The Travelling Indian – ‘traveller’, conqueror, the diaspora..

(Fa-Hien’s route map)

The Chinese had Fa-Hien, the Arabs Al-Baruni, the Africans Ibn Batuta and the Europeans Marco Polo – world famous travellers all, who put their respective lands on the travelling map of the ancient world. In this melee of ancient international travel, India stood aloof. No one from India travelled or explored. Maybe some like the sea-farers of the west coast did – but no one wrote about it and certainly no one became famous. Nope, we never had our ‘travellers’. Ancient Indian (read : Indo-gangetic, brahminical) texts talk of becoming a mleccha (an impure person) upon crossing a sea. Maybe this was the reason – but in any case, Travel in ancient India was not a cool thing to do,

Funnily enough, the other way for people to discover lands in ancient times was by marching off for conquest. In antiquity, the Mongols did it in Asia, the Romans & the Greeks in Europe – conquest of foreign lands was certainly cool for most of the world. But except for a brief period when India’s eastern kingdoms used their maritime power to spread the Indian idiom to East Asia, India has not done much conquest abroad. We seemed to have been pretty caught up with ourselves.

Strange as it may sound, India’s most powerful ‘conqueror’ of antiquity was probably Gautama Buddha, who brought the entire peoples of China, Japan & much of Asia under his sway. And his credo was, ‘don’t kill anything, not even an insect!’

As I do more travelling, exploring & writing, I am starting to sense a real opportunity here. All I have to do is to travel a lot (not too difficult), write about it (do-able) and get famous enough for everyone to know my name after 500 years (ahem..). If I can do that, I will be the first Indian ‘traveller’ which means a historical minority of One.

Now, isn’t that cool?

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4 thoughts on “The Travelling Indian – ‘traveller’, conqueror, the diaspora..

  1. That sounds quite simple! May be you could become the Herodotus from India? Or Marco Polo? Hurry, or I may steal your idea πŸ™‚

    On another note, I am sorry I could not meet you again after Yossi’s talk, had another commitment. It was a great evening – Yossi’s stories were enthralling. Have you read his book?

  2. Well, the winner can be decided only 500 years from now. So, go right ahead πŸ™‚

    About that HolidayIQ evening in Mumbai, it was great meeting you.

    Nope, I have not read Yossi’s book. But, his invite to visit him in Byron Bay is an enticing one. Might just do that sometime.

  3. Here are two more important visitors
    Zheng_He – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zheng_He – he made 6 trips, on 4 of them he hit the Malabar coast. He sailed this way 100 years before Gama and his ships were magnificent compared to those of Columbus or Vasco. If you look around, you can see what he brought- look at houses, boats, cuisine and yes if you look carefully- faces. Ko-chi is a chinese name- look it up.

    Much earlier – 1000 years earlier came another guy called Cosmas- the ” India traveller” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmas_Indicopleustes
    They were Greek speaking Romans- unlike us , they kept good records.
    What did they want ? Pepper and Teak- they couldn’t get enough of it.
    SAtrangely, they said we wanted horses – we could not keep them alive. And slaves- not the usual kind- work horse men, but exotic women !

    As for Gautama- single best idea to come out of India. You tell the story of how it went east on the silk road. It went west too- to the terminus- Jerusalem and Antioch. That’s when the religion of Judea starts to talk of “turning the other cheek & love thy neighbor as thyself” rather than an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”.
    It’s a long chain- Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, ML King, Mandela and so it goes

  4. fantastic reading of this, iam surprised to learn so many new things, though i am a vast reader, than q once again.

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