Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

2 - Women, Violence and the Mughal State

Saturday, July 7
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Magnolia, Lower Ground Floor

For the Mughal centuries, there are only chance references to ordinary people’s lives and to the cultures of families and households, although the records are richer for the imperial court. Gender violence in medieval India is hardly studied, despite the understanding that there existed extensive family and kin control over women, apart from the availability of Islamic sharia with its instruments of control.  


The paper thus examines the social and familial aspects of violence against women, with the extreme forms of violence emerging from the everyday and routine in women’s lives.


The focus is on the state’s attitude towards violence against women. On the one hand, official support to patriarchies was important for governance, and so was control over women’s sexuality for the regulation of public morals. On the other hand, the state claimed the capacity to arbitrate conflicts, uphold justice and protect the weak, which implied the paternalistic protection of women. However, this support for the ‘weak’ and the protection of women against violence implied the acceptance of officially legitimized controls over women.


On the basis of court chronicles, private letters, biographies and tazkiras, this paper examines the ‘socially sanctioned violence’ against women, focusing on particular cases mentioned in the court chronicles to bring out the Mughal state’s response to violence as well as its policy of simultaneous protection and chastisement, deemed essential for ‘good rule.’

Shadab Bano

Aligarh Muslim University, India

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