|CHAPTER 5 -- The route
from Surat to Agra by Ahmadabad.
[] *Broach* is a large town, containing an ancient fortress which has been neglected; the town has been widely renowned from all time on account of its river, which possesses a peculiar property for bleaching calicoes, which for this reason are brought from all quarters of the empire of the Great Mogul where there is not so great an abundance of water. In this place *baftas*, or pieces of long and narrow calico, are made in quantity; they are very beautiful and closely woven cloths, the price of them ranging from 4 up to 100 rupees. Custom duties have to be paid at Broach on all goods, whether imported or exported.
The English have a very fine dwelling there; and I remember that, on arrival one day when returning from Agra to Surat with the English President, some jugglers immediately came to ask him whether he desired them to show him some examples of his art; these he was curious to see. The first thing they did was to kindle a large fire, and heat iron chains to redness; these they wound round their bodies, making believe that they experienced some pain, but not really receiving any [] injury.
Next, having taken a small piece of stick, and planting it in the ground, they asked one of the company what fruit they wished to have. He replied that he desired mangoes, and then one of the conjurers, covering himself with a sheet, stooped to the ground five or six times. I had the curiosity to ascend to a room in order to see from above, through an opening of the sheet, what this man did, and I saw that he cut himself under his arm-pits with a razor, and anointed the piece of wood with his blood. At each time that he raised himself, the stick increased under the eye, and at the third time it put forth branches and buds. At the fourth time the tree was covered with leaves, and at the fifty we saw the flowers themselves [*"mango trick"*].
The English President had his chaplain with him, whom he had brought to Ahmadabad to baptize a child of the Dutch Commander, and he had been asked to be the godfather, for it should be remarked that the Dutch have no clergymen save in those places where both merchants and soldiers are quartered together. The English Chaplain at first protested that he was unable to consent that Christians should be present at such spectacles, and when he saw that from a piece of dry wood these people in less than half an hour had caused a tree of four or five in height, with leaves and flowers, as in springtime, to appear, he insisted on breaking it, and proclaimed loudly that he would never administer the communion to any one who sitnessed such things in future. This compelled the President to dismiss the jugglers, who travel from place to place with [] their wives and children, like those whom we in Europe commonly call Egyptians or Bohemians; and having given them the equivalent of ten or twelve écus, they went away very well satisfied....
*Cambay* is a large town at the end of the gulf which bears its name. Here those beautiful agates which come from India are cut into cups, handles of knives, beads, and other objects of workmanship. *Indigo* of the same kind as that of Sarkhej is made, also, in the vicinity of the town, and it was celebrated for its traffic when the Portuguese flourished in India. In the quarter close to the sea, many fine houses, which they built and richly furnished after the manner of Portugal, may still be seen; but at present they are uninhabited, and decay from day to day.
Such good order was maintained at that time in Cambay, that at two hours after dark every street was closed by two gates, which are still to be seen, and even now some of the principal of them are closed, especially those in the avenues [] to the market-places [*bazaar*]. One of the principal reasons why this town has lost a part of her commerce is that formerly the sea came close to Cambay, and small vessels were able to approach it easily; but for some years past the sea has been receding day by day, so that vessels are now unable to come nearer than four or five leagues to the town.
*Pea-fowl* are abundant in India, and especially in the territories of Broach, Cambay, and *Baroda*. The flesh of the young bird is white and of good flavour, like that of our turkeys, and throughout the day they may be seen in flocks in the fields; for during the night they perch in the trees. It is difficult to approach them by day, because if they perceive the sportsman they fly away from him more rapidly than a partridge, and enter the *jungle*, where it is impossible to follow them, one's garment being torn at every step.
Hence, they can only be captured easily at night; and this, in a few words, is the method employed. You approach the tree with a kind of banner, on which life-like peacocks are painted on each side. On the top of the stick there are two lighted candles, the light of which attracting the peacock, causes him to stretch out his neck almost to the end of the stick, where there is a cord with a running noose, which the man who carries the banner draws when he sees that the peacock has placed his neck in it.
However, you must be careful not to kill a bird, or any other animal, in the countries of *Rajas*, where the idolaters are the masters; it is not dangerous in the parts of India where the rulers of the country are Musalmans, as they permit sport to be without restriction. It happened one day that a rich merchant of Persia, when passing by the territory of the Raja of [] Dantivar, either out of bravado or from not knowing the customs of the country, shot a peacock on the road. The Banians, enraged by an act which is regarded among them as a horrible sacrilege, seized the merchant themselves, and also the money he had with him, which amounted to 300,000 rupees, and tying him to a tree, whipped him during three days so severely that the poor man died of it....
