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

Volume 9, Chapter 11, Section 8 -- Journey of Thomas Coryat by land, from Jerusalem to the Court of the Great Mogul.[245]


Without proposing to follow this singularly bold English traveller and whimsical writer, in all his crudities, as he has quaintly termed his own writings, it has seemed proper to give some abbreviated extracts of his observations, which may serve in some measure to illustrate those of Sir Tomas Roe and the Reverend Edward Terry.--E.

§1. Letter from Ajimeer, the Court of the Great Mogul, to Mr L. Whitaker, dated in the Year 1615.

My last letter to you was from Zobah, as it is called by the prophet Samuel, B. II. ch. viii. v. 3; now named Aleppo, the principal emporium of all Syria, or rather of the eastern world; which was, I think, about fifteen months ago. I returned from Jerusalem to Aleppo, where I remained three months afterwards, and then departed in a caravan bound for Persia. Passing the river Euphrates, the chiefest of the rivers which irrigated the terrestrial paradise, when about four days journey from Aleppo, I entered into Mesopotamia, or Chaldea.

Hence, in two days journey, I reached Ur of the Chaldees, where Abraham was born, a very delicate and pleasant city.[246] I remained here four days; and in [[an]]other four days' journey reached the Tigris, which I also passed, at a place where it was so shallow that it only reached to the calf of my leg, so that I waded over afoot. I then entered into the greater Armenia; and thence into lower Media, and resided six days in its metropolis, formerly called Ecbatana, the summer residence of Cyrus the Great, now called Tauris. More woeful ruins of a city I never beheld, excepting those of Troy and of Cyzicum in Natolia.

From that place I went to Cashbin, called by Strabo, Arsacia, in higher Media, once the residence of the Tartar prince; four days' journey from the Caspian Sea. From Cashbin, I went in twenty-three days to Ispahan in Parthia, the residence of the king of Persia; but while I was there, he was in Gurgistan [Georgia], ransacking the poor Christians of that country with fire and sword.

I remained two months at Ispahan, whence I travelled with a caravan to the eastern India, passing four months and several days in travelling from that city, through part of Persia proper, and a large extent of the noble and renowned India, to the goodly city of Lahore. This is one of the largest cities in the world, being, at the least, sixteen miles in circuit, and larger even than Constantinople. Twelve days before coming to Lahore, I passed over the famous river Indus, which is as broad again as our Thames at London, having its original [[=origin]] from the mountain of Caucassus, so ennobled by ancient poets and historians, both Greek and Latin.

When about midway between Ispahan and Lahore, just about the frontiers between Persia and India, I met Sir Robert Shirley and his lady, travelling from the court of the Mogul to that of Persia. They were gallantly furnished for their journey, and showed me, to my great satisfaction, both my books, very neatly kept, and promised to show them, especially my itinerary, to the king of Persia, and to interpret some of the principal contents to him in Turkish, that I may have the more gracious access to him at my return.

Besides other rarities which they carried with them, they had two elephants and eight antelopes, being the first of either I had ever seen. But afterwards, when I came to the Mogul's court, I saw many. They intended to present these animals to the king of Persia. Both Sir Robert and his lady used me with much respect; especially his lady, who presented me with forty shillings in Persian money; and they seemed joyful at meeting me, promising to bring me into good grace with the king of Persia, as I mean, with God's help, to return through Persia to Aleppo.

From Lahore, I travelled in twenty days to another goodly city named Agra, through such a beautiful and level country as I had never seen before. In this way, from the town's end of Lahore to the skirts of Agra, we had a row of trees on both sides of the road, the most incomparable avenue I ever beheld. Some ten days' journey from Lahore towards Agra, but about ten miles off the road on the left hand, there is a mountain, the inhabitants of which have a singular custom, all the brothers of one family having but one wife among them, so that one women sometimes has six or seven husbands. The same is related by Strabo concerning the inhabitants of Arabia Felix. Agra is a very great city, but in every respect much inferior to Lahore. Here the Mogul used always to keep his court, till within these two years.

