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1631 (a): The Great Famine, year 21631 map
Documented causes: drought, war
Documented effects: at least 4,000,000 deaths Jan-Oct 1631; at least 7,400,000 since start of famine. Devastating epidemic

East India Company, "The English factories in India, 1630-1633 " (1910)
p136: (President and Council at Surat, to Crispin Blackden, 23 Feb 1631): It will be safe for Blackden (who has just left Agra to return to Surat) to go to Burhanpur (where the royal court has been settled while fighting a war in the Deccan). If the camelmen demand an extra allowance to continue from there to Surat, due to the scarcity of grain in the region, he may increase up to 300 rupees. He may also hire extra peons at Burhanpur "for the waies are become more desperatly dangerous then usuall."

p138: (President and Council at Surat, to Crispin Blackden, 13 Mar 1631): further advice, including "If it were possible to make some light provicion to defend the goodes from the raines (which have here also fallen with us in some abundance) we wish you would indeavour it ..."

p143: (President and Council at Surat, to Crispin Blackden, 25 Mar 1631): In a postscript, the President advises Blackden, when paying tolls at Burhanpur, not to declare any of his goods as sugar, because that would be "provicions for the belly" and thus likely to be commandeered.

p145: (President and Council at Surat, to the Comoros, for the fleet expected from England, 18 Apr 1631): [editor's summary] "The conjoined fleets are to make for Surat, keeping together and in readiness to encounter the enemy [i.e. the Portuguese fleet]. The famine here renders it advisable that they should collect any rice or other grain they can get at the Comoros."

(President and Council at Surat, to the Agent and Council at Bantam, 22 Apr 1631): [A lack of carts, due to the mortality caused by the famine, delayed the dispatch of the fleet for Persia until 7 January. Ships returned to Surat on 5 April, by which time goods purchased inland for dispatch to Bantam etc. had still not all arrived at the port]: "and a great blessing it was that wee procured its transport, though at five tymes the rate of former yeares, amounting not to less than 30 or 40 per centum (the verie charge of cartage) more then prime cost of the goods themselves ... but more principally the small quantities of like goods to be expected the yeare insueing, these parts of Guzerat above all other being bereaft of the greater part of weavers, washers, and dyers, who (such as are escaped the direfull stroake of famine) are disperst into forraigne parts of greater plentie, leaving few or none of their facullty to putt either themselves or us into action; and God knowes many yeares must pass ere the ordinarie traffick of these parts be resettled againe into its wonted frame and condition."

p158 (President and Council at Surat, to the Agent and factors in Persia, 13 May 1631): "the raines having already fallen in most parts of Guzeratt, and by all observacion and forerunning signes, both of aire and weather, this winter is like to be seasonable; which provinge answerably will bring us into accion againe in the procurement of callicoes, whereof Brodera and Baroch (with the help of a seire of corne delivered out to the weavers upon every peece bought) doe produce us about 200 peeces a daie, which the raines, wee hope, will augment; so as, with those quantities already purchased, wee will not doubt the atteyning of 500 bales in all factoryes towards this next yeares returnes ...
The warrs with Decan are yett still contynued, but with slowe mocion and smale successe or performance."

p xvi (Introduction): "Shah Jahan's army had suffered terribly from the famine and the diseases it had brought in its train, insomuch that his 300,000 men were reported to have dwindled to 12,000 (Lisbon Transcripts at India Office: Doc. Remett., bk. 29, f. 197).

