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Malemo Cana - Vasco Da Gama’s pilot

Posted by Maddy Labels:

Readers get to the Vasco Da Gama story by sheer curiosity; desire to read about adventure, interest in Malabar or Portuguese history or a need to study in the academic course. Vasco or Gama as he is called is indeed an interesting person and there is so much of text out there praising him, ridiculing him and lauding him for his sheer tenacity. Well, the explorer did set out in search of the spice route and found it for his King. ‘He set out with 170 men in July 1497 on three ships (plus a 4th supply ship that was lost early). By Feb 1498, he had reached Malindi, and here was where his fortunes were to change.

For here he met and contracted the services of a person who was to direct the ships to the coast of Malabar. For the first time, the Portuguese had to cross a large expanse of water. Today we have navigational aids and propulsion that makes it easy, but in the days of winds, sailing and the non availability of precise charts, it was a hit and miss. They needed some person who knew how to navigate the monsoon winds. They found such a person, and sources argue over the identity of the pilot, identifying him variously a Christian, a Muslim, and a Gujarati Hindu. Some stories, text books and novels describe the pilot as the famous Arab navigator Ibn Majid, but historians and contemporaneous accounts disagree. The Portuguese historians of the time also fail to connect the person to Ibn Majid or mention the August name. So who could this pilot have been, the person who changed the course of history, both for the west and the east? People who have read about the age of history will agree that the impact of this Portuguese landing indeed changed the course of trade and history.
Let us first get to know Ibn majid. Quoting Wikipedia, Shihab Al-din Ahmad Ibn Majid al Najdi was an Arab navigator and cartographer born in 1421 in Julphar, which is now known as Ras Al Khaimah. He was raised with a family famous for seafaring; at the age of 17 he was able to navigate ships. He was so famous that he was known as the first Arab seaman. The exact date is not known, but bin Majid probably died in 1500. He was the author of nearly forty works of poetry and prose. His most important work was Kitab al-Fawa’id fi Usul ‘Ilm al-Bahr wa ’l-Qawa’id (Book of Useful Information on the Principles and Rules of Navigation), written in 1490. It is a navigation encyclopedia, describing the history and basic principles of navigation, lunar mansions, thumb lines, the difference between coastal and open-sea sailing, the locations of ports from East Africa to Indonesia, star positions, accounts of the monsoon and other seasonal winds, typhoons and other topics for professional navigators. He drew from his own experience and that of his father, also a famous navigator, and the lore of generations of Indian Ocean sailors. Bin Majid wrote several books on marine science and the movements of ships, which helped people of the Persian Gulf to reach the coasts of India, East Africa and other destinations. He grew very famous and was fondly called Shihan Al Dein (Sea's Lion) for his fearlessness, strength and experience as a sailor who excelled in the art of navigation.

His maps certainly helped the Portuguese find a way to India, and many Arabs find fault with Ibn Majid for personally helping Gama across to Malabar and destroying their lucrative trade with Malabar. For as you know most of the ships that plied these waters were Arab, the traders in Malabar were of Arab or Arab extraction and the goods were destined to Arab ports where hefty customs duties were levied. They found their way over even more expensive camel caravans to Alexandria where they were again loaded into ships bound for Europe. This trade from time immemorial was honorably wrought, till the Gama destroyed it all. The pilot is blamed by many Arabs for having helped the Gama destroy this trade.

Calicut heritage forum covered the contents of the book Pepper & Christ, where the fictional account introduces you to young Taufiq, a disciple of Ibn Majid who guides the Gama to Calicut. Was Keki Daruwalla right in his train of thought?

The time lines were right and much interest could be brought about in the subject by bringing the two people together, one in relentless quest of scientific discoveries and the other a rapacious trader. How did this happen? To figure it all out, we have to read the masterly book on the Gama by Sanjay Subrahmanyam, the heavily bearded Professor and Navin and Pratima Doshi Chair of Indian History at UCLA, a person who not only is ‘the expert on these matters’ but also one who loves to demonstrate such diverse aspects like South Indian cooking. A very interesting man (no! I have not had the honor of meeting him, but have read about him and his books) Subrahmanyam has written books in Tamil, Hindi, Portuguese and Italian, English and French, to name a few. In all, he knows ten languages and reads in two more.

