[A chance to see Calicut]

[Excerpt from Letter VII, from Goa, January 31, 1624:]

[179] December the one and twentieth: Once in the Morning, and once in the Evening, we met with Paroes [=*parao*], which are very light Ships of the Malabar Rovers [=*Malabaris*], of whom this Coast was full; for at Mangalor ends the Province of *Canara*, and that of Malabar begins: We made ready our Arms both times to fight them, but they fled from us, and recover'd [=returned to] the mouths of the Rivers, whereof that Coast is full, where by reason it was their own Territory, and well guarded in those narrow and difficult places, we could not pursue them to take them; only we discharg'd some Guns against them at distance to no purpose, which were answer'd from that Land with the like; we might easily have attempted, if not to take that [Paroe] which we saw in the Evening, yet at least to shatter it afar off with our Cannon, if the General had not had regard to the Land they recover'd, which belong'd to the Samori, to whom upon account of the Peace in agitation [=under negotiation], he was willing to have respect. At night we came to Anchor under *Calicut*, which is twelve Leages Southwards beyond Cananor....

[180] The same day (December the two and twentieth), whilst we were aboard in the Port of Calicut, I took the Sun's Altitude with my Astrolabe, and found him to decline at Noon from the Zenith 34 degrees and 50 minutes. The Sun was this day in the thirtieth degree of Sagittarius; whence according to my Canon of Declination, which I had from Fra Paolo Maria Cittadini, he declin'd from the Aequinoctial towards the South 23 degrees [181] and 28 minutes, which according to that Canon is the greatest declination; if it be not really so, the little that is wanting may be allowed for the anticipation of four hours, if not more, that the Noon-tide falls sooner at Calicut than in another Meridian of Europe, according to which my Canon of Declination shall be calculated; so that if from the 34 degrees 50 minutes in which I found the Sun, you subtract the 23 degrees 28 minutes which I presuppose him to decline from the Aequinoctial towards the South, the remainder is 11 degrees 22 minutes: and so much is the Elevation of the North Pole in this place; and consequently, the City of Calicut lies 11 degrees 22 minutes distant from the Aequinoctial towards the North.

After dinner, I landed also with the Captain of my Ship, and some other Soldiers; we went to see the Bazar, which is near the shore; the Houses, or rather Cottages, are very narrow, but indifferently long; the Market was full of all sorts of provision, and other things necessary to the livelihood of that people, conformable to their Custom; for as for Clothing, they need little, both Men and Women going quite naked, saving that they have a piece either of Cotton or Silk hanging down from the girdle to the knees, and covering their shame; the better sort are wont to wear it either all blue, or white strip'd with Azure, or Azure and some other colour; a dark blue being most esteem'd amongst them.

Moreover, both Men and Women wear their hair long, and tied about the head; the Women, with a lock hanging on one side under the ear becomingly enough, as almost all Indian-Women do; the dressing of whose head is, in my opinion, the gallantest that I have seen in any other Nation: The Men have a lock hanging down from the crown of the head, sometimes a little inclin'd on one side; some of them use a small colour'd head-band, but the Women use none at all. Both sexes have their arms full of bracelets, their ears of pendants, and their necks of jewels; the Men commonly go with their naked Swords and Bucklers, or other Arms in their hands, as I said of those of Balagate.

The Inhabitants of the Kingdom of Calicut, and the Inland parts, especially the better sort, are all Gentiles [=Hindus], of the Race Nairi for the most part, by profession Soldiers, sufficiently swashing [=gallant] and brave: But the Sea-coasts are full of Malabari, an adventitious [=later-arrived] people, though of long standing; for Marco Polo who writ four hundred years since [=ago], makes mention of them; they live confusedly with the Pagans, and speak the same Language, but yet are Mahometans in Religion. From them, all that Country for a long tract together is call'd Malabar, famous in India for the continual Robberies committed at Sea by the Malabar Thieves; whence in the *Bazar* of Calicut, besides the things above-mention'd, we saw good store of the Portugals [=Portuguese] commodities, as Swords, Arms, Books, Clothes of Goa, and the like Merchandise taken from Portugal Vessels [182] at Sea; which things, because stolen, and in regard of the Excommunication which lies upon us in that case, are not bought by our Christians.

Having seen the Bazar, and stay'd there till it was late, we were minded to see the more inward and noble parts of the City, and the outside of the King's Palace; for to see the King at that hour we had no intention, nor did we come prepar'd for it, but were in the same garb which we wore in the Ship. Accordingly we walk'd a good way towards the Palace, for the City is great, and we found it to consist of plots beset [=set about] with abundance of high Trees, amongst the boughs whereof, a great many of wild Monkeys; and within these close Groves, stand the Houses, for the most part at a distance from the common Ways or Streets; they appear but little, few of their outsides being seen, besides the low walls made of a black stone surrounding these plots, and dividing them from the Streets, which are much better than those of the Bazar, but without any ornament of Windows; so that he that walks through the City, may think that he is rather in the midst of uninhabited Gardens, than of an inhabited City: Nevertheless it is well peopled, and hath many Inhabitants, whose being contented with narrow buildings, is the cause that it appears but small.

