IBN BATTUTA IN PAKISTAN AND WESTERN INDIA
Ibn Battuta (1304-1369) is regarded as the greatest traveler of all time. He was an Islamic scholar, jurist, judge, explorer, geographer from Tangier in present-day Morocco who traveled 120,000 kilometers (75,000 miles) through more than 40 present-day countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia during a 27 year period. Douglas Bullis wrote in Aramco World: “Ibn Battuta's exact path through Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush is uncertain because he does not make it clear where along the Indus he came out. But once on the hot plains, he headed for Multan, the sultan's westward customs outpost, which lay 40 days' march from Delhi "through continuously inhabited country." The traveler's pen waxed prolix as he noted the new foods, spices, trees, fruits and customs of this land where the ruling Muslims were the minority among the majority Hindu population.” [Source: Douglas Bullis, Aramco World, July-August 2000 /*]
In Multan in present-day Pakistan, Ibn Battuta borrowed some money from local moneylenders and bought presents for the sultan of Delhi and sent a message by runner that he was coming. "From the province of Sind to the Sultan’s Capital...it is fifty days's journey, but...the letter reaches him in five." Ibn Battuta traveled across Pakistan with an entourage that included Persia noblemen and their families, slaves, eunuchs and 20 cooks who prepared chicken, sweetmeats and persimmons. [Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991]
The route was not without problems. Ibn Battuta described being "attacked in the open county there by eighty infidels on foot with two horsemen...we fought stoutly...killing one of their horsemen and about twelve of the foot soldiers...I was hit by an arrow and my horse by another, but God in his grace preserved me...We carried the heads of the slain to the castle of Abu Ak'har and suspended them from the wall."
From the Rajput Kingdom of Sarsatti, he visited Hansi in India, describing it as "among the most beautiful cities, the best constructed and the most populated; it is surrounded with a strong wall, and its founder is said to be one of the great infidel kings, called Tara". Upon his arrival in Sindh, Ibn Battuta mentions the Indian rhinoceros that lived on the banks of the Indus. [Source: World Heritage Encyclopedia, Project Gutenberg, Self-Publishing Press, self.gutenberg.org]
Good Websites and Sources on the Silk Road: Silk Road Seattle washington.edu/silkroad ; Silk Road Foundation silk-road.com; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Silk Road Atlas depts.washington.edu ; Old World Trade Routes ciolek.com;
Ibn Battuta in India
Ibn Battuta arrived in India in 1333. In Delhi, he met the sultan Muhammad ibn Tughluq in the Hall of a Thousand Pillars in one of his palaces in Jahanpanah. The sultan was surrounded by dozens of chamberlains, officials and slaves, including the "keeper of the fly whisk." In attendance were 200 armored soldiers, 60 horses in royal harnesses and 50 elephants dressed in silk and gold. [Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991]
Ibn Battuta was employed by the Sultan of Delhi, who he described as generous, pious, courageous and unpredictable and "of all men the most addicted to the making of gifts and the shedding of blood. His gate is never without some poor man being enriched, or some living man executed...Every time he said any encouraging word I kissed his hand." Ibn Battuta also described how the sultan killed his father by using elephants to collapse a pavilion on top of him.
Ibn Battuta served for seven years as judge for the sultan and was rescued by the sultan from debt but was almost arrested and executed for his association with a rebellious Sufi mystic. "I fasted for five days, reciting the Koran cover to cover each day" as repentance. In the end the mystic was spared and Ibn Battuta was selected ro represent the sultan as an ambassador to China. While in India, Ibn Battuta encountered a terrible epidemic. "Whoever fell ill died in two or three days,” he wrote.
