History of India, Volume IX

About this text

Introductory notes

The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians is a collection of translations of medieval Persian chronicles initiated by H.M. (Henry Miers) Elliot, and extended and edited by John Dowson. The work was published as a set of eight volumes between 1867-1877 in London by Trübner & Co. The work was re-issued several times subsequently. The edition used for the current selection is that printed by the Grolier Society in London, 1907. Selections have been made from Volumes V and IX . Excerpts have been transcribed from chapters giving an account of Emperor Akbar as described by Badauni, an account of India by the Greek writer Strabo and Chinese-Buddhist pilgrim Huang Tsang, a description of the great Mogul by Sir Thomas Roe and a description of Bengal by Francois Pyrard. Primary Sources: Elliot, H. M. (Henry Miers), Sir; Ed. John Dowson (1871). The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians. The Muhammadan Period. London : Trübner & Co. Suggested Reading: HAKLUYT, RICIIARD. The Princi'pall Navigations. 12 vols. Glasgow, 1903-5.


Edited BY A. V. WILLIAMS JACKSON, Ph.D.,LL.D. Professor of lndo-Iranian Languages in Columbia University VOLUME IX Historic Accounts of India by Foreign Travellers Classic, Oriental, and Occidental Collected and arranged by A. V. WILLIAMS JACKSON Professor of Indo-lranian Languages in Columbia University LONDON THE GROLIER SOCIETY PUBLISHERS

[View of the River Hugli at Calcutta]
[Page 1]


[Page 5]

The whole of India is watered by rivers, some of which empty themselves into the two largest, the Indus and the Ganges; others discharge themselves into the sea by their own mouths. But all of them have their sources in the Caucasus. At their commencement their course is toward the south; some of them continue to flow in the same direction, particularly those which unite with the Indus; others turn to the east, as the Ganges. This, the largest of the Indian rivers, descends from the mountainous country, and when it reaches the plains, turns to the east, then flowing past Palibothra, a Yery large city, it proceeds onward to the sea in that quarter, and discharges its waters by a single mouth. The Indus falls into the Southern Sea, and empties itself by two mouths, encompassing the [Page 6] country called Patalene, which resembles the Delta of Egypt. By the exhalation of vapours from such vast rivers, and by the Etesian winds, as Eratosthenes affirms, India is watered by summer rains, and the plains are inundated

[Page 10]

The account of Onesikritos confirms the facts of the rising of the rivers and of the absence of land breezes. He says that the seashore is swampy, particularly near the mouths of rivers, on account of the mud, tides, and the force of the winds blowing from the sea.

Megasthenes also indicates the fertility of India by the circumstance of the soil producing fruits and grain twice a year. Eratosthenes relates the same facts, for he speaks of a winter and a summer sowing, and of the rain at the same seasons. For, according to him, there is no year which is without rain at both those periods, whence ensues great abundance, the ground never failing to bear crops.

An abundance of fruit is produced by trees; and the roots of plants, particularly of large reeds, possess a sweetness which they have by nature and by coction; for the water, both from rains and rivers, is warmed by the sun's rays. The meaning of Eratosthenes seems to be this, that what among other nations is called the ripening of fruits and juices, is called among these coction, and it contributes as much to produce an agreeable flavour as the coction by fire. To this is attributed the flexibility of the branches of trees, from which wheels of carriages are made, and to the same cause is imputed the growth of wool (i. e. cotton) upon some trees. Nearchos says that their fine clothes were made of this wool, and that the Macedonians used it for mattresses and the stuffing of saddles. The Serika (silks) [Page 11] are also of a similar kind and are made of carded byssos (or fibre), which is obtained from some sort of bark of plants. Nearchos states that reeds yield honey, although there are no bees, and that there is a tree from the fruit of which honey is procured, but that the fruit eaten fresh causes intoxication.

India produces many singular trees. There is one whose branches incline downwards, and whose leaves are not less in size than a shield. Onesikritos, describ [Page 12] ing minutely the country of Mousikanos, which he says is the most southerly part of India, relates that there are some large trees [the banyan] the branches of which extend to the length even of twelve cubits. They then grow downwards, as though bent (by force), till they touch the. earth, where they penetrate and take root like layers. They next shoot upwards and form a trunk. They again grow as we have described, bending downwards, and implanting one layer after another, and in the above order, so that one tree forms a long shady roof, like a tent supported by many pillars. In speaking of the size of the trees, he says their trunks could scarcely be clasped by five men.

[Page 13]

Both Aristoboulos and other writers relate that India produces many medicinal drugs and roots, both of a salutary and noxious quality, and dyes yielding a variety of colours. He adds that, by a law, any person discovering a deadly substance is punished with death unless he also discover the antidote; in case he discovers the antidote, he is rewarded by the king.

Southern India, like Arabia and Ethiopia, produces cinnamon, nard, and other aromatics. It resembles these countries as regards the effect of the sun's rays, but it surpasses them in having a copious supply of water, whence the atmosphere is humid, and on this account more conducive to fertility and fecundity; and this applies to the earth and to the water, hence those animals which inhabit both one and the other are of a larger size than are found in other countries.

[Page 27]


The following are their peculiarities. They have a kind of Lacedaemonian common meal, where they eat in public. Their food consists of what is taken in the chase. They make no use of gold or silver, although they have mines of these metals. Instead of slaves, they employ youths in the flower of their age, as the Kretans employ the Aphamiotai, and the Lacedaemonians the Helots. They study no science with attention except that of medicine ; for they consider the excessive pursuit of some arts, as that of war and the like, to be committing evil. There is no process at law except against murder and outrage, for it is not in a person's own power to escape either one or the other; but as contracts are in the power of each individual, he must endure the wrong, if good faith is violated by another; for a man should be cautious whom he trusts, and not disturb the city with constant lawsuits.