From Agra I went in ten days to the Mogul's court, at a town called Asmere [Ajimeer], where I found an English Cape merchant with nine more of our countrymen, residing there in the way of trade for our East India Company. In. my journey from Jerusalem to the court of the Great Mogul, I spent fifteen months and some days, travelling all the way afoot, having been so great a propatetic, or walker forwards on foot, as I doubt if you ever heard of the like; for the whole way, from Jerusalem to Ajimeer, contains 2700 English miles. My whole perambulation of the greater Asia is likely to extend almost to 6000 miles, by the time I have returned back through Persia, by Babylon and Nineveh to Cairo in Egypt, and thence down the Nile to Alexandria, when I propose, with God's blessing, to embark for Christendom.

The reigning Great Mogul is named Selim.[247] He is fifty-three years of age, his birth-day having been celebrated with wonderful magnificence since my arrival. He was that day weighed in a pair of golden scales, which by great chance I saw that same day, the opposite scale being filled with as much gold as counterpoised his weight, and this is afterwards distributed among the poor. This custom is observed every year. His complexion is of an olive colour, something between white and black; being of a seemly stature, but somewhat corpulent.

His dominions are very extensive, being about 4000 English miles in circumference, nearly answerable to the compass of the Turkish territories; or, if the Mogul kingdom be any way inferior in size to that empire, it is more than equally endowed with a fertile soil beyond that of any other country, and in having its territory connected together in one goodly continent, within which no other prince possesses one single foot of land.

The yearly revenue of the Mogul extends to forty millions of crowns, of six shillings each, while that of the Turk does not exceed fifteen millions, as I was credibly informed in Constantinople, nor that of the Sophy five millions, as I learnt at Ispahan. It is said that the present Great Mogul is not circumcised, in which he differs from all other Mahometan sovereigns.

The Great Mogul speaks with much revrence of our Saviour, naming him Hazaret Eesa, that is to say, the Great Prophet Jesus.[248] He likewise uses all Christians, and especially the English, with more benevolence than does any other Mahometan prince. He keeps many wild beasts, such as lions, elephants, leopards, bears, antelopes, and unicorns [rhinoceroses], of which I saw two at his court, the strangest beasts in the world. They were brought out of Bengal, a kingdom in his dominions of most wonderful fertility, above four months' journey from this place, the mid-land parts of which are watered by various channels and branches of the famous river Ganges. I have not yet seen that country, but mean to visit it, God willing, before my departure, the nearest part of it being only about twelve days journey from hence.

Twice every week elephants are made to fight before the Mogul, forming the bravest spectacle that can be imagined, many of them being thirteen feet and a half in height, and they jostle together as though they were two little mountains; and were they not separated in the midst of their fighting, by means of certain fire-works, they would exceedingly hurt and gore each other, by their murderous tusks. The Mogul is said to keep 30,000 elephants, at a most enormous expense; and in feeding them, together with his lions and other beasts, he expends an incredible sum of money, being at the least 10,000 pounds sterling daily. I have myself rode [[=ridden]] upon an elephant since I came to this court, meaning in my next book to have my effigies represented in that form. This king keeps a thousand women for his own use, the chiefest of whom, called Normal [Noormahal], is his queen.

In my ten months journey between Aleppo and this court, I spent just three pounds sterling, yet fared reasonably every day; victuals being so cheap in some of the countries through which I travelled, that I often lived competently for one penny a day. Of that three pounds, I was actually cozened out of ten shillings, by certain evil Christians of the Armenian nation; so that in reality I only expended fifty shillings in all that time.

I have been in a city of this country called Detee,[249] where Alexander the Great joined battle with Porus king of India, and defeated him; and where, in memory of his victory, he caused erect a brazen pillar, which remains there to this day. At this time I have many irons in the fire, as I am learning the Persian, Turkish, and Arabic languages, having already acquired the Italian. I have been already three months at the court of the Great Mogul, and propose, God willing, to remain here five months longer, till I have got these three languages; after which I propose to visit the river Ganges, and then to return to the court of Persia.

In the course of my journey, I was robbed of my money, but not of all, having some concealed in certain secret corners. This was done at the city of Diarbekir in Mesopotatamia, by a Turkish horse soldier, whom they call a spahee. Since my arrival here, there was sent to this king the richest present I ever heard of. It consisted of various things, the whole amounting to the value of ten of their lacks, a lack being £10,000 sterling. Part of this present consisted of thirty-one elephants, two of which were more gorgeously adorned than anything I ever saw, or shall see in the course of my life. They had each four massy chains, all of beaten gold, around their bodies, with two chains of the same about their legs, furniture for their buttocks of the same rich material, and two golden lions on their heads.

