|CHAPTER 3 -- Concerning
conveyances, and the manner of travelling in India.
[] .... They give an ox a load weighing 300 or 350 livres, and it is an astonishing sight to behold *caravans* numbering 10,000 [] or 12,000 oxen together, for the transport of *rice*, corn, and salt-- in the places where they exchange these commodities-- carrying rice to where only corn grows, and corn to where only rice grows, and salt to the places where there is none. They use camels also for caravans, but rarely, and they are specially reserved to carry the baggage of the nobles. When the season presses, and they wish to get the goods quickly to Surat, in order to ship them, they load them on oxen, and not on carts. As all the territories of the Great Mogul are well cultivated, the fields are enclosed by good ditches, and each has its tank of reservoir for irrigation. This makes it so inconvenient for travellers, because, when they meet caravans of this description in narrow roads, they are sometimes obliged to wait two or three days till all have passed.
Those who drive these oxen follow no other trade all their lives; they never dwell in houses, and they take with them their women and children. Some of them possess 100 oxen, others have more or less, and they all have a Chief, who acts as a prince, and who always has a chain of pearls hanging from his neck. When the caravan which carries corn and that which carries rice meet, rather than give way one to the other, they often engage in very sanguinary encounters. The Great Mogul, considering that these quarrels were prejudicial to commerce and to the transport of food in his kingdom, arranged that the Chiefs of the two caravans should come to see him. When they arrived, the King, after he had advised them for their mutual benefit to live for the future in harmony with each other, and not to fight again when they met, presented each of them with a *lakh*, or 100,000 *rupees*, and a chain of pearls.
In order to enable the reader to understand this manner of [] carrying in India, it should be remarked that among the idolaters of this country there are four tribes, whom they call Manaris, of which each numbers about one hundred thousand souls. These people dwell in tents, as I have said, and have no other trade but to transport provisions from one country to another. The first of these tribes has to do with corn only, the second with rice, the third with pulse, and the fourth with salt, which it obtains from Surat, and even from as far as Cape Comorin.... Generally all have a string, or tress, round the shoulders, from which hangs a small box of silver in the form of a reliquary, of the size of a good hazel nut, in which they keep a superstitious writing which their priests have enclosed in it. They place them also on their oxen, and on the other animals born in their herds, for which they entertain a special affection, loving them as dearly as they would do their children, especially when they happen to be childless.
The dress of the women is but a simple cloth, white or coloured, which is bound five or six times like a petticoat from the waist cownwards, as if they had three or four one above the [] other. From the waist upwards they tattoo their skin with flowers, as when one applies cupping glasses, and they paint these flowers divers colours with the juice of roots in such a manner that it seems as though their skin was a flowered fabric....
The caravans of waggons do not ordinarily consist of more than one hundred or two hundred at the most. Each waggon is drawn by ten or twelve oxen, and accompanied by four soldiers, whom the owner of the merchandise is obliged to pay. Two of them walk on each side of the waggon, over which two ropes are passed, and the four ends are held by the soldiers, so that if the waggon threatens to upset in a bad place, the two soldiers who are on the opposite side hold the ropes tight, and prevent its turning over.
All the waggons which come to Surat from Agra or from other places in the Empire, and return by Agra and Jahanabad [=*Shahjahanabad*], are compelled to carry lime which comes from *Broach*, which, as soon as it is used, becomes as hard as marble. It is a great source of profit to the Emperor, who sends this lime where he pleases; but, on the other hand, he takes no dues from the waggons.
I come to the manner of travelling in India, where oxen take [] the place of horses, and there are some of them whose paces are as easy as those of our hacks. But you should take care when you buy or hire an ox for riding that he has not horns longer than a foot, because if they are longer, then the flies sting him, he chafes and tosses back his head, and may plant a horn in your stomach, as has happened several times. These oxen allow themselves to be driven like our horses, and have for a bridle only a cord, which passes through the tendon of the muzzle or the nostrils. In level tracts, where there are no stones, they do not shoe these oxen, but they always do so in rough places, both on account of the pebbles and because of the heat, which may injure the hoof. Whereas in Europe we attach our oxen by the horns, those of India have a large hump on the neck, which keeps in position a leather collar about four fingers wide, which they have only to throw over the head when they harness them.
