|CHAPTER 8 -- The route
from Agra to Patna and Dacca, towns of the Province of Bengal; and the
quarrel which the author had with Shaista Khan, uncle of the King.
[] .... The 2nd [December] I came to a *caravansarai* called Kora Jahanabad, 12 *coss*. Half-way you pass Jahanabad, a small town near which, about a quarter of a league on this side, you pass a field of millet, where I saw a rhinoceros eating stalks of this millet, which a small boy nine or ten years old [] presented to him. On my approaching he gave me some stalks of millet, and immediately the rhinoceros came to me, opening his mouth four or five times; I placed some in it, and when he had eaten them he continued to open his mouth so that I might give him more....
The 6th [December] to Alamchand, 9 coss. About two leagues on this side of Alamchand, you meet the *Ganges*. Monsieur *Bernier*, Physician to the King, and a man named [] Rachepot, who was with me, were surprised to see that this river, so much talked about, is not larger than the Seine in front of the Louvre, it being supposed that it equalled in width, at the least, the Danube below Belgrade. There is actually so little water between the months of March and June or July, when the rains commence, that boats are not able to ascend it. On arrival at the Ganges, we each drank a glass of wine which we mixed with water-- this caused us some internal disturbance; but our attendants who drank it alone were much more tormented than we were. The Dutch, who have a house on the banks of the Ganges, never drink the water of the river, except after it has been boiled; as for the native inhabitants, they have been accustomed to it from their youth; the Emperor even and all his court drink no other. You see every day a large number of camels which do nothing else but fetch water from the Ganges.
The 7th [December] we came to Halabad [=*Allahabad*], 8 coss. Allahabad is a large town built on a point of land where the Ganges and the Jumna meet one another. It has a fine castle built of cut stone, with a double ditch, and it is the dwelling of the Governor. He is one of the greatest nobles in India, and as he is troubled with bad health he employs some Persian physicians, and he then also had in his service M. Claude *Maillé* of Bourges, who practised both surgery and medicine. It was he who advised us not to drink any of the Ganges water, [] which would produce disturbance of the stomach, but to drink rather the water from wells....
*Benares* is a large and very well-built town, the majority of the houses being of brick and cut stone, and more lofty than those of other towns of India; but it is very inconvenient [] that the streets are so narrow. It has several caravansarais, and among others, one very large and well built. In the middle of the court there are two galleries where they sell cottons, silken stuffs [=fabrics], and other kinds of merchandise. The majority of those who vend the goods are the workers who have made the pieces, and in this manner foreigners obtain them at first hand. These workers, before exposing anything for sale, have to go to him who holds the contract, so as to get the imperial stamp impressed on the pieces of calico or silk, otherwise they are fined and flogged. The town is situated to the north of the Ganges, which runs the whole length of the walls, and two leagues farther down a large river [the Varuna? (now a small stream)] joins it from the west. The idolaters have one of their principal pagodas in Benares, and I shall describe it in Book Two, where I shall speak of the religion of the Banians.
About 500 paces from the town, in a north-western direction, there is a mosque where you see several Musalman tombs, of which some are of a very beautiful design. The most beautiful are placed each in the middle of a garden enclosed by walls which have openings of half a foot square, through which the passers-by can see them. The most considerable of all is like a great square pedestal, each face of which is about forty paces long. In the middle of this platform you see a column of 32 to 35 feet in height, all of a piece, and which three men could with difficulty embrace. It is of sandstone, so hard that I could not scratch it with my knife. It terminates in a pyramid, and has a great ball on the point, and below the ball it is encircled by large beads. All the sides of this tomb are covered with figures of animals cut in relief in the stone, and it has been higher above the [] ground than it now appears; several of the old men who guard some of these tombs having assured me that since fifty years it has subsided more than 30 feet. They add that it is the tomb of one of the kings of Bhutan, who was interred there after he had left his country to conquer this kingdom, from which he was subsequently driven by the descendants of Tamerlane./1/ It is from this kingdom of Bhutan that they bring *musk*, and I shall give a description of it in Book Three....
*Sasaram* is a town at the foot of the mountains, near to [] which there is a large tank. You see a small island in the middle, where there is a very beautiful mosque, in which there is the tomb of a Nawab named Salim Khan, who had it built during the time he was Governor of the Province. There is a fine stone bridge to cross into the island, which is all flanked and paved with large cut stones. On one of the sides of the tank there is a large garden, in the middle of which is another beautiful tomb of the son of the same Nawab, Salim Khan, who succeeded his father in the government of the Province....
