The travels of Sig. Pietro della Valle, a noble Roman, into East-India and Arabia Deserta in which, the several countries, together with the customs, manners, traffique, and rites both religious and civil, of those Oriental princes and nations, are faithfully described : in familiar letters to his friend Signior Mario Schipano : whereunto is added a relation of Sir Thomas Roe's Voyage into the East-Indies.
Della Valle, Pietro, 1586-1652., Roe, Thomas, Sir, 1581?-1644., Havers, G. (George)

SECTION II. Of the Soyl there, what it is, and what it produceth, &c.

THis most spacious and fertile Monarchy (called by the In∣habitants Indostan) so much abounds in all necessaries for the use and service of man, to feed, and cloath, and enrich him, as that it is able to subsist and flourish of it self, without the least help from any Neighbour-Prince or Nation.

Here I shall speak first of that which Nature requires most, Food, which this Empire brings forth in abundance; as, singu∣lar good Wheat, Rice, Barley, with divers more kinds of good Grain to make Bread (the staff of life) and all these sorts of Corn in their kinds, very good and exceeding cheap. For their Wheat, it is more full and more white than ours, of which the In∣habitants make such pure, well-relished Bread, that I may say of it, as one sometimes spake of the Bread made in the Bishoprick of Liege, it is Panis Pane melior, Bread better than Bread.

The ordinary sort of people eat Bread made of a coarser Grain, but both toothsom, and wholsom, and hearty; they make it up Page  359 in broad Cakes, thick like our Oaten-cakes; and then bake it upon small round iron hearths, which they carry with them when they journey from place to place, making use of them in their Tents. It should seem to be an ancient Custom in the East, as may appear by that Precedent of Sarah when she entertained the An∣gels, who found her in her Tent, She took fine meal, and did knead it, and made Cakes thereof upon the hearth, Gen. 18.6.

To their Bread they have great abundance of all other good Provision, as of Butter (beating their Cream into a substance like unto a thick Oyl, for in that hot Climate they can never make it hard) which though soft, yet it is very sweet and good. They have Cheese likewise in plenty, by reason of their great number of Kine, and Sheep, and Goats. Besides, they have a Beast ve∣ry large, having a smooth thick skin without hair, called a Buf∣felo, which gives good milk; the flesh of them is like Beef, but neither so toothsom nor wholsom. These Buffeloes are much employed in carrying large skins of water (for they are very strong Beasts) which hang on both sides of them, unto Fa∣milies that want it: their Hides make the most firm and excel∣lent Buff.

They have no want of Venison of divers kinds, as Red-Deer, Fallow-Deer, Elks (which are very large, and strong, and fierce Creatures) Antilops, Kids, &c. but their Deer are no where imparked, the whole Empire being (as it were) a Forrest for them; for a man can travel no way but he shall here and there see of them. But because they are every man's Game that will make them so, they do not multiply to do them much hurt, ei∣ther in their Corn, or other places.

To these they have great store of Hares, and they have plenty of Fowls wild and tame, as abundance of Hens, Geese, Ducks, Pigeons, Turtle-Doves▪ Partridges, Peacocks, Quails, and many other singular good Fowl. They have variety of Fish; all which, by reason of their Plenty, and because many of the Natives eat no kind of Flesh at all, nor of any thing that hath or may have life; and those that feed on such things, eat not freely of any of those living Creatures, they are all bought there at such easie rates, as if they were not worth the valuing. They do not cut their Chickens when they be little to make Capons, and therefore they have no Creatures of that name, but men, their Eunuchs, called there Cogees or Capons in their Language: so made, when they be very young, and then deprived of all that might after provoke jealousie; and therefore they are put to be attendants on their women, the great men of that Nation keeping many of them, a soft, tender people, tener Spado, as Juvenal cals one of them, that never come to have any Hair on their Faces.

