OF PISTOLA. S.J. 1713-1727

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[Page 56]


Voyage to Mozambique and to Goa
(MS. A, pp.10-15; Fl. MS.f* 1 and 265-6)

We now sailed towards the Mozambique Channel, but as we sighted the Isle of Madagascar we were becalmed for eight days, and suffered much from the intense heat. When at last the wind rose, we entered the Channel and arrived safely at the Isle of Mozambique on the twenty-fifth of July, three and a half months after leaving Lisbon. Our Society has a college here where we rested after our long voyage. Dom Joao de Almeda, Governor General of Mozambique and of the Rios de Senna [Zambesi River], places on the African coast subject to Portugal, was a pious and munificent cavalier who showed us great honour. The two ships which left Lisbon with us only to arrive on the thirty-forst of July and the fourth of August.

The invalids on the three ships, including several of the souldiers who were on their way to India to garrison fortresses, were well cared for in the Royal Hospital on the island.

We had to wait at Mozambique for ships from Senna, which bring a quantity of large elephant tusks, gold, silver, and black amber, as well as many Kafirs or negroes, slaves bought there to be sold at Goa. They are not allowed to leave Mozambique until they have been baptized. One crusado, Portuguese silver coin, worth, I think, half a Roman scudo, and a taper, are given to the priest for each man baptized. [Page 57] It is painful to see how readily the baptism is conferred as soom as the tax is paid, no instruction having been given to the kafirs, nor do they understand the language. So many slaves are embarked at Mozambique that the ships are crowded and become very filthy. In Goa they fetch high proces on account of their stregth and fidelity.

Mozambique, which is quite a small island, has a large and fine fortress, well garrisoned and provided with big cannon. The houses are good and built of stone and mortar, but there are not many inhabitants. Some are Portuguese officials, others are Kafirs. On the island grow only a few coconuts, palms, and sparse vegetables in small gardens. Other food, fruit, and necessaries of life come from places on the mainland subject to the King of Portugal which are nearby. Our Fathers have educated the natives, and built a church on the mainland, where they collect many useful herbs, especially Calumba and Lopo roots, both much esteemed in India. The first is a yellow root often used with good results. It is rubbed into a powder in the hard stone and water is added; it is then drunk, and is excellent for obstruction of the bowels. if a red hot iron is plunged into the water, it produces a contrary effect. The Lopo root is smaller, black outside, and red, or rather the colour of saffron, inside. Rubbed in like manner on a stone and mixed with water it is a sovereign remedy against fevers, especially those caused by a chill. I did not remain long in Mozambique, or in other places belonging to the Kingdom, so had no opportunity to study other herbs.

We left Mozambique on the sixteenth of August (seventeenth, in Fl, MS.,fo 1) and crosed the Line once more early in September; on the nineteenth we saw the coast of Goa in the distance and next day some of our Fathers came to fetch us in a boat. It was dark when we entered the Port if Aguada, and [Page 58] midnight ere we arrived at Pangim [Panjim] on the river bank, where the Society has house. There we met the Viceroy of India, and many of our Fathers who had come to greet us. Next morning, the twenty-first of September, 1713 (twenty-seventh, in FL. MS., fo I), we went up the river to Goa, and met the Reverend, Father Provincial and all the other Fathers standing in front of the Church of the College of St. Paul to receive us. I remained at Goa for about two months.


Journey from Goa to the City of Delly, Capital of the Empire of Mogol.
(MS. A, pp. 16-28 ; Fl. MS., fo 7-9 and 266)

A FLEET of several men of war, commanded by Dom Lopo de Almeida, was preparing to leave Goa and sail towards Surat against the Arabs of Mascati [Muscat], who had captured a Portuguese vessel from Macao in the very port of Surat. A large fleet of merchantman were sailing together with the fleet and we left with them in the latter half of November (November seventeenth, Fl. MS., fo 1), touching at Ciaul [Chaul] and at Bassaim [Bassein], from whence we went overland to our College of Daman where we arrived on the twenty-first of December.

