The Travels of Pietro Della Valle in India, Volume I

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Introductory notes

Published by The Hakluyt Society in 1792, The Travels of Pietro Della Valle in India, edited by Edward Grey - is a travelogue whose setting is in the Renaissance period. Pietro Della Valle was born in 1586. He was an Italian nobleman who embarked on a trip to the holy sites of the Middle East. While doing so he travelled to India around 1623-24.Della Velle passed away in 1652. Selections have been made from Volumes 1 and 2 of The Travels of Pietro Della Valle in India. The Italian gives an account of various court proceedings in different parts of India that he got to experience from close quarters.He also had meetings with various other sections having influence in the sub continent.One gets to hear details about the climate, geography and lifestyles prevailing in India at that time. Primary Reading Grey,Edward, The Travels of Pietro Della Valle in India,Volume 1,The Hakluyt Society Suggested Reading Foster, William, Early Travels In India 1583-1619,


Edited, with a life of the author, an Introduction and Notes, BY EDWARD GREY (late bengal civil service). LONDON: PRINTED FOR THE HAKLUYT SOCIETY, 4, LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS, W.C. M.DCCC.XCII.

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1. Life of Pietro Della Valle

PIETRO DELLA VALLE, the son of Pompeo della Valle and his wife Giovanna Alberini, was born at Rome, April 1st/11th 1586. His family was one of the most ancient and illustrious in Rome, and numbered among its members two Cardinals, viz., Rustico under Pope Honorius II, and Andrea under Leo X. From the latter the street and church in Rome of ‘St. Andrea della Valle’ took their name. Little is known of his early life except that he received a good education, travelled over Italy, and was admitted into the Academy of Umoristi, a scientific and literary society of those days which had been instituted at Rome.

On differences arising between the Pope and the Venetians, and when also the troubles which ensued on the death of Henry IV of France led to expectations of war, he entered the military service ; but it does not appear that he actually took part in any campaign.

Later on, in the year 1611, he joined a Spanish fleet in an expedition to Barbary, and took part in [Page ii] the capture of the Karkenssa Islands (the ancient Cercina and Cercinitis) in the Gulf of Cabes, off the coast of Africa, which were then the stronghold of pirates, and in other engagements, which, he says however, that he regarded ‘rather as skirmishes than fights’.

Subsequently, owing to a disappointment in a love affair, he went to Naples, and assumed the habit of a pilgrim and the title of ‘Pellegrino’, which he ever afterwards added to his signature.

In consequence of this disappointment, and by the advice of his friend, Signor Mario Schipano, a professor of medicine, he determined on travelling in the East, and embarked at Venice for Constantinople on board the Gran Delfino on June 8th, 1614. He remained at Constantinople until September 1615, and proceeded thence to Asia Minor and Egypt, and from there to Mount Sinai, the monastery of St. Catherine, and to Palestine. He visited Jerusalem, Damascus, Aleppo and Baghdad, besides Anah on the Euphrates and Hillah, the site of Babylon. On his return thence to Baghdad he married Maani Gioerida, a young Assyrian Christian, eighteen years old. Her father was an Assyrian, her mother an Armenian. Maani (which signifies ‘intelligence’ in Arabic) was born at Mardin, a principal town of Mesopotamia, whence she came, at the age of four, with her father and mother to Baghdad, when her native town was ravaged by the Kurds. She appears to have been well educated and was acquainted with the Turkish language in addition to [Page iii] her own, which was Arabic. In one of his letters, written from Baghdad, Pietro describes at great length the history of his marriage with this lady, after repeated efforts to overcome the reluctance, whether real or assumed, on the part of her mother to the proposed union, and he enters into considerable details on the subject of the personal charms of his bride. This marriage took place in the year 1616, and he proceeded in company with his wife to Persia. He visited Hamadan and Ispahan, and, hearing that the King, Shah Abbas, was at that time in the vicinity of the Caspian Sea, proceeded to seek an interview with him in his camp. He was hospitably received by the King, and remained for some time at his Court. He had at this time two objects in view—viz., a desire to serve in a military expedition against the Turks, wThich was then talked of, and also to obtain certain advantages for the Christians who were the subjects of persecution in the Ottoman Empire. He accompanied the King to Ardebil, where the army was assembled, and took part in a sanguinary battle with the Turks. His wife accompanied him, and he speaks of her (in Letter No. 111 from Persia) as ‘a warrior who fears neither to see blood, nor to hear the sound of firing’. He then returned to Ispahan, and, quitting it on October 1st, 1621, visited the ruins of Persepolis and city of Shiraz. Thence he travelled towards the coast of the Persian Gulf. At Mina, near the Gulf of Ormuz, his wife died on December 30th, 1622, of fever brought on by hardship and an unhealthy [Page iv] climate. In one of his letters (No. xvi from Persia) he describes her illness and death in very affecting terms. He caused his wife's body to be embalmed and placed in a coffin, and taking it with him, and also a Georgian girl, Maria Tinatin di Ziba, whom his wife had taken under her protection, endeavoured to embark for India at Bender Ser. Owing, however, to the fact that the Persians, aided by the English, were at that time besieging Ormuz, then occupied by the Portuguese, his intention was frustrated for a time, and he returned to Lar. Afterwards, on January 19th, 1623, he embarked at Gombroon (Bandar Abbas) for India. He arrived at Siirat on February 10th, 1623, and thence visited Cambay (Khambayat), Ahmadabad, Chawal, Goa, Ikkeri, Barcelor, Mangaliir, and Calicut (Kalikot), which last place was the limit of his travels in India. Thence he returned along the coast to Goa, and, embarking thereon November 16th, 1624, sailed to Mascat. Thence he travelled by Bassora to Aleppo, and from that port sailed by Cyprus, Malta and Sicily, to Naples, where he arrived on February 5th, 1626, and finally reached Rome on March 28th of that year. Here he buried the remains of his wife, which he had conveyed with him throughout his travels, in the Church of Aracceli in the vault of the Delia Valle family. He was well received by the Pope Urban VIII, and by his friends at Rome. He soon afterwards became honorary Chamberlain to the Pope, and married the young Georgian, already mentioned as having been taken under protection by [Page v] his wife in Persia, who had been the companion of his travels ever since his wife's death. She was the daughter of an officer in the Georgian army, who had been killed in the course of an attempt to resist the invasion of his country by the army of the King of Persia, and had been carried with other captives to Ispahan, where Sitti Maani saw her and took her under her protection. By her marriage with P. della Valle she became the mother of fourteen sons. It does not appear that any of these sons attained to any distinction in after life. It is stated that on account of their turbulent conduct at Rome, after their father's death, they, with their mother, were compelled to leave Rome and to take up their residence at Urbino.