But to return again to their Provisions, the Beeves of that Countrey differ from ours, in that they are none of them very large; and those they have, have each of them a great bu•••Page  360 of grisly flesh which grows upon the meeting of their shoulders. The flesh of their Beeves is much whiter than the flesh of ours, and very sweet, tender and good. Their Sheep differ from ours by their great fleshy Bob-tails, which, severed from their bodies, are very ponderous. Their Wool is generally coarse, but their flesh is not so.

Now to season all their good Provisions, there is great store of Salt; and to sweeten all, abundance of Sugar growing in that Countrey; which after it is well refined, may be there had at a very low rate; out of which they make very pure white Sugar-Candy, which may be had there at a small easie Price likewise.

Their Fruits are every way answerable to the rest, the Coun∣trey abounding in Musk-Melons (very much better, because they are better digested there by the heat of the Sun, than these with us.) They have many Water-Melons, a very choice good Fruit, and some of them as big as our ordinary Pompions, and in shape like them; the substance within this Fruit is spon∣gy, but exceeding tender and well-tasted, of a colour within equally mixed with red and white, and within that an excel∣lent cooling and pleasing liquor. Here are likewise store of Pome-granats, Pome-citrons; here are Limons and Oranges, but I never found any there so good as I have seen elswhere. Here are Dates, Figs, Grapes, Prunelloes, Almonds, Coquer∣nuts (of which I observed something before) and here they have those most excellent Plums called Mirabolans, the stone of which Fruit differs very much from others in its shape, whereon Nature hath curiously quartered several strakes equally divided, very pretty to behold; many of which choice Plums (they write) are very cordial; and therefore worth the prizing, are there well-preserved, and sent for England.

They have to these another Fruit we English there call a Planten, of which many of them grow in Clusters together; long they are in shape, made like unto slender Cucumbers, and very yellow when they are Ripe, and then taste like unto a Nor∣wich Pear, but much better. Another most excellent Fruit they have, called a Manggo, growing upon Trees as big as our Walnut-trees; and as these here, so those Trees there, will be very full of that most excellent Fruit, in shape and colour like unto our Apricocks, but much bigger; which taken and rol∣led in a man's hands when they are through ripe, the substance within them becomes like the pap of a roasted Apple, which then suck'd out from about a large stone they have within them, is delicately pleasing unto every Palat that tasts it. And to con∣clude with the best of all other their choice Fruits, the Amana's, like unto our Pine-Apples, which seems to the Taster to be a most pleasing Compound made of Straw-berries, Claret-wine, Rose-water and Sugar, well tempered together. In the Northermost p••ts of this Empire they have variety of Pears and Apples, every Page  361 where good Roots, as Carrets, Potatoes, and others like them. They have Onions and Garlick, and some Herbs and small Roots for Salads; and in the Southernmost parts, Ginger growing almost in every place: the large races whereof, are there very excellently well preserved, as we may know by our tasting them in England. And all these things I have last named may be there likewise bought at very low rates. And lastly, some one kind or other of their very good and choice Fruits may be there had at every time or season of the Year.

And here I cannot chuse but take notice of a very pleasant and clear liquor, called Toddie, issuing from a Spongie Tree, that grows strait and tall without Boughs to the Top, and there spreads out in tender branches, very like unto those that grow from the Roots of our rank and rich Artichokes, but much bigger and longer. This Toddie-tree is not so big, but that it may be very easily embraced, and the nimble people of that Countrey will climb up as fast to the top thereof (the stem of the Tree being rough and crusty) as if they had the advan∣tage of Ladders to help them up. In the top-tender branches of those Trees they make incisions, which they open and stop again as they please, under which they hang Pots made of large and light Gourds, to preserve the influence which issues out of them in a large quantity in the night-season, they stop∣ping up those vents in the heat of the day. That which thus distils forth in the night, if it be taken very early in the morning, is as pleasing to the taste as any new White-wine, and much clearer than it. It is a very piercing, and medicinable, and inoffensive Drink, if taken betimes in the day, only it is a little windy: but if it be kept till the heat of the day, the Sun alters it so, as if it made it another kind of liquor, for it becomes then very heady, not so well relished, and unwholsom; and when it is so, not a few of our drunken Sea-men chuse to drink it; and I think they so do, because it will then presently turn their brains; for there are too too many of the common sort of those men who use the Sea, who love those brutish di∣stempers too much, which turn a man out of himself, and leave a Beast in the skin of a man. But for that drink, if it be taken in its best, and most proper season, I conceive it to be of it self very wholsom, because it provokes urine exceedingly; the further benefit whereof some there have found by happy expe∣rience, thereby eased from their torture inflicted by that shame of Physicians, and Tyrant of all Maladies, the Stone. And so cheap too is this most pleasing Wine, that a man may there have more than enough for a very little money.

