Traveller

Year of visit to India

Nationality

Name of the Book

Traveller’s Occupation and Remarks

Fahien

401-410

Chinese

 

The first known traveler to India during the reign of Vikramaditya [Chandra Gupta II]

Hiouen Tsang

629-645

Chinese

Si-yu-ki

 

Among the most well known traveler to India, who visited in the reign of King Harshvardhan and the first foreigner to give the written account of Kumbh Mela in his time.

Sulayman Tajir [d 916]

851

Arab

Akhbar Al-Sin Wa'l-Hind

 

Was a merchant by profession and fortunately wrote the observations and experiences in his book. Went on to become the first writer to give indepth information of India.

Al- Masudi

[Death 895 - 956]

 

Arab

Muruju`z-zahab [The Meadows of Gold]

Was a genuine traveler, wrote two monumental works with several volumes in each of them. Unfortunately only 2 volumes of his work are left as of today

Al-Beruni [973 – 1050]

1001-1025

years of Ghazni’s 17 attacks

Khwarzam

[Now in Kazakhstan]

 

Gave the world a monumental work. he  visited India along with the Afghan king Mahmud Ghaznavi, who plundered India seventeen times, 

Abu Abdallah Mohammed Edrisi[1100 - 1166]

 

Moroccan but stayed at Palermo, Spain

Kitab Nuzhat al-Mushtaq / Kitab Rujar [The Book of Roger] translated only in 1619

Sharif wrote his book on the orders of his master, the Norman King of Sicily, Roger II. It was because of this reason that Sharif’s book is also called Kitab Rujar which means “The Book of Roger”. The primary source of both the writers was Al-Beruni’s work. They both also relied on the tales, experiences and accounts related by the merchants, traders and sailors who visited India and passed from their country.

 

Shihabuddin-al-Umari

[Death 1348]

 

Syrian

Masalik al-absar fi mamalik al-amsar – 22 volumes

Al-Qalaqashandi

[Death 1418]

 

Egyptian

Subhul-A’sha

He relied on Shihabuddin’s work and the tales and accounts given by the merchants and traders who visited India.

Ibn-Batuta [1304 –1368]

12 Sept 1333 to 1342

Moroccan

Rehla [Travelogue]

This Moorish traveler stayed in India for nearly nine years and is probably one of the few early travelers who traveled the length and breadth of India and gave a vivid account of the places he visited. His book is written in 1357, four years after completing his travels in 1353, when he reached his native homeland. Interestingly, he left Delhi as the ambassador of the Sultan Mohammed – Bin – Tughluq to China. He was the most traveled person of his time, traveling an estimated 75,000 miles.

Kamaluddin Abdur Razzaq

1441-1444

Afghan or Central Asian origin

Matla`I-Sa`dain

Was sent by Timur’s son Shah Rukh and returned to Herat in 1444

Marco Polo

[1254-1324]

Circa 1293-94

Italian

"The Travels of Marco Polo", first published in French

He left Venice in 1271. When he was 17, he went to China with his father and left in 1292. From Sumatra via a ship he came to South India and then came overland later leaving for Tabriz, Iran. When on his death bed, he said "I didn't tell half of what I saw, because no one would have believed me."

Nicolo de’Conti

1419-1444

Venetian

 

A citizen of Venice, he started his travels in 1419 and came to Indian via Damascus. In 1444 he related his adventures to the secretary of Pope Eugene IV. He gave the account of the Hindu Kingdom of Vijaynagar and also of their war with the Muslim Bahamani Kings of Deccan

Athanasius Niketin

Circa 1468

Russian

 

He came from the town of Tver in Russia. On his arrival in Gujarat he stayed in the town of Bidar for four years. He has given a vivid account of the Bahaman empire.

Ludovico Di Varthema

1503-08

Italian

 

 

Magellan

1511-12

Italian

A Description of the Coasts of East Africa and Malabar in the beginning of the Sixteenth Century

Both the travelers were Italian and are famous of their adventures in India, but with regard to the authorship of the books there are counter claims. Though it is generally believed, that the book was written by Barbossa.

