Ibn Battuta [1304 - 1369]

Ibn Battuta full name Muhammad Ibn Battuta was a Moroccan traveller who left his home at a young age of 21 back in the 13th century to travel across the world. During his 30 years of travelling exploration, he visited around 44 countries, including India. His travelling accounts are published in the book ‘Rihla’ – My travels, a part of which is devoted to his experience in India. 

This article aims to share the facts related to Ibn Battuta’s visit to India for candidates preparing for the IAS Exam

Information on Ibn Battuta’s description about India is relevant for Civil Services aspirants under the Indian History part of the UPSC Prelims exam.  

Given below are the links that give information on the account of various foreign travellers who visited India – 

Ibn Battuta’s Account of Personal Life

  1. Ibn Battuta was born in Tangiers, Morocco in 1304 CE in the medieval era in Islamic family.
  2. In 1325, when Ibn Battuta was 21 years old, he wanted to go on a Pilgrimage to Mecca. From then to about the next 30 years he had extensive travelling. 
  3. Over the next 30 years, Ibn Battuta visited most of the know Islamic and Non-Muslim lands. he visited North Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, South-East Asia, China and India before returning home in 1354 CE.
  4. Battuta almost covered the distance of 75,000 miles, which is greatly surpassing what was covered by his predecessors or his near contemporary Marco Polo. Aspirants can read about Marco Polo [1254-1324] on the given link.

Ibn Battuta’s Visit to India – UPSC Prelims Facts

  • Ibn Battuta came to India in AD 1333 through the high mountains of Afghanistan (Hindu Kush Mountains) and the Indus river on 12 September and made his way to Delhi at the time when the Tughlaq dynasty was at its height. Read more on Tughlaq Dynasty – Rulers and Policy of the dynasty on the given link. 
  • Upon his arrival in Sindh, Ibn Battuta mentions the Indian rhinoceros that lived on the banks of the Indus. Crossing the Sutlej river] in modern-day Pakistan, he paid obeisance at the shrine of Baba Farid. From the Rajput kingdom of Saraswati, Battuta visited Hansi in India, describing it as among the most beautiful cities.
  • Ibn Battuta reached the royal court of Mohammad Bin Tughlaq, the then ruler of Delhi, presented him with precious gifts and in return Battuta was given a furnished house, a job of Qadi (Judge) in the royal court by the king and stayed for around seven years.
  • During his time he went through many places such as Abohar in Punjab, Sirsa and Hansi in Haryana, Aligarh and Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh, Daulatabad in Maharashtra, Khambhat in Gujarat, Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, Ujjain and Kozhikode in Kerala, among others.
  • Muhammad Bin Tughlaq gave another job to Ibn Battuta i.e. to take care of the Qutb al-Din Mubarak mausoleum in order to manage his debts. The Qutb complex of buildings in Delhi near Ibn Battuta’s home included the Quwwat al-Islam Mosque and the Qutb Minar, a 288 foot tower. Check out the list of Important Historical Monuments in India on the given link. 
  • After eight years in 1341, Ibn Battuta was eager to escape the political intrigue and asked the king if he could make another hajj.
  • Knowing of Ibn Battuta’s love of travel and sightseeing, the Sultan wanted to make Ibn Battuta ambassador to the Mongol court of China. Where Battuta has to accompany 15 Chinese messengers back to their homeland and carry shiploads of gifts to the emperor. Read about Mongol Invasions of India [1221-1327] on the link provided here.
  • Battuta started his journey to China and was attacked by the Hindi rebels outside Delhi. However they managed to defeat the rebels.
  • From Khambhat in Gujarat they sailed to Calicut (now known as Kozhikode) where they were the guests of ruling Zamorin. 
  • While in Calicut, a storm arose and one of the ships of the Ibn Battuta expedition sank and the other ship sailed without and was seized by a local Sumatran king a few months later.
  • He stayed for a time in Southern India under the protection of Jamal-ud-Din, ruler of the small but powerful Nawayath sultanate on the banks of the Sharavathi river next to the Arabian Sea.
  • Following the overthrow of the sultanate, Ibn Battuta had no choice but to leave India. He decided to continue his journey to China but first took a detour to visit the Maldive Islands where he stayed for 9 months. 
  • Ibn Battuta did not plan to stay but on his arrival at the capital, Malé the leaders of the formerly Buddhist nation that had recently converted to Islam were looking for a chief judge, someone who knew Arabic and Qur’an. They convinced Ibn Battuta to stay and made him a chief judge. Battuta married into the royal family of Omar I.
  • From the Maldives, he carried on to Sri Lanka and visited Sri Pada and Tenavaram temple. 
  • Stranded onshore, Ibn Battuta worked his way back to the Madurai kingdom in India. He spent some time in the court of the short-lived Madurai Sultanate under Ghiyas-ud-Din Muhammad Damghani.
  • Again he returned to the Maldives and boarded a Chinese ship in the hope of racing China.
  • In 1345 CE, he reached the port of Chittagong in Bangladesh and intended to travel to Sylhet through the Kamarau mountains. Thereafter, he went further North into Assam, then turned around to continue his original plan.

