|CHAPTER 2 -- Concerning
the Customs, the Money, the Exchange, the Weights, and the Measures of
[] .... As soon as merchandise is landed at Surat it has to be taken to the custom-house, which adjoins the fort. The officers are very strict and search persons with great care. Private individuals pay as much as 4 and 5 per cent duty on all their goods; but as for the English and Dutch Companies, they pay less. But, on the other hand, I believe that, taking into account what it costs them in deputations and presents, which they are obliged to make every year at court, the goods cost them nearly the same as they do private persons....
[] .... As regards gold, the merchants who import it use so much cunning in order to conceal it, that but little of it comes to the knowledge of the customs officers.... The Emperor has conceded to the English Captains that they shall not be searched when they leave their vessels to go on shore; but one day an English Captain, when going to *Thatta*, one of the largests towns of India, a little above Sindi [=*Diul-Sind*], which is at the mouth of the river *Indus*, as he was about to pass, was arrested by the customs guards, from whom he could not defend himself, and they searched him in spite of anything he could say. They found gold upon him; he had in fact already conveyed some in sundry journeys which he had made between his vessel and the town; he was, however, let off on payment of the ordinary duty.
The Englishman, vexed by this affront, resolved to have his revenge for it, and he took it in a funny manner. He ordered a suckling-pig to be roasted, and to be placed with the grease in a china plate, covered with a napkin, and gave it to a slave to carry with him to the town, anticipating exactly what would happen. As he passed in front of the custom-house, where the Governor of the town, [] the *Shah-bandar*, and the Master of the Mint were seated in a *divan*, they did not fail to stop him, but the slave still advancing with his covered plate, they told his master that he must needs go to the custom-house, and that they must see what he carried. The more the Englishman protested that the slave carried nothing liable to duty, the less was he believed; and after a long discussion he himself took the plate from the hands of the slave, and proceeded to carry it to the custom-house. The Governor and the Shah-bandar thereupon asked him, in a sharp tone, why he refused to obey orders, and the Englishman, on his part, replied in a rage that what he carried was not liable to duty, and rudely threw the plate in front of them, so that the suckling-pig and the grease soiled the whole place, and splashed up on their garments. As the pig is an abomination to the Musalmans, and by their Law they regard as defiled whatever is touched by it, they were compelled to change their garments, to remove the carpet from the divan, and to have the structure rebuilt, without daring to say anything to the Englishman, because the Shah-bandar and the Master of the Mint have to be careful with the Company, from which the country derives so much profit.
As for the Chiefs of the Companies, both English and Dutch, and their deputies, they are treated with so much respect that they are never searched when they come from their vessels; but they, on their part, do not attempt to convey gold in secret as the private merchants do, considering it beneaththeir dignity to do so. The commerce of Thatta, which formerly was considerable, is decreasing rapidly, because the entrance to the river becomes worse from day to day, and the sands, which have accumulated, almost close the passage.
The English, seeing that the custom of searching them had been adopted, had recourse to little stratagems in order to pass the gold, and the fashion of wearing wigs having reached them from Europe, they bethought themselves of concealing the [] Jacobuses, rose-nobles, and ducats in the nets of their wigs every time they left their vessels to go on shore....
[] .... *Shaista Khan*,/1/ uncle of the Emperor [Shah Jahan], to whom I sold [in Ahmadabad, in 1652] commodities for 96,000 rupees, when it came to the question of payment, asked me in what kind of money I wished him to pay me, whether in gold or silver coin. Before I replied, he added that if I would trust him I would take it in golden rupees, and that he did not give this advice under the belief that it would turn to his advantage. I told him that I would follow his advice, and he immediately ordered golden rupees to be counted out to the amount due to me; but he claimed to give the golden rupee for 14 1/2 of silver, although among the merchants they pass only for fourteen. I was not ignorant of that, but thought it would answer better to receive my payment as the Prince wished to make it to me, in the hope of recompensing myself otherwise to the extent of what he wished to make me lose, or at least a part of it.
I allowed two days to pass, after which I went to visit him and I told him that I had endeavoured to dispose of the rupees for the price at which I had received them, but that I had failed; and that accordingly, upon the payment which he had made me of 96,000 rupees, I should lose 3,428 3/16, the golden rupee which he wished me to take at 14 1/2 rupees not being worth more than 14; whereupon he flew into a passion, and told me that he would give so many strokes of the slipper (for in India they never speak of blows with a stick), to the Dutch Changer or Broker, which he would remember, believing that he was the cause of what I had come [] to tell him, of his not having been willing to take the golden rupees at the price he had given them to me, and that he would teach these people to understand money, and that they were all old rupees, and worth 1/16 of a silver rupee more than those that were then being made.
