Go Back To England’s Pioneers to India by Ralph Fitch
Ralph Fitch Visited India in 1583-84
DETAILS OF THE ARREST AND ESCAPE RALPH FITCH Page 83-84
But by common consent the great Albuquerque, governor and captain-general, 1509-15, was the real founder of the Portuguese dominion inthe East. Whatever may now be thought of hismethods, his hectoring and his savagery, he followeda consistent policy. He broke down the Moorishmonopoly, and actually threatened the TurkishSultan in his own dominions.1 Establishing his capital in the island of Goa, which long flourished as a monument to his genius, his personal conquests extended from Ormuz to Malacca. At the time ofhis death, which took place on the bar of Goa in 1515, peace, so called, was universal from Ormuz to
Ceylon ; and from Cape Comorin eastward the Kingof Portugal was on terms of friendship with the kings of Pegu, Bengal, Pedir, Siam, Pacem, Java and China, the King of Maluco and the Gores.
List of governors of Portuguese India
The Decline of Portuguese Rule in India
Prof. Stephens dates the decline of Portuguese political influence from the death of the Viceroy Dom Joao de Castro at Goa in the arms of his friend St. Francis Xavier in 1548. He adds: ” But at the time when the political interest in the career of the Portuguese in Asia diminishes, the religious interest increases. . . . These (missionaries) were the men who made their way into the interior of India, and who penetrated the farthest East.”
The Inquisition was established at Goa in 1560, but it was not till the seventeenth century that the periodical auto-da-fe was commenced.
HINDUSTAN UNDER AKBAR FITCH’S NARRATIVE
THREE ENGLISHMEN AT AGRA
TRAVELLERS SEPARATE A LONELY JOURNEY
England’s first embassy as represented by Fitch and his fellow travellers, armed
with the Queen Elizabeth’s letter to the chief potentate in all India should have reached its destination. Elizabeth died in 1603 and Akbar in 1605, but before either of these dates the systematic attempt to open up trade by the establishment of the East India Company had been launched.
Further, at the end of the sixteenth century, history tells us, Akbar was trying to rule his empire on principles founded on the welfare of the vast aggregate of his peoples ; at the end of the nineteenth century the Queen-Empress of
England and India, Queen Victoria, is engaged in the same task, but over a still wider area, in the same land.
Note (Page 91)
In 1573, the Viceroy, Antony Moronha, had sent Antony Cabral to Akbar to obtain a treaty for the security of Daman, consequent upon the Emperor’s successes in Guzerat. It is further stated, adds Hunter, that one of Akbar’s wives was a
Christian, and that he ordered his son Murad, when a child, to take ” lessons ” in Christianity.
INDIA THE JOURNEY (SECOND PART) Page 92
From thence I went to Barrampore, which is in the country of Zelabdim Echebar.
In this place their money is made of kind of siluer round and thicke, to the value of twentie pence, which is very good siluer. It is marueilous great and a populous countrey. In their winter which is in lune, luly, and August, there is no passing in the streetes but with horses, the waters be so high. The houses are made of lome and thatched. Here is great store of cotton cloth made, and painted clothes of cotton wooll : here groweth great store of corne and Rice.
We found mariages great store both in townes and villages in many places where wee passed, of boyes of eight or ten yeeres, and girls of flue or six yeeres old. They both do ride vponone horse very trimly decked, and are caried through the towne with great piping arid playing, and so returne home and eate of a banket made of Rice and fruits, and there they daimce the most part of the night and so make an ende of the marriage. They lie not together vntill they be ten yeeres old. They say they marry their children so yoong, because it is an order that when the man dieth, the woman must be burned with him : so that if the father die, yet they may haue a father in lawe to helpe to bring vp the children which bee maried : and also that they will not leaue their sonnes without wiues, nor their daughters without husbands.
From thence we went to Agra passingmany riuers, which by reason of theraine were so swollen, that wee wadedand swamme oftentimes for our Hues.Agra is a very great citie and populous,built with stone, hauing faire and largestreetes, with a faire riuer running by it, which falleth into the gulfe of Bengala. It hath a faire castle and a strong with
a very faire ditch. Here bee many
Moores and Gentiles, the king is called
Zelabdim Echebar: the people for the most part call him The great Mogor.