Sanjay explains in very interesting fashion how Ibn Majid was brought into the picture, by a writer of Gujarati extract in Mecca.

Barros and Castaneda termed the pilot a Malemo Cana or Malemo Canaca a moor, Barros clarified it as Moor from Guzerate whereas Castaneda called him a Gujarati. The person who connected this to Ibn majid was French orientalist Gabriel Ferrand writing on Ibn majid. He borrowed text from the book written by Qutb Al-din Muhammed Al Nahrawali. Al makki. Nahrawali, a Gujaratai living in Mecca, wrote a book to celebrate Ottoman achievements over the Yemeni Arabs. He mentioned the name Ahmad Ibn Majid as the name of the pilot, wrote that he was given much wine to drink by the Portuguese and the pilot in a state of drunkenness explained the methods of sailing the oceans to the Admiral. Interestingly, the text does not state that Ibn Majid accompanied the Gama, but only states that he explained the way. I will not recount the text, but all he said was ‘do not follow the coast, make for the open sea without fearing it and well, follow the winds’. Now that is not expert advice, in my mind but plain common sense in rough and uncharted waters. Anyway Ferrand connected this Ahmad Ibn Majid to the expert Ibn Majid and set the tongues wagging. However it is still not clear why and how Nahrawali mentioned the name and where and how he obtained it. Was it another Ibn Majid of Gujarati extract?

The clinching reasoning behind Ahmad Ibn Majid’s involvement was his supposed regret over helping Gama as evidenced in a poem written by him. These arjuzas were discovered by Russian orientalist Kratchkovsky and translated. The devil is in the detail and the detail provided in the rather clumsy translations (and substantial additions by the translators in the process) made it an even bigger mess. Ibrahim Khoury a Syrian historian pointed out later the corruption of the translated text and the fact that Ibn Majid was already too old to navigate by the 1490’s and that this poem by Ibn Majid where he expressed regret over helping the Portuguese, was actually composed in the 1470’s, much before 1498 when all this happened.

Anyway the fable and legend continued to grow. The most interesting part is that according to Gama’s letters, the pilot accompanied him back to Lisbon for interrogation. So as you can see, Ibn majid, dons the guise of a Gujarati, gets drunk and guides the Gama and after wretchedly showing him the way to Calicut returns to Lisbon with him and settled down there, for there are no records of him returning.

So who was the pilot? Was he one of the Gujrai Nakhuda’s in Malindi? There was a sizable Indian population there according to Portuguese records. The sailors were not all Arabs, as I wrote in my previous blog. Was it just another chap who succumbed to threats or avarice and well, finally went back to settle down in Lisbon as a Fidalgo? Perhaps, but then we get to know that he really knew his business and to be called a Mualim in an Arab world required you to be one. To get to the details you have to read what Barros wrote

Let us see what Barros had to say – Quoting the footnote in ‘3 voyages of Gama’ based on Correas Lendas, translated by the Hakluyt society.

Barros says that some gentiles from Cambay, whom they call Banians, came to see the ships, and that seeing a picture of Our Lady in Da Gama's cabin, and that the Portuguese reverenced it, they made adoration to it with much more ceremony; and next day they returned to it. The Banians and Portuguese were mutually pleased, and the Portuguese imagined that these people were samples of some Christian community in India from the times of St. Thomas.

About the l5th July. Barros says that among the people who came to visit the ships was a Moor of Guzarat, named Malemo (malemo – Muallim or instructor in Arabic and Cana – kanaka – Astrologer in Sanskrit) Cana, who, both from the satisfaction which he felt at the intercourse with the Portuguese, and to please the King of Melinde who was looking for a pilot for them, accepted to go with them. Vasco da Gama, after talking to him, was very well satisfied with his knowledge, especially after he had shown him a map of all the coast of India, with the bearings laid down after the manner of the Moors, which was with meridians and parallels very small (or close together), without other bearings of the compass ; because, as the squares of those meridians and parallels were very small, the coast was laid down by those two bearings of north and south, and east and west, with great certainty, without that multiplication of bearings of the points of the compass usual in our maps, which serves as the root of the others. When Vasco da Gama showed him the great wooden astrolabe which he had brought and others of metal with which he took the sun's altitude, the Moor was not surprised, and said that some pilots of the lied Sea used brass instruments of a triangular shape, and quadrants with which they took the sun's altitude, and chiefly that of a star which they most made use of for their navigation. But that he and the Cambay mariners and those of all India made their navigation by certain stars both in the north and in the south, and also by other notable stars which traversed the middle of the heavens from east to west, and they did not take their distance with instruments like those, but with another which he used; which he brought at once to show, which was of three tables (or plates). Since we have treated of its shape and use in our geography in the chapter of instruments of navigation, it is sufficient to say here that in that operation they use an instrument which we now use, and which mariners call balhestilla the cross staff (or Jacob's staff), and in that chapter an account of it and its inventors will be given.