At Surat, and so to Agra, and beyond, it seldom or never rains, but one season of the year; but yet there is a refresh∣ing Dew during all that times the Heavens there are thus shut up, which every night falls, and cools, and comforts, and refresheth the face of the earth. Those general rains begin near the Page  362 time that the Sun comes to the Northern Tropick, and so conti∣nue till his return back to the Line. These showers, at their be∣ginning most extremely violent, are usher'd in, and usually take their leave, with most fearful Tempests of Thunder & Lightning, more terrible than I can express, yet seldom do harm; the rea∣son in Nature may be the subtilty of the Air in those parts wherein there are fewer Thunder-stones made, than in such Cli∣mates where the Air is thick, gross, and cloudy. During those three months it rains usually every day more or less, sometimes one whole quarter of the Moon together, scarce without any in∣termission; which abundance of moisture, with the heat of the Sun, doth so enrich their Land, which they never force (if I ob∣served right) by Soyling of it, as that, like Aegypt, by the in∣undation of Nilus, it makes it fruitful all the year after. When the time of this Rain is passed over, the face of the Sky there is presently so serene and clear, as that scarcely one Cloud appears in their Hemisphere the nine months after.

And here a strong Argument that may further, and most in∣fallibly shew the goodness of their Soil, shall not escape my Pen, most apparent in this, That when the Ground there hath been destitute of Rain nine months together, and looks all of it like the barren Sands in the Desarts of Arabia, where there is not one spire of green Grass to be found; within a few days after those fat enriching showers begin to fall, the face of the Earth there (as it were by a new Resurrection) is so revived, and throughout so renewed, as that it is presently covered all over with a pure green Mantle. And moreover, to confirm that which before I observed concerning the goodness of that Soil, amongst many hundred Acres of Corn of divers kinds I have there beheld, I never saw any but what was very rich and good, standing as thick on the Ground as the Land could well bear it.

They till their Ground with Oxen and Foot-Ploughs, their Seed-time is May, and the beginning of June, they taking their time to dispatch all that work before that long Rainy season comes; and though the Ground then hath been all the time we named before without any sufficient moysture by showers, or otherwise, to supple and make it more fit for Tillage, yet the Soil there is such a brittle fat mould (which they sow year after year) as that they can very easily till it. Their Harvest is in November and December, the most temperate months of all that year.

Their Ground is not enclosed, unless some small quantity near Towns and Villages, which stand scattered up and down this vast Empire very thick, though, for want of the true names, not inserted in the Map.

They mow not their Grass (as we) to make Hay, but cut it off the ground, either green, or withered, as they have occasi∣on to use it.

Page  363They sow Tobacco in abundance, and they take it too, very much; but after a strange way much different from us: for first, they have little Earthen Pots, shaped like our small Flower∣pots, having a narrow neck, and an open round top, out of the belly of which comes a small spout, to the lower part of which spout they fill the Pot with water; then putting their Tobacco loose in the top, and a burning coal upon it, they, having first fastned a very small strait hollow Cane or Reed (not bigger than a small Arrow) within that spout, a yard or ell long, the Pot standing on the ground, draw that smoak into their mouths which first falls upon the Superficies of the water, and much dis∣colours it. And this way of taking their Tobacco, they believe, makes it much more cool and wholsom. The Tobacco, which grows there, is doubtless in the Plant as good as in any other place of the world, but they know not how to cure and or∣der it, like those in the West-Indies, to make it so rich and strong.

