Travels in India, Volume I

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Introductory notes

Published by Oxford University Press in 1925,Travels In India, written by Jean Baptiste Tavernier-is an account of the Frenchman’s travails through the sub continent. Tavernier was born in 1605.A gem merchant by profession, he travelled more than 120,000 miles in his six voyages to India and Persia in a span of 38 years.He died in 1689. Selections have been made from Volumes 1 and 2 of Travels in India.Tavernier lays out his routes in detail along with details about the Mughal court in the first volume. In the second volumes he focuses on various topics pertaining to the lifestyle, climate and geography of India. Primary Reading Tavernier,Jean Baptiste,Travels in India,Volume 1, Oxford University Press Suggested Reading Foster, William, Early Travels In India 1583-1619,



LONDON. PUBLISHED BY Oxford University Press 1925

Dedication to the King

SIRE- The zeal which I have for the service of your Majesty, and for the honour of France, does not permit me to enjoy the repose I which I believed had come to me after such prolonged labours. My age not permitting me to undertake new voyages, I have experi enced a kind of shame at finding myself of no use to my country, and at not acquitting myself of all which it expects from me. I have thought it to be my duty to it to render an account of my observations upon that which I have seen, and have not been able to excuse myself from making public. I hope, SIRE, that these exact and faithful accounts which I have written, since my return, from the notes which I have collected, will not be less useful to my country than the valuable articles of merchandise which I have brought back from my travels. For my object in this work is not merely to assuage public curiosity. I have proposed for myself a more noble and more elevated aim in all my deeds. As the hope of legitimate gain alone has not made me traverse these regions, so the sole desire of placing my name in this book has not caused me to-day to have it printed. In all the countries which I have traversed, strongest desire has always been to make known the heroic qualities of Your MAJESTY, and the wonders of your reign, and to show how your subjects excel by their industry and by their courage all other nations of the earth. I venture to say to Your MAJESTY that I have done so with more boldness, and even more success, than those who had a title and an authority to speak. My method of action, hostile to deception, and possibly somewhat too free, has exposed me to many risks among the nations jealous of our prosperity, who defame us as far as they can in order to exclude us from trade I have often risked both my fortune and my life by exalting your Majesty [Page lxx] by my words above all the monarchs of Europe and these Kings of the East-even in their very presence. I have emerged with honour from all these dangers by impressing a respect for your name in the hearts of these barbarians. Under the shadow of this august name, respected throughout the world, I have travelled more than 60,000 leagues by land in perfect safety. I have six times traversed Turkey, Persia, and the better part of India, and , was the first to attempt to go to the famous diamond mines. Too happy to have brought precious stones which Your MAJESTY has condescended to join to the jewels of your throne, but still more happy to have made observations in all these places, to which your MAJESTY will possibly not deem it unworthy to devote some moments, as you will find there many details of three of the most powerful Empires of Asia. You will see the manners and customs of the people dwelling there at present. I have interposed in certain places stories, which may relieve the mind after a tedious march of caravans, imitating in that the Orientals, who establish caravan-sarais at intervals in their deserts for the relief of travellers. I am , principally devoted to the description of the territories of Turkey, Persia, and the Mogul, in order to point out on the five different routes which one may take to go to them certain common errors with reference to the positions of the places. Although these accounts may be wanting in grace and in politeness of language, I hope that the diversity of the curious and important matters which they con tain, and more particularly the veracity I have scrupulously observed, will nevertheless cause them to be read, and possibly to be esteemed. I shall consider myself well repaid for my work if it has the good fortune to please your MAJESTY, and if you accept this evidence of profound respect.

With which I am,
Very humble, very obedient, and very faithful
Servant and Subject,


1.1. Concerning routes which one may take to go from ISPAHAN to AGRA, and from AGRA to DELHI and JAHANABAD, where the Court of the GREAT MOGUL is at present; as also to the Court of the King of GOLCONDA and to that of the King of BIJAPUR, and to several other places in INDIA.
TRAVELS IN INDIA CHAPTER I Route from ISPAHAN to AGRA by (way of) GOMBROON, where particular mention is made of the navigation from HORMUZ to SURAT.

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Although INDIA presents a frontier towards PERSIA of more than 400 leagues, extending from the ocean up to that long chain of mountains which traverses the centre of Asia from west to east, and has been known to antiquity under the name of MOUNT TAURUS or MOUNT CAUCASUS, there are, not-withstanding, not so many ways for passing from PERSIA into INDIA as there are for passing from TURKEY into PERSIA, because between PERSIA and INDIA there are only sands and vast deserts where [Page 4] one finds no water at all. Thus, in order to go from ISPAHAN to AGRA there are but two routes to select from-one partly by land and partly by sea, by taking ship at HORMUZ; and the other altogether by land, passing through CANDAHAR.