India at the Time Ibn Battuta Visited
According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “Ibn Battuta entered India through the high mountains of Afghanistan, following the footsteps of Turkish warriors who, a century earlier, had conquered the Hindu farming people of India and established the Sultanate of Delhi. That first wave of Muslim soldiers looted towns and smashed the images of the gods of the Hindu worshipers. But later warrior kings set up a system to tax, rather than slaughter the peasants. They replaced the local Hindu leaders with Turks from Afghanistan and conquered and united a large area almost to the tip of the subcontinent. But these Muslim sultans in Delhi were not safe. They faced continued opposition from the Hindu majority in India who rebelled against their conquerors, and they were threatened with periodic Mongol invasions from the north. The Chagatay Khan (whom Ibn Battuta visited on his way to India) had invaded India and threatened Delhi, the new capital city about 1323. But the armies of the feisty Sultan Muhammad Tughluq in Delhi had chased them back across the Indus River. [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]
“Slowly India was becoming more firmly controlled by the Muslim leaders.Hindus were even converting to Islam and finding jobs in the new government. They recognized the economic advantages of becoming Muslims: much lower taxes and opportunities for advancement under the present leader. (In the rural areas, the population remained almost exclusively Hindu. They had to pay their taxes, but were allowed to worship as they wished. And many hated the Muslim government which was imposed upon them.) |::|
“In order to strengthen his hold on India, the Sultan needed more judges, scholars, and administrators. He even needed writers, poets, and entertainers to praise and entertain the new leadership. And he turned to foreigners to fill these positions. He was distrustful of the Hindus whom he feared would rebel against him. So he recruited foreigners and rewarded them with fabulous gifts and high salaries. Persians and Turks and other Muslims flocked to the new empire looking for its rewards. Persian became the language of the ruling elite which almost isolated itself in the capital city. And it was from Sultan Muhammad Tughluq that Ibn Battuta hoped to gain employment.” |::|
Ibn Battuta on the Food in India
According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “ Ibn Battuta described a royal meal: bread (which is thin round cakes); large slabs of meat (sheep); round dough cakes made with ghee (clarified butter) which they stuff with sweet almond paste and honey; meat cooked with ghee, onions and green ginger; "sambusak" (triangular pastries made of hashed meat and cooked with almonds, walnuts, pistachios, onions, and spices put inside a piece of thin bread fried in ghee - like our modern samoosas); rice cooked in ghee with chickens on top; sweetcakes and sweetmeats (pastries) for dessert. They drank sherbet of sugared water before the meal and barley-water after. Then they had betel leaf and areca nut (a mild narcotic). [Source: Gibb, Vol. III, pp. 607 - 608; Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]
“He also described the following: mango; pickled green ginger and peppers; jack-fruit (like a large melon weighing three to four pounds) and "barki" (like a yellow gourd with sweet pods and kernels) - "the best fruits in India"; tandu (fruit of the ebony tree); sweet oranges; wheat, chickpeas and lentils, and rice which was sown three times a year! Sesame and sugar cane were also sown. He said the Indians ate millet (a type of grain) most often and he especially liked pounded millet made into a gruel (porridge) cooked with buffalo's milk. They also ate peas and mung beans cooked with rice and ghee which the Indians ate for breakfast every day. Animals were fed barley, chickpeas, and leaves as fodder and even given ghee. (Gibb, pp. 609 - 612) |::|
“On a hunting trip with the Sultan Muhammad Tughluq, he describes the following food: flesh of sheep, fattened fowls, cranes, and other kinds of game. A favorite dish of the Muslim community in Kerala in the southern state of India (where Ibn Battuta had his disastrous ship-wreck) is rasoi (made of rice, lamb, grated coconut and onion). Ibn Battuta reported told that Muslim women ate separately from the men in India, as in most of the Muslim countries he visited.” |::|
Muhammad bin Tughluq — the Sultan of Delhi — was renowned as the wealthiest man in the Muslim World at that time. He patronized various scholars, Sufis, qadis, viziers and other functionaries in order to consolidate his rule. As with Mamluk Egypt, the Tughlaq Dynasty was a rare vestigial example of Muslim rule in Asia after the Mongol invasion. [Source: World Heritage Encyclopedia, Project Gutenberg, Self-Publishing Press, self.gutenberg.org ]
According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “ Muhammad Tughluq goes down in history as an eccentric, perhaps crazy, ruler. He was described as very bright. He learned how to write Persian poetry and mastered the art of calligraphy; he could debate legal and religious issues with scholars; he learned Arabic in order to read religious texts like the Koran; and he showered gifts on scholars and the Muslims whom he trusted. But he went too far and made some disastrous decisions (about which battles to fight, where to establish his government capital, about the economy which almost bankrupted his treasury, and how to administer justice). [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]
“He was known as a cruel man, even for the Middle Ages! He was responsible for having not only rebels and thieves punished with cruel deaths, but also Muslim scholars and holy men - anyone who merely questioned him about his policies or happened to be a friend of someone who did. He was paranoid and fearful of any criticism. "Not a week passed," reported one observer, "without the spilling of much Muslim blood and the running of streams of gore before the entrance of his palace." This included cutting people in half, skinning them alive, chopping off heads and displaying them on poles as a warning to others, or having prisoners tossed about by elephants with swords attached to their tusks. As Ibn Battuta reported later, "The Sultan was far too free in shedding blood... [He] used to punish small faults and great, without respect of persons, whether men of learning or piety or noble descent. Every day there are brought to the audience-hall hundreds of people, chained, pinioned, and fettered, and [they] are ... executed, ...tortured, or ...beaten." [Dunn, p. 201]Thus, to work for this man was dangerous. But the rewards could be great.” |::|
Ibn Battuta and Muhammad Tughluq
Based on the merit of his years of study in Mecca, Ibn Battuta was appointed a qadi, or judge, by the sultan. He found it difficult to enforce Islamic laws beyond the sultan's court in Delhi, due to lack of Islamic appeal in India.