p207 (editor's footnote to a letter of Feb 1632 mentioning a Dutch voyage to Sindh): "Philip Lukaszoon {Hague Transcripts, series i. vol, ix. no. 318) says that in 1631 the ship Brouwershaven was sent to a place 'called Tata by the inhabitants, but named Sindee in the charts' [= Thatta]. In spite of the miserable state of the district, owing to the famine, her cargo was sold at good prices, realizing a profit of 14,000 gulden."
Firishtah et al. (trans. Alexander Dow), "History of Hindostan" (1st ed. 1772)
p141 ["1631"- AH 1042]: "The war in the Deccan produced nothing but the desolation of that country. An extraordinary drought, which burnt up all the vegetables, dried up the rivers, and rent the very ground, occasioned a dreadful famine. The Imperial camp could not be supplied with provisions: distress prevailed over the whole face of the empire. Shaw Jehan remitted the taxes in many of the provinces, to the amount of three millions sterling; he even opened the treasury for the relief of the poor; but money could not purchase bread: a prodigious mortality ensued; disease followed close on the heels of famine, and death ravaged every corner of India. The scarcity of provisions prevailed in Persia: the famine raged with still greater violence in the Western Tartary. No rain had fallen for seven years in that country. Populous and flourishing provinces were converted into solitudes and deserts; and a few, who escaped the general calamity, wandered through depopulated cities alone."
But as if famine and disease were not sufficient to destroy mankind, Asiph Jah, who had resumed the command of the army, assisted them with the sword. He trod down the scanty harvest in the Decan; and ravaged with fire and sword the kingdom of Bijapour. Adil Shaw, the sovereign of the country, came to terms when nothing was left worthy of defence."
Public Record Office, "Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series. East Indies and Persia 1630-1634" (=vol. 8, 1892)
p147 (summary of letter from Surat, 18 Apr 1631, to intercept the fleet sailing from England to India, at Madagascar): ... "The raging famine over all these parts may invite them to glean up what rice, paddy, gravaux, or other grain those Islands [i.e. Madagascar and its neighbours] will afford towards victualling both fleets, or any overplus to serve this market; which they may purchase partly with the bartering commodities delivered to Capt. Wills, and partly out of the Company's ryals, for which purpose they have liberty to open one chest, but desire them to hold a sparing hand in the expense of either, or of any other provisions, which as these miserable times rule, are hardly purchased with money."

p173 (summary of letter from the Royal James off Sumatra, 14 Jul 1731 [to be sent to Bantam on the ship's barge]): "Departed from Swally 27th April, the James and Blessing bound for Bantam and the William for the coast of Coromandel. Their so late departure occasioned by the fleets' late departure from Persia, and the backwardness of the bringing down of their goods from Ahmedabad and Cambaya by reason of the famine and mortality in those parts. Have met with contrary winds and been hovering off the Straits' mouth these eight days ..."

p209 (summary of letter from the Royal James at Bantam, 5 Oct 1631): ... "Doubt not the Company have been advised from the President and Council of the great famine and mortality in all India, insomuch that all trade is decayed, most of the weavers and washers being dead; and if it hath not pleased God to send them rain this last westerly monsoon the whole country will be desolated." ...

p226: (summary of letter from the incoming fleet, at Surat, 9 Dec 1631): "... passed the Cape 12th May without touching ; arrived at St. Augustine Bay 30th, where they found the pinnace Intelligence, John Burley, Master, sent to meet them with advices from Surat and Persia ... arrived at Molala Islands, viz., Johanna 1st July; and understanding from Burley of the raging famine in all parts of the Mogul's country, and how the Discovery and Reformation were forced to provide for themselves in Persia at extraordinary rates, they resolved to glean up what grain these islands afforded for their ships' provisions, and by consultation opened one of the chests of ryals, and bought fresh victuals for saving their sea stores amounting to 1,700 Rs. of rice and other sorts of grain. Received news of the William's arrival at Molala, and letter from the President and Council of Surat, enordering their stay till the last of August in expectation of the James and Blessing from Bantam, diverting them from their former design for Persia, and enordering their immediate coming for Surat; and likewise news of the raging famine in India, and orders for gleaning up all the grain they could, but could not do what they might have done in regard the advice came so late, yet the small quantity they bought for the market costing not above 400 Rs., if sold as the market goes here, will defray the charge of all they bought at these islands and St. Lawrence. ... Oct. 7th, met nine sail of Dutch ships from Batavia bound for Surat, with whom they kept company till their arrival there 14th. Found the President in health, but all the merchants dead, or sick and hardly able to help one another, and the town and country in a manner unpeopled, for never in the memory of man has the like famine and mortality happened. This that was in a manner the garden of the world is turned into a wilderness having few or no men left to labour, so that places that have yielded 15 bales cloth in a day, hardly yield now three in a month: Ahmedabad that yielded 3,000 bales indigo yearly, now hardly yields 300, yet a plentiful year for its growth, which lies rotting on the ground for want of men to gather it. Agra not touched with this famine or mortality, but continues in its former estate, but affords little to satisfy so many buyers, and what they shall do for a lading against next year God only knows ; and yours and our unhappiness is the more for the loss of President Rastell who deceased 7th Nov. last and left not a man behind him in this factory able to manage the Company's affairs, Mr. Hopkinson is only left, but is too sick and weak; Mountney at Ahmedabad, Rand at Cambaya, Joyce at Baroach, and Wick at Brodera have likewise been sick, but are well recovered. "

p228 (see below for translation from a letter written by a Dutch factor to the VOC council in Batavia, 21 Dec 1631)
Here is also arrived a small ship called the King of England's ship, with strong Commission, Commander Capt. Quaile and Lieut. Robertson; this Captain has been at Mocha, and thence brought no small store of Ducats, but cannot learn the certainty thereof. His Commission is to sail round about the world and give the King account thereof; he carries out the King's flag in despite of the English in the road, who may not put out any other than the white flag with the red cross; there is great opposition between them, which seems strange ...

p231 (summary of letter from the Great James at Bantam, 22 Dec 1631): [The James had attempted to sail back to Surat in October, but the weather and seasonal currents forced them back. Captain Morton fell sick shortly afterwards, and died on 21 Nov] ... Have had no news from Surat since their departure; but from the Coromandel coast, were advised in July that it had not rained, and the famine was likely to increase; hope God has relieved the northern parts.
'Abdu-l Hamid Lahori & H.M. Elliot, "Shah Jahan" (1875)
pp32-33: [The siege of Bijapur by Yamin al-Daula Asaf Khan on behalf of his son-in-law Shah Jahan, AH 1041 (1631-2 CE)] "The siege had lasted twenty days, and during that time no corn had reached the army, and before its arrival the enemy had laid waste all the country round and carried off the grain to distant places. The provisions which the army had brought with it were all exhausted, and grain had risen to the price of one rupee per sir. Men and beasts were sinking. So it was resolved, after consultation, that the royal army should remove from Bijapur into some better supplied part of the enemy's country, that the Imperial army might be recruited, and the territory of the enemy be wasted at the same time. With this intention the royal army marched along the bank of the Kishan Gang [now Krishna river] to Raibagh and Miraj, two of the richest places in that country. Wherever they found supplies they rested, and parties were sent out to plunder in all directions ['Inayat Khan "The Shah Jahan nama of 'Inayat Khan" (trans. A.R. Fuller et al., 1990) adds: "until not a sign of cultivation was left"]. On whatever road they went they killed and made prisoners, and ravaged and laid waste on both sides. From the time of their entering the territories to the time of their departure they kept up this devastation and plunder. The best part of the country was trodden under ..."
VOC, "Dagh-register Behouden Int Casteel Batavia ... Anno 1631-1634" (1898)
p33 (news received 7 Aug 1631): [Report from Bantam] " den 3en. Augustj de sloep van seecker Engelsch schip den Jems gearriveert was, rapporteerende dat van 2 Engelsche schepe namentlijck De Jems en Blessingh comende van Suratte uijt der zee vooruijt nae Bantam gesonden waeren, om den president vander selffder comste t'insinueren, alsoo wegen t'groot gebreck van rijs end water de Westcuste van Sumatra, Celebaer souden aendoen, waerop de Engelsche gecommitteerde tot Bantam t'jacht de Duijff gesonden hebben.
In Suratte was extraordinarie groote dierte soodat menichte van menschen en vee van honger sturven, sijnde de miserie aldaer soo groot, dat de moeders tegens natuer haere kinderkens wt hongersnoot op gegeten hebben.
De Engelsen president in Suratte hadde tot opsamelingh van een goede quantiteijt rijs t'schip De Willem uae de Cust Coromandel gesonden met ordre om sijn last becomen hebbende wederom nae Suratte te keeren."

p35 (news received 16 Aug 1631): "Item dat de Custe van India doorgaens in een extraordinarie dierte en hongersnoot (behalve t'geweste omtrent Goa en Persia) gefallen was.
Item dat de Engelsche in Suratte dit jaer gehadt hadden vijff schepen [names listed] waervan twee nae Bantam, een tot opsamelinge van rijs naer de Custe Coromandel ende nae Engelandt versonden waeren, ontrent 600 baelen sijde uijt Persia voor haere Comp'ie gebracht habbende."

