Niccolò Dei Conti [AD 1395 - AD 1469]

Nicolò Dei Conti commonly called Niccolò Conti was an Italian traveller and a merchant who visited India in 1420 AD at the Vijayanagara empire probably after the accession of Deva Raya II. 

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

Information on Niccolo Dei Conti’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 travelers who visited India – 

Candidates can know more about other Foreign Envoys who visited India on the linked page.

Niccolo Dei Conti – Brief Facts

  1. Niccolo De Conti was born in Venice in 1395 AD. 
  2. He departed from Venice in 1419 and resided as a merchant in the city of Damascus, Syria where he learned Arabic.
  3. Over a period of 25 years, he traveled as a merchant to numerous places in Asia. He set out for Baghdad, then journeyed down the Tigris River and eventually reached Hormuz in Iran, near the southern end of the Persian Gulf.
  4. He passed through Persia, sailed along the coast of Malabar, visited some parts of the interior of Hindustan, and also the islands of Ceylon (Sri Lanks), Sumatra (Indonesia), and Java.
  5. While in Persia, Niccolo established a trading company in association with local merchants, and began a business at various ports along the Indian Ocean.
  6. Niccolo went to the Malay Peninsula, to Champa or modern Vietnam; and later to the wealthy city of Pegu in Burma along the Irrawaddy River.
  7. Afterwards Conti went to the south of China, and on his return passed along the coasts of Ethiopia, sailed up the Red Sea, crossed the desert and reached Cairo and returned to Venice in 1444. 
  8. Throughout his travels, he was accompanied by his family. However his wife, whom he had met in India, and two of his four children died in Egypt during an epidemic. He continued to Italy with his remaining children.
  9. Conti was required to write an account of his journeys for Pope Eugenius, therefore he went to work with Vatican secretary Poggio Bracciolini, who acted as scribe for Niccolo Conti and the work entitled ‘Historia de Varietate Fortunae’.

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

Nicolo Conti Visit To India  – UPSC Prelims Facts

  1. The very first city that Niccolo Conti visited on reaching India was Kambath (Cambay) in Gujarat.
    • In Cambay he noticed the number of the precious stones called sardonixes, and also the custom of Sati was prevalent there.
  2. After a 20 days sail from Cambay, Conti reached the two cities on the coast, Pacamuria, and Helly. He mentions the growth and mode of drying of ginger in the districts around these cities.
  3. At a distance of 300 miles, Niccolo Dei Conti reached the great city of Bizenegalia (Vijayanagara, now Hampi, Karnataka state) which stood on the shore of the river Tungabhadra. Vijayanagara was the capital of the Deccan of the time in India.
    • For Vijayanagara he described that it is covered with lofty and massive stone walls everywhere across the valleys and mounted over the hillsides.
    • The stone-built dwellings of the nobles, merchants, and upper classes of the vast community; elaborately constructed water-channels of the Rayas for land irrigation. 
    • There were rich gardens and woods, and luxurious crops of rice and sugar-cane. Beautifully carved temples and fanes to Hindu deities. Brahmanical colleges and schools were also seen.
    • Men in the region can have many wives and they voluntarily burn themselves on the death of their husband which they think is a great honour. 
    • Niccolo gave a detailed account of Maha Navami festival celebrated at the capital. The other festivals that were mentioned by him were, Deepawali, Holi, and Kanarese New Year Day.
    • He also described the finding of diamonds on a mountain which he called “Albenigaras;.
    • It was in India that he coined the phrase ‘Italian of the East’ to refer to the Telugu language, which he found had words ending with vowels, similar to Italian.
  4. In eight days of travel from Vijayanagara he reached the noble city of Penugonda (district in Andhra Pradesh) . After 20 days of travel he passed two cities Odeschiria and Cenderghiria, where the red sandal grows. Probably these are Udayagiri (mountain of Sunrise) and Chandragiri (mountain of moon).
  5. Next place that Niccolo Conti visited was Goa and Maliapur (now Mylapore, a suburb of modern Chennai), the burial place of St. Thomas, the shrine most sacred to Indian Christians. 
  6. Niccolo Conti then crossed to “Pedir” in northern Sumatra, where he spent a year, gaining local knowledge, particularly on the gold and spice trade. Here he also encountered cannibalism.
  7. After sailing 16 days Conti reached Tenasserim on the Malay peninsula and the Ganges Delta region. Further sailing up the river he passed a famous city Marazia (Mathura) where there was a great abundance of aloes, wood, gold, silver, precious stones, and pearls.
  8. Niccolo visited Sonargaon and Chittagong (in modern Bangladesh) and then went overland to Arakan (now Rakhine State, Burma). After traveling through the prosperous city of Pegu in Burma, he left for Java (the farthest point Conti reached) where he spent nine months and then headed towards Champa in Vietnam. 
  9. Conti visited Ceylon in the extreme south. He stopped along the Malabar Coast in India including Cochin and Calicut (Kozhikode). 
  10. He revisited Cambay before making his way to the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula and the city of Aden. 
  11. Niccolo also stopped at Jidda, the port for Mecca, and then went overland to Cairo and Mt. Sinai before arriving in Venice in 1444. 

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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