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Athanasius Nikitin

Athanasius Nikitin was a native of Twer, Russia and set out on his wanderings by permission of the Duke Michael Borissowich who reigned as Grand Duke of Russia from 1462 to 1505, and his own bishop, Gennadius. He visited India during the period 1468 and 1474. Nikitin first went to Chaul, and thence travelled by land to Junir where he was forcefully converted to Islam by the Khan of Junir. In his own words, Nikitin gives the commentary:

"At Jooneer, the Khan took away my horse, and having heard that I was no Mahommedan, but a Russian, he said: "I will give thee the horse and a 1000 pieces of gold, if thou wilt embrace our faith, the Mahommedan faith; and if thou wilt not embrace our Mahommedan faith, I shall keep the horse and take a 1000 pieces of gold upon thy head." He gave me four days to consider, and all this occurred during the fast of the Assumption of our Lady, on the eve of our Saviour's day (18th of August)."

However, he was spared only for the horse.

Then landing in Kalburga (Gulbarga), his experiences at Gulbarga should be mentioned here since the living of a common Hindu was not much different in Vijayanagara and Bahamani kingdoms

"The Hindus ... are all naked and bare-footed. They carry a shield in one hand and a sword in the other. Some of the servants are armed with straight bows and arrows. Elephants are greatly used in battle.... Large scythes are attached to the trunks and tusks of the elephants, and the animals are clad in ornamental plates of steel. They carry a citadel, and in the citadel twelve men in armour with guns and arrows.... The land is overstocked with people; but those in the country are very miserable, whilst the nobles are extremely opulent and delight in luxury. They are wont to be carried on their silver beds, preceded by some twenty chargers caparisoned in gold, and followed by three hundred men on horseback and five hundred on foot, and by horn-men, ten torch-bearers, and ten musicians".

And about his narrative of Vijayanagara, it goes thus:

"The Hindu Sultan (the title he thought of the king after travelling the Mohammaden states first) Kadam is a very powerful prince. He possesses an enormous army and resides on a mountain at BICHENEGHER (Vijayanagara). This vast city is surrounded by three forts and intersected by a river, bordering on one side on a dreadful jungle, and on the other on a dale; a wonderful place and to any purpose convenient. On one side it is quite inaccessible; a road gives right through the town, and as the mountain rises high with a ravine below, the town is impregnable."

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