Marco Polo travels “some seven days’ journey to the south-east” (78) from Pashai and arrives in Kashmir. Polo mentions that he will speak of India in depth later in his travel narrative, so it is interesting to note what Polo describes to his readers, when giving a general description of Kashmir.
The first characteristic that Polo notes about Kashmir is the belief system of the Kasmiri people, insinuating that religion is a strong aspect that Polo finds important to his travels. He notes in depth that the Kashmiri are “idolaters” (78), or individuals who worship idols of their god or gods, and practice strange and amazing magic. It is interesting however to apply the concept of magic on a religion that Polo is not a part of or deeply familiar with, because that conceptualizes the religion is a Eurocentric way, as this “magic” that Polo describes could be something different within the religion. Polo does not go into depth of the sort of idols that the Kashmiri people worship, but instead repeat and emphasize that “[the Kashmiri people] accomplish such marvels by magic and craft that no one who has not seen them could believe them” (78). This seems to align with the idea that Marco Polo is writing to entertain, so to play up on the parts of exoticism and magic would assist in the entertainment purpose.
Another characteristic that Marco Polo goes into depth about are the Kashmiri people; Polo goes into depth about their looks, diet, preferences to the weather, etc. The large focus on people was interesting to read about, since Polo seems to focus on marvels and miracles more than anything. Polo interestingly states “[t]he inhabitants are brown-skinned and thin; the women are very beautiful with such beauty as goes with a brown skin” (78). Polo is making a distinction between beauty standards and emphasizes that the standard for beauty for light-skinned women and brown-skinned women are different. This complicates and shines light onto the way beauty functions in the Middle Ages, because it seems to be that Polo finds these women beautiful, but only in a way that beauty functions for women of color, whatever that may be.
Lastly, Polo once again focuses on the idea of idolatry and asserts that “they live to a great age; and this avoidance of sin is all exercised for love of their idols (79). The sheer repetition of the concept behind the Kashmiri belief system also emphasizes that this is not a concept that is readily practiced where Polo is from and he seems to be othering the Kashmiri to an extent, but more accurately diminishing their entire belief to a simple concept of idols. I think it was curious to see that Kashmir was described heavily by their belief system and their independence, which Polo mentions in the section straight after his description of the Kashmiri. This is because Kashmir today is still a country that places large important on its independence. It was also interesting to read as a modern reader specifically due to the tensions that Islam and Hindisum have in the country, which is drastically different to the central and strong belief the Kashmiri people had in the past.