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Famous Foreign Travellers in Indian History

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Bharathi Pradeep
Bharathi Pradeep
Editor at Bharathi covers topics on Competitive exams, How To guides, Current exams, Current Affairs, Study Materials, etc. Follow her on social media using the links below.

About Foreign Travellers

  • India has always been a dream destination for those looking to explore one of the world’s oldest civilizations. 
  • Since ancient times, India has welcomed some enthusiastic travellers who came here and fell in love with its traditions and colours. British travellers were imperialist undercovers, but early travellers came to India in search of knowledge, learning, and customs.
  • These travellers documented their experiences in the land and became part of history’s earliest chronicles. Most of what we now know about ancient India comes from these travellers’ stories. Here is a list of foreign travellers who have visited India and explored its diverse cultural landscape.

Famous Foreign Travellers in Ancient Indian History

Hiuen Tsang  (China)

One of India’s earliest and most famous travellers, Hiuen Tsang came to India from China in pursuit of his Buddhist beliefs and practices. He is called the “Pilgrim Prince” and his account contains much information about the political, social, and religious realities of India. Hiuen Tsang visited Kashmir, Punjab, Kapilavastu, Bodhgaya, Sarnath, and Kushinagar in India. He studied at Nalanda University and travelled to Deccan, Orissa, and Bengal also. In India, he stayed for 14  years, his description reflects what ancient India must have been like. 

 Al Biruni  (Persia) 

Al Biruni was an Islamic scholar who was commissioned by Mahmud of Ghazni to write Kitab fi tahqiq ma li`l-hind, a monumental commentary on Indian philosophy and culture. As per modern scholars, His observations of the Indian situation, systems of knowledge, social norms, and religion are perhaps the most penetrating, ever made by a visitor to India. 

Ibn Battuta  (Morocco)

To understand the world incredibly, people could travel so much in a time before travel gear. Meet Ibn Battuta, whose passion for travel is unparalleled in history. It’s hard to believe that Ibn Battuta travelled over 75,000 miles (121,000 km), a feat unmatched by any explorer until the dawn of the Steam Age some 450 years later. He was the only medieval traveller known to have visited the lands of all Muslim rulers of the time. His travels included voyages to North Africa, West Africa, Southern Europe,  Eastern Europe in the west, Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and China in the east, the distances roughly 3 times comparable to those of contemporary Marco Polo.

Marco Polo ( Italy)

The Venetian traveller Marco Polo is still the most famous today. He is said to have visited South India on two occasions, in 1288 and 1292, where he saw the tomb of St. Thomas in “a certain little town,” which he does not name. Many historians accept these dates and visits without question, identifying the small town in which he speaks with Myrapole. 

Megasthenes (Greece)

Megasthenes was a 4th-century BC Greek historian. He came to India as an ambassador of the Seleucus Nicator. He lived in the court of Chandragupta for about five years (302-298 BC). His experience in India is documented in the book INDIKA. Through his reports, we learn everything he saw in India – its geography, government, religion, and society.

 Abdur Razzaq (Persia)

One of the earliest references to the Vijayanagara Empire in India comes from the Persian traveller Abdur Razzaq, who visited the Vijayanagara Empire around 1440. His description of Hampi’s markets, its architecture, and its splendour has left much to be desired by later historians. Abdur Razzaq was the ambassador of the  Timurid emperor Shahrukh.

Fa Hien (China)

Fa-Hien is considered the first Chinese monk to travel to India in search of the great Buddhist scriptures. At the age of 65, he travelled mainly on foot from central China via the southern route through Shenzhen, Dunhuang, Khotan, and across the Himalayas to Gandhara and Peshawar. 

Niccolo Conti (Italy)

Niccolo de Conti was a Venetian explorer and writer who travelled the west coast of India to Erie and inland to Vijayanagara, the capital of the most important Deccan Hindu state. Conti gives a detailed description of this city and he shows one of the most interesting parts of his story. From Vijayanagara and Tungabhadra, he travelled to Mariapur near Madras, present-day Chennai.

Afanasy Nikitin (Russia)

Nikitin, a Russian merchant, said that in India he spent more than two years, travelling to different cities, got to know the inhabitants, and carefully describing everything he saw. The merchant’s notes are organized in the form of so-called “journeys”, similar to his travel diary. The work accurately portrays the nature and political organization of India, as well as its traditions, way of life, and customs.