As we walked in this manner, we met one of those Men who had been at Goa with the Vice-Roy; and because he saw us many together, and imagin'd there was some person of quality amongst us, or because he knew our General, he invited us to go with him to his King's Palace; and going before us as our guide, conducted us thither. He also sent one before to advertise [=inform] the King of our coming, and told us, we must by all means to go see him, because his Highness was desirous to see us and talk with us: Wherefore, not to appear discourteous, we were constrain'd to consent to his Request, notwithstanding the unexpectedness of, and our unpreparedness for, the visit.

The first and principal Gate of the Palace opens upon a little Piazza, which is beset with certain very great Trees, affording a delightful shadow.... Within the Gate we found a great Court, of a long form, without any just and proportionate figure of Architecture; on the sides, were many lodgings in several places, and [183] in the middle, were planted divers [=various] great Trees for shadow: The King's chief apartment, and (as I believe, by what I shall mention hereafter) where his Women were, was at the end of the Court, opposite to the left side of the Entrance. The Edifice, in comparison of ours, was of little consideration; but, according to their mode, both for greatness and appearance, capable [=worthy] of a Royal Family. It had a cover'd porch in that form, as all their structures have, and within that was a door of no great largeness leading into the House.

Here we found Cicco the Portugal youth, become an Indian in Habit and Language, but, as himself told us, and as his Portugal Name, which he still retain'd among the Gentiles, demonstrated, no Renegado [=apostate] but a Christian; which I rather believe, because indeed the Indian-Gentiles admit not, nor care to admit, other strangers to their Religion, as I have elsewhere noted; for conjoining so inseparately, as they do, their Religion to the Descents or Races of Men, as a Man can never be of other Race than what he was born of; so they also think that he neither can nor ought to be of any other Religion, although in Habit [=clothing], Language, and Customs, he accommodate himself to the people with whom he lives.

With the said Cicco we found many other of the King's Courtiers who waited for us, and here we convers'd with them a good while before the Gate, expecting a new Message from the King, who, they told us, was now bathing himself, according to their custom, after supper. Nor was it long before Order came from the King for us to enter, and accordingly we were introduc'd into that second Gate; and passing by a cloak room like a chamber (in which I saw the Image of Brahma upon his Peacock, and other Idolets [=petty idols]), we enter'd into a little open Court, surrounded with two rows of narrow and low Cloisters, to wit, one level with the ground, and the other somewhat higher. The pavement of the porch was also something rais'd above the plane of the Court, so much as might serve for a Man to sit after our manner.

The King was not in this small Court, but they told us we must attend him here, and he would come presently: Whereupon we betook our selves to sit down upon that rais'd pavement of the porch, the Courtiers standing round about us; amongst which, the Portugal Cicca, and another Indian Man (who, as they said, was a Christian, and being sometimes a slave to the Portugals, had fled hither for Liberty, and was entertain'd in the King's Guard), serv'd us for Interpreters; but not well, because the Man spoke not the Portugal Tongue so much as tolerably, and Cicco having been taken when he was very young, remembered but little of his own Language.

No sooner were we seated in this place, but two Girls about twelve years old enter'd at the same Gate whereat we came in; they were all naked (as, I said above, the Women generally go), saving that they had a very small blue cloth wrap'd about their immodesties, and their Arms, Ears, and Necks, were full of [184] ornaments of Gold and very rich Jewels. Their colour was somewhat swarthy, as all these Nations are, but in respect of others of the same Country, clear enough; and their shape no less proportionable and comely [=attractive], than their aspect was handsome and well-favour'd. 

They were both the Daughters, as they told us, of the Queen, that is, not of the King but of his Sister, who is styl'd, and in effect is, Queen; for these Gentiles using to derive [=habitually deriving] the descent and inheritance by the line of the Women, though the Government is allow'd to Men, as more fit for it, and he that governs is call'd King; yet the King's Sister, and, amongst them (if there be more than one), she to whom, by reason of Age, or for other respects it belongs, is call'd, and properly is, Queen, and not any Wife or Concubine of the King, who has many. So also when the King (who governs upon the account of being Son of the Queen-Mother) happens to die, his own Sons succeed him not (because they are not the Sons of the Queen) but the Sons of his Sister; or in defect of such, those of the nearest Kins-woman by the same Female line: So that these two Girls, whom I call the Nieces of the Samori, were right Princesses or Infanta-es of the Kingdom of Calicut.

Upon their entrance where we were, all the Courtiers present shew'd great Reverence to them; and we, understanding who they were, arose from our seat, and having saluted them, stood all the time afterwards before them bare-headed. For want of Language we spoke not to them, because the above-said Indian slave was retir'd at a distance upon their coming, giving place to other more noble Courtiers: And Cicco stood so demurely by us, that he durst not lift up his eyes to behold them, much less speak; having already learnt the Court-fashions and good manners of the place.

Nevertheless they talk'd much together concerning us, as they stood, and we also of them, and all smil'd without understanding one another. One of them being more forward could not contain [herself], but approaching gently towards me, almost touch'd the Sleeve of my Coat with her hand, making a sign of wonder to her Sister, how we could go wrap'd up and intangled in clothes as we seem'd to her to be: Such is the power of Custom, that their going naked seem'd no more strange to us, than our being cloth'd appear'd extravagant to them.

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