. He further adds that the Musalmans ‘besides having to pay as much as the idolators, have also to give one day’s take, the particular day being left to the choice of the Dutch’. The reason ascribed to it was that most of the Musalmans were owners of boats.587 Pearls were in great demand among the rich, nobles, and members of royalty. Europeans also traded in pearls in different parts of the world including their home countries. De Laet makes men-

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tion of a place four miles from Broach on the way to Variao, where ‘magnificient gems . . . called Achates [agates]’ were dug.588 DIAMOND AND GOLD-MINERS

These were the professions not taken up by many during the medieval centuries. Labourers were engaged from the same area where diamond and gold mines were located. Since most of the mines were located in the region of Golconda and Carnatic, references about the employment of miners are available only from those areas. Mines were under the control of the state or were farmed to prominent nobles. Careri describes the process of finding the diamonds in the ‘Carnates’ region, Tavernier witnessed thousands of poor people working in the diamond mines.589 Ovington viewed inexplicable number of them working in state-owned mines ‘whose wages consumed a great part of the gains’, he came to learn.590 The rulers lent out the diamond and gold mines in Golconda to contractors, but the latter did not pay adequate wages to the diggers. They rather complained of not drawing sufficient profit from these mines.591 Streynsham Master’s estimate of the number of labourers working in diamond mines at Mellewille and Raizpent (Gollapalle in Nuzvid territory) was ‘30 to 40 thousand, besides many others’.592 He, while visiting the diamond mines at Gollapalle, observed the technique of the miners as follows ‘one or two of the miners loosen the earth with an iron grow and others with iron Pawaraes (phaoras) or spades heave it upto a heap, from whence others with Basketts wind the small dust from it with the wind’. Finally, the finds were washed and cleaned.593 On his visit to the Kollar (also known as Gani) diamond mines in Deccan, Tavernier was perplexed at seeing around sixty thousand people employed, including women and children—men digging and women and children carrying the earth to nearby walled enclosure where it was soaked with water brought in earthen pots. The slime was allowed to flow through the openings in the walls. The rest of it was left to dry. Finally, it was then winnowed and, thus, the diamonds were obtained.594 Diamonds were also found in the river-bed of Koel or Gouel River around Palamu in the Chhota Nagpur region.595 Work-


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

ers in diamond mines faced penalty of death if they concealed diamond, especially a large piece, on their person or elsewhere.596 About the gold miners, Tavernier narrates a story that once the king of Golconda was informed about a certain part containing gold mines, ‘he sent 12,000 men to work there . . . and due to some losses . . . forbidding further mining, sent all these poor people back to tillage’, indicating that peasants or landless labourers were usually forced into this job.597 FORTUNE-TELLERS OR ASTROLOGERS Fortune-tellers also dotted the streets of some of the cities. Unfortunately, other than Bernier none of the Europeans has reported in detail about them. He noticed them sitting in the main market in front of the Red Fort of Delhi, and he says that it (the market) ‘was full of endless variety of things’. He writes that Astrologers both Mahometans and Gentiles, posing as wise doctors remain seated in the sun, on a dusty piece of carpet, handling some old mathematical instruments, and having open before them a large book which represent the sign of the zodiac. In this way attract the attention of the passengers, and impose upon the people, by whom they are considered as so many infallible oracles.

About their charges, Bernier does not disappoint us. ‘They tell a poor person his fortune for a payssa (which is worth about one sol)’. Their way of examining their client’s future was also interesting ‘. . . after examining the face and the hand of the applicant, turning over the leaves of the large book, and pretending to make certain calculations, these imposters decide the sahet (sa’at) or propitious moment of commencing the business he may have in hand’. Their clients were not just confined to menfolk, they were able to attract women as well, Bernier added. ‘Silly women, wrapping themselves in white cloth from head to foot, flock to astrologers, whisper to them all the transactions of their lives, and disclose every secret with no more reserve than is practiced. The ignorant and infatuated really believe that the stars have an influence which the astrologers can control.’ Some of them were exceptionally shrewd in their craft. Of one

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of the fellows, Bernier took special notice of and also of his mode of deceiving people: The most ridiculous of these pretenders to divination was a half-caste Portuguese, a fugitive from Goa. This fellow sat on his carpet as gravely as the rest, and had many customers notwithstanding he could neither read (n)or write. His only instrument was an old mariner’s compass and his book of astrology a couple of old Romish prayer books in Portuguese language, the picture of which he pointed out as the signs of European zodiac.

There was no dearth of them, and Bernier specifies ‘I am speaking only the bazar-astrologers. Those who frequent the court of the grandees are considered by them eminent doctors, and become wealthy’. Thevenot also came across astrologers in the market close to the Fort of ‘Gehan-abad’ (Jahanabad, Delhi) who ‘shew their tricks’ to people.598 BUTCHERS

Known as qass"a b, qas"a ∂, bhedak / badhhak / lah"u bedhak, m" ans bhedak,599 both Hindus and Muslims, butchers were found everywhere except in those towns and villages where the Hindu population was in majority, and abstaining from eating meat, resided. Bernier again is of much help about their functioning. Somehow, his description about the popularity of ‘mutton’ instead of ‘goat’s meat’ is confusing. He observed that she-goat’s meat was commonly available which was considered ‘lean and tough’. To him ‘mutton and beef, but particularly the former, though not unpleasant to the taste, are heating, Hatulent and but difficult of digest’.600 Other forms of flesh sold in the markets of Delhi were fowls ‘tolerably good and cheap’. Piegons could be had easily, but as per Bernier’s remark, Indians usually considered them too small and killing them an act of cruelty. Perhaps butchers did not deal in fowls or birds. It was a profession commonly followed by birdcatchers. Partridges were sold along with cages and brought from far off places to cities like Delhi. Same class of bird-catchers also dealt in ducks and hares, but as a matter of taste were not preferred when compared to fowls.601


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

CONFECTIONERS AND VENDORS OF COOKED FOOD We also hear about confectioners’ shops in all the big and small cities. Unfortunately, European travellers do not speak much about them, except a few. Bernier criticizes the quality of sweetmeats sold in Delhi, that these were badly made and saw them ‘full of dust and flies’.602 Contrary to that, Manrique was surprised to see the abundance of wealth in Agra and the amount nobles, merchants and khatr∂s spent on variety of dainties available in the town. His astonishment can be well understood as he detailed in his own words that huge amount of food-stuffs and dainties of all sorts, which were to be met with in the numerous Bazars or markets, . . . Entire streets could be seen wholly occupied by skilled sweetmeat makers, who proved their skill by offering wonderful sweet-scented dainties of all kinds which would stimulate the most jaded appetite to gluttony.603

Confectioners were a common feature at shrines or pilgrimage centres selling off their products in the weekly markets, as Pelsaert records a very interesting event regarding a fair held on each Thursday in Agra at a point where the bier of Prince Khusrau was once kept and where a ‘shrine’ was constructed in his memory by his admirers. This shrine was destroyed later and Pelsaert noted that three classes suffered most—mendicants, confectioners, and hawkers of toys. Of confectioners he recalls that they ‘used to line the whole road in great numbers with stalls of sweet stuffs, and sold great quantities, together with the hawkers of toys (like pedlars at our fairs), for no one would return without having bought something for the children’.604 Abbe Carre on his visit to Daman in 1672 found many strange practices in vogue. The town was mainly inhabited by Mestisses or half-castes (from Portuguese mestico, halfcaste), and that ‘most of the houses are filled with women, who make dainties and sweets, and with troops of slaves, who have hardly any food but fish and rice’, clearly indicating that the products were for the market. It may also be inferred that though, with the womenfolk being in a large number, slave labour was also employed.605 Bernier informs about the Portuguese in Bengal who were quite skilled at making sweets and preserving fruits in sugar.606

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Life in the cities and towns would go under complete change with the presence of the royal camp or lashkar around. Manrique described how Lahore turned into an extremely crowded city when Shah Jahan visited it in 1641. A lively description of the bazars is worth noting where he says that lanes were filled in a short span with the vendors of all types of eatables on finding the royal camp in the town. He witnessed ‘market-places, filled with and appetizing eatables, so the money-seeking vendors were assisting her (i.e. the night) with artificial lights, thus also informing strangers and all who lacked kitchens, where ready-cooked and tasty food could be obtained’.607 Banarasi Das became a regular at the shop of a kachori seller—kachorib"al (kachoriw"al ) in Agra, indicating that many of them specialized in particular products.608 VERMILION MAKERS English merchants in Gujarat have mentioned about vermilion makers. One noticeable reference is of 1 March 1624, when factors at Ahmadabad wrote to their President and Council to dispatch quicksilver at the earliest ‘in order that it may be made into vermilion before the heat renders the work unsufferable to the labourers’, indicating that the process was quite cumbersome, especially during summers. 609 SALTPETRE MAKERS There is ample information in the European sources about ‘petremen’ or makers of saltpetre and suppliers. They extracted saltpetre, processed it and supplied it to the merchants. A rare evidence suggests that they were found at Singhiya near Patna and their activities were rather confined specifically between Patna and Hugli region, areas around Patna being the source of saltpetre and Hugli the main port where it was shipped from. They were made to pay certain amount as custom to the authorities, and in 1677, many saltpetre-makers fled Patna because of the atrocities of the d"arogha" of Prince Azam who drubbed and imprisoned many over the issue of ‘payment of custom from the English’ (perhaps on amount of trade done with the English).610


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India AGRO-MANUFACTURERS

SUGAR MANUFACTURERS The sugar manufacturing industry occupied a very noteworthy place in India. The agriculturists at a place near the sugar cane fields prepared it and sugar produced was meant not only for local consumption but also for export to other areas in the country and abroad. Sugarcane and sugar-palm were used for making jaggery, crystal, granulated and powdered sugar. In the Åin-i Akbar∂, we find a description of the process of manufacturing sugar.611 It provided occupation to a large number of people both in rural and urban areas. Sugar canes were passed through two wooden rollers— 2½ feet long and 6 inches in diameter, lying horizontally in two rests having a space of a quarter of an inch between them. The rollers were driven in opposite direction by spokes at the end of the rollers. The canes were passed through and juice was collected in earthen pots. These canes were left to dry in open area after the extraction of juice and then used as fuel while boiling the juice. Through this process jaggery or powdered sugar was obtained.612 There could also be found large mills, powered by a team of bullocks for grinding the cane.613 After the initial stage of processing, traders took raw sugar, also called ‘moist sugar’, for further processing in order to obtain different varieties of sugar.614 Bengal was the chief centre of the best and cheapest sugar. Here sugar was produced in all its forms—coarse or jaggery, fine grained white sugar, powdered sugar, and expensive varieties, like large crystals or candy. Other centres of manufacturing sugar were Multan, Patna, Ajmer, Delhi, Bayana, Malwa, Agra, and certain towns in Orissa, etc. Along with the Indian and Persian merchants, Europeans like the Dutch and the English used to take it to Persia in huge quantities (where it was in great demand) to enhance their profits. In Ahmadabad and Surat a fine quality of sugar was produced. Balasore, Aurangabad, Samana, and Lahore were other places where sugar could be obtained in large quantities. Sugar of ordinary quality was sold for four to five rupees per maund, and the price of the finest quality, i.e. crystal and candy, were around eleven

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to twelve rupees per maund. Sugar manufacturing industry provided employment to innumerable persons as it was manufactured in the entire northern Indian belt from Bengal to Punjab in huge quantities. SALT PRODUCERS The production of salt from sea water was a popular practice (profession) in coastal areas where thousands of people were found engaged. Salt was also obtained from Sambhar lake in Rajasthan,615 and also from Punjab hills and areas adjacent to Lahore.616 Here salt earth was extracted, placed in clay reservoirs and washed with water to obtain brine or salted water in a concentrated form. It was left in the sun to be evaporated and, as a result, the salt remained on the surface. Salt produced through solar evaporation was called kurkutch and that by boiling process as pungah.617 In coastal Bengal and Mysore salt production was a family affair up to the end of the eighteenth century.618 Salt producers were identified with different names. In Bengal they were known as mangalis or molungis, where they were divided into two groups—ajoorahs and thikas. The ajoorah group had their houses and lands adjacent to saltproducing areas known as khalaris/thikas, and were those who contracted to work for the owners of the fields (deposits) on the basis of weekly wages.619 Other names for salt manufacturers which appear in the contemporary sources are—bangas " al " ∂s, bharsal " ∂s, vegas, namaks"az, mishtl"un"adkar, lonia or lohanas or lavanas. In Malabar they were known as kaniyans.620 Sujan Rai identifies labourers working in salt mines as alshah.621 The last category later on took to cultivation or turned into labourers.622 They were also involved in the saltpetre trade. Salt was transported usually by the banjar " as " .623 Transporters of salt were also known as charnas which was a subdivision of lamani (lavani ) or vanj"ari caste. Salt was also an item of export, especially to South-East Asia. English and Dutch merchants used to carry it there from Masulipatam and Madras. Karanja and other parts of Bombay, also Cochin in Malabar were the centres of large export trade in salt. The state often monopolized the trade in salt.624 In 1595, prices of salt are recorded to be 16 d"ams


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

per maund. A reference of 1781 shows Lahori salt being sold at Banaras at the rate of thirteen (rupees?) a maund, and Sambhar salt at the rate of four rupees a maund.625 From Sambhar and Lahore region, the output of salt was enormous and till the end of the eighteenth century it was ‘exported’ to far off regions like Bengal, Assam, and Kashmir. Sujan Rai in his Khul"asat-ut Tawar∂kh " refers to the huge amount of revenues collected from this sector, which ran into lakhs of rupees. It must have required innumerable hands for extracting salt from the mines.626 OIL MANUFACTURERS

Oil manufacturers and traders were known as tel ∂, ass"ar or roghangar in northern India. They were also styled as telk"ar, jantra /yantra bandhak or kohlu bandhak.627 In south India, they were called vanigars or ennaivanigar.628 They manufactured this essential commodity, i.e. oil, throughout the length and breadth of the country as it was a common agro, manufacture. Gingelly in coastal Orissa derived its name from the oil-seed grown in that area. Midnapur was famous for manufacturing odoriferous oils from flowers and other scented substances, and, even, exported from thence. Gwalior aquired fame for chamel∂ (jasmine) oil produced there. Cambay was also one of the centres of producing a specific variety of fragrent oil known as ‘catechu’ or ‘cajeput’ in the European accounts.629 Makers of perfumed oil—itr formed a different class and were identified as itrs"az, itrfarosh, gandh∂, sugandhkar " or sugandhtelkar " .630 Vegetable oils were produced in big quantity and centres of oil production were located in almost every part of India—Sind, Gujarat, Bengal, Orissa and Golconda, etc.631 Oil makers used an oil press made of stone, and sometimes this press was so big that a team of bullocks was required to draw it. The oil merchants themselves did the marketing of oil. In most of the cases, they used to sell oil on the plinths outside their houses. Oil was one of the chief items of the domestic or foreign trade, especially cooking oil. Prices of oil are seldom recorded. In 1639, it was sold at the rate of Re. 1 for 7½ sers, and in 1659 prices are mentioned 5 sers per rupee.632

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TODDY DRAWERS AND DISTILLERS Numerous terms were used for the class engaged in the profession of distilling and drawing toddy from palm trees. Toddy (or t"ar∂, a common word in use in north India) was a palm-wine and its drawers were called kal"al, bhand"ari, band"aree or band"a rses (last one being an anglicized form). They manufactured wine from palm, dates and coco trees. These toddy drawers—bhand"ar∂s were divided into many sub-castes, like rantis, chodr∂s, shiadas, kitas, charadas, etc.633 They were called maifarosh, surak " "ar or madir"ak"ar too. In Malabar wine makers were known as irava.634 About the technique of drawing toddy, information found in the contemporary accounts is almost similar in all the places— that toddy drawers climbed the trees and would hang pots under soft branches by making a hole beneath the point where a tree’s branches come off. It was left overnight. Then they would remove it before the sunrise. Toddy drawers did a lucrative business but they were made to pay a kind of tax. In Konkan area it was called coito or koyti, identified with koyti or sickle or big knife ‘that is, for the knife where with they prune their trees’. This tax was paid to the authorities and for Bombay Island only, this tax amounted to ‘700-800 £’ annually, which was collected by the English East India Company in the second half of the seventeenth century.635 Here bhand"ar∂s were also invited from ‘forraine’ places (i.e. outside the Bombay Island) to settle as English received ‘one seraphin (xeraphin) per mensem’, as a tax from them.636 Bhand"ar∂s also obliged them by serving as armed soldiers in times of need. Englishmen occasionally employed them in their personal service too.637 In the 1630s, due to famines many distillers migrated from Gujarat ‘into the areas of more hoped plenty’. It affected many Europeans like English adversely, as their shipmen, especially in Swally/Surat had been quite addicted to the wine prepared by them and because of its easy availability and cheaper rates as compared to English (or European) wine.638 Abbé Carre gave a live description of toddy drawers doing brisk trade within the triangle of Madras, Bhagnagar (Golconda city) and Masulipatam—a region full of palm (and mango) trees. He seemed quite astonished


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

to see the magnitude of toddy produced in the area and goes on recording in his memoir that From these palm trees such a large amount of a wine called tary [toddy] is drawn that wee found the roads full of droves of forty or fifty horses and bullocks, laden with this beverage. This was being taken to Golconda in large leathern bags [MS. sacques]: and there is a great trade in it throughout the neighbouring towns for twenty leagues round, as it is wholesome and healthy drink for the people of the country, who say it is more nourishing and refreshing than anything else they have.

Almost similar is the account of Spanish friar Domingo Fernandez de Navarrete who travelled between Madras to Goa via Golconda, and saw many in the trade rushing towards the capital town with horses, mules and asses laden with ‘tuba’ (toddy) without halting, so that it reached fresh and sweet before it soured. He himself tasted it and found it refreshing and ‘as cold as ice, and sweeter than honey’.639 Peter Mundy (1632) witnessed t"ar∂ (toddy) being manufactured of date trees in Mughal Sarai (near Sahsaram Bihar), but rejected it—‘but not soe good by farr as that about Suratt’. De Laet found the country around Broach abundant in ‘Tarrii’ trees and says that of it ‘the people obtain a certain liquor which they call Tarrien [tar " ∂, toddy] and Suren [sur"a, liquor]’.640 Thevenot’s remark is but a little different regarding the process of drawing t"ari (or tary/toddy). He wrote that tary as liquor was commonly used in India which was drawn from two types of palmtrees ‘from which that they call Cadgiour’ (khajoor, date-palm) and from that which bear the coco; the best is got from the Cadgiour’. Process of obtaining the tary mentioned in different places is almost the same. Thevenot, however, says that those palm-trees where tary is obtained from do not bear any dates, but when they did not draw any tary/t"ar∂, these trees yielded wild dates. He noticed that large number of ‘merchants’ around Surat had a ‘prodigious number of these Trees’ and farmed them. Their only profession was to sell tary.641 In the next century, James Forbes, while travelling in Konkan detected that kal"als distilled spirits from ‘rice, jagree, mowah and various other articles’. They also had expertise in extracting wine from a peculiar species called the ‘brab tree’ that was

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found only in Konkan of which they drew ‘nerah’ which was somewhat similar to the one extracted from common palm.642 ENTERTAINERS

DANCERS, SINGERS, ACROBATS/TUMBLERS AND SNAKE-CHARMERS AS ENTERTAINERS Some specific groups known with different names followed these professions. About the custom of inviting dancers, musicians and those who played on musical instruments during the ceremonies, Pelsaert minutes that—‘It is the custom at all weddings and feasts to call in these people for the guests’ entertainment’.643 Singers were called goyindeh and musicians were known as s" azindeh. 644 Dancing girls accompanying the wedding processions to the bride’s place was a common sight in those days.645 Dancing girls and their male fellows of the family also entertained the rich people and state officials in their houses now and then. A master supervised and directed them, and they went to places to display their art. This profession was common among the Muslims and non-Muslims alike. However, Pietro Della Valle observed that majority of them was Muslims, and according to him ‘for among the gentiles none practice such arts’. He is somewhat biased in his opinion because it was only his first instance while he was being entertained on his arrival on one of the English ships at Swali (or Swally) by ‘some Muhamaten women singers and dancers, who came to the accompaniment of drums, bells, and other native instruments played by their husbands’. Somehow, he was not delighted and expressed his dislike in these words ‘the noise nearly deafened me’.646 Hindus were not averse to inviting dancers to their houses especially when they had guests at their residence and took it as a duty to entertain them. An anonymous traveller of the early seventeenth century had put it like Their (Hindus) feasts, sports and other exceptional gatherings very (vary) seldom, or never, take place without the presence of prostitutes to entertain the company by singing and dancing, especially when strangers come to the


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

country from abroad, if prostitutes are not present, the intention is to do no honour to the strangers.647

In the next century, James Forbes attests the continuity of the practice when he records that all ‘Mahometans, Hindoos and Parsses frequently entertain their friends at their garden houses’, where the women of household were not invited. They organized themselves under a ‘duennas’ (governess or incharge of girls) who could be contacted any time. But the unique aspect of his remark is where he testifies that many such dancing women accompanied the ‘Asiatic armies to the field’.648 These dancers and singers freely roamed around looking for visitors and strangers in the town and villages, especially Europeans, and without being asked, would perform for them expecting some reward. They ‘go everyday publickly to houses and where they please; to play Musick, sing and dance, and do what else belongs to their profession’, Della Valle observed. On some other occasion, while Della Valle was staying at the ‘Ambassadors’ house at Ikkeri, ‘twelve or fifteen public dancers arrived with a male escort, where some of them spent the afternoon getting drunk on Indian nipa (juice of palm). In the evening there was dancing directed by the balle master . . . balle master himself taking the part.’ The reward, however, did not appeal to them and considering it stingy, gave way to their disgust by angry catcalls, which, to Pietro Della Valle, was the funniest part of the whole entertainment. In most of the instances, otherwise, they accepted whatever was offered by the audience.649 It is strange that dancing women, who performed in public places, were normally recognized as ‘prostitutes’ or ‘whores’ by these Europeans.650 In south India, Manucci saw female dancers going to temples to perform dance in turn of some allowance. An anonymous account of the early seventeenth century says that among the Muslims there was no tradition of dancing girls participating in the ‘pagadas’ (pagodas). In one of his statements he speaks of a strange practice that in the month of April ‘the prostitutes of the whole kingdom have to travel to Bagnagar (Golconda), which they are summoned by a maldaer (perhaps an amaldar " or an official), whom he calls (a sort of tipstaff ’) to dance in celebration of the death of the first Moslem king’.651 His statement is corroborated

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by French factor Martin (1681) when he met at Manglagiri (north of Madras) a group of dancing girls coming back from Golconda where an annual festival was organized and he was told that around 12,000 such performers had participated in it. It shows the continuity of a tradition in the region of Golconda. Apart from it, we are informed that dancers and musicians at Golconda city performed for the ‘guests of note’ coming to the town, and paid certain duty to the ruler under the Qutubshahis.652 We do not come across any such reference regarding the Mughal rulers. People looked for occasion to engage the dancers and performers. When Martin was on his way from Pondicherry to Surat in June, 1681, on his reaching at Vetapalem he was surrounded by local brokers and merchants pursuing him to start a French settlement at the nearby port of Petapolly as the English and the Dutch had abandoned the area due to the differences with the authorities. Poor merchants arranged for their entertainment as well, and the dancing girls entertained Martin and his people until late in the night at the cost of the local merchants.653 Rope dancers, often called as tumblers, doing acrobatics could also be seen frequenting cities and towns. Men and women with their children walking and dancing on a rope surprised most of the people. That way it was a family affair where all the members of a family performed in a group. They were generally identified as ‘Bazighurres’ [b"a z∂gar] by most of the Europeans. They could swiftly climb bamboo poles erected to display their tricks and skills in acrobatics. They were faultless in this art.654 During his stay in Agra, Pelseart recorded an interesting episode related to the socalled shrine of Prince Khusrau constructed at a place where his bier was kept for a night on way to Allahabad. Every Thursday people flocked to the place where vendors did a good business as well. Among them were confectioners and hawkers of toys. He happened to be there once and found that ‘The road and open places were full, too, of jugglers, dancers, players, and such rabble, the noise was deafening, and the crowd made it even more impossible to see, or find room to move’. Rope dancers roamed place to place and entertained the people and travellers alike. In April 1633, near Sirohi, b"az∂gars (acrobats) and dancers entertained Peter Mundy


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

and his companions. He found their feats exemplary and provides a glowing description of their art.655 At Patoda in the vicinity of Nander near Aurangabad, Thevenot witnessed a show of rope dancers, jugglers and tumblers which left a lasting impression on his mind. His impressions are worthy of quote as he goes on documenting that (Here) we had the Diversion of seeing Feats of Agility of Body: There was a great concourse of the People, and we had a place given us, on an Eminence, under the shade of a great Tree, from whence we might easily see all the Plays. The Tumblers did all that the Rope-dancers of Europe do, and much more: These people are as supple an Eel, they will turn their whole body into a bowl, and then others rowl them with the hand. The finest tricks were performed by a Girl of thirteen or fourteen years of age, who played for the space of two hours and more. This among other Feats of Agility which she did, appeared to me extremely difficult:’. This girl alone showed countless of tricks and also others ‘shew’d a hundred other tricks of Agility . . . the finest . . . performed by Girls. We gave them at parting three ‘Rupias’, for which they gave us a thousand blessings. . .’.656

Their performance, it seems, left Thevenot mesmerized. They were again invited in the night for the entertainment of the whole caravan. Not less interesting is the description of Friar Navarrete who, around 1670, saw these tumblers performing many exceptional tricks near Golconda and seems to have convinced himself—‘the devil had a hand in it’. In Delhi, Thevenot described the presence of many ‘Puppet players, Juglers’ along with astrologers flocking the market in front of the Fort of ‘Gehanabad’ (Shahjahanabad) to ‘shew their tricks’. Careri made a special journey from Bassein to a village ‘Madrapur’ (Bhadrapur) in the company of his Portuguese hosts ‘to see some vagabond moors, who vaulted and perform’d feats of Activity’. He compared them with European tumblers and rope-dancers. Witnessing their accomplishment, he seemed quite startled and believed that they could do all these acts not without ‘some supernatural Assistance’.657 William Methwold’s is one of the liveliest descriptions of fairs usually held in the Deccan (Golconda). About one such fair he sums up that people of different vocations assembled there ‘for profit’. There would come

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‘peddlers, whores to dance, puppet-players and tumblers, with their exquisite tricks, . . . others bring charmed snakes, . . . very many beggers’. He seemed quite impressed with a tumbler who did a double ‘sommersel’ (somersault) turning twice in the air without touching the ground until he fell on his feet. Nevertheless, he was amused to see the tactics adopted by the beggars in such fairs to move peoples’ compassion or draw their attention. Many would pretend to be blind or lame—though not having any ‘naturall defects’; and others could be seen lying upon thorns with their naked bodies; or buried in the ground except their heads or arms. Their reward consisted of a handful of rice or a small coin.658 Even the later accounts testify to the mesmerizing effects these tumblers and vaulters left on the spectators and the performances declared to be ‘uncommonly dexterous and entertaining’.659 Those who played on musical instruments only, were called as bhojki, bandijan or kal"awant. They also sang songs at the time of playing on their instruments. Other terms applied to them were kapri, bhat " , kanchan, bisya, dom and mirasi " .660 Thevenot described Quenchenies (kanchan∂s) as ‘the Women and Maids of a Caste of the name, having no other Profession but that of Dancing’. Some of the female singers could sing Persian songs, while most of them were expert at singing Hindustani lyrics. They were known as lolon∂s and domin∂s (female of a dom) respectively. In the Malabar region, players of music were known as pulayans. They often came from the class of agriculturists.661 Musicians with variety of musical instrument accompanied the marriage processions.662 In view of the fact that Europeans were not accustomed to the songs and voices of Indian singers, to most of them it were ‘mere shrieks’ accompanied with high-sounding instruments. Nevertheless, on few occasions they were forced to express a word of praise on completion of their presentations. When Della Valle was staying at the Dutch house in Cambay, he heard an Indian woman singing and simultaneously playing on the v∂n"a, he could not resist but admire the artist saying that ‘the singer had an excellent voice and the vina produced a low, rich tone which contrasted agreeably with the usual raucous music of the country’.663 On his


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

reaching Surat in 1666, Thevenot was more than eager to witness the customs of Indians. He gave a description of the performance of female singers and dancers accompanying the marriage procession or bar " at " (of a son?) of the ‘governor’ of Surat. He documents Publick dancing Women, sitting in two machines made like Bedstids without Posts, in the manner of ‘Palanquins’, which several Men carried on their Shoulders. They sung and played on their Cymbols, intermingled with Plates and flat thin pieces of Copper, which they struck on against another, and made a very clear sound, but unpleasant, if compared with the sound of our Instruments:664

He noticed that many others were also occupying the open place on the said occasion, but failed to impress him, though he had heard much of their ‘dexterity’. However, subsequently in the course of his travel, one of the dancers, a ‘nimbler’ one, managed to leave a lasting impression on his mind.665 It is interesting to note that in the course of time Europeans too, got into some of the Indian traditions like inviting dancing girls on the occasion of celebrations of their own festivals, at times as sacred as ‘the feast of Rosary’. Abbé Carre stayed at Diu for a week in October 1672 and witnessed the celebrations of ‘the ninth day of the Feast of the Rosary’ at a church of the Dominican Fathers on 23rd of the said month. A special service in the church was followed by a grand procession in the town. He expressed his displeasure at the sight of ‘the troops of dancing girls and masqueraders who danced with very indecent postures in front of the procession’. To him, ‘this detracted from the devotion and respect due to such a solemn occasion’.666 Europeans also started following the Indian custom of employing drummers and trumpeters as part of their entourage to enhance their prestige in the eyes of the people and officials alike. On the occasion of the visit of Masulipatam by the King of Golconda in 1675, English factors felt the temporary scarcity of ‘trumpeteers, musicians, drummers’ who had been taken into service by the king in a large number there.667 On the occasion of marriages, Portuguese entertained the guests by calling in Indian musicians. It, somehow, was not very pleasing always. Thevenot attended a marriage function of a Portuguese with a French woman at Bassein. With the procession, some ‘Trumpets went along, founding such a doleful Tone, as little

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differed from that they use in conducting Criminals to Execution’.668 By the end of the seventeenth century, the English were maintaining two-three companies of soldiers in Bombay. When Keigwin staged a mutiny in 1683 and published a proclamation, it was read out to the accompaniment of ‘country musick’ along with feux de joie, suggesting the presence of a band of Indian music players in the garrison.669 Snake-charmers were also included among entertainers. They formed a distinct social group known as saper"as and were known as biyal, sarp gr"ah∂ or kal beli"a.670 Their shows were such a common sight that India earned the sobriquet of being a ‘country of snakecharmers’. Edward Terry took note of them as entertainers quite early in the seventeenth century when he quoted that ‘people delight themselves with the company of mountebanks and juglers’ who showed different feats.671 They carried along snakes and serpents ‘up and down in Baskets to get money of the People, as well as Strangers’, noted down Fryer. They had their own discrete way of attracting passers by. Fryer recorded that ‘(They) strike up on a Reed run through a Cocoa-shell, which makes a noise something like our Bag-Pipes, and the subtle Creatures will listen to the Musick, and observe the Motion correspondent to the Tune; a Generation of vipers that well deserved to be stiled so, knowing when Charmer charms wisely’.672 Friar Domingo Navarrete encountered snake-charmers on several occasions between Madras and Goa in 1670-1. He too wrote in a similar manner about their trade that they carried a little trumpet in their hands, and ‘two baskets cover’d on their shoulders full of hideous snakes; . . . the trumpet sound the snake rise, . . . some times they cling to their master’s arm or thigh, and set their teeth in it. I saw one of them whose body was all over as if it had been pink’d by the snakes’. He was told that these people anointed their bodies with juice of several herbs to immune themselves to avoid any harm. He called it a strange way of earning one’s livelihood. Domingo Navarrete is perhaps the only traveller who gave reference of the group getting their livelihood by way of displaying the motions of dancing cows. 673


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

A peculiar group of ‘catamites’ as dancers was discovered by Manrique in the streets of Thattah in 1641. For him the sight was quite disgusting. He described the ghastly sight in the following words: So great indeed is the depravity in this sink of iniquity, that the unmentionable vice is so common that catamites dressed and adorned like women parade the streets, soliciting others as abandoned as themselves. These men also take part in their barbarian festivals and weddings, instead of women dancers. Moreover, they receive such good salaries that it enables them to obtain all the feminie finery and trinkets required on such occasions.674 MISCELLANEOUS

Lac producers gained their livelihood by preparing lac after the colour had been extracted from it. Banarasi Das includes them among the paoonis /shudras. In Surat many women were in this profession of manufacturing lac or items of it. Toy makers (khilon"a saz " or b"az∂d )675 used the residue of gum lac to paint the toys. Sealing wax was also prepared from it.676 Alexander Hamilton located manufacturers of wooden dishes and tables which they decorated with lac, although not as beautifully as the Chinese would do. He explains the reason that ‘the Lack (lac) is clear but always clammy’.677 European accounts also speak of soap-makers or soap-boilers. A soap-maker was known as s"abungar. Eugenia Vanina has pointed out that soap manufacturing began in India in the eleventh-twelfth centuries ‘perhaps slightly earlier than in Europe’.678 Tome Pires includes soap as one of the main commodities produced in Cambay. 679 In 1675, when the Island of Bombay was being settled with people of different professions, the English invited a ‘Mohammaden soap-boiler’ and a house was constructed for him and his family to reside in and prepare soap, which was meant not only for local consumption but for export also.680 One could see in Cambay a large number of shops full of aromatic herbs and perfumes. In Thatta people prepared a great quantity of perfumes using a kind of weed called putchock or Radix dulcis, as identified by Hamilton who also says that it grew in that country only. It was carried to China via Surat. He also added that

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its root was beaten into fine powder and was used as incence on occasions of religious rituals.681 In coastal areas, coir manufacturers had a busy time preparing mats and other items of coconut fibre. They must have been into making items for the Indian markets because in 1675 the English in Bombay standardized the quality of coir by way of fixing the ‘length of skeins and their immersion in salt water’.682 In Malabar, people manufactured fans, umbrellas and ‘shrines’ of peacock’s feather.683 Occasional references also speak of darners – raf"ugar,684 commonly available in the markets of the towns to mend cloths, sometimes of high value. References about other specialized groups, who earned their wages or livelihood by offering their services or doing manual labour, can also be sighted in the contemporary works but are deficient in details. Some of them worth mentioning are—cotton carders (dhunia, kirp"as dhunak, panb"a, pin"ara);685 khirsb"an (who showed a bear’s play);686 maim"unbaz " (who showed a monkey’s play); dhanak " (groom who looked after the horses of dignitaries like zam∂nd"ars or of Europeans); k"uchband (a broom maker); kanjar or sans∂ " (a string seller and a broom maker); b"awr∂, bagr∂, " bagar " ropan, roptan or sayyad " (a bird catcher); b"ari, patraul, patravalikar, " parn patra " rachanakar, " (a maker of plates of leaves);687 p"anfarosh, parn kar " , b∂ras"az, panw"ar∂, 688 or tanbol∂ (betel leaf seller); "agri (one who sieved grains in the grain market to take out rubbish; also called as ch"alni-bahak, " annshodhkar);689 niy"ariya or subarna-shodhak (who extracted precious metal from the refuse at a goldsmith’s shop);690 beld"ar, kud"alik, khatan-kar or aud (who dug earth for various purposes);691 kupas " az " (maker of big water jars); bahr"upia" or bhand " (a mimic or buffoon); nat, nritak or badi (tumbler, acrobat, funambulist or rope dancer); b"az∂gar or sapera" (juggler or magician); kamangar, " dhanushk"ar or t∂rgar (makers of bows and arrows); chowkid"ar (watchman); manjh∂ " (ferryman); gaw"ala or gauban " 692 (milkman, herder); kan-mail " " wala or karn-shodhkar (who removes earwax); ch"urisaz, " churikar, " " churkar " (bangle-maker) maniy"ar, churifarosh " (seller of bangles), bharbhuja, " " " kalkhan-afroz, bher"ashtkar, or bhojwa (roaster of grains, groundnuts, grams, or corn), lime makers as—chunapaz"an, paristhar bhasmkar, miratpind bhasmkar, etc.693


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

Peter Mundy speaks of ‘weomen that sell milke uppe and downe streets’, whom he saw in Patna around 1632, and records that Subahd"ar Abdullah Khan’s orders to make them pay customs on milk caused much distress to them.694 Charles Lockyer witnessed in Madras great herds of buffaloes kept for milk adding that ‘with which the Bazar is plentifully suppli’d’.695 Thevenot and Bernier refer to fruit sellers in the markets, and Mandelslo speaks of them in Ahmadabad. Terry noticed a woman in Ajmer selling herbs.696 There are, but few, references about those who used to sift indigo to separate the dust and other impurities from it before packing it for export. Indigo was manufactured by peasants but generally processed elsewhere as would often sell the leaf to others.697 Unfortunately, only a couple of references are available about their living condition and wages. Tavenier saw s« "udras serving as foot soldiers under the Rajputs, information rarely corroborated by others. He is, nevertheless specific about saying that ‘but with this difference, that the Rajputs serve on horse, and the Sudras on foot’.698 Manucci speaks of ‘speacial persons’ among the Muslims who washed the corpse. And that, ‘these people make their living by this; they are abhorred, and no one eats with them’.699 Thus, the information contained in the seventeenth-century accounts about various professional groups helps us understand the socio-economic milieu of the contemporary India. However, it cannot be taken as the eventual catalogue of all the artisans and service providers contributing to the society and economy in those days. Many of them remain unnoticed, as they might have not come in direct contact with them. NOTES 1. John Irwin and P.R. Schwartz, Studies in Indo-European Textile History, Calico Museum of Textile, Ahmadabad, 1966, p. 8. 2. Indrani Ray, ‘Of Trade and Traders in Seventeenth Century India: An Unpublished French Memoir by Georges Roques’, Indian Historical Review, vol. IX, 1-2, 1982-3, p. 86. 3. Abul Faiz Faizi, Insha-i Faizi, Majlis-i Taraqqi-i Adab, Lahore, 1973, p. 105 4. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, Rotograph at CAS History, A.M.U. Migarh, fols. 244-7. 5. Vijaya Ramaswamy, Textiles and Weavers in South India, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1986, pp. 1, 15, 239, 241.

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


6. William Foster, English Factories, 1661-1664, p. 112. About manufacturing yarn by villagers, Irfan Habib associates them with the peasants. The Agrarian System of Mughal India, p. 64 & n. However, the reference says ‘poorest sort’, suggesting the word might have been used for nonagricultural population of the rural areas as well. 7. Ali Muhammad Khan, Kh"atimah-i Mirat-i " Ahmadi, ed. Syed Nawab Ali, Gackwad Oriental Series, Baroda, 1930, p. 180; William Foster, Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. I, p. 28; Indrani Ray, ‘Of Trade and Traders in the Seventeenth Century India’, pp. 86-7, 91-2. Indrani Ray quotes from the memoris of Georges Roques that spinners were invariably women. Roques also suggests ways to distinguish good quality of yarn from the coarse or bad variety. He also informs that yarn of the warp cost more as it was to be twisted more and made more even. 8. Urban Crafts and Craftsmen in Medieval India (Thirteenth-Eighteenth Centuries), Delhi, 2004, p. 41. This table suggests that while in the twelfth century only four groups—spinners, weavers, dyers and washermen were involved in the production of textiles, by the seventeenth century eleven, and by the eighteenth century around fifteen people were required from carder to d"agh dhob∂ to bring out pieces of finished goods in the market. 9. Robert Orme, Historical Fragments of the Mogul Empire, London, 1782, pp. 409, 411-13. 10. Bernier, pp. 403-4; English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett, 1670-7), p. 198; vol. III (Charles Fawcett, 1678-84), p. 231; Thevenot, Indian Travels, pp. 146, 148; De Laet, p. 26; Schorer, cf. Moreland, Relations of Golconda, p. 63. 11. Textiles and Weavers in South India, 1985, Oxford University Press; revd. edn. 2006, pp. 118-19. 12. Vijaya Ramaswamy, Textiles and Weavers in South India, pp. 118-19. 13. Lotika Varadarajan, India in the 17th Century: Memoirs of François Martin, vol. I, pt. II, pp. 745, 748, 750, 754, 771, 776-7. 14. Maqsudabad was the old name of Murshidabad, English Factories, 161821, 194 n., 229-30; Tavernier, vol. II, p. 2. 15. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 198; 1634-36, pp. 128-30; Hawkins (Purchas), vol. III, p. 85; Manrique, vol. II, pp. 146-7, 238-9; Thomas Bowrey, pp. 71-2; Irfan Habib, An Atlas of the Mughal Empire, Oxford, 1982; The Travels of Peter Mundy in Europe and Asia, Hakluyt Series II, vol. II, p. 98. 16. John Ovington, cf. India in the Seventeenth Century, G.P. Guha (ed.), p. 167; Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, H.G. Rawlinson (ed.), p. 219; English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 130; 1630-1633, p. 178;


17. 18.

19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26.

27. 28. 29.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India C.R. Wilson, The Early Annals of the English in Bengal (in 3 vols.), London, 1900, vol. I, p. 15. Historical Fragments of the Mogul Empire, London, 1806, p. 410. Jean Baptiste Tavernier, Travels in India, 2 vols., V. Ball and William Crooke (eds.), 1889 & 1925, vol. I, p. 97. Here he specifically speaks of the weavers of Benares who produced sashes for ‘Moores’ (Muslims) in huge quantity and generally vended the goods directly in the market. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 204-5. Historical Fragments of the Mogul Empire, p. 409. Bernier, p. 402. Ibid., p. 403. Ibid., p. 403. Such an attempt was made at Patna, Agra and Lahore but it failed to give the desired result. Derived from Persian verb d"adan, ‘to give’. Also, The Diary of William Hedges, vol. I, pp. 82-3. Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories in India, 1624-1627, pp. 74, 133, 159, 270, 315-16, 357. Peter Mundy, II, p. 146; W. Bolt, Considerations on Indian Affairs, London, 1772, p. 193. Brokers were known as dall"als or gum"asht"as, and their subordinates as paik"ars. John Irwin, Studies in Indo-European Textile History, p. 45. Indrani Ray, ‘Of Trade and Traders in Seventeenth Century India’, pp. 83120. English Factories, 1665-1667, p. 27, Surat, 1666; 1618-1621, pp. 197, 204; 1656-1660, p. 70. The merchants inform their masters that they had to ‘pray and pay for what we’ (English factors), ‘and take it as a courtesy that the weavers will vouchsafe to receive our money eight and ten months beforehand which is the only thing which tyes them with us’. English Factories, 1665-1667, p. 27; 1646-50, pp. 189-90; 1656-60, p. 70, 1656 & 1659; English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett, 1670-1677), p. 204, Masulipatam. Georges Roques suggests that January to May is the best period to book the weavers as they are more occupied between May and October to make supplies for November-January monsoon ‘when all ships sail for here and there’. Indrani Ray, ‘Of Trade and Traders in Seventeenth Century India’, p. 88. English Factories, 1642-1645, p. 203, Sehwan, November 1644; 162223, p.116, Baroach, 1622. According to one estimate it could be purchased ‘20 to 25 per cent cheaper’ even if money borrowed on interest at the rate of one per cent per month was invested. Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories in India: 1624-1627, pp. 140, 147.

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


31. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 78, 1647, Swally; 1655-1660, pp. 70, 241; 1637-1641, pp. 279, 225; 1646-1650, pp. 78, 189-90 (Swally, 1648); 1642-5, p. 77; 1661-1664, p. 208; 1665-1667, p. 2. ‘Jahangiri covid’ was one fourth longer than ‘Ilahi covid’, latter being of thirty three inches long. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 192 & n, 197. Irfan Habib, on the basis of information contained in Persian and European sources, suggests that an Ilahi covid or gaz measured between 32.00 and 32.25 inches, or 81.5 cm. The Agrarian System of Mughal India, pp. 409-15. 32. Indrani Ray, ‘Of Trade and Traders in Seventeenth Century India’, p. 116. 33. Ibid. 34. In 1634, English merchants held a consultation in Surat in response to Company’s orders and decided to ask the weavers to make ‘dutties (dhotis) three inches broader as the linen drapers in England . . . would sell in great quantities’. English Factories, 1634-1636, pp. 36-7. Weavers refused to oblige for two reasons—one that they had already been employed by the Dutch; second, it required to fit new looms at a higher cost to meet their demands. English Factories, 1637-1641, pp. 225, 279; 1630-1633, p. 71. In response to the demand of broader b"aftas, English Company’s President explained in 1674 that most of the weavers had looms to weave narrow b"aftas. English Factories (Charles Fawcett), vol. I, p.110; English Factories, 1646-1650, pp. 78, 119, 159, 189-90; 1618-1621, p. 197; 1665-1667, p. 171. 35. Indrani Ray, ‘Of Trade and Traders in Seventeenth Century India’, p. 117. 36. English Factories, 1661-1664, pp. 187, 201, 208; Annals of the Honourable East India Company, 1600-1607-1608, 3 vols., vol. II, pp. 656-7; Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories in India, 1624-1627, p. 102. 37. Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, ed. H.G. Rawlinson, p. 166. 38. Fryer, vol. I, Hakluyt, p. 221. 39. English Factories, vol. II, Charles Fawcett, 1670-1677, p. 331. Later, John March, in the wake of pending approval from Hugli, was permitted to engage as many peons as the occasion demanded. 40. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 255. 41. Rai Chaturman Saksena, Chah"ar Gulshan, ed. Chander Shekhar, National Mission for Manuscripts, Delhi, 2011, p. 197. 42. English Factories, 1637-1641, pp. 171-2; 1646-1650, pp. 117 (Kandiaro, 1647), 117, 116. Also, for specific quantity of cloth (1668), p. 116, 16371641, p. 279, (Swally, 1640); 1665-1667, p. 171 (1666).


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

43. He explains further that a vissa should have one hundred and sixty threads in the warp. He further says that after receiving finished pieces the vissas were counted to determine the quality. Indrani Ray, ‘Of Trade and Traders in Seventeenth Century India’, pp. 87, 94-5. 44. English Factories, 1630-1633, pp. 71, 124. B"afta is identified as bafta " safed w"ala, " i.e. white bafta. " Chahar " Gulshan, p. 153. 45. English Factories, 1646-1650, pp. 120, 159 (1647 Kandiaro and Nasarpur); C.R. Wilson, vol. I, p. 391, vol. III, p. 69. 46. English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett, 1670-1677), p. 161. 47. English Factories, 1655-1660, pp. 307 (1659), 241 (1659), 200 (1658); 1637-1641, p. 278 (1640). 48. Indrani Ray, ‘Of Trade and Traders in Seventeenth Century India’, pp. 83120. Roques was the ‘Second Councellor’ at Surat. 49. John Irwin, Studies in Indo-European Textile History, p. 33. 50. English Factories, 1646-1650, pp. 163 (1647), 215 (1648). Factors at Fort St. George informed the Company that population of Madraspattam, Pulicat and St. Thome had been reduced to 1/3. Casualties recorded in Madras were 4,000, in Pulicat 15,000 and in St. Thome ‘almost same as Pulicat’. As a result prices of cloth increased by 15 per cent. 51. English Factories, 1630-1633, pp. 173, 180; 1634-1636, pp. 64-6; 1630-1633, p.122 ‘the poor mechaniques, weavers, washers, dyers, etc., abandoning their habitations in multitudes, and instead of relief elcewhere have perished in the fields for want of food to sustaine them’. Also, The Travels of Peter Mundy (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 276. 52. English Factories, vol. III, Charles Fawcett, 1678- 1684, pp. 305 & n, 354; John Bruce, Annals of the Honourable East India Company, from 16001707-8, 3 vols., 1810, vol. II, pp. 655-6. 53. English Factories, 1661-1664, p. 329; Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories in India, 1624-1627, pp. 248, 332, 333, 338. 54. English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, p. 161. 55. Ibid., pp. 350-2. 56. English Factories, vol. III (Charles Fawcett), 1678-1684, p. 233. Anand Ram Mukhlis in his Dastur-ul Amal specifically includes the manufactured cloths in the list of goods subject to duty exacted by the state. He writes that such a duty was levied after evaluation of each piece separately. H.K. Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries, pp. 209-10. 57. English Factories, vol. III (Charles Fawcett), 1678-1684, pp. 352-3. Weavers usually worked on looms outsdie the house in open courtyard as the loom required at a lot of space. Now they set up their looms inside and were forced to work in poor light.

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


58. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. II, p. 85. 59. Lotika Varadarajan, India in the 17th Century, vol. I, pt. II, pp. 748, 750, 754. 60. English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett),1670-1677, p. 344. 61. Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories in India, 1624-1627, pp. 177, 248, 252. 62. Varadarajan, India in the 17th Century, vol. I, pt. II, pp. 776-7. For the good prospects of trade English had established their factory there. 63. English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, pp. 199-200. 64. In 1672, when English renewed the treaty of trade with Shaista Khan in Bengal, the latter allowed his officers to help the English in ‘getting in their debts from any weavers, merchants and the like . . . without giving protection to any such person’. C.R. Wilson, vol. II, pp. 48-9; Diaries of Streynsham Master, 1675-80, ed. R.C. Temple, 2 vols., Edinburgh, 1927, vol. I, p. 380. 65. English Factories, 1637-1641, pp. 68-9, 162, 177. At Viravasram in Coromandal, weavers failed to keep their promise of providing stipulated number of pieces of cloth despite receiving advance money. Requests for either furnished goods or return of money were not entertained by the Komati brokers of the area. Here one complaint against the painters/dyers was also registered with the King of Golconda in 1638 regarding their cheating the English merchants, and that the amount was due to them for the last three years. 66. Diaries of Streynsham Master, vol. II, pp. 317-18. 67. Ibid., pp. 317-18; C.R. Wilson, vol. I, pp. 391-5; English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, p. 399. 68. The Diary of William Hedges, 1681-1697, ed. Henry Yule, 3 vols., Hakluyt Society, London, 1887, vol. I, pp. 81, 85, 121. 69. The Diary of William Hedges, vol. I, pp. 83-4. Some of the excerpts are as follows: Proofs of overweight taken against them were as followeth:

Maniram Podar brought into ye warehouse, viz. Product when weighed off Lost Poncho Barrik brought into ye warehouse in 9ber (November) bunds Produced Lost



29 27 2

23 9 14

88 84 4

11 7 4


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

70. English Factories, 1661-1664, pp. 111-12. In this case the broker Sambaji had cheated the Company out of the total advance money, not less than ‘25 or 30 per cent’, as he had extended to weavers ‘at 12, 14, 15, and 16 mam [moodies] per cent rupee exchange, besides charging them (Company) for interest on the advances and exacting 12 per cent brokerage from the weavers’. Also, English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, p. 404. Gopal Bhai later agreed to pay back the amount. 71. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 118 (Sind, April 1647); 1634-1636, pp. 264-5 (1636), p. 287. 72. For details on dallals " or brokers, see A.J.Qaisar, ‘Brokers in Indian History’, Indian Historical Review, 1-2, 1974, pp. 220-46. Any direct deal with the weavers was done clandestinely. Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories in India, 1624-1627, p. 133. 73. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 159. 74. Word taffeta has been derived from Persian t"afta, meaning woven, shining, sparkling, glittering, tuned, bent, etc. F. Steingass, Comprehensive Persian English Dictionary, p. 276. 75. Diaries of Streynsham Master, vol. II, pp. 11-12, 15, 250, 315-16; Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. III, pp. 281-2. In 1679, it was decided not to maintain the ‘Account Silk of Europe’(?) separately, but be entered in the ‘Weavers Books’, C.R. Wilson, vol. I, pp. 394, 396. 76. Ovington’s remarks are full of admiration for varieties of chintz produced by Indians, as he goes on ‘. . . The gold stripes likewise in their sooseys (?) and the gold flower in their atlases (atlas) are imitated with us, but not to perfection. And the cornelian rings with double chains of gold about them, meeting at several distances, where small sparks of diamonds, rubies, or sapphires are inlaid to beautify the ring, surpass the skill of any other nation to arrive to’. Ovington cf. India in the Seventeenth Century, ed. G.P. Guha, p. 125; Ovington, AVoyage to Surat in the Year 1689, ed. H.G. Rawlinson, p. 167. 77. Initially, as early as 1614, English were apprehensive that being Christian they could be discriminated by the Indian dyers and that quality would not be the same as that of the cloths dyed for the natives. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. III, pp. 281-2. For they had received some complaints from England regarding the quality of silk, they planned to buy the silk yarn and dye it themselves before forwarding it to the weavers. A room was built specially in Qasimbazar factory in 1659 for the same. English Factories, 1655-1660, p. 296. 78. English Factories, 1634-1636, p. 292. In one such case loyalties of Com-

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers



81. 82.

83. 84. 85. 86.

87. 88. 89.

90. 91. 92.


pany broker Kalyan Parekh were questioned, because despite the instructions he accepted the finished pieces of cloth from the weavers ‘by the corge’ or ‘kori ’—each kori comprising of twenty pieces. Streynsham Master, vol. I, p. 311; vol. II, pp. 11-13; English Factories, 1634-1636, p. 129 (1635); 1624-1629, p. 209 (1628), 1646-1650, p. 117 (1647). Cloths were declared narrower or smaller which were ‘19 ½ coveds long and 20½ tassus broad’—a tassu being 1/24 part of a coved. English Factories, 1624-1629, p. 247. Length of textile pieces varied from twelve yards/coveds to thirty-five. English factors in Surat instructed Broach factors to pay attention to the Company’s ‘wishes’ regarding the length and breadth of the cloths. English Factories, 1630-1633, p. 62 (October 1630). The same year President and Council at Surat instructed the Baroda factors to induce weavers to alter their looms to produce textiles of the choice of English and expressed their wish to learn about the results as well. English Factories, 1630-1633, p. 71. Streynsham Master, vol. II, p. 116. About Pulicut, he wrote that here long cloth of best quality was produced; but weavers not being paid properly by the Dutch, sought employment elsewhere. Also, English Factories, 16681669, p. 145 (1665, Surat). Manucci, vol. II, p. 424. Tavernier, Travels in India, vol. I, pp. 30, 46, 52; Ruquia Husain, Textile Industry at Sironj in the Seventeenth Century: A French Report, Proceedings of Indian History Congress, 1996, p. 399. English Factories, 1634-1636, p. 49; 1624-1629, p. 19; 1622-1623, p. 105. Diaries of Streynsham Master, vol. II, p. 171. English Factories, 1655-1660, p. 296. C.R. Wilson, vol. I, p. 397; English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 105 (1622); 1655-1660, p. 296; 1661-1664, pp. 62-5 (1661, Hugli); 402 (1665, Madras); 320-1 (Agra); 1663-1664, 62-4 (Agra, 1661). English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 23. Ibid. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 197-8. Choultry, or a shed used as resting place for travellers or transacting public business, especially in Golconda region. Bernier, p. 440; English Factories, 1655-1660, p. 296. English Factories, 1661-1664, pp. 62-3, 65; John Bruce, Annals of the Honourable East India Company, vol. II, pp. 161, 332. English Factories, vol. I (Charles Fawcett), pp. 4, 36-7, 56; John Bruce, Annals of the Honourable East India Company, vol. II, pp. 241, 244, 429.



94. 95.

96. 97.

98. 99.

100. 101. 102.

103. 104.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India These weavers were to be settled along a road which specially was to be constructed between the Custom house and the Fort (or in Bandra, as mentioned elsewhere). Perhaps rent was also to be charged from them. English Factories, vol. III (Charles Fawcett), 1678-1684, pp. xxvi, 83, 104, 154; John Bruce, Annals of the Honourable East India Company, vol. II, p. 226. English Factories, vol. III (Charles Fawcett), 1678-1684, pp. xxvi, 219. Also, English Factories, 1665-1667, pp. 55, 66. Lotika Varadarajan, India in the 17th Century, vol. I, pt. II, p. 488. At this juncture wars were going on between the Europeans and the Marathas. Director of the French Company had gone to Surat and Martin was left alone in the Factory at Pondicherry. He thought to utilize his time by engaging local people to secure the manufacture of cloths. Presence of the ‘painters’ indicates that he might have engaged weavers too, as weavers often acted as painters also. On another occasion he informs about the assignment of the Island of Caracanachery near Karikal to them by Ekkoji—half-brother of Shivaji, in 1679 on certain conditions, one of them being that the French would not invite ‘weavers and painters’ from two large villages close to the Island, pp. 476, 488, 672. Somehow, the French failed to maintain the Island because of lack of funds. John Bruce, Annals of the Honourable East India Company, vol. II, pp. 393-4, 482-3, 655-7. English Factories, 1661-1664, pp.58, 164; 1668-1669, pp. 73, 246; Streynsham Master, vol. II, pp. 41, 169-70; vol. I, pp. 311, 383; C.R. Wilson, vol. I, p. 249. English Factories, 1624-1629, p. 135; Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories in India, 1624-1627, pp. 294, 320. English Factories, 1630-33, p. 97; 1622-1623, pp. 19-20 (Broach, 1622); C.R. Wilson, vol. I, p. 86; Diary of William Hedges, vol. I, p. 83; Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. V, p. 39. English Factories, 1634-1636, p. 290. English Factories, 1622-1623, pp. 106-7. Ruquia Husain, Textile Industry at Sironj in the Seventeenth Century: A French Report, PIHC, 1996, p. 397; Tavernier noted about Benares that those who vended their wares directly in the market were ‘to get the imperial stamp impressed on the pieces on calico or silk, otherwise they are fined and flogged’. Travels in India, vol. I, p. 97. English Factories, 1622-1623, pp. 169-70. He also deprived the brokers of their brokerage of two per cent. English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, pp. 146-7.

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers 105. 106. 107. 108. 109.


111. 112. 113. 114. 115. 116. 117. 118.

119. 120. 121. 122.

123. 124. 125. 126.


Ibid. Ibid., pp. 146-7, 149. English Factories, 1642-1645, p. 77. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 204; Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. I, p. 154; Streynsham Master, vol. II, p. 11. English Factories, 1661-1664, pp. 112-13. A certain Somaji was charged for being involved in taking commission from the weavers; 1651-1654, p. 305. Streynsham Master, vol. I, pp. 356, 466, 384-5, 392-3. English Factors deducted two rupees and thirteen annas per hundred out of the money meant for merchants and weavers. The Poddar received a salary of rupees eight per month. Tavernier, vol. II, pp. 22-3. Ibid., p. 25. An e» cu (or white crown) was equal to 4s. 6d. or two English pound sterling. Tavernier, vol. II, 25; English Factories, 1630-1633, p. 231; Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories in India, 1624-1627, pp. 97, 332. Oriental Memoirs, vol. I, p. 360. The Diary of William Hedges, vol. I, pp. 85-6. Ibid. The Diary of William Hedges, vol. III, p. lxiii/63. English Factories, 1634-1636, p. 65; 1646-1650, p. 255. English Company was keen in investing in Bengal silks and in 1649 samples were sent for enquiry and copying the pattern. Samples from India were sent for approval to Europe also. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 112, 152. Also, Lotika Varadarajan, India in the 17th Century, vol. I, pt. II, pp. 776-7. Streynsham Master, vol. I, pp. 397-8; Thomas Bowery, pp. 214-15, C.R. Wilson, vol. I, pp. 46-7. Banarasi Das, Ardhakath"anak, edited, annotated and translated Mukund Lath, Jaipur, 1981, pp. 134-6, 255-6. Abbé Carre, Hakluyt, II Series, vol. II, pp. 595-6. The name ‘Gavari’ may be a misspelling of ‘Kavarai’, vol. II, p. 595n. John Irwin thinks that these carpets were generally pile carpets, and these were not better than Persian carpets. Studies in Indo-European textile History, pp. 20, 22. John Irwin, Studies in Indo-European Textile History, p. 21. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 161. Ibid., p.188. Ibid., p. 47.

222 127. 128. 129. 130. 131. 132. 133. 134. 135. 136. 137. 138.

139. 140.

141. 142.

143. 144.


146. 147.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India Ibid., p. 61. English Factories, 1624-1629, p.79. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 168. Ibid., pp. 19, 47, 61, 73, 161, 168, 178, 188; 1642-1645, pp. 60, 63-4, 66. English Factories, 1634-1636, p. 291; 1646-1650, p. 71. Ahmadabad carpets were exported to Basra also. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 213-14. Ibid., p. 254n. Ibid., p. 112. Ruquia Husain, Textile Industry at Sironj in the Seventeenth Century A French Report, PIHC, 1995, p. 395. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 195. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 58, 168. George Havers (tr.), Travels of Sig. Pietro Della Valle, London, 1665. Travels have been appended with a ‘Relation’ of Sir Thomas Roe, perhaps prepared by Edward Terry, p. 377. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 168, 188. The Diary of William Hedges, vol. II, p. ccxliii/243 (1679); Records of Fort St. George: Diary and Consultation Book, 1679-80, Madras, 1912, p. 100; John Irwin, Studies in Indo-European Textile History, p. 41. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fol. 261-2. A fight between a Palli and a painter recorded for the year 1654 in Madras suggests that Pallis were a social group distinct from painters. In the subsequent period they became agriculturists. Pallis also assumed the title of Mudaliyars in the twentieth century or so. Abbe Carré (Hakluyt II Series), p. 595n. Also, Madras Printed Records: Diaries and Consultation Books, 1682-1692, p. 5; 1680-1681, pp. 75, 86. Ovington cf. India in the Seventeenth Century, ed. G.P. Guha, p. 125; Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, H.G. Rawlinson, p. 167. John Irwin insists that till seventeenth century, in Coromandal it was painting on cloth with paint and brush than printing with blocks. Studies in Indo-European Textile History, p. 34. H.G. Rawlinson, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, p. 167, London, 1696 edn., p. 282; John Fryer, A New Account of the East India and Persia, 1672-1681, 3 vols., London, vol. I, p. 90; English Factories, 1646-1650, pp. 79 (Swally, 1647), 151 (Thatta, 1647), 160-1. Ruquia Husain, Textile Industry at Sironj in the Seventeenth Century: A French Report, PIHC, 1995, p. 394. The word originated from Sanskrit chitra meaning variegated or speckled.

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers



150. 151.

152. 153.


