Prosperity in Mughal times
It is an acknowledged fact that during the Mughal rule was marked by abundance of wheat, barley, gram and other food grains with the prices of all articles of food and other daily necessities of life being so low that dam, a copper coin (equivalent to one-fortieth of a rupee), sufficed for the expenses of one soldier and his horse for a few days.
It was reported that almost all the cities both in the north and the south were stocked with the necessaries of life. At least five cities, viz., Agra, Fathpur Sikri, Delhi, Lahore and Ahmadabad were extraordinarily prosperous and had a population of two lakhs or more each.
Many foreign visitors acknowledged the great wealth and prosperity of Agra and Fathpur Sikri and that all the necessities and conveniences of human life can be obtained in Agra, if desired. This is even true of the articles that have to be imported from distant corners of the world.
Mughals valued manufacturing ability and Akbar was particularly keen on developing the technical expertise and greatly encouraged artisans, iron-workers and goldsmiths.
In the empire gems and pearls abound in large number gold and silver were plentiful as were horses from Persia and Tartary. The Mughal capital Agra was flushed with vast quantity of every type of commodity.
It was reported that there was no dearth of food supplies and same was the case in Delhi.
The public buildings were remarkable and were well-built, lofty and handsomely decorated residences. The cities were full of parks and gardens and filled with a rich profusion of fruits and flowers.
The Mughal throne was peripatetic enabling the rulers to keep in touch with all areas of their domains thereby spreading welfare to the length of the country.
Foreign travelers were particularly appreciative of the city of Lahore and were of the view that this city was next to none, either in Asia or in Europe with regard to size, population and wealth. It was reported that the city was crowded with merchants and its bazaars were full of every kind of merchandise.
They mentioned that there was no art or craft useful to human life which was not practised there.
The foreign visitors were greatly impressed by the cheapness of grains in Akbar’s camp in his journey to Lahore and were surprised to see all kinds of food grains and other eatables, cotton cloth and other necessaries of life in plenty.
These travelers also talk about famines but they were mostly localised, and did not involve the whole country.
It is now well-recognised that in the country during the Mughal times there was no dearth of food grains and other necessities of life. The Mughal rule was synonymous with wealth and luxury that also trickled down to all segments of population.
The middle class, consisting of zamindars, merchants and the lower rank of the official staff and other employees of the same category, were fairly wellto- do. The masses and the inferior artisans were also rated to be living in a certain level of prosperity although they were not considered wealthy. They felt quite secure and did not have to face economic misery that was thought to be the hallmark of that age.
The level of economic prosperity enjoyed by the people during the Mughal rule is revealed in the salaries paid to various strata of the employees as well as the prices of foodgrains and other commodities mentioned in many historical manuscripts. The daily wages of ordinary labourers were 2 to 3 dams per day and payment made to slaves was one dam per day. The beldar or ordinary labourer, got two dams a day; a bamboo-cutter, too, was paid 2 dams daily; a thatcher was paid 3 dams a day; a water-carrier 3 dams; a water-carrier of inferior capacity 2 dams; a varnisher of reeds 2 dams a day; a brick-layer of first class 3 dams and of second class 3 dams.
InJahangir’s time, the monthly wages of servants were 2 to 3 rupees. The wages paid by
the Dutch factory at Agra in 1636 were 3 rupees per month for servants, porters, and sais
(horsemen) and Rs. 5/- for the sweepers and the watermen.
In South India, at the Masulipatam factory, servants received Rs. 2/- monthly in 1602 and at Bombay the daily wages of labourers in 1674 were 3 dams.
The daily wages of skilled labourers and workers in Akbar’s time ranged from 6 to 7 dams with mason of the first class, for example, was paid 7 dams a day; of second class 6 dams, and of third class 5 dams. A carpenter of the first class got 7 dams, of second class 6 dams, of third class 4 dams, of fourth class 3 dams and of fifth class 3 dams daily.
During the reign of Jahangir there was hardly any increase in the wages as the prevailing wages were considered appropriate enabling a reasonable lifestyle to be maintained.
The average prices of principal food grains towards the end of Akbar’s reign calculated on the basis of 82.3 lbs equivalent to one maund (instead of that of 55 lbs a maund which was the weight in Akbar’s time) were as follows:
Wheat sold at 133.3 seers a rupee; barley 200 seers, rice 54.2 seers, gram 135.6 seers, bajra 182.8 seers and juar 108.5 seers. Taking the maund as equivalent to 55lbs (which was the ratio in Akbar’s time) a maund of ghee was available for 105 dams, oil for 80 dams, milk
for 25 dams and brown sugar for 53 dams.
The prices of ordinary cloth of different variety and were recorded as: Chhint 2 dams per yard, ghazina i.e., gazzi 1 dams per piece, dupatta 1 dam per piece and silahati 2 to 4 dams per yard.
Taking into consideration the prices of things at the end of the 16th century, the wages paid to all kinds of workers and labourers were adequate to maintain them.
It is observed by many economic historians that the financial well-being of the ruling classes aptly trickled down and it is reported that the along with cash salaries, food and clothes were provided free of charge to the working class saving them plenty of money.
It is also noted that during the Mughal age people’s wants were few and the standard of living of the common people was very low.
They lived in mud houses, thatched with straw; they had very few utensils and clothes, and their furniture consisted of bedsteads.
This was considered normal way o life and was practiced for centuries. Many venues of soliciting financial assistance were available to the common man particularly through the largesse of the upper classes. Mughals had undertaken to arrange for weddings of the common people and many royal ladies were famous for doing that.
The Mughal administration was keenly aware of the economic difficulties of the masses and was motivated to come to their help. It is the recorded verdict of history that the Mughal times were exceptional for their prosperity and that was the reason that Mughal legitimacy reigned supreme long after actual power slipped from their control.