[] .... *Ahmadabad* is one of the largest towns in India, and there is a considerable trade in silken stuffs [=fabrics], gold and silver tapestries, and others mixed with silk; saltpetre, sugar, *ginger* both candied and plain, *tamarinds*, *myrobalans*, and indigo cakes, which are made at three leagues from Ahmadabad, at a large town called Sarkhej.
There was formerly a pagoda in this place, which the Musalmans seized and converted into a mosque. Before entering it you traverse three great courts paved with marble, and surrounded by galleries, but you are not allowed to place foot in the third without removing your shoes. The exterior of the mosque is ornamented with mosaic, the greater part of which consists of agates of different colours, obtained from the mountains of Cambay, only two days' journey thence. There are many tombs of ancient idolatrous kings, like so many small chapels of mosaic, with columns of marble sustaining small vaults by which the tombs are covered. /1/
A river [the Sabarmati] flows past Ahmadabad on the north-west, and during the rainy season, which lasts in India three or four months, it becomes very wide and rapid, and does great injury every year. It is the same with all the rivers of India, and when the rains have ceased, you must generally wait six weeks or two months before it is possible to ford the river at Ahmadabad, as there is no bridge. There are two or three boats, but one cannot [] make use of them, save when the river falls, and it takes much time to cross. The peasants do not stand on ceremony, for in order to go from one bank to the other they make use of the skin of a goat [*mussuck*], which they fill with air and tie on between the chest and the abdomen. It is thus, by swimming this river, that the poor, both men and women, cross, and when they wish to take their children across with them they make use of round earthen pots, which have mouths four fingers in width, and placing a child in one of these pots they push it before them while swimming....
[] .... The Banians have a great veneration for monkeys, and they even feed them in some pagodas where they go to worship. There are in Ahmadabad two or three houses which serve as [] hospitals, especially for cows, oxen, monkeys, and other sick and disabled animals, and they convey they are able to find, and feed them. It should be stated that on every Tuesday and Friday all the monkeys in the neighbourhood of Ahmadabad, of their own instinct, come in a body to the town, and ascend the houses, each of which has a small terrace where the occupants sleep during the great heat. On each of these days they do not fail toplace upon these little terraces rice, millet, sugar-canes in their season, and other similar things; for if by chance the monkeys did not find their food on the terraces, they would break the tiles with which the rest of the house is covered, and cause great damage....
I have said that the Banians have an especial veneration for the monkey, and this is an example in point among several others which I could quote. One day at Ahmadabad, at the Dutch House, a young man of that nation, who had arrived but a few days before to serve in the office, and was ignorant of the customs of the country, perceiving a large monkey on a tree in the court-yard, wished to give an example of his skill, or rather as it turned out, of his youth, by shooting it. At the time I was at table with the Dutch Commander, and we had scarcely heard the shot before there was a great uproar among the Banians in the service of the Dutch Company, who came to complain bitterly against him who had slain the monkey. They all wished to resign, and it was with much trouble and many apologies that they were appeased and induced to remain....
[] .... "Chitpour" [=*Sidhpur*] is a fairly good town, so named on account of the great trade which it does in those coloured cottons which are called *chites*, and at four or five hundred paces on the south [] side there flows a small river. When I arrived at Sidhpur, on one of my journeys, I was encamped under two or three trees at one of the ends of a great open space near the town. A short time afterwards four or five *lions* appeared which they brought to train, and they told me it generally took five or six months, and they do it in this way.
They tie the lions, at twelve paces distance from each other, by their hind feet, to a cord attached to a large wooden post firmly planted in the ground, and they have another about the neck which the lion-master holds in his hand. These posts are planted in a straight line, and upon another parallelone, from fifteen to twenty paces distant, they stretch another cord of the length of the space which the lions occupy, when arranged as above. These two cords which hold the lion fastened by his two hind feet, permit him to rush up to this long cord, which serves as a limit to those outside it, beyond which they ought not to venture to pass when harassing and irritating the lions by throwing small stones or little pieces of wood at them. A number of people come to this spectacle, and when the provoked lion jumps toward the cord, he has another round his neck which the master holds in his hand, and with which he pulls him back. It is by this means that they accustom the lion by degrees to become tame with people, and on my arrival at Sidhpur I witnessed this spectacle without leaving my carriage.