UPSC 2021

Given below are few really important links that will help UPSC aspirants to prepare comprehensively for the upcoming examinations –

Additional Notes on Ibn Battuta

  1. Ibn Battuta returned home in 1349 to Tangier for a few days, where he visited the grave of his mother, who died because of plague only a few months before his return.
  2. He then continued to travel to North Africa, Spain, and West Africa. On returning from this trip to Morocco in 1354, at the suggestion of the Marinid ruler of Morocco, Ibn Battuta dictated an account in Arabic of his journeys to Ibn Juzayy, a scholar.
  3. The account is the only source for Ibn Battuta’s adventures. The full title of the manuscript may be translated as A Masterpiece to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling. However, it is often simply referred to as Rihla- The Travels.
  4. Little is known about Ibn Battuta’s life after completion of his Rihla in 1355. He was appointed a judge in Morocco and died in 1369.

Ibn Batutta’s Account of India

It is in this book ‘Rihla’, Ibn Battuta has provided detailed insight about Indian History during the rule of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq. The key points of the same are mentioned below – 

  1. He described that the postal courier system was operational in India. A horse courier stationed every four miles and a foot courier stationed every mile.
  2. Practice of Sati – the burning of widows and the caste system prevailed. Ibn Battuta described about, slave market, slavery, social custom that musliims were allowd to have four wives. 
  3. Adultery was a serious crime, since men were having sexual relationships with multiple women simultaneously.
  4. The cities were densely populated, prosperous with bright and colorful markets and streets. The bazaar was the place of economic transactions and the hub of social and cultural activities and had various Mosques and Temples.
  5. The network of trade and commerce was strong, the great trade taking place in Malabar through the ports of Calicut and Kollam, where ships from China and Persia came to trade in pepper. Indian textiles particularly cotton cloth, muslin, silk, brocade and satin were in great demand. The indian manufacturers traded both in West Asia and Southeast Asia.
  6. Ibn Battuta noted that the soil of the land was very fertile and allowed farmers to grow 2 crops per year Rabi and Kharif. He also mentioned that rice was sown three times in a year. Rice and sugarcane were sown in the east, while wheat and Oilseeds were grown in the North. Sesame, Cotton and barley were also sown.
  7. His description on food includes the following – flesh of sheep, flattened fowls, cranes, etc, The Royal feast includes – round breads (chapattis) followed by roast meat, sambusak (samosas) and chicken served on a bed of rice. Followed by dessert like halwa and almond pudding. He described that people drank Sherbat ( Sugar water) before meals and Barley water after meals.
  8. He also describes the supply of the pan and betel nut to the imperial capital, which is said to have come from Chanderi, near Gwalior.
  9. He was intrigued by Mango and described Jackfruit (loveliest of all fruits in Hindustan), sweet oranges, pickled green ginger, wheat, chickpeas. 
  10.  He gave a description of pulses and chicken and also detailed about the Coconut trees. The favourite food of Kerala Muslims was a dish called rasoi made of rice, meats and coconut milk.
  11. Battuta also mentioned about the life-style in the Tuglaq’s court, customs and ritual, monuments, saints and scholars. He discussed Jogis, who performed magic tricks on the streets. He mentions the magnificent fort of Deogiri, renamed as Daulatabagh by the Tuglakhs and the Marathas living in the region.
  12. Ibn Battuta’s references about shipping and sea voyages reveal that Muslims completely dominated the maritime activity of the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Chinese Water.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ibn Battuta

Who is Ibn Battutah?

Ibn Baṭṭūṭah was a medieval Muslim traveler who wrote one of the world’s most famous travel logs, the Riḥlah. This great work describes the people, places, and cultures he encountered in his journeys along some 75,000 miles (120,000 km) across and beyond the Islamic world.

Where did Ibn Battuta travels take him?

Over a period of thirty years, Ibn Battuta visited most of southern Eurasia, including Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, China and the Iberian Peninsula. Near the end of his life, he dictated an account of his journeys, titled A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling, but commonly known as The Rihla.

Aspirants can visit the UPSC Syllabus page to familiarise themselves with the topics generally asked in the exam. For further assistance visit the following links –

 

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