§2. Letter from Agra, the Capital of the Great Mogul, to his Mother, dated 31st October, 1616.

Most dear and well-beloved Mother,

This city is the metropolis of the whole dominions of the Great Mogul, and is at the distance of ten days' journey from Ajimeer, whence I departed on the 12th September this year, after having abode there twelve months and sixty days. This my long stay in one place, was for two principal causes: one being to learn the languages of these countries through which I am to pass between this country and Christendom, namely, Persian, Turkish, and Arabic, which I have competently attained to by labour and industry, being as available to me as money, and the chiefest, or rather the only means to get me money if I should happen to be in want; and, secondly, that, by the help of the Persian, I might get myself access to the Mogul, and be able to express my mind unto him about what I proposed to lay before him. During all this time, I abode in the house of the English merchants, my dear countrymen, not expending any money at all for lodging, diet, washing, or any other thing.

I attained to a reasonable skill in the Persian tongue, by earnest study, in a few months, so that I made an oration to the king in that language, before many of his nobles; and afterwards discoursed with him very readily. The copy of this speech I have sent you, as a novelty, though the language may seem strange and uncouth to an Englishman; and I have sent you herewith a translation, which you may shew along with the Persian original to some of my learned friends of the clergy, and also of the laity, who may take some pleasure in reading so rare and unusual a tongue. The Persian is this that follows:

Hazaret Aallum-pennah, Salamet: fooker Darceish, ce jehaun-gesht hastam; ke mia emadam az wellageti door, yanne as muik Ingliz-stan, ke kessanion pesheen mushacar cardand, ke wellageti mazcoor der akeri magrub bood, ke mader hamma jezzaereti dunia ast, &c.[250]

--The English of it is this:

"Lord protector of the world, all hail! I am a poor traveller and world-seer, who am come here from a far country called England, which ancient historians thought to have been situated in the farthest bounds of the west, and which is the queen of all the islands in the world. The causes of my coming hither are four. First, that I might behold the blessed countenance of your majesty, whose great fame has resounded over all Europe, and through all the Mahometan countries. When I heard of the fame of your majesty, I made all possible haste hither, and cheerfully endured the labour of travelling, that I might see your glorious court. Secondly, I was desirous of seeing your majesty's elephants, which kind of beasts I have not seen in any other country. Thirdly, that I might see your famous river the Ganges, the captain of all the rivers in the world.

"Fourthly, to entreat your majesty, that you would vouchsafe to grant me your most gracious phirmaund, that I may travel into the country of Tartaria to the city of Samarcand, to visit the blessed sepulchre of the Lord of the Corners,[251] whose fame, by reason of his wars and victories, is published over the whole world, so that perhaps he is not altogether so famous in his own country of Tartary as in England. I have a strong desire to see the sepulchre of the Lord of the Corners for this cause: that, when in Constantinople, I saw a notable old building in a pleasant garden near the said city, where the Christian emperor, Emanuel, made a sumptuous banquet to the Lord of the Corners, after he had taken Sultan Bajazet in a great battle near the city of Brusa, when the Lord of the Corners bound Sultan Bajazet in golden fetters, and put him into an iron cage. These causes have induced me to travel thus far from my native country, having come afoot through Turkey and Persia into this country, my pilgrimage having extended so three thousand miles, with much labour and toil, such as no mortal man hath ever yet performed, to see the blessed countenance of your majesty, since the first day of your being inaugurated in your imperial throne."

When I had ended my speech, I conversed with him for a short space in Persian, when, among other things, he told me that he could do me no service in regard to my proposed journey to Samarcand, as there was no intimacy between him and the princes of the Tartars, so that his commendatory letters would avail me little. He also added, that the Tartars bore so deadly a hate against all Christians, that they would certainly kill any who might venture into their country, wherefore he earnestly dissuaded me from this proposed journey, as I valued my life and welfare. At last, he concluded his discourse by throwing down to me, from a window in which he stood, that looked into the street, an hundred pieces of silver, worth two shillings each or ten pounds in all, which were thrown into a sheet hanging by the four corners.