Bah"ar-i Ajam, a mid-eighteenth century lexicon defines the word chop as the wood block—q"alib with which they impress figures on cloth. In Åin-i Akbar∂, the term is chint, in French sources—chite, and in Portuguese— chita. There are very clear references of drawing and then filling the sketches with colour. Then an outline was given to the designs. P.R. Schwartz, French Documents on Indian Cotton Painting, Antoine Georges Nicholas Henri de Beaulieu, The Beaulieu Manuscript, 1734 , in Studies in IndoEuropean Textile History, Calico Museum of Textile, Ahmadabad, 1966, pp. 87-8. P.R. Schwartz, French Documents on Indian Cotton Painting : The Letters of Father Coeurdoux, p. 106. This technique is in practice even today, especially to draw designs for embroidery. Schwartz believes that repeated identical designs on pieces preserved in museums for over a period of time suggests that they must have been either block printed or stencilled, p. 123. English Factories, 1651-1654, p. 246. Ibid., pp. 229-30, (1654), 301, (1654), Madras; 1646-1650, pp. 74, 163, 215; 1630-1633, pp. 268 (Surat, 1633), 208, (1632), 146, (1631), 45, (1630); Hamilton, vol. I, p. 122. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 74. English Factories, 1651-1654, pp. 44, 236 (1634); 1661-1664, pp. 112-13 (1662). An interesting episode about the high-handedness of brokers is worth reproducing. A certain Brahmin Venkata at Fort St. George was made the broker of English Company there in the 1650s. He acquired the monopoly over weavers, painters, washers and even night watchmen (t"aliars). While trying to get finished pieces from them he asked the watchmen to keep an eye on the workers so that they do not run away in Company’s debt. On refusal of the watchmen on ground that they were only liable to keep an eye on Company’s goods between sunset and sunrise, they were thrown out by instigating the English factor Thomas Ivy. Their houses were pulled down. Other Brahmin friends of Venkata forced the weavers to sell cloth to them only. Venkata created differences among painters and made them his ‘subjects’, and when they showed their disaffection their houses were razed to ground. One Sheshadri helped the said Thomas Ivy to make a ‘paddy bazar’, but Venkata sold off the land for sixteen pagodas and drove away the sellers. The Brahmins along with Venkata, became the ‘agents’ of the Nawab and forced weavers to sell their pieces at 50 per cent (of the actual cost) and made themswear not to complain further


154. 155. 156. 157.



160. 161. 162. 163. 164. 165.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India along with threats of death. Once, during famine, some people brought an idol from a nearby pagoda, and Venkata snatched it, sold it and kept the money. He ‘terrified’ everyone there and exacted duty on cloths and only spared the weavers and painters after taking bribe. He exacted money from watchmen, shepherds, distillers, and others. There was a long list of charges against him and his fellow Brahmins. English Factories, 1651-1654, pp. 236-46 (1654, Madras); 1661-1664, pp. 112-13. Painters and weavers faced social blockade, boycott and many problems in the wake of rivalry among the Brahmin brokers. They were beaten for being the party of a rival broker, and vice versa. They were not allowed to carry the dead bodies of their kins through particular streets; defiance resulted in assaulting them with j"ut∂s (shoes). English tried to ‘win over’ painters to make charges against brokers. English Factories, 1651-1654, pp. 258-61. Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories in India, 1624-1627, p. 248. English Factories, 1651-1654, pp. 238-9; 1630-1633, p. 233. Varadarajan, India in the 17th Century, vol. I, pt. II, pp. 576, 603-4; Om Praksh, The Dutch Factories in India, 1624-1627, p. 248. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 154. English factors failed to force ‘Cussumba’ dyers (who worked in it) not to cut the pieces of long cloth before dying. The dyers insisted that ‘the cullors will nor cannot bee soe good this way’ (i.e. by dipping a long piece colour would not spread evenly), and that it would consume more colour. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. II, pp. 127-8. Chay dye was usually appreciated by most. William Methwold, Relations of Golcconda, ed. W.H. Moreland, p. 35. John Irwin, Studies in Indo-European Textile History, pp. 17, 34. Somehow, material printed in light colours required by the English could not be obtained in Gujarat and the factors had to assure that they would be able to get them made in Burhanpur. The Dutch merchants also supplied the printers/painters sample known as ‘musters’. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 277. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 154 (Thatta, 1647), 276 (1650); 1668-1669, p. 92; Thomas Bowrey, pp. 71-2. John Irwin, Studies in Indo-European Textile History, p. 17. Ibid., pp. 36-7. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. III, pp. 281-2. English Factories, 1624-1629, p. 224; English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, pp. 352, 359, 412; John Bruce, Annals of the Honourable East India Company, vol. II, p. 314.

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


166. English Factories, 1630-1633, pp. 230-1; 1646-1650, p. 59. 167. English Factories, 1624-1629, p. 224; 1665-1667, pp. 136, 145. 168. English Factories, 1661-1664, p. 291. The entire paragraph further explains the concern of the English where the merchants were directed to see ‘That the silke bee first spun or throwne, then boyled to get out the gumm, then dyed, and then weaved; for in those formerly sent for England only the woofe (that is, the thread that runs thwart the stuffe) is boyled, and the warpe (or thread which runs from end to end) is dyed in the gumm, by which meanes that which is boylrd is glossey and plyable, and the other stiffe and dull colloured, which renders them fit for very few uses; whereas, were both warp and woofe boyled before dyed, they would serve in most cases instead of Italian silks. And though the stufe made of silke thus boyed will appear very lymber [i.e. flexible], it matters not because they here be gummed much better then with you and made like any Italian silks’. Also, English Factoreis, 1646-1650, p. 154; 16221623, pp.102-3; 1642-1645, p. 79; 1630-1633, p. 231. 169. English Factories, 1634-1636, pp. 82-3; Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories in India: 1624-1627, pp. 84, 114. 170. L. Liotard, Memorandum on Dyes of Indian Growth and Production, Calcutta, 1881, pp. 49-50. 171. De Laet, p. 77; Letters Received by East India Company, vol. II, pp. 127, 343. Hamilton, vol. I, p. 370. The Island of Diu Point off Masulipatam produced the famous red dye which Hamilton calls as shaii, rather commonly known as chay. He gives the following details ‘It is a Shrub growing in Grounds that are overflown with the Spring-tides. It stains their Calicoes in the most beautiful and lively Colours in the World’. Henri Beaulieu (1744) gives details on dyeing and painting on cloths for the Coromandal Coast. P.R. Schwartz, French Documents on Indian Cotton Painting, pp. 81-91. Also, Irfan Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India, p. 49. 172. Relations of Golconda, ed. W.H Moreland, Journal of Indian History, vol. I, 1938, p. 35. 173. Relations of Golconda, ed. W.H Moreland; John Van Twist, p. 76; Schorer, pp. 59-60; John Bruce, Annals of the Honourable East India Company, 1810, p. 209; P.R. Schwartz, French Documents on Indian Cotton Painting, pp. 85, 114; L. Liotard, Memorandum on Dyes, pp. 24-5. 174. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 25. It was also termed as rohina, ruhna, rohan, and was translated as Indian red-wood tree in the contemporary sources. Runa was imported from Persia, especially Ardabil region. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 311; 1630-1633, pp. 38, 158, 211; 1624-



176. 177. 178. 179.


181. 182. 183.

184. 185. 186.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India 1629, pp. 20, 57, 150; P.R. Schwartz, French Documents on Indian Cotton Painting, p. 87. John Jourdain, The Journal of John Jourdain, p. 77. Runa (Persian word for madder) or fua/fuwwa (Arabic word for madder) was imported from Aden and places in South-East Asia in big quantity. Liotard, Memorandum on Dyes, p. 82. Ibid., pp. 77-8, 88. It has also been identified as a ‘wood’. P. R. Schwartz, French Documents on Indian Cotton Painting, Letters of Father Coeurdoux, p. 114. P.R. Schwartz, French Documents on Indian Cotton Painting (The Beaulieu Manuscript, 1734; Father Coeurdoux’s Letters; 1742-1747), Calico Museum of Textile, Ahmadabad, 1966, pp. 76-124. Lotika Varadarajan, India in the 17th Century, vol. I, pt. II, pp. 743-5. At Armagon he found 300-400 and at Gangapatam (a small village in its vicinity), 233 families of painters and weavers; Tavernier, vol. II, p.18. Gum lac was mostly brought from Pegu, but in India region of Bengal was the main provider of it. H.K. Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries, p. 156. Other than Nuskha-i Khul"asatul Mujarrebat, " most of the sources used by Naqvi are of the nineteenth century. Also, H.K. Naqvi, ‘Dyeing Agents in India: AD 1200-1800’, Indian Journal of History of Science, 26 (2), 1991, pp. 159-83.; H.K. Naqvi, ‘Colour Making and Dyeing of Cotton Textiles, in Medieval Hindustan’, Indian Journal of History of Science, 15 (I) 1986, pp. 58-70.; Vijaya Ramaswamy, Textiles and Weavers, p. 241. Kusumba or safflower was grown in abundance in India to obtain red dye. English Factories, 1642-1645, pp. 136, 161, 167, 212; 1646-1650, p. 34; Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories, 1624-27, pp. 116, 117n. P.R. Schwartz, French Documents on Indian Cotton Painting, Letters of Father Coeurdoux, pp. 104-20. Ibid., p. 106. English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett) 1670-1677, p. 227 (1675, Masulipatam). Chay (Malayalam chayavar) was obtained from a small plant cultivated on the Coromandal Coast. Its root, styled as Indian madder in the contemporary European sources, yielded a blue dye, which on further treatment changed to a deep red or other colours useful for dyeing textiles. Also, pp. 374, 412; The Diary of William Hedges, vol. II, p. lxiii. Chah"ar Gulshan, p. 108. Manucci, vol. II, p. 35. Manucci, vol. II, pp. 67-8; Hobson-Jobson, p. 217; Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 89.

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


187. Manucci, vol. III, pp. 67-8. 188. Manucci, vol. III, pp. 35-6. Alparqueros is a word in Portuguese used for sandal makers. Also, Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 384n; Banarasi Das, Ardhakath"anaka, pp. 134-6, 225-6. 189. W.H. Moreland, Relations of Golconda in Early Seventeenth Century, London, 1931, p. 19. 190. A.I. Chicherov, India: Economic Development During the 17th-18th Century, p. 30; Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 181-3. 191. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 180-5. 192. Ibid., fol. 184. 193. M. Martin, pp. 41-2; J. Ibbeston, Punjab Castes, Lahore, 1906, pp. 230, 293-4, 297-300. 194. Tavernier, vol. I, p. 205; Monserrate, Commentary; S.N. Sen and J.S. Hoyland (trs.), p. 102; Peter Mundy, The Travels of Peter Munday (Hakluyt), vol. II, pp. 170-1. 195. W.H. Moreland, Relations of Golconda, William Methwold’s ‘Relations’, p. 19. 196. English Factories, 1668-1669, p. 246. In 1669, shoe makers were persuaded by the English to settle in the newly acquired Island of Bombay, as there was a ‘shortage’ of them. 197. English Factories, 1661-1664, p. 390. 198. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 251-2. 199. Vijaya Ramaswamy, Textiles and Weavers in South India, pp. 36, 241. 200. W"aqiat-i " Mushtaqi, " p. 208; Ardhkathanaka, " pp. 225-6; 134-6. The term kul"al is different than kalal, " later being a distiller; Tashr∂h-ul Aqwam, " fol. 251. 201. W"aqiat-i " Musht"aqi, p. 208. 202. Storia do Mogor, vol. I, pp. 168-9. 203. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fol. 255; M. Wilks, Historical Sketches of South India, 3 vols., Mysore, 1930, vol. I, p. 118. (In Mysore potters had to pay a tax for selling utensils in the market); W.H. Moreland, Relation of Golconda, p. 19; M. Martin, History, Antiquities, vol. III, p. 125. 204. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fol. 254. 205. Della Valle stayed in Ahmadabad in a street known as Darzi Caravansarai. The Travels of Pietro Della Valle in India, ed. Edward Grey, vol. I, p. 95; Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 264-5. 206. Tapan Roychaudhury and Irfan Habib, The Cambridge Economic History of India, vol. I, p. 263. 207. English Factories, 1621-1623, pp. 278-9. 208. Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, ed. H.G. Rawlinson, p. 166.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

209. English Factories, 1642-1645, pp. 204-5. 210. John Irwin, Studies in Indo-European Textile History, p. 16. 211. English Factories, 1642-1645, p. 126; 1646-1650, pp. 53, 146, 296; 1637-1641, p. 282; 1668-1669, p. 6; 1618-1621, p. 301; 1655-1660, p. 322; 1661-1664, p. 27. 212. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 10, 92, 178. 213. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 178; 1634-1636, p. 246; 1642-1645, p. 152. 214. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. I, p. 40. Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories in India, 1624-1627, p. 125; English Factories, 16241629, p. 93. Different versions appear for cotton quilts—cuttaine, cuttany, qutni, coetinys, or cuttenees. At a certain place the term cuttenees is used for as ‘a skinde of satten, half cotton, half silke’. English Factories, 16181621, p. 10 & n. 215. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 2; 1637-1641, p. 312; 1668-1669, p. 18; 1651-1654, p. 223. 216. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. I, p. 29; vol. III, p. 32; W.L. Dames (tr.), The Book of Duarte Barbosa, pp. 139-43; Sinappah Arasaratnam and Aniruddha Ray, Masulipatam and Cambay: A History of the Two Port Towns, 1500-1800, p. 123; English Factories, 1618- 1621, p. 178. 217. Anonymous, Aj"aibul Duniya, 181b, cf. H.K. Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries in Upper India 1556-1803, p. 138; Manrique, vol. II, p. 180. 218. John Van Twist, W.H. Moreland (ed.), JIH, vol. I, 1938, p. 77. 219. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 103, 195, 198, 206, 235, 250. 220. John Irwin, Studies in Indo-European Textile History, p. 48. 221. English Factories, 1630-1633, pp. 229, 224-5; Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories in India, 1624-1627, p. 314. 222. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 51. In 1619, English merchants were not able to pick any quilts for England from Surat. They promised to arrange for some ‘pintathoe quilts from other places’. 223. George Havers (tr.), Travels of Sig. Pietro Della Valle (1623-1624), London, 1665. The translation is appended with a Relation of Sir Thomas Roe’s voyage which was perhaps prepared by Edward Terry, p. 377. 224. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 46, 84-5, 161, 178. 225. English Factories, 1642-1645, p. 57; 1618-1621, p. 108; 1646-1650, p. 255. 226. Vijaya Ramaswamy, Textiles and Weavers in South India, pp. 17, 42. 227. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 108. Tailors could also be employed for

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers

228. 229. 230. 231. 232. 233. 234. 235. 236. 237. 238.

239. 240. 241. 242. 243. 244.


a specific duration. On 1 October 1632, tailors were employed at Petapoli to stitch ‘pillowbeers’ (pillow covers or pillow cases) for export to England. English Factories, 1630-1633, pp. 230-1; 1642-1645, p. 57 (1642). In 1664 they asked for English tailors for Madras assuring for them higher wages. 1661-1664, p. 390. Around thirty tailors had been employed in Madras in 1668. English Factories, 1668-1669, p.148.; The Cambridge Economic History, ed. Tapan Roychaudhuri and Irfan Habib, vol. I, p. 263; Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fol. 264; English Factories, 1642-1645, pp. 204-5; 1618-1621, pp. 10, 51, 75, 84, 108, 178, 293-4, 301; 1661-1664, pp. 26, 85, 200; 1630-1633, p. 229; 1623-1629, p. 230; Alexander Hamilton, vol. I, p. 150. A Voyage to Surat, p. 166. John Irwin, Studies in Indo-European Textile History, pp. 18-19. John Irwin believes that art of embroidery in Bengal owes much to the presence of the Portuguese. Studies in Indo-European textile History, p. 47. John Irwin, Studies in Indo-European Textile History, p. 49. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 288-90. Vijaya Ramaswamy, Textiles and Weavers in South India, pp. 36, 243. Sometimes the same term was applied to the masons. George Havers, Travels of Sig. Pietro Della Valle & Relations of the Voyage of Sir Thomas Roe / Edward Terry, p. 377. English Factories, 1637-1641, pp. 45, 47, 49, 55-6, 64, 74, 80, 142, 143-4, 159; 1622-1623, p. 53; 1661-1664, p. 143. English Factories, 1661-1664, p. 390; vol. II (Charles Fawcett), 16701677, p. 177. Schorer, cf. Moreland, Relations of Golconda, p. 63; English Factories, vol. II, 1622-1623, pp. 45, 47, 55, 64, 74, 80. English Factories, 1622-1623, pp. 108, 175, 1622. Many scholars have contributed to the subject, i.e. ship building in medieval India. A.J. Qaiser, Irfan Habib, and Eugenia Vanina has specifically contributed to the theme. Thomas Bowrey, pp. 102-3. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 24. Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, H.G. Rawlinson (ed.), p. 166. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 196; Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. I, p. 38; vol. III, p. 28. English Factories, 1665-1667, p. 248 (1666). In one such case ‘heathens’ refused to go aboard from Masulipattam to Siam on an English vessel. English Factories, 1668-1669, p. 79; 1622-1623, p. 93.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

245. English Factories, 1622-1623, pp. 93, 97, 108. Later, with much difficulty, only two could be procured, saying that ‘cannot get more, as they are not permitted to leave’, p. 97, Broach, June 1622. Banarasi Das, Ardhakath"anaka, pp. 134-6, 225-6. 246. English Factories 1634-1636, p. 136 (1636). 247. Linchoten, Purchas, vol. X, pp. 264-5. 248. M. Martin, History, Antiquities, Topography and Statistics of Eastern India, 5 vols., Delhi, 1976, vol. II, p. 28. 249. A.I. Chicherov, India-Economic Development during the17th-18th Centuries, pp. 23-8. 250. H.K. Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries, pp. 230-1. Armours, matchlocks, swords, cannon balls, implements for barbers, butchers, cobblers, gardeners, oil pressers, sculptors, sugar manufacturers, etc. were the main items made for the market. 251. W"aqiat-i " Mushtaqi, " p. 179; Rai Chaturman Saksena, Chah"ar Gulshan, p. 161. 252. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fol. 239. 253. Vijaya Ramaswamy, Textiles and Weavers in South India, pp. 36, 240. 254. Abbé Carre (Hakluyt, II Series), vol. II, pp. 595-6. 255. The theme has been dealt with in detail by P.C. Ray, History of Hindu Chemistry, Calcutta, 1956. An early nineteenth-century work Ibrat N"amah, 1826, contains good account on processing of iron. H.K. Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries, p. 229. 256. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 336-8. 257. Thomas Bowrey, A Geographical Account of the Countries Round the Bay of Bengal, p. 102. 258. A. Hamilton, A New Account of the East Indies, 2 vols., Edinburgh, 1727, vol. I, p. 392. Equating these with European products, Hamilton declined them as inferior. 259. Monserrate, Commentary, S.N. Sen and J.S. Hoyland (trs.), p. 98; Manucci, vol. II, p. 432; Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries, p. 232. 260. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 237-8. 261. In 1668 when the Island of Bombay was acquired by the English, they asked people following different professions to come and settle there. Blacksmiths too were among them. English Factories, 1668-1669, p. 77; 1661-1664, p. 390. 262. English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, p. 197. 263. English Factories, vol. III (Charles Fawcett), 1678- 1684, p. 16. 264. Charles Lockyer, An Account of the Trade in India, p. 26. 265. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 332-6; Monserrate, Commentary, S.N. Sen and J.S. Hoyland (trs.), p. 102.

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


266. Abul Fazl, Åin-i Akbar∂, vol. I, pp. 61, 102-15, 320; Banarasi Das, Ardhakath"anaka, pp. 134-6, 255-6. Bayaz-i " Khushbui contains detailed information on dyeing of papers in different colours. Cf. H.K. Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries, p. 259; Eugenia Vanina, Urban Crafts and Craftsmen, p. 55. 267. W.H. Moreland, JIH, vol. I, 1937, p. 75. Perhaps the old and out of use nets were turned into pulp for manufacturing paper. 268. H.K. Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries, pp. 256-8. 269. Banarasi Das, Ardhakath"anaka, pp. 134-6, 255-6. Eugenia Vanina refutes the claim of Jagdish Narayan Sarkar that the glass industry was unknown to India. However, a clear reference of glass makers as a distinct group appears in Ardhakath"anaka. 270. Chah"ar Gulshan, p. 147. 271. Thevenot, Indian Travels, pp. 55-6. 272. Indian Travels of Thevenot and Careri, pp. 9, 18, 25, 164. 273. Travels in India, vol. I, p. 56. 274. A New Account of the East Indies, vol. I, p. 160. 275. Charles Lockyer, An Account of the Trade in India, pp. 261-2. 276. Ibid., p. 261. 277. The Suma Oriental, ed., Armando Cortesao, 2 vols., London, 1944, vol. I, p. 43. 278. A New Account of the East Indies, vol. I, p. 143. Hamilton was surprised to find that some of the cabinets made of cornelian were worth thirty or forty pounds sterling. 279. George Havers, Travels of Sig. Pietro Della Valle along with the Relations of Sir Thomas Roe Prepared by Edward Terry, p. 377. 280. Charles Lockyer, An Account of the Trade in India, pp. 268-9. He identifies Goa Stone as Pedra de Gasper Antonio. 281. Travels of Peter Mundy, vol. II (Hakluyt), pp. 170-2. 282. A New Account of the East Indies, vol. I, pp. 125-6. 283. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 258-9; Banarasi Das, Ardhakath"anaka, pp. 134-6, 225-6. 284. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 265. 285. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 284-5. 286. English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, pp. 177, 217. English factors employed some Indian ‘bricklayers’ in Masulipatam factory in 1671 to carry out repair work, but bad work lead to a dispute and Englishmen suffered monetary loss. ‘Muslim governor’ of Masulipatam favoured the masons and threatened the English, English Factoreis, 1624-1629, p. 199. English Company’s factors invited engineers from England.

232 287. 288. 289. 290. 291. 292. 293.

294. 295.

296. 297. 298. 299.

300. 301. 302.


304. 305.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India Pelsaert, pp. 60-1. English Factories, 1668-1669, pp. 74-5, 220. English Factories, 1624-1629, p.10. English Factories, vol. III, (Charles Fawcett), 1678-1684, p. 74. They were arrested by the English and subsequently released, pp. 243-5. W"aqiat-i " Mushtaqi, " pp. 43, 59, 61; Tashr∂h-ul Aqwam, " fols. 297-8. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 297-8. Tome Pires, vol. I, p. 72; Wilfred Blunt, Pietro’s Pilgrimage, p. 288; H.K. Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries, p. 156. Banarasi Das, Ardhakath"anaka, pp. 134-6, 225-6. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 205; H.K. Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries, p. 157. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 2; 1630-1633, p. 246; 1651-1654, p. 56; 1655-1660, p. 308; 1622-1623, p. 109. Buchanan refers to a root called kundri used as a starching agent in north India. Buchanan, II, p. 653; H.K. Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries, p. 157. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 151; 1622-1623, p. 72; 1642-1645, p. 151. English Factories, 1630-1633, pp. 230-2, 235, 285; 1637-1641, p. 45. There might have not been much work in Petapolly for the washermen. English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, pp. 198, 268 (1675). Fryer, vol. I (Hakluyt), p.109; English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, pp. 288-9. The soldiers who were to be employed to keep a watch on the washermen were promised ‘four rials of eight per month’ for their diet and wages. English Factories, 1661-1664, p. 51. English Factories, 1622-1623, pp. 165, 223; 1642-1645, p. 37. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 113, 168, 347; 1622-1623, p. 50; 1642-1645, pp. 136, 204; 1646-1650, p. 2; Tavernier, vol. II, p. 5. Georges Roques is full of praise for Broach as goods from various parts were brought there for bleaching. Indrani Ray, ‘Of Trade and Traders in Seventeenth Century India’, p. 118. English Factories, 1665-1667, p. 171; 1651-1654, p. 56; 1646-1650, pp. 78, 139, 276, 280; 1642-1645, pp. 137, 204, 233; 1622-1623, p. 189. Indrani Ray, ‘Of Trade and Traders in Seventeenth Century India’, pp. 91-120. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 2; 1642-1645, p. 123; 1618-1621, pp. 205, 357; 1642-1645, p. 137. In case of buying the cloth unwashed, brokerage was not paid but in the sale of the cloth the brokers

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers



308. 309.



312. 313. 314. 315. 316.


enhanced five pices in each piece of whatever price it would be,‘whereof the brokers share two pices, two pices the Governor or Shekdare of the prigony (pargana) and one pice they return back to the merchant (i.e. the weaver); which custome is very large. And wee shall endevor yf possible to reduce it to lesse’, wrote one Robert Hughes from Patna to the President at Surat. George Roques speaks of few towns of Gujarat where properties of river water would bring wonderful results after washing. Indrani Ray, ‘Of Trade and Traders in Seventeenth Century India’, p. 117. Travels in India, vol. I, p. 54; vol. II, p. 5.‘Baroche is a large town, . . . widely renowned from all time on account of its river, which possess a peculiar property for bleaching calicoes, which for this reason are brought from all quarters of the empire of the Great Mogul where is not so great an abundance of water’. Also, English Factories, 1637-1641, p. 196. English Factories, 1637-1641, pp. 30, 46, 49. Tavernier, vol. II, p. 3 & n.. Only in Palestine, silk was made having natural white colour, and was very expensive and precious. Elsewhere it was to be bleached to get a white colour. Adam’s fig was the Portuguese name for plantain, Musa paradisica. The ash of plantain contains potash, soda salts, phosphoric acid and magnesia. English Factories, 1642-1645, p. 87; 1646-1650, p. 112; 1622-1623, p. 89; 1665-1667, p. 5. ‘Washing of cloths had been hindered by want of water in the river’, factors from Ahmadabad informed the President and Council at Surat in September 1647. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 155. English Factories, 1630-1633, pp. 231-4; 1668-1669, p. 77 (1668). English factors at Ahmadabad requested their President and council at Surat to erect a ‘workhouse’ for dyers with a cost of 1000 rupees so that pieces of cloth could be dyed under their supervision. Also, 1646-1650, pp. 59, 64-5 (December 1646), 112 (March 1647). John Van Twist, W.H. Moreland, Journal of Indian History, vol. I, 1937, p. 75. Mir"at-i Ahmadi, vol. I, Calcutta, 1928, p. 369. H.K. Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries in Upper India, pp. 156-7. English Factories, 1630-1633, pp. 193, 195, 268; 1646-1650, pp. 70-1. English Factories, 1637-1641, p. 312. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. II, pp. 127-8. Complaints were received from Patani (Southeast Asia) regarding defect in pieces in 1614. English merchants briefed them about the problem in the following manner ‘The Salempouries whited coming to proof are of [ ] full of


317. 318.

319. 320.

321. 322. 323.

324. 325. 326.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India holes with wearing which is not[hing?] but the knavery of the washers that whites them, who to get affanan (afyun, opium) hires them out a month[ ] to wear, whereby being foul he beats them to pieces to make them clean, and with folding them finely up deceives thereby the merchant not mistrusting, and causes a very bad [name] of cloth in the sale, that no man will buy without opening and looking upon every cloth to our hindrance . . . the factors going to Coast . . . seek to prevent it. Also the beathillies which are whited amongst them of 33 or 34 covids we find many short of 20 haste, improper and no length for this place, which come in account with the others’. Also, Tavernier, vol. II, p. 28. Indrani Ray, ‘Of Trade and Traders in Seventeenth Century India’, p. 91. English Factories, vol. III (Charles Fawcett), 1678-1684, p. 232. In 1678, washermen in Broach lost twenty-four pieces belonging to the English factory. They were imprisoned by the faujd"ar but of no avail. English merchants smelled something fishy, believing ‘that such cases were an abuse put on the factories by the country people’. Fat"awah-i Ålamg∂ri, selected and translated by Niel B.E. Baillie as Mohammadan Law of Sale, p.129. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 89 (1622), 1642-1645, p. 87 (1643), 1668-1669, pp. 152, 246, 268, 270; 1630-1633, pp. 195, 192-3; 1646-1650, p. 151; 1661-1664, pp. 112-13; 1618-1621, p. 343. English Factors wrote from Sarkhej to Surat that ‘Cabeere (Kabir) and two other of our servants have done nothing elce this month (Dec. 1621) but goe upp and downe from place to place and howse to howse with a chawbuck to cause the washers and beaters to bring them in’, making the situation explicit. W"aqiat-i " Musht"aqi, p. 230. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 278; 1618-1621, p. 310. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. II, p.232; English Factories, 1630-1633, pp. 231, 235; 1668-1669, p. 270. Banarasi Das, Ardhakath"anaka, pp. 59, 62, 254, 256. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. II, p. 232; English Factories, 1622-1623, pp. 39, 50; 1630-1633, pp. 232-3, 235. It is derived from Sanskrit goni, meaning a sack. John Irwin, Studies in Indo-European Textile History, p. 25. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. I, p. 89, 142; vol. V, p. 118; vol. VI, p. 236. For packing quicksilver, skins were considered the surest way, yet not considered safe to prevent leakage. It was then packed either in coconut shells or glass bottles and then covered with skin for extra safety. Bales containing cloths were covered with coarse cloth and

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers

327. 328. 329. 330.

331. 332. 333.

334. 335.


skins before loading on ships. Skin was, however, difficult to procure (especially in the areas where majority of people were Hindus). Gunnies were made of strong coarse calico for sacking and covering of bales. A variety of it called dungaree was also useful for packing. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. V, pp. 123, 281. English Factories, 16231629, pp. 87, 311; 1651-1655, p.119; 1622-1623, pp. 23, 110, 141, 143, 191, 203, 323; 1630-1633, pp. 9, 22, 63; 1634-1636, p. 134; 1618-1621, pp. 161, 330; vol. II (Fawcett), 1670-1677, pp. 200, 209, 320; Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories,1624-1627, pp. 105, 108, 258; John Irwin, Studies in Indo-European Textile History, p. 25. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 161. John Van Twist, W.H. Moreland, Journal of Indian History, vol. I, 1938, p. 76; English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 110. English Factories, 1630-1633, p. 39; 1634-1636, p. 134. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. IV, p. 299; English Factories, 1630-1633, p. 21. Evidence shows them packing 6,500 pieces of cloths in ‘40 or 50’ bales. 1623-1629, p. 247; 1618-1621, p. 330. English Factories, 1637-1641, pp. 224-5, 232; 1618-1621, pp. 250-2; 1622-1623, pp. 144, 191, 195. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. II, p. 232. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 224-5, 233, 308; 1622-1623, pp. 62, 278; 1630-1633, p. 94; 1661-1664, pp. 112-13, 369; 16371641, pp. 95, 224-5, 233; 1646-1650, pp. 186 (1648, Swally), 332. On one occasion the factors at Surat received complaint from the Company in London about the spoiled pieces of calico due to bad packing. The Surat agent promised that extra care will be taken in future even if it involved some more expense. They assured that ‘in future they will use half a maund of best (cotton?) wool in packing of each bale of calico. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 126, 161. On another occasion sand and stone filled in indigo bales was detected. If defect in packing was discovered in India itself, goods were repacked with more care. Cloths were first washed in case spoiled due to rains etc., and then packed. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 11. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 24; 1621-1624, p. 185; Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. III, pp. 11, 16. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. II, p. 249; vol. IV, p. 239; vol. V, pp. 81, 83, 221, 237, 281-2; vol. VI, pp. xv, 236, 237; K. Glamann, Dutch Asiatic Trade, 1951, p. 138; English Factories, 16181621, p. 60n; 1634-1636, p. 1. Bales packed in square shape were easy to load on carts and camels too.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

336. Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories in India, 1624-1627, pp. 102, 103, 135. In Persia a bail containing silk weighed around 204 pounds. 337. W.H. Moreland, From Akbar to Aurangzeb, p. 340. Unfortunately, Moreland does not specify the source of his information. 338. Kah"ar, from Sanskrit skandha-kara, " he who carries on the shoulder. Jean Deloche, vol. I, p. 216n. 339. Thomas Herbert (1626-1628), Some Years’ Travels into Divers Parts of Asia and Afrique, R. Bip for Jacob Bloome and Richard Bishop, London, 1638, London, pp. 35, 38; Pietro Della Valle, vol. II, p. 294. However, he could not be expected to act as his interpreter of him being a pulia and treated as an outcaste, and that nobody would like to converse with him ‘which amongst them is accounted vile and unclean, they would not suffer him to come into their Houses nor touch their things’, explained Della Valle. Friar Domingo Fernandez Navarrete also acquired knowledge on various matters through his interpreter-cum-servants. Visions of Mughal India, Michael Fisher (ed.), p. 197. 340. English Factories, vol. III (Charles Fawcett), 1678-1684, pp. 12-13 & n. 341. Travels of Sig. Pietro Della Valle, (1665 edn.), p. 34; Della Valle, ed. Edward Grey, vol. I, pp. 55-6, says ‘abundance of people go everyday in this manner, some in Coaches and Chariots’; Varadarajan, India in the 17th Century, vols. I, II, pp. 741, 746-7; Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 166; Banarasi Das, Ardhakath"anaka, pp. 59, 62, 254, 256. 342. Gemeli Careri, vol. I (Hakluyt), p.169. ‘Canarin’ was a common name for the inhabitants of the part now known as Kanara (properly Kannada) on the Malabar Coast, p. 169n. Careri made a short journey from Bassein to Daman in January, 1695, testifies in his account ‘I caus’d my Baggage to be carry’d down to the Shore by ‘Boes’, so they call Porters in India. Indian Travels, pp.167, 207 (1695); Manrique, vol. II, p.118. Manrique identified porters and guards as chacores (ch"akar) while travelling in Orissa. 343. The Travels of Peter Mundy (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 115. Porters could not be procured because of their accompanying the lashkar of Khwaja Jahan marching from Ahmadabad to Broach. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 315, 105-6, 129; 1630-1633, pp. 64, 73. 344. Fryer, vol. I (Hakluyt), pp. 174-5 & n; English Factories, vol. III (Charles Fawcett), 1678-1684, pp. 12 & n., 185-6. When Captain Keigwin led a mutiny in Bombay in 1683-4, Surat President’s emissary was imprisoned and the hapless coolies were beaten twice. 345. English Factories, 1630-1633, p. 73. 346. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 2. Staffiere is an Italian word for a footman or groom.

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers 347. 348. 349. 350. 351. 352. 353.

354. 355. 356. 357. 358. 359. 360. 361.

362. 363. 364. 365.

366. 367. 368. 369.


Bernier, p. 392. Edward Terry (Purchas), vol. IX, pp. 34-5. Edward Terry (M. Azhar Ansari), p. 93. Edward Terry (Purchas), vol. IX, pp. 34-5. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 209-11. They are discussed under the head ghulam. " English Factories, 1622-1623, pp. 165, 223. English Factories, 1661-1664, p. 276 (January 1663, St. Helena Island, off the western shores of Africa. It is difficult to believe that service providers, including barbers, were sold anywhere in India. It rather suggests that they were to be persuaded to the extent by using force that they agreed to travel to St. Helena. Also, The Diary of William Hedges, vol. II, pp. cccliv, 354. Ramaswamy, Textiles and Weavers in South India, pp. 36, 55, 241. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 212-13. W"aqiat-i " Mushtaqi, " pp. 230, 242. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 212-13. Ibid., fols. 220-1. Om Prakash, The Dutch Facories in India, 1624-1627, p. 363; Banarasi Das, Ardhkath"anaka, pp. 16, 231; Risley, p. 133. Jahangir’s India, p. 93. Peter Mundy, Travels of Peter Munday, vol. III, pt. I, p. 98; The Travels of Peter Mundy in Europe and Asia, Hakluyt, II Series, vol. II, pp. 86-7. He uses the word dobb for indigenous d"ab or gripping. Pietro Della Valle, Edward Grey (ed.), vol. I, p.126. W"aqiat-i " Mushtaqi, " p. 230; Hamilton, vol. I, p. 150. W"aqiat-i " Mushtaqi, " p. 7; H.D. Love, Vestiges of Old Madras, vol. III, p. 173. W"aqiat-i " Mushtaqi, " p.7; Hobson Jobson, pp. 734-5; Tashr∂h-ul Aqwam, " fols. 308-10. ‘Puccalls’ in English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 108; Cahare (kah"ar) in Peter Mundy, The Travels of (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 114. Unlike saqq"ahs who carried water in mashak or pakhal, " kahars " carried water in pots hanging from both ends of a bamboo stick put on shoulders. This is quite clear from Mundy’s account. The Travels of Peter Mundy, vol. II (Hakluyt), pp. 114-15. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 108; 1630-1633, p. 63; Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories, 1624-1627, p. 90. A.I. Chicherov, India-Economic Development, p. 24. Fishermen in Malabar were known as Mukkuvans.Tome Pires, vol. I, p. 72; English Factories, 1622-1623, p.108. English merchants sent gunny bags from Surat to Broach in 1622 by puccalls, or watermen.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

370. W.H. Moreland, Relations of Golconda, p. 19; M. Wilks, Historical Sketches of South India, vol. I, p. 118; J.A. Dubois, Hindu Manners,Customs and Ceremonies, Oxford, 1906, p. 63; Letters Received by East India Company, vol. VI, p. 223; Thomas Roe at Ahmadabad received cheese and wine sent from Surat by Thomas Kerridge through a cahar. Cah"ar also helped in loading goods on carts. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 283-4 (1621), Agra. 371. Travels in the Mogul Empire, p. 207. 372. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 232-3. 373. W"aqiat-i " Mushtaqi, " p. 51. 374. Bernier, p. 397; Careri, A Voyage, p. 256; Nicholas Withington (Purchas), vol. IV, p. 168. 375. English and Dutch had beautifully laid gardens outside Surat, Masulipatam, Petapolly, Hugli and Madras, etc. 376. Grafting was well known to gardeners of medieval India. May be Kashmir lagged in it. By ‘countries’ Bernier must be having in mind other parts of India. 377. W"aqiat-i " Musht"aqi, p. 125. 378. Edward Terry (Purchas), vol. IX, p. 46; Manrique, vol. II, pp. 100-2, 146. 379. De Laet, p. 55. 380. Manrique, vol. II, pp. 100-101. Perhaps accommodation was provided separately to Hindus and Muslims. 381. Tavernier, vol. I, p. 45; Peter Mundy, The Travels of Peter Mundy (Hakluyt), vol. II, p.121; Alexander Forbes, Oriental Memoirs, vol. II, p. 404. 382. Manrique, vol. II, pp. 100-1. Manrique seems somewhat confused here, as these terms mehtar and mehtar"an∂ were specifically used for sweepers and scavengers. As attendants in caravan sarais swept the floor and served water also, Manrique’s confusion is obvious ‘Metrannes [mehtar"anis] or Betearees [bhatiyar " ∂ ] are certain woemen all Saraos [sarais " ] that looke to the little roomes there and dresse the servantes meate . . . their husbands most commonly are Cahares’. The Travels of Peter Mundy (Hakluyt), p. 121. Peter Mundy also made a similar mistake while identifying the male counterpart of a bhatiyar " ∂ (female attendant) as a cahar " (water carrier or palanquin carrier). It could be so because they fetched water for the travellers. 383. Manrique, vol. II, pp. 100-2. 384. Terry (Purchas), vol. IX, p. 33. Here Terry is mainly speaking about the Malwa-Gujarat areas and not in general terms. 385. John Fryer, A New Account of East India and Persia, 1672-1681, William Crooke (ed.), 3 vols., Hakluyt Society, London, 1909, 1912 and 1915.

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers




389. 390. 391. 392. 393. 394. 395. 396.


vol. II, p.178. Big commercial cities like Ahmadabad had a particular type of sar"ais having the form of an enclave. Della Valle summed up the description in the following manner ‘Caravansarais or Inns, in Ahmadabad, and the other Great Cities of India, are not, as in Persia or Turkey, one single habitation, made in the form of a big Cloyster, with abundance of Lodgings round about, separate one from another, for quartering strangers; but they are whole great streets of the City destinated for Strangers to dwell in, and whosoever is minded to hire a house, and because these streets are lockt up in the night time for security of the persons or goods which are there, therefore they call them Caravanserai’. Travels of Della Valle, ed. Edward Grey, vol. I, p. 95 (here two different spellings of caravan sar"ai are correct). Bernier, p. 233. ‘The Eastern Karavans Serrah resemble large barns, raised and paved all round, in the same manner as our Pont—neuf. Hundreds of human beings are seen in them, mingled with their horses, mules and camels. In summer . . . suffocating, in winter . . . breath of so many animals prevents inmates of dying of cold. Manrique, vol. II, pp. 100-1; Thevenot, Indian Travels, pp. 48, 100, 132-3; The Voyage of Nicholas Downton, pp. 110, 138. Dodsworth and Christopher Farewell, who accompanied Captain Nicholas Downton in 1614, speak of the spacious sar"ais in Surat, Broach and Ahamedabad and services offered there. They seem quite impressed with the size of these sarais " and facilities provided to the travellers.The Travels of Peter Mundy in Europe and Asia, vol. II (Hakluyt), pp. 78-9; The Travels of Sig. Pietro Della Valle (1665 edn.), pp. 49-50. ‘Taybe’ represents ‘tiyyan’ (Mal.), the name of the toddy drawing caste in Malabar. Dellon calls them Tives, and James Forbes speaks of them as Tivees. Abbe Carre (Hakluyt, II Series) vol. III, p. 702; Dellon, Voyages, vol. I, pp. 138, 201; Alexander Forbes, Oriental Memoirs, vol. I, p. 389. Abbe Carre (Hakluyt, II Series), vol. III, p. 702. Manrique, vol. II, pp. 221-2; Peter Mundy, The Travels of Peter Mundy (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 248. Manrique, vol. II, p. 152. Banarasi Das, Ardhakath"anaka, pp. 43, 62, 72-3, 76-7, 129, 133-4, 175. Manrique, vol. II, p.191; Norris Embassy to Aurangzeb, pp. 234-6. Travels in the Mogul Empire, p. 438. Perhaps Indian bakers were not in the profession of making biscuits. English Factories, vol. I (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, p. 132. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 121; 1622-1623, pp. 143, 254, 256, 257, 261 (1623); 1630-1633, p. 209.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

397. Manrique, vol. I, pp. 178-9. 398. Travels in the Mogul Empire, pp. 250, 354; tr. Monserrate, S.N. Sen and J.S. Hoyland, p. 160. 399. English Factories, vol. I (Charles Fawcett), 1670- 1677, p. 132 (1675). 400. W"aqiat-i " Musht"aqi, p. 251. 401. George Havers, Travels of Sig. Pietro Della Valle &Relations of Sir Thomas Roe prepared by Edward Terry, p. 400. 402. English Factories, 1622-1623, pp. 263, 265-6. 403. About the origin of the word, it is said to have been derived from Portuguese ‘Peao’, meaning a messenger or attendant. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. V, p. 153 n. In Persian/Arabic the term hamm"al was used for the porters. 404. Streynsham Master, vol. I, p. 453. At one place he records the charges made against one Joseph Hall who was involved in beating up by his peons another fellow factor at Balasore in 1676. Also, English Factories, 1665-1667, p. 117 (1665); 1618-1621, p. 145. 405. English Factories, 1665-1667, pp. 83, 243. 406. English Factories, 1634-1636, p. 108. 407. English Factories, 1622-1623, pp. 211-13, 216; 1651-1654, pp. 98-9. In 1652, English merchants sent their treasure from Vizagapatnam to Viravasram in the company of ‘100 peons, besides coolies, for its better security against the Rashpootes’. An old form of ‘Rajput’ is used here in the sense of robbers since in western India they were generally identified as Rajputs. English Factories, 1622-1623, pp. 249, 256. An English ship wrecked off Nausari in 1623. English were eager to recover goods stolen by the locals. Hence, peons were sent to claim the stolen goods. Money sent with peons from Surat to Masulipatam in 1614. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. II, pp. 61, 211-13, 216-17, 220, 222. 408. English Factories, 1621-1623, p. 189; 1624-1629, p. 228 (1628, caravan sent under the charge of a ‘peon’ from Agra to Surat via Burhanpur); 1630-1633, p. 95 (1630), Surat to Baroda. 409. Streynsham Master, Diaries, vol. II, p. 89. 410. English Factories, 1655-1660, p. 79 (Kandiaro, Sind, 1655); 1668-1669, p. 311 (Bengal, 1669). 411. English Factories , 1622-1623, p. 30. 412. English Factories, 1655-1660, p. 79; Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. II, pp. 225, 229, 232. In December 1614, English factors sent their letter from Surat along with the peon of the nabob of Surat to Broach. On his return journey he brought sword-blades from the English

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers

413. 414.

415. 416.




420. 421. 422.

423. 424.


factory to Surat; and again took their cloths and bottles of liquor from Broach to Ahmadabad. De Laet, p. 83. Hobson Jobson, p. 696; English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 129; 16221623, pp. 63, 192, 323; 1630-1633, p. 95; Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. VI, p. 223. Cahars " were otherwise, suppliers of water or carriers of p"alkis. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. I, pp. 304, 277 (1613). William Foster (ed.),The Voyage of Nicholas Downton, 1614-1615, Hakluyt Society, London, 1931, pp. 151-2. Same version is found in the name of Nicholas Withington in Purchas, vol. IV, p. 151. In one of the versions of the Voyage, the word appears as poyce poyce instead of poyee poyee, perhaps a misprint of the former or vice-versa. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 75 (1622). Some of the peons acted as the ‘chief ’ and rode on horseback leading the train of other peons and servants. They were called jilaud"ar, or in its corrupt form as jaillpidar or gillopdares. A jilaudar " also carried the arms of kings and nobles. Jilaudar " was termed as ‘captain of peons’ also. Ovington, cf. India in the Seventeenth Century, ed. G.P. Guha, p. 178; H.G. Rawlinson (ed.), A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, p. 232. One such incident occurred when English merchants coming from Ahmadabad to Swally were attacked by robbers. One of the peons’ ‘conductour’, Ibrahim Khan along with six others died fighting kol∂s of Gujarat. English Factories, 1642-1645, p. 163 (March 1644). English Factories, vol. II, (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, p. 289. In 1675, when the King of Golconda went on a visit of the city of Masulipatam, Europeans panicked because of the sudden shortage of peons in the town. It delayed their consignments. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 211. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 126 (here at Surat port); also, English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, p. 319. English Factories, 1624-1629, p. 183 (1627); 1622-1623, pp. 75, 189, 222-3, 316, 236; 1668-1669, p.153. Streynsham Master, Diaries, vol. II, p. 170. On one occasion, peons employed by the factors at Fort St. George are mentioned to have been exacting ‘20 per cent from the merchants that supplied cloth for the Company. English Factories, 1651-1654, p. 305; 1655-1660, pp. 164-5. Abbé Carre (Hakluyt, II Series), vol. III, p. 720. India in the Seventeenth Century, ed. G.P. Guha, pp. 174-5, 178; Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, H.G. Rawlinson (ed.), p. 229. C.R.


425. 426. 427. 428. 429.

430. 431. 432.

433. 434.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India Wilson, The Early Annals of the English in Bengal, vol. I, p. 236; English Factories, 1655-1660, pp. 164-5. In 1658 President and Council at Surat reprimanded the subordinates at Ahmadabad for not being frugal. They were asked to cut on the number of peons and their diet. Thevenot, cf. India in the17th Century, ed. G.P. Guha, pp. 101-2. Careri (Macmillan), pp. 34-5. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 187. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 73-4. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 101. Muslims would refuse to cook pork for them or things not permitted in Islam, while Hindus preferred to remain away from any such activity. Indian Travels, p. 89. Unfortunately the word teherons is not defined. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 84; Mundy, The Travels of Peter Mundy, vol. II (Hakluyt), pp. 257, 280, 290. Hawkins, 397; Nicholas Downton, p. 139; Terry, Purchas, vol. IX, p. 35; Mandelslo’s Travels in Western India (1638-1639), M.S. Commissariat, London, 1931, p. 41. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 75. The Voyage of Nicholas Downton, ed. William Foster, 1938, p. 103. In 1614 English merchants on their way from Surat to Ahmadabad were provided security by five groups of armed guards. From Surat they were escorted by some guards up to Broach. Thence up to a small village (aldea Span. hamlet or village) called Damibola they were taken care of by the guards provided by the ‘governor’ of Broach. Now they hired another set of guards comprising ‘50 horse and foote’ and reached a place called Chormondo, which was known as the ‘most thievishest way in those partes’. Though not mentioned but, perhaps, they took under them some others to usher them up to Baroda (‘Brodera’) where they again enrolled hundred horsemen to conduct them to Ahmadabad. It all happened because of the region being unpopular as a safe haven of robbers. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 309. Here ‘some horse[men] and foot’ in the service of the ‘governor’ of Baroda entertained an English factor in October 1621 on his journey from Broach to Ahmadabad on payment of some amount; In August 1622, English factors had a Jat guard at their Burhanpur warehouse. Also, English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 111; The Diary of William Hedges, vol. I, pp. 33-4. In the last quarter of the seventeenth century, Englishmen had also started keeping armed English soldiers for their protection. One of the references for the year 1682 concerned with the Chief of the factory of Hugli, also known as

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers

436. 437.

438. 439. 440.

441. 442. 443. 444. 445.


Chief and Agent of the Bay, clearly points to the same—‘guarded by 35 Firelocks, and about 50 Rashboots and Peons well armed’, or ‘23 armed Englishmen, 15 Rashboots and peons’, when in the town or elsewhere. William Hedges, Diary, vol. I, p.111; Peter Mundy met two ‘Balloaches’ in 1633 near Sirohi on his way to Surat, who were sent by another English factor earlier to recover stolen goods from Abugarh. The Travels of Peter Mundy (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 293. Careri, Indian Travels, p. 261. John Fryer, A New Account of East India and Persia (Hakluyt), vol. I, p. 57. French traveller Gabriel Dellon, also known as Charles or Claude Dellon/ Dillon (1667-77) has explained the reason of employing the Nair boys by the travellers during journeys as guides and guards. He misspells Nairs as ‘Nahers’ and calls them as ‘the Gentlemen of the Country’. He was quite surprised by the degree of respect they enjoyed in Malabar and adjacent country. They acted as guards to the princes and it was almost mandatory for the travellers to hire them for safe journey. However, they were exposed to more danger as compared to their children. He elaborates ‘It being the custom of the Indian Robbers, never to hurt any Children, or such as are not able to defend themselves; but never to spare any that are provided with Arms for their Defence’. That is why these Nair children were given a small stick of a foot and a half long with its one end of the shape of a fist. Only Nair boys were allowed to carry such a stick to distinguish them from others. They would bear it till they reached the age appropriate to bear arms. Gabriel/Charles/Claude Dellon, A Voyage to the East Indies, tr. from French into English for D. Brown, London, 1698, pp. 94-6. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 90. Hamilton, vol. I, pp. 116-17. Terry (Purchas), vol. IX, p. 35. De Laet almost copied from Edward Terry ‘Praise must be given to the faithfulness of the Mahumetans and heathen servants who look after foreign travellers so well that they can journey in perfect safety in all directions: they accompany their masters on foot and equipped with arms’, p. 83. Careri, Indian Travels, p. 261. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 89, 96-7. English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, p. 221. Hamilton, vol. I, pp. 114-15, 117. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 81, 84, 89, 94. An English caravan under John Young was looted near Agra in 1619. Factors not only informed the local authorities but also their supervisors in India, and the


446. 447. 448. 449. 450. 451.

452. 453.

454. 455.

456. 457.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India Company; English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 73-4. Information in this case relates to the English merchants sending goods from Agra to Surat in February, 1619; Fray Sebastian Manrique, vol. II, p.107. ‘Natives’ could be sent incharge of the consignment and t∂rand"az as the guards to protect the goods. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 256. English Factories, 1624-1629, pp. 299-300; 1630-1633, p. 63. Letterers Received by the East India Company, vol. VI, p. 238; vol. IV, p. 252. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 74, 90. Åin-i Akbar∂, vol. I, pp. 151-6. W"aqiat-i " Mushtaqi, " p. 132; Tavernier, vol. I, p.117; Tashr∂h-ul Aqwam, " fol. 344. English Factories, 1651-1654, p. 9 (1651, Surat and Delhi). English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 341 (1621); The Travels of Peter Mundy, (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 285. On one occasion the muqaddam of camels based in Mandu was arrested for a robbery in a caravan where guards provided by the said muqaddam were involved. When on his return journey from Agra to Surat via Ajmer and Sirohi, etc., he mentions his two camel brokers named Bhola and Ismail Khan, p. 295. English Factories, 1622-1623, pp. 9, 21, 45, 1622, for goods lost in Mandu. One such case is recorded for the year between 1637 and 1640, when a camel (along with camelman) was hired to transport 8,000 rupees from Agra to Banaras for rupees 30 as transport charges. It took 19 days to reach the destination. Manrique, vol. II, p. 248. English Factories, 1624-1629, pp. 112, 176. At least two references speak of the number of camels in two caravan from Gwalior to Surat comprising 176 and 230 camels for the year 1625 and 1627 respectively. Peter Mundy, The Travels of (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 297. English Factories, 1630-1633, pp. 137-9; 1624-1629, p. 271. Also, English Factories, 1630-1633, p. 122 (Surat, 1630); 1618-1621, p. 283; 1651-1654, pp. 52, 112. Saltpetre being quite heavy in rocky form was usually taken on camel backs which covered long routes like Agra to Surat. In March 1628 a caravan comprising 261 camels is described transporting saltpetre and indigo from Gwalior to Surat. Weight of the bales varied. A reference for a bale of sugar confirms the weight being ‘2 maunds and 6½ sers’. The Diary of William Hedges, vol. I, pp. 75, 89. Mundy, The Travels (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 282. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, p. 112; H. Blochmann and Philliot, (tr.), vol. I, p. 156.

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers 459. 460. 461. 462.

463. 464. 465. 466. 467. 468. 469.

470. 471.

472. 473. 474. 475. 476.


English Factories, 1634-1636, p. 13. Mundy, The Travels of Peter Mundy (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 291. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 222 (Agra, 1623). English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 336, 341, 345-6; vol. II, 1622-1623, pp. 45. One such case popularly known as ‘Mandu camelmen’s case’, dragged for a very long period where camelmen identified as a ‘Baloch’ looted the goods of English East India Company and were discovered to be hand in glove with the robbers. Their muqaddam was first arrested and finally they were made to pay English merchants Rs. 2,000 and give ‘an undertaking of Rs.1,900 more’. Travels in India, vol. I, pp. 32, 35-6. Here it is not clear whether he is speaking about the oxen only or of ox-driven carts. Travels in India, p. 36. De Laet, p. 82 India at the Death of Akbar, p.166. Indian Travels, p. 75. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 90. Ibid., p. 28. Information about ‘14 carts laden with 52 bales of goods’, gives an idea of the capacity of a cart. English Factories, 1624-1629, p. 273. H.K. Naqvi, Urbanization and Urban Centres, p. 74. Della Valle, vol. I, Hakluyt, pp. 20-2; Pietro Della Valle, Pietro’s Pilgrimage, pp. 184-5; Jean de Thevenot, Indian Travels, pp. 101-2; English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 179 & n; Banarasi Das, Ardhakath"anaka, pp. 59, 134-6, 225-6, 254. It was generally called chhakra or a light two-wheeled carriage. Fryer, vol. I, Hakluyt, p. 213; also, Hobson Jobson, p. 407. Charles Lockyer, An Account of the Trade in India, p. 259. Friar Domingo Fernandez de Navarrete, Visions of Mughal India, ed., Michael Fisher, p. 192. W"aqiat-i " Mushtaqi, " pp. 2, 93. English Factories, 1618-1621, p.129; 1622-1623, pp. 63, 125, 230-2, 271-2, 277, 287. When Shah Jahan revolted against his father, he forced these adoways to either procure carters or pay some amount for the same. Large numbers of merchants were stranded in eastern Gujarat (around Broach) in 1623 because of the non-availability of carts. The adoways were imprisoned and the carters were afraid of being ‘taken upp for the Princes service’. Peter Mundy, found himself helpless when the chiefs of carters and Jatts started fighting near Sidhpur. The Travels of Peter Mundy, vol. II, p.296; When he was between Sirohi and Jalore, he left his carts


477. 478.




482. 483.

484. 485.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India loaded with goods on his way to Ahmadabad, under the charge of chowdrees, so that he could arrange for money to pay the carters. Subsequently he calls them moccadames. The Travels of Peter Mundy, vol. II, Hakluyt, pp. 285, 301, 286-8. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 115; 1637-1641, p. 192; 1646-1650, p. 233. In 1655, Shah Jahan commanded a vast sum of money to be carried to Delhi, ‘noe lesse than 200 lacke of rupees, and many other things for celebration of his feast of Norose, shortly att hand’. The English Company’s merchants had to inform their fellow merchants in Surat for the delay in transporting goods from Agra to Surat, saying that ‘all carts are taken up for that service. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 299. English Factories, 1622-1623, pp. 92, 95; vol. III (Charles Fawcett), 16781684, pp. 354-5; Mundy, The Travels of Peter Mundy (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 282; Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. IV, p. 252. Friar Domingo Fernandez de Navarrete, cf. Michael Fisher (ed.), Visions of Mughal India, p.195; English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 96 (June 1622); 1665-1667, p. 157, Surat, 1666. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 124. In October 1630 (as October was considered one of the busiest months in coastal region for homeward shipping), English President and Council from Surat sent ‘50 or 60 carts’ to Broach to help fellow merchants bring goods down to the port. Similarly, thirty-two carts were arranged from Ahmadabad and Baroda too, to bring English goods from Broach. Also, English Factories, 16221623, pp. 63, 70; 1630-1633, p. 75. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 287; 1646-1650, pp. 220-1. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. IV, p. 252; Travels of Manrique, vol. II, p. 145. Carts plying between Ahmadabad and Cambay or Ahmadabad and Swally Port, were changed at one or more points, namely Broach, Rander and Surat. English Factories, 1630-1633, p. 23; Manrique hired a cart for a week at Agra in 1640, to make a journey back and forth Bayana where he was to see a particular merchant, vol. II, p. 154. English Factories, 1618-1622, pp. 283-4. English Factories, 1651-1654, p. 114; 1637-1641, pp. 13-14; The Travels of Peter Mundy (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 291. He informs that adowya often accompanied the caravan, procuring carts and camels during the journey if needed, negotiating with custom officials, etc., p. 299. Brokers owned fleet of carts too and offered these on hire, p. 301. English Factories, 1630-1633, p. 74; 1621-1623, p. 63; 1634-1636,

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers

487. 488.

489. 490. 491. 492.


494. 495. 496.

497. 498. 499.


p. 258; Norris Ebassy to Aurangzeb, p. 245. If the q"afila was delayed due to the lengthy process of bargain between the merchants and the toll officials, carters were entitled for extra amount. English Factories, 16221623, p. 284; 1646-1650, p. 140. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 146. Because of inundated rivers, Thevenot could not travel in a cart. Manrique, vol. II, p. 145. Manrique wanted to hire a horse for a journey between Patna and Agra, but was advised against it. English Factories, 1637-1641, p. 256. Fryer, vol. I, Hakluyt, pp. 213-14. The curtains in covered coaches were known as chiq, or ‘a bamboo screen blind’. Also, Hobson Jobson, p.193. De Laet, p. 82. Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories in India, 1624-1627, pp. 359, 361. Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, ed. H.G. Rawlinson, p. 151; Della Valle, vol. I (Hakluyt), p. 185 & n. On enquiry he was told that the race belonged to Balaghat which he found ‘not great but strong limbs, harness’d with a velvet saddle, crupper, head-stall, bridle, stirrups, and all accoutrements of a Horse’. Careri, Indian Travels, p. 216. J. A. Dubois gives a glimpse of the mode of travelling in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century in these words— ‘the Pandarams and Jangamas, priests of Siva, go on horseback or in a palanquin, but their favourite mode of progression is riding on an ox’. Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, Oxford, 1906, 3rd edn., p. 129. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 258. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 146; Moreland, India at the Death of Akbar, p. 166. English Factories, 1646-1650, p.156. Weight laden on an ox or buffalo is not really known. However, a reference gives a clue that two bales could be loaded on an ox ‘433 bales of goods laden on 217 oxen’ approximately. English Factories 1622-1623, pp. 123-4. Also, English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, p. 310. John Fryer, vol. I, p. 97. He also says that horses, ‘which are small and hot mettled’, are ‘. . . put to no such drudgery’, but treated with all kindness. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. IV, pp. 350-1, 354. English Factories, 1624-1629, pp. 235-6; 1637-1641, p. 252; Tavernier, vol. I, p. 33n; M. Azhar Ansari, European Travellers, pp. 38-40. A caravan of banjar " as " comprising 10,000 oxen from Agra to Ahmadabad bringing sugar in Febrary, 1628 reached in March of the same year. English merchants had hired their services to bring their own consignment too. They



501. 502. 503. 504. 505. 506. 507. 508. 509.


511. 512. 513.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India needed ‘necessary funds’ to pay them, and wrote to their President at Surat for the same, that ‘being banjarres, and therefore cannot stay for their monies’ (as they always remained on move). English Factories, 16241629, pp. 235-6, 270. Travels of Peter Mundy (Hakluyt), vol. V, p. 54 & n. Mundy further elaborates—‘att Suratt 18 pice [paisa] is one sear [ser]; 40 sere is 1 maen [man, maund]’. It was in 1635, but in 1655, a ser was recorded equal to 20 dams, and a maund equal to 36-7 lbs. Barbosa,vol. I, p. 141; Åin-i Akbar∂, I, p. 159. A term ghu|r bahal is for such carriages. English Factories, 1622-1623, pp. 261, 309. English Factories., vol. II (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, pp. 288-9. Charles Lockyer, An Account of the Trade in India, pp. 10-11. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 206-7. Manrique writes Quistivones, i.e. kisht∂b"an, vol. II, pp. 227-8 &n.; The Diary of William Hedges, vol. I, 1685, p. 175. W.H. Moreland, India at the Death of Akbar, 167. Manrique, vol. II, p. 226. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 144. Also, Edward Terry, Purchas, vol. IX, p. 33. De Laet put to pen similar observations in his memoir that rich people ride horses or Pallances (palanquin/p"alk∂) resembling litters ‘used by the ancients’ and carried by the porters, p. 82; Friar Domingo Fernandez de Navarrete, 1670, witnessed the same in Golconda. Michael Fisher, Visions of Mughal India, p.192. H.K. Naqvi, Urbanization and Urban Centres, p. 74, opines that p"alk∂s were occasionally used by men but more commonly by women. However, our sources speak differently. We get a fair idea from the European travellers’ accounts that p"alk∂s were equally popular among men and women. Also, Charles Lockyer, An Account of the Trade in India, pp. 26-7. A league was equal to three miles. Ovington, p. 113; Thomas Bowrey, p. 87, says ’40 mile per diem with no great difficulty’; Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 76; Caesar Frederick, Purchas, vol. X, pp. 98-9; The Travel of Peter Mundy (Hakluyt), vol. II, p.189. P"alk∂s carried by twelve ‘peons’, six at a time and the other six taking charge by rotation. The Diary of William Hedges, vol. I, 1685, p.183. Ovington cf. India in the Seventeenth Century, ed. G.P. Guha, p. 113; Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, p. 152. Indian Travels, pp. 159-60. The Travels of Peter Mundy (Hakluyt), vol. II, pp. 189-92; Banarasi Das rode in dol∂s carried by two men only. Banarasi Das, Ardhakath"anaka, p. 256.

