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Medieval India: An Introduction

In India, the medieval period is marked by numerous significant changes. India's relations with Muslims and the rest of the world resulted in these outcomes.

Cultural: The arrival of the Muslims resulted in the emergence of a mixed culture. There was a strong connection between north and south India, as well as Hindus and Muslims.

Cultural exchanges and the development of a culture that transcended regional and caste boundaries. It was an entirely indigenous culture in both form and spirit.

Trade: Muslim dynasties, particularly the Mughals, provided the kingdom with a long period of stability. As a result, commerce and urbanisation increased.

India had a stronger relationship with the rest of the world, especially in terms of trade.

Individuals from various parts of the world have developed stronger ties as a result of trade. Other cultures' traditions have had a significant impact on India.

What are the sources to understand the information regarding the Medieval Period?

As with the ancient period, information about the mediaeval period is primarily derived from archaeological and literary sources.

On the other hand, the materials for this period are far more extensive than those for the ancient period.

Sources from Archaeology

Temples: Monuments, temples, inscriptions, coins, utensils, tools, weaponry, jewellery, and paintings are among the sources. Monuments, artefacts, and artworks shed light on the civilization and economy of the time.

The construction of temples was funded by the rulers of South India. A significant amount of religious and cultural heritage can be found in temples.

Paintings & Art: Paintings are another important source, particularly for Mughal-era research.

Coinage: Coins are also important in the study of mediaeval India's history. They list the dates of major political events. During Ala-ud-din Khsalji's reign, Dravya-Pariksha (an analysis of coinage) was written. It contains information on coins minted during the Sultan's reign.

Sources of Literature

Biographies and autobiographies of monarchs and dynasties, travel reports, and other literary works fall under this category of sources.

  • Original farmans (royal orders) and communications from some emperors also shed light on the period.

  • Political histories are another important source group.

  • The vast majority of them were written with kings' assistance. Independent researchers compiled a number of reports.

Original Sources

The Persian, Arabic and Turkish languages make up the majority of original sources from the Middle Ages.

With the end of Akbar's reign, Tarikh-i-Firishtah, a general history of India with a focus on the Deccan states, comes to a close. It was written around 1612 by Muhammad Qasim Hindu Shah.

Tarikh-i-Firishtah: It tells the storey of the sultans of Delhi, the Mughals, and the indigenous kingdoms that flourished during this time.

  • Tahkik-i-Hind by Al Beruni

  • Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi by Barani

  • Tabaqat-i Nasiri by Minhaj-us Siraj

  • Muntakhabul-Tawarikh by Badauni

  • Akbarnama and Ain-i-Akbari by Abul Fazl, and Padshahnama by Abdul Hamid Lahori are also noteworthy works from this period.

Firoz Shah Tughluq's Futuhat-i-Firoz Shahi, Babur's Baburnama, and Jahangir's Tuzuk-i-Jahangir are among the most notable autobiographies.

Prithviraj Raso by Chandbardai, Vikramankadeva-Charita by Bilhana, and Rajatarangini by Kalhana are some of the works in Sanskrit and other languages.

The last is a chronicle of Kashmir's kings from the 12th century.


Travelogues from the era are another significant source of information. Muslims who visited India penned a travelogue.

Ibn Battuta's Rihla (The Travelogue) chronicles the reign of Muhammad-bin Tughluq. Al-Beruni also maintained a journal throughout his stay. Abdul Razzaq visited the Vijayanagar Empire and documented its conditions.


Another source is traveller reports from Europe. Several of these provide an account of their visit to India, including:

  • Marco Polo - (from Venice in Italy)

  • Nicolo Conti (Venice, Italy) chronicles the Vijayanagar kingdom's conflict with the Bahmani kings.

  • Nikitin (Russian): He is a writer who specialises the history of Bahmani kingdom.

  • Barbosa, Duarte (from Portugal)

  • Domingo Paes of Portugal: He wrote an account of the situation during Vijyanagar's Krishnadev Raya.

  • Father Monserrate: He paid a visit to the court of Emperor Akbar. His report details court life and the construction of Fatehpur Sikri. Also discusses the empire's traditions.

  • Ralph Fitch (English): He arrived during Jahangir's reign. His writings provide insight into the situations that existed during this time period.

  • Father Guerreiro: He focuses on Jesuit activities in seventeenth-century India in his account.

  • Captain William Hawkins (England): Jahangir's throne room. He remained at Jahangir's court. His narrative details the imperial structure, revenue sources and expenditures, and the splendour of the Mughal court.

  • Coryat, Thomas (from England)

  • Edwar Terrance (from England)

  • Sir Thomas Roe travelled to India to persuade Emperor Jahangir to enter into a trade agreement with the English. He goes into detail about the Mughal court and its festivities.

  • Fernando Pelsaert (from Belgium)

  • Merchandiser (from France)

  • Bernard Bernier (from France)

  • Niccolo Manucci (Venice, Italy): He discusses the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb.


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