On the first of January, 1714, we left Daman, reaching the town of Surat on the fourth. i was obliged to stay there until the twenty-fifth of March, as the country was much disturbed owing to the war waged by Farrokh-Sier [farrukh siyar] against his uncle and predecessor, who was cruelly murdered, together with his Vizier, Giulfcar [Zulfiqar] Khan (on February eleventh, 1713). The Vizier's dead body was shamefully maltreated, and left exposed for some days in the public square.

Soon afterwards (on January twenty-first, 1714), [Page 59] Farrokh-Sier most barbarously ordered the eyes of the Princes of the Royal House to be burnt with red hot irons. Some, however, the Ministers saved out of comapssion.

The Emperor's cruelty had alienated the hearts of most of his subjects and of the new Vizier, Adbulla Khan ['Abdullah Khan], a noble and a Saed [Sayyid], or descendent of Muhammad, who had also taken offence because the above-mentioned order had been given by Farrokh-Sier at the instigation of a certain Mirgiumla [Mir Jumla] without being ratified, as was the custome, by the Vizier's seal. By birth Mirguimla was a sonnar or goldsmith, by profession a Molla (Mullah) or learned man of the Muhammadan sect, who was taught reading and writng to Farrokh-Sier as a boy, and recently had been created Ombra[Amir] or nobe, and prince of the Mogol [Moghul] Empire. The Vizier's brother, Assen-Aaly-Khan [Husayn 'Aly Khan], was a noble and Sepha-Salaar [Sipah Sardar], or Commander-in-Chief, with a large standing army of both foot and horse in his pay (this appears to be a custom of the chief nobles in that Empire), all picked men, and devoted to their commander because of his great valour and liberality.

For some years the Saed brother dissembled, but when they knew that the general feeling was in their favour they laid their grievences before the Emperor, and constrained him to banishhis friend and their enemy Mirgiumla from the city of Delly [Delhi]. The Emperor named him Suba [Subadar] or Governor of the province of Patna and of Bearh [Bihar], which in former times was in independent kingdom adjoining that of Bengala [Bengal], and he left followed by many nobles of inferior rank (December, 1714). Soon, however, the intolerable taxation and continuall maladministration reduced that province to cry with misery and the Emperor was forced to recall him to Delly (October, 1718), where he was thrown into prison.

[Page 60]

The licentiousness and brutality of Farrokh-Sier had made him so unpopular that the brothers Abdulla-Khan and Assen-Aaly-Khan found little resistance when they beseiged the fortress of Delly, seized the Emperor, put out his eyes, and finally killed him (twenty-seventh-twenty-eighth February, 1719).

They then, at the head of a large army, marched to Agra, five or six days' journey from Delly, and delivered from prison one of the Royal Princes, called Nikoscier [Niku Siyar] whose eyes had been saved, and proclaimed him Emperor. He soon renounced the crown and died (June eleventh, 1719). Another prince was then elected (Rafi ud-Darajat), who lived but a short time, and was succeeded by Mahammed-Sciah [Muhammad Shah], who was still reigning when I left India.

During all these changes and tumults the Vizier and the Commander-in-Chief remained in close agreement, and were held in universal respect. They placed the present Emperor on the throne when he was about 18 years of age, and Abdulla-Khan, as Vizier, had almost absolute power. His brother, Assen-Aaly-Khan, after some time started for the province of Daccan [Deccan] at the head of a large army, in a magnificient palanquin. By the roadside a man with a petition implored mercy and assistance of the great Khan, who stopped his bearers, ordered the supplicant to approach, and took the petition. While he was reading it the man suddenly sprang forward and plunged a dagger into Assen-Aaly-Khan's breast, who fell back mortally wounded (October eighth, 1720). The assassin was at once cut to pieces by the guards. It was always said the Emperor had ordered the murderer, as instead of seizing the property of the dead man, as was the custom, he allowed the soldiers and the people to pillage everything. At the same time he ordered the Vizier Abdulla-Khan to be imprisoned, and after some time poisoned him, in 1722.

