Institutionalized slavery in the Muslim regimes and Indic mercantile complicity
- In History & Culture
- 05:30 AM, Jan 01, 1970
- Shanmukh-Saswati Sarkar-Dikgaj-Aparna-Kirtivardhan
One of the worst (if not the absolute worst) atrocities perpetrated by the Islamic regimes in India was the perpetuation of slavery. While the trade of slaves was not unknown in India, the scale of slavery in India was extremely small in pre-Islamic times. There are no descriptions of large scale slavery of either enemy combatants, or slave markets in India. Nor is there any description of slavery of civilians in India. Indeed, Megasthenes remarks that there was no slavery in India p. 99, , whereas Arthashaastra places a large number of injunctions against slavery . There is no mention of large scale slavery in Kalhana’s Rajatarangini – the only mention of slavery comes from a few high class courtesans being traded. It may be safely asserted that in the ancient times slavery in India was extremely small compared to the slavery that existed in the west, or even in China.
We show that slavery became endemic in India during the Muslim rule, focusing on the Mughal emperors, starting from Akbar, and post-Mughal Muslim rulers. The wealthy and influential Indic mercantile groups enabled the invading Muslim rulers in various different ways, e.g., by funding their campaigns against native kingdoms via loans and contributions, by funding their nobility and managing the finances of the state, by gathering intelligence for them and undermining public morale against them and negotiating on their behalf with other foreign powers , . Such acts of collusion render the involved Indic merchants as accomplices to the many atrocities perpetrated by the Muslim rulers on Indic commons, including slavery. But, more, we show that the Indic merchants, not merely enabled the Islamic state as above, but also directly facilitated the slave trade of Indic victims by either directly participating in it, or funding it. While the bulk of the guilt for the atrocities lies on the perpetrating rulers, it must be emphasised that they could not have perpetrated them effectively without the collusion of the big business classes. Thus, the big business classes served as instruments of the oppressive Islamic imperialism. We naturally observe that they were largely exempted from slavery.
We first describe how the Islamic regimes in India acquired slaves from among the Indians. We subsequently show that a strong element of religious persecution was in built into the Islamic slave trade. We next elucidate that the trans-national trade constituted an important vehicle of slave trade. We subsequently establish the complicity of the Indic mercantiles in export of Indic slaves from India to Central Asia and Turkey. This establishes that Indic merchants had no sense of nationhood that existed in India from ancient times. We finally show that Indic merchants bankrolled slave economies of Islamic states outside India, and had close political connection with the notorious Islamic rulers of West Asia.
Section A: Slavery under Islamic regimes
Mostly the under-privileged, the defeated soldiers of the resistance armies, their women and children (including those of the princes who resisted), that were enslaved. Merchants or their family members were not enslaved on a systematic basis. The peasants constituted the bulk of the enslavements. We discuss the modalities next. Their poverty prevented them from fulfilling the exploitative tax obligations laid on them. The unfortunate peasants who could not pay their taxes were enslaved along with their family, women and children included. It has been documented that villages, which owing to some shortage of produce, were unable to pay the full amount of the revenue, were made captives by their masters and governors, and their wives and children used to be sold on the pretext of a charge of rebellion. Manrique has documented, ``they [the peasants] are carried off, attached to heavy oil chains, to various markets and fairs [to be sold], with their poor, unhappy wives behind them carrying their small children in their arms, all crying and lamenting their evil plight.’’ p 370,  Sometimes the hapless peasants had to fulfill their tax obligations by surrendering their children as slaves.
Frequently the peasants were compelled to sell their women, children and cattle in order to meet the revenue demand p. 370, . As Jahangir has noted in Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri: ``In Hindustan especially in the province of Sylhet which is a dependency of Bengal it was custom for the people of those parts to make eunuchs of some of their sons and give them to the governor in place of revenue (Mal Wajibi) .This custom by degrees in other provinces and every year some children are thus ruined and cut from procreation’’ p. 150,  Manrique, who traveled in India during the reign of Shah Jahan, has recorded instances in Bengal where on failure to pay rent a Hindu had his wife and children sold by auction p. 186, .
The distress sales by the peasants of their family members substantially exacerbated during famines. In fact, each scarcity was marked by substantial glut in the slave market. p. 122, . In describing the Deccan famine of 1698-1705, when fathers sold their children, Jadunath Sarkar has quoted Manucci, as, ``Aurangzib withdrew to Ahmadnagar, leaving behind him the fields of these provinces devoid of trees and bare of crops, their places being taken by the bones of men and beasts. Instead of verdure all is black and barren. The country is so desolated that neither fire nor light can be found in the course of three or four days’ journey. There have died in his armies over a hundred thousand souls yearly, and of animals, pack-oxen, camels, elephants, etc., over three hundred thousand. In the Deccan provinces from 1702 to 1704 plague (and famine) prevailed. In these two years there expired over two millions of souls." pp. 235-236,  and ``Nowhere south of the Narmada could grain be found cheaper than six seers a rupee’’, while in certain periods it sold in the imperial camp for two seers or even less … Out of the capital cities of the eight chief subahs of the empire, population has decreased in the three Deccan towns of Bijapur, Haidarabad and Burhanpur, while the villages round them have been totally ruined.’’ pp. 239-240, .
During the 1560s famines in Gujarat, parents used to sell the children for trifles. p. 114, . Peter Mundy has recorded the predicament of the famished of Gujarat during November 1630: `` In this place Men and women were driven to that extremitie for want of food that they have sold their children for 12s,6d and a pence a piece.”p.42, , “And to give them away to any that would take them with many thanks so that they might preserve them alive, although they were sure never to see them again” p.42, . Dutch merchant Van Twist records about this famine: ‘Men deserted their wives and children , women sold themselves as slaves ; mothers sold their children ; children deserted by their parents, sold themselves .Some families took poison and so died together ; others threw themselves into the rivers …some ate carrion flesh. Others cut up the corpses of men and drew out the entrails to fill their own bellies ; yea men lying on the streets , not yet dead , were cut up by others , and men fed on living men , so that even in the streets , and still more on road journeys , men ran great danger of being murdered and eaten’p.318,  We learn more about slavery caused by this famine as: ``Life was offered for a loaf but none would buy, rank was to be sold for a cake but none cared for it; the ever bounteous hand was now stretched out to beg for food ; and the feet which had always trodden the way of contentment walked about only in search for sustenance . For a long time dogs flesh was sold for Goats flesh, and the pounded bones of the dead were mixed with flour and sold.’’ p. 24,  in 1663-64 a severe famine visited Dhaka. As a result, many people sold themselves to the rich under deeds of sale sealed by the Qazi p. 203, . In 1671, Bihar experienced a major famine, which stretched into the North West corner of Bengal p. 31, . A contemporary account, at Patna, left by John Marshall, states, ``Great number of Slaves to be brought for 4 an. and 8 an. per peece, and good ones for 1
r. per peece; but they are exceeding leane when bought, and if they eat but very little
more than ordinary of rice, or eat any flesh, butter or any strong meat their faces and
hands and codds swell immediately exceedingly.’’ p. 31,  Manucci also points out in , “He (Aurangzeb )commanded, therefore, that he(Persian Ambassador) should be intercepted on the frontier, and deprived of all the Indian slaves he was taking away. It is certain that the number of these slaves was most unreasonable; he had purchased them extremely cheap on account of the famine, and it is also said that his servants had stolen a great many children.” p. 151, .
