The practice of sati seems to have spread widely, and was even made
obligatory by some writers. It appears that with the growth of the practice of
large numbers of women being maintained by the feudal chiefs, and with the
resultant disputes about property, there was a tendency for the rite of sati to
spread particularly among the higher varnas.
Education and Learning
The attitude of the learned classes of north India became increasingly rigid
during this period. They tended to repeat by rote the past learning, instead of
putting forward and welcoming new ideas. They also tended to isolate
themselves from the main currents of scientific thought outside India. This is
reflected in the writings of al-Beruni, a noted scientist and scholar from
Central Asia who lived in India at Mahmud Ghazni’s court. Although a great
admirer of Indian sciences and learning, he also noted the insular attitude of
the learned people of the country, viz. the Brahmins. The attitude of trying to
confine knowledge among a very narrow group, and of taking an arrogant
attitude towards new ideas, from whichever source they might come, was
largely responsible for making India backward. In course of time, India had
to pay a very heavy price for its backwardness.
Religious Developments
Both Buddhism and Jainism continued to decline during the period. It was
during this period that Buddhism almost disappeared from the land of its
birth after the fall of the Palas. At the same time, there was a marked revival
and expansion of Hinduism. This took many forms, the most important being
the growing popularity of Siva and Vishnu. A number of popular movements
arose around the worship of these gods, while at the intellectual level, the
tenets of Buddhism and Jainism were challenged. In due course, Siva and
Vishnu became the chief gods, and the worship of the Sun, Brahma, etc.
declined in popularity. In eastern India, a new form of worship arose. This
was the worship of Sakti, or the worship of the female principle as the cause
of creation. Thus, the Hindus began to worship Durga, Kali, etc. who were
associated with Siva, and the Buddhists worshipped Taras as the consorts of
the Buddhas.