Volume 7, Chapter 5 -- Voyages and Travels in Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Persia, and India, by Ludovico Verthema, in 1503: *section index*


Volume 7, Chapter 5, Section 7 -- Observations of the Author on various parts of India.

We arrived in India at a certain port named Cheo[59], past which flows the great river Indus, not far from the city of Cambay. It is situated[60] three miles within the land, so that brigantines and foists can have no access to it except when the tide rises higher than ordinary, when it sometimes overflows the land for the space of four miles. At this place the tides increase differently from what they do with us, as they increase with the wane of the moon, whereas with us while the moon waxes towards full. This city is walled after our manner, and abounds in all kinds of necessaries, especially wheat and all manner of wholesome and pleasant fruits. It has also abundance of gosampine or bombassine (cotton) and some kinds of spices of which I do not know the names. Merchants bring here such quantities of cotton and silk, that sometimes forty or fifty vessels are loaded with these commodities for other countries. In this region there is a mountain in which the onyx commonly called carneola is found, and not far from thence another mountain which produces chalcedony and diamonds. While I was there, the sultan of Cambay was named Mahomet, and had reigned forty years after having expelled the king of Guzerat. The natives are not Mahometans, neither are they idolaters, wherefore I believe if they were only baptised they would not be far from the way of salvation, for they observe the pure rule of justice, doing unto others as they would be done by. They deem it unlawful to deprive any living creature of its life, and never eat flesh. Some of them go entirely naked, or only cover the parts of shame, wearing fillets of a purple colour round their heads. Their complexion is a dark yellow, commonly called a leonell colour.

The sultan of Cambay maintains a force of 20,000 horse. Every morning fifty men riding on elephants repair to his palace to reverence and salute the king, which is done likewise by the elephants kneeling down. As soon as the king wakes in the morning there is a prodigious noise of drums, trumpets, and other warlike instruments of music, as if in token of joy that the sultan still lives. The same is done while he is at dinner, when likewise the elephants are again brought forward to do him reverence. We shall afterwards have occasion to notice the customs, docility, and wisdom of these beasts. The sultan has his upper lip so large and gross that he sometimes beareth it up with a fillet as women do their hair. His beard is white and hangs down below his girdle. He has been accustomed to the use of poison even from his infancy, and he daily eats some to keep him in use; by which strange custom, although he feels no personal hurt therefrom, yet is he so saturated with poison that he is a certain poison to others. Insomuch that when he is disposed to put any noble to death, he causes the victim to be brought into his presence and to stand before him while he chews certain fruits called Chofolos[61] resembling nutmegs, chewing at the same time the leaves of a certain herb named Tambolos, to which is added the powder of oyster shells. After chewing these things for some time, he spits upon the person whom he wishes to kill, and he is sure to die within half an hour, so powerful is the venom of his body[62]. He keeps about four thousand concubines, and whoever of them chances to sleep with him is sure to die next day. When he changes his shirt or any other article of his dress, no one dare wear it, or is sure to die. My companion learnt from the merchants of Cambay that this wonderful venomous nature of the sultan had been occasioned by his having been bred up by his father from a child in the constant use of poison, beginning by little and little, and taking preservatives at the same time.

Such is the wonderful fertility of this country that it surpasses all description. The people, as already said, go almost entirely naked, or content themselves with a single garment, and are a brave and warlike nation, being at the same time much given to commerce, so that their city is frequented by traders of all nations. From this city, and another to be named afterwards, innumerable kinds and quantities of merchandise are transported to almost every region and nation of the world; especially to the Turks, Syrians, Arabians, Indians, and to divers regions of Africa, Ethiopia, and Arabia; and more especially vast abundance of silk and cotton, so that by means of this prodigious trade the sultan is astonishingly rich. The sultan of Cambay is almost continually at war with the king of Joga, whose realm is fifteen days journey from Cambay, and extends very far in all directions. This king of Joga[63] and all his people are idolaters. He maintains an army always on foot of 30,000 men, and is continually in the field travelling through his dominions with a prodigious train of followers at the charge of his subject, his camp containing at the least 4000 tents and pavilions. In this perpetual progress he is accompanied by his wife, children, concubines, and slaves, and by every apparatus for hunting and amusement. His dress consists of two goat-skins with the hair side outwards, one of which covers his breast and the other his back and shoulders. His complexion is of a brown weasel colour inclining to black, as are most of the native Indians, being scorched by the heat of the sun. They wear ear-rings of precious stones, and adorn themselves with jewels of various kinds; and the king and principal people paint their faces and other parts of their bodies with certain spices and sweet gums or ointments.

They are addicted to many vain superstitions; some professing never to lie on the ground, while others keep a continual silence, having two or three persons to minister to their wants by signs. These devotees have horns hanging from their necks, which they blow all at once when they come to any city or town to make the inhabitants afraid, after which they demand victuals and whatever else they are in need of from the people. When this king remains stationary at any place, the greater part of his army keeps guard about his pavilion, while five or six hundred men range about the country collecting what they are able to procure. They never tarry above three days in one place, but are continually wandering about like vagabond Egyptians, Arabs, or Tartars. The region through which they roam is not fertile, being mostly composed of steep and craggy mountains. The city is without walls, and its houses are despicable huts or hovels. This king is an enemy to the sultan of Machamir (?) and vexes his country with incessant predatory incursions.

Departing from Cambay, I came in twelve days' journey to the city of Ceull[64], the land of Guzerat being interposed between these two cities. The king of this city is an idolater. His subjects are of a dark yellow colour, or lion tawny, and are much addicted to war, in which they use swords, bows and arrows, darts, slings, and round targets. They have engines to beat down walls and to make a great slaughter in an army. The city is only three miles from the sea on the banks of a fine river, by which a great deal of merchandise is imported. The soil is fertile and produces many different kinds of fruits, and in the district great quantities of cotton cloth are made. The people are idolaters like those of Calicut, of whom mention will be made hereafter, yet there are many Mahometans in the city. The king has but a small military force, and the government is administered with justice.

