Continues to Speak of the Province of Maabar.
You must know that in all this Province of Maabar there is never a Tailor to cut a coat or stitch it, seeing that everybody goes naked! For decency only do they wear a scrap of cloth; and so ’tis with men and women, with rich and poor, aye, and with the King himself, except what I am going to mention.1
It is a fact that the King goes as bare as the rest, only round his loins he has a piece of fine cloth, and round his neck he has a necklace entirely of precious stones — rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and the like, insomuch that this collar is of great value.2 He wears also hanging in front of his chest from the neck downwards, a fine silk thread strung with 104 large pearls and rubies of great price. The reason why he wears this cord with the 104 great pearls and rubies, is (according to what they tell) that every day, morning and evening, he has to say 104 prayers to his idols. Such is their religion and their custom. And thus did all the Kings his ancestors before him, and they bequeathed the string of pearls to him that he should do the like. [The prayer that they say daily consists of these words, Pacauta! Pacauta! Pacauta! And this they repeat 104 times.3]
The King aforesaid also wears on his arms three golden bracelets thickly set with pearls of great value, and anklets also of like kind he wears on his legs, and rings on his toes likewise. So let me tell you what this King wears, between gold and gems and pearls, is worth more than a city’s ransom. And ’tis no wonder; for he hath great store of such gear; and besides they are found in his kingdom. Moreover nobody is permitted to take out of the kingdom a pearl weighing more than half a saggio, unless he manages to do it secretly.4 This order has been given because the King desires to reserve all such to himself; and so in fact the quantity he has is something almost incredible. Moreover several times every year he sends his proclamation through the realm that if any one who possesses a pearl or stone of great value will bring it to him, he will pay for it twice as much as it cost. Everybody is glad to do this, and thus the King gets all into his own hands, giving every man his price.
Furthermore, this King hath some five hundred wives, for whenever he hears of a beautiful damsel he takes her to wife. Indeed he did a very sorry deed as I shall tell you. For seeing that his brother had a handsome wife, he took her by force and kept her for himself. His brother, being a discreet man, took the thing quietly and made no noise about it. The King hath many children.
And there are about the King a number of Barons in attendance upon him. These ride with him, and keep always near him, and have great authority in the kingdom; they are called the King’s Trusty Lieges. And you must know that when the King dies, and they put him on the fire to burn him, these Lieges cast themselves into the fire round about his body, and suffer themselves to be burnt along with him. For they say they have been his comrades in this world, and that they ought also to keep him company in the other world.5
When the King dies none of his children dares to touch his treasure. For they say, “as our father did gather together all this treasure, so we ought to accumulate as much in our turn.” And in this way it comes to pass that there is an immensity of treasure accumulated in this kingdom.6
Here are no horses bred; and thus a great part of the wealth of the country is wasted in purchasing horses; I will tell you how. You must know that the merchants of KIS and HORMES, DOFAR and SOER and ADEN collect great numbers of destriers and other horses, and these they bring to the territories of this King and of his four brothers, who are kings likewise as I told you. For a horse will fetch among them 500 saggi of gold, worth more than 100 marks of silver, and vast numbers are sold there every year. Indeed this King wants to buy more than 2000 horses every year, and so do his four brothers who are kings likewise. The reason why they want so many horses every year is that by the end of the year there shall not be one hundred of them remaining, for they all die off. And this arises from mismanagement, for those people do not know in the least how to treat a horse; and besides they have no farriers. The horse-merchants not only never bring any farriers with them, but also prevent any farrier from going thither, lest that should in any degree baulk the sale of horses, which brings them in every year such vast gains. They bring these horses by sea aboard ship.7
They have in this country the custom which I am going to relate. When a man is doomed to die for any crime, he may declare that he will put himself to death in honour of such or such an idol; and the government then grants him permission to do so. His kinsfolk and friends then set him up on a cart, and provide him with twelve knives, and proceed to conduct him all about the city, proclaiming aloud: “This valiant man is going to slay himself for the love of (such an idol).” And when they be come to the place of execution he takes a knife and sticks it through his arm, and cries: “I slay myself for the love of (such a god)!” Then he takes another knife and sticks it through his other arm, and takes a third knife and runs it into his belly, and so on until he kills himself outright. And when he is dead his kinsfolk take the body and burn it with a joyful celebration.8 Many of the women also, when their husbands die and are placed on the pile to be burnt, do burn themselves along with the bodies. And such women as do this have great praise from all.9
The people are Idolaters, and many of them worship the ox, because (say they) it is a creature of such excellence. They would not eat beef for anything in the world, nor would they on any account kill an ox. But there is another class of people who are called Govy, and these are very glad to eat beef, though they dare not kill the animal. Howbeit if an ox dies, naturally or otherwise, then they eat him.10
And let me tell you, the people of this country have a custom of rubbing their houses all over with cow-dung.11 Moreover all of them, great and small, King and Barons included, do sit upon the ground only, and the reason they give is that this is the most honourable way to sit, because we all spring from the Earth and to the Earth we must return; so no one can pay the Earth too much honour, and no one ought to despise it.
