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 V. Of the Inhabitants of East-India, who they are; Of their most excellent Ingenuity expressed by their curious Ma∣nufactures, their Markets at Home to buy and sell in, and their Trade abroad

THe Inhabitants in general of Indostan were all anciently Gentiles, called in general Hindoes, belonging to that very great number of those which are called Heathens, which take up almost two thirds of the number of the People who in∣habit the face of the whole Earth. But of this more hereafter. There are some Jews (but they are not many) here and there scattered and lost as it were, in those other great numbers of People; the greatest company of Jews now to be found together in any one place of the world (as I have been made to believe from the observation of others) are to be seen at Grand Cairo in Egypt, whither they are returned, and where setled, to take their fill of their fore-Fathers Flesh-pots. For the Inhabitants of East-India ever since they were subdued by Tamberlain, they have been mixed with Mahumetans, which though they be by farr in respect of their number less than those Pagans, yet they bear all the sway, and command all in those Countries.

There are besides these, (now become as it were Natives there) a great number of Persians and Tartars (who are Ma∣humetans by Religion) that there inhabit, very many of which the Mogol keeps for Souldiers to serve on Horse-back, called there Haddees: There are of both these many daring, stout, hardy and valiant Men. For the Persians, there are many of them comely Persons, not so swart as those of East-India. But for the Tartars I have there seen, (and I have seen many of them) they are more to be commended for their Valour than Beauty; a square, stout, strong People, having platter Faces, and flat Noses. There are many Armenians, and some Abissins amongst them, Page  375 who wear the Livery of Christ, in being called Christians, the greatest part of whose Christianity lies in their Name. Those Armenians there make some wine to sell, of Raisons, Sugar, and other ingredients, that is strong and heady, and luscious, tasted too much by many Christians that come thither, as by those too that make it. Of the green Grapes there, though they have abundance and they great, and sweet, and good, yet they make no Wine at all: The Mahumetans (in obedience to a Precept of Mahumets which forbids Wine) neither make, nor drink it; and others are not suffered there to make it of those green Grapes, for fear (as I suppose) they should make, and drink too much of it.

To those I have named of other Nations, (that are to be seen in East-India) there are besides some few almost of every people in Asia, and many Europeans of divers parts (that use to stir from their own fires) to be found amongst them; and among that great variety of People and Nations there to be observed, I have taken special notice of divers Chinesaas, and Japanesaas there, and those I have seen of them, for the generality, are a people of no large stature, with little eyes, and noses somthing flatted; de tribus Capillis, with a few black hairs that stand scat∣tered on their upper lips which make them as handsome beards as are to be seen on our Hares, or Cats.

There are some Jews here (as before I observed) whose stub∣bornness and Rebellion, long ago, caused Almighty God to threaten them, that they should be after sifted, and scattered among all the Nations of the World.

Those ancient Satyrists, Persius, and Juvenal, after that most horrid act committed by them in Crucifying our Blessed Saviour (though not in respect unto that most cruel action, for they were Heathens) yet they call them Verpos, that is, circumcised, Worms, vermin. Tacitus after gives them a most unsavory Epithete, cal∣ling them foetentes Judaeos, stinking Jews. Marcus the Emperour observing them well, concluded that they were a generation of men worse than savages or Canibals, to be even the worst of men, as if they were the very reffuse and dregs of mankind.

How usual is that Proverb, that when men are suspected to do otherwise than they should, to answer, what, am I Jew, that I should do so, and so? I have observed somthing to this purpose, from the people of East-India, who are very valiant at tongue-fights, though not so with their weapons (as you will hear after∣ward); that people, I say, who have a very nimble but a base qua∣lity in railing at, and miscalling one another; and their language is so full, and significant, that they can call a man in it, two or three base things in one word; but when they come to call him, whom they miscall, Judeo Jew, they believe (as I have been of∣ten told) that they can go no higher; esteeming that, above all other terms, the highest name of obloquy.

Yet we do believe, (because the Lord hath promised it) that Page  376 he will find a time to call home this people again to himself, when they shall receive honour above all the contempt they have been long under; after they shall see with sorrow, and with the eye of faith, Him, whom their Fore-fathers, out of igno∣rance, and despite, and unbelief pierced.