Subsequently to his marriage Pietro della Valle continued to reside at Rome until an event happened in consequence of which he was compelled to seek for a time another place of residence. On the occa sion of a procession taking place in the streets of Rome a quarrel arose between an Indian servant in the employment of Delia Valle and one of the Pope's servants, in the course of which the latter deprived the Indian of his sword, which he was about to break in two, when P. della Valle, drawing his own sword, ran it through the man's body, killing him on the spot in the presence of the Pope. He left Rome and retired to the Fort of Paliano and thence to Naples, but after a short time he was allowed by the Pope, through the intercession of Cardinal Francesco Barberini, to return to Rome, where he con [Page vi] tinued to reside until his death in the month of April 1652

From the time of his return to Rome until his death he appears to have led a retired life, receiving the visits of friends who came to hear the history of his travels and to inspect the museum of curiosities which he had collected in the course of his wanderings.

The society of the Umoristt, of which he was a member, conferred upon him the title of Fantastico. He had always been a great admirer of music, and, besides composing several melodies, became the inventor of two new musical instruments, to which he gave the names of cimbalo esarmonico and violino panormonico.

But his claims to posthumous fame must, no doubt, be based on his merits as a bold and observant traveller. We cannot forget that he was the first traveller to penetrate into the second Pyramid, and to send to Europe two mummies, now preserved in the collection of antiquities at Dresden. He was the first who directed attention to the rock inscrip [Page vii] tions and cuneiform writings in Assyria, of which he brought back some copies, and, though he was incapable of deciphering them, he was clever enough to discover that the inscriptions must be read from left to right, contrary to the direction prevailing in more modern inscriptions written in Oriental languages. He came to this conclusion by noticing that in the formation of the arrow-headed characters the thicker ends of those in a horizontal position were invariably towards the left hand of the inscription. His travels were described in a narrative divided into three parts, comprising his wanderings in Turkey, Persia and India respectively. The first part only was published in his lifetime. The second and third parts appeared several years after his death, being published under the care of four of his sons, Valerio, Erasmo, Francesco and Paolo. They are all composed in the form of letters addressed to his friend, Signor Mario Schipano, who resided at Naples, and are evidently written by an acute observer, who knew how to make use of his uncommon learning, and who had an advantage over many other previous travellers in his knowledge of Eastern languages, of which we know that he wrote and spoke Turkish, Persian and Arabic, besides having some acquaintance with Coptic and Chaldaean. As to his merits as a traveller, Gibbon —a man not given to praise anyone unduly—has recorded his opinion that ‘no traveller knew and described Persia so well as P. della Valle’. Southey [Page viii] speaks of him as ‘that excellent traveller’; and the late Sir Henry Yule, than whom few persons could form a better opinion of the merits of an Eastern traveller, says—speaking ‘of travellers whose steps have led them to India by no inducements of trade or service, but who came for their own pleasure or convenience.’ ‘The prince of all such who have related their experiences is Pietro della Valle, the most insatiate in curiosity, the most intelligent in apprehension, the fullest and most accurate in description.’ (See Diary of Sir W. Hedges, published by the Hakluyt Society, vol. ii, p. 343.) The present volume comprises only the eight letters which contain an account of P. della Valle's travels in India. His wanderings in that country were confined to a comparatively limited area, extending, as has been already stated, only to Ahmadabad towards the north, and to Calicut (Kallkot) on the south, and comprising (with the exception of expeditions to Cambay, Ahmadabad and Ikkeri, towns in the interior) visits only to settlements on the western coast of the peninsula. It is to be regretted that he did not extend his travels further ; but these letters, describing as they do only a very limited extent of country, are nevertheless full of graphic descriptions, and bring before the mind's eye a vivid and life-like representation of men and manners as they existed in the early part of the seventeenth century in the Portuguese settlements on the coast and in the native territories adjacent to them. Nor is there wanting in some of them a deeper [Page ix] vein of thought, which crops up every now and then in the attempt to penetrate into and to explain the mystery underlying the outward semblance of religion among the Hindus, as represented by their idols their temples, and their pagan ceremonies of religious worship. And, although the interest of the reader is more likely to be attracted towards the descriptions of native life, the account of Portuguese towns and of the mode of life adopted by their European inhabitants will be found little less interesting. To us, who in the present day see nothing in these settlements but the relics of departed greatness, the pictures here laid before us of the commercial activity and political enterprise which were exhibited in those days must have a fascination which is all the greater because they owe their attractions to the "touch of a vanish'd hand" and the charm of ‘a voice that is still’.

