During the most violent onslaughts, many Hindus were killed. Temples were destroyed and mosques built atop ruins. In time, though, relations became more peaceful.

Hindu-Muslim Differences

The Muslim advance brought two utterly different religions and cultures face to face. Hinduism was an ancient religion that had evolved over thousands of years. Hindus recognized many sacred texts and prayed before statues representing many gods and goddesses. They believed these statues represented various forms of the Absolute, or God. Islam, by contrast, was a newer faith with a single sacred text. Muslims were devout monotheists who saw the statues and carvings in Hindu temples as an offense to their belief in one God.

Illustration of a family with adults and children celebrating around an altar decorated with an elephant humanoid figure, urns and jewels. A man is holding out a plate with a flame and small offerings, and walls are decorated with hangings of other religious figures.

Hindu worshippers leave offerings at a home altar for the elephant-headed god Ganesh. Hindus call Ganesh the god of beginnings. He is also known as “Lord of the People.”

Hindus accepted differences in caste status and honored Brahmins as a priestly caste. Muslims taught the equality of all believers before God and had no religious hierarchy. Hindus celebrated religious occasions with music and dance, a practice condemned by many strict Muslims.

Tolerance Grows

Eventually, the Delhi sultans grew more tolerant of their Hindu subjects. Some Muslim scholars argued that behind the many Hindu gods and goddesses was a single god. Hinduism was thus accepted as a monotheistic religion. As a protected subject group, Hindus were allowed to practice their religion as long as they paid a poll tax. Some sultans even left rajahs, or local Hindu rulers, in place.

Cultural Sharing

Indian converts to Islam kept many Hindu traditions, especially marriage customs and caste. Living side by side, Hindus and Muslims developed a common life.

Hindus and Muslims came to honor each other's saints. Muslims adopted many Hindu practices, including clothing, food, music, and dance. At the same time, the Muslim custom of secluding women was adopted by Hindus.

In response to the spread of Islam, conservative Hindus strengthened some practices, especially caste rules. In the centuries after the arrival of Islam, the Hindu caste system became more rigid. Muslims in India also became divided on the basis of caste.

Illustration of a mustachioed man riding an elephant, holding a bow and arrow in a forested setting. Arrow is aimed at a wild beast, which is biting the chained leg of the elephant.

Rajas in India often used specially trained elephants to hunt game. Muslim rulers adopted this form of hunting as well.

Finally, cultural blending led to a new language, Urdu, which combined Persian and Arabic with the Indian language spoken in Delhi. Artistic styles, too, changed as local Indian artisans applied Persian styles to Indian subjects.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments