Volume 9, Chapter 11 -- Continuation of the Early Voyages of the English East India Company to India: *section index*

Volume 9, Chapter 11, Section 6c --  Journal of Sir Thomas Roe, Ambassador from King James I, to Shah Jehanguire, Mogul Emperor of Hindoostan, part 3

§3. Of the Celebration of the King's Birth Day, with other Occurrences in September 1616.

The 2nd of September was the birthday of the Great Mogul, which was solemnized with extraordinary festivities. He was then weighed against a variety of articles, as jewels, gold, silver, stuffs of gold and silver, silk, batter, rice, fruits, and many other things, of each a little, all of which is given to the Bramins. On this occasion, the king ordered Asaph Khan to send for me; who did so, and appointed me to come to the place where the king held his durbar. But the messenger mistook, so that I went not in time, and missed the sight.

Being there before the king came out, he sent for me as soon as he noticed me, and enquired why I had not come to see the ceremony of weighing, for which he had given order. I explained the reason, as it actually was, on which he chid Asaph Khan publicly for the omission. He was at this time so richly ornamented with jewels, that I must confess I never saw at any one time such unspeakable wealth. He now amused himself in seeing his greatest elephants brought in before him. Some of these were lord-elephants, having their chains, bells, and furniture all of gold and silver, being attended by many gilt flags and streamers, and each having eight or ten inferior elephants to wait upon him, clothed in gold, silk, and silver.

In this way there passed about twelve troops, all very splendidly furnished. The first lord-elephant had all the plates on his head and breast set with rubies and emeralds, being a beast of most wonderful stature and beauty. They all bowed down before the king, making their reverences very orderly, and formed as fine a shew of beasts as I had ever seen. The keepers of each chief elephant made a present to the king. After this was over, the king made me some gracious speeches, and went into the interior apartments.

About ten o'clock at night, after I was in bed, the king sent me a message, saying he had heard I had a picture which I had not shewn him, and desired I would come then to him, bringing the picture with me; and if I would not part with it, that he might see it, and have copies taken for his wives. I rose and carried the picture with me, and when I came to the presence, I found him sitting cross-legged on a little throne, his robes all covered over with diamonds, pearls, and rubies. Before him stood a golden table, on which were above fifty pieces of gold plate, all set with precious stones, some of them being large and of great value. His nobles were all around him in their best attire, whom he commanded to drink cheerfully of several kinds of wine, which stood there in large flaggons.

On my approach he asked for the picture, on which I shewed him two. He seemed astonished at one of these, and asked whose it was; to which I replied, that it was the portrait of a friend who was dead. He asked if I would give it him. I replied, that I valued it more than anything I had, as being the portrait of one I had loved dearly; but if his majesty would pardon my attachment to that picture, and accept the other, which was French and of excellent work, I would most willingly give it. He thanked me, saying it was that only picture which he desired, and which he loved as much as I did; and, if I would give it him, he would value it more than the richest jewel in his house.

I answered that I was not so much in love with anything, but that I would part with it to satisfy his majesty, being extremely glad to have any opportunity to serve him, and was ready even to present him with my heart, if I could thereby demonstrate my affection. He bowed to me, saying he had never before seen so much art and beauty, and conjured me to tell him truly if ever such a woman had lived. I answered, that there certainly did once live a lady whom this portrait resembled in everything but perfection. He then said, that he accepted my readiness to give him what I so valued as a great kindness; but would only shew it to his ladies, and cause his own painter make five copies, and if I knew my own I should have it back.

I answered, that I had freely given it, and would be glad of his majesty accepting it: But he said he would not keep it, and loved me better for putting so much value on the image of my departed friend. He knew, he added, that it would be doing me an injury to take it from me, and would only have five copies taken, which his wives should wear, and would then return me the original with his own hand. In this art of limning or painting in water colours, his artists are wonderfully expert. But he liked not the other picture, which was painted in oil.