2. THE TRAVELS OF PETER DELLA VALLE, SIRNAMED THE TRAVELLER, Containing a Description of the East Indies, &c.

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On Sunday we went from our Ship to recreate ourselves in the Dolphin, our companion, where the Captain entertain 'd us liberally all day. In the meantime we had a good fresh gale, and sailing directly in the middle of the gulf, we beheld both the coasts of Arabia Felix, and Persia; and in the latter discern'd a famous white rock, which, standing in the midst of a low sandy shore, looks like a little hill made by hand. We pass'd the Cape, which they call in Persian Com barick, that is, small sand, and the next night we left behind us the point, or peak, of Giasck.

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On the Third of February, conceiving by our reckoning that we were near India, in the Evening, we let down the plummet into the Sea, as we us'd often to do, and found it not above seventeen fathom ; whereby 'twas concluded, that we were little more then six leagues distant from land, although, by reason of the darkness of the Air, none could be yet discern'd ; because that precise depth of water uses to be found in those Seas at that distance from land. The Captain, who by well observing the Sun and the Winds, had every day diligently noted the Ships way in the Map, as the custom is, hop'd that we might be near the City of Daman, which lies within the [Page 16] Gulph of Cambaia, on the right hand as you enter into it, a good way inwards ; but I, without having so much minded the Maps, said, I conceiv'd we were much lower, and more without the Gulph towards Bassain, because although we had always sail'd and kept the ships prow directed to Daman by the shortest line, yet, for the two or three last dayes, we had had the Wind for that place contrary ; which, although it hinder'd us not from holding our course, because we help'd ourselves with the rudder, and siding of the sails, yet the violence of the Wind must needs have continually driven the ship something lower then we intended. Two hours after midnight, the current of the Gulph of Cambaia being contrary, against which, by reason of its impetuousness, there is no sailing for a while, but the ship must stay either for the turning of it, (which is known when it will happen, because it regularly changes according to the hours and days of the Moon) or for a strong Wind wherewith to master the current ; for this reason, and also that the day-light might resolve us in what place we were, we cast anchor, and struck sail, to wait for a more fitting time. The Sea in this place began to be very rough, which happens by reason of the strong current which it hath.

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On Saturday Morning we convers'd together for some time, drinking a little of hot wine, boyl'd with Cloves, Cinnamon, and other spices, which the English call burnt wine, and use to drink frequently in the Morning to comfort the stomack, sipping it by little, and little, for fear of scalding, as they do Cahue (coffee), by me elsewhere describ'd. And they use it particularly in the Winter to warm themselves ; though in India 'tis not necessary for that end, because albeit 'twas still Winter, according to our division of the seasons, yet we had more heat than cold.

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V.—The next Morning very early we put ourselves on the way towards Surat, and being I conceiv'd my abode there would be but short, and that when I should depart thence my way would be by Sea; therefore to avoid greater trouble, both of conveyance, and of the Dogana, or Custom House, which is known to be rigorous in Surdt, I left all my Trunks, and gross luggage, in the ship, and carry'd with me only such few things as were requisite for daily use. The high-way from the Sea side to the City, (as 'tis also generally in this province of Guzarat, wherein we were) is all very even ; the soil green all the year round, and about the town Sohali grow aboundance of Trees and Indian Nuts, Tamarinds, and other fruits. Beyond the Town the Trees are not so plentiful, unless near certain houses ; but the fields are every where either ploughed, or full of living creatures feeding in them.

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VI.—The City of Surat is of a handsome greatness, and for these Countries, of sufficiently good building : 'Tis very populous, as all other Cities and places are in India, which everywhere abounds with people. The Inhabitants are partly Gentiles, and partly Mahometans ; and, if I am not deceived, the former are the greater number : However, they live all mixt together, and peaceably, because the Gran Moghel, to whom Guzarat is now subject,(having sometimes had a distinct King) although he be a Mahometan (but not a pure one, as they report) makes no difference in his Dominions between the one sort and the other ; and both in his Court, and Armies, and even amongst men of the highest degree, they are of equal account, and consideration. Yet the Mahometans, as the Masters, especially those of the Mogholian Race, which now is the Imperial in these parts, seems to have some little more of authority.