[Page 29]


The entire country on the other side of the Hypanis is said to be very fertile, but we have no accurate knowledge of it. Both because of ignorance and owing to its remote situation, everything relative to it is exag gerated or partakes of the wonderful. As, for example, the stories of myrmekes, or ants, which dig up gold; of animals and men with peculiar shapes, and possessing extraordinary faculties; of the longevity of the Seres, whose lives exceed the age of two hundred years. They speak also of an aristocratic form of government, consisting of five hundred counsellors, each of whom furnishes the state with an elephant.

[Page 32]

The manner of hunting the elephant is as follows: a deep ditch is dug around a bare spot, about four or five stadia in extent, and at the place of entrance a very narrow bridge is constructed. Into the enclosure three or four of the tamest female elephants are driven. The men themselves lie in wait under cover of concealed huts. The wild elephants do not approach the stockade by day, but at night they enter the enclosure one by one; when they have passed the entrance, the men secretly close it. They then introduce the strongest of the tame combatants, the drivers of which engage with the wild animals and also wear them out by starving them; when the latter become exhausted by fatigue, [Page 33] the boldest of the drivers gets down unobserved and creeps under the belly of his own elephant. From this position he creeps beneath the belly of the wild elephant and ties his legs together; when this is done, a signal is given to the tame elephants to beat those which are tied by the legs, till they fall to the ground. After they have fallen down, they fasten the wild and tame elephants together by the neck with thongs of raw hide, and, in order that they may not be able to shake off those who are attempting to mount them, the men make cuts in the neck and put thongs of leather into these incisions, so that they submit to their bonds through pain, and therefore remain quiet.

[Page 121]


[Page 125]

The country embraced under the term India is generally spoken of as the Five Indies. In circuit this country is about ninety thousand li (about 30,000 miles); on three sides it is bordered by the great seas; on the north it is backed by the Snowy Mountains. The northern part is broad, the southern part is narrow. Its shape is like the half-moon. The entire land is divided into more than seventy countries. The seasons are particularly hot; the land is well watered and moist. On the north there is a series of mountains and hills, the ground being dry and salt. On the east there are valleys and plains, which are fruitful and productive, as they are well watered and cultivated. In the southern part there is an abundance of herbs and trees; in the western part the land is barren and stony.

[Page 127]

The year, again, is divided into six seasons. From the sixteenth day of the first month till the fifteenth day of the third month is the season of gradual heat (literally it becomes gradually hot); from the sixteenth day of the third month till the fifteenth of the fifth month is called the season of full heat (literally, it is very hot); from the sixteenth day of the fifth month till the fifteenth day of the seventh month is called the rainy season; from the sixteenth of the seventh month till the fifteenth of the ninth month is called the season of growth (of vegetation); from the sixteenth day of the ninth month to the fifteenth day of the eleventh month is called the season of gradual cold (literally,the season gradually becomes cold); from the sixteenth day of the eleventh month to the fifteenth day of the first month is called the season of great cold.

[Page 128]

According to the sacred doctrine of the Tathagata (Buddha), the year has three seasons. From the sixteenth day of the first month till the fifteenth day of the fifth month is called the hot season; from the sixteenth day of the fifth month till the fifteenth of the ninth month is called the rainy season: from the sixteenth day of the ninth month to the fifteenth day of the first month is called the cold season. Sometimes the year is divided into four seasons— spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The three spring months are called Chi-ta-lo (Sanskrit Chaitra) month, Fei-sJie-kie (Sanskrit Vaisakha) month, She-se-cha (Sanskrit [Page 129] Jyeshtha) month; these correspond with the time from the sixteenth day of the last month to the fifteenth day of the fourth month. The three summer months are called An-sha-cha (Sanskrit Ashddha) month, Chi-lofa na (Sanskrit Sravana) month, Po-ta-lo-pa-to (Sanskrit Bhddrapada) month; these correspond to the time from the sixteenth day of the fourth month to the fifteenth day of the seventh month. The three autumn months are called An-shi-fo-ku-che (Sanskrit Asvayuja) month, Kia-li-ta-ka (Sanskrit Kdrtika) month, Wi-kia-chi-lo (Sanskrit Mdrgaslrsha) month; these correspond to the time from the sixteenth day of the seventh month to the fifteenth day of the tenth month. The three months of winter are called Po-sha (Sanskrit Pushya) month, Ma-ku (Sanskrit Mdgha) month, and Po-li-kiu-na (Sanskrit Phdlguna) month; these correspond with the time from the sixteenth day of the tenth month to the fifteenth day of the first month in China. Therefore the Buddhist priests in India, following the holy teaching of the Buddha, observe two periods of Retreat during the rainy season, these being either the former three months or the latter three months. The former three months correspond to the period from the sixteenth day of the fifth month to the fifteenth day of the eighth month, and the latter correspond to the period from the sixteenth day of the sixth month to the fifteenth day of the ninth month. Ancient translators of the Sutras (Chinese King) and the Vinaya (Chinese Liu) employed the terms tso-Jiia (keeping summer) and tso-la-hia (keep [Page 130] ing the end of winter) to signify the retreat during the rainy season; but this was because the people of foreign countries did not understand the exact sounds of the language of the Middle Country (of India), because the local dialects do not agree, and the translations therefore contain errors. And for the same reason there are discrepancies regarding the time of Buddha's conception, birth, renunciation, enlightenment, and Nirvana, which we shall notice in the subsequent records.