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Vessels sailing for Surat, which is the only port in the whole empire of the Great Mogul, steer for Diu and POINT St. Jean, and then anchor in the roads at Suwali, which is only four leagues distant from SURAT, and but two from the mouth of the river, bearing from it northwards. They carry the merchandise from one place to the other either by cart or by boat, because large vessels cannot enter the river at SURAT, until after they are unloaded, on account of the sand-banks which are at the mouth. The Dutch return after having landed their goods at Suwali, and the English did the same, neither being permitted [Page 6] to enter into the SURAT river ; but since, some time back, the King has granted to the latter a place to winter in during the rainy season. SURAT is a city of moderate size, with a poor fortress, which you must pass, whether approaching it by water or by land. It has four towers at its four angles ; and as the walls are not terraced, the guns are placed upon scaffoldings. The Governor of the fortress merely commands the soldiers of the garrison, and possesses no authority in the city, which has its own separate Governor to receive the customs and the other revenues of the King throughout the extent of his Province. The walls of the city are of earth, and the houses of private persons are merely barns, being built of nothing but reeds, covered with cow-dung mixed with clay to fill the interstices, and to prevent those outside from seeing between the reeds that which is done inside. In the whole of SURAT there are only nine or ten wellbuilt houses, and the Shah-bandar, or chief of the merchants, has two or three of them. The others belong to the Muhammadan merchants, and those of the English and Dutch are not the least fine, every president and commander taking care to keep them in repair, the cost of which they charge against the accounts of their companies. These dwellings are, nevertheless, only the King not permitting any Frank. to possess a house of his own, [Page 7] fearing that he would have that of which he might make a fortress. The Reverend Capuchin Fathers have built a very commodious one upon the model of the houses of EUROPE, with a beautiful church, and I myself furnished a large portion of the money which it cost; but the purchase had to be made under the name of a Maronite merchant of ALEPPO named CHELEBI, of whom I have spoken in my account of PERSIA.

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1.2. CHAPTER III Concerning carriages and the manner of travelling in INDIA

BEFORE setting out for AGRA, it is appropriate to speak of the carriages and of the manner of travelling in INDIA, which, in my opinion, is not less convenient than all that they have been able to invent in order that one may be carried in comfort either in FRANCE or in ITALY. Different from (the custom in) PERSIA, one does not employ in INDIA in caravans or journeys either asses, mules, or horses, all being carried here by an oxen or by waggon, as the country is sufficiently Ievel. If any merchant takes a horse from PERSIA he only does it for show, and to have him led by hand or in order to sell him advantageously to some noble. They give an ox a load weighing 300 or 35 livres, and it is an astonishing sight to behold caravans numbering 10,000 [Page 33] or 12,000 oxen together, for the transport of rice, corn, and salt-in the places where they exchange these commodities-carrying rice to where corn only grows, and corn to where rice only grows, and salt to the places where there is none. They use camels also for caravans, but rarely, and they are specially reserved to carry the baggage of the nobles. When the season presses, and they wish to have the goods quickly at SURAT, in order to ship them, they load them on oxen, and not on carts. As all the territories of the GREAT MoguL are well cultivated, the fields are enclosed by good ditches, and each has its tank or reservoir for irrigation. This it is which is so inconvenient for travellers, because, when they meet caravans of this description in narrow roads, they are sometimes obliged to wait two or three days till all have passed. Those who drive these oxen follow no other trade all their lives; they never dwell in houses, and they take with them their women and children.

Some among them possess 100 oxen, others have more or fewer, and they all have a Chief, who acts as a prince, and who always has a chain of pearls suspended from his neck. When the caravan which carries corn and that which carries rice meet, rather than give way one to the other, they often engage in very sanguinary encounters. The GREAT MoguL, considering one day that these quarrels were prejudicial to commerce and to the transport of food in his kingdom, arranged that the Chiefs of the two caravans should come to see him. When they had arrived, the King, after he had advised them for their mutual benefit to live for the future in harmony with each other, and not to fight any more when they met, presented each of them with a lakh, or 100,000 rupees, and a chain of pearls.

In order to enable the reader to understand this manner of [Page 34] carrying in INDIA, it should be remarked that among the idolaters of this country there are four tribes, whom they call Manaris, of which each numbers about one hundred thousand souls. These people dwell in tents, as I have said, and have no other trade but to transport provisions from one country to another. The first of these tribes has to do with corn only, the second with rice, the third with pulse, and the fourth with salt, which it obtains from SURAT, and even from as far as CAPE COMORIN. You can also distinguish these tribes in this manner their priests, of whom I shall elsewhere speak, mark those of the first with a red gum, of the size of a crown, on the middle of the forehead, and make a streak along the nose, attaching to it above some grains of corn, sometimes nine, sometimes twelve, in the form of a rose. Those of the cond are marked with a yellow gum, in the same places, but with grains of rice ; those of the third with a gray gum, with grains of millet, and also on the shoulders, but without placing grains there. As for those of the gurth, they carry a lump of salt, suspended from the neck in a bag, which weighs sometimes from 8 to 1O livres (for the heavier it is the more honour they have in carrying it), with which, by way of penance before praying, they beat their stomachs every morning. All have in general a string, or tress, round the shoulders, from which hangs a small box of silver in the form of a reliquary, of the size of a good hazel nut, in which they keep a superstitious writing which their priests have enclosed in it. They place them also on their oxen, and on the other animals born in their herds, for which they entertain a special affection, loving them as dearly as they do their children, especially when they have none of the latter. The dress of the women is but a simple cloth, white or coloured, which makes five or six turns like a petticoat from the waist downwards, as if they had three or four one above the [Page 35] other. From the waist upwards they tatoo their skin with flowers, like as when one applies cupping glasses, and they paint these flowers divers colours with the juice of roots, in such a manner that it seems as though their skin was a flowered fabric.