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


514. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. I, p. 277; H. Yule, Hobson Jobson, Glossary, p. 336. A rare reference about catele is of the year August 1613. An English merchant on his way from Surat to Agra fell ill on his arrival in the vicinity of Agra. Here he hired a catele for a comfortable journey. Unfortunately, charges for hiring a catele are not mentioned by him. 515. Pietro Della Valle, Travels of Pietro Della Valle (1665 edn.), p. 17. Della Valle witnessed such a p"alk∂ in Surat which was being taken to the bride’s place, and found it unusual; Pietro Della Valle, Travels of (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 192. Della Valle noted that ‘theis but seldom used’, that is only on the occasion of her wedding day. Also, Travels of Della Valle, ed. Edward Grey, vol. I, p. 31. 516. Pietro Della Valle, Travels of Pietro Della Valle (1665 edn.), pp. 90-1. Further details about this carriage called ‘Rete’ are interesting. Della Valle added that it was different than a ‘Palanchini’ (p"alk∂) or the ‘Andor’ as in the case of the last two, litters like beds hung from a cane; while in ‘rete’ it was the net which hung (perhaps like a hammock). Also, a Palanchini differed from the Andor in the sense that in the latter case, the cane upon which the bearers carried it was straight, as was likewise in a rete. But in a Palanchin/p"alk∂ the cane was a bit crooked upward in the shape of a half circle like ∩, for greater ease of the passenger who could have more room to carry his head upright. Canes were bent specially to get this shape when small and tender. Della Valle, minutely observed that good quality canes fit to bear such a weight were not found in the country, that is why they were expensive and dear, sold ‘at a hundred or six score Pardini a piece, which amount to about sixty of our Crowns’, he wrote. All these three types of carriages were covered with leaves of ‘Indian nut’, to save one from rain and sun. Although common people, other than Portuguese, were not allowed to travel in a ‘Palanchino’ (p"alk∂) in and around Goa, but Della Valle found that no one would pay heed to the prohibition. Also, Della Valle, ed. Edward Grey, I, pp. 183-4. 517. Pietro Della Valle, The Travels of (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 192. 518. Caesar Frederick (Purchas), vol. X, pp. 98-9; Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 76; Friar Domingo Fernandez de Navarrete, , cf. Michael Fisher (ed.), Visions of Mughal India, p.195. English Factories, 1637-1641, p. 256 (1640); 1630-1633, p. 142. 519. English Factories, 1637-1641, p. 256 (1640); 1630-1633, p. 142. Tavernier, cf. M. Azhar Ansari, p. 37; Thomas Bowrey, p. 87, says that in Bengal, Englishmen employed Gaules’ as messengers and ‘Cahars’ as p"alk∂ carriers; English Factories (Fawcett), references of 1673; 29 May 1678; and 17 December 1687; English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 283-4;



521. 522. 523. 524. 525. 526.


528. 529. 530.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. VI, p. 223. In Tamil region p"alk∂ carriers were called kaval; Careri, IndianTravels, p. 269. Tavernier, vol. I, pp. 37, 142, 310. Also, M. Azar Ansari, European Travellers in India, p. 37; English Factories (Charles Fawcett) has references for the years 1673, 29 May 1678 and 17 December 1687, that gualas were employed as palanquin bearers. Also, English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 283-4; Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. VI, p. 223. Thevenot and Careri, Indian Travels, pp. 89, 269. Eighteenth-century sources identify p"alk∂ carriers with certain other groups too, like ravani " or kharv"ar in Bihar, duliya" in Bengal, boi or besta in southern India, etc. Buchanan, Journey, vol. I, p. 190. Finest quality chariots with two wheels were also produced there. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 75. Moreland, Relations of Golconda, pp. 19-20. Tavernier, vol. I, p. 38; Thomas Bowrey, p. 87. Tavernier, vol. I, p. 38. English Factories, 1651-1654, pp. 113, 238; Thevenot, Indian Travels, pp.10, 89. The word was also used for a swift sailing vessel. Other variants are pathm"ar, patemari " and phatemar∂. " Mar∂ " in Marathi also used for ‘carrier’. Hobson Jobson, p. 687. Insh"a-i Faizi, p. 218; English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 31; 1651-1654, p.100; 1630-1633, p. 238; 1622-1623, p. 327; 1661-1664, p. 242 & n.; 1665-1667, p. 205; 1646-1650, p. 59; The Diary of William Hedges, vol. I, pp. 53, 55, 57-9; James Forbes, Oriental Memoirs , 1766-1783, vol. I, p. 84. The Diary of William Hedges, vol. I, 1682, pp. 119-20. Banarasi Das, Ardhakath"anaka, pp. 40, 243. Tavernier, vol. I, pp. 233-4. He details his observations in the following words ‘But it should be remarked that in India all the letters which Kings, Generals of Armies, and the Governors of Provinces send by footmen go much faster than by horsemen, the reason being that at every two leagues there are small huts, where two or three runners are posted, and immediately when the carrier of a letter arrives at one of these huts he throws it to the others sitting at the entrance, and one of them takes it up and at once starts to run. It is considered unlucky to give a letter into the hand of the messenger; it is therefore thrown at his feet, and he must lift it up. It is also to be remarked that throughout India the sides of most of the roads are planted with avenues of trees, and where there are no trees planted, at every 500 paces small pieces of stones are fixed, which the inhabitants of

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers

531. 532. 533.


535. 536.

537. 538. 539. 540.


the nearest villages are bound to whiten from time to time, so that the letter carriers can distinguish the road on dark and rainy nights’. Also, M. Azhar Ansari, European Travellers in India, p. 39; Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. IV, pp. 227, 307; vol. V, pp. 221, 281-2. Here letters sent from Isfahan by express messenger and from Shiraz by ordinary service to Surat are referred to. It gives us a clue of exchange of letters between these destinations. Indrani Ray, Of Trade and Traders in Seventeenth Century India, p. 100. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. IV, pp. 227, 307; vol. V, pp. 221, 281-2. In this case from Masulipatam to Balasore. English Factories, 1637-1641, p. 51 (1638); 1618-1621, p. 266n; 1622-1623, p.143 (here letters being carried from Petapolly to Pulicat); 1624-1629, pp. 283-4. In this case a letter carrier had been carrying post from Qasimbazar to Surat and vice versa. English Factories, 1634-1636, p. 294. Streynsham Master, vol. II, p. 289. Ralph Fitch, England’s Pioneer to India and Burma, His Companios and Contemporaries, ed. Horton Ryle, 1899, London, p. 73. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. I, p. 277; vol. II, p. 219; vol. IV, pp. 202, 332; English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 31; 1630-1633, p. 291-2; 1646-1650, pp. 73, 128. Europeans used to send letters through other merchants’ pattamârs frequently. Here is a reference of a letter sent from Agra to Surat by Thomas Kerridge through ‘Khwaja Najam’s peon’ in 1613. Gold or other precious items were, somehow, preferably sent in the company of armed guards. The reason behind such practice could be a messenger’s familiarity with the routes. In one such case, English merchants sent 15 seer of gold from Masulipatam to Petapolly in March 1633 by a return post along with a guard of soldiers. Account books of factories or rolls—dasta, of papers packed in momj"amah or wax-cloth were also dispatched through courier service. Registers ‘ledger’, of all kinds of transactions were regularly maintained in the factories and were to be sent to chief factories to be forwarded to Companies’ headquarters in Europe. Paper for maintaining records was imported from Europe and then distributed among the factors. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 51; vol. IX, p. 295. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 59; 1651-1654, p. 295. Abbé Carre (Hakluyt), vol. I, pp. 273-4. Ovington cf. India in the Seventeenth Century, ed. G.P. Guha, p. 111; Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, ed. H.G. Rawlinson, p. 149.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

541. Abbé Carre (Hakluyt, II Series), vol. I, pp. 273-4. He fell ill at the town of Bijapur. He wanted to send a message to Golconda and also enquired ‘how long will it take to go and return with all speed’ (to and fro Golconda). His attendants replied that it would not take less than twenty-five to twenty-six days. But one of his ‘Christian’ servants assured him to complete the journey in sixteen to eighteen days, ‘provided that he had nothing to carry but himself’. 542. H.D. Love, Vestiges of Old Madras, vol. I, p. 198; Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. II, p. 101; vol. VI, pp. 96-7; Streynsham Master, vol. II, pp. 271-2; English Factories, vol. II (Fawcett), 1670-1677), pp. 356-7. In the last case a letter got delayed because of the imprisonment of a carrier and reached from Surat to Hugli in five months in 1672; Norris Embassy to Aurangzeb, p. 185. Norris sent letters from Masulipatam to Surat, but the return post got delayed because of the detention of the pattam"ar by the roving bands of the Marathas in 1700. 543. Beni Prasad, History of Jahangir, 2nd edn., p. 427. 544. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. II, p.159. Thomas Kerridge when sending a letter in November 1614 to Swally, informed his men there that he was sending the ‘fastest’ man of Surat to them and that they could take the advantage of his services by sending return post. Also, vol. III, p. 197 (20 October 1615); vol. IV, pp. 307, 320. Letter from Surat factory to Thomas Roe in Ajmer in May 1616, sent through express post, reached within sixteen days. An express messenger brought a letter from the English merchants in Isfahan in June 1617, to Surat, giving an idea that such service was available between the two countries as well. Somehow, any reference from India to Persia for the same is lacking. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. V, p. 303; W.H. Moreland ‘Some Sidelights of Life in Agra’, JUPHS (III) I, 1923, pp. 155-6. Generally, distance between Agra and Surat could be covered in forty days, while an ‘express’ courier could perform the same job in twenty-one days, and in forty-two days to and fro; English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 229; 16301633, pp. 13, 79; English Factories, vol. III (Fawcett), 1678-1684, p. 148. François Martin also speaks of the services of ‘express messenger’ in common use (1677). Varadarajan, India in the 17th Century, vol. I, pt. II, p. 593. 545. English Factories, 1651-1654, p. 288; Tavernier, Travels in India, vol. I, p. 233; The Diary of William Hedges, vol. I, p. 59 (1682); Norris Embassy to Aurangzeb, p. 172. 546. English Factories, 1624-1629, p. 190. English from Surat at the time of Jahangir’s death sent a letter to their broker Gurdas in Agra in December 1627, giving news of Khurram’s (Shah Jahan) march towards Agra (from

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


548. 549. 550. 551. 552. 553.


555. 556. 557. 558. 559.

560. 561.

562. 563.


Surat), ‘by the conveyance of Virji Voras vacquell’ (Virji Vora was a famous merchant of Gujarat.) English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 102. A bill of exchange sent from Surat to Ahmadabad could not be delivered on time resulting in trouble for the Englishmen in the town. (It might have caused losses due to the changing rates of remittance on day-to-day basis). English Factories, 1665-1667, pp. 118-19; 1622-1623, p. 312; 16241629, p. 113; 1630-1633, p. 110. James Forbes, Oriental Memoirs, vol. I, p. 84. Tome Pires, The Suma Oriental, vol. I, pp. 39-42, 70. Case of a Brahmin in Ardhakath"anaka. Tavernier, vol. II, pp. 144-5. Charles Dellon, A Voyage to the East Indies, 1668-1679, p. 72. Tavernier observed them doing good job at the ship of the ruler of Golconda, which he himself was travelling on. Vol. II, pp. 144-5, 205. Thevenot and Careri, Indian Travels, p. 88, Identifying s« "udras as foot soldiers, Tavernier is perhaps confused with n"ayaks who were counted among the «s"udras and enrolled as foot soldiers. Ovington cf. India in the Seventeenth Century, ed. G.P. Guha, pp. 170-1; Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, ed. H.G. Rawlinson, pp. 223-4; Della Valle, Travels of, p. 59 (1665 edn). Bernier, p. 207. W"aqiat-i " Musht"aqi, p. 127. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 176-9. Charles Lockyer, An Account of the Trade in India, p. 20. The Travels of Sig. Pietro Della Valle, 1665 edn., p.59; Manucci, vol. III, pp. 35-6; Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 89. In south India they were further divided into four groups—Achivantar (Vethiyar?), Palis, Parias and Alparqueros (?) or shoemakers. Pallis and Parihas were common in Tamil Nadu. Parihars were divided into Pullar or Pulyar and Shakkihiyal. Shakkiliyar is a synonym of Alpaqueros. Toti and Achivantar were same as Vettiar and Pariah. In Malabar shudras « " were known as Polyas living a miserable life and serving as ‘country husbandmen and fishers’. Linschoten, (Purchas), vol. X, p. 272; Manucci, vol. III, pp. 34-7. Mundy, The Travels of Peter Mundy, (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 306. Ovington cf. India in the Seventeenth Century, ed. G.P. Guha, pp. 170-1; Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, ed. H.G. Rawlinson, p. 223. Thevenot, cf. European Travellers, M. Azhar Ansari, pp. 45-6; Indian Travels, p. 88. English Factories, 1665-1667, p. 212.

254 564. 565. 566. 567. 568. 569. 570. 571. 572. 573. 574. 575. 576. 577.

578. 579.


581. 582. 583. 584. 585. 586. 587. 588. 589.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India Ibid., 1668-1669, p. 217. Careri, A Voyage, p. 257. Thomas Bowrey, A Geographical Account, p. 87. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fol. 205-7. John Fryer, cf. M. Azhar Ansari, p. 52. Risley, Peoples of India, p. 136. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fol. 207. Bernier, p. 252. English Factories (Charles Fawcett), vol. I, p. 132. Tavernier, vol. II, p. 92. Ibid., pp. 92-3. Ibid. Tavernier, vol. II, p. 92. Philip Baldaeus, A Description of East India Coast of Malabar and Coromandel, 1672, Amsterdam, English tr. 1703, London, vol. III, p. 648. Caesar Frederick (Purchas), vol. X, p. 105. Ibid., Tavernier says fishing season in the Eastern seas takes place twice a year, ‘the first being in March and April and the second in August and September, and the sale lasts from the month of June till November’. However, he includes the fisheries of Bahrein and Basra in this list of ‘Eastern’ fisheries as well. He also compares the functioning of fishermen of the Persian Gulf and Oman with that of India (of Manar), that the last mentioned ‘do not place any clips on their noses nor cotton in their ears to keep the water entering, as is done in the Persian Gulf ’, vol. II, pp. 92-3. Charles Dellon, A Voyage to the East Indies, p. 38. His name appears differently as Charles Dellon, Gabriel Dellon/Dillon and Claude Dellon in various editions. Caesar Frederick (Purchas), vol. X, p. 105; Nicholas Pimenta, Jesuit Observations of India (Purchas), vol. X, p. 207. John van Linschoten and P.A. Tiele (eds.), vol. II, pp. 134-6. A New Account of East India and Persia, p. 49. Tavernier, vol. II, pp. 88, 91, 93-4. Caesar Frederick, Purchas, vol. X, p. 105; Nicholas Pimenta, Jesuit Observations of India (Purchas), vol. X, p. 207. Tavernier, vol. II, p. 93. Ibid., pp. 92-3. De Laet, p. 24. Indian Travels, 251; Tavernier, vol. II, pp 59- 61. These diamond mines

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers

590. 591.

592. 593. 594. 595. 596. 597. 598. 599. 600. 601. 602. 603. 604. 605.

606. 607.

608. 609.



were for some time held by Mir Jumla, a great noble under the rulers of Golconda and then under Aurangzeb. Bernier says that Mir Jumla had these mines farmed under feigned names. Bernier, pp. 17, 22. He also informs that Shahjahan was quite keen to acquire the Golconda mines. India in the Seventeenth Century, p. 86. Jean de Thevenot, Indian Travels, p.142. De laet informs that diamond mines in Golconda were let out at an annual hire of three lakh pagodas by the rulers on condition that all diamonds found weighing more than ten carats should be brought to his treasury, p. 75. Streynsham Master, vol. II, pp. 174-5. Ibid., pp. 172-3. Tavernier, vol. II, p. 59. Thevenot gives the figure of miners in ‘Carnatic’ being six thousand, Indian Travels, p. 142. Tavernier, II, pp. 62-3. Robert Orme, Hitorical Fragments of the Mogul Empire, p. 445. Tavernier, vol. I, p. 230. Bernier, pp. 243-5; Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 59. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fol. 321. Bernior, Travels in the Mogul Empire, pp. 250-1. Bernier, pp. 251-2. Ibid., p. 250. Manrique, vol. II, p.156 (1640). Pelsaert,‘Remonstrantie’ or Jahangir’s India, tr. W.H. Moreland, pp. 70-2. The Travels of Abbe Carre in India and the Near East, 1672-1674, tr. Lady Fawcett, ed. Charles Fawcett and Richard Burn, 3 vols., Hakluyt Society, 2nd Series, London, 1947-8, vol. I, p. 168. Travels in the Mogul Empire, p. 437; Thomas Bowrey, Countries Round the Bay of Bengal, pp. 192-3. Manrique, vol. II, pp. 186, 188. He was quite surprised that all these things were available at quite a cheap rate and all could ‘fare fully and sumptuously all day for two silver rials’. Somehow things did not come cheap as a rial was almost equal to four to five shillings, and an Indian silver rupee was equal to two shillings and three pence. Hence it would come to around four rupees. Banarasi Das, Ardhakath"anaka, pp. 49, 249. English Factories, 1624-1629, p. 245. Quicksilver and vermilion also was brought from their South-East Asian settlements. Also, pp. 7 n, 128, 346. English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett),1670-1677, pp. 330, 347, 352, 359, 360; The Diary of William Hedges, vol. II, pp. ccxli and 241.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

611. Abul Fazl, Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, p. 48; Blochmann and Philliott (tr.), vol. I, p. 67. 612. J. Stavorinus, Voyages in the East Indies, 3 vols., London, 1778, vol. I, p. 140. 613. Careri, Indian Travels, p. 169; A.I. Chicherov, India: Economic Development, p. 50; Irfan Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India, p. 64. 614. H.K. Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries, pp. 248-9; Khairuddin Lahori, Ibratn"amah, M. Baqar (ed.), Lahore, 1961, vol. I, pp. 40-1; Tavernier, vol. II, p. 23. Some papers on sugar manufacturing related to the year 1882 entitled ‘East India Sugar’, refer to a different method of extracting juice from the sugarcane. ‘It was a large stone about four feet high, firmly fixed in the earth, the top of which was excavated in order to contain seven or eight seers of cane, with a timber attached to it for expressing the juice. A hole at the bottom of container allowed the liquor to run through into the receiving vessel’. Two bullocks were needed to run the mill. H.K. Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries, p. 249. 615. Abdul Qadir Badauni, Muntakhab-ut Taw"arikh, tr. George Ranking, 3 vols., Calcutta, 1898, vol. II, p. 46; Manucci, vol. II, p. 425. 616. Chah"ar Gulshan, p. 96. 617. N.K. Sinha, Economy of Bengal, 2 vols, Calcutta, 1963, vol. I, pp. 217-18. 618. M. Martin, History, Antiquities, Topography and Statiotics of Eastern India, vol. II, p. 552. 619. N.K. Sinha, Economy of Bengal, vol. I, pp. 217-19. 620. Tome Pires, vol. I, p. 72. 621. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fol. 355; Khulasat-ut " Tawarikh, " English tr. J.N. Sarkar, p. 101. 622. R.E. Enthoven, Tribes and Castes of Bombay, rpt. Delhi, 1975, p. 113. 623. Journal of of John Jourdain, p. 162; Akbar N"amah, vol. III, p. 586. 624. English Factories, 1624-1629, p. 25; 1661-1664, pp. 35, 143, 213, 402. In Bengal Shaista Khan established his monopoly in salt trade around 1664. 625. H.K. Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries, pp. 240-2. For rising prices of salt, Naqvi assigns the reason to the political disorder in Punjab, p. 243. Later sources describe in detail the technique of mining salt in Lahore region. That, at the foot of the hill an aperture was dug and it was reached to the depth of the mine with a flight of stairs, enough to let at least three miners to bring up the rocks of salt climbing abreast. Blocks of salt were dug up with the help of a mattock called zaghnol and brought up on shoulders, or pulled up with the help of ropes. These miners were em-

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers

626. 627. 628.

629. 630. 631.



634. 635. 636. 637.

638. 639.


ployed regularly, as there was a great trade in salt. Hence, they were provided shelter nearby. Sujan Rai Bhandari, Khul"asat-ut-Tawarikh, " p. 101; Khairuddin Lahori, Ibrat N"amah, pp. 47-8; Murtaza Husain, Hadiqatul Aq"alim, Newal Kishore, Lucknow, 1879, p. 149. For the last three references, I am indebted to H.K. Naqvi. H.K. Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries, p. 101. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 300-1. Ali Muhammad Khan, Mir"at-i Ahmadi, ed. Nawab Ali, 2 vols. & Supplement, Baroda, 1927-8, 1930, vol. I, p. 260. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 300-1; A.I. Chicherov, India: Economic Development, p. 56; H. Risley, Peoples of India, Delhi, 1969, p. 135; Irfan Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India, p. 66 & n; Ramaswamy, Textiles and Weavers in South India, pp. 36, 240. The word is perhaps of Malay origin and a synonym for kayu-puteh. Tome Pires, vol. I, pp. 43-4 & n. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fol. 342. Fray Sebastian Manrique, Travels of , vol. II, p. 56; Thomas Bowrey, A Geographical Account, pp. 59, 128, 132. Also, Irfan Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India, pp. 45-6. A.I. Chicherov, India: Economic Development, pp. 75-6; H. Risley, Peoples of India, p. 135; English Factories, 1655-1660, p. 292; 1637-1641, p. 136. Gemelli Careri, A Voyage Round the World (translated from original Latin and printed in Awnsham and John Churchill’s A Collection of Voyages and Travels, vol. IV, London, 1704, p. 257. Subsequently Bhand"ar$ûs were employed as ‘militia’ by the English and formed a part of their contingent along with the Portuguese. They were also to carry the Union Jack and blow trumpet before the sherrif. Fryer, vol. I (Hakluyt), p. 171 & n., James Forbes, Oriental Memoirs, vol. I, pp. 195-6. Tome Pires, vol. I, p. 72. English Factories, 1665-1667, p. 49. As a result thirty bhand"ar∂s settled in Bombay in 1669. English Factories, 1668-1669, p. 246 (1669). English Factories, 1630-1633, p. 97 (1630). In 1766 James Forbes, also informs about the duty these distillers, whom he called Collol (kalal " ), paid to the ‘government’. Oriental Memoirs, vol. I, pp. 195-6. English Factories, 1630-1633, p. 97. Abbe Carre (Hakluyt), vol. I, pp. 353-4; Friar Domingo Fernandez de Navarrete, ed. Michael Fisher, Visions of Mughal India, pp. 189, 192, 196. Liquor obtained from palm-tree was called tuba in Manila where


640. 641. 642. 643. 644. 645. 646.

647. 648. 649. 650. 651. 652.

653. 654.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India Navarrete had spent some time before coming to India. Edward Terry too, provides similar details about tapping toddy from palm trees. George Havers, Travels of Sig. Pietro Della Valle & Relations of Sir Thomas Roe, ‘Relations’ compiled by Edward Terry, p. 361. The Travels of Peter Mundy (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 173; De Laet, p. 24. Indian Travels, pp. 24-5. James Forbes, Oriental Memoirs, vol. I, pp. 195-6. Pelsaert, p. 60, 81. W"aqiat-i Mushtaqi, " p. 65. Harihar Das, Norris Embassy to Aurangzeb, p. 161. W. Blunt, Pietro’s Pilgrimage, p. 240; M. Azhar Ansari, European Travellers, p. 109. Edward Terry, Edward Grey tr. & ed., vol. II, p. 22. His translation slightly differs: ‘. . . certain Indian Women of the Town, publick dancers, gave us some pastimes, by dancing to the sound of Drums, Bells and other instruments of their fashion, which were sounded by their Husbands with very great noise, and not without disturbance of my head’. Here instead of ‘Muslim women’ the editor has used the term ‘Indian women’. W.H. Moreland, Relations of Golconda, Anonymous Relations, pp. 71-2. James Forbes, Oriental Memoirs, vol. I, pp. 80-1. Della Valle, Edward Grey (ed.), I, p. 46; W. Blunt, Pietro’s Pilgrimage, pp. 275, 240. Manucci, vol. III, p. 145; W.H. Moreland, Anonymous Relations, p. 72 & n. Moreland, Anonymous Relations (being one of the three Relations of Golconda), p. 72 & n. Friar Domingo Fernandez de Navarrete, cf. Michael Fisher (ed.), Visions of Mughal India, p.196. Navarrete found them all along the way from Madras to Golconda, well dressed and their performance worth seeing and hearing. Varadarajan, India in the 17th Century, vol. I, pt. II, p. 748. Åin-i Akbar∂ (Syed Ahmed Khan, ed.), pp. 142-3; Pietro Della Valle, The Travels of, vol. II, p. 254; Norris Embassy to Auragzeb, pp. 166-7. Norris admires the tactics of male, female and children dancing on rope, performing certain tricks on a 26 yards high bamboo, erected vertically containing a revolving disc. A man, a woman and a child standing one above another and doing tricks and other performances, pleased him so much that he gave them a ‘gratuity of Rs. 50’. Mundy, The Travels of Peter Mundy (Hakluyt), vol. II, pp. 254-5. His details are as follows ‘One takes a a pole of about three yards longe, which

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


hee seteth upright upon his head, holdinge it with its hands, while a boye clambers upto the Topp of it (where is fastened a board half a foot broad) and with his feete stands upon it, when the other, letting goe his hold, daunceth about with him. More than that, the Boy Stood with his head on the said board with his heeles bolt upright in the Ayer, while the other daunceth with him as aforesaid, not once touching the pole with his hands as per this Figure.’ Another feat of similar nature he witnessed elsewhere, which he found strange. This time he saw a dancer sitting with his legs crossed, ‘then poyzeinge himselfe on his hands, he brought upp his body backward very leasurely by degrees without touching the ground till it came over his head, his leggs remaininge in the same posture’, p. 254. He exclusively admired the way Deccanis showed their tricks: ‘There dauncinge is full of Antick Gestures, faces and postures, flinging out their leggs and bestirringe themselves as fast as ever they can, others playinge and singing the while. But the dauncinge wenches doe it with a kinde of grace, turneinge, traceinge and windeinge their bodies, and with it head, Armes and hands, acte many wanton, womanish and some lascivious gestures. Themselves, as all the rest, keepe on singinge and playeinge, without any pause or intermission untill the daunce is ended’. 656. Indian Travels, pp. 109-10. 657. Jahangir’s India, pp. 70-2. This shrine was later demolished by the order of the Emperor. Thevenot, Indian Travels, pp. 59, 109-10; Careri, Indian Travels, p. 168. Careri’s account is again full of interest. He puts to record in his memoir ‘The most wonderful thing was to see a Man who turn’d round upon a Cane, held up by another on his Girdle; and who most amaz’d me was that he who supported the Cane went on without putting his Hands to guide it, and that he was on top of it did not help himself with his Hands neither, and yet the Cane or “Baniboo” was thirty Spans high. At last after giving two skips in the Air he lighted on a very high Beam, fix’d to that purpose; I know not how he could do all this without some supernatural assistance’, p. 168. Friar Navarrete was also mesmerized by their tricks where he suspected the hand of devil in it.When travelling towards Golconda from Madras he noted that: ‘It was also very common to meet with many tumblers that showed tricks of activity. Both men and women would certainly be admired in Europe. Two women, one old and the other young, did such things in a town, as amaz’d us all. One man besides many strange tricks, took a stone betwixt his teeth; his companions threw others up, which he catch’d in his mouth without missing a jot; afterwards he lay’d it upon one eye, and on it receiv’d the other that fell from above, and never miss’d in all the time. Another thing astonished


658. 659. 660.

661. 662.

663. 664. 665. 666. 667. 668. 669. 670. 671. 672. 673.

674. 675.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India us yet more, and we thought the devil had a hand in it. He ty’d a stone, of about a quarter of an hundred weight to a stick, which had another cross it; he alone, laying hold of the stick with one hand, held up the stone in the air, and kept it without the least motion; then he put together eight or ten men, and gave them the stick to hold as he had done, and they could never bear it up tho they put all their strength to it, but the stone bore them all down. We could never find out what art that black us’d to do that we saw with our eyes’. Visions of Mughal India, p. 196. Moreland, Relations of Golconda, pp. 20-1. James Forbes, Oriental Memoirs, vol. I, p. 203. Description is for the year 1771. Åin-i Akbar∂ (Syed Ahmed Khan, ed.), pp. 142-3; Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 138-42; Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 71. Bernier too refers to kanchanis and to him the word signifying ‘the guilded, the blooming’, p. 273. Also E.W. Crooke, Tribes and Castes of North-Western Provinces and Awadh, 4 vols, vol. IV, p. 364. Tome Pires, The Suma Oriental, vol. I, p. 72. Pelsaert wrote ‘There are many classes of dancers, among them Lolonis, who are descended from courtesans who have come from Persia to India, and sing only in Persian; and a second class, domnis who sing in Hindustani and whose songs are considered more beautiful, . . . other classes are named horkenis and hentsins who have varied styles singing and dancing’, p. 81; Della Valle, ed. Edward Grey, vol. I, p. 31. W. Blunt, Pietro’s Pilgrimage, p. 247. Also, Travels of Sig. Pietro Della Valle, London, 1665 (F. Macock & Henry Herringman), p. 48. Thevenot, Indian Travels, pp. 31-3. Ibid. Abbe Carre, vol. I (Hakluyt), pp. 135-6. English Factories, vol. II (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, p. 289. Indian Travels of Thevenot and Careri, p. 170. English Factories, vol. III (Charles Fawcett), 1678-1684, p. 170. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fol. 326. A Voyage to East India (1665 edn.), p. 190. Fryer, vol. I (Hakluyt), pp. 98-9. Friar Domingo Fernandez de Navarrete, cf. Michael Fisher (ed.), Visions of Mughal India, pp.196-7. To his surprise these snakes rolled themselves up in the basket and would not move till they were not stirred by the sound of the trumpet. Manrique, vol. II, p. 240. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fol. 255.

Categories of Artisans, Labourers and other Service Providers


676. Banarasi Das, Ardhakath"anaka, pp. 134-6, 225-6; Tavernier, vol. II, pp. 18-19. 677. A New Account of India and Persia, vol. I , p. 126. 678. Urban Crafts and Craftsmen, p. 54. 679. The Suma Oriental, vol. I, p. 43. 680. English Factories (Charles Fawcett), vol. I, pp. 128, 132, 166. In 1676. The English Company declared its monopoly over soap manufactured in Bombay and a duty of nine percent was imposed on imported soap to discourage merchants from buying it from outside. It was done to meet the expenses of a house built for making soap and the family of the person employed to make it. Extra soap was also sent to Surat. 681. Hamilton elaborates his account on powder made in the form of incense ‘For being all Idolators, and burning Incence before their Images, this Root beaten into fine Powder, and an Incence-pot laid over smoothly with Ashes and a Furrow made in the Ashes, about of a quarter of an Inch broad, and much in Depth, done very artificially into a great Length, the Powder is put into the Furrow, and fired, and it will burn a long Time like a Match, sending forth a fine Smoke, whose Smell is very grateful, the Powder having the good Qualities of maintaining and delaying the Fire’, vol. I, p. 126. 682. English Factories (Charles Fawcett), vol. I, p.132. Because of abundant coconut trees in the coastal areas coir manufacturing was a flourishing industry. 683. Charles Dellon, A Voyage to the East Indies, 1668-1679, p. 71. 684. W"aqiat-i " Mushtaqi, " p. 43. 685. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fol. 303. 686. Thomas Bowery saw many bears in the forests in Bengal and that ‘some they tame in this kingdome’. A Geographical Account of Countries Round the Bay of Bengal 1669-1679, p. 220. 687. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 215-16. 688. Ibid., fol. 269. 689. Ibid., fols. 312-13. 690. Ibid., fol. 315. 691. Ibid., fols. 318-19. 692. W"aqiat-i " Musht"aqi, p. 234. 693. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am is one of the most important works that elaborates upon these groups. 694. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fols. 121-52, 176-298, 300-59; English Factories, 1661-1664, p. 209. English merchants had their own (Indian) butcher inside the factory. Also, English Factories, 1621-1623, p. 108; William


695. 696. 697.

698. 699.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India Finch, Purchas, vol. IV, p. 45; C.R. Wilson, vol. I, p. 236; The Travels of Peter Mundy (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 161. Charles Lockyer, An Account of the Trade in India, p. 27. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 100; Bernier, p. 249; George Havers, Travels of Sig. Pietra Della Valle (1665 edn.), p. 378; Mandelslo’s Travels, p. 30. Tavernier gives a grim picture of those employed to sift indigo. He says that to protect them from the dust entering their mouth and nose ‘they hold a cloth in front of their faces, and take care that all their orifices are well closed, only leaving two small holes in the cloth for the eyes, to see what they are doing. Moreover, both those who sift indigo and the writers of sub-merchants of the Company who watch them sifting, have to drink milk every hour, this being a preservative against the subtlety of the indigo. All these precautions do not prevent those who are occupied for eight or ten days, sifting indigo, from having all that they expectorate coloured blue for some time. I have indeed on more than one occasion observed that if an egg is placed in the morning near one of these sifters, if it is broken in the evening, it is found to be altogether blue inside, so penetrating is the dust of indigo’, vol. II, p. 9. Once the English Company merchants tried to manufacture the dye out of indigo leaves at Ahmadabad by employing hired labour, but it proved to be an expensive affair. English Factories, 1646-1650, pp. 77-8, 189, 202-3. Also, Irfan Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India, pp. 66-7 & n. Travels in India, vol. II, p. 144. Storia do Mogor, vol. III, p. 153.


The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing

FOOD HABITS: A FUNDAMENTAL NEED Though this countrie be esteemed rich, we finde the common inhabitants to be verie needie, and have not means, nor indeed will (being subject to the tyranny of everie officer) to make provision of any store of commodities beforehand, contending rather with what everie daies labour affordeth, which also keepeth low the prizes when there is little usse, and maketh a present dearth and scarcitie upon the least extraordinarie occasion. (Impressions of one of the English factors about Surat and adjoining areas where he sums up the life of an ordinary man in India during the early years of the seventeenth century.)1

Food habits of people vary depending upon different factors, such as social customs, economic means, climatic conditions and nature of crops grown in a given area. All these aspects had a bearing on the life and condition of the people in India during the period of our study. Hence, these need have to be taken into account in the discussion that follows. Social customs and religious laws of a community had a definite role in the dietary habits of people during the period of discussion. Hindus and Muslims have been equally sensitive towards religious sanctions in the matter of consumption of food. Hindus, especially of upper caste, refrained from meat, although, it was not a universal phenomenon. Muslims consumed meat in accordance to the prescription in Muslim law. There are innumerable references in the medieval accounts about this convention, which supports our statement. Careri classified the Hindu society on the lines of food habits, into different groups. He included Hindu valuris (a section of


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

gardeners), kans"ars (copper smiths), gaulis (gw"al"a s or milkman), bat" alas (agriculturist Brahmins), sut" ars (carpenters), band"a rnes (bhand"ar∂ or toddy drawers), bangas"a l∂s (salt merchants), dhob∂s (washermen), kol∂s, m"aris or purabi"as (fishermen), kurm∂s (agriculturists), etc., all in the category of non-eaters of beef. Some of them like banias and brahmins, totally abstained from taking any kind of flesh. Some other groups like valur∂s and dhob∂s, especially those who lived in Gujarat and Konkan region, consumed meat but would not touch pork and beef, despite the fact that they were included in the category of low castes who had the liberty to consume other varieties of meat.2 Climatic conditions too, always have a bearing on food habits of the people. Due to geographical conditions, lack of means of communication and quick transportation, people usually contented themselves with the local products, with certain exceptions.3 Fish and rice formed the staple diet of poor Hindus and Muslims alike, especially of those living in coastal regions. Nevertheless, the economic status of people greatly shapes their food habits. A person having limited means of income could not afford food items involving a cost beyond their capability or income. Here it would be of some interest to know the prices of food grains and other commodities vis-à-vis the wages to get an idea of the purchasing power of the poor, or those who belonged to the lower strata of society.4 It would also enable us to have an idea of food grains and other eatables they were able to afford within the family. The era of a particular ruler is also sometimes identified as a period of affluence and prosperity. A sixteenth century source W"aqi"at-i Musht"aqi refers to the reign of Sikandar Lodi as an age of prosperity. That everything was cheap and people of all classes could afford things they depended on. People were so content that even beggars sitting on the roadside would get enough from passersby.5 Observations and remarks made by the Europeans while visiting India during the seventeenth century and after, prove a good source of information about common people or the poor in terms of food available to them. Apparently these suggest that they (common people) were not able to eat proper and sufficient food. What made them think like that was that the artisans and labourers and other

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing


service providers generally survived on khichr∂—a mixture of rice and gram cooked in water.6 In other words, it can be believed that they did not have much choice in terms of food. In the 1640s, a Dutch traveller Philip Baldaeus, very clearly drawing a line between the poor and the rich as ‘The poorer sort’ and the ‘People of fashion’, makes a note of the former and their possible earnings that could be not more than 4-5 pence a day.7 He noted that they ‘are forc’d to be contented with kitzery (a mixture of Beanflower and Rice) boil’d in Water’.8 A report made by the English Company’s President at Surat factory in 1662, shows that the weavers were often compensated with ‘worme eaten decayed corne’9 in turn of the goods they provided to the investors. Sometimes the labourers and artisans were not able to continue their work for want of food.10 The staple diet of the people living in coastal areas involved in different vocations, was fish and rice, though even this was not regularly available to them. Along the Coromandal coast, Thomas Bowrey noticed that common people could afford to eat only coarse rice. They would cook it in water and sometimes added to it ‘a little dryed fish to relish it’.11 People engaged in pearl-fishing were regularly forced to borrow money on interest so that they could get some food for themselves to eat.12 Hired labourers, who were employed to do odd jobs on ships, were often made to starve. When on board they were not provided cooked food, but were forced to cook for them. But it was seldom different than rice ‘sodden in water with salt Fish among it’.13 Although Charles Lockyer’s observation about lascars (lashkars, Indian sailors) is a bit different where he says that they were easy to maintain as they simply required some ‘Doll’ (d"al, pulses) which was boiled to make kutcheree.14 While working under the nobles and those in high positions, the quality of food available to the servants was also not so agreeable. Labourers and skilled artisans were employed to work in their mansions, usually, by the use of force. After the whole day’s hard work what they received was a little amount of food— just enough to sustain them.15 We also hear that some of the servants and attendants employed in the royal stables were in a habit of stealing food which was meant for the royal elephants.16 Also, description of Pelsaert about the quantity and quality of food


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

available to some of the lower-grade servants is worth noting. He found their condition not much different from that of ‘slaves’. Among them he includes peons, servants, carpenters, cloth painters, embroiderers, carpet makers, weavers, blacksmiths, tailors, masons, builders and other craftsmen. They worked from morning to night, but faced harassment at the hands of their employers. They often faced hardships in getting their emoluments, which were not, by and large, according to the labour put in. Their food was ‘a little khichri made of green pulse, mixed with rice, which is cooked with water . . . and eaten hot with butter . . . which suffices their lean stomach’, lamented Pelsaert in a tone of sheer grief. One of the reasons he ascribes to their wretched condition was the high prices.17 He further added that they were not aware of the taste of meat. In Goa, poor slaves in the service of the Portuguese were supplied only a dish of rice at noon and another at night and nothing else to supplement it.18 Based on such descriptions, modern historians like W.H. Moreland came to the following conclusion: we see the mass of the populations living on the margin- not comfort but of bare subsistence, with no incentive to energy and no possibility of escape, except by emigration in one of the two forms which were then within reach— either flight to some region where for the moment conditions seemed to be more favourable, or surrender of personal freedom in return for a promise for subsistence in some foreign country. Such was the position in years of normal production.19

It is noteworthy that Moreland has chiefly drawn on Pelsaert, Bernier and Tavernier. On this basis, he found that artisans, workers and peasants were generally a suppressed group. Also, that wages given to them were not sufficient to have enough food and clothing. He is partially true. However, in various accounts of merchants and travellers of the seventeenth century, we find information adequate to counter his argument and the myth of abject poverty among these artisans and wage labourers. Jan (John) Van Linschoten, during his visit to Goa and areas around it (1583-9), found that sheep, goats, oxen and cows were cheap there, and available in great abundance. The milk of buffalo and cow was sold in good quantities in the streets. There was an

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing


abundance of butter and cheese in the cities and towns. Many kinds of birds were also sold everywhere at cheap rates. Travellers keenly observed the society and people of the areas they visited in India as well. Linschoten admired the fertile soil of Bengal and wrote about the sheer abundance of food grains produced there.20 Somehow, he showed great sympathy towards Arabs and Abyssinians employed at Portuguese ships and about the quality of food they were made to consume. He wrote of it being of inferior quality and that it was nothing more than rice sodden in water garnished with salt and fish only. Gemelli Careri equally extols the fruitfulness of Bengal where all necessities of life were available in abundance and that the region was populous with craftsmen.21 Manrique’s visit in Bengal in 1640 was also full of surprises. Near Burdwan in the town of Musumabazar, he found all types of merchandise and food items in plenty, especially ‘corn, rice, vegetables, sugarcane, ghi, and many kinds of oil’ and that ‘from each of these articles several vessels [ships] could be loaded’.22 Likewise, When at Rajmahal, he discovered that prices of all commodities including food were low despite the fact that Prince Shah Shuja was encamped there.23 In the early years of the eighteenth century, Alexander Hamilton also testifies that all kinds of provision in Calcutta were cheap. Of Sandiva, he quotes one of his acquaintances to have bought ‘580 Pound Weight of Rice for a Rupee, or Half a Crown, eight Geese for the same Money, and sixty good tame Poultry for the same. . .’.24 Between Pipli and Balasore, he bought twenty one tame swine between 50-80 pounds of weight each for 17 rupees or 45 shillings sterling.25 A letter from Viravasaram on 24 December 1659, from a servant of Company called William Smith to his father categorically lays emphasis on low prices, saying that ‘All sorts of provisions are extreme cheap. The usual rate of beast (cows and calves) is from 5s. to 8s. Goats and sheep in great plenty from 6d. to 10d. apiece; hens 2d’.26 The territory of Orissa also surprised the French traveller Manrique a certain degree who visited Narangor (Narayanpur) in 1640. Although not allowed to stay within the town for being meat eaters, he and his attendants were supplied with ‘rice and ghi, and other food made with milk, at a very low price’.27 His observations about the country between Dacca and


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

Patna are almost similar. Vast tracts not only cultivated with various types of crops, he also noticed ‘immense herds of cows, tame buffaloes, sheep and goats’, but pigs.28 Further, when he travelled between Agra and Lahore in February 1641, for him nothing changed in terms of abundance of food crops and other necessities.29 Even in Bhakkar, what he saw along the river Sind, made him praise the region for its being abundant. He also witnessed geese and ducks in Srinagar (Kashmir) frequenting meadows that were caught and sold by people at cheap rates.30 At Cochin ‘Fifteen or Sixteen full grown Fowls for a Rupee was the current Price, and Hogs from 1 to 2 Rupees a piece, . . . but Beef is not usually so cheap’, wrote Charles Lockyer.31 In 1673, Abbe Carre, recorded the prices of sundry commodities, like of rice being sold ‘3 sols [3d.]’ for five pounds; or, ‘three dozen fowls for an ecu » [4s. 8d.]’ (for almost two rupees). He continues to say that all other items like ‘butter, wheat, vegetables, herbs fruits, fish and other such provisions are to be had in abundance’.32 On the other side, Mandelslo described Gujarat that there was ‘no place in the world where a man might live more deliciously than Ahmadabad’.33 A Dutch visiting Masulipatam in 1603 along with Admiral Steven Van der Hagen, referred to it as a city having great abundance of cattle and butter, much cheaper than Holland. Another Dutch minister who had come to convert people to Christianity in coastal India between the 1640s and 1660s, Philip Baldaeus, noted Cambay as ‘one of the most fruitful Provinces of the Indies, which furnishes the circumjacent places with Corn, Wheat, Rice, Pease, Butter, Oil, and diverse other Provisions’.34 Terry saw the monarchy of Great Mughals ‘very rich and fertile; so much abounding in all necessities for the use of man as that it is able to subsist and flourish of itself, without the least helpe from any neighbour’.35 He elaborates further: The country produces wheat, rice, barley and various other grains, all good and exceedingly cheap. The bread is whiter than made in England but the common people have a coarse grain. . . . The people churn butter which is soft in that hot climate, but otherwise sweet and good. They have a great number of cows, sheep, goats and buffaloes. There is no lack of venison of various kinds, such as red deer, fallow deer, elk and antelope. There is great store of hares, wild and

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing


tame fowl, and abundance of hens, geese, ducks, pigeons, turtle, doves, partriges, peacocks and quails. They have numerous varieties of fish. By reason of this plenty, and because many Indians abstain from eating anything that has life, flesh and fish are to be bought at very easy rates, as if they were not worth valuing.36

It should not be missed from the excerpt that Terry here is citing the case of the peasantry who maintained cattle and butter was usually churned out in their household. Thomas Coryat seemed quite contented at the end of his visit to India when he recorded that he spent a little money during his journey to Agra on ‘meate, drinke and clothes’.37 During the early seventeenth century, observations generally made by the Europeans reveal that in most parts of the Mughal Empire, herbs, milk, butter, cheese and sweetmeats were within the reach of common people.38 Della Valle admired the situation in Gujarat that plenty of rice was grown here which accounts for the cheapness of necessities in the region. Justifying the custom of the rich and influential persons regarding the employment of large number of servants and slaves in their service, he wrote that they did not require anything of significance and could live on rice and little fish ‘which is a common diet here’. About the food habits of the ‘ordinary sort of people’, Della Valle ardently observed that they ‘eat Bread made of a coarse Grain, but both toothsome, and wholesome, and hearty’. Also that, To their Bread they have great abundance of all other good Provision, as of Butter (beating their Cream into a substance like unto a thick Oyle, for in that hot Climate they can never make it hard) which though soft, yet it is very sweet and good. They have cheese likewise in plenty, by reason of their great number of Kine, and Sheep, and Goats. Besides they have. . . . Buffalo, which gives good milk; the flesh of them is like Beef, but neither so toothsome nor wholsom.39

Peter Mundy, who travelled from Surat to Agra and thence to Patna found in the country of Malwa green fields full of corn and ‘gardines aboundinge fruites and hearbes’. He also added that the region supplied grain to many other provinces of India ‘in time of scarcite’. He noticed regions adjacent to Burhanpur, Mughal Sarai, Shahdara and Hasanpur being very well cultivated. Norris on his embassy to the court of Aurangzeb in Deccan, travelled through


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

the region between Surat and Aurangabad and found in Ghats area ‘plenty of corn and sugarcane’ being grown by which the population of the area sustained. A good quantity of jaggery was also prepared there which was generally consumed by the poor strata. He admits that he had never seen a region so abundant in wheat and grain. Further, about Burhanpur he seemed quite surprised for the abundance of grains and fruits grown there which included varieties of grapes, sweet lemons and ‘China apples’.40 The town of Thattah, though ill built, but was ‘well provided with all necessaries, fish and fruite in abundance and incredibly cheap’.41 Hamilton speaks of Thattah, that this country abounds ‘richly in Wheat, Rice and Legumen, and Provendor for Horses and Cattle, and they never know the Misery of Famine’, since the Indus irrigated the large tracts of the province.42 Terry records the wages of professional armed guards being five shillings (equal to a little above two rupees) a month and insists that it ‘is all recompence they doe desire, or expect from their Masters, to provide them with all the necessaries’. At the same time he added that ‘plenty of all Provisions being very great throughout the whole Monarchy, they serve at very low rates’. Relating his statement to the low prices of the necessities, he elaborated that due to the richness of soil ‘fields clothed with very much plenty of Corn of diverse kind, sold there at such low rates, everyone they may there eat bread without scarceness’.43 Evidence are in plenty indicating towards the kind of provisions were available to common and poor in the century under discussion. A common man’s food in Bengal, according to Manrique, was rice cooked with salt, (sometimes) substantiated with milk, butter, fish and some other milk food also. Bernier too, made similar observations about Bengal. He wrote that along with the sufficient quantity of wheat, three or four sorts of vegetables, rice and butter were included in the diet of the common masses. Fowls, geese, and ducks were cheap. Goats and sheep could be purchased easily and at a slightly cheaper rate. About Delhi it is said that here ‘Hindus abstained from meat but the Muhammadans of even lower class could have meat for them’. 44 It strengthens our belief of the cheapness of prices of meat, which could be beef, if not mutton. Hindus included among lower castes had a convention of eating

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing


meat and could enjoy it along with fish, though of inferior quality.45 Bernier found the markets amply supplied with fowls of good quality available at a cheap price, so also the partridges, ducks and hares in abundance. Fryer admired the low prices of beef, mutton and good large fowls.46 Della Valle classifies Hindus on the line of food habits. That Hindus, especially Brahmins do not eat flesh, but ‘others of a larger conscience eat only fish. Others, the most ignoble and largest of all, though they kill not, nevertheless they eat all sort of Animals good for food, except Cows; to kill and eat which, all in general abhor, saying, that the Cow is their mother.’ 47 Moreland believes that apart from De Laet, none of the travellers of the period speaks of khichri as the food of common people in north India.48 He is not correct as De Laet is believed to have borrowed information from his predecessors, especially Pelsaert.49 Pelsaert observed that craftsmen and those drawing low (or lowest) wages usually ate khichri which was prepared by mixing rice with some pulse or peas or beans and taken with ghee or butter. Subsequently Thevenot, who himself has drawn upon his contemporaries to get information about north India, categorically remarks that khichri was ‘the ordinary Food of the poor’ in Ajmer region.50 Subsequently, Fryer counted ‘Cutchery, a sort of pulse and rice mixed together, and boiled in butter’ as one of the principal diets of ‘common people’ in and around Raigad (Konkan), also that it was the food ‘with which they grow fat’. Although most of the people, especially of lesser means, ate simple and ordinary food, but nowhere have we witnessed that it affected their health adversely. A reference from Hamilton’s account of Goa can be cited in support of the argument. He is very critical of the clergy in Goa who lived in mansions and fed on the best food. On the other hand, soldiery, peasants and ‘Handicrafts’ fed on little rice boiled with water and seasoned with ach"ar (pickle) along with salt fish. To his amazement he discovered that ‘This fine spare Diet never loads them with superabundant Flesh on their Bones, and without (outside) the Church, it is rare to find a corpulent Man among them’. 51 An interesting passage from Edward Terry can be reproduced here to support the version of Fryer and Hamilton:


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

The meaner sort of people there (in India) eat Rice boyled with their green Ginger and little Pepper, after they put Butter into it, which is their principal dish, and but seldom eaten by them (?): but their ordinary food is made (not of the flower [flour] of Wheat) but a couarse well-tasted Grain, made up in round broad and thick Cakes, which they bake upon their thin iron plates, . . . which they carry with them, when as they travel from place to place; when they have bak’d those Cakes, they put a little Butter on them: And doubtless the poor people find this a very hearty Food, for they who live most upon it, are as strong as they could be, if they had their diet out of the Kinng’s Kitchen.52

Careri, who visited Pona (or Ponda) in Goa in 1695, observed Cachiari (khichri) being the common food of the people in the area. He somewhat differs from others about the ingredients and says that it was a composition of rice, kidney-beans and lentils ‘pounded and boil’d together’.53 At the close of the seventeenth century, Hamilton too came across the ‘common Food’ in Surat being kitcheree prepared of ‘Doll [d"al ] and Rice being mingled together and boyled’. About embellishing it, he explained ‘They eat it with Butter and Atchar or salt Fish’. To Hamilton, khichri being a staple in Surat was due to the plenty of rice grown there. Some of them relished meat in the form of wild fowls, and he noticed: ‘but those who have a Mind to eat of them, must shoot them’, making it obvious that there was no restriction on shooting fowls or partridges, which were again found in the vicinity of the town in plenty. 54 However, in most of the cases, many types of grains remained beyond their reach, except for jaw"ar, bajra, " " kangni, etc., which were included in the list of low-price food grains in the Åin-i Akbar∂ also. Often, the problem faced by majority of service providers was not the prices, for most of the commodities and food grains were available at affordable rates. The matter of concern was the attitude of authorities, i.e. nobles and officials. Artisans and labourers were exploited at all levels, including when the payment for their services was to be made. It is reported that in the daytime, they chewed beans and things like that to sustain them.55 Preparing khichri was not an expensive or time-consuming affair. Rice and pulses were commonly available and could be cooked easily. This dish was thought about at the same time nourishing, fulfilling and easily digestible in hot climate

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing


like India. 56 About the diet of ‘common people’ at Sironj, a seventeenth-century French official of his native Company, George Roques (1686) made an interesting statement. He noted that, they lived in houses of cob and straw ‘which forms the fodder of the cows that give them milk and butter, which is sustenance of these people’.57 Hindus coming from the high caste families, in most parts of India, did abstain from meat. On the other hand (so-called) low caste Hindus hardly ever hesitated in consuming flesh. However, the majority of them avoided beef for not being approved by their religion and for the utmost reverence shown in general to the cow.58 Meat was quite cheap as Linschoten recorded that the price of a cow or ox was about 1/3 of a rupee during 1583-90. According to one statement about Narsapur and Masulipatam which relates to the year 1610, twenty-three hens could be bought for one rupee and a goat’s price was just four "ann"as.59 Terry noticed that eight hens were sold for one shilling and a hare for one penny only.60 During 1672-81, Fryer found mutton being sold for 3½ pence per pound.61 In the early records of English Factories (1621) it is stated that at Masulipatam 8-10 goats could be purchased for a mere pagoda only. Prices of fish mentioned in various sources appear to be cheap. Of Balasore, Hamilton had a word of praise that a very good quality of fish called Pamplee was sold for two pence a hundred ‘Two of them sufficient to dine a moderate Man’.62 Charles Lockyer also supports others on this issue that price of all sorts of meat, like beef, pork, poultry, venison, wild fowls and other birds, were cheap at Madras.63 Food habits remained bound to what was permitted by the religion and, at the same time, was class specific. Most of the low caste Hindus, though eating various kinds of flesh, generally abstained from beef. Gujarati carpenters could include in their diet only fish and any other form of flesh was considered unlawful. While, on the other hand, a class of carpenters in Konkan avoided beef strictly, but other forms of meat were enjoyed. Kurm∂s (tanners, shoe makers) too had reservation about beef and pork. The same was the case with Hindu washermen and fishermen. Milkmen or gaul"as would not take beef and animals tamed by them. An agriculturist


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

caste of Maharashtra—bhatelas were strictly vegetarian and lived only on herbs. Salt merchants did not take meat of crawfish, shellfish, tamed animals and beef.64 Scavengers, termed as hal"alkhor, were known for their custom of accepting all types of food from different households without any distinction. Tavernier, who out of curiosity wanted to know about the application of the term hal"alkhor, was told that halalkhors " were those who could eat pork and all sorts of meat ‘prohibited or not prohibited’. He was surprised to find that ‘they eat others leavings without considering what Religion or Caste they are of: And that is the reason why those who only speak Persian in the Indies, call them Halalcour; He that takes the liberty to eat what he pleases, or according to others, He eats what he has honestly got’.65 Peter Mundy took pity on these hal"alkhors because of the miserable conditions they were forced to live in. He found that all people considered them base and a condemned lot. They raised swine and ate its meat. Peter Mundy explains the reason for accepting all kinds of flesh by the hal"alkhors, that ‘They eat all manner of Carrion, as horses, Cattell, dogs, Catts that die of themselves, sayeinge other men are cruell in takeinge away the lives of the Creatures, when as [whereas] they eat none but those whome god kills’.66 It suggests that, although, they accepted cooked meat from all those for whom they worked, but when they had to arrange meat for themselves, they only consumed dead animals which they found around. In south India piriawes (Tamil paria/paraiyan)—a caste abhorred by all, consumed dead animals and used the skin to dress themselves, or would make sandals and shoes out of it.67 Along with food, an indigenous variety of liquor was also commonly consumed by the lower strata. In Coromandal, among the ordinary sort, especially cooleys, toddy was very popular. They took it for no other reasons but ‘that it heats them more’, justified Charles Lockyer.68 Charles Dellon was astonished to see in how many ways people could use coconut ‘the poorer sort extract an Oyl of it which they both Eat and Burn in their Lamps. They fatten their Poultry and Hogs with the remnants of which the Oil has been pressed, and so the poor sometimes make Bread of it’. Here a certain type of bean was also consumed only by the ‘poorer

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing


sort’, not good in taste but having a quick growth. In Malabar, he also found that people of all rank, even the ‘meanest peasant’ were fond of betel-leaf.69 Prices given in Åin-i Akbar∂ of wheat and rice show that rice was dearer or more expensive than wheat. While wheat could be obtained for twelve d"ams a maund, prices of rice varied from twenty d"ams to hundred dams " per maund. The lowest wages referred to in Åin are two d"ams per day; hence for a maund of wheat, wages of six days were required.70 In such a case, these travellers are justified in saying that wages were low and price were high, not enough to sustain life of an ordinary unskilled service provider. Other food grains like millet, black gram and barley were cheaper than wheat.71 Pulses were somewhat expensive. In the early years of the seventeenth century, for one rupee 523 lbs wheat could be bought at Narsapur and Masulipatam, or 116-74 lbs rice for the same amount (i.e. one rupee). In 1630, during the days of ongoing famine in the region, price of wheat at Surat was six mahm"udis per maund. At Broach, around 1630-1, one could buy 144-58 lbs maize for a rupee. During the famine of 1630s the prices shot up in Gujarat, but in 1636 again came down and a maund of wheat could be procured for 2½ mahm"udis (or at the rate of one rupee per maund), which again seems very dear. In 1659, a maund of rice could be procured at Maqsudabad (Bengal) for one rupee. Ghee and butter were the other commodities which could be purchased at slightly cheaper rates. At Broach, in 1632, butter was sold for 51/8-7½ mahm"udis per maund, prices of which slightly rose in the second half of the seventeenth century.72 As far as combustible matter is considered, it is observed that the poor sort used fire of ‘dried cowdung’. 73 In the light of these observations made by the various European merchants and travellers, W.H. Moreland who is a pioneer among the scholars of economic history of medieval India, stands to be corrected. Disapproving Moreland’s assumptions, a near contemporary of him, Brij Narain came out with the following formulations: (a) The abundance of food grains and cheapness of all kinds of eatables, suggests that a man even of low income could spend


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

a satisfactory life and could procure enough food for himself and his family. (b) Description of Pelsaert, Tavernier and Bernier should be analysed carefully who stressed upon the plight and subsequent flight of peasants due to oppressions of zam∂nd"ars. Also a comparison of the statements of other European travellers may be made for understanding the actual position.74 Shireen Moosvi’s comparative table of purchasing power of lowest wage-earners at Agra contained in her book for the years 1595 and 1886-95, and related arguments put by her elsewhere suggest that apart from a few commodities, varieties of food grains were within the reach of the lower strata.75 The condition of artisans and labourers in terms of purchasing capacity of food grains and other eatables was not as miserable as has been depicted in some of the accounts and memoirs of the merchants and travellers visiting India in the seventeenth century. Relying upon the analysis of the prices and wages of different professional groups one can safely draw a conclusion that the prices of essential commodities were quite affordable. Common people seemingly drawing meagre salaries could find essential commodities within their reach.76 However, it largely depended upon the availability of employment to people on regular basis. It also depended on the payment or proper wages by the employer which only could make it possible for the service providers to procure essential commodities for their family.77 On the other hand, these travellers and foreign merchants usually speak of cheap prices of all items needed in day-to-day life. One reason could possibly be that for most of them, prices in India seemed quite low as compared to Europe, but as per the Indian standards they could be a little or much higher. Simultaneously, they often speak of low wages paid to artisans and labourers and also about their wretched condition. However, the amount of wages earned by a variety of groups of artificers, labourers and service providers, and prices of commodities recorded in the contemporary sources strengthen the idea that even with such ‘meagre’ amount one could spend a decent life. The only condition remained that wages were paid to them regularly

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing


without deduction and when employment was available on a regular basis too. CLOTHING AND OTHER ACCESSORIES: A BASIC NECESSITY Just like the food habits of people, their manner of clothing also reflects climatic conditions, economic means and social customs of a given area. Since we are chiefly concerned with the clothing pattern of the lower or the poor strata of society, the subject may be studied under the following sections: 1. Servants, labourers and artisans in continuous service of kings and nobles; 2. Workers, artisans, labourers and others doing jobs on irregular basis under the nobles and rulers; 3. Manner of clothing of self-employed artisans, unskilled labourers and service providers; 4. Well-to-do but, apparently, poorly dressed persons. Maids and damsels appointed even on different lower posts, could be seen attired in costly silken garments, while ‘Principal’ women servants at the court were found clad in valuable garments.78 Though some of them were counted among inferior servants, even then they, to maintain the dignity of the employer, were provided with rich clothes in abundance. Some of the damsels maintained clothes in huge numbers.79 Thomas Roe saw the attendants in the train of an ambassador wearing rich and costly clothes. Eunuchs in the houses of the nobles could have fine clothes, often ‘similar in quality to their masters’.80 The situation, however, was not similar everywhere. There were such nobles who would never provide new or better clothes to their household servants. They rather paid them against their services in the form of ‘worn out clothes’.81 Apart from those who used to be in the service of the nobles (in state service), dressing habits largely depended on the nature of the relationship between the employer and the employee. About the slaves maintained by the Portuguese in Goa, reports are contradictory. Wilfrid Blunt, mainly drawing on Tavernier’s description, referring to the clothing


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

pattern of maidservants in the service of the Portuguese, also reiterates that they came out ‘wearing brightly coloured silk blouses and skirts’.82 Linschoten noticed that because of excessive heat in the region, the Portuguese masters and their male and female attendants used to wear linen dresses which they would change every day.83 Contrary to this description, Della Valle wrote that he saw most of the servants and slaves in Goa ‘very ill clad’.84 Careri too, made similar statement about the clothing of slaves and servants in the territory of Goa under the Portuguese.85 Slaves and servants (terms often used interchangeably) at Surat used clothes of white linen ‘which though fine is bought very cheap’, noticed Della Valle.86 He is very specific that ‘all people prefer white linen more or less fine according to the quality of the persons and the convenience they have of spending’.87 References of this nature are innumerable, but here the prime motive is to concentrate more on the way the common people (other than those in the service of the rulers and the ruling classes) used to clad themselves, as the labourer, artisans, workers and other ordinary people form the core of discussion. Common people in Malabar went around only with a small piece of a cloth wrapped around to cover their private parts. Even the kings were seen briefly clad and could be distinguished from the masses only by the ornaments of precious metals worn by them.88 Brahmins too dressed scantily, wearing proper clothes only while going on a visit outside.89 Manucci has set in forth in detail the dresses of labourers and other ordinary men (including soldiers) and women in general. Men’s clothing comprised a piece to bind around their middle to which they attached a fragment of cloth about the size of a napkin to cover the middle part of the body (like a langot). Besides, a sheet-like cloth was used to cover the body, which served in the night as a bed-sheet too. In the words of Manucci most of the men, except covering their private parts, remained naked and would feel free to go anywhere.90 Women used a cloth of cotton, generally red or white, which they wrapped around their girdle like a petticoat. Another piece known as pane or panjam was to be put on head and shoulders and just about cover the waist. Such dresses were used commonly.91

