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)


Saturday, 6 January 2018

Volbrecht Nagel, German missionary and his contribution to Malayalam

The Nagel Family, Kerala.
 Above image: Volbrecht and Harriet Nagel, with Josephine Mitchell (Harriet’s sister) in the background. Children are; Samuel, Theodor, Gottlob, Olive, and Karl
Volbrecht_Nagel Revisiting the Past -
 Christianity has been in Kerala since the arrival of
Saint Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus at the ancient seaport Muziris (present day Kodungalloor) on the Kerala coast in AD 52. It is the third-most practised religion constituting 18% of the population according to the Indian census. Although a minority, the Christian population  in this SW Indian state is proportionally much higher  than that of India as a whole and they are quite visible and play an active role in nation building. It  was only a few centuries ago, translations of The Bible into Malayalam were available to the Christians here. The translation work on The Bible into the native tongue was invariably done by the foreign missionaries like Benjamin Bailey ( 1791 -1871 and Rev. Dr. Hermann Gundert 
(1814 – 1893. Yet another German missionary made a solid contribution to  Bible translation and and made a name. He is none other than Volbrecht Nagel, who took to Christian preaching in his very young age.

Can you imagine, during the colonial period under the British crown, a German missionary in Kerala took keen interest in Malayalam, the local language spoken there and did  pioneering work in that language and made a mark in the development of that language? His work was mostly related to Christian prayers and translation of The Bible into Malayalam.  Volbrecht Nagel (1867–1921) came to the town of  Cannanore in 1893  as an ordained missionary to preach Christan faith to the natives there. 

Nagel's work was to head  the Basel Mission center in Vaniankulam and manage the mission school and   the small scale industry being run by the mission. His idea of managing an independent ministry was his dream, but here it did not materialize. A chance encounter with a native man gave him inspiration to act on his own and stay at  Kunnamkulam instead of Vaniankulam that had a long history of Christianity. On his own, he carried on  his evangelical and humanitarian ministry in Kerala

Born on 3 November 1867 in Hesse, Germany in a religious family, at an early age of 18 Nigel became a preacher. He lost his parents, who were saddlers, when he was very young.  He attended the school briefly and gained knowledge only through self-study as he could not afford college education. The inspiration came from a cobbler - turned preacher who enlightened the people, explaining Christ;s Gospel of love. He was born again and decided to dedicate his life to the service of Christ. Resolved to become a missionary, he, in 1886,  joined the  Basel Mission Training Institute in  Switzerland and  graduated in 1892. In 1893, he was ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Mission. This membership allowed him to preach the Christ's Gospel of love any where in the world.
Harriet Sabina Mitchell Nagel Revisiting the Past - WordPress.com312 × 500
He came to  Kerala, then a British colony, with religious zeal to preach Christianity. Having  been associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the early days,  later he joined the Plymouth Brethren. However, he became a pioneer of the Kerala Brethren movement. As he was a man of amicable nature, he developed friendship with countless people. Volbrecht Nagel in April 1897  married Harriet Mitchell, an Anglo-Indian  teacher at Kunnamkulam who  bore him five sons and two daughters. 
Realizing the importance learning the local  language to move closely with the natives, and be familiar with their tradition and culture, he learned Malayalam well enough to communicate with the local community and be at ease with them. Being a German, not only did he gain the spoken and writing ability, but also undertook in depth studies in Malayalam. His flair for the languages stood him in good stead and the local Christian community loved him and his his real interest in the native culture. He mastered Malayalam so well to the level of translating the German Bible hymns in Malayalam. 
Nagel wrote a book called Christian Baptism in 
1898. He  also wrote many songs and hymns in Malayalam that are  being widely used  today in church services by Kerala Christians regardless of their denominations. Thus, a German missionary from a humble family with no college education, became a household name among the Malayalee Christians who still hold him in great esteem. Natives used to  call him "Nagel Saipu". Scholars in Malayalam acknowledge his valuable contribution to the early growth of Malayalam in the realm of Christian faith.