Bivro de Durate Barbossa

1516-17

Italian

John Huyghen Van Linschoten

1583-89

Dutch

 

Travelled widely in India, but has not received attention for his writings. Also because his work was restricted to the Dutch only.

Ralph Fitch

1583-91

English

 

The first serious traveler from England to have written accounts about India. Credit goes to him for creating interest among the English to start trade with India.

John Sanderson

1584-1602

English

 

Not much is known about him and spoken of with regard to his travels, but it is accepted that he followed Fitch to India.

John Mildenhall

1599-1606

English

 

A commercial minded traveler who seriously tried to get trade concessions from Mughal Emperor Akbar for the English merchants.

Probably the first English to marry an Indian woman and have children, a girl and a boy from this union. His grave is in Agra.

John Jourdain

1608-17

English

 

A traveler with commercial and missionary interests. His observations and interactions have played an important role in starting a serious attempt to start trade with Mughals.

Francois Pyrard de Laval

1608-09

French

 

French traveler to India. Not much is known about his work.

Peter Florisze

1611-15

Dutch

 

Dutch traveler to India.

Nicholas Withington

1612-16

English

 

English traveler with commercial interests who joined East India Company for traveling as well as making money. Unfortunately he is famous for his arrests and subsequent deportation to England where he died of penury.

Thomas Coryate

1615-17

English

 

The famed leg stretcher who walked all the way to India, and breathed his last in Surat.

Edward Terry

1616-19

English

 

Companion of Thomas Coryate, and Chaplain to first English ambassador to Mughal’s, he wrote his account forty years after he returned home, and so is a tad unreliable. But has a whole wealth of information otherwise regarding the Mughal India.

[Note: A copy of the first edition of 1653 and the 1777 reprint is with the Univeristy of Bombay]

Francisco Pelsaert

1620-26

Dutch

Remonstrantie

Has given one of the most detailed and vivid account of India. Referred by majority of historians and scholars on Mughal India.

Pietro Della Valle

1623-24

Italian

 

Enjoys the same status as Pelsaert

Peter Mundy

1628-34

English

 

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Fray Sebastian Manrique

1629-43

Italian

 

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Joannes De Laet

1631

Dutch

De Imperio Magni Mogulis

Wrote a magnum opus on Shahjahan

John Albert De Mandelslo

1638

German

 

Monumental work, especially on Western India.

J.B.Tavernier

1641-67

French

Six Voyages

Came on his second voyage to India and in 1640 for a brief period, but stayed for nearly three years since 1645-48, and till his sixth voyage always came to India. A Diamond merchant by business, he has written one of the most thorough accounts. He had also met F.Bernier, with whom he went uptill Bengal. Fellow travelers, Thevenot and Bernier have ignored him in their works but Careri and Charadin have abused him.

Johan Van Twist

1648

Dutch

 

Much is not written about him. Probably because his work was in Dutch and also his French and Italian counterparts have written better accounts about their travels.

Niccolai Manucci

1653-1708

 

or by other accounts  death is in 1717

Venetian

Storia do Mogor

Ran away from Venice at age 14, and at age 16 arrived in Surat. Joined Dara Sukhokh as an artillery man and accompanied him to Multan and Bhakkar. Post Dara’s execution by Aurangzeb, he became a quack doctor, artillery captain, an ambassador and finally foreign correspondent and interpreter for his English masters. Died in Madras in 1717. His book is written in a mixture of Italian, French and Portuguese

F.Bernier

1656-68

French

 

A physician, he was patronized by a Mughal Noble, for whom he worked for many years. Stayed in India for 12 years, and couldn’t do much headway as he was involved in petty politics of the time.

Joan De Thevenot

1666-67

French

 

He came to Surat in 1666 and left for Iran in 1667, where he breathed his last in a small town. One of the biggest monumental work of Mughal India, including minute details of people and culture was reported by him. India owes him a lot to him as far as the accounts of social history are concerned.

Abbe Carre

1672-74

French

 

Not much is written about him. Though his accounts are helpful for studies in history.

