Portuguese and Italian Travellers
The Portuguese, the first Europeans to reach Southern India, always
referred to the Dravidians as `kala'
(black), the mulatto offspring of Portuguese men and Dravidian women being
called `kala Franguis' (black
Europeans). The Florentine Filippo Sassetti, prior to his journey to Asia,
wrote his friend Baccio Valori (who
remained in Florence) in the 1580s from Lisbon describing the various
Asians. Amongst his categories are
2 sorts of Indians,
"the Mahomedan Moors, and the blacks who are
He describes the Moors as
dark but not black, "men of such intelligence that no one has
other Indian class,
" the black
on the other hand, were characterised as
" good for nothing save
[ Brahmant, p.220-221 cited in
Subrahmanyam, p.229 ].
Italian Traveller in Mughal India 1653-1708
To these 4 kinds or classes they add one more, which is not counted
the above, but is held by them to be separated from the general body
These people are called in their language Chandalon (Chandalam), or
These are divided into four kinds, named Achivanatar ( ? Vettiyar),
Parias (Pariah) and Alparqueros (shoe-makers).
All these people that
blacks are, and pass among the natives of the country as, so low and
it is an irremediable contamination and disgrace, not only to eat with
them, but even
to behold them drink or eat. Thus other castes never do one or the
what may. Nor can any one of the other castes live in the house of any
of these blacks, or take from their hand anything to eat or drink.
would much rather be
left to die unheeded than to touch, or allow themselves to be touched
by, one of
these blacks, or take from their hands anything to eat or drink. For
if that happens,
in addition to the penalty of death attached thereto, if the fact
comes to the
knowledge of the magistrate, all the family and descendants are marked
infamy, and become on a level with the blacks themselves, and have no
ever being able to re-enter their caste.
These blacks, then, live outside the inhabited places and towns occupied by all the other castes ... (p.35) What is to be wondered at is that they are not allowed either to enter the temples .. or to draw waer from the wells used by the other castes. "
|`Mogul India 1653-1708 or Storia do Mogor,' Niccolao Manucci, tr. William Irvine, Royal Asiatic Society, London 1900, Vol.III, p.34-35.|
The Italian traveller from Rome, Pietro Della Valle travelled to South India in 1623-25. His description of a Malabari queen, in addition to her pronounced steatopygia, leaves little doubt that he considered the Dravidians as Negroids [ Wheeler and Macmillan, p.30 ] -
Pietro Della Valle
Italian Traveller to South India 1623-25
queen of Olaza 1 was as black as an
Ethiopian. She was
corpulent and gross,
but not heavy, for she walked nimbly enough. She appeared to be about 40
years of age. She
wore a plain piece of cotton cloth from her waist downwards, but nothing
at all from her waist
upwards, except a cloth about her head, which hung down a litle upon her
shoulders. She walked barefoot, but that was the custom of all Hindu [
Dravidian ] women.
1. Olaza is a place near Mangalore