[Page 149]


The old and infirm who are approaching death, or those who are suffering from some incurable disease, who fear to linger to the end of their days, and through disgust at life wish to escape from its troubles, or those who, condemning mortal existence, desire release from the affairs of the world and its concerns—these persons, after receiving a farewell meal at the hands of their relatives and friends, they place, amid the sounds of music, on a boat which they propel into the midst of the Ganges, and there these persons drown themselves. They think in this way to secure a birth in Heaven. Hardly one out of ten will not carry out his foolish idea. The Buddhist brethren are not allowed to lament or weep for the dead; when the father or mother of a monk dies, they recite prayers, recounting their obligations to them and recalling the past, and they carefully attend to them being now dead. They expect by this to increase the happiness of the departed. As the administration of the government is founded on benign principles, the executive is simple. The fam [Page 150] ilies are not entered on registers, and the people are not subject to forced labour contribution. The private demesnes of the crown are divided into four principal parts; the first is for carrying out the affairs of state and providing sacrificial offerings; the second is for the endowment of the ministers and chief officers of state; the third is for rewarding men of distinguished intelligence, learning, or ability; and the fourth is for charity to religious bodies, whereby the field of merit is cultivated (planted). In this way the taxes on the people are light, and the personal service required of them is moderate. Each one keeps his hereditary occupation as he pleases and attends to his patrimony.

Those who cultivate the royal estates pay a sixth part of the produce as rent. The merchants who engage in commerce come and go in carrying out their transactions. The river-passages and the road-barriers are open on payment of a small toll. When the public works require it, labour is exacted but paid for. The payment is in strict proportion to the work done.

The military guard the frontiers, or go out to punish the refractory. They also mount guard at night round the palace. The soldiers are levied according to the requirements of the service; they are promised certain payments and are publicly enrolled. The governors, ministers, magistrates, and officials have each a portion of land consigned to them for their personal support.

The climate and the quality of the soil being diverse, [Page 151] the produce of the land varies in its character. The flowers and herbs, the fruits and trees are of different kinds, and have distinct names. There are, for instance, of the fruits the dmra (ngan-mo-lo, or mango), the dmla (ngan-mi-lo, or tamarind), the madhuka (mo-tu-kia, or Bassia latifolia), the hadara (po-ta-lo, or jujube), the kapittha (kie-pi-ta or wood-apple), the dmala (o-mo-lo, or myrobalan), the tinduka (chin-tu-kia, or Diospyros embryopteris), the udumhara (wu-tan-po-lo, or Ficus glomerata), the mocha (mau-che, or plantain), the ndrikela (na-li-ki-lo, or cocoa-nut), and the panasa (panna so, or jack-fruit). It would be difficult to enumerate all the kinds of fruit; we have briefly named those most esteemed by the people. As for the date (tsau), (the chestnut Qih), the loquat (pi), and the persimmon (thi) they are not known in India. The pear (Z), the wild plum (nai), the peach (tau), the apricot (Jiang or mui), the grape (po-tau), and the like have all been brought from the country of Kashmir, and are found growing here and there. Pomegranates and sweet oranges are grown everywhere.

In cultivating the land, those whose duty it is sow and reap, plough and harrow, and plant according to the season; and after their labour they rest awhile. Among the products of the ground, rice and wheat are most plentiful. With respect to edible herbs and vegetables, we may name ginger and mustard, melons and pumpkins, the Jieun-to plant (Skt. kunda, properly the olibanum-tree), and others. Onions and garlic are little grown, and few persons eat them; if any one uses them [Page 152] for food, they are expelled beyond the walls of the town. The most usual food is milk, butter, cream, soft sugar, sugar-candy, the oil of the mustard-seed, and likewise all sorts of cakes made of corn. Fish, mutton, the flesh of the gazelle, and venison they eat generally fresh, sometimes salted; they are forbidden to eat the flesh of the ox, the ass, the elephant, the horse, the pig, the dog, the fox, the wolf, the lion, the monkey, and all the hairy kind. Those who eat them are despised and scorned, and are universally reprobated; they live outside the walls and are seldom seen among men. With respect to the different kinds of wine and beverages, there are distinctions in usage. Wines from the grape and the sugar-cane are used by the Kshatriyas as drink; the Vaisyas take strong fermented drinks; the Sramanas and Brahmans drink a sort of syrup made from the grape or the sugar-cane, but not of the nature of fermented wine.

[Page 179]


[Page 181]

If you represent the Seven Mothers, group several of them together in one figure, Brahmani with four faces toward the four directions, Kaumari with six faces, Vaishnavi with four hands, Varahi with a hog's head on a human body, Indrani with many eyes and a club in her hand, Bhagavati sitting as people generally sit, and Camunda ugly, with protruding teeth and a slim waist. Furthermore, join with them the sons of Mahadeva, Kshetrapala with bristling hair, a sour face, and an ugly figure, and Vinayaka with an elephant's head on a human body with four hands.

The worshippers of these idols kill sheep and buffaloes with axes, that they may nourish themselves with their blood. All idols are constructed according to certain measures determined by idol-digits for every single limb, but sometimes they differ regarding the measure of a limb. If the artist keeps the right measure and does not make anything too large nor too small, he is free from sin, and is sure that the being which he represents will not visit him. with any mishap. If, Varahamihira continues, however, he makes the idol one cubit high, or two cubits together with the throne, he will obtain health and wealth. If he makes it higher still, he will be praised. But he must know that making the idol too large, especially that of [Page 182] the Sun, will hurt the ruler, and making it too small will hurt the artist. If he gives it a thin belly, this helps and furthers famine in the country; if he gives it a lean belly, this ruins property. If the hand of the artist slips so as to produce something like a wound, he will have a wound in his own body which will kill him. If the idol is not completely even on both sides, so that one shoulder is higher than the other, his wife will perish. If the artist turns the eye upward, he will be blind for life; if he turns it downward, he will have many troubles and sorrows.

