FAMINES IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT, 1500 to 1767
|1597 (a) [+ 1598]: Kashmir|
|Documented causes: drought + troop movements|
|Documented effects: voluntary slavery; official relief and workfare|
|R.K. Parmu, "A History Of Muslim Rule In Kashmir 1320-1819" (1969)|
|pp297-8: "On Easter Day, 1597, the royal palace in Lahore was burnt to ashes. In April the emperor left Lahore for Kashmir to enjoy its beauty and, at the same time, to allow time for getting the palace rebuilt. He arrived in Srinagar on 6 June 1597, This was his third and last visit to Kashmir. Father Jerome Xavier and Benedict Goez, who are the earliest known European visitors to Kashmir, formed part of his train. Fortunately, Father Xavier has left a long letter which contains his observations on Kashmir.|
While the emperor was in the valley a severe and devastating famine broke out. Father Xavier has recorded its gruesome effects. He states that hard necessity drove mothers to expose their children for sale in public places in the city. Viewing their plight the Portuguese Fathers, Xavier and Goez, picked up and baptised many of them in the belief that by so doing they would secure salvation and eternal bliss for the souls of the little ones.
The Fort of Nagar Nagar
To alleviate the distress of the famine-stricken population of Kashmir, the emperor, says the tradition, ordered that a strongly bastioned stone-wall should be built around the slope of the Hari Parbat hillock in the city and Kashmiris, both men and women, employed on the work. The township within this lordly fort wall was named ‘Nagar Nagar’. This fort wall is the only extant monument in Srinagar associated with the name of Akbar.
Opinions, however, differ about the purpose underlying the construction of this wall, and the date when it was built. Pandit Suka states that the great fort wall was built during the governorship of Muhammad Quli Khan in order to segregate the imperial troops from the city, since they had become a menace and a constant source of harassment and hardship to the citizens in whose houses they were quartered. [Discussion follows, concluding with transcripts of the inscriptions over one of the gates, which confirm 1597]
[Footnote] "It may be interesting to quote the letter on the subject. It states:
'Many mothers were rendered destitute, and having no means of nourishing their children exposed them for sale in the public places of the city. Moved to compassion by their pitiable sight, the Father bought many of those little ones, who soon after receiving baptism, yielded up their spirits to their Creator. A certain Saracen seeing the charitv of the Father towards these children brought him one of his own, but the Father gave it back to the mother, together with certain sum of money for its support, for he was unwilling to baptise it, seeing that, if it survived there was little prospect of its being able to live a Christian life in this country. At day-break the next morning, however, the mother knocked the door of his lodging, and begged him to come to her house and baptise the child as it was about to die. Accompanied by some Portuguese he went with her to the house and baptised the child having first obtained the consent of its father. The latter, after it was dead, wished to circumcise it but this Father would not permit, but buried with Christian rites’ ("Akbar and the Jesuits". Broadway Travellers, Payne, p. 78; Maclagan. Jesuit Missions to Akbar, JASB, 1897, p. 72)."
|Ludovico de Dieu, "Historia S. Petri: Persice … Latine" (1639) [Appendix: Latin text of letter by P. Hieronymi Xavier, Societatis Iesu]|
|pp123-4: ... "Hoc in regno extrema fuit fames, sic ut in dies multi inedia absumerentur, & ne pueri infantes deserti, & omni humana ope destituti morerentur, matres e domibus ejectos in plateis exponebant, quorum plurimos colligebamus, qui salutari aqua abluti creatori suo animam reddebant. Cum igitur ex Mauris quidam abjectos infantes tam pie, & humaniter a nobis tractari videsset, obtulit ex filiolis suis unum, quem matri restitui, data in alimentum, & nutritionem certa summa. Sed dilato baptismo multo mane, & primo velut diluculo exauditus est ad domus januam clamor, accurrens igitur ad ostium, ut viderem quid sibi vellet haec vociferatio, inveni matrem esse infantis, evocantem me, ut in aedes suas me conferrem, puerulum morti proximum baptizaturus: Parui, comitantibus me Lusitanis quibusdam, &, consentiente Patre, ablui. Volebat Pater mortuum circuncidere, sed non passi sumus tantum sacrilegium, sepelivimusque Christiano ritu. Benedictus Dominus, qui ab hominibus abjectos in vitam aeternam colligit. Idem pusioni trimo accidit, qui ad nos a Maura quadam delatus, statim a baptismo mortuus, in coelum conscendit.|
Cum rex Lahorum regredi vellet, petii, ut bona ejus cum facultate, nobis praeire liceret: In iter parantibus supervenit mulier filiolum deferens, quem nobis venderet, & ne adulterinus, aut furto sublatus putaretur, secum testes adducens, qui proprium confirmarent: sed cum negarem mihi eam in rem commoditatem, neque eum adesse, qui commode puellum portaret; obtulit se ad montes usque, iter sat longum, filii bajulam, quod, & fecit, exigua mercede, & pretio."