Osorio, in speaking of Gama's arrival at Mozambique, describes the compasses used by the Arab mariners at great length; he also says they used quadrants for observing the sun's distance from the equinoctial line; and says: "Finally, they were instructed in so many of the arts of navigation, that they did not yield much to the Portuguese mariners in the science and practice of maritime matters."

Where did the Melinda Sheikh find the pilot or pilots? It appears that they belonged to the Gujarati ships docked at Melinda. How come they left their ships and accompanied the Gama? For monetary compensation of course, considering the fact that the pilot demanded his reward as soon as he sighted Calicut. Could this have been Ahmad Ibn majid? Doubtful, for he had already retired and was living in peace, I suppose.

Would Ibn Majid be an ordinary pilot for a Gujarati ship? Doubtful again and considering that those Indian ships would have also been waiting to sail back to Cambay with the monsoon winds, it is doubtful that he left his own ship in the lurch had he been a honorable pilot. A Melinda King would not be able to overrule that, I presume.

The St Gabriel sailed out on April 26th 1498, as we know reached Kappad around 20th May 1498. The pilot demanded his reward which was apparently provided immediately as soon as the hills behind the city of Calicut were sighted. The Gama and his sailors made history and small fortunes though Vasco vanished for the next few years, however not before heralding the Century of discovery and the start of the ruin of Malabar. Vasco returned twice and eventually fell sick and died during the third of his voyages in the lands he discovered for the West, in pain of an unknown disease.

The Kamal or the Rapalagai (Malayalam) - The Gujarati pilot used a kamal to guide the San Gabriel to Calicut. In using the kamal, the knots are counted by keeping the string between one’s teeth; hence the name kau (=teeth) for the pole star. Vasco da Gama’s men actually thought that the pilot (Malemo Cana) was telling the distance by his teeth! Vasco da Gama later carried back a copy of the instrument “to have it graduated in inches”, suggesting that he did not understand the difference between a linear scale and a harmonic scale. In fact, Europeans seem never to have quite understood the principle of harmonic interpolation used in the kamal.

1. The sheikh of Melinda actually provided two pilots to the Gama, though mentions are made often to one and him being Ibn majid in history books. Who was the second? Food for thought.

2. GR Tibbetts feels that Barros may have borrowed from Varthema as he wrote his book in 1540. Varthema mentions a chart seen during his 1508 voyage, marked with latitudes & longitudes. Whereas Correa and Castenada do not mention nay such thing.

The career & legend of Vasco D agama – Sanjay Subrahmanyam
E.J. Brill's first encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, Volume 1 - M. Th. Houtsma, page 362
Indo-Portuguese Encounters - Lotika Varadarajan
The Navigator Ahmad bin Majid – Paul Lunde - Saudi Aramco World
Arabs and the sea – Saudi Aramco World
Ancient sailing and navigation –

Pic of Arab with kamal- Nabateae

The Rayar invasion through Palghat -1510

Posted by Maddy Labels: ,

Krishna Ayyar remarked "At Albuquerque's request Krishnadevaraya invaded the Zamorin's dominion in Palghat" in his book ‘A History of Kerala’ and referred to this again a number of times. Further this has been echoed by other writers such as S.S Shashi in the Indica encyclopedia and CK Kareem in his Gazetteer on Palghat. Some others had cast a doubt on this statement but did not provide any supporting evidence. Now this must have been an interesting development at that time for Ayyar goes on to provide quite a few details of the attack. Ayyar also states emphatically - Though the Palghat Gap is twenty four miles wide, on account of its rugged terrain and impenetrable forests, infested by wild animals and snakes, there had been only one invasion through it, that of Krishnadeva Raya in 1510. I was curious myself, for the older people of Palghat never mentioned such a thing in their ramblings and mutterings, though people like Tippu and Zamorin were frequently mentioned. So what was this all about?

