Athanasius Nikitin was a
native of Twer, Russia and set out on his wanderings by permission
of the Duke Michael Borissowich who reigned as Grand Duke
of Russia from 1462 to 1505, and his own bishop, Gennadius.
He visited India during the period 1468 and 1474. Nikitin
first went to Chaul, and thence travelled by land to Junir
where he was forcefully converted to Islam by the Khan of
Junir. In his own words, Nikitin gives the commentary:
"At Jooneer, the Khan
took away my horse, and having heard that I was no Mahommedan,
but a Russian, he said: "I will give thee the horse and
a 1000 pieces of gold, if thou wilt embrace our faith, the
Mahommedan faith; and if thou wilt not embrace our Mahommedan
faith, I shall keep the horse and take a 1000 pieces of gold
upon thy head." He gave me four days to consider, and
all this occurred during the fast of the Assumption of our
Lady, on the eve of our Saviour's day (18th of August)."
However, he was spared only
for the horse.
Then landing in Kalburga
(Gulbarga), his experiences at Gulbarga should be mentioned
here since the living of a common Hindu was not much different
in Vijayanagara and Bahamani kingdoms
"The Hindus ... are
all naked and bare-footed. They carry a shield in one hand
and a sword in the other. Some of the servants are armed with
straight bows and arrows. Elephants are greatly used in battle....
Large scythes are attached to the trunks and tusks of the
elephants, and the animals are clad in ornamental plates of
steel. They carry a citadel, and in the citadel twelve men
in armour with guns and arrows.... The land is overstocked
with people; but those in the country are very miserable,
whilst the nobles are extremely opulent and delight in luxury.
They are wont to be carried on their silver beds, preceded
by some twenty chargers caparisoned in gold, and followed
by three hundred men on horseback and five hundred on foot,
and by horn-men, ten torch-bearers, and ten musicians".
And about his narrative of
Vijayanagara, it goes thus:
"The Hindu Sultan (the
title he thought of the king after travelling the Mohammaden
states first) Kadam is a very powerful prince. He possesses
an enormous army and resides on a mountain at BICHENEGHER
(Vijayanagara). This vast city is surrounded by three forts
and intersected by a river, bordering on one side on a dreadful
jungle, and on the other on a dale; a wonderful place and
to any purpose convenient. On one side it is quite inaccessible;
a road gives right through the town, and as the mountain rises
high with a ravine below, the town is impregnable."