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing


Terry specifically mentions that both men and women preferred white cotton.92 Thevenot in his travelogue gives a hint of the shirts worn that these were partly open or open from top to bottom and were in vogue among all men. These shirts resembled the Persian cab"as (qaba" or a gown-like dress). A kind of coat called arcaluck (arqaliq, a coat of Turkish style with sleeves) was worn by many. Those who could not afford woollen garments wore jackets stuffed with cotton. ‘Cabas’ (qabas " ) were mostly made of cotton which was considered both easy to wear and maintain. He further noticed that Moors (Muslims) distinguished themselves by putting a coif or head attire. Shalw"ar or breeches were also common among them. Those who were of ordinary means could wear clothes of cotton. However, there were people who pretended to be rich and used to come out in silk garments. During winters, people having somewhat better means of income, put on shawls of Kashmir while the poorer ones used a plain cloth as a shawl. Cotton was no doubt preferred by most of them as it was available in varieties ranging from coarse to fine to suit their purchasing capacity.93 There is, however, not a single reference in the accounts of the travellers visiting north India of any sort of woollen garments worn by ordinary persons.94 During the end of the sixteenth century, Linschoten visited western India and was left wondering at the Brahmins. He saw them roaming almost naked—just having a small cloth bound round their waist, despite the fact that they enjoyed the highest status in the society.95 Ralph Fitch, a pioneer among the English visitors to India, while describing the life of the people in Golconda and then Sonargaon, noticed with much bewilderment that both men and women were seen attired only in a little piece of cloth. His astonishment was not without reason as he said that ‘great store of cotton Cloth goeth from hence’, and also that many people out there were rich.96 In Banaras too, people were seen using a small cloth around their waist leaving the other parts of the body naked. They wore quilted caps and gowns in winters.97 Though, in all the towns of Bengal a wide variety of cotton and silk were produced, yet common men were generally seen wearing only those clothes considered necessary to avoid shame in the society, i.e. a small piece of cloth tied round their waist. Even some of the affluent


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

peoples’ dressing style was not much different.98 In Assam, Tavernier saw the majority of the population wearing a piece of calico to cover only those parts of the body ‘which the modesty requires to conceal’.99 For being a dear commodity in the region, Kashmiris could not purchase cotton by far, while they could easily manage to have locally produced woollen gowns and ‘clouts’ without much difficulty. Poverty, however, prevented them from changing clothes frequently.100 In Gujarat cotton, both coarse and fine, was in vogue. It depended upon the income of a man, what he could afford. A long drawer and a white headdress, was in popular usage in both communities.101 The poor in Orissa contended themselves with a lung∂ or a white cloth fastened about their waist.102 An inadvertent observation of Joseph Salbank while moving between Agra and Lahore is worth citing where he says ‘the plebian sort is so poor that the greatest part of them go naked in their whole save their privities, which they cover with a linen coveture’.103 During the century of our study the dresses worn by the masses—Hindus and Muslims both—did not differ much from each other. Most of them lived partially clad, as has been noticed by the merchants, travellers and officials of different European companies. The common attire worn by the Hindus in most parts of India was a dhot∂ or a loincloth coming up to the ankles. Muslims usually preferred payj"a matrousers (also known as iz"ar), with an ordinary shirt and a cap. Turban was not common among all the communities.104 As it required a long fine cloth for tying up as a turban, Thevenot says that it was a costly affair.105 Thevenot gives some details of the dresses of the Hindu women in Agra. He summarizes: The ordinary Smocks of the Indian Idolatrous women reach down only to the middle, as does the Waist-coat of Sattin or Cloath, which they wear over it, because from the Waist down-wards they wrap themselves up in a piece of Cloath or Stuff, that covers them to the feet like Petticoat; and the Cloath is cut in such a manner, that they make one end of it reach upto their Head behind their back.106

A reference from eighteenth century categorically reveals about the dress of ‘inferior castes’ of Hindus that it ‘generally consists of a turban, a short cotton vest and drawers; but some wear only a turban and a cloth round the waist’.107

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing


Stockings and gloves could hardly be seen anywhere because of excessive heat. While the affluent people could wear shoes, the poor moved without them. Both men and women, depending upon their financial status wore ornaments. While the rich could have these made of gold and diamonds, the poor contented themselves with ornaments of copper, silver or other not so precious metals, as Ovington says that the women that carry the water about the streets, will not walk abroad without these ornaments (like rings in toes, chackles of gold, silver or other metal upon the ankles, etc). The meanest female in Surat is not wholly destitute of ornaments upon her body, though she be able to spend no more than two or three pice a day.108

Before him Edward Terry had recorded about the difference in quality of ornaments of the rich and the poor, and that while the rich would wear these made of gold and embedded with precious stones or pearls, ‘those of poorer sort, made of brass, or iron kept bright [polished?]’.109 James Forbes noted that those of ‘inferior caste’ among the Hindus, ‘although the poorest of them usually contrive to purchase a silver bangle, a bracelet, for the arm’ testifying to their fondness for ornaments. Also that women were always found ‘overloaded with jewellery’, and ‘even of the lowest families, who have not some jewel at their wedding’.110 It speaks of an ageold and strong tradition among Indians as ornaments were given to brides to retain as assets. As is well known, India had no rival in terms of the magnitude of production of cotton textiles in the past many centuries. Cotton textiles of India have been one of the most sought after commodities all over the world. It was made here fine and coarse both. Prices differed according to its quality, and generally the coarse variety was cheap. Bengal, Gujarat, Golconda were the provinces where cotton and silk textile industries employed quite a large number of population. Cities like Agra, Patna, Banaras, Lahore, Multan could provide thousands of bales of all kinds of cloths annually for foreign merchants and also for local consumption. Geographically, India being a tropical country, winter lasts for the most for three months in north India, Kashmir and other hilly regions being an exception. Thus, common people could spend


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

the months of spring and summer with a few cotton clothes on. In winters they used quilted jackets, because woolen garments were beyond their reach. Cotton was most suitable for Indian weather as it can be used throughout the year. Moreover, it was cheap and easily available everywhere in the country due to a flourishing textile industry in cotton goods. This was the reason that all the classes of society preferred cotton clothes, only the variety and quality distinguished them from each other. In the excessive heat or moderate climate of north and south India, people, generally, did not find any harm in wearing concise or light clothes. In northern India, however, they required to arrange quilted waist-coats, gowns and caps to keep themselves warm in winters.111 In south India even kings, nobles and rich persons used to dress scantily due to the hot climate of the region which makes it difficult to wear silk clothes.112 In peculiar situations labourers were forced to wear fewer clothes, as it kept them relaxed while working continuously from morning to evening; or only a loin cloth was forced upon the diamond miners (in Golconda). It was done so that they could not steal any diamond while digging these out. Some of them could be seen strangely clothed, as in the case of snake charmers who wore feathers on their head and little bells around their body and daubed it with different colours, simultaneously wearing nothing except covering their private parts.113 Observations made by the Europeans regarding the dressing sense of people, though interesting, was not always a reflection of their poverty. There were affluent persons who did pretend to be very poor. They concealed their wealth as there were ample chances of plunder at the hands of robbers, unnecessary demands, or confiscation of property by the officials of the state.114 Many merchants and shopkeepers in Surat lived in huts and small houses not displaying their riches for fear of theft, or exactions by the state officials.115 Hindu merchants of Golconda would not display their assets fearing that local authorities looked for a mere excuse to impose heavy taxes.116 Tavernier came across a peculiar situation when he mistook someone for poor and ultimately found him to be very rich, and finally concluded that ‘a person who has a miserable ell of calico about his loins may sometimes have a good

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing


parcel of diamonds concealed’ in his turban or underneath his clothes.117 Contrary to it, street dancers and performers were not counted among the rich, but everywhere, including the Golconda region, they could be seen coming out of their homes to perform ‘well drees’d, and had gold and silver enough about them’.118 Some of the foreign travellers and merchants visiting India from the last decades of the sixteenth and until the early eighteenth century described the clothes worn by all as simple in style and scanty in terms of quantity. They drew their conclusions, especially about the poor strata, without taking much into account the climatic factor and social ethos, which conditioned the manner of living of the poor in the society. Exceptions were always there when many of them being exceptionally poor, could not even afford coarse cloth.119 Last but not the least, varieties of cotton available in the market enabled all to afford according to their means as Robert Orme critically put it- ‘the richest man in the empire affects no other advantage in his dress, but that of linen extremely fine’.120 SHELTER: A PRIMARY NEED Seventeenth-century records and memoirs of foreign travellers portray the houses of poor in India having similar features in terms of their structure, shape and design. ‘The common people live in lowly huts and tiny cottages: hence if a traveller has seen one of these cities, he has seen them all’, said Monserrate.121 These houses were made of mud with low thatched roofs, walled up from all sides, with one single door, without brick flooring or any furniture. They were mostly of similar design and shape. In appearance these huts seemed to the eyes very gloomy and in rainy season proved most uncomfortable. At times, the accounts about the houses of common people suffer from lack of interest in the climatic and social conditions. Ralph Fitch found most of the houses of Patna very simple— made of earth and covered with straw.122 Houses in Sonargaon were almost the same as found in other parts of India, which Fitch described as ‘very little and covered with straw’, and that these ‘have a few mats round about the walls and the doore to keepe out Tigers


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

and the Foxes’.123 Linschoten too, described the lodgings of poor and common people being very small and low, and covered with the toppings of straw.124 About the small town of Sironj (Malwa), a French Company official George Roques specifically differentiated between the houses of merchants and ‘common people’. That while the houses of former ones were of stones and bricks, of the common people these were made of ‘cob and straw’.125 Though the city of Masulipatam was big, with great prospects of employment, and known as a hub of commercial activities, still most of the houses were constructed of loam and thatch. Bagnagar and Hyderabad were the cities where many a merchants, bankers and jewellers lived in houses ‘pretty enough’, but houses of ordinary people were built of earth and thatch. These, usually, were not above ‘two fathom high’, and could be reckoned no more than huts.126 Due to many problems, once the English merchants at Agra sought permission from the President of the Company at Surat, to replace a warehouse of chupper (chhappar or thatched roof ) with a ‘substantial warehouse’, and with a proper terrace. They explained that the thatches were prone to fire and not useful in rains.127 Philip Baldaeus referred to people as ‘the poorer sort’, and their ‘Habitations’ ‘very low and mean, made of Clay, and their Household-stuff sutable to their Houses, for besides a few Vessels of Brasse, and the two Bedsteads where the Man and Wife lie there is nothing to be seen there, they having neither Benches or Chairs, but only Mats to sit upon’.128 John Jourdain, somehow, in his impressions of Agra explained the reason why thatched huts were found in multitude. He opined that being the abode of the King and nearly every one of the nobles, the city was full of ‘faire buildings’, but, to him, the city was not properly planned and all the buildings were scattered. It was due to the houses of the personal servants of the rulers and the nobles that were built around that most part of the city and it seemed to be full of ‘strawe houses’. Similar was the case with other big cities.129 Streynsham Master visited Bengal in the 1680s and commented that mud houses dotted the landscape of the region of Bengal as mud was easily available and ‘dug out of the ground by (reason of) which almost every house hath a holeful of water standing by it, which may be one reason why the country is unwholesome’.130

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing


Thattah differed in one sense from the rest of the country where in place of mud mortar was used, but here also houses were built clustered together which looked like the beehives—hence, giving an unpleasant view. Though, the town of Thattah was well inhabited, but was full of ill built houses of mud supported with poor quality of timber. Otherwise, the town was full of food grains and other eatables.131 The houses adjacent to Burhanpur were in no way better than other places.132 About Burhanpur Tavernier made the same claim but he assigns a reason for the shabby state of houses, that ongoing wars in the region had ruined the country. Between Surat and Aurangabad, Norris found most of the towns, including a newly-built town, having houses of ‘rushes’ and very low in height which resembled huts more than actual houses.133 At Ajmer, mud houses were a common sight. Moreover, during the days of royal camp stationed there, some additional lodgings of thatched roofs with mud walls were also erected for the camp followers along with the tent houses as armymen struggled with the hot climate of Ajmer.134 In Surat even rich people built huts of canes and mats on tops of terraces to cope with the hot summers. Here, the poor lived in a slightly different way, as Ovington found that But the poorer sort, and such as inhabit the outskirts of the city, live much meaner, in houses whose walls are only bamboos at a foot distance, with reeds woven through them and their covering is only ‘Cajon’ or palm—leaves of trees, which gives them the common name as cajan houses.135

Tavernier’s record of dwellings of common sort in Surat goes on similar lines that the ‘houses of private persons are like barns, being constructed of nothing but reeds, covered with cow-dung mixed with clay to fill the inter-stices’.136 Careri describes Surat as one of the wealthiest towns of the Mughal Empire, but said that it ‘was defended by a weak wall, and the streets were narrow and the houses were made of mud’.137 Nander near Surat did not have anything new to offer in terms of houses as entire population of both rich and poor, had houses of the same material—the only difference was that the houses of the poor had a single storey and of the wealthy people being two storeyed.138


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

Peter Mundy who visited the western coast of India, came across the houses of common people being very small, thatched and floors having a wash of cowdung.139 Della Valle (1623-4) has a long passage on the application of cowdung on floors and pavements in the Malabar region. He was told that it was good against plague. Also, people there entertained the belief that pollution resulting from the visits of the ‘foreigners’ (outsiders) to their houses could be done away with it. It was the dominant reason behind this ‘renovation’ of the floor and walls which was done quite frequently, almost every time after the visit of a guest or an outsider. Somehow, it added to the beauty of the place as well as it gave a smooth, uniform, and handsome finish to the surface besides cleanliness, added Della Valle. He noted that no Hindu family ever eats without doing the ritual before every meal. He was surprised to see that the Christians of the region too, observed this custom. But he justifies it saying that it had no religious implication and its purpose was mere cleanliness.140 Pelsaert’s version on the condition of houses of common people is nearly similar, but to him Kashmir differed from the convention where the houses of poor were built with pure wood and ‘the interstices filled with clay’, which gave an elegant look and were ‘fit for citizens rather than peasants’. These were all well ventilated.141 Calicut—a town full of all necessities of life, in seventeenth century was not much different and there too houses of mud and thatches of palm were commonly built.142 At Dacca, houses of ship-builders (carpenters) were, ‘properly speaking only miserable huts made of bamboo and mud’. 143 Domingo Navarrete observed more carefully the condition of the houses of weavers while travelling between Madras and Goa in 1670-1. He found that tamarind trees were regularly planted as ‘the natives make use of their shades to weave their webs in it, sheltered from the sun’. He further added that their houses being small and dark where neither the weaver could see properly, nor had he enough room to install looms, these trees served the best.144 James Forbes in his narrative of a journey undertaken from Bombay to Surat in 1772, witnessed weavers working under the shade of trees like wood-apple (bel ), banian or tamarind groves. His observation is worth quoting: ‘The weavers every morning fix their looms, and

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing


remove them in the evening: they are constructed with the greatest simplicity; it is astonishing how few materials are required to fabricate the most delicate muslin’.145 Some of them did not have a permanent dwelling and people like the tumblers preferred make-shift houses, or ‘barracks made of wicker’ and carried along wherever they went as they had to roam around to find ‘likely people’ to entertain them.146 The condition of the houses of majority of people remained by and large unchanged for generations. Rich persons got mud houses built with thatched roofs over the masonry structure to cope with summers. They used, in the words of Bernier, kas-kanyars (or khus, a fragrant grass) for roofing which was quite expensive.147 Manucci found the poverty-stricken, humble people living in the huts having no furniture or floors used for both sitting and sleeping. He elaborated their huts were ‘constructed of earth and pieces of wood bound together with ropes, without much regard to appearance. These wooden posts served as supporting pillars, and the roof is of thatch.’148 Ovington observed nothing dissimilar as far as the huts and dwellings of ‘meaner sorts’ were concerned, bamboo and reed being the chief building materials in use of the poor. Streynsham Master could not differentiate much between the houses he came across on his way stretched over a vast region from Coromandal to Bengal.149 Ovington, Hamilton, Careri and others ascertained that everything was so similar with these houses throughout the length and breadth of India that leaves one with no option but to make short remarks about those.150 While visiting the Mughal Camp in Deccan in the early years of the eighteenth century, Norris found the plains fertile, but the houses and outer walls of villages were built of mud. The only advantage attached to them was that these were ‘strong enough to withstand any assault’. Even the soldiers of Aurangzeb were forced to live in mud houses because of the prolonged war in the Deccan.151 In Thatta everything—fish, hen, sheep, sugar, rice and furniture was exceedingly cheap, but dwellings were of mud supported by timber. Most of the warehouses of English and Dutch factors were constructed of thatch and mud at places where they were not permitted to build proper warehouses or factories.152


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

So far as furniture inside these houses is concerned, the general picture which emerges from the contemporary records of the seventeenth century (including those of late sixteenth and early eighteenth), is that the houses of poor strata did contain a little or no furniture at all. They usually possessed just a few earthenware to hold water and to cook in. What most of these houses contained (or if any of them had something in the name of furniture) it was ‘two beds—one for man and another for his wife’.153 Otherwise the floor was considered fit for sleeping and sitting both. In the name of bedding they hardly had a sheet of cloth which could suffice in summers, and during winters bitter cold forced them light cowdung fire outside the entrance of the house. At times it had unpleasant consequences ‘because the houses have no fire places or chimneys; the smoke from those fires all over the city (of Agra) is so great that eyes run and throat seems to be choked’, was the remark made by a contemporary.154 About the houses of Hindus, Manucci wrote that they had no furniture and they used to live on floors of pounded earth, plastered with a wash of cow-dung.155 Some of the foreign travellers, however, insist that bedsteads (ch"arpais) " were very common among all—poor and rich alike, which were made of bamboo and cords. Portable beds made of canes, but quite strong, were also in vogue.156 Fans made of leaves of palm and coconut trees were in use among all and sundry.157 Building materials commonly used by the poor and the lower strata comprised mud, branches and leaves of trees, bamboo, canes, palm, straw and grasses of different types. It all depended upon the easy availability of suitable and cheap material in the proximity of a settlement that reflected in its dwellings. Reed was mainly in use in Orissa to build houses and huts.158 In Bengal, and the Ajmer region bamboo served as the chief building material.159 Manucci and Tavernier observed houses at Patna made of palm leaves, thatch,160 or sometimes roofed with tiles.161 In Gujarat houses were mostly built of burnt bricks, tiles (earthen baked), and some of them even had stone foundations.162 At Chaul near Daman, Ralph Fitch noticed the tree called Palmer of which multiple use was made. He admired it a lot in a tone full of exclamation, that it ‘is the profitablest Tree in the World: it doeth always beare fruit, and

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing


doeth yeeld Wine, Oyle, Sugar, Vinegar, Cordes, Coles, of the leaves are made Thatch for the Houses, Sayeles for Ships, Mats to sit or lie on: of the branches they make their Houses, and broomes to sweape, of the Tree wood for Ships’.163 Palm and coconut groves studded the landscape in coastal areas. Branches of palm and coconut were used to construct dwellings by the common people. In Kashmir wood being in abundance, houses were made of wood which looked elegant.164 In Sind, houses were built with poles and covered with a mixture of straw and mud. Floors were daubed with a mixture of cow-dung with straw, more particularly by the Hindus. The description of the houses of ordinary or poor people is almost the same in the seventeenth-century records that they looked alike everywhere—built in an unplanned manner, with narrow and dirty streets and most of these devoid of any aesthetic sense. Building activities of a region or country largely depend upon the following factors: (a) (b) (c) (d)

Geographical conditions; Locally available building material; Economic condition of people; and Specific requirements.

While studying the features of housing of the lower strata in different parts of the Mughal Empire, or in the neighbouring kingdoms during the seventeenth century, it seems that all the above mentioned factors had a strong bearing on their building activities. They made houses keeping in mind the climatic conditions, utilizing the material that was easily available to them. India being a tropical country, houses in most parts were constructed for protection from excessive heat, rain and cold, or moderate weather experienced during various months of the year. No doubt, during the rainy season they faced hardships. Those who lived in coastal areas had all benefits of palm and coconut trees for making thatches (wine, oil, cords, etc., were also obtained from the same source). They could save on various accounts.165 Robert Orme, perhaps, made a wrong calculation about the durability of bamboo houses covered with palm-tree leaves, saying that these last only for six


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

months. May be the palm leaves were changed frequently, for during the season of excessive heat these would dry and become brittle. Abul Fazl specifically mentions that bamboo houses were quite durable.166 Della Valle corroborates Abul Fazl’s views about the durability of bamboo houses.167 Houses having earthen walls, made of mud mingled with straw, stood very strong. Traditionally, roofs were kept low, as mud walls could not be raised high. In case of catching fire these houses ‘could be rebuilt quickly’, as they were set up with cane in place of wood.168 Thomas Roe also noted that these houses could be built without much difficulty, and also in a very short period.169 Edward Terry, speaking in general about the dwellings of the ‘poor and base’, recounts that these were built with earth mingled with straw which stood ‘firm’. He also reasons that although these ‘cottages’ appeared ‘miserably poor, little and base’, but these could be built with ‘little charge’.170 Although Surat was considered one of the richest cities of India with many beautiful houses, but fewer houses were built with lime and mortar which was used in place of stone as no stone was available in and around Surat. Lime, mortar, and bricks were itself expensive there and it was to be supported with timber. Timber was again an item dear in Surat and other parts of Gujarat and large part of it was brought from outside, especially from Daman, laden on boats by sea which involved huge costs. Thevenot gave an estimate of cost incurred on raising an ‘ordinary’ house ‘five or six hundred Livre for Brick, and twice as much for Lime’, and that these houses were meant for the rich only. He clearly differentiates that ‘but those the meaner sort of People live in, are made of Canes, and covered with the branches of Palm trees’.171 In Kashmir wood was easily available and here houses of common people were so beautiful that these could be compared with that of upper strata of society elsewhere.172 In the plains of the country because of hot climate, houses of reeds and canes were considered most suitable. Which is why even rich people, though occasionally, got additional portions in their houses constructed with reed and canes, which they covered with khus (a fragrant but expensive grass) to relax during summers.173 Chambers of reed and khus were added to the premises of a big house or were built on the top of the pucca roofs.174 Edward Terry profusely admired that in cities and villages people grow ‘usually many Faire

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing


Trees among their houses which are a great defence against the violence of the Sonn’.175 Due to the frequent change in the course of River Jhelum, people in Multan used to raise dwellings of wood and grass, which in case of a calamity could be rebuilt easily.176 Cowdung used as a wash over floors and walls not only meant for giving the house a better look but it was also a cheap remedy against diseases like plague,177 and helped in killing fleas ‘which are small, wingless, jumping, blood sucking insects’, justified Terry.178 At the seaports like Swally, sometimes makeshift huts of mud and thatch were raised to accommodate porters and service providers during the season when the ships were loaded and unloaded. These huts were then burnt when the purpose was over and merchants and others would return to their permanent dwellings.179 European merchants, travellers and some ambassadors, who started visiting India more frequently since the last quarter of the sixteenth century for commercial gains, admired time and again, the availability of food grains in huge quantity and animal flesh on cheap rates everywhere. Somehow, they are unanimous in recording the abysmal condition of houses of common and poor people.180 It becomes obvious that common sorts did not spend much on construction of their houses but utilized whatever material was easily available to them without incurring much cost, or more often without any cost. These houses had the advantage of rebuilding and repairing quickly. Aesthetic sense, of course, was (and still is) absent. Adequate information about the quarters in the towns occupied by the artisans and craftsmen in the contemporary sources is missing. Somehow, medieval texts speak of mohall"ahs named after the groups following specific professions occupying them.181 For the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, a chance reference in Hamilton suggests that these groups were pushed to the periphery of the towns. He relates that when the city of Surat needed to be expended at the end of the seventeenth century, ‘large Suburbs were added to the City for the Conveniency of the Mechanicks’ (i.e. craftsmen and others) signifying that they lived in the suburbs.182 Some of the so-called ‘base’ people were subjected to social exclusion, like Polias (or Pooleahs) who were forced to stay at a reasonable distance from the main settlements and towns.183


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

One of the reasons attributed to the miserable condition of mechanics and artificers was the exploitative nature of the state. How the common man survived the exploitation at the hands of the rich, ruling classes or rulers, has been graphically put before the reader in a mid-eighteenth-century English account: While the human race is struggling through such a mighty ills as render its condition fearcely superior to that of the brutes of the field; shall we not expect to find throughout Indostan dreary plains, lands uncultivated, miserable villages thinly interspersed, desolated towns, and the number of inhabitants as such diminished as their miseries appear multiplied. On the contrary, we find a people equaling if not exceeding in numbers the most populous states, such as enjoy the best of governments and the best of laws. Effects of the climate of Indostan seem to counteract, in favour of the human race, the violence to which it is subject from the nature of government. 1. The sun forbids the use of fuel, and renders the want of raiment to the fearcely an inconvenience. 2. The bare earth, with the slightest hut over it, affords a repose without the danger of disease to a people vastly temperate. 3. Production peculiar to the soil of India exceedingly contribute to the ease of various labours: a convenient house may be built in three days, with no other materials than what are furnished by the bamboo and kajan: a boat, with all its appurtenances may be made from the single coconut tree; which at the same time supplies oil, and a nourishment in much request; the ease of producing and manufacturing cotton is evinced by the plenty and price of linen. 4. Health is best preserved in this climate, by the slightest and simplest diet: perhaps it is from this consideration that religion has forbid the use of flesh meats and spirituous liquors amongst the Gentoos. Thus the general want of the other climates become extremely lessened in this. Now if men multiply in proportion to the ease of gaining subsistence, it will no longer be admired that the kingdom of Indostan should, even under the iron sway of despotism, continue populous.184

NOTES 1. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 138 (1619). 2. Gemeli Careri, Indian Travels, p. 256; Edward Terry, Wheeler and Macmillan, p.1. 3. Eatables, except food grains, could hardly be brought from far-off places;

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing


5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17.

18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24.


and if so, much care was to be taken and it involved high cost of transportation. Only kings and nobles could afford delicacies, especially fruits—dry and fresh, from distant places at their own cost. It is not easy to define a ‘poor’ in the context of medieval centuries. In modern times it is possible to draw a line (‘poverty line’) and one can be put above or below it depending upon income of the individuals and prices in the market. For the period of our study, there are innumerable references in the accounts and memoirs of the contemporary European travellers and merchants. They wrote frequently about people who could not afford above the minimum required (keeping in mind the prices), depending upon their daily earnings. Often they would not get remuneration in proportion to the labour put in. They were forced by the rich and the nobles to render services for them on minimum wages. Such people are frequently identified as ‘wretched’ fellows or ‘poor’ people in their accounts. Bernier, p. 228. W"aqiat-i " Mushtaqi, " p. 19. De Laet, pp. 88-9. At this rate the possible income in 6-7 days would be one rupee. Philip Baldaeus, A Description of the East India Coast of Malabar and Coromandel, Amsterdam, 1671, English tr. 1703, vol. III, p. 583. English Factories, 1661-1664, pp. 112-13. English Factories, 1668-1669, p. 94. Thomas Bowrey, Countries Round the Bay of Bengal, p. 97. Tavernier, vol. II, 1622-1623, pp. 92-3. English Factories, 1661-1664, p. 232; Linschoten, Purchas, vol. X, pp. 264-5. An Account of the Trade in India, London, 1711, p. 258. Bernier, pp. 228-9. Manucci, pp. 363-4. Pelsaert, pp. 60-1. For Kashmir he writes that there the rich go poor because of high prices and scarcity of food. Little food was available to the natives, which affected their health. Careri, Indian Travels, p. 188. W.H. Moreland, From Akbar to Aurangzeb, pp. 2-3. Here reference should be from Linschoten. Careri, A Voyage, p. 188. Careri, Indian Travels, pp. 95-6. Manrique, vol. II, p. 118. Ibid., p. 135. Presence of emperor, princes or nobles with their cavalcade generally led to increase in prices in the locality. A New Account of the East Indies, vol. II, pp. 11-12, 25.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

25. Alexander Hamilton, A New Account of the East-Indies, 1688-1723, vol. II, p. 4. Hogs, perhaps, could be had cheap as these were not commonly consumed. 26. William Foster, English Factories, 1655-1660, p. 261. 27. Manrique, vol. II, p. 105. 28. Ibid., p. 123. 29. Ibid., p. 184. 30. Ibid., pp. 233, 283. 31. An Account of Trade in India, London, 1711, pp. 283-4. 32. Travels of Abbe Carre, vol. II, Hakluyt, II series, p. 596. 33. Mandelslo’s Travels, p. 15. 34. A Description of the East India Coast of Malabar and Coromandel, vol. III, p. 565. 35. William Foster (ed.), Early Travels in India, pp. 296-7. 36. J.T. Wheeler and Michael Macmillian, European Travellers in India, Susil Gupta Ltd., Calcutta, 1956, p. 1 37. William Foster (ed.), Early Travels in India, pp. 296-7. 38. Terry, Purchas, vol. IX, p. 45, ‘Hindus would consume no living thing except fish. They generally, abstained from beef, even those who could have swine, like Rajputs’, observed Terry. 39. Edward Grey (ed.), Travels of Pietro Della Valle in India (1623-1624), vol. I, p. 42. Also, Travels of Sig. Pietro Della Valle, London, 1665, (F. Macock and Henry Herringman), pp. 22-3, 359. Here Della Valle is not, perhaps, specifically concerned with poor people in its actual sense when he speaks about the abundance of goats, sheep and buffaloes maintained by ‘ordinary people’. About Goa he records that slaves maintained by the Portuguese did not have anything but rice and a little fish for their ‘diet’. Edward Grey (ed.), Travels of Pietro Della Valle, vol. I, p. 42. 40. Norris Embassy to Aurangzeb, pp. 236, 241, 245; Brij Narain, Indian Economic Life: Past and Present, p. 8. 41. English Factories, 1634-1636, p. 124; Hamilton, vol. I, p.125. 42. Hamilton, vol. I, p.125. 43. George Havers (ed.), Travels in East India, London, 1665, pp. 396-7. 44. Bernier, pp. 248-9, 438. 45. Manucci, vol. III, pp. 41-3. 46. Bernier, p. 252; John Fryer, A New Account of the East India and Persia, vol. I, p. 95. 47. Della Valle, p. 45, 1665 edition. 48. Moreland, India at the Death of Akbar, p. 271. 49. S.N. Sen, Indian Travels of Thevenot and Careri, Introduction, p. xivn. 50. Indian Travels, p. 73.

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65.

66. 67. 68.

69. 70.



Hamilton, vol. I, p. 249. George Havers, Travels in East India, London, 1666, p. 409. Careri, Indian Travels, p. 208. Hamilton, A New Account of the East Indias, vol. I, p. 161. Pelsaert, pp. 48, 60-1; Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 73; De Laet, pp. 88-9. Akbar was very fond of khichri. However, it differed from the ordinary khichri as it was garnished with dry fruits and a lot of butter. Ruquia Husain, Textile Industry at Sironj in the Seventeenth Century: A French Report, PIHC, 1995, p. 393. Bernier, pp. 248-9; Manucci, vol. III, pp. 41-3. Brij Narain, Indian Economic Life, pp. 2-5. William Foster (ed.), Early Travels in India, pp. 296-7. A New Account of East Indies and Persia, vol. I, p. 95. Hamilton, A New Account of the East Indias, vol. I, p. 393. An Account of the Trade in India, p. 12. Careri, A Voyage, pp. 256-7. Tavernier, vol. II, pp. 145-6; Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 89. He recollects the story behind the application of the word hal"alkhor or ‘halalcour that . . . heretofore the Halalcour were called “Haramcour”, eaters of prohibited Meats: (But that a king one day hearing his Courtiers Tear them, because of their nasty Trade, said to them, since these people gain their Bread better than you, who are lazy lubbards, their name of Haramcour ought to be given to you and to them that of Halalcour) and that they have retained the name’. The Travels of Peter Mundy (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 306. W.H. Moreland, Relations of Golconda, Relations of William Methwold, 1625, p. 19. An Account of the Trade in India, London, 1711, p. 12. Englishmen in Madras used it for a very different purpose, i.e. ‘to raise their Bread with it instead of Yeast’, p. 267. A Voyage to the East Indies, 1668-1679, pp. 64, 69-70. As a unit of weight, maund or man of seventeenth century has been described differently. While Akbari maund weighed 50 lbs, a Jahangiri maund has been equated with 54 English lbs, A Shahjahani maund is described (1636-40) being equal to 74 lbs. For Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb’s reign the maund has also been taken equal to 35.5 lbs. English Factories, 16301633, p. 328; W.H. Moreland, Some Sidelights, pp. 158-9; Bernier, p. 17. Elsewhere its estimated to be equal to 33 lbs; 32.5 lbs; 32 lbs; 30 lbs; 25 lbs; ‘cutcha’ or small maund of 27 lbs and ‘pucka’ or great maund of 33.5 lbs, etc. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 73-4, 262; 1634-1636, p. 83; Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. I, pp. 33-4. Black gram eight d"ams; barley eight dams; " millet six dams; " peas (mushang)


72. 73. 74. 75.

76. 77.

78. 79. 80. 81. 82. 83. 84. 85. 86.

87. 88. 89. 90. 91. 92. 93.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India seven dams; " and juwari " (a kind of millet) ten dams " per maund. Abul Fazl, Åin, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, pp. 45-6; Blochmann and Phillott (tr.), vol. I, pp. 65-6, 235-6. See appendix for prices. Ovington, A Voyage to Surat, p. 183. Brij Narain, Indian Economic Life, Past and Present, pp. 27-49. Shireen Moosvi has given statistical details in her chapter on ‘Prices and Wages’ regarding Akbar’s period, of which some information about low paid artisans and servants is quite useful for the present study. The Economy of the Mughal Empire, pp. 322-48. Also, for similar discussion see The Cambridge Economic History, vol. I, pp. 463-5. See the appendices of prices attached at the end; and subsequent chapter on wages. These merchants and travellers observed very often that nobles and rich people usually did not pay wages to the labourers and artisans in proportion to their labour or work done. The poor fellows depended upon the goodwill of the (influential) master or the employer. Manrique, vol. II, pp. 215-19; Manucci, vol. II, pp. 336-8. Terry, Purchas, vol. IV, p. 53. Pelsaert, European Travellers (M. Azhar Ansari), p. 129; Nicholas Withington, Purchas, vol. IV, p. 267. Pelsaert, pp. 62-3. Wilfrid Blunt (ed.), Pietro’s Pilgrimage, p. 260. Linschoten, Purchas, vol. X, p. 233. Della Valle, Travells of, ed. Edward Grey, vol. I, p. 157. Careri, Indian Travels, p. 188. Della Valle, Travels of, ed. Edward Grey, vol. I, p. 42. At Goa he saw the natives serving as ‘slaves’ under the Portuguese quite ill clad and, to him, they were a disparagement to the city. Also M. Azhar Ansari, European Travellers, p. 12. Moreland treats the term slave and servant at par saying that ‘functions assigned to the two classes were to a great extent interchangeable’. India at the Death of Akbar, p. 87. Della Valle, Travels of, ed. Edward Grey, vol. I, pp. 42-3. Also, M.A. Ansari, European Travellers, p. 108. Tavernier, vol. I, p. 197. Linschoten, Purchas, vol. X, p. 256. Manucci, vol. III, pp. 39-40; William Finch, Purchas, vol. IV, p. 2. Manucci, vol. III, p. 40. Terry, Purchas, vol. X. p. 30. Thevenot, Indian Travels, pp. 50-1. He adds that while alone, one could

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing

94. 95. 96. 97. 98. 99. 100. 101. 102. 103.

104. 105. 106. 107. 108.

109. 110. 111. 112.



open the ‘qaba" to take fresh air’. During winters, qabas " were worn under arqaliq, otherwise over a shirt. For qab"as white cotton, printed cloth or white silk with streaks of several colours was used. Girdles were used in the manner of Persians. Moreland, India at the Death of Akbar, pp. 176, 276. Linschoten, Purchas, vol. X, p. 256. Fitch, Purchas, vol. X, pp. 172, 184-5. Ibid., pp. 178-9. Fitch, Purchas, vol. V, 181. Tavernier, vol. II, p. 223. Pelsaert, pp. 34-5. Della Valle (M. Azhar Ansari), p. 105. Thomas Bowrey, Countries, p. 208. Moreland, India at the Death of Akbar, p. 276. Word linen is used throughout as a synonym, although actual linen was made of flax which was not found in India. Moreland thinks that it was not so common then as it was in the last (i.e. nineteenth century). India at the Death of Akbar, p. 276. Indian Travels, p. 52. Indian Travels, p. 53; Abul Fazl, Åin-i Akbar∂, vol. II (tr. Jarret and Sarkari, pp. 134, 138. Abul Fazl’s description is of Bengal and Orissa. James Forbes, Oriental Memoirs, vol. I, p. 71. Ovington, pp. 142-3. In Orissa the men wore ‘Brase Sheckles upon the Armes and Legges, and great Brasse Ringes upon their Tows. Many of them have Shackles on their Armes made of Chonke (Shankh or conchshell)’. Thomas Bowrey, p. 208. Friar Domingo Fernandez Navarrete, in Visions of Mughal India, ed. Michael Fisher, p.196. A Voyage to East India (1665 edn.), p. 204. Oriental Memoirs, vol. I, p. 71. Ralph Fitch, Purchas, vol. X, pp. 172, 176, 178-9. Della Valle, Travels of, vol. II, pp. 360, 379-80; Pietro’s Pilgrimage, p. 281. Tavernier saw a king of Malabar (?) wearing little clothes ‘like the least of his subjects, save that he wears some gold ornaments in his ears’, vol. I, p. 197; Because of summers in Surat ‘men can not well endure clothes, not so much as a shirt’. Edward Heynes, Purchas, vol. IV, p. 551; In Masulipatam, though, the boatmen used gold rings in their ears, their dresses were confined to ‘nothing but a clout girt about the middle with a sash’, Fryer, European Travellers (M. Azhar Ansari), p. 47. Friar Domingo Fernandez Navarrete, cf. Visions of Mughal India, ed. Michael Fisher, p. 196.

298 114. 115. 116. 117. 118. 119. 120. 121. 122. 123. 124. 125. 126. 127. 128. 129. 130. 131. 132. 133. 134. 135. 136. 137. 138. 139.

140. 141. 142.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India Thomas Bowrey, p. 127. Here he cites the case of Gingalee. Fryer (M. Azhar Ansari), p. 47. Norris, Embassy, pp. 149, 157-8. Travels in India, vol. II, p. 50. Friar Domingo Fernandez Navarrete, cf. Michael Fisher (ed.), Visions of Mughal India, p. 196. Abul Fazl, Åin, vol. II, pp. 134, 138. Historical Fragments of the Mogul Empire, p. 410. Monserrate, p. 219. Fitch, Purchas, vol. X, p. 180; Tavernier, vol. I, p. 100. Fitch, Purchas, vol. X, pp. 184-5. Linschoten, Purchas, vol. X, pp. 247-8. Ruquia Husain, Textile Industry at Sironj in the Seventeenth Century: A French Report, PIHC, 1995, p. 393. Thevenot, Indian Travels, pp. 131-2, 135; Tavernier, vol. I, p. 141. English Factories, 1624-1629, p. 204 (1628). A Description of the East India Coast of Malabar and Coromandel, vol. III, p. 583. John Jourdain, pp. 162-3, 197; Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 60. Diaries, vol. II, pp. 92-3. Nicholas Withington, Purchas, vol. IV, p. 169; English Factories, vol. V (1634-1636), p. 124 (1635). Thomas Roe, Purchas, vol. IV, p. 323. Tavernier, vol. I, p. 42; Norris Embassy to Aurangzeb, pp. 236, 244 Thomas Roe, Purchas, vol. IV, p. 440, 443. Ovington, p. 95; Edward Hynes, Purchas, vol. IV, p. 551. Tavernier, vol. I, p. 6; also Thomas Roe, Purchas, vol. IV, p. 439. Careri, Indian Travels, p. 27. Tavernier, vol. I, pp. 50-1. Peter Mundy, Travels of, vol. III, pt. I, p. 98; The Travels of Peter Mundy Europe and Asia, Hakluyt Society, II Series, vol. II, no. 35, pp. xxii, 44-5. He makes a difference between the houses of ‘common sort’ and ‘better ones’, and says that while the formers’ houses were ‘litle and lowe with mudd walls’, the latter’s were few but made of ‘Stone with Galleries on the outside like the Balconies in Spaine, with Chowterees, which are open roomes, where they sitt and dispatch their business’. Travels of Sig. Pietro Della Valle, London, 1665 (F. Macock & Henry Herringman), pp. 43, 112-13. Pelsaert, Jahangir’s India, pp. 34, 61. Della Valle, Travels of, vol. II, p. 30. Same was the situation at the towns of

The Basic Needs: Food, Clothing and Housing

143. 144. 145. 146. 147. 148. 149.


151. 152. 153. 154. 155. 156. 157. 158. 159. 160. 161. 162. 163. 164. 165. 166. 167. 168.


‘Mellwillee’ and ‘Raizpent’ having diamond mines in Golconda ‘people were well clad but houses of thatches’. Streynsham Master, vol. II, pp. 174-5. Tavernier, vol. I, p. 105. Visions of Mughal India, ed. Michael H. Fisher, p. 190. Oriental Memoirs (1766-1783), vol. I, p. 270. Ibid., p. 196. Bernier, pp. 227, 246-7. Storia do Mogor, vol. III, pp. 40-1, De Laet, pp. 88-9. Diaries, vol. II, pp. 92-3, 174-5. Abul Fazl tells us that in Bengal a house made of bamboo sticks could cost as much as rupees four thousand, which is quite a fabulous sum. However, it was only meant for the rich and not for poor. Åin-i Akbar∂, vol. II, ed. Jarret and Sarkar, p. 134. Careri about the houses at Daman said that they were all same—mud walls covered with palm trees and the town having ill-contrived streets. In Ahmedabad he was rather astonished to see that it was the richest town of India and not inferior to Venice in terms of trade, but, in his opinion, most of the ‘houses are low and made of Mud and Bamboo; and the streets Narrow, Crooked and full of Dirt’. The whole of Konkan presented the same picture. Careri, Indian Travels, pp. 158-9, 163-4. Norris Embassy, pp. 114, 235, 242-3, 246, 249, 251, 255. English Factories, 1634-1636, p. 124; Streynsham Master, vol. II, p. 134. Pelsaert, p. 61; De Laet, pp. 88-9. Pelsaert, p. 61. Storia do Mogor, vol. III, pp. 40-1. Pelsaert, p. 61; Fryer, A New Account, p. 126; Mandelslo, Travels, p. 27; De Laet, p. 273; Careri, A Voyage , p. 168; Bernier, p. 353. Manucci, vol. III, p. 187. Abul Fazl, Åin, Jarret and Sarkar (tr. & ed.), vol. II, p. 138; Thevenot, pp. 23, 49. Abul Fazl, Åin, Jarret and Sarkar (tr. & ed.), vol. II, p. 134. Tavernier, vol. I, pp. 86, 100. Abul Fazl, Åin, Jarret and Sarkar (tr. & ed.), vol. II, p. 164. Ibid., p. 246. Purchas, vol. X, p. 170. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 100. Fitch, Purchas, vol. X, p. 170. Åin, vol. II, Jarret and Sarkar (tr. & ed.), p. 134. The Travels of, vol. II, pp. 230- 1. Terry (M. Azhar Ansari), p. 90.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

169. Purchas, vol. IV, p. 440. 170. Travels in East India, Edward Havers (ed.) (1665), Purchas, vol. IV, p. 400. 171. Indian Travels, pp. 22-3. He further adds that the houses (of the rich) were ‘covered with (baked) Tiles made half round, and half an Inch thick, but ill burnt; so that they still look white when they are used, and do not last; and it is the reason the Bricklayers lay them double, and make them to keep whole. Canes which they call Bambous serve for Laths to fasten the tiles to; and Carpenters work which support all this, is only made of pieces of round Timber: such Houses as these are for the Rich’. 172. Pelsaert, p. 34. 173. Bernier, p. 247. 174. Heynes, Purchas, vol. IV, p. 440. 175. Terry, Purchas, vol. IX, pp. 21-2. 176. Linschoten, Purchas, vol. X, pp. 247-8. 177. Roe, Purchas, vol. IV, p. 440; Della Valle, Travels of, vol. II, pp. 230-1. 178. Terry (M. Azhar Ansari), p. 90. 179. Caesar Frederick, Purchas, vol. X, pp.113-14. 180. Careri, Indian Travels, p. 179; English Factories, 1634-1636, p. 124; Norris Embassy, pp. 235, 242-3, 251. 181. For the Sultanate period, one glaring example is of Daulatabad where quarters were marked for the followers of different professions. They mainly occupied the outer areas of the planned fort city. 182. Hamilton, vol. I, p. 145. 183. Forbes, Oriental Memoirs (1766-1783), vol. I, pp. 394-7. These relations are of the region of Travancore. 184. Orme, Historical Fragments of the Mogul Empire, pp. 407-8.


Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


‘A simple Servant who is not an officer, commonly in the best houses, between wages, victuals and clothing, stands not in more than three Rupia a moneth, amounting to about the value of a Venetian Zeccine.’1 The argument of Tapan Raychaudhuri that ‘wage employment was by and large confined to the European companies’ has been disapproved in the subsequent writings.2 For the period of our study wage labour existed in all sectors—industrial, agricultural and service sector. Here, as has been mentioned earlier agricultural sector has not been included in the scheme of discussion. For a proper analysis of earnings and conditions of life of the low-income groups of society, consisting of skilled and semi-skilled labourers and artisans, it seems crucial to give a brief account of the rates of wages prevailing during the reign of Akbar, or at the end of the sixteenth century, as indicated in the Åin-i Akbar∂. 3 This account of Abul Fazl will constitute the base of assessment of changes and variables that overtook the general pattern of wages and economic standards of wage earners and low paid servants in the seventeenth century. The rates of wages in the Åin-i Akbar∂ are mentioned in terms of d"ams and j∂tals. Abul Fazl about the ratio between the (copper) d"am(s) and a (silver) rupee, categorically says that rupee was ‘always counted at 40 dâms in salaries’.4 He further adds in a different context that ‘in all payments . . . , dams are taken, not rupees, so that there is no possibility of fluctuation’.5 Wages are mentioned as


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

wajh or ulufa.6 The workers and labourers were divided into three categories and their wages are mentioned separately. In the imperial household salaries were paid either monthly, daily or according to the work done on particular days. Wages paid to different categories of workers and labourers (skilled and unskilled) mentioned in the Åin-i Akbar∂ are as follows: Gilk"ar (worker in lime; plasterers), received remuneration according the quality of work done. Workers of first category/group received— 7 d"ams; second category/group—6 dams; " and third category/class, 5 d"ams a day. Sangtar"ash (stone cutters or stone masons): A tracer was given 6 d"ams for each gaz (yard) and the one who did plain work received 5 d"ams per gaz. A labourer employed in quarries was entitled for every man (maund) of stone he broke—22 j[∂tals]. Najj"ar/durogar or carpenter: The five categories of carpenters were paid 7 d"ams, 6 dams, " 4 dams, " 3 dams, " and 2 dams, " respectively. Carpenters who did plain work were given 1 d"am and 17 j∂tals, 1 d"am and 6 j∂tals, and the third category received only 21 jitals, respectively for working on one gaz of wood. Pinjras"az (lattice worker and wicker worker) were paid according to skill and nature of work. In the words of Abul Fazl: ‘First, when the pieces are joined (fastened with the strings), and the interstices be dodecagonal, 24 d"ams for every square gaz; when the interstices form twelve circles, 22 d"ams; when hexagonal, 18 dams, " when ja’fari [rhombus-like, one diagonal being vertical, the other horizontal] 16 d"ams; when shatranji [or squere fields, as on a chess board], 12 d"ams for every square gaz’. There was another style of lattice work when strings were not fastened but intricately woven. For the first class of work one was paid 48 d"ams per gaz, while for second class rate of payment was 40 d"ams. Årrahkash (sawyers), received wages on the basis of work done on a square gaz of wood. Their wages are recorded as 2½ d"ams, and 2 d"ams per day, or according to the quality of the work. Bild"ar (bricklayer) were paid 3½ or 3 dams " daily. For making walls with battlements, the bricklayers were given 4 d"ams per gaz; for laying foundations—2½ d"a ms; for all other kinds of walls 2 d"ams; for digging ½ d"am per gaz were the rates of payment.

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


Ch"ah-kan (well diggers), received 1½ to 2 dams " per gaz. Ghota-khor (divers, who cleaned wells), were remunerated differently for winter and summer seasons. In winters they were paid 4 d"ams per diem; and in summers season 3 dams " per diem. If they cleaned up to a depth of 1 gaz, they were given two rupees. Khisht-tar"ash (tile makers), were paid 8 dams " for hundred moulds, which were to be smoothened at the same time. Surkh∂-kob (pounders of old bricks) were given 1½ d"ams for a heap of 8 mans. T"abdan-tarash, " " or glasscutters received 100 dams " per gaz. B"ans-tarash, " or bamboo cutters were paid 2 dams " per diem. Chhappar-band, or thatcher, got 3 d"ams per diem or 24 d. for 100 gaz. Patal-band (same as thatcher), received 1 d"am for thatching a piece of 4 gaz. Lakh∂ra, or varnisher’s wages were fixed at the rate of 2 d"ams per diem. Åb-kash, or water carrier, were categorized according to the nature of their services. The first and the second category of "ab-kash were given 3 d" ams per diem while those of third category received 2 d"ams per day. Those water carriers who helped in construction of buildings were paid 2 d"ams per diem.7 Wages for different people serving in the household, stables and helping during the march of the army were also decided in terms of the category they belonged to. Payment to different sets of servants within the same category often differed substantially. It should also be kept in mind that wages of all kinds of servants have not been mentioned in the Åin. Somehow, these provide a clue to the structure of wages paid to lower rank servants in royal k"arkhanas, " " kitchen and stables at the end of the sixteenth century. This structure suggests that wages earned by those serving the affluent or nobles outside the four walls of the palace and imperial camp did not differ much. The wages of the grooms appointed in the royal stables where horses were housed are quoted in the Åin. The number of attendants (other than officers) depended on the breed of each horse as costly horses of good breed required extra care. For variety of breeds from


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

Iranian, Turkish and Arab to Indian breeds, grooms or t∂m"ardars " received wages between 63 to 45 d"ams per month. Monthly wages of other attendants ranged from 30 to 120 d"a ms a month. 8 A m∂rdaha was ‘an experienced groom (like a s"a’∂s) placed over ten servants’. Although, he was sometimes equated with an ahad∂ in terms of wages, but in some of the khassah stables he used to receive 9 the pay between 30 to 170 d"ams per month (mahwareh). " " There were appointed naq∂bs, or watchers, to supervise the condition of horses and to report to the d"arogha. While two naq∂bs acted as head naq∂bs and were taken from amongst the ahad∂s, each had thirty persons under him. Of these thirty, wages paid ranged between 100 to 120 d"ams a month. Sa’ " ∂s or grooms too were of different ranks. Each s"a ’∂s had to look after two horses. Pay of these was fixed between 100 to 170 d"ams a month.10 Among the servants in the horse stables were jilaud"ar (one who led the horse) and paik " (runner) whose pay was fixed ‘according to their speed and manner of service’ (tezp"ai wa khidmatguzari). " It is difficult to estimate the salaries of both as Abul Fazl clubs them together saying that their pay varied from ‘1,200 to 120 d"ams’ a month. It is, however, for certain that a jilaud"ar must be getting a handsome salary. But it is not sure where the lower limit of his salary was fixed in this range of ‘1200-120 d"ams’.11 Pay of a na’alband (farrier) and a z∂ndar " was 140 d"ams a month. While the wages of an "abkash (water carrier) was 100 d"ams, a farrash " would get 130 dams " monthly. A sipandsoz (who burnt mustard seeds to drive off an evil eye), and a kh"akrob / hal"a lkhor (sweeper) were paid only 100 and 65 d" ams a month respectively. During a march (k"uch) coolies (piyadah) " were either picked by the d"arogha" or by the state (dargah " ) itself to lead the horses. They were uniformly paid two d"ams a day.12 Wages of servants (khidmatguzar " an " ) in the army contingents are discussed separately. A groom (ch"aravad " "ar) in the contingent comprised of first category horses (Arab) was to get 63 d"ams per month if having one horse under his charge. This amount was doubled if he was to take care of two horses.13 Unfortunately the rates of wages for the grooms of the second category horses (Persian) are not mentioned in the Åin. For the third category (Mujannas, resembling Persian) horses of the army, a groom received 3 d"ams less (from

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


the previous one?). While Abul Fazl skips the wages of the grooms managing the fourth grade (Tur"ani) horses, rate for the grooms appointed to attend to the fifth category horses (Y"abu), was 15 dams less’ (from the previous one?).14 Elephants were also divided into seven categories and wages of elephant keepers in the royal stables also differed accordingly. For managing a mast elephant, five and a half persons15 were needed. Of these, the driver—mah"avat, would get 200 dams " a month. However, if the elephant was found to be a bit wicked—khutahar, ‘and addicted to pulling down the driver’, the mah"avat was entitled for 220 d"ams. Another attendant—bho∂, was paid 110 dams. " A meth (who fetched fodder and helped in caparisoning the animal) was entitled for 4 d"ams daily while on the march, otherwise three and a half d"ams a day.16 Rates of wages for Sherg∂r elephants were slightly low, as a mah"avat was given 180 d"ams and a bhoi 103 d"ams a month. Meths (three for each Sherg∂r) received similar amount as was in the case of mast elephants. For s"adah elephants, out of four keepers, a mah"avat was paid 160 dams " and a bho∂ 90 dams " a month. For meths, wages are not mentioned. For manjhola elephants, the mah"avat’s pay was 140 dams " and a bho∂’s was 80 dams " a month. Meths’ wages are again missing. For another category of elephants called karha, of three and a half servants, a mah"avat carried 120 and a bho∂ 70 d"ams per month as wages. For phandurkiya elephants only two persons were required—a mah"avat, who got 100 dams, " and a meth whose wages are not included. Mokal elephants were also attended by two persons—a mah"avat was entitled for only 50 d"ams a month. However, wages of a meth are not mentioned. Perhaps his wages were uniform. Female elephants were categorized according to the size and height. For a large-sized elephant, four servants were appointed. The pay of a mah"avat was 100 dams, " and a bho∂’s 60 d"a ms a month. Middle-sized female elephants needed three and a half servants. A mah"avat was engaged at the rate of 80 dams " and a bho∂ at 50 d"ams a month. Small-sized elephants and a female mokal, both categories needed two persons—a mah"avat and a meth; the mah"avat getting 60 dams " for a month. In both cases, wages of the meths are not mentioned. Perhaps, meths were paid uniformly on daily basis.17


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

The elephant corps also had similar categories. Somehow the number of attendants to each elephant was different than the kh"assah (royal stable). To tend a mast elephant three men were required. A mah"avat was entitled for 120 d"ams, whereas a bho∂ and a meth each received 90 d"ams a month. Perhaps the rates for meths were similar to what was paid to the previous category. For attending on a sherg∂r, the mah"avat was given 105 and the bho∂ 75 dams " per mensem. Sadah " and manjhola elephants were put under the charge of a mah"avat, a bho∂ and a meth. They received 105, 75 and 60 d"ams respectively. For karha category, only a mah"avat was appointed who received 105 d"ams a month. For phandurkiya elephants also only one servant (d"arindeh, possessor or holder) at the rate of 60 dams " a month was allowed. For mokal elephants, entries are not made. Elephants and wagons (f ∂l o ar"abeh) were only allowed to mansabdars, " or those who brought good horses and camels and middling (miy"aneh) oxen for branding.18 In the stables for tending camels, s"arban " (drivers) were appointed to look after certain number of qat"ars (strings) and were ranked variously. Many of them received handsome amounts in salary, ranging from 220 to 960 d"ams a month. Some of them were even panjsadi mansabd"ars. They were, however, responsible for the loss of camels and were fined ‘full value’ (t"awan " ). If a camel got lame or blind, a fourth part of the price of the animal was recovered.19 In this section of the stable herdsmen (gall"aban) " were paid 200 dams " per month for grazing a herd of fifty. As he needed assistance in managing the camels, he was to have support of five persons, each of them getting two d"ams a day. A camel driver in the contingent (of army) used to get 60 d"ams.20 Wages of keepers of cows, oxen and buffaloes were decided according to the number of cattle a person (khidmatg"ar) looked after. In the kh"assah stable one man was to take care of four heads of cattle. Eighteen such persons were to get 5 d"ams per day (roz∂) while others would get 4 d"ams a day. For other stables, wages did not differ but the keeper had to manage six cows (g"av). As some of the carriage drivers were of the rank of ahad∂, their pay was paid on a monthly basis. The highest amount of salary drawn by drivers in this group was 360 d"ams a month (mahvareh). " " Others were paid

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


256 d"ams ‘down to’ 112 dams " suggesting that there could be various categories of pay claimants.21 There were appointed two drivers and one carpenter for each carriage (bah"al ) of which the chief driver—m∂rdaha and the carpenter used to receive 5 d"ams per day while the other driver was entitled for 4 d"ams a day. In case a carpenter is not accompanying the carts, drivers had to undertake the repair work and for it they received an annual allowance separately of 2,200 d"ams.22 Wages of keepers (nigehb"an, pasban) " " of beasts, especially leopards, varied from rupees 5 to rupees 30 per month.23 It is very obvious that those who received thirty rupees a month were not ordinary servants, but those getting five a month definitely formed the class of ordinary servants. In the Åin related to the hunting (Åin-i Shik"ar), Abul Fazl adds some more rates of wages paid to servants who looked after the cattle meant to drive the carts carrying beasts, like leopards, on the wagons. There were two categories—seniors (nakhust∂n) and juniors (pas∂n). Both were divided into five categories. Seniors’ wages were: 300, 260, 220, 200, and 180 d"ams a month. Juniors were paid 160, 140, 120, 110, and 100 d"ams a month.24 Each siy"ah gosh (Indian Red Lynx) had a separate keeper who was paid 100 d"ams per month. A keeper was needed to handle two hunting dogs who also received 100 d"ams a month.25 Pay of darb"ans or porters guarding the palace are also recorded in the Åin. M∂rdaha, or the chief amongst them, were divided into five categories. They were paid 200, 160, 140, 130, and 120 d"ams respectively. Others (d∂gr"an) were given 100-20 d"ams a month. Mewr"as, a particular class of Mewatis appointed as runners, were also paid at the same rate as to what was made to the darb"ans.26 At the imperial court ‘several thousands of kah"ars (palk∂ " bearers) were maintained. Rates of wages varied from 120 to 160 d"ams per month. Those in the service as matchlock-bearers received 140-60 d"ams, while a m∂rdaha of the archers got 120 to 180 d"a ms a month. Common archers were paid 100-20 d"ams.27 Wages of the camp followers are not mentioned separately. For the water-carriers, farr"ash, tent-makers, carpenters, torch-bearers, workers in leather and sweepers, wages were fixed between 130 and 240 d"ams that come out to be Rs. 31/4 to 6 a month.28


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

Thus, wages during Akbar’s period were paid both on monthly and daily basis as well as on the basis of amount of work done. During his reign, forty d"ams constituted a rupee and a dam " was, usually, treated at par with a paisa (pice).29 Information on the wages paid to some of the servants of the royal household during the seventeenth century was the outcome of curiosity of those foreign travellers who had either some interaction with the servants of imperial household and nobles, or had an occasion to visit the imperial court. Female attendants in the personal service of kings, their wives, daughters or concubines, received nearly four or five hundred rupees a month as their salary. They had a chain of matrons under them and kept them under their control. These matrons received in the form of remuneration Rs. 50 to 200 per month. There were superintendents of women music-players. They enjoyed wages from Rs. 50 to 200 a month. The members of the royal family also gave presents and gifts to them.30 Female slaves in the imperial service were given the same wages which, generally, the other servants received.31 Though the status of these slaves and servants was of mere ‘servants’, but they were highly paid as per the standards of the period. Hence, it is quite impossible to include them in the category of low-paid servants and labourers from the viewpoint of their income, although such people employed elsewhere usually received small wages. William Hawkins noticed around 36,000 servants performing a variety of duties in the court and the camp of Jahangir. They were— porters, gunners, watermen, ‘lackeyes’, horse-keepers, elephantkeepers, tent-men, cooks, light (torch)—bearers, gardeners and beastkeepers, etc. Their wages were paid every month from the imperial treasury. As per Hawkins’s observation, they received wages between three to ten rupees.32 Thevenot explains the reason of having attendants and followers in abundance, that the court of the ‘Great Mogul is very numerous, because the great Men of the Empire are almost all there, who have vast retinues, because their servants cost them but little in Diet and cloathes’.33 When Manucci visited the imperial court, he casually noticed that an elephant-keeper was receiving Rs. 5 per month. The rate of payment was not much different from what was paid during the

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


time of Akbar,34 but the wages paid during Jahangir’s reign were rather high. Generally, on special occasions, the servants in the imperial camp, court and household, were rewarded in the form of cash and kind both that served as a sort of incentive for them. Interestingly, a reference from Norris’s account clearly suggests that they all worked under the supervision of a ‘leader’ who, on such occasions received double the amount in reward.35 The nobles and rich people had their own establishments organized after the fashion of that of the kings and princes. In the early seventeenth-century wages paid to household servants under these nobles, varied from Rs. 3 to 4 a month. Among the recipients were silahd"ar (one who attended a horse); farrash " (tent-pitcher); mashalchi " (who lighted a torch or torch-bearer); sarb"an / shaturban " (cameldriver); mah"avat (who attended the elephants); bilwan " (cart-driver), etc.36 They, however, faced difficulties in getting their salaries, because the nobles and rich often used their discretion when the time would arrive to make payment at the end of each month. Very surprisingly they also reckoned forty days to a month (instead of usual twenty-nine/thirty days). Still, there was no hope that wages would not be paid for months; and if paid, it was not money but sometimes worn-out clothes were forced upon them in turn of their services.37 Or else, these servants often remained unpaid, and when paid it was after much ‘deductions’. Hence, they would ‘even the score’ by falling into malpractices, such as stealing money out of the amount given to them to purchase something on behalf of their masters. Somehow, these servants were not always at a receiving end. While going out to transact any business on behalf of their master, especially when their master was holding a respectable office and power, they often behaved arrogantly with shopkeepers and others, ‘oppressing the innocent and sinning on the strength of their Master’s greatness’. They were also in a practice of taking commission or dast"ur from the vendors of goods or shopkeepers whenever they were sent out to purchase commodities. Interestingly it was a practice their masters were aware of, and justified it saying that ‘it is paid by the poor (merchant or shop-keeper) and not out of their (own) pocket, in this . . . (way) . . . they were mistaken


