Ancient India has witnessed the visit of great foreign envoys from all over the world. Few of the most popular foreign travelers of ancient India include Al-Masudi, Fa-Hien, Hiuen-Tsang, Marco Polo and Abdul Razak, etc.
It was through the records and writings of these travelers, the world first heard about India and her people. Many of those travelers have documented the culture and lifestyle prevailing in the various parts of India then. 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.
Foreign travellers at a glance
|Name (Nationality)||Time Period||Visited during the reign of (Dynasty/Ruler)|
|Deimachos (Greek)||320-273 BC||Mauryan (Bindusara)|
|Megasthenes (Greek)||302-298 BC||Mauryan (Chandragupta Maurya)|
|Fa-Hien (Chinese)||405-411 AD||Gupta (Chandragupta II)|
|Hiuen Tsang (Chinese)||630-645 AD||Pushyabhuti (Harshavardhana)|
|I-Tsing (Chinese)||671-695 AD||(Visited India in connection with Buddhism)|
|Al-Masudi (Arab)||956 AD||(Has given account of India in his book ‘Muruj- ul-Zehab’)|
|Al-Biruni (Khwarazm)||1024-1030 AD||(He came to India along with Mahmud of Ghazni)|
|Marco Polo (Venetian)||1292-1294 AD||Pandyan (Madverman, Kulasekhara)|
|Ibn Battuta (Moroccan)||1333-1347 AD||Tughlaq (Muhammad-Bin- Tughlaq)|
|Shihabuddin al-Umari (Damascus)||1348 AD||At-Ta’rif bi-al-mustalah ash-sharif|
|Nicolo De Conti (Venetian)||1420-1421 AD||Vijayanagara (Devaraya I)|
|Abdur Razzaq (Persian)||1443-1444 AD||Vijayanagara (Devaraya II)|
|Athanasius Nikitin (Russian)||1470-1474 AD||Bahmani (Muhammad III)|
|Domingo Paes (Portuguese)||1520-1522 AD||Vijayanagara (Krishnadeva Raya)|
|Duarte Barbosa (Portuguese)||1500-1516 AD||Vijayanagara (Krishnadeva Raya)|
|Fernao Nuniz (Portuguese)||1535-1537 AD||Tuluva dynasty (Achyutdeva Raya)|
|William Hawkins (British)||1608-1611 AD||Mughal Emperor (Jahangir)|
|Sir Thomas Roe (British)||1615-1619 AD||Mughal Emperor (Jahangir)|
|Peter Mundy(Italian)||1630-1634 AD||Mughal Emperor (Shah Jahan)|
|Jean Baptiste Tavernier (French)||1638- 1643 AD||Mughal Emperor (Shah Jahan)|
|Nicolao Manucci (Italian)||1653- 1708 AD||Timurid dynasty (Dara Shikoh)|
|Francois Bernier (French)||1656-1717 AD||Timurid Dynasty (Dara Shikoh)|
Foreign Travellers in Indian History
Megasthenes (302-298 B.C.)
- Greek ethnographer & ambassador.
- Ambassador of Seleucus Nicator, who visited in the court of Chandragupta Maurya.
- Described India in his book Indika.
- Megasthenes also describes about India’s two major rivers Sindhu and Ganga.
- First person to describe ancient India, and for that reason he has been called “The Father of Indian history”
Deimachos (320-273 BC)
- Greek Ambassador
- Come as ambassador to Bindusāra or Amitraghāta, the son and successor of Chandragupta Maurya.
- Provided important information about the contemporary society and polity.
- He was sent by Antiochus I (the son of Seleucus Nikator).
Ptolemy (130 A.D.)
- From Greece
- Wrote “the geography of India”-which describes ancient Indian geography.
Faxian (AD 405-411)
- The Chinese wayfarer arrived in India on foot during the days of Chandragupta Vikramaditya.
- The first Buddhist pilgrim to visit India, Faxian has given valuable details about the Gupta dynasty, and the social and economic spheres.
- He is known for his visit to Lumbini.
