The man who witnessed India's history in the making
Venetian Nicolò Manucci's story is distinct from those of other European travellers and adventurers who documented their stay in India. The young teenager, who arrived on Indian shores with little education and few connections, lived here till his death at the age of eighty-two. He was witness to some of the most dramatic events in the subcontinent's history.
Living by his wits, he started his career as chief artilleryman in Dara Shukoh's fratricidal battle against Aurangzeb for the Mughal throne. Thereafter, Manucci joined Rajput general Jai Singh in his campaign to subdue the Maratha leader Shivaji.
However, Manucci had no stomach for a prolonged military career. With a great capacity for learning and immense good fortune, he made his way into the Mughal court, incredibly, as a court physician to Aurangzeb's son Shah Alam. In service of the future Mughal emperor, Manucci was to head back to the Deccan once again to meet the challenge posed by Shivaji's son Sambhaji. Manucci would spend the rest of his life within European settlements in Madras and Pondicherry. And his in-depth knowledge of the Mughal court would prove useful in negotiations between the Europeans and the Mughal authorities.
Marco Moneta tells the gripping story of a man who was witness to the intrigues and rivalries in Mughal and European territories, and who not just survived but rose to a position of influence and respect in a hostile and alien world.