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 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
|1||Marco Polo||Italy||1288-1292 AD||Pandya Kingdom|
|2||Ibn-e-Battuta||Morocco||1333-1342 AD||Mohammad Bin Tughlaq|
|3||Niccolo de Conti||Italy||1420-1422 AD||Deva Raya I|
|4||Tsang Hi||China||1421-1431 AD||Jalaluddin of Bengal|
|5||Abdur Razzak||Iran||1442-1443 AD||Deva Raya II|
|6||Athanasius Afanasy Nikitin||Russia||1470-1474 AD||Muhammad III Bahmani|
|7||Bartolomeu Dias||Portuguese||1503-1508 AD||Deccan|
|8||Eduardo Barbosa||Portuguese||1516-1518 AD||Krishna Deva Raya|
|9||Domingo’s Paes||Portuguese||1520-1522 AD||Krishna Deva Raya|
|10||Nuniz||Portuguese||1535-1537 AD||Achyuta Deva Raya|
|11||Anthony Monserrate||Portuguese||1578-1582 AD||Akbar|
|12||Ralph Fisch||English||1585-1591 AD||Akbar|
|13||Ceaser Fredriseh||Portuguese||16th Century||Vijayanagara|
|14||John Linschoten||Dutch||16th Century||Vijayanagara|
|15||Lama Taranatha||Tibet||16th Century||Eastern India|
|16||Captain Hawkins||English||1608-1613 AD||Jahangir|
|17||William Fisch||English||1608-1612 AD||Jahangir|
|18||John Jurdan||Portuguese||1608-1617 AD||Jahangir|
|19||Nicholas Doughton||English||1608-1615 AD||Jahangir|
|20||Nicholas Withington||English||1612-1616 AD||Jahangir|
|21||Thomas Coryat||English||1612-1617 AD||Jahangir|
|22||Sir Thomas Roe||English||1615-1619 AD||Jahangir|
|24||Edward Terry||English||1616-1619 AD||Jahangir|
|25||Francisco Pelsaert||Dutch||1620-1627 AD||Jahangir|
|26||Pietra Della Velle||Italy||1622-1660 AD||Jahangir|
|27||John Loyatt||Dutch||1626-1633 AD||Shahjahan|
|28||John Fryer||English||1627-1681 AD||Shahjahan|
|29||Peter Mundy||Italy||1630-1634 AD||Shahjahan|
|30||Tavernier||French||1641-1687 AD||Shahjahan & Aurangzeb|
|33||Jean de Thevenot||France||1666-1668 AD||Aurangzeb|
|34||Gemelli Careri||Italy||1695-1697 AD||Bijapur|
|35||John Sherman||English||18th Century||Farrukhsiyar|