[Page 206]


The city of Calicut is inhabited by Christians. They are of a tawny complexion. Some of them have big beards and long hair, whilst others clip their hair short or shave the head, merely allowing a tuft to re [Page 207] main on the crown as a sign that they are Christians. They also wear moustaches. They pierce the ears and wear much gold in them. They go naked down to the waist, covering their lower extremities with very fine cotton stuffs. But it is only the most respectable who do this, for the others manage as best they are able. The women of this country, as a rule, are ugly and of small stature. They wear many jewels of gold round the neck, numerous bracelets on their arms, and rings set with precious stones on their toes. All these people are well-disposed and apparently of mild temper. At first sight they seem covetous and ignorant.

[Page 215]


The captain (Vasco da Gama), on entering, saluted in the manner of the country; by putting the hands together, then raising them toward heaven, as is done by the Christians when addressing God, and immediately afterwards opening them and shutting the fists quickly. The king beckoned to the captain with his right hand to come nearer, but the captain did not approach him, for it is the custom of the country for no man to approach the king except only the servant who hands him the herbs, and when any one addresses the king he holds his hands before the mouth, and remains at a distance.

When the king beckoned to the captain he looked at us others, and ordered us to be seated on a stone bench near him, where he could see us. He ordered that water for our hands should be given us, also some fruit, one kind of which resembled a melon, except that its outside was rough and the inside sweet, whilst another kind of fruit resembled a fig, and tasted very nice. There were men who prepared these fruits for us; and the king looked at us eating, and smiled; and talked to the servant who stood near him supplying him with the herbs referred to.

[Page 222]

The king was sitting in his chair, which the factor had got him to sit upon; he was a very dark man, half-naked, and clothed with white cloths from the middle to the knees; one of these cloths ended in a long point on which were threaded several gold rings with large rubies, which made a great show. He had on his left arm a bracelet above the elbow, which seemed like three rings together, the middle one larger than the others all studded with rich jewels, particularly the middle one which bore large stones which could not fail to be of very great value; from this middle ring hung a pendent stone which glittered: it was a diamond of the thickness of a thumb ; it seemed a priceless thing. Round his neck was a string of pearls about the size of hazel-nuts, the string took two turns and reached to his middle; above it he wore a thin round gold chain which bore a jewel of the form of a heart, surrounded with larger pearls, and all full of rubies; in [Page 223] the middle was a green stone of the size of a large bean, which, from its showiness, was of great price, which was called an emerald; and, according to the information which the Castilian afterwards gave the captain-major of this jewel, and of that which was in the bracelet on his arm, and of another pearl which the king wore suspended in his hair, they all three belonged to the ancient treasury of the kings of Calicut. The king had long dark hair, all gathered up and tied on the top of his head with a knot made in it; and round the knot he had a string of pearls like those round his neck, and at the end of the string a pendent pearl pear-shaped, and larger than the rest, which seemed a thing of great value. His ears were pierced with large holes, with many gold earrings of round beads.

Close to the king stood a boy, his page, with a silk cloth round him; he held a red shield with a border of gold and jewels, and a boss in the centre of a span's breadth of the same materials, and the rings inside for the arm were of gold; also a short drawn sword of an ell's length, round at the point, with a hilt of gold and jewelry with pendent pearls. On the other side stood another page, who held a gold cup with a wide rim, into which the king spat; and at the side of his chair was his chief Brahman, who gave him from time to time a green leaf (the betel leaf) closely folded with other things inside it, which the king ate and spat into the cup. That leaf is of the size of an orange leaf, and the king was always eating it; and after much mastication he spat it into the cup, and took a fresh one, because he [Page 224] only tasted the juice of this leaf and the mixture that goes with it of quicklime and other things, which they call areca, cut up small; it is of the size of a chestnut. Thus chewed all together, it makes the mouth and teeth very red, because they use it all day wherever they may be going, and it makes the breath very pleasant. The factor having finished presenting all the things to the king, which he was looking at very leisurely. the ambassador arrived and made profound salutations to the king; and the king, bowing his head and his body a little, extended his right hand and arm, and with the points of his fingers he touched the right hand of the captain-major, and bade him sit upon the dais upon which he was; but he did not sit down, and spoke to him through the language which Joan Nuz spoke to the broker, and the broker spoke to the Brahman, who was by the king; there were also there the overseer of the treasury and the gozil (vizir).

[Page 235]


They have among themselves a scientific language, which is like the Latin among us, that no one understands unless he is instructed in it. They are married to one wife only; they do not eat flesh nor fish, nor anything which may suffer death; their food is rice, milk, butter, and fruits, and their drink, water. And in order that this kind of substance may never fail for the Brahmans, who were numerous, the ancient people of this land forbade that cows or bulls should be killed, under penalty of death; and this law was so strictly observed that not only do they not kill them, but they worship them and they are even held as objects of sanctity. They have knowledge of the Trinity and of Our Lady, whereby it appears that anciently they were Christians.

The Naires of this land are the military men and esteemed cavaliers, and the most honourable people of all the country; and it is said that in this province there would be about two hundred thousand of these men. They are very loyal to their king, and worship him; and it has never been found that a Naire has been guilty of treason.

They have physicians, whose method of cure is in this wise. To those who are suffering from fevers they give meat and fish to eat, and purge them with the seed of the flgueira de Inferno, the fig-tree of hell(the castor-oil plant), or give the leaves pounded to them in water to drink. If one suffers from diarrhoea, they give him to drink the fresh water of cocos (the cocoa-nut), and it is stopped immediately. If any are [Page 236] sick, they wash their heads for them with cold water, and the vomiting ceases. If wounded, they give warm oil three times a day, and cure them in this manner. In prolonged illnesses, the remedy which they give to the sufferers is to take musicians and make pilgrimages to their pagodas.