For the Stature of the Natives of East-India, they are like us, but generally very streight; for I never observed nor heard of any crooked person amongst them: And one reason may be, be∣cause they never lace nor girt in their Bodies; and when they sleep, they accustom themselves to stretch out their Bodies at their full length, without any thing to raise up their heads. And further, among many other things I took special notice of there, I never observed any deformed Person, nor Ideot or natural Fool, in those Parts.

Now for the Complexion of this People, they are all of them of a sad tawney or Olive-colour; their hair black as a Raven, very harsh, but not curl'd. They like not a man or woman that is very white or fair, because that (as they say) is the colour of Lepers, common amongst them. Most of the Mahumetans, except the Moolaes (which are their Priests) or those which are very old and retired, and have (as it were) given the World quite over, keep their chins continually bare, but suffer the hair on their upper lipps to grow very long; and they keep it in its natural colour, by combing it continually with black-lead Combs, till they be of good years; but afterward, when Time hath so snowed upon them, that they can no longer keep in nor conceal their gray hairs, they use the Rasor (as they did) no more, but let the hair of their chins grow long and large, which makes many gray-beards amongst them, and I conceive that there are of those many Old men.

And further, it is the manner of the Mahumetans to shave all the hair from off their Heads, reserving only one lock on the Crown of them, for Mahomet to pull them up to Heaven with (as they fondly conceit). The Hindoes shave their Heads likewise, but cut all off; and both of them shave thus, and that very often; but however their baldness appears not at all, because their Heads are continually covered with a Shash, or a wreath of narrow Cal∣lico-Cloth, many times wrap'd about them, (usually for their colour white or red) which they never pull off, as we do our Hats in Complements. Their much and often shaving makes many excellent Barbers amongst them, who besides their Scisers and Rasors, use a little Instrument about the length of a short Bodkin, very sharp, made like a Chizel, but not broader at the cutting end than the shank of a six-penny nail, with which they pare and clense the nails on their fingers and toes. Every Barber carries always about him a round Looking-glass made of steel, about the compass of a large trencher-plate, made somwhat hol∣low, and kept by them exceeding clean and sleek, so that it will represent the Face of him that beholds it on the convex side very Page  377 well. These Barbers, as they walk up and down, often present these Glasses unto men whom they find sitting still, which is a tender of their Service if they shall please to make use of them.

The people there often wash their Bodies, and keep their Feet as clean and as sweet as their Hands. The better sort annoint themselves very much with sweet oyls, which makes their com∣pany (as before I observed) very savory.

The Natives there (of which there is somthing before in my third Section) shew very much ingenuity in their curious Manu∣factures; as in their Silk-stuffs which they most artificially weave, some of them very neatly mingled either with Silver or Gold, or both. As also in making excellent Quilts of their stained cloth, or of fresh coloured Taffata lined with their Pintadoet, or of their Sattin lined with Taffata, betwixt which they put Cotten-wooll, and work them together with Silk. Those Taffata or Sattin-quilts, are excellently stitched by them, being done as evenly, and in as good order, as if they had been drawn out to them, for their direction, the better to work them. They make likewise excellent Carpetts of their Cotton-wooll, in fine mingled colours, some of them more than three yards broad, and of a great length. Some other richer Carpets they make all of Silk, so artificially mixed, as that they livelily represent those flowers, and figures made in them. The ground of some other of their rich Carpets is Silver or Gold, about which are such silken flowers, and figures (as before I named) most excellently and orderly disposed throughout the whole work.

Their skill is likewise exquisite in making of Cabinets, or Boxes, or Trunks, or Standishes, curiously wrought, within, and without; inlaid with Elephants tooth, or Mother of Pearl, or Ebony, or Tortoyse-shell, or Wyre; they make excellent Cups, and other things of Agate, and Cornelian; and curious they are in cutting all manner of stones, Diamonds as well as others.

They paint Staves, or Bed-steads, or Chests of Boxes, or Fruit-dishes, or large Chargers, extream neatly; which, when they be not inlaid (as before) they cover the wood (first being hand∣somly turn'd) with a thick Gum, then put their Paint on, most artificially made of liquid silver, or gold, or other lively colours, which they use; and after make it much more beautiful with a very clear varnish put upon it.

They are excellent at Limning, and will coppy out any Pi∣cture they see to the life: for confirmation of which take this instance; It happened that my Lord Embassadour visiting the Mogol on a time, as he did often, presented him with a curi∣ous neat small oval Picture done to the life in England. The Mogol was much pleased with it, but told the Embassadour with∣all, that haply he supposed that there was never a one in his Country that could do so well in that curious Art; and then of∣fered to wager with him a Leck of Roopees (a sum which Page  378 amounted to no less then 10000 l. sterl.) that in a few days he would have two Copies made by that presented to him, so like, that the Embassadour should not know his own. He re∣fused the great wager, but told the King he would adventure his judgment on it: Two Copies taken from that Original were within few days after made, and brought and laid before the Embassadour, in the presence of the King; the Embassadour viewing them long, either out of Courtship to please the King, or else unable to make a difference 'twixt the Pictures being all exquisitly done, took one of them which was new made, for that which he had formerly presented, and did after profess that he did not flatter, but mistake in that choice. The truth is, that the Natives of that Monarchy are the best Apes for imitati∣on in the world, so full of ingenuity that they will make any new thing by pattern, how hard soever it seem to be done; and therefore it is no marvel, if the Natives there make Shooes, and Boots, and Clothes, and Linen, and Bands and Cuffs of our English Fashion, which are all of them very much different from their Fashions and Habits, and yet make them all exceeding neatly.

They have Markets, which they call Bazars, to sell and buy their Commodities in all their great Towns twice every day, a little before, and an hour after Sun-rising in the morning, and so a little before and a little after Sun-set at night. The other parts of the day being too hot for those great confluences of people to meet together; and those are the seasons we English-men there make use of, to ride abroad and take the air, the rest of the day we usually spend in our houses. The people there sell almost all their Provisions, as very many other things, by weight.

For the foreign Trade of this people, it is usually once a year into the Red Sea to a City called Moha in Arabia the happy, about thirty leagues from the mouth of it; It is a principal Mart for all Indian Commodities, but the Staple and most principal there vented is their Cotten-cloth, either white, or stained, and their Cotten-wooll. Hither they come from Grand Cairo in Egypt, as from many other parts of the Turks Dominions, to trafique; hi∣ther they come from Prester Johns Country which lyes on the other side of the Arabian Gulf (for so the Red Sea is there cal∣led) and not above fourteen leagues over at the City Moha.

The Ship or Junk (for so it is called) that usually goes from Surat to Moha is of an exceeding great burden, some of them I believe fourteen or fifteen hundred Tuns, or more, but those huge Vessels are very ill built, like an over-grown Liter, broad and short, but made exceeding big, on purpose to waff Passen∣gers forward and backward: which are Mahometans, who go on purpose to visit Mahomets Sepulchre, at Medina neer Mecha, but many miles beyond Moha. The Passengers, and others in that most capacious Vessel that went and returned that year I left In∣dia,Page  379 (as we were credibly told) amounted to the number of se∣venteen hundred. Those Mahumetans that have visited Maho∣mets Sepulchre, are ever after called Hoggees, or holy men.

This Junk bound from Surat to the Red-Sea, as she hath many people in her, so hath she good Ordnance, but those Navigators know not well how to use them for their defence. She begins her Voyage about the twentieth of March, and finisheth it, about the end of September following. The Voyage is but short and might easily be made in less than three moneths, but the Ship is very slow, and ill-built to abide foul weather; and in the long season of the rain, and a little before and after it, the winds upon those Coasts are commonly so violent, that there is no coming but with much hazard into the Indian Sea. This Ship re∣turning is usually worth (as I have heard it faithfully reported, and if my credit given to that report make me not to abuse my Readers) two hundred thousand pounds Sterling, and most of it brought back in good Gold and Silver; some fine Chamlets they bring with them home likewise. But that huge mass of wealth thus brought home into India, is another especial thing, and might have been added to that I spake of before towards the continual enriching of this great Monarchy: where, in the next place I shall speak