The Countrey is beautified with many Woods and Groves of Trees, in which those winged Choristers make sweet Musick. In those Woods some excellent Hawks make their nests; and there are very often to be seen great flocks of Parakeetoes, or little Parrats, who have their breeding and lodging amongst those Melancholy Shades. And (in the number of many other Creatures covered with Feathers) there are some very little Birds less than our Wrens, who are exceeding pretty, for their neat shape, and their covering, with most curious parti-colour'd Feathers, full of variety of little spots. I have seen there many of those rare Creatures kept together in large Cages, who please the Eye with their curious Colours, and the Ear with their va∣riety of pleasant Notes. The Woods and Groves in the Sou∣thermost parts of Indostan, have great store of wild Apes, and Monkeys, and Baboons in them; some of which I have seen as high as our tallest Greyhounds, which live among the Trees, and climb them at pleasure. Those Apes, &c. are very terrible to those little Birds, which make their Nests in those Woods; and therefore Nature hath taught them this subtilty (to preserve their young ones from those Creatures which would otherwise destroy them) to build their Nests in the twigs, and the utmost boughs of those Trees, where some of them hang like little Purse-nets, to which those Apes and Monkeys, be they never so little and light, cannot come to hurt them.

Besides their Woods, they have great variety of fair goodly Trees that stand here and there single, but I never saw any there of those kinds of Trees which England affords. They have very many firm and strong Timber-trees for building and other uses; but much of their brush, or small wood, I observed to be very sappy; so that when we brake a twig of it, there would come a substance out of some of it, like unto Milk, and the sappiness of that underwood may (as I apprehend it) Page  364 be ascribed in part to the fatness of that Soil. Some of their Trees have leavs upon them as broad as Bucklers, others are part∣ed small like our Fern or Brakes, as the Tamerine Tree, which bears Cods somewhat like our Beans, in which when the Fruit is ripe, there is a very well tasted pulp, though it be sowr, most wholsom to open the body, and to cool and cleanse the blood.

There is one very great and fair Tree growing in that Soil, of special observation, out of whose Branches or great Arms grow little Sprigs downward till they take Root (as they will cer∣tainly do if they be let alone) and taking Root, at length prove strong supporters unto those large Branches that yield them. Whence it comes to pass, that those Trees in time (their strong and far-extended Arms being in many places thus support∣ed) grow to a very great height, and extend themselves to such an incredible breadth, they growing round every way, as that hundreds of men may shade themselves under one of them at any time; the rather, because these, as all other Trees in those Southern parts of East-India (as particularly I observed before) still keep on their green Coats.

For their Flowers, they are for the generality like unto painted Weeds, which, though their colour be excellent, they rather delight the eye than affect the smell; for not many of them, except Roses, and some few kinds more, are any whit fragrant: Amongst them that are, there is one white Flower, like to Spa∣nish Jessamin (if it be not the same) which is exceedingly well sented, of which they make a most excellent pure sweet Oil, with which they anoint their heads, and other parts of their bodies; which makes the company of those that do so very savoury and sweet.

This Empire is watered with many goodly Rivers (as they are expressed in the Map) the two principal are Indus and Ganges; where this thing is very observable (for they say there, that it is very true) that one pint of the water of Ganges weigheth less by one ounce than any other water in that whole great Monar∣chy. And therefore (they say) that the Mogol, wheresoever he is, hath water brought him from that River, that he may drink thereof, by some appointed for that service, who are continual∣ly either going to it, or coming from it: The water is brought unto the King in fine Copper Jars, excellently well tin'd on the inside, and sealed up when they are delivered to the Water-bearers for the King's use; two of which Jars every one carries, hanging upon Slings fitted for the Porter's shoulders.

Besides their Rivers, they have store of Wells fed with Springs; and to these, they have many Ponds, which they call Tanques, some of them exceeding large, fill'd with water when that abun∣dance of Rain falls (of which more hereafter.)