In the province of Malabar there are between Chetua and Coulao many Christians of the time of St. Thomas, and there are many churches.

[Page 237]


[Page 241]

The duty of the nobles is to protect the land and to provide for it, forcibly to withstand the foe, to see that the Bramines suffer no lack, likewise to make sure that all goeth well in the land, that right and justice make progress; and, in short, it is their duty to govern the realm well. Nevertheless, if they be poor, even as there be many poor nobles, it doth sometimes hap that they must live on their estates, and as, moreover, they have no other income and may not take any mercature in hand, and as their household doth oft times multiply much because of children, they oft need more than their income bringeth, so that many times they leave behind impoverished children who must then serve as soldiers unto those nobles who have wealth.

[Page 245]

The Sittijs (Sittars, saints) are merchants and also porters, whensoever they have no means of trade. The Palijs deal in poultry and swine, as well as in merchandise; and some, they say, are painters, and some are soldiers. In ancient times, it is said, they were famed for valour in war and were men in the world. The lenea are weavers, although each twentieth one is a soldier. The Cottewanias sell fruits, such as the pisang, even as the Sittijs. The Illewanias (Illavars) also sell such fruits as figs and cocoanuts, as well as (agara (Anglo-Indian jaggery), that is, brown sugar. The Kaikulle is a despised people; the women are mostly courtezans, the which is not held to be shame among them; the men are dancers, but some are weavers, some sowers, and some serve as soldiers. The Sitticaram are merchants, but they differ from the Sittijs aforesaid, who also are merchants, by the sort of wares wherein they deal. The Caltaja are goldsmiths, blacksmiths, stonemasons, carpenters, and builders. The Carreas are fishers who fish with great nets. The Patnouwa fish with little nets. The Maccoba also fish with great nets. The Callia (Kalyara) are likewise fishermen, and have their special mode of fishing. The Conacapule are writers. The Gurrea are herdsmen. The Bargeurrea are also herdsmen, but these are Bergas, which is a race highly honoured among this people.

[Page 246]

The caste of Palla is the meanest of all the castes of Soudraes, although it hath somewhat better fame than the Perreaes (Pariahs), of whom we shall speak hereafter. To the Soudraes belongeth also the caste of Correwaes, which is a caste that hath somewhat strange and peculiar; for these people have no home or abiding city, like the other castes, but ever go to and fro through the land with wife and children. They live in little huts, which they set up for a brief space without the cities; and whensoever they depart, they put these huts with their scanty household stuff, together with their pots and pans, on little asses, which they have by them for this end. These people gain their livelihood by making little fans wherewith to fan the rice when it is threshed, and by making covers wherewith the pot is covered when the rice is cooked, so that the water may be let run off from the rice through them. These people also carry salt from the seashore into the country on their little asses; and because that their asses are small and can carry little, therefore are they free of tax in the land and left unmolested. It is said that the women of these Correwaes, who commonly go with a basket under their arm, can prophesy; and since they [Page 247] make the people believe that what they experience is not harmful for them, they receive no small gain from the folk.

[Page 280]


[Page 283]

The kingdom of Bengal is of great extent; it lies in the middle country of the Indies, and is said to be four hundred leagues in length, so the king is the most puissant prince in India, after the grand Mogor. About the time I left, the Mogor had declared war against him, and the king was preparing to receive him with [Page 284] more than two hundred thousand men and ten thousand elephants. He has many tributary kings: for instance, the kings of Aracan, of Chaul and other great lords, as well Mohammedan as Gentile, who are bound to furnish him, when he goes out to war, with a certain number of men, elephants, and horses. They also pay him tribute for such harbours as they have in their territories; and at all of these a great trade is carried on in all sorts of merchandise, the merchants exporting large quantities of goods, by reason whereof they dare not risk the loss of this king's good-will. The country is healthy and temperate, and so wondrous fertile that one lives there for almost nothing; and there is such a quantity of rice, that, besides supplying the whole coimtry, it is exported to all parts of India, as well to Goa and Malabar, as to Sumatra, the Moluccas, and all the islands of Simda, to all of which lands Bengal is a very nursing mother, who supplies them with their entire subsistence and food.

Thus, one sees arrive there every day an infinite number of vessels from all parts of India for these provisions; and I believe it would be still greater, were not the navigation so perilous by reason of the banks and shallows wherewith all this Gulf of Bengal is full. So it happens that when the Bengal ships are behind their time, or are lost, rice is fabulously dear, and there is a cry, as it were, of the extremity of famine. On the contrary, when the navigation is good, the rice is as cheap as if it grew in the country, and fetches no more [Page 285] than four deniers the pound. The country is well supplied with animals, such as oxen, cows, and sheep; flesh is accordingly very cheap, let alone milk-foods and butter, whereof they have such an abundance that they [Page 286] supply the rest of India; and pile carpets of various kinds, which they weave with great skill. There are many good fruits, not, however, cocos or bananas; plenty of citrons, limes, oranges, pomegranates, cajus, pineapples, etc., ginger, long pepper, of which, in the green state, they make a great variety of preserves, as also of lemons and oranges. The country abounds with sugar-cane, which they eat green or else make into excellent sugar for a cargo to their ships, the like not being made in any part of India except in Cambaye and the other countries of the Mogor adjacent to Bengal, these countries being of the same climate, language, and fertility. There is likewise exported from Bengal much scented oils, got from a certain grain, and divers flowers; these are used by all the Indians after bathing to rub their bodies withal. Cotton is so plentiful, that, after providing for the uses and clothing of the natives, and besides exporting the raw material, they make such a quantity of cotton cloths, and so excellently woven, that these articles are exported, and thence only, to all India, but chiefly to the parts about Sunda. Likewise is there plenty of silk, as well that of the silkworm as of the (silk) herb, which is of the brightest yellow colour, and brighter than silk itself; of this they make many stuffs of divers colours, and export them to all parts. The inhabitants, both men and women, are wondrously adroit in all manufactures, such as of cotton cloth and silks, and in needlework, such as embroideries, which are worked so skilfully, down to the smallest stitches, that nothing [Page 287] prettier is to be seen anywhere. Some of these cottons and silks are so fine that it is difficult to say whether a person so attired be clothed or nude. Many other kinds of work, such as furniture and vessels, are constructed with extraordinary delicacy, which, if brought here, would be said to come from China.

