суббота, 19 сентября 2009 г.

Literary monuments of Moscow principality Afanasy Nikitin's voyage beyond the three seas

By Tatyana Shvetsova

We will acquaint you with literary monuments of Moscow principality, relating to the end of the 15th — the beginning of the 16th century. In this way you'll learn what educated people in Moscow read at that time.

We offer you a fragment of the story well-known at those distant times. It is called "Voyage Beyond Three Seas" and is written by the Russian merchant Afanasy Nikitin. It was screened in the 1950’s and had tremendous success in the USSR and abroad. In fact, "Voyage Beyond Three Seas" is a diary of a traveler. And because of this it is particularly interesting.

It all happened at the end of the 15th century. One day Hasan Beg, Ambassador of the ruler of the Khanate of Shirvan, arrived at the court of Ivan III, Grand Prince of Moscow Principality. He brought valuable gifts with him. Ivan III sent his own ambassador, Vasily Papin of Tver, to the court of Shirvan. Hearing of this, Afanasy Nikitin and some other merchants from Tver set out for Shirvan to trade there. They sailed down the Volga River on two ships. And thus began a great voyage, which took several years.

During that voyage Afanasy Nikitin made notes in a diary, which has become known to us under the title "The Voyage Beyond Three Seas".

After many dramatic adventures Nikitin found himself in Persia. He crossed the whole of Persia for the seaport town of Hormuz, one of the biggest trading centers of the East. While in Persia, Nikitin heard that no horses were bred in India and that they were therefore very expensive in that country. This led him to decide on a voyage to India. He bought a horse and with it boarded a small sea-going ship. He sailed to the coast of Hindustan, hoping to sell his horse there and to buy goods that were sought after in Rus.

Only a man of courage could venture on a voyage across the stormy Indian Ocean aboard so frail a craft. Six weeks later the ship carrying Nikitin put in at Chaul, on the Malabar coast of India.

Nikitin's description of what he saw in India is striking evidence of his gift of keen observation and his ability to discern the typical aspects of the way of life of a people he had never known before. He not only kept a strict account of facts, but also analyzed them, drawing interesting parallels…

Nikitin spent almost three years in India. But his love for Homeland urged him back to Rus, to his own people.


"…And I, a sinful man, brought a stallion to the land of India. Thank God, I reached Junnar in good health — the passage cost me a hundred rubles. The winter there set in on Trinity Sunday, and we spent it at Junnar, where lived for two months; four months there was water and mud everywhere, both by day and at night. That is the season of ploughing and of sowing wheat and rice and pulse, and all the other foods. Wine is made in big coconuts and beer is brewed from tatna. Horses are fed with pulse and khichri, an Indian dish of rice, with sugar and ghee: early in the morning they are also fed with rice and cakes. No horses are bred in India, but oxen and bulls are. They are used for carrying persons and sometimes goods — they serve all purposes.

The town of Junnar lies on a rocky island not built by man but created by God. It takes a whole day's uphill walk to go there, the path is narrow and two people cannot pass.

In India strangers put up at inns and the food is cooked for them by women, who also make the guests’ beds. In winter people there wear a dhoti round their loins, another about their shoulders, and a third round their heads. As for the princes and boyars, in that season they put on trousers, a shirt, and a caftan; they also wrap a dhoti about their shoulders, girdle themselves with another, and wind a third round their heads.

And there at Junnar the Khan took away my stallion. But when he learnt that I was Russian and not Moslem, he said: "I shall give thee back thy stallion and pay thee a thousand pieces of gold, if only thou wilt adopt our Mohammedan faith. But shouldst thou not adopt our Mohammedan faith, I shall keep the stallion and exact a ransom of a thousand pieces of gold from thee." And he gave me four days — till Our Redeemer's Day, during the Fast of the Holy Mother of God. And the Lord had mercy upon me on His holy day, He kept not His mercy from me, miserable sinner. Khoja Muhammad of Khorassan arrived on the eve of Our Redeemer's Day, and I humbly begged him to plead for me. And he rode to the Khan in town, and persuaded him not to convert me to his faith; he also took back my stallion. Such was the wonder wrought by the Lord on Our Redeemer's Day. And so, my Christian brothers of Rus, those of you who want to go to the land of India must leave their faith in Rus and invoke Mohammed before setting out for the land of Hindustan.

I was deceived by Moslems; they had told me of an abundance of goods, but I found that there was nothing for our land.

We left Junnar on the Day of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God for the big city of Bidar, and it took us a month to arrive there…

At Bidar, horses and various goods are sold: brocade, silk and all kinds of other goods; black people, too, are on sale there. Nothing else is sold. And all the goods come from Hindustan. As for food, nothing is sold but vegetables. There are no goods for the land of Rus.

All the Indian princes come of Khorassan, and so do all the boyars. And all the people of Hindustan go on foot and walk fast, and are all naked and barefoot; they carry a shield in one hand and a sword in the other. Some of the servants have long, straight bows and arrows. And they always fight mounted on elephants, sending the footmen forward, while the Khorassanis ride on horseback, both they and their horses being in armor. As for the elephants, long hammered swords are tied to their trunks and tusks, each weighing a kantar; they wear steel amour, and carry special shelters upon their backs; and on in each one there are twelve men in armor, with cannons and arrows.