Peasants were also frequently enslaved on pretexts that had nothing to do with the payment of their taxes. Whenever any robbery occurred within the jurisdiction of a jagirdar, they used that pretext to sack any village they suspected. The men were killed in such cases and the women and children were carried away and sold for slaves. p. 370, . In Gujarat, in 1646, Shaista Khan depopulated whole villages of ``miserably pore people, under pretence of their harbouring thieves and rogues.’’ p. 370, . Villages around the Lakhi jungle had once been guilty of violence. Subsequently, Faujdars used to regularly carry away Dogar peasants from there. pp. 370-371, . Talish describes a despicable practice in Bengal: ``When any man, ryot or newcomer, died without leaving any son, all his property including his wife and daughter was taken possession of by the department of the crownlands, or the jagirdar or zamindar who had such power and this custom was called ankura [hooking] ‘’ p. 80, 
Peasants often rebelled by refusing to pay land revenue. Villages and areas which went into rebellion or refused to pay taxes, were known as `mawas’ and `zor talab’. The revenue paying villages were called `raiyatti’ pp. 378-379, . Manucci has written, that in the rebel villages ``everyone is killed that is met with and their wives, sons and daughters and cattle are carried off.’’ Not only the combatants but other inhabitants of the rebel villages were persecuted perhaps as badly p. 380, . The Faujdars often committed excesses on the rebellious peasants, as Manucci points out: ``The moguls call this [rebellious population Zolom Parest (Zulam Parast) that is tyranny adorers , sometimes these faujdars commit excessive acts of oppression which cause rebellion and bring on battle. If the villagers are defeated, everyone is killed, that is met with, and their wives, sons, daughters, and cattle are carried off. The best looking of these girls are presented to the king under the designation of rebels. Others they keep for themselves, and the rest are sold.’’ p. 451,  Most of these unfortunate women would serve as sex slaves to the Muslim royalty and the nobility. The women and children of the households of the Hindu princes who rebelled suffered the same predicament. For example, KS Lal points out that, ``the enslavement of women and children too was a common phenomenon … and was revived under Shahjahan; it had not probably been abolished completely earlier. An interesting piece of information supplied by Manucci should suffice here. He gives a long list of women dancers, singers and slave-girls like Hira Bai, Sundar Bai, Nain-jot Bai, Chanchal Bai, Apsara Bai, Khushhal Bai, Kesar Bai, Gulal, Champa, Chameli, Saloni, Madhumati, Koil, Menhdi, Moti, Kishmish, Pista etc., etc., and adds. All the above names are Hindu, and ordinarily these are Hindus by race, who had been carried off in infancy from various villages or the houses of different rebel Hindu princes. In spite of their Hindu names, they are, however, Mohamedan. It appears that the number of such converts was so large that even their Hindu names could not be changed to Islamic.’’ , p. 334, . In the same Mughal regime, Bengal Nawab, Sarfaraz Khan, had 1500 pretty female dependents and slaves. p. 93. . Holwell asserts that a principal nobleman in the court of Sarfaraz Khan, Haji Ahmad, [brother of the later Bengali Nawab, Alivardi Khan] ``ransacked the provinces to obtain for his master [Sarfaraz Khan], regardless of cost, the most beautiful women that could be procured, and never appeared at the nawab's evening levee without something of this kind in his hand’’ p. 93, . . Bernier also points out that ``Of the vast tracts of country constituting the empire of Hindoustan, many are little more than sand, or barren mountains, badly cultivated, and thinly peopled; and even a considerable portion of the good land remains untilled from want of labourers; many of whom perish in consequence of the bad treatment they experience from the Governors. These poor people, when incapable of discharging the demands of their rapacious lords, are not only often deprived of the means of subsistence, but are bereft of their children, who are carried away as slaves. Thus it happens that many of the peasantry, driven to despair by so execrable a tyranny, abandon the country, and seek a more tolerable mode of existence, either in the towns, or camps; as bearers of burdens, carriers of water, or servants to horsemen. Sometimes they fly to the territories of a Raja, because there they find less oppression, and are allowed a greater degree of comfort.” p. 205, .
The harvest of slaves was regular as the peasants frequently rebelled during Mughal rule. Jat peasants rebelled throughout, from the reign of Akbar to Aurangzeb. pp. 390-391, . In 1623, many of them [Jats] were killed, their women and children were taken captive and the victorious troops acquired a great booty. p. 391, . In 1580, Ralph Fitch, the first English visitor to Bengal, found the country to be infested by rebels. p. 97, . The rebellions seem to have continued from the time of Akbar to the time of Aurangzeb. When the kingdom of Koch Behar was annexed in 1661, the local officials introduced their methods of their revenue assessment and collection according to the regulations followed in the Imperial territory. ``This caused general revulsion against the conquerors among the peasants, who were treated with much greater leniency by the deposed Raja, Bhim Narayan. They, therefore, rose and expelled the local troops and officials.’’ p. 388, . Hindu mendicant Satnamis led a rebellion of goldsmiths, carpenters, sweepers. tanners and other artisans during the reign of Aurangzeb. pp. 395-396, . Banda Bahadur put together ``an army of innumerable men, like ants and locusts, belonging to the low castes of the Hindus and ready to die’’ at his orders, as described by Muslim sources p. 397, . Other Muslim sources mention that ``large numbers of scavengers and tanners and a class of Banjara [ox-transporters] and other lowly persons and cheats became his disciples and gathered (under him)’’ p. 398, . The expressions used for the rebellious peasants indicates the level of contempt for them among contemporary Muslim elites. Innumerable other peasant revolts occurred throughout Northern India during the Mughal regime. pp. 398-399, .