While the men load their animals in the morning and the women fold up their tents, the priests who follow them elevate, in the most beautiful parts of the plain where they are encamped, an idol in the form of a serpent, entwined about a staff of six or seven feet in height, and each one in file goes to make reverence to it, the girls turning round it three times. After all have passed, the priests take care to remove the idol and to load it on an ox allocated for that purpose. The caravans of waggons do not ordinarily consist of more than one hundred or two hundred at the most. Each waggon is drawn by ten or twelve oxen, and accompanied by four soldiers, whom the owner of the merchandise is obliged to pay. Two of them walk on each side of the waggon, over which there are two cords passed, and the four ends are held by the soldiers, so that if the waggon threatens to upset in a bad place, the two soldiers who are on the opposite side hold the cords tight, and prevent it turning over.

All the waggons which come to SURAT from AGRA or from other places in the Empire, and which return by AGRA and JAHANABAD, are compelled to carry lime, which comes from BROACH, and which, as soon as it is used, becomes as hard as marble. It is a great source of profit to the King, who sends this lime where he pleases ; but, on the other hand, he takes no dues from the waggons.

I come to the manner of travelling in INDIA, where oxen take [Page 36] the place of horses, and there are some of them whose paces are as easy as those of our hacks. But you should take care when you buy or hire an ox for riding that he has not horns longer than a foot, because, if they are longer, when the flies sting him, he chases and tosses back the head, and may plant a horn in your stomach, as has happened several times. These oxen allow themselves to be driven like our horses, and have for sole bridle a cord, which passes through the tendon of the muzzle or the nostrils. In level tracts, where there are no stones, they do not shoe these oxen, but they always do so in rough places, both on account of the pebbles and because of the heat, which may injure the hoof. Whereas in EUROPE we attach our oxen by the horns; those of INDIA have a large hump on the neck, which keeps in position a leather collar about four fingers wide, which they have only to throw over the head when they harness them.

They have also, for travelling, small, very light carriages, which can contain two persons ; but usually one travels alone, in order to be more comfortable, being then able to have his clothes with him ; the canteen of wine and some small requisites for the journey having their place under the carriage, to which they harness a pair of oxen only. These carriages, which are [Page 37] provided, like ours, with curtains and cushions, are not slung; but, on the occasion of my last journey, I had one made after our manner, and the two oxen by which it was drawn cost me very nearly 600 rupees. The reader need not be astonished at this price, for there are some of them which are strong, and make journeys lasting 60 days, at 12 or 15 leagues a day, and always at the trot. When they have accomplished half the journey, they give to each two or three balls of the size of our penny rolls, made of wheaten flour, kneaded with butter and black sugar, and in the evening they have a meal of chick-peas, crushed and steeped in water for half an hour. The hire of a carriage amounts to about a rupee a day. The journey from SURAT to AGRA occupies thirty-five or forty days' journey by road, and you pay for the whole journey from 40 to 45 rupees. From SURAT to GQLCONDA it is nearly the same distance and the same price, and it is in the same proportion throughout the whole of INDIA.

Those who can afford to take their ease make use of a pallankeen, in which they travel very comfortably. It is a kind of bed, of 6 or 7 feet long and 3 feet wide, with a small rail all round. A sort of cane, called bamboo, which they bend when young, in order to cause it to take the form of a bow in the middle, sustains the cover of the pallankeen, which is of satin or brocade ; and when the sun shines on one side, an attendant, who walks near the pallankeen, takes care to lower the covering. There is another, who carries at the end of a stick a kind of basket-work shield, covered with some kind of beautiful stuff, in order to promptly [Page 38] shelter the occupant of the palankeen from the heat of the sun when it turns and strikes him on the face. The two ends of the bamboo are attached on both sides to the body of the pallankeen between two poles, joined together in a saltier, or St Andrew's Cross, and each of these poles is 5 or 6 feet long. Some of these bamboos cost as much as 200 ecus, and I have paid 125 for one. Three men, at most, place themselves at each of these two ends, to carry the pallankeen on the shoulder, the one on the right and the other on the left, and they travel in this way faster than our chairmen in PARIS, and with an easier pace, being trained to the trade from an early age. When you wish to make haste, and travel up to 13 or 14 leagues a day, you take 12 men to carry the pallankeen, so that they may relieve one another from time to time. You pay each, for everything, only 4 rupees a month, but you pay up to 5 rupees when the journey is long, and when it is required to travel for more than sixty days.

In the large villages there is generally a Muhammadan Governor, and there you find sheep, fowl, and pigeons for sale ; but in the places where there are only Banians, you only find flour, rice, vegetables, and milk.

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The great heats of INDIA compel travellers who are not not accustomed to it to travel by night, in order to rest by day. When they enter towns which are closed they must leave by sunset, if they wish to take the road. For night being come, and the gates closed, the Governor of the place, who has to answer for thefts which occur within his jurisdiction, does not allow any one to go out, and says that it is the King's order, which he must obey. When I entered such places I took provisions, and left early, in order to camp outside under some tree in the shade, waiting till it was the hour to march.

