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Abdur Razzaq

Abdur Razzak, like Nicolo di Conti, visited the city during the reign of Deva Raya II., but about twenty years later than Conti. He was entrusted with an embassy from Persia, and set out on his mission on January 13, A.D. 1442. At the beginning of November that year he arrived at Calicut, where he resided till the beginning of April 1443. Being there he was summoned to Vijayanagara, travelled thither, and was in the great city from the end of April till the 5th December of the same year. The following passage explains why he left Calicut.

"On a sudden a man arrived who brought me the intelligence that the king of Bidjanagar, who holds a powerful empire and a mighty dominion under his sway, had sent him to the Sameri as delegate, charged with a letter in which he desired that he would send on to him the ambassador of His Majesty, the happy Khakhan (I.E. the king of Persia). Although the Sameri is not subject to the laws of the king of Bidjanagar, he nevertheless pays him respect and stands extremely in fear of him, since, if what is said is true, this latter prince has in his dominions three hundred ports, each of which is equal to Calicut, and on TERRA FIRMA his territories comprise a space of three months' journey."

In obedience to this request, Abdur Razzak left Calicut by sea and went to Mangalore, "which forms the frontier of the kingdom of Bidjanagar." He stayed there two or three days and then journeyed inland, passing many towns, and amongst them a place where he saw a small but wonderful temple made of bronze.

"At length I came to a mountain whose summit reached the skies. Having left this mountain and this forest behind me, I reached a town called Belour (Belur), the houses of which were like palaces."

Here he saw a temple with exquisite sculpture.

"At the end of the month of Zoul'hidjah (April 1443), we arrived at the city of Bidjanagar. The king sent an enormous cortege to meet us, and appointed us a very handsome house for our residence. His dominion extends from the frontier of Serendib to the extremities of the country of Kalbergah (Gulbarga). One sees there more than a thousand elephants, in their size resembling mountains and in their form resembling devils. The troops amount in number to eleven LAK (1,100,000). One might seek in vain throughout the whole of Hindustan to find a more absolute RAI; for the monarchs of this country bear the title of RAI".

"The city of Bidjanagar is such that the pupil of the eye has never seen a place like it, and the ear of intelligence has never been informed that there existed anything to equal it in the world. It is built in such a manner that seven citadels and the same number of walls enclose each other. Around the first citadel are stones of the height of a man, one half of which is sunk in the ground while the other half rises above it. These are fixed one beside the other in such a manner that no horse or foot soldier could boldly or with ease approach the citadel."

Razzaq describes the outer citadel as a "fortress of round shape, built on the summit of a mountain, and constructed of stones and lime. It has very solid gates, the guards of which are constantly at their post, and examine everything with severe inspection." This passage must refer to the outer line of wall, since Razzaq's "seventh fortress" is the innermost of all. The guards at the gates were doubtless the officers entrusted with the collection of the octroi duties. Sir Henry Elliot's translation adds to the passage as quoted the words, -- "they collect the JIZYAT or taxes."

"The seventh fortress is to the north, and is the palace of the king. The distance between the opposite gates of the outer fortress north and south is two parasangs (about seven to eight miles), and the same east to west."

"The space which separates the first fortress from the second, and up to the third fortress, is filled with cultivated fields and with houses and gardens. In the space from the third to the seventh one meets a numberless crowd of people, many shops, and a bazaar. By the king's palace are four bazaars, placed opposite each other. On the north is the portico of the palace of the RAI. Above each bazaar is a lofty arcade with a magnificent gallery, but the audience-hall of the king's palace is elevated above all the rest. The bazaars are extremely long and broad."

"Roses are sold everywhere. These people could not live without roses, and they look upon them as quite as necessary as food.... Each class of men belonging to each profession has shops contiguous the one to the other; the jewellers sell publicly in the bazaars pearls, rubies, emeralds, and diamonds. In this agreeable locality, as well as in the king's palace, one sees numerous running streams and canals formed of chiselled stone, polished and smooth."

"Behind the king's palace are the house and hall allotted to the Danaik. To the left of the said palace is the Mint."

"This empire contains so great a population that it would be impossible to give an idea of it without entering into extensive details. In the king's palace are several cells, like basins, filled with bullion, forming one mass."

Opposite the DIVAN-KHANEH, he continues, is the house of the elephants. "Each elephant has a separate compartment, the walls of which are extremely solid, and the roof composed of strong pieces of wood.... Opposite the Mint is the house of the Governor, where are stationed twelve thousand soldiers on guard.... Behind the Mint is a sort of bazaar, which is more than three hundred ghez in length, and more than twenty in breadth. On two sides are ranged houses and forecourts; in front of them are erected, instead of benches (KURSI), several lofty seats constructed of beautiful stones. On the two sides of the avenue formed by the chambers are represented figures of lions, panthers, tigers, and other animals. Thrones and chairs are placed on the platforms, and the courtesans seat themselves thereon, bedecked in gems and fine raiment."

The author took up his abode in a lofty house which had been allotted to him, on the 1st Muharram (May 1, 1443)

"One day some messengers sent from the palace of the king came to see me, and at the close of the same day I presented myself at court.... The prince was seated in a hall, surrounded by the most imposing attributes of state. Right and left of him stood an enormous crowd of men arranged in a circle. The king was dressed in a robe of green satin, around his neck he wore a collar, composed of pearls of beautiful water, and other splendid gems. He had an olive complexion, his frame was thin, and he was rather tall; on his cheeks might be seen a slight down, hut there was no beard on his chin. The expression of his countenance was extremely pleasing."

"In the front of this place rose a palace with nine pavilions magnificently ornamented. In the ninth the king's throne was set up. In the seventh was allotted a place to the humble author of this narrative.... Between the palace and the pavilions ... were musicians and storytellers."

"The throne, which was of extraordinary size, was made of gold, and enriched with precious stones of extreme value.... Before the throne was a square cushion, on the edges of which were sown three rows of pearls."

The descriptions given by these travellers give us a good idea of the splendours of this great Hindu capital in the first half of the fifteenth century.

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