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Rahele (traveler) is an ode to exotic travel, an olfactory journey in the company of 17th Century French visitors to the East.
Tavernier...Bernier...Thévenot...the names still resonate in the imagination of armchair travellers today, as each man left a detailed record of his adventures, showing us Mughal-ruled India through a European lens.
Jean-Baptiste Tavernier (1605-1689) was a French jeweler of Belgian descent, an independently wealthy gem merchant who funded his own travels to the East, particularly to India. His book "Les six voyages" is still considered an important point of reference by historians. His trade in precious stones and pearls took him to the court during the construction of the Taj Mahal. On one of his voyages, Tavernier bought a gigantic blue diamond in Golconda which he subsequently sold to the Sun King, Louis XIV. The Tavernier diamond, or French Blue as it came to be called, was a centerpiece of the French crown jewels. According to legend, the precious stone was stolen during the French Revolution, only to turn up many years later in London, recut as the Hope diamond.
Francois Bernier (1620–1688) was a physician to the eldest son of Shah Jahan and, more widely, to the court during his 12-year stay in India. He saw various rulers, was an astute social observer and contributed greatly to the understanding of court life and life in India generally through his book Travels in the Mughal Empire, AD 1656-1668.
The third traveler, Jean Thévenot (1633-1667), was a linguist and botanist. The travels of Monsieur Thévenot into the Levant describes in detail his observations during his travels. This book was the first part of his Voyages and was published while he was alive. The other two parts of Thévenot’s Voyages were published posthumously.
Tavernier and Thévenot actually met in India for a brief period, and Bernier and Tavernier’s paths crossed as well. All three travelers were some of the best social historians of their times who witnessed court life and splendors first-hand and wrote about their insights into the mystique of India.
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