The harvest of slaves multiplied for the Muslim rulers each time they subdued a Hindu kingdom. Scott Levy has documented about the Delhi Sultans, `` as a part of their expansion into new territories, Turko-Afghan armies of the Delhi Sultans commonly abducted large numbers of Hindus. Thus, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, Sultan Ala al-Din Khalji owned some 50,000 slaves and later that century Sultan Firuz Tughluq is reported to have owned 180000 slaves, 12000 of whom were skilled artisans’’ pp. 65-66 . Quoting Afif, RC Majumdar points out the magnitude of the slave taking by the Delhi Sultanate under Firuz Tughluq, stating, ``The Sultan commanded his great fief-holders and officers to capture slaves whenever they were at war, and to pick out and send the best for the service of the court. The chiefs and officers naturally exerted themselves in procuring more and more slaves and a great number of them were thus collected. When they were found to be in excess, the Sultan sent them to important cities. In all cases, provision was made for their support in a liberal manner. Arrangement was made for educating the slaves and training them in various arts and crafts. In some places they were provided for in the army. It has been estimated that in the city and in the various fiefs, there were 180,000 slaves for whose maintenance and comfort the Sultan took special care. About 12,000 slaves became artisans of various kinds, and 40,000 worked as military guards to Sultan. The Sultan created a separate department with a number of officers for administering the affairs of these slaves. Gradually the slaves increased to such a degree that they were employed in all sorts of domestic duties, so much so that there was no occupation in which the slaves of Firiiz Shah were not employed.’’ p. 99, . Further, we have evidence of the slave taking of the rebels in Katehr (Rohilkhand), where Shankhdher and RC Majumdar both point out that 23,000 slaves were taken by Firuz Tughluq as vengeance for the revolt of Kharku. p. 96, . We have quoted Bernier before on the enslavement of women of the houses of the rebel Hindu princes. In addition, RC Majumdar has written about the Muslim period in Bengal, ``After the conquest of a Hindu kingdom, the Muslims would convert many of the captives into Islam and keep them as slaves, engaged in household duties, the young females among them being taken in as mistresses or reduced to the position of harlots.’’ p. 225, . Scott Levi has added about the Mughal period, ``although Emperor Akbar attempted to prohibit the practice of enslaving conquered Hindus, his efforts were only temporarily successful. According to the early 17th century account of Pelseart, Abd Allah Khan Firuz Jang, an Uzbek noble at the Mughal court during the 1620 s and 1630s, was appointed to the position of governor of the regions of Kalpi and Kher and, in the process of subjugating the local rebels, got beheaded the leaders and enslaved their women, daughters and children, who were more than 2 lacks  in number.’’p. 66,  The Mughal war against Pratapaditya in early 17th century has been described in a contemporary book, Baharistan-i-Ghibi, by Mirza Nathan, the Mughal general leading the war. He has written that his soldiers captured 4,000 women and kept them naked. When, on being informed, he ordered their release, not one of them had any cover on her body. They were somehow covered with trousers, bed-sheets, and any other available clothes and then sent home. p. 236, .
It is important to note that slave taking during wars had a definite deleterious effect on the Hindu resistance. One eminent example is that of Mewar. It was Prince Khurram’s [Khurram went on to become Shah Jahan] inhuman practice of making prisoners of the women and children that finally took its toll on the Mewaris. p. 342, . RC Majumdar has written, ``From the Rajasthan chronicles it is learnt that the condition of the Mewar army was desperate. All provisions and sources of supply were exhausted, and there was even a shortage of weapons. For food they mostly had to depend on fruits. But what hurt them most was, as Jahangir relates, Khurram's inhuman practice of making prisoners of the women and children. Shyamaldas relates that one day the nobles represented to the crown-prince, Karna that they had been fighting for forty-seven years, under hard conditions. Now they were without food, dress or even weapons, and the Mughuls were capturing their children and forcing them to become dancing girls or slaves. They were prepared to die; each family had lost at least four members in the war; still they would fight, but it seemed to them that even their death could not prevent their family honour from being stained; it was therefore preferable to come to some arrangement with the Mughuls, on the basis of Karna's personal submission to the Mughul Emperor.’’ pp. 342,  Thus, finally, Maharana Amar Singh acquiesced in the submission of Mewar to Jahangir, allowing his crown prince Karna to submit to Jahangir. However, Maharana Amar Singh was a broken man and retired to his inner apartments, leaving the kingdom in the hands of his son, and dying eight years later. Another example is that of Mirza Raja Jai Singh, who was sent to the Deccan to avenge Shivaji’s raid and plunder of Surat, which caused `immense mortification to Aurangzeb and his court’. p. 74, . Jai Singh arrived in the Deccan and organised a flying column to flatten the Maratha villages p. 81,  and it was the destruction and slavery in the Maratha countryside that was one of the reasons that forced Shivaji to come to terms with the invaders and submit to the Mughals, at least temporarily. p. 92, . It is pertinent to note that both these expeditions had significant participation by other Hindus. The state of Amber was an important contributor to the war against both, with Jaipur being a base for the invasion of Mewar and Mirza Raja Jai Singh of Amber leading the invasion of the Deccan to subdue Shivaji. Similarly, Man Singh of Amber had participated in at least one of invasions on Mewar.
Section B: Religious Dimension in Slavery during Muslim Rule
Although Mughals enslaved both Indic and Muslim peasants and other plebian rebels, Hindus were at the receiving end more often. This is because the bulk of the peasantry was Indic. As stated before, about the end of the 16th century, only about 1 Muslim for every thousand Hindus was connected with the agriculture. pp. 731-732, . Although the Muslim proportion of peasantry increased in the next century, with the mass conversions of the peasantry of provinces like Bengal and Sindh to Islam, still, peasantry remained Indic majority by far well up to 1947. Next, additional protection was accorded to Mohammedan subjects against slavery. During the Mughal era in Bengal namely the sixteenth and seventeenth century, the slave huntings of the Europeans, in particular the Portugese, ravaged East Bengal. We note that the factory records of the English East India Company testified to an imperial order served to the faujdar of Hugli in 1676, that directed the faujdar to make the English, Dutch and Portuguese sign a paper undertaking not to buy any slaves who are children of Muhammadan parents as the Portuguese did at the time pp. 202, 203, . It was during this period that East Bengal was being Islamized, that is, there was still substantial sections of Hindus living there. Next, persecution was particularly severe for the Indic peasantry. During different periods of the Mughal regime, Indic peasants had to suffer higher taxes. Jaziya, a poll tax meant specifically for infidels, was banned by Akbar only late in his regime (after flip flops) and was reinstated by Aurangzeb. Thus Indic peasants failed to pay their taxes more often and also rebelled against unbearable taxes more regularly. This becomes apparent when we observe that the rebel territories mentioned above were predominantly Indic in the period under consideration. Thus the Indics were enslaved much more.
Besides, there was a greater demand for Indic slaves, because Islamic law bars a non-Muslim from buying a Muslim slave, but allows the sale of infidel slaves to anyone. There were also many Islamic lands that preferred to own infidel slaves. As Scott Levi remarks, ``Because of their identification in Muslim societies as kafirs, `non-believers’, Hindus were especially in demand in the early modern bukharan slave markets.’’ p. 63, . Judicial records show that Indian slaves constituted at least 58% of the total slaves in the Central Asian region p. 75, . The traffic of slaves to Central Asia, already known in ancient times, expanded enormously with the advent of Islam and the expansion of the Indian merchant Diasporas in Central Asia in the 16th century. Further, Indian merchant Diasporas in Astrakhan, which was the entrepot to the slave trade in the Ottoman Empire, vastly supported this traffic of slaves. p. 75, . Skilled Indian slaves were in great demand and many found their way to the Ottoman Empire. The existence of Indian metal workers in Bursa has been noted . The Ottoman Empire was a huge consumer of slaves till the 17th century, at least, and was a big buyer of Indian slaves’ p. 75, .