In this country is made a large quantity of small black and red pottery, like the finest and most delicate terre sigillee; in this they do a great trade, chiefly in gargoulettes (earthenware vessels) and drinking-vessels and other utensils. There is a great quantity, too, of huge reeds or canes, as big as a man's thigh, and six or seven fathoms high, hollow inside, and knotted like those here. They are harder to break than any wood in the world; of these, levers and rods are made to carry over the heaviest weights, and are used throughout India, even at Goa and elsewhere: so much so, that the Portuguese and the Indians use no other poles for their palanquins and litters: these are everywhere called Bambou (bamboo).

Of these, too, are made their measures for measuring all their goods, such as rice, grain, oil, butter, and the like. Measures of all sizes are made of them. These reeds grow in quantity elsewhere in India; but this is their original home, and here they are found in greatest plenty. These canes will not bend double; and they are mottled black and white. There is another kind, of a different shape and thickness, the largest of this [Page 288] sort being no more than four thumbs' girth, and very-tall. It is porous, hard, and very pliant, so that you can bring the two ends together without its breaking, and yet it is very strong; of this are made walking-sticks and canes for chastisement; they raise the skin wherever they fall, but never break it, however tender it [Page 289] may be. They are neatly shaped, and are naturally of a mottled colour, white, yellow, and black. There is a great trade in them to all parts of India, for they are found nowhere else. By rubbing hard two sticks of this cane together, fire is produced as from a match; and they are used for this purpose. There is yet another sort of cane, which never grows thicker than the little finger, of the same form and growth as the other; it is as pliant as an osier, and is called Rotan (rattan). Ships' cables are made of it, and many kinds of neatly plaited baskets, and other wicker things. In short, it is used as cord, and can be split into any number of strips. It is a fathom and a half in length. It is trafficked in everywhere, and is in great demand for its use in manufacture; it is white, and not mottled. This country abounds with elephants, which are exported hence to all parts of India. There are rhinoceroses also, and some say unicorns, too, which are said to be found in this land only. They say other animals will not drink at a well until a female unicorn has steeped her horn in the water, so they all wait on the bank till she comes and does so.

In short, I find no country in all the East Indies more abundantly supplied with all things needful for food, with the riches of nature and art; and were not the navigation so dangerous, it would be the fairest, most pleasant, fertile, and profitable in the whole world. [Page 291] the men attire themselves bravely with very large cotton shirts, which fall to the ground; over it is worn a silk mantle, and on the head a turban of very fine linen. The women wear little chemisettes of cotton or silk, reaching to the waist; round the rest of the body is thrown a cloth or taffetas; when they go abroad, they wear about that a large piece of silk, with one end brought over the head. They are disorderly and very barbarous in their eating and drinking; they have many servants, and have each three or four wives, very richly adorned with gold chains and pearls. They make wines of sugar and other materials, and get drunk therewith.

[Page 292]

In this land is the great river Ganga, otherwise called the Ganges, the most renowned in the world. The natives hold that it comes from the Earthly Paradise; their kings have been curious to have its source discovered, but they have never discovered it, for all their journeys and expense. Its mouth is at twenty-three degrees from the equinoctial, toward our pole; but whether this is the famous Ganges of the ancients, or that of Canton in China, as some will have it nowadays, I leave to the discussion and decision of the learned in such things; anyhow, the common opinion of the Portuguese and many others is that this is the [Page 293] true Granges; if its situation does not correspond, at least its name does. From this river comes that excellent wood called Calamba (aloes-wood), which is believed to come from the Earthly Paradise. It is very dear throughout India, and more esteemed than any other, being more rare and odoriferous; very little of it is found, and then it comes floating to the sea-shore, or the banks of the river; it is also found on the shores of the Maldives, and I have met with it there many a time.

This river breeds also a large number of crocodiles, and is marvellously rich in fish; in short, it is the wealthiest in all produce in the East Indies, and after it comes the Indus, the river of Surate and Cambaye. The Indians regard the Ganges as holy, and believe that when they have washed therein they are absolved of all their sins; and Mohammedans as well as Gentiles deem the water to be blessed, and to wash away all offences, just as we regard confession. They, however, believe that, after bathing there, they are altogether sanctified, even saints. And they come from afar to wash them there, as do the Mohammedans at the sepulchre of Mohammed at Mecca.

[Page 294]


[Page 296]

On Tuesday following, which to us was the day of Camoval, or Shrove Tuesday, walking in the morning about the town, I saw a handsome street, straight, long and very broad, full of shops of various trades; they call it Bezari Kelan (Bazar-i Kaldn), that is, the Great Merkat (Market), in distinction from others than which this is bigger. In the middle is a structure of stone athwart the street, like a bridge with three arches, almost resembling the triumphal arches of Rome. A good way beyond this bridge, in the middle of the same is a great well, round about which is built a square piazetta, a little higher than the ground. The water of the well is of great service to all the city, and there is always a great concourse of people who come to fetch it.