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From SURAT to BARNOLY (BARDOLI 1), 14 coss. BARDOLI is a large town where you cross a river by a ford, and traverse in this first march a country of mixed character, sometimes meeting woods, and sometimes fields of wheat and rice.

From BARNOLY to BALOR (BALLOR), 10 coss. BALLOR is also a large village, and is situated on a tank which has about a league in circuit, upon the edge of which you see a good fort, which, however, they neglect to keep in repair. Three-quarters of a league on this side of the village you pass a rivulet by a ford, but with much difficulty, because there are many rocks and stones under the water which are liable to over-turn a carriage. You travel this second day nearly altogether in woods.

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From KERKOA to NAVAPOURA (NAWAPURA), 15 coss. NAWAPURA is a large village full of weavers, but rice constitutes the principal article of commerce in the place. A river passes by it, which makes the soil excell 50 TRAVELS IN INDIA BOOK I lent, and irrigates the rice, which requires water. All the rice which grows in this country possesses a particular quality, causing it to be much esteemed. Its grain is half as small again as that of common rice, and, when it is cooked, snow is not whiter than it is, besides which, it smells like musk, and all the nobles of INDIA eat no other. When you wish to make an acceptable present to any one in PERSIA, you take him a sack of this rice. It is the river which passes KERKOA, and the others of which I have spoken, which combine to form the SURAT river.

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BURHANPUR is a large, much-ruined town, of which the houses are for the most part covered with thatch. It has a large castle still standing in the middle of the town, and it is there that the Governor resides. The government of this province is so important that it is conferred only upon a son or an uncle of the King, and AURANGZEB, who now reigns, was for a long time Governor of BURHANPUR during the reign of his father. But since they have realised what can be yielded by the province of BENGAL, which formerly bore the title of kingdom, as I shall elsewhere indicate, its government is now the most considerable in the Empire of the GREAT MOGUL. There is a large trade in this town, and both at BURHANPUR itself and in all the province an enormous quantity of very transparent muslins are made, which are exported to PERSIA, TURKEY, Muscovie, POLAND, ARABIA, GRAND CAIRO, and other places. Some of these are dyed various colours and with flowers, and women make veils and scarfs of them ; they also serve for the covers of beds, and for handkerchiefs, such as we see in EUROPE with those who take snuff. There are other fabrics, which they allow to remain white, with a stripe or two of gold or silver the whole length of the piece, and at each of the ends, from the breadth of one inch up to twelve or fifteen-in some more, and in others less it is a tissue of gold, silver, and of silk with flowers, whereof there is no reverse, one side being as beautiful as the other. If those which they export to POLAND, where they are in great demand, have not at both ends, at the least, three or four inches of gold or silver, or if this gold and silver become black when crossing the ocean [Page 43] between SURAT and HORMUZ, and from TREBIZONDE to MANGALIA, or other ports of the BLACK SEA, the merchant cannot dispose of them except at great loss. He ought to take great care that the goods are well packed, and that damp cannot enter : this, for so long a voyage, requires much care and trouble. Some of these fabrics are all banded, half cotton and half gold or silver, and such pieces are called ornis. They contain from fifteen to twenty ells, and cost from one hundred to one hundred and fifty rupees, the cheapest being not under ten or twelve. Those which are only about two ells long serve ladies of rank for the purpose of making scarfs and the veils which they wear on their heads, and they are sold in abundance in PERSIA and in TURKEY. They make, besides, at BURHANPUR other kinds of fabrics, and there is hardly another province in the whole of INDIA which has a greater abundance of cotton.

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Sironj a large town, of which the majority of the inhabitants are Baman merchants and artisans, who have dwelt there from father to son, which is the reason why it contains some houses of stone and brick. There is a large trade there in all kinds of coloured calicoes, which they call chites, with which all the common people of PERSIA and TURKEY are clad, and which are used in several other countries for bedcovers and tablecloths. They make similar calicoes in other places besides SIRONJ, but the colours are not so lively, and they disappear when washed several times. It is different with those of SIRONJ; the more they are washed the more beautiful they become. A river passes here, of which the water possesses the property of giving this vivacity to the colours; and during the rainy season, which lasts four months, the workers print their calicoes according as the foreign merchants have given them patterns, because, as soon as the rains have ceased, the water of the river is more disturbed, and the sooner the calicoes are washed the better the colours hold, and become more lively.

There is also made at Sironj a description of muslin which is so fine that when it is on the person you see all the skin as though it were uncovered. The merchants are not allowed to export it, and the Governor sends all of it for the GREAT MOGUL's seraglio, and for the principal courtiers. This it is of which the sultanas and the wives of the great nobles make themselves shifts and garments for the hot weather, and the [Page 47] King and the nobles enjoy seeing them wearing these fine shifts, and cause them to dance in them. From BURHANPUR to SIRONJ there are 101 coss, which are greater than those between SURAT and BURHANPUR, for a cart takes an hour, and sometimes up to five quarters of an hour, to travel one of these coss. In these 100 leagues of country you march for whole days among fertile fields of wheat and rice, which strongly resemble our fields at BEAUSSE, for one rarely meets with woods, and between SIRONJ and AGRA the country is of much the same character. As the villages are very close to one another you travel comfort, and make the day's journey as you please.