Indic slaves were also subjected to religious persecution, which the Muslim slaves were exempted from. Slavery was an important vehicle for the spread of Islam; thus, all Hindu slaves were forcibly converted to Islam when they were bought by Muslim owners. We now give a specific example of how slavery was a vehicle of proselytization. In 1717, Murshid Quli Khan, a powerful 18th century Nawab of Bengal, was born in a Brahmin family in Deccan. In his infancy, he was bought by a Muslim, who took him to Persia pp. 399-400, , p. 101,  on return from Persia, he got appointed to several high offices and ultimately became the Subedar of Bengal. Not only was he converted, he was also indoctrinated to the extent that, as Nawab of Bengal, he forcibly converted Hindus, destroyed temples and, in essence, became a propagator of his faith. Murshid Quli Khan converted Hugli to a Shia colony. It became a centre of Shia theology and culture. The stream of migration from Persia to Bengal greatly increased during Murshid Quli’s reign. p. 419,  Naturally, his reputation stands very high among members of his own sect. Salimullah rose to the level of an Abul Fazal in extolling him. He wrote, ``Since the time of Shaista Khan, there had not appeared in any part of Hindustan an amir who could be compared with Ja’far Khan [Murshid Quli] for his zeal in the propagation of the faith. … From breakfast to noon, he employed himself in copying the Koran. He maintained about 2000 readers beadsmen, and chanters, who were constantly employed in reading the Koran and other acts of devotion.’’ pp. 420-421, . Jadunath Sarkar commented on his religious bigotry and described him as ``a puritan in his private life, …, gravely decorous and rigidly orthodox as befitted a favourite disciple of Aurangzeb, and a propagator of his faith as ordained in his scriptures’’ pp. 420-421, 
Section C: The Ugly Truth of Trans-national trade – Human trafficking
Some of the slaves remained in India in the service of the royalty and the nobility, but many were forcibly deported to Central Asia. Significant number of Indian slaves lived in Central Asia during the medieval times, extending well up to the early modern times. Some estimates suggest that the percentage of slaves in Bukhara of Indian origin may have exceeded 50% pp. 66-67, . Hindu slaves were especially in demand there, and comprised of a large religious group p. 63, . Even 19th century records indicate the presence of Hindu slaves and other non-Muslim slaves in Central Asia. p. 69, .
Hindu slaves were being exported to Central Asia right from the days of the Ghaznavi capture of the Indian city of Thanesar in the year 1014 p. 65, . Mughal emperors, from Akbar to Shah Jahan had the tradition of sending Indian slaves as gifts to the rulers of Central Asia p. 64,  Scott Levi has added about the Mughal period, ``By and large, the exportation of Hindu slaves to Turan [Central Asia] continued unhindered throughout the Mughal period. ...Whether agriculturists or pastoralists, following their enslavement such individuals were sent in large numbers to markets beyond India's Northwest Frontier, far away from their family support system. Even appreciating that the figures presented in the chronicles and other accounts are likely to be exaggerated it seems reasonable to accept the explanation that, over the years, Mughal expansion in India accounts for the enslavement and exportation of hundreds of thousands of individuals, or more, including not only those men who militarily resisted the mughals, but also vast numbers of women and children.’’p. 66,  In the middle of the eighteenth century, during his military expeditions in North India, Ahmed Shah Abdali enslaved several Hindus and Sikhs of Punjab, Delhi, Mathura and Brindaban, and carried them off with him to Afghanistan. pp. 142-144,  Further, Khushwant Singh mentions that the Afghans took many Indian women as slaves to Afghanistan, especially during Abdali’s fourth pp. 143-144,  and fifth invasions of India p. 151, . In the early nineteenth century, Josiah Harlan reported that Murad Beg, the Afghan ruler of Qunduz organized frequent slave raids into Chitral (currently in Pakistan). He was a ``great wholesale dealer in this unholy merchandise [slave trade]’’ p. 69, 
Slaves comprised of an important component of the transnational trade. Many slaves were exported by caravan merchants, who either purchased them outright or received them in trade for other commodities in demand in India, such as horses p. 63, . The Baburnama records many caravans bound towards Kabul carrying Hindustani slaves as an important commodity. loc. 1896, . Babur has written that caravans of ten, fifteen or twenty thousand heads of houses used to come from Hindustan bringing in slaves and other commodities to Kabul loc. 2388, 
To quote Farah Abidin, ``One of the most favorite and chief exports from India to this [Kabul] region were Indian slaves, both Hindus and Muslims; then these slaves were sent to the bazaars of Central Asia in a number of ways. Some of them were taken as prisoners of war, some in exchange for Central Asian horses while others were captured during the raids on trading Caravans. The manuscript Rauzat-ur Rizwan va hadikat al gilman, written by Badruddin Kashmiri during the reign of Abdullah Khan Uzbek informs us that the skilled slaves were much sought-after Indian commodity.... Abdul Abbas Muhammad Talib, the author of Matlab at-Talib also speaks of Indian slaves in this region’’ loc. 1917-1924, . There existed a cattle market in Kabul which sold slaves and a host of other animals, like horses, elephants, camels, horses, buffalos, cows, oxen, donkeys, goats etc loc. 2428, . Note that during the Mughal reign the raids by bandits and plunderers on mercantile caravans rarely succeeded as the merchants usually travelled heavily armed and in large groups, organizing themselves in qafilas or caravans Loc. 2318 – 2329, .
In 1558 Anthony Jenkinson has noted that Indian (and Iranian) merchants who visited Bukhara commonly exported slaves to the Bukharan slave market p. 67, . Monserrate and Bernier have mentioned that the Mughal Imperial establishment routinely exported slaves for horses in Central Asia. loc. 2128, . Further, in , it has been noted that Indian traders often sold silk (raw and manufactured) and horses in the Russian empire in the middle of the 16th century, which they had likely purchased in exchange for slaves in Kabul, Astrakhan or Bukhara. Indian slaves were sold in numbers in Bukhara and Astrakhan , p. 79, . In particular, the Ottoman Empire was a huge consumer of Indian slaves in the 16th century. , but this gradually reduced in the 17th and more or less disappeared in the 18th centuries pp. 79-81, .
