Foreign Notices of South India (From Megasthenes to Mahuan)

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Item Code: NAK015
Author: K.A. Nilakanta Sastri
Publisher: University of Madras
Language: English
Edition: 2001
Pages: 356
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10 inch x 7.0 inch
Weight 690 gm
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Book Description

The book is a collection of historical material on South India, convering about 15 centuries from the well know to the Christian Era. During this long period South India was well know to the foreign world for its commercial products and traders. Some of the foreign travellers have left descriptive accounts of the areas and people, they came into contact during their life time. These accounts scattered in many publications and journals and housed in several archives of the world were not easily accessible for study even today.

The material compiled and edited in this volume portray the social life of the people and their economy in South India. It is an important source book to know the trade and mercantile activities with the countries on the East and West of South India.

The first edition of the book was published as far back as 1939 and the same is now published as third impression. During the long period of six decades new materials have appeared. Many studies on the socioeconomic aspects of south India were attemped incorporating the accounts of the foreign authorities. However the importance of the accounts of the foreign authorities. However the importance of the book was not minimized and was felt that the volume is indispensable to historians, economists, and sociologists. Considering the importance of the book and the long felt need of researches, Madras University thought it necessary to reprint this volume.

I wish to record my appreciation to Prof. Dr. E. Sundaramoorthy, Director, Publications Division for having taken a keen interest and special care in bringing out this volume.



This is a source-book of Early South Indian History. Its aim is to present in a handy form the numerous Foreign Notices of South India including Ceylon scattered in several books and journals published by learned Societies not easily accessible to the general reader. In some cases the passages selected for inclusion have been specially rendered into English from French translations of Arabic or Chinese originals.

The sources included here comprise mainly Greek and Latin, Arabic, Chinese and Perslan authors; but not being acquainted with their several languages, I have based this work altogether upon translations in to modern European languages. Though the collection is not exhaustive, I believe nothing of importance has been omitted. The reasons for the choice of the extracts and their importance to students of South Indian History are briefly explained in the introduction and notes, and will I trust, be borne out by the extracts themselves.

I acknowledge with great pleasure the assistance of Dr. N. Venkataramanayya, who gave me the transliteration of proper names occurring in Ibn Battuta and also some of the notes to the same author; and of Miss K. M. Sowmini, who made some of the translations from French and checked the references to French periodicals.

Excepting Ibn Battuta, I have generaliy retained the forms of proper names as they appear in the authorities I have used.

For permission to include extracts I am indebted to M.Paul Pelliot, Directeur, Toung Pao, for Nos, II, IX, XI, XVI, XXIV, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXIV A-B; to Archibald R. Maclean, Esq., for Nos. III, IV and XII A i to iil, B and C, and to the High Commissioner for India, London, for procuring his permission; to the Director, Philadelphia Commercial Museum, for V and VII; to the Clarendon Press, Oxford, for Nos. VIII and XV B-D; to the General Secretary, Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta, for X, XIII and Appendix IV; to the secretary, Royal Asiatic Society, London, for XIV, XXXIV C-D; to the Librarian, Society Asiatique, paris, for XV A, XVIII, XXX A-BB, C-ii, Appendix i, ii and iii ; to Secretaire General, Libraire Ernest Leroux, Paris, for XV E; to the Directeur B.E.F.E.O., Hanoi, for XVII ; to Dr.A. Rouhier of Libraire et Editions, Vega, Paris, who now represents Editions Bossard, for XIX ; to Messrs. Kegan Paul, Trench Trubner & Co., for XII A iv, XXII, XXVI, XXVI, XXVIII, XXX, C-I and XXXI ; and to Messrs. John Murray, London, for XXV. Extracts No. XXI and XXIX are from publications issued under the auspices of the Governments of Burma and France. Finally, Extract No. XXIII is from Chau Ju-kua (Hirth and Rockhill) published by the imperial Academy of Sciences, St. Peterburg with whom or whose representatives no communication could be established. Extract No I contains matter which appeared in the Indian Antiquary (Vol. VI) and was also published in book form by Messrs. Thacker Spink & Co.; and is included with the permission of Mr. C. E. A. W. Oldham on behalf of the Indian Antiquary.

My thanks are due to the Syndicate of the University of Madras for Including this work in the University Historical Series.

I must also thank the G.S. Press for the speedy and excellent execution of the work.



The Indian Ocean is not a closed basin like the Mediterranean Sea; on the south it opens on an infinite expanse of water. Yet the prevalence of current and of periodical winds conducive to navigation has maintained here, since very early times, a system of exchanges in which the African coast, Arabia, the Persian Gulf, India, Insulindia, Indo-China, and beyond it, China and even Korea and Japan, continually gave and received their quotas. And in this system, India held a privileged, if not a preponderant, place by the advantage of her situation and the great length of her coasts; she is the centre towards which the many lines of this system converge. Doubtless, the documents are rare for the ancient period; but the race which carried civilisation by the sea to Burma, to Siam, to Cambodia, Indo-China and Java, and Madagascar, was a race of navigation.