Readers will recall that Albuquerque lost a humiliating battle to the Zamorin and had been tearing at his hair and his ‘waist long graying beard’ in search of answers. He did find answers eventually, and they can be connected to two matters of interest, namely the Arab horse trade and the kingdom of Vijayanagar with Krishna Deva Raya.

To set perspective, one must try to understand the relations between the Zamorin’s Malabar and the Vijayanagar kingdoms and also figure out what horses have to do with this story. Of the first, there is but little ‘formal’ information other than the brief record by Abdur Razzaq and offhand remarks by a number of historians that the relationship was cordial, but not a close knit one with embassies and visitors. Razzaq mentioned that Calicut was a tributary of Vijayanagar and that Zamorin accepted the Suzerianty of the Vijayanagar king, but as you may know he was disillusioned with Calicut and the Zamorin, so Abdur razzaq had a reason to say as will be clear in my previous article.

I do not however believe that the Zamorin considered the Vijayanagar king his suzerain. There are no records to confirm this or corroborating information. Mehrdad Shokoohy in his book on the Muslim architecture of S India, writes (based on his study of the Arabic work) Pg 71 that Razzak considers the ruler of Calicut, while independent from the king of Vijayanagar, showed him (Vijayanagar king) respect and maintained peaceful relations, wary of interference with the trade of Calicut, or even annexation.

Duarte Barbosa says that on account of the high mountains which separated Malabar from the main territory, the Vijayanagar kings could not conquer Malabar and thus Calicut was independent of Vijayanagar.

Duarte concurred, stating – beyond these mountains on the further side, the land is flat and level, while from the hither side, so difficult is the ascent that it is like mounting to the sky, and so rough is it that men can only pass through it by certain places and passes; wherefore the kings of Malabar are so independent, for had these mountains not stood in his way, the king of Narsyngua would ere now have subdued them, “inasmuch as the land of Malabar streteches from the mountains to the sea and for this reason they have no access to it.”

Longworth Mansell Dames in his footnote to Barbosa’s comments, affirms, stating that the success of Malabar in trade did give them a coveted position in the region and that Calicut was certainly independent when Albuquerque attacked it in 1510, but that he tried to induce the Raya to attack Calicut ‘for his kingdom touches that of Calicut and the two kings are not friendly’ (Commentaries II-73). However Dames also confirms that there is no record of any Raya war against Calicut and that the Raya’s fought only Muslim monarchies.

So in effect, we know that a possibly strained or diplomatic, but hands off relationship existed between Calicut and Vijayanagar with the Kolathiri princes sandwiched in between. As the Portuguese struggled to get a foothold in Malabar, they controlled a reasonable base in Cochin, but the incessant wars with the people of Malabar were becoming too much though they fetched some success on the seas and many failures on land. But let us get back to Portuguese ambitions.

Albuquerque had three items in focus, the lucrative horse trade, the very lucrative spice trade and finally victory over the heathen Muslim or Moor, whom he wanted to destroy with religious zeal. Colonization and statesmanship came later, I suppose, to his mind. He had already taken Ormuz in 1507 and that was where the horse trade was centered then. Cannanore was one destination for the horses, and here the Ali raja and the Kolathiri were supportive of the Portuguese as they disliked the Zamorin. Next he decided to go northwards for support. Goa was another aim, but Goa was to be wrested away (from Adil Khan of Bijapur) and here again, his enemy Adil Khan was Krishna Deva Raya’s enemy. So Albuquerque saw that he could possibly stir up some mud near the Vijayanagar king due to these common enemies, namely the Moors or Muslims.

Albuquerque finally decided to seek support from the Vijaynagar king. He went on to write a letter in the king’s name and dispatch it through Father Luiz, to the Krishna Deva Raya. Now was King Manuel of Portugal more interested in trade or fighting the moors of Malabar? Did he really support Albuquerque in becoming a statesman in Malabar using his name? A question for another day, for therein lies a subplot.