And about that race of Govis, I should tell you that nothing on earth would induce them to enter the place where Messer St. Thomas is — I mean where his body lies, which is in a certain city of the province of Maabar. Indeed, were even 20 or 30 men to lay hold of one of these Govis and to try to hold him in the place where the Body of the Blessed Apostle of Jesus Christ lies buried, they could not do it! Such is the influence of the Saint; for it was by people of this generation that he was slain, as you shall presently hear.12
No wheat grows in this province, but rice only.
And another strange thing to be told is that there is no possibility of breeding horses in this country, as hath often been proved by trial. For even when a great blood-mare here has been covered by a great blood-horse, the produce is nothing but a wretched wry-legged weed, not fit to ride. 13
The people of the country go to battle all naked, with only a lance and a shield; and they are most wretched soldiers. They will kill neither beast nor bird, nor anything that hath life; and for such animal food as they eat, they make the Saracens, or others who are not of their own religion, play the butcher.
It is their practice that every one, male and female, do wash the whole body twice every day; and those who do not wash are looked on much as we look on the Patarins. [You must know also that in eating they use the right hand only, and would on no account touch their food with the left hand. All cleanly and becoming uses are ministered to by the right hand, whilst the left is reserved for uncleanly and disagreeable necessities, such as cleansing the secret parts of the body and the like. So also they drink only from drinking vessels, and every man hath his own; nor will any one drink from another’s vessel. And when they drink they do not put the vessel to the lips, but hold it aloft and let the drink spout into the mouth. No one would on any account touch the vessel with his mouth, nor give a stranger drink with it. But if the stranger have no vessel of his own they will pour the drink into his hands and he may thus drink from his hands as from a cup.]
They are very strict in executing justice upon criminals, and as strict in abstaining from wine. Indeed they have made a rule that wine-drinkers and seafaring men are never to be accepted as sureties. For they say that to be a seafaring man is all the same as to be an utter desperado, and that his testimony is good for nothing.1 Howbeit they look on lechery as no sin.
[They have the following rule about debts. If a debtor shall have been several times asked by his creditor for payment, and shall have put him off from day to day with promises, then if the creditor can once meet the debtor and succeed in drawing a circle round him, the latter must not pass out of this circle until he shall have satisfied the claim, or given security for its discharge. If he in any other case presume to pass the circle he is punished with death as a transgressor against right and justice. And the said Messer Marco, when in this kingdom on his return home, did himself witness a case of this. It was the King, who owed a foreign merchant a certain sum of money, and though the claim had often been presented, he always put it off with promises. Now, one day when the King was riding through the city, the merchant found his opportunity, and drew a circle round both King and horse. The King, on seeing this, halted, and would ride no further; nor did he stir from the spot until the merchant was satisfied. And when the bystanders saw this they marvelled greatly, saying that the King was a most just King indeed, having thus submitted to justice.14]
You must know that the heat here is sometimes so great that ’tis something wonderful. And rain falls only for three months in the year, viz. in June, July, and August. Indeed but for the rain that falls in these three months, refreshing the earth and cooling the air, the drought would be so great that no one could exist.15
They have many experts in an art which they call Physiognomy, by which they discern a man’s character and qualities at once. They also know the import of meeting with any particular bird or beast; for such omens are regarded by them more than by any people in the world. Thus if a man is going along the road and hears some one sneeze, if he deems it (say) a good token for himself he goes on, but if otherwise he stops a bit, or peradventure turns back altogether from his journey.[NOTE 16]
As soon as a child is born they write down his nativity, that is to say the day and hour, the month, and the moon’s age. This custom they observe because every single thing they do is done with reference to astrology, and by advice of diviners skilled in Sorcery and Magic and Geomancy, and such like diabolical arts; and some of them are also acquainted with Astrology.