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VII.—Of remarkable things without the city, there is on one side a very large Cistern, or Artificial Pool, surrounded with stone-work, and contriv'd with many sides, and angles at which there are stairs, leading down to the surface of the water. In the midst stands a little Island, which cannot be gone to but by boat, or swimming. The Diametre of this Artificial Lake is two good furlongs, which in our parts would seem a competent largeness, but here 'tis not much ;and this Fish pond of Surat is not accounted among the greatest, but the least, in India ; where indeed they are numerous, and the most magnificent, and goodly structures, or rather, the only structures in this Country which have anything of magnificence, or handsomeness. They are made in divers places by Princes, Governours of Countries, or other wealthy persons, for the publick benefit,and as works of Charity, because the soil, suitable to the Climate, is sufficiently hot, and aboundeth not in water: Rivers are not in all places ; and other running waters, and springs, there are scarce any, especially in the more in-land parts remote from the Sea ; Rain likewise very seldome during the whole year, saving in that season, called by them Pansecal, which signifies, The time of rain, being about [Page 33] three moneths, beginning about the middle of June, and during which time the Rain is continual, and very great ; whence some upon this account call these three moneths Winter, although the weather be then hottest, as well in India as in all the rest of the northern Hemisphere. And this, no doubt, proceeds from the Providence of God ; since, were it not for this great rain, India would be in regard of the great heat and drought at this time unhabitable ; as likewise the whole torrid Zone, in which most of India lies, was believ'd to be by the Ancients, who had no knowledge of these marvellous rains, which render it not onlye habitable, but also fertile and most delicious. Now, for that the Country is in some parts so scarce of water, many Cities and inhabited places have no other but the rain-water gather'd in these great Cisterns which are so capacious that one of them suffices a City for a whole year and more : And it not onely affords drink to men and animals but also they wash clothes and beasts in it when occasion requires, and make use of it to all purposes ; whereby it comes to pass that in some places the water they have is not over clear ; and the rude Indians care not for such delicacies, but 'tis enough for them if they have what is barely needful.

The Cistern or Lake of Surat hath a great trench adjoyn'd to it on one side, long, large and deep, over which certain small bridges are built ; and it falls into another less Cistern a good way off, which though but small here comparatively, would yet be a very large one in our parts ; 'tis built with many sides of stone like the former, as also the banks of the Trench are. Between the great Lake and the less, upon the Trench, stands a small Cupola or arched Structure, made for the sepulture of some principal Mahometans of the Country, and, as they say, of two brethren who kill'd one the other, and of their Wives. 'Tis no long time since this Cistern was made, according to the [Page 34] common report, by a private man of this City, but sufficiently wealthy, whose Daughter, they say, or rather one descended from him, is still living, and I know not by what sinister hap of fortune, very poor, so that she hath scarce bread to eat. Wherein I observ'd a great ingratitude of the Citizens of Surat, in suffering his heir to want food, who for their publick benefit had been at so great expense.

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VIII.—On an other side of the City, but out of the circuit of the houses, in an open place, is seen a great and fair Tree, of that kind which I saw in the sea coasts of Persia, near Ormuz, called there Lul but here Ber. The Gentiles of the Country hold it in great veneration for its greatness and age, riting and honoring it often with their superstitious ceremonies, as dear and dedicated to a Goddess of theirs call'd Parvete, whom they hold to be the Wife of Mahadeu, one of their greatest Deities. On the trunk of this tree a little above the ground, they have rudely engraven a round circle, which really hath not any feature of a humane countenance, but according to their gross application represents that of their Idol. This face they keep painted with a bright Flesh-colour, and this by a [Page 36] sacred rite of Religion ; as the Romans also cly'd the face of Jupiter with Vermillion, as Pliny testifies. Round about it are fastened Flowers and abundance of a plant, whose leaves resemble a Heart, call'd here Pan but in other places of India, Betle. These leaves the Indians use to champ or chaw all day long, either for health's sake or for entertainment and delight, (as some other Nations for the same reasons, or rather through evil custome, continually take Tobacco. And therewith they mix a little ashes of sea-shels and some small pieces of an Indian nut sufficiently common, which here they call Fonfel) and in other places A reca; a very dry fruit, seeming within like perfect wood; and being of an astringent nature they hold it good to strengthen the Teeth. Which mixture, besides its comforting the stomack, hath also a certain biting taste, wherewith they are delighted ; and as they chaw it, it strangely dyes their lips and mouths red, which also they account gallant ; but I do not, because it appears not to be natural. They swallow down only the juice after long mastication and spit out the rest. In visits, 'tis the first thing offer'd to the visitants ; nor is there any society or pastime without it.

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IX.—The Commendator of the Dutch came one day to give me a visit, and after a competent conversation, carried me in his coach a little out of the City to see one of the fairest and famousest gardens of Surat. The plot was level, well contriv'd and divided with handsome streight Walks ; on either side whereof were planted rowes of [Page 40] sundry Trees of this Climate, namely Ambe or, as others speak, Manghei before describ'd by me in my last Letters from Persia, in the maritime parts whereof I saw some Trees of this kind : Foufel, whose leaves are like those of the Palm-tree, but of a livelier, and fairer, green ; Narghil, like the Palm in the leaves also, and is that which we call Nux Indica: and others, different from what are found in our parts. The plots between the several walks were full of herbs and flowers, partly such as we have, and partly not ; amongst the rest they shew'd me a Flower, for bigness and form not unlike our Gilly flower, but of a whitish yellow, having a very sweet and vigorous scent, and they call it Ciampa. In a convenient place there is a square place, rais'd somewhat from the ground and cover'd with large sheds, to sit there in the shade, after the manner of the East : and here we entertain'd our selves a while and had a collation ; and other things in the garden worthy of remark I saw none.

