India has had a flourishing image overseas
from time immemorial, even in the remotest nations of the
This image did not grow out of deliberate self-promotion, nor
has India sought to extend its sway through force of arms. India’s
classical image was established by travelers from overseas–
merchants, ambassadors, conquerors, poets, philosophers, seekers
of philosophy and religion, missionaries. And they came from
Russia, Arabia, Europe, America.
The earliest documented accounts of travel to and from India
go back to 975 BC when the Phoenicians imported Indian products.
In order to decorate the palaces and temples of the famous king
Solomon, his friend Hiram the king of Tyre, sent his fleet
get “ivory, apes and peacocks” from India.
There was close contact between Indian and Greek Philosophers.
Pythagoras (c. 580 BC) and Histaopis, father of Darius the
king, visited India and studied Indian philosophy. The Greek
historian Herodotus (489-425 BC) wrote about Indian cheeses,
weapons, txtiles, and
other products. In the 2nd century AD, Arian, another Greek historian,
wrote about the wealth and population of the Punjab region
Megasthenese, the Greek Ambassador sent by Seleucus to the
court of Chandragupta Maurya arrived in 302 BC. He wrote about
India’s brisk sea trade with the Persian Gulf ports of
Mesopotamia and the Red Sea ports of Egypt.
In the 3rd century BC, the Greek ruler of Egypt Ptolemy Philadelphus
(285-247 BC) sent Dionysius as his envoy to the Court of Bindusara,
the Maurya king. The envoy was stunned by the pomp and pageantry
in the Mauryan court.
By the beginning of the Christian era, Jews and Christians
had started landing on Indian shores. In the history of world
jewry, the only country in which they never faced any kind
of discrimination or persecution, is India. St. Thomas is believed
to have preached Christianity in India from
destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, Jewish merchants fled to
the Malabar Coast,
under threat of Roman persecution. Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79),
the famous Roman historian lamented the drain of Roman gold
pepper, textiles and ginger from India.
In our own times, India has swept its visitors off their
feet with its culture, its natural beauty, its ineffable charm.
To other countries, I have gone as a tourist, Martin Luther King once
said, to India I have come as
a pilgrim. Asked about her favorite memory of India, Jacqueline Kennedy smiled:
"Just one memory? That's for boring countries!"
backwaters of Kerala
Hiuen Tsiang (in India from 629-645)
The men keep their word and are trustworthy.
The language is light and tripping, and their pronunciation distinct and correct
Emperor Timur Lang (1405)
India is full of gold and silver, diamond and ruby and emerald and tin and
iron and steel and copper and quicksilver.of the plants that grow
there are those fit for making wearing apparel and aromatic plants,
and the sugar cane, and it is a whole country which is always green
and verdant, and the whole aspect of the country is pleasant and delightful .
Marco Polo (1320)
“India the greater, the richest province
in the world”.
James Bryce (1810)
Under the name of India is comprehended an
extensive portion of the globe, no less remarkable for its riches
and fertility, than for having, in all ages, attracted the attention
of other nations. India was one of the first countries in which
the human race made any considerable advances in the career of improvement.
Maria Graham (1814)
Nature seems to have taken pleasure in embellishing
and enriching the favored country of Hindustan with every choicest
Mark Twain (1896)
So far as I am able to judge, nothing has
been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most
extraordinary country that the sun visits on his round. Perhaps
it will be simplest to throw away the tags and generalize her with
one all-comprehensive name as the land of wonders.