[All parents who have male children, as soon as these have attained the age of 13, dismiss them from their home, and do not allow them further maintenance in the family. For they say that the boys are then of an age to get their living by trade; so off they pack them with some twenty or four-and-twenty groats, or at least with money equivalent to that. And these urchins are running about all day from pillar to post, buying and selling. At the time of the pearl-fishery they run to the beach and purchase, from the fishers or others, five or six pearls, according to their ability, and take these to the merchants, who are keeping indoors for fear of the sun, and say to them: “These cost me such a price; now give me what profit you please on them.” So the merchant gives something over the cost price for their profit. They do in the same way with many other articles, so that they become trained to be very dexterous and keen traders. And every day they take their food to their mothers to be cooked and served, but do not eat a scrap at the expense of their fathers.]
In this kingdom and all over India the birds and beasts are entirely different from ours, all but one bird which is exactly like ours, and that is the Quail. But everything else is totally different. For example they have bats — I mean those birds that fly by night and have no feathers of any kind; well, their birds of this kind are as big as a goshawk! Their goshawks again are as black as crows, a good deal bigger than ours, and very swift and sure.
Another strange thing is that they feed their horses with boiled rice and boiled meat, and various other kinds of cooked food. That is the reason why all the horses die off.17
They have certain abbeys in which are gods and goddesses to whom many young girls are consecrated; their fathers and mothers presenting them to that idol for which they entertain the greatest devotion. And when the [monks] of a convent2 desire to make a feast to their god, they send for all those consecrated damsels and make them sing and dance before the idol with great festivity. They also bring meats to feed their idol withal; that is to say, the damsels prepare dishes of meat and other good things and put the food before the idol, and leave it there a good while, and then the damsels all go to their dancing and singing and festivity for about as long as a great Baron might require to eat his dinner. By that time they say the spirit of the idols has consumed the substance of the food, so they remove the viands to be eaten by themselves with great jollity. This is performed by these damsels several times every year until they are married.18
[The reason assigned for summoning the damsels to these feasts is, as the monks say, that the god is vexed and angry with the goddess, and will hold no communication with her; and they say that if peace be not established between them things will go from bad to worse, and they never will bestow their grace and benediction. So they make those girls come in the way described, to dance and sing, all but naked, before the god and the goddess. And those people believe that the god often solaces himself with the society of the goddess.
The men of this country have their beds made of very light canework, so arranged that, when they have got in and are going to sleep, they are drawn up by cords nearly to the ceiling and fixed there for the night. This is done to get out of the way of tarantulas which give terrible bites, as well as of fleas and such vermin, and at the same time to get as much air as possible in the great heat which prevails in that region. Not that everybody does this, but only the nobles and great folks, for the others sleep on the streets.19]
Now I have told you about this kingdom of the province of Maabar, and I must pass on to the other kingdoms of the same province, for I have much to tell of their peculiarities.
NOTE 1. — The non-existence of tailors is not a mere figure of speech. Sundry learned pundits have been of opinion that the ancient Hindu knew no needle-made clothing, and Colonel Meadows Taylor has alleged that they had not even a word for the tailor’s craft in their language. These opinions have been patriotically refuted by Bábú Rájendralál Mitra. (Proc. Ass. Soc. B. 1871, p. 100.)
Ibn Batuta describes the King of Calicut, the great “Zamorin,” coming down to the beach to see the wreck of certain Junks; —“his clothing consisted of a great piece of white stuff rolled about him from the navel to the knees, and a little scrap of a turban on his head; his feet were bare, and a young slave carried an umbrella over him.” (IV. 97.)
NOTE 2. — The necklace taken from the neck of the Hindu King Jaipál, captured by Mahmúd in A.D. 1001, was composed of large pearls, rubies, etc., and was valued at 200,000 dinars, or a good deal more than 100,000l. (Elliot, II. 26.) Compare Correa’s account of the King of Calicut, in Stanley’s V. da Gama, 194.