Dr. John Fryer

1672-81

English

 

Visited India and Iran in his nine years of travels. Has given vivid details of the city of Bombay and Surat.

Streynsham Master

1675-80

English

 

His Diaries have proved of immense help in learning about India during Aurangzeb

Alexander Hamilton

1688-1723

English

 

 

John Ovington

1689

English

 

Abraham Duequesne

1690-91

French

 

Gemelli Careri

1695

Italian

 

Landed at Daman and visited ruins of Bijapur.

Walter Shouten

Post 1690ies

Dutch

 

Have provided with much discussion on the Mughal administration of Bengal and European Commercial activity.

Nicholas de Graaf

Dutch

 

Sir William Hedges

English

 

 

Besides the travelers list that has been provided on the top, the following missionaries, ambassadors, Ship Captains and Adventurers have provided a wealth of information about India, its people, culture, society, and whole array of life in general aspects, in their letters, personal diaries and other notations. They are:

Sir Thomas Roe, The First English Ambassador to India from King James I Court.

Father Monserrate, The Dutch Jesuit leader who enjoyed a good rapport with Emperor Akbar

Samuel Purchas,

William Hawkins

Sir Nicholas Downton,

William Finch and many such sailors and adventurers who came and settled in India. And reported extensively about this new country to their family and friends in Europe.

 

 

And here are a few choice quotes by some of these travelers to India

 

Fa Hein talking about entering India thru the Himalayas - From this (the travellers) went westwards towards North India, and after being on the way for a month, they succeeded in getting across and through the range of the Onion mountains. The snow rests on them both winter and summer. There are also among them venomous dragons, which, when provoked, spit forth poisonous winds, and cause showers of snow and storms of sand and gravel. Not one in ten thousand of those who encounter these dangers escapes with his life. The people of the country call the range by the name of "The Snow mountains." When (the travellers) had got through them, they were in North India, and immediately on entering its borders, found themselves in a small kingdom called T'o-leih, [Darada, the country of the ancient Dardae, the region near Dardus; lat. 30d 11s N., lon. 73d 54s] where also there were many monks, all students of the hinayana.

 

 

Marco Polo talking about Guzzerat [Gujarat] - Guzzerat is a great kingdom, bounded in the western side by the Indian sea is governed by its own king and are tributary to none. The people are idolators and have a peculiar language.

 

The people are the most desperate pirates in existence and one of the their atrocious practices is this. When they have taken a merchant vessel they force the merchants to swallow a stuff called tamarind mixed in sea water, which produces a violent purging. This is done in case the merchants, on seeing their danger, should have swallowed their pearls and jewels. And in this way the pirates secure the whole.

 

Coverlets for beds are made of red and blue leather, extremely delicate and soft and stitched with gold and silver thread...Cushions also, ornamented with gold wire in the form of birds and beasts are manufactured at this place. And in some instances their value is so high as six marks of silver. Embroidery is here performed with more delicacy then in any other part of the world.

 

 

Ibn Batuta Talking about Mangoes - They have many trees none of which are to be found either in our country or elsewhere. One of them is the ambah [Mango]; it is a tree which resembles orange trees but is larger in size and more leafy...Its fruit is the size of a large pear. When the fruit is green and not yet fully ripe, the people gather those of them that fall, put salt on them and pickle them as lime and lemons are pickled in our country. The Indians pickle also green ginger and clusters of pepper, which they eat with meat dishes taking after each mouthful a little of these pickled [Fruits].

 

 

Al-Beruni on matrimony - 1] Every nation has particular customs of marriage and especially those who claim to have a religion and law of divine origin. The Hindus marry at a very young age; therefore the parents arrange the marriage for their sons. On that occasion the Brahmins perform the rites of sacrifice, and they as well as others receive alms...The man gives only a present to the wife, as he thinks fit, and a marriage gift in advance, which he has no right to claim back, but the wife may give it back to him of her own will.

 

2] A man may marry one to four wives. He his not allowed to take more then four; but if one of his wives die, he may take another one to complete the legitimate number. However, he must not go beyond it. Some Hindus think that the number of the wives depends upon the caste; that, accordingly, a Brahman may take four, a Kshatriya three, a Vaisya two wives and a Sudra one.