[] *Patna* is one of the largest towns in India, and is situated on the margin of the Ganges, on its western side, and it is not less than two coss in length. The houses are not better than those in the majority of the other towns of India, and they are nearly all roofed with thatch or bamboo. The Dutch Company has an establishment there on account of the trade in saltpetre, which is refined at a large village called Chapra, situated on the right bank of the Ganges, 10 coss above Patna.
Arriving at Patna with M. Bernier, we encountered some Dutchmen in the street who were returning to Chapra, but who halted their carriages in order to salute us. We did not separate before we had emptied together two bottles of Shiraz wine in the open street, regarding which there is nothing to remark upon in this country, where one lives without ceremony, and with perfect liberty.
I remained eight days in Patna, during which time an occurrence happened which will show the reader that unnatural crime does not rest unpunished by the Musalmans. A Mimbachi ["commander of 1,000"] who commanded 1,000 foot disgraced [by sexual assault] a young boy who was in his service; . . . the boy, overwhelmed with grief, chose his time to avenge himself, and being one day out hunting with his master, and removed from the attendants by about a quarter of a league, he came behind him and cut off his head with his sword. He then rode immediately to the town at full speed, crying aloud that he had slain his master [] for such a reason, and came at once to the house of the Governor, who placed him in prison. But he left it at the end of six months, and although all the relatives of the deceased did what they could to procure his execution, the Governor did not dare to condemn him, as he feared the people, who maintained that the young man had acted rightly....
[] .... *Rajmahal* is a town on the right bank of the Ganges, and when you approach it by land you find that for one or two coss the roads are paved with brick up to the town. It was formerly the residence of the Governors of Bengal, because it is a splendid hunting country, and, moreover, the trade there was considerable. But the river having taken another course, and passing only at a distance of a full half league from the town, as much for this reason as for the purpose of restraining the King of Arakan, and many Portuguese bandits who have settled at the mouths of the Ganges, and by whom the inhabitants of Dacca, up to which they made incursions, were molested-- the Governor and the merchants who dwelt at Rajmahal removed to Dacca, which is today a place of considerable trade.
[] On the 6th, having arrived at a great town called Donapur, at 6 coss from Rajmahal, I left M. Bernier, who went to Kasimbazar, and from thence to Hugli by land, because then the river is low one is unable to pass on account of a great bank of sand which is before a town called Suti. I slept this evening at Tartipur, distant from Rajmahal 12 coss. At sunrise I beheld a number of crocodiles asleep on the sand....
[] We arrived at *Dacca* towards evening, and accomplished this day nine coss. Dacca is a large town, which is only of extent as regards length, each person being anxious to have his house close to the Ganges. Its length exceeds 2 cos; and from the last brick bridge, which I have mentioned above, up to Dacca, there is a succession of houses, separated one from the other, and inhabited for the most part by the carpenters who build galleys and other vessels. Those houses are, properly speaking, only miserable huts made of bamboo, and mud which is spread over them. Those of Dacca are scarcely better built, and that which is the residence of the Governor is an enclosure of high walls, in the middle of which is a poor house merely built of wood. He ordinarily resides under tents, which he pitches in a large court in this enclosure. The Dutch, finding that their goods were not sufficiently safe in the common houses of Dacca, have build a very fine house, and the English have also got one which is fairly good. The church of the Rev. Augustin Fathers is all of brick, and the workmanship of it is rather beautiful.
On the occasion of my last visit to Dacca, the Nawab *Shaista Khan*, who was then Governor of Bengal, was at war with the King of *Arakan*, whose navy generally consists of 200 galleys besides several other small boats. These galleys traverse the Gulf of Bengal and enter the Ganges, the tide ascending even beyond Dacca.
Shaista Khan, uncle of the King Aurangzeb, who reigns at present, and the cleverest man in all his kingdom, found means for bribing many of the officers of the King of Arakan's navy, and forty galleys, which were commanded by Portuguese, promptly joined him. In order to secure these new allies firmly in his service, he gave large pay to each of the Portuguese officers and to the soldiers in proportion, but the native received only double their ordinary pay. It is most surprising to see with what speed these galleys are propelled by oars. Some are so long that they have up to fifty oars on each side, but there are not more than two men to each oar. [] Some are much decorated, whereon the gold and blue paint have not been spared.