From thence wee went for Fatepore,
which is the place where the king kept his court. 1 The towne is greater
than Agra, but the houses and streetes
Jbe not so faire. Here dwell many
people both Moores and Gentiles. The
king hath in Agra and Fatepore as they
doe credibly report 1,000. elephants,
thirtie thousand horses, 1,400. tame
Deere, 800. concubines : such store of
Ounces, Tigers, Buffles, Cocks &
Haukes, that is very strange to see. He
keepeth a great court, which they call
Dericcan.2 Agra and Fatepore are two
very great cities, either of them much
greater than London and very populous. Bctwecne Agra and Fatepore are 12 miles, and all the way is a market of victuals & other things, as full as though
a man were still in a towne, and so
many people as if a man were in a
market. They haue many fine cartes, and many of them carued and gilded
with gold, with two wheeles which be
drawen with two litle Buls about the
bignesse of our great dogs in England,
and they will runne with any horse, and
carie two or three men in one of these
cartes : they are couered with silke or
very fine cloth, and be vsed here as our
Coches be in England. Hither is great
resort of marchants from Persia and
out of India, and very much marchandise
of silke and cloth, and of precious
stones, both Rubies, Diamants, and
Pearles. The king is apparelled in a
white Cabie made like a shirt tied with
strings on the one side, and a litle cloth
on his head coloured oftentimes with
red or yealow. None come into his
house but his eunuches which keepe his
Here in Fatepore we staled all
three vntill the 28. of September 1585,
and then master lohn Newberie tooke
his journey toward the citie of Lahor determining from thence to goe for
Persia and then for Aleppo or Constantinople,
whether hee could get soonest
passage vnto, and directed me to goe
for Bengala and for Pegu, and did promise
me, if it pleased God, to meete me
in Bengala within two yeeres with a
shippe out of England. I left William Leades the iewcller in seruice with the king Zelabdim Echebar in Fatepore,
who did entertaine him very well, and
gaue him an house and fiue slaues,
an horse, and euery day sixe S. S. in
I went from Agra to Satagam in Bengala, in the companie of one hundred and fourescore boates ladenwith Salt, Opium, Hinge, Lead, Carpets,and diuers other commodities downe
the riuer lemena. (Down the rivers Jumna and Ganges to Satgaon (or Saptagram), now a ruined town in the Hugli District, butsometime the mercantile capital of Bengal.) The chiefe marchantsare Moores and Gentiles.
In these countries (he is now at Allahabad) they haue many strange ceremonies. The Bramanes which are their priests, come to the water and haue a string about their necks made with great ceremonies, and lade vp water with both their hands, and turne the string first with both their hands within, and then one arme after the other out. Though it be neuer so cold, they will wash themselues in cold water or in warme. These Gentiles will eate no flesh nor kill any thing. They Hue with rice, butter, milke, and fruits.
They pray in the water naked, and dresse their meat & eate it naked, andfor their penance they lie flat vpon theearth, and rise vp and turne themseluesabout 30. or 40. times, and vse to heauevp their hands to the sunne, & to kissethe earth, with their armes and legsstretched along out, and their right legalways before the left. Euery time they lie downe, they make a score onthe ground with their finger to knowwhen their stint is finished. TheBramanes marke themselues in theforeheads, eares and throates with akind of yellow geare which they grind,& euery morning they do it. And they haue some old men which go in thestreetes with a boxe of yellow pouder, and marke men on their heads & necksas they meet them. And their wiues do come by 10. 20. & 30. together to the water side singing, & there do wash themselues, & then vse their ceremonies, & marke themselues in their foreheds and faces, and cary some with them, and so depart singing. Their daughters be maried, at, or before the age of 10. yeres. Their men may haue 7. wiues. They be a kind of craftie people, worse then the Jewes. When they salute one another, they heaue vp their hands to their heads, and say Rame, Rame. (Ram-Ram).
From Agra I came to Prage (Prayag, ancient name for Allahabad, by which the
city is still known amongst the Hindu population), where the riuer lemena entreth into the Ganges. mightie riuer Ganges, and lemena looseth his name. Ganges cometh out of the Northwest, & runneth East into the gulfe of Bengala.
