Duarte Barbosa was a Portuguese
factor at Cannanore and Cochin in between 1503 and (about)
1517 and had left behind an interesting account on trade and
political events of the southeast including Bengal. His father
Diogo Barbosa, a man of good family, was in the service of
Duke of Braganca and sailed to India in 1501. Duarte Barbosa's
uncle, Goncalo Gil Barbosa, had gone to India in 1503 with
the fleet of Pedro Alvarez Cabral; and was left at Cochin
as a factor. It is probable that Duarte had joined Cabral's
fleet and remained with his uncle at Cochin. By 1503, he had
learnt Malayalam to act as interpreter to Francisco D' Albuquerque
on his visit to the King of Cannanore. From the published
letter of Duarte, then writer at Cannanore, written on 12
January 1513 to the King of Portugal, it is clear that he
did not get the coveted post of head writer and that the people
of the country were up in arms against the Governor Diogo
Correa. Duarte Barbosa returned to Portugal sometime after
1515 and finished his book by 1518. He had then joined his
brother-in-law, Fernao de Magelhas and sailed with him in
1519 for the Philippines. Magelhas died on 21 April 1521 near
the Isle of Sebu, whose King massacred the Spaniards, including
Duarte Barbosa, on 1 May 1521.
We have an account of what
Vijayanagara was like in A.D. 1504 - 14 in the narrative
of Duarte Barbosa, who visited the city during that period.
Speaking of the "Kingdom
of Narsinga," by which name the Vijayanagar territories
were always known to the Portuguese, Barbosa writes: "It
is very rich, and well supplied with provisions, and is very
full of cities and large townships."
He describes the large trade
of the seaport of Bhatkal on its western coast, the exports
from which consisted of iron, spices, drugs, myrabolans, and
the imports of horses and pearls; but as regards he last two
items he says, "They now go to Goa, on account of the
Portuguese." The governor of Bhatkal was a nephew of
King Krishna Deva. "He lives in great state and calls
himself king, but is in obedience to the king, his uncle."
Leaving the sea-coast and
going inland, Barbosa passed upwards through the ghats.
from these mountains there is a very large city which is called
BIJANAGUER, very populous, and surrounded on one side by a
very good wall, and on another by a river, and on the other
by a mountain. This city is on level ground; the king of Narsinga
(Vijayanagara) always resides in it. He has in this place
very large and handsome palaces, with numerous courts....
There are also in this city many other palaces of great lords,
who live there. And all the other houses of the place are
covered with thatch, and the streets and squares are very
wide. They are constantly filled with an innumerable crowd
of all nations and creeds.... There is an infinite trade in
this city.... In this city there are many jewels which are
brought from Pegu and Celani (Ceylon/Sri Lanka), and in the
country itself many diamonds are found, because there is a
mine of them in the kingdom of Narsinga and another in the
kingdom of Decani (Deccan). There are also many pearls and
seed-pearls to be found there, which are brought from Ormuz
and Cael ... also silk-brocades, scarlet cloth, and coral...."
"The king constantly
resides in the before-mentioned palaces, and very seldom goes
out of them...."
"All the attendance
on the king is done by women, who wait upon him within doors;
and amongst them are all the employments of the king's household;
and all these women live and find room within these palaces,
which contain apartments for all...."
"This king has a house
in which he meets with the governors and his officers in council
upon the affairs of the realm.... They come in very rich litters
on men's shoulders.... Many litters and many horsemen always
stand at the door of this palace, and the king keeps at all
times nine hundred elephants and more than twenty thousand
horses, all which elephants and horses are bought with his
own money.... This king has more than a hundred thousand men,
both horse and foot,
to whom he gives pay...."
"When the king
dies four or five hundred women burn themselves with him....
The king of Narsinga (Vijayanagara) is frequently at war with
the king of Dacani (Deccan), who has taken from him much of
his land; and with another gentile king of the country of
Otira (apparently Orissa), which is the country in the interior."