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

because the commission is always taken into account in the sale’, wrote Pelsaert.38 Almost the same categories of servants with identical designations, who were engaged in the service of affluent people, are referred to in De Laet’s account. The seluidares (silahd"a r—a man-at-arms), billewani (belwan " —for carriage and carts), frassi (farr"ash—for tents and curtains), serriwani (sarb"an / shaturban—camel " driver), mahuti (mah"avat—elephant driver), zanteles (runners), are mentioned among the permanent servants of the nobles.39 He also stated that their wages varied from three to four rupees per month, which in his opinion were meagre. Most of the travellers’ accounts pronounce that artisans were forced into service by the nobles and influential people to serve them. Generally they were caught in streets and were made to work in the houses of nobles and high-ranking officials of state. Mode of payment was ‘not according to the nature of labour, but agreeably to his own (employer’s) standard of remuneration’. If anyone objected to such coercion, he was beaten with a korrah (whip), and sometimes capital punishment too was inflicted upon him.40 Among the followers of governor of Masulipatam, Thomas Bowrey noted the presence of many palanquin-carriers, umbrella-bearers, pikemen, drums and trumpet-carriers, and peons, etc. He noted that they all received two rupees ‘every new moon’.41 Total expenditure on the maintenance of these servants and other establishment which the nobles and rich people incurred was enormously high.42 WAGES OF DIFFERENT SELF-EMPLOYED PROFESSIONAL GROUPS PURSUING THEIR TRADE AND OCCUPATIONS INDEPENDENTLY

European factors, merchants and travellers who visited India during the heydays of the Mughal Empire expressed their concern regarding the low rates of wages that were paid to different categories of servants. Della Valle’s observation makes it quite clear that servants doing daily chores in the household did not cost much.43 Servants were easily available because of the ‘multitude of people and the small charges where with the common sorts are mentioned’, Della

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


Valle reasoned. He also added that ‘everybody [even] of mean fortune keeps a great family and is splendidly attended’.44 He also helps us know the daily earnings of those involved in the production of different crafts. As per his assessment, it was about ‘5-6 taccas, i.e. 4-5 Dutch Stuferi’. About wages of numerous sorts of servants employed by the affluent and influential, Della Valle informs that ‘three rupias a month is enough for them’, i.e. the servants.45 For the most part of the late sixteenth and throughout the seventeenth century, Europeans showed keen interest in knowing the reason behind the low rates of wages paid to different categories of servants. They were convinced that in India, it being a tropical country, big and fertile too, commodities were cheap. Hence, the cost of subsistence was quite low. WEAVERS, PAINTERS OF CLOTH AND PACKERS OF BALES During the Mughal period, textile manufacturing industry was the most reputed and established industry that provided work to innumerable persons in the entire subcontinent. Mostly, weavers are not put in the category of wage earners. Although weavers in general manufactured merchandise on receiving a part or the full amount in advance known as d"adni (or putting out system), but those weavers and artisans engaged in manufacturing of cloth under others, however, received very low wages when they sought such employment. Georges Roques puts weavers in the category of most miserable people.46 According to one estimate, they received only five or six tack"as or four or five ‘stivers’ in wages, working from morning to night.47 Moreland equates a tack"a with a tank"a, assuming it to be equal to a d"am.48 During Akbar’s period and after, a tank"a was actually called a ‘double d"am’ or twentieth part of a rupee. Taking that these wages were paid daily in lieu of working ‘from morning to night’, wages of weavers would amount to Rs. 3¾ to 4½ a month. This ratio of relative value of d"am: rupee and tanka is corroborated by the contemporary accounts too.49 This was, to some extent, equal to the amount weavers and some other servants used to get in the service of nobles. While working under d"adni system, they were often unable to buy raw material, especially,


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

while they were asked to produce pieces on a larger scale, and to manufacture fabrics according to the standards and specification of European and Indian merchants. Lack of financial resources, therefore, compelled the poor weavers to accept advances money and work under immense pressure.50 Sometimes weavers shifted their loyalties in hope of better prospects. They did so because of two major reasons; (a) when their wages (for the work done for the first client) would fall into arrears and they (i.e. the weavers) were left to the mercy of the employers who made them beg for their remunerations; or, (b) when European merchants, while dealing directly with them, forced them to manufacture better textiles on lower than the usual market rates, and weavers’ plea for reasonable rates of payment were declined.51 Mostly, while working against d"adni, once the contract was finalized, weavers could hardly get a compensation for losses incurred due to the unavoidable circumstances. A few references, somehow, intimate us that there was some scope of allowance in such circumstances. In 1682, Dharwad weavers were demanding from their employers ‘an unusual allowance per corge for the risqué of weavours, etc.’, perhaps due to the presence of the Mughal Emperor and his armies in Deccan which had lead to a rise in prices. Brokers agreed to it and after much discussion, English merchants also sanctioned it. 52 All the merchants of India, Europe or of any other country of Asia needed the help of the brokers (dall"al ) and cash keepers (podars " / podd"ars, fotad"ars) to transact business on their behalf. When on the pay role of a particular merchant or Company, these brokers or other agents usually drew not more than Rs. 4 or 5 a month, even on such occasions when they were promised higher emoluments. In the towns which were famous as the centres of huge production and had a brisk trade in cotton and silk textiles, artisans were subjected to immense exploitation and chances of cheating were more rampant. It was because of these cities that harboured a huge number of weavers and brokers, always eager to offer their services

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


to the new clients.53 As is known well that to finish the work within a specific period, the weavers were given a part of payment in advance known as d"adni, which was paid through a broker. Brokers, on the other hand, would not extend it to the weavers without customarily deducting a certain amount out of it as brokerage. They were not only entitled of brokerage from the merchant on whose behalf they rendered their services, but took some amount from the poor weavers too. Very often, weavers were put under immense pressure in the process of bargaining when they ended up accepting lesser amount for better quality of cloth. Brokers did not spare their masters and offered their services on their own conditions. They, at times, demanded from them dust"uri or commission as high as 12 per cent in the form of brokerage. No doubt, it was to be squeezed out of the amount meant to be forwarded to the weavers in advance through their (brokers’) mediation.54 Podd"ar or cashkeeper exacted brokerage separately from the weavers and employers. Brokerage thus charged was one cowri per rupee. Sometimes it varied from one "anna or two per hundred rupees.55 If dust"uri or commission was not taken by the broker or podd"ar, a certain bhatta" (premium) was deducted at the rate of rupee 1¼ per hundred.56 Occasionally, ‘peons’ under the European factors (especially of the English) too, acting as mediators, exacted ‘some’ amount (rather handsome amount) as high as 20 per cent from the ‘merchants’.57 Apart from this, factors of the (English) Company deducted a certain amount of money out of the advance amount or d"adni for themselves, perhaps while winding up the accounts—‘in full accompts’. This was done in view of the factors’ borrowing money from the Indian merchants or brokers on interest to continue with their investments in textiles. Therefore, they retained one to four annas " " out of every hundred rupees; and two rupees per hundred upon sicca" (or newly coined rupee), and as much more as bhatta" (difference in exchange or premium) rose above 1 per cent. Also upon gold muhrs (coins) 2½ annas " " were charged more than the bazaar rate.58 On the other hand, as per the information, merchants and brokers used to charge from English up to 5 per cent on their advance or d"adni in broad cloth.59 Thus a weaver was cheated mainly in three ways:


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

(a) by the factors themselves exacting a sum out of the advances or remunerations paid to the weavers; (b) by those who brought this money to the weavers (i.e. agents, brokers) who deducted certain amount as dust"uri or bhatta; " (c) by cash-keeper (podd"ar), who usurped a certain percentage calling it his own ‘commission’. This practice greatly affected the work of the weavers. In the Dutch factory at Hughly, weavers were given only 1½ to 2 " a nn" a s per day, which Streynsham Master calls ‘low wages’ (as these would come out approximately, Rs. 2.08 to 3.07, only if working daily through-out the month).60 Evidence related to Bengal in the 1680s, rarely found in the contemporary accounts elsewhere, is furnished by one of the Dutch sources which speaks of the remuneration of weaver after adjusting the d"adni. That ‘about the two-third of the price (of the piece of cloth) obtained by the weaver under the Indian variant of putting out system covered the costs of raw material while the remainder (1/3) was the reward for his labour’. However, share of the intermediary was put aside from this 1/3 which was taken as the ‘reward’ of the weaver.61 Georges Roques (1686) refers to the earnings of a weaver that were splitted into two segments—‘for preparing and dressing the warp which is one-fourth of a rupee; the rate for weaving three-fourth [rupee] if it is according to the cloth only if woven according to the specification)’. It would thus be a rupee for the whole piece. As he affirms that a piece takes eight days to finish, a weaver might earn four rupees, but only when working every day.62 The merchants often fixed prices of commodities brought by the manufacturers. In doing so, the employer took advantage of making part of the payment in the form of d"adni (advances)— thus forcing the weavers to work exclusively for him only. On the other hand, he would force the producer to hand over the finished goods at a price fixed at his own discretion.63 Similarly, the foreign merchants (here English) cheated their own Company when fixing prices by taking the weavers and brokers into confidence. While goods were purchased at lower prices, in the account books higher rates were shown. By adopting such practices or by way of private

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


trade, the factors harmed their own Company’s interests. In this manner by participating in private trade and mishandling of the account books, many of them had amassed huge wealth.64 Though such practices continued but could not be avoided for long. As a result of a consultation (at Qasimbazar) held in 1679 to regulate the affairs of the Company, it was decided that vak∂ls, mutasadd∂s (writers), tagadg∂r (?), ‘dumiers’ (?) or overseers of the weavers, paik"ars, podd"ars, shall get no pay but only dast"ur at the rate of an ann " "a upon a rupee.65 Weavers were also put under surveillance. They were asked to make pieces of cloths of a required length, breadth, colour and quality. Even number of threads expected in warp and weft were specified before assigning the job of weaving a cloth, or entering into the contract. Arrangement of threads was counted accordingly at the time of receiving the consignment. Otherwise, weavers had to face a deduction in payment, as is confirmed by an instance when pieces not manufactured according to the agreement, an amount was deducted at the rate of ‘one Rupee twelve annaes per peece of 20: covids long, whether 1½ or 2: covids wide (on such pieces)’.66 Wages of painters of cloths are recorded variously, and in one case, they are shown receiving five to six tack"as daily in the first quarter of the seventeenth century.67 A mid-seventeenth-century reference helps us know that dyers charged the customers (here English merchants) per corge (kori, or numbering twenty pieces of any item). This evidence for 1647 also suggests that the charges were ‘eight rupees per corge’. These charges also included two rupees that were paid to washermen for ‘beating and slicking’, making it obvious that these pieces were given a finish by the ‘beaters’ (washermen).68 They were also extended advance money, as was done in case of weavers, to finish their job properly.69 Often payment was made to them according to their performance on a daily basis.70 The stage of packing, immediately before transporting all kinds of goods or cloths, was considered very important. Expert packers were required to pack goods, particularly textiles, for exports or long distance trade. During the first quarter of the seventeenth century, in Gujarat, wages of packers are mentioned to be ¾ of a mahm"udi


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

for packing a bundle.71 In the 1630s at Masulipatam, some references confirm that packers were paid on a monthly basis. The rate of payment is stated to be ‘2½ pagodas a month’. Somehow, any subsistence money or bhatt"a was not given.72 Initially, when employed for the first time, in most of the cases, they were given one month’s salary in advance.73 These packers were made answerable for any damage or loss caused by ill packing. It is interesting to know that packers were issued ‘certificates’ about the number of bales they packed, perhaps to make them claim their pay later.74 Packers in Madras in the 1660s (1669 here), received one pagoda per bale for packing cotton goods. It once caused some resentment on the part of Company officials in England that it was a hefty amount. These officials were, somehow, pacified by clarifying the fact that it included the charges of packing material ‘goni’ or gunny as well. Otherwise, charges at the same place recorded for the year 1673 are ‘from ½ to 3/8 pagodas per bale’, and it was believed to be something ‘economically done’.75 Washermen were also kept inside the premises of the factories itself to give a final touch to the fabric before packing. At one point, at the Dutch factory in Agra, their wages recorded in the contemporary works are mentioned to be five rupees a month.76 A letter from an English factor from Patna to the President and Council at Surat dated 12 July 1620, indicates the charges given to the washerman. That a ‘whitster’ for ‘whitinge and starchinge the ambartis’ charged ‘near upon 3 ru[pees] per courge’ (score). This amount was charged while the length of a piece was ‘13 coveds Jehangery, . . . which is one fourth longer then the Elahye of Agra’, explained the correspondent.77 LETTER CARRIERS Merchants (and many others too) employed letter carriers, popularly known as patt"amars, " qasids " or kasids, " purely for commercial purposes. Rulers and nobles had their personal letter carriers to convey news related to administration. Merchants mainly depended on their personal letter carriers. In time of need services could be sought of those in the service of others. Otherwise, they could be

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


hired from the towns the merchants resided in. Letter carriers, for the most part, offered their services in an indiscriminate manner, to all and sundry, in turn of payment. Mode of payment to them also differed. They were either paid monthly wages (if serving any individual or an establishment regularly); or for the whole journey; or on daily basis. According to one reference related to 1615, while a patt"amar " is shown charging 7-8 mahm"ud∂s (a little more than three silver rupees or one gold pagoda) for carrying a letter from Masulipatam to Surat, on the other hand, in 1622 another one is referred to have been paid ‘3½ pagodas’ (roughly between Rs. 10½ and 13½) for the similar services.78 Journey between Masulipatam and Surat was covered between 40 to 50 days, hence the wages of these letter carriers, usually, came out to be Rs. 6 to 6½ per month. Letter carriers were also entitled for bhatt"a or subsistence money in addition to their wages and nothing could be deducted from the amount due to them. On the completion of their journey, they were often given tashr∂f or presents to encourage them and ‘to animate their back return to this place (i.e. where they were sent from) with all expidicion’.79 They preferred taking letters in bunches from different clients to a single destination. They undertook journey on behalf of a single client too, if the letter or message had to be delivered in a peculiar or emergent situation. Patt"amars " were of two types—bazar " " casset " (qasid " or messenger) and express. B"azar " cassets " received remunerations on arrival at their destination, and it varied from ½ a rupee to 1½ rupee depending upon the distance the letter was brought from, or the size or the weight of the letter or packet. Weight and size would especially matter when ledgers or account-books were sent from dependentfactories to the chief-factories of the European Companies. They made frequent journeys and undertook the job for various clients at a time. ‘Express messengers’ conjectured to represent a single client and made special return trips in a very short period. They charged more than usual rates. For them between Agra and Surat, the regular rate of payment was nine rupees while daily allowances had also to be paid separately. They could cover the (return) journey between Agra and Surat within 42 days, while in normal circumstances this distance (return journey) was made in 80 days.80 A


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

reference about the delivery of letters between Hugli and Balasore by the ‘peons’ (letter carriers) in 1686 confirms that the journey was to be completed within five days. Here the reference is vague about the amount paid to the carrier, but it speaks of buxees (bakhshish, or reward) of ‘4 ans: ("annas)’. " Nevertheless, express assignments were always conditional, that the journey was to be completed within the stipulated time and late arrival might result in punishment. In some cases they were whipped or chawbuck[ed] for their late arrival at the destination.81 An instruction sent in July 1699 along with a letter from Fort St. George to Masulipatam by the Consul of New English Company refers to charges due to the messengers. It says that, ‘These are the Company’s Peons, therefore I think ’twill be well to give um a rupee or 2. For they stay at POLLECATT for this’. Here, the reference clearly indicates that he was entitled for bakhshish due to staying at Pulicat for some additional work, which might have not been a part of his duty. It does not include the actual charges, for they being in the ‘service’ of the New Company, would have been on the pay roll of regular servants.82 Another reference indicates that in the Deccan, rate of payment to a patt"amar " in the early years of eighteenth century was one pagoda (3-4 rupees) a month, if given a regular employment. They, however, could earn additional income in the form of some allowances called bakhshish.83 Charges for sending letters abroad were quite high. In May 1617, a letter sent from Shiraz (Persia) to Surat via Sind was to be delivered in seventy days and the messenger got fifty ‘rials of eight’ for the same.84 PEONS AND GUARDS

They were hired during journeys for security of individual merchants or caravans. They generally came from particular background, such as Baluchis, Pathans, Rajputs and Jats (the last mentioned mainly from Agra-Delhi region). They usually enjoyed the trust of all people. They were there to protect the goods of their employer, often risking their own lives against assaults of highway robbers. They were employed for other reasons too, like, by the European factors to take care of their warehouses. They were paid

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


‘fair’ wages. They followed their masters on foot, well armed with swords, bows and arrows, bucklers, etc. Their emoluments were paid in the ways—either daily or monthly. Sometimes they worked on contract and demanded a fixed amount for the whole journey or assignment. In a particular case, their wages are mentioned varying from one rupee four "annas " and three paisas " to a little more than two rupees a month. They usually preferred wages prior to the commencement of the journey. Another reference (of 1715) suggests that they were given their remuneration at the rate of two rupees and eight "annas " per month.85 Terry recorded their wages to be five shillings a month. Traditionally, payment was to be made on the first day of new moon for those who were maintained on regular basis.86 Evidence confirms the wages of guards and peons being five rupees per month, and this was for undertaking a journey along with their employer from Agra to Surat in 1623. It was covered in a span of forty days.87 At the time of his visit to Gujarat, Mandelslo witnessed a group of armed-men receiving about sixteen rupees between Cambay and Ahmadabad and when shared among them it came out to be two rupees per head. Yet, they complained that it was a ‘small sum’.88 In 1640, wages of armed-guards were four rupees; however, if the journey exceeded more than sixty days they were entitled for payment on a monthly basis and were to be paid at the rate of six rupees per month.89 Thevenot paid the armed guards at Bahrampur (Orissa) at the rate of ‘two Crowns a piece (per head?) by the month, and two pence half penny a day for Board wages’ as per the custom.90 On an average, thus, monthly payment to the guards or armed-men varied from four to six rupees. Their services were available for short distance journeys too. Thevenot hired guards from Aurangabad to Ellora at the rate of ‘half a Crowne piece’, perhaps for the journey back and forth. Those who carried goods of the merchants and travellers during journeys were also identified as ‘peons’. They simultaneously served as messengers too, but for the most part, they transported goods and kept a watch on these. Their wages could vary from place to place depending upon the occasion, or risks involved in the journey. There were chances that the employer could manipulate the amount, especially if the records of expenses of journey were to be maintained


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

for some higher authority. In such one case an English factor Robert Hughes was accused of paying four rupees a month to the peons, while the actual cost was ‘Rs. 54¾ (for 25 peons) @ 2 & 3 annas " "as (a day?)’,91 which comes out to be two rupees and two-three ann per month. A few years later, wages recorded in Gujarat for peons amount to be five to seven mahm"ud∂s a month. Perhaps, due to the famine of 1630s it was increased approximately by three mahm"ud∂s, therefore the peons were now receiving eight to ten mahm"ud∂s in a month. Attempts were made to go back to the previous rates, but ‘it was successful[ly] resented by the peons on the plea that as though food prices had dropped, clothing still remained expensive’. This justification is interesting for the reason that not only expensive food items but clothing too required the employer to compensate them with an increase in payment. On this occasion, English factors were forced to seek approval from Ahmadabad for the same.92 A mahm"ud∂s being equal to 2/5 of a rupee, wages of peons according to the former rates would have varied roughly from 2½ to 3½, or sometimes 4 rupees a month. With enhanced rates by three mahm"ud∂s during calamities, total wages after increment would have been four or five rupees per month. The Dutch account books at Agra related to the years 1637-40, show the monthly wages paid to the peons were 3½ to 4 rupees. The same account refers to wages of peons for a return journey from Agra to Banaras via Khairabad (Hardoi) which ended in 36 days. The armed guards or ‘peons’ were paid 7 rupees per head for the whole journey, amounting to a little more than six rupees a month.93 Ovington’s note on the wages of peons indicates that they were paid four to six rupees, usually on a monthly basis. It is remarkable to note that throughout the seventeenth-century structure of wages to peons remained the same, that is, between two and six rupees per month. In the first quarter of the eighteenth century, ‘Indians’ employed as peons by the English Company, are mentioned receiving wages annually, though calculated on a monthly basis. ‘Two rupees and a half per month’ were the rates in 1718 at Rajmahal that were paid to peons for maintaining ‘Company’s Title and Possession to their house’. Same rates remained in practice for the next few years.94 In 1714, peons accompanying John Surnam, English ambassador from

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


Calcutta to Delhi to the court of Farrukh Siyar, were promised eight rupees per head, perhaps for the whole journey.95 Sometimes household servants could also be sent to take care of goods in the company of caravans, especially by foreign merchants. In turn, they were bestowed with rozi (allowance) and in"am (gift). In 1636, a sum of five rupees was paid to a ‘house servant’ who travelled along with a caravan carrying goods of English Company from Surat to Ahmadabad. It could have been important assignment indeed, as the distance between the two cities is not much. In Surat, Thomas Herbert found small boys or ‘pe-unes’ (peons) always ready to do variety of services for just four pice a day.96 COOLIES OR PORTERS Coolies were to be taken into service to carry heavy luggage. The word ‘collie’ or ‘collies’ frequently occurs in the records of English Factories and other travellers’ memoirs in the sense of a porter or a carrier. They worked as labourers, mainly engaged in loading and unloading luggage at seaports and other places. When Thomas Herbert landed in Swally Road he saw multitude of ‘boyes or peunes’ (boys and peons) who were ready to do diverse things for the travellers like act as an interpreter, ‘to runne, go arrand, or the like’, for a sum of ‘4 pice a day’. He also specifies that thirty pice make a rupee. When in employment continuously for thirty days in a month, they were to earn around four rupees a month.97 According to Dutch account books at Agra maintained for the period 163640, their wages are recorded to be ‘rupees 3½ per mensem’ (or rupees 8 per head) for a journey that was to be covered in eighty days.98 An English factor at Viravasram in 1659 has recorded the wages of servants who also acted as coolies. That they were paid two pennies per day, or four to five shillings per month, for carrying goods to distant places, and that it ‘is the rate we give to all day labourers and porters we usually employ to carry burdens 50, 60, or 100 miles outright’.99 The relative value of rupee and pound sterling recorded by Terry (1616-27) and Fryer (1673-81) confirms that a rupee was taken equal to 2 shillings and three pennies/ pence (or 2¼ shillings). According to this calculation, wages of


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

coolies would come out to be a little more than two rupees (or roughly rupees 2 1/5 per month). Later on, high cost of living necessitated to raise the daily wages of ‘an ordinary coolie or labourer, from 2½ to 3 pice a day’.100 As per Tavernier’s observation, the ratio between rupee and pice was 1:50. Before him, Thomas Herbert (1626-8) records it to be 1:30, while in Careri’s memoir, in 1695, this ratio is shown as 1:54. By applying this ratio, wages paid to coolies and labourers amounted to rupees 1½ to 2 a month. By 1674, coolies or porters in Bombay employed to bring the provisions in the Island were charging 2½ pice a day. Subsequently, due to the wars between the Mughals and Shivaji, provisions became dear making the life of ordinary man difficult. Since the commodities were generally brought from the territory that was then under the control of Shivaji, porters refused to comply the orders of the English. Their main complaint was that they could not carry themselves with small wages. Hence, one more increase became inevitable. Shortly afterward, in 1675, their wages were increased due to ‘high cost of living to four pice’ a day (or rupees 2.4 per month). However, they again complained that they ‘could not live on that wage’, and it was increased to six pice a day (or rupees 3.6 a month)101 bringing it from rupees 1½ to 4½ a month by applying the ratio of dam and pice of 1:2. In 1678, coolies in Mazgaon (Bombay) in the service of the English who were to do menial service, in turn were promised to receive ‘their diet only’. Nevertheless, during 1678-82, we find them getting three pice a day in addition of a meal consisting of coarse rice. They were sent to work in the dock also where they were promised ‘something more’. Coolies of Mazgaon earned the admiration of their masters for being the ‘lustiest and best seamen’. At the same time, they were supposed to pay collectively a revenue amounting 5,000 xeraphins to the English which was aimed at raising the funds for the Company.102 In custom-houses, a separate set of peons and porters called ‘waiters’ were employed whose job was to conduct the merchants from the ships or boats to the customhouse. They were also to search the boats laden with merchandise at the order of the port officer sh"ahbander. In 1623 Thomas Herbert (in Surat) also recorded that they charged from every passenger an

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


abb"asi (a Persian coin) which was ‘worth about eighteen pence and from every boat half a rupie’.103 CAMELMEN, CARTERS AND BOATMEN Camels were preferred for hiring for two purposes—swiftness of speed and capacity of carrying good amount of weight.104 Camelmen received payment in three ways—(a) according to the camel load; (b) on monthly basis; and (c) for a specific assignment or destination, or for days covered during that journey. For the first category mentioned above, it would be interesting to learn that lading on camels was done in two ways—puckka and cutcha. For puckka lading, the standard weight taken into consideration was a man or maund. According to a reference for the year 1619, between Agra and Surat charges seem to be fixed at the rate of Rs. 14¾ for a camel loaded with 9 maunds of weight. It was when they travelled via Burhanpur. Two fardles (bales) were loaded on a camel.105 Keeping in mind the distance, it was a large sum—coming around to Rs. 9 to 11 for a month. Another reference, of slightly earlier period (1617), corroborates the point where wages are recorded for camelmen traversing the same route. These were hired by ‘paying 11¾ Jahangiri rupees per camel to carry nine maunds of weight from Agra to Surat, and to arrive there in fifty days’.106 When worked out, average rates come to be nearly Rs. 7 per camel for a month. Here the rate is Rs. 3 less than what was in the previous case. Nevertheless, it specifically mentions the payment was made in Jah"ang∂ri rupees.107 When it was to be paid according to weight, 9 puckka maunds were usually loaded on a camel (which was considered standard weight in those days). About a caravan of camels covering the same distance (i.e. Agra to Surat in December, 1617) for transporting goods like indigo and ‘semanas’ (a variety of cotton cloth from Samana, Punjab), amount recorded for charges agreed upon was ‘rupee 1¾ hundi’ (freshly minted coin) per maund.108 These charges scaled up enormously during the time of famines in Gujarat in the 1630s because of scarcity of grains. A little later, freight charges were again raised because of one ‘lascar’ (lashkar, camp) was also marching on that particular route (1639). Shortage


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

of carts or camels could be a usual thing on such occasions when nobles or rulers forced these service providers to join them for supplying goods for the camp. Charges were once increased because of the scarcity of foodgrains between Burhanpur and Surat due to the presence of the Mughal Emperor at the same time.109 It shows a clear linkage between the prices of food grains and wages. Again in the 1650s, the rate of payment to camelmen went up between Agra and Ahmadabad up to Rs. 15¾ per camel lading,110 or, at an average, Rs. 10 to 12 a month for the distance covered in 40 to 50 days. However, it was a difficult assignment because the caravan had to take the route via Ajmer and Sirohi where the risk of being attacked was greater. From Lahribandar to Thattah camels could be hired for carrying 6 maunds puckka111 weight by paying Rs. 1½ per camel. Rates paid seems not so cheap as the journey was covered in less than two days, and the distance covered was just 20 miles altogether.112 Not only goods of different sorts, but also huge amount of cash could be transported on camels. In one such instance, a camel was especially hired along with other camelmen, to carry Rs. 8,000 from Agra to Banaras via Khairabad (Hardoi) at a charge of Rs. 30. Camels were available for hire on low rates too, perhaps in the days of non-availability of employment or dire need forced the camelmen to charge less. In a particular case a camel was hired for mere Rs. 3 for the duration of nineteen days.113 Carters or oxen-drivers were known as bailw"an, whom the merchants hired for taking goods for short or long distance. Merchants preferred the carts for cheaper hiring rates.114 Carts were considered easily manageable and were available everywhere. Carters were also remunerated in two ways—(a) according to the weight of luggage; or (b) on the basis of a contract made for the whole journey. From Manrique’s account it appears that, perhaps, rates were charged according to the approximate period of the journey as he had hired a cart for ‘twenty one day’s journey between Agra and Lahor’. It may be possible that charges were fixed accordingly.115 Della Valle identified carriages as d"andi, and added about the amount payable, that ‘nor must I omit the men who bear such Carriages are satisfied with a very small reward’.116 Maund was the standard weight and the basis for hiring carts.

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


In 1615, goods packed in the form of ‘fardle’ (bale), containing perhaps indigo, and weighing 5 maunds, are reported to have been transported from Agra to Surat at the rate of Rs. 5 to 6. In 1617, goods were transported from Agra to Surat on carts at the rate of ‘1¾ rupees hundi’ (freshly minted coins) per maund. In the 1620s, from Patna to Agra, carters are said to have been hired at the rate of two rupees per ‘Jehangir maunde’. The reason behind such a vast difference in charges could be that the latter one was an important assignment as it was time-bound. It says that the distance had to be covered within thirty days. If the journey could not end within the specific days agreed upon, a certain amount was to be deducted from the charges claimed, as was done in the case mentioned above. At the time of assignment, it was made clear that they could face a deduction in case of delay. Since the coachmen could not make it in thirty days’ time, the payable amount was reduced from two rupees a maund to 15/8 rupee per maund, because ‘the price now cut of the caravan which goeth in forty dayes’ (i.e. it reached in forty days instead of thirty)’. Thus, the employer justified the cut in the payment.117 But for the same distance, in the same year, carters are also found receiving 1¼ to 1½ rupees per maund118 while the journey was to be covered only in twenty-five days. It clearly indicates that rates differed according to circumstances and nature of assignment. In the 1620s, carters could be hired between Agra and Patna at the rate of ‘1¾ rupees 1 tuke (tak"a) per maund net’, which was accepted as the current rate received from caravans in those days.119 In exceptional cases like rains, carters were paid a little higher amount, as the evidence suggests that a caravan from Patna to Agra received the cartage at the rate of Rs. 2¼ per maund. The distance was to be covered in forty-five days.120 Other kinds of emergent situations that could force increase in the charges by carters was drought and famine. Transporters between Ahmadabad to Surat once charged more than usual ‘owing to the lack of water and grass caused by the drought’, as grass and water was needed for their oxen and camels during the journey.121 One more plausible reason for the payment of higher rates could be the mutual rivalries among the merchants also. While out of necessity everyone wanted to be entertained first, they were obliged to offer higher


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

rates to the owners of carts and camel.122 From Patna to Surat charges were ‘14 rup[ees] per carte’, but once it so happened, the foreign merchants, perhaps due to some urgency (like ships ready for departure) were even ready to pay an ‘exorbitant’ amount, like Rs. 200 per cart.123 Rates hiring carts between Agra and Surat were two to three rupees per month.124 For making a journey, carts were considered safe. Again, it was safe to enter in a contract with the carters. This system of contract called adoway by the Dutch and the English, was commonly followed on the important commercial routes like between Agra and Surat. It would become almost essential when expensive or breakable commodities had to be transported. In this case porcelain, sandalwood and spices had been carried by way of adoway (through contractors) at the rate of ‘rupees 2¾ per maund/74 lbs’. For the whole journey, the total cost came out to be Rs. 40 per cart, indicating that the load distributed per cart came to be a little less than 11 maunds.125 Thevenot records that he hired two ‘Chariots’ between Bahrampur (Orissa) to Golconda at the rate of seventeen Crowns at a month.126 Tavernier noticed that charges of hiring a carriage/cart were a rupee per day and confirms that ‘it is in the same proportion throughout the whole of India’.127 From Agra to Multan, the ‘custom’ to hire the carts was at the rate of ‘2 or 2½ rupees per maund’.128 Later, for the same distance, recorded rate is 1½ to 1¾ rupees per maund. In one more case relating to the last decade of the seventeenth century, charges paid to the carters between Masulipatam and Golconda were one pagoda per cart129 and the journey was completed in eight days. In such a case, a carter could earn from Rs. 7 to 9 in a month. For oxen, hiring rates are rarely mentioned in the contemporary works. A rare reference for the year 1676 related to Masulipatam indicates that charges were taken according to the weight, ‘6 pagodas a candy’130 between Masulipatam and Golconda city.131 Customs and duties on goods were to be paid by the merchants. Some of them preferred the job to get it done through the carters or the contractors, or brokers to avoid harassment at the hands of custom officials, local zam∂nd"ars, and robbers. Peter Mundy faced a lot of trouble when he took the route for Surat from Agra via

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


Ajmer and Jalore. At Jalore he almost gave up and tried to give contract of transportation of his goods to the ‘adowyaes’ or intermediaries to conduct him and his carts to Ahmadabad safely. These contractors were to pay the jaggat " or jakat " (zakat " ; word used here for dues and octroi) to the officials of state at certain points falling on the route. Mundy offered them Rs. 26½ per cart, while they demanded 27, 28 or 29 for the same. Ultimately this contract was taken by the carters, who were put in service, themselves at the rate of Rs. 26½. This proved to be a difficult journey for Peter Mundy because along with the said amount agreed upon, not only these carters and camelmen bothered him for ‘gratification’ every ch"a ndr"a t (new moon), but also peons behaved in an insolent manner. 132 A journey could involve the services of boatmen in between the way, or up to a certain point. Goods from Agra to Thatta were often taken via Multan—up to Multan the journey was covered in carts and thence to Thatta by way of river in boats. Here boats were hired at the rate of one rupee per maund, which included all charges of custom and cargo to be paid to state officials.133 However, charges paid on boats were considered higher than other modes, like carts and camels.134 Goods from Lahore to Thatta, were transported via Multan down the stream in flat bottomed boats of a tonnage that could manage a 1,000 or 2,000 maunds of weight. They would reach Multan in eleven days by paying 2½ per cent duties at Multan along the ‘gant’ (gh"at) or taking passage which had to be paid for separately at the rate of ¼ per cent or more. Thus, total charges would go up to Rs. 250 for 1,000 maund of weight of goods. R"ahdar∂ " (transit duties) for 500 to 2,000 maund weight was fixed at Rs. 1,000 besides payment to ‘mariners’ (boatsmen) and soldiers (chowk∂s) accompanying as guards which had to be made at the rate of ‘10-12 & 20 rupees respectively’.135 While it took 12 to 18 days to reach Thatta from Lahore down the stream, upstream the journey back to Lahore ‘they reckon six or seven Weeks long’, noticed Hamilton.136 Boats could be hired at Nausari to take goods to Surat at the rate of one mahm"ud∂ per day (via the Gulf of Cambay).137 As per the instructions of the Company dated November 1668, boatmen in Hugly assigned to bring down the


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

(English) goods from the Ganges to the ships, were paid ten ‘shillings per ton, as a remuneration’.138 Boatmen were supposed to help in taking the goods across the rivers as well. François Martin travelling between Pondicherry and Surat in 1681, paid Rs. 10 to them to take goods across Penganga (Godavari) ‘as several trips had to be made’ across the river.139 Charles Lockyer states about Madras that when ships arrived in the road, boatmen rushed to supply them refreshments and charged just one penny for it. Also that, some of those who were sent to bring message from the ships anchoring in the road were paid 6 fanams or 18 pence for a trip. Here the charges seem quite different for almost similar type of service. In the first case, they may have charged separately from those who required refreshments. In the latter case, if the ship was not bound for the port (of Madras), they were to lose the money.140 Often, road or transit dues were taken care of by the carters, oxen drivers or camelmen themselves on the route of their journey. In the mid-seventeenth century (1656) the rate of toll-tax paid by the carters is reported to be ‘10/16 "ann" as per ox’. 141 At times, merchants themselves paid chowk∂s or road-dues on the goods, especially those of high value. As far as payment to the carters, camelmen or ferrymen is concerned, there was no system of credit and merchants and travellers had to pay immediately after the completion of journey. This convention had to be followed religiously, even if they were forced to borrow money for the same. Money could be borrowed on interest and bhatt"a (discount or difference in exchange) both, and rare evidence suggests the rate of interest as ‘two per cent, besides one half per cent buttow’ [bhatt"a] on such borrowings.142 PÅLKI CARRIERS P" alk∂s (palanquins) were used by people of means, merchants, travellers, or women of upper echelons of society of the cities and towns alike. For a journey covering long-distance too, p"alk∂s were in vogue. While for a short distance or within the town, two persons were enough to carry a small p"alk∂, for making a long distance journey or to carry p"alk∂s of bigger size more than two persons,

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


and at times up to twelve, could be put into service. If a palanquin carrier was employed permanently, his wages were paid on a monthly basis. Some people hired them for longer duration but paid the wages at a monthly rate. The rate of payment again differed from place to place. They were generally paid four rupees in a month. If the journey lasted long, they could charge up to Rs. 5 in a month. Abul Fazl at the end of the sixteenth century records the wages of p"alk∂ bearers fixed by the Emperor at the rate of 120 to 160 dams " a month, which on commuting into rupees would come out to be Rs. 3 to 4.143 For a return journey from Agra to Banaras, p"alki bearers carrying a sick Dutch factor charged Rs. 32 for a period of 38-40 days. Since the number of p"alki bearers is not mentioned, it is difficult to make out the wages of an individual. It can be tentatively worked out on the basis of the number of bearers employed to carry a p"alk∂ on long journeys. Usual requirement was eight persons— four to carry the passenger, and rest four to relieve them turns. Hence, wages for the return journey would come around Rs. 4 per person. In 1675, two p"alki carriers were sent by the English from Madapollam to their friends in Masulipatam to meet the shortage of ‘palanquin boys’ there as the king of Golconda was on a visit to the city of Masulipatam who had taken all the p"alki carriers into his service for the time being. They were entitled for a salary ‘at 6¼ pagodas per month a set (i.e. two men) plus batty (bhatt"a, premium)’, which was quite a substantial amount indeed.144 Around the same time Charles Dellon, a Frenchman who visited India between 1668 and 1679, verifies the wages of p"alki bearers, that four of them received ‘20 livers per Month’. He provides an important clue that they were not provided with any victuals when employed for local visits, but had to be offered the same when one would ‘go into the Country’.145 The rich and people of status in the society maintained their own p"alk∂s of different shapes and designs equipped with accessories and having all comforts. An early eighteenth-century source on Madras refers to the wages of p"alk∂ carriers being three pence a day if taking someone within the town. Or else, they charged more.146 Those p"alk∂ bearers who were hired by travellers and others, had to come with their own p"alk∂s. It is of interest to know that in


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

such (hired) p"alk∂s, for extra comfort—like reed cover with a wax cloth over it, cotton-lined cushions and some metal fittings, extra charges were to be paid for every item separately.147 The class who was in the profession of carrying p"alk∂s, was that of kahars " or of gawal " as " . In 1714, ‘Cahars’ carrying English ambassador John Surnam from Calcutta to the Court of Farrukh Siyar were paid at the rate of eight rupees (perhaps for the whole journey). At Fort William Calcutta, a gaw"ala" (serving as a palk∂ " bearer) drew a salary somewhat a little above two rupees a month, as is recorded for the year 1711 when eight gualers (gaw"alas " ) are mentioned drawing Rs. 16 and 12 annas; " " or only Rs. 8 (for four persons collectively) a month.148 In each town (where they were hired from), p"a lk∂ bearers were conducted by a chief of their own caste. He would take the responsibility of their honesty and conduct. In turn, each man of his trade had to pay him one rupee, perhaps after completing the journey from outside the town.149 MINERS During the medieval period, the mining industry was a wellestablished industry, especially in diamond mines thousands of labourers were employed mainly located in Deccan. In Golconda, according to an estimate of Tavernier, two pagodas were paid to the state for employing a group of fifty miners for a day’s work. As far as earning of these miners are concerned, they earned only three pagodas per annum, or around a rupee or so in a month as the value of a pagoda, as stated earlier, varied from Rs. 3½ to 4½.150 During the succeeding years this remuneration, perhaps due to some reasons, came down to be ‘1¼ pagoda’ per mensem, ‘both in money and corne’ as is recorded by Streynsham Master for the Gullaapellee mines of Golconda, in case they were to be supplied with food grains also.151 Somehow, there appears some mistake in Master’s estimate as miners were paid not monthly but annually.152 Also, wages paid to the diamond-miners at Ramal Kotta were lower than other places. Payment made at Ramal Kotta was made at the rate of only a pice a day.153 Here the employer had to pay excise on corn, salt, tobacco and betel, etc., hence, prices of food grains and other items were high.154

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


Workers in lime and stone quarries formed a distinct class. Moreland points out that only the rates of lime or kankar lime, not the wages, are recorded by the contemporaries for the first half of the seventeenth century.155 Workers in salt mines in Lahore region were employed on regular basis to dig out blocks of salt. Abul Fazl describes a distinct mode of earning wages by the miners of rock salt. That extracted salt was carried to the river for transportation. Here the miners and the porters shared the amount. Of the total, ¾ would go to the miner. Since the price of salt quoted by Abul Fazl is 16 d"ams for a maund, it depended upon the capability of the miner how much amount of salt he could extract and sell. The State monopolized the production of salt and certain amount of revenue was collected from the miners of rock-salt.156 A reference from a nineteenth-century document suggests that they were paid one rupee for every 20 maunds of salt extracted and brought out of the mine for sale.157 CARPENTERS AND SMITHS In Åin-i Akbar∂, wages of carpenters are mentioned according to their grades. Carpenters were divided into four or five grades depending upon their skills. Their wages were fixed at the rate of 14, 12, 8, 6 and 4 pice per diem respectively, or 7, 6, 3, 2 d"ams per day. Pelsaert made a general comment while writing that all classes of workers and artisans received emoluments from 5 to 6 tack"as per day.158 Although, he does not exclusively refer to the carpenters but his statement ‘and thousands of others along with smiths, embroiders, weavers, painters, etc.’, must have included the former (i.e. carpenters) in this category of service providers. One reference indicates towards the amount of wages paid by the English factors to carpenters in the second half of the seventeenth century, that it was ‘eight pence and one shillinge’159 per day against their services.160 At this rate, total wages paid in a month could have been 50 shillings or Rs. 20 a month that seems quite a bit high. However, this category of carpenters was treated as that of ‘chief workmen’. Those working under their supervision were given only ‘three half pence a day’ (three and a half pence?). It could be a little more than Rs. 1½, and up to Rs. 4 per month. As per the record of the


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

Dutch Factory in Agra (1636-40), wages of a carpenter are mentioned as ‘12 and 13 pice per diem’.161 Carpenters were also employed in the shipbuilding industry for making or repairing ships. An early seventeenth century reference from Gujarat suggests the wages of a chief carpenter who was receiving one mahmud " ∂ and his subordinate ¾ a mahmud " ∂ per day.162 As per the ratio in vogue in the mid-seventeenth century between mahm"ud∂ and rupee (2½:1), wages of carpenters working on ships amounted to, at least, twelve rupees for the chief and eight for the subordinates. Being a functionary of village community, a carpenter was either compensated in the form of grain from each peasant household, or was assigned a tax-free plot of land considerable enough in size for him and his family’s maintenance.163 Blacksmiths and coppersmiths were paid in the usual way, i.e. 5 or 6 tack"as a day—a rate common in the time of Pelsaert. This comes close to Rs. 3¾ to 4½ for a month. Smiths contributed to society by making tools, agricultural implements, house-hold utensils and weapons. Unfortunately, references about their wages are scarce and do not occur very often in the seventeenth-century accounts. In villages, a blacksmith worked side by side with a carpenter, and thus remunerated in the same way, i.e. grain from each peasant household he worked for in a crop year, or granted tax-free plots of land.164 They supplied their wares to numerous shipyards. Thomas Bowrey who visited the town of Narsapur, found each sort of ironwork was done by the blacksmiths there.165 Hired blacksmiths were often paid a daily wage.166 MASONS Pelsaert’s reference is of immense help in getting the idea of wages about the different classes of artisans. A mason is also put in the category of those earning 5 or 6 tack"as per day. Chief masons received high wages, as a reference shows them earning twenty rupees per month from the English factors. Wages in this case were fixed at the rate of one shilling and eight pence per day. Labourers working under the chief mason’s supervision, however, received quite less—only three and a half pence per day.167 After its

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


acquisition by the English in 1668, in Bombay ‘Island’ local labourers are shown getting paid lesser amount than ‘strangers’— ‘two pice per diem’ and ‘two and half ’ respectively. The value of the coin is also specified in this particular instance that the ‘black pice were to pass at 13, bazarookes and the redd at 16’.168 ATTENDENTS IN CARAVAN SARÅIS Inn-keepers or attendants in caravan sar"a is cooked food for the travellers, besides providing them accommodation. Thomas Coryat found the charges for staying in sar"ais quite nominal.169 In the early seventeenth century, they could be engaged by paying ‘three pence’ a day, as is suggested by the evidence related to the sar"ais situated on the Agra-Ajmer route.170 Services provided in a sar"ai included preparing victuals and looking after the horses and mules of the travellers by the host of a sar"ai. For three pence, male and female attendants also cleaned the rooms of these travellers. Manrique (1629-43) found the attendants (‘Metres and Meteranis’) quite obliging and that for performing all necessary duties they charged a small coin debua (or dabba),171 or two. Manrique further appends that it is ‘so small a coin that a half real of eight contains fifty six debuas or paisas’. Unfortunately, he does not make it clear whether this amount was charged for a day or more, but debua being so small a coin (of the value of a 1/2 dam), it would have certainly been charged on a daily basis.172 Provisions had to be arranged by travellers themselves, which could easily be found in and around the sar"ai. Thevenot stayed in Bagnagar (Hyderabad) in a sar"ai called Niamatullah Sarai and noted that it was known as the best in the city. Here he rented a room on a monthly basis at the rate of ‘two Roupias a month’.173 Peter Mundy (1608-67) describing Saif Khan’s sar"ai in Patna, states that it was the halting place for merchants of all nations. Unfortunately, he does not come out with any information about the charges for staying therein, but specifically informs that merchants could lodge there by paying charges on a monthly basis. He further differentiates between those having long-term plans and casual visitors, that there were numerous sar"ais scattered in every part of the country ‘servinge for all sorts of Travellers that come at night and away in the morninge’.174


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

MISCELLANEOUS Bread-making was an important profession during the medieval centuries. Manrique noticed the bazars of Lahore having innumerable shops selling different types of breads in demand among the rich and poor. Often they were employed in the factories of foreign trading companies. Bakers were paid according to the quantity of flour they used for making bread. One such reference indicates that the incharge of the bakery was paid at the rate of ‘39 pice per ma’[und], and his helpers received ‘11 pice per maund’ for making bread using that quantity of flour.175 Bread was prepared in huge amounts to be carried on ships during long voyages. Unfortunately, with this only reference, one would not be able to draw a satisfactory conclusion. There was a class of skilled artisans who worked upon crystal and agate and made vessels of them. Engravings on vessels were filled with rings and leaves of gold. In this profession, generally ‘poor people’ were employed including small boys who would beat and flatten the rods of gold. Wages were fixed according to the weight of gold they worked upon. Thevenot noticed the rate for such artisans as ‘two crowns for each tole (tol"a) of gold’ processed.176 Scavengers’ (hal"alkhor or mehtar) collected their remuneration monthly, fixed on each house, depending upon the size of the family of the employer.177 In villages, sweepers and scavengers were entitled for a certain quantity of grain from each house or field. Somehow, they also accepted whatever was offered to them in the form of food or worn-out clothes. In the early seventeenth-century Englishmen recorded a hal"alkhor’s wages being around Rs. 2 a month who was employed in the Agra factory in 1622.178 It is quite strange that English factory records of early eighteenth-century Bengal show the scavengers receiving very low amount as compared to other unskilled workers or labourers, i.e. only 12 ann"as per month. Another reference from Patna factory, however, shows a respectable amount paid to a hall"alcore, i.e. two rupees a month.179 It implies that wages paid to the same class differed from region to region. Hawkins noticed the wages of gardeners, porters and washermen

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


ranging between Rs. 3 and 10 a month.180 Thomas Bowrey found a kind of uniformity in rates of wages of palanquin carriers, umbrella bearers, trumpet carriers, peons and pick-men. He emphatically remarks that two rupees were paid to them ‘every new moon’.181 In the Dutch factory at Agra, between 1637-40, a washerman was paid five rupees in a month; a s"a’is (horse keeper)—Rs. 3½ to 4½; a torch bearer, four rupees; and a sweeper, 5 rupees a month. Here wages quoted for the sweepers are quite high than usually recorded by others. In the same factory, servants performing a variety of duties received wages between Rs. 3 and 8 per month. A barber was paid one rupee for the operation of ‘bleeding’ (blood-letting), otherwise payment was made to him on ‘frequent intervals’, as he could be called any time for shave or massage.182 To the much surprise of Ovington, a ‘moderate barber’ for shaving beard, cutting hair, ‘picking’ the ears, and ‘pairing’ the nails, did ‘all for one pice or two’.183 English factory records show the wages of a barber ranging between Rs. 2 to 2½.184 An interesting letter is contained in the English Factory Records written by a Company’s servant William Smyth from Viravasaram to his Father John Smyth in England informing him about his posting in Masulipatam. He was happy to be in that town and wrote about the cheapness of necessities and that many servants could easily be maintained to enhance one’s state in the eyes of people. He wrote that in the Masulipatam factory he and his colleagues had nearly 70 persons, adding that ‘to whom we covenant to pay between 4s. and 5s. sterling per month each, they finding all provisions and necessities’. These servants would be paid allowances when going out of the factory on company’s business at the rate of ‘2d. per diem, which is the rate we give to all day labourers and porters we usually employ to carry burdens 50, 60 or 100 miles outright, which is the usual conveyance we make use of for all sorts of goods’, informed William Smyth with a great surprise.185 Friar Navarrete, while in Madras in 1670, figured out the pay of servants engaged in different types of duties inside the Fort St. George. He held that it was ‘a piece of [a rial] of eight and a half, or two pieces of eight a month’. When commuted into Indian currency, it would come nearly three to four rupees.186 Incidentally, about the snake charmers, we have a


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

rare piece of information. Though, they belonged to a class of poor people who were not wage earners, however per chance, we find them demanding one or half a penny ‘to return their snakes in the baskets’.187 In relation to the embassy of John Surnam to the court of Farrukh Siyar in 1714, wages of different attendants are referred to, perhaps, for the whole journey from Calcutta to Delhi and back. Here a horse-keeper and a grass-cutter was promised seven rupees; a khidmatg"ar (attendant) eight rupees; a cook eight rupees; a mash"alch∂ (torch bearer) seven rupees, and a ‘frost’ (farrash " or incharge of tents and draperies) eight rupees for the whole journey.188 In 1718 a m"al∂ (gardener) was receiving two rupees a month.189 The English at Viravasram maintained a good number of servants by paying them ‘4s.[hillings] and 5 s.[hillings] sterling per month cash’.190 Having a look at the wage structure, it becomes apparent that labourers and artisans were paid in different ways—daily, monthly or annually (not so often in the last case) based on amount of work done by them, or in lump sum by entering into an agreement with the employer. Unfortunately, influential people, especially those in imperial service, had been in a constant practice of cheating or underpaying them. There is evidence to support our belief. While describing the ill practices prevalent among nobles and influential people, Pelseart says that (instead of believing in the lunar system) they often reckoned forty days in a month. He, however, mentions that in most of the cases wages were paid on a daily basis. A month was calculated from the day of the ‘new moon’ (be it of twentynine days’ or of thirty). References about this practice frequently occur in the accounts of other contemporaries like Thomas Bowrey and Edward Terry as well. Keeping in mind the prices and availability of food grains and eatables in markets in abundance, one can say that the amount must have been enough to buy necessities of life. However, it always depended upon the number of mouths one had to feed in the family. Unfortunately, we lag in such information where we are informed of the number of members in a family of a wage earner or self employed person. Otherwise, Fitch, Roe, Terry, Bernier, Della Valle and Tavernier, and many others, speak of commodities sold on cheap rates. Household servants did

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


cost very little and were usually employed in large numbers. The poor or ordinary people normally consumed coarse sugar and low varieties of food grains. Average wages of numerous groups mentioned in contemporary sources are two rupees onwards, with certain exceptions. Della Valle categorically says that with three rupees a prudent man could provide victuals and clothing for himself and his family for a month.191 Often, three pice a day were considered more than sufficient.192 As has been cited earlier, in the year 1658 when an English factor wrote to his family (in England) about the cheap rates of commodities in the city of Masulipatam, he informed them that a labourer or porter earning four or five shillings per month could enjoy all kinds of provisions and necessities of life.193 This amount, when commuted into rupees would range between a little less than two rupees to somewhat above two rupees. Contrary to it, when Manrique hails the low prices of ready and cooked food in the markets of Lahore in 1641 (when Shah Jahan was encamped there), his estimate comes nowhere close to what could be called as ‘low prices’. In his own words: ‘what struck me most were the low prices at which these things (cooked delicacies) were sold, for any man could fare fully and sumptuously all day for two silver real’.194 Interestingly, silver real was worth four to five shillings and the amount in rupees would come close to two rupees a day. At this rate, it was not cheap at all for an Indian poor or common man to consume delicacies worth two rupees in a day. Simultaneously, these accounts are also full of details on the miseries of the common people, an aspect that is difficult to be ignored. There might be reasons for it, and non-availability of regular employment could be one of them. Spending more than required on the occasion of marriages, funerals and festival entertainments, ‘drains their Fortunes’, said Ovington. He specifically points out that ‘if they are poor, (these customs) never suffers them grow Wealthy’.195 This could be one of the credible reasons of their wretched condition repeatedly talked about in the contemporary sources. Famines, wars and natural calamities, could be some other reasons for the rise of prices of commodities, while non-payment of due wages, or non-payment of full wages, would undoubtedly add up to their miseries. In the 1630s, a severe famine hit Gujarat


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

and it continued for several years. Because of this, prices rose in the region. John Van Twist who had been at the Dutch factories of Ahmadabad, Baroda, Broach and Cambay, could even feel its repercussions much later. He gave a graphic picture of the famine and the rising prices in his account of 1638. ‘Formerly 45 sers (i.e. 33¾ Holland pounds) of wheat could be bought for a mahmoudi (equal to 10 2/3 of our stivers), but now that sum would only buy two or three sers, or 2 2/8 [sic] Dutch pounds a great difference in price and weight’, suggesting 15-20 per cent increase in prices.196 Prices rose further after a short respite in 1631 when heavy rains turned into a calamity leading to floods and destruction of crops, finally, resulting in loss of life due to the epidemics. Formerly in 1673 when the Dutch besieged the Island of Bombay and due to the threats from Shivaji as well, many weavers fled from Bombay as the cost of commodities was rising sharply. Similarly, due to wars between Shivaji and Siddi of Jinji and his Mughal allies, the cost of provisions shot up. This was the occasion when the Portuguese also hindered the supplies from the side of Chaul and Bassien and the Mughal governor of Gujarat stopped the supplies from the Gujarat ports lest it fall into the hands of Shivaji. It coupled with the arrival of two leaking French ships in Bombay harbour and the crew stayed on the Island for four months. It resulted not only in the dearness of provision and a hike in prices, but peons and servants also started demanding higher wages. Dearness of provisions is illustrated by the fact that peons’ wages rose from 2½3 pice a day in 1673 to 4-6 pice a day in 1675.197 Bombay being under the control of the English, an attempt was made to check the rising prices. Prices were fixed and these were made subject to be monitored every month by a committee of five. Rates then were to be published in ‘the English, Portuguese and the Bamin (Brahmin) tongue’ for general information.198 Whether the wages were real or not, a brief discussion can be made in the light of works done by eminent historians. Moreland is one of the pioneers who tried to compare the wages of artisans and labourers in urban centres. To him it was only the towns and cities where men were hired to work and rates of wages did, to some extent, exist there. He also pointed out towards the phenome-

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


non of migration of people from rural areas to the towns in case of distress and calamities. He opined that wages described in Åin-i Akbar∂ were the officially sanctioned wages and that ‘real wages in north India stood at somewhat about the same level in Akbar’s time as in 1911, and that there has been no pronounced change in the standard of remuneration of these classes of population’. He somehow, admitted that Akbar’s workmen were better off than the workmen of the United Provinces in the early twentieth century (1911) but not in Punjab. Elsewhere he briefly compared the wages in Akbar’s period with those of the common people in Agra in 16378 insisting that ‘a labourer was at any rate no better off in 1637-8 than in Akbar’s time’.199 He is compelled to admit that whether the wages paid in the seventeenth century were real or not, is difficult to prove, but when the price of copper appreciated vis-àvis silver, ‘copper was now worth more silver, while the silver was for the moment worth much less grain’.200 His assumptions met with a sharp criticism in Brij Narain’s ardently discussed issue on purchasing power of common man in the late seventeenth century and first half of the twentieth century. Contrary to Moreland, he argued that money wages in the early twentieth century could be higher than ‘300 years ago’, but money only matters in terms of what it can purchase. Brij Narain seems convinced that what Europeans have accounted about the reign of Akbar and Jahangir, purchasing power was ‘so great to be almost incredible’. He is also of the view that the period of plenty and prices were cheap. Apart from this, he insists that wages in Shah Jahan’s period (1637, information based on Dutch accounts) were higher than Akbar’s period. While there was no fall in the value of silver occurred in the reign of Jahangir, prices were generally the same.201 Irfan Habib has also briefly dealt with the subject of the general movement of prices in the seventeenth century, that prices of some commodities or crops rose (in some parts like Agra, Bayana, Gujarat, etc.) one and a half to two times in the 1630s in comparison of those of 1595. It was due to the expansion of silver currency by about three times between 1692 and 1639. Another noticeable development took place in the 1660s when gold and copper prices rose very high leading to rise in prices. However some stability in


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

prices was maintained almost till 1710. He, however, was convinced that for a period of 150 years fourfold rise in prices would give an annual rate of increase of 1.93 per cent only. To him it ‘would hardly merit the designation of inflation’.202 Shireen Moosvi has discussed the issue of prices and wages that prevailed in Akbar’s period, on a wide-ranging scale. Regarding Moreland’s view that prices quoted in the Åin are wholesale prices, she proved that these were retail. She has also made comparison between the wages and prices that prevailed in Akbar’s time based on Åin with those of first official prices available for the years 186170. She has discussed the issue in various terms—relative prices, relative value, absolute value, monthly wages, piece wages, daily wages, time wages, and has tried to compare not only prices quoted in Åin with the late nineteenth century, but wages too. As far as wages of lowest paid and unskilled workers are concerned, she has reached a conclusion about the issue—whether these were the real wages or not. Here only the last mentioned aspect of her thesis can be picked for further elaboration in the context of the seventeenth century. 203 In a recent paper, Najaf Haider has brought to light a few evidence related to money wages that dropped in value. An example is borrowed from the English Factories’ records of the 1660s where a steward, whose salary was fixed in mahmud " ∂s but paid in d"ams, complained that the ratio between the two was not the same as it was earlier. Earlier it used to be 1:20 but it was now 1:13½ while converting mahm"ud∂s into dams " (or pice). The reason cited is that exchange rate of silver mahm"ud∂ fell against the dam " from 20 to 14 due to scarcity of copper, ‘money wages paid to the steward fell in value’; while on paper it remained unaffected. However, when the prices of provisions purchased by the steward remained unaffected, it was the ‘real wages’ that only fell. Similarly, when shortage of copper in Gujarat forced the authorities to reduce the weight of copper coin—ful"us or tanka (equal to two dams), " from 323 grains to 215, it was complained to Aurangzeb. That when earlier the wages to the labourers were paid in copper coins (ful"us) weighing 21 m"ashas " or of 323 grains, now the fulus " weighing 14 mashas " " or 215 grains, workers had refused to accept the payment. The emperor

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


ordered that from now in the province of Gujarat, daily wages would be paid at the rate of one and half tanka instead of one tanka. ‘From that date the tanka in Gujarat is rated at 3 ful"us’, informed Ali Mohammad Khan, the author of Mir"at-i Ahmadi.204 Najaf Haider further elaborates that while in the first case (of the steward) metal content of the unit of account remained stable while its value expressed in precious (silver) or base metal (copper) altered ‘as a result of change in the bimetallic ratio’; in the second case, ‘the metal content of the unit of account was altered as a result of change in the weight of the coin to which it was pegged’. In these ‘cases “money wages” remained constant while “real wages” declined until the anomaly was addressed either by making “extra” payment or changing the system of accounting or adding “money” to the book rates’.205 One point that can be insisted upon for the period of our study is that prices and wages in this period are not mentioned in an organized manner like those in the Åin. These come from different sources, in different contexts, and for different regions and are spread over the whole century. It would not be wrong to say that these were retail prices. On the issue related to the wages and it being real, in the light of available information, it can be safely said that, to some extent, these were real. There are instances that support the hypothesis that there was ample scope of adjustment of wages in the wake of rising prices. Some of these instances can be cited here. In 1674, coolies in Bombay under the English refused to serve on the stipulated wages saying that the wars in the region against the Marathas and the Mughals had raised the prices of the commodities, and that they could not afford to sustain themselves unless some increment was made. Ultimately, the Englishmen had to oblige.206 Famines in Gujarat in the 1630s also forced the employers of the workmen pay higher rates because prices of the commodities shot up. Similarly, prices of foodgrains and other necessities could go up because of the presence of royal camp or army in a given area. In such conditions, service providers can be seen asking for higher wages or charges.207 The case of 1682 can also be cited here to insist that rise in prices needed an adjustment in terms of payment. In this particular year Dharwad weavers


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

demanded from the English ‘an unusual allowance per corge for the risqué of weavours, etc.’, due to the presence of the Mughal Emperor and his armies in Deccan which had led to a rise in prices. After much negotiation brokers agreed to it and then, English merchants also sanctioned it.208 There are numerous complaints that have been recorded in the contemporary European accounts related to the service providers who would insist on additional payment in case they felt that they could not afford necessities of life with meagre payment or the amount agreed upon. However, not only natural but man-made calamities often caused hardships to the artisans and others, especially in case of the rise in prices. The specific case of Bundela attacks on merchants and weavers in the vicinity of Malwa in the closing years of the seventeenth century can be cited here. For fear of attacks merchants stopped visiting the markets of the area (near Sironj), and prices of cloth fell in the absence of buyers. With no sign of buyers, they could not purchase food items either as prices of commodities rose due to Bundela depredations. Peasants also suffered on this account in the absence of buyers of cotton. They were ready to sell cotton to weavers ‘for almost nothing . . . to spin and make into cloth’.209 Tables of prices of food commodities required daily, attached to this chapter, make one understand how much of food grains and other eatables one could afford for the wages earned during the seventeenth century.

NOTES 1. Della Valle, ed. Edward Grey, vol. I, pp. 42, 43n. A ‘zeccine’ or a ‘sequin’ had an average value of about 4s. 5d. 2. Eugenia Vanina, Urban Crafts and Craftsmen, p. 103. Shireen Moosvi has asserted that money wage payments were largely the rule in seventeenth century Indian towans and marts, and in the imperial and aristocratic establishments. According to the nature of employment she has divided the artians and craftsmen in various groups—(a) self employed; (b) market wage earners; (c) piece-rate wage-earners; (d) indentured labour; (e) chattel slaves; (f) ‘demiurgic’ labour; (g) domestic service. ‘The World of Labour in Mughal India (c. 1500-1750)’, PIHC 2010-11, pp. 343-57.

