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Foreign Travellers In India In Ancient Times

Foreign Travellers In India In Ancient Times


  • India has always been the dream destination for people who want to explore one of the earliest civilizations in the world. Since time immemorial, India has received several keen travelers who came here and fell in love with its traditions and colors.
  • The envoy is an ambassador of a respective country. India is a land of beautiful culture and tradition. This draws many foreigners from different countries to our land.
  • While the British travelers were actually the hidden form of imperialists, the earlier travelers came to India for the sake of attaining knowledge, learning, and customs. These travelers documented their experiences of the country and became the earliest chroniclers of history.

Important Foreign Envoys to India  | Foreign Travellers In India In Ancient Times 

Abdul Razak (1443 A.D. – 1444 A.D.)

  • He was a Persian scholar.
  • He was also an ambassador of Persia.
  • He visited India during the rule of Deva Raya II of Vijayanagar.

Alberuni/Abu Rehan Mahamud (1024 A.D. – 1030 A.D.)   

  • He was a Persian scholar.
  • He accompanied Mahmud of Ghazni and wrote a book titled ‘Tahqiq-i-hind’.
  • He was the first Muslim scholar to study India.
  • He is considered the father of Indology.

Al-Masudi (957 A.D.)                      Foreign Travellers In India In Ancient Times 

  • Al-Masudi was An Arab traveller.
  • In his book Muruj-ul-Zehab he has explained about his journey.

Captain William Hawkins (1608 A.D. – 1611 A.D.)

  • Captain William Hawkins led the first expedition of the English East India Company to India in 1609.
  • He visited India during the reign of Jahangir.
  • He carried a personal letter from King James I of England.
  • He did not succeed in getting Jahangir’s permission to start a factory.

Fa-Hien (405 A.D. – 411 A.D.)

  • He was a Chinese Buddhist monk.
  • He visited India during the reign of Vikramaditya (Chandragupta II).
  • He is known for his visit to Lumbini.
  • His voyage is described in his travelogue “Record of Buddhist Kingdoms”.

Francois Bernier                (1656 A.D. – 1717 A.D.)

  • He was a French physician and traveller.
  • He visited India during 1658 and 1671.
  • He was the personal physician of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
  • ‘Travels in the Mughal Empire’ was written by Francois Bernier.
  • The book mainly talks about the rules of Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb.

Huien Tsang (630 A.D. – 645 A.D.)                                    Foreign Travellers In India In Ancient Times 

  • He was a Chinese traveller.
  • He visited India during the supremacy of Harsha Vardhana.
  • Si-yu-ki or ‘The Records of the Western World’ was written by him.

Ibn Batuta (1333 A.D. – 1347 A.D.)

  • He was a Moroccan traveller.
  • He visited India during the rule of Mohammed Bin Tughlaq.
  • Rihla is a book written by Ibn Batuta.

Marco Polo (1292 A.D. – 1294 A.D.)           

  • He was a European traveller.
  • He visited Southern India during the reign of Rudramma Devi of the Kakatiyas.

Megasthenes (302 B.C. – 298 B.C.)             

  • He was the ambassador of Seleucus.
  • He visited India during the supremacy of Chandragupta Maurya.
  • Chandragupta was known to the Greeks as Sandrocottus.
  • He was also the author of the book ‘Indica’.

Nicolo Conti (1420 A.D. – 1421 A.D.)

  • He was an Italian merchant.
  • He visited India during the reign of Deva Raya I of Vijayanagar.

Thomas Roe (1615 A.D. – 1619 A.D.)         

  • Sir Thomas Roe was an English diplomat.
  • He visited India during the reign of Jahangir in 1615.
  • He came to seek protection for an English factory at Surat.
  • His “Journal of the Mission to the Mughal Empire” is a treasured contribution to the history of India.

Afanasy Nikitin (1469-1472)

  • Nikitin, the Russian merchant, spent more than two years in India traveling to different cities, getting acquainted with local residents and carefully describing everything he saw.
  • The notes of the merchant were compiled in the form of a so-called “Journey,” which is more like a traveler’s log.
  • This work accurately described the nature and political organization of India as well as its traditions, lifestyle, and customs.

Domingo Paes (1520-1522 A.D.)

  • After the conquest of Goa in 1510 and its rise as the capital of the Portuguese Estado da India, several Portuguese travelers and traders visited Vijayanagara and wrote detailed reports about the glory of Bisnaga of Vijayanagara.
  • Most valuable is that of Domingos Paes written in c. 1520-22.
  • The report of Paes, who visited Vijayanagara during Krishnadeva’s reign, is based primarily on careful observation as he describes in detail the so-called feudal nayankara system of Vijayanagara’s military organization and the annual royal Durga festival.

Fernao Nunes (1535-1537 A.D.)

  • Fernao Nuniz, a Portuguese horse-trader, composed his account of India around 1536-37.
  • He was in the capital of Vijaynagara, during the reign of Achyutaraya and may have been present at earlier battles fought by Krishnadevaraya.
  • This visitor was particularly interested in the history of Vijayanagara, especially the foundation of the city, the subsequent careers of three dynasties of rulers, and the battles that they fought with the Deccan sultans and Orissan Rayas.
  • His accounts also give an insight into the Mahanavami festival, where he notes admiringly the extravagant jewels worn by the courtly women, as well as the thousands of women in the king’s service.

Vasco De Gama (1497–99, 1502–03, 1524)

  • Vasco De Gama was the first Portuguese or in fact the first European to reach India. He is an important traveler to India whose history is closely intermeshed with that of Goa.
  • After sailing down the western coast of Africa and rounding the Cape of Good Hope, his expedition made numerous stops in Africa before reaching the trading post of Calicut, India, in May 1498.
  • For his second journey, Da Gama arrived in Goa with the task of combating the growing corruption that had tainted the Portuguese government in India.

Conclusion  | Foreign Travellers In India In Ancient Times 

  • The question arises as to whether we had any travelers in the past who left their domestic hearth and left to travel abroad? The answer would be very few.
  • Even if they are, there accounts and narratives don’t add much to our travel corpus today. The reason was that India had not been much of a traveling nation like Persia, Britain, Italy and many more. Indians considered themselves to be a satisfied lot with their country and rarely went across the borders.
  • However, with the growing trend of tourism, today Indians are making a lot of travel journeys and planning trips, thereby becoming the observers rather than the subjects of narratives. Let us travel, explore and know the world and write it down in our words forming our own travel diaries.



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