The village panchayat was an assembly of elders, who enjoyed hereditary rights over their property. It was an oligarchy which consisted of a few important people of the village community. However, it represented various castes and communities in the village except for the menial cum agricultural workers. The decisions taken by the panchayat were binding on its members.
• The village panchayat was headed by a headman known as muqaddam or mandal. His chief function was to supervise the preparation of village accounts, assisted by the accountant or patwari of the panchayat.
• There was a common financial pool from which the panchayat derived its funds from the contributions made by the individuals. These funds were used for covering the expenses of entertaining revenue officials and for community welfare activities.
• One of the major role performed by the panchayat was to maintain the caste boundaries among the various communities of the village, so as to prevent any offense against their caste. The social practices and traditions associated with each caste were upheld.
• Panchayat also had the authority to punish those who committed any serious crime and levy fines. It can even expel the member from the community.
• The village panchayat acted as the court of appeal which ensured that the state carried out its moral obligations and guaranteed justice. It settled conflicts between “lower -caste” peasants and state officials or the local zamindar.
Thus, the village panchayat performed several responsibilities and was an integral part of the Mughal state.
During the Mughal period, the women worked equal to men. The responsibilities were divided between both men and women in the agrarian sector. Men tilled and ploughed, whereas women sowed, weeded, threshed and winnowed the harvest. Since women were also involved in the field, there was no segregation of work between the home (housewife) and the outside world (dominated by men).
However, there were certain biases that did exist during that time as well. It was related to the biological functions of women. For instance, during the time of menstruation, women were not allowed to touch agricultural tools.
Women were also employed in artistic work such as spinning yarn, sifting and kneading clay for pottery, and embroidery.
Women were the child bearers and an important resource in agrarian society. But due to the high mortality rate among women, remarriages were also allowed.
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