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BROACH is a large town, containing an ancient fortress which they have neglected to maintain ; but it has been widely renowned from all time on account of its river, which possesses a peculiar property for bleaching calicoes, and they bring them for this reason from all quarters of the empire of the GREAT MOGUL, where there is not the same abundance of water. In this place there is made a quantity of bastas or pieces of long and narrow calico ; these are very beautiful and closely woven cloths, and the price of them ranges from 4 up to 100 rupees. Custom dues have to be paid at BROACH on all goods, whether imported or exported. The English have a very fine dwelling there; and I remember that, on arrival one day when return ing from AGRA to SURAT with the President of the English, some jugglers immediately came to ask him if he desired that they should show him some examples of their art, these he was curious to see. The first thing they did was to kindle a large fire, heat iron chains to redness ; these they wound round their bodies, making believe that they experienced some pain, but not really receiving any [Page 55] injury. Next, having taken a small piece of stick, and having planted it in the ground, they asked one of the company what fruit he wished to have. He replied that he desired mangoes, and then one of the conjurers, covering him self with a sheet, stooped to the ground five or six times. I had the curiosity to ascend to a room in order to see from above, through an opening of the sheet, what this man did, and I saw that he cut himself under his armpits with a razor, and anointed the piece of wood with his blood. At each time that he raised himself, the stick increased under the eye, and at the third time it put forth branches and buds. At the fourth time the tree was covered with leaves, and at the fifth we saw the flowers themselves. The President of the English had his clergyman with him, having taken him to AHMADABAD to baptize a child of the Dutch Commander, of whom he had been asked to be the godfather, This compelled the President to dismiss the jugglers, who travel from place to place with [Page 56] their wives and children, like those whom we in EUROPE commonly call Egyptians or Bohemians ; and having given them the equivalent of ten or twelve ecus, they withdrew very well satisfied.

CAMBAY is a large town at the end of the gulf which bears its name. It is where they cut those beautiful agates which come from INDIA as cups, handles of Knives, beads, and other objects of workmanship. There is made, also, in the vicinity of the town the same kind as that of SARKHEJ and it was-celebrated for its traffic at the time when the Portuguese flourished in INDIA. You still see to-day, in the quarter close to the sea, many fine houses, which they built and furnished richly, after the manner of PORTUGAL; but at present they are uninhabited, and they decay from day to day. They maintained at that time such good order in CAMBAY, that at two hours after dark every street was closed by two gates, which are still to be seen, and they even now close some of the principal of them, especially those of the approaches [Page 57] to the market-places. One of the principal reasons why this town has lost a part of her commerce is, that formerly the sea came close to CAMBAY, and small vessels were able to approach it easily ; but for some years past the sea has been receding day by day, so that vessels are unable to come nearer than four or five leagues to the town. There is an abundance of pea-fowl in INDIA, and especially the territories of BROACH, CAMBAY, and BARODA. The flesh of the young bird is white and of good flavour, like that of our turkeys, and you see them throughout the day in flocks in the fields ; for during the night they perch in the trees. It is difficult to approach them by day, because if they see the sportsman they fly before him more rapidly than a partridge, and enter the jungle, where it is impossible to follow them, one's garment being torn at every step. Hence, you are only able to capture them easily at night ; and this, in a few words, is the method. You approach the tree with a kind of banner, on which are painted life-like peacocks, on each side.1 On the top of the stick there are two lighted candles, the light of which alarming the peacock, causes him to stretch out his neck almost to the end of the stick, where there is a cord with a running noose, which he who holds the banner draws when he sees that the peacock has placed his neck in it. It happened one day that a rich merchant of PERSIA, passing by the territory of the Raja of [Page 58] DANTIVAR, slew a peacock on the road by a shot from his gun, either out of bravado or from not knowing the customs of the country. The Banians, enraged by an act which is regarded among them as a horrible sacrilege, seized the merchant themselves, and also the money he had with him, which amounted to 300,000 rupees, and having tied him to a tree, whipped him for three days so severely that the poor man died of it.

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AHMADABAD is one of the largest towns in INDIA, where-there is a considerable trade in silken stuffs, gold and silver tapestries, and others mixed with silk ; saltpetre, sugar, ginger, both candied and plain, tamarinds, mirabolans, and indigo cakes, which are made at three leagues from AHMADABAD, at a large town called SHARKEJ.

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KABUL is a large town, fairly well fortified, and it is there the people of USBEK come every year to sell their horses ; they estimate that the trade in them amounts annually to more than 60,000. They take there from PERSIA also, many sheep and other cattle, and it is the great meeting-place for TARTARY, INDIA, and PERSIA. You can obtain wine there, and articles of food are very cheap.

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LAHORE is the capital of a kingdom, and is built on one of the five rivers which descend from the mountains of the north to go to swell the INDUS, and give the name of PENJAB to all the region which they water. This river at the present day flows at a quarter of a league distant from the town, being liable to change its bed, and the neighbouring fields often sustain much damage from its great overflowings. The town is large, and extends more than a coss in length, but the greater part of the houses, which are higher than those of AGRA and DELHI, are falling into ruins, the excessive rains having overthrown a large number. The palace of the King is rather fine, and is no longer, as it was formerly, on the margin of the river, which has withdrawn, as I have said, about a quarter of a league. One can obtain wine at LAHORE.