In those parts (Allahabad) there are many Tigers and many partriges & turtle doues, and much other foule. Here be many beggers in these countries which goe naked, and the people make great account of them : they call them Schesche. Here I sawe one which was a monster among the rest. He would haue nothing vpon him, his beard was very long, and with the haire of hishead he couered his priuities. Thenailes of some of his fingers were twoinches long, for he would cut nothing from him, neither would he speake. Hewas accompanied with eight or tenne,and they spake for him. When anyman spake to him, he would lay hishand upon his brest and bowe himselfe, but would not speake. Hee would not speake to the king.
From Allahabad to Benaras (Page 102)
We went from Prage downe Ganges, the which is here very broad. Here is great store of fish of sundry sorts, & of wild foule, as of swannes, geese, cranes, and many otherthings. The countrey is very fruitfull and populous. The men for the mostpart haue their faces shauen, and their heads very long, except some which bee all shauen saue the crowne : and some of them are as though a man should set a dish on their heads, and shaue them round, all but the crowne. In this riuer of Ganges are many Hands. His water is very sweete and pleasant, and the countrey adioyning very fruitfull.
From thence wee went to Bannaras which is a great towne, and great store of cloth is made there of cotton, and Shashes for the Moores. In this place they be all Gentiles, and be the greatest idolaters that euer I sawe. To this towne come the Gentiles on pilgrimage
out of farre countreys. Here alongst the waters side bee very many faire houses, and in all of them, or for the most part they haue their images standing, which be euill fauoured, made of stone and wood, some some like lions, leopards, and monkeis, some like men & women, and pecocks, and some like the deuil with foure armes and 4 hands. They sit crosse legged, some with one
thing in their hands, & some another,
& by breake of day and before, there are
men & women which come out of the
towne and wash theselues in Ganges.
And there are diuers old men which
vpon places of earth made for the
purpose, sit praying, and they giue the
people three or foure strawes, which
they take & hold them betweene their
fingers when they wash themselues :
and some sit to marke them in the foreheads,
and they haue in a cloth a little
Rice, Barlie, or money, which, when
they haue washed themselues, they giue
to the old men which sit there praying.
Afterwards they go to diuers of their
images, & giue them of their sacrifices.
And when they giue, the old men say
certaine prayers, and then is all holy.
And in diuers places there standeth a
kind of image which in their language
they call Ada.
If a man or a woman be sicke and like to die, they will lay him beforetheir idols all night, and that shall helpehim or make an ende of him. And ifhe do not mend that night, his friendswill come and sit with him a litle andcry, and afterwards will cary him to the
waters side and set him vpon a litle raftmade of reeds, and so let him goe downe the riuer.
When they be maried the man and the woman come to the water side, and there is an olde man which they call a Bramane, that is, a priest, a cowe, and a calfe, or a cowe with calfe.
Note: Benares, the sacred city of Hinduism, situated on the Ganges about 120 miles below its junction with the Jumna
Patna (Page 109)
From Bannaras I went to Patenaw Jdowne the riuer of Ganges : where in theway we passed many faire townes, and acountrey very fruitfull : and many verygreat riuers doe enter into Ganges ;and some of them as great as Ganges,which cause Ganges to bee of a greatbreadth, and so broad that in the time of raine you cannot see from one side to the other. Herethe women bee so decked with siluer andcopper, that it is strange to see, theyvse no shooes by reason of the rings ofsiluer and copper which they weare on their toes.
Patenaw is a very long and a great towne. In times past it was a kingdom, but now it is vnder Zelabdim, Echebar the great Mogor. The men are tall and slender, and haue many old folks among them : the houses are simple, made of earth and couered with strawe, the streetes are very large. In this towne there is a trade of cotton, & cloth of cotton, much sugar, which they cary from hence to Bengala and India, very much Opium & other commodities. He
that is chiefe here vnder the king is called Tipperdas, and is of great account
among the people. Here in Patenau I saw a dissembling prophet which sate
vpon an horse in the market place, and made as though he slept, and many
of the people came and touched his feete with their hands, and then kissed
their hands. They tooke him for a great man, but sure he was a lasie
lubber. I left him there sleeping. The people of these countries be much
giuen to such prating and dissembling hypocrites.
