Thursday, 18 January 2018

Johann Hanxleden, a great German priest, scholar in Sanskrit amd Malayalam languages!!

Johann Ernst
Johann Ernst Hanxleden (1681-1732), a German Jesuit came to India with a view to pursuing his missionary work. Here in India he mastered Malayalam and Sanskrit and  was equally famous as a lexicographer, and philologist. He was also one of a few pioneers in the area of printing. He is an immortal figure among the Kerala Christian communities of many denominations. 

“He wrote the first Malayalam elegy in Greek style. He was more of a cultural figure than a Christian missionary. He drew inspiration from Ezhuthachan and Poonthaanam. The style of writing in Puthen Pana is reminiscent of that in Jnanappana"......noted at the seminar, that was held in March 2012 in Thrissur as part of 280th death anniversary of Arnos Paathiri as Fr. Hanxleden was affectionately called locally. 

Born at Ostercappeln, near Osnabrück, in Lower Saxony, Germany in 1681. he took up philosophical studies in his native town, What motivated him  to choose India, his future base of work. Any way, Hanxleden  took a decision on his own  on accord for  service in India. Unlike other travellers to India, Hanxleden, along with like-minded Jesuits Wilhelm Weber and Wilhelm Meyer, and a doctor, Franz Kaspar Schillinger, began their overland journey on  30 October 1699. It was a tough and dangerous journey passing through many unfriendly territories ridden with  robbers and religious fanatics. Finally, he arrived in Surat (now in Gujarat) on 13 December 1700.

After gaining training in religious and spiritual studies (Novitiate) in Goa, Hanxleden was assigned to serve in  the Jesuit Seminary at Sampaloor in Thrissur District, Kerala, S. India.  Here. Hanxleden did his Theological studies, an important requirement to receive priesthood.  As the native tongue Malayalam happened to be  the liturgical language of the Thomas Christians of Kerala, the Syriac, Johann Hanxleden decided to learn that language. Since he was a polyglot and already knew Portuguese and Latin, he gained good command over Sanskrit, Tamil and most importantly Malayalam, which he learnt  from Pundits - two Nampoothiris from the Thrissur Sanskrit School. The natives liked him very much as he had close contact with them; he was known among them  as Arnos Paathiri. When he served as  secretary from 1707 to 1711 to  John Ribeiro,  the  Archbishop of Cranganore, Hanxleden,  traveled to many places in Kerala, preaching the Gospel.

At last Hanxleden settled at  Velur, a small village in Thrissur District in 1712 and  had a church built  there and  spent much of his life there. From 1729 onward he lived at Sampallor, and Palayoor where he died on 20 March 1732 (at Pazhuvil) of a snake-bite. He was buried in the church there. Later his mortal remains were transferred close to the Church, upon which, a memorial was built  There is a historical museum at St. Francis Church at Sampaloor - the name coined from 'san-paul-ur', means land of St. Paul. Formerly, the place was called Ambalakad.

St. Francis Xavier Forane Church

Hanxleden religious and poetic work:

01. Hanxleden  took the credit of being the first one to compile a Malayalam Dictionary. 

02. He also introduced a  lexicon, detailing  Malayalam words in both Sanskrit and Portuguese.

03. Hanxleden and his predecessor, Heinrich Roth did pioneering work in Sanskrit, one of six classical language in the world. 

04. Yet another achievement is Hanxleden  became the the first European  scholar to write a Sanskrit grammar - Grammatica grandonica, besides the first one to compose  Sanskrit verse. 

05. His  important contribution to Malayalam language was compilation of grammar in 'simple style'.

06.  Hanxleden is household name among the Kerala Christian communities and is quite well-known for his two poetic works: Puththenpaana and Chathuranthyam. The former is about the various aspects of Christ's life - a religious work and the latter one mystical in nature. 

07. Puththenpaana, a Malayalam narration of  the life of Christ composed during the period 1721–1732. It is believed to be written by the poet at the request of Antonio Pimental, Archbishop of Cranganore.   
This most well-known poetic work is believed to be one of the earliest ones written in simple Malayalam that can be understood even by a layperson.

08. Puththenpaana is well assimilated with the Kerala Christian community and the Paadhams (there  are 14 paadhams) are sung in a particular  fashion in Christian homes during important religious occasions like Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and other days of Holy Week.  Most of the couplets in the Paadhams written  in the Sarppini Vruththam are about Christ and the 12th Paadham (in Nathonnatha metre)  is the center piece of  this devotioal poetic exposition. The couplets bring out the underlying pathos and pangs of pain stoically suffered by  Virgin Mary at the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Other important Paadhams are about the Sermon on the Mount (seventh), Last Supper (tenth), the trial and Crucifixion (eleventh), the Resurrection (thirteenth), and the Ascension (fourteenth). 

 09. His other work, the  Chathuranthyam  is more a spiritual and mystical poetic expression than a religious one, covering the four phases of a man:
Maranam, Vidhi, Moksham and Narakam. They are sung mostly on religious occasions. It's recitation has become part of the Church tradition of Kerala.  