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a large town, near the river JUMNA, which runs from north to south, then from west to east, and after having passed AGRA and KADIOUE, loses itself in the GANGES. Since SHAH jAHAN has caused the new town of jAHANANAD to be built, to which he has given his name, and where he preferred to reside rather than at AGRA, because the climate is more temperate, DELHI has become much broken down and is nearly all in ruins, only sufficient of it remaining standing to afford a habitation to the poor. There are narrow streets and houses of bamboo as in all INDIA, and there are but three or four nobles of the court who reside at DELHI, in great enclosures, in which they have their tents pitched. It is also where the Reverend Jesuit Father who was at the court had his dwelling.


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Agra is in 27° 31' latitude, in a sandy soil; which is the cause of excessive heat in summer. It is the largest town in INDIA, and was formerly the residence of the Kings. The houses of the nobles are beautiful and well built, but those of private persons have nothing fine about them, no more than in all the other towns of INDIA. They are separated from one another, and are concealed by the height of the walls, from fear lest any one should see the women; so it is easy to understand that all these towns have nothing cheerful about them like our towns in EUROPE. It should be added to this that, AGRA being surrounded by sands, the heat in summer is excessive, and it is, in part, this which induced SHAHJAHAN not to make his ordinary dwelling there any more, and to remove his court to JAHANABAD.

[Page 96]

JAHANABAD is a large and very well-built town, the majority of the houses being of brick and cut stone, and more lofty than those of other towns of INDIA ; but it is very inconvenient [Page 97] that the streets are so narrow. It has several caravansarais, and, among others, one very large and well built. In the middle of the court there are two galleries where they sell cottons, silken stuffs, and other kinds of merchandise. The majority of those who vend the goods are the workers who have made the pieces, and in this manner foreigners obtain them at first hand. These workers, before exposing anything for sale, have to go to him who holds the contract, in order to get the King's stamp impressed on the pieces of calico or silk, otherwise they are fined and flogged. The town is situated to the north of the GANGES, which runs the whole length of the walls, and two leagues farther down a large river joins it from the west.

[Page 141]

MASULIPATAM is a straggling town (village), in which the houses are built of wood, and are detached from one another. This place, which is on the seashore, is only renowned on account of its anchorage, which is the best in the Bay of BENGAL, and it is the only place from which vessels sail for PEGU, SIAM, ARAKAN, BENGAL, COCHIN, CHINA, MECCA, and HORMUZ, as also for the islands of MADAGASCAR, SUMATRA, and the [Page 142] MANILLAS.

It should be remarked that wheel carriages do not travel between GOLCONDA and MASULIPATAM, the roads being too much interrupted by high mountains, tanks, and rivers, and there being many narrow and difficult passes. It is with the greatest trouble that one takes a small cart. This I have done to the diamond mines, and I was obliged to take mine to pieces frequently in order to pass bad places. It is the same between GOLCONDA and CAPE COMORIN. There are no waggons in all these territories, and you only see oxen and pack-horses for the conveyance of men, and for the transport of goods and merchandise. But, in default of chariots, you have the convenience of much larger pallankeens than in the rest of INDIA ; for one is carried much more easily, more quickly, and at less cost.


[Page 150]

GOA is situated in latitude 15° 32", in an island of six or seven leagues circuit, upon the river MANDAVI, which two leagues farther down discharges itself into the sea. The island abounds in corn and rice, and produces numerous fruits, as mangues, ananas, figues d' Adam, and cocos' but certainly a good pippin is worth more than all these fruits. All those who have seen both EUROPE and Asia thoroughly agree with me that the port of Goa, that of CONSTANTINOPLE, and that of Toulon, are the three finest ports of our great Continent. The town is very large, and its walls are of fine stone. The houses, for the most part, are superbly built, and this is particularly the case with the palace of the Viceroy. It has numerous rooms, and in some of the halls and chambers, which are very large, you see many pictures representing separately the vessels which come from LISBON to Goa, and those which leave Goa for LISBON, each with the name of the vessel and that of the captain, and the number of guns with which it is armed. If the town were not so shut in by the mountains which surround it, it would without doubt be more numerously inhabited, and residence there would be more healthy. But these mountains prevent the winds from refreshing it ; this is the cause of great heat. Beef and pork afford the ordinary food of the inhabitants of GoA. They have also [Page 151] fowls, but few pigeons, and although they are close to the sea fish is scarce. As for confectionery, they have many kinds, and eat a large quantity. Before the Dutch had beaten down the power of the Portuguese in INDIA, one saw at GoA nothing but magnificence and wealth, but since these late comers have deprived them of their trade in all directions, they have lost the sources of their gold and silver, and are altogether come down from their former splendour. On my first journey to Goa I saw people who had property yielding up to 2000 eevs of income, who on my second journey came secretly in the evening to ask alms of me without abating anything of their pride, especially the women, who, coming in patlankeens, remained at the door of the house, whilst a boy, who attended them, came to present their compliments. You sent them there what you wished, or you took it yourself when you were curious to see their faces; this happened rarely, because they cover all the head with a veil. Otherwise when one goes in person to give them charity at the door, they generally offer a letter from some religious person who recommends them, and makes mention of the wealth which the person formerly had, and the poverty into which she has fallen. Thus you generally enter into conversation with the fair one, and in honour bound invite her in to partake of refreshment, which lasts sometimes till the following day.