In 1906, began his social  work as part of his missionary duty with the start of an orphanage for girls  and a home for widows at Nellikunnu near Thrissur. This was in tune with an old adage "Service to people is service to God". The charitable institutions were of great help to those widows and orphans who were not well taken care of by the various communities then. The institution  was called Rehoboth and, now, it has several homes catering to the unfortunate ones.

In 1914, when he was 47 years old, Nagel's plan to make a trip to England regarding his children's education, then to Germany and later return to Kerala within six months, ran into headwinds because of intervention of World War I. Being a German, he could not enter British administered Malabar.  As WWI intensified, he moved over to Switzerland. His wife Harriet and three children were back in Malabar Coast, while the two older children were in England.

While teaching at Weidenest Bible School, Nagel had a stroke and and was bedridden for sometime. He died on 12 May 1921 and was buried there. He was just 57. Mrs. Harriet was with him in his last hours of suffering and pain. Among his translations in Malayalam, the following one is worthy of mention: 
 Samayamam rathathil njaan swerga yathra cheyyunnu ... (In the chariot of time I am on my homeward journey ...) - Death.

Among his many translations in Malayalam, the following are quite soul-stirring and they bring out the essence of devotion to God.
 ........ "Papakadam theerkuvan ... (What can wash away my sins) by Robert Lowry

 .......  "Yeshuvil en thozhane kande" (I have found a friend in Jesus) Charles.W.Fry


Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Goa Inquisition and the death of Garcia de Orta, Jewish doctor of Goa.

Garcia de Orta, Portuguese physician Goa,IndiaWikipedi

 Garcia de Orta (or Garcia d'Orta) (1501? – 1568), a Renaissance Sephardi Jewish physician based in Goa was a popular physician to the rich and famous, including many Viceroys and Governors of the Portuguese colony and even to the Indian rulers. He had a flourishing practice in India whose foray into Indian tropical medicinal plants and remedies for the tropical diseases won him laurels. His book Coloquios dos simples e drogas e cousas medicinais da India (Conversations on the simples, drugs and materia medica of India), which was published in India in 1563 is a monumental work, dealing with tropical ailments and medicines. It was quite indispensable for the practitioners of tropical diseases centuries ago.
Lief-the-Lucky - DeviantArt

During the Portuguese rule in India, De Orta  was so influential that  the site - Island of  Bombay  was  taken on lease by him from the King of Portugal between 1554 and 1570. He even built a residence called The Manor.
Water-boarding, Goa Inquisition 1859 ---Postcard News
Born in Castelo de Vide, probably in 1501, the son of Fernão (Isaac) da Orta, a merchant, and Leonor Gomes, Garcia had three sisters, Violante, Catarina and Isabel. Their parents  who were from Valencia de Alcántara  were Spanish Jews, taking refuge there.  The Reyes Catolicos Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain in 1492, at that time began forcefully expelling Spanish Jews .
Forcibly converted to Christianity in 1497, the Jews in Spain were derogatorily classed as Cristãos Novos (New Christians) and marranos ("swine"). Despite their conversion to Christian faith, many of these refugees maintained their original faith secretly and  never gave up their Jewish faith.
Torturing of non Christians. Spanish Inquisition. Wikipedia
King João III and the Inquisition in
Religious fanaticism in Spain was so deep-rooted  Jews who refused to convert  to Christianity or leave Spain were called heretics and could be burned to death on a stake by the insane orthodox Catholics.

Portuguese inquisition. The Blogs | The Times of Israel

 Above image: Auto da Fe in Portugal - Portuguese Inquisition was introduced in 1536. For non Christians and converts, it was a period of torture, pain and suffering. Religion took precedence over rationality and common sense.........

Educated at the Universities of Alcalá de Henares and Salamanca  and after  qualifying himself as a physian in Spain,  Garcia  returned to Portugal in 1525 and had a good practice in Lisbon, besides becoming the physician to the ruler of Portugal John III The Portuguese Inquisition (Portuguese: Inquisição Portuguesa) was formally established in Portugal in 1536 at the request of its king, John III.