10. Besides Puthen Pana and Chathuranthyam, his other works include Malayala vyaakaranam, Samskrutham Portuguese Dictionary, Samskrutha vyaakaranam, Ave Maris Stella, Genevieva, Punyacharithram and Ummaadaey Dhukhkham.

 Every year, the  seminar is held on the Puthen Pana Christian devotional hymns  and the participants felt that unlike the  Hindu devotional songs that are of high quality, the Christian devotional hymns lack death and streaks of devotion  and if Puthen Puna is set to quality music by well-known music directors, its depth of devotion and sanctity will be fully understood.The spiritual experience emerging from such hymns will be heart-rending and exhilarating.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Pongal festival that imparts positivity to life in a new year

Pongal  2018 greetings.
Pongal festival, Tamil nadu. Newsfolo
That India is a land of various festivals mostly related to religion and culture is a well-known fact. Many of these festivals are colorful and quite engaging as they are celebrated in different styles, depending on the states and communities. Pongal, also called Makara Sankarathi in other states, is an important festival in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry. Much more joyously and excitedly it is celebrated in the rural areas than in urban areas of these states.  Pongal  is a four-day festival that marks the  Uttarayanam - the beginning of the sun’s six-month long journey northwards towards equinox (the sun enters the 10th house of the Indian Zodiac Makara or Capricorn). This harvest festival, dedicated to the Sun (lord Surya) without which life on earth can not sustain, has been around for centuries and this year (2018) it falls on  January 14 (according to Gregorian Calendar).  Bogi being the first day of the festival  festival,which happens to be the last day of the Tamil month of Margazhi. 

Pongal festival, decoratedearthenpotsWebneel
Pongal festival, Tamil Nadu.
This traditional Hindu festival is said to be  the harbinger of good luck, prosperity and good harvest. The four day festival  is also observed in the month of Thai - traditional month of weddings and family ceremonies, beginning with January 14 - second day celebration) Crops such as rice are harvested in this month, hence it is a happy occasion to express our gratitude to the mother earth and other elements of nature, in particular, water (in the form of rain).
The word Pongal in Tamil means ‘overflow’ or ‘boiling over’ and it marks the the gradual heating of the Earth's surface by the Sun. This is the reason why the festival begins (on the first of Thai, the rest being Mattu Pongal and the last one Kanum Pongal) by preparing  a special dish called Sakkarai Pongal (sweetened boiled rice with Jaggery, turmeric  and lentils), using harvested rice.  The Pongal is brought  to boil till it spills over the earthen-pot in rural (in urban areas, bronze pot is used.  Offering it to the Sun God, along with puja, is made  before eating it.

Important aspects of Pongal are drawing colorful Kolams (Rangolis), using different color (mostly rice flour is used) in front of the home and Puja room to give a grand welcome to Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) to bring in property, good health and peace of mind to the family and to the community.

Mattu Pongal.
The four day celebrations associated with this festival are :  Bhogi Pongal - the first day of the festival- is dedicated to God Indira. A huge bonfire is lit and kept burning throughout the night. In many houses  in the past  huge bonfire would be  lit and all the unwanted old stuff would be thrown into the fire, signifying a fresh start on the first of Thai month. However, this custom is on the decline, as it may cause air pollution. The second day festival called Thai Pongal, also called Surya Pongal is the main festival dedicated to the Sun. On his day  special dish Pongal is made and after puja and offering to the Sun, family members partake of this dish and other dishes  together. The third day festival - Mattu Pongal  is an occasion to express our gratitude to the cattle - cows that give milk and bulls that plough the agricultural lands and carry the produce to the market (modern agriculture is mechanized in many places).
Steaming Jallikattu bull?Google Play
Mattu Pongal, decorated bulls. Shoes On Loose
 The cattle are decorated - colorful garlands and bells are tied around their  necks and puja is done  before them. This is followed by cattle race and jallikattu. Southern districts of Tamil Nadu are well-known for Jallikattu. The latter  takes place on make-shift arenas specified by the  state government. It involves taming of bulls by  trained tamers and  is considered a dangerous game. The animal protection groups have made a issue that the bulls are being ill treated by the tamers at Jallikattu. It the recent past, it became a serious issue at the national level. The last day known as Kaanum (kanu) pongal is more or less a family affair. Young girls pray to God for the longevity of their family, in particular, brothers by way of performing Aarthi. Elderly people put a mark  with turmeric on the forehead of couples and pray for happy married life as Sumangali. 