Two days' journey from thence is a city named Dabuly[65] on a great river and in a fertile country. It is walled like the towns of Italy, and contains a vast number of Mahometan merchants. The king is an idolater, having an army of 30,000 men. Departing from thence I came to the island of Goga[66], not above a mile from the continent, which pays yearly a tribute of 1000 pieces of gold to the king of Deccan, about the same value with the seraphins of Babylon. These coins are impressed on one side with the image of the devil[67], and on the other side are some unknown characters. On the sea coast at one side of this island there is a town much like those of Italy, in which resides the governor, who is captain over a company of soldiers named Savain, consisting of 400 Mamelukes, he being likewise a Mameluke. Whenever he can procure any white man he takes them into his service and gives them good entertainment, and if fit for military service, of which he makes trial of their strength by wrestling, he gives them a monthly allowance of 20 gold seraphins; but if not found fit for war he employs them in handicrafts. With this small force of only 400 men, he gives much disturbance to the king of Narsinga.

From the island of Goga I went to the city of Dechan[68], of which the king or sultan is a Mahometan, and to whom the before mentioned captain of the Mamelukes at Goga is tributary. The city is beautiful, and stands in a fertile country which abounds in all things necessary for man. The king of this country is reckoned a Mameluke, and has 35,000 horse and foot in his service. His palace is a sumptuous edifice, containing numerous and splendid apartments, insomuch that one has to pass through 44 several rooms in a continued suite before getting to the presence-chamber of the sultan, who lives with wonderful pomp and magnificence, even those who wait upon him having their shoes or starpins ornamented with rubies and diamonds, and rich ear-rings of pearls and other precious stones. Six miles from the city is a mountain from which they dig diamonds, which mountain is surrounded by a wall, and guarded by a band of soldiers. The inhabitants of the city are mostly Mahometans, who are generally clad in silk, or at least have their shirts or lower garments of that fabric; they wear also thin buskin and hose or breeches like the Greek mariners, or what are called trowsers. Their women, like those of Damascus, have their faces veiled. The king of Deccan is almost in continual war with the king of Nursinga; most of his soldiers being white men from distant countries hired for war, whereas the natives are of a dark colour like the other inhabitants of India. This king is very rich and liberal, and has a large navy of ships, but he is a great enemy to the Christians.

Having visited this country, I went in five days from thence to Bathacala or Batecolak, the inhabitants of which are idolaters, except some Mahometan merchants who resort thither for trade. It abounds in rice, sugar, wheat, walnuts[69], figs, and many kinds of fruits and roots unknown to us, and has plenty of beeves, kine, buffaloes, sheep, goats, and other beasts, but no horses, asses, or mules. From thence, at the distance of a days journey I came to Centacola (?), the prince of which has no great riches; but the district has plenty of flesh, rice, and such fruits as grow in India; and to this place many Mahometans resort for trade. The king is an idolater, and is subject to him of Batecolah. Two days journey from thence I came to Onore, the king of which is an idolater, subject to the king of Narsinga. The prince or king of Onore has eight armed foists or barks, which make excursions by sea, and subsist by piracy, yet is he in friendship with the Portuguese. The district produces plenty of rice, and has many kinds of wild beasts, as wild boars, harts, wolves, lions[70], and many kinds of birds, such as peacocks and parrots, besides others very different from ours. It has likewise many cattle of a bright yellow colour, and fine fat sheep. It has also abundance of flowers of all kinds. The air is so temperate and healthy, that the natives live much longer than we do in Italy. Not far from this place is another city named Mangalore, whence about sixty ships depart yearly with cargoes of rice. The inhabitants are partly idolaters, and part Mahometans.

Departing from thence we went to the city of Cananore, where the king of Portugal has a strong garrison, though the king of the city is an idolater and no great friend to the Portuguese. At this port many horses are imported from Persia, which pay a high duty. Departing from thence into the inland we came to the city of Narsinga[71], which is frequented by many Mahometan merchants. The soil in that country bears no wheat, so that the inhabitants have no bread, neither has it vines or any other fruits except oranges and gourds, but they have plenty of rice and such walnuts as that country produces[72]. It has likewise plenty of spices, as pepper, ginger, mirabolans, cardamum, cassia, and others, also many kinds of fruits unlike ours, and much sweeter. The region is almost inaccessible, for many dens and ditches made by force[73]. The king has an army of 50,000 gentlemen whom they call heroes[74]. In war they use swords and round targets, also lances, darts, bows, and slings, and are now beginning to use fire arms. These men go almost entirely naked, except when engaged in war. They use no horses, mules, asses, or camels; only employing elephants, which yet do not fight in battle. Great quantities of merchandise are consumed in this city, insomuch that two hundred ships resort thither yearly from various countries[75].

Departing from Narsinga, and travelling 15 days to the east[76], we came to the city of Bisinagar, or Bijanagur, which is subject to the king of Narsinga. This city stands upon the side of a hill, and is very large, and well fortified, being surrounded by a triple wall, eight miles in circuit. The district in which it stands is wonderfully fertile, and produces every thing requisite for the necessities, and even the delicacies and luxuries of man. It is likewise a most convenient country for hunting and hawking, having many large plains, and fine woods, so that altogether it is a kind of earthly paradise. The king and people are idolaters; and the king has great power and riches, maintaining an army of 4000 horsemen, although it may be noted that a good horse in this country costs four or five hundred gold coins called pardaos, and sometimes eight hundred. The reason of this high price is, that these horses are brought from other countries, whence they can procure no mares, as the exportation of these is strictly prohibited by the princes of the countries whence the horses are procured. He has likewise 400 elephants to serve in his wars, and many of those swift running camels which we commonly call dromedaries[77].