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


3. Abul Fazl, Åin-i Akbar∂, Syed Ahmad Khan Edn., pp. 90, 132-3, 166; H. Blochmann (tr.), vol. I, pp.123, 235-6, 298. 4. Åin-i Akbar∂, ibid., p. 138, ibid., p. 243. 5. Åin-i Akbar∂, ibid., p. 139, ibid., p. 246. 6. Åin-i Akbar∂, ibid., p. 114, ibid., p. 159. 7. Åin-i Akbar∂, ibid., pp. 132-3; ibid., pp. 235-6. 8. Åin-i Akbar∂, ibid., pp. 97-8; ibid., pp. 244-6. 9. Åin-i Akbar∂, ibid., pp.106-7, ibid., pp. 145-7. Abul Fazl clarifies the variations as follows: ‘He (a m∂rdaha) gets the pay of an ahadi; but in other kh"assah stables, he only gets 170 d"ams; in the country-bred stables, 160 dams; " in the other si-aspi stables, 140 d"ams; in the bist-aspi stables, 100 dams; " in the dah-aspi stables, 30 d"ams. Besides he has to look after two horses’. 10. Åin-i Akbar∂, op. cit., pp. 106-7; Blochmann (tr.), op. cit., pp. 145-6. It has been detailed in the following manner: ‘in the chihil-aspi stables, each groom gets 170 d"ams; in the stables of the eldest prince, 138 dams, " in the stables of other princes, and in the courier horse stables, 136 d"ams; in the country bred stables, 126 d"ams; in the other si-aspi stables, 106 dams; " in the bist-aspi stables, 100 d"ams;’ per month were usually paid. 11. Åin-i Akbar∂, Syed Ahmad Khan edn., pp. 106-7; Blochmann (tr.) vol. I, pp. 145-7. 12. Åin-i Akbar∂, ibid., p.107; ibid., pp. 146-7. 13. Åin-i Akbar∂, ibid., p. 138; ibid., p. 243. 14. Åin-i Akbar∂, ibid., p. 138; ibid., pp. 243-5. Blochmann puts the details of the chapter entitled Åin-i J"andaran " " in a tabular form for all seven categories, which is as follows: ‘Groom . . . I, 63 d"ams; II, 63 dams; " III, 60 dams; " IV, 60 d"ams; V, 45 dams; " VI, 45 dams; " VII, 45 dams’. " Vol. I, p. 245. 15. Either eleven persons were allowed for two elephants, or the last was a boy. 16. Åin-i Akbar∂, op. cit., p. 97; Blochmann (tr.), vol. I, p. 132. A mah"avat, a bho∂ and three and a half meths were required to manage a mast elephant. 17. Åin-i Akbar∂, op. cit., pp. 97-8; Blochmann (tr.), vol. I, pp. 132-3. 18. Åin-i Akbar∂, op. cit., p. 139; Blochmann op. cit., p. 247. 19. Åin-i Akbar∂, op. cit., p. 112; Blochmann, op. cit., pp. 155. 20. Åin-i Akbar∂, op. cit., p. 139; Blochmann, op. cit., p. 246. 21. Åin-i Akbar∂, op. cit., p. 114; Blockmann, op. cit., p. 159. The sentence in the Åin is –wa d∂gr"an r"a az do bist o panj"ah wa shash ziy"adeh wa az sad wa dw"azdeh dam " kam n∂st. 22. Åin-i Akbar∂, Syed Ahmad Khan edn., p. 114; Blochmann, op. cit., p. 159. 23. Åin-i Akbar∂, op. cit., p. 166; Blochmann, op. cit., p. 298.

344 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35.

36. 37. 38. 39. 40.

41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48.

49. 50. 51.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India Åin-i Akbar∂, op. cit., p. 166; Blochmann, op. cit., p. 298. Åin-i Akbar∂, op. cit., p. 168; Blochmann, op. cit., p. 301. Åin-i Akbar∂, op. cit., pp. 146-7; Blochmann, op. cit., pp. 262-3. Åin-i Akbar∂, op. cit., p. 148; Blochmann, op. cit., p. 264. Åin-i Akbar∂, op. cit., p. 42; Blochmann, op. cit., p. 49. Åin-i Akbar∂, vol. I, pp. 123, 235-6, 298. Manucci, vol. II, pp. 330-1. Manucci, pp. 336-8. Hawkin’s Voyages, p. 420. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 60. Radha Kamal Mukherjee, The Economic History of India 1600-1800, Allahabad, 1967, pp. 26, 49. Norris Embassy, p. 174. On the occasion of Aurangzeb’s birthday Norris found him ordering to ‘distribute to all ye Dubasses, peons, parries and cooleys a Rupee a piece and to inform them ye occasion, and ye Leader of each double’. Pelsaert (M. Azhar Ansari), pp. 129-30. Pelsaert, Jahangir’s India, pp. 62-3. Pelsaert, ibid., pp. 62-3. De Laet, The Empire of the Great Mogul, pp. 89-90. Bernier, pp. 255-6. Mandelslo narrates the story of a group of singers and dancers in Ahmadabad who refused to perform in the presence of Azam Khan, the then subahd"ar of Gujarat, because the latter would not pay them. Azam Khan got them executed in his own presence and many others. Mandelslo’s Travels, p. 39. Countries Round the Bay of Bengal, p. 83. Careri, A Voyage Round the World (1691), p. 243. The Travels of Pietro Della Valle, Edwared Grey, vol. I, p. 42. Ibid. Ibid., pp. 88-9. Also, Travels of Sig. Pietro Della Valle, London, 1665 (F. Macock & Henry Herringman), pp. 22-3. Indrani Ray, Of Trade and Traders in Seventeenth Century India, p. 87. Pelsaert, Jahangir’s India, pp. 60-1. Pelsaert, pp. 60-1n. Moreland notes that perhaps, Pelsaert uses the term tacka as a synonym for the Mughal copper coin d"am. Tanka, however, was a double d"am. Irfan Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India, p. 545. Thomas Herbert, Some Years Travels in Asia and Africa, 1627-1629, London, 1638, p. 38. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 197; 1646-1650, p. 120. English Factories, 1637-1641, pp. 68-9; 1655-1660, p. 200.

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


52. English Factories, vol. III (Charles Fawcett), 1678-1684, p. 388. 53. Streynsham Master, Diaries, vol. I, pp. 356, 384-5. Here he cites the specific case of Qasimbazar. 54. English Factories, 1661-1664, pp. 112-13. 55. Streynsham Master, Diaries, vol. I, pp. 392-3; Thomas Bowrey gives the ratio between a rupee and cowries as 1:3200. 56. Streynsham Master, Diaries, vol. I, pp. 392-3. 57. Europeans, more than often, called the weavers, dyers or painters as ‘merchants’. Their custom of deducting an amount in the name of commission from both the parties was greatly criticized by the foreign merchants at Bombay in 1654. English Factories, 1651-1654, p. 305. 58. Streynsham Master, Diaries, vol. II, pp. 317-18. 59. Wilson, The Early Annals, vol. III, pp. 141-2. 60. Streynsham Master, Diaries, vol. II, p. 41. 61. Om Prakash, ‘Long Distance Trade, Coinage and Wages in India:16001960’, in Wages and Currency: Global Comparisons from the Antiquity to the Twentieth Century, ed. Jan Lucassen, 2007, p. 339. 62. Indrani Ray, Of Trade and Traders in Seventeenth Century India, pp. 86, 92. 63. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 197. In one such case best quality of ‘ambertis’ made at Lakhawar near Patna could be obtained at a cheaper rate (one to six rupees net the piece) by way of making advances (1620). 64. English Factories, 1642-1645, p. 77 (1642). 65. Streynsham Master, Diaries, vol. II, pp. 318-19. 66. Streynsham Master, Diaries, vol. II, pp. 12-13. Georges Roques also has detailed on the methods of cheating mainly by banias and brokers, that they made huge profits on investments on textiles, sometimes 50-60 per cent of the total amount invested. They charged both the investor and the craftsmen. Indrani Ray, Of Trade and Traders in Seventeenth Century India, pp. 87-8, 90, 94-6, 100, 103, 108-9. One of his statements is of immense interest where he says that brokers earn their livelihood without investing any capital, p. 100. 67. Pelsaert, pp. 60-1. 68. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 154. 69. English Factories, 1651-1654, pp. 229-30. 70. English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 79. Here specific case of washers and dyers of Masulipatam is in view (1643). 71. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 39. 72. English Factories, 1624-1629, p. 235. 73. Ibid., p. 235. 74. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 144 (1622, Surat).


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

75. English Factories (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, pp. 6, 71. In the 1670s, despite the ongoing war between the English and French, and against the Golconda rulers, these charges were considered as reasonable. 76. Brij Narain, Indian Economic Life, p. 13. 77. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 192. 78. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. IV, p. 38; English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 178. How many days the letter carrier took to complete the journey is not mentioned. Tavernier gives the ratio between pagoda and rupee as of 1:3 or 1:4 that prevailed during his days in India. Tavernier, vol. I, p. 328. 79. English Factories, 1637-1641, p. 51 (February 1638). 80. W.H. Moreland, ‘Some Sidelights of Life in Agra’, Journal of U.P. Historical Society, III (i), 1923, pp. 155-6. 81. The Diary of William Hedges, vol. II, p. xci /91. 82. Ibid., p. xlvi /46. 83. H.H. Das, Norris Embassy, p. 147, says ‘3 cash a day above their other allowances’. 84. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. V, p. 221. Letter through express service was sent from Isfahan to Surat in the same year in June (1617), but the payment made to the letter carrier is not mentioned. Ibid., vol. V, p. 303. A real of eight was equal to four shillings and six pence, or simply two rupees. A fresh or new real fetched two rupees thirty three pice. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 314. 85. Wilson, The Early Annals, vol. III, p. 85; vol. I, pp. 220-5; vol. II, pt. I, pp. 11-12, 24-5, 66-9, 89,152. English Factories, 1622-1623, pp. 94, 323. 86. Purchas, vol. IX, p. 35. De Laet says ‘five shillings a month in addition to their food’, p. 83. 87. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 222; also Tavernier, vol. I, pp. 27-8. 88. Mandelslo’s Travels, p. 41. He first uses the term ‘Crown’ and commutes it into rupees. He had hired eight guards for a ‘small sum’ of eight crown or sixteen rupees. This was, however, not a small sum as he had thought, since distance between Cambay and Ahmadabad is merely 100 km. 89. Tavernier, vol. I, pp. 37-8. 90. Thevenot, Indian Travels, pp. 101-2. 91. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 94 (1622). 92. Ibid., 1634-1636, p. 151. 93. Moreland, ‘Some Sidelights’, JUPHS, III (i), 1923, p. 159. 94. Wilson, The Early Annals, vol. III, p. 85. 95. Ibid., vol. II, pt. II, pp. 275-6. 96. Thomas Herbert, Some Years Travels, p. 38.

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence 97. 98. 99. 100. 101.

102. 103. 104.




108. 109. 110. 111.


Ibid., p. 38. Moreland, ‘Some Sidelights’, p. 158. English Factories, 1655-1660, p. 261. English Factories in India (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1684, vol. I, p. 106 (1674). Ibid., p. 120. The reason attributed to the increase in wages of coolies was that other merchants also required their services. Since many of them were in the employment of the English and other Europeans living on the Island, Indian merchants raised the rate to six pice a day and the former party was forced to follow the same. The problem got aggravated because of the arrival of two French ships in July 1675. Until this period, Tavernier’s ratio of 1:50 is applied. Careri’s ratio of 1:54 is of a later period. One reference in R.K. Mukherjee’s work suggests the ratio as 1:55/56. The Economic History, pp. 36-7. Moreland says a d"am was equal to two pice. ‘Some Sidelights’, p. 159. English Factories (Charles Fawcett) 1678-1684, vol. III, pp. 12-13. Thomas Herbert, Some Years’ Travels, p. 2. His observations are related to the port of Surat. Why he mentions the coin Abb"as∂, is not clear. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, p. 109, Phillat and Blochmann, vol. I, p. 151. Tam"aza, or she camels, believed to excel in speed, were preferred. On an average, a camel could be loaded with 9-10 maunds of weight (112.5-125 kgs). English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 73-4. In normal circumstances, the journey could be covered within forty to fifty days. In this case the list of goods sent from Agra to Surat includes 338 fardles (bales) loaded on 169 camels. On an average two bales were loaded on a camel. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. VI, p. 238 (December 1617); Thevenot estimates the distance between Agra and Surat ‘about two hundred and ten Leagues’, and that ‘they make it in five and thirty or six and thirty days Journey of Caravan’. Indian Travels, p. 46. A reference for the year 1617 equates a Jahangiri rupee with 2 shillings 6 pence, a little above the usual rate of a rupee taken equal to 2 shillings 3 pence. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. VI, p. 230. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. IV, p. 238. English Factories, 1637-1641, p. 136; 1642-1645, pp. 135-6. Ibid., 1651-1654, p. 52. Kaccha and pakka ser and maund. Cutcha and pucca, are the terms used so commonly by the merchants. These were also mentioned as ‘small’ and ‘great’ maund as well. A ‘cutcha’ maund weighed 27 lbs. and a pucca 33½ lbs. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. I, p. 34.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

112. This distance was covered in less than two days. English Factories, 16341636, pp. 125, 127 (Thattah, 1635). 113. W.H. Moreland, ‘Some Sidelights’, p. 157. The return journey was covered within thirty-six days, thus making it twenty-five rupees for a month, a very handsome amount but for a very important assignment. 114. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. IV, p. 252. 115. Manrique, vol. II, p.179. 116. Pietro Della Valle, The Travels of , Edward Grey, vol. I, pp. 184-5. 117. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. IV, p. 251; vol. VI, p. 238. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 199. 118. Letters Received by the East India Company, vol. I, p. 191. 119. Taka—a somewhat varying fraction of a rupee: two pice in Hindustan, three in Gujarat and four in Deccan. In Bengal, it was a rupee itself. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 256. 120. Ibid., 1618-1621, p. 268. 121. Ibid., 1646-1650, p. 112 (March, 1647). 122. On one such occasion, for transporting goods from Surat to nearby ‘Berew’ (Variao), the Dutch outwitted the English by offering thirteen mahm"ud∂s per cart and succeeded in winning them and their services, while these carters had earlier promised to serve the English. English Factories, 16221623, p. 287. 123. English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 269-70 (1621). 124. Ibid., 1622-1623, p. 90. 125. Moreland, ‘Some Sidelights’, pp. 158-9. 126. Indian Travels, pp. 101-2. 127. Vol. I, p. 37. It might be an exaggeration and a result of misunderstanding, because thirty rupees a month could be the charges demanded only in special circumstances. 128. English Factories, 1634-1636, pp. 130-1. 129. Norris Embassy, p. 196. A pagoda was equal to 3½ to 4½ rupees depending upon its being old or new respectively. 130. A candy was equal to 20 to 23 maunds approximately. Letters Received, vol I, p. 34; vol. V, p. 209. 131. English Factories (Charles Fawcett) 1670-1677, vol. II, p. 310. When the king of Golconda visited Masulipatam in 1676, one of the privileges he granted to the English in the town, was the reduction of hiring charges from ‘6 to 2 pagodas a candy’, between Masulipatam and Golconda (capital city). Another information for the same occasion is that English were allowed to pay four ‘pagodas new for ox hire per candy weight [and for] customes’, clearly indicating that two pagodas per candy (weight) were the custom charges which were included in it. Ibid., p. 294.

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


132. The Travels of. . . , (Hakluyt), vol. II, pp. 291-3, 299. Peter Mundy travelled from Agra to Surat in 1632 in the company of the lashkar of the then newly appointed sub-ahdar of Gujarat Baqar Khan who was coming from Orissa and had to move fast. Many camels and oxen died, or were stolen during the journey. After facing humiliation and hardships, Mundy left his caravan at Jalore. Another series of sufferings began as the route was not safe and carters, camelmen and peons made demands of ‘gratification’ and compensation for the losses. He was asked to lend them money to buy camels and oxen. ‘Brokers’ did not come to his help. 133. English Factories, 1634-1636, pp. 130-1 (1635). 134. Ibid., 1637-1641, pp. 137-8 (1639). 135. Ibid., p. 135 (1639). 136. Hamilton, vol. I, p. 123. 137. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 219 (1623). 138. John Bruce, Annals of the East India Company, vol. II, pp. 228-9. 139. Varadarajan, India in the 17th Century, vol. I part II, p. 771. 140. Charles Lockyer, An Account of the Trade in India, pp. 11, 29. 141. English Factories, 1655-1660, p. 67. 142. Ibid., 1624-29, p. 239 (Agra, 1628). 143. Jean Deloche calculates it to be 4.8 to 9.5 rupees, which is wrong. Usually forty d"ams constituted a rupee. Hence the wages commuted into rupees at this rate should have been 3 or 4 rupees. Transport and Communication in India Prior to Steam Locomation, 2 vols, vol. I, p. 217n. 144. English Factories, (Charles Fawcett), vol. II, 1670-1677, p. 290. 145. Charles Dellon, A Voyage to the East Indies, p. 39. 146. Charles Lockyer, An Account of Trade in India, London, 1711, pp. 26-7. It would come out to be 1/9 of a rupee, as two shillings and three pence made a rupee in the seventeenth century. In a month, a p"alk∂ bearer would earn a little above three rupees a month if he worked daily. 147. A Dutch factor on his return journey from Agra to Banaras, paid for reedcover and wax-cloth, rupees thirteen; for cotton-lining and cushions, rupees 7¾ ; for p"alki with metal fittings, rupees 7½. Moreland, ‘Some Sidelights’, p. 158. 148. Wilson, The Early Annals, vol. II, pt. II, pp. 275-6; vol. II, pt. I, pp. 12, 2. 149. Tavernier, vol. I, p. 38. 150. Ibid., vol. II, p. 46 151. Diaries of Streynsham Master, vol. II, pp. 172-3. 152. Tavernier, vol. II, pp. 46, 59. 153. Ibid., pp. 46, 59; Streynsham Master, Diaries, vol. II, p. 173. 154. Streynsham Master, Diaries, vol. II, pp. 172-5 (1679).


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

155. ‘Some Sidelights’, pp. 159-60. 156. Åin, Jarret & Sarkar (eds.), vol. II, p. 67; Åin, Syed Ahmad Khan, Aligarh edn., p. 49. 157. H.K. Naqvi, Urban Centres and Industries in Upper India, p. 241. 158. Abul Fazl, Åin, Syed Ahmad Khan, vol. I, pp. 123, 235-6, 298; Pelsaert, Jahangir’s India, p. 60. 159. English Factories, 1668-1669, p. 81. 160. One rupee was equal to two shillings and three pence, and one shilling comprised of twelve pence. 161. Moreland, ‘Some Sidelights’, p. 160. 162. English Factorries, 1622-1623, p. 93 163. A.I. Chicherov, p. 26. 164. Ibid., p. 27. 165. Countries Round the Bay of Bengal, p. 102. 166. Relations of Golconda, p. 27. 167. English Factories, 1668-1669, p. 81 168. Ibid., p. 216 (Bombay, 1669). Possibly the black pice contained more base than copper or red pice. 169. Foster, Early Travels in India, p. 248. 170. Withington/Worthington, Purchas, vol. IV, p. 174. 171. Jean Deloche, Transport and Communication in India Prior to Steam Locomation, vol. I, p. 180. 172. Manrique, Travels, vol. II, pp. 100-2. Dab or dub was in use in some parts of India till the first half of the twentieth century. C.E. Luard, Travels of Fray Sebastian Manrique, vol. II, p. 102n.; in the seventeenth century its value was equal to ½ a dam. Hobson Jobson, pp. 293-4. 173. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 132; Jean Deloche, vol. I, p. 180n. 174. The Travels of Peter Mundy in Europe and Asia (Hakluyt), vol. II, p. 159. 175. English Factories, 1622-1623, pp. 254-61. 176. Thevenot, Indian Travels, pp. 55-6. 177. Tavernier, vol. II, pp. 145-6; Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 89. 178. English Factories, 1622-1623, p. 94. 179. Wilson, The Early Annals, vol. I, pp. 220-3; vol. II, pt. I, pp. 11, 24, 37, 66, 89, 152. 180. Hawkin’s Voyages, p. 420. 181. Countries Round the Bay of Bengal, p. 83. 182. Moreland, ‘Some Sidelights’, p. 149. Here the washerman might have been involved in giving a finish to cotton textiles meant for shipping. 183. A Voyage to Surat, pp. 142-3. 184. Wilson, The Early Annals, vol. I, p. 390; vol. II, pt. II, p. 152; vol. III, p. 66.

Wages: A Basic Requirement for Subsistence


185. English Factories, 1655-1660, p. 261. 186. Friar Domingo Fernandez de Navarrete in Visions of India, ed. Michael Fisher, p. 188. 187. Friar Domingo Fernandez de Navarrete, cf. Michael Fischer, Visions of India, p. 197. 188. Wilson, The Early Annals, vol. II, pt. II, pp. 275-6. 189. Ibid., vol. III, p. 66. 190. English Factories, 1655-1660, p. 261. 191. Della Valle (Azhar Ansari), p. 8. 192. English Factories, 1634-1636, p. 294. 193. English Factories, 1655-1660, p. 261. 194. Manrique, vol. II, pp. 186-8. 195. A Voyage to Surat, p. 194. 196. Moreland, ‘Some Sidelight’, p. 68. 197. English Factories, vol. I (Charles Fawcett), 1670-1677, pp. 66, 79, 106, 120. 198. Ibid., p. 107. 199. ‘Some Sidelights’, pp. 159-60. 200. India at the Death of Akbar, Atma Ram edn., pp. 177-80; Moreland, ‘Some Sidelights’ pp. 159-60. 201. Indian Economic Life: Past and Present, 1929, pp. 1-26. 202. The Cambridge Economic History of India, vol. I, pp. 175-6. 203. Shireen Moosvi, The Economy of the Mughal Empire, Oxford University Press, 1987, pp. 322-48. 204. Najaf Haider, ‘Structure and Movement of Wages in the Mughal Empire, 1500-1700’, in Wages and Currency: Global Comparisons from Antiquity to the Twentieth Century, ed. Jan Lucassen, Peter Lang, Bern, 2007, pp. 309-11. 205. Ibid., p. 311. 206. English Factories in India (Charles Fawcett), vol. I, 1670-1684, pp. 106, 120 (1674). 207. English Factories, 1637-1641, p. 136; 1634-1636, p. 151; 1642-1645, pp. 135-6; 1651-1654, p. 52. 208. English Factories, vol. III (Charles Fawcett, 1678-1684), p. 388. 209. Ruquia Husain, ‘Textile Industry at Sironj in the Seventeenth Century: A French Report’, Proceedings of Indian History Congress, 1995, p. 394.


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India CHAPTER 5

Aspects of Social Life

This chapter is devoted to the study of some important aspects of social life of the (supposedly) lower classes, ordinary people, or poor sections of the society in terms of various customs, traditions, ceremonies and festivals, which they observed on the occasions of birth, marriages, death and religious gatherings. Customs and ceremonies performed on certain important occasions in the families of common or poor people were broadly similar in character and form to what was organized among the rich or those who followed the same religious faith. The only difference lay in the degree of pomp and show or the expenses incurred on festivities. For example, celebration on the birth of a child in a poor family was a simple and ordinary affair, unattended by grand feasts and festivities that characterized it in an affluent society. Peculiarity in the matter of social norms and behaviour of the people of lower strata was often an outcome of their social background and caste they belonged to. Superstitions, local traditional rites and tenets also had a bearing on the customs followed by the people on particular occasions. However, contemporary works also speak of the common people or poor spending on these occasions more than what their economic means permitted. Keeping in view that detailed description of important features of Indian social life has variously been presented in a range of learned monographs and other modern works, the following narrative exclusively deals with the description of the life of poor and marginalized as depicted in the sources of the period under review. Here the focal point will remain on social behaviour and mutual relations in the caste-ridden society, especially the attitude of the upper castes or influential groups towards the poor and the lower castes.

Aspects of Social Life



Marrying off children at a young age, as young as eight, was a common feature of life among Hindus and Muslims. Somehow, there was a difference between rich and the poor; the latter would not marry their boys until they acquired ‘Some Occupation or an Apprentice’. They were then married at the age of fifteen or sixteen.1 Among poor Hindus, however, it was more elaborate an affair as compared to their Muslim counterparts. The former celebrated the marriages with great splendour and show. The marriage procession was accompanied with ‘Drums and Wind instruments and other pastimes’, be it poor or rich, the bridegroom rode on a horse to the house of the bride.2 Usually boys and girls at the age of twelve or thirteen were engaged or forced to enter in the bond of marriage by their parents. Both Hindus and Muslims spent big sums of money, often beyond their limit, on marriage celebrations. A man of ordinary means, however, could not spend ‘thousands’ of rupees on such occasions, as has been suggested by a modern scholar.3 Marriage processions moved with all possible display of whatever means they had. Bridegroom, whether belonging to a rich or an ordinary family, would proceed to the house of the bride on the day of their marriage on a horseback accompanied by family and friends. Light wind-instruments and drums were carried before him. The bride followed him on the return journey in a covered coach to his residence.4 Hindus and Muslims solemnized marriages ‘with company and noise’. The bride and bridegroom were bedecked all over with flowers.5 Manucci’s account is exceptional as it deals specifically with the customs of marriage followed by the «sudras, " who were always treated as low-caste, and who often lived in pitiable conditions. ®Sudras, " " to him, were divided into many sub-castes, but the manners and customs of celebration of marriage were generally similar. He detailed the ceremonies of one of those belonging to the sudra «" caste saying that similar ceremonies followed elsewhere.6 Among the Kallars— a caste of sudr « " "as, their elders arranged marriages of the young ones. On such occasion, all relatives would assemble under a bower, or a shady retreat with sides and roofs of leaves, or decorated with


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

latticework, and wedding rituals were performed underneath. Some of the rituals which took place at the initial stage were very strange, but the rest of them performed were ‘like [those of ] other Hindu high caste people’, like recitation of holy verses by the ‘Brahmin’ followed by seven circumambulations around the fire as it was considered an essential ceremony.7 In case the husband demanded a separation, he would give a turumbu or a token of divorce to his wife. Both of them were then free to remarry and it was not considered an offence. Strangly enough, a woman could also force her husband to give her a turumbu if she too decided a separation. However, this custom was abhorred among the people belonging to high castes.8 This custom, somehow, was not universally followed by all the s« "udras. It is strange that while a male divorcee could easily remarry, a widow by doing so would bring shame to her family. Polygamy was somewhat common among the marginalized. Pariahs, a sub-caste of sudras, «" traditionally imitated the customs of the Brahmins and emulated all their rituals. Yet, these ceremonies were to be attended by the people of their castes only.9 Robert Orme is one of the few persons who reports about the Gentoos (Hindus) in the mid-eighteenth century who could keep more than one wife.10 The basic rituals observed among the poor Muslims did not differ from the rich, since most of the rites were performed as per the religious sanctions. As a result of interaction with the nonMuslims in the past centuries, Muslims had taken to many Hindu customs. Although, Manucci documents the ceremonies common among the men of state, he categorically appends that ‘poor people conduct their marriages in the same way, to the extent of each man’s resources’.11 The procession of b"arat " was usually taken out in the evening. Magnificently clad and profusely garlanded, the bridegroom riding a horse proceeded towards the house of the bride accompanied by his family members. They moved with lights and torches in their hands with much noise and continuous dancing. The use of firework was quite widespread a convention and all classes of society would make good use of crackers on such special events. Some of the rituals were quite typical and had no concern with religion.12

Aspects of Social Life


Terry explains the position of the Parsees in the Indian society in the following words: ‘Their profession is, for the generality, all kind of husbandry, employing themselves very much in sowing and setting of herbs, in planting and dressing vines, and palmetto and toddy trees, as in planting and husbanding all other trees bearing fruits, and indeed they are very industrious people’.13 Parsees would never marry their sons and daughters without consulting their priests. At the time of marriage ceremony, the couple stood at a distance. Two priests—one from the side of the bridegroom and the other representing the bride, would take their respective consent and then join their hands and prayed for their happy life. Then as a ritual, rice was scattered over their heads symbolizing that they too would multiply and flourish like the rice.14 Dancing and singing was an essential feature of the marriage celebrations. People of all professions and beliefs called dancers to perform. Not only performing on the day of marriage, they also accompanied the marriage processions.15 Men and women were ‘hired at festivals and grand solemnities, among all sects and professions of India’ to sing songs that suited the occasion.16 Intercaste marriages were not appreciated, hence, were an exception. Pelsaert, while portraying the Hindu society, includes the s« "udras in the fourth caste but with a difference: ‘The fourth caste is Charados or Soudras, like that of Rajputs, it occupies itself with war; but with a difference, that the Rajput serve on horse, and the Soudras on foot’.17 He includes people involved in different occupations in a seemingly unknown category Pauzeccour. Most of them were married in their own caste following a particular profession or of a particular religious denomination, as he elaborates: The remainder of people who do not belong to either of these four castes, are called Pauzeccour. They all occupy themselves with mechanical arts and do not differ from one another except by the different trades which they follow from father to son; so that a tailor, although he may be rich, is unable to push his children, except in his own calling, nor to marry them, be it a son or a daughter, to others than those of his trade. So also when a tailor dies all those of his calling go to the place where his body is burnt, and the same custom is observed, among all the other artisans.18


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

Terry also noted the same belief that was common in the (Hindu) society—‘and so men of several trades marry to the same trade . . . not mixing with any other’; and passed his judgment on their pitiable condition that ‘by which means they never advance themselves higher than they were at first’.19 Bernier puts the artisans and labourers in the category of ‘Seydra’ («sudra) " and informs that ‘these different tribes (Brahmin, kshatri and «s"udra, etc.) are not permitted to intermarry’.20 Thevenot and later on Careri too, in their respective memoirs have documented in detail the customs and traditions associated with marriage celebrations among different castes or social groups, and about the castes that permitted intercaste marriages in those days. Of Hindus (‘Gentiles/Gentues’) their emphasis is too obvious on the point that they did not approve marriages outside the caste.21 Abul Fazl also validates the same notion associating it to the belief the current epoch that ‘in the present age of Kali Yuga no one chooses a wife out of his own caste, nay, each of these four being subdivided into various branches, each subdivision asks in marriage only the daughters of their own equals’.22 In south India, there were people belonging to the lowest rungs of the society known as Paravous (Prabh"us) and Patara who could not marry in other castes. However, unlike many others they allowed their widows to remarry. Similarly, among the caste of m"al ∂s or gardeners, the custom of widow remarriage was not considered disgraceful. Valars, a sub-caste of gardeners also followed the custom of marrying the widows of the household off. The caste of coppersmiths or kansars, was divided into two—Konkanis and Gujaratis. Similarly, carpenters and washermen (dhob∂s) were too, divided into Konkanis and Gujaratis. While the carpenters and the coppersmiths strictly followed a policy of segregation not intermixing with each other, class of washermen could eat in each other’s family. Somehow, all such groups gave their widows the option of remarriage. Widows of milkmen or herdsmen, gwal " as " , also enjoyed the same privilege. Bhand"arins (also bhandarnes) or toddy drawers were divided into rautis, chodris, shiadas " , kitas and charandas " , and had the tradition of eating with each other and permitted the widows remarriage. Banjar " as " or salt and grain merchants were divided into two sub-sections, ch"a ranas and lavanis. Not only their widows enjoyed the right of remarriage but they also arranged marriages

Aspects of Social Life


among themselves. One of the groups of salt-merchants was of bangas"alis who preferred to remain aloof from lavanis, yet followed the same customs. Coles, mavis, purubi"as, vaitisbiramassis " were all known as fishermen. They consumed food offered by each other, including allowing their widows to remarry. Another fishing community of anglers was that of sotrias divided into two sub-castes known as Solankis and Coles. They observed complete segregation, neither marrying their children in each others caste nor consumed food from other than families of their own group. Agriculturists were commonly identified as kunbi, kalambi or kurmi. Subdivided into many sub-castes like Chodris, Matare, Paties, Rantas, Naichis, Mori"as and Gorals, etc., they could eat together but marriage alliances were avoided outside their own cluster. In the village community they were, perhaps, the only group other than the village headman whose bridegroom enjoyed the right to ride a horseback in the marriage procession.23 Here it may be ascribed that the custom of widow remarriage was more commonly practiced among the lower rungs of the society, but not among the high caste Hindus. However, shariah permits widow remarriage; thus, it was never considered a taboo among the Muslims. Although, marriage ceremonies differed from region to region, Abul Fazl says that all (the Hindus) performed rituals in a similar way, except that among the vai«syas and «s"udras a girl is sought in marriage after paying some amount to her kinsmen. This kind of marriage is put in the category of asura sort of marriage. He also informs that for marriage ceremony, kshatriyas, vai«syas and «sudras " were dependent on a family priest or purohita.24 CEREMONIES OBSERVED ON DEATH ‘Most of the Hindoos burn their dead. The funeral piles of the rich are mingled with sandal-wood, and fed by aromatic oils; while the poor are consumed with humble faggots.’ Thevenot unmistakably writes about Surat that he witnessed the ‘Tombs’ of ‘Religious Gentiles’ around ‘two thousand paces beyond the Dutch burying place’. These have been identified as vartias or sanyasis.25 It very clearly conveys that the custom of burning the dead was not followed by all. Hindus burnt their dead near some river and threw


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

the ashes in it. The practice of burning the dead, in the words of Edward Terry, was due to the reason that the Hindus did not believe ‘in the resurrection of flesh, and therefore burn the bodies of their dead near some River if they may with convenience, wherein they sowe the Ashes’.26 A rare evidence in Thevenot’s memoir makes it apparent that those who could not afford wood to burn their dead, or could not get to the banks of rivers, would bury their dead.27 Dead bodies were burnt at a fixed place at some distance from the inhabited area.28 Hindus would never allow a person to die inside the house as they believed that everything would thus get polluted. Sensing that the last moments of someone was near, his bed was put in the courtyard. If, by any chance, a person died inside, his cot was immediately taken out. Earthen pots inside were all thrown out and all the inmates would quit it. They could enter the house only when it was daubed with cow-dung. Different ceremonies were performed to purify a house where someone had passed away. A very strange custom associated with the occasion was that all the family members and others would surround the dead body, beating their stomachs severely with their hands. Moving three times around it they all sang a particular song meant for such an incident. The body was washed and wrapped in new clothes. Then it was placed in a bier made of wooden sticks, tied with straw and covered with flowers. Some other rituals followed when the bier was carried to the funeral pyre.29 Though, Manucci detailed the ceremonies observed on death under the head ‘Funeral Ceremonies of Hindus of their Dead’, he employs the term ‘Brahman’ instead of Hindu in the text. However, at the end of it he clarifies ‘whatever is essential in funerals of the Brahman caste is also common to the other castes. This is the reason that I shall not say anything special about them.’ Among the followers of lingam sect of the Hindus instead of burning the dead body, it was buried.30 Parsees had been following a custom altogether different from others, as they put their dead on a tower surrounded with walls, or a square compound well fortified and away from the residential areas so that vultures could feed on them.31 Among all the castes or classes of Hindus, children up to the age of twelve were buried. Of the other customs, the most common

Aspects of Social Life


among all was that the person who lit the funeral pyre, had to shave off his head.32 Vedic hymns were recited and oblations were offered. For three days, all relatives were obliged to sleep on the ground and eat purchased or begged food. Brahmins on the fifth day, kshatriyas on the fifth day, vai«syas on the ninth, and the «sudras on the tenth day would go to collect all the bones and ashes of the deceased. Finally, these were thrown in a nearby river. If the river being at a distance, vessels containing bones and ashes were buried at a spot and on an appropriate occasion were conveyed to the stream. 33 When the cremation was over, all those who accompanied the dead body, had to take a bath and wash their clothes. It was followed by a feast. The period of mourning was ten days. To the deceased widow, her brother(s) and relatives provided her with some clothes to wear. On the tenth day after throwing her arm around the neck of another widow as a mark of her grief, her tali or gold or precious metal piece round her neck, was cut off. All these ceremonies were to be conducted in the presence of other widows. Every year on the day of death anniversary widows were obliged to give feast to Brahmins and gift them some clothes. If it was beyond the limit of a poor widow, she should have arranged a meal, at least, for four Brahmins.34 This evidence proves that among the Brahmins and those of lower strata, widows were not forced to burn themselves. Customs observed at the death of a family member among the Muslims were not so varied or elaborate. Verses from the Holy Quran were recited and after washing the body and wrapping it with white cloth as per the prescription in the law, it was buried.35 The period of mourning was ten to forty days when charities were made and food was offered according to the means of the family of the deceased. All, poor and rich would light a lamp weekly or on particular days near the grave. GAMES Of games and means of amusements, chess and chaupad were popular indoor games. The custom of playing with cards was equally common, but more in the families of the nobles and the rich, as is


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

mentioned by Mandelslo that ‘they delight in chess, and have also a kind of Game of Cards’.36 Some of the travellers of the period noted the popularity of the game among the common people too.37 The game of dice or gambling has been an age-old favourite, although included in vices and liable of punishment.38 Thevenot found that people from Delhi to Banaras were quite fond of playing the game of dice.39 When rulers and nobles organized the fight of beasts, the common men enjoyed the fight of cocks, rams, dogs, birds, bulls, buffaloes, nightingales, and sometimes of antelopes and bears. People indulged in wrestling also with equal enthusiasm.40 FESTIVALS In the Åin-i Akbar∂, Abul Fazl describes a number of festivals generally celebrated among the Hindus. He gives an account of festivals like Basant Pancham∂ (celebrated in spring season), Shivaratri (at the sight of new moon sometimes in the month of February), Hol ∂ (falling mostly in the month of March), R"amnavm∂ (March-April), Raksh"a Bandhan (July-August), Dussehra (October), D∂p"aval∂ (October-November) and Rath Yatra " " (taken out in Puri, mostly in the month of July), etc. Although, Abul Fazl does not differentiate between the manner in which these festivals were celebrated among the poor or wealthy, except at one place when he writes that Hol ∂ is the great festival of « s" udras. 41 Alexander Hamilton who witnessed the Hol∂ celebration in Sindh and Multan region, says that on Hol ∂ people of all ages and sexes danced through the streets to the tune of pipes, drums and cymbals. Women distributed sweets in the streets from baskets carried on their head and men daub each other with ‘red earth’ or vermilion and ‘are continually squirting gingerly oyl at one another; and if they get into Houses of Distinction, they make foul work with their Oyl, whose Smell is not pleasant; but in giving a present of Rose-Water, or some Silver Coin, they are Civil enough to keep out of Doors. And in this Madness they continue from 10 in the Morning till Sunset’.42 It makes quite obvious that men of distinction did not participate in Holi. On the occasion of Dussehra, craftsmen and artisans

Aspects of Social Life


worshipped their tools. In south India, a festival known as Gauri on sighting the new moon sometimes in the month of September, was especially celebrated by the different professional groups. A feast on this occasion was dedicated to their tools. Not only carpenters, smiths, barbers, weavers, tailors and fishermen, etc., celebrated the said festival but peasants also worshipped their tools and implements on this day. Peasants also offered oblations and lighted lamps on the day of Diwali.43 Europeans, who came to India in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, give details of the festivals commonly celebrated among the Muslims. However, it is difficult to sift information about the level of participation of masses in them. Festivals which are described in detail, are Id, + Id-i + Qurban, " and Shab-i Barat. " Muharram, the month of mourning has also been described occasionally. Except Muharram, all the days were a matter of jubilation for all and sundry.44 Muslim women belonging to the noble and educated families did not come out in public. They rarely came out to visit their relatives within the town. In case a visit or a long journey had to be undertaken, they were to travel in veiled coaches. Hindu women of rich or respectable families observed a partial veil while out on a social visit. They always travelled in covered coaches. However, women, both Hindus and Muslims, belonging to the class of artisans or poor strata had the liberty to move about freely. Ornaments worn by them could easily tell the background of a woman. Poor women could not afford precious metals, hence, used rings and studs of brass or iron, but these were too ‘kept bright’ like ornaments of precious metals. Although they adorned their feet with rings and anklets, but mostly they remained barefoot. Ears of boys and girls were pierced at an early age and small size ornaments of silver or comparatively cheap metals were inserted through the holes. The degree of fondness for ornaments among women of all the classes can be perceived from Ovington’s memoir where he says that even a woman who carried water in the streets did not move out without rings in her toes and ‘shackles’ in her ‘legs’. He added that even the meanest woman (in Surat) was not found ‘wholly destitute of ornaments upon her body, though she be able to spend no more than two or three pice a day’.45


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

Dancing and singing were the common means of amusement among all. Events were organized not only on the days of festivities but also on festivals. Rai Chaturman Saksena records about the fairs (mela) held at various religious places, especially at Hindu pilgrimage centres where people from all walks of life mingled. One of these was of Kalka held between Barah Pula and Tughlaqabad where all, the rich and the poor (daulatmand o gharib) visited in lakhs (lak h"a) of number.46 Many of them travelled especially from Shahjahanabad to nearby places. At Garh Ganga Muktesar, located 40 kos from Delhi, people assembled for fifteen days where people of various professions like sweetmeat sellers, garland makers, sellers of China pottery and of copper and brass and innumerable others (karor h"a) used to set their shops.47 Similar scenes were repeated at Hardwar on the occasion of Baisakh∂ and especially during the Kumbh (kumh), and at Suraj Kund near Delhi on the occasion of Dussehra.48 For taking bath in holy rivers of Jamuna and Ganga, people travelled to Mathura and Allahabad. Various chhar∂s (long bamboo sticks adorned with colourful pieces of cloth and some other decorative objects) were carried to various shrines. Of these chhar∂s of Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti (Ajmer), Ghazi Mian (Bahraich), Gumbad-i Khizr (Khizrabad), Shah Madar (B"ara Pula, Delhi), are specially mentioned. Here too, all kinds of people gathered and people sold their wares.49 People engaged in different professions used to sing devotional songs while working. When a group of people was employed to work together, they sang holy rhymes. One of them would sing a verse and others repeated it, or, they all sang it in the form of a chorus. Ovington assigns the likely reason to this indulgence (i.e. singing songs during work) warmth of the air that ‘stupified’ the spirits rendering them dull. He specifically speaks of the ‘Pagans’ in this context, and his observations are worth quoting: The Pagans who are bred to labour and Manual Occupations, consecrate each Day in the Week, and everything they take in Hand thus far; that they fill their Mouths with a pious Song at the first dawning of the Morning, as soon they ever ingage in their several Employments and Manual Occupations, and never cease their Secular Vocation without concluding with the mixture of a Holy Rhime. When a Company of Labourers are employ’d together about the same

Aspects of Social Life


Work, this sacred Ballad is repeated by them sometimes alternately, sometimes by single persons, the rest answering in Chorus, all the Day long, without the intermission of one quarter of an Hour. The Lascars or Sea-Men upon the Water, all the while they handle the Oar, divert themselves by turns with this tuneful Melody. This piece of Religion they are so solemnly and constantly inur’d to, that if they design’d the undertaking any work in secresie and un-observ’d, the custom they have acquir’d in singing would be apt by sudden Erruption to betray their privacy, and discover the silence and obscurity they desir’d.50

In Goa, in April 1623, Pietro Della Valle saw native porters bearing on stout bamboo poles the barrels of wine from Portugal or loading ships with the cottons and spices of the Orient. While working, they would sing ‘some cock-and-bull story strung together in question and answer’.51 Fishermen could always be seen singing tuneful melodies while fishing in the rivers or sea which kept them active and devoted to their work. Women engaged in spinning yarn would get into the mode of singing while doing their job.52 Various groups of rope-dancers, buffoons, acrobats, jokers, jesters, clowns and jugglers, etc., exhibited their skills and performed various physical feasts with singing songs in between.53 Europeans coming to India during the Mughal period also observed keenly the social exchange and general behaviour of the people and their attitude towards others. Eugenia Vanina studied the phenomenon under the head ‘socio-psychological features’ and considers it an aspect of the life of craftsmen that has not been dealt with properly.54 However, the description contained in her chapter is mainly about organization of life of craftsmen and difference between the urban and the rural. Here the image of the artisans and labourers has been created in the light of observation and experiences of the people who engaged them for work. About the Hindus, in general, it had been noticed that all men and women would take a bath daily. Differences between people of high and low strata also did not skip their notice. For example, Charles Dellon, who was in Surat, discovered that ‘the richer sort Bath themselves everyday at home, the rest abroad in the rivers where you meet some of them from sun-rising till late in the night’.55 Certain examples based on their day-to-day experiences reflect on the attitude of people in contemporary society. Monserrate witnessed that people looked


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

down upon Ghakkars of Rohtas (north-west Punjab) living along the bank of Indus and hated them for their being brigands and thieves. On top of that, they not only plundered the caravans, but also enslaved people and sold them in Persia.56 Thevenot found the people of Ajmer ‘rude and uncivil’. He also calls them ‘great clowns’ and ‘very impudent’. Although they would hardly come to blows, but made a lot of noise while quarrelling. What turned him off was the behaviour of the servants, which he abominated saying that they were extremely unfaithful and would not hesitate in robbing even their master. He also assessed people of Bengal that they lived ‘much at their ease because of its fruitfulness’, as an abundance of crops was produced there.57 Alexander Hamilton admired people of Chittagong and Sandiva region in Bengal as ‘simple and honest’.58 At Rewari (in modern Haryana), Hawkins was much impressed seeing the husbandmen and dealers in merchandise as ‘a peaceful people to deal with all’. On the other hand, the image of the weavers of Narsapur in Sind was that of ‘base rougues’ who would often cheat the investors.59 Tome Pires admires ‘heathens’ of Cambay as ‘soft and weak people’.60 Early nineteenth century illustrated catalogue of various professional groups—Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, contains brief discussion on the general characteristics of these people. The author describes shepherds as cheats and selfish; sweepers and scavengers as flatterers; shoemakers as self-centred; kanjars (menials) as thieves; bird-catchers as unscrupulous; water carriers as deceitful; boatmen as cons; barbers famous for sweet-talk; gardeners as shameless; blacksmiths as simple natured; chhipis (dyers and painters) as dreamers and swindlers; butchers as pitiless, etc. The general impression of all other professional groups and service providers was that they were fraudulent, dishonest, crooked, immoral and devious. That might not be true for all, but the phrases suggest that most of them were looked down upon by the so-called high caste people. There were certain classes that had to bear the atrocities of upper caste people, especially among the Hindus. Travellers visiting Deccan or south India, commonly refer to the poliahs, churmun, chandals or pariars who were treated as the most unworthy creatures on earth. One of the pioneers was Tome Pires, who, in the early

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sixteenth century, noticed about their plight. He observed that: ‘the lowest caste are the Parayans (pareos) who eat cow’s flesh’. Nayars, who held the highest position in the caste hierarchy, could deal with them only when it was in their own benefit.61 Seventeenthcentury narratives are full of appalling incidents and descriptions about them. Some of these can be reproduced here to give an idea how they were treated by all as they were considered the vilest of all. Philip Baldaeus, a Dutch minister who was sent to convert people to Christianity in Ceylon and coastal India between the 1640s and 1660s, is one of the earliest ones among the seventeenthcentury chroniclers to have noticed the deplorable condition of the ‘Paruas’ (perhaps Periyas or Polias of others) who were forced to live in Malabar and parts of Tuticorin region.62 James Forbes was extremely shocked to see them. He noted that among the religious orders of ‘Bramins, Chandal " as " or Pariars’ are considered so abject and that they are employed in the ‘vilest offices, and held in such detestation, that no other tribe will touch them; and those Hindoos who commit enormous crimes are re-communicated into this caste, which is considered to be a punishment worse than death’.63 His details elsewhere are also worth quoting as some of the Hindus were pushed into the domain of poleahs not according to her/his birth, but as a punishment also. During his journey in the Kingdom of Travencore, in 1773, he came out with a live description: Having described the high castes, and drawn a few sketches of the inferior tribes of Malabar, I now descend to the degraded Pooleahs; an abject and unfortunate race, who by cruel laws and tyrannical customs, are reduced to a wretched state; while the monkeys are adored as sylvan deities, and some parts of Malabar have temples and daily sacrifices, I have often lamented the treatment of the poor Pooleahs and the cruel difference made by human laws between them and the pampered Brahmins: banished from society, they have neither houses nor lands, but retire to solitary places, hide themselves in ditches, and climb into umbrageous trees for shelter: they are not permitted to breathe the same air with the other castes, not to travel on a public road; if by accident they should be there, and perceive a Brahmin or Nair at a distance, they must instantly make a loud howling, to warn him from approaching until they have retired, or climbed up the nearest trees. If a Nair accidentally meets a Pooleah on the highway, he cuts him down with a little ceremony as others destroy a noxious animal: even the lowest of the other sects will have no communication with a Polleah. Hunger


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

sometimes compels them to approach the villages, to exchange baskets, fruits, or such commodities as they may have, for a little grain: having called aloud to the peasants, they tell their want, leave the barter on the ground, and retiring to a distance, trust to the honesty of the villagers to place a measure of corn equal in value to the barter; which the Pooleahs afterward take away. Constant poverty and accumulated misery, have entirely debased the human form, and given a squalid and savage appearance to these unhappy beings. Yet, debased and oppressed are, there exists throughout India, a caste called Pariars, still more abject and wretched. If a Pooleah, by any accident, touches a Pariar, he must form varieties of ceremonies, and go through many ablutions, before he can be cleansed from the impurity. With such ideas of defilement, no marriages are contracted between the Pooleahs and Pariars; nor do they eat together; although the only difference in their epicurean banquet is, that the Polleahs eat of all animal food, except beef, and sometimes of that what dies of itself; the Pariars not only feast upon dead carcases, but eat beef, and carrion of every kind. The Brahmins of Malabar have thought proper to place Christian in the same rank with the Pariars. Dr. Robinson truly says—the condition of the Pariar is undoubtedly the lowest degradation of human nature: if a Pariar approaches a Nair he may put him to death with impunity: water or milk are considered as defiled, even by their shadow passing over them, and can not be used until they are purified. It is impossible for words to express the sensation of vileness that the name of Pariar or Chandala conveys to the mind of a Hindoo: every Hindoo who violates the rules or institution of his caste sinks into this degraded situation. Thus it is which renders Hindoos so resolute in adhering to the institutions of their tribe; because the loss of the caste is, to them, the loss of all human comfort and respectability; and is a punishment beyond comparison more severe than excommunication, in most triumphant period of Papal power. Rejection of caste must to a Hindoo appear much worse than death; hurled from the high privileges of a brahmin or a Nair, the delinquent of the either sex is obliged to enter the tribe of Pariars, the outcastes of all ranks of society; in which both them and their offspring are compelled to remain forever. No virtue, no talent, no merit of a child can ever atone for the venial sin of the parent, whose whole posterity must feel the effect of the dreadful sentence; none are to pray, to sacrifice, to read, or to speak to the hapless culprit; none are to be allied by friendship or by marriage, none to eat or drink with him: he is to become abject, and excluded from all social duties; to wander over the earth, deserted by all, trusted by none; never to be received with affection, nor treated with kindness; but to be branded with infamy and shame; the curse of heaven, and the hatred of all good men.64

Aspects of Social Life


Upper caste Hindus did not only have contempt for fellow low castes, they were equally averse to mixing with Muslims and Christians. Nairs in Malabar, being from the governing class and like many others belonging to the upper caste groups, would not mix up with the people of low caste. Tome Pires includes not only Periyars among the most wretched ones in the Malabar society, he also lists many other professional groups among those who could not dare walk the road frequented by the Nairs. Among those were the people who were not despised by people of so-called high caste, elsewhere, such as washermen, stone masons, players of music, fishermen, wine-makers, salt-makers, carpenters, goldsmiths, craftsmen, etc.65 They would not even indulge in conversation with people of other persuasions like Muslims or Christians. They took foreigners as unclean. But those conversant in trade were somewhat less rigorous. When Charles Lockyer was walking in the Palace of Calicut, a Nair wanted to see at his folding rule, which he was holding in his hand but would not talk to him for condescension towards the Europeans and others, he just made signs to know about it. He elaborates on the incident: I offer’d to deliver it [to] him, but that would not do, I must lay it on the Ground, or throw it, which I did, and then he look’d it over with a great deal of Satisfaction, calling others to partake of it, who handed it about very familiarly; but when it came to be return’d, it was in the same manner they had received it. Some of them are so scrupulous in this respect, that they will not go over a Bridge, if one of us stands on it; tho’ there is room enough for three or four to walk in a breast.66

While travelling from Fort Victoria (located south of Bombay) towards Bombay, James Forbes experienced the rigidity of the caste system. Though carrying their provisions, Europeans were not entertained by the Hindus. Hindus would not touch anything forbidden by their caste, otherwise, were subjected to the severest of penances, ‘or perhaps degraded from his rank in society, while the same man may be guilty of falsehood, perjury, and the most immoral actions with impunity’. 67 Such restrictions were not common among the Muslims except that they would refuse to cook pork for and serve wine to the Europeans. A rare piece of information suggests


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

that only those people who washed the corpse of Muslims were abhorred by the rest of the people and nobody liked to eat with them. 68 The most significant aspect of the society was the complete segregation observed by people in their everyday life. While working for the same master, servants would not even share water from each other’s pots. Francois Martin described the situation when he visited Masulipatam in 1672 while the Dutch got into a conflict with the governor of Golconda. To meet any eventuality, they stored provisions and water. There were three hundred ‘country jars’ that always remained inside the Masulipatam factory. Martin tells the interesting truth behind it: As the Indians, both Hindus and Muslims, have different customs from Europeans, and as even among the Hindus there are further differences based on caste or community, each community was provided with its own water. These jars were locked, the key being in possession of the community concerned to prevent any outsider from drinking their water. The water for the Dutch were kept aside.69

An early nineteenth-century illustrated work Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am paints all those involved in the so-called lowly professions as vile and unscrupulous. However there were certain exceptions too. How women in a patriarchal system were made to bear the responsibility of well-being of all the members of the family, is again briefed in James Forbes’ Memoir. At Harrasar in Konkan, James noted that ‘the simplicity of patriarchal age was realized in the rural occupations of the women at Harrasar’, where they used to do all kinds of work.70 Women were liable to punishment in cases where the men were also an equal party. In Malabar, Charles Lockyer saw the Romish priests whipping a Christian ‘Wench’ (perhaps Topazes) bound with a coconut tree for indulging with an English man ‘where the Poor think it no crime to get Money by Complacency’.71 Ovington minutely observed the change in the status of a woman that occurred after her marriage. She would then come under ‘a kind of servile Attendance upon his (i.e. her husband’s) Person’, although most of the men ‘appeared very kind and obliging’.72 Among the Hindus, women were forced to commit sat∂ for various reasons which have

Aspects of Social Life


been explained by all those who witnessed such a dreadful practice. The beneficiary was always the Brahmin who would take away all her jewellery after her death in this manner. For not committing herself to the funeral pyre, a woman was accused of infidelity and a ‘libidinous disposition’. It would even raise doubts about her poisoning her husband ‘to make way for new Lover’. Interestingly, there were few men who would prefer to die with their wives either for love or beauty, but only ‘in expectation of a happy future Enjoyment of her’.73 Some interesting proverbs summing up the characteristics of different occupational groups in the Indian society have been put together by H.H. Risley. He identifies these groups as ‘castes’ and to him, these proverbs and sayings are ‘based on universal experience and embody the common sense of mankind’. To him, these could vary but the underlying idea everywhere is the same.74 Somehow, these are an indicator of the kind of treatment they were meted out with for their ill-fated existence in the caste ridden society. ●

About kunb∂s: ‘He is as crooked as a sickle, but you can beat him straight’. On a barber: As he was always a subject of sarcasm, it was popular that ‘Among men the most deceitful is the barber, among birds the crow, among things of water the tortoise (as a tortoise can outwit a hare). You may hammer a barber on the head with a shoe, but you will not make him hold his tongue. A barber found a purse, and the world knew it’. About a potter: A potter was rather considered a fool. ‘A saying that the potter can sleep sound, no one will steal his clay’ very well illustrates his poverty. Regarding blacksmith: Generally considered a bad friend, ‘he will either burn you with fire or stifle you with smoke. His shop is always in an untidy mess. Such is his good nature that a donkey begged him of a pair of anklets’. On carpenter (sut"ar): Famous for not keeping his word and ‘never to be seen at the time when he promised to come’, was the kind of image a carpenter had in the eyes of the society. Oil presser: He is ‘no man’s friend; he earns a rupee and calls it


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

eight annas’. While sitting idle he weaves stories, and ‘when two Tel$ûs meet, their talk is unfit for publication’. Tailors (darz∂): ‘The tailor, the goldsmith and the weaver, these three are too sharp for the angel of death. God alone knows where to have them. The tailor’s “this evening” never comes. . . . A Darzi steals your cloth and makes you pay for sewing it’. Washerman (dhob∂): ‘All the world have their clothes washed, but the Dhobi is always unclean (ceremonially) and to see him the first thing in the morning is sure to bring bad luck. His finery is never his own, but no one has so many changes of linen as a Dhobi. He will not hesitate to use the king’s scarf as loincloth; at his wedding the clothes of his customers are spread as carpets for the guests. When there is robbery in a Dhobi’s house the neighbours lose their clothes.’ The fisherman: ‘Many proverbs dealing with them, as the manners of fishing folk are the same every where, “fisherman tongue”, corresponds to our “Billings gate”. Or ‘a M"achhi woman will scold even when she is dead’. The weaver (jol"aha): ‘His stupidity is a subject of proverbial philosophy. If he has a pot of grain he thinks himself a Raja. He goes out to cut the grass when even the crows are flying home to roost. If there are eight Jolahas and nine huqqas, they fight for the odd one. As a workman he is dilatory and untrustworthy. He will steal a reel of thread when he gets the chance; he has his own standard of time . . . and even if you see him brushing the newly woven cloth, you must not believe him when he says that it is ready.’ The tanner and shoe maker: is mostly ‘a subject of a number of injurious reflections. He knows nothing beyond his last, and the shortest way to deal with him is to beat him with a shoe of his own making, a practical axiom which is expressed in the saying that “old shoes should be offered to the shoemaker’s god”.’ The dom, or scavengers, vermin-eaters, executioners, basket makers, musicians and professional burglars: ‘The Dom figures as “the lord of death” because he provides the wood for Hindu funeral pyre. “A Dom in a palanquin and a Brahman on foot” is a type of society turned upside down. In the west of India, Mah"ars and

Aspects of Social Life


Dheds hold much the same place as the Dom. In the walled villages of Maratha country the Mah"ar is the scavenger, watchman and gate keeper. His presence pollutes; he is not allowed to live in the village; and his miserable shanty is huddled up against the wall outside. But he challenges the stranger who comes to the gate, and for this and other services he is allowed various perquisites, among them that of begging for broken victuals from house to house. The Dhed’s status is equally low. If he looks at a water jar he pollutes its contents; if you run up against him by accident, you must go off and bathe. The p"ariah: ‘In the typical Madras village the P"ariah “Dwellers in the quarter” (p"ara) " as this broken tribe is now called—live in an irregular cluster of conical hovels of palm leaves known as parchery, the squalor and untidiness of which present the sharpest contrast to the trim street of tiled masonry house where the Brahmans congregate. “A palm tree costs no shade; a P"ariah has no caste and rules”. The popular estimate of morals of P"ariah comes out in the saying, “he that breaks his word is a P"ariah at heart”.75

Thus, a series of proverbs representing a person, so called low in the rungs of society, suggest a place he occupied in the fabric of Indian society. Contrary to it, self-perception of these groups is reflected in the compositions of bhakti saints conveying a message of pride in their ‘hereditary mundane calling’.76 Although, generally spoken as ‘wretched’ people, artisans and other poor could sometimes find solace in the protection they were extended, though rarely, from the state and often from their European employers. A few incidents may be cited here to support the statement. Safety and security of the native servants working for the Europeans was guaranteed by the latter (here in case of the French at Pondicherry). They would come out to protect them from atrocities and extortion on the part of local authorities.77 Evidence suggests that the state protected the interests of different professional groups. In 1627-8, two English merchants were arrested by order of the kotw"al of Masulipatam for beating up one Ganga— the arrak-maker. It was through the intervention of a Persian am-


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

bassador visiting the city at that time, that both men had been released.78 Such incidents, however, rarely would come their way. Society offered no opportunities for them to rise due to the rigidity of the caste system. Terry tried to explain it that since the Indians, especially the professional groups or ‘men of several trades’, do not marry outside their ‘trade’ or ‘not mixing with any other, by which means they never advance themselves higher than they were at first’.79 Only thing significant about them was that they were ‘nominally free’ as has been noticed by Pelsaert who counted workmen, peons or servants and shopkeepers among the so-called free people, adding at the same time that this freedom was not much different than ‘voluntary slavery’. It was due to the psyche of the people and a result of the way they were brought up. Pelsaert has skilfully drawn the picture and why the poor and common people live a miserable life in utter subjection to the rich ‘Nevertheless, the people endure patiently, professing that they do not deserve anything better; and scarcely anyone will make a ladder to climb higher is hard to find, because a workman’s children can follow no occupation other than that of their father.’80 However, for the early nineteenth century, facets of their life are detailed in Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am in a bit different way. The said work not only illustrates the socio-religious background of the people involved in various professions, but also suggests that a single group might go for a variety of jobs; people in the same profession might have different food habits; and also that inter-caste marriages among them were quite common. Change of profession was also not difficult. Khirsban " and maim"unbaz " are said to be both from Hindu and Muslim community; of them Muslims being mainly from the clans of Baloch. Further, in north India while they were mainly Muslims, in Deccan majority of them were Hindus. Kanchan and kanchani (dancers, performers), while not performing before the rich and affluent, of them males would serve the others’ families, or do the job of carpenter or gardener, females were forced to perform in streets. Sometimes, women of the kanjars (who made brooms or disentangled the threads in service of weavers) also took up the trade of street dancers. About the shepherds (gadari"as) the author writes that they also joined armies as soldiers and were

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ready to do any kind of service (ch"akr∂). Muslim shepherds were mostly associated with cultivation. In relation to the shoe-makers (cham"ar and moch∂ ), information indicates that they, both Hindus and Muslims, sometimes did weaving also along with acting as labourers. However, both the communities would put on different types of dresses.81 Dh"anak or dhanuk, " acted as guides (qar"aval ) to the travellers; served as soldiers or head of group of soldiers (n"ayak); groomed horses of others; helped the rulers in conducting game; worked in the fields of land owners; were employed as executioners, hangmen (jall"ad ), or to lop off body parts of the criminals; and sometimes were involved in weaving (hence known as tant b"ayu). Because of doing base jobs, they were also known as dhhed or ah∂di. Kah"ars were mainly employed to carry palanquins, but were also taken in service to clean utensils, do manual labour, and along with their women supplied drinking water to people along with acting as boatmen and seller of fish. Barbers were also employed to light the lamp as d∂pak-kar or mash"alch∂. Interestingly, people from Kayasthas " groups like Saksena or Bhatnagar also adopted the profession of barber, but mingled with and married in their own caste only. Sometimes people from B"ari caste (who made plates and utensils of tree-leaves) were also taken in service to light lamps in the evening. Traditional surgeons (jarr"ah), both Hindus and Muslims, were mainly from the caste of barbers. In the kaliyug (Dark Age), the narrator says, K"ayasthas also opted for the profession of jarrah. " 82 Regarding the change in vocation by many others, Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am points out that among the potters, some of them acquired the skills of dancing and playing on instruments; while some Rajputs turned to the profession of potters. Chhatris and Baloch are also portrayed as dyers—rangrez. Brahmins doing the work of masonry and carpentry; Chattris involved in the vocation of carpentry; Khatris / Kayasthas as nat (acrobats); baqqal " or baniyas " as water-carriers (jalv"ahak /saqqah); Rajputs as cleaners of grains (niyaria) " " in the market, makers of mats, bamboo screens and fans, and as bangle makers; are some of the interesting facts about the mobility in society contained in the said manuscript.83 Interestingly, all these developments are associated with the general concept about the ongoing chaotic


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

age in Indian society known as kaliyug, or ‘Dark Age’ when abnormal is justified as normal, and lawlessness is the norm of the day. Somehow, these statements should also be seen in the light of political developments in the eighteenth-nineteenth century when people lost patronage and were often uprooted from their surroundings.

