Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ibn Batuta - probably the greatest traveler to have visited India!

Ibn Battutah was a medieval traveler whose wanderlust can amaze the most intrepid explorer. He was a Moor who started his journey in 1325 and visited Northern Africa, Arabian Peninsula, the Levant, Constantinople and Iran. Then he decided to embark upon a journey to India! 


He reached Sind on 12 September, 1333. He was appointed the qazi of Delhi by Sultan Muhammad Bin Tughluq. Then he lost the sovereign's favor and was imprisoned. Then again, the temperamental Sultan released him and sent him to China as an ambassador. He returned to Delhi after a ship-wreck almost killed him mid-way to China. Maldives Islands was to be Battutah's next destination, where he was given the post of a judge. In 1345 he traveled to Ceylon, wherefrom he went to Madurai. Then, he went to Mecca for the redemptive pilgrimage. 


In 1349, he was back in his native Morocco, but his propensity to venture out was still alive. He went for an exploration of central Africa. He finally settled down in Morocco, 1353, and started documenting his travels. The result is the tome, a rich mine of historical information, Qitab-ur-Rahlab. A scholar, his book is written in quality Arabic prose. His eye for the detail, his experiences in the streets and his interactions with common men and their customs in variegated landscapes, makes his work a tour de force. In a time when "speed" was not the buzz-word when it came to human beings traveling, thinking, interacting, knowing, writing---his cross-continental, cross-cultural life and works seem exceptional and breath-taking. He could do that because he definitely had a flexible, empathetic and open mind. May Ibn Battutah inspire us all. For inspite of crazy and easy speed, twentieth century has seen unprecedented intolerance and parochialism.

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ifte@walksofindia.com

1 comment:

  1. Another great read is also called "The Travels of Ibn Battutah", abridged, introduced and annotated by Tim Mackintosh-Smith (Picador).

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