At this place I had an excellent opportunity of learning the docility and almost reasoning wisdom of the elephant, which certainly is the most sagacious and most docile of all animals, approaching even to human reason, and far exceeding all other beasts in strength. When used for war, the Indians fix great pack-saddles on their backs, resembling those used in Italy for mules of burden, but vastly larger. These saddles are girt round their bellies with two iron chains, and on each side is placed a small house, cage, or turret of wood, each of which contains three men. Between the two turrets an Indian sits on the back of the animal, and speaks to him in the language of the country, which the creature understands and obeys. Seven men, therefore, are that placed on the back of each elephant, all armed with coats of mail, and having lances, bows, darts, and slings, and targets for defence. Also the trunk, snout, or proboscis of the elephant is armed with a sword fastened to it, two cubits long, very strong, and a handbreadth in width. When necessary to advance, to retreat, to turn to either side, to strike, or to forbear, the governor or conductor of the elephant sitting on his back, causes him to do whatever he wills, by speaking in such language and expressions as he is accustomed to, all of which the beast understands and obeys, without the use of bridle or spur. But when fire is thrown at them, they are wonderfully afraid and run away, on which occasions it is impossible to stop them; on which account the Indians have many curious devices of fire-works to frighten the elephants, and make them run away.

I saw an instance of the extraordinary strength of these animals while at Cananore, where some Mahometans endeavoured to draw a ship on the land, stem foremost, upon three rollers, on which occasion three elephant, commodiously applied, drew with great force, and bending their heads down to the ground, brought the ship on the land. Many have believed that elephants have no joints in their legs, which therefore they could not bend; but this notion is utterly false, as they have joints like other beasts, but lower down on their legs. The female elephants are fiercer than the males, and much stronger for carrying burdens. Sometimes they are seized by a kind of fury or madness, on which occasions they run about in a disorderly manner. One elephant exceeds the size of three buffaloes, to which latter animals their hair has some resemblance. Their eyes resemble those of swine. Their snout or trunk is very long, and by means of it they convey food and drink to their mouths, so that the trunk may be called the hand of the elephant. The mouth is under the trunk, and is much like the mouth of a sow. The trunk is hollow, and so flexible, that the animal can use it to lay hold of sticks, and wield them with it as we do with the hand. I once saw the trunk of a tree overthrown by one elephant, which 24 men had in vain attempted. It has two great teeth or tusks in the upper jaw.

Their ears are very broad, above two spans even on the smallest elephants. Their feet are round and as broad as the wooden trenchers which are in ordinary use, and each foot has five round hoofs like large oyster shells. The tail is about four spans long, like that of a buffalo, and is very thin of hair. Elephants are of various sizes, some 18 spans or 14 spans high, and some have been seen as high as 16 spans; but the females are larger than the males of the same age. Their gait is slow and wallowing, so that those who are not used to ride upon them are apt to become sick, as if they were at sea; but it is pleasant to ride a young elephant, as their pace is soft and gentle like an ambling mule. On mounting them, they stoop and bend their knee to assist the rider to get up; but their keepers use no bridles or halters to guide them. When they engender they retire into the most secret recesses of the woods, from natural modesty, though some pretend that they copulate backwards.

The king of Narsinga exceeds in riches and dominion, all the princes I have ever seen or heard of. In beauty and situation the city resembles Milan, only that being on the slope of a hill it is not so level. Other subject kingdoms lie round about it, even as Ausonia and Venice surround Milan. The bramins or priests informed me that the king receives daily of tribute from that city only the sum of 12,000 pardaos. He and his subjects are idolaters, worshipping the devil like those of Calicut. He maintains an army of many thousand men, and is continually at war with his neighbours. The richer people wear a slender dress, somewhat like a petticoat, not very long, and bind their heads with a fillet or broad bandage, after the fashion of the Mahometans, but the common people go almost entirely naked, covering only the parts of shame. The king wears a cape or short cloak of cloth of gold on his shoulders, only two spans long; and when he goes to war he wears a close vest of cotton, over which is a cloak adorned with plates of gold, richly bordered with all kinds of jewels and precious stones. The horse he rides on, including the furniture or caparisons, is estimated to equal one of our cities in value, being all over ornamented with jewels of great price. When he goes a-hunting, he is attended by other three kings, whose office it is to bear him company wherever he goes. When he rides out or goes a journey he is attended by 6000 horsemen; and from all that we have said, and various other circumstances respecting his power, riches, and magnificence, he certainly is to be accounted one of the greatest sovereigns in the world. Besides the pieces already mentioned, named pardaos, which are of gold, he coins silver money called fano, or fanams, which are worth sixteen of our smallest copper money. Such is the excellent government of this country, that travellers may go through the whole of it in safety, if they can avoid the danger of lions[78]. This king is in amity with the king of Portugal, and is a great friend to the Christians, so that the Portuguese are received and treated in his dominions in a friendly and honourable manner.

When I had tarried many days in this great city, I returned to Cananore, whence, after three days stay I went to a city twelve miles from thence, named Trempata[79], a sea-port, inhabited by idolaters, but frequented by many Mahometan merchants. The only riches of this place consists in Indian nuts, or cocoa-nuts, and timber for ship-building. Passing from thence, by the cities of Pandara and Capagot[80], I came to the famous city of Calicut. To avoid prolixity, I pass over many other kingdoms and peoples, such as Chianul (?), Dabul, Onouè (?),  Bangalore, Cananore, Cochin, Cacilon(?), and Calonue or Coulan[81]. I have so done on purpose to enable me to treat more at large of Calicut, being in a manner the metropolis of all the Indian cities, as the king thereof exceeds all the kings of the east in royal majesty, and is therefore called Samoory or Zamorin, which in their language signifies God on earth.

