Socio-cultural life of Merchants in Mughal Gujarat


Book: Socio-cultural life of Merchants in Mughal Gujarat

Author: Monika Sharma

Publisher: Partridge India

Pages: 212 pages

ISBN 9781482840377

Price: Rs. 450 (soft cover)

Author and researcher Monika Sharma takes readers back to 16th century India to witness the “Socio-cultural life of Merchants in Mughal Gujarat” (published by Partridge India). In her book, she indentifies the various influential Indian and foreign communities involved in commercial activities and maritime trade, painting a picture of the social, cultural and economic conditions of the region during the Mughal period, and giving those interested in Indian history a rare treat, a boon for their own studies.

Sharma depicts the melting pot of peoples during the time, which included Banias, Bohras, Parsis, Khojas, Memons, Ghanchis, Chalebis, Armenians and Europeans, a proverbial who’s who of the period. Her work embraces the lifestyles, traditions, festivals, institutions and the professional aspects of merchant life, exploring the region of Gujarat, its geographical layout, urban set-up, trade centres, cities, manufacturing centers, ports and trade routes. Readers will find themselves transported back in time to this diverse and vibrant place, immersing themselves in the society, seeing the living standards and homes of the people there, partaking in their education, entertainment, their cuisine, fashion and other aspects of daily life.

Sharma also portrays the status of women, amongst other inquiries she makes in order to provide a comparative study of the different cultures operating in the region and to learn more about the religion, social activities, festivals, rituals, marriages, customs and mores followed there. She also discerns the existing social evils like sati, polygamy and enforced widowhood. The focal point of her study, though, is the interplay between the merchants and the Mughals and the benefits accrued by the merchant communities, how the manner and the proximity with imperial court benefitted them and resulted in their social elevation. This book is useful for the scholars working on cultural and regional history and casual readers interested to know the history of Gujarat.

Monika Sharma is working on a post-doctoral project on regional sources of medieval Gujarat. Her area of specialization is the history of medieval Gujarat. She has written and published varied research papers on mercantile communities of Gujarat in reputed journals and in edited books.      

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 March 2015 on page no. 21

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