The underlying fact in this fascinating festival is money earned during the harvest time will help the people supplement their income. In this auspicious month and later, people  will open new business, construct houses, conduct weddings, etc. The Tamil  proverb "Thai pirandhaal vazhi pirakkum" meaning with the birth of Thai, a new path will be in sight to put our worries behind. It is quite appropriate as people begin the new Thai month on a positive note.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Vasco Da Gama's spine-chiling atrocities against natives of Malabar

Gruesome explorer Vasco Da Gama, Times of India
Coastal Kerala, SW India. Wikiwand
Vasco Da Gama is no doubt a great explorer and had the distinction of being the first European who discovered the direct sea route to India in 1498. It was upon  Vasco da Gama's return to Lisbon after his successful voyage to India,  the King of Portugal, Dom Manuel, adopted a new and pompous title of "The Lord of the conquest navigation and commerce of Ethiopia, Arabia, Persia and India". Critics point out De gama came up with the false news of  the discovery of the "spices and Christians" of India and  this wrong information  was conveyed  to the royal rivals of Castille and to The Holy See in Rome in order to  safeguard this lordship. That India is a land of Christians, as informed by Vasco, was a big lie. In many school text books in India (perhaps in other countries) it is focused on one aspect of Vaco  - his amazing discovery of first sea route to India.Unfortunately, there is no mention of his inhuman and barbaric approach to the Indians.  

Behind  this great explorer's success story  there lurks  a disparaging and murderous aspect of his personality that casts a shadow on  his glittering  discovery. His subsequent voyages, in particular, the 4th Armada in 1502 were replete with stories of massacre, murder, intimidation and torture of native Indians  who refused  to be cowed down by his pressure tactics to make a trade treaty with him. 

However,  his trail-blazing discovery of direct access to India via  the Indian Ocean  led to  the invasion of European countries to India to seek their fortune and improve the economy of their mother land. The first to establish their hegemony on the west coast, in particular, were the Portuguese. Unlike the British and the French who systematically made inroads into the  Indian territories with skill and tactics  and successfully established their trade, the Portuguese, on the other hand, used the barbaric tactics such as violence, coercion under threats  and murder  against the natives to get concession from Indian rulers, not to speak of imposing their religion - Christianity in an altogether different land with varied Culture. It back fired. 

In this respect Gama's approach to  the Indian natives viewed with suspicion. Infuriated were the people of Malabar when they heard about Gama's horrible and merciless massacre on the high seas in the Indian waters in September 1502.  His  most violent and horrible attack on the ships off the Malabar coast was taken seriously  and they avoided  the area where the devilish Portuguese were operating.  At this juncture, Don Gama, having perpetrated the most heinous crime, on  October 18, 1502 - finally reached Cannanore (Canonor, Kannur) with his 4th Armada. This time his mission was to take revenge on the Arabs involved in the purported massacre of Portuguese  in the Calicut factory. That squadron was led by Alverez Cabral from Lisbon in 1500.  

After the necessary formal protocols, Gama met with
Kolathiri Raja of Cannanore  to make a business 
deal After  some deliberation the local ruler allowed 
Gama to establish  a Portuguese crown factory in
Cannanore, and agreed to arrange a fixed-price schedule  for the sale of spices to the Portuguese. But, the commercial treaty ended in failure over a fixed price and the ruler impressed on Gama that he had no rights over market prices.  Gama threatened the ruler and finally sailed out of Cannanore after leaving some of his men there. It was  Paio Rodrigues who mediated between the Kolathiri Raja and  successfully finalized the treaty. Included in the treaty was a Portuguese Factor that means  every merchant ship along the Malabar coast had to present a certificate signed by a Portuguese factor (in Cannanore, Cochin, etc.) or else be subject to attack and seizure by a Portuguese patrol. Thus, Portuguese cartaz system was first introduced here. They followed this system in South America, East Africa and Malacca until the 18th century. 

Now. time had come for Gama to take on the Zamorin ruler and dispense of vigilante justice. Responding to his early warning, Zamarin ruler informed Gama that he was ready for negotiation regarding compensation for the  1500 incident at Calicut. At the same time  Da Gama got a  message from Gonçalo Gil Barbosa, the Portuguese crown factor in Cochin that the ruler Zamorin had set up a roadblock tactically by informing the merchants of Malabar to close the market and the port to the Portuguese. Being unlettered, crude, intolerant and prone to bouts of intolerable violence, obviously  Gama was in rage.

Upon the arrival of Gama's  fleet on October 29, 1502  before the harbor of Calicut (Calecute, Kozhikode). the Zamorin  had sent an emissary, a Brahmin (dressed as a Christian friar) on a boat to Gama. He reported that the ruler would like to make a peace and friendship treaty with the king of Portugal and to facilitate it he would discuss on the restoration of the merchandise seized from the Portuguese factory besides, he had already arrested twelve of those responsible for the 1500 riot.The emissary also reported that the Zamorin ruler would deduct and arrive at a final amount for the property damages the ruler and his subjects suffered from Portuguese. 