[Footnote 59: This name is inexplicably corrupted; and nothing more can be said of it than is contained in the text, which indeed is very vague.--E.]
[Footnote 60: Verthema appears at this place to make an abrupt transition to the city of Cambay, taking no farther notice of Cheo.--E.]
[Footnote 61: It is evident from the text that the areka nut is here meant, which is chewed along with betel leaf, called tambolos in the text, and strewed with chunam, or lime made of oyster shells.--E.]
[Footnote 62: This ridiculous story can only be understood as an eastern metaphor, expressive of the tyrannous disposition of the sultan.--E.]
[Footnote 63: What sovereign of India is meant by the king of Joga we cannot ascertain, unless perhaps some Hindoo rajah in the hilly country to the north-east of Gujerat. From some parts of the account of this king and his subjects, we are apt to conceive that the relation in the text is founded on some vague account of a chief or leader of a band of Hindoo devotees. A king or chief of the Jogues.--E.]
[Footnote 64: There is a district on the west of Gujerat or Guzerat named Chuwal, on the river Butlass or Banass which runs into the gulf of Cutch, which may be here meant.--E.]
[Footnote 65: No name having the least affinity to that in the text is to be found in any modern map of India near the coast of Gujerat. It would almost appear that the author had now gone down the coast of India, and that his Chuwal and Dabuly are Chaul and Dabul on the coast of the Concan.--E.]
[Footnote 66: Nothing can possibly be made of this island of Goga. There is a town on the coast of Gujerat and western side of the gulf of Cambay called Gogo, but it is no island, and could not possibly be subject to the king of the Deccan; and besides Verthema is obviously now going down the western coast of India.--E.]
[Footnote 67: Of a Swammy or Hindoo idol.--E.]
[Footnote 68: Dechan, Deccan, or Dacshin, is the name of a territory or kingdom, and properly signifies southern India, or simply the south, in reference to Hindostan proper, on the north of the Nerbuddah: But Verthema almost always names the capital from the kingdom.--E.]
[Footnote 69: By walnuts, I suspect that coca-nuts are meant, and rendered walnuts by some mistaken translation.--E.]
[Footnote 70: There are no lions in India, and tigers are certainly here meant.--E.]
[Footnote 71: Bijanagur was the capital of the kingdom known by the name of Narsinga; but from the neighbourhood of Cananore, it is possible that Verthema here means Narsingapoor, about 25 miles S.S.W. from Seringapatam.--E.]
[Footnote 72: The walnuts of this author must have been cocoa-nuts, perhaps converted to walnuts by erroneous translation.--E.]
[Footnote 73: This singular passage probably means, that the country is defended by a great number of forts and garrisons, as indeed we know that the interior table land of southern India is thickly planted with droogs or hill forts, which must then have been impregnable.--E.]
[Footnote 74: Probably meaning Nairs or Rajputs, who are reckoned of a high or noble caste, next to the Bramins--E.]
[Footnote 75: This is a most astonishing error, as Narsingapoor is above 100 miles from the nearest coast.--E.]
[Footnote 76: Bijanagur is 175 miles directly north from Narsingapoor.--E.]
[Footnote 77: In modern language the term dromedary is very improperly applied to the Bactrian, or two-hunched camel, a slow beast of burden. The word dromedary is formed from the Greek celer, and only belongs to a peculiar breed of camels of amazing swiftness.--E.]
[Footnote 78: Wherever lions are mentioned by this traveller in India, tigers are to be understood.--E.]
[Footnote 79: About that distance south from Cananore is Dermapatam.--E.]
[Footnote 80: No names in the least respect similar to these are to be found in the indicated route between Cananore and Calicut.--E.]
[Footnote 81: Of the three places marked with points of interrogation, the names are so disfigured in the orthography as to be unintelligible; Cianul may possibly be Chaull; Onouhè, Onore; and Cacilon, Cranganore.--E.]


Volume 7, Chapter 5, Section 8 -- Account of the famous City and Kingdom of Calicut.

The city of Calicut is situated on the continent or main land of India, close upon the sea, having no port; but about a mile to the south there is a river which runs into the ocean by a narrow mouth. This river is divided into many branches among the fields in the plain country, for the purpose of being distributed by means of trenches to water the grounds, and one of these branches not exceeding three or four feet deep runs into the city. Calicut is not walled, and contains about 6000 houses, which are not built close adjoining each other, as in European cities, but a certain space is left between each, either to prevent the communication of fire, or owing to the ignorance of the builders. It is a mile in length, and its houses are only mean low huts, not exceeding the height of a man on horseback, being mostly covered with boughs of trees, instead of tiles or other covering. It is said that on digging only five or six spans into the ground they come immediately to water, on which account they cannot dig foundations of any depth. Warehouses or lodgings for merchants may be bought for 15 or 20 pieces of gold; but the common run of houses cost only two pieces of gold or even less.