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Of Slaves there is a numerous company, and they live with nothing ; their clothing is onely white linnen, which though fine is bought very cheap ; and their dyet for the most part is nothing but rice(the ancient food of all the Indians, according to Strabo), of which they have infinite plenty, and a little fish, which is found every where in abundance. So that everybody, even of mean fortune, keeps a great family and is splendidly attended, which is easie enough, considering the very small charge, as I said, and on the other side the very considerable gains of traffick wherein most men are imploy'd, and the incomes of the Land, through its incredible fruitfulness, I dare say, un measurable.

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Now, on Monday the 23d of February, being the day for our setting forth, besides the three Coaches for Sig : Alberto and me, and two others full of Dutch-men who were to go this journey with us, all in very good order for habits and arms, and also with a Trumpeter with a silver Trumpet, to recreate the Travellers, the Commendator himself came to my house with many others of his followers in their City-Coaches, to conduct me forth and set me in the way. He accompany'd me to a certain place without the City, where in the shadow of a small chappel, we convers'd together for a good while, and were entertained with sundry fruits, particularly with Grapes, which here in Surat we have often ate ripe, sweet, and good, in February, yet green of colour, like the Uva-Jugliatica or early July-grape of Italy, and I believe there is plenty enough to make Wine.


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Having travell'd sixteen Cos, which was from Surat in all two and twenty, before Evening we arriv'd at the City of Barocci, or Behrug, as they call it in Persian ; under the walls whereof, on the South side, runs a River call'd Nerbeda, which we ferried over. The City is encompass'd with a wall of moderate bigness, built high upon a rising hill. For the circuit 'tis populous enough, as generally are all the parts of India. 'Tis considerable for a very great Trade of fine Cotton Cloth, or Callico, made more plentifully there than in other places, and dispersed not onely through Asia, but also into our Europe, so that the English and Dutch (which two Nations have Houses of constant residence here) freight five or six great ships therewith every year ; and for the better imbarking of it, make it up [Page 61] in very great bales, each as big as a Roman Coach ; and every piece of Cloth, little bigger than one of our Towels, being carri'd to Aleppo, will not be sold for less than three or four Piastres, and in Italy at least for six Crowns. Whence you may infer what wealth comes out of this small City alone, which for compass and buildings is not greater than Siena of Tuscany, although 'tis above three times as populous, and you may also consider to what summ the Prince's Costumes arise.

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The next day, which was Wednesday, Feb. 22, we departed from Barocci late in the Forenoon. Six Cos off, we made a Collation near a water, without lighting out of the Coach, having brought provision with us for this purpose from Barocci. Afterwards upon the way we met the Wife and Family of the Governour of Cambaia, remov'd from that charge by the Rebel Sultan Chorrbm, who had plac'd another there at his devotion ; and this, being driven from thence, return'd to Surdt, where his house and usual habitation was. His Wife was carry'd upon an Elephant, in a cover'd and very convenient litter. Three other Elephants follow'd unladen, saving with the men upon their necks who guided them ; then abundance of Coaches, partly covered and full of women, partly uncover'd with men in them ; then a great number of Souldiers, Horse and Foot ; and in brief a great train suitable to the quality of the person and the custom of India, which is to have a very numerous attendance whoever it be. After this we forded a small River, which I believe was of salt water, which, they say, is called Dilavel ;and before night, having travell'd eighteen Cos, we staid to lodge in a great Town call'd Giambaser. On Thursday, [Page 63] two hours before day, we arose to go along with a great Cafila, or Caravan, which was there united ; nevertheless we departed not so soon, but were fain to wait in the Coach till almost day, because the City was lock'd up, and none was suffer'd to go forth without paying a Toll, as likewise was paid in many other places the same day, though of small value. The Cafila was so great, and the Coaches so many, that in certain narrow places we were fain to stay a good while before we could go forwards, just as it. happens in the streets of Naples and Rome at solemn pomps.

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XIII.-Cambaia is a City indifferently large, though [Page 67] most of its greatness consists in Suburbs without the walls, which are sufficiently spacious. 'Tis seated on the Seashore, in a plain, almost in the utmost recess of that great Gulph whereunto it gives its name. The City, that is the inner part without the Suburbs, is incompass'd with walls, built with plain cortines1 and round battlements. The Houses within are roofed with coverings of Tiles and Cisterns, which is the custom in India for provision of Water, which falls in such plenty during those three moneths of the great Summer rains. In our Countries they would be ordinary Houses, but in these parts they are counted good, and perhaps the best of the whole Province ;and they are made shady and cool, as the heat of the place requires. The City hath no form'd Port, because it stands in a low Plain, but 'tis call'd a Port, by reason of the great concourse of Vessels thither from several parts, which nevertheless for the most part are Frigots, Galeots, and other small ones of that make, which go either by oar or sail, because great ones cannot come near the Land by a great way.