As I understood the humour of Asiatic princes, with whom it is useless to excite oneself, I allowed him to say all he wished, and observing that he became quieter and began to smile, I asked him to permit me to return to him on the following day the amount which he had caused to be counted out to me, or if not, that he would give me the balance of my payment which was still due, and that I would take the golden rupee at 14 1/16 rupees, as he had told me that it was valued for so much. The Prince then looked at me askance for some time without saying a word, and then he asked me whether I had with me that pearl which he had been unwilling to buy. I replied that I had, and thereupon drew it from my bosom and gave it to him. It was a large pearl of good water, but badly shaped, which had prevented him from taking it before.
After I had handed it to him, "Say no more about it," said he. "In a word, how much do you want for this pearl?" I asked him 7,000 rupees for it, and it is true that rather than carry it back to France I would have taken 3,000. "If I give you," he replied, 5,000 rupees for this pearl, you will be well repaid for the loss which you say you have sustained on the golden rupees. come to-morrow and I shall pay you 5,000 rupees. I wish you to leave contented, and you shall have in addition a *khilat* and a horse." I then made him a bow, and besought him to give me a young horse, fit for work, as I had a long journey to make.
Accordingly, on the following day, I received as he had promised, the robe, mantle, two waistbands, and the turban, which constitute, as I have elsewhere described, the complete suit which these princes are [] accustomed to bestow upon those whom they desire to honour. The mantle and the robe were of gold brocade, the two waistbands striped with gold and silver; the turban of cotton cloth was of fire colour striped with gold, and the horse, without a saddle, was covered by a housing of green velvet, with a small fringe of silver round it. The bridle was very narrow, and to it silver coins were attached in places. I believe the horse had never been mounted, for as soon as it arrived at the Dutch house, where I lodged on this occasion, a young man mounted it, and it began to rear in so strange a manner and to shake him so that, having fallen when jumping over the roof of a hut which was in the court, the Dutchman narrowly escaped being killed.
Having realized that this impetuous steed was not suitable for me, I returned it to Shaista Khan, and telling him what had happened, added that I believed he did not wish me to return to my country, as he had asked me to do in order to procure for him some rarity. During my discourse He only laughed, and then he called for the horse which his father used to ride. It was a large Persian horse, which had formerly cost 5,000 écus when young, but it was then more than twenty-eight years old. It was brought ready saddled and bridled, and the Prince desired me to mount it in his presence. It still had as good paces as any horse I had ever seen, and when I was mounted, he said, "Well, are you content? He will not give you a fall."
I thanked him, and at the same time took my leave of him; and the following day, before my departure, he sent me a large basketful of apples. It was one of six which Shah Jahan had sent to him; they had come [] from the kingdom of Kashmir, and there was also a large Persian melon in the basket. All taken together might be valued for 100 rupees, and I presented them to the wife of the Dutch Commander. As for the horse, I took it to Golconda, where I sold it, old as it was, for 500 rupees, because it was still able to render good service....
[] .... In India a village must be very small indeed if it has not a money-changer, called a *Shroff*, who acts as banker to make remittances of money and issue letters of exchange. As, in general, these Changers have an understanding with the Governors of Provinces, they enhance the *rupee* as they please for *paisa* and the paisa for these shells [*cowry*]. All the Jews who occupy themselves with money and exchange in the empire of the Grand Seigneur pass for being very sharp; but in India they would scarcely be apprentices to these Changers.
[] .... On my fifth journey I went to see Shaista Khan, having promised him to do so on the preceding occasion, and having pledged myself that he would be the first who should see whatever I had brought. Immediately upon my arrival at Surat I let him know, and I received a command to go to meet him at *Chakan*, a town of the *Deccan* to which he had laid siege. Having reached him in a short time, I sold him at once the greater part of the goods I had brought from Europe, and he told me that he awaited from day to day the money which should be sent to him from Surat to pay the army and to pay me then for what he had bought from me. I could not believe, however, that this Prince was in command of so large an army [] without having plenty of money with him, and I rather thought that he hoped to make me lose something on the gold or silver pieces which I should receive for my payment, as he had done on my previous journey. The result was as I had foreseen; but for my sustenance and that of my people and cattle, he ordered that food should be furnished in abundance, both evening and morning, and on most days he sent to invite me to dine with him.
