Before the arrival of the British, much of the Indian population lived in villages and they maintained a predominantly agricultural economy. Farmers did not usually live on their land but went to the fields daily to work the land to provide food for their villages. Villagers were also able to pay their taxes with their produce. Textiles, crafts and spices were exchanged with Muslim traders.
The official language of India is Hindi, although there are 18 different languages recognised by the Indian constitution. There are hundreds of dialects of these languages. English is also recognised in education and business.
The official language of the Mughal Empire was Persian. The Urdu language developed from a type of poetry that was written in Hindi but also used words from Persian and Arabic. Urdu went on to replace Persian as the language of the Mughal court. In northern India, Urdu (developed into the language of Muslims) began to be spoken by Muslims whereas Hindi went on to be spoken by most non-Muslims.
Prior to British colonisation, people lived in extended families. A son would not leave his parents' home when he married. Instead, his new wife would live with her husband's family and work for and serve his household. Women had very few choices or rights. They were expected to obey their father until they married, then they would obey their husband. If their husband died, they would be expected to obey their father-in-law.
Houses were built of wood, reeds, mud bricks and straw. Furniture in houses was not common until the 16th century. Before that, people slept, ate and sat on the floor.
India is the birthplace of a number of major religions that are practised around the world, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism are the three religions that are believed to have shaped Indian thought. From the 18th century, India developed a reputation as a mystical land of religion and...