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The next Morning, going about the City, we saw another Hospital of Goats, Kids, Sheep and Wethers, either sick or lame, and there were also some Cocks, Peacocks and other Animals needing the same help, and kept altogether quietly enough in a great Court ; nor wanted there Men and Women lodg'd in little rooms of the same Hospital, who had care of them. In another place, far from hence, we saw another Hospital of Cows and Calves, some whereof had broken Legs, others more infirm, very old, or lean, and therefore were kept here to be cur'd. Among the beasts there was also a Mahometan Thief, who having been taken in Theft had both his hands cut off. But the compassionate Gentiles, that he might not perish miserably now he was no longer able to get his living, took him into this place, and kept him among the poor beasts, not suffering him to want anything. Moreover, without one of the Gates of the City, we saw another great troop of Cows, Calves and Goats, which being cur'd and brought into better plight, or gather'd together from being dispers'd and without Masters, or being redeem'd with Money from the Mahometans who would have killed them to eat, (namely, the Goats and other Animals, but not the Cows and Calves) were sent into the field to feed by neat-herds, purposely maintain'd at the publick charge ; and thus they are kept till being reduc'd to perfect health 'tis found fitting to give them to some Citizens, or others who may charitably keep them. I excepted Cows and Calves from [Page 71] the Animals redeem'd from slaughter, because in Cambaia Cows, Calves and Oxen, are not killed by any, and there's a great prohibition against it, by the instance of the Gentiles, who upon this account pay a great sum of Money to the Prince, and should any, either Mahometan or other, be found to kill them, he would be punish'd severely, even with death.

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It happens very often during hot weather, both in Travelling and in Towns, that people have need of refreshing themselves and drinking of a little water ; but because every one hath not a drinking-vessel of his own ready, to avoid defiling or being defil'd by his companion's cup, there's a way found out whereby any person may drink in that, or any other whatever, without scruple or danger of any either active or passive contamination. This is done by drinking in such manner that the vessel touches not the lips or mouth of him who drinks ; for it is held up on high with the hand over the mouth, and he that lifts it up highest, and holds it furthest from his mouth

[Page 95]

About noon, having travell'd twelve, or, as others said, fourteen Cos, we arriv'd at Ahmedabad, and our journey from Cambaia hither was always with our Faces towards the North East Being entred into the City, which is competently large, with Great Suburbs, we went directly to alight at the house of the English Merchants, till other lodgings were prepared for us, where also we din'd with them. After which we retir'd to one of the houses which stand in the street, which they call Terzi Carvanserai, that is the Tayler's Inn. For you must know that the Carvanserai, or Inns, in Ahmedabdd, and other Great Cities of India, are not, as in Persia and Turkey, one single habitation, made in form of a great Cloyster, with abundance of Lodgings round about, separate one from another, for quartering of strangers ; but they are whole great streets of the City destinated for strangers to dwell in, and whosoever is minded to hire a house ; and because these streets are lockt up in the night time for security of the persons and goods which are there, therefore they call them Carvanserai. Notwithstanding the wearisomness of our journey, because we were to stay but a little while at Ahmedabdd, therefore after a little rest we went the same Evening to view the market-place, buying sundry things. It displeas'd me sufficiently that the streets not being well pav'd, although they are large, fair and strait, yet through the great dryness of the Earth they are so dusty that there's almost no going a foot, because the foot sinks very deep in the ground with great defilement ; and the going on Horse-back, or in a Coach, is likewise very troublesome [Page 96] in regard of the dust, a thing indeed of great disparagement to so goodly and great a City as this is. I saw in Ahmedabad Roses, Flowers of Jasmin and other sorts, and divers such fruits as we have in our Countries in the Summer ; whence I imagin'd, that probably, we had repass'd the Tropick of Cancer, and re-enter'd a little into the temperate Zone ; which doubt I could not clear for want of my Astrolabe, which I had left with my other goods at Surat.

On Tuesday following, which to us was the day of Carnoval, or Shrove- Tuesday, walking in the Morning about the Town, I saw a handsome street, strait, long and very broad, full of shops of various Trades : they call it Bezari Kelan, that is, the Great Merkat, 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 102]

Having at length obtain'd permission, and being got out of the City, we went a little without the walls to see a great Artificial Lake which is there, made of stone, with stairs at several angles about it; its Diameter was by my conjecture about half a mile. It hath about the middle an Island, with a little Garden, to which they go by a handsome Bridge of many Arches very well built ; upon which, I believe, two Indian Coaches may go a breast. Indeed these Indian Lakes are goodly things, and may be reckon'd amongst the most remarkable structures of the world.


[Page 122]

March the fifteenth was the first day of the Feast of the Indian-Gentiles, which they celebrate very solemnly at [Page 123] the entrance of the Spring, with dancings through the street, and casting orange water and red colours in jest one upon another, with other festivities of Songs and Mummeries, as I have formerly seen the same in Spahan, where also reside constantly a great number of Banians and Indian Gentiles. Yet the solemnity and concourse of people was greater than in Persia, as being in their own Country and a City inhabited in a great part by Gentiles and wealthier persons. Otherwise I saw nothing at Surat during these three Festival Days but what I had seen already at Spahan, and have mentioned in my writings from that place.