But before we follow Frei Luiz to Vijayanagar, we have to understand the equation involving horses. Continuous wars between the Bahmani sultanate of Bijapur and Hindu kingdom of Vijaynagar demanded frequent supplies of horses, which were imported through sea routes from Persia and Arabia. This trade was subjected to frequent raids by thriving bands of pirates based in the coastal cities of Western India.

Let me quote Harihariah Oruganti

Import of horses played a prominent part in the foreign trade. The effective demand for war-horses arose to meet the requirements of cavalry which formed an important wing of the army. The strength of the cavalry may be gauged from the observations of Fernao Nuniz, a Portuguese traveller "The King (Krishnadevaraya) every year buys thirteen thousand horses of Ormus, of which he chooses the best for his own stables and gives the rest to his captains...

He took them dead or alive at three for a thousand Pardaos, and of those that died at sea they (horse-merchants) brought him the tail only, and he paid for it just as if it had been alive". The animals were shipped from Arabia, Syria, Turkey and neighboring countries through the ports of Dufar, Bahrain and Ormus and were disembarked at Bathecala (Bhatkal – Mangalore), Cannanore and Goa. From the port-towns the animals were transported overland to Vijayanagara city where the sale and delivery was affected.

So as you see, these horses landed at the northern ports and were mainly needed by the Bijapur and Vijayanagar kings. As a Muslim ruler, Adil khan had better control over the incoming shipments. Now if Albuquerque were to defeat Adil khan and provide all the horses to Vijayanagar, he would have a partner in crime.

Note here that horses were never popular in the dense mountainous terrain of Malabar which was more suited to foot mounted hit & run style Nair guerilla warfare – after all horses need space to wheel and turn and gallop and brake and so on…it was ok on the plains, but not near the hills and forests which the people of Malabar never cleared then, or thankfully for that matter, now. Also the warfare based on ‘kalarippayattu’ was for foot based warriors, not mounted warriors who tarried and thrust and sliced and chopped. Horses in Malabar were for ceremonious occasions though some were used by the chiefs in later days during combat.

The Portuguese, decided to control the Arab's trade, with the Ormuz takeover. For his strategic position dominating the entrance to the Persian Gulf, Ormuz was one of the two strategic strongholds on the trade routes between the Arab world and Asia (the other being Aden near the strait of Babel Mandab). Ormuz was regarded by Albuquerque as the third key of the Portuguese Empire in Asia (the others two were Goa and Malacca).

Now an astute reader might wonder why so many thousands of horses were imported for decades. Were there so many battles and were so many horses killed? How come horse armor was never employed? The answer is quite funny, for the horses simply died due to wrong diet (like our friend Suleiman the Elephant in Europe – remember my story?)  They were fed all kinds of silly stuff they were not used to, such as boiled wheat, barley, rice, beans, flour, sugar, molasses, salt & ghee. In other words, rice dhal and ghee. Sometimes when grass was available (not real fodder grass, but wild grass) they got rice with boiled mutton and milk, much to the horror of Middle Eastern & western visitors. Oats was never cultivated or fed to Horses…Sadly these ‘bahari’ horses also suffered from the high humidity.

As a base on this side of the waters, Albuquerque chose Goa, in the territory of the Sultan of Bijapur, Yusuf Adil Shah. It had a good harbor and was also a center of shipbuilding. The sultan imported horses from Arabia for, like all the inland sultanates, he maintained his power against rivals with cavalry. Control of the horse trade could be used as a weapon. To fight Adil Shah, Albuquerque needed support and this came from a clever man Thimayya or Timoja, again a man of another story for another day.

And so Frei Luiz approached the Raya with a written request reading as follows (Commentaries II 74-77)

The King of Portugal commands me to render honor willing service to all the gentile kings of this land and of the whole of Malabar, and that they are to be well treated by me, neither am I to take their ships nor their merchandise; but I am to destroy the Moors (Muhammadans), with whom I wage incessant war, as I know he also does; wherefore I am prepared and ready to help him with the fleets and armies of the King, my Lord, whensoever and as often as he shall desire me to do so; and I likewise, for my part, expect that he will help on with his army, towns, harbors, and munitions, and with everything that I may require from his kingdom; and the ships which navigate to his ports may pass safely throughout all the Indian sea, and receive honor and good treatment at the hands of the fleets and fortresses of the King of Portugal,'

Albuquerque goes on to say-

'And so I intend to drive out of Calicut the Moors, who are the people that furnish the Zamorin with all the revenue that he requires for the expenses of war, and after this is over I shall give my attention forthwith to the affairs of Goa, wherein I can help in the war against the King of the Deccan.'