Gama was furious and wanted the goods taken from the factory  to be delivered on the ship and all the 
Muslim merchants to be expelled from the Calicut, before any discussion on trade. Being impatient, before getting the ruler's reply Gama  seized the near-by  idling fishing boats and captured 50 innocent fishermen alive. Angered Zamorian ruler warned Gama firmly that he had caused more damages to his properties, destroyed more boats 
and ships, and  killed several of his men than those killed in 1500. Despite the setback, Zamarian ruler wanted to initiate the negotiation with Gama and categorically informed him that he had no intention of expelling the Moors and asked him to release the hostages  immediately. If disagreed to his conditions, the ruler asked  Don Gama to leave his harbor at once.

Gama  got wild and  on 31 October 1502 sent a strongly worded  threatening ultimatum, saying the factory goods must be  delivered to his ship soon. In the available time he had his men choose the  vantage points in the harbor of Calicut for optimal firing positions. The ruler on his part, in the dead of night, prepared trenches with protective palisade and laying cannon along the harbor shore.

Upon  confirming non-compliance of his ultimatum, Gama' s   temper went sky-high. Following day 
(1 November)  at noon he had the hostages  strung up by their necks from the ship masts of his various ships. The native crowds on the beach were angry and aghast at the  gruesome sight of innocent men dangling from the ship mast. This was followed by firing from the Ship  to clear the beaches and trenches. The Indian ruler's cannons had poor firing range and were no match for theirs.  Bombing of the habor continued the whole night.  In the following morning (2 November) the  Portuguese transported the dead  hostages tied to  the ship mast with their feet and hands severed off. Vasco da gama, with no remorse, presided over this brutality and butchery on the soil of Malabar .

Author Richard Hall mentioned: "With Calicut at his mercy  Vasco Da Gama told his men to parade the prisoners then hack off their hands, ears and noses. As the work progressed, all the amputated pieces were piled in a small boat. The Brahmin who had been sent out by the Zamorin as an emissary was put into the boat amid its new gruesome cargo. He had also been mutilated in the ordained manner".

Author Hall gives a vivid description of what Vasco da Gama did next which is too sickening  and gut-churning even to imagine. When the Zamorin ruler sent another Brahmin to Vasco to plead for peace, the great explorer  had  "his lips cut off and his ears cut off". The ears of a dog were sewn on him instead and the Brahmin was sent back to Zamorin in that state. The Brahmin --  a Namboodiri took along with him three young boys, two of them his sons and the other being his nephew. They were hanged from the yardarm and their bodies sent ashore.

As for the bombing of the city,  a total of 400 rounds from the small caliper gun had been fired. In the aftermath, countless poor dwellings, huts and rich houses were razed to the ground. Everywhere, near the harbor there were heaps of debris  and broken stones. 

Having made a futile attempt to make a treaty with the Indian ruler, by showing his firing power of  his Navy, at last, De Gama  decided to leave the smoldering city of Calicut  quite satisfied that he  had fulfilled his vengeance on the Indian ruler. Gama tried to create a rift between benign Hindu ruler and quiet trading community, mostly made of Muslims. Don Gama's trick failed miserably. 

 Gama's rage and vengeance did not come down. His fleet later seized two large ships and 27 small boats, and transferred  the cargo to his ships. His men tied the crew, broke their teeth  and cut off their nose and hands. Finally, they set the ship alight. 

Thus, Don Gama's voyages to India in the early part of the 16th century left behind a trail of murder, destruction and blood and his glory is built on the gory piles of  mutilated corpses of unharmed native Indians and plunder of rich Indians. 

...........According to historian J B P More, who is currently working on a book on the Dravidian movement as well as the Marakkars of Kerala in the 16th and 17th centuries, Vasco da Gama's arrival in India was not a great exploit from the navigational point of view,

"He simply followed the route traced by Diogo d' Azambuja, Diogo Cao and Bartholomeu Diaz up to the Eastern Cape Province, where the Indian Ocean lay wide open to him. This is definitely not an exploit," Dr More told's Shobha Warrier in an e-mail interview. .......(vide:

For further reading:
A general history of voyages and travels to the end of the 18th century - By Robert Kerr
History of the Discovery and Conquest of India - Herman Lopez de Castaneda
The three voyages of Vasco de Gama - Gaspar Corrêa
The career & legend of Vasco Da Gama – Sanjay Subrahmanyam.

Vasco Da Gama and His Successors - K. G. Jayne

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Vasco Da Gama's horrid massacre on the high seas off the coast of Malabar

Vasco Da gama's tomb in Lisbon. Shutterstock
Above image:  It is the image of Vasco da Gama, a celebrated Portuguese navigator who first discovered the direct sea route to India (1498) via the Cape of Good Hope. His heroism and daring voyage more dangerous than crossing of the Atlantic ocean would go down in history for ever. Unfortunately, he carries a blot on his character and, on account of it, his heroic exploits are overshadowed by his gruesome and treacherous massacre he committed on the high seas in the Indian waters when he led the 4th Armada to India in 1502.  Here, in Jerónimos Monastery. Lisbbon, Portugal  he is taking  an eternal sleep in the name of Christ by holding his hands in supplication. Is he appealing to God for atonement of his crime committed against humanity on his overseas expeditions?  Read the following ........