The Dutch keep some of them in their service, in which they carry their merchandise, and they occasionally have to hire some from others, thus affording a means of livelihood to many people.
The day following my arrival in Dacca, which was the 14th of January, I went to salute the Nawab, and presented him with a mantle of gold brocade, with a grand golden lace of "point d'Espagne" round it, and a fine scarf of gold and silver of the same "point," and a jewel consisting of a very beautiful emerald. During the evening, after I had returned to the Dutch with whom I lodged, the Nawab sent me pomegranates, China oranges, two Persian melons, and three kinds of apples.
On the 15th [January] I showed him my goods, and presented to the Prince, his son, a watch having an enammeled gold case, a pair of pistols inlaid with silver, and a telescope. All this which I presented, both to the father and to the young lord of about ten years of age, cost me more than 5,000 livres.
On the 16th I agreed with him as to the price of my goods, and afterwards I went to his Vazir to receive my bill of exchange payable at Kasimbazar (*Cossimbazar*). Not that he was unwilling to pay me at Dacca, but the Dutch, who were more experienced than I, warned me that there was risk in carrying silver to Kasimbazar, where one cannot go except by re-ascending the Ganges, because the land route is very bad and full of jungle and swamps. The danger consists in this that [] the small vessels which are employed are very subject to be upset by the least wind, and when the sailors discover that one carries money, it is not difficult for them to wreck the boat, to recover the silver afterwards, at the bottom of the river, and appropriate it.
On the 20th I took leave of the Nawab, who invited me to return to see him, and gave me a passport in which he described me as a gentleman of his household; this he had already previously done during the time that he was Governor of Ahmadabad, when I went to the army to meet him in the Province of Deccan, which the Raja *Shivaji* had entered, as I shall relate elsewhere. In virtue of these passports I was able to go and come throughout all the territories of the Great Mogul as one of his household, and I shall explain their tenor in Book Two....
[] .... On the 15th [February] the Dutch gave me a *palanquin* to go to *Murshidabad*. It is a great town, 3 koss from Kasimbazar, where the Receiver-general of Shaista Khan resided, to whom I presented my bill of exchange. After having read it he told me that it was good, and that he would have paid me if he had not on the previous evening received an order from the Nawab not to pay me in case he had not already done so. He did not tell me the reason why Shaista Khan acted in this manner, and I returned to my lodging not a little surprised at this proceeding. On the 16th I wrote to the Nawab to know what reason he had for ordering his Receiver not to pay me....
[] .... Neither my letter nor that of the Director [of the Dutch factories] produced the effect we had hoped, and I was in no wise satisfied with the new order which the Nawab had sent to the Receiver, by which he ordered him to pay me with a rebate of 20,000 rupees from the sum which I ought to receive, and was carried by my bill of exchange, according to the price upon which we had agreed. The Nawab added that if I was unwilling to content myself with this payment I might come to take back my goods. This action of the Nawab had its origin in an evil turn played me by three rogues at the court of the Great Mogul. And this is the history of it in a few words.... [A detailed account of rivalry among the Emperor and the great nobles for first choice of the finest rarities, and of corruption, blackmail, lies, and vengefulness among their jewel-assessors and middlemen.]
[] .... All the presents which I made, to the Great Mogul, to Shaista Khan, and to Ja'far Khan, uncles of His Majesty, as also to the Grand Treasurers of the Emperor, to the stewards of the Khan's houses, to the captains of the palace gates, and further to those who on two occasions brought me the khil'at, or robe of honour, on the part of the Emperor, and as often on the part of the Begam, his sister, and once on the part of Ja'far Khan-- all these presents, I say, amounted to the sum of 23,187 livres.
So true is it that
those who desire to do business at the courts of the Princes, in Turkey
as well as in Persia and India, should not attempt to commence anything
unless they have considerable presents ready prepared, and almost always
an open purse for divers officers of trust of whose services they have
N O T E S
/1/ Tavernier seems to refer to the Buddhist remains at Bakariya Kund, north-west of the city. The large beads are stylized *myrobalans*, a favourite ornament in Hindu architecture. The pillar is one of Ashoka's edict pillars which, according to the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsiang, stood north-east of the city. It was destroyed in a riot in 1809, and only the stump, known as Lat Bhairon, survives. The mention of the tomb of the King of Bhutan may be due to confusion with Buddhism. --Crooke
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