And though as a whole Southern India has in the past looked east rather than west, still the mariners of Surparaka, Bharukaccha and Muziris are famous in history and legend. In his celebrated study on the Ramayana Sylvain Levi draws pointed attention to many similarities between the geographical cantos in the fourth book of the Ramayana and the Statements of Arab geographers, and argues that these similarities suggest the existence of 'a folklore of the Indian ocean,' stories current among mariners of the 'distant countries to which either their voluntary sailings of the freaks of winds had carried them.' "And from Africa to China," he says, "on this immense extent of coasts which recede in deep hollows or project in compact masses, the same narratives recur, ever re-examined and ever guaranteed by fresh proofs. Each self-respecting navigator must have seen the sacred marvels with his own eyes. From the Periplus of Scylax to the voyages of Sindbad the Sailor, the same stories pass from collection to collection, as they pass from mouth to mouth". And the testimony of Al-Biruni is clear on the existence, in his day, of an active intercourse of ancient standing between Africa and China, and of the part of India in it; for he says: "The reason why in particular Somnath has become so famous is that it was a harbour for sea-faring people, and a station for those who went to and fro between Sufala in the country of Zanj (Africa) and China."

On the landward side again India was in equally active communication with China. The route taken by Fa-hien and Yuan Chwang into India as good an incentive to this intercourse as religion; I-tsing has preserved a record of sixty of his contemporaries who visited India for religious study, but we have no account of the mercanitile intercourse of the same Period. But as Garrez has shown, even for the Persians of the Sas-sanian period, Bactriana, the cradle of the religion of Zoroaster, had become virtually an Indian Country and Oxus a river of the Buddhists and Brahmins, "For nearly eight centuries in effect (125 B.C to 650 A.D.), Bactraina was occupied by the Kusans, who also extended their sway over the entire valley of the Kabul and that of the Indus up to the peninsula of Guzerat. Connected thus politically with the land of Indians, separated on the other hand from Iran proper by a desert, it fell gradually under Indian influence, and the ancient religion of the Magi had to give place to the Brahmins, and above all to the Buddhist. The Greek writers of this period always cite Bactriana with India, and mention thousands of Brahmanas and Samanas who reside there. Already the medals of many Greek Kings of this country bear legends in an Indian language and character. Those of Indo-Scythians Show us still, it is true, some names of Iranian divinities; but the figures on them are accompanied by Indian attributes, some ever being oddly made up with that superfluity of heads and arms which characterises so specially the representation of divinity in the land of the Hindus. The Chinese annalists, who have conserved to us precious data regarding these Scythian princes, describe them as zealous Buddhist; this is beyond all possibility of doubt for many among them, notably for the celebrated Kanerki of Kaniska. It is during this period that the Iranian name of Balhi entered Sanskrit literature, and that the Oxus, under its Primitive name of which we find no trace in Iran, took a place in the Indian cosmography of the Brahmans as well as the Buddhists". Sylvain Levi has pointed out that the Ramayana mentions the Tarim under the name of Sita, while traditional Buddhist cosmography makes this stream, as well as Indus, the Oxus and the Ganges, rise from one and the same lake Anavatapta.

In the days when Yuan Chwang traversed Bactriana, "Buddhism was generally flourishing form Termez, at the passage of the Oxus, up to Bamian at the gates of Kabul, and in the south-west up to Ta-la-kien on the frontier of the kingdom of Pola-sse (Persia). The country of Balkh alone contained nearly on hundred convents and 53000 monks. One of the convents the most remarkable for its magnificence, situated to the south-west of the town, was known by the name 'New convent '(nava sangharam or nava vihara) This 'new convent' (Nubehar) was destroyed by Islamic forces within half-a-century after Yuan Chwang visited it, and Buddhism suffered in Centra! Asia the same fate which befell it in India some centuries later. And for many centuries after the land routes across the North-Western frontier of India ceased to be frequented by merchants and pilgrims from China, the sea-route between. India and China was open, and there is much evidence available on these-day commercial relations.




