The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter xix.

Concerning the Kingdom of Mutfili.

When you leave Maabar and go about 1,000 miles in a northerly direction you come to the kingdom of MUTFILI. This was formerly under the rule of a King, and since his death, some forty years past, it has been under his Queen, a lady of much discretion, who for the great love she bore him never would marry another husband. And I can assure you that during all that space of forty years she had administered her realm as well as ever her husband did, or better; and as she was a lover of justice, of equity, and of peace, she was more beloved by those of her kingdom than ever was Lady or Lord of theirs before. The people are Idolaters, and are tributary to nobody. They live on flesh, and rice, and milk.1

It is in this kingdom that diamonds are got; and I will tell you how. There are certain lofty mountains in those parts; and when the winter rains fall, which are very heavy, the waters come roaring down the mountains in great torrents. When the rains are over, and the waters from the mountains have ceased to flow, they search the beds of the torrents and find plenty of diamonds. In summer also there are plenty to be found in the mountains, but the heat of the sun is so great that it is scarcely possible to go thither, nor is there then a drop of water to be found. Moreover in those mountains great serpents are rife to a marvellous degree, besides other vermin, and this owing to the great heat. The serpents are also the most venomous in existence, insomuch that any one going to that region runs fearful peril; for many have been destroyed by these evil reptiles.

Now among these mountains there are certain great and deep valleys, to the bottom of which there is no access. Wherefore the men who go in search of the diamonds take with them pieces of flesh, as lean as they can get, and these they cast into the bottom of a valley. Now there are numbers of white eagles that haunt those mountains and feed upon the serpents. When the eagles see the meat thrown down they pounce upon it and carry it up to some rocky hill-top where they begin to rend it. But there are men on the watch, and as soon as they see that the eagles have settled they raise a loud shouting to drive them away. And when the eagles are thus frightened away the men recover the pieces of meat, and find them full of diamonds which have stuck to the meat down in the bottom. For the abundance of diamonds down there in the depths of the valleys is astonishing, but nobody can get down; and if one could, it would be only to be incontinently devoured by the serpents which are so rife there.

There is also another way of getting the diamonds. The people go to the nests of those white eagles, of which there are many, and in their droppings they find plenty of diamonds which the birds have swallowed in devouring the meat that was cast into the valleys. And, when the eagles themselves are taken, diamonds are found in their stomachs.

So now I have told you three different ways in which these stones are found. No other country but this kingdom of Mutfili produces them, but there they are found both abundantly and of large size. Those that are brought to our part of the world are only the refuse, as it were, of the finer and larger stones. For the flower of the diamonds and other large gems, as well as the largest pearls, are all carried to the Great Kaan and other Kings and Princes of those regions; in truth they possess all the great treasures of the world.2

In this kingdom also are made the best and most delicate buckrams, and those of highest price; in sooth they look like tissue of spider’s web! There is no King nor Queen in the world but might be glad to wear them. 3 The people have also the largest sheep in the world, and great abundance of all the necessaries of life.

There is now no more to say; so I will next tell you about a province called Lar from which the Abraiaman come.

NOTE 1. — There is no doubt that the kingdom here spoken of is that of TELINGANA (Tiling of the Mahomedan writers), then ruled by the Kákateya or Ganapati dynasty reigning at Warangol, north-east of Hyderabad. But Marco seems to give the kingdom the name of that place in it which was visited by himself or his informants. MUTFILI is, with the usual Arab modification (e.g. Perlec, Ferlec — Pattan, Faitan), a port called MOTUPALLÉ, in the Gantúr district of the Madras Presidency, about 170 miles north of Fort St. George. Though it has dropt out of most of our modern maps it still exists, and a notice of it is to be found in W. Hamilton, and in Milburne. The former says: “Mutapali, a town situated near the S. extremity of the northern Circars. A considerable coasting trade is carried on from hence in the craft navigated by natives,” which can come in closer to shore than at other ports on that coast. —[Cf. Hunter, Gaz. India, Motupalli, “now only an obscure fishing village.”— It is marked in Constable’s Hand Atlas of India. — H.C.]

