Social life and culture in the 18th century were marked by stagnation and dependence on the past.
There was, of course, no uniformity of culture and social patterns all over the country. Nor did all Hindus and all Muslims form two distinct societies.
People were divided by religion, region, tribe, language, and caste.
Moreover, the social life and culture of the upper classes, who formed a tiny minority of the total population, was in many respects different from the life and culture of the lower classes.
Caste was the central feature of the social life of the Hindus.
Apart from the four vanes, Hindus were divided into numerous castes (Jatis), which differed in their nature from place to place.
The caste system rigidly divided people and permanently fixed their place in the social scale.
The higher castes, headed by the Brahmins, monopolized all social prestige and privileges.
Caste rules were extremely rigid. Inter-caste marriages were forbidden.
There were restrictions on inter-dining among members of different castes.
In some cases, persons belonging to higher castes would not take food touched by persons of the lower castes.
Castes often determined’ the choice of ‘ profession, though exceptions did occur. Caste regulations were strictly enforced by caste councils and panchayats and caste chiefs through fines, penances (prayaschitya) and expulsion from the caste.
Caste was a major divisive force and element of disintegration in India of 18th century.
Muslims were no less divided by considerations of caste, race, tribe, and status, even though their religion enjoined social equality.
The Shia and Sunni (two sects of Muslim religion) nobles were sometimes at loggerheads on account of their religious differences.
The Irani, Afghan, Turani, and Hindustani Muslim nobles, and officials often stood apart from each other.
A large number of Hindus converted to Islam carried their caste into the new religion and observed its distinctions, though not as rigidly as before.
Moreover, the sharif Muslims consisting of nobles, scholars, priests, and army officers, looked down upon the ajlaf Muslims or the lower class Muslims in a manner similar to that adopted by the higher caste Hindus towards the lower caste Hindus.
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