[Page 190]

The ‘PEPPER House’ is a large store surrounded by the sea, and there was no one then inside it. But when the Portuguese perceived that the enemy entertained the design of assaulting it they placed some men there with two guns ; this resulted in the bridge scheme being given up, and resort being had to other measures. Five weeks passed without anything important being accomplished, and the Dutch delivering an assault at night were vigorously repelled, and lost many soldiers through the fault of the Governor of KRANGANUR, who commanded them, and who was drunk when the attack was made.

[Page 223]

I observe that the majority of those who have written accounts of INDIA say boldly that the GREAT Mogul keeps 3000 or 4000 elephants. When at JAHANABAD, where the King at present resides, I often inquired from the person [Page 224] who has charge of them, and who shows much friendship for the Franks, in order to know what the number of elephants was which he feeds for the service of the King, and he assured me that he had but 500, 2 which are called elephants of the household, because they are only employed to carry the women and the tents with all the rest of the baggage, and for war only 80 or at most 90. The most courageous of these last has to be supported by the eldest son of the King, and is allotted, both for food and for all other necessary expenses, 500 rupees a month, which amount to 750 livres. There are some that have only 50, others but 40, others 30, others 20 rupees; but the elephants which have 100 or 200 or 300 or 400 rupees a month have under them their horsemen to support, who live on this pay, and also two, three, and up to six young elephants, who have to fan them during the great heat of the day. All these elephants do not remain in the town, as the majority go every morning to the country, where those who tend them take them into the jungles, where they eat branches of trees, sugar-canes, and millet, by which the poor peasants suffer much loss. This is profitable to those who tend these animals, because the more they eat in the country, the less food they consume in the town-the saving goes into the purse of these persons.

This same day, the 27th of August, we travelled 6 leagues farther, and slept at a large town called RAGIAPET A.

On the 28th, after having made 8 leagues, we came to Ouoecour.

On the 29th, after a march of nine hours, we arrived at [Page 225] OUTEMEDA, 8 where there is one of the grandest pagodas in the whole of INDIA. It is all built of large cut stones, and it has three towers where there are many deformed figures cut in relief. It is surrounded by many small chambers for the dwelling of the priests of the pagoda, and 500 paces off there is a great tank, upon the borders of which there are many small pagodas of 8 or 10 feet square, and in each an idol in the form of a demon, with a Brahmin, who takes care that any stranger who is not of their faith does not come to wash or take water from the tank. If a stranger wishes for water they carry him some in earthen pots, and if by chance their pot touches the vessel of the stranger they break the pot. I am told, also, as I have elsewhere remarked, that if any one not being of their faith washes in the tank it becomes necessary for them to let out all the water which is then in it. As for charity, they are very liberal, for no one passes who is in want and who asks, to whom they do not give to eat and drink of whatever they may happen to have. You meet many women on these roads, some of whom always keep fire to light the tobacco of passers, and even to those who have not tobacco they give a pipe. The others go there to cook rice with quecizere, which is a grain like our hemp-seed ; others, too, cook beans, because the water in which they are cooked never causes pleurisy to those who are overheated. There are among these women some who have vowed to perform this charity for travellers during seven or eight years ; others for more or less time according to their convenience, and they give each traveller bean water and rice water to drink, and two or three handsful of this cooked rice to eat. Other [Page 226] women are to be seen on the high-roads and in the fields following horses, oxen, and cows; these have vowed to eat nothing but what they find undigested in these animals' droppings. As neither barleyl nor oats are to be had in this country, the cattle are fed on certain large and hard peas, which are first crushed between two grindstones and then allowed to steep for half an hour, for they are very hard and consequently difficult of digestion. The horses are given some of these peas every evening, and in the morning they receive about two pounds of coarse black sugar, which is almost like wax, kneaded with an equal weight of flour and a pound of butter, of which mixture the grooms make pellets or small balls, which are forced down the horses' throats, otherwise they would not eat them. Afterwards their mouths are washed, especially the teeth, which are covered with the paste, this gives them a dislike to this kind of food. During the day the horses are given some grass which is torn up in the fields, roots and all, and is most carefully washed so that no earth remains.


2.1. BOOK II Historical and Political description of the Empire of the GREAT MOGUL.

[Page 257]

I WRITE this history without any commentary, and without describing how I became aware that these things happened during the sojourn which I made in the country. I leave it to the reader, according to his pleasure, to make his own moral and political reflections. It is sufficient for me to give a faithful picture of the powerful Empire of the MOGULS, in accordance with the sketch of it which I have taken on the spot, not wishing to increase this volume by any useless discussion.