He then told me that this was his birth-ay, and all men made merry, and asked me therefore if I would drink with them. I said I would willingly do whatever he was pleased to command, as I sincerely wished him many prosperous days, and that the ceremony of this day might be repeated for an hundred years. He asked me what wine I would have, whether that of the grape or made wine, and whether strong or weak. I said whatever he was pleased to order, hoping he would neither command me to have it too strong or in too large quantity. So he called for a gold cupful of mingled wine, half of the grape and half artificial, which he sent me by one of his nobles, with this message, that I should drink it off twice, thrice, four times, or five times, for his sake, and accept the cup and appurtenances as a present.

On drinking a portion of it, I found it stronger than any I had ever tasted, insomuch that it made me sneeze, at which he laughed, and called for raisins, almonds, and sliced lemons, which he sent me on a gold plate, and desired me to eat and drink what I liked, and no more. I then made a reverence for my present, after my own manner, though Asaph Khan wanted me to kneel and knock my head upon the ground, but the king accepted it in my own way. The cup was of gold, set all over with small rubies and turquoises; the cover being likewise gold, and set with great rubies, emeralds, and turquoises; and there was likewise a suitable dish or salver on which to set the cup.

I know not the value, because many of the stones are small, and the greater, which also are numerous, are not all clean; but there are above two thousand stones in all, and the gold weighs about twenty ounces. On giving me this splendid present, he sent me word that he esteemed me more than ever he had done a Frank, and asked if I were merry in eating the wild boar he had sent me, how I had it dressed, what I drank with it, and many such compliments; which public shew of his grace and favour did me much service in the eyes of all his nobles, who strove to shew me respect.

After this, he threw among those that stood below, two chargers of rupees, and among us who were round the throne two chargers of hollow almonds made of gold and silver mingled; but I would not scramble as did his great men, for I saw his son did not take any up. He then distributed sashes and girdles of gold tissue to all the musicians and servants, and many others. So drinking heartily himself, and commanding others to drink, he and his nobles became as jovial as could be, and of a thousand humours. But the prince, Asaph Khan, two old men, the former king of Candahar, and I, refrained from drinking. When the king was not able any longer to hold up his head, he lay down to sleep, and we all departed.

While going out, I moved Asaph Khan for the dispatch of our privileges, assuring him his majesty could give me no present so acceptable. I said farther, that I had no doubt it lay in his power to dispatch me; but if he did not think proper to do so, or if any other hinderance was in my way, I should on the morrow again apply to the king. He desired me not to do so, for the king loved me and had given orders for dispatching my business, which had been hindered by the preparations for this feast; but he would now send it to me with all speed, and do me all manner of service.

Seven months had now been vainly spent in soliciting the signing and sealing of the articles of amity and commerce, formerly detailed, and I had nothing but promises and delays, from day to day, and from week to week. Therefore on the 3rd September, the English fleet being hourly expected to arrive at Surat, I delivered to him a memorial, containing the articles I desired to have an order for, that they might be observed in the unloading of the ships. These were, 1.) That the presents coming for the king and prince should not be opened at the port, but sent up to court under the seals of the customhouse officers. 2.) That curiosities sent for presents to other persons, and for the merchants to sell, should also be sent to the court sealed, for the prince to make the first choice. 3.) That the gross merchandize should be landed, reasonably rated, and not detained at the customhouse, but that the merchants, on paying the customs, should have full liberty to sell or dispose of it as they pleased; and that the ships should be fully supplied with provisions, without paying any custom for the same.

On the 4th, Asaph Khan sent me back my articles, after so long attendance and so many false promises, some of them altered, and others struck out, together with a letter saying there was no need of any articles, as an order from the prince to trade at Surat was quite sufficient, he being lord there, and that no grant of trade at Bengal or Sinde could ever be allowed. Notwithstanding all this vexation, I durst not change my mode of proceeding, or wholly quit the prince and Asaph Khan. I therefore drew up other articles, leaving out what seemed displeasing in the former, and desired Asaph Khan to put them into form and procure them to be sealed, or else to allow me to apply to the king, that if he denied me I might leave the country.

