The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter xxx.

Concerning the Kingdom of Kesmacoran.

Kesmacoran is a kingdom having a king of its own and a peculiar language. [Some of] the people are Idolaters, [but the most part are Saracens]. They live by merchandize and industry, for they are professed traders, and carry on much traffic by sea and land in all directions. Their food is rice [and corn], flesh and milk, of which they have great store. There is no more to be said about them.1

And you must know that this kingdom of Kesmacoran is the last in India as you go towards the west and north-west. You see, from Maabar on, this province is what is called the GREATER INDIA, and it is the best of all the Indies. I have now detailed to you all the kingdoms and provinces and (chief) cities of this India the Greater, that are upon the seaboard; but of those that lie in the interior I have said nothing, because that would make too long a story.2

And so now let us proceed, and I will tell you of some of the Indian Islands. And I will begin by two Islands which are called Male and Female.

NOTE 1. — Though M. Pauthier has imagined objections there is no room for doubt that Kesmacoran is the province of Mekran, known habitually all over the East as Kij–Makrán, from the combination with the name of the country of that of its chief town, just as we lately met with a converse combination in Konkan-tana. This was pointed out to Marsden by his illustrious friend Major Rennell. We find the term Kij Makrán used by Ibn Batuta (III. 47); by the Turkish Admiral Sidi ‘Ali (J. As., sér. I. tom. ix. 72; and J.A.S.B. V. 463); by Sharifuddin (P. de la Croix, I. 379, II. 417–418); in the famous Sindian Romeo-and-Juliet tale of Sassi and Pannún (Elliot, I. 333); by Pietro della Valle (I. 724, II. 358); by Sir F. Goldsmid (J.R.A.S., N.S., I. 38); and see for other examples, J.A.S.B. VII. 298, 305, 308; VIII. 764; XIV. 158; XVII. pt. ii. 559: XX. 262, 263.

The argument that Mekrán was not a province of India only amounts to saying that Polo has made a mistake. But the fact is that it often was reckoned to belong to India, from ancient down to comparatively modern times. Pliny says: “Many indeed do not reckon the Indus to be the western boundary of India, but include in that term also four satrapies on this side the river, the Gedrosi, the Arachoti, the Arii, and the Parapomisadae (i.e. Mekran, Kandahar, Herat, and Kabul). . . . whilst others class all these together under the name of Ariana” (VI. 23). Arachosia, according to Isidore of Charax, was termed by the Parthians “White India.” Aelian calls Gedrosia a part of India. (Hist. Animal. XVII. 6.) In the 6th century the Nestorian Patriarch Jesujabus, as we have seen (supra, ch. xxii. note 1), considered all to be India from the coast of Persia, i.e. of Fars, beginning from near the Gulf. According to Ibn Khordâdbeh, the boundary between Persia and India was seven days’ sail from Hormuz and eight from Daibul, or less than half-way from the mouth of the Gulf to the Indus. (J. As. sér. VI. tom. v. 283.) Beladhori speaks of the Arabs in early expeditions as invading Indian territory about the Lake of Sijistan; and Istakhri represents this latter country as bounded on the north and partly on the west by portions of India. Kabul was still reckoned in India. Chach, the last Hindu king of Sind but one, is related to have marched through Mekrán to a river which formed the limit between Mekrán and Kermán. On its banks he planted date-trees, and set up a monument which bore: “This was the boundary of Hind in the time of Chach, the son of Sfláij, the son of Basábas.” In the Geography of Bakui we find it stated that “Hind is a great country which begins at the province of Mekrán.” (N. and E. II. 54.) In the map of Marino Sanuto India begins from Hormuz; and it is plain from what Polo says in quitting that city that he considered the next step from it south-eastward would have taken him to India (supra, I. p. 110).

[“The name Mekran has been commonly, but erroneously, derived from Mahi Khoran, i.e. the fish-eaters, or ichthyophagi, which was the title given to the inhabitants of the Beluchi coast-fringe by Arrian. But the word is a Dravidian name, and appears as Makara in the Brhat Sanhita of Varaha Mihira in a list of the tribes contiguous to India on the west. It is also the [Greek: Makaraénae] of Stephen of Byzantium, and the Makuran of Tabari, and Moses of Chorene. Even were it not a Dravidian name, in no old Aryan dialect could it signify fish-eaters.” (Curzon, Persia, II. p. 261, note.)