They have also, for travelling, small, very light carriages [*tonga*], which can carry two persons; but usually you travel alone, in order to be more comfortable, being then able to have your clothes with you; the canteen of wine and some small requisites for the journey having their place under the carriage, to which they harness only a pair of oxen. These carriages, which are [] provided, like ours, with curtains and cushions, are not slung; but on the occasion of my last journey, I had one made after our manner, and the two oxen by which it was drawn cost me very nearly 600 rupees. The reader need not be astonished at this price, for there are some of whem which are strong, and make journeys lasting 60 days, at 12 or 15 leagues a day, and always at the trot. When they have accomplished half the journey, they give to each two or three balls of the size of our penny rolls, made of wheaten flour, kneaded with butter and black sugar, and in the evening they have a meal of chick-peas, crushed and steeped in water for half an hour. The hire of a carriage amounts to about a rupee a day. The journey from Surat to Agra occupies thirty-five or forty days' journey by road,and you pay for the whole journey from 40 to 45 rupees. From Surat to Golconda it is nearly the same distance and the same price, and it is in the same proportion throughout the whole of India.
Those who can afford to take their ease make use of a *palanquin*, in which they travel very comfortably. It is a kind of bed, 6 or 7 feet long and 3 feet wide, with a small rail all round. A sort of cane, called bamboo, which they bend when young, in order to cause it to take the form of a bow in the middle, supports the cover of the palankeen, which is of satin or brocade; and when the sun shines on one side, an attendant, who walks near the palankeen, takes care to lower the covering. There is another, who carries at the end of a stick a kind of basket-work shield, covered with some kind of beautiful stuff [=fabric], in order that he may be able promptly to [] shelter the occupant of the palankeen from the heat of the sun when it turns and strikes him on the face. The ends of the bamboo are attached on both sides to the body of the palankeen between two poles, joined together in a saltier, or St. Andrew's Cross, and each of these poles is 5 or 6 feet long. some of these bamboos cost as much as 200 écus, and I have paid 125 for one.
Three men, at most, place themselves at each of these ends, and carry the palankeen on their shoulders, one on the right and the other on the left, and they travel in this way faster than our chair-men in Paris, and with an easier pace, being trained to the trade from an early age [*Kahar*]. When you wish to make haste, and travel as much as 13 or 14 leagues a day, you take 12 men to carry the palankeen, so that they may relieve one another from time to time. You pay each of them only 4 rupees a month inclusive, but you pay up to 5 rupees when the journey is long, and when they are required to travel for more than sixty days.
He who desires to travel with honour in India, whether by carriage or palankeen, ought to take with him 20 or 30 armed men, some with bows and arrows and others with muskets, and you pay them as much per month as those who carry the palankeen. Sometimes, for greater show, you carry a flag. This is always done by the English and Dutch, for the honour of their Companies. These attendants not only conduct to your honour, but they watch also for your protection, and act as sentinels at night, relieving one another, and striving to give you no cause of complaint against them. For it should be mentioned that in the towns where you hire them they have a head man who answers for their honesty, and when you employ them, each one gives him a rupee.
In the large villages there is generally a Musalman governor, and there you find sheep, fowl, and pigeons for sale; but in the places where there are only Banians, you find only flour, rice, vegetables, and milk.
great heat of India compels travellers who are not accustomed to it to
travel by night, in order to rest by day. When they enter towns which are
closed they must leave by sunset, if they wish to take the road. For when
night comes, and the gates are closed, the Governor of the place, who has
to answer for thefts which occur within his jurisdiction, does not allow
any one to go out, and says that it is the Emperor's order, which he must
obey. When I entered such places I took provisions, and left early, in
order to camp outside under some tree in the shade, waiting till it was
time to march....
|~~ next chapter ~~ Glossary ~~ Volume 1 ~~ Tavernier index page ~~ fwp's main page ~~|