p65 (news received 6 Mar 1632): "arriveert alhier uijt Aracan het schip de Beets zijnde den 5en. Januarij vandaer vertrocken ende brengt mede 270 lasten rijs.
Den coopman Cornelis van Houten, die de negotije aldaer gedreuen heest, adviseert met do. schip dat de ndierte ende hongersnoot Aracan meede soodanich getrefft heeft dat menschen ende vee bij meenichte van honger gesturven, en malckander opgegetten hebben, weshaluen alle het cargasoen van het jacht Wesep ende Beets op leuerantye van rys aen de coninck gepresenteert ende geleuert hadde."
Johan van Twist, "Generale beschrijvinghe van Indien" (edition of 1648)
pp9-10: [Continued from 1630.] "Den Regen-tijdt in 't volghende Jaer Anno 1631 liet hem in 't beginsel aensien of 't een goet Koorn jaer wesen soude, het gewas stont seer schoon, waer door de granen wat beter koop gegonnen te werden, maer (eylaes) 't en duerde niet lange, ende 't scheen de strasse noch niet ten eynde gekomen was; want Gode de Heere sondt van den Hemel een groote menichte Sprinckhanen, Ratten, Muysen ende andere ongedierten, die veel schaden in 't nieuwe ghewas deden; doen het nu begost te rijpen, ende insonderheydt droogh weder van noode hadde, vielder sulck een overvloedighen ende gheduerende Reghen, dat veel Koorn op 't velt vergingh; de Revieren met het opper-water overladen wesende, wasten soo hoogh, dat veel Steden, Dorpen ende landen overvloeyden, 't welck de meests ende grootste schade aen-bracht; ende het Koorn wederom dierder als oyt te vooren dede werden; doen sach men die genen die men rijck schatte, ende 't heele Jaer den hongers-noot ontgaen hadden, ghebreck lijden, ende sommighe van honger vergaen: Boven dit sondt den Almogende sulcke sware sieckten ende heete koortsen, dat qualijck een mensche was de vinden, die met de selve niet beladen ware, dat op nieuws Milionen van Volck wech nam; doen sach men de ghestorvenen wederom hier ende daer op de straten legghen; sommighe mosten haer dooden 3 a 4 daghen in huys houden, om datse geen geldt hadden de geven den luyden, die ghewoon zijn de overledene wech te draghen; anderen welcker Wet is haer af-ghestorven tot assche te verbranden, konden gheen hout ghenoegh kekomen, maer waren ghenootsaeckt de Lichamen onghebrandt in de Revier te werpen ofte in de aerde te begraven; Ende alsoo dese Calamiteyten de naervolgende Jaeren hebben beginnen op te houden, ende alsser eetbare waren tot verledene prijs begonnen te wasschen, soo en zijn de tegenwoordighe tijden ende overvloedighe lijftochten, by de voorledene niet te gelijcken; Godt Almachtig bewaere alle Christenen landen voor dierghelijcke plagen, daer van de vaste gewisse, ende seeckere oorsaken zijn de sonden, ende wil door sijn ghenade ende miltrijcke segen alles redresseren, en dese Gusurattische Landen, in voorigen fleur bringen: Ende dus veel als aengaet de particuliere beschrijvinge vande gewesene calamiteyten ende gelegentheyt in 't Koninkrijck van Gusuratte in 't gemeen: Nu sullen wy ons bereyden, tot de beschrijvinge van yeder plaetse "
W.H. Moreland, "From Akbar to Aurangzeb: A study in Indian economic history" (1923)
p213: [Loose translation of part of Van Twist's narrative, continued from 1630. In the growing season of 1631, rain fell, and prices decreased, but then ...] "it was seen that the punishment was not yet over. The Almighty sent locusts, rats, mice, and other vermin, which wrought great damage to the young crops: continuous heavy rain when the crops were ripening caused much grain to perish in the fields; flooded rivers caused even greater loss in towns, villages, and country; and prices rose higher than ever. Thus famine lasted throughout the year, and pestilence and fever followed, so that scarcely a healthy man could be found. The dead lay scattered in the streets. Corpses lay for days in the houses, because men could not be paid to carry them out. Wood could not be had for the pyres and unburnt corpses were buried or thrown into the river. May the Almighty protect all Christian lands from such terrible calamities !"
