A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 06 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 750 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 06.
of sundry warlike nations well armed.  The Moors[86] of Sumatra, Malacca, and the Moluccas were well disciplined, and much better provided with artillery than we who attacked them.  The heathen sovereigns were the kings of Bisnagar, Orixa, Bengal, Pegu, Siam, and China, all very powerful, but chiefly the last, so that it is difficult to express and scarcely credible the prodigious extent of his power.  Siam extends above 500 leagues, and has seven subject kingdoms, which are Cambodia, Como, Lanchaam, Cheneray, Chencran, Chiamay, Canibarii, and Chaypumo.  The king of Siam has 30,000 elephants, 3000 of which are armed for war, and he has 50,000 soldiers in Udia alone, the metropolis of his kingdom.  The kingdom of China exceeds them all in extent, and the king of that country is as powerful as all the sovereigns in Europe together.  His empire is above 700 leagues in extent, possessing abundance of metals, and far exceeds Europe in manufactures, some of which seem to exceed human art, and the silks, provisions, and luxuries with which it abounds are beyond computation.

[Footnote 86:  These are unquestionably the Malays, called Moors by Faria, merely because they were Mahometans.—­E.]

All the heathens of India, particularly between the Indus and Ganges, write without ink on palm leaves, with pens or stiles rather of wood or steel, which easily cut the letters on the leaves.  Some of these I have seen in Rome curiously folded.  What they intend to be lasting is carved on stone or copper.  In writing they begin at the left hand and write towards the right, as we do in Europe.  Their histories are extremely fabulous.  About 600 years before the arrival of the Portuguese in India, there reigned in Malabar a powerful monarch, from, whose reign the people begin their era or historical computations, as they did afterwards from our arrival.  This king was persuaded by the Moors who traded to his port to turn Mahometan, and gave them liberty to build houses at Calicut.  When he grew old, he divided his kingdom among his kindred, giving Coulam to the chief, where he placed the principal seat of his religion of the Bramins, and gave him the title of Cobritim, which signifies high-priest.  To his nephew he gave Calicut, with the tide of Zamorin, which means emperor.  This dignity continues in the sovereign of Calicut, but the other has been removed to Cochin.  Having disposed of his dominions, he resolved to die at Mecca, but was drowned by the way.  Calicut is a plain country well watered, and abounds in pepper and ginger; but all the other spices are procured from other neighbouring countries.  The inhabitants are wonderfully superstitious, and do not suffer those of one trade or profession to marry with those of a different occupation, or to put their children to learn any other trade but that of their fathers.  The Nayres, who are their nobles, if they chance to touch any of the common people, purify themselves by ablution, as was done by the Jews and Samaritans.  The women among the Nayres axe common to all, but chiefly those, of the Bramin cast, so that no one knows his father, nor is any one bound to maintain the children.  These Nayres are wonderfully expert in the use of their weapons, in which they begin to exercise themselves at seven years of age.  They are prone to all the ancient superstitions of augury and divination.

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