The substance of these new articles was as follows:-- 1.) That all the subjects of the Great Mogul should receive the English in a friendly manner, suffering them to land their goods peaceably, and to procure provisions for their money without paying customs for them.-- 2.) To have liberty, after paying customs for their goods, to sell them to any one they pleased, and none to force them to sell at an under rate. --3.) To have liberty to pass with their goods to any part of the empire, without any farther exactions than those payable at the port. --4.) To have the presents for the Mogul and prince sealed without being opened, and sent to the ambassador. --5.) To have the goods of those that might die freed from confiscation, and delivered to the surviving English factors. --And finally, That no injury should be offered to any of the English.

On the 8th, Asaph Khan sent me word in plain terms, that absolutely he would procure nothing for me sealed, that in any respect concerned the government belonging to the prince; and that I must rest satisfied with a firmaun or order signed by the prince, which was quite sufficient, and I needed not to apply any more to him. This clearly revealed the purpose he had so long intended, that we should be entirely dependent on the prince; and I now had just cause to look out for new friends, Asaph Khan having forsaken me. He that first took him for our solicitor engaged us in all this misery, for he was the known protector of our enemies, and a slave to their numerous bribes.

I therefore determined to try the prince, and to seem entirely dependent upon him. So I went to the prince on the 10th, and desired he would grant his firmaun for the four articles formerly sent to his secretary, which he threw down to his secretary, so that I hoped to be at rest. I received it on the 11th, but on reading it over, I found two of the four clauses much altered, and one entirely left out; so I returned it, declaring roundly I could not accept it, neither would I suffer any goods to be sent ashore. Never was any man so distressed with such pride, covetousness, and falsehood.

At night, I rode to visit the prince's secretary, Mirza Socrolla, with whom I expostulated the business, declaring my resolution to depart. But I now found the firmaun quite different than I had been informed, and containing all the clauses I had required, though in some phrases rather ambiguous in my judgment, which the secretary interpreted favourably, declaring it was the prince's intent to satisfy me entirely, and that ever thing was quite sufficient for our purpose. After urging the obscurity of some points, and as he had declared the meaning of the prince to me, I requested he would explain them in the same sense to the governor of Surat, which he agreed to; and especially gave order that the customer [=customs officer] should pay for fifty pieces of cloth which he had bought many months before, and wished now to return upon the factors, to their extreme loss.

At the close of our conference, he expressed the prince's desire that we would rely entirely on him, and not cross him in matters belonging to his government, by applying to the king, declaring that we should so find him a better friend than we expected. Being thus satisfied, I was in some hope of success, especially as this man is no taker of bribes, and is reputed honest, and pledged his credit that we should sustain no loss or injury, everything being referred to him by the prince. So I accepted the firmaun, which, on having it translated, I found very effectual and satisfactory.

The 16th, I went to visit the prince, intending to seem entirely dependent upon him, till I heard what entertainment our ships were likely to meet with. But I found him in much perplexity, fearing the coming of Sultan Parvis to court, he being only at the distance of eight coss, anxiously desiring leave to kiss his father's hands. The king had even granted his desire, but by the influence of Nourmahal, the favourite queen, he had revoked the permission, and Sultan Parvis was ordered away directly to Bengal.[205] The resolution of the king to remove the court from Agimere still continued, but no one knew certainly where he intended to go.

[Footnote 205: At this place there is an expression in the Pilgrims, coupled with this sentence, which is quite inexplicable. "Yea, although the king had fallen down, and taken his mother by the feet, to obtain her leave to see her son." We are not sufficiently conversant in the secret history of the Zenana of Shah Jehan-guire to explain this; yet strongly suspect that this sentence ought to have run thus: Although the prince's mother fell at the king's feet to obtain leave to see her son.--E.]


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