Foreign Travellers in Indian History - UPSC Notes

The envoy is an ambassador of a respective country. India is a land of beautiful culture and tradition. This draws many foreigners from different countries to our land. A great number of foreign travellers have visited India and appreciated the beauty of our country in different ways- poetry, books, travelogue. Megasthenes, ambassador of Seleucus Nikator was the first foreign traveller to India. India has witnessed the visit of great foreign envoys like Al-Masudi, Fa-Hien, Hiuen-Tsang, Marco Polo and Abdul Razak, etc. Read on to get the list of important foreign travellers in Indian history for the IAS Exam.

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Aspirants reading about foreign travellers in Indian History can also read other important History articles:

List of Governors-General of India List of Mughal Emperors 
Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) Important Dynasties & Kingdoms of Ancient India

Important Foreign Travellers to India

Foreign Travellers

Period of Stay  Description
Abdur Razzak 1443 A.D. – 1444 A.D.
  • He was a Persian scholar.
  • He was also an ambassador of Persia.
  • He visited India during the rule of Deva Raya II of Vijayanagar.
Alberuni/Abu al-Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni 1024 A.D. – 1030 A.D.)
  • He was a Persian scholar.
  • He accompanied Mahmud of Ghazni and wrote a book titled ‘Tahqiq-i-hind’.
  • He is considered the father of Indology.
Al-Masudi 957 A.D.
  • Al-Masudi was An Arab traveller.
  • In his book Muruj-ul-Zehab he has explained his journey.
Captain William Hawkins 1608 A.D. – 1611 A.D.
  • Captain William Hawkins led the first expedition of the English East India Company to India in 1609.
  • He visited India during the reign of Jahangir.
  • He carried a personal letter from King James I of England.
  • He did not succeed in getting Jahangir’s permission to start a factory.
Fa-Hien 405 A.D. – 411 A.D.
  • He was a Chinese Buddhist monk.
  • He visited India during the reign of Vikramaditya (Chandragupta II).
  • He is known for his visit to Lumbini.
  • His voyage is described in his travelogue “Record of Buddhist Kingdoms”.
Francois Bernier 1656 A.D. – 1668A.D.
  • He was a French physician and traveller.
  • He was in India from 1656-1668
  • He visited India during the reign of Shah Jahan.
  • He was physician to Prince Dara Shikoh and later was attached to the court of Aurangzeb
  • ‘Travels in the Mughal Empire’ was written by Francois Bernier.
  • The book mainly talks about the rules of Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb.
Huien Tsang 630 A.D. – 645 A.D.
  • He was a Chinese traveller.
  • He visited India during the supremacy of Harsha Vardhana.
  • Si-yu-ki or ‘The Records of the Western World’ was written by him.
Ibn Battuta 1333 A.D. – 1347 A.D.
  • He was a Moroccan traveller.
  • He visited India during the rule of Mohammed Bin Tughlaq.
  • Rihla is a book written by Ibn Batuta.
Marco Polo 1292 A.D. – 1294 A.D.
  • He was a European traveller.
  • He visited Southern India during the reign of Rudramma Devi of the Kakatiyas.
Megasthenes 302 B.C. – 298 B.C.
  • He was the ambassador of Seleucus.
  • He visited India during the supremacy of Chandragupta Maurya.
  • Chandragupta was known to the Greeks as Sandrocottus.
  • He was also the author of the book ‘Indica’.
Nicolo Conti 1420 A.D. – 1421 A.D.
  • He was an Italian merchant.
  • He visited India during the reign of Deva Raya I of Vijayanagar.
Thomas Roe 1615 A.D. – 1619 A.D.
  • Sir Thomas Roe was an English diplomat.
  • He visited India during the reign of Jahangir in 1615.
  • He came to seek protection for an English factory at Surat.
  • His “Journal of the Mission to the Mughal Empire” is a treasured contribution to the history of India.

To analyze the trend of history questions asked in UPSC Prelims, you can check the links below:

  1. Ancient History Questions in UPSC Prelims
  2. Medieval History Questions in UPSC Prelims
  3. Modern History Questions in UPSC Prelims
  4. Art and Culture Questions in UPSC Prelims

Questions from the account of foreign travellers have been asked in the UPSC exam. Aspirants can get the previous years’ History Questions in UPSC Mains GS 1, for reference.

Also, refer to Frequently Asked Questions on IAS Exam at the linked article.

Frequently Asked Questions on Foreign Travellers in Indian History


Q 1. What role did the Foreign travellers play in the history of India?

Ans. Accounts and excerpts of the Foreign travellers help in determining the ancient and medieval history of the country. It throws light on the social, political, cultural, geographical, economic and administrative practices of that time.

Q 2. Who were the famous Foreign Travellers of ancient India?

Ans. Few of the most popular foreign travellers of ancient India include:

  • Fa Hien
  • Marco Polo
  • Ibn Battuta
  • Al Biruni
  • Hiuen Tsang
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Pre Historic Age in India Types of Vedas


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