Domingo Paes (Portugal)

After  Goa was conquered in 1510 and became the capital of Portugal’s Estado da India, several Portuguese travellers and merchants visited Vijayanagara and wrote detailed accounts of the glory of Vijayanagara’s Visnaga.  The most valuable is by Domingos Paes, written in c. 1520-22. Paes’s account of his visit to Vijayanagara during the reign of Krishnadevaraya, is largely a careful observation, as it describes in detail the so-called feudal Malankara system of Vijayanagara’s military organization and the annual royal Durga festival.

Fernao Nunes (Portugal)

Fernao Nuniz, a Portuguese horse trader, wrote about India around 1537. He may have been in the capital of Vijayanagara during Achutaraya’s reign and participated in Krishnadevaraya’s earlier battles. This visitor was particularly interested in the history of Vijayanagara, especially the founding of the city, his subsequent career in the three ruling dynasties, and the battles between Deccan Sultan and Olisanraya.  His description also gives a glimpse into the Mahanavami festival. It admires the extravagant jewels worn by the ladies of the court and the thousands of women who serve the king. 

Vasco Da Gama (Portugal)

Vasco De Gama was the first Portuguese or the first European to reach India. He was an important traveller to India, whose history is closely intertwined with that of Goa. After sailing the west coast of Africa and rounding the Cape of Good Hope, his expedition arrived at the Indian trading post of Calicut in May 1498 after numerous stops in Africa. Da Gama arrived in Goa on his second trip, tasked with fighting the spread of corruption that had tainted the Portuguese government in India.

List of Foreign Travellers in Medieval India

1Marco PoloItaly1288-1292 ADPandya Kingdom
2Ibn-e-BattutaMorocco1333-1342 ADMohammad Bin Tughlaq
3Niccolo de ContiItaly1420-1422 ADDeva Raya I
4Tsang HiChina1421-1431 ADJalaluddin of Bengal
5Abdur Razzak Iran1442-1443 ADDeva Raya II
6Athanasius Afanasy NikitinRussia1470-1474 ADMuhammad III Bahmani
7Bartolomeu DiasPortuguese1503-1508 ADDeccan
8Eduardo BarbosaPortuguese1516-1518 ADKrishna Deva Raya
9Domingo’s PaesPortuguese1520-1522 ADKrishna Deva Raya
10NunizPortuguese1535-1537 ADAchyuta Deva Raya
11Anthony MonserratePortuguese1578-1582 ADAkbar
12Ralph FischEnglish1585-1591 ADAkbar
13Ceaser FredrisehPortuguese16th CenturyVijayanagara
14John LinschotenDutch16th CenturyVijayanagara
15Lama TaranathaTibet16th CenturyEastern India
16Captain HawkinsEnglish1608-1613 ADJahangir
17William FischEnglish1608-1612 ADJahangir
18John JurdanPortuguese1608-1617 ADJahangir
19Nicholas DoughtonEnglish1608-1615 ADJahangir
20Nicholas Withington English1612-1616 ADJahangir
21Thomas CoryatEnglish1612-1617 ADJahangir
22Sir Thomas RoeEnglish1615-1619 ADJahangir
23Pal CanningEnglish1615-1625Jahangir
24Edward TerryEnglish1616-1619 ADJahangir
25Francisco PelsaertDutch1620-1627 ADJahangir
26 Pietra Della VelleItaly1622-1660 ADJahangir
27John LoyattDutch1626-1633 ADShahjahan
28John FryerEnglish1627-1681 ADShahjahan
29Peter MundyItaly1630-1634 ADShahjahan
30TavernierFrench1641-1687 ADShahjahan & Aurangzeb
31Manucci Italy1656-1687 ADAurangzeb
32BernierFrance1658-1668 ADAurangzeb
33Jean de ThevenotFrance1666-1668 ADAurangzeb
34Gemelli CareriItaly1695-1697 ADBijapur
35John ShermanEnglish18th CenturyFarrukhsiyar


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Bharathi Pradeep
Bharathi Pradeep
Editor at Bharathi covers topics on Competitive exams, How To guides, Current exams, Current Affairs, Study Materials, etc. Follow her on social media using the links below.

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