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Akbar and potatoes bound ancient Incas to Indians

The ancient Incas shared an eclectic bond with India - a deep admiration for Mughal emperor Akbar and secrets of growing potatoes.

New Delhi, Dec 14 (IANS) The ancient Incas shared an eclectic bond with India - a deep admiration for Mughal emperor Akbar and secrets of growing potatoes.

One of the most enduring cultural icons, historical chroniclers and feted scribe of Peru, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, a 16th century Latin American intellectual, wanted to interview Mughal emperor Akbar on his world views, but could not make it to India because of the great distance between the two countries, said the deputy chief of the Peru mission, Carlos Yrigoyen.


'Garcilaso, who was of royal Spanish and Inca descent, wrote about the traditions, sites and legacy of the 500-year Inca civilization, his mother's faith, in one of the first historical chronicles of Peru, 'Los Cometarios Reales' (The Royal Comment) as a dossier for king Charles I of Spain. During his lifetime, he read voraciously about Mughal India and the reigning emperor Akbar, expressing in public and among friends a keen desire to interview the emperor,' Yrigoyen told IANS.


Yrigoyen delivered a 45-minute lecture on 'Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, First Ambassador of Peru in the World,' at the Instituto Cervantes in the capital Monday to commemorate 400 years of the publication of the 'Royal Comments'. It is part of a bilateral initiative between the two countries.


'Garcilaso, born in 1539, knew what was happening around the world. But unfortunately, his dream of meeting Akbar remained unrequited, whereas one of his peers, French traveller and writer Pierre Oliver Mal Herbe, who visited India in the late 16th century, managed to interview Akbar. Herbe died around the same time as Garcilaso,' the deputy chief of the Peru mission said, explaining the ancient ties between the Incas, Mughals and the Suryavanshi (rulers) of India and their shared spiritual ideas.


Garcilaso's mother was an Inca princess and his father was a Spanish nobleman. He was sent by his parents to study in Spain and in the course of his literary career 'brought the Inca and Spanish culture - that of the conquered (Incas were wiped out by the Spaniards) and conquerors (Spanish) on a common ground', the envoy said.


'He bridged the colonial and the cultural divide,' Yrigoyen said.


Apart from his dream to meet Akbar, the Incas, according to Garcilaso, were the 'original inhabitants of Peru', and both India and Peru worshipped the sun and 'shared secrets about growing potatoes, which was first grown by the Incas'.


'The Incas gave potatoes to the world and to India. They cultivated more than 200 varieties of potatoes which the Spanish traders brought to India. The Central Potato Research Institute in Shimla works closely with Peru in improving the breeds and yield. The ancient Peruvians were also known for their flutes- 32 varieties of them - a musical instrument associated with the Indian deity Lord Krishna,' he said.


Garcilaso's interpretation of the plight of the Incas and 'the people who spoke the Quechua language, the tongue of the Incas spoken widely in Peru, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Argentina,' was similar to that of Indians under colonial rule, Yrigoyen said.


'Both the great races were colonized. India was colonized by the British and the Incas were colonized by the Spanish. In fact, once upon a time, both India and Peru were the vice-royalties of Spain. The ethnic settlers of Peru were known as Indios or Indians - because Christopher Columbus mistook it for India when he was trying to find a new sea route to India,' he said.


Narrating an interesting slice of history, Yrigoyen said: 'If one digs a tunnel from the sanctorum of the Sun Temple at Konark in Orissa, it will emerge to touch the spire of the sacred sun temple of the Incas in Cosco - the ancient capital of the Incas in Peru'.


(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at


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