[Page 131]

March the twenty-fifth. Early in the Morning, I put my Goods into the Shallop of Sebastian Luis, and also going aboard myself, whilst the President went to his own Ships to despatch them, set sail for Daman ; at night we cast Anchor in a narrow arm of the Sea, which enters far into the Land, of which sort of inlets there are many all along the coast of India, which encompassing good portions of Land make many little Islands ; and because the said arms of the sea are long and narrow, like Rivers, and some of them have little Rivers falling into them from the continent (although the water is salt, and they have no current but [Page 132] the ebbing and flowing of the Sea the Portugals term them in their language, Rios or Rivers, which I take notice of that it may be understood that all the Rios or Rivers which I shall name on the coast of India, and not specifie that they are streams of fresh waters, are such arms of the Sea as this, improperly called Rivers. This where we stay'd this night is call'd Rio di Colek, or Coleque).

I have better understood that all the aforesaid inlets are not arms of the Sea, but really Rivers of fresh water ; and the Tide of the Sea at ebbing and flowing being here very strong, and overcoming that of the Rivers, hence it comes to pass that 'tis hardly perceiv'd whether they have any stream or no ; and the water going very far into the Land comes like-wise to be salt ; but indeed they are Rivers, and form Islands by their entering into the Sea with many mouths. They are almost innumerable upon all the coast of India, and the Portugals very truly call them Rios, Rivers. Wonder not at these doubts and various informations, for I could not understand things thoroughly at first, for want of converse with intelligent persons ; nor was it easie for me to judge right in the beginning ; the first appearance of things oftentimes deceiving even the wisest, as the saltness of the water did me in my judgment of the Rivers, making me take them for arms of the Sea ; which mistake was further'd by the affirmation of most of the ignorant Portugals, who, not knowing more of this coast than the shore where the water is salt, think that the Rivers are salt water ; but Time and better informations assist my diligence in discovering the truth of things.

March the twenty-sixth. About noon we arriv'd at Daman, but unseasonably, the Cafila and Fleet of the Portugals being gone in the Morning, and we discern'd them sailing afar off, but it was not possible to overtake them. I [Page 133] advertis'd F. Antonio Albertino, Rector of the Jesuits' Colledge, of my coming, and he very courteously came forthwith to the Sea-side to receive me, and carry'd me to lodge in the Colledge, which in reference to that small City is large enough and well built He sent Mariam Tinatin in a Palanchino, or Indian Litter, (wherein people are carry'd lying along as 'twere in a Couch, and those of women are cover'd) to the House of a Portugal Gentlewoman, and advis'd me that since the Cafila was departed I should go in the same Vessel to meet it at Bassaim where it was to touch, and for that day rest a little in Daman, as I accordingly did.

III.—The City of Daman is small but of good building, and hath long, large and straight streets. It hath no Bishop, as neither have the other Cities of the Portugals upon this coast, being subject in spirituals to the Arch Bishop of Goa ; but in every one of them resides a Vicar, whom they call ‘da Vara’, that is, ‘of the Vierge’, or ‘Mace’ ,(which is the badge of Authority) with supreme power. Besides the Jesuits and the Church of the See (as they call the Duomo or Cathedral) here are Dominicans, Franciscans, and, as I remember, Augustines too ; all of whom have good Churches and Convents. The City is environ'd with strong walls of good fortification, and hath a large Territory and many Towns under it, and because they are frequently at [Page 134] war with Nizam Sciah, whose State (being govern'd at this day by his famous Abissine slave Melik Ambar) borders upon it by Land, therefore the Portugals here are all horsemen and keep many good Arabian Horses, as they are oblig'd to do, going frequently out to war in defence of their Territory when occasion requires, though during my time here they were at peace.

In Daman I first tasted at the Father Rector's Table many strange Indian Fruits, some of which are describ'd by Carolus Clusius and others not, which, as I was told, were after the writing of his Books brought into East India from Brasil or New Spain ; namely, Papaia, Casa or [Page 135] Cagiu, Giambo Manga or Amba, and Ananas all which seem to me passably good ; and, though of different taste, not inferior to ours of Europe, especially Papaia, which is little esteem'd in India, and, if I mistake not, is not mentioned by the abovesaid Writer; in shape and taste it much resembles our Melons, but is sweeter, and consequently to me seem'd better. Ananas is justly esteem'd, being of a laudable taste, though something uncouth, inclining more to sharpness, which with a mixture Of sweetness renders it pleasant.

[Page 140]

March the one and thirtieth. At Sun-rise we put to Sea for Goa, but were slow in getting forth to the Main before we could set sail, because the Tide was still going out, and there was so little water left, that our Frigat ran aground. At length, the Tide turning, we row'd out of the strait between the City and the Island, and being come into the broad Sea hoisted all our sails. About midnight following we arriv'd at Ciaul, but enter'd not into the Port, because it stands much within the Land upon a precipice, where the Sea entring far into the Bay between the Hills and the low Shore (into which also is discharg'd the mouth of a River) makes an ample and secure harbour : wherefore by reason of the darkness of the night, which in this place is no seasonable time, the Fleet would not enter, but we rode at the River's mouth till break of day.


