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Excerpt from "A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689"

  • Page 242 from "A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689" transcription in text
  • Page from "A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689" transcription in text
  • Page from "A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689" transcription in text

Annotation

Ovington’s travelogue “The City of Surat and Its Inhabitants,” an excerpt from John Ovington’s A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689 provides students with a European trader’s point of view as he confronts the world of Islam during the Mughal rule of India. Its themes and habits of mind supplement the study of the years 1450-1750. The selection fits into the greater global context by challenging students to place themselves in the position of a meeting of the Western and Islamic worlds against a backdrop of one of the world’s most ancient civilizations. From the 15th to the 18th centuries, Indian Ocean trade provided the stage for a rich drama of commercial and cultural interchanges like these. The Indian Ocean tale weaves together encounters among South Asians, East Asians, Islamic peoples, Africans, and Europeans, and thus provides an ideal opportunity to emphasize both emerging globalization and contacts between many cultures.

This source is a part of the John Ovington's A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689 teaching module.

John Ovington, "A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689"

Text

not outvie the unconstrain'd Liberty which the Christians take in sumptu∣ous Repasts, and such kind of Luxu∣rious Sensuality.

The Moors are only bound to ab∣stain from Unclean Beasts, and load their Tables with Fish and Fowl, and other Fare. And it is only among them that the Butchers kill the Meat,* and sell it to strangers; for the Indians will scarce look upon a mangled Car∣kass. A Butcher with them is little less than a Murtherer, but of all Vocations that is the most odious with them.

*The Moors with a very rigid and avowed Abstinence, observe every Year one Month, a Fast, which they term the Ramezan; during which time they are so severely abstemious, that they stretch not their Hands to either Bread or Wa∣ter, 'till the Sun be set, and the Stars appear; no, not the Youths of 12 or 13 Years of Age. Which makes the Penance so much the more rigorous and troublesome, in that a draught of Wa∣ter in those warm parching Climates is so very necessary, and so refreshing to such as are ready to faint with Thirst. This Fast is not kept always at the
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same Season of the Year, but begins its date Annually more early by Eleven Days. When I was at Suratt, this mortifying Custom was about the Month of September, at which time the Moors would begin to refresh them∣selves about the close of the Evening, and Eat then freely; and by an Early Collation in the Morning, before the dawning of the Light, prepare them∣selves for the drought and heat of the following Day. The Almighty, they told us, requir'd from Mahomet,* that his followers should be oblig'd to this Austerity, the whole Circuit of the Year; but that the Holy Prophet, in compassion to the Faithful, obtain'd from God the confinement of it only to a Month, which would therefore highly aggravate their Crime, if they neglect∣ed the Dedication of so small a Portion of the Year to this Religious Abstinence, tho' the observance of it had been in∣joyn'd after a more rigorous manner than it is. And to add to the Sanctity of this Celebrated and solemn Fast, their Mullahs,* acted with a sacred Zeal, and lively concern for the Souls of the People, will at this time spend whole
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Nights in the Musseets, in chanting a∣loud alternately their Divine Hymns, 'till the approach of day breaks up their Devotions: And so they com∣pleat their Fast, according to the strict∣est Rules of the most rigid Asceticks, by mixing Prayers and Watchings with their Abstinence; in which, as well as in their Publick Prayers and Religious Worship, they tie themselves up to a very nice and devout strictness, and be∣have themselves with all those decencies of Respect, with that astonishing Re∣verence in the Musseets, as not to defile them with either their Eyes or Lips; not daring so much as to turn their Heads to gaze about, or utter the least word to one another. Which profound Respect casts an obloquy and deserv'd Reproach upon some Professors of a much purer Religion,* and more Holy Faith, whose careless Deportment and familiar Address discountenance all the Religious decorum of Prayers, and might tempt those Heathens to con∣clude, that our Devotions were rather some light Diversion, than the effects of serious and sacred Thoughts.

Transcription

The Moors are only bound to abſtain from Unclean Beaſts, and load their Tables with Fiſh and Fowl, and other Fare. And it is only among them that the Butchers kill the Meat, and ſellit to ſtrangers ; for the Indians will ſcarce look upon a mangled Carkaſs. A Butcher with them is little leſs than a Murtherer, but of all Vocations that is the moſt odious with them.

The Moors with a very rigid and avowed Abſtinence, obſerve every Year one Month, a Faſt, which they term the Ramezan; during which time they are ſo ſeverely abſtemious, that they ſtretch not their Hands to either Bread or Water, 'till the Sun be ſet, and the Stars appear; no, not the Youths of 12 or 13 Years of Age. Which makes the Penance ſo much the more rigorous and troubleſome, in that a draught of Water in thoſe warm parching Climates is ſo very neceſſary, and ſo refreſhing to . fuch as are ready to faint with Thirſt. This Faſt is not kept always at the ſame Seaſon of the Year, but begins its date Annually more early by Eleven Days. . When I was at Suratt, this mortifying Cuſtom was about the Month of September, at which time the Moors would begin to refreſh them ſelves about the cloſe of the Evening, and Eat then freely; and by an Early Collation in the Morning, before the dawning of the Light, prepare them ſelves for the drought and heat of the following Day. The Almighty, they told us, requir'd from Mahomet, that his followers ſhould be oblig'd to this Auſterity, the whole Circuit of the Year; but that the Holy Prophet, in compaſſion to the Faithful, obtain'd from God the confinement of it only to a Month, which would therefore highly aggravate their Crime, if they negle&t- ed the Dedication of ſo ſmall a Portion of the Year to this Religious Abſtinence, tho’ the obſervance of it had been in joyn’d after a more rigorous manner than it is. And to add to the Sanétity of this Celebrated and ſolemn Faſt, their Mullahs, ačted with a ſacred Zeal, and lively concern for the Souls of the People, will at this time ſpend whole Nights in the Muſeets, in chanting a loud alternately their Divine Hymns, 'till the approach of º breaks up d ſo they com pleat their Faſt, according to the ſtriët eſt Rules of the moſt rigid Aſceticks, by mixing Prayers and Watchings wit their Abſtinence; in which, as well as in their Publick Prayers and Religious Worſhip, they tie themſelves up to a very nice and devout ſtrićtneſs, and behave themſelves with all thoſe decencies of Reſpect, with that aſtoniſhing Reverence in the Muſeets, as not to defile them with either their Eyes or Lips; not daring ſo much as to turn their Heads to gaze about, or utter the leaſt word to one another. Which profound Reſpect caſts an obloquy and deſerv’d Reproach upon ſome Profeſſors of a much purer Religion, and more Holy Faith, whoſe careleſs Deportment and familiar Addreſs diſcountenance all the Religious decorum of Prayers, and might tempt thoſe Heathens to conclude, that our Devotions were rather ſome light Diverſion, than the effects of ſerious and ſacred Thoughts,

Credits

From "A Voyage to Suratt, in the Year 1689" by John Ovington, Tonson, pgs. 242-244, Originally from the Bavarian State Library, Digitized May 5th, 2010, contained by Google Books: https://www.google.com/books/edition/A_Voyage_to_Suratt/NmpCAAAAcAAJ

How to Cite This Source
Excerpt from "A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689" in World History Commons,