[Page 61]

But to return to my journey. On the twenty-fifth of March, 1714, I left Surat, and arrived early in April at Amadabad [Ahmadabad], principal city of the Province of Guzarat [Gujrat], in olden times an independent State, nut now subject to the Great Mogol. One of the chief officials of the Emperor resides here, and it is often ruled by a brother or a son of the said Emperor. Situated in a fine, wide, and fruitful plain, and surrounsed by several lines of walls, it contains a large population and rich merchants, especially pagans, and has a great trade in silk fabrics and fine linen. The agents of the French and Dutch East India Company live here. I was but one day in Amadabad, as a caravan of several thousand persons, led by an Ombrao with a large body of cavalry, was just leaving for Delly. It is customany in Mogol to join such caravans and thus be preserved from robbers and from the unjust exactions, or rather tyrannical extortions of the too frequent custom officials. In a few days we entered the country of a certain people belonging to Hindostan, called Rageput [Rajput]. They are pagans, bold by nature, tall, most warlike, and renowned for their military prowess. A part of the said people are subjects of a great and potent pagan king, or Rana, who has his residence and hilds his court in the city of Odipur [Udaipur] ; he rules with admirable severity, and his laws are just. After the Emperor of Mogol he is the most powerful and remarkable king of these parts. The other Rageput are subjects of a great Ragia [Rajah] or, as we say, king, also a pagan, who resides and holds his court at Asmir [Ajmer]. His dominions extend well nigh to the royal city of Agra. He is powerful and illustrious, and has the privilege that the principal wife of the Emperor of Mogol must be of his family; by right also he is the chief of the other Ragia who form the bodyguard of the said Emperor. His country is very fertile, and owing to his strong government is [Page 62] not harried by bands of robbers. But travellers must be warned not to kill any animals, especially peacocks, which are much venerated by this people. They might rise and attack anyone who killed the animals. In the lands of other Rageputs subject to the Ragia of Asmir are considerable deposits of salt and great tracts of sand, while water is scarce for travellers. The languageof these Rageput differs from that of the rest of Mogol. They eat no meat, fish, or eggs, but live on rice, bread, vegetables, and fruit. After traversing the dominions of various Rageput and part of Mogol we arrived on the tenth of May at the royal city of Delly, called also Sciah-Giahanaabad [Shah-Jahan-abad], which name is derieved from the Emperor Sciah-Giahen, who founded the city. Since his day the Emperors have generally lived and held their court in this city, most densely populated, not only by natives, but by an infinite variety of fereigners from all parts of the world, such as merchants and other who have entered the service of the Emperor or of an Ombrao. The Emperor resides in the large fortress built of cut red stone, containig spacious apartments and fine gardens, audience halls, and zenanas. I need not dwell on the magnificence of the Emperor's court, or the splendour of his thrones and great trreasures, as they have been described by other writers.

The most important personage after the Emperor is the Vizier, or Prime Minister ; next to him ranks the General-in-chief of the Imperial army, whose title is Avel-Baksci [ Avval-Bakshi], or Mir-ol-Amir [Amir-ul-Omara], meaning chief of the nobles of the Empire, the third in the rank is the Mir-Atesce [Mir-Atash], or Top-Khane-Ka-Deroga [Top-Khane-ka-Deroga], superintendent of military equipments and artillery, who is the chief support of the crown anf guardian of the life of the Emperor. After these comes the Duom-Baksci [Duvum-Bakhshi, [Page 63] Comptroller of the Household], or second Baksci, one of th emost important officers at the court, as he is the head of the secret chambers of the Emperor, and the Emperor's liberty and life depend on him. The Seom-Baksci [Suvum=Bakshi] or Third Baksci, also belongs to the secret Councils of State, and when necessary takes the place of the First Baksci. There are a great number od other Ministers called Ombrai [Omra] or Princes of the numerous Manseldar [Mansabdars, commissioned officers] in the immediate service of the Emperor, who receive large monthly salaries. Besides the Ombrai and Manseldar, innumerable other persons are employed about the court. To give some idea of the wealth and magnificence of the Great Emperor of Mogol I shall only say that many pagan kings who are in his service live in extraordinary luxury and servants, and that (excepting the merchants and their dependents) the whole enormous population, not only of Delly but of the vadt Mogol Empire, live at the expense of the Emperor. They receive monthly pay either directly from him or through the Ombrai, Maseldar, and other official.