- His voyage is described in his travelogue “Record of Buddhist Kingdom”
- ‘Foguoji’ is one of his famous books.
Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsang) (630 AD)
- also known as Hiuen Tsang.
- The Chinese traveller visited India in and stayed on for 15 years.
- He visited India during the supremacy of Harsha Vardhana.
- He studied about the caste system of the days and wrote the book ‘Si-Yu-Ki.’/ ‘THE RECORDS OF WESTERN WORLD’
- He visited Deccan, Orissa, and Bengal while studying at Nalanda University.
I-TSING (671-695 AD)
- He was a Chinese traveller.
- Visited India in connection with Buddhism.
- His work include biographies many important monks.
Al Masudi (AD 957)
- Arab traveller
- Has given account of India in his book ‘Muruj- ul-Zehab’
- The book discusses India’s political, economic and religious history.
Al-beruni (1024-1030 A.D.)
- Persian scholar.
- He came to India along with Mahmud of Ghazni.
- He was the first muslim scholar to study India.
- He wrote the book ‘Tahqiq-i-Hind’.
- Considered the Father of Indology.
Marco Polo (1292-94)
- Italian mercantile trader-explorer.
- He visited Southern India during the reign of Rudramma Devi of the Kakatiyas.
- Visited South India also during the reign of Pandyan ruler of Madurai, Madverman, Kulshekhara (1272-1311)
- His work “The Book of Sir Marco Polo” which gives an invaluable account of the economic history of India.
Ibn Battuta (1333 to 1342)
- Moroccan traveller.
- Visited India during the reign of Muhammad-Bin-Tughlaq.
- Appointed as judge by Tughlaq.
- His book ‘The Travels’ details about the much-mocked administrative reforms of Delhi Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq.
- His book “Rehla” (the travelogue)
Shihabuddin al-Umari (1348 A.D.)
- Came from Damascus
- He gives a vivid account of India in his book “Masalik albsar fi-mamalik al-amsar”
Nicolo Conti (1420-1421 A.D.)
- Venetian traveler
- Came during the rule of Devraya I of Sangam Dynasty of Vijayanagar empire.
- Given a graphic account of Vijayanagara’s capital.
- A book named “Historia de Varietate Fortunae” was written by Niccolo Conti.
Abdur Razzaq (1443-1444 A.D.)
- Persian traveller, Ambassador of Shahrukh of Timurid dynasty.
- Came during the rule of Devraya II of Vijaynagar Empire.
- Stayed in India at the palace of the Zamorin of Kozhikode, Calicut
- His book entitled ‘Matla-us-Sadain wa Majma-ul-Bahrain’ described the life and events in Calicut under the Zamorin and also of the Ancient City of Vijayanagara at Hampi.
Afanasi Nikitin (1470- 1474 A.D.)
- also known as Athanasius Nikitin
- Russian merchant
- Visited South India
- Describes the condition of the Bahmani kingdom under Muhammad III (1463-82).
- His narrative “The journey beyond three seas”.
- The diary by Afanasy Nikitin throws light upon the Islamic culture of this region and proves to be a significant source.
Duarte Barbosa (AD 1500)
- Portuguese voyager
- Stayed in India for 16 years, most of the time in Kerala and in Vijayanagara dynasty.
- Visited Vijayanagara during the time of Krishna Deva Raya.
- Barbosa studied Malayalam and has written about the caste culture that prevailed here as also about the social life.
- He wrote the ‘Book of Duarte Barbosa.’
Domingo Paes (1520-1522 A.D.)
- Portuguese traveler.
- Visited the court of Krishnadeva Raya of Tuluv dynasty of Vijayanagar empire.
- Paes’ description of his voyage to Vijayanagara during Krishnadevaraya’s reign is mostly a detailed observation, as it covers in detail Vijayanagara’s military structure called Malankara system and the yearly royal Durga festival.
Fernao Nuniz (1535-1537 A.D.)
- Portuguese merchant.
- Visited during the rule of Achyutdeva Raya of Tuluv dynasty of Vijayanagar Empire.
- Wrote history of the empire from its earliest times.