According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “In late 1334, Ibn Battuta went to Delhi to seek official employment and he signed a contract agreeing that he would stay in India. He cleverly assembled gifts for the sultan: arrows, several camels, thirty horses, and several slaves and other goods. Everyone knew that the Muhammad Tughluq would give to his visitors gifts of far greater value in return! [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]
“When he arrived in Delhi, Ibn Battuta was given a welcoming gift of 2,000 silver dinars and put up in a comfortably furnished house. Muhammad Tughluq was not in Delhi, and so Ibn Battuta waited. Muhammad Tughluq had received reports about this new arrival and hired Ibn Battuta sight-unseen to the service of the state. He would receive an annual salary of 5,000 silver dinars to be paid from two and a half villages located about 16 miles from the city. (State officials and army officers were paid from taxes on crops produced in peasant villages rather than from the royal treasury.) The average Hindu family lived on about 5 dinars a month. |::|
Muhammad Tughluq returned in June. Ibn Battuta and the other newcomers went to greet the ruler with their gifts. On a gold-plated throne sat a tall, healthy, white-skinned man. "I approached the sultan, who took my hand and shook it, and continuing to hold it addressed me most kindly, saying in Persian,... 'Your arrival is a blessing; be at ease; I shall... give you such favors that your fellow-countrymen will hear of it and come to join you.' ... Every time he said any encouraging word to me I kissed his hand, until I had kissed it seven times, and after he had give me a robe of honor, I withdrew." The next day the Sultan paraded into the city of Delhi. On some elephants were catapults that threw out gold and silver coins to the crowd of on-lookers.[Dunn, p. 198]” |::|
“And so Ibn Battuta began working as a judge. Because he didn't speak Persian well, he was given two assistants. The Sultan told him that "they would be guided by your advice, and you shall be the one who signs all the documents." He also had plenty of time to join the Sultan and high officials on elaborate hunting expeditions which required elephants, tents, and a huge number of servants to carry all that was needed. Such extravagance and high living pushed Ibn Battuta into debt eventually, but the generous Sultan gave him more to pay his debts. He even gave Ibn Battuta another job: to take care of the Qutb al-Din Mubarak mausoleum. Of course Ibn Battuta asked for more money to take care of the tomb, not to mention money to repair his own home. The money was given. The Qutb complex of buildings in Delhi near Ibn Battuta's home included the Quwwat al-Islam Mosque and the Qutb Minar, a 288 foot tower that until modern times was the tallest minaret in the world. |::|
While Ibn Battuta was working for the sultan, 2,000 kilometers away from the capital, “one of Muhammad Tughluq's governors rebelled against him and proclaimed himself Sultan. This prompted him to bring his army south. During the next two and a half years that the Sultan was away at battle, Ibn Battuta lived in Delhi. He acted as a judge giving out punishments (such as eighty lashes with a whip for drinking wine!) and he took care of the tomb which required 460 workers. His job of collecting debts from his villages was made harder because of disastrous famine that hit North India in 1335 and lasted seven years. "Thousands upon thousands of people perished of want," he told. He helped to give charity to some of the poor.” |::|
Torture and Punishment Under Muhammad Tughluq
According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “The Middle Ages was a time of great cruelty and kings ruled without regard to individual rights. This was especially true of the Sultan Muhammad Tughluq of the Sultanate of Delhi in India. Even Ibn Battuta feared for his life! He tells us of a friend of his, a religious leader. The shaikh Shinab al-Din had called the Sultan Muhammad Tughluq an oppressor and refused to follow his orders. He was imprisoned and tortured: "On the fourteen day, the Sultan sent him food ... but he refused to eat it. ... When the Sultan heard this he ordered that the shaikh should be fed human excrement [dissolved in water]... [They] spread out the shaikh on his back, opened his mouth with forceps, ... and made him drink it. On the following day.... he was beheaded."[Source: Gibb, p. 699 - 700; Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]