The king and people of Calicut are idolaters, and worshippers of the devil, though they acknowledge one supreme God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the first chief cause of all things. But they allege that God could have no pleasure in his government, if he were to take it upon himself, and hath therefore given it in charge to the devil, who was sent as they say from heaven, to rule over and judge the world, rendering good or evil to men according to their deserts. The great God they call Tamerani, and this devil or subordinate deity Deumo. The king has a chapel in his palace, where this Deumo is worshipped. This chapel has an open vault or arch on all the four sides, about two paces in breadth, and it is about three paces high. The entrance is by a wooden gate, ornamented with carved work of monstrous forms or shapes of devils. In the midst of the chapel is a royal seat or throne of copper, on which sits the figure or image of the devil, likewise of copper. On the head of this image is a crown like that worn by the pope, but having the addition of four horns, besides which he is represented with a great gaping mouth, having four monstrous teeth. The nose is horridly deformed, with grim lowering eyes, a threatening look, and crooked hands, or talons like flesh-hooks, and feet somewhat like those of a cock; forming on the whole, a monster terrible to look at. In every corner of the chapel there are other figures of devils of shining copper, as if flames of fire devouring miserable souls. These souls are about the size of half a finger, some of them larger, and each figure puts one of these souls into his mouth with the right hand, while the left is on the ground lifting up another.

Every morning the priests, who are called Bramins, wash the idol with rose water, and perfume him with sweet savours, after which they pray to him prostrate on the earth. Once every week they sacrifice to the idol after this form. They have a little altar or cupboard, three spans high, five spans long and four broad, on which they strew all manner of flowers and sweet-smelling powders; then bringing a great silver chafing-dish full of warming coals, they kill a cock with a silver knife, throwing the blood into the fire, together with many sweet perfumes, and even thrust the bloody blade of the knife often into the fire that none of the blood may be lost; then the priest maketh many strange gestures with the knife, like a fencer, giving or defending thrusts. In the mean time other priests with burning censers go round about the altar perfuming it with incense, and ringing a small silver bell all the time of the sacrifice. The priest who sacrifices the cock has his arms and legs garnished with silver plates and pendants, which make a noise when he moves like hawks-bells, and he wears a kind of boss on his breast inscribed with I know not what signs, being perhaps the secret character of some hidden mystery. When the sacrifice is finished, he fills both his hands with wheat, and goes backwards, keeping his eyes fixed on the altar till he comes to a certain tree whereon he casts the wheat; then returning to the altar he removes all that is upon it.

The king never sits down to eat till four of his priests have offered his meat in this manner to the idol; lifting their hands above their heads with many fantastical gesticulations and murmuring voices, they present the meat to the idol, and after many foolish ceremonies bring back the meat to the king. The meat is offered in a wooden tray, after which it is laid on the broad leaves of a certain tree. The meat of the king consists of rice and divers other things, such as fruits; and he eats sitting on the ground without cloth or carpet. During his repast, the priests stand round him at four or five paces' distance, carefully observing all his orders; and when he has done eating, they carry away all the remains of his food, which they give to certain crows, which being used to be thus fed, come upon a signal, and being esteemed holy, it is not lawful for any one to take or even hurt them. The chief priests of these idolaters are the bramins, who are with them as bishops are among us, and are considered as the order of highest dignity. The second order among them are the nairs, who come in place of our gentlemen, and go out to war with swords and bucklers, lancet, bows, and other weapons. The third order consists of mechanics and [[makers of]] handicrafts of all kinds. In the fourth are victuallers, or those that make provision of fish and flesh. Next to them are those who gather pepper, cocoa nuts, grapes and other fruits. The baser sort are those who sow and gather rice, who are kept under such subjection by the bramins and nairs that they dare not approach nearer to them than 50 paces under pain of death, and are therefore obliged to lurk in bye places and marshes; and when they go anywhere abroad they call out continually in a loud voice, that they may be hoard of the bramins and nairs; otherwise if any of these were to come near, they would certainly put these low people to death.

The dress of even the king and queen differ in little or nothing from the other idolaters, all going naked, barefooted, and bareheaded, except a small piece of silk or cotton to cover their nakedness; but the Mahometans wear single garments in a more seemly manner, their women being dressed like the men except that their hair is very long. The king and nobles eat no kind of flesh, except having first got permission of the priests; but the common people may eat any flesh they please except that of cows. Those of the basest sort, named Nirani and Poliars, are only permitted to eat fish dried in the sun.

When the king or zamorin dies, his male children, if any, or his brothers by the father's side, or the sons of these brothers, do not succeed in the kingdom: For, by ancient law or custom, the succession belongs to the sons of the king's sisters; and if there be none such, it goes to the nearest male relation through the female blood. The reason of this strange law of succession is, that when the king takes a wife, she is always in the first place deflowered by the chief bramin, for which he is paid fifty pieces of gold. When the king goes abroad, either in war or a-hunting, the queen is left in charge of the priests, who keep company with her till his return; wherefore the king may well think that her children may not be his; and for this reason the children of his sisters by the same mother are considered as his nearest in blood, and the right inheritors of the throne. When the king dies, all his subjects express their mourning by cutting their beards and shaving their heads; and during the celebration of his funerals, those who live by fishing abstain from their employment during eight days. Similar rules are observed upon the death of any of the king's wives. Sometimes the king abstains from the company of women for the space of a year, when likewise he forbears to chew betel and areka, which are reckoned provocatives.

The gentlemen and merchants of Calicut, when they wish to show great friendship to each other, sometimes exchange wives, but on these occasions the children remain with their reputed fathers. It is likewise customary among these idolaters, for one woman to have seven husbands at the same time, each of whom has his appointed night to sleep with her; and when she has a child, she fathers it upon any of the husbands she pleases. The people of this country, when at their meals, lie upon the ground, and eat their meat from copper trays, using certain leaves instead of spoons; their food consisting for the most part of rice and fish seasoned with spices, and of the ordinary fruits of the country. The lowest people eat in a filthy manner, putting their dirty hands into the dish, and thrusting their food by handfuls into their mouths. The punishment of murder is by impalement; but those who wound or hurt anyone have to pay a fine to the king. When anyone is in debt, and refuses to pay, the creditor goes to the judges, of whom there are said to be a hundred, and having made due proof of the debt, he receives a certain stick or branch of a tree, with authority to arrest his debtor, to whom, when he is able to find him, he uses these words: "I charge you by the heads of the Bramins, and by the head of the king, that you stir not from the spot on which you stand till you pay me what you owe." The debtor has now no resource but to pay immediately, or to lose his life: for, if he escape after this ceremony, he is adjudged a rebel, and it is lawful for any man to kill him.