NOTES 1. Thomas Bowrey, A Geographical Account of the Countries Round the Bay of Bengal: 1669-1679, p. 31; Ovington, A Voyage to Surat, p. 189; Fitch, in M. Azhar Ansari, European Travellers Under the Mughals, p. 20; Ovington, in India in The Seventeenth Century: Travels of Ovington, Thevenot and Careri, 1974, ed. G.P. Guha, p. 299. In fact, the young one were married even at the age of three or four. Ovington says it was common to arrange the marriage when they reached the age of six or seven. 2. Terry, Purchas His Pilgrimes, vol. IX, p. 42; 1665 edn., Salisbury edn., 1757, p. 285. 3. P. N. Chopra, Social, Cultural and Economic History of India, vol. II, 1924, p. 36. It seems sheer exaggeration keeping in mind the wages and prices of the seventeenth century. It suggests that substantial amount was spent on all these ceremonies. 4. Terry, Purchas His Pilgrimes, p. 42; 1665 edn., p. 285; M. Azhar Ansari, European Travellers, p. 99. 5. Ansari, European Travellers in India, p. 97. 6. Manucci, Storia do Mogor, vol. III, p. 67 & n. Interestingly, he took into account the ceremonies of the ‘Thieves’ whom he says were the lowest of all the «sudras. A note on thieves suggests that they were wayward people who generally plundered the travellers, hence were despised. 7. First, the brother of the bridegroom comes out of his house with a stick in his hands, and the bride of her house with balls of mud and dung in her hands, and would encounter each other. When asked by the brother of bridegroom of what purpose she was going for, she was to reply that she is going to marry the man who seeks her hand. She would then throw those balls on to her brother-in-law’s nose. In turn with stick in his hands he would force her to make a retreat and seek shelter inside her house. He was rewarded with presents for courage shown in this manner by the parents of the bride. The bride was then taken inside, and then rest of the rituals followed. The bride’s sister-in-law tied a piece of gold called t"ali around her

Aspects of Social Life

8. 9. 10. 11. 12.

13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24.

25. 26.


neck. Guests were served with food and drinks and all rejoiced. Manucci, Storia do Mogor, vol. III, pp. 69-71. Manucci, vol. III, pp. 69-71. Ibid., p. 71.Here Manucci specifically speaks of the society in south India. Historical Fragments of the Mogul Empire, p. 408. Manucci, vol. III, p. 152. Such as on reaching the door of the house of bride, the marriage party (bar " "at) would meet a symbolic resistance from her family with sticks in their hands. Then a sort of combat, purely symbolic in nature, would take place in which oranges, tomatoes, eggs, turnips and radishes were thrown freely on each other. This would result in great disorder, but then an elderly member of the family of bride would control the situation. After settling the matter on certain conditions, doors were opened for the bridegroom and others. At another door, a troop of women of the house of bride created almost the same sight. Lastly, the marriage party was taken into a room. The bridegroom was to sit opposite the bride where the nik"ah ceremony was performed and nuptial settlement was decided. The singers sang the songs of blessing for the newly-wed and a little henna was applied on the hands of the bridegroom, which was washed off after some time. As a confirmation of marriage, the bridegroom was offered water. At day-break, the bride was taken to her in-laws’ home. Manucci, vol. III, pp.150-2. Terry, 1665 edn., p. 336. Ibid., p. 342. Pelsaert, Jahangir’s India, p. 81; Norris Embassy, p.161. Forbes, Oriental Memoirs, vol. I, pp. 80-1. Tavernier, vol. II, p. 184. Ibid., p. 145. Ibid., pp. 185-6; Thomas Bowrey, Countries Round the Bay of Bengal, p. 31; Terry, 1665 edn., p. 301. Travels in the Mogul Empire, p. 325. Indian Travels, pp. 90, 117. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, pp. 177-8; tr. Jarret and Sarkar, vol. III, p. 339. Careri, Indian Travels, pp. 256-8. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, pp. 177-8; tr. Jarret and Sarkar, vol. III, pp. 338-40; P.N. Chopra, Social, Cultural and Economic History of India, 3 vols, vol. II, p. 35. Indian Travels, pp. 33-4; Forbes, Oriental Memoirs, vol. I, p. 77. A voyage to East India, 1665 edn., p. 275; Ansari, European Travellers in


27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36.

37. 38. 39. 40. 41.

42. 43. 44. 45.

46. 47. 48.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India India, p. 97. Also, William Fitch, p. 22; William Hawkins, Purchas, vol. III, p. 69. Indian Travels, p. 34. Manucci, vol. III, pp.71-3; Ovington, A Voyage to Surat, p. 200. Manucci, vol. III, pp. 71-3. Ibid. Terry, Purchas, vol. IX, pp. 44-5; Terry, 1665 edn., p. 343; Ovington, A Voyage to Surat, p. 222. Ovington, A Voyage to Surat, pp. 200-3; G.P. Guha, India in the Seventeenth Century, p. 301. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, pp. 187-8; tr. Jarret and Sarkar, vol. III, pp. 356. Manucci, vol. III, pp. 71-3. Terry, 1665 edn., pp. 287-90. Mandelslo’s ‘Travels in India’ contained in The Voyages and Travells, of Adam Olearius, English translation by John Davies, 1669, p. 65; P. N. Ojha, North Indian Social Life, p. 48. Mandelslo, p. 65; De Laet in J. S. Hoyland, The Empire of the Great Moguls, p. 82. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, pp. 144-51; tr. Jarret and Sarkar, vol. III, pp. 274, 290. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 67. Palseart, Jahangir’s India, p.3; Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 53; Manucci, vol. I, p. 191; De Laet, p. 82. Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, pp. 186; tr. Jorret and Sarkar, vol. III, pp. 350-4; J.A. Dubois, Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, pp. 568-72. A New Account of the East Indies, vol. I, pp. 128-9. J.A. Dubois, Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, pp. 269, 568. Pelsaert, pp. 73-4; Manucci, vol. II, p. 349. Ovington, A Voyage to Surat, p. 188; De Laet, The Empire of the Great Mogul, pp. 81-2; Terry, 1665 edn., p. 204; Ansari, European Travellers in India, pp. 95, 97; Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 53; Careri, Indian Travels, p. 162; Manucci, vol. III, p. 40; G.P. Guha, India in the Seventeenth Century, pp. 142-3. Rai Chaturman Saksena Kayasth, Chah"ar Gulshan, ed. Chander Shekhar, Delhi, 2011, p. 71. Ibid., p. 72. Here the number of participants is sheer exaggeration. It only suggests that innumerable persons visited the site. Ibid., p. 74.

Aspects of Social Life


49. Ibid., pp. 74-5. 50. A Voyage to Surat, pp. 172-3. 51. Pietro’s Pilgrimage, W. Blunt, p. 251. Richard Eaton noted down that women doing household chores used to sing verses composed by the sufis. Rhymes composed by various sufis of the Deccan and also one of the fourteenth-century sufi Sheikh Ahmad Gesu Daraz, have been mentioned by him. These were called as chakki n"amah (songs sung while grinding grain), charkha n"amah (sung while spinning thread), lori namah " (lullaby) and sh"adi namah " (wedding songs), etc. Sufis of Bijapur, pp. 157-64. 52. Eugenia Vanina, Urban Crafts and Craftsmen, p. 39. 53. William Foster, ‘Edward Terry’ in Early Travels in India, p. 313; Edward Terry, J.T. Wheeler and Michael Macmillan (eds.), European Travellers in India, p. 50; G.P. Guha, India in the Seventeenth Century, pp. 129-30; Abul Fazl, Åin-i Akbar∂, ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, pp. 142-3; tr. Jarret and Sarkar, vol. III, pp. 271-3. 54. Vanina, Urban Crafts and Craftsmen, p. 139. 55. A Voyage to the East Indies, 1668-1679, London, 1698 edn., p. 54. 56. P. 112. 57. Indian Travels, pp. 72, 95-6. 58. A New Account of the East Indies, vol. II, pp. 24-5. 59. Purchas His Pilgrims, vol. III, p. 84; Monserrate, Commentary, p. 112; English Factories, 1646-1650, p. 159. 60. The Suma Oriental, vol. I, p. 39. 61. Ibid., p. 72. 62. A Description of the East India Coast of Malabar and Coromandel, vol. III, pp. 645-8. 63. Oriental Memoirs, vol. I, p. 71. 64. Ibid., pp. 394-7. He found the situation so perplexing that he again picked up the issue to support his earlier version now quoting from another contemporay Francis Buchanan’s journey in Malabar and description of Pooleahs ‘The Pooleahs are called churmun, a term applied to slaves in general: the Pooleahs are divided into many different clans, who can eat together, and intermarry: they have no hereditary chiefs; all the business of the caste is settled in assemblies of their elders: they never excommunicate any person, but they impose fines; when they procure it, they eat animal food, and drink spirituous liquors, but reject carrion: none of them can read. When a man become tired of his wife, and she gives consent, he may sell her to any other person who will pay back the expense incurred at the marriage; which in presents to the girl’s master, her parents, cloths for the bride and bridegroom, and charges of the wedding dinner, generally


65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77. 78. 79. 80. 81. 82. 83.

Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India amounts to twenty-four fanams (a type of currency) or sixteen shillings. The goddess worshipped by the Pooleahs is named paradevta and is represented by a stone placed on a mound in the open air: they have a sort of priest, but never give anything to the Brahmins, nor do they pray to the great gods whom they worship. The Pariars are also divided into clans: the highest eat carrion, and even beef; so that they are looked upon as equally impure with Musulmans or Christians; and they may lawfully drink spirituous liquors. Even among these wretched creatures the pride of caste has full influence; and if a Polleah be touched by one of the Pariar tribe, he is defiled, and must wash his head, and pray.’ Oriental Memoirs, vol. I, p. 401. The Suma Oriental, vol. I, p. 72. Charles Lockyer, An Account of the Trade in India, Samuel Crouch, London, 1711, p. 285 Oriental Memoirs, vol. I, pp. 215-16. Manucci, Storia do Mogor, vol. III, p. 153. Lotika Varadarajan, India in the 17th Century, vol. I, pt. I, p. 29. Oriental Memoirs, vol. I, p. 191. An Account of the Trade in India, London, 1711, pp. 284-5. A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, p. 194. Ibid., p. 201. The People of India, London, 1915, p. 129. Ibid., pp. 133-9. Shireen Moosvi, ‘The World of Labour in Mughal India’, PIHC, 2010-11, pp. 352-5. Varadarajan, India in the 17th Century , vol. I, pt. I, p. 181. Om Prakash, The Dutch Factories in India, 1624-1627, p. 241. A Voyage to East India (1665 edn.), p. 301. Jahangir’s India, p. 59. Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, fls. 121-85. Ibid., f ls. 187-221. Ibid., f ls. 232-98; 300-59.





In the preceding chapters an attempt has been made to investigate the socio-economic condition of people belonging to low income groups and some of those who were engaged in inferior tasks, though enjoying more than handsome earnings. These people have been identified and classified separately into a number of categories and have been discussed in detail to explain the nature of their work, skills and social standing of each group that falls under one particular category. Slaves and servants employed in the royal household and houses of nobles have also been included in this scheme of discussion for the simple reason that they often did menial jobs and occupied the lowest position in the household of their masters. They owed their existence to the patronage and the mercy of their employer who could oust them on the slightest cause of displeasure. Skilled artisans, labourers and self-employed service providers were free, mobile and self-assured people, depending not on the sufferance on any individual or class, but on their own skill that was inevitably seeded by the entire society for the fulfilment of its economic and social requirements. Their wages varied from place to place, and were generally determined by the prevailing local market rates, and occasionally settled through mutual bargaining. While serving the imperial household or in the houses of the nobles, some of them spent good time as favourites, but others were made to do all household chores including carrying p"alk∂s. When eunuchs were just to keep a watch on others and were not usually made to indulge in laborious work, slaves had to do all kinds of work. Among those serving as camp followers, water carriers, p"alk∂ carriers, beast keepers, those erecting tents, peons and porters had to perform duties on low wages. In the workshops—k"arkh"an"as,


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

smiths, carpenters, weavers, and many more, had to do manual labour for their masters. They always had to remain at the mercy of their employer, especially when the occasion of paying remuneration would arrive. Europeans also engaged them for various reasons. The Portuguese employed the Indians as slaves to do household work, fetch water, do manual labour and earn for the masters, and female slaves to do embroidery work to sell in the market. However, other Europeans desisted from such practices within the boundaries of the Mughal Empire, or inside the territories controlled by local rulers of south India. Those who employed themselves in different professions, or offered their services, could often do it on their own conditions. Somehow, they were frequently made the subject of atrocities by the rich and powerful. Among them weavers, painters (printers), cotton carders, spinners, silk-rearers and dyers jointly formed an important group. The weaving industry was the chief industry of the period and we have no dearth of information on all aspects of their life and work. There are references of weavers’ villages and towns, suggesting that people in an unimaginable number were engaged in the profession to fulfil the demand of the foreign and Indian merchants. Apart from growing cotton, everything was done within the family. Dyers prepared dyes and master weavers or block printers had to decide on the pattern. Making patola was one of the most difficult tasks as the thread was dyed by measuring meticulously so that it would result in a desired pattern. There were many expert hands available to finish a piece that surprised the foreigners about the ingenuity of the artisans. Washermen and bleachers were one of the most sought after groups as they would give a good finish to the manufactured goods. They required money in advance, known as d"adni, to procure necessary raw material and support themselves. It was generally given through the agents or brokers, who deducted a fixed amount from it. Corruption was rampant. Not only the weavers and providers of allied services suffered at the hands of the employers or brokers, these groups often gave a hard time to the investors too in the age of competition when merchants from all nations flocked to the centres of productions. However, as far as the workmanship is considered, they always received acclaim of the merchants, especi-



ally the Europeans, who often expressed astonishment at their dexterity. Carpet-making was another important industry because of the extensive use of carpets among the elites. Europeans discovered that people in Asia never use chairs and tables in their daily life or while socializing, but only using carpets and mattresses. Packers were in great demand as flawless packing of finished goods was recommended during the long voyages or on overland routes for the safe transportation to avoid possible damages. Services of tailors were required not only by Indian clientele, Europeans and people of other nations too had a demand for tailored clothes on arrival in different parts of the country according to the climate and style in vogue. Tailors also supported the trade in finished goods like quilts, cushions and different types of covers. There were many centres of production of such goods, like Surat, Ahmedabad, Agra, Qasimbazar and some other towns in Bengal. Carpenters, smiths, shoe-makers, bakers, were some sections of the society who were self-employed and who carried their own manufacturing implements. On occasions they were also employed on wages but mostly suffered on this issue if the employer happened to be an influential person. Oil makers, sugar manufacturers, indigo makers, distillers, toddy drawers and manufacturers of perfumes and other odoriferous oils, paper manufacturers, etc., were those associated with the agro industry. Gardeners were usually employed on a regular basis. Among the service providers were camelmen, carters, palanquin or p"alk∂ bearers, guards, peons, letter carriers, attendants in inns—sar"ais, etc. There were those who did manual labour, such as stone cutters, masons, builders, canal diggers, brick makers, sawyers, lime makers, assisting in masonry work, and so on. Among the poor and ordinary could be included people like bird catchers, broom makers, string makers and scavengers. Various groups provided entertainment in the streets and on the occasions of feasts and festivals. They could be identified as dancers, musicians, rope dancers, jugglers and snake charmers. All such people were hardly ever noticed by our Persian chroniclers while Europeans visiting India always found them worthy of mention. Here not only their existence in the society and nature of their services are made a subject of study, conditions they worked


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

in and aspects of their day-to-day life have also been discussed in detail. Works that are available on the related theme generally confine to a discussion on production for the market, hence weavers and others have been taken into account. Somehow, minute details about their life are missing from such discourses. Some of these groups have been dealt with briefly in some of the secondary works, while others like A.I. Chicherov have mainly concentrated on the role of labourers and artisans in the rural society. Hence, an effort is made here not to miss anything about those who did manual labour or provided services to all and sundry on wages that were always negotiable. A major problem of such categories was the procurement and affording of necessities of life, like food, clothing and housing. Details in foreign travellers’ accounts of the period seem identical and depict a gloomy picture of all three. Most of them believed that enough food was available to the common or poor people even then they usually lived a life of misery. Their memoirs and records have contradictory statements at the same time when they speak of cheap prices of commodities and of foodgrains and other eatables in most parts of India. Similarly, they could not resist praising the fertility of soil and abundance of various crops grown in the vast expanse of the country. Famine conditions, undoubtedly, affected all and labourers and artisans suffered most as they could not afford to buy things on high rates. Natural calamities always proved disastrous. About housing of the poor and destitute, they offer nothing new. All of them speak of thatched houses daubed with mud. Though, they were not misrepresenting the facts, they missed on the climatic conditions and that bare minimum was required by most of the people in such a tropical region. Houses of mud, reed and thatch provided comfort, except during the rainy season. People living in regions that experience hot summers, like in Gujarat, even rich people often erected huts in the courtyard or rooftops to avoid concrete structure trapping heat in summers. Mud and thatched houses were easy to rebuild with minimum cost. Varieties of cloth manufactured throughout the length and breadth of the country ensured certain affordable coarse varieties for the poor too.



Wages or remuneration received by artisans, collateral service providers, labourers and others, has been a subject of debate and discussion among the scholars of the economic history. Moreland took the initiative in this regard and he was followed by Brij Narain, Irfan Habib and Shireen Moosvi. They have mainly concentrated on the official lists of prices of varieties of things contained in the Åin-i Akbar∂. Irfan Habib in the Cambridge Economic History (vol. I) has briefly discussed the issue concentrating mainly on the prices in the Agra region. His conclusions are indicative of low prices in pre-colonial period. On the issue of movement of prices, he points out towards certain important phases during the seventeenth century when prices increased due to various reasons. Shireen Moosvi has made the comparisons between the prices mentioned in the Åin and the first official index of prices of the nineteenth century to conclude that most of the commodities required in daily life were cheap under the Mughals. She has also dealt with the issues of various types of wages, and most importantly on the question whether the wages were real or not. Brij Narain as an economist not only defended his argument to prove that money wages were high in the early twentieth century (when his book was published in 1929), but purchasing power was high in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. He had access to some Dutch records also that inform us about prices of some of the necessities in the first half of the seventeenth century. As far as the question of wages being ‘real’ or not is concerned, it is very difficult to give an opinion with certainty in the absence of any regular information about the prices for a given area. However, it can be said that these were ‘somewhat real’ as there are clear indications in the contemporary sources of adjusting or increasing the payment/ wages in the face of rising prices. This problem has been discussed in brief with my limited knowledge of the basic theories and principles of economics. A brief discussion on the customs and general conditions of people culminates the work. As far as the customs observed on festivals and other important occasions are concerned, very few of the contemporaries speak of these specifically in relation to the poor and common. It is really very difficult to sift information and


Urban Wage Earners in Seventeenth Century India

relate it to those who are the subject of discussion in the preceding chapters. Why blanket terms like ‘wretched’, ‘mean’ or ‘poor’ have been used for majority of the professional groups including labourers and artisans, was due to their standing in the social hierarchy and lifestyle. Though skilled and dexterous, but there were minimum chances of growth due to the caste system. The high and the mighty would restrict the progress as far as upward mobility was concerned. The Mughal administration is also taken to task for its being ex-ploitative in nature. All such issues and concerns have been summed up in a brilliant passage by Robert Orme dated 1 September 1753. The mechanicks or artificers will work only to the measure of his necessities. He dreads to be distinguished. If he becomes too noted for having acquired a little more money than other of his craft, that will be taken from him. If conspicuous for the excellence of his skill he is seized upon by some person in authority, and obliged to work for him night and day, on much harder terms than his usual labour acquired when at liberty. Historical Fragments of the Mogul Empire, London, 1806, p. 405


Appendix A

LIST OF PRICES PRICES OF FOOD GRAINS AND OTHER NECESSITIES OF LIFE GIVEN IN THE ÅIN-i AKBARI 1 Food grains Wheat Kabul gram Black gram Lentils Barley Millet Linseed Mustard seed Rice Black gram (mung ) Vetch-mash Moth White sesame Black sesame Bean lobiya Millet jawari Mung dal Nukhud dal Wheat flour Wheat flour (coarse) Barley flour Nukhud flour Butter, sugar, etc. Ghee Oil Milk Curds White sugar

Prices 12 dam " per man (maund) 16 ” ” 8 ” ” 12 ” ” 8 ” ” 6 ” ” 10 ” ” 12 ” ” 20 ” ” 18 ” ” 16 ” ” 12 ” ” 20 ” ” 19 ” ” 12 ” ” 10 ” ” 18 ” ” 16½ ” ” 22 ” ” 15 ” ” 22 ” ” 11 ” ” 105 80 25 18 128

” ” ” ” ”

” ” ” ” ”


Appendix A

Food grains


Brown sugar Refined sugar White sugar candy

56 d"am per man 6 ” per ser 5½ ” ”

Meat and living animals Sheep Goat Mutton Goat meat Geese Duck Black partridge

1 ½-6 ½ rupees per head ¾-1 rupee per head 65 d"am per man 54 ” ” 20 ” head 1 rupee per head 3 d"am per head

NOTE 1. There is a long list of foodgrains, vegetables fruits and other items consumed in the royal household or elsewhere. Here only those commodities have been included which were generally consumed by the common people and poor strata.







Ox/cow (meat)


Food Grain/ Commodity










½ Dollar/Gilderne for 14 bushels (of Flemish Measure) 1 Larsijn or half Gilderne 5-6 pardawes per Cow (best) 15 pagodas or 13 fanams per 20 oxen 6 pagodas or 1¾ fanams per 77 goats 1 pagoda or 14 fanams per 125 hens 3-4 pagoda per 480 Per bhaer/Dutch lbs. 1-1½ pagoda per bhaer


523 lbs for 1 rupee 116-74 per rupee

21/3 rupees per ox about 4 annas per goat 23 hens per rupee

8-10 rupees

1/3 of a rupee

1 rupee per 500 lbs.



Appendix B

Ant. Schorer3


Pieter Claessen 2





” ” ” ” 1628-9

Hens Hare Partridges Sugar Barley



” ”




Ox Hens


Food Grain / Commodity



” ” ” ” Broach

Western India

” ”


5-5½ stivers per Dutch lbs. –

1-2 pagodas 60- 70 or 80 hens for one pagoda 80 eggs for one fanam 1 shilling (perhaps for a goat) 1 shilling per 8 1 penny 1 penny 2 pennies per lbs 8 Stivers per 33 lbs.

7- 10 fanams per man Or 24 Dutch lbs


3-6 rupees 60-80 hens in 3 rupees 80 eggs for 1/6 of a rupees Less than ½ rupee ” – ” – 99 lbs. per rupee 144-158 lbs. per rupee 4-5 rupee per man

13-21.4 lbs per rupee



” ” ” ” W.G. Den Jogh5

Ed. Terry 4

” ”


Geese ‘Poultry’ Fowls (full grown)

Rice Beef Mutton Fowls Rice


Butter Mangoes/ ‘olaves’


” ” 1688-1723

” 1672-81


” 1670

” ” Cochin

– – – – Sandiva (Bengal)

” Golconda

8 geese for half a crown 60 poultry for half a crown 15-16 fowls

3 sols/3 pence for five lbs 3 farthings per lb 3½ pence per lb 7½ pence each 580 lbs for half a crown

3 dozens for an ecu or 2 shillings 8 pence

– 1 lb for a penny

1 rupee 1 rupee 1 rupee

3 dozens for a little above two rupees – – – – 1 rupee

1¾ to 2 rupees per man 4-5 rupees per man –

” ” Charles Lockyer11

” ” Alexander Hamilton10

” John Fryer9

” Domingo Fernandez Navarette7 Abbe Carre8


Appendix B NOTES

1. Brij Narain, Indian Economic Life: Past and Present, pp. 2-3. 2. Ibid., p. 5, 18 fanams = 1 pagoda = 3 rupees at Petapoly. 3. Ibid., p. 5. 15 fanams = 1 pagoda = 3 rupees at Masulipatam. 4 . W.H. Moreland, Early Travels in India, pp. 296-7. 5. Brij Narain, Indian Economic Life: Past and Present, p. 7. 6. The Early Annals of the English in Bengal, vol. I, pp. 378-84. 7. Michael Fisher, Visions of Mughal India, p. 196. 8. Hakluyt, II Series, p. 596. 9. A New Account of India and Persia, vol. I, p. 95. 10. A New Account of the East Indies, vol. II, p. 25. 11. Charles Lockyer, An Account of Trade in India, London, 1711, pp. 283-4. He, however, laments that beef is not so cheap.









Wheat Wheat Wheat Wheat

1630 1631 1632 1632

Wheat Wheat

Jan. 1632 Feb. 1632

Wheat 1636 Wheat 1640 Paddy 1630 Rice 1631 Rice 1632 Rice 1639 Rice 1639 Rice Jan. 1647 Rice 1654 Rice 1659 Rice 1659 Rice (fine) 1710 Rice (coarse) 1710 Maize 1622 Sugar 1622 Sugar 1630 Sugar candy 1630 Sugar 1634 Sugar 1635 Sugar 1636 Sugar 1639

Prices & its possible equivalent


5 ½-6 ½ per ‘great maen’ (man) Surat 540 maunds of 39 sers for 553 mahmudis & 22½ pice Surat 6 mahmudis per maund /man Surat 2½ sers per mahmudi Surat 6 ¼-6½ mahmudis per maund Broach & 4½ mahmudis/2 rupees Baroda per maund Surat 6-7 mahmudis per maund Surat 9-10 mahmudis/4 rupees per maund Surat 2½ mahmudis per maund Masulipatam 1/6 of a pagoda per maund Surat 2 1/8 mahmudis per maund Surat 2½ sers per mahmudi Surat 6¼ to 6½ mahmudis per maund Goa 5 rials per maund Golconda 7 rials of eight per candy Madras 2 rials of eight per 100 lbs Golconda 6-9 pagodas per candy/20 maunds Qasimbazar 30 sers per rupee Maqsudabad 1 rupee per maund Calcutta 1 rupee per maund Calcutta 1 rupee per 10 maunds Burhanpur 15-35 rupees per great ‘maune’ Ahmadabad 4-4½ or 5 rupees per maund Surat 15 mahmudis per maund Surat 36-39 per 10 maunds Masulipatam 2 pence ½ penny per English lb Thatta 7 rupees/17 l"aris per ‘corwaur’ Surat 13¼ mahmudis per maund Sarwarpur 5½ rupees per maund (near Sirhind)


EFI 2 EFI 3 EFI 4 EFI 5 EFI 6 EFI 7 EFI 8 EFI 9 EFI 10 EFI 11 EFI 12 EFI 13 EFI 14 EFI 15 EFI 16 EFI 17 EFI 18 EFI 19 CRW 20 CRW 21 EFI 22 EFI 23 EFI 24 EFI 25 EFI 26 EFI 27 EFI 28 EFI 29 contd.

Appendix C

394 APPENDIX C contd. Foodgrain / Commodity



Prices & its possible equivalent

Sugar (Best, full grained) Sugar Sugar candy Sugar Sugar candy Sugar



7 rupees per maund ‘packa’

1639 1639 1639 1639 1639

Lahore Lahore Multan Multan Surat





Sugar Sugar Sugar Sugar Butter Butter Butter Butter Butter

1646 1651 1650 1659 1631 1632 1632 1639 1640

Butter Oil Oil Sheep Hens Hens

1659 1639 1659 1635 1631 1635


5¾-6 rupees per maund 11 rupees per maund 10 rupees per maund 15 rupees per maund 10 rupees per maund of 74 lbs. each Balasore 7 rupees per maund of 128 lbs each Agra/Bayana 4¾-5 rupees per maund ‘Shawjehann’ Agra 6 rupees per maund ‘Shawjean’ Agra 6 rupees per maund Balasore 7½-8, 11-12 rupees per bale Bengal 9-9½ rupees per bale Surat 1¼ ser for a mahmudi Surat 25-30 mahmudis per maund Baroch 71/8 -7½ mahmudi per maund Bhakkar 7½ sers per rupee Masulipatam 1/6 pagoda for a maund / 8½ pagoda per candy Maqsudabad 16 rupees per maund Bhakkar 7½ sers per rupee Maqsudabad 8 rupees per maund Thatta 1 for a rupee Surat 4-5 mahmudis per hen Thatta 4 pice each

EFI 30 EFI 31 EFI 32 EFI 33 EFI 34 EFI 35 EFI 36 EFI 37 EFI 38 EFI 39 EFI 40 EFI 41 EFI 42 EFI 43 EFI 44 EFI 45 EFI 46 EFI 47 EFI 48 EFI 49 EFI 50 EFI 51 EFI 52

NOTES 1. 2. 3. 4.

William Foster, English Factories in India, 1618-1621, p. 51. English Factories in India, 1618-1621, p. 63. Ibid., 1630- 1633, p. 95. Ibid., p. 165. These are termed as high prices. Reason ascribed to was the ongoing wars in Deccan and Emperor’s presence in Burhanpur, leading to a shortage of supply in Surat from the region of Burhanpur. 5. Ibid., p. 196. These are recorded as high prices than usual. Since a severe

Appendix C


7. 8. 9. 10. 11.


13. 14.


16. 17. 18.





famine had enveloped the region of Gujarat, prices shot up and authorities had put restrictions on the quantity to be purchased by an individual (here for the factors for their house or factory). Ibid., p. 209. Prices quoted here are claimed to be very high. It was due to the ‘Governor’ of the place and two ‘moneyed merchants’ were engrossing the supply because of the famine. Ibid., p. 201. High prices continued to be charged as famine continued. Ibid., p. 201, Governor of Surat (port officer) and merchants still engrossing the supply that caused immense increase in the prices. Ibid., 1634-1636, p. 149. Ibid., 1637-1641, p. 264. Ibid., 1630-1633, p. 62. This rate was applied to paddy before chaffing. After the processing it was reduced from 7,000 maunds paddy to 4,500 maunds rice. Ibid., p. 1 65. These were recorded as high prices as supply was hampered due to the Emperor’s presence in Burhanpur. At the same time famine conditions were taking form in Gujarat that continued for the next many years. Ibid., p. 196. These are recorded as high prices than usual because of ongoing famine. Ibid., 1637-1641, pp. 203. 287. According to one calculation, 212¼ new rials of eight exchanged for 100 rupees, and 215¼ rials old for 100 rupees. Hence, the ratio between a rupee and a rial of eight could be 1: 2.12, or 1: 2.15 respectively. Ibid., p. 144. A candy (from Telgu khandi and Tamil and Malyalam kandi) was equal to around 500 lbs. However, it differed from place to place. Hobson Jobson, p. 155. Ibid., p. 74. Factors were expecting that prices would go up in May-June by ‘half as much more’, suggesting it was cheap to buy it early. Ibid., 1651-1654, p. 276. Ibid., 1655-1660, p.291. Campaigns against Shah Shuja in Bengal made the provisions dear. Factors of the Company were hoping that prices would come down. Ibid., p. 292. Although here the price of rice seems quite high, but the letter writer from Maqsudabad claims it to be cheap. The reason for high prices at this juncture was the continuous campaigns against Shah Shuja and presence of a large Mughal army in the area. Wilson, The Early Annals of the English in Bengal, vol. I, pp. 333-4. It was the period of scarcity not only in Calcutta, but also in Madras and Bombay. This price of rice is taken as ‘very high’. Ibid., vol. I, pp. 333-4.

396 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27.

28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51.


Appendix C English Factories in India, 1622-1623, p. 70. Ibid., 1622-1623, p. 109. Ibid., 1630-1633, p. 61. Ibid.,1630-1633, p. 61. Ibid.,1634-1636, p. 42. Ibid., p. 133. Kharw"ar or ‘an ass’s load’, was a common unit of weight in Sind and Kashmir. In this reference, a kharwar " is mentioned to be equal to ‘8 maunds of this place [Tatta], or pucka of 40 pice per seare’. In Kashmir it was equal to 3 man and 8 sers in Akbarshahi man, or 177.02 lb. Irfan Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India, pp. 427-8 & n. English Factories, 1634-1636, p. 177. Ibid., 1637-1641, p. 134. Ibid., p. 135. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid., p. 136. Ibid. Ibid., p. 192. Ibid., 1642-1645, p. 72. Ibid., 1646-1650, pp. 56-7. It is taken as of the ‘best quality’. Ibid., 1646-1650, p. 62. The word used for the variety is ‘superfine sort’. Ibid., 1651-1654, p. 52. There was possibility of the prices coming down as a good crop was expected that season. Ibid., 1646-1650, p. 337. Ibid., 1655-1660, p. 297. Ibid., 1630-1633, p. 165. Prices are shown increased due to famine in Gujarat. Ibid., 1630-1633, p. 196. Ibid., 1622-1623, pp. 256-7. Ibid., 1637-1641, p. 136. Ibid., 1637-1641, p. 264. Ibid., 1655-1660, p. 292. Ibid., 1637-1641, p. 136. Ibid., 1655-1660, p. 292. Ibid., 1634-1636, p. 124. Ibid., 1630-1633, p. 165. It was taken as quite high a price due to the famine conditions in Gujarat. President of the English factory in Surat informs the Agent in Bantam that even at that rate ‘rare it is to see one’. Ibid., 1634-1636, p. 124. It is said to be ‘very cheap’.


Ån"a / ann " "a It was a fraction of a silver rupee. Sixteen annas " " made a rupee.1 Ashrafi Ashrafi was a gold coin and was popularly known as muhr.2 Tavernier’s observed that the ratio between a muhr (which he calls a gold rupee) and a silver rupee is 1: 14-14½,3 while earlier, Hawkins had evaluated its ratio as 1:10.4 Peter Mundy’s observation confirms that a muhr was equal to 12½ rupees, while another assessment of ashrafi of Akbar’s period vis-à-vis rupee is 1:14 weighing 11¾ tol"as.5 Bahar / bahaer / bhar As a unit of weight, it was common in use in Southeast Asia, coastal India and Arabian and Persian coastal towns. In early seventeenth century Surat it is estimated equal to 15 3/4 maund each maund equal to 32½ lbs in weight (Letters Recived, vol. I, pp. 33-4). Chalani Coins in circulation, or current rupees, were identified as chalani. Coins minted in previous year(s) faced certain deductions.6 Corge The word corge was used as a synonym for kori. A kori comprised 20 pieces. Coved / covid / covet / covado Portuguese covado or cubit, also called ell,7 was generally treated same as a gaz or English yard. Coved was of different length in different parts. Sometimes 11/3 coved made an English yard.8 Fryer noted that there were two types of coveds in use in Surat—‘the lesser measuring 27 and greater 36 English inches’.9 Coved in Agra was longer than what was in use in Patna. Mundy equates the coved in Patna with one yard and two inches, while the one in use in Agra was equal to 1.25 English yards.10 A reference says that in Ahmedabad it was equal to 34 inches in length.11


Appendix D

Crown It mainly came from England and one crown is estimated to be equal to two rupias /rupees.12 D"am A Mughal copper coin d"am was recognized as the ‘money of account’. Akbar instituted the ratio of 40 d"ams to a rupee. This ratio, somehow, could not be maintained owing to the rise of silver price of copper. However, the old rate remained in use in calculating salaries and recording the revenues—jama.13 Dutch stuferi / stuiver It was rarely used in India. It was, perhaps a basic coin of small value as De Laet compares it with Indian tacca /taka—that 5 or 6 taccas were same as 4 or 5 stuferis. The term taka had come in use as a synonym for d"am, especially in eastern India.14 Ecu » (Fr.) It is estimated to be equal to 4s. 6d., or two Indian rupees by Tavernier.15 Abbe Carre also has the same estimate of ecu, that it was equal to 4s. 6d. In terms of Indian currency, 2 ecus are equated with one gold pagoda.16 Fanam Fanam is an Arabicized form of Sanskrit pan^nam or pana ^ (pan, ^ to barter) which used to be a small gold coin in Coromandal and Malabar. In sixteenth and the seventeenth century, fanam was both a silver; and half gold and half silver coin in use mainly in coastal areas.17 It was a fraction of gold pagoda but containing a large proportion of alloy. In one case the value of a new (gold) pagoda vis-à-vis fanam is estimated to be 1:12.18 This rate is recorded for Golconda, while at Porto Novo it was one-eighteenth, at Pulicat it was one-twenty-fourth of a pagoda. In Madras a pagoda was exchanged for 32 to 36 fanams.19 6½ fanams (half gold half silver) were worth one silver rupee.20 There were single and double fanams. Tavernier speaks of a single fanam worth 4 ½ d., while a double went to 9 d.21 Value of a fanam differed according to the proportion of alloy contained in it. Farthing / feorthing / fourthing A small English coin was equal to 2 pice / paisa (Hobson Jobson, pp. 703, 705). Gaz There were many variation of gaz or yard used as a unit of measurement. English factors equate a gaz of Gujarat with 35 ½ inches, and two inches less than an English yard.22 Pelsaert noticed Akbar’s gaz to be 32 inches long.23

Appendix D


Guilder A Dutch and German coin, guilder was counted for in the early seventeenth century as 5/6 rupees.24 J∂tal J∂tal was a copper coin from the Sultanate period. Somehow, it was not much in use in the Mughal period but only as fractional money of account equal to onetwentyfifth of a d"am.25 Khaz"ana Coins that belonged to previous regimes were known as khaz"ana. Such coins faced deductions in market transactions because of wearing. Kori It is an Indian term used for a score, i.e. 20 in number. Mahmud " ∂ This coin had association with an erstwhile Sultan of Gujarat. It remained equally popular in the Mughal period. 2½-2¼ mahm"ud ∂s were equal to a Mughal rupia / rupee.26 A mahm"ud∂ is equated with one shilling.27 Exchange rates differed from period to period depending upon the availability of metallic currency in the market.28 Man Although standard of officially recognized weights and measures was maintained, still variations in different regions and markets were also in vogue. Variations are discerned during the various regimes also because of the instituting new man by individual Mughal rulers. Traditionally 1 man was equal to 40 sers.29 On the basis of numismatic evidence it can be said that in Akbar’s period it was treated equal to about 51.63 lbs to 55.32 lbs. Man-i Jah"ang∂r∂ was based upon the ser 30 of 36 d"ams, while man-i Shahjahani " " was based upon ser of 40 dams. " In the European sources of the seventeenth century, a man is valued differently. Hence, Man-i Jah"ang∂ri must have been equal to 66.38 lbs., while that of Shah Jahan could be equal to about 73.75 lbs. This ratio must have been possible only if the weight of d"am remained the same throughout the century. On one occasion English merchants valued a man-i Jah"ang∂r∂ weighing 54 English lbs. and Sh"ahjahani " man weighing 74 lbs.31 It suggests that man in common use was much lesser in weight than man-i Jah"ang∂r∂ and man-i Shahjah " "ani. Man of Surat is estimated equal to 33 English lb. in the early seventeenth century, and in some places it ranged between 30 and 32 lbs. avoirdupois.32 Some estimates give the value of a man quite low-only 25 lbs. for Madras and 26 lbs. for


Appendix D

Masulipatam, while a little later for the ‘East Coast’ it is equated to 27 lbs. avoirdupois.33 Pelsaert observed differently of a man—that it was equal to 50 lbs., 60 lbs. and 64 lbs.34 He must be talking of greater man in vogue in those days, as we regularly hear of kachha man and pukka man, or small and great man.35 M"asha Twelve m"ashas " made a tola. Maund In its Anglicized form of the word that was used as a synonym for man. Muhr Muhr is another word for ashrafi or a gold coin. Pagoda Pagoda was a gold coin commonly in use in south India, especially in Golconda, Malabar and Bijapur region. Its value is estimated at the rate of 5½ rupees in Surat in 1655. In Bengal a pagoda was acceptable at the rate of five rupees in 1667.36 Around the same period, in Golconda region the old pagoda is stated to be equal to 3½ rupees and new one accepted at the rate of 4½ rupees.37 While commuted in English currency, it was exchanged for nine shillings.38 Paisa Treated as a half-d"am,39 or copper paisa or pice, ratio between rupee and paisa fluctuated very often. It shows sharp variations in the early seventeenth century ‘varying also as copper riseth and falleth’, reported an English merchant.40 At one occasion while it is recorded as 1:80 (in Gujarat), and a little later it is recorded as1:83 (in Ajmer).41 Tavernier quotes the ratio varying between rupee and paisa 1:46 to 1:50, while Careri’s estimate is that of 1:54.42 Pelsaert says that in Agra, 58 pice or more go to a rupee.43 Thevenot’s rupee was worth 32½-33½ ‘pecha’, which comes to nearly 65-7 d"ams. Pardini /pardao / pardan It was a Portuguese coin minted in India and was equal to half a crown.44 A rupee was also equal to half a crown in value. It suggests that the value of pardini /pardao and rupee was the same. In English currency a pardini was equal to 2s. or 2s. 6d.—same in value as of a rupee. Pardini or pardao was taken as synonyn for xerafin also.45 Pice Pice is an anglicized version of paisa.

Appendix D


Piastre Also called as Seville piece of eight was equal to 4s. 6d. (or two rupees) as per the estimate of Tavernier.46 Rial of Eight Rial of eight (more correctly the ‘piece of eight rials’) or Spanish dollar was the silver coin in general use in the East chiefly due to its purity and uniformity of weight. In the seventeenth century it was one real of eight was accepted at the rate of two rupees in Agra and Surat.47 Its relative value also fluctuated from time to time like any other currency. Rupee Rupee is an anglicized form of rupia /rupya. Rupia / rupya Silver coin used as basic unit for all cash transactions in the Mughal period. Its weight during the Mughal period more or less remained unaltered. It weighed 178 grains troy. On his accession Aurangzeb had increased its weight to 180 grains troy.48 Its average value in the seventeenth century was 2s. 3d., and ratio between pound sterling and Indian rupee was 1:10.49 In weight, a rupee was made up of a tola silver. Ser At Patna 37 pice (in weight) made a ser, and Mundy refers that 22 pice are taken ‘nearest’ to 1¼ lbs. in weight, a pound comprised 16 ounces.50 Pelsaert confirms that Jahangir raised ‘weights, measures and coin 20 per cent. above his father’s standards’. Hence, while the Akbari ser weighed 30 pice (in weight) or 1½ lb., Jahangiri ser was equal to the weight of 36 pice.51 There were local variations too. Of Surat he says that weights and measures in use were smaller than in ‘Hindustan’, i.e., north India. Here a ser weighed only 18 pice or ¾ lbs.52 Sikka Sikka was the freshly minted coin or minted in the current year. It was also known as kora sikka.53 Sol A small French coin was equal to 0.99d./penny. In Mughal India 29-30 sols made a rupee. Tavernier estimates the value of a sol equal to a little less than two paisas. As the ratio of rupee and paisas differed from place to place, so did fluctuate the ratio between paisa and sol. (Bernier, pp. 200, 223-4; Tavernier, vol. I, p. 29; John Bruce estimated the value of a price/paisa equal to half a penny. Annals of the Honourable East India Company, vol. II, p. 561).


Appendix D

Stiver It was a Dutch coin and 24 stivers were exchanged in India for one rupee.54 Taka A corrupt form of the earlier term (silver) tanka, in Mughal period it was used in the same sense as a (copper) d"am.55 Tanka A silver coin of the Sultanate era, tanka in Mughal period was a copper coin. It 56 was known as ‘double d"am’ also, as it was equal to two dams. " White Crown The word was used as synonym for ecu. » Tola Gold and silver (and precious commodities) were weighed by the tola.57 As the usual weight of a rupee of 178-80 grains troy was a tola, value of the later may be the same in terms of grains troy. Xeraphin / zerafin Portuguese form of ashrafi, but was used for silver coin common in use in their own settlements on the west coast. It has been equated with the Mughal (silver) rupee in value, i.e. 2s. 6d. in a reference that comes for the year 1665.58 Elsewhere its value is recorded being equal to 1s. 9d. or 1s. 6d., which is much lower than what it was in the previous years.59

NOTES 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

English Factories, 1618-1621, pp. 194, 204. Irfan Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India, p. 432. Tavernier, vol. I, p. 13. William Foster (ed.), Early Travels, p. 101. The Travels of Peter Mundy, vol. II, p. 290; Brij Narain (tr.), S.R. Sharma (ed.), A Contemporary Dutch Chronicle of Mughal India, p. 33. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 26. English Factories, 1624-1629, p. 87. The Travels of Peter Mundy, vol. II, p. 156. John Fryer, A New Account of East India and Persia, vol. II, p. 127. Another reference for Surat says that it was 26-7 inches long. Letters Received, vol. III, p. 301.

Appendix D


10. Peter Mundy, vol. II, p. 156. He says that coved (yard) in Patna is 11/3 coved of Agra. 11. Letters Received, vol. II, p. 214. 12. Nicholas Withington in Early Travels, ed. William Foster, pp. 228, 230; Mandelslo, Travels in Western India, p. 31; Bernier, Travels in the Mogul Empire, pp. 98n, 135, 139. 13. It was then known as d"am-i tankhwahi. " Irfan Habib, Agrarian System, p. 433. 14. The Empire of the Great Mogul, p. 88. 15. Travels in India, vol. I, p. 18n. 16. The Travels of the Abbe Carre in India and the Near East 1672-1674, vol. II, p. 617. 17. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 148. 18. English Factories, vol. IV (1630-1633), p. 277. 19. H. D. Love, Vestiges of Old Madras, vol. I, p. 194. 20. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 148. 21. Travels in India, vol. I, p. 329. 22. English Factories vol. V (1634-1636), pp. 62, 134. 23. Francisco Pelsaert, Jahangir’s India, p. 7. 24. Ibid., p. 26n. 25. Irfan Habib, Agrarian System, p. 530. 26. Foster, Letters Received, vol. I, p. 306; English Factories vol. VII (16421645), p. 96; English Factories, 1651-1654, p. 58. 27. Nicholas Withington, Purchas, vol. IV, p. 170. 28. At one point of time the exchange rate between mahm"ud∂ and rupee is mentioned as 100 = 41¼. English Factories, vol. II (1621-1624), p. 199. Mahm"ud∂ was acceptable in Persia also English Factories, vol. VI (16371641), p. 120. 29. English Factories, vol. V (1634-1636), p. 156; Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 25; Peter Mundy, vol. II, p. 156. 30. D"am weighed 322.7 grains. A ser was estimated to be equal to the weight of 28 or 30 copper d"ams. Irfan Habib, Agrarian System, pp. 421-2. 31. English Factories, vol. I (1618-1621), p. 199; W.H. Moreland, ‘Some Sidelights on Life in Agra 1637-1639’, Journal of UP Historical Society, pp. 146-61. 32. Letters Received, vol. I, pp. 34, 241; vol. II, 214, 238; vol. III, p. 69; vol. V, p. 108; English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 60; English Factories, 1634-1636, p. 83. 33. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 262. Pelsaert, Jahangir’s India, pp. 23, 25. Thevenot categorically says that ser or pound of Surat is ‘greater


34. 35. 36. 37.

38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45.

46. 47. 48. 49.

50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59.

Appendix D than those of Golconda’. Indian Travels, p. 25; English Factories, ed. Charles Fawcett, vol. II, p. 156. Jahangir’s India, pp. 7, 42. Letters Received, vol. I, p. 34. English Factories, 1665-1667, p. 327. English Factories, 1655-60, pp. 33-4, 42. For Surat the rate mentioned is of old pagoda with a note that ‘to such a poore esteeme is silver is fallen in thes parts, or rather the said pagoda enhaunced’, p. 42. John Ovington, A Voyage of Surat, p. 121. Moreland, ‘Some Sidelights on Life in Agra 1637-1639’, pp. 146-61. Letters Received, vol. I, p. 34; Irfan Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India, p. 440n. Letters Received, vol. III, p. 87. Tavernier, vol. I, pp. 22-3, 329; Careri, Indian Travels, pp. 253. Jahangir’s India, p. 29. Della Valle, ed. Edward Grey, vol. I, pp. 183-4. Nicholas Withington in Early Travels, ed. William Foster, pp. 228, 230. Tavernier, vol. I, pp. 22, 144, 328-30, vol II, pp. 189, 391, English Factories, Fawcett, vol. I, p. 92. Travels in India, vol. II, p. 392. Journal of John Jourdain, p. 165; Letters Received, vol. V, p. 92; English Factories, 1624-1629, p. 181. English Factories 1655-1660, pp. 211-12; Irfan Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India, p. 433; Tavernier, vol. I, p. 327. English Factories 1634-1636, p. 12; English Factories, 1665-1667, pp. 50, 137; Norris Embassy, p. 53n. Letters‘s’ and ‘d’ stand for shilling and denarius. Latin word denarius was used as a synonym for pence. Peter Mundy, vol. II, p. 156. Jahangir’s India, p. 29. Ibid., p. 42. English Factories, 1618-1621, p. 113 & n. Pelsaert, Jahangir’s India, p. 26n. Joaness De Laet, A Contemporary Dutch Chronicle of Mughal India, p. 33. Pelsaert, Jahangir’s India, p. 60. Thevenot, Indian Travels, p. 25. English Factories, 1655-1660, p. 74n. English Factories, 1665-1667 , p. 45; English Factories 1678-1684, ed. Charles Fawcett, vol. III, p. 95.


Åb-kash Abraq Achivantar Adhovaya (Guj.) Adhowiah / adowya / adowia /adowai / adowayadge /addowaye / adowaha /adaviya (Eur. style) Affanan (Eur. style) Afy"un Ågri Ahadi Ahalkor (Eur. style) Åhangar Ahi^di Ah∂r Åina-s"az Ajoorah (Beng.) Ål Aldea (Span.) Alejae Alparqueror (Eur.) Alshah Amald"ar Ambari Ambarti Ambattan (Tam.) Amberti

One who draws water; water carrier Mica Menials; sweepers (south India) Porter Same as adhovaya

Same as afy"un Opium One who sieves grain and separate the rubbish from it ‘Gentleman trooper’; trooper directly in the service of the king Same as hal"alkhor Ironsmith Mean; base; one who does odd jobs Milkman Maker of mirror A class of salt producers in Bengal A red dye Hamlet, village A variety of chequered cloth Shoe-maker or tanner Worker in salt mine An official in a city; tipstaff A variety of palanquin A fine cotton cloth Barber Same as ambarti


Am∂n Andora (Port.) Ånn" a Ann-shodhkar Ar"abeh / arabah " Arcaluck (Eur. style) Arq Arqaliq Arrac Årrah-kash Arzd"asht Ashtik"ak"ar Ashturp"alak Asidh"avak Ass"ar Avaldar " (tahv∂ld"ar) Åwunds"az Ayangar (Tam.) Badaree (Eur. style) Bad∂ B"aft" a B"agar-ropan B"aghb"an B"agri Bah"al Bahr"ashtrakar Bahr"upia Bail Bailg"ari Bailw" a n Bajjankar Bakhshi

Glossary Revenue assessor Litter Sixteenth part of a rupee Person who sieves grain to separate rubbish Wagon / carriage Same as arqaliq Wine; extract Turkish style coat with sleeves Same as arq Sawyer A memorial from an inferior to a superior Burnt-brick maker Camelman Sword-maker Oil manufacturer Agents Potter Functionary of a village other than peasants or cultivators Same as bhand"ar∂ Tumbler; acrobat; rope dancer A woven piece of cloth; a variety of fine white cloth known as calico Bird catcher Gardener Bird catcher Carriage Roaster of grams, grains, corn or groundnuts A mimic; buffoon Ox Cart Carter Maker of mats; bamboo worker Paymaster

Glossary Bakhshish Balta Bal"uted"ar Ban bhairo Ban bharat Band"arin Band"arse (Eur. style) Bandhana Band"uqd"ar Bang" a s" ali Bangi (Tam./Tel.) Banj"ar"a Banks" al Ban-tar"ash B"ar"at B" ar-band Barbinder (Eng. style) Barhai B"ari Barn pushti Barn shuddhi Barn s∂nvak Basta Bat"ala B"avri /b"awri B"az∂gar Bazighurre (Eur. style) Bedhak Beg"ar∂ Behls"az Beld"ar Belw"a n


Reward Same as bhatta Functionaries of a village other than peasants or cultivators ‘Born in a forest’; term used for barbers born in rural areas ‘Born in a forest’; term used for barbers born in rural areas Same as bhand"ar∂ Same as bhand"ar∂ Tie-and-dye Gunner A class of salt producer Bearer; messenger A class of transporters of food grains Custom house Bamboo-cutter Wedding procession Binder of bales/weight Same as bar-band " Carpenter Maker of containers and plates of tree leaves Surgeon Surgeon Surgeon Bale; chest; roll Agriculturist (generally of Brahmin caste) Bird-catcher Acrobat Same as b"az∂gar Butcher Porter; wage labourer Maker of carriage; carpenter Digger of wells, ditches, or canals Cart driver


Beop"ari Bhaddak Bhakar Bh" and Bhand"ar∂ Bhangar Bhanggera Bhang∂ Bh"arbhuj"a Bh"arbhunia Bhars"ali Bh"at Bhatta Bhaty"ar∂ Bher"ashtkar Bhishti (bihishti) Bhoi Bhojki Bhojwa Bhty"ara Bild"ar Billewani (Eur.) Bindhera Biraksh ropi Biras " "az Birm"assi

Glossary Butcher Same as bedhak Camelman A mimic; buffoon A caste of toddy drawers in Konkan region Jester Seller of intoxicating drugs Sweeper; scavenger Roaster of grams, grains, corn or groundnuts Maker and seller of puffed rice and roasted cereals A class of salt producer One who plays on musical instruments; poet who recites folk tales Difference in exchange; commission; premium Female inn-keeper; attendant on guests; housekeeper Roaster of grams, grains, corn or groundnuts Water carrier / supplier Attendant on elephant One who plays on musical instruments; dancer Roaster of grams, grains, corn or groundnuts Male inn-keeper; attendant on guests; housekeeper Bricklayer Same as belw"an One who bores holes in pearls and precious stones Gardener Betel-leaf seller A class of fisherman

Glossary Bisya


One who plays on musical instruments or sings on public places Blunderbuss A kind of gun Boes (Port.) (Boys) porters Bojhia (Hin.) Labourer; porter; carrier Bolak m"an Camelman Boriy"ab"af Sack-cloth maker; maker of mats and thatches Buh"ari w"ala Scavenger Buxees (Eur.) Same as bakhshish Caba" (Eur. version) Same as qab"a Caffre (Port.) Same as kafir " Cahare /caharre /cahar Same as kah"ar Camca A kind of (herb used to) dye Canarine (Eur. style) Porter; guide (in Canara or Kannada region) Canji (Eur. style) Starch Caramsorra Same as carav" " ansar"ai C"arav"ansar"ai Inn; rest house Casset (Eur. style) Same as qasid " Catamaran /cattamaronce Small boat Catele (Fren.) Palanquin like a field bedstead or a sofa Cazie Same as qaz " ∂ Ch"abuk Whip Ch"ah-kan Well-digger Chakar Packed bundle; bale Ch"akar Servant; porter Chakkali same as shakkili Chakore Same as chakar " Ch"alni-b"ahak Person who sieves grain to separate rubbish Cham"ar Tanner; shoe-maker Chambelee Same as chamel∂ Chamel∂ Jasmine Champ∂ Massage Champinge (Eur.) Same as champ∂ Chan"alon Same as chand"alam


Ch"and" al Ch" and"ala Chand"alam (Sans.) Chandoli /chaudoli Charada Charado Ch"arav"ad"ar Charmk"ar Charna Ch"ar-p"a Ch"arp"a∂ Chatr bard"ar Chatush panth bandhan Chaubuck / chabuck / chaubudk / chewback Chaudhuri / chowdhry Chaudol Chaultry (Eur.)

Chay Chayavar (Mal.) Chh"ap"ak"ar Chhak|ra Chh"ap Chhapparband Chh∂nt Chint Chintz (Eur. style) Chipp∂ Chiqs"az Chita (Port.)