The trans-national trade route from the Gangetic valley to Kabul, Balkh and Bukhara could follow two separate paths, shown in the map. In the ancient Kushana and Gupta times, it appears that the northern route directly connecting Gangetic valley and Central Asia used to pass through northern and central Punjab, cross the Indus River at Attock and then work its way through the Khyber pass to Kabul and beyond. From at least the fourteenth century, the southern trade from Multan to Delhi and from Delhi to Ahmedabad  has been in use for purposes of large scale trade. pp. 205-206, , pp. 30-32, . In the Mughal times, the trade with Punjab was centred around Peshawar, but the trade with other parts was based in Multan, Shikarpur and Bahawalpur, loc. 1865-1874, . For the trade from Multan and Sindh to Bukhara, the southern route (Multan-Shikarpur-Kandahar-Ghazni-Kabul) route was very popular in the Mughal times p. 52, , with caravans carrying goods `worth millions’ to Kandahar. By the middle and late 18th centuries, the southern route had become more popular with the traders, with the Sikhs and Jats, astride the northern trade routes, growing restive in north India (they used to often plunder merchant caravans). This resulted in the rising importance of Shikarpur and Multan as trade centres, and the southern route from Multan and Shikarpur through the Bolan pass to Kandahar, Kabul and Bukhara. In the map shown below, we have marked the principal routes taken by the trans-national traders (including slave traders) from Punjab to Central Asia.
Section D: How Indic merchants facilitated slavery of Indics during the Muslim rule
Slaves were utilized both in India and also exported abroad through the trans-national trade. In post Mughal Awadh, slavery took the form of debtor servitude to the great landlords and/or the bankers, who were often partners. The great bankers were so powerful that all the officials of the Nawabs were beholden to them , and the bankers, who owned land, tended to turn their peasants and landowners under their power, into debtor slaves. At other times, the bankers (who were not sufficiently powerful to overrule the talukdars) would often go into partnerships with the Nawab’s officials and the talukdars, allowing them to buy up revenue contracts for districts. With these, they would often proceed to turn their landowners into debtor slaves, who subsequently led a miserable existence .
The Indian merchants who engaged in exporting Indian (primarily Hindu) slaves to Central Asia were both Hindus and Muslims. The trans-national trade from India to Central Asia was conducted by both Hindu and Muslim traders from India. In 1581 a Portugese Jesuit missionary Father Antonio Monserrate who had travelled from Lahore to Kabul had reported that ``one tribe in the Punjab, identified as the `Gaccares’, (Ghakkars), had made trading Indian slaves for horses such a regular practice that they had even become associated with the proverb, `slaves from India, horses from Parthia’’’. p 63,  Some Ghakkars, whose conversion from Hinduism to Islam, had begun by the Timur era, were Hindus, some were Muslims then.
Reasonably large diasporas of Indian merchants existed in different Central Asian towns throughout the medieval times. They comprised of both Hindus and Muslims. Scott C. Levi has noted: `` The vast majority of the Indian diaspora in Central Asia was comprised of Hindu merchants who belonged to any of a number of mercantile – oriented castes engaged in trans-regional trade, brokering or money lending, and were collectively referred to as `Banias’ (or `Banians’) ‘’ p. 105, . In the sixteenth century Hindu merchant communities existed in Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent and other cities in Central Asia p. 153,  In 19th century British secret agent Ghulab Khan estimated that there were 400 Hindus and 200 Indian Muslims in Bukhara p 154, . In the early nineteenth century Harlan asserted that Hindus were active in almost every Bazaar in Central Asia, and Vambrey similarly reported that they maintained a dominant commercial present in both urban and rural markets p. 154, . The Hindu mercantile community in Afghanistan and Central Asia was extremely wealthy. For example, a single Hindu merchant in Durrani-era Kabul owned 10 million rupees in personal wealth. Bailey has noted that in the early twentieth century, when the Bolsheviks tightened their grip in this region, the merchants from Shikarpur in Sindh feared that their wealth would be confiscated and asked him for assistance in transferring to India some two million rubles. Small, but very wealthy Indic mercantile communities were the norm in this region p. 155, .
Many of the inhabitants of the Indian mercantile diaspora in the early medieval times originated from Multan. Multani traders again comprised of both Hindus and Muslims p. 101. , but owing to the numerical superiority of the Hindus among the Multani traders, the term Multani became the general name for a Hindu in Central Asia and Persia (as per the eighteenth century lexicon, Bahar-i-Ajam) pp. 97-98, . Many of the traders from Multan were Khatris. Jean de Thevenot, who travelled in India between 1665-1667, has recorded that “at Multan there is another sort of gentiles whom they call Catry. That town is properly their country and from thence they spread all over the Indies. " p. 106,  Levi has noted "because of the Khatris' increasingly important role in India's transregional trade under the Mughal empire, partly as a result of Mughal patronage, it seems reasonable to suggest that many of the Multanis and the Banias referred to in the historical sources can more specifically be characterized as Khatris " pp. 106-107, .
Khatris have been reported to be present, and highly involved in Northwest India’s trans-regional commerce throughout Afghanistan and Central Asia in the late 17th up to the early twentieth century p. 107, . For example, in the early 20th century the economic historian LC Jain has noted that the Aroras, a sub caste of Khatris, were known to "control the finances of much of the commerce of India with central Asia, Afghanistan and Tibet " p. 107, . The British ethnographer Ibbetson has also observed that the Aurora-Khatris were centered in Multan and Derajat and were involved in business throughout Afghanistan and Central Asia p. 107, . In mid 19th century, George Campbell has noted that the Khatris had monopolized the trade of the Punjab and the greater part of Afghanistan. They were present all over Eastern Afghanistan and were the only Hindus known in Central Asia. They were the chief civil administrators of Punjab and had almost all the literate work in their hands. Even under the Muslim rulers in the west they had risen to high administrative post. No village in Punjab and large parts of Afghanistan could get on without the Khatri who kept the account, did the banking business, and bought and sold the grain. p. 107,  Marwaris arrived in Central Asia somewhat later than the Khatris. Farah Abidin has noted that `` the work Sharaf-nama-i-Shahi mentions that a large number of Indian merchants from North India and Bengal were involved in the trading Enterprises of this region’’ loc. 1924, . She has also documented that ``The most important among the Indian merchants groups who traded overland through Kabul in Iran and Turan in the 16th and 17th century, were the Multani and Gujarati baniyas, Afghans and Marwaris. It is evident from the sources that thousands of merchants from Mughal India resided semi-permanently in Iran and Turan.. .. it is conceivable that nearly all the Hindus (Multanis) trading in Iran, Turan and Russia were Punjabi Khatris... Another merchant group who trade in this region in the 18th century was Jain baniyas, they were not multanis but were Marwaris, the natives of Marwar areas of Rajasthan.’’ Loc. 2288 – 2308, 
Indeed, Marwaris were active in the Indian mercantile diaspora in Central Asia from the late seventeenth century, they began to appear in Astrakhan and Central Asia in larger numbers from the early 18th century p. 108. Late 18th and 19th century documents show presence of a substantial number of Marwaris in Central Asia, many of them came from Jaisalmer and likely practiced the Jain religion pp. 109-110. Dale has located Marwari Jain Oswals in 17th-century astrakhan p. 108, . In nineteenth century Bhatias, originally from Sindh, were present in Kabul, Bukhara and traveled up to Arabia p. 110, .