The proper territory of the Kingdom of Warangol lay inland, but the last reigning prince before Polo’s visit to India, by name Kakateya Pratapa Ganapati Rudra Deva, had made extensive conquests on the coast, including Nellore, and thence northward to the frontier of Orissa. This prince left no male issue, and his widow, RUDRAMA DEVI, daughter of the Raja of Devagiri, assumed the government and continued to hold it for twenty-eight, or, as another record states, for thirty-eight years, till the son of her daughter had attained majority. This was in 1292, or by the other account 1295, when she transferred the royal authority to this grandson Pratapa Vira Rudra Deva, the “Luddur Deo” of Firishta, and the last Ganapati of any political moment. He was taken prisoner by the Delhi forces about 1323. We have evidently in Rudrama Devi the just and beloved Queen of our Traveller, who thus enables us to attach colour and character to what was an empty name in a dynastic list. (Compare Wilson’s Mackenzie, I. cxxx.; Taylor’s Or. Hist. MSS. I. 18; Do.‘s Catalogue Raisonné, III. 483.)

Mutfili appears in the Carta Catalana as Butiflis, and is there by some mistake made the site of St. Thomas’s Shrine. The distance from Maabar is in Ramusio only 500 miles — a preferable reading.

NOTE 2. — Some of the Diamond Mines once so famous under the name of Golconda are in the alluvium of the Kistna River, some distance above the Delta, and others in the vicinity of Kadapa and Karnúl, both localities being in the territory of the kingdom we have been speaking of.

The strange legend related here is very ancient and widely diffused. Its earliest known occurrence is in the Treatise of St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, concerning the twelve Jewels in the Rationale or Breastplate of the Hebrew High Priest, a work written before the end of the 4th century, wherein the tale is told of the Jacinth. It is distinctly referred to by Edrisi, who assigns its locality to the land of the Kirkhîr (probably Khirghiz) in Upper Asia. It appears in Kazwini’s Wonders of Creation, and is assigned by him to the Valley of the Moon among the mountains of Serendib. Sindbad the Sailor relates the story, as is well known, and his version is the closest of all to our author’s. [So Les Merveilles de l’Inde, pp. 128–129. — H.C.] It is found in the Chinese Narrative of the Campaigns of Hulaku, translated by both Rémusat and Pauthier. [We read in the Si Shi Ki, of Ch’ang Te, Chinese Envoy to Hulaku (1259), translated by Dr. Bretschneider (Med. Res. I. p. 151): “The kinkang tsuan (diamonds) come from Yin-du (Hindustan). The people take flesh and throw it into the great valleys (of the mountains). Then birds come and eat this flesh, after which diamonds are found in their excrements.”— H.C.] It is told in two different versions, once of the Diamond, and again of the Jacinth of Serendib, in the work on precious stones by Ahmed Taifáshi. It is one of the many stories in the scrap-book of Tzetzes. Nicolo Conti relates it of a mountain called Albenigaras, fifteen days’ journey in a northerly Direction from Vijayanagar; and it is told again, apparently after Conti, by Julius Caesar Scaliger. It is related of diamonds and Balasses in the old Genoese MS., called that of Usodimare. A feeble form of the tale is quoted contemptuously by Garcias from one Francisco de Tamarra. And Haxthausen found it as a popular legend in Armenia. (S. Epiph. de XIII. Gemmis, etc., Romae, 1743; Jaubert, Edrisi, I. 500; J.A.S.B. XIII. 657; Lane’s Ar. Nights, ed. 1859, III. 88; Rém. Nouv. Mél. Asiat. I. 183; Raineri, Fior di Pensieri di Ahmed Teifascite, pp. 13 and 30; Tzetzes, Chil. XI. 376; India in XVth Cent. pp. 29–30; J. C. Scal. de Subtilitate, CXIII. No. 3; An. des Voyages, VIII. 195; Garcias, p. 71; Transcaucasia, p. 360; J.A.S.B. I. 354.)

The story has a considerable resemblance to that which Herodotus tells of the way in which cinnamon was got by the Arabs (III. 111). No doubt the two are ramifications of the same legend.

NOTE 3. — Here buckram is clearly applied to fine cotton stuffs. The districts about Masulipatam were long famous both for muslins and for coloured chintzes. The fine muslins of Masalia are mentioned in the Periplus. Indeed even in the time of Sakya Muni Kalinga was already famous for diaphanous muslins, as may be seen in a story related in the Buddhist Annals. (J.A.S.B. VI. 1086.)

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