The following day I had another experience, which was a meeting I had with a party of *Faqirs*, or Musalman *Dervishes*. I counted fifty-seven of them, of whom he who was their Chief or Superior had been master of the horse to Shah Jahangir, having left the court when Sultan Bulaki, his [=Jahangir's] grandson, was strangled by order of Shah Jahan, his uncle, as [] I shall relate elsewhere./2/ There were four others who, under the Superior, were Chiefs of the band, and had been the first nobles of the court of the same Shah Jahan. The only garment of these five Dervishes consisted of three or four ells of orange-coloured cotton cloth, of which they made waistbands, one of the ends passing between the thighs and being tucked between the top of the waistband and the body of the Dervish, in order to cover what modesty requires should be concealed, both in front and behind. Each of them also had a skin of a tiger upon the shoulders, which was tied under the chin. They had eight fine horses, saddled and bridled, led by hand before them, three of which had bridles of gold and saddles covered with plates of gold; and the five others had bridles of silver, and the saddles also covered with plates of silver, and a leopard's skin on each.
The other Dervishes had for their sole garment a cord, which served as a waistband, to which was attached a small scrap of calico to cover, as in the case of the others, the parts which should be concealed. Their hair was bound in a tress about their heads, and made a kind of *turban*. They were all well armed, the majority with bows and arrows, some with muskets, and the remainder with short pikes, and a kind of weapon [*chakar*] which we have not got in Europe. It is a sharp iron, made like the border of a plate which has no centre, and they pass eight or ten over the head, carrying them on the neck like a ruff. They withdraw these circles as they require to use them, and when they throw them with [] force at a man, as we make a plate to fly, they almost cut him in two.
Each of them had also a sort of hunting horn, which he sounds, and makes a great noise with, when he arrives anywhere, and also when he departs; and also a rake, or instrument of iron, made something like a trowel. I is with this instrument, which the Indians generally carry in their journeys, that they level the places where they wish to halt, and some, collecting the dust in a heap, make use of it as a mattress and bolster in order to lie more comfortably. There were three of these Dervishes armed with long rapiers, which they had received, apparently from some Englishman or Portuguese. Their baggage consisted of four boxes full of Arabic and Persian books and some cooking utensils, and they had ten or twelve oxen to carry those among the troop who wee invalids.
When these Dervishes arrived at the place where I was encamped with my carriage, having then with me fifty persons, both people of the country, whom one engages, as I have said, for travelling, as also my ordinary servants, the Chief or Superior of the Troop, seeing me well accompanied, inquired who that Aga [Agha, "Lord] was; and then asked me to surrender to him the position I occupied, it being more commodious than any other about the place for camping with his Dervishes. As they informed me of the quality of this Chief and the four Dervishes who followed him, I was willing to do them a civility, and to yield that which they asked with a good grace; and so I ceded the place to them, and took another which suited me as well.
Immediately the place was watered with a quantity of water, and made smooth and level, and as it was winter and was somewhat cold, they lighted two fires for the five principal Dervishes, who placed themselves between them in order to warm themselves both before and behind. During the same evening, after they had supped, the Governor of the town came to pay his respects to these principal Dervishes, and during their sojourn in the place sent them rice and other things which they were accustomed to eat. When they arrive in any place the Superior sends some of them to beg in the towns and villages, and whatever food they bring, which is given them out of charity, is immediately distributed to all [] in equal portions, each being particular to cook his own rice for himself. Whatever they have over is given every evening to the poor, and they reserve nothing for the following day.
From Sidhpur to Palanpur, 12 *coss*; from Palanpur to Dantawar, 11 coss; Dantiwar to Bargant, 17 coss.
Bargant is the territory of a Raja, where one has to pay customs. On one of my journeys to Agra, when passing by Bargant, I did not see the Raja, but only his lieutenant, who treated me with great civility, and presented me with rice, butter, and fruits of the season. In return I gave him three waistbands of calico, gold, and silk, four handkerchiefs of coloured cotton, and two bottles, one of brandy and the other of Spanish wine. On my departure he ordered me to be escorted for 4 or 5 coss by twenty horsemen.