NOTE 3. — The word is printed in Ramusio Pacauca, but no doubt Pacauta is the true reading. Dr. Caldwell has favoured me with a note on this: “The word . . . was probably Bagavâ or Pagavâ, the Tamil form of the vocative of Bhagavata, ‘Lord,’ pronounced in the Tamil manner. This word is frequently repeated by Hindus of all sects in the utterance of their sacred formulae, especially by Vaishnava devotees, some of whom go about repeating this one word alone. When I mentioned Marco Polo’s word to two learned Hindus at different times, they said, ‘No doubt he meant Bagava.’3 The Saiva Rosary contains 32 beads; the doubled form of the same, sometimes used, contains 64; the Vaishnava Rosary contains 108. Possibly the latter may have been meant by Marco.” [Captain Gill (River of Golden Sand, II. p. 341) at Yung–Ch’ang, speaking of the beads of a necklace, writes: “One hundred and eight is the regulation number, no one venturing to wear a necklace, with one bead more or less.”]
Ward says: “The Hindús believe the repetition of the name of God is an act of adoration. . . . Japa (as this act is called) makes an essential part of the daily worship. . . . The worshipper, taking a string of beads, repeats the name of his guardian deity, or that of any other god, counting by his beads 10, 28, 108, 208, adding to every 108 not less than 100 more.” (Madras ed. 1863, pp. 217–218.)
No doubt the number in the text should have been 108, which is apparently a mystic number among both Brahmans and Buddhists. Thus at Gautama’s birth 108 Brahmans were summoned to foretell his destiny; round the great White Pagoda at Peking are 108 pillars for illumination; 108 is the number of volumes constituting the Tibetan scripture called Kahgyur; the merit of copying this work is enhanced by the quality of the ink used, thus a copy in red is 108 times more meritorious than one in black, one in silver 108^2 times, one in gold, 108^3 times; according to the Malabar Chronicle Parasurama established in that country 108 Iswars, 108 places of worship, and 108 Durga images; there are said to be 108 shrines of especial sanctity in India; there are 108 Upanishads (a certain class of mystical Brahmanical sacred literature); 108 rupees is frequently a sum devoted to alms; the rules of the Chinese Triad Society assign 108 blows as the punishment for certain offences; — 108, according to Athenaeus, were the suitors of Penelope! I find a Tibetan tract quoted (by Koeppen, II. 284) as entitled, “The Entire Victor over all the 104 Devils,” and this is the only example I have met with of 104 as a mystic number.
NOTE 4. — The Saggio, here as elsewhere, probably stands for the Miskál.
NOTE 5. — This is stated also by Abu Zaid, in the beginning of the 10th century. And Reinaud in his note refers to Mas’udi, who has a like passage in which he gives a name to these companions exactly corresponding to Polo’s Féoilz or Trusty Lieges: “When a King in India dies, many persons voluntarily burn themselves with him. These are called Balánjaríyah (sing. Balánjar), as if you should say ‘Faithful Friends’ of the deceased, whose life was life to them, and whose death was death to them.” (Anc. Rel. I. 121 and note; Mas. II. 85.)
On the murder of Ajit Singh of Marwar, by two of his sons, there were 84 satis, and “so much was he beloved,” says Tod, “that even men devoted themselves on his pyre” (I. 744). The same thing occurred at the death of the Sikh Gúrú Hargovind in 1645. (H. of Sikhs, p. 62.)
