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Who are they?
The Mughal or Moguls were once known as a community of soldiers who are now a landowning community. They are a well-known Muslim community who live in the states of Jammu, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
According to William Crooke and others, they were originally from Mongolia and came to India along with Babur (1526-1530 AD,) the founder of the Mughal Empire in India. The community adopted northern India as its home and gradually spread over different parts. In Rajasthan, the Mughal claim that their ancestors migrated from Egypt around 1300-1400.
The Mughal emperor, Babur, was descended from the Mongol conqueror, Genghis Khan, on his mother’s side, and from the Chagtai Turk ruler, Timur Lung (Tamerlane), on his father’s. The Mughal trace their descent from Timur who raided and devastated India in 1398.
The Mughal are one of four main Muslim communities in India, the other three being Pathan, Sheikh and Sayyad, and place themselves as superior to the others except the Sayyad. They are often referred to by the surnames Mirza (learned) and Beg (nobleman.)
They speak Urdu and Hindi. In the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh they also speak the regional languages which are Marwari, Gujarati, Dogri and Telugu.
Uttar Pradesh has largest Mughal population (620,000). There, the Mughal are found in the districts of Saharanpur, Meerut, Budaun, Bulandshahr, Agra, Bareilly, Moradabad, Azamgarh, Lucknow and Sitapur. In Gujarat, where they number around 12,000, they live mainly in Baroda, Ahmedabad, Surat and Khambat. They number 110,000 in Andhra Pradesh, living Machilipatnam and Hyderabad. In Rajasthan where their population is around 41,000, the Mughal are largely distributed in the Bikaner district.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Their main occupation today is agriculture and animal husbandry. Their secondary occupation is transporting goods as well as people on camel-drawn carts. In Gujarat, they work as clerks, teachers and for private enterprise. They are also self-employed – cutting and polishing of precious and semi-precious stones for jewelry.
Those of Uttar Pradesh own mango orchards, along with government and private service, business, skilled labour and trade. Child labour is extremely rare. Some Mughal have fine skills in arts and crafts such as model-making, ivory carving, engraving, weaving, embroidery, zari (silver and gold thread work), pottery and music.
The Mughal eat meat except pork which is forbidden for religious reasons. Some, such as those of Delhi, do not eat fish that have no scales. Their diet consists of wheat, rice, maize, bajra (millet), pulses, vegetables, milk and dairy products and seasonal fruit. The Mughlai cuisine is well known and they have special dishes such as biryani, rumali roti, and kebabs. Both men and women chew betel, often with scented tobacco. Some men smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol.
The Mughal are open to formal education for their children and make use of medical facilities, clean drinking water, electricity, self-employment schemes, and the public distribution system for essential commodities and banking schemes provided by the government. The Mughal of Jammu and Kashmir still use indigenous medicines for common ailments. There has been an increased responsiveness to family planning.
The Mughal marry only within their community. There are a number of subgroups among this community: in Uttar Pradesh the subgroups are Chagtai, Dazalbaksh and Turkman. Recent research reveal that the community is socially divided into two broad divisions, namely Chagtai (or Chuktai) and Changezee (or Changezi.)
Rajasthan has two subgroups – the Ballas and Chakda. In Gujarat; the research of Einthoven identifies two territorial subdivisions – Persian Mughal and the Indian or Chughhadda Mughal.
Consanguineous marriages, i.e. those between blood relations are common. In fact, it is customary to select a wife from a relatively small circle of close relations, including not only a man’s own family, but families with which his own family has in the past intermarried. Marriage with one’s first cousin, either paternal or maternal, is preferred, while that with one’s deceased wife’s younger sister or elder brother’s widow is also allowed. Child marriages were practised until recently but adult marriages are preferred now. They practise monogamy, even though more than one wife is sanctioned by Islam.
Marriages are arranged by negotiation among elders and the symbols of matrimony for women are toe-rings, glass bangles, finger ring and a nose stud. Divorce and remarriage of divorcees, widows and widowers are permitted according to the Shariat (Islamic law). A fixed divorce compensation which is mutually agreed upon at the time of the nuptials is paid to the divorced wife. The practice of dowry is a recent phenomenon among some Mughal.
Extended families are common among the Mughal, except in cities like Delhi. Parental property is inherited by both sons and daughters, though sons get a larger share. The eldest son succeeds the late father as head of the family. Daughters inherit the ornaments of their mother. The women have almost an equal status in the family, except in Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir where they have a subservient role. The women also maintain control of family expenditure, besides doing household work and assisting their men in agricultural activities and animal husbandry.
The Mughal of Delhi are organised under a council called Muhalla Sudhar Sabha (Neighbourhood Improvement Council) that plans and executes socio-economic welfare programmes. In Rajasthan there is a traditional council known as the Nayat whose members settle land and water disputes and exercises social control and imposes fines on lawbreakers.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Mughal are Muslim and belong either to the Shia or Sunni sects of Islam. In Delhi they claim to be Sunni Hanafi Muslims – those who follow the school of Islamic jurisprudence founded by Imam Abu Hanifa (699-767AD). Like other devout Muslims they believe in Allah as Almighty Creator and the Lord of Judgment, with unlimited sovereignty over His creation. They also claim that the divine revelations in their revealed holy book, the Koran supersede all previous disclosures in the Torah and the Old and the New Testaments.
They have great reverence for Muslim saints and visit their tomb-shrines to pay homage and to pray for the fulfillment of their wishes by the saints’ divine intercession. The urs (death anniversary) of such saints is celebrated. The mausoleums of Khwaja Muinuddin Chisti in Ajmer and Hazrat Nizamuddin in Delhi are two prominent shrines visited by the Mughal. They also attempt to make the holy pilgrimage to Mecca (Haj) at least once in their lifetimes.
The Mughal celebrate the Islamic festivals of Id-ul-Fitr (Feast of Alms at the end of the holy fasting month of Ramzan), Id-ul-Zuha or Bakr Id (feast commemorating Abraham’s sacrifice on which goats are slaughtered), Id Milad or Bara Wafat (Prophet Muhammad’s birthday) and Muharram (a Shiate celebration of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the Prophet’s son-in-law) with great enthusiasm and devotion. The Mughal of Delhi also participate in Phool Walon Ki Sair (Flower-sellers excursion), a local socio-cultural festival dating from medieval times.
The Mughal bury their dead and the death rituals include namaz-i-janaza or prayer before burial which is offered near the graveyard and chaliswan which is the fortieth day after death on which alms are given to the poor and a feast to friends and relatives. Both birth pollution and death pollution are observed for a period of forty days each. Male circumcision, tonsure and initiation in the name of Allah are some of the childhood ceremonies observed. The priest performs their religious rites as well exorcises evil spirits.