This great and vast Empire, which constitutes the larger part of HINDUSTAN, and extends from the mountains upon this side of the river INDUS to the other side of the GANGES, touches on the east the Kingdoms of ARAKAN, TIPPERAH, and Assam; on the west PERSIA and TARTARY OF THE USBEGS ; on the south the Kingdoms of GOLCONDA and BIJAPUR ; and on the north it reaches to the CAUCASUS, having on the north-east the Kingdom of BHUTAN, from whence comes musk, and to the north-west th ecountry of CHEGATHAY, or the USBEGS.

[Page 258]

Many persons having written about INDIA itself, and of the genius of the Indians, I pass to subjects of more importance, but less well known, and I shall speak first of the family of the Kings of INDIA, commonly known as the MOGULS, that is to say whites, because the men who formerly conquered the country were white, the native born Indians being brown or olive-coloured.

AURANGZEB, who reigns at present, is the eleventh in direct line of the descendants of the great TEMURLENG, commonly called TAMERLANE, who by the extent and renown of his conquests from CHINA to POLAND surpassed the glory of the most renowned captains of previous ages.

His successors succeeded in conquering the whole of INDIA, between the two rivers, thereby destroying many Kings, and AURANGZEB has to-day under his authority the Kingdoms of GUJARAT, DECCAN, DELHI, MULTAN, LAHORE, KASHMIR, BENGAL, and many other countries, without speaking of many Rajas, or Kinglets, who are his vassals, and pay him tribute.

[Page 301]

2.2. CHAPTER VIII Concerning the preparations which are made for the festival of the GREAT MOGUL, when he is solemnly weighed every year. Of the splendour of his thrones and the magnificence of his Court.

AFTER having completed all my business with the King, as I have related in the first Book, and on going to take leave of his Majesty on the first of November 1665, he told me that he was unwilling that I should depart without having witnessed his fete, which was then at hand, and that afterwards he would give orders for me to be shown all his jewels. I accepted, as in duty bound, the honour he did me; and thus I was a spectator of this grand festival, which commenced on the fourth of November and lasted five days. It is on the anniversary of the King's birthday that they are in the habit of weighing him, and if he should weigh more than in the preceding year, the REJOICING is much greater on that account. When he has been weighed, he seats himself on the richest of the thrones, of which I shall speak presently, and then all the nobility of the kingdom come to salute him and make him presents. The ladies of the court [Page 302] send some also, and he receives others from all the Governors of Provinces and other exalted personages. In diamonds, rubies, emeralds, pearls, gold and silver, as well as rich carpets, brocades of gold and silver, and other stuffs, elephants, camels, and horses, the King receives in presents on this day to the value of more than 30,000,000 livres.

Preparations for this festival are commenced on the 7th of September, about two months before the five days which it lasts; and the reader should remember here the description which I have given of the palace of JAHANABAD in the sixth chapter of Book I. The first thing done is to cover in two grand courts of the palace from the middle of each court up to the hall, which is open on three sides. The awnings covering this great space are of red velvet embroidered with gold, and so heavy that the poles which are erected to support them are of the size of a ship's mast, and some of them are 35 to 40 feet in height; there are thirty-eight for the tent of the first court, and those near the hall are covered with plates of gold of the thickness of a ducat. The others are covered with silver of the same thickness, and the cords which sustain these poles are of cotton of different colours, and some of them of the thickness of a good cable. The first court is, as I have elsewhere said, surrounded by porticoes with small rooms connected with them, and here it is that the Omrahs dwell while they are on guard. For it should be remarked that one of the Omrahs mounts guard every week. He disposes, both in the court as also about the palace or the tent of the King, when he is in the field, the cavalry under his command, besides many elephants. During this week the Omrah on guard receives his food from the King's kitchen, and when 'he sees the food which is being brought to him afar off, he makes three obeisances in succession, which consist in placing the hand three times on the ground, and as of ten on the head, at the same time asking God to preserve the King's health, and that He will give him long life and power to vanquish his enemies. All these Omrahs, who [Page 303] are the nobility of the kingdom and Princes of the blood, regard it as a great honour to guard the King ; and when they mount guard, or when they leave it, they don their best clothes, their horses, elephants, and camels being also richly clad, and some of these camels carry a swivel-gun with a man seated behind to fire it. The least of these Omrahs commands 2000 horse, but, when a Prince of the blood is on guard, he commands up to 6000.

This is a selection from the original text


animals, authority, beef, charity, cheap, food, pork, trade, transport, travel

Source text

Title: Travels in India, Volume I

Author: Jean Baptiste Tavernier

Editor(s): V. Ball

Publisher: MacMillan and Co.

Publication date: 1889

Original compiled 1676

Original date(s) covered: 1583-1619

Edition: 1st Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Internet Archive: Original compiled 1676 Original date(s) covered: 1583-1619

Digital edition

Original author(s): Jean Baptiste Tavernier

Original editor(s): V. Ball

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) Tp
  • 2 ) Dedication to the King
  • 3 ) B2
  • 4 ) 4-7
  • 5 ) 32-39
  • 6 ) 40-43
  • 7 ) 46-47
  • 8 ) 54-59
  • 9 ) 73
  • 10 ) 75
  • 11 ) 77-78
  • 12 ) 86
  • 13 ) 96-97
  • 14 ) 141-142
  • 15 ) 150-151
  • 16 ) 190
  • 17 ) 223-226
  • 18 ) 257-258
  • 19 ) 301-303


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

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

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