Barbosa briefly notices an institution like that described by Polo, in reference to the King of Narsinga, i.e. Vijayanagar. (Ram. I. f. 302.) Another form of the same bond seems to be that mentioned by other travellers as prevalent in Malabar, where certain of the Nairs bore the name of Amuki, and were bound not only to defend the King’s life with their own, but, if he fell, to sacrifice themselves by dashing among the enemy and slaying until slain. Even Christian churches in Malabar had such hereditary Amuki. (See P. Vinc. Maria, Bk. IV. ch. vii., and Cesare Federici in Ram. III. 390, also Faria y Sousa, by Stevens, I. 348.) There can be little doubt that this is the Malay Amuk, which would therefore appear to be of Indian origin, both in name and practice. I see that De Gubernatis, without noticing the Malay phrase, traces the term applied to the Malabar champions to the Sanskrit Amokhya, “indissoluble,” and Amukta, “not free, bound.” (Picc. Encic. Ind. I, 88.) The same practice, by which the followers of a defeated prince devote themselves in amuk (vulgo running á-muck),4 is called in the island of Bali Bela, a term applied also to one kind of female Sati, probably from S. Bali, “a sacrifice.” (See Friedrich in Batavian Trans. XXIII.) In the first syllable of the Balánjar of Mas’udi we have probably the same word. A similar institution is mentioned by Caesar among the Sotiates, a tribe of Aquitania. The Féoilz of the chief were 600 in number and were called Soldurii; they shared all his good things in life, and were bound to share with him in death also. Such also was a custom among the Spanish Iberians, and the name of these Amuki signified “sprinkled for sacrifice.” Other generals, says Plutarch, might find a few such among their personal staff and dependents, but Sertorius was followed by many myriads who had thus devoted themselves. Procopius relates of the White Huns that the richer among them used to entertain a circle of friends, some score or more, as perpetual guests and partners of their wealth. But, when the chief died, the whole company were expected to go down alive into the tomb with him. The King of the Russians, in the tenth century, according to Ibn Fozlán, was attended by 400 followers bound by like vows. And according to some writers the same practice was common in Japan, where the friends and vassals who were under the vow committed hara kiri at the death of their patron. The Likamankwas of the Abyssinian kings, who in battle wear the same dress with their master to mislead the enemy —“Six Richmonds in the field”— form apparently a kindred institution. (Bell. Gall. iii. c. 22; Plutarch, in Vit. Sertorii; Procop. De B. Pers. I. 3: Ibn Fozlan by Fraehn, p. 22; Sonnerat, I. 97.)
NOTE 6. — However frequent may have been wars between adjoining states, the south of the peninsula appears to have been for ages free from foreign invasion until the Delhi expeditions, which occurred a few years later than our traveller’s visit; and there are many testimonies to the enormous accumulations of treasure. Gold, according to the Masálak-al-Absár, had been flowing into India for 3000 years, and had never been exported. Firishta speaks of the enormous spoils carried off by Malik Káfúr, every soldier’s share amounting to 25 Lbs. of gold! Some years later Mahomed Tughlak loads 200 elephants and several thousand bullocks with the precious spoil of a single temple. We have quoted a like statement from Wassáf as to the wealth found in the treasury of this very Sundara Pandi Dewar, but the same author goes far beyond this when he tells that Kales Dewar, Raja of Ma’bar about 1309, had accumulated 1200 crores of gold, i.e. 12,000 millions of dinars, enough to girdle the earth with a four-fold belt of bezants! (N. and E. XIII. 218, 220–221, Brigg’s Firishta, I. 373–374; Hammer’s Ilkhans, II. 205.)
NOTE 7. — Of the ports mentioned as exporting horses to India we have already made acquaintance with KAIS and HORMUZ; of DOFAR and ADEN we shall hear further on; Soer is SOHÁR the former capital of Oman, and still a place of some little trade. Edrisi calls it “one of the oldest cities of Oman, and of the richest. Anciently it was frequented by merchants from all parts of the world; and voyages to China used to be made from it.” (I. 152.)
Rashiduddin and Wassáf have identical statements about the horse trade, and so similar to Polo’s in this chapter that one almost suspects that he must have been their authority. Wassáf says: “It was a matter of agreement that Malik-ul-Islám Jamáluddín and the merchants should embark every year from the island of KAIS and land at MA’BAR 1400 horses of his own breed. . . . It was also agreed that he should embark as many as he could procure from all the isles of Persia, such as Kátif, Lahsá, Bahrein, Hurmuz, and Kalhátú. The price of each horse was fixed from of old at 220 dinars of red gold, on this condition, that if any horses should happen to die, the value of them should be paid from the royal treasury. It is related by authentic writers that in the reign of Atábek Abu Bakr of (Fars), 10,000 horses were annually exported from these places to Ma’bar, Kambáyat, and other ports in their neighbourhood, and the sum total of their value amounted to 2,200,000 dinars. . . . They bind them for 40 days in a stable with ropes and pegs, in order that they may get fat; and afterwards, without taking measures for training, and without stirrups and other appurtenances of riding, the Indian soldiers ride upon them like demons. . . . In a short time, the most strong, swift, fresh, and active horses become weak, slow, useless, and stupid. In short, they all become wretched and good for nothing. . . . There is, therefore, a constant necessity of getting new horses annually.” Amír Khusru mentions among Malik Kafúr’s plunder in Ma’bar, 5000 Arab and Syrian horses. (Elliot, III. 34, 93.)