[Page 154]

VIII.—Tis to be known that the City of Goa, at this day the Head of all the Dominion of the Portugals in India, is situate here in one of these Islands, of which, as I said before, there are innumerable upon all the Coast of India, made by the several Rivers which divide them from the mainland. The City is built in the inmost part of the Island toward the Continent, and therefore the whole Island is plentifully inhabited with Towns and places of Recreation, and particularly upon the River, which is on either side adorn'd with Buildings and Houses, surrounded with Groves of Palm-Trees and delightful Gardens. The greatest part of the Island is [Page 155] inclos'd with a Wall, with Gates at the places for passage, continually guarded for security against the attempts of Neighbours, and also to prevent the flight of Slaves and thieves ; since onely that River being cross'd, you enter presently into the Territory of Adil-Scidh and the Moors; but 'tis otherwise toward the Sea-side, for all the Coast which is beset with other small Islands and Peninsulas for a good space belongs to the Portugals, being inhabited with Towns and divers Churches. The City which lyes on the right hand of the River, as you enter into the inmost recess, is sufficiently large, built partly on a Plain and partly upon certain pleasant Hills, from the tops whereof the whole Island and the Sea are discover'd, with a very delightful prospect. The buildings of the City are good, large and convenient, contriv'd for the most part for the benefit of the wind and fresh Air, which is very necessary in regard of the great heats, and also for reception of the great Rains of the three Moneths of Pansecal, which are June, July, and August; which, not upon account of the heat (although it be very great in that time, but greatest of all in May, when the Sun is in the Zenith), but of the great Rain, the Portugals call the Winter of the Earth.

[Page 174]

III.-May the three and twentieth. The Sun entering into Gemini, I observ'd that the Rain began in Goa, and it happens not alike in all the Coast of India; for it begins first in the more Southerly parts of Cape Comorin and follows afterwards by degrees, according as places extend more to the North ; so that in Cambaia, and other more northern parts, it begins later than in Goa ; and the further any place lyes North, the later it begins there. Whence it comes to pass that in the Persian Ephemerides, or Almanacks, they use to set down the beginning of Parsecal, or the time of Rain in India, at the fifteenth of their third Moneth, call 'd Cordad, which falls upon the third of our June; because they have observ'd it to be so in the more Northern parts of India, as in Cambaia, Surat and the like, where the Persians have more commerce then in other more Southern places. In Goa likewise for the most part the beginning of the Rain is in the first days of June ; yet sometimes it anticipates, and sometimes falls something later, with little difference. Tis observ'd by long experience that this Rain in India, after having lasted some days at first, ceases, and there return I know not how many days of fair weather; but, those being pass'd, it [Page 175] begins again more violent than ever, and continues for a long time together. By this Rain, as I observ'd, the heat diminisheth, and the Earth, which before was very dry and all naked, becomes cloth'd with new verdure and various colours of pleasant flowers, and especially the Air becomes more healthful, sweet and more benigne both to sound and infirm. The arm of the Sea, or River, which encompasses the Island of Goa and is ordinarily salt, notwithstanding the falling of the other little fresh Rivers into it, with the inundation of great streams which through the great Rain flow from the circumjacent Land, is made likewise wholly fresh ; whence the Country-people, who wait for this time, derive water out of it for their Fields of Rice in the Island of Goa and the neighbouring parts, which, being temper'd with this sweet moisture, on a sudden become all green.

[Page 177]

IV.-June the ninth. In the Colledge of the Jesuits was pronounc'd, as 'tis the custom every year, a Latin Oration for the Inchoation of the Readings, ; which, the vacations being ended with the hot weather, begin again with the Rain and cool weather. Letters from some Banians were brought to Goa, signifying that the Moghul had encounter'd his Rebel Son Sultan Chorrbm, and routed him ; and that Sultan Chorrom after his defeat was retir'd to a strong hold in the top of a Mountain, which they call Mandu, and that his Father had besieg'd him there.

[Page 181]

In the field adjoyning to the city, near the ruines of a [Page 182] deserted building, once intended for a Church, but never finish'd, is a work of the Gentiles, sometimes Lords of this Country, namely one of the greatest Wells that ever I beheld, round, and about twenty of my Paces in Diameter, and very deep ; it hath Parapets, or Walls, breast-high, round about, with Gates, at one of which is a double pair of Stairs leading two ways to the bottom, to fetch water when it is very low.

This is a selection from the original text


animals, charity, climate, health, settlement, soil, town, travel, tree, wealth

Source text

Title: The Travels of Pietro Della Valle in India, Volume I

Editor(s): Edward Grey

Publisher: The Hakluyt Society

Publication date: 1792

Original compiled 1664

Original date(s) covered: 1623-1624

Edition: 1st Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Internet Archive: Original compiled 1664 Original date(s) covered: 1623-1624

Digital edition

Original editor(s): Edward Grey

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) Tp
  • 2 ) Life of Pietro Della Valle
  • 3 ) Pages b, ii-ix
  • 4 ) Pages 4
  • 5 ) Pages 15, 16
  • 6 ) Pages 20, 23, 30, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 39, 40
  • 7 ) Pages 42, 47, 60, 61, 62, 63, 66, 67, 70
  • 8 ) Pages 71, 81, 95-96, 102,122-123, 131-135, 140
  • 9 ) pages 154-155, 174, 175, 177, 181, 182


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.