|CHAPTER 1 -- The route
from Ispahan to Agra by way of *Gombroon*,
where particular mention is made of the navigation from Hormuz to Surat.
[] I shall follow in this account of my Indian travels the same order as I observed in that of my Persian travels, commencing with a description of the routes by which one can go from Ispahan, to Delhi and Jahanabad, where the Great Mogul at present resides.
Although India presents a frontier towards Persia of more than 400 leagues, extending from the ocean to that long chain of mountains which traverses the centre of Asia from west to east-- and has been known to antiquity under the name of Mount Taurus or Mount Caucacus-- there are, notwithstanding, not so many ways for passing from Persia into India as there are from Turkey into Persia, because between Persia and India there are only sands and vast deserts where [] there is no water to be found. Thus, in order to go from Ispahan to Agra there are but two routes to select from-- one partly by land and partly by sea, by taking ship at *Hormuz*; and the other altogether by land, passing through *Kandahar*. The first of these routes has been fully described up to Hormuz towards the end of the last book of my travels in Persia, and I have now to speak of the navigation from Hormuz to Surat.
Navigation in the Indian seas is not carried on at all seasons, as it is in our European seas, it being necessary to take the proper season, outside which no one ventures to put to sea. The months of November, December, January, February, and March, are the only months in the year in which you can embark at Hormuz for Surat, and at Surat for Hormuz: with this difference, however, that you can rarely leave Surat later than the end of February, but for leaving Hormuz you may wait till the end of March, and even till the 15th of April, because the western wind, which brings the rains to India, begins to blow then. During the first four months a wind from the north-east prevails with which you may sail from Surat to Hormuz in fifteen or twenty days; afterwards, veering by degrees to the north, it serves equally the vessels going to Surat and those coming from it; during this period the merchants generally reckon on spending thirty or thirty-five days at sea; but if you desire to make the passage from Hormuz to Surat in fourteen or fifteen days, you must embark in the month of March or at the beginning of April, because you then have the western wind astern all the way [see *monsoons*].
Vessels leaving Hormuz steer for Muscat, on the coast of Arabia, so as not to approach too near that of Persia, and to [] give it a wide berth. Those coming from Surat do the same, in order to find the entrance to the gulf, but in neither case do they ever touch at Muscat, because custom dues have to be paid to the Arabian Prince who captured it from the Portuguese.
Muscat is a town on the sea-coast, facing three rocks which render the approach to it very difficult, and it lies at the foot of a mountain upon which the Portuguese had three or four forts. It may be remarked that Muscat, Hormuz, and Bassora [Basra] are the three places in the East where the heat is most unbearable. Formerly the English and Dutch monopolized this navigation; but for some years past the Armenians, Musalmans of India, and Banians [have] had their own vessels also, on which, however, you do not feel so safe as on those of the *Franks*, because necessarily the Indians do not understand navigation so well, and do not employ such good pilots.
Vessels sailing for *Surat*, which is the sole port in the whole empire of the *Great Mogul*, steer for *Diu* and Point St. Jean [Sanjan], and then anchor in the roads at Suwali, which is only four leagues distant from Surat, and but two from the mouth of the river, bearing from it northwards. Merchandise is conveyed from one place to the other either by cart or by boat, as large vessels cannot enter the river at Surat until after they are unloaded, on account of the sandbanks at the mouth. The Dutch depart after having landed their goods at Suwali, and the English need to do the same, neither being permitted [] to enter into the Surat river; but for some time back, the King has granted to the latter a place to winter in during the rainy season.
Surat is a city of moderate size, with a poor fortress, close to which you must pass, whether you approach it by water or by land. It has towers at each of its four angles; and as the walls are not terraced, the guns are placed upon scaffoldings. The Governor of the fortress commands merely the soldiers of the garrison, and possesses no authority in the city, which has its own separate Governor to receive the customs and the other revenues of the King throughout the extent of his Province. The walls of the city are built of earth, and the houses of private persons are like barns, being constructed of nothing but reeds, covered with cow-dung mixed with clay, to fill the interstices, and to prevent those outside from seeing between the reeds what goes on inside.
In the whole of Surat there are only nine or ten well-built houses, and the *Shah-bandar* or chief of the merchants, owns two or three of them. The others belong to the Musalman merchants, and those of the English and Dutch are not the least fine, every President and Commander taking care to keep them in repair, the cost of which is charged against the accounts of their Companies. These dwellings are, nevertheless, only hired houses, as the King does not permit any Frank to possess a house of his own, [] fearing that he would thereby possess what he might convert into a fortress.
The Reverend Capuchin Fathers have built
a very commodious one upon the model of the houses of Europe, with a beautiful
church, and I myself furnished a large portion of the money which it cost;
but the purchase had to be made in the name of a Maronite merchant of Aleppo,
named Chelebi, of whom I have spoken in my account of Persia.
|~~ next chapter ~~ Glossary ~~ Volume 1 ~~ Tavernier index page ~~ fwp's main page ~~|