|Srivastava, Ashirbadi Lal "Akbar The Great" (Vol 1, 1962)|
|p408: "Akbar set out on his third visit to Kashmir, which he called his private garden, on or about April 1, 1597. ... On May 15, the royal camp was pitched at Rajauri ... Jerome Xavier and Benedict de Goes who had left Lahore on May 13, 1597 arrived to join the party at this place. ... During the emperor's stay in the valley (May-November 1597) there was a severe famine in Kashmir, on account of deficiency of rain, with the result that things became very dear, and husbandmen had to abandon their homes and hearths. Akbar tried to alleviate the suffering by providing food to the poor. Twelve depots were opened at Srinagar and 80,000 persons were fed. The emperor ordered the construction of a fort so as to provide means of livelihood to the famine-stricken humanity. He also exempted 55% of customs duties. These measures were not adequate enough to meet the situation and Jerome Xavier writes that mothers left their children in the streets to die. The Jesuit missionaries picked them up and baptized them."|
A.N. Vol. III, pp 721, 723, 725, 732, Maclagan [Sir Edward Maclagan, "Jesuits at the Court of the Great Moghul"], p56, Du Jarrie [Du Jarrie "Histoire" (English translation available: C.H. Payne, "Akbar and the Jesuits")], pp 77,78"
|Abu-l Fazl (trans. H. Beveridge) "The Akbar Nama" (vol. 3, 1973)|
|p1087: [Akbar's visit to Kashmir, May-Nov 1597] On account of the deficiency of rain and the dispersal of the husbandmen, prices became somewhat high. Though by the coming of the victorious army the scarcity was increased, yet the Shahinshah's [i.e. Akbar's] graciousness provided a remedy. By his orders twelve places were prepared in the city for the feeding of great and small [i.e. adults and children]. Every Sunday a general proclamation was made in the 'Idgah, and some went from the palace and bestowed food and presents on the applicants. Eighty thousand necessitous persons - more or less - received their hearts' desires. A great many persons also got their livelihood by the building of the fort. By means of the pay for their labour they were brought out from the straits of want. At this time some attention was paid to miscellaneous imposts. Fifty-five censurable customs were abolished. The husbandmen for a long time paid these, and until the order of remission took effect they did not believe in it [the abolition]. The case of the saffron is one of these. The Government share of the produce was divided among the bazaar-people and the husbandmen to be cleaned." [This appears to be a reference to the abolition of forced labour in the preparation of saffron]|
|J. Talboys Wheeler (ed.) "Early Travels in India: First Series" (1864)|
|p26 ("Conquests and Death of Echebar" from Samuel Purchas's summary of information about India): [the Emperor's return from his 1597 visit to Kashmir] "This countrey he left when Summer was past, and returned to Lahor, losing many Elephants and Horses in the way, both by Famine then oppressing the Countrey, and the difficultie of the Passages …"|
|1597 (b): Goa area|
|Documented causes: unspecified|
|Documented effects: Christian relief efforts|
|Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu "Documenta Indica" (vol 18, 1988)|
|p893: [report from Goa, 1 Jan 1598] "Avendo mui grande aperto de fome em todo Salsete e na terra firme dos mouros por falta de mantimentos, acudio o collegio e todos os mais Padres das igrejas, e por sua industria e charidade com algumas outras esmolas grossas que ouveram, remediarão a esta christiandade até vir a novidade. Foi a mor esmola a do Arcebispo e o modo de muite edificaçam, porque não tendo dinheiro mas tendo dous anéis, disse que lhe bastava hum e deu o outro."|