“Others were tortured to get confessions: "They were laid flat on their backs and on the chests ... was placed a red-hot iron plate, which was pulled off after a moment and took with it the flesh of their chests. After that, urine and cinders were brought and put on their wounds, whereupon they confessed." Ibn Battuta also tells of the execution of some men and a boy: "On the Sultan's orders they were strung up by their hands to a wooden stake and [the soldiers] shot arrows at them until they died." [Gibb, p. 701 and 707]” |::|
“When the Sultan was trying to relocate his capital further south, he became angry at the whole city of Delhi for their reluctance to move and he took out his anger against them all. "...one of the gravest charges against the Sultan is his forcing of the population of Delhi to evacuate the city... [because] of insults and abuse... So he decided to lay Delhi in ruins, and having bought from all the inhabitants their houses and dwellings and paid their price to them, he commanded them to move out of the city and go to Dawlat Abad. They refused, so his herald was sent to proclaim that no person should remain in it after three nights. The majority of the citizens left, but some of them hid in the house. The Sultan ordered a search to be made ... and his slaves found two men in the streets, one of them a cripple and the other blind... He ordered the cripple should be flung from a [catapult] and the blind man dragged from Delhi to Dawlat Abad, a distance of forty days' journey. He fell to pieces on the road, and all of him that reached Dawlat Abad was his leg." [Gibb, p. 707 - 708]” |::|
Ibn Battuta’s Troubles with Muhammad Tughluq
The Sultan was cruel and unpredictable even by the standards of the time and for six years Ibn Battuta veered between living the high life of a trusted subordinate and falling under suspicion of treason for a variety of offences. [Source: World Heritage Encyclopedia, Project Gutenberg, Self-Publishing Press, self.gutenberg.org ]
According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “The Sultan returned after an unsuccessful campaign against the rebellious army in the south. Then army officers and a governor near Delhi also rebelled. The empire was disintegrating around Muhammad Tughluq. This time he proved himself a skillful soldier and marched out to secure the town. Ibn Battuta was witness to all this for future historians to read. The traitorous leaders were captured and thrown to the elephants. "They started cutting them in pieces with the blades placed on their tusks and throwing some of them in the air and catching them. All the time the bugles and fifes and drums were being sounded." And Muhammad Tughluq began to lash out at real and imagined enemies. [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]
“Even Ibn Battuta came under suspicion. While living in Delhi, Ibn Battuta married a woman and had a daughter by her. This woman was the daughter of a court official who had plotted a rebellion and was executed by the Sultan. But the most serious problem for Ibn Battuta was his friendship with a Sufi holy man. This holy man refused to have anything to do with politics and tried to live a religious life. He snubbed the Sultan and refused to obey the Sultan's commands. In retaliation Muhammad had the holy man's beard plucked out hair by hair, then banished him from Delhi. Later the Sultan ordered him to return to court, which the holy man refused to do. The man was arrested, tortured in the most horrible way, then beheaded. |::|
“The following day the Sultan demanded a list of friends of the holy man, and Ibn Battuta's name was included. For nine days he remained under guard imaging in horror that he would be executed, too. "I recited [lines of prayer] 33,000 times and ... fasted five days on end, reciting the Koran from cover to cover each day, and tasting nothing but water. After five days I broke my fast and then continued to fast for another four days on end." [Dunn, p. 209] He rid himself of his possessions, and donned the clothes of a beggar. He was given permission to join a hermit who lived in a cave outside of Delhi. He lived like that for five months. |::|
“Then Ibn Battuta was called back to the palace. Reluctantly and fearfully he returned, and was greeted warmly. But determined to avoid further troubles, got up enough courage to ask the Sultan (now in a good mood), if he could make another hajj.” But his request was denied. Knowing of Ibn Battuta's love of travel, the Sultan asked him instead to be his ambassador to Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty China. Given the opportunity to escape from the Sultan and visit new lands, he readily accepted.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu ; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei; Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua; China.org; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.
Last updated November 2016