Merchant from Tver Afanasy Nikitin

Автор: Maks Ноя 21, 2020

The existence of such a place as India was A known in old Rus as early as the 1300s. In the following century there even appeared a number of literary works based on Indian themes. A book called Alexandria included a short story about Alexander the Great’s war against India; collections of fables from India, among which was a well-liked tale called Stefanit andIkhnilat, attained some measure of popularity. These mythical stories depicted India as an incredibly wondrous and exotic place of dream-like happiness.

At the same time that these imaginative tales were written there also appeared a realistic, firsthand narrative that was unlike anything known previously. A merchant from the city of Tver, Afanasy Nikitin, travelled eastward in 1466 intending to go only as far as modem Azerbaijan; however, destiny decreed that his travels take him all the way to India, where he spent three years. Over the eight years of his journey he kept a log entitled Sailing the Three Seas, these being the Caspian, Arabian and Black seas.

His description of India is a factually reliable account of the country’s cemenerce, life, morals, political events and natural terrain. His personal comments reveal a degree of dismay at some of the local customs, such as the moguls’ insistence on being transported in a sedan chair hoisted onto the shoulders of their subjects, even though the wealthy ruling class kept whole herds of elephants.

Being a rare white visitor, Nikitin was himself observed with great interest. In his conduct he shunned the manner of European superiority and found that his own views of life changed considerably. At one point it was suggested to him that he adopt Islam. Personal opinions such as his thoughts on religion and his bitterness about the injustices of his homeland he recorded in the Turko-Tatar language.

The writings of this merchant traveller, who died during the return journey before reaching Tver, are still regarded as relevant source material by India’s historians. In Russia his travel memoirs have been republished three times over the past fifty years.

Загадки истории » Russian history » Merchant from Tver Afanasy Nikitin

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