When they mean to pray to their idols, they resort before sunrise to some pool or rivet where they wash themselves, after which they resort to the idol-house, taking especial care not to touch anything by the way, and say their prayers prostrate on the ground, making strange gesticulations and contortions, so marvellously distorting their faces, eyes, and mouths, that it is horrible to behold. The nairs or gentlemen may not begin to eat till one of them has dressed and set the food in order, with certain ceremonies, but the lower orders are not bound to such rules. The women also have no other care than to dress and beautify themselves, as they take much pains to wash and purify their persons, and to perfume their bodies with many sweet savours. Likewise when they go abroad, they are singularly loaded with jewels and ornaments on their ears, arms, and legs.

In Calicut there are certain teachers of warlike exercises, who train up the youth in the use of the sword, target, and lance, and of such other weapons as they employ in war; and when the king takes the field he has an army of 100,000 infantry, but there are no cavalry in that country. On this occasion the king rides upon an elephant, and elephants are used in their wars. Those who are next in authority to the king wear fillets round their heads of crimson or scarlet silk. Their arms are crooked swords, lances, bows and arrows, and targets. The royal ensign is an umbrella borne aloft on a spear, so as to shade the king from the heat of the sun, which ensign in their language is called somber. When both armies approach within three arrow-flights, the king sends his bramins to the enemy by way of heralds, to challenge an hundred of them to combat against an hundred of his nairs, during which set combat both sides prepare themselves for battle. In the mean time the two select parties proceed to combat, mid-way between the two armies, always striking with the edge of their swords at the heads of their antagonists, and never thrusting with the point, or striking at the legs. Usually when five or six are slain of either side, the Bramins interpose to stop the fight, and a retreat is sounded at their instance. After which the Bramins speak to the adverse kings, and generally succeed to make up matters without any battle or farther slaughter.

The king sometimes rides on an elephant, but at other times is carried by his nairs or nobles, and when he goes out is always followed by a numerous band of minstrels, making a prodigious noise with drums, timbrels, tambourets, and other such instruments. The wages of the nairs are four carlines each, monthly, in time of peace, and six during war. When any of them are slain, their bodies are burned with great pomp and many superstitious ceremonies, and their ashes are preserved; but the common people are buried in their houses, gardens, fields, or woods, without any ceremony. When I was in Calicut it was crowded with merchants from almost every part of the east, especially a prodigious number of Mahometans. There were many from Malacca and Bengal, from Tanaserim, Pegu, and Coromandel, from the islands of Ceylon and Sumatra, from all the cities and countries of Western India, and various Persians, Arabians, Syrians, Turks, and Ethiopians. As the idolaters do not sail on the sea, the Mahometans are exclusively employed in navigation, so that there are not less than 15,000 Mahometans resident in Calicut, mostly born in that place.

Their ships are seldom below the burden of four or five hundred tons, yet all open and without decks. They do not put any tow or oakum into the seams of their ships, yet join the planks so artificially [[=artfully]], that they hold out water admirably, the seams being pitched and held together with iron nails, and the wood of which their ships are built is better than ours. Their sails are made of cotton cloth, doubled in the under parts, by which they gather much wind and swell out like bags, having only one sail to each vessel. Their anchors are of marble, eight spans long, having two on each side of the ship, which are hung by means of double ropes. Their voyages are all made at certain appointed times and seasons, as one time of the year answers for one coast, and another season for other voyages, which must all be regulated according to the changes of the weather. In the months of May, June, and July, when with us in Italy every thing is almost burnt up with heat and drought, they have prodigious rains. The best of their ships are built in the island of Porcai, not far from Calicut. They have one kind of vessel or canoe, made all of one piece of wood like a trough, very long, narrow, and sharp, which is propelled either by oars or sails, and goes with amazing swiftness, which is much used by pirates.

The palace of the king of Calicut exceeds a mile in circumference, and is well constructed of beams and posts artificially joined, and curiously carved all over with the figures of devils. It is all however very low, for the reason before-mentioned, as they cannot dig deep for secure foundations. It is impossible to express in words the number and riches of the pearls and precious stones which the king wears about him, which exceed all estimate in regard to their value. Although, when I was in that place, the king lived rather in a state of grief, both on account of the war in which he was engaged with the Portuguese, and because he was afflicted by the venereal disease which had got into his throat, yet his ears, hands, legs, and feet, were richly garnished with all sorts of jewels and precious stones, absolutely beyond description. His treasure is so vast, that it cannot be contained in two immense cellars or warehouses, consisting of precious stones, plates of gold, and other rich ornaments, besides as much, gold coin as might load an hundred mules, as was reported by the Bramins, to whom these things are best known. This treasure is said to have been hoarded up by twelve kings, his predecessors. In this treasury there is said to be a coffer three spans long and two broad, entirely full of precious stones of inestimable value.