I had conducted this affair so secretly, by the help of the Persian which I had learnt, that neither our English ambassador, nor any other of my countrymen, excepting one special and private friend, knew any thing at all about the matter till I had thoroughly accomplished my design. For I well knew, if the ambassador had got the smallest notice of my purpose, that he would have counteracted me, as indeed he signified to me after I had effected my purpose, alledging that this might redound to the discredit of our nation, for one of our country to present himself in that poor and beggarly manner before the king, to crave money from him by flattery. But I answered our ambassador so resolutely, that he was glad to let me alone. Indeed, I never had more need of money in all my life than at this time, having only to the value of twenty shillings remaining, owing to my having been stripped of almost all my money by a miscreant Turk, in a city called Imaret, in Mesopotamia.

After my interview with the Mogul, I went to visit a certain noble and generous Christian of the Armenian nation, two days' journey from court, to observe certain remarkable matters at that place; and, by means of my knowledge of the Persian language, he made me very welcome, entertaining me with much civility and kindness; and at my departure gave me very bountifully twenty pieces of the same coin as the king had done, worth forty shillings of our money. About ten days after this, I departed from Ajimeer, the court of the Great Mogul, to resume my pilgrimage, after my long rest of fourteen months, proposing to go back into Persia.

On this occasion, our ambassador gave me a gold piece of this king's coin, worth twenty-four shillings, which I shall save till my arrival in England, if it be possible. I have thus received in benevolences, since I came into this country, twenty marks sterling,[252] bating two shillings and eight-pence, besides £1:13:4 sterling, in Persian money, from Lady Shirley, upon the confines of Persia. At this present, being in Agra, whence I write this letter, I have about twelve pounds, which, according to my manner of living on the way, at two-pence a day, will very competently maintain me during three years' travel, considering the cheapness of all eatables in Asia. Drink costs me nothing, as I hardly ever drink anything beyond pure water during my pilgrimage.

I mean to remain in Agra for six weeks longer, waiting an excellent opportunity of going to the famous river Ganges, about five days journey from hence, to see a memorable meeting of the idolatrous people of this country, called Banians, of whom to the number of 400,000 go thither, on purpose to bathe and shave themselves in the river, and to sacrifice a world of gold to that same river, partly in stamped coin, and partly in great massy lumps and wedges, thrown into the river as a sacrifice, besides many other strange ceremonies, worthy of being observed.

So notable a spectacle is no where to be seen, neither in this the greater Asia, nor in the lesser, now called Natolia. This shew is made once in every year, on which occasion people flock thither from almost a thousand miles off, worshipping the river as a god and saviour; a most abominable and impious superstition of these brutish heathens, aliens from Christ. As soon as I have seen this ceremony, I propose, by God's help, to repair to Lahore, twenty days journey from hence, and so into Persia, &c.

Your dutiful, loving, and obedient son,
Now a desolate pilgrim in the world,

§3. Some Observations concerning India, by Thomas Coryat.[253]

Whereas in this country the beggars beg from a Christian in the name of Bibbee Maria, and not of Hazaret Eesa, we may gather that the Jesuits have preached our Lady Mary more than the Lord Jesus.

A great rajah of the Hindoos, who was a notorious atheist, and a contemner of all diety, and who boasted that he knew of no God except the king, and neither believed nor feared any other, happened one day to sit dallying among his women, when one of them plucked a hair from his breast, which hair being fast-rooted, plucked off along with it a small bit of skin, so that a small spot of blood appeared. This small scar festered and gangrened incurably, so that in a few days his life was despaired of, and being surrounded by all his friends, and several of the courtiers, he broke out into these excellent words:-- "Which of you would have thought that I, a warrior, should not have died by the stroke of a sword, a spear, or an arrow? But now am I enforced to confess the power of the great God I have so long despised, who needs no other lance to slay so blasphemous a wretch and contemner of his holy majesty, such as I have been, than a small hair."

Akbar Shah, the former king, had learnt all manner of sorceries; and being once in a strange humour to show a spectacle to his nobles, he brought forth his favourite Sultana before them, and cut off her head with a sword in their presence. Seeing them struck with horror and amazement at this action, by virtue of his exorcisms and sorceries, he caused her head to fix on again, and no sign remained of any wound.

