What were the major technological changes introduced during the Sultanate period? How did those technological changes influence the Indian society?

by Vajiram & Ravi

The question What were the major technological changes introduced during the Sultanate period? How did those technological changes influence the Indian society?" was asked in the Mains 2023 GS Paper 1.  Let us look at the model answer to this question.

Answer: The Sultanate period in India, also known as the Delhi Sultanate was started in 1206 AD by Qutubuddin Aibak and lasted till 1526 AD. The period saw several significant technological changes ranging from agriculture to architecture and urban planning, which influenced Indian society in various ways.

Major technological changes introduced during the Sultanate period

  • Agriculture:
    • The introduction of the Persian wheel revolutionised irrigation in India, allowing farmers to cultivate crops in areas that were previously arid.
    • A land measuring instrument known as 'gaz-i-sikandari' was introduced during this period which improved the efficiency of tax collection.
  • Architecture:
    • The Sultanate period saw the development of a new style of Indo-Islamic architecture.
    • Islamic architecture introduced the use of pointed arches and domes, which became distinctive features of Indian buildings. Notable examples include the Qutub Minar in Delhi and the Alai Darwaza.
    • For the plastering of buildings, new materials like lime paste and gypsum were used.
  • Industry:
    • The textile industry flourished during this period. New techniques of dyeing were introduced, resulting in the production of high-quality textiles. Pit loom was also introduced during this period, resulting in increased weaving efficiency.
    • It was during this period that the papermaking industry flourished, which later saw significant growth after the introduction of printing technology by the Portuguese.
  • Military: Significant advancements in military technology during the Sultanate period included the use of firearms, cannons, and matchlock muskets. This helped them to expand their territory.
  • Cultural:
    • Apart from the technological advancements, this period witnessed the growth of the Persian language and literature. Tabaqat-iNasari written by Minhaj-us-Siraj is a significant example.
    • During this time, new musical instruments like the sarangi and the rabab were introduced.

Influence of technological advancements on Indian society

  • Architectural advancements: The Indo-Islamic architectural style left a lasting legacy in India, influencing subsequent architectural traditions. These advancements reflect the blend of Indian architectural style with Persian elements. The construction of forts, mosques, and palaces led to the emergence of new cities such as Siri, Tughlaqabad etc.
  • Economic growth: Technological advancements in agriculture and manufacturing led to increased economic productivity and trade, contributing to the prosperity of Indian society. The increased agricultural productivity led to surplus food production and improved living standards for many people. The textile revolution made Indian textiles more competitive in the global market and led to the growth of new trading centres such as Surat and Ahmedabad.
  • Intellectual advancement: The introduction of paper and book production techniques fostered intellectual growth and the preservation of knowledge, contributing to the development of Indian scholarship. Indian languages and culture were enriched by Persian literature and poetry's influence on Indian literary traditions.
  • Cultural exchange: The period facilitated cultural exchanges between different regions and communities, leading to the assimilation of various elements into Indian society and culture. Religious tolerance was also maintained during the Sultanate period as a result of Hinduism and Islam coexisting.

While technological advancements contributed to economic growth, they also accentuated social disparities. The benefits of these changes were not equally distributed, leading to disparities in wealth and living conditions. The architectural developments also marginalised the indigenous traditions.

Overall, the technological changes introduced during the Sultanate period in India had a multifaceted impact on society, influencing architecture, agriculture, manufacturing, and knowledge preservation. These advancements not only improved living standards but also contributed to the rich cultural tapestry of India.

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