Pepper is gathered in the fields around the suburbs of Calicut, and even in some places within the city. It grows on a weak and feeble plant, somewhat like vines, which is unable to support itself without props or stakes. It much resembles ivy, and in like manner creeps up and embraces such trees as it grows near. This tree, or bush rather, throws out numerous branches of two or three spans long, having leaves like those of the Syrian apple, but somewhat thicker. On every twig there hang six clusters about the size of dates, and of the colour of unripe grapes, but thicker together. These are gathered in October, while still inclining to green, and are spread out on mats in the sun to dry, when in three days they become black, just as brought to us. The fruitfulness of these plants proceeds entirely from the goodness of the soil in which they grow, as they do not require pruning or lopping like vines with us. This region also produces ginger, some roots weighing twelve ounces, though they do not penetrate the ground above three or four spans. When the roots are dug up, the uppermost joint is again set in the ground, as seed for next year's crop. It and the mirabolans are found in a red-coloured soil, and the stalk much resembles a young pear-tree.

Were I to describe all the strange fruits that are produced in this country, it would require a large volume for that alone; as they not only have many quite different from ours in form, taste, and flavour, but even those kinds which are the same with ours, differ essentially in many particulars. Natural philosophers may consider how it should so happen that things of the same kind become so essentially different, according to the changes of soil and climate; by which some fruits and seeds, by transplantation to better soil, become more perfect in their kind, as larger, fairer, sweeter, and more fruitful; while others are improved by a worse soil and colder region. This diversity may not only be seen in plants and herbs, but also in beasts, and even in man. It is strange to observe how very differently some trees bear their fruits and seeds, some in one part of the tree and some in other parts.

At Calicut there is a fruit named Jaceros, which grows on a tree about the size of our pear trees. The fruit is about two spans and a half long, and as thick as the thigh of a man, growing out of the body of the tree under the branches, some in the middle of the tree and others lower down. The colour of this fruit is green, and its form and appearance resembles a pine apple, but with smaller grains or knobs. When ripe it is black, and is gathered in December. It has the taste of a pepon with a flavour of musk, and in eating seems to give various pleasant tastes, sometimes resembling a peach, sometimes like a pomegranate, and leaves a rich sweet in the month like new honeycombs. Under the skin it has a pulp like that of a peach, and within that are other fruits like soft chesnuts, which when roasted eat much like them. This is certainly one of the finest fruits I ever met with.

There is another fruit called Apolanda, which is worthy of being mentioned. The tree grows to the height of a man, having not above four or five leaves hanging from certain slips, each leaf being so large that it is sufficient to cover a man entirely from rain or the heat of the sun. In the middle of each leaf rises a stalk like that of a bean, which produces flowers followed by fruit a span long, and as thick as a man's arm. These fruits are gathered unripe, as they become ripe in keeping. Every slip bears about two hundred fruits in a cluster. They are of a yellow colour with a very thin skin, and are most delicate eating, and very wholesome. There are three kinds of this fruit, one of which is not so pleasant or so much esteemed as the others. This tree bears fruit only once and then dies; but there rise from the ground all about the root fifty or sixty young slips which renew the life of the parent tree. The gardeners transplant these to other places, and in one year they produce fruit This fruit is to be had in great abundance, almost the whole year, and are so cheap that twenty of them may be had for a penny. This country produces innumerable flowers of great beauty and most pleasant flavour, all the year round, and especially roses, both red, white, and yellow.

The cocoa is another tree most worthy of being known, as in fruitfulness and sweetness of fruit it surpasses all other trees. Its fruit is a nut of large size; and taken altogether, this tree produces ten different commodities of value: as it produces wood most excellent for burning, nuts very pleasant to eat, cords or ropes that answer well for ships, fine cloth, which when dyed resembles silk. The wood is the best that can be found for making charcoal, and it yields wine, odoriferous water, sugar, and oil. The boughs or leaves serve to cover houses, instead of tiles or thatch, as, by reason of their closeness and substance, they keep out the rain admirably. One tree will produce about two hundred large nuts. The outer rind of these nuts is removed, and thrown into the fire, where it burns quickly and with a strong flame. The inner rind is like cotton or flax, and can be wrought in the same manner. From the finer part of this, a kind of cloth is made resembling silk; and from the tow, or refuse, they make a coarser cloth, or small ropes and twine; while the coarsest parts are made into cables and large ropes for ships. The inner hard shell of the nut incloses the kernel, which is excellent eating, and lines the shell to the thickness of an inch or less. Within this is found to the quantity of two or three cups of sweet water, which is excellent to drink, and which, by boiling, produces good oil. Only one side of the tree is allowed to produce fruit, as they wound the other side every morning and evening in several places, whence a juice or sap runs out into vessels placed to receive it. Thus they procure at each wound, every night and morning, a cupful of most precious liquor, which sometimes they boil till it becomes strong as brandy, so as to make people drunk like strong wine, which it resembles in taste and flavour. They likewise procure sugar from this tree, but not very sweet. This tree produces fruit continually, as at all times there are to be seen upon it both old ripe fruit of the past season, and green fruit of the present year. It does not begin bearing till five years old, and only lives for twenty five years. It thrives best in sandy ground, and is planted or set out like our walnuts; and is so much valued, that it is to be found all over the country for at least two hundred miles. This country also produces other fruits, from which they make good oil.

For the cultivation of rice they till the ground with oxen as we do, and at the season for sowing they have a holiday, on which they testify their joy by singing and dancing to the sound of all kinds of instruments of music. To ensure, as they conceive, a favourable produce, ten men are disguised like so many devils, who dance to the noise of their music; and after the festivities of the day, they pray to the devils to send them a plentiful crop.