Servaas, A.J. (ed.) "Hongersnood in Suratta ao. 1631 ..." in "De Navorscher" vol. 37(1) (1887) pp4-8:
"1631. ... den 23 October in Suratten gearriveert, en hebben aldaer een deerlycken staet des lants vernomen, want een pestelentiale koortse, met een onmenschelyke hongersnoot, heeft de menschen by hondertdusunden van de werelt berooft, ende sal Ul. hier van opt korste verhalen. In Suratta is inteerste een groote hongersnoodt geweest, soo datter by dusenden menschen syn gestorven ende de lichamen onbegraven leggende, hebbende door haar verrotte stanck, de lucht geinfecteert, waar door desen pestilentiale koortse daer onder gecankert is, doch is meest te geloven, dat het Godes rechtvaerdige straffe is geweest, die dese menschen verdient hadden, door haar groote godtloosheyt en haar hoovaardige pracht.
Het is met desen menschen soo verre gekoomen, dat sy malkandere hebben opgegeten de moeder haar eygen kinderen, den eenen vrient de anderen, gelyck Ul. sal verstaen. In Suratta heeft een arme vrouw, door den hongersnoot, seven van haar eygen kinderen opgegeeten, en meende noch haar nichte (die haar quam besoecken) de selffde part te spelen, want meende haar van achter den hals aff te snyden, maar de nicht is ontkomen, en heeft het aande governeur geklaecht, dewelcke dese verhongerde vrouwe heeft doen ommebrengen en met een sabel aan stucken gehouwen. Doch heeft de hongersnoodt de mensse sooverre gebracht, dat sy de dreck der beesten en oliphanten hebben doorsocht, om enige korrels rys, die daar soude mogen in syn, op te eeten.
In de stadt Suratta, als daer een vet corpulent mensch sich op staat begaff, sonder eenige lyffsdienaars, die wetr datelyck van de arme verhongerde menschen aengetast, verscheurt ende opgegeeten, gelyck van gelooffwaardige persoonen van onse duytse koopliened gesien is, want daar was een iong vet persoon, van haar natie, dye sy levendich de buyck en borst hebben opgesneden, en hebben het hart, de longe, d'lever, milt, nieren en alle vleetsachtige deelen opgegeten, sommige bradent, sommige rau etende, ende dat in presentie van vier duytse kooplieden.
In de stadt Cambaya zyn geweest drye hondertduytsent menschen, zyn altsamen gestorven, behalven drye oude magere vrouwen, ende dat in vier maanden tyts.
Een metselaar, die aan de duytse logie pleech te wercken, heeft 24 menschen die van honger op de straet lagen en storven, voorts de kop ingeslagen, ende in huys gesleept, alsdoen deen voor dander maer opgegeeten; de Governeur hier van verwetticht synde, heeft hem mede doen aan stucken houwen; die personen die wat van staet zyn, moeten wel mett dienaers vergeselsschapt zyn off anders soude mede aangerant en verschuert worden, als verhaelt is, de levende eeten de dooden magere menschen, de lever, thart, handen en voeten, de rest smyte-se int water, off tot asse verbranden, de revier is soo vol dooden dickmaals geweest, dat men daar met boots ofte schuyten wachten most, tottertyt sy met tafloopende water driven, dat men op sommige plaetsen twater niet konde bekennen; Twelck door de groote hetten der sonnen uyt de lichamen braade; In somma de ellenden, miserien en deerlyck klagen deser arme menschen is zoo affgryselyck geweest, dat het met mensche tonge niet kan uitgesproken worden; den genadichste en goedertieren Godt wil ons en alle kristen menschen voor diergelycke bewaren en tgeene dat dese arme deselate menschen wedervaren is. Men heeft in de destrucxcy Hierusalems, dat een vrouwe haar eygen kint heeft opgegeeten, maar dese voorhaalde vrouwe heeft seven van haar eygen kinderen opgegeeten, tgetal der dooden wort gerekent 74 hondert duysent; hier mede, beminde vient, soude Ul. noch diergelycke konnen verhalen, maar alsoo de bedroefde tydingen de menschen te seer beswaren van gemoet, sall hiermede eyndigen ende Ul. tot vermaak ende kortswyle verhalen poetischer wijse, vant eyland Maritius als oock mede van onse kalen adel "