This Indic mercantile diaspora played a two-fold role in the export of (primarily Hindu) slaves to Afghanistan and Central Asia: 1) direct export and sale 2) financing the operations. It is possibly both, but we believe that their prominent role was in financing.
- Babur has written that caravans of ten, fifteen or twenty thousand heads of houses used to come from Hindustan bringing in slaves and other commodities to Kabul location 2388, . During Babur’s time, the mercantile community in India was largely Indic. So many of the houses he is referring to would be those of the Indic merchants. Thus, in other words, Indic merchants were exporting caravans full of (primarily Indic) slaves to Central Asia.
- In 1558 Anthony Jenkinson has noted that Indian (and Iranian) merchants who visited Bukhara commonly exported slaves to the Bukharan slave market p. 67, . Further, in , it has been noted that Indian traders often sold silk (raw and manufactured) and horses in the Russian empire in the middle of the 16th century, which they had likely purchased in exchange for slaves in Kabul, Astrakhan or Bukhara. Indian slaves were sold in numbers in Bukhara and Astrakhan , p. 79, .
- In his book on Afghan history, Gulzad has written that ``Afghanistan's external trade was dominated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Armenians. However with the decline of overland trade these communities diversified their professions. The Hindus and Sikhs, aside from trade, monopolized banking, goldsmithing and horticulture. Bankers from these communities rose to prominence in the Durrani empire [18th century]. Originally they were [mostly Hindu] merchants from Shikarpoor [Sind] who had financed several of Ahmad Shah's [Ahmad Shah Abdali] military campaigns. In return they had received a percentage of the captured booty. In some instances this booty was left under their management. They, in turn, often sold the booty and put the money for the loot back into circulation.’’ p 24 . Ahmad Shah’s booty comprised of several enslaved Hindus and Sikhs of Punjab, Delhi, Mathura and Brindaban pp. 142-144, . Thus, Indic merchants certainly engaged in direct sale of Indic slaves in Central Asia.
- As to the financing, Scott C. Levi has written that ``For nearly four centuries [sixteenth to early twentieth] lines of credit stretched from the great financial houses of Northwest India, through tens of thousands of Gumashtas, to ruling elites, village industrialists, agriculturalists, transregional traders, retail merchants, and other groups [in Central Asia] in need of capital.’’ p 179,  Export of Indic slaves consisted of an important component of the trans-regional trade. Farah Abedin has documented, ``A great part of the trade conducted with India via the Bolan pass and Jalalabad was controlled by Hindu merchants and bankers. The center for their financial exchange was Shikarpur on the Indus, a small entrepot at the Eastern entrance of the Bolan Pass location’’ Loc. 2318  The route between India and Jalalabad through the Bolan Pass lay on the Southern trade route for transnational trade between India and Central Asia, this is the route the caravans carrying slaves and other commodities would take. We also know that the Afghan Muslim Lohani merchants led caravans from Punjab and Sindh to Central Asia. The Lohanis were connected to the Pashto tribes whose territories the caravans had to cross on their way between the Punjab and Sindh and Kabul. Their massive presence mostly ensured safe passage for the Caravans, provided the duties were paid to the various tribal chiefs. The Shikarpuri merchants likely funded the Lohanis, the duo shared a symbiotic relationship p. 66, . Also, note that the upper layer of Shikarpuri Merchants residing in the major towns of Central Asia, such as Bukhara and Khokand, provided credit to the Central Asian traders buying the Indian goods brought by the caravans p 83,  Indic slaves comprised an important component of the caravan trade. Any event, the Indic mercantile diaspora in Afghanistan and Central Asia was heavily involved in financing and usury. The merchant-money lenders of the Indian diaspora in Central Asia emerged from heavily capitalized financial organizations, or family firms, largely centered in the Multan and Marwar regions of Northern India p. 183,  In 1676 Tavernier reported that "Multan is the place from whence all the banyans migrate who come to trade in Persia, where they follow the same occupation as the Jews… And they surpass them in their usury." p. 106, . In the late nineteenth century, Swedish archaeologist Sven Hedin has noted that in a particular caravanserai in Kashghar the "principal inhabitants were half a score Hindus from Shikarpur, their chief business was money-lending... " p 157,  Even as late as early 20th century, Danish geographer Olfusen noted that the Hindu merchants were dominant elements in the money-lending industry in Bukhara and `their usurious operations were said to extend even to the Bokharan villages’ p. 154, .
In hindsight, it is not surprising that Indic merchants would finance the trade of Indic slaves in Central Asia and Afghnistan, or even export and sell them directly. They, primarily those from Gujarat and Sindh, heavily financed the trade of African slaves, and transferred them to different parts of the world in the ships they owned . It is also known that as part of debt collection, the Shikarpuri merchants used to seize the women and children of Uighur peasants as sureties p. 95, . Would they treat Indic slaves any different from African slaves, owing to common bonds of national origin and religious persuasion? Unlikely, because of their extreme clannishness, they did not view the lowly slaves who invariably emerged from less privileged social groups as their people; unlikely, also because they commodified and monetized all values, land and people . To reinforce the same, peruse the following account narrated by Pedro Machado: `` Portuguese authorities expressed mounting concern over the use (and ``conversion’’) of African slaves by Muslims on Mozambique island. Indeed, `` Arab’’ and Swahili merchants were regarded as owning and trading slaves by the 1720s to a degree that the Portuguese considered alarming. Islam was perceived as a menacing threat to the European presence on the coast because of the belief that any growth in the number of slaves in Muslim hands would enlarge the general population of Muslims in East Africa. Official rhetoric stressing the ``nefarious’’ influence of Islam on the African population actually disguised a fear of Muslim commercial competition that led to Portuguese attempts over the course of the century to curb this merchants’ ownership of, and trade in, African slaves. It was in this environment of general and innate distrust of non-Christian that the Portuguese published a proclamation in the early 1740s extending prohibition against Muslim ownership of slaves to ``Hindu’’ merchants. In protest, and reflecting the extent to which the slaves had become integral to their labour requirements in the territory in the first half of the 18th century, [Gujarati] Vaniyas drafted a petition which demanded that they be allowed to trade and own slaves. ``As they have until the present, to make use of them while they [Vaniyas] are on [Mozambique] island’’. They argued that, as ``Hinduism’’ was not a proselytising religion and their ``inviolable laws’’ did not allow them to convert Africans, the prohibition should not apply to them. They added, moreover, that they allowed their slaves to be baptised and encouraged them to attend Catholic church services on the island regularly.’’ loc. 6661-6672,  So, the Muslims converted non-Muslim slaves to Islam, the Christian Europeans and Americans converted the non-Christian slaves to Christianity. But, Indic merchants owned and traded in non-Hindu slaves alright, just did not convert the Hindu slaves to their religion; they converted them (the African slaves who likely earlier followed their native religion) to Christianity, just so that they would be allowed to own and trade in those slaves. This was their commitment to humanity (trading slaves) and their religion (not converting the slaves they owned).