[Page 300]

ascending up the [Page 302] wall of the city which is hard by, we beheld from that height the little river called Sabermeti (Sabarmati), which runs on that side under the walls without the city. Upon the bank thereof, stood expos'd to the sun many Gioghi of more austere lives, namely such as are not onely naked like those above describ'd, but go all sprinkled with ashes, and paint their bodies and faces with a whitish colour upon black, which they do with a certain stone that is reduced into powder like lime Their beards and hair they wear long, untrim'd, rudely involv'd, and sometimes erected like horns. Painted they are often, or rather daub'd with sundry colours and hideous figures; so that they seem so many devils, like those represented in our comedies. The ashes wherewith they sprinkle their bodies are the ashes of burnt carkasses; and this to the end they may be continually mindful of death. A great crew of these, with their chief, or leader (who conducts them with an extravagant banner in his hand, made of many shreds of several colours, and whom they all religiously obey) sat by the river's side in a round form, as their custom is; and in the field there were many people, who came some to walk, and others to wash themselves; the pagan Indians holding their rivers in great veneration, and being not a little superstitious in bathing themselves therein.

[Page 306]


[Page 310]

January 15 - 21.—These Dayes I stirred not abroad, the king and Prince beeing often a hunting, from whom I received two wild hoggs, part of their quarry.

[Page 312]

January 24.—I went to the Durbar to visit the King, who, seeing mee afarr off, beckned with his hand, giving signe I should not staye the Cerimony of Asking leave but Come up to him; where hee appoynted me a place above all other men, which I after thought fitt to mayntayne. I gave him a small present, it beeing the Custome when any body hath business to give somewhat, and those that cannot come neare to speake send in or hould up their gift, which hee eccepts, bee it but a rupie, and demands their bussines. The same course hee held with mee. Having looked Curiously and asked many questions of my present, he demanded what I required of him. I answered: Justice: That, on the assurance of his Majesties Firmaen sent into England, the king my Master had not only given leave to many of his subjects to come a dangerous voyage with their goodes, but had sent mee to Congratulate the amytye so happely begunne betweene two soe mighty Nations, and to Confirme the same: But that I found the English seated at Amadavas injured by the Governor in their Persons and goodes, fined, exacted upon, and kept as prisoners: That at everie Towne new Cus [Page 313] tomes were taken of our goodes passing to the Port, contrarie to all Justice and the former Articles of trade. To which hee answered hee was sorry; it should be amended; and presently gave order for two firmanes very effectually according to my desire to be signed, one to the Governor of Amadavaz to restore mony exacted from Master Kerridge, and to use the English with all favour. The other to release all Custumes required on any pretence on the way, or if any had beene taken to repay it; of his owne accord wishing mee that, if these gave not speedy remedy, I should renew my Complaynt against the disobeyour, and hee should be sent for to answer there. And soe hee dismissed mee.

[Page 314]


[Page 315]

There is little trade at this place, excepting on account of the Dutch Company. Topazes, amethysts, and other precious stones are found on the island of Ceylon and brought here for sale; but it is dangerous to purchase them, when set, without being skilled in those commodities, the people who sell them being very expert in making the false stones appear like true ones, by colouring them at the bottom. No kind of spice, nutmegs, or any other rarities for which this island is so celebrated, are to be met with at this place; nor did we, on our approach to the island, perceive any of those odoriferous gales described by travellers as exhaling from the cinnamon and other spices with which this island abounds.

[Page 316]

Along and almost all around the harbour are the country homes of the inhabitants, which have a pleasing effect to the eye; the road to these by land is through a grove of cocoanut-trees, which forms an agreeable shade. However, this place must be very unhealthy, as very high hills lie close behind the houses and exhale noxious vapours both morning and evening, which make it very precarious to the inhabitants in point of health; they are in general sickly, but particularly the Europeans. I observed in the course of a few hours stay on shore several people whose legs were swelled in a most extraordinary manner; this the natives account for from the badness of the water and the vapours which arise from the adjoining hills. I have heard that the inhabitants of Malacca are liable to the same disease and from similar causes.

Fish is to be had here in great plenty; poultry of all kinds is very scarce; the fruits are chiefly plantains, pineapples, and pumple noses; the cocoa-nuts are also in great plenty and very good; the bread is tolerable, but the butter execrable, it being little better than train oil; and indeed this is the case in all the Dutch settlements and most other foreign ones, the French and English excepted. We slept on shore that night, and, not being able to sell any part of the cargo, the next morning went on board and sailed immediately. On the 29th of March we saw the land a little to the eastward of Cape Comorin, and the 31st of March came to anchor in the roads of Anjengo, where we found [Page 317] the Company's ship, the Duke of Montrose waiting for a cargo of pepper. On the 1st of April went on shore at daylight, and returned on board in the evening.

[Page 319]

Cochin, in former times, was a place of considerable celebrity, and was one of the places pitched upon by the first Portuguese settlers in the East after the discovery of the passage round the Cape of Good Hope by Vasco da Gama; but that people have now very little left of the vast wealth and power they formerly enjoyed; a revolution of three centuries has reduced them below mediocrity in the general scale of European adventurers. The fort is a very large one, and very well fortified on the land side; toward the sea not so well, but it is secured by a very dangerous bar, which will not admit of ships coming nearer the shore than three or four miles. There are some regular Dutch troops in the garrison, and a few native militia; there was also here a part of a French regiment, which the Dutch borrowed during the late war. Provisions of every kind are to be had here in the greatest plenty.