That most ancient and innocent Drink of the World, Water, is the common drink of East-India; it is far more pleasant and sweet than our water; and must needs be so, because in all Page  365 hot Countries it is more rarified, better digested, and freed from its rawness by the heat of the Sun, and therefore in those parts it is more desired of all that come thither, though they ne∣ver made it their drink before, than any other liquor, and agreeth better with mens bodies. Sometimes they boyl the water there with some wholsom Seeds, and after drink it cold, and then it is, by much, more cold after an heat. (Like unto some men, who have shewed formerly much zeal and heat for good, and afterward become more chil and cold than ever they were before.) Sometimes we mingle our water there with the juice of Limons and Sugar, which makes an exceeding pleasant drink, which we call there Sherbet.

Some small quantity of Wine, but not common, is made amongst them; they call it Raak, distilled from Sugar, and a spicy rinde of a Tree called Jagra; it is very wholsom, if taken very moderately.

Many of the people there, who are strict in their Religion, drink no Wine at all; but they use a Liquor more wholsom than pleasant, they call Coffee; made by a black Seed boyld in water, which turnes it almost into the same colour, but doth very little alter the taste of the water; notwithstanding it is very good to help Digestion, to quicken the Spirits, and to cleanse the Blood.

There is yet another help for those that forbear Wine, by an Herb they have, called Beetle, or Paune, in shape somewhat like an Ivy-leaf, but more tender; they chew it with an hard Nut, somewhat like a Nutmeg, (but not in taste like that) and a very little pure white lime amongst the leaves, and when they have sucked down the juice, put forth the rest. It hath (as they say, and I believe very much of it) many rare qualities; for it preserves the Teeth, strengthens the Stomack, comforts the Brain, and it cures or prevents a tainted Breath. This I am sure of, that such is the pleasing smell of this Beetle, being chew∣ing in a close room, that the breath of him so chewing it fills it with a very pleasing savour.

This Empire further affords very excellent good Horse, curi∣ously made, high metl'd, and well managed by the Natives. Besides their own, they have many of the Persian, Tartarian, and Arabian breed, which have the name to be the choise ones of the World. But of these more when I come to speak of the Inhabitants.

Here are a great number of Camels, Dromedaries, Mules and Asses, imployed for the carriage of burthens, or the carrying of the people, to which use also they employ many of their Oxen, and their Buffeloes likewise, (which before I spake of.) The Camels, as I oft observed there, have one strange quality, who cry and make a very piteous noyse at night, when they take off their burthens; but in the morning when they are laid on, the poor Creatures are very still and quiet, making no noyse at all.

Page  366The Dromedary is called by the Prophet Jeremy, Jer. 2.23. the swift Dromedary; the reason may be, because these, like the Camels, have very long legs; and consequently make long steps, and so travelling rid ground apace; or because at a pinch, or time of need, they will carry a man exceeding far without rest, and but with a very little food.

They have some Rhinocerots, but they are not common, which are very large square Beasts, bigger than the largest Oxen England affords; their skins without hair, lye in great wrinkles upon their necks, breasts and backs, which doth not make them seem lovely unto the beholders. They have very strong, but short Horns, growing upon very firm bones, that lye over their Nostrils; they grow upwards, towards the top of their head, every one of these Creatures being fortified with one of them; and that enough to make them so terrible, that they are shunn'd by other, though very large Creatures. With these Horns (from which those Creatures have their Names) are made very excellent Cups, which (as is conceived) give some virtue un∣to the liquor put into them, if it stand any whit long in those Cups.

And now to conclude with the largest and the most intelli∣gent (as we shall hereafter shew) of all the sensible Creatures the Earth produceth, the Elephant, of which this vast Monar∣chy hath abundance; and of them, the Mogol is Master of many thousands; and his Nobles, and all men of quality besides, in those large Territories, have more or less of them. But of these much shall be spoken in my sixt Section.

I observed before, that the Inhabitants of this Empire did carry most of their burthens upon the backs of their Beasts; and in a special manner this people employ their Camels and Dro∣medaries for this use, to carry their Merchandizes from place to place: and therefore I shall let my Reader see