Narrative of Domingos Paes

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Narrative of Domingos Paes  (1520) 
Narrated to Historian Barros

On leaving India to travel towards the kingdom of Narsymga from the sea-coast, you have to pass a range of hills (serra), the boundary of the said kingdom and of those territories which are by the sea. This serra runs along the whole of the coast of India, and has passes by which people enter the interior; for all the rest of the range is very rocky and filled with thick forest. The said kingdom has many places on the coast of India; they are seaports with which we are at peace, and in some of them we have factories, namely, Amcola, Mirgeo, Honor, Batecalla, Mamgalor, Bracalor, and Bacanor. And as soon as we are above this serra we have a plain country in which there are no more ranges of hills, but only a few mountains, and these small ones; for all the rest is like the plains of Ssantrarem. Only on the road from Batecala to a town called Zambuja, there are some ranges with forests; nevertheless the road is very even. From Batecala to this town of Zambur is forty leagues; the road has many streams of water by its side, and because of this so much merchandise flows to Batecala that every year there come five or six thousand pack-oxen.

Now to tell of the aforesaid kingdom. It is a country sparsely wooded except along this serra on the east, but in places you walk for two or three leagues under groves of trees; and behind cities and towns and villages they have plantations of mangoes, and jack-fruit trees, and tamarinds and other very large trees, which form resting-places where merchants halt with their merchandise. I saw in the city of Recalem a tree under which we lodged three hundred and twenty horses, standing in order as in their stables, and all over the country you may see many small trees. These dominions are very well cultivated and very fertile, and are provided with qualities of cattle, such as cows, buffaloes, and sheet; also of birds, both those belonging to the hills and those reared at home, and this in greater abundance than in our tracts. The land has plenty of rice and Indian-corn, grains, beans, and other kind of crops which are not sown in our parts; also an infinity of cotton. Of the grains there is a great quantity, because, besides being used as food for men, it is also used for horses, since there is no other kind of barley; and this country has also much wheat, and that good. The whole country is thickly populated with cities and towns and villages; the king allows them to be surrounded only with earthen walls for fear of their becoming too strong. But if a city is situated at the extremity of his territory he gives his consent to its having stone walls, but never the towns; so that they may make fortresses of the cities but not of the towns.

And because this country is all flat, the winds blow here more than in other parts. The oil which it produces comes from seeds sown and afterwards reaped, and they obtain it by means of machines which they make. This country wants water because it is very great and has few streams; they make lakes in which water collects when it rains, and thereby they maintain themselves. They maintain themselves by means of some in which there are springs better than by others that have only the water from rain; for we find many quite dry, so that people go about walking in their beds, and dig holes to try and find enough water, even a little, for their maintenance. The failure of the water is because they have no winter, as in our parts and in India, but only thunder-storms that are greater in one year than in another. The water in these lakes is for the most part muddy, especially in those where there are no springs, and the reason why it is so muddy is because of the strong wind and dust that is in this country, which never allows the water to be clear; and also because of the numbers of cattle, buffaloes, cows, oxen, and other small cattle that drink in them. For you must know that in this land they do not slaughter oxen or cows; the oxen are beasts of burden and are like sumpter-mules; these carry all their goods. They worship the cows, and have them in their pagodas made in stone, and also bulls; they have many bulls that they present to these pagodas, and these bulls go about the city without any one causing them any harm or loss. Further, there are asses in this country, but they are small, and they use them only little things; those that wash clothes lay the cloths on them, and use them for this more than for anything else. You must know that this kingdom of Narsymga has three hundred graos of coast, each grao being a league, along the hill-range (serra) of which I have spoken, until you arrive at Ballagate and Charamãodel, which belong to this kingdom; and in breadth it is one hundred and sixty-four graos; each large grao measures two of our leagues, so that it has six hundred leagues of coast, and across it three hundred and forty-eight leagues...across from Batacalla to the kingdom of Orya.

And this kingdom marches with all the territory of Bengal, and on the other side with the kingdom of Orya, which is to the east, and on the other side to the north with the kingdom of Dakhan, belonging to which are the lands which the Ydallcão has, and Ozemelluco. Goa is at war with this Ydallcão, because that city was his, and we have taken it from him.

And this kingdom of Orya, of which I have spoken above, is said to be much larger than the kingdom of Narsymga, since it marches with all the kingdom of Pegu and with the Mallaca Sea. It reaches to the kingdom of Cambaya, and to the kingdom of Dakhan; and they told me with positive certainty that it extends as far as Persia. The population thereof is light coloured, and the men are of good physique. Its king has much treasure and many soldiers and many elephants, for there are numbers of these in this country. (My informants) know this well, and they say that there is no ruler greater than he. He is a heathen.