“It is to be noted that Kesmacoran is a combination of Kech or Kej and Makrán, and the term is even today occasionally used.” (Major P.M. Sykes, Persia, p. 102.)— H.C.]

We may add a Romance definition of India from King Alisaunder:—

“Lordynges, also I fynde,

At Mede so bigynneth Ynde:

Forsothe ich woot, it stretcheth ferest

Of alle the Londes in the Est,

And oth the South half sikerlyk,

To the cee taketh of Affryk;

And the north half to a Mountayne,

That is yclepèd Caucasayne.”— L 4824–4831.

It is probable that Polo merely coasted Mekrán; he seems to know nothing of the Indus, and what he says of Mekrán is vague.

NOTE 2. — As Marco now winds up his detail of the Indian coast, it is proper to try to throw some light on his partial derangement of its geography. In the following columns the first shows the real geographical order from east to west of the Indian provinces as named by Polo, and the second shows the order as he puts them. The Italic names are brief and general identifications.

                  _Real order_.               _Polo's order_.
              1. Mutfili (_Telingana_)        1. Mutfili
MAABAR,    /  2. St. Thomas's (_Madras_).     2. St. Thomas's
including  |  3. Maabar Proper, Kingdom of       (Lar, west of do.).
           |     Sonder Bandi (_Tanjore_)     3. Maabar proper, or Soli.
           \  4. Cail (_Tinnevelly_).         4. Cail.
              5. Comari (_C. Comorin_).       5. Coilum.
MELIBAR,   /  6. Coilum (_Travancore_).       6. Comari.
including  \  7. Eli (_Cananore_).            7. Eli.
GUZERAT,   /  8. Tana (_Bombay_).             8. (MELIBAR).
or LAR,    |  9. Canbaet (_Cambay_).          9. (GOZURAT).
including  | 10. Semenat (_Somnath_).        10. Tana.
           \ 11. Kesmacoran (_Mekran_).      11. Canbaet.
                                             12. Semenat.
                                             13. Kesmacoran.

It is difficult to suppose that the fleet carrying the bride of Arghun went out of its way to Maabar, St. Thomas’s, and Telingana. And on the other hand, what is said in chapter xxiii. on Comari, about the North Star not having been visible since they approached the Lesser Java, would have been grossly inaccurate if in the interval the travellers had been north as far as Madras and Motupalle. That passage suggests to me strongly that Comari was the first Indian land made by the fleet on arriving from the Archipelago (exclusive perhaps of Ceylon). Note then that the position of Eli is marked by its distance of 300 miles from Comari, evidently indicating that this was a run made by the traveller on some occasion without an intermediate stoppage. Tana, Cambay, Somnath, would follow naturally as points of call.

In Polo’s order, again, the positions of Comari and Coilum are transposed, whilst Melibar is introduced as if it were a country westward (as Polo views it, northward we should say)1 of Coilum and Eli, instead of including them, and Gozurat is introduced as a country lying eastward (or southward, as we should say) of Tana, Cambaet, and Semenat, instead of including them, or at least the two latter. Moreover, he names no cities in connection with those two countries.

The following hypothesis, really not a complex one, is the most probable that I can suggest to account for these confusions.

I conceive, then, that Cape Comorin (Comari) was the first Indian land made by the fleet on the homeward voyage, and that Hili, Tana, Cambay, Somnath, were touched at successively as it proceeded towards Persia.

I conceive that in a former voyage to India on the Great Kaan’s business Marco had visited Maabar and Kaulam, and gained partly from actual visits and partly from information the substance of the notices he gives us of Telingana and St Thomas’s on the one side and of Malabar and Guzerat on the other, and that in combining into one series the results of the information acquired on two different voyages he failed rightly to co-ordinate the material, and thus those dislocations which we have noticed occurred, as they very easily might, in days when maps had practically no existence; to say nothing of the accidents of dictation.

The expression in this passage for “the cities that lie in the interior,” is in the G.T. “celz qe sunt en fra terres”; see I. 43. Pauthier’s text has “celles qui sont en ferme terre,” which is nonsense here.

1 Abulfeda’s orientation is the same as Polo’s.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24