There is a place — the tomb of Sheik Ala-uddin at Аlland — where a fair is held once a year, and whither people from all over the Indian country come to trade for ten days. It is twelve kos from Bidar. Horses are brought thither for sale, as many as 20,000 head, and all kinds of other goods, too. It is the best fair in the land of Hindustan; all wares are sold or bought there in memory of Sheik Ala-uddin, during the Russian Feast of the Intercession of the Holy Mother of God.

At Alland there lives the ghuggu, a bird; it flies at night, crying "ghuggu" whenever it settles on a house-top, someone dies in the house; and when anyone tries to kill it, it begins to spit fire. As for monkeys, they live in the woods; and they have a monkey prince who leads an army. And when anyone harms them, they complain to their prince, who sets his army upon the offender. Then the monkeys fall upon that town and destroy the houses and kill the people. They are said to have a very large army and to speak a tongue of their own; they give birth to many young, but the young that are not like their father or mother are left on the roads. Then people of Hindustan pick them up and teach them sundry handicrafts, but some of them they sell, doing it at night lest they should flee back, and some they teach how to imitate players.

Spring came with the Feast of the Intercession of the Holy Mother of God; it is in spring, a fortnight after Intercession, that an eight-day feast is kept to honor the memory of Sheik Ala-uddin. Spring, summer, winter, and autumn last three months each.

And Bidar is the capital of Moslem Hindustan. It is a large city, and many people live in it. The Sultan is young – only twenty years old — and those who govern are princes and boyars of Khorassan; those who fight in wars are Khorassanis too…

A thousand men posted by the Governor guard the city of Bidar by night; they are mounted, wear armor, and carry torches. I sold my stallion at Bidar; I had been keeping it for a year, and had spent sixty-eight fanams on it. Snakes, fourteen feet long crawl along the streets of Bidar. I arrived at Bidar from Kulungir during the Past of Advent, and sold my stallion on Christmas Day.

And I stayed at Bidar till Lent. There I came to know many Hindus and told them that I was a Christian and not a Moslem, and that my name was Afanasy, or Khoja Yusuf Khorassani in the Moslem tongue. They did not hide from me when eating, trading, praying, or doing something else; nor did they conceal their wives.

I asked them questions about their faith, and they said to me: "We believe in Adam, and the buts, they say, are Adam and his whole kin." Altogether there are eighty-four faiths in India, and everyone believes in But. People of different faith do not eat or drink together, nor do they intermarry; some eat mutton, fowl, fish, and eggs, but of no faith do the people eat beef.

I spent four months in Bidar, and agreed with some Indians to go to Parvat, their Jerusalem, or Mecca in the Moslem tongue, where stands their chief Butkhanah (or idol-house). It took us a month to reach the Butkhanah.

The market by the butkhanah lasts for five days. And the Butkhanah is very large — half the size of Tver — and is built of stone in which the deeds of But are carved; in all there are twelve tiers of carvings that show But working wonders, or appearing before Indians in many shapes: first, in the shape of a man; second, of a man with an elephant's trunk; third, of an ape-like man; fourth, of a man having the form of a ferocious beast. He has always appeared before them with a tail, and his tail, which is carved in stone, is seven feet long. People from all over the land of India come together at the butkhanah to see But's miracles. Near the butkhanah, old wives and young maidens shave all their hair; beards and heads are shaved too. Thereupon they go to the butkhanah; each has to pay a feel of two sheshkanis for the benefit of But, and horses are charged four fanams each. The number of those who gather at the butkhanah is 20,000, and sometimes even 100,000. In the Butkhanah, But is carved in stone, and is very big indeed; his tail is slung over his shoulder, and his right arm is raised high and stretched out like the Emperor Justinian's at Constantinople, while in his left hand he holds a spear; and he wears no clothing, save that his buttocks are wrapped in a cloth; his face is that of an ape. And the other buts are stark naked, they wear nothing, and their buttocks are uncovered; and But's wives are carved naked, in all their shame, and with children. And before But stands a huge ox carved in black stone and gilt all over. They kiss the ox on the hoof and strew flowers upon it; But, too, is strewn with flowers.

The Indians eat no flesh at all — no beef, mutton, fowl, fish, or pork, although they have a great many pigs. They have two meals a day, and eat nothing at night; they drink neither wine nor mead. They do not eat or drink with Moslems. Their food is poor, and they do not eat or drink with one another, not even with their wives. They eat rice and khichri with ghee and various herbs, which they boil in ghee and milk. And they eat everything with their right hand, never touching any food with their left; they never use a knife, and have no spoons. When journeying, each carries a pot to boil food in. And they hide from Moslems lest they should look into the pot or at the food. And should a Moslem look at the food, the Indian will not eat it. When eating, some cover themselves with a kerchief, so that no one may see them.