[Page 68]


Residence in Agra and some accounts of the Mission belong to the Society of Jesus in that City.
(MS. A, pp. 35-41 ; Fl. MS. fo 14-17.)

THE excessive heat in these countries from the middle of May until the end of June is followed by continuous and very heavy rains until the end of September, when the rivers overflow and make travelling dangerous. Therefore the Rev. Father Jose da Silva, of our Society, who had been sent to Delly as Ambassador from the Viceroy at Goa to the Emperor Farrokh-Sier, thought it more advisable for me to go to our College at Agra, six days' journey from Delly, and wait there some months.

The city of Agra is also called Akbar-aabad [Akbar-abad} after the famous Emperor Akbar, who was to a graet extent the founder of the city. To describe the city of Agra, the splendid buildings, gardens, and sumptuous mausoleums, all of which may be said to rival the magnificence of Rome, would take too long, so I shall only give a few details concerning the origin and establishment of our Mission.

[Page 69]

The Venerable Father Rudolf Aquaviva was the first of our Missionaries sent from Goa to Mogol, but he soon was farced to return. Later, when Akbar became Emperor, he asked the head of our Mission at Goa to send some of the Fathers to explan to him the laws of the Christians. A Spaniard, Father HIeronime Xavier, a profound theologian, clever and endowed with evry Christian virtue, at once went to Lahor [Lahore], where the Emperor then resided. He followed the Court to Agra, and there made the acquiantance of one of the chief Ombrai, an Armenian Catholic, high in the Emperors's favour. Anxious to help Father Hieronime Xavier to spread our Holy Faith in the Court and the Empire he, with great generosity, furnished our Society with abundant means for founding a College for our Missions in the City of Agra.

[Several pages of the MS. are here omitted. They concern details of Aqua viva's life and martyrdom, and describe Father Hieronime Xavier's eminent qualities and his knowledge of languages, giving an account of his apologetic books written in Persian, and of his missionary work.]

This was about 150 years ago, sine then, without any notable persecutions, our Fathers have been esteemed and respected by the infidels, and not only protected by the Emperor, but by God himselfe, as manifested in the miracles which from time to time have enhanced the repuation of our Mission. Even in these days, by the grace of the Almighty, marvellous miracles have occurred at the tomb of Father Xavier by the intercession of Father Marc' Antonio Santucci, a native of Lucca, in Italy. Many are the people, not only Christians, but Muhammadans and pagans who come t pray at his tomb. It is said that the eart where he is buried cures every malady. Our Mission at Agra has Christian adherents not only in the city itself, but in Delly and Lahor and for a long [Page 70] time also in Kabu and Pesciaor [Peshawar], and in former days had Missionaries in the Rageput country, in the Kingdom of Sirinagar [Srinagar, Garhwal] and in remote parts of Thibet.

For the reson already stated i remained three months in the College at Agra applying myself to the study of Persian, said to be talked in Thibet. I regretted the lost time as Hindustani would have been far more useful. As I had been sent from Goa to go all alone on such a long, Dangerous journey, I took advantage of the presence of Father Jose da Silva to ask for some one to travel with me. He at once ordered a Portuguese Father who was at Delly to get ready to accompany me.

This is a selection from the original text


animals, fruit, gold, journey, river, travel

Source text

Title: An Account of Tibet: The Travels of Ippolito Desideri of Pistola, S. J., 1712-1727

Editor(s): Filippo De Pilippi

Publisher: George Routledge & Sons Ltd

Publication date: 1937

Original compiled 1712-1727

Edition: Revised Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Internet Archive: Original compiled 1712-1727

Digital edition

Original editor(s): Filippo De Pilippi

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) pages 56-63
  • 2 ) pages 68-70


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.