The India They Saw (Vol-3)
The arrival of Vasco da Gama on the western coast of India, near Calicut, on 27 May 1498, heralded the restoration of Europe?s links with the subcontinent after an interval of almost eight centuries. With his landing, India became accessible to Portuguese conquistadors, traders, travellers, scholars and clergymen. The sixteenth century could, in a sense, be termed the Portuguese century, for no European power could challenge its mastery of the sea route to India.
The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 by Holland and England, however, signaled the end of this monopoly and in 1595, the first Dutch fleet entered the Indian Ocean. In the seventeenth century, the Dutch, with their British camp followers, seriously undermined the Portuguese. The French also entered the Indian trade in the second half of this century.
While several Portuguese accounts of India in the sixteenth century are available, for the seventeenth century, we also have the writings of travellers, scholars and missionaries from the latter three countries. Additionally, Jesuits of various nationalities wrote regular letters to home, providing valuable information on facets of Indian life, albeit tempered by their religious bias.
This volume confines itself to European writings of sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It does not claim to be exhaustive but presents glimpses of the Indian reality as recorded by contemporary European visitors. Only English translations have been used. A sizeable number of accounts in European languages still await translation.