  Foreword V
  Preface Vii
  Bibliography iX
  Introduction 1
I Megasthenes:  
(A) Of Taprodane 41
(B) i. Of Pandya 41
  ii. Of Hercules and Pandaea 41
(C) Of the Beasts of India 42
II Kanci and China in the Second Century B.C. 44
III Strabo:  
(A) i. Pandyan (?) Embassy to Augustus 46
  ii. Indian Embassy to Augustus 46
(B) Ceylon 47
(C) On Gallus's Expedition to Arabia and Sailing to India 48
IV Pliny: Natural History A.d. 75  
(A) Description of Taprobane 49
(B) Voyages to India 52
V The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea 75 A.D. 54
VI Aelian: Pearl-Fishing 61
VII Marcian of Heracica 62
VIII Fa-Hien:  
(A) Daksina and the Pigeon Monastery 66
(B) Tamralipti and Ceylon 67
(C) Ceylon 68
(D) Passage to Java 75
IX Gunavarman 77
X A South Indian Embassy to China 83
XI A Mirror From Western India 84
XII Cosmas:  
(A) A Description of Indian Animals 86
(B) Indian Flora 87
(C) Concering the Island of Taprobane 88
XIII Ma Twan Lin on the Condition of S. India, C550-000A.D. 93
XIV Yuan Chwang 619 A.D. 94
XV I-tsing  
(A) Itineraries 108
(B) i. How the Buddhist Priests were Received and Attended on at a Dinner 108
  ii. On Chop Sticks in China and India 111
(C) On Clothing in Different Lands 111
(D) Brahmans 113
(E) Six Pilgrims of I-tsing's time 113
XVI Embassics from south India to China 116
XVII Kanshin On Brahmin Tempies and Merchants in Cantor 118
XVIII Ibn Khurdabeh: 844-848  
(A) Route to the East 119
(B) Principal Kings of India; Elephants 120
(C) Castes 121
XIX (i) Anonymous Arab Writer:  
(A) The Maldives, Ceylon and Other Islands 122
(B) On India, China and Their Kings 123
(C) Royal Funcral in Ceylon 125
(D) Ascetics 125
(E) Marriage 125
(F) Houses 126
(G) Food, Worship, etc,-Comparisons 126
(ii) Abu Zaid  
(H) Gompanions of Honour 128
(I) Miscellaneous 129
XX Alberuni 131
XXI A mon Inscription From Prome of the Reign of Kyanzittha 133
XXII Benjamin of Tudela 134
XXIII Chau Ju-kua:  
(A) Si-lan(Ceylon) 136
(B) Malabar 137
(C) Hu-ch's-la(Guzerat) 140
(D) Cola Dominion 141
(E) Indian Flora 147
XXIV Embassics between China and South India (1279-92) 150
XXV Marci Polo:  
(A) Concerning the Island of Seilan (Ceylon) 157
(B) Concerining the Great Province of Maabar, Which is called India the Greater, and is on the Mainland 161
(C) Of the place where lieth the body of St. Thomas the Apostle; and of the Miracle thereof 172
(D) Concerning the Kingdom of Mutfili (Motupalli) 174
(E) Concerning the Province of Lar (Guzerat) Whence the Brahmins Come 176
(F) Concerning the City of Cail (Kayal) 179
(G) Of the Kngdom of Coilum (Quilon) 180
(H) Of the country called Comai (Comorin) 182
(I) Concerning the kingdom of Eli (Mt. D'Ely) 182
(J) Concerning the kingdom of Melibar (Malabar) 183
XXVI John of Montecorvino 185
XXVII Friar Oboric:  
(A) Hormuz to Tana 192
(B) Of the Kingdom of Minibar and how pepper is got 193
(C) Of the Manners of the Idolaters of Polumbum (Quilon) 194
(D) Concerning the kingdom of Mobar, where lieth the body of St Thomas, and the customs of the Idolators 195
XXVIII Friar jordanus:  
(A) Scope for Conversions in India 198
(B) Concerning India the Less 198
(C) Concerning India the Greater 205
XXIX Abulfeda:  
(A) South India 214
(B) Coromandel (Ma'bar) 214
(C) Caoulem (Kaulam) 215
XXX Ibn Battuta:  
(A) On the Rebellion of Bahauddin Gushtasp 216
(B) Rebellion in Ma'bar 217
(BB) Rebellion in Tiling 219
(C) i. Summary of his Travels in South india: yule 219
  ii. Travels in South India 226
XXXI John De Marignolli;  
(A) Quilon 286
(B) Ceylon: Concerning Adam's Garden and the fruits thereof 287
(C) On Buddhist Monks of Ceylon 288
XXXII Wang Ta-yuan:  
(A) Coral at: Doudera Head 290
(B) Colombo 291
(C) Pearl Fishing in the Gulf of Mana (?) 291
(D) Northern Maldive Islands 292
(E) Kain Colan (Kayangulam) 293
(F) I lili (Ely) 294
(G) Calicut 294
(H) Jurfattan 295
XXXIII Fei Hsin:  
(A) Ceylon 296
(B) Cochin 297
(C) Calicnt 297
XXXIV Ms Huan:  
(A) The Nicobars and Ceylon 299
(B) The Maldives 302
(C) Ko-chih, (Cochin) 304
(D) Ku-li. (Calicut) 306
I Navigation towards the end of the Fifteenth Century 309
II The Role of Gujaratis 310
III Indian Merchants and Merchandise in malaka (16th Century):  
  i. Duarte Barboss 311
  ii. Castanheda 311
IV Sidi Ali: On Navigation in the Indian Seas 313
  Addenda 319
  Index 327

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