Section E: How Indic merchants lacked a sense of nationhood that was widely prevalent in their contemporary India
Worldwide, slavery has been endemic since the ancient times, but the worst of slaveers typically provided some protection to their civilizational or co-religionist compatriots from this human atrocity. Prisoners of war, civilians of enemy lands, defaulting peasants, specific raids in foreign (especially infidel) regions to capture slaves were the principal means by which the slaves were acquired. For instance, the slaves were usually acquired from foreign nations in almost all big slave holding societies, from the Roman times. The Arab empire routinely acquired Turkish, Christian, Indian and Caucasian slaves. Enslavement of locals was far less prevalent. Further, almost all medieval empires went out of their way to manumit or obtain the release of their co-religionists from slavery. For instance, Russia usually freed Orthodox slaves and did not extradite them back to the Central Asian Khanates (Nogays, Kalmyks, etc), while they had no such qualms about the Muslims or the Catholics. p. 85, . Similarly, the Ottoman Empire which bought huge numbers of Polish and Russian slaves p. 84, , did not extend this system in Sunni Arabia or Egypt, which it conquered during the same period. The Bukharans did not mind selling the Persian Zoroastrians and Shias as slaves, but did not practise the same on the Sunnis pp. 101-102, . In general, slaves sold were either a) infidels or b) foreigners or both. Enslavement of co-religionist compatriots was not usually practised.
However, in the case of India, Indic merchants facilitated the enslavement and human trafficking of Indians (mostly Indics, but also a few Muslims, especially tribal prisoners of war) conducted under the auspices of the Muslim and European rulers. This suggests that Indic merchants lacked a sense of shared nationhood with other Indics, barring their narrow caste groups. The question that remains is whether this is manifest of the lack of Indian nationhood in the prevailing Indic society, or of mercantile insularity. We argue that it is the latter, as the sense of nationhood was quite well developed in India from the era before Christ, despite the lack of political union.
We start with the definitions of a nation. BN Mukherjee has written ``The term 'nation' may denote a people or groups of ethnic elements tied together by a type of common cultural consciousness or by a linkage of certain cultural features and/or political homogeneity and living (or having its or their major part living) in a given territory (permanently, or at least with a fixed periodicity in case of having the habit of seasonal migration). Thus, unlike a so-called "nation-state", where political homogeneity (under a central government in a defined or augmenting territory) is a prerequisite, a people or groups of ethnic elements may be considered to have attained the nation-hood if they have cultural links amongst or between them and if their habitat is well-defined. Here political unity under a central government is not an essential factor.’’ p. 1, . Abhas Chatterjee contends that a nation is but defined by its cultural ethos: ``a nation never means a land as such. A nation indicates a group or a community of people which has been traditionally living in a particular land, which has its own distinctive culture, and which has an identity separate from other peoples of the world by virtue of the distinctiveness of its culture. The cultural distinctiveness of a nation may be based on its race, or religion, or language, or a combination of some or all of these factors, but all-in-all there has to be a distinct culture which will mark the nation out from peoples belonging to other lands. Third, there may be internal differences in several respects among the people belonging to this culture, but in spite of these differences there is an overall sense of harmony born out of the fundamental elements of their culture, and a sense of pride which inspires in them a desire to maintain their separate identity from the rest of the world. Finally, as a result of these factors, this group of people has its own outlook towards the history of its traditional homeland; it has its own heroes and villains, its own view of glory and shame, success and failure, victory and defeat.’’ p. 3, . Carlton Hayes defines nationalism as ``A nationality receives its impress, its character, its individuality from cultural and historical forces.’’ p. 3,  and ``historical tradition means an accumulation of remembered or imagined experiences of the past’’ p. 4, , . Further, Hayes writes that ``If we are to grasp what a nationality is, we must avoid confusing it with state or nation.’’ p. 6,  and, ``Cultural nationalism may exist with or without political nationalism. For, nationalities can do and exist for fairly long periods without political unity and independence.” p. 6, , . Hans Kohn pointed out in his book  that Asian nationalism was cultural and points out that even German and Italian nationhood had a vigorous cultural and intellectual movement preceding the actual nations, .
BN Mukherjee points out that India (current Indian subcontinent) always had a geographical and cultural unity, despite the lack of a single political entity throughout. He writes that the India is geographically clearly delineated from the rest of the world, pointing out that, ``It appears that space, no less than time, is a prerequisite for the development of a nation's ethos. Well defined boundaries are conducive to the growth of a country's geo-cultural personality. Here the Indian subcontinent had an initial advantage. It is one of the few continental zones of the world each of which has been formed by nature as a geographical unit. On the north it is bounded by the Himalayas, on the west by inter alia parts of the Hindu-Kush, Safed Koh, Sulaiman, Brahui, Pab, Kirthar and other ranges, on the east by inter alia the Patkai, Naga, Lushai and Chin Hills, and on the south, south-east and south-west by the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. In spite of natural barriers in internal communications, the subcontinent is an indivisible geographical entity. L. Dudley Stamp was probably not wrong when he remarked that "there is perhaps no mainland part of the world better marked off by nature as a region or 'realm' by itself than the Indian subcontinent."’’ p. 2, .
The geographical unity of India has been remarked on by many commentators, both Indian and non-Indian. Starting with the foreign chroniclers, Megasthenes mentioned `Indoi’ (India) which included the southern and eastern parts of India, while the geographical unity of India is remarked on by Eratosthenes and Petrocles p. 3-4, . Xuen Xang’s description of India as ranging from `Lanpo’ (Lampaka) to beyond Kamarupa to the boundaries of the south-west barbarians in Yunnan. p. 8, . The geographical and cultural unity of India has been remarked by Abul Fazl, and Babur too, with the boundaries in harmony with those mentioned by Megasthenes and Xuen Xang.
Reverting to Indic literature, starting from the early ADs, the name Bharatavarsha came to signify the whole of the subcontinent. The Natyasastra, written in the third century AD, or earlier, used this name to denote (almost) the whole of the Indian subcontinent. The Puranic authors described Bharatavarsha as situated to the north of the sea and to the south of the Himalayas. Puranic verses, (slokas) meant for daily recital, vividly demonstrate cultural unity, by invoking the seven holy rivers which flow through different parts of the country, eg, Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri, to be present in the water used for a ritualistic practice pp. 5-6, , . Every Purana text contains a section called Bhuvan Kosh, in which the boundaries of the land called Bharatavarsha are clearly defined and its progeny is denoted by a common name Bharati. A list of all the Janapadas scattered all over the country is provided with the lists of rivers and mountains. A list of “punyasthan” or tirthas, which cover the whole land, are explicitly given in the Puranas as well as Mahabharata. Vishnupurana asserts that it is only in Bharata that one can attain moksha. Bhishma Parva gives a long list of kings who loved the land, alongside the description of Bharatavarsha. The final version of Manusmriti includes the whole of the Bharata in its definition of `Aryavarta’ .