- His descriptions give a glimpse into the Mahanavami festival.
- He admires the extravagant jewels worn by the ladies of the court and the thousands of women who serve the king.
- He was interested in the history of Vijayanagara, especially the founding of the city, and his subsequent career in the three ruling dynasties, and the battles between Deccan Sultan and Olisanraya.
John Hughen Von Linschotten (1583 A.D.)
- Dutch traveler
- Given a valuable account of the social and economic life of South India.
- Ralph Fitch was an English (British) traveller to visit India during Mughal period.
- Ralph Fitch was the first Englishmen to visit Akbar’s court.
- He visited Akbar’s court in 1585 AD.
- He praised about Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Ahmedabad and Delhi in his description about Indian towns of that period.
- He visited Bihar in 1587. He traveled to India through the land route.
William Hawkins (AD1608 to 1611)
- Britain’s King James I had sent Hawkins as ambassador to the Mughal palace of Emperor Jahangeer.
- Captain William Hawkins led the first expedition of the English East India Company to India in 1609.
- He did not succeed in getting Jahangir’s permission to start a factory.
Thomas Coryat (1612-1617 AD)
- English traveller
- Under Reign: Jahangir
- English traveller
- Visited under the reign of Jahangir
Sir Thomas Roe (1615-1619 A.D.)
- Ambassador of James I, king of England.
- Visited during the reign of Jahangir, the great Mughal Emperor.
- 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.
Edward Terry (1616 A.D.)
- Ambassador of Thomas Roe.
- Describe about Indian social (Gujarat) behaviour.
Pietra Della Velle (1622-1660 AD)
- Italian Traveller
- Under Reign of Jahangir
Franciso Palsaer (1620-1627 A.D.)
- Dutch traveller stayed at Agra.
- Gave a vivid account of the flourishing trade at Surat, Ahmadabad, Broach, Cambay, Lahore, Multan etc.
John Fryer (1627-1681 AD)
- English Traveller
- Under the Reign of Shahjahan.
- Given a vivid account of Surat and Bombay.
Peter Mundy (1630-34 A.D.)
- Italian traveler
- Visited during the reign of the Mughal Emperor, Shahjahan.
- Gives valuable information about the living standard of the common people in the Mughal Empire.
John Albert de Mandesto (1638 A.D.)
- German traveler
Jeen Baptiste Tavernier (1638-1663 A.D.)
- Jean-Baptiste Tavernier was a French gem (particularly diamond) trader and traveller in the 17th century.
- He made six travels to Persia and India throughout his lifetime.
- Between 1638 and 1643 AD, during his second voyage, he came to India and travelled as far as Agra before arriving in the Kingdom of Golconda.
- He also paid a visit to the Shahjahan’s court and went on his first excursion to the diamond mines.
- Tavernier wrote Les Six Voyages de Jean-Baptiste Tavernier in 1675 at the behest of his patron Louis XIV (Six Voyages, 1676).
- In his book, he goes into great detail on diamonds and Indian diamond mines.
- He is famous for discovering and purchasing the Blue Diamond, which he later sold to Louis XIV of France.
Nicolao Manucci (1653-1708 A.D.)
- Italian traveler
- Got service at the court of Dara Shikoh.
Francois Bernier (1656- 1717 A.D.)
- French physician and Philosopher.
- He visited India during the reign of Shah Jahan.
- Danishamand Khan, a noble of Aurangzeb was his patron.
- Francois Bernier was the physician of Dara Shikoh.
- ‘Travels in the Mughal Empire’ was written by Francois Bernier.
- The book mainly talks about the rules of Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb.
- Francois Bernier embarked on his twelve-year voyage to the East at the age of 36, covering Palestine, Egypt, Cairo, Arabia, Ethiopia, and India.
Jean de Thevenot (1666 A.D.)
- French traveler
- Given an account of cities like Ahmadabad, Cambay, Aurangabad and Golconda.
Gemelli Careri (1695 A.D.)
- Italian traveler who landed at Daman.
- His remarks on the Mughal emperor’s military organisation and administration are important.