The price mentioned by Polo appears to be intended for 500 dinars, which in the then existing relations of the precious metals in Asia would be worth just about 100 marks of silver. Wassáf’s price, 220 dinars of red gold, seems very inconsistent with this, but is not so materially, for it would appear that the dinar of red gold (so called) was worth two dinars.5
I noted an early use of the term Arab chargers in the famous Bodleian copy of the Alexander Romance (1338):
“Alexand’ descent du destrier Arrabis.”
NOTE 8. — I have not found other mention of a condemned criminal being allowed thus to sacrifice himself; but such suicides in performance of religious vows have occurred in almost all parts of India in all ages. Friar Jordanus, after giving a similar account to that in the text of the parade of the victim, represents him as cutting off his own head before the idol, with a peculiar two-handled knife “like those used in currying leather.” And strange as this sounds it is undoubtedly true. Ibn Batuta witnessed the suicidal feat at the Court of the Pagan King of Mul–Java (somewhere on the const of the Gulf of Siam), and Mr. Ward, without any knowledge of these authorities, had heard that an instrument for this purpose was formerly preserved at Kshíra, a village of Bengal near Nadiya. The thing was called Karavat; it was a crescent-shaped knife, with chains attached to it forming stirrups, so adjusted that when the fanatic placed the edge to the back of his neck and his feet in the stirrups, by giving the latter a violent jerk his head was cut off. Padre Tieffentaller mentions a like instrument at Prág (or Allahabad). Durgavati, a famous Queen on the Nerbada, who fell in battle with the troops of Akbar, is asserted in a family inscription to have “severed her own head with a scimitar she held in her hand.” According to a wild legend told at Ujjain, the great king Vikramajit was in the habit of cutting off his own head daily, as an offering to Devi. On the last performance the head failed to re-attach itself as usual; and it is now preserved, petrified, in the temple of Harsuddi at that place.
I never heard of anybody in Europe performing this extraordinary feat except Sir Jonah Barrington’s Irish mower, who made a dig at a salmon with the butt of his scythe-handle and dropt his own head in the pool! (Jord. 33; I.B. IV. 246; Ward, Madras ed. 249–250; J.A.S.B. XVII. 833; Rás Mála, II. 387.)
NOTE 9. — Satis were very numerous in parts of S. India. In 1815 there were one hundred in Tanjore alone. (Ritter, VI. 303; J. Cathay, p. 80.)
NOTE 10. —“The people in this part of the country (Southern Mysore) consider the ox as a living god, who gives them bread; and in every village there are one or two bulls to whom weekly or monthly worship is performed.” (F. Buchanan, II. 174.) “The low-caste Hindus, called Gavi by Marco Polo, were probably the caste now called Paraiyar (by the English, Pariahs). The people of this caste do not venture to kill the cow, but when they find the carcase of a cow which has died from disease, or any other cause, they cook and eat it. The name Paraiyar, which means ‘Drummers,’ does not appear to be ancient.”6 (Note by the Rev. Dr. Caldwell.)
In the history of Sind called Chach Namah, the Hindus revile the Mahomedan invaders as Chandáls and cow-eaters. (Elliot, I. 172, 193). The low castes are often styled from their unrestricted diet, e.g. Halál-Khor (P. “to whom all food is lawful”), Sab-khawá (H. “omnivorous”).
Bábú Rájendralál Mitra has published a learned article on Beef in ancient India, showing that the ancient Brahmans were far from entertaining the modern horror of cow-killing. We may cite two of his numerous illustrations. Goghna, “a guest,” signifies literally “a cow-killer,” i.e. he for whom a cow is killed. And one of the sacrifices prescribed in the Sútras bears the name of Súla-gava “spit-cow,” i.e. roast-beef. (J.A.S.B. XLI. Pt. I. p. 174 seqq.)