When returning from the same journey I sent before me my heavier goods by wagon, and to shorten the road I proposed to return by the same route. I had with me sixty *Peons* or people of the country, and seven or eight attendants who ordinarily waited on me. One evening, being encamped on the frontiers of the territory of the Raja of Bargant, all my Peons assembled to tell me that by taking the route through Bargant we should run the risk of being all strangled, and that the Prince of that country spared no one, and lived by robbery alone. That at the least, if I did not engage one hundred other Peons, there was no possibility of escaping the hands of the runners whom he would send from both sides; and that they were obliged, as much for my safety as for their own, to give me this advice. I spent some time disputing with them, and reproaching them with their cowardice; but from fear lest they should also reproach me for my temerity, I resolved to employ fifty more, and they went to search for them in the neighbouring villages. For traversing [] the territories of the Raja during three days only, they asked four rupees each, which is as much as one gives them for a month.
On the following day, when I wished to start, my Peons, showing themselves to be obstructive and irresolute, came to tell me that they would leave me, and that they did not wish to risk their lives, asking me not to write to their Chief at Agra, who was answerable for their not leaving me against my wish. There were three of my personal servants who also treated me as the others had done, and there remained with me only he who led my horse, my coachman, and three other attendants, with hom I started under the protection of God, who has always aided me in my journeys. At about a coss from the place whence I started I perceived, on turning round, some of these Peons, who followed me at a distance. Having ordered my carriage to stop to await them, I told the first who advanced that if they wished to come with me they should march around my carriage and not follow at a distance; and seeing them to be still timid and irresolute, I said that I did not require cowards in my service, and dismissed them for the last time.
When I had travelled another coss, I perceived on the side of a mountain about fifty horsemen, of whom four separated to advance towards me. When I saw them I got out of the carriage at once, and having thirteen fire-arms, I gave a gun to each of my people. The horsemen approaching, I placed the carriage between them and me, and got ready to fire, in case they prepared to attack me. But they at once made me a sign that I had nothing to fear, and one of them said that it was the Prince who was hunting, and who had sent them to ask what stranger passed through his territory; I replied I was the same *Frank* who had passed five or six weeks previously. By good fortune, the lieutenant of the Raja, to whom I had presented the brandy and Spanish wine, followed close behind these four horsemen, and having assured me how rejoiced he was to see me again, asked me forthwith if I had any wine. I told him that I never travelled without it; and in fact I was provided, the English and Dutch having presented me at Agra with several bottles.
Immediately on the lieutenant returning to the Raja, he himself [] came to meet me, and assuring me that I was welcome, told me that he wished me to halt at a place which he indicated under certain trees, a coss and a half from where we were, and that he would not fail to come to drink with me. He came towards evening, and we remained there two days together to amuse ourselves; and the Raja summoned the *Baladines*, without whom the Persians and Indians do not think they can enjoy themselves properly. On my departure, the Raja gave me two hundred horsemen to accompany me for three whole days to the frontiers of his country, and I was let go for three or four pounds of *tobacco*, which was all the present I made them. When I arrived at Ahmadabad the people could hardly believe that I had received such good treatment from a Prince who had the reputation of ill-treating all strangers who passed through his country....
*Merta* is a large town,
but badly built. When I arrived there, during one of my journeys in India,
all the *caravansarais* were
full of people, because the aunt of Shah Jahan, wife of *Shaista
Khan*, was then on her way, taking her daughter to marry her to Sultan
Shuja, second son of Shah Jahan. I was obliged to order my tent to be pitched
upon a bank where there were large trees on both sides, and two hours afterwards
I was much surprised to see fifteen or twenty elephants which came to break
off as much as they could of these great trees. It was a strange thing
to see them break large branches with their trunks, as we break a piece
of faggot [=a stick of wood]. This injury was done by order of the Begam
to avenge herself for an affront by the inhabitants of Merta, who had not
received her, and had not made a present as they ought to have done....
N O T E S
The reference is apparently to Sultan Ahmad's mosque, in the Bhadar or
citadel, built A.D. 1414; first attempt by Hindus to build in the Musalman
style. There are tombs of Sultan Begada and of other kings of the dynasty
at Sarkhej. -- Crooke
|~~ next chapter ~~ Glossary ~~ Volume 1 ~~ Tavernier index page ~~ fwp's main page ~~|