[Further information about this letter, with an English translation, appears in: R. Winters et al., "A famine in Surat in 1631 and Dodos on Mauritius: a long lost manuscript rediscovered" (in "Archives of Natural History" vol. 44 no. 1, 2017, pp134-50)]
East India Company, "The English factories in India, 1630-1633 " (1910)
p xxi: "In India the summer and autumn of 1631 were little less full of misery than the preceding year. In October the Viceroy at Goa informed his royal master that the deaths in Gujarat during the past ten months had reached three millions, while those in the kingdom of Ahmadnagar were estimated at another million."
Indian Historical Records Commission, "Proceedings ... Third Meeting Held at Bombay ..." (1921)
pp45-6 (translation from letter by a Dutch factor to the VOC council at Batavia, Dec 1631): "And going ashore to a village called Swalley, we saw there many people that perished of hunger; and whereas heretofore there were in that town 260 families, there was not remaining alive about ten or eleven families. And as we travelled from thence to the city of Surat, many dead bodies lay upon the highway; and where they died, they must consume of themselves, being nobody that would bury them. And when we came to the city of Surat we hardly could see any living persons, where heretofore was thousands; and there is so great a stench of dead persons that the sound people that came into the town were with the smell infected; and at the corners of the streets the dead lay twenty together, one upon the other, nobody burying them. The mortality in this town is and hath been so great that there have died about 30,000 people. The English house and ours is as if one came into the hospital of Batavia. There is dead of the English factors ten or eleven persons, and of ours three. Those that remain alive of the English are very sorrowful for the death of Mr Rastell, their President, who died about twenty days since. In these parts there may not be any trade expected these three years. No man can go in the streets, but must resolve to give great alms or be in danger of being murdered, for the poor people cry with a loud voice : 'give us sustenance or kill us.' The fair fields hereabout are all drowned with great floods and the fruits of the earth clean washed away with these waters. The waters are so high in the city, by reason of the floods, that we could pass from one house to the other, but by boats; which was never known in the memory of any living man."
Charles Blair, "Indian famines; their historical, financial, & other aspects" (1874)
pp19-21: "Of the great famine of 1631, there is an elaborate description in the work of the voluminous writer, 'Khafi Khan.' Khafi Khan (an assumed name), if he did not himself witness the famine, certainly lived to see the effects of it. His father was also a historian, and we may therefore place comparative reliance on the description here quoted. [Footnote: "I am indebted to Prof. Dowson for having kindly translated this passage and another for me "]
'There was a great deficiency of rain, and the drought was so intense that not a drop of dew could be found. The scarcity became so great that nothing but the herb bugloss was to be found in the shops of the bakers and druggists. The numbers of the dead exceeded all computation or estimate. Coffins and burial were not thought on in the Deccan. The distress compelled emigration to the north and east; but the poor wretches were reduced to such a state of weakness, that they did not accomplish the first stage. The towns and their environs, and the country, were strewed with human skulls and bones instead of seed. Men ate each other, parents devoured their children. Bakers ground up old bones, or whatever else they could get, and mixing the dust with a little wheat-flour, sold the cakes as valuable rarities to the wealthy. Human bodies dried in the sun were steeped in water and devoured by those who found them. Cities were depopulated by the death and emigration of the inhabitants. No such famine has been recorded in history. The Emperor (Shah Jehan) ordered distribution of provisions to be made in the cities and towns, especially at Burhanpore.
Khandesh and Balaghat, with many other districts, were quite depopulated. Sultanpoor remained waste for forty years.'
The foregoing account refers especially to that part of India known as the Deccan; but the famine was by no means confined to that province- in fact it is noted in some accounts, that not only did it prevail throughout all India, but that it also extended over the whole of Asia. I have been unable to trace this assertion, as regards the vast area covered by the famine, to its source. It is an important point, and is unique in the annals of famines. It is contrary to all general experience; and, as is noted elsewhere in these pages, famine seldom, if ever, visits a large tract even of India during one and the same year."
Annemarie Schimmel, "The Empire of the Great Mughals: History, Art and Culture" (2004)
pp99-100: "Life for the rural poopulation was made extremely hard not only by the irresponsible mansabdars, but also by the frequent famines, when 'that black-breasted amah, "the spring cloud", and the fiery cloud both deny the milk of rain to the seedlings.'
The chroniclers record many such catastrophes, especially in Gujarat, Malwa and Berar. Their descriptions of the great famine of 1631 in the Deccan are especially dramatic. Shah Jahan's poet laureate [Abu Talib Kalim] composed a long poem about this famine, containing the following verses:

When a scrap of cloud appeared in the sky
It contained no water, being just like wind paper ...
Like a sandglass both worlds were
Full of the dead and bereft of the living.

As Salih Kambuh wrote: 'It was not possible to count, let alone list the dead, and the words "weep" and "howl", "shroud" and "grave" faded ... as every day caravan after caravan hastened to the valley of annihilation ...'. Worse still, the famine was so severe that not only did people resort to eating ritual animals (if they could find any), but 'fathers and mothers even ripped the darling little hearts from their dear children and ate them raw ...'."
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