And they pray facing eastwards, in the Russian manner; they raise high both hands and put them on their crown, and lie face downwards on the ground and stretch out on it — that is how they worship. And when they sit down to take a meal, some wash their hands and feet, and also rinse their mouths. Their butkhanahs have no doors, and face eastwards; but buts, too, stand facing eastwards. And when someone dies, they burn him and scatter the ashes over water. And when a woman gives birth to a child, it is her husband who receives it; a son is named by the father, and a daughter by the mother. In coming or going, they bow after a fashion of monks, touching the ground with both hands and saying nothing.

They go to Parvat at Lent to worship their But; that is their Jerusalem or Mecca in the Moslem tongue.

From Parvat I came to Bidar a fortnight before Ulu Bayram, the great Moslem feast. And I know not when Easter Sunday, the great day of the Resurrection of Christ, occurs, so I try to guess by signs: with the Christians, Easter comes nine or ten days before the Moslem Bayram, I have nothing with me — no book; we took books with us from Rus, but when I was robbed the books were seized too. And I have forgotten all that I knew of the Christian faith and all the Christian feasts; I know not when Easter occurs, or Christmas, or Wednesday or Friday. And surrounded by other faiths, I pray to God that He may protect me: "O Lord God, O God of Truth, O Thou that art merciful, God my Creator, Thou art my Lord. There is one God, the Prince of Glory, Maker of heaven and earth."

And I am going back to Rus thinking that my faith is dead, for I have fasted with the Moslems. The month of March has passed, and for a month I have not been eating any meat, fasting with the Moslems and eating nothing fat, no Moslem food, and taking two meals a day — nothing but bread and water. And I have prayed to God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and have invoked none but His name: the God who made us, the Merciful God, God Almighty.

In the month of May, I kept Easter at Moslem Bidar, in Hindustan… And there I shed many tears for the Christian faith.

Melik the Moslem pressed me for a long time to adopt the Moslem faith. But I answered him: "My lord, you perform your prayers, and I perform mine; you say five prayers, and I say three; I am a stranger, but you are not." But he said to me: "Indeed, albeit thou professest not to be a Moslem, neither dost thou know the Christian faith." And then I thought over it a great deal, and said to myself: "Woe to me, miserable sinner, for I have strayed from the true path and knowing no other, must go my ways. Almighty God, Maker of heaven and earth, turn not Thy face from Thy servant who sorrows. Shelter me and have mercy upon me, O God who created me; lead me not away, O Lord, from the path of righteousness, but keep me in Thy true ways, for I have of necessity done nothing virtuous for Thy sake in my distress, and have lived all my days in evil. Four Easter Sundays have already passed in the Moslem land, but I have not forsaken the Christian faith; and God knows what mау yet happen. In Thee I trust, O Lord, save me, O God!"

In Moslem India, at great Bidar, I watched the heavens on Easter night; the Pleiades and Orion stood low at Easter, and the Great Bear was headed eastwards.

At Bidar, the full moon lasts for three days. And there are no sweet vegetables there. The heat is not strong in Hindustan; it is strong at Hormuz and in Bahrein, where pearls are found, and also in Jidda and Baku and Egypt and Arabia and Lar. It is hot in the land of Khorassan, too, but not so hot. And it is very hot in Jagatai. And it is hot in Shiraz and Yezd and Kashan, but a wind blows there at times. And in the land of Georgia everything is most plentiful. And the Turkish land is very plentiful. Walachia is plentiful too, and all food is cheap there. The land of Podolia, too, abounds, in everything. May God protect the Russian land! There is no land in the world like it, although the boyars in the Russian land are unjust. May the Russian land be well-ordered, and may there be justice there. Allah, Khuda, O God, Tanri!

In Thee I trust, O God, save me, O Lord! I know not my way. Whither shall I go from Hindustan? If I go to Hormuz, there is no passage from Hormuz to Khorassan, Jagatai, Bahrein, or Yezd. There is strife everywhere. The princes have been overthrown everywhere. Mirza Jahan Shah was slain by Uzun Hasan Beg, and Sultan Abu Said was poisoned; Uzun Hasan Beg tried to rule in Shiraz, but that land would not recognize him. And Yadigar Muhammad will not join him, for he is afraid. And there is no other way. And to go by way of Mecca would mean to take the Moslem faith; it is because of their faith that Christians do not go to Mecca, for there they would be converted to Islam. And to live in Hindustan would mean to spend all that I have, because everything is expensive here…”

It seems, God has heard Afanasy Nikitin’s prayers, since the merchant, to his great joy, returned to Rus. He crossed "three seas" as he put it — the Caspian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Black Sea. And that voyage cost him not only health but also his life. Having returned to Russia, Afanasy Nikitin did not manage to get to his native town of Tver. He died not far from the town of Smolensk…

Source:The Voice of Russia,www.geo.1september.ru

2 комментария:

Mário комментирует...

One more excellent post, thank you Lastochka! I knew nothing of Afanasy Nikitin’s travels and report, he should be better known in the West.

Very interesting also are his religious dilemmas - and some of the cases reported apply to present day reality.

lastochka комментирует...

I'll continue the publications on this theme. ))