Albuquerque then adds that Ormuz now belongs to the King of Portugal, and that—

' the horses of Ormuz shall not be consigned except to Baticala [Bhatkal] or to any other port he (the Raja of Vijayanagar) pleases to point out where he can have them, and shall not go to the King of the Deccan, who is a Moor and his enemy.

It was while waiting for a reply that Albuquerque was forced to make an ill advised attack on Calicut forced by a young Coutinho in Jan 1510 about which I had written earlier.

Between June & Nov 1510, a number of attacks were launched by the Portuguese at Goa with Timoja’s support and towards the end of the year, after final success, he started the butchery of the Muslims there. The Zamorin apparently sued for peace, but Albuquerque wanted a fort in Calicut. While the rest of the story goes on in similar vein, how did the Raya’s get involved with this mess in Malabar? Did they reply the letter? Did they attack Calicut via Palghat as KV Krishna Ayyar stated? Portuguese and Arab records are clear that no answer was returned to Albuquerque and that the Raya cast a blind eye at it.

It was after smarting from the failure at Calicut and hopefully the incessant throbbing pain on his shoulder after the injury from Calicut that Albuquerque waited for the reply to the letter sent via the Friar Luiz to Vijayanagar with this new ‘Shakuni’ ploy. Ayyar says that the Rayar acceded to the request and that the resultant raid by the Raya was the only time Kerala was ever invaded through the Palghat gap, but he forgets Makhdoom Ali’s troops from Hyder’s entourage much later. He is possibly right there; for Hyder’s and Tipu’s troops came via Coimbatore to Palghat, not through Anamalai hills and the gap.

The war with the Rayas troops and the Zamorin’s 10,000 took place at Tharuvur, Tarur or Tharoor, a village near Alathur (The Tharoor dynasty was called Nedumpurayur which was later changed into Tarur or Taravur) but it was in those times the location of the Tharavur swaroopam, which was somewhat aligned to the Perumbadappu swaroopam or the Cochin royal family by marriage.

Now I will recount Ayyar’s own words

Krishnadeva invaded kerala in response to Albuquerque’s request. He sent a force through the Palghat gap. Marching through the territory of Sekhariverma, who were not well disposed towards the Zamorin, the invading forces erected a fort at Tarur (Taravur). Though Tarur did not belong to the Zamorin, it was on his frontier and he could not allow an enemy of Krishnadeva Raya’s resources and reputation to establish himself so close to his empire. He sent the famous 10,000, whom he might have even led in person, against Taravaur. Expelling the invaders and destroying their fort, the 10,000 seem to have even pursued them through the Palghat gap into Kongunad.

So we see an alliance of the Raya, Cochin and Tarur with the Portuguese against the Zamorin. Was this right or a flight of fantasy?

Ayyar refers the Tharoor battle to Keralolpatti Malayalam– pages 50-56; however, I could find no mentions of a 1510 battle there and I did not have access to Kareem’s edited Palghat Gazetteer of 1976.

But was Ayyar right in his accounts? Well let us refer to some Keralolpatti versions and the Malabar Manual by Logan. Interestingly the very pages quoted by Ayyar refer to the very famous attack by Krishnadeva rayar (of Anakundi) through the Anamalai territory around the 7th or 8th century AD at a time when the unity of the 64 villages was shattered. The Perumal was not successful in taking the fort the first time. This was the battle where the Udaya varaman escorted by the young Manavikramas who created the Zamorin dynasty earned their colors. The Raya’s army did come down and build a fort at Taravur in Palghat. It was the 36th year of Cheraman perumal’s reign. This was when Manichan and Vikraman were deputed by the Cheraman perumal, who took the fort from the Rayar after a 3 day fight. The youths were assisted by 10,000 hand marked people from Polanad who then became the 10,000 Nair’s of the Zamorin ( It is a long and interesting story – If somebody is interested, I will quote the English translation by T Madhava Menon some day).