[Page 321]

The garrison of Tellicherri consists generally, in time of peace, of one battalion of sepoys, a company of artillery, and sometimes a company of European infantry; they are also able to raise about three thousand native militia. The view of the country round Tellicherri is very pleasant, consisting of irregular hills and valleys. The boundaries of the English are terminated by the opposite side of the river, and at a very little distance is a strong fortress of the Nabob Hyder; if the lines were once to be forced, the place would soon fall, the fort of Tellicherri itself having no kind of defence. Tellicherri is esteemed by all who reside there to be one of the healthiest places in India, Europeans seldom dying there; it is also much resorted to by convalescents; the sea produces plenty of very fine oysters, and provisions of all kinds are to be had in abundance.

[Page 322]

I observed, in the Company's garden, the pepper vine, which grows in a curious manner, and something similar to the grape; the pepper on it, when fit to gather, appears in small bunches; it is in size something larger than the head of a small pea; the pepper, however, for the Company's ships' cargoes, is brought from some distance in the country. Tellicherri also produces the coffee-tree.

Goa is a large city, and was once populous; it is the capital of the Portuguese settlements on this side the Cape of Good Hope; it is the residence of a Captain General sent from Portugal, who lives in great splendour. The city stands upon the banks of a river of the same name, about twelve miles distance from the entrance of the harbour. The view up this river is truly delightful, the banks on either side are adorned with churches and country-seats of the Portuguese, interspersed with groves and valleys; the river has several pleasing openings as it winds along, its banks are low, but the hills behind rise to an amazing height, and add grandeur to the spectacle, greatly tending also to beautify the prospect.

[Page 327]

The island of Bombay is in the possession of the English East India Company; it is situated on the coast of Conkan, in lat. 19 north, and long. 72.38 east; it was granted, as part of the marriage portion with the Infanta of Portugal, to Charles II. The harbour is capable of containing three hundred sail of ships with the greatest safety: there is also a most excellent dock, in which ships of his Majesty's squadron, and others, are repaired, refitted, and completely equipped for sea. They build also here all sorts of vessels; and the workmen in the yard are very ingenious and dexterous, not yielding to our best shipwrights in England. This island is very beautiful, and as populous for its size as any in the world; merchants and others coming to settle here from the different parts of the Deccan, Malabar, and Coromandel, as well as the Guzarat country. Amongst those of the latter place are many Persee (Parsi) families; these are descended from the remains of the ancient Gubres, or worshippers of fire ; most of the country merchants, as well as the menial servants of the islands, are of this faith. They are very rich, and have in their hands the management of all mercantile [Page 328] affairs. Their religion, as far as I could gain any information, is much corrupted from the ancient worship; they acknowledge that several Hindu forms and ceremonies have crept in amongst them, probably in com pliance to the natives, in order to conciliate their affections. I have heard it observed, however, that the Hindu religion does, in itself, bear some analogy to the ancient Persian worship. It seems that their sacred book, the Zend, which is said to have been written by their celebrated prophet Zerdusht (called by us Zoroaster), is at present only a copy of a few centuries; [Page 329] which must, of course, invalidate its authenticity, as that prophet, according to the Persian historians, lived more than three thousand years ago; and indeed it is an indisputable fact that what religious books were in being at the time of the Grecian conquests of that country were carefully collected and burnt, by the express orders of Alexander, and were totally destroyed at the subsequent conquests of that country by the Saracens, at which period also happened the introduction of the Mohammedan religion. By these means their religion and language underwent a total change, the very traces of both which have long since disappeared, as is evident by the many fruitless efforts made to decipher those inscriptions still discernible on the walls of Persepolis, bearing not the least analogy to any character now existing. Hence it may be inferred that what is now given as the ancient character and language of this celebrated people is no more than an invention of a later date, and there remains not a probability that their real Zend will ever be known.

The island of Bombay is about eight miles in length, and twenty in circumference: the most remarkable natural curiosity the island produces is a small fish; this fish, according to the description of a gentleman who has seen it, and from whom I received my information, is in form somewhat like a mussel, about four inches long, and has upon the top of its back, and near the head, a small valve, on the opening of which you [Page 330] discover a liquor of a strong purple colour, which, when dropped on a piece of cloth, retains the hue. It is found chiefly in the months of September and October, and it is observed the female fish has not this valve which distinguishes the sexes. It is not improbable to suppose that this fish is of the same nature as the ancient Murex, or shell-fish, by which the Romans attained the art of dyeing to such perfection, and is similar to that found formerly on the coasts of Tyre. The Company's forces at this Presidency consist of eight battalions of sepoys, a regiment of European infantry, and a corps of European artillery and engineers. During the late long and very severe war, the Bombay troops have distinguished themselves in a peculiar manner, and the campaign of Bedanore and the sieges of Tellicherri and Mangalore will long remain testimonials of high military abilities, as well as of their bravery and patience under severe duty. The breed of sheep on this island is very indifferent, and all the necessaries of life are much dearer than in any other part of India. A work on this island is worthy of observation. It is a causeway on the southern part, about a mile in length and forty feet in breadth, eight of which on each side are of solid stone; the remainder in the centre is filled up with earth, a cement of clay, and other materials; the whole forming such a body as will endure for many ages. This work keeps up the communication with the other parts of the island during the season of the monsoon, which would otherwise overflow it, and cause indefinite damage.

This is a selection from the original text


animals, fertile, food, fruit, health, hunting, lemons, trade, water, wealth, winter

Source text

Title: History of India, Volume IX

Editor(s): A. V. Williams Jackson

Publisher: The Grolier Society

Publication date: 1907

Original date(s) covered: 1556-1623

Edition: 1st Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Internet Archive: http://archive.org. Original date(s) covered: 1556-1623

Digital edition

Original editor(s): A. V. Williams Jackson

Language: English


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: India > non-fiction prose > travel narratives and reports

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.