Jerónimos Monastery- houses tomb of Gama, Lisbon.-Live Portugal
Above image: : Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon houses the tomb of Vasco da gama. It is a world heritage site by recognized by the UNESCO. Official name: Mosteiro da Santa Maria de Belém. Name origin: jerónimo Portuguese transliteration for 
Saint Jerome. Work began in 15o1 and completed in 1601.............................. 

The modern definition of massacre as "indiscriminate slaughter, carnage", and the subsequent verb of this form, derive from late 16th century Middle French, evolved from Middle French "macacre, macecle" meaning "slaughterhouse, butchery." (Wikipedia)

We all know that Portuguese navigator  Vasco Da Gama is one of the well-known daring explorers from the Discovery Ages; the first European to reach
 the shores of SW India.  His discovery of the first direct sea route to India, the fabled land of spices, gemstones and textiles was as significant as that of the discovery of the Americas by the Italian navigator Christopher Columbus. This new sea route to India was an open sesame to a slew  of European colonists. Among them, the English imperialists emerged victorious and stuck to the Indian subcontinent until August 1947, leaving united India divided into India and Pakistan. The latter has become a well-known rouge nation, a breeding ground for all sorts of Muslim terrorists nurtured by the Pakistani military, and in almost many continents, they have become an eye sore. The innocent Pakistani citizens themselves are not safe in their own land.

 A  little have we known about the other side of Vasco De Gama, who is often portrayed as a great Portuguese seafarer, leader  and diplomat. If you remove the dust off the old history books and delve deep into the faded pages, you will understand  the true color of Gama's persona - an obnoxious  man prone to bouts of violence and uncontrollable temper to murder his tough opponents  in trade dealings on his overseas explorations. Away from home, on many occasions, he exhibited his violent tantrums at gun point to cow down his opponents while doing business. The root cause of his inherent aberrations in his character is he lacked education, hence unlettered and cruel in dealing with new people. Ever suspicious and brutal in dealing with competitors, he used intimidation as a tool to make the people  come to his term.  Sanjay Subrahmanyam, a  historian is of the view:  "systematic use of violence at sea" was introduced after the arrival of the Portuguese.

 Gama's first mission to the Malabar coast of SW India was a failure as he could not make any trade treaty with the old Hindu ruler Zamorin. The second expedition led by Alvarez Cabral in 1500 and the third one later did not go in favor of the Portuguese. The Arab traders, who had been peacefully doing business with the Zamorin king for a long time  controlled the spice trade and did not like the Portuguese and their provocative and intimidating posture in their business deals.  Because of them the ruler of Cochin and the Zamorin ruler were  at loggerheads as the revelry  between them was being fueled  by the Portuguese led by Cabral.  Consequently, the Zamorin ruler, a young man (old ruler having passed away), became a hard nut to crack and did not like to deal with the Europeans. 

 The king of Portugal, Manuel I became obsessed with establishing a trading post on the Coastal Malabar, India and to monopolize the spice trade and commerce in the Calicut region.  In February 1502, the 4th Armada under the command of Vasco De Gama  departed with 20 vessels, divided into  three squadrons  from  Lisbon for Malabar. The amazing fact is because of some internal politics and the ongoing rivalry between Alvarez Cabral and Vincent Sodre (Gama’s uncle – who was responsible for naval support to Cabral) many of the ships in this expedition were led by Gama's seafaring relatives. So the 4th Armada's leadership was dominated by Gama's family men. When Gama and his men plundered Malabar, his relatives shared a cut in the loot.  On this trip to India Gama looted valuable jewels, pearls, etc worth about 40,000 ducats and his relatives amassed  enough ill-gotten fortune to live comfortably till they hit the grave. So, Vasco Da Gama, a well-known seafarer as we know was a hardcore pirate and a merciless greedy man. The only positive sreak in his character was he was quite loyal to the ruler of Portugal.

On Gama's second voyage, the disgusting incidence of merciless  massacre of some 300 pilgrims and  the destruction of an inbound (?) ship from Mecca to Malabar  on the high seas closer to the Indian  shore tainted his image to a greater extent. Because, despite protests by his fellow crew, the massacre and cruel violence was masterminded by Gama. It lasted for more than  5 days between 29th Sept and 3rd Oct 1502 till the ship went into the waters and much time had been spent on negotiations by the moors to stay the passengers alive. 

Gama's fleet, after a long journey in the perilous sea  reached the Indian waters in August / September. In early September 1502, after calling at  Batecala on  the west coast  Gama sailed toward Cannanore.  Anchored near Mount d'Eli, as planned before, Gama and his men  waited for the ships operating between Jeddah  and Calicut route to attack them, perhaps to loot them. After a long wait on September 29, 1502 - they captured only one minor ship, however, they were lucky as captain Gil Matoso (on the São Gabriel), spotted a large merchant ship carrying Muslim pilgrims.