So as one can infer, the events of a long gone era crept into later years of the Ayyar history book, possibly by error. Once could also assume that an identical attack took place in 1510 and the Zamorin retaliated in identical fashion, if only this was cross referenced in other written works, but alas, I could not find any.

Ah! If only I could talk to KV Krishna Ayyar, he was around in our village in Pallavur, leading a retired life during my younger days, but alas, I was not interested in history then or these matters. The slightly eccentric master historian Ayyar walking around with the dhoti tied around his neck near the agraharam would have gladly answered me and hand corrected the limited circulation book had he been wrong (and as he already has in some other pages of the copy I have, which he gifted my uncle)..

Aftermath – The Vijayanagar king delayed his reply for two reasons, one he did not want to give away access to Bhatkal to Albuquerque and secondly he did not trust Albuquerque who actually opened negotiations with Adil Shah at the same time. Now why did Albuquerqe do that? Because Frei Luiz warned him not to trust Timoja who wanted to get his back on Adil Shah and had offered Goa to the Raya in the past. As time was going by, Frei Luiz do Salvador got killed under mysterious circumstances, possibly an assassination by a Turkish assassin employed by Adil Shah. It was a very muddled situation and the relationship between the 4 people is very complex, one played against the other. It was also Albuquerques plan to ‘dismantle the port of Bhatkal’ so that the horse trade was moved to Goa & kept under control. Remember also that this was before the firearms trade got into the picture. He believed that Bhatkal had no other reason to exist. Now does that signify how and why many Malabar ports faded away in history or why the port of Goa and some others had significance due to the military aspect and the prospect of alliance with one or the other controlling kings?

As the story went, Albuquerque at Goa indeed signed a treaty by the end of 1510 with the Vijayanagar Raya and the Zamorin, but he retaliated by procrastinating at length on the Raya’s requests just as the Raya had done some time before.

But then, as Ayyar inferred that these things were just not right, the way the Portuguese went about doing things– by saying aptly ‘in a climate of war, trade cannot blossom it can only whither’.

Author’s note March 2011-03-11

Finally I got a hold of Kareem’s records of Palghat and the details of the Rayar attack.
Upon Portuguese request, Krishna Deva Raya the renowned ruler of this dynasty sent his army under his general’s Ramapayya and Devapayya. They were helped by the Tarur Swarupam who were allied to Cochin. But the Zamorin could easily expel the Vijayanagar soldiers after a three day fight and destroy the palace of the Palghat rulers. Krishna Iyyer had previously added - The Kuthiravattam Nayar (deputizing the Zamorin) defeated the Badagas and pursued them beyond the Anamalai hills.

Kareem quotes this from the Ernakulam Archives, Series 1 # 166/VIII dated 12-2-968 (1794AD)

Tail notes

1. Some historians feel that the Tharavur battle actually involved a Pandyon king, not the Anakundi Raya
2. I was originally planning to cover this aspect in another article, but it would be incorrect not to mention it for it touches on the core of this topic. Now most of you would have read the comments about the unreliability of content in the Keralolpatti and one of the oft cited anomalies is the Krishna Deva Raya attack set so early into the past, at a time when there was no Krishna Deva Raya or Vijayanagara kingdom. Raya ruled between 1509-1529.So Ayyar may have been left with two venues, either to cite Keralolpatti, but not to mention the anomaly for reasons best known to him or to mention the Rayar attack as it may have actually happened in 1510 but cross reference it to Keralolpatti. Gundert opines that the Rayar mentioned in the Keralolpatti in the 8th century was an Ikkeri Nayak..

A History of Kerala – KV Krishna Ayyar
Travel and Ethnology in the Renaissance: Joan-Pau RubiƩs
The Political Economy of Commerce: Sanjay Subrahmanyam
Asia in the making of Europe: The century of discovery - Donald Frederick Lach
The Hindus: an alternative history - Wendy Doniger
Malabar Manual –Logan
Keralolpatti - Gundert
The commentaries of the great Afonso Dalboquerque Walter de Gray Birch
Albuquerque - Henry Morse Stephens
The Book of Duarte Barbosa- DAMES, Mansel Longworth

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