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4:30pm, 1st July, 2016

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8 min

Travel is one of the jovial means of existence and growth. It is through travelling that we get acquainted with diverse places and their folk. It is travelling that helps us know about numerous people who live, eat and dress differently in faraway places and it is through travelling that we dig out the similarities that make us the part of a singular mankind.

Haven’t we all heard about Christopher Columbus? Who was he? Where did he come from? Who were his family? In the midst of the numerous questions that can be raised, comes the most interesting of it all. Why is he famous? Columbus traversed the lands and the seas alike, as we are aware. How intriguing it is to be sitting in the 21st century with a cup of coffee and thinking about the possibilities that could have hindered Columbus from discovering the Americas! And the funnier part is that he believed it to be India-the Golden Bird.

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The medieval era saw a rise in the number of travellers around the world. The rulers of Europe, Central Asia and Africa were very keen on knowing about the practices and life in other corners of the world. If we stick to India, we will find that the medieval period became a hub of opportunities for foreigners as the dynasties that flourished during the times were of the Arabs who were in search of skilled manpower and would offer patronage if they found it.

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Many scholars, some of the earliest including Al Biruni came to India and wrote lavishly about its grandeur. Ibn Batuta came to India during the reign of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq and see his luck, he was made the qazi of Delhi! It was Ibn Batuta who first acknowledged the existence of ‘paan’ and ‘coconut’ in India-edibles that were taken for granted by the natives. Ibn Batuta elaborated the coconut by comparing it to a man’s head with two eyes. Things like these left the outsiders spellbound.

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Sudhir Kakar, in his novel ‘The Crimson Throne’ explicitly traces the journey of two travellers, one of them being the Italian doctor Manucci who came to India in the 16th century and never left! He fell in the love with the place. Kakar also mentions the French doctor Bernier, who came here as a personal physician to Shah Jahan’s elder son. The book gives a glimpse of India when it was adorned by the jewels of the kings and their kingdoms as well the impact the travellers had on us and what we had on them!

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Travels have religious significance as well. Had not Muhammad left Mecca for Medina, there wouldn’t have been 12 years of the making of the Caliphate. Had not Christ and his followers scanned the continents, Christianity would have died with Constantine. Asoka took Buddhism to Sri Lanka, the Brahmins made Hinduism popular. There are so many instances to trace the spiritual pathways that lead towards the Almighty.

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The thirst to know the unknown, the desire to look for the undiscovered and the zest to solve the enigma brings us here, on the threshold of a world we haven’t ever seen. Travellers around the world have left enriching accounts of their journeys that make us marvel that even in the times of caravans and carts, when reaching Multan from Delhi would have taken more than a month, these globe trotters were on their heels, not leaving behind even a speck of detail. They have left us with a sea of knowledge that defines what the world stands for!

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