Contradictions still prevail over that particular ship was sailing toward Jeddah or returning to Calicut.  Anyway, the pilgrim ship The Miri ( also called Meri) is believed to have been owned by  a certain al-Fanqi, a wealthy  man of Calicut or by another trader (ownership of the ship is a subject of debate).  Matoso made the ship surrender, thinking it was carrying valuable stuff to plunder. Vasco da Gama, merciless as he was, rejected the offers made by some of rich Muslims of Calicut to let them all off alive. He preferred a bigger loot from them and resorted to looting.  Upon plundering and looting the ship  without leaving any nook and corner including the galley, Gama's men  transferred its cargo (Loot) to their ship. It became apparent that Gama wanted the ship along with the passengers  to be set on fire. It was Gama's relative Stephen de Gama set fire to the Miri. Don Gama  did not care a fig for the panicked innocent  men, women and children on board. Nor did he turn his ears to their  painful wailing and crying, and persistent request not to kill them. Poker-faced (hiding his sympathy in the back of his mind), Gama stood on his ship unmoved,  watching with glee, when the pilgrim ship was going into flame.  It is said that Gama had the passengers locked in the hold before burning the ship. On top of it, he made the ship sink fast enough  by bombarding it with artillery fire. The most barbaric act of this massacre was that Portuguese soldiers rowed long boats  around the waters to see to it that there was no survivor from the plundered ship. If there were survivors ( who leapt into the sea),  popping up  their head above water, they would, with out any scruples, stab them with their sharp spear till they found the watery grave. 

Thus,  Vasco Da gama became the first ever European in world history  to have committed massacre of Indians near the SW Malabar coast.  It is believed that about 300  passengers on the Miri, including children were mercilessly killed at the instigation of Gama. It is said there were 30 women aboard the ship.  The doomed passengers valiantly fought to stay alive, but it was of no avail before the evil-minded, heavely armed  crew.  Under the Raj, what  Gen. Reginald  Dyer had done to the innocent people of Punjab on 13 April 1919  on the day of  annual Baisakhi celebrations at Jallianwalla Bagh, Amritsar, Vasco da Gama, did it on the  high seas to the innocent Muslim pilgrims from the coastal Malabar in September 1502. This one is one of the most gruesome incidents in the history of India and in school text books this dark side of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama and his men was either ignored or left out. So, the Indians do not get the true picture of Gama and his murderous nature, besides his wanton  plundering  of commercial ships in the Indian waters.

In the wake of the sinking of the pilgrim ship and the massacre of Muslim passengers, Gama's  already battered name took a beating further. His name  became synonymous with cruelty, fearsome and cunning. Consequently, his treacherous act got a bad rap for the entire  Portuguese crew.
According to one critic Gaspar Correia, many of his crew   were in a state of shock at what Gama was doing in rage  and persuaded him  to act with restraints as he had to face a lot of  problems once they were on the shore. Portuguese's name went down to abysmal depth and the Indian natives hated them very much for their cowardly act on the unharmed, unprovoked pilgrims. 

Gama, to save his face, convinced his crew and the Portugal ruler  that the massacre on the high seas was inevitable and was  carried out in retaliation to the massacre of 53 to 70 Portuguese in the factory at Calicut committed by the Arab traders (the second squadron was led by Cabral in 1500)  Thus, he justified his act of  "vengeance" for the Calicut massacre of 1500, arguing that the ship's owner, an influential person in Calicut, was the culprit  and his sinister counsel to the Zamorin  led up to the killing and the ruler turned a blind eye to it. Earlier, in the same year Cabral and his men destroyed several Arab ships off the coast of Calicut and transferred the cargo from one of the ships to theirs. Arabs, being furious, attacked the Portuguese and destroyed their factory in Calicut and in the melee and mayhem that followed 53 to 70 Portuguese were killed. The Hindu ruler did not take action as they caused a heavy damage to the unproved Arab traders.\

According to  Portuguese chroniclers  20 children were spared this fate, and brought back by the 4th Armada to Lisbon where they were to be  baptized and raised as friars at the Nossa Senhora de Belém. However, one of the eyewitnesses Thomé Lopes and an anonymous Flemish sailor made  no reference to this small mercy, but, Matteo de Bergamo did point it out. Thomé Lopes openly condemned the act, claiming Gama acted "with great cruelty and without any mercy whatsoever".

The ownership of the ill-fated pilgrim ship The Miri boat has been a bone of contention as there are many interpretations. One source mentions the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt owned the ship and other sources say it was owned by a rich Gujarati trader.  K.M. Panikkar  points out it  belonged to one Khoja Kassim’of Calicut, but  KV Krishna Iyer mentions that it was owned by Sahabandar Koya’s (port commissioner of Calicut) brother and Koya who happened to be Gama's prime enemy and it could the root cause of the destruction of the ship and massacre on the high seas.  