When any merchant of these idolaters is sore afflicted with disease and near death, then certain persons who are accounted physicians among them ore called to visit the person in extremity. These persons accordingly come to his house in the dead of night, dressed like devils, and carrying burning sticks in their mouth and hands. And there, with mad cries and boilings, and with the jangling of certain instruments, they make such a horrible noise in the ears of the sick man, as is enough to make a healthy man sick. This is the only remedy these pretended physicians offer to their sick persons, being merely to present to him when at the point of death the resemblance of him whom, worse than devils, they honour as the vicegerent of the deity. When any one hath so engorged himself with eating as to be sick at stomach, he takes the powder of ginger, mixed in some liquid to the consistence of syrup, which he drinks, and in three days he recovers his former health.

Their bankers, brokers, and money-changers use weights and scales of such small size, that the box containing the whole does not exceed an ounce in weight, yet are they so delicate and just that they will turn with the weight of a hair. For trying the parity of gold, they use the touch-stone as with us, but with this addition: having first rubbed the gold to be tried on the touch-stone, they rub over the mark with a ball of some sort of composition resembling wax, by which all that is not fine gold disappears, and the marks or spots of gold remain, by which they have an exact proof of the fineness of the gold. When the ball becomes full of gold, they melt it in the fire, to recover the gold which it contains; yet are these men very ignorant even of the art which they profess. In buying or selling merchandise they employ the agency of brokers; so that the buyer and seller each employs a separate broker. The seller takes the buyer by the hand, under cover of a scarf or veil, where, by means of the fingers, counting from one to a hundred thousand privately, they offer and bargain far the price till they are agreed, all of which passes in profound silence.

The women of this country suckle their children till three months old, after which they feed them on goat's milk. When in the morning they have given them milk, they allow them to tumble about on the sands all foul and dirty, leaving them all day in the sun, so that they look more like buffaloe calves than human infants; indeed I never saw such filthy creatures. In the evening they get milk again. Yet by this manner of bringing up they acquire marvellous dexterity in running, leaping, swimming, and the like.

There are many different kinds of beasts and birds in this country, as lions, wild boars, harts, hinds, buffaloes, cows, goats, and elephants; but these last are not all bred here, being brought from other places. They have also parrots of sundry colours, as green, purple, and other mixed colours, and they are so numerous that the rice fields have to be watched to drive them away. These birds make a wonderful chattering, and are sold so low as a halfpenny each. There are many other kinds of birds different from ours, which every morning and evening make most sweet music, so that the country is like an earthly paradise, the trees, herbs, and flowers being in a continual spring, and the temperature of the air quite delightful, as never too hot nor too cold. There are also monkeys, which are sold at a low price, and are very hurtful to the husbandmen, as they climb the trees, and rob them of their valuable fruits and nuts, and cast down the vessels that are placed for collecting the sap from which wine is made.

There are serpents also of prodigious size, their bodies being as thick as those of swine, with heads like those of boars; these are four footed, and grow to the length of four cubits, and breed in the marshes[82]. The inhabitants say that these have no venom. There are three other kinds of serpents, some of which have such deadly venom, that if they draw ever so little blood death presently follows, as happened several times while I was in the country. Of these some are no larger than asps, and some much bigger, and they are very numerous. It is said that, from some strange superstition, the king of Calicut holds them in such veneration, that he has small houses or cottages made on purpose for them, conceiving that they are of great virtue against an over abundance of rain, and overflowing of the rivers. Hence they are protected by law, and any person killing one would be punished with death, so that they multiply exceedingly. They have a strange notion that serpents come from heaven, and are actuated by heavenly spirits, and they allege that only by touching them instant death insues. These serpents know the idolaters from the Mahometans, or other strangers, and are much more apt to attack the former than the latter. Upon one occasion, I went into a house where eight men lay dead, and greatly swollen, having been killed the day before by these serpents; yet the natives deem it fortunate to meet any of them in their way.

The palace of the king of Calicut contains many mansions, and a prodigious number of apartments, in all of which a prodigious number of lamps are lighted up every evening. In the great hall of the palace there are ten or twelve great and beautiful candlesticks of laton or brass, of cunning workmanship, much like goodly fountains, the height of a man. In each of these are several vessels, and in every vessel are three burning candles of two spans long, with great plenty of oil. In the first vessel there are many lamps or wicks of cotton; the middle vessel, which is narrower, is also full of lamps; and the lowest vessel has also a great number of lights, maintained with oil and cotton wicks. All the angles or corners of these candlesticks are covered with figures of devils, which also hold lights in their hands; and in a vessel on the top of all the candlesticks there are innumerable cotton wicks kept constantly burning, and supplied with oil. When any one of the royal blood dies, the king sends for all the bramins or priests in his dominions, and commands them to mourn for a whole year. On their arrival, he feasts them for three days, and when they depart gives each of them five pieces of gold.

Not far from Calicut, there is a temple of the idolaters, encompassed with water like an island, built in the ancient manner, having a double row of pillars much like the church of St. John de fonte at Rome, and in the middle of this temple is a stone altar, on which the people sacrifice to their idols. High up between the rows of pillars there is a vessel like a boat, two paces long, and filled with oil. Also, all round about the temple there are many trees, on which are hung an incredible number of lamps, and the temple itself is everywhere hung round with lamps, constantly burning. Every year, on the 25th of December, an infinite number of people resort to this temple, even from fifteen days' journey all round the country, together with a vast number of priests, who sacrifice to the idols of the temple, after having washed in the water by which it is surrounded. Then the priests ascend to the boat which is filled with oil, from which they anoint the heads of all the people, and then proceed to the sacrifice. On one side of the altar, there is a most horrible figure of a devil, to whom the people lay their prayers, prostrate on the ground, and then depart each one to his home, believing that all their sins are forgiven them. On this occasion, the environs of the temple is considered a sanctuary, where no person may be arrested or troubled on any cause or pretence. I never saw so prodigious a number of people assembled in any one place, except in the city of Mecca.

[Footnote 82: From the description these must be crocodiles--E.]


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