The same prince, who was very fortunate during his reign, shewed the utmost attention and respect to his mother, of which he one day gave the following striking instance:-- Being on a journey between Lahore and Agra, on which occasion his mother accompanied him, being carried in a palanquin, and having to pass a river, he took one of the poles of the palanquin on his own shoulder, commanding his greatest nobles to do the same, and in this manner carried her across the river. He never denied her any request that ever she made, except one; and this was, that our Bible might be hung about the neck of an ass, and so beaten about the town of Agra.

The reason of this strange request was, that the Portuguese had taken a ship of theirs, in which they found a copy of the Koran, or bible of the Mahometans, which they tied about the neck of a dog, and beat the dog about the streets of Ormus. But he denied her this request, saying, That if it were evil in the Portuguese to have so done with the Koran, it did not become a king to requite evil with evil, as the contempt of any religion was contempt of God, and he would not be revenged upon an innocent book. The moral of this is, that God would not permit the sacred book of his law and truth to be contemned among the infidels.

One day in every year, for the amusement of the king's women, all the tradesmen's wives are admitted into the Mahal, having each somewhat to sell, after the manner of a fair, and at which the king acts as broker for his wives, no other man being present, and by means of his gains on this occasion, provides his own supper. By this means he attains to a sight of all the pretty women of the city; and at a fair of this kind he got his beloved Noor Mahal.

After Shaof Freed had won the battle of Lahore by a stratagem, all the captains of the rebel army, to the number of two thousand, who had been taken by the king, were hung up upon flesh-hooks, or set upon stakes, forming an avenue for the king's entrance into Lahore. On this occasion, his son Curseroo [Cusero], who had been made prisoner, rode beside him, bare-footed, on an elephant, and the king asked him how he liked that spectacle? To this the prince answered, That he was sorry to see so much cruelty and injustice in his father, in thus executing those who had only done their duty, as they had lived on his bread and salt; but that his father had done justly if he had pardoned these brave men, and punished him, who was their master, and the author of this rebellion.

Sultan Cusero has only one wife, owing to the following circumstance: During his confinement, the king proposed to make a hunting progress of four months, and consulted how he might keep his son in safe custody during his absence. He at length determined to build a tower in which to immure him, having neither door nor window, and only a few small holes to let in air, and these so high as to be beyond reach. Into this tower were to be put along with the prince all sorts of provisions and necessaries, with a few servants to attend him. While this was building, the wife of Cusero fell at the king's feet, and would not leave him till she obtained his consent to be shut up along with her husband. The king endeavoured to persuade her to enjoy her liberty, but she utterly refused any other comfort than to be the companion of her husband's miseries. Among these, this was the greatest, that if any of those who were to be shut up along with him, to the number of fifty in all, should happen to die during the king's absence, there were no means either to remove or bury the body, as no person was to be allowed to come near the tower.

It is a frequent custom of the present Mogul, when he happens to be awake in the night time, he calls for certain poor old men, making them sit beside him, and passes his time in familiar discourse with them, giving them clothes and bountiful alms when he dismisses them. At one time, when residing at Ajimeer, he went afoot on pilgrimage to the tomb of a saint or prophet called Haji Mundin, and there kindled a fire with his own hands, under an immense Heidelbergian equipolent brass pot, in which victuals were cooked for five thousand poor persons. When the victuals were ready, he took out the first platter with his own hands, and served the mess to a poor person. Noor Mahal took out and served the second, and the rest was served by the other ladies of his court.-- Crack me this nut, all ye papal charity-vaunters.

One day an Armenian procured a nobleman to present him to the king, as one who desired to become an Mahometan; on which the king asked him if he had been converted from hope of preferment; to which the Armenian answered that be had no such motive. Some months afterwards, the new convert craved some courtesy from the king; which he denied, saying, "I have already done you the greatest of all favours, in allowing you to save your soul; but you must provide for your own body the best way you can." The king likes not those who change their religion, being himself of none but according to his own fancy, and freely allows therefore of all religions in his dominions. Of which I may give the following notable example:

He had an Armenian in his service, named Scander, whom he one day asked if he thought any of the padres had ever converted a single Mahometan to be a true Christian, for conscience sake, and not for money. Scander answered, with great confidence, that he had one as his servant, who was a sincere Christian, and would not be of any other for any worldly consideration. The king immediately caused this man to be sent for, and bidding Scander depart, he examined the convert as to his reasons for having become a Christian. In reply, he quoted certain feeble Jesuitical reasons, declaring his determination to be of no other religion, though the king made him many fair speeches and large offers to return to Mahometism, offering him pensions, and the command of horse. He said he had now only four rupees a month, which was a poor recompense for becoming a Christian, but if he would recant, he would give him high dignities and large means.