After this gory incident unscrupulous Gama to pursue his fortunes on the coastal Malabar reached Cannanore in October 1502 to  call on the Kolathiri Raja of Cannanore to strike a trade treaty with him. 


Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Vasco Da Gama's 4th Armada to India - interesting facts

Vasco Da Gama,
Gama's tomb in Lisbon
Vasco da Gama made history by finding the first sea route to India in 1498 from Europe via the Atlantic ocean, Indian ocean  and the Arabian sea. prior to him, no European had ever undertaken a sea voyage beyond  Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. The fabled 
vast rich land of spice, gemstones  and textiles 
was inaccessible to them and, the available over 
land route to India was beset with dangers as the 
Arabs posed a threat to them.It paved the way for European expeditions to India, culminating in the establishment of British Imperialism in India and across the globe.

After navigating  in the hitherto unknown and perilous waters,  risking his life and hundreds of men, Gama's fleet  arrived in Kappadu near Kozhikode (Calicut), the principal commercial entrepôt of the Kerala spice trade on the  Malabar Coast (present day Kerala state of India), on 20 May 1498. The Hindu King of Calicut, the Samudiri (Zamorin) gave  him, without any hesitaation, a grand traditional welcome, but was not happy with Gama's gifts  that appeared to be trivial and unworthy  Though Gama's ship on its return journey  from India carried  cargo worth six times the cost of the expedition, he failed to make a trade treaty with the Zamorins.

The Portugal King ordered the Second India Armada in 1500, a sort of trade mission under the command of Pedro Álvares Cabral. It was to make  a trade treaty with the Zamorin of Calicut and set up a Portuguese factory in Calicut. Besides, it was to open the trade outlet of the Monomatapa gold trade with the Gold Trading port of KIlwa.

This second sea expedition to  India miserably failed  as  the local Arab merchant groups were at war with the Portuguese. They had been in spice trade for a pretty long time. In the ensuing riots and mayhem,  the Portuguese factory was  damaged and  about 53 to 70 Portuguese were killed. Cabral pinned the blame on the the Zamorin for the incident and bombarded the city. Thus, war broke out between Portugal and Calicut. Having again failed to strike a deal with the Indian ruler, Pedro Álvares Cabral, had arrived in Portugal in the summer of 1501 with the second Armada. Considering the size of the fleet and human losses, the second mission ended in a fiasco. 

The 3rd India Armada  was sent to make a trade treaty with the Indian ruler on the coastal Malabar. João da Nova led the  commercial expedition, but was ill-equipped to deal with unexpected and hostile situation  in the Indian ocean and the coastal Malabar.  Again, it was a failed mission to India.
Fourth Armada to India:

The Portuguese  serious efforts to lay the foundations to Estado da Índia, and to their full control over the spice trade and commerce was repeatedly repelled by the forces of Zamorin of Kozhikode. The Kunjali Marakkars, the famous Muslim admirals, the naval chiefs of Kozhikode were a force to reckon with. The Hindu rulers had maintained elaborate trade relations with the Middle-Eastern sailors in the Indian Ocean.  Undeterred by successive failures of the early sea expeditions to India and  to get a hold on the spice, textile trade, etc., the king of Portugal Manuel I firmly resolved to establish a trading post in the Calicut region, a major spice port to the west.

Interesting facts of the fourth Armada to India:

East Africa, 4th armada to India under Gama . Wikipedia

 Above image: Approximate route of the 4th India Armada (1502) along the African coast, purple = route of main fleet (Vasco da Gama); green = side-trip of Pedro Afonso de Aguiar, blue = deviation of Antão Vaz do Campo........................

01. In 1502 the  4th Portuguese India Armada was formed  under the leadership  of  Vasco da Gama. It was Gama's second trip to India and was the 4th one of a total of  thirteen Portuguese India Armadas. 

02. This mission did not have sufficient  manpower to seize  Calicut, rather it was a display of strong naval force  and fire power to push the Indian ruler to submission. Finally, to aim at the establishment of  factories (feitorias) in Cochin and Cannanore, Calicut's rival cities on the Malabar coast of India,

03. Being a non- diplomatic mission, this time the sole purpose of the mission was to take revenge on the Indian rulers  for the poor treatment of Alvarez Cabral and the massacre of the Portuguese and destruction of their  factory in 1500 (in the second expedition).   Besides, it was to force the Indian ruler to have a viable trade treaty with the kingdom of Portugal for the regular supply of spices, gems, etc.

04. Before the departure for a long and arduous  sea voyage  to India, on January 30, 1502, Vasco da Gama was bestowed with the newly created royal title of Almirante dos mares de Arabia, Persia, India e de todo o Oriente ("Admiral of the Seas of Arabia, Persia, India and all the Orient") by King Manuel I - a covetous  title similar to the decorative  Castilian title borne by Christopher Columbus.

05. The powerful and  heavily armed fleet equipped to face any difficult and hostile situation in the sea and on land, left Lisbon on 12 February 1502, Two squadrons of the 4th Armada - 10 ships under admiral Vasco da Gama and 5 ships under vice-admiral Vicente Sodré- set sail  from Lisbon.

