|Kolkata, Armenian church. Inditales|
has brought to light an interesting information that I have not come across before. It is about the Armenian trading community who sided with the English company and helped Robert Clive win the Battle at Plassey (1757), West Bengal. The Armenians had been living in India for a pretty long time, roughly seven centuries before the arrival of Vasco de Gama on the Malabar coast in 1498. The first Armenian to reach the coastal Kerala in 780 was one Thomas Cana whose trading interest included spices and muslin. For reasons of religious suppression, forced conversion, etc., a large community of Armenians moved from places like Persia, Turkey and Afghanistan into India to lead a peaceful life and start their trading afresh.They worked along with the resident European community and engaged in trades. They, over a period of time, settled across India. Surat in Gujarat, Bombay in Maharastra, Madras (Chennai) in Tamil Nadu, Banares (Kasi /Varanasi) in UP., Murshdabad and Kolkata in W. Bengal, etc., were some of the places where they were successful traders. In Chennai there is a famous street called Armenian Street near the Chennai port. So is an Armenian church in the same locality. Now almost all are gone from Chennai. Armenian Ghat in Kolkata is the legacy of Armenian community of this region. In the 20th century there population was around 25,000.
|Robert Clive. Wikipedia|
The Armenians were successful traders during the Colonial time for a few good reasons: they adopted the British way of life and dealings. They learned their language and customs. They were prompt in trade dealings. The conflicts between the British colonists and the ruling families helped them a lot. In mid 18th century - 1744 about 4000 Armenians settled in Calcutta from Persia and Afghanistan.
In 1700s when the British were trying hard to hold on to Bengal firmly, three prominent Armenians were highly influential and were close to the seat of power. They were: Khoja Wajid: He was an expert in saltpetre trade and had good working relations with other Europeans including the French. Wajid, who supported Robert Clive politically, was later arrested on suspicion that he had secret contact with the French. While in confinement he killed himself.
Joseph Emin: He travelled to London and stayed there for a decade (1750 -1760s) and gained the trust of some of the well-known English nobility notably Edmund Burke, Mrs. Montagu, Sir William Jones and others. He had military training at Woolwich and upon return to Bengal, he joined Clive's forces in 1772 to fight against the French Army.
|Armenian church, Chennai. Wikimedia Commons|
|Battle of Plassey. SlideShare|