The Portuguese in India established themselves as conquerors, traders, settlers, adventurers and missionaries. It is of particular interest that despite having a limited number of Portuguese personnel, settlers and slaves in Asia, they wielded maritime-commerce aplomb. This volume in the first part includes seven papers highlighting different facts integral to the Spanish colony in India. The second part of the book lets large the living testimony, that is English translation of sixteenth century letters, representations and reports to ratify the content of the book. The Portuguese framed a sort of frontier society maintaining support groups in the settlements and regions they inhabited through their colonizing gusto and evangelical pursuits.
Mylapore stood a centre for Christians as St. Thomas, one of the Apostles was buried here. Medieval travelers like John Marignolli in 1350 AD and again Marco Polo reckoned the sanctity of the place. And so later during 16th century when the Portuguese settlement grew, it was renamed S?o Thom? de Meliapor (St Thomas of Mylapore). Jeyaseela Stephen'spaper harps on ?how economy and religion proved to be powerful forces in the Portuguese expansion notably in the urban development? of San Thome of Mylapore. It remains undisputable that ?immense prosperity to the coastal areas on the Tamil coast led to the growth of commerce in many seaports?. This stance has been altogether ignored by other historians who remained restricted to ?the study of trade patterns and merchant organisations at the expense of urban history?. Jeyaseela has mooted several pertinent questions to threadbare the veracity of her conclusion. Questions like ?How did the Portuguese move from the stage of establishing a factory to the level of erecting a fort?? are indeed fascinating and prods the readers inquisitive. Pius Malekandthil'spaper engrosses on agricultural production, particularly the cultivation of pepper in the Malabar region which remained a hub of Portuguese flamboyancy and acme of commerce.
Radhika Chadha goes traipsing the deltaic Bengal and the Arakan region where trade flourished in Chittagong and Hugli. She also scrutinizes the role of Portuguese buccaneers, missionaries and maritime traders. She probes into the evangelical pizzazz and its impact upon the populace dissecting upon caste groups and communities. Mahesh Gopalan does an elaborate survey of the Jesuit correspondence from the Fishery Coast of southern Coromandel. He swoops down on the functioning of the Society of Jesus that held a sway upon the local masses during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This paved the way for Indianisation of the Jesuits during the decadence of Estado da India.
Portuguese communities sprouted in many parts of coastal India with a throbbing pluralistic diasporic group. The Portuguese colonial society of the West coast comprised a varied ethnicity to provide a veritable homeland zone for the Portuguese. ?The coastal stretch of about a hundred miles from Daman to Bombay had rich seigneurial estates, maritime cities, churches and seminaries. Its epicentre was Bassein which was reputed to have a larger nobility than Goa?. Portuguese society was festered with profound racial disparity. A strong Catholic ethos with the profusion of churches ?catered to a large populace of tenants, servants and slaves? made conducive the western coastal region to become the homeland zone of the Portuguese. ?The integration of the countryside with the Portuguese urban centres was as much due to the evangelical activities of the missionaries, as it was due to political control.? It comes to a revelation that ?most Indo-Portuguese households had between five to twenty domestic slaves, both men and women; while several casados kept around thirty slaves who could be useful bread earners for their masters? says Yogesh Sharma, one of the editors.
Later, Yogesh Sharma elaborates on ?changing destinies, evolving identities: the Indo Portuguese community at Madras in the seventeenth century?. This phase of growth of Madras witnessed a showdown between the Dutch Company and the Portuguese sea-borne empire, particularly in South-East Asia, Ceylon and coastal southeast India. Several important Portuguese settlements had been thriving for over a century in these regions of Malacca, Colombo, Jaffna, Negapattanam, Cochin and others, which had considerable population of Indo-Portuguese elements. During 1641-43, many of these maritime cities sliiped from Portuguese into the dominion of the Dutch Company. This tumult ?created a problem of statelessness, homelessness and economic atrophy for these Portuguese communities, who started looking for alternatives?. This ongoing scenario ushered in conducive environ to Madras to ?emerge as a safe haven for the diasporic Portuguese who had become uprooted, particularly those in Ceylon and in the former Portuguese settlements in the Coromandel. Madras, in fact provided a viable solution by offering economic opportunities, without having to compromise the Catholic cultural identity of the Portuguese immigrants. And so, ?by the 1670s, Madras had become a kind of home to diverse groups of Christians belonging to different traditions of church worship. Thus, the Portuguese immigrants who came and settled in large numbers at Madras found a congenial atmosphere that was conducive to their religio-cultural attitudes and socio-economic role?. This was also facilitated by Portuguese language becoming the lingua-franca of the Indo-Eoropean towns in coastal India.
This book meticulously details out the functioning of the Spanish colony in India during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a vivid flashback to reckon with.
The second part of the book offers a clairvoyant tapestry with riveting account of different walks of Portuguese life in its innate form.
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