Ten or twelve days passed, during which I heard no mention made of the money for which he waited; and being resolved to take leave of him, I went to his tent. He appeared somewhat surprised, and, regarding me with a sullen countenance, "Wherefore," said he to me, "do you wish to leave without being paid? and who would pay you afterwards if you went away without receiving your money?" At these words, assuming a look as proud as his: "My King," I replied, "will cause me to be paid; for he is so generous that he will reimburse all his subjects who have not received satisfaction for what they have sold in foreign countries." "And in what manner would thy King recoup himself?" replied he, as in a rage. "With two or three good vessels of war, " I replied, "which he will send to the port of Surat or towards its coasts, to await ships returning from Mocha." He appeared stung by this reply, and, not daring to carry his ill-humour further, he at once commanded his treasurer to give me a letter of exchange on Aurangabad.
At this I was very glad, as it was a place through which I had to pass in order to go to Golconda, and, moreover, because it spared me the carriage and risk to my money. The following day I received my letter of exchange and took my leave of the Prince, who was no longer angry, and he requested me if I returned to India not to omit to visit him; this I did on my sixth and last journey. When I arrived at Surat he was in Bengal, where I joined him, and he bought [] from me the residue of the goods which I had not been able to sell either to the King of Persia or to the Great Mogul.
To return to my payment, having arrived at *Aurangabad*, I called on the Grand Treasurer, who had never previously seen me, but he told me that he knew why I had come to see him; that three days previously he had received notice, and that he had already drawn from the treasure the money which he was to pay me. When all the bags required for my payment had been produced, I had one of them opened by my Changer, who saw that it contained rupees, on which 2 per cent would be lost. Upon which I thanked the Treasurer, and told him that I did not understand that sort of thing, that I would send one of my people to complain to Shaista Khan and ask him to order me to be paid in new silver, or I would go to reclaim my goods: this I straightway did. But having sent a man to him, and getting no reply by the time that I might have received one, I went to the Treasurer to inform him that since I had no news from the Prince I was going myself to get back what I had sold. I believe he had already received instructions as to what he should do, for seeing I was resolved to start, he said he would be grieved by the trouble I was taking and that it would be better we should agree with one another.
In short, after several discussions concerning the 2 per cent which he wished to subtract, I obtained 1 percent of it; and I would have lost the other except for a fortunate meeting with a Shroff who had to receive payment of a letter of exchange on Golconda; for this Shroff, not having money at hand, was very glad to accommodate himself with mine, arranging for me to receive the same sum in new silver at Golconda at fifteen days' sight....
[] .... As all goods produced in the Empire of the Great Mogul, and a portion of those of the Kingdoms of *Golconda* and *Bijapur*, reach Surat to be exported by sea to different places of Asia and Europe, when you leave Surat to go for the purchase of these goods to the towns from whence they are obtained, as Lahore, Agra, Ahmadabad, Sironj, Burhanpur, Dacca, Benares, Golconda, Deccan, Bijapur, and Daulatabad, you take silver from Surat and dispose of it at the various places, giving coin for coin at par. But when it happens that the merchant finds himself short of money in these places, and has need of some to enable him to pay for the goods which he has bought, he must meet it at Surat, when the bill is due, which is at two months, and by paying a high rate of exchange....
[] On arrival
for embarkation at Surat, you find there plenty of money. For it is the
principal trade of the nobles of India to place their money on vessels
in speculation for Hormuz, Bassora [Basra], and Mocha, and even for Bantam,
Achin, and the Philippines.... But if the goods happen to be lost by tempest,
or to fall into the hands of the *Malabaris*,
who are the pirates of the Indian seas, the money is lost to those who
have risked lending it....
N O T E S
/1/ Cha Est Kan in the original; Shaista Khan died 1694, aged 93 lunar years. His original name was Abu Talib or Mirza Murad, son of Asaf Khan, *Vazir*, and grandson of I'timadu-daula, father of Nur Jahan Begam, wife of the Emperor Jahangir. He was appointed Vazir of Shahjahan on his father's death in 1641: Viceroy of the Deccan, 1659: Governor of Bengal, 1666-89: retired to Agra, where he died. He is several times mentioned by Tavernier and in other memoirs of his time. --Crooke
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