The fellow answered, that he had not become a Christian for such small wages, as he was able to earn as much in the service of a Mahometan; but was a Christian in his heart, and was determined so to continue. Finding this method ineffectual, the king turned his tune, and tried him with threats of severe punishment, unless he returned to the faith of Mahomet. But the proselyte manfully declared he would suffer any thing, being ready to endure whatever the king was pleased to order. Upon this declaration, when all the by-standers expected present and severe castigation, the king suddenly changed his manner towards him, highly commending his constancy and resolution, bidding him return to his master, and to serve him faithfully, and ordered him an allowance of one rupee a day for his integrity.

About two months afterwards, the king returned from hunting wild hogs, an animal which is held in abhorrence by all Mahometans, and which kind of venison, therefore, the king was in use to distribute among the Christians and Rajaputs. On this occasion, the king sent for the converted catechumen above mentioned, and commanded him to take up a hog for his master, which no Mahometan will touch. He did so, but on going out of the court gate, he was so hooted at by the Mahometans, that he threw down his burden in a ditch, and went home; concealing what had passed from his master. Some four days afterwards, the Armenian being on duty in presence of the king, he asked him if the hog he had sent him was good meat. The Armenian replied, that he had not seen or heard of any. The king therefore immediately ordered the convert to be sent for, who confessed that he had not carried home the hog, as being mocked by the Mahometans for touching so great an abomination, he had for shame thrown it away.

On this the king observed, "By your Christian law there is no difference of meats. Are you ashamed of your law, or do you outwardly forsake it to flatter the Mahometans? I now see that you are neither a good Christian nor a good Mahometan, but a knave dissembling with both. When I believed you sincere, I gave you a pension, which I now take from you for your dissimulation, and I farther condemn you to receive an hundred stripes." These were presently paid him, instead of his money; and the king desired all to take warning by this example, that, having given liberty of conscience to all religions, he would have all to adhere to what they professed.

[Footnote 245: Purch. Pilgr. I. 607. In regard to this short article, see introduction to the immediately preceding Section.--E.]
[Footnote 246: Probably Orfa in Diarbekir is here meant.--E.]
[Footnote 247: He was Sultan Selim before his accession to the throne, but was afterward known by the new name of Jehunguire.--E.]
[Footnote 248: The Persian word Hasaret, here erroneously rendered Great Prophet, seems to signify literally face or presence, and is metaphorically used as a term of highest dignity, of which an instance occurs in the present section, used by Coryat himself in addressing the Great Mogul--E.]
[Footnote 249: This is obviously a misprint for Delee, meaning Delhi; but it is more probable that Alexander never was beyond the Punjab.--E.]
[Footnote 250: The whole discourse, of which the following paragraph in the text is the translation, is contained in the Pilgrims: But doubting its accuracy, as that book is most incorrectly printed throughout, the editor requested the favour of the late learned professor of oriental languages in the University of Edinburgh, D.r Alexander Murray, to revise and correct this first sentence, which he most readily did, adding the following literal translation: "Presence [or face] of the world-protector, salutation to thee: A poor dervish and world-wanderer I am; that I have come from a kingdom far, to wit, from the kingdom of Ingliz-stan, which historians ancient, relation have made, that kingdom said, in the end of the west was, which the mother of every island of the world is," &c.]
[Footnote 251: This is the title given to Tamerlane in this country, in the Persian language, meaning that he was lord over the four corners of the earth, that is, the highest and supreme monarch of the world.--Purch.]
[Footnote 252: Twenty marks are £15:6:8 sterling.--E.]
[Footnote 253: Purchas informs us, that these were taken from certain notes written by Coryat, given him by Sir Thomas Roe; "whence, omitting such things as have been given before from the observations of Sir Thomas Roe himself, I have inserted a few."--Purch.]


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