Coming back to our subject, I say that I will not mention here the situation in the cities, and towns, and villages in this kingdom of Narsymga, to avoid prolixity; only I shall speak of the city of Darcha, which has a monument such as can seldom be seen elsewhere. This city of Darcha is well fortified by a wall, though not of stone, for the reason that I have already stated. On the western side, which is towards Portuguese India, it is surrounded by a very beautiful river, and on the other, eastern, side the interior of the country is all one plain, and along the wall is its moat. This Darcha has a pagoda, which is the monument I speak of, so beautiful that another as good of its kind could not be found within a great distance. You must know that it is a round temple made of a single stone, the gateway all in the manner of joiners's work, with every art of perspective. There are many figures of the said work, standing out as much as a cubit from the stone, so that you see on every side of them, so well carved that they could not be better done - the faces as well as all the rest; and each one in its place stands as if embowered in leaves; and above it is in the Romanesque style, so well made that it could not be better. Besides this, it has a sort of lesser porch upon pillars, all of stone, and the pillars with their pedestals so well executed that they appear as if made in Italy; all the cross pieces and beams are of the same stone without any planks or timber being used in it, and in the same way all the ground is laid with the same stone, outside as well as in. And all this pagoda, as far round as the temple goes, is enclosed by a trellis made of the same stone, and this again is completely surrounded by a very strong wall, better even than the city has, since it is all of solid masonry. It has three entrance gates, which gates are very large and beautiful, and the entrance from one of these sides, being towards the east and facing the door of the pagoda, has some structures like verandahs, small and low, where sit some Jogis; and inside this enclosure, which has other little pagodas of a reddish colour, there is a stone like the mast of a ship, with its pedestal four-sided, and from thence to the top eight-sided, standing in the open air. I was not astonished as it, because I have seen the needle of St. Peter's at Rome, which is as high, or more.

These pagodas are buildings in which they pray and have their idols; the idols are of many sorts, namely, figures of men and women, of bulls, and apes, while others have nothing but a round stone which they worship. In this temple of Darcha is an idol in the figure of a man as to his body , and the face is that of an elephant with trunk and tusks, and with three arms on each side and six hands, of which arms they say that already four are gone, and when all fall then the world will be destroyed; they are full of belief that this will be, and hold it as a prophecy. They feed the idol every day, for they say that he eats; and when eats women dance before him who belong to that pagoda, and they give him food and all that is necessary, and all girls born of these women belong to the temple. These women are of loose character, and live in the best streets that there are in the city; it is the same in all their cities, their streets have the best rows of houses. They are very much esteemed, and are classed amongst those honoured ones who are the mistresses of captains; any respectable man may go to their houses without any blame attaching thereto. These women are allowed even to enter the presence of the wives of the king, and they stay with them and eat betel with them, a thing which no other person may do, no matter what his rank may be. This betel is a herb which a leaf like the leaf of the pepper, or the ivy of our country; they always eat this leaf, and carry it in their mouths with another fruit called areca. This is something like a medlar, but it is very hard, and it is very good for the breath and has many other virtues; it is the best provision for those who do not eat as we do. Some of them eat flesh; they eat all kinds except beef and pork, and yet, nevertheless, they cease not to eat this betel all day.

Afterwards, going from this city of Darcha towards the city of Bisniga, which is eighteen leagues distant, and is the capital of all the kingdom of Narsymga, where the king always resides, you have many cities and walled villages; and two leagues before you arrive at the city of Bisniga you have a very lofty serra which has passes by which you enter the city. These are called "gates" (portas). You must enter by these, for you will have no means of entrance except by them. This range of hills surrounds the city with a circle of twenty-four leagues, and within this range there are others that encircle it closely. Wherever these ranges have any level ground they cross it with a very strong wall, in such a way that the hills remain all closed, except in the places where the roads come through from the gates in the first range, which are the entrance ways to the city. In such places there are some small pits or caves which could be defended by a few people; these serras continue as far as the interior of the city. Between all these enclosures are plains and valleys where rice is grown, and there are gardens with many orange-trees, limes, citrons, and radishes, and other kinds of garden produce as in Portugal, only not lettuces or cabbages. Between these hill-ranges are many lakes by which they irrigate the crops mentioned and amongst all these ranges there are no forests or patches of brushwood, except very small ones, nor anything that is green. For these hills are the strangest ever seen, they are of a white stone piled one block over another in manner most singular, so that it seems as if they stood in the air and were not connected one with another; and the city is situated in the middle of these hills and is entirely surrounded by them.

The serras reach as far as the kingdom of Daquem, and border upon the territories belonging to the Ydallcão, and upon a city called Rachol that formerly belonged to the king of Narsymga; there has been much war over it, and this king took it from the Ydallcão. So that these ranges are in a way the cause of the two kingdoms never uniting and always being at war; and even on the side Orya also there are ranges, but they are different from these, since like ours they have scrub and small patches of brushwood; these ranges are low and between them are great plains. On the extreme east of these two kingdoms you must know that the country is all covered with scrub, the densest possible to be seen, in which there are great beasts, and this forms so strong a fortress for it that it protects both sides; it has its entrances by which they pass from one kingdom to the other. In these passes on the frontier of the king of Narsymga has a captain with a quantity of troops, but on the side of (Portuguese) India he has none, except as I have said.

This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.