 

3] The child belongs to the caste of the mother, not to that of the father.

 

 

John Albert De Mandelslo talking about Ahmedabad - There are so many other gardens about Ahmedabad, and the whole city is so full of trees, that a man may say it makes all but one garden; for, as he comes to the city, he sees such abundance of them, that he may well think he is going into a forest.

 

 

Tavernier's observations in the Diamond fields of Rammalakota near Kurnool - A] In this country one pays no attention to dress, and a person who has but a miserable ell of calico about his loins may sometimes have a good parcel of diamonds concealed.

 

B] Talking about the children of diamond merchant's

 

1] It is very pleasant to see the young children of these merchants and of other people of the country, from the age of ten years up to the age of fifteen or sixteen, assemble every morning under a tree which is in the town square.

 

2] Young as they are, they know the value of all the stones so well that if one of them is bought a stone and is willing to lose a half percent; another gives him cash for it. You can seldom show them a parcel of dozen stones, among which they will not discover four or five with some flaw, point or defect at the angles.

 

 

Thevenot talking about Ajmer - This town lies at the foot of a very high and almost inaccessible mountain. There is on top of it, an extraordinary strong castle; to mount to which, one must go turning and winding for a league; and this fort gives a great deal of reputation to the province. The own hath stone walls, and a good ditch; without the walls of it, there are several Ruins of Fair Buildings, which shew great antiquity...Azmer is a town of an indifferent bigness, but when the Great Mogol comes there, there is not room to stir in it, especially when there is any festival...and some disorder always happens.

 

 

Pietro Della Valle's observations when he entered Cambay [Now Khambhat] - The day of our arrival we were taken to see a famous bird-hospital where sick, lame and companionless birds are tended with care by men supported by charity. It was full of birds of all kinds - cockerels, hens, pigeons, peacocks, ducks, and small birds which were lame, sick and mateless. When they are cured, the wild birds are freed and the domestic ones given to some pious person who keeps them in house. The most curious things that I saw were little orphaned mice which had been brought to the hospital. A venerable old man with a white beard and spectacles on his nose kept them in a box padded with cotton and tended them lovingly, giving them milk on the tip of a feather because they were too small to take any other food.

 

 

Varthema talking about - 1] A crocodile in Kerala - There is found in this Calicut a kind of serpent which is as large as a great pig, and which has a head much larger than that of a pig, and it has four feet, and is four braza long. These serpents are produced in certain marshes. The people of the country say they have no venom but that they are evil animals, and do injury to people by means of their teeth.

 

2] The King of Calicut's customs on the death of his relatives - When one of his relation dies as soon as the year of mourning is accomplished, he sends an invitation to all the principal Brahmins who are in his own kingdom, and he also invites some of other countries. And when they are arrived, they make great feastings for three days. There food consists of rice dressed in various ways, the flesh of wild hogs, and a great deal of venison, for they are great hunters. At the end of three days, the said king gives to each of the principal Brahmin three, four and five pardai [Local currency], and everyone returns to his house. And all the people of the kingdom of the king shave their beards for joy.

 

 

Duarte Barbosa's observations in Bengal - 1] Much good sugar is also made here from canes, but they know not how to compress it and make it into loaves; so they wrap it as powder in parcels of untanned leather, well sewn. Great store of this is taken in cargoes and carried for sale to many lands, for it is a principal article of trade.

 

2] The respectable Moors clad in white cotton smocks, very thin, which comes down to their ankles, beneath these they have got girdles of cloth, and over them, silk scarves, they carry in their girdles daggers garnished with silver and gold, according to the rank of the person who carries them; on their fingers many rings set with rich jewels and cotton turbans on their heads. They are luxurious, eat well and spend freely...they bathe often in great tanks which they have in their houses. Everyone has three or four wives or as many as he can maintain. They keep them carefully shut up, and treat them very well, giving them great store of gold, silver and apparel of fine silk.

 

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