4th Armada of 1502 (from Livro de Lisuarte de Abreu) wikipedia

06. Under  Estêvão da Gama (a relation of Vasco da Gama) on April 1, 1502 the third squadron of the 4th Armada - five ships  finally began their long journey  from Lisbon. This squadron would chart its own course and  join the main  fleet of the 4th Armada in the Indian Ocean. 

 07. Two of Gama's cousin's were to lead the Indian Ocean naval patrol while others commanded the main fleet.  Da Gama's  family members played a pivotal rule in the 4th Armada which was composed of 20 ships and between 800 and 1800 men, forming a formidable  naval force to threaten the Indian ruler. 

08. Their predetermined plan was to cutoff Calicut's lifeline - its mercantile trade. Vasco da Gama  with his first squadron  was to impose  a naval blockade of Calicut harbor, preventing the entry of  any ships, in particular Arab ships, while Vicente Sodré  and his the second squadron would  patrol the Gulf of Aden. The aim was to plug the sea route to the Arab ships in the Red Sea. With no naval enforcement from the king's allies, it  would make the  Zamorin ruler to submit to their demands.

09. Their demands were: a. restoration of damaged Portuguese factory, b. a viable trade treaty for the supply of spices, etc., c. punishment of those Arabs involved in the massacre of Portuguese on their second mission and d. expulsion of the Arabs  traders from the Calicut area. 
10. A violent storm  in April–May, 1502 at the South African  Cape drifted  apart each of  the fifteen ships of Vasco da Gama's fleet. So, each  captain  was on his own to chart out of the rough seas around the Cape  and his own way towards the pre-arranged rendez-vous point on the other side.

11. Gama's fleet had a tough voyage around the  South African Cape. On June 7, 1502 - the third squadron of Estevão da Gama  was  split into two groups in a terrible.  

12. On their forward journey, the 4th Armada  successfully established a Portuguese factory in Mozambique, in East Africa and  opened trade with the gold trading port  of Sofala. Besides, with powerful navy, Gama  extorted tribute from the Sultan of  Kilwa in gold.- 1500m meticals. The elderly shaikh Isuf, having no other choice,  made a commercial and alliance treaty with the kingdom of Portugal. 

13. Out of this extorted gold coins of Kilwa  in 1506 goldsmith Gil Vicente made  the famous gold pyx or monstrance known as the Custódia de Belém, for the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém, a  great piece of Portuguese treasure. 
The Custódia de Belém, forged from Kilwa tribute
14. After his engagements in East Africa and  successful negotiations, Gama began his onward journey towards  India, crossing the Arabian sea. In mid August Gama's fleet was off the coast of Goa (precisely Dabul port, under the Bijapur Sultanate)) and from there  he sailed towards south to the coastal Malabar.
Vasco da Gama's 4th Armada to India SlideShare
15. Once in Indian waters in September  1502, Gama, was set out to attack any Arab ship, for the Arabs had a monopoly in the spice trade in the Malabar region and had close rapport with the Hindu rulers there.They were more a menace to them, than a trade competitor. Gama considered them a threat to Portuguese expansion in India. 

16. Unpardonable was his notorious attack on the Miri -Muslim pilgrim ship  on 29 September 1502.  Without mercy, Gama's men massacred innocent pilgrims on their return from  Haj ( or on their way to Mecca ?) in open waters ; the casualty ran into several hundred and Gama turned the sea waters into red. 
The Zamorin of Kozhikode (1495-1500),
Above image:    The Zamorin of Kozhikode (1495-1500) on his throne as painted by Veloso Salgado in 1898. Malayalam: Samoothiri, Portuguese: Samorim, Dutch: Samorijn, is the title of the Hindu monarch of the Kingdom of Calicut (Kozhikode) on Malabar Coast, India. They ruled from the city of Kozhikode, one of the important trading ports on the south-western coast of India. In their  heyday, the Zamorin's ruled over a region from Kollam (Quilon) to Panthalayini KollamThe Zamorins - originally Eradis of Nediyirippu (Eranadu) - established  their political independence in the early 12th century after the decline of Cheras of  Cranganore (Kodungallur). ................................

17. Quite intimidating was his approach to the Indian ruler. To make the  Zamorian king to come to terms with them, Da Gama's Armada began  attacking Calicut,  affecting the movement of ships  and trading activities  all along the coastal Malabar. Undaunted, the Zamorian ruler refused to accept the Portuguese demands and give compensation for the  damaged factory and massacre of Portuguese ( 53 to 70) on the second expedition as he had nothing to do with that incident. He also refused to keep the Arabs off the spice trade. The 4th Armada left without any trade treaty and unresolved issues. Before departing, the Armada established a crown factory in Cannanore and left behind a small patrol under Vicente Sodré, the first permanent Portuguese fleet in the Indian Ocean.,_1500)