Glossary An outcaste; despicable person Menial An outcaste; menial same as sh"ahdol A caste of toddy toppers An outcaste (south India) Groom Shoe-maker; tanner Transporter of salt; a class of banjar " a" s Mounted courier Cot, rope-bed Umbrella bearer Gardener Same as ch"abuk Village headman; headman of a group of professionals in a town Same as sh"ahdol (covered carriages) A corruption of the word chab"utra— platform. A place where justice was imparted Same as chayavar A kind of herb used to dye cloths in red Painter of cloth; dyer Indian hackney; a light two-wheeled carriage Official stamp on goods Thatcher; maker and fixer of thatched roofs Painted /printed cloth Same as chh∂nt Same as chh∂nt Painter of cloth; dyer Maker of screens of bamboo sticks or cages Same as chh∂nt

Glossary Chite (Fren.) Chitera Chitini Chittee (Eur. style) Chittes Chitthi Chodri Chonke Chop/chopp Choutry Chowdree (Eur. style) Chowk∂ Chowkid"ar Chowkrie Chuckler Ch"una paz Chun"a paz"an Chunam (Sans.) Ch"uri farosh Ch"urik"ar Ch"uris"az Ch"urkar Churmun Coetiny (Eur.) Coita Coito (Eur. style) Cojava (Eur. style) Collol (Eur. style) Colouria (Eur. style) Conjee Cooli /coolee Corge /corgis Cossid (Eur. style)


Same as chh∂nt Painter Evaluator of pearls (in Malabar and Coromandal) Same as chitthi Same as chhint painted cloth Letter; pass A caste of toddy tapper; a sub-caste of agriculturist Same as shankh Same as chh"ap Same as chaultry Same as chaudhuri A booth; a term used for road dues; postal station Watchman Same as chakar Same as shakkili Lime-maker Lime-makers Lime Seller of bangles Bangle-maker Bangle-maker Bangle-maker An outcaste; despicable person, slave (cotton) quilts; quilts made in half cotton half silk ‘Knife tax’ collected from fishermen Same as koyti Same as kaj"awah Same as kal"al Same as coita Same as kanji Porter; wage labourer Same as kori Same as qasid "



Cotte Same as kh"at Coved / covet / covid (Eur.) A unit of measurement almost equal to a yard Cowri Shell used as a currency Currier Tanner (south India) Cussumba Same as kusumba Cuttaine / Cuttany / (cotton) quilts; quilts made in half Cuttenee (Eur.) cotton half silk D"ab Pound gently Dabba A small coin D"adan (Per. verb) To give D"adni Money paid in advance Dafli Tambourine D"ak chauk∂ Post office Dall"al Broker D"am A copper coin D"andi (Beng.) Boatman Darb"an Door-keeper Darb"ar∂ Associated with the royal court and camp Dari"ab"ad∂ A variety of cotton cloth made in Dariabad D"arindeh Holder Darji Same as darzi D"arogh"a Chief officer in a department D"arubhedak Carpenter Dar"udgar Carpenter Darz∂ Tailor D"as Slave; servant Dast"a Roll Dastoor Commission Dast"ur /dust"ur /dustore Commission Debua Same as dabba Deg A large cooking pot Deoti Lamp-lighter; torch bearer Dereband Same as dari"ab"ad∂ Dh"anak One who looked after the horses of dignitaries; a groom

Glossary Dhanushk"ar Dhed Dhhed Dh∂var Dhobi Dhot∂

Dhunia D∂gar D∂pak kar D∂w"an Dobb (Eur.) Dobh"ashi / dubhashi " Doli Dom Domini Domna Dos"ad Dubashe Dubasse (Eur. style) Duiti /dutie Dungaree /dongere Dungri Duti Dutti /duttey Dw"ar "achh"adankar Ecu » El"acha Elatcha Eluder (Eur.) Enaume Ennivanigar Fanam


Maker of bows and arrows A despicable caste (north and western India) Mean; base; one who does odd jobs Fisherman; boatman Washerman A variety of cotton cloth of standard length and breadth generally used to tie around the lower part of the body Cotton-carder Another Person who lights or carries a lamp Incharge of revenues in provinces Same as dab " Interpreter Palanquin A man who plays on musical instruments or sings in public places A female who plays on musical instruments or sings in public places Singer Shoe-maker Same as dobhash " ∂ Same as dobhash " ∂ Same as deoti Same as dungri A coarse cloth Lamp bearer; one who lights the lamp Same as dhot∂ Maker of mats A French coin A variety of fine white cloth Same as el"acha Silahdar " ; man at arms Same as in"am Oil-maker (south India) A silver, or gold-silver coin used in south India




Term used by Europeans for shoemakers and tanners Fardle / fardo (Eur./Port.) Bundle; bale Farm"an /firm"an Royal order Farr"ash kh"an"a (Royal) tent-house Farr"ash Person employed to erect tents, spread sheets of cloth or carpets, and to look after the sitting room Faujd"ar Officer responsible for maintaining law and order in a given area Fidalgo (Port.) A nobleman Fot"ad"ar Treasurer; broker assigned the duty to advance money to the producers Frassi (Eur. style) Same as farrash " Ful"us A small copper coin Gab"a n Milkman; herder Gabit A class of fisherman Gadari" a Shepherd Gajr"as"az Garland maker Gall" ab"a n Herdsman Gandhi Maker and seller of perfumes Gaula Same as gw"al"a G"av Cow G"azur Washerman Gentue / Gentoo (Eur.) Term generally used for a Hindu Gh" at River bank; bank of a water body Ghee Clarified butter Ghirni Pully Ghosi Milkman Ghot"akhor Diver Ghul"am Slave; servant Ghur bahal A type of carriage Gilk"ar Clay-worker; a plasterer Gillopd"ar (Eur. style) Same as jilaudar " Godorim (Eur.) Same as gudri Gola Term used for barbers born in rural areas

Glossary Golak Gorial Goindah / goyindeh Gu"ala /gaw"al"a Gualer Gudri Gulbadan Gulfarosh Gum"asht"a Gurzbard"ar Gv"al Gw"al"a Hajj"am Hal"alchor /hall"alcore (Eur. style) Hal"alkhor Halw"ai Ham"ail saz " Hamm"al Harem Hark"ar"a Harn"abhains Hauz Haw" aigar Howd"a In"am Ir"aqi Irava (Mal.) Iskar + " Itrfarosh Itrs"az Iz"ar J"afri Jag"at


Term used for barbers born in rural areas A sub-caste of agriculturist Singer Milkman (Eur.) Same as gwal " a" A light mattress Tie-and-dye Florist Agent Mace bearer Milkman Milkman Barber Sweeper; scavenger Sweeper; scavenger Confectioner Gardener; garland maker Porter Seraglio, female quarters in a palace Messenger, announcer; letter carrier Wild buffalo Pond Manufacturer of fireworks Open or covered seat fixed to the back of an elephant Reward; gift A variety of soap used for washing cloths Wine maker Blacksmith Seller (and maker) of perfumes Maker (and seller) of perfumes Trousers Rhombus screen Same as jakat " , zak"at


Jaggat " J"ag∂r Jak"at

Jal b"ahak Jal v"ahak Jal vikraya Jall"ad Jalpariksha Jarr"ah Jas " ud " / jesud " (Mar.) Jatia Jantra bandhak Jengatha Jh∂mar / Jh∂nvar Jilaud"ar / jilawd"ar Jilds"az J∂tal Jol"aha J"uti K"achhi /kaachhi Kachn"ar Kachori Kachoriw"al /kachorib"al K"afir

Kafshdoz K"agd∂ K"aghazs"az K"aghz∂ Kah"ar Kaj"awa (Peri gazavah) "

Glossary Same as jakat " , zak"at Land assignments in lieu of service Road dues (corrupt of zakat " ; but used in a different way than the actual sense of the word zak"at) Water supplier Water supplier One who sells water; water supplier Hangman Sailor Wound-healer; surgeon Messenger (corrupt of j"asus " , but used in a different sense) Cobbler (‘One who fits a device’) Oil-maker Boat; raft Boatmen Holder of bridle of a horse Binder Copper coin Weaver Shoe Cultivator and seller of vegetables A kind of flower—Bauhinia variegata (used to make colour for dying cloths) A kind of deep fried snack Seller of kachori Non-believer; Africans employed by Arabs and Europeans on ships; servants in the service of Portuguese in India; escort Shoe-maker Paper manufacturer Paper manufacturer Paper-maker Palanquin bearer; water carrier A kind of litter fixed on the back of a camel

Glossary Kal"al Kalambi Kal" awangar Kal"awant Kaljug Kalkhan-afroz


Distiller; wine-maker A caste of agriculturist Ballad singer One who plays on musical instruments Dark Age Roaster of grams, grains, corn or groundnuts Kallar A sub-group of s"« udras; a low caste; outcaste; menial Kam"angar Bow and arrow maker Kam∂n Mean, menial Kammala Smith; carpenter; artisan Kanchan A man who plays on musical instruments or sings in public places Kanchani A female who plays on musical instruments or sings in public places Kandoi (qandoi) Confectioner Kaniyan (Mal.) Producer of salt Kanjar Seller of strings; maker of brooms Kanji Starch K"an-mail w"al"a One who removes earwax Kans"ar Coppersmith K"anskar Maker of utensils of copper or brass Kanyan (Mala.) Salt-maker Kapri Dancer Karavan Serrah (Eur. style) Same as carav" " ansar"ai Karb ch"alak Camelman Karb ch"arak Camelman K"arkh"an"a Workshop K"ark"un Clerk Karn shodhkar One who removes earwax Sailor Karndh"ar Kasera Maker of utensils of copper or brass K"asid Same as qasid " Kas-kanyar Same as khus Katkar Sack-cloth maker; maker of furniture using bamboo and reed


Kaval (Tam.) Kenchen (Eur. style) Keorat Kh"akrob Khalari (Beng.) Khalla Khalpa (Guj.) Kh"ar Kharg"ah Khar∂ta Kharr"ad Kharui Khashori Kh"assa

Kh"at Kh"atam band"an Khatankar Kh"at∂ Khatkash Khayy"at Khichri Khidmatg"ar Khidmatguz"ar Khilon"as"az Khirsb"an Khisht mal"an (plu.) Khisht paz"an (plu.) Khisht tar"ash Khishtpaz Khus Khutahar Khw"an

Glossary Palanquin bearer Gilded, blooming, glittering. Word generally used for a class of dancers Boatman Sweeper Fields reserved for producing salt Skin Shoe-maker; cobbler A kind of carbonate soda Folding tents Paper bag carpenter A class of fisherman Barber Something/department /person that is specially reserved for the king; royal stable Cot Engraver Person who digs earth for various purposes Carpenter Tailor Tailor Dish prepared by boiling rice with pulses, gram or beans Personal attendant/servant Servant Toy-maker One who shows bear’s play Bricklayers Brick burners Brick moulder; tile-maker Burnt brick-maker A kind of fragrant grass Wicked Piece of cloth spread to lay dishes on and sit around for taking meals

Glossary Khw"as Kirp"as dhunak Kis"an Kishtib"an Kistiwan " Kita Kitisal (Eur.) Koband Kolh"u bandhak Koli Kollan (Tam.) Koomar (Eur.) Kori Korrah Kos min"ar Kos Kotw"al Koyti K"uch K"uch"aband /K"unchband Kud"alik Kul"al Kulkarni Kumbhk"ar (Sans.) Kumh"ar Kunbi Kundigar Kunjra Kup"as"az " K"upia patrkar K"upia Kurkutch Kurmi


Personal servant Cotton carder Peasant; cultivator Boatman Same as kisht∂b"an A caste of toddy drawers Umbrella Weaver Oil-maker Fisherman Blacksmith Same as kumh"ar One score (a unit of twenty pieces) Whip Milestone A unit of measuring distance Superintendant of police in a city/town Tax paid by the toddy tappers in Konkan March out Broom-maker Person who digs earth for various purposes Potter Village headman Potter Potter A caste of agriculturist Presser of cloth Vegetable seller Maker of big water jars Maker of utensils of copper or brass Maker of utensils of copper or brass Process of producing salt by way of evaporation Shoe-maker; tanner (north India); agriculturist




Safflower (used to make colour for dying cloths) Kusumba (Coro.) Safflower; dyer (using kusumba and other colours) Kutcheree Same as khichri K"uza Goglet, pitcher Lackeyed (Eur.) Footman Lakhera /Lakhira Worker in gum lac; varnisher Lah"u bedhak Butcher Lamani Transporter of salt Lascar / lasker (Eur. style) Same as lashkar Lashkar Army; camp; entourage Lavana Producer of salt Lohana Producer of salt Loh"ar / luh"ar Ironsmith Lohk"ar Ironsmith Lohpatrak"ar Ironsmith Loloni A female who plays on musical instruments or sings in public places Lonia /lunia Producer of salt M"acchi Fisherman Madad-i m’"ash Revenue grants Madir"akar Distiller and seller of wine Mahal Palace Mah"ar A despicable caste (north and western India) Mah"av"areh Monthly Mah"avat Driver and tender of elephant M"ah∂g∂r Fisherman Mahm"ud∂ A coin in circulation mainly in Gujarat Mahuti (Eur. style) Same as mah"avat Maifarosh Distiller and seller of wine Maim"ar Chief architect; chief mason Maim"unb"az One who shows a monkey’s play Mainati (Kon.) Washerman (derived from mehnat∂ or a labourer)

Glossary Majoor Maldaer (Eur. style) Malechha M"al∂ Mall Mandador / Mandadore (Port.) Mandal M"andi Mangali (Beng.) Mangali (Tel.) Maniy"ar M"anjh∂ Mansabd"ar M"ans-bechak M"ari M"asha" Mashak Mash" al Mash"alch∂ Massal Massoore (Eur. style) Mast"uli Matare M"avi Mazd"ur Measure (Eur. style) Mehtar Mehtar"an∂ Mel"a Mestico (Port.) Mestisse Mesure (Eur. style) Meth


Same as mazd"ur Same as amald"ar Menial; polluted (person not allowed to mix up with high castes) Gardener; seller of flowers A class of fisherman ‘One who comands’—superintendant of porters and labourers (in Konkan) Village headman Starch Salt producer Barber Seller of bangles Ferryman Rank holder Butcher Fisherman A unit of weight to weigh precious metals Leather bag to carry water Torch Torch-bearer Same as mash"al Same as mazd"ur Sailor A sub-caste of agriculturist Fisherman Labourer; carrier; porter Same as mazd"ur Sweeper Sweepress Fair Half-caste Same as mestico Same as mazd"ur One who collects fodder for an elephant


Metre /meter"ani (Eur. style) Miqn’ab"af M∂r bahr-o barr

Mir"as∂ Miratpind bhasmkar M∂rdaha Mishtl"un"adkar Miy"aneh Moch∂ Mochk"ar Mohallah Mohr / muhr Molungi (Beng.) Momin Momj"ameh Mondha Moria Mritpatrak"ar M"u tarash " Mud"aliyar (Mal.) Mueva (Eur. style) Mujannas Mukkuvar (Tam.) Munsif Muqaddam M"uratk"ar Mussuck /massack (Eur. style) Mutasaddi Nadd"af N"a∂

Glossary Same as mehtar and mehtar"an∂ Weaver Incharge of a party employed to cut trees, shrubs and other hurdles ahead of the marching royal camp and armies One who plays on musical instruments or sings in public places Lime-maker A groom; an attendant; chief driver Producer of salt Middle Cobbler; Shoe-maker Cobbler; Shoe-maker Locality Gold coin Salt producer (Muslim) weaver Wax-cloth Stool made of reed A sub-caste of agriculturist Potter Barber Painter of cloth; dyer Same as mukkuvar A breed of horse Fisherman Judge Village headman; headman of a group of professionals in a town Toy-maker Same as mashak Writer; incharge of a port city Cotton-carder Barber

Glossary Naichi Najj"ar N"akhud"a Nakhust N"alband Namaks"az N"anbai /n"anvai N"ani Naqd Naq∂b Naqq"ash Nat Nauroz N"avi N"avidar (Tam.) N"avik Naw"arb"af N"ayak


A sub-caste of agriculturist Carpenter Sailor Senior Farrier Producer of salt Baker Same as n"a∂ Cash Usher Engraver Tumbler; acrobat; rope dancer First day of Persian calendar Barber Barber Sailor Weaver; weaver of straps Head of a group of soldiers; commander of a contingent; chief N"azir Incharge Necanee / nicani A variety of striped carpet Nech"aband / nich"aband Tobacco-pipe (huqqah) maker Nh"avi Same as n"a∂ Nigehb"an Keeper; caretaker Nik"ah Nuptial ceremony among the Muslims N∂l Indigo N∂ll Same as n∂l N∂pa Juice of (Indian) palm Niquania Same as necani or nicani Niy"aria" Person who extracted precious metal from the refuse at a goldsmith’s shop Norose (Eur. style) Same as nauroz Nritak Tumbler; acrobat; rope dancer N"urb"af Weaver Omrah /umara /umra (plu.) Nobles Oontw" al Camelman



Paccal /packaly /pickaller / Same as pakh"al puccall / puckaul / puckaly (Eur. style) A gold coin used in Deccan and south Pagoda India Runner P"aik Retail dealer; agents of broker P"aikar " Pice; a copper coin Paisa Large size leather bag to carry water; Pakh"al vendor of water; water-supplier Higher in amount when applied in Pakka the sense of a unit of measurement; masonry work Same as p"alk∂/palanquin Palanchinoe/ (Eur.) Same as p"alk∂ P"alkey Covered litter; palanquin P"alk∂ Painter of cloth; dyer Palli (Tam.) Same as p"alk∂ Palnchine /palanchini / palanchino (Eur. style) Cotton carder Panba Betel-leaf seller P"anfarosh Of five hundred (mansabd"ar) Panjsadi Fan Pankh"a Betel-leaf seller Panw"ar∂ Same as pauni Paooni Quarter P"ara An abhorred caste; more popular as Paraiyan (Tam.) peri"ar Same as prabhu Paravou An outcaste; despicable person (south Parayan India) Weaver P"archabaf " " Same as parayan Pareo A territorial unit comprising of various Pargana villages Same as parayan Paria (Tam.) Same as periy"ar Paria / pariah / pariar / periya / peria

Glossary Paristhar bhasmkar Parn p"atra rachn"ak"ar Parnk"ar Parua Parw"an"a Pas P"asb"an Patal-band Patang Patara Patb"unia /patbuniya Patem"ari /phatem"ari (Eur. style) Pathm"ar P"atil Patola Patraul Patr"avalikar P"atrk"ar Patt"am"ar Patwa /Patuwa / Patw"ar

Patw"ar∂ Pauni(s)

Pauzecocour (Eur. style) Pavana Pawangariya Paware (Eur. style) Payj"ama Peao (Port.)


Lime-maker Maker of plates of leaves Betel-leaf seller Same as periyar /peria Authority letter; letter granting permission to transact business Junior Keeper; caretaker Thatcher Same as sappan—a red dye A low caste (south India) Weaver Same as pathm"ar or pattam"ar Letter carrier Village headman Dye-streaked style, a variety of silk cloth Maker of plates of leaves Maker of plates of leaves Maker of utensils of copper or brass Letter carrier Tape Weaver; maker of strings of silk or cotton thread for binding jewellery pieces made of silver, gold and other metals. Village accountant A blanket term for various castes of craftsmen and service providers, usually put among the lowest in social hierarchy A category of most vile people in south India Something received as due Singers Same as ph"aora Trousers Messenger; attendant



Same as periyar " A low caste social group (south India); menial Peri"aven (peri"ar ?) Shoe-maker Perrear (Eur. version) Same as periyar " Pesh khan " a" Party moving ahead of the royal camp to erect tents at next station prior to the arrival of the camp Pe-une Peon; (black) foot boys Ph"aora Shovel; spade Ph"ul wala " Gardener Picar (Eur.) Same as p"aikar " Picquedent (Eur.) Same as p∂kd"an P∂kd"an Spittoon Pin"ara Cotton carder Pingo (Tam./Tel.) Messenger Pintados (Eur.) Painted cloth Piriave Outcaste; abhorred person Piy"ada /Piy"adah Footman; peon; messenger Podar / podar " Same as fot"adar " ; account keeper in service of the merchants Poleah / polleah Same as polia Polia / pulia (Mal.) A low caste; menial; despicable person (south India) Pooleah Same as polia Post∂bh"ang Opium Potd"ar Account keeper Prabhu A low caste person (south India) Prigony (Eur. style) Same as pargana Pucca Same as pakka" Pungah Process of producing salt by way of boiling Punkarra (Eur.) Fan bearer Purohit Hindu priest P"urubia" A class of fishermen, perhaps in north and eastern India Pushp b"atikakar " /vatikakar " " Gardener Peria Peri"ar / periy"ar

Glossary Pyas (Sans.) Qab" a Qalaigar Qalam Qalamk"ar∂ Q"alinb"af Qamargha Qandoi Q"an"ungo

Qar"awal Qas"a∂ Q"asid Qass"ab Qat"ar Q"az∂ Quencheni (Eur. style) Quisivone (Eur. style) Quiteasal /quitisal Qutni (Eur.) R"ahd"ar∂ R" a j R"aj"a Rangb"al / Rangw"al Rangrez Ranta Ranti Rath Rathk"ar Reetha Resbut (Eur. version) Reza Roghangar


Water; water carrier A gown-like dress worn by men; an overcoat Tinman Pen; brush used to paint on cloth Designs painted on cloth with the help of a thin and fine brush Carpet-maker Area encircled before hunting / game Confectioner Pargana level official concerned with revenue assessment and keeping records Guide Butcher Messenger; letter carrier Butcher Line; string Judge Same as kanchani Same as kisht∂ban " Umbrella (cotton) quilts; quilts made in half cotton half silk Transit duty Mason Chief of a territory Dyer Dyer A sub-caste of agriculturist A caste of toddy tappers Chariot Chariot maker Soap-nut Rajput (a class of warriors) Fragment Oil manufacturer


Rohan Rohina Roptan Roundel (Port.) Roundeleero (Eur.) Roz∂ Ruhna R" una Rundell (Eur.) S"abungar S"a’is Sabz∂farosh Sajji (Guj.) Sand"uq Sang tar"as /sangtarash " Sansi Sany"as∂ Sapan /sappan Saper"a Saqilgar Saqqah Sar tar"ash Sar"afchi Sar"ai S"arb"an Sarbandi Saro (Eur. style) Sarposh Sarr"af Sarr"aj Saurandhara Saw"ar Sayy"ad S"azindah / s"azindeh

Glossary Same as runa " Same as runa " Bird catcher Umbrella bearer Umbrella bearer Wages Same as runa " A red dye Umbrella bearer Soap-maker A groom Vegetable seller A kind of soda used for washing cloths Box Stone cutter Broom maker; seller of strings One who discards worldly life East Indian red wood or Caesalpinia sappan; a plant used to produce red dye Snake charmer Sword maker; cutter Water-carrier/supplier Barber One who serves food Inn; resting place for travellers and merchants Driver; Camel driver Silk cocoon Same as sar"ai Cover Money changer; goldsmith; moneylender Maker of leather goods Servant Horseman, contingent Bird catcher Musician

Glossary Seluidare (Eur. style) Sen bhagat (Beng.) Seraphin (Eur.) Serbandy Serriwani (Eur.) Sh"ahbandar Shahdol

Shaii Shakatk"ar Shakkili (Tam.) Shakkiliyar (Tam.) Shalw"ar Shankh Sharia /shariat Shatranji Shaturb"an Shekdare (Eur. style) Shiada Shiqd"ar Sh∂sh"agar /Sh∂shgar Sh∂sham Shuhn"a-i p∂l Shut"ari Sicca /sikka Sikilgar Silahd"ar Sip"ah∂ Sip"ai Sipandsoz Siqalgar /siqilgar


Same as silahd"ar Barber same as ashrafi—a gold coin Same as sarbandi Or sarb"an—Keeper of camels Port officer A kind of litter fixed on the back of an elephant, or hanging between two elephants Same as chayavar Carpenter Mean; outcaste; menial; shoe-maker Shoe-maker Breeches Conch shell Islamic law Squire fields as on a chess board; a coarse carpet of striped cotton Camel driver Same as shiqd"ar A caste of toddy tappers Officer in charge of a shiq /shiqq; revenue official in pargana Worker in glass North Indian Rose Wood (Dalbergia sissoo) Captain of (royal) elephants Camelman Freshly coined rupee Same as siqilgar—sword-maker; one who sharpens knives Man-at-arms Soldier; mercenary Same as sip"ah∂ Who burns mustard seeds to drive off an evil eye Sword-maker; cutter


S∂sgar Skandhk"ara (Sans.) Solanki Sonkali Soosy Sotria Staffiere (Ita.) Stuferi Subahd"ar Subarna-shodhak Sugandhk"ar Sugandh telkar Sumbreiro (Eur.) Sum m"arjan∂kar Sun"ar S"upach Sur"a Suren (Eur. style) Surkh∂kob Sut"ar Swarnk"ar T"abd"an-tar"ash Tacca /tacka Taffeta /taffati /taffeti T"afta Taka Takht-i raw"an T" ali T"aliar (Tam.) Tamboli T" a na Tanka

Glossary Same as sh∂shgar Water carrier A sub-caste of anglers A class of fisherman A kind of fine cloth with stripes of gold thread A sub-caste of anglers Footman; groom A Dutch coin Governor of a province Person who extracted precious metal from the refuse at a goldsmith’s shop Manufacturer of perfumes Manufacturer of oils and perfumes Umbrella Scavenger Goldsmith Scavenger Liquor Same as sur"a Pounder of bricks Carpenter Goldsmith Glass-cutter Same as taka /tanka Same as t"afta A variety of silk cloth Same as tanka Field-throne; royal throne or chamber carried on shoulders (of bearers) Piece of jewellery worn by a married Hindu woman (south India) Watchman Betel-leaf seller Warp Silver coin of Delhi Sultanate; a billon coin; copper coin in Mughal period

Glossary Tanna Tant b"ayu Tant T"ari Tarrien Tarrii Tary (Eur. style) Tashr∂f / tashref T" a w"a n Tel∂ Telk"ar Thhattera /thhathera Thika (Beng.)


Same as t"ana Weaver or string-maker Thread; fibre Toddy Same as t"ari Same as t"ari Same as t"ari A present; reward Full value Oil-maker Oil-maker Maker of utensils Fields reserved for producing salt; a class of salt producers in Bengal Thug Bandit T∂m"ard"ar A groom; nurse; one attending on a patient T∂rand""az Archer T∂rgar Maker of bows and arrows Tola / tolah A unit of weight to weigh precious metal Tosh A variety of woollen shawl generally made in Kashmir Toti A low caste; menial Tous Same as tosh—a variety of shawl Trasses (Eur.) Tent-men Tsaftergir (Eur. for tashtg∂r) Ewer-bearer Tun A kind of dye obtained from a yellow colour flower—tun Of Turan/Central Asia; a breed of T"ur"an∂ horse Turumbu Token of divorce given by a man to a woman T"us Same as tosh—a variety of shawl Up"ant Cobbler; shoe-maker Ushtur p"alak Camelman Utukash Tailor


Vacquell (Eur. version) Vaiti Vaitisbiram"assi Vak∂l Valar Valuri Vanigar Vanj"ari Vannathamar (Mal.) Varn pushti Vartiya Vastrabhedak Vastrashodhak Vastrasinwak (Sans.) Vega Vethiyar Vettiar Viraksh ropi Visvakarma Wak∂l-i dar Waq"ai-naw∂s Xeraphin Yabu Yantra bandhak Yarava (Mal.) Yas"aval Zam∂nd"ar Zan" a n"a Zar"ufs"az Z"at Zentele (Eur.) Z∂n-d"ar

Glossary Same as vak∂l A class of fisherman A class of fishermen Agent or representative of princes or ruler; representative of a merchant A sub-caste of gardeners A class of gardeners Oil manufacturer (south India) Transporter of salt Washerman Surgeon One who discards worldly life Tailor Washerman Tailor A class of salt producer Menials; sweepers (south India) Same as vethiyar Gardener Ironsmith Officer/minister incharge of the imperial household News reporter Same as ashrafi A breed of horse (‘One who fits a device’) oil-maker Mason State messenger Hereditary land holder in rural areas Female quarters Potter Personal rank Runner Keeper of saddle of a horse


EUROPEAN ACCOUNTS A Voyage of Nicholas Downton (1614-1615), ed. William Foster, Hakluyt Society, London, 1931. Baldaeus, Philip, ATrue and Exact Description of the Most Celebrated East-India Coasts of Malabar and Coromandel and Also of the Isle of Ceylon, AD 1640. Amsterdam, 1672, English tr. 1703, London. Barbosa Duarte (1518), The Book of Duarte Barbosa, English tr. M.L. Dames, 2 vols., Hakluyt Society, London, 1918-1921. Bernier, Francois, Travels in the Mogul Empire (1656-1658), tr. A. Constable, Oxford, 1934, rpt., Delhi, 1983. Bowrey, Thomas, A Geographical Account of the Countries Round the Bay of Bengal (1669-1679 ), ed. R.C. Temple, Hakluyt Society, London, 1905. Bruce, John, Annals of the Honourable East India Company, from 1600-1707-8, 3 vols., London, 1810. Buchanan, Francis (Hamilton), An Account of the Districts of Bihar and Patna, 1811-12, Patna, 1939. Careri, Gemelli, A Voyage Round the World , Richard Newcorne, 1691, English tr. of original Italian, printed in Awnsham and John Churchill’s A Collection of Voyages and Travels, vol. IV, London, 1704. Carre, Abbe, Travels of Abbe Carre in India and Near East (1672-1674), 3 vols., London, 1948. Danvers, F.C. and William Foster (eds.), Letters Received by the East India Company (1602-1617), 6 vols., London, 1896-1902. Das, Harihar, Norris Embassy to Aurangzeb, ed. S.C. Sarkar, Calcutta, 1959. de Laet, Joaness, The Empire of the Great Mogul, tr. J.S. Hoyland, Leyden, 1931. Dellon, Charles, A Voyage to the East Indies (1668-1679), English tr., London, 1698-1699. Fawcett, Charles, English Factories in India (1670-1684), 4 vols., Oxford, 1936 1955. ——, Letters Received by the East India Company 1602-17, 6 vols: vol. 1, ed. F.C. Danvers, vols. II-VI, ed. William Foster, London, 1896-1902. Fischer, Michael (ed.), Friar Domingo Fernandez de Navarrete (1670-1671), in Visions of India: An Anthology of European Travelling, I.B. Tauris & Co., London, 2007.



Forbes, James, Oriental Memoirs (1765-1784), 2 vols., London, 1834. Foster, William, Early Travels in India, (travels of Ralph Fitch, John Mildenhall, William Hawkins, William Finch, Nicholas Withington, Thomas Coryat and Edward Terry), London, Oxford University Press, 1921. ——, English Factories in India (1618-1669), 13 vols., London, 1906-27. Francisco Pelsaert, Jahangir’s India, tr. W.H. Moreland, Cambridge, 1925. Frederick, Caesar, Purchas His Pilgrimes, vol. X. Fryer, John, A New Account of East India and Persia (1672-1681), ed. William Crooke, 3 vols., Hakluyt Society, London, 1909-1915. Hamilton, Alexander, A New Account of the East Indies (1688-1723), 2 vols., London, 1739. Havers, George, A Voyage to East India, ed. F. Macock and Henry Herrington, London, 1665. The work contains the account of Thomas Roe/Edward Terry and Pietro Della Valle. —— (tr.), Travels of Sig. Pietro Della Valle (1623-1624), London, 1665. The translation is appended with a Relation of Sir Thomas Roe’s voyage which was perhaps prepared by Edward Terry. The Travels of Pietro Della Valle in India (1623-1624), ed. Edward Grey, 2 vols., Hakluyt Society, London, 1891. Pietro’s Pilgrimage, ed. Wilfrid Blunt, London, 1935. Hawkins’ Voyages, ed. C.R. Markham, London, 1878. Hedges, William, The Diary of William Hedges (1681-1697), ed. Henry Yule, 3 vols., Hakluyt Society, London, 1887. Herbert, Thomas (1626-8), Some Years’ Travels into Divers Parts of Asia and Afrique, William Stansby and Jacob Bloome, London, 1634, rpt., R. Bip for Jacob Bloorae and Richard Bishop, London, 1638. Indian Travels of Thevenot & Careri, ed. S.N. Sen (eds.), National Archives, Delhi, 1949. Journal of John Jourdain (1608-1617), ed. William Foster, Hakluyt Society, London, 1905. Live, H.D., Vestiges of Old Madras, 4 vols., London, 1913, rpt. Delhi, 1996. Lockyer, Charles, An Account of the Trade in India, Samuel Crouch, London, 1711. Mandelslo’s Travels in Western India (1638-1639), ed. M.S. Commissariat, Oxford, 1931. Manucci, Niccolo, Storia do Mogor (1653-1708), 4 vols., tr. William Irvine, London, 1907. Master, Streynsham, Diaries of Streynsham Master (1675-1680), ed. R.C. Temple 2 vols., London, 1948. Monserrate, Antonio, The Commentary of Father Monserrate, tr. J. S. Hoyland and annotated by S.N. Banerjee, Calcutta, 1922.



Moreland, W.H., ‘Some Sidelights on Life in Agra (1637-1639)’, Journal of U.P. Historical Society, 3 (1923), pp. 146-61. Om Prakash, Dutch Factories in India (1624-1627), vol. II, Delhi, Manohar, 2007. Orme, Robert, Historical Fragments of the Mogul Empire, London, 1782. Ovington, John, A Voyage to Surat in the in the Year 1689, ed. H.G. Rawlinson rep. of the original 1696 edn., Oxford University Press, 1929. Pimenta, Nicholas, ‘Jesuit Observations of India’, Purchas His Pilgrims, vol. X. Purchas, Samuel, Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrims (original, 160226), 20 vols., Hakluyt Society, London, 1907. Ralph Fitch England’s Pioneer to India and Burma: His Companions and Contemporaries, ed. J. Horton Rytey, T. Fisher Unwin, London, 1899. Relations of Golconda in the Early Seventeenth Century, ed. W.H. Moreland, Hakluyt Society, London, 1931. The ‘Relations’ are those of an anonymous Dutch factor (1614), Schorer (1615-16), and Methwold (1625). Roe, Thomas, Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to the Court of Great Mogul, 16151619, ed. William Foster, 2 vols., Hakluyt Society, London, 1889. Stavorinus, J., Voyages in the East Indies, 3 vols., London, 1778. Tavernier, Jean Baptiste, Travels in India (1641-1668), 2 vols., ed. V. Ball & William Crooke, 1st Indian edn., Delhi, Munshiram Manoharlal, 1977. The Travels of Peter Mundy (1628-1634), ed. R.C. Temple, 2 vols., Hakluyt Society, London, 1914. Tome Pires, The Suma Oriental, ed. Armando Cortesao, 2 vols., London, 1944. Travels of Fray Sebastian Manrique (1629-1643), tr. Lt. Col. Luard, 2 vols., Hakluyt Society, London, 1927. Van Linschoten, Jan, The Voyage of John Huyghen van Linschoten to the East Indies, from the old English translation of 1598, ed. A.C. Burnell, 2 vols., Hakluyt Society, London; 1885; Purchas His Pilgrimes, vol. X. Van Twist, John/Johan, ‘A General Description of India’ (1638), tr. W.H. Moreland, Journal of Indian History, XVI, 1937, pp. 63-77. Varadarajan, Lotika, India in the 17th Century, Memoirs of Francois Martin (1670- 1694), 2 vols. (each volume divided into two parts), Delhi, 1981. Wilson, C.R., The Early Annals of the English in Bengal, 3 vols., Calcutta, 18951917. INDO-PERSIAN WORKS Abul Fazl, Åin- i Akbar∂, 3 vols. (tr.), vol. I, H. Blochman (1873) and revised and ed. D.C. Phillot and H. Blochmann, 1927; vol. II (tr.) H.S. Jarret, 1891, Calcutta, revd. edn. J.N. Sarkar, 1949; vol. III (tr.) H.S. Jarret, 1894, revd. edn. J.N. Sarkar, Calcutta, 1948.



Das, Banarasi, Ardhakath"anaka, ed. anno and tr. Mukund Lath, Jaipur, 1981. Jahangir, Tuzuk-i Jah"angari, " ed. Syed Ahmad Khan, Aligarh, 2007 edn. Rizqullah Mushtaqi, W"aqiat-i Mushtaqi, " ed. I.H. Siddiqui and Waqarul Hasan Siddiqi, Raza Library, Rampur, 2002. Saxena, Rai Chaturman, Chah"ar Gulshan, ed. Chander Shekhar, 2011, New Delhi. Skinner, Col. J., Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am, 1825. Persian Rotograph number 206, CAS, Department of History, A.M.U., Aligarh. Faizi, Abul Faiz, Insh"a-i Faizi, Majlis-i Taraqqi-i Adab, Lahore, 1973. MODERN WORKS AND ARTICLES Ansari, M. Azhar, European Travellers Under the Mughals, 1580-1627, Delhi, 1975. Brij Narain, Indian Economic Life: Past and Present, Uttam Chand Kapur and Sons, Lahore, 1929. Chicherov, A.I., India-Economic Development in the16th to 18th Century, Nauka, Moscow, 1971. Delosche, Jean, Transport and Communication in India Prior to Steam Locomotion, 2 vols., Oxford University Press, 1993. Enthoven, R.E., Tribes and Castes of Bombay, rpt. Delhi, 1975. Guha, G.P., India in the Seventeenth Century: Travels of Ovington, Thevenot and Careri, Delhi, 1974. Habib, Irfan, The Agrarian System of Mughal India, revd. edn., New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1999. Habib, Irfan, Indian Textile Industry in the 17th Century, 29th International Congress of the Orientalists, Paris. CAS, Department of History, AMU, Aligarh. Haider, Najaf, ‘Structure and Movement of Wages in the Mughal Empire 15001700’, in Wages and Currency: Global Comparisons from Antiquity to the Twentieth Century, ed. Jan Lucassen, Peter Lang, Bern, 2007. Husain, Ruquia, ‘Textile Industry at Sironj in the Seventeenth Century: A French Report’, Proceedings of Indian History Congress, 1995. Ibbetson, D., Punjab Castes, Lahore, 1906. Irwin John and P.R. Schwartz, Studies in Indo-European Textile History, Calico Museum of Textile, Ahmadabad, 1966. Liotard, L., Memorandum on Dyes of Indian Growth and Production, Calcutta, 1881. Lucassen, Jan (ed.), Wages and Currency: Global Comparisons from Antiquity to the Twentieth Century, 2007. (Two valuable contributions contained in



the volume, one by Najaf Haider and another by Om Prakash are on the Mughal era.) Macmillan, Michael, The Globe Trotter in India Two Hundred Years Ago (Gemelli Careri), London, 1895. Martin, N., History, Antiquities, Topography and Statistics of Eastern India, 5 vols., London, 1838. Dubois, J.A. Hindu manners, Customs and Ceremonies, Oxford, 1906. Moosvi, Shireen, The Economy of the Mughal Empire, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1987. ——, ‘The World of Labour in Mughal India (1500-1750), Proceedings of Indian History Congress, 2010-11. Moreland, W.H., From Akbar to Aurangzeb, London, 1923. ——, India at the Death of Akbar, London, 1920. Mukherjee, Radha Kamal, The Economic History of India, 1600-1800, Allahabad, 1967. Naqvi, Hamida Khatoon, ‘Colour Making and Dyeing of Cotton Textiles, in Medieval Hindustan’, IJHS, 15 (I) 1986, pp. 58-70. ——, ‘Dyeing Agents in India: AD 1200-1800’, Indian Journal of History of Science, 26 (2), 1991, pp. 159-83. ——, Urban Centres and Industries in Upper India-1556-1803, Asian Publishing House, London, 1968. Naqvi, Hamida Khatoon, Urbanization and Urban Centres under the Great Mughals, 1556-1707, Simla, 1972. Prasad, Pushpa, Sanskrit Inscriptions of Delhi Sultanate: 1191-1526, Oxford University Press, 1991. Qaisar, A.J., ‘The Role of Brokers in Medieval India’, Indian Historical Review, vol. 12, 1974. Ramaswamy, Vijaya, Textiles and Weavers in South India, Oxford Universtiy Press, Delhi, 1985; 2nd edn., 2006. Ray, Indrani, ‘Of Trade and Traders in Seventeenth Century India: An Unpublished French Memoir by Goerges Roques’, IHR, vol. IX, 1-2, 1982-3. Raychaudhuri, Tapan and Irfan Habib, The Cambridge Economic History of India, vol. I, Orient Longman in association with Cambridge University Press, Hyderabad, 1982. Rezavi, Syed Ali Nadeem, Fathpur Sikri Revisited, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2013. Risley, Herbert, People of India, London, 1915. Siddiqui, I.H., Medieval India: Essays in Diplomacy and Culture, New Delhi, 2009. Sinappah, Arasaratnam and Aniruddha Ray, Masulipatam and Cambay: A History of Two Port Towns, 1500-1800, Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, 1994.



Sinha, N.K., Economy of Bengal, 2 vols., Calcutta, 1963. Vanina, Eugenia, Urban Crafts and Craftsmen in Medieval India, Delhi, 2004. Wheeler, J.T. and Michael Macmillan, European Travellers in India, Sen Gupta Ltd., Calcutta, 1956. Wilks, M., Historical Sketches of South India, 3 vols., Mysore, 1930. Yule, H. and A.C. Burnell (eds.), Hobson Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial AngloIndian Words, London, 1903.


abraq (mica) 134 Abul Fazl 19-20, 39-40, 42-4, 47, 56, 290, 301-2, 304-5, 307, 329, 331, 356-7, 360 acrobats/tumblers, as entertainers 203 adaviyas 168 adowayes 171, 176, 326 adowiah 181 adowyaes 168, 174, 181, 327 adowyas 145, 160, 171 agro-manufacturers: oil manufacturers and traders 200; salt producers 22, 199; sugar manufacturers 22, 198-9, 381, toddy drawers and distillers 201, 381 ahadi 304, 306 ahadis (gentlemen troopers) 304 ahalkor (scavenger) 61 Ain-i Akbari 20, 47, 272, 275, 301-2, 331, 339, 383; wages in 301, 339, 341 Ajoorah group 199 Akbarnama 20 Aldworth, Thomas 160 alejaes 72 alshah 199 amberty (a fine cotton cloth) 137 andora 178 Appleton, William 119 arcaluck 279 archers 166, 307 Ardhkathanaka 25 artisans: during medieval centuries 21, 24, 193; in royal karkhanas 46, 303; serving under nobles and rich people 49-55 asidhavak 126

assignees (umara) 49 astrologers 194-5, 206 attendants, in caravan sarais 22, 153, 333 awundsaz 117 ayangars 116 bafta 79 bailwan (cart-driver) 170 bakers 22, 157-9, 348, 381 bakhshish 318 Baldaeus, Philip 189-90, 265, 268, 284, 365 balutedars 23, 116 bamboo-screen maker 25, 373 bamboo workers 128 bandijan 207 banduqdars (gunners) 166 bangi 181 banjaras (oxen drivers) 176, 199, 356 banksal 148 barat 361 barbers 22, 27, 54, 60, 148-51, 361, 364, 373 Barbosa, Duarte 119 basic needs: clothing and other accessories 277; food 277; shelter 283; Bayaz-i Khushbui 129 bazigars (acrobats) 205, ‘Beaters’, 108, 133, 138-9, 315 bearers 42, 178, 180, 307-8, 310, 32930, 335, 381 beeteelas 101 begari 145-46 Bernier, Francois 23, 37-8, 41, 43, 46, 49-50, 56, 72, 91, 152-3, 155,



158, 194-6, 212, 266, 270-1, 276, 287, 336, 356 Bhadani, B.L. 29 bhandarins 356 bhandaris 166, 201, 264 bhat 24-5, 207 bhatelas 274 bhatta (difference in exchange) 85, 98, 182, 313-14, 316-17, 328, 329 bhatyaras 154 bhatyaris 154 bhishtis 24, 54 bhojki 207 bindhera 26, 129 bird catcher 25, 195, 211, 364, 381 Blacksmiths 22-3, 27, 102, 126, 332 364 bleachers 133-4, 161, 380 Blunt, Wilfrid 277 boatmen 161, 176, 323, 327-8, 364 boat waine 126 Bombay Island 91-2, 166, 201, 210, 333 book binders 128-9 bow maker 25, Bowrey, Thomas 50-1, 54, 124, 127, 180, 265, 310, 332, 335-6 boyi 188 brahmin tarfd’ars 96 brick maker 117, 132, 381 brokers 18, 23, 71, 74-5, 79, 83, 85-7, 95-9, 108-10, 136-7, 139-41, 143, 168, 171, 181, 205, 312-14, 326, 342, 380; cheated by English and other European merchants 98; building construction, slaves and servants in 48-9 butchers 24-5, 195, 364 cabas (gown-like dress) 279 camca 110, 112 ‘camel-bales’ 168 camel drivers 167-8, 306, 310 camelmen 22, 167-9, 171-2, 323-4, 327-8, 381

camp-followers 40-1, 285, 307, 379 canarine 146 caravans 60, 160-1, 164-71, 176, 318, 321, 325, 364 caravan sarais, attendants in 153, 157, 333 Careri, Gemelli 267 carpenters 21-3, 27, 41, 60, 102, 122-7, 264, 266, 273, 256, 302, 307, 331-2, 356, 361, 367, 380-1 carpet making 102; Agra carpets 103; Ahmadabad carpets 103; isams 104; Lahore carpets 104; ‘necanies’ 104; Patna carpets 103; rejection of 78, 366 Carters 11, 18, 22, 60, 169-72, 174, 176, 323-8, 381 castes/caste system: and ceremonies 23, 101, 156, 367, 372, 384; observed on death 357-8; and foor habits 263-4, 269, 271, 273, 372; Gentoos 292, 354; ill-fated existence in 36; Indian society and 17-18, 33, 71, 101, 185, 187, 355, 369, 371, 374; Kallars 353; marriages and 25, 60, 208, 337, 352-6, 366, 372; Pauzecour 355; profession and 18, 21, 27, 73, 92, 101-2, 117, 122, 126-9, 141, 152, 157, 164, 172, 188-9, 191-2, 195, 199, 201-4, 207, 210, 330, 334, 355, 372-3, 380; vanjari 199 catamaran/cattamaronce 182 catamites 210 caulkers 126 cham"ars 24-5, 27, 115-16, 373 chandalam 115, 186 chandalon (chandalam) 115 chandals 364 charanas 201 charnas 199 charnock, Bob 85-6

Index charpa 184 chatra-bardars (umbrella-bearers) 38 chaudols (covered carriages) 42, 46 chawbudked (whipped) 95 ‘chawdrees’ (chaudhuris) 167 chay 110, 112-13 chewback (chabuk, whip) 140 chhapakar 105-6 chhipi 105-6 Chicherov, A.I. 28, 382 chints 72-3, 83, 118 chintz, 72, 101, 106, 113, 119-20; makers 72 chiq 128 chiqsaz 25, 128 chitini 191 chucklers 115 clothing and other accessories 277; arcaluck 279; cabas 279; dhoti 158; of ‘inferior castes’ of Hindus 280-1; jewellery 22, 35, 56, 281, 369; maids and damsels 277; pane or panjam 278; shalwar 279; slaves and servants 34, 36, 278, 308, 379; stockings and gloves 60, 281 coif 279 coita 188 collateral service providers, labourers and 133, 383; attendants in caravan sarais, 153, 333; bakers 86, 190; barbers 24-5, 27, 150-1, 335, 369, 373; bleachers or ‘whiteners’ 133; boatmen 327; butchers 195, 364; camel 11, 18, 44-5, 52, 144-5, 163, 167-8, 179, 183, 306, 310, 323-6; drivers 42, 45, 54-5, 60, 144, 167-8, 170, 176, 306-7, 324, 328; carters 18, 22, 60, 169, 170-2, 174, 176, 323-8, 381; confectioners and vendors of cooked food 196; diamond and gold-miners 193; fishermen 27, 152, 187-8, 190-2, 273, 357, 361, 363, 367;


fortune-tellers or astrologers 194; gardeners 60, 152-3, 264, 308, 334, 356, 364, 381; guards and guides 163; kolis 188; letter carriers and messengers (pattamars) 316, 159, 181; menials and scavengers 185; packers 18, 22, 108, 141-2, 311, 315-16, 381; palki-bardar (palanquin carriers) 42, 177, 328; pearlfishers 189; peons 11, 18, 22, 41, 49, 50, 54, 59-60, 62, 78, 98, 143, 147-8, 159-63, 166-7, 173-4, 181, 266, 310, 313, 318-22, 327, 335, 338, 372, 379, 381; porters and coolies 145, 147; saltpetre makers 197; vermilion makers 197; washermen or ‘beaters’ 133; water suppliers 54, 151 colouria 188 concubines 35-6, 51, 53, 308 confectioners 196, 205 conjee 134 coolies 55, 133, 146-8, 304, 321-2, 341 coolies 145, 188 Coryat, Thomas 269, 333 cotton: beeteelas 101; carders 21, 211, 380; Moores 101, 121, 135, 177; yarn in Aurangabad 81 Cotton Carder (Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am) 21, 211, 380 cowri 313 crude silk 138 ‘curriers’ 115 dadni 87 dak-chowkis 181 dallals 312 dancers 37, 53, 57, 62, 203-6, 208, 210, 283, 355, 363, 372, 381; as entertainers 203 darban (door keepers) 40, 54, 307



darban (porters) 307 darzi. See tailors 370 Das, Banarasi 101, 157, 170, 197, 210 dastoor (commission) 98 dastur 309, 315 Dastur-ul Amal 133-4 death, ceremonies observed on 357 De Laet, Joaness 113, 154, 160, 169, 175, 192, 202, 271 Della Valle, Pietro 50, 58, 179, 203-4, 363 Dellon, Charles 53, 191, 274, 329, 363 deotis 42 derebands 136 dhanak or dhanuk 211, 373 dhobis (washermen) 134, 370 dhoti 158 diamond and gold-miners 193 dolis 42, 46, 178 dominis 207 Downton, Nicholas 53 dyers, painters and printers of cloth 105, 107; chintz 72, 101, 106, 113, 119, 120; employers of merchants and 109; indigenous, work performed by 110-11 ; in Masulipatam 110, 112-13; methods of drawing designs 106; and natural dyes 112; process of employing 107; ‘tapi sarasa’ 112; techniques for painting or printing 106-7

faujdar 62, 140 festivals 11, 36, 57, 208, 210, 252, 355, 360-2, 381, 383; Baisakhi 362; Basant Panchami 360; Dipavali/Diwali 361; Dussehra 360, 362; Gauri 361; Holi 360; Id 361; Id-i Qurban 361; Muharram 361; Raksha Bandhan 360; Ramnavmi 360; Rath Yatra 360; Shab-i Barat 361; Shivaratri 360 fidalgo 58 firman 82 fishermen 27, 152, 187-88, 190-2, 264, 273, 357, 361, 363, 367 Fitch, Ralph 279, 283, 288, 297 Fitch, William 177 food habits 11, 263-4, 269, 271, 273; artisans and labourers 10-11, 18, 24, 49, 125, 176, 264, 272, 276, 338, 356, 363; in Bengal 270; China apples 270; in Goa 271-2; in Gujarat 268-70, 275; of Hindus 270-1; indigenous liquor 274; khichri 266, 271-2; religion and 273-4 Forbes, James 100, 202, 204, 281, 286, 365, 367-8 fortune-tellers 194 Frederick, Caesar 190, 192 Fryer, John 191 fulus 340-1

earth digger (beldar) 25, 41, 48, 211 embroidery 35, 75, 122, 129, 380 entertainers 29, 203, 209 eunuchs, as servants 35-6, 41, 43, 51-2, 277, 379

games 359-60, 373 gardeners 60, 152-3, 264, 308, 334, 356, 364, 381 gaulas (milkmen) 179, 271 gentoos 292, 354 ghota-khor 21 ‘Goa Stones’ 131 goldsmith 23, 27, 30, 370 gottali 122 goyindeh 36, 203 guards 18, 22, 34, 36, 51-2, 59-60,

Farewell, Christopher 53 farmans 128 farrash 21, 44-5, 52, 56, 304, 309-10, 336 farrash khana 21

Index 159, 163-7, 270, 318-20, 327, 381 guides 156, 163, 166, 182, 373 Gujaratis 273, 356 gurzbardars (mace-bearers) 53 Habib, Irfan 12, 28, 339, 383 van der Hagen, Steven 268 Haider, Najaf 340-1 halalkhor 25, 55, 61, 186-7, 274, 304, 334 Hamilton, Alexander 108, 119, 210, 267, 360, 364 handicrafts manufacturers: dyers 70, 271; painters and printers of cloth 105; potters and toy makers 117; shoe-makers and tanners 25, 115, 273, 370; tailors 22, 47, 73, 117-22, 151, 266, 361, 370, 381; weavers 70-1, 73 harem 19, 35, 37, 43 harkarah 39 harna bhains (wild buffaloes) 131 Havert, Daniel 73 Hawkins, William 308 Hedges, William 86, 101, 105 henna (Lawsonia inermis) 114 Herbert, Thomas 146, 321-2 Hopkinson, Joseph 158 howdas 43 Hughes Robert 90, 320 hundis 323, 325 huqqa 129 irava 201 ironsmith 124, 127 jaggat / jakat 168, 174, 327 jagirs (land grants) 19 jasud / jesud 181 jengatha 182 jilaudar 52, 54, 161, 181, 304 jildsaz 129 Jourdain, John 284 Jumla, Nawab Mir 91


kafshdoz 115 kagadi 128 kaghazsaz 128 kahars 42, 145, 147, 149, 151-2, 160, 173, 179, 307, 330, 373 kajawa 179 kalals 24, 26, 201, 202 kalawant 25 kallars 353 kamin 23 kammalas 24 kanchan 25, 207, 372 kaniyans 199 kansars 356 kapri 207 karkhanas, royal 21, 46, 56, 306; artisans in 46, 56; silk was produced in 47, 55; structure of wages in 303 kas-kanyars 287 katkar 25 keepers of animals, brutes and birds 43 Keigwin, Captain 93 Kerridge, Thomas 160 khakrob 186, 304 khalaris / thikas 199 Khan, Abdullah 53, 212 Khan, Ali Mohammad 341 Khan, Saf Shikan 83 Khan, Salabat 83 Khan, Shaista 82, 93 Khan, Subahdar Abdullah 212 khar 139 khassah stable 304 khatam bandan 129 khatris 373 khayyat 117, 122 khidmatgar (personal servant) 61 khilonasaz 25, 117, 210 khirsban 211, 372, khishtpaz ashtikakar 117 khulasat-ut Tawarikh 200 khus (fragrant grass) 178, 287, 291 ‘knife tax’ 188 kolis 188



kollan 126 konkanis 356 korrah (whip) 46, 310 kos 52, 95, 154, 167, 180, 362 kottali 122 kotwal 62, 86, 125, 132, 176, 371 koyti 201 kulal 26, 117 kumbaran 117 kumhars 24-5, 117 kurkutch 199 kurmi 186, 357 kusum/ kusumba 114 labourers: and collateral service providers 70, 133; during medieval centuries 21, 24, 193, 330, 334 lac producers 210 lakhawar weavers 72 lamani (lavani ) 199 lasker 121, 171 lavanis 356-7 letter carriers and messengers (pattamars) 18, 22, 39, 53,141, 149, 159, 181-85 lime maker 381 Linschoten, Jan Van 191, 266-7, 273, 278-9, 284 Lockyer, Charle 60,130-1, 212, 328, 367-8 lolonis 207 lonia / lohanas / lavanas 199 lungi 280 madad-i ma’ash (revenue grants) 20 ‘magnetic square stone’ 131 mahavat (driver) 20, 52, 305-6, 309-10 mahigir 188 mahmudis 86, 103, 142, 275, 315, 317, 320, 327, 332, 340 maids and damsels 277 maker of pitchers. See potters 11, 27,

34, 39, 40-1, 56, 60, 145-8, 152, 159, 171, 176, 180-1, 291, 307- 9, 321-2, 331, 334, 335, 363, 379 malechhas 185-6 m"al∂s 356 mall 177, 188 mandadores 147 mandi 134 mangalis 199 ‘Manooch’s Stones’ 131 Manrique, Fray Sebastian 35, 37-8, 48, 153-4, 156-7, 166, 196-7, 210 mansabdars (rank holders)19, 306 Manucci, Niccolo 62, 115, 117, 204, 212, 278, 287-8, 308, 354, 358 March, John 78 Marine, Swally 106, 121 marriages 11, 150, 207-8, 353, 355-7, Martin, François 59, 73, 83, 109, 113, 328, 368 mashalchis (lamp-bearers) 42, 54 masonry workers 133, 373, 381 Master, Streynsham 98, 193, 284, 287, 314 mat makers 128 mazur 145, 181, menials 60, 185-7, 364, messengers 52, 54, 60, 159, 179, 181, 183-4, 317-19 meths 305-6 Methwold, William 27, 113, 206 mikdembers 43 Mirat-i Ahmadi 341 Mirat-ul Istilah 128 mirdaha 40, 45, 304, 307 mochis 24-5, 116, 373 mondhas 128 Moores 101, 121, 135, 177 Moosvi, Shireen 276, 340, 383 Moreland, W.H. 17, 20, 28, 34, 170, 266, 271, 275 muevas 188 mukkuwar 188

Index Mundy, Peter 202, 205, 212, 269, 274, 286, 326-7, 333 muqaddam (headman) 23, 96, 109, 126, 133, 167, 171 muratkar 117 Mushtaqi, Rizqullah 44, 117 nalband (farrier) 24, 44, 127, 304 nanbais 158 naqd (cash) 19 naqibs 304 naqqashan 129 Naqvi, Hamida Khatoon 29 Narain, Brij 28, 275, 339, 383 natural dyes 112 Navarrete, Friar Domingo 59, 146, 171, 173, 202, 206, 209, 335 nawab 51, 82, 91, 93 nazirs (guardian or superintendent) 35 ‘Necanies’ 104 nill (nil, indigo) 74, 114, 143, 145, 170, 212, 325, 381 Nuskha-i Khulasatul Mujarrebat 114 oil manufacturers and traders 200 Orme, Robert 74, 283, 290, 354, 384 Ovington, John 281 oxen drivers 176, 324, 328 Oxinden, George 91 Oxinden, Henry 147 packers 18, 22, 108, 141-4, 311, 315-16, 381 paikars 87, 315, palanchines 178 palki (palanquin) 22, 42, 46, 51, 54, 57, 59-60, 146, 170, 177, 178-80, 307, 310, 329-30, 335, 370, 381 palki-bardar (palanquin carriers) 54, 57, 146, 177, 310, 381 pane / panjam 278 panjsadi mansabdars 306 pankha bardar (fan bearer) 37-8


paoonis 210 paper manufacturers 128-9, 381 Parsees 355 parwana 82 patans 209 patbuniyas 104 pathmar 203 patola (silk) 78, 108 paunis (working castes) 25-6 pauzeccour 393 payjama 280 pearl-fishers 189, 191 peasantry 9-10, 23, 28, 269 peasants 17, 22-4, 29, 71, 116, 122, 150, 152, 194, 212, 266, 271, 276, 286, 342, 361, 366 Pelsaert, Francisco 28, 51, 150, 196, 203, 265-6, 271, 276, 310, 331-2, 355, 372 peons 11, 18, 22, 41, 49-50, 54, 5960, 62, 78, 98, 143, 147-8, 15963, 166-7, 173-4, 181, 266, 310, 313, 318-22, 327, 335, 338, 372, 379, 381, periavens 115 perrear 186 pesh-khana (house that proceeds) 41 Pimenta, Nicholas 191-2, pingo 181 Pires, Tome 130, 184, 210, 364, 367 poddar 98, 312-15 polyas 188 polygamy 51, 354 porters 11, 27, 34, 39-41, 56, 60, 145-8, 152, 159, 171, 176, 180-1, 291, 307-8, 321-2, 331, 334-5, 363, 379 postibhang (opium) 53 potters 24-6, 117, 369, 373 pujawah wala 117 pulayans 207 pungah 199 putchock 210



qasids 169 qaum, see also caste 117 qazi (judge) 140, 169 radix dulcis 210 rafugar 211 Rai, Sujan 199 Ram, Anand 133 Ramaswamy, Vijaya 29, 73 rath (chariot) 170, 360 Raychaudhuri, Tapan 301 relay service 117, 164 rete 179 Risley, H.H. 369 Roe, Thomas 49, 60, 104, 120-1, 277, 290, 336 rope dancers 205, 211, 363, 381 Roques, Goerge 71, 78, 80, 181, 273, 284, 311, 314 roundeleeroes /rundells (umbrellabearers) 61 runa 113 runners (zantels ) 52, 310 rupia 301 sabungar 210 sajji 139 Saksena, Rai Chaturman 362 Salbank, Joseph 280 saltpetre makers 197 salt producers 199 sanyasis 357 sapan 113 saqilgar 25, 126 sarafchis 36 sarais 22, 48, 153-7, 166, 333, 381 sarban (drivers) 309-10 sarrafs (money changers/lenders or bankers) 23, 184 sarraj 116 sazindeh 36, 203 scavengers 55, 185-6, 274, 334, 364, 370, 381 servants: clothing of 277-8; in imperial

household and court 11, 17, 20, 33-6, 379; artisans in royal karkhanas 46; in building construction 48, 132; campfollowers 40; chatrabardars (umbrella-bearers) 38; darban (porters) 39-40; gurz-bardars (mace-bearer) 38, 53; harkarah 39; keepers of animals, brutes and birds 34, 41, 43, 306; mashalchis (torchbearers) 41, 54; palki bearers 37-42; pankha bardar (fan bearer) 37-8; sarafchis 36; water-carriers 38, 41; maintained by Europeans 56; serving under nobles and rich people 49; barbers (hajjam) 24, 54; darban (door keepers) 40; eunuchs, slaves and their subordinate staff 36, 51; gurzbardars (macebearers) 53; jilaudar 52, 54; mashalchis (lamp-bearers) 42; musicians and singers 36, 53; runners (zantels) or messengers 52; on ships 12 shakkili 115 shalwar 279 shariah 357 shelter 77, 153, 283, 365, 374 ship-carpenters 123-5, 286 shishagar 129 shoe-makers 24-5, 115-16, 273, 370, 373, 381 silk: cheaper manufacturing of 73, 90; crude 138; English, at Qasimbazar 70, 73, 91, 94, 98; patola 76, 105, 380; sleave 90; tasar 120 singers, as entertainers 53, 203 sipais (sipahis) 177 Siyar, Farrukh 321, 330, 336 slavery, in Islam 34 slaves, in imperial household and court 34; artisans in royal karkhanas 33,

Index 46; in building construction 48; camp-followers 40, 307, 379; chatra-bardars (umbrella-bearers) 38; clothing of 278; darban (porters) 40, 54; gurz-bardars (mace-bearer) 38; harkarah 39; keepers of animals, brutes and birds 41, 43; mashalchis (torchbearers) 42; palki bearers 42, 50, 180-81; pankha bardar (fan bearer) 37; sarafchis 36; watercarriers 24, 38, 41, 44, 53, 151, 307, 364, 373, 379 ‘sleave silk’ 90 Smith, John 78 Smith, William 267 Smyth, John 335 Smyth, William 335 snake-charmers, as entertainers 203, 209 ‘Snake Stone’ 131 soap-makers 210 social life 352; death, ceremonies observed on 252, 357-9; festivals 352, 355, 360-2; games 359-60; marriages 352-3, 355-6; overview 352; polygamy 51, 354 sotrias 357 subahdar 53, 74, 82, 132, 174, 212 sudras 212, 359 sugar manufacturers 22, 381 surkhi-kob 21 Surnam, John 320 sword maker 27, 126 tabbakh 158 taffechellas 77 taffetas 88 tailors 22, 47, 73, 117-22, 151, 266, 361, 370, 381, takht-i rawan 42 tanka 311, 340-1 tanners 27, 47, 115-16, 273 targo (brokerage) 108


tary/ tari 124, 202 tashrif /tashref 182 Tashr∂h-ul Aqw"am 364, 368, 372-3 Tavernier, Jean Babtiste 42, 99, 130, 136-7, 158, 169, 180, 185, 18994, 266, 274, 276, 280, 282, 285, 288, 330, 336 Terry, Edward 209, 271, 281, 290, 336, 358 tessur (tasar silk) 120, textile industry, and allied professions: bamboo workers 128 ; blacksmiths 22-3, 27, 102, 126, 226, 332, 364; carpenters 22-3, 27, 41, 60, 102, 122-7, 264, 266, 273, 286, 302, 307, 331-3, 356, 361, 367, 380-1; carpet making; 102, 381; dadni 85, 87; dyers, painters and printers of cloth 105; fraudulent practices 99, 139, 143; masonry workers 132-3; mat makers 116, 128, 373; paper manufacturers and book binders 128-29; potters and toy makers 117; servants on ships 123; shipcarpenters 123-4; shoemakers and tanners 47, 115-16, 364, 370; silk textiles 21, 71, 312; tailors 22, 47, 73, 117-22, 151, 266, 361; towns and cities famous for 9-10, 21, 70, 73, 154, 164, 338; weavers 70-105; see also Weavers; workers in glass, stones, beads and other materials 129-32 tirandaz (archers) 166 toddy drawers and distillers 166, 201, 264 toddy tappers 22 toy makers 117, 210 tun (Cedrela toona) 114 turumbu 354 Twist, John Van 129, 338



ulama 140 umara 188 urban wage earners, in India 125, 127, 133 valars 356 Vanina, Eugenia 29, 48, 71, 210, 363 Van Linschoten, Jan 57, 187, 266 vartias 357 vastrasinwak 122 vendors of cooked food 196 vermilion makers 197 vizir 184 wages in Ain-i Akbari 301-2; attendants in caravan sarais 333-4; bakers 334 blacksmiths and coppersmiths 332; boatmen 328; camelmen 327-9; of camp followers 307-8; carpenters 307, 331-2; carters 324-8; coolies or porters 304, 321-3; darbans or porters 307; of different selfemployed; professional groups 303-6, 310-11; elephant keepers 305-9; gardeners, porters and washermen 334-5; of grooms appointed in royal stables; 303-4; of keepers of cows, oxen and buffaloes 306-7; letter carriers 317-18; masons 332; miners 330-1; packers of bales 311-18; palki carriers 328-30; peons and guards 318-19, 338 ; scavengers’ 334-5; servants (khidmatguzaran) 304-6, 335-8; of servants employed by kings and nobles 302-9; skilled artisans 301-4; weavers, painters of cloth 311-15 Walfree, Henri 119 waqa’i-nawis (news reporter) 20, 39, 184 waqiat-i Mushtaqi 264

washermen 22, 24, 80-1, 133-40, 161, 264, 273, 315-16, 334, 356, 367, 380 water-carriers 24, 38, 41, 44, 53, 151-2, 303, 307, 364, 373, 379 water suppliers 54, 151 weavers agreement with 87-8; atrocities on 95; behaviour of, complaints about 80, 83; bhatta, 85, 98; Broach 79-80, 95-6; brokers participation and 79, 108; carpet making 103; chintz makers 72; cotton yarn in Aurangabad 81; dadni 75, 79, 84-8, 95, 97-8, 311-14, 380; deceived in Dharangaon (1678) 73, 82; deducting commission 85; derebends, preparation of 77; early nineteenth century 71; engagement of 77; English, demand of 81-2, 100; English silk, at Qasimbazar 101; frauds by 99; as hereditary profession 89; imitations of regional varieties 77; Kashmiri shawls 72, 74-5; Lakhawar 72; Orme’s observations 74; portrayed as poor 100; quality of threads for warp and weft 78; requirement for advance 75, 78; silk, of Qasimbazar 73, 77; suffered losses from merchants 97; Surat 77; Swally (Swali) 74; towns and cities with 70-7; treatment to 87, 95; winding yarn 71, 89 ‘whiteners’ 133 yasawal 181 zamindars 38 zanana 35 zeccine 301

Plate : Washerman and wife, c. 1597, Anw"ar-i Suhaili (Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi)

Plate : Life in Goa—palanquin-carriers, umbrella bearers, porters, slaves, peons (Jan Van Linschoten, 1583-9)

Plate : A Portuguese man in Goa in an open palanquin along with an umbrella bearer, guards and guides (Jan Van Linschoten, 1583-9)

Plate : Europeans and their guards taking aim at robbers (Travels of Pietro Della Valle, 1666 edn.)

Plate : Washermen and camelmen at the banks of Sabarmati (Philip Baldaeus, 1672)

Plate : Bullock carts and carters. Heavy Luggage / bales loaded on carts driven by at least eight bullocks and passenger carts by two bullocks are conspicuous (Jean de Thevenot, 1666-7)

Plate : Various types of Palanquins (Gemelli Careri, Italian text, c.1700)

Plate : Fisherman and bird trappers, c. 1597, Anw"ar-i Suhaili (Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi)

Plate : Pearl fishing in Tuticorin (Johan Nieuhof, 1682)

Plate : Toddy tappers (Jean de Thevenot, 1666-7)

Plate : Acrobats’ feat (Jean de Thevenot, 1666)

Plate : Acrobats (Peter Mundy, 1628-34)