NOTE 11. — The word in the G.T. is losci dou buef, which Pauthier’s text has converted into suif de buef — in reference to Hindus, a preposterous statement. Yet the very old Latin of the Soc. Géog. also has pinguedinem, and in a parallel passage about the Jogis (infra, ch. xx.), Ramusio’s text describes them as daubing themselves with powder of ox-bones (l’ossa). Apparently l’osci was not understood (It. uscito).
NOTE 12. — Later travellers describe the descendants of St. Thomas’s murderers as marked by having one leg of immense size, i.e. by elephantiasis. The disease was therefore called by the Portuguese Pejo de Santo Toma.
NOTE 13. — Mr. Nelson says of the Madura country: “The horse is a miserable, weedy, and vicious pony; having but one good quality, endurance. The breed is not indigenous, but the result of constant importations and a very limited amount of breeding.” (The Madura Country, Pt. II. p. 94.) The ill success in breeding horses was exaggerated to impossibility, and made to extend to all India. Thus a Persian historian, speaking of an elephant that was born in the stables of Khosru Parviz, observes that “never till then had a she-elephant borne young in Irán, any more than a lioness in Rúm, a tabby cat in China (!), or a mare in India.” (J.A.S. sér. III. tom. iii. p. 127.)
[Major–General Crawford T. Chamberlain, C.S.I., in a report on Stud Matters in India, 27th June 1874, writes: “I ask how it is possible that horses could be bred at a moderate cost in the Central Division, when everything was against success. I account for the narrow-chested, congenitally unfit and malformed stock, also for the creaking joints, knuckle over futtocks, elbows in, toes out, seedy toe, bad action, weedy frames, and other degeneracy: 1st, to a damp climate, altogether inimical to horses; 2nd, to the operations being intrusted to a race of people inhabiting a country where horses are not indigenous, and who therefore have no taste for them . . .; 5th, treatment of mares. To the impure air in confined, non-ventilated hovels, etc.; 6th, improper food; 7th, to a chronic system of tall rearing and forcing.” (MS. Note. — H.Y.)]
NOTE 14. — This custom is described in much the same way by the Arabo–Persian Zakariah Kazwini, by Ludovico Varthema, and by Alexander Hamilton. Kazwini ascribes it to Ceylon. “If a debtor does not pay, the King sends to him a person who draws a line round him, wheresoever he chance to be; and beyond that circle he dares not to move until he shall have paid what he owes, or come to an agreement with his creditor. For if he should pass the circle the King fines him three times the amount of his debt; one-third of this fine goes to the creditor and two-thirds to the King.” Père Bouchet describes the strict regard paid to the arrest, but does not notice the symbolic circle. (Gildem. 197; Varthema, 147; Ham. I. 318; Lett. Edif. XIV. 370.)
“The custom undoubtedly prevailed in this part of India at a former time. It is said that it still survives amongst the poorer classes in out-of-the-way parts of the country, but it is kept up by schoolboys in a serio-comic spirit as vigorously as ever. Marco does not mention a very essential part of the ceremony. The person who draws a circle round another imprecates upon him the name of a particular divinity, whose curse is to fall upon him if he breaks through the circle without satisfying the claim.” (MS. Note by the Rev. Dr. Caldwell.)
NOTE 15. — The statement about the only rains falling in June, July, and August is perplexing. “It is entirely inapplicable to every part of the Coromandel coast, to which alone the name Ma’bar seems to have been given, but it is quite true of the western coast generally.” (Rev. Dr. C.) One can only suppose that Polo inadvertently applied to Maabar that which he knew to be true of the regions both west of it and east of it. The Coromandel coast derives its chief supply of rain from the north-east monsoon, beginning in October, whereas both eastern and western India have theirs from the south-west monsoon, between June and September.
NOTE 16. — Abraham Roger says of the Hindus of the Coromandel coast: “They judge of lucky hours and moments also by trivial accidents, to which they pay great heed. Thus ’tis held to be a good omen to everybody when the bird Garuda (which is a red hawk with a white ring round its neck) or the bird Pala flies across the road in front of the person from right to left; but as regards other birds they have just the opposite notion. . . . If they are in a house anywhere, and have moved to go, and then any one should sneeze, they will go in again, regarding it as an ill omen,” etc. (Abr. Roger, pp. 75–76.)