 Just like Spanish Inquisition, the major target of the Portuguese Inquisition were the converts from Judaism to Catholicism.  The Conversos, also known as New Christians or Marranos were suspected of secretly practicing Judadism. Many of these were originally Spanish Jews who had left Spain for Portugal, when Spain forced Jews to convert to Christianity or leave. The number of victims is believed to be  around 40,000.
Torture. Spanish Inquisition, 1805.
Fearing forceful implementation of Portugal inquisition and  the ban on emigration of New Christians, Garcia, to avoid the threats to his life and ban,  sailed for Portuguese India. He left Tagus in March 1534 as Chief Physician aboard the fleet of Martim Afonso de Sousa,  who later became the  Governor. He reached Goa in September  and  well settled there  where he became a popular medical practitioner. Because of his contact with people like Sousa, Garcia became personal physician  to Burhan Nizam Shah I of the Nizam Shahi dynasty of Ahmadnagar, and at the same time, to several successive  high-ranking Portuguese Viceroys and governors of Goa.
Entrance of a garden, Garcia De Orta, Panaji, Goa, IndiaAlamy
Though Garcia de Orta's marital life with his wealthy cousin  Brianda de Solis in 1543 was  not an happy one, the couple had two daughters. When inquisition became a serious issue in 1549 his mother and two of his sister were arrested and jailed in Lisbon. Later, they  secretly got out of the prison and managed to leave Portugal to join Garcia in Goa.

The inquisition was established in Goa In 1560,– 24 years after the Portuguese Inquisition was instituted in Portugal. Aleixo Dias Falcão and Francisco Marques, established inquisition  in Goa. With the opening in 1565  of an Inquisitorial Court  in Goa to punish the new converts and non - Christians, the persecution became forceful  in 1569 against Jews, secret Jews, Hindus, Muslims  and New Christians. 
His friend  Martim Afonso de Sousa, Governor-General of Portuguese India from 1542 to 1545. (with whom he first came to India)  gave him protection during the early stage of Goa Inquisition. Physician Garcia  was lucky and he did not live to see serious Inquisition in Goa. He died in 1568  but  his family and sister Catarina were unlucky and arrested  in the same year of their  arrival from Portugal. The religious heads who oversaw the persecution of non-Christians and others were so  ruthless, without any remorse or respect for the departed souls, dug the graves of those converts who were secretly Jewish. During that time Garcia's  sisters and his family were  tortured till they “confessed” to their being Jews. They  told officials that Garica de Orta was Jewish as well. The family was charged with their crimes and burned them alive  at the stake 
on October 25, 1569. Then the inquisitors did an awfully bad thing  no civilized person  could ever think of -  an inhuman and  despicable act. Garcia' was  posthumously convicted by the Inquisition Court and his  mortal remains  were  exhumed in 1580 from his grave and burned to ashes along with copies of his books, except the work  Coloquios dos simples e drogas e cousas medicinais da India.

Also persecuted in the Goa  Inquisition was the  ancient Christian community of Malabar Nasranis on the south Indian coast of Kerala. The Portuguese religious fanatics  described the Malabar Nasranis as Sabbath-keeping Judaizers and burnt their Syriac-Aramaic manuscripts at the Synod of Diamper.

The insane people committed this atrocity deliberately in the name of religion and Christ, an embodiment of love and care. Both Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions were the darkest chapters in the history of world religion and it showed to the world how religious fanaticism would reach the abysmal depth of human ugliness, intolerance and violence against fellow human beings in the name of God. The pathetic fact is no body had seen Him, nor had God appeared before any of our religious heads! 
Seal of the Inquisition,

 Image above: Inquisição Portuguesa - Grand Inquisitor chosen by crown and named by pope. Consisted of a Grand Inquisitor, who headed the General Council of the Holy Office. Meeting place: Estaus Palace in Rossio squar, Lisbon. ........

Now we have a different scenario in Portugal. De Orta is being adored  and is a famous figure of Portuguese history in India and Portugal. In his honor Portugal has issued  stamps, coins and bills (currency notes) bearing his figure. Two gardens, one in Goa, India and the other in Lisbon, Portugal are dedicated to de Orta and named after him .