Centuries before Goa became the epic entre of the counterculture of the hippie and 'flower power' generation in the sixties and seventies, it was known as the Eldorado, the City of Gold" the prized possession of the Portuguese empire in the East. From the early 16th century onwards, its magnetic appeal drew scores of travellers and adventurers to its gleaming shores. Driven by ambition, wanderlust, proselytism and Goa's fabled wealth and beauty, these travellers carne from across Europe-from Holland, England, Germany, France, Italy and other nations. Many of them left behind vivid and riveting accounts of their journeys and sojourn-n in the 'Rome of the East'. This anthology encapsulates the best of these writings spread over 450 years of Portuguese rule as well as accounts by the contemporary traveller.
Goa Travels is an essential guide and companion for the curious visitor as well as resident Goans who have forgotten the land's rich, eventful and colourful heritage. It goes far beyond the glossy tourist brochure and will enable both historian and holidaymaker to turn back the pages and dwell on Goa's extraordinary past. The writings also reflect on the state's fading lustre in the 18th and the 19th century as well as its resurrection in contemporary times.
About the Author
Manohar Sherry has published seven books of poems including Domestic Creatures (Oxford University Press, New Delhi) and Living Room (HarperCollins, New Delhi). Several collections feature his work notably, The Oxford India Anthology of Twelve Modern Indian Poets (ed. Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Oxford University Press, New Delhi), as well as anthologies edited by Eunice de Souza and Vilas Sarang. Shetty has been a Homi Bhabha Fellow and a Senior Sahitya Akademi Fellow. He has also edited Ferry Crossing: Short Stories from Goa (Penguin India). Manohar has lived in Goa since 1985.
Centuries before Goa became the tourist destination it is today, several European travelers set forth on hazardous sea journeys to explore the once-fabled metropolis of Old Goa and its surroundings. The galaxy of inveterate travelers and chroniclers, who saw Goa both in its prime and in its decline, included the Dutch merchant and spy John Huygens Van Linschoten, the Italian nobleman Pietro Della Valle, the jewel merchant from France, Jean- Baptiste Tavernier, the pioneering English entrepreneur Ralph Fitch, the German diplomat John Albert de Mendelslo, the young Italian slave trader Francesco Carletti, the French sailor and soldier Pyrard de Laval, the Portuguese officials Duarte Barbosa and Tom Pires, the French priests Carre Barthelemy and Cottineau de Kloguen, the Italian writer and chronicler of the Moghul empire, Niccolao Manucci, the Englishmen Dr John Fryer and Dr Claudius Buchanan, the Scot Captain Alexander Hamilton, and Richard F. Burton, the Victorian Age author of One Thousand and One Nights and co-translator of The Kama Sutra, and his wife Lady Isabel Burton.
All these travellers and chroniclers have left behind an invaluable legacy on the social customs, economic activities, including the trading of slaves and horses, the sartorial styles and the culinary habits of the times. Among the pioneers was John Huyghen Van Linschoren, who spent almost six years in Goa from 1583 to 1588 during which time he also clandestinely copied confidential Portuguese nautical maps and charts. Despite his somewhat dubious reputation as a spy, he opened up the horizons for later adventurers and seafarers who relied on his storehouse of sea-routes to India, Malacca and beyond Malacca in the Malay Archipelago, and up to the Chinese coasts. Linschoten was also an acute observer and meticulous recorder of the decadence in Portuguese Goa during its incipient decline from its giddy heights of glory. He died in 1611, aged forty-eight.
Even before Linschoten came the Portuguese factor Duarte Barbosa, who arrived before the Portuguese conquest of Goa in 1510 and lived in India for about sixteen years. In 1519, Barbosa joined his legendary brother-in-law Ferdinand Magellan who circumnavigated the globe and conclusively proved that the earth was round. Barbosa's book was one of the earliest examples of travel literature. Written in 1516, it found its way into print only 300 years later as The Book of Duarte Barbosa.
The most colourful of the intrepid travellers was the Italian Pietro Della Valle. Born in 1586, Della Valle was the scion of an illustrious family in Rome. After a voyage to Baghdad in 1616, he married an eighteen-year-old Assyrian Christian, Maani Giorida. Four years later the young bride died near the Gulf of Ormuz (Hormuz in Iran) from fever and an unhealthy climate. The grief-stricken nobleman had her body embalmed and preserved in a coffin. He kept the body on board when the ship arrived in Surat on 10 February 1623. From Surat he travelled to Calicut-the southernmost tip of his travels in India. He left Goa on 16 November 1624 for Muscat, and from there for Rome, still accompanied by his embalmed wife. Finally, he reached Rome in March 1626. It was only here, more than three years after her death, that Della Valle buried the remains of his beloved wife in the family vault.
A contemporary of Pietro Della Valle, Francois Pyrard has been described as a (talkative and observant Frenchman of the seaman class'. He was arrested by the Portuguese after he lost his official papers in a shipwreck and was dumped into a dungeon in Calicut. His health deteriorating, he was sent in chains to Goa, where he was admitted in the Jesuit Hospital, then reputed to be the finest such institution in all of Europe and Asia. Pyrard recovered, and to save himself further long- term incarceration, volunteered to serve in the Portuguese army. During his ten years of service, he was a keen and insightful observer of the Portuguese and the surrounding environment.
Another Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who arrived in Goa more than thirty years later, was a wealthy and famous jewel merchant, dealing mainly in diamonds with Indian royalty, high-ranked Portuguese officials and local businessmen. He spent a week in Goa in 1641 and a further few months seven years later when he noted the rapid decline in the prosperity of the Portuguese, some of who even secretly approached him for alms. Tavernier was also an accomplished raconteur as can be seen from his entertaining account of the adventures and misadventures of two of his fellow Frenchmen, du Belloy and des Merestes, one of whom met an ignominious end and the other a more heroic one. The young Italian slave trader and merchant Francesco Carletti arrived in Goa exactly at the turn of the 16th century when he was just twenty-one years old. A few years later, in 1606, he would be known for introducing chocolate to Italy from Central America. During his twenty- month sojourn in Goa, he was much enamoured of the women, especially the Bengali women with Portuguese blood who were 'the most desirous creatures imaginable'. He appeared fixated by their 'members' (breasts) 'so rounded as to seem to have been formed on a lathe', and was also struck by the apparent possessiveness of their Portuguese husbands and their 'lubricity' shared in no small measure by their wives due to the 'continuous heat' of the region. The men apparently were so possessive of their wives that at any hint of infidelity they killed them 'every day, which they can do freely because it is permitted by the laws of the Portuguese'. Carlertti, however, refrains from elucidating on his own conquests, if any.
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