Thus, it is clear that a sense of nationhood existed among Hindus and India as a whole was considered their nation. This is why during the Muslim rule, the Sikhs, and Jats would, without discriminating about the region of the origin of the slaves within India, make the most desperate attempts on invaders like Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali to free the slaves who were being taken to Persia and Afghanistan. p. xxii, . This is also why respectable Rajputs of Awadh would ostracise those who enslaved Indics and sold them to Islamist conquerors and slave merchants. pp. 64-84,  (the Rajput collaborators like the Jaipur royals obviously had a different mindset as pointed out earlier). It has been recorded that in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the Sikh territories of current North West Pakistan, like Multan and Dera, the Hindus and Sikhs paid a duty on the import of silk which was half that paid by the Muslim Afghans and the sales tax which was only one fourth p. 67, 
It was only during the colonial times the concept that India did not exist as a nation before the advent of the British was seeded in accordance with the mission of cultural colonization. Yet, even John Seeley, the English author who wrote that India had no strong nationhood , was forced to concede that, ``Now religion seems to me to be the strongest and most important of all the elements which go to constitute nationality, and this element exists in India” p. 15, .
Thus, the mercantile class, by and large, constituted an exception among the Indics in lacking a sense of nationhood, and many therein collaborated with the British – it is perhaps natural to ponder if the idea of denying India her ancient nationhood occurred to the British after observing the behaviour of the mercantile class.
Section F: Indic mercantile dominance of slave economy of Islamic states outside India
Indic merchants controlled the economy of Musqat in Uman, a major center of trade of African slaves. They enjoyed close connection with the Muslim rulers of Masqat and influenced many of the policies of the Islamic state there. S. B. Miles reported the ruins of Hindu temple at Qalhat, the principal Umani port of the fifteenth century. The argument for fifteenth century settlement of Indic merchants in Musqat is supported is supported further by de Albuquerque's report that Hindu merchants from Gujarat escaped from Khyr Fakkan, a secondary port on the Shimiliya coast of Northern Uman, before he sacked that town in 1507 p. 60, . Calvin H. Allen has written that ``Oral traditions of the Indian merchant community in Musqat allege that these Sindis were the first ‘Banians’ to settle in Musqat and add that they were Bhattis (Bhattiya). Sindi Bhattias apparently thrived under the Portuguese rulers of Musqat. The Umani Chroniclers Ibn Ruzyaq and Al-salimi both report that a Banian 'worshipper of the cow' acted as supply agent for the Portuguese garrison at Musqat, and the Portuguese Commander seems to have accepted advice freely from his agent. However, the Banian eventually became dissatisfied with the Portuguese, especially as the commander wished to marry his daughter, and helped the Yaariba ruler of Uman expel the Europeans from Musqat in 1650. Bhattia support for the Yaariba proved to be very beneficial for the Banians. The community was exempted from paying the poll tax (Jizya) and permission was granted for the construction of a temple. ….The Hindu Community was not affected adversely by the civil war which established the Al Bu Said dynasty in the 1740s, and it continued to prosper under Ahmad b. Said (1743 - 82). In January 1765 the Danish explorer Carsten Niebuhr spent two weeks at Musqat and has left the following description of the Banian community: "In no other Mahometan city are the Banians so numerous as in Mascat; their number in this city amounts to no fewer than 1200. They are permitted to live agreeably to their own laws, to bring their wives hither, to set up idols in their chambers, and to burn their dead." p. 61, . The Indic mercantile influence on the oppressive Islamic state of Musqat was so significant that they were even allowed to found four Hindu places of worship pp. 61-62, .
In 1836 the Arabian traveler J. R. Wellsted described the Hindu community of Musqat, Uman, as constituting 'a body of the principal merchants' of that port p. 59,  Kutchi Bhattias dominated the trade and economic affairs of the port of Musqat, expanding their control in two stages, separated by Said b. Sultan's transfer of his residence to Zanzibar after 1830. A few Kutchi Bhattias rose to prominence in the service of the commercially mind Sayyid Said. p. 64,  Family legend claims that Gopal's (Mawji Bhimani) great-grandfather was the first Bhimani to trade in Musqat late in the 18th century. In time, the family founded a business in Musqat, and Gopal Bhimani began to play an active role in Masqati politics. Gopal was among the Banians who encouraged Said b. Sultan to conquer Zanzibar p. 65,  Once settled in Zanzibar, Said b. Sultan started selling slaves and cloves p. 65,  . During his extended absences in East Africa he delegated most of Masqat's commercial affairs in the hands of resident Bhattias. Both the treasurer and chief customs official were Kutchi Bhattias, and it was likely at this time that the practice of farming the Musqati customs was instituted, and the Kutchis began to pour into this port. By 1840 the Banian population had reached 2000, and, as stated by Wellsted, the community had become the principal economic power in Musqat. The Kutchi Bhattias flourished in Musqat during the reign of Thuwayni b. Said (1865-68). They continued to control the treasury and customs house, and accrued the profits that had earlier filled the coffers of the ruling family. pp. 65-66, . By the 1870s the Indian merchants dominated the commercial life of Musqat and had replaced the Al Bu Said rulers of the town at the paramount economic power in Uman p. 59,  Most of them lived and worked in Musqat within the walled portion of the city and close to the Sultan's Palace p. 67, . The Hindus celebrated their religious festivals, such as New Year (Divali), with social gatherings and dinner parties. Typically a dish of the best food would be taken to the Sultan. Banians were also invited to the palace on special occasions, although they would not eat the food prepared by the ruler's non-Hindu cooks. p. 68, 
The Banians were the leading bankers of Musqat and in due course came to own large land holdings there due to mortgage foreclosures p. 68, [142For example, early in the 1880s Shet Ratansi Purshottam Purecha began to acquire land along the waterfront of Muscat and eventually came to own all the waterfront property with the exception of the palace, customs house and British political agency. This was only one of the many parcels of land that he came to own, and by the end of the 19th century he and his Banian colleagues owned bulk of the best property in Musqat and Matrah..
During the late 19th century, Shet Ratansi became a leading arms merchant. He dealt with the London firm Schwarte and Hammer and the Hamburg arms dealer Moritz Magnus, and was active in exporting dates to the United States through the New York Forum of William hills (now a subsidiary of Nabisco). pp. 67-68, . The leading bankers of a major slave economy would inevitably fund the slave trade.
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