NOTE 17. — Quoth Wassáf: “It is a strange thing that when these horses arrive there, instead of giving them raw barley, they give them roasted barley and grain dressed with butter, and boiled cow’s milk to drink:—
“Who gives sugar to an owl or a crow?
Or who feeds a parrot with a carcase?
A crow should be fed with carrion,
And a parrot with candy and sugar.
Who loads jewels on the back of an ass?
Or who would approve of giving dressed almonds to a cow?”
Elliot, III. 33.
“Horses,” says Athanasius Nikitin, “are fed on peas; also on Kicheri, boiled with sugar and oil; early in the morning they get shishenivo.” This last word is a mystery. (India in the XVth Century, p. 10.)
“Rice is frequently given by natives to their horses to fatten them, and a sheep’s head occasionally to strengthen them.” (Note by Dr. Caldwell.)
The sheep’s head is peculiar to the Deccan, but ghee (boiled butter) is given by natives to their horses, I believe, all over India. Even in the stables of Akbar an imperial horse drew daily 2 lbs. of flour, 1–1/2 lb. of sugar, and in winter 1/2 lb. of ghee! (Ain. Akb. 134.)
It is told of Sir John Malcolm that at an English table where he was present, a brother officer from India had ventured to speak of the sheep’s head custom to an unbelieving audience. He appealed to Sir John, who only shook his head deprecatingly. After dinner the unfortunate story-teller remonstrated, but Sir John’s answer was only, “My dear fellow, they took you for one Munchausen; they would merely have taken me for another!”
NOTE 18. — The nature of the institution of the Temple dancing-girls seems to have been scarcely understood by the Traveller. The like existed at ancient Corinth under the name of [Greek: Ieródouloi], which is nearly a translation of the Hindi name of the girls, Deva-dási. (Strabo, VIII. 6, § 20.) “Each (Dási) is married to an idol when quite young. The female children are generally brought up to the trade of the mothers. It is customary with a few castes to present their superfluous daughters to the Pagodas.” (Nelson’s Madura Country, Pt. II. 79.) A full account of this matter appears to have been read by Dr. Shortt of Madras before the Anthropological Society But I have only seen a newspaper notice of it.
NOTE 19. — The first part of this paragraph is rendered by Marsden: “The natives make use of a kind of bedstead or cot of very light canework, so ingeniously contrived that when they repose on them, and are inclined to sleep, they can draw close the curtains about them by pulling a string.” This is not translation. An approximate illustration of the real statement is found in Pyrard de Laval, who says (of the Maldive Islanders): “Their beds are hung up by four cords to a bar supported by two pillars. . . . The beds of the king, the grandees, and rich folk are made thus that they may be swung and rocked with facility.” (Charton, IV. 277.) In the Rás Mála swinging cots are several times alluded to. (I. 173, 247, 423.) In one case the bed is mentioned as suspended to the ceiling by chains.
Illustration: Pagoda at Tanjore.
1 “Audax omnia perpeti,” etc.
2 The G.T. has nuns, “Li nosnain do mostier.” But in Ramusio it is monks; which is more probable, and I have adopted it.
3 M. Pauthier has suggested the same explanation in his notes.
4 Running a-muck in the genuine Malay fashion is not unknown among the Rajpúts; see two notable instances in Tod, II. 45 and 315. [See Hobson–Jobson.]
5 See Journ. Asiat. sér. VI. tom. xi. pp. 505 and 512. May not the dinár of red gold have been the gold mohr of those days, popularly known as the red tanga, which Ibn Batuta repeatedly tells us was equal to 2–1/2 dinárs of the west. 220 red tangas would be equivalent to 550 western dinárs, or saggi, of Polo. (Elliot, II. 332, III. 582.)
6 I observe, however, that Sir Walter Elliot thinks it possible that the Paraya which appears on the oldest of Indian inscriptions as the name of a nation, coupled with Chola and Kerala (Coromandel and Malabar), is that of the modern despised tribe. (J. Ethn. Soc. n.s. I. 103.)
Last updated Thursday, December 25, 2014 at 10:52