Gour (In Maldah)
From Patanaw I went to Tanda which is in the land of Gouren.1 It hath in times past bene a kingdom, but now is subdued by Zelabdim Echebar.
Note: Tanda, Tandan, or Tanra, is a petty village in Maldah District, Bengal, but even the site of the ancient town, which became the capital of Bengal after the decadence of Gaur, has not been accurately determined
I went from Bengala into the country of Couche, which lieth 25. dayes iourny Northwards from Tanda. The king is a Gentile, his name is Suckel Counse : his countrey is great, and lieth not far from Cauchin China.
Here they haue much silke & muske, and cloth made of cotton.The people haue eares which bemarueilous great of a span long, whichthey draw out in length by deuises when
they be yong. Here they be all Gentiles,and they will kil nothing. Theyhaue hospitals for sheepe, goates, dogs,cats, birds, & for all other liuing creatures.When they be old & lame, theykeepe them vntil they die. If a mancatch or buy any quicke thing in otherplaces & bring it thither, they will giue him mony for it or other victuals, & keepe it in their hospitals or let it go.
From thence I returned to Hugeli,which is the place where the Portugals keep in the country of Bengala which standeth in 23. degrees of Northerly latitude, and standeth league from Satagam: they cal it Porto Piqueno.1 We went through the wildernes, becausethe right way was full of thieues, wherewe passed the countrey of Gouren, where
we found but few villages, but almostall wildernes, & saw many buffes, swine& deere, grasse longer then a ma, and very many Tigers. Not far from Porto Piqueno southwestward, standeth anhauen which is called Angeli, in thecountrey of Orixa. It was a kingdomof it selfe, & the king was a great friendo strangers. Afterwards it was taken by the king of Patan which was their neighbour, but he did not enjoy it long but was taken by Zelabdim Echebar which is king of Agra, Belli, & Cambaia. In this place is very much Rice, and cloth made ofcotton, & great store of cloth which ismade of grasse, which they call Yerua,it is like a silke. They make good clothof it which they send for India & diuers
other places. To this hauen of Angelicome euery yere many ships out ofIndia, Negapatan, Sumatra, Malacca,and diuers other places ; & lade fromthence great store of Rice, & muchcloth of cotton wooll, much sugar, &long pepper, great store of butter & other victuals for India.
Satagam (50 KM north of Howrah along Ganges) is a faire citie for a citie of the Moores, andvery plentifull of all things. Here in
Bengala they haue euery day in oneplace or other a great market whichthey call Chandeau, and they haue manygreat boats which they cal pericose,wherewithall they go from place to place and buy Rice and many other
things : these boates haue 24. or 26. oares
to rowe them, they be great of burthen,
but haue no couerture. Here the Gentiles
haue the water of Ganges in great
estimation, for hauing good water neere
them, yet they will fetch the water of
Ganges a great way off, and if they
haue not sufficient to drinke, they will
sprinkle a litle on them, and then they
thinke themselues well. From Satagam
I trauelled by the countrey of the king of Tippara or porto Grande, with whom
the Mogores or Mogen haue almost continuall
warres. The Mogen which be of
the kingdom of Recon and Rame, be
stronger then the king of Tippara, so
that Chatigan or porto Grande is oftentimes
vnder the king of Recon. [Page 115]
Note: Hugli, now the chief town and administrative headquarters of Hugli District, Bengal, is situated on the east bank of the river of the same name. It is said to have been founded by the Portuguese in 1537 on the decay of Satgaon (Saptagram) (Fitch’s Satagam or Satagan already identified), the royal port of Bengal, caused by the silting up of
the Saraswati river.
Orissa, the Holy Land of the Hindus. In 1567-8 Sulaiman, the Afghan king of Bengal, overran Orissa and captured the city of Puri where stands the famous shrine of Jagannath (Vishnu). His second son, Daud Khan, who succeeded to the governorship of Bengal, threw off his allegiance to the Moghul Emperor at Delhi with the result that in 1578 a battle took place in which Daud was killed. Orissa became a province of Akbar’s empire, and remained so till 1751, when the Marathas obtained it