Portuguese in India
The European power Britain colonised India for more than 200 years. But, from Europe, it was not British people that arrived in India first rather, it was the Portuguese. The first person from Europe who discovered the sea route from Europe to India was Vasco De Gama.
Vasco De Gama was an explorer from Portugal. The sea route he discovered connected the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. Thus, trade between Europe and the Indian subcontinent became easier.
Vasco da Gama reached India on the 20th of May, 1498. The first place he landed was at Calicut in the Malabar Coast. There, he set up trade and met with the ruler of that area. After much deliberation, the ruler of Calicut agreed to give Vasco da Gama some concessions over trading rights.
Vasco da Gama spent his time in Calicut, bought and traded many Indian goods. He earned huge profits and succeeded to secure a trading route. Thus, months of his time spent in exploring the vast sea was successful. Vasco da Gama earned huge profits from trading with the affluent region of Calicut.
After Vasco da Gama, Portuguese man Pedro Álvares Cabral went to India on the way to Brazil on the 13th of September, 1500. He negotiated with the ruler of Calicut and was successful in setting up a factory there. Later, he met with the local rulers of Cochin and successfully negotiated and signed several treaties.
Later, the Portuguese traders managed to construct a Portuguese fort called the Pulicat Fort in 1502. This couldn’t have been possible without the then King of the Vijayanagara Empire. In the same year, Vasco da Gama travelled to India again and traded and negotiated with the local Indian rulers for a year.
Later in 1505, the Portuguese ruler decided to assign a person to India. In the same year Francisco de Almeida was made the Viceroy of India. He was tasked with the construction of four forts. These were set up at Anjediva Island, Cochin, Quilon and Cannanore.
Francisco de Almeida managed to construct these forts with the help of local rulers and people. The local rulers were friendly to the new guests who had come to trade with them. Francisco de Almeida himself stayed in Cochin and extended his influence there.
Later, Portuguese forces were challenged by the united forces of the Mameluk Egyptian ruler and Gujarat Sultanate. While the Portuguese forces won, Francisco de Almeida died in battle
After his death, the Portuguese crown decided to appoint a new viceroy for their territories in India. For this purpose, Afonso de Albuquerque was selected to succeed the late Francisco de Almeida. He arrived in India with fleets of soldiers and forces.
It was their aim to have control over the local ruler of Calicut who was called the Zamorin. Many attempts were made by Afonso de Albuquerque to have the Zamorin killed. In 1510, Afonso de Albuquerque established a permanent settlement at Velha Goa after defeating the Sultan of Bijapur on behalf of the Vijayanagara ruler.
Later, Velha Goa became the capital of Portuguese territories in India. The office of the Portuguese Viceroy was situated here.
The Portuguese also had a hand in introducing and spreading Christianity in South India. They built many churches. The first one was built in Madras in 1516. The Portuguese also continued their expansionist agenda. They fought many wars and acquired new territories.
In 1526, Lopo Vaz de Sampaio was appointed as the Viceroy. He brought the province of Mangalore under the possession of the Portuguese territories in India. He also worked to increase Portuguese power over South India. Goa soon became the hub and headquarters for Portuguese in India.
Goa was even called the ‘Rome of the East’. Bombay was formerly under the control of the Portuguese. It was given to Charles II as dowry of Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza. Charles II gave the territory of Bombay to the East India Company for a nominal rent. Thus, Bombay became a settlement of the British East India Company.
Though Portuguese rulers wanted to continue their expansionist policies, they were kept in check by the presence of the British East India Company who had their own agenda. In the year of 1843, the Portuguese decided to shift their capital in India from Velha Goa to Panjim. Panjim was later renamed to Velha Goa. The Portuguese government in India began to function from this new capital.
There was another practice which became prominent. Many Órfãs d’ El- Rei were sent to India to be married off to and serve the Portuguese settlers and natives who had a high status and helped the Portuguese settlers. These Órfãs d’ El- Rei were orphan girls who were sent to India.
This was the history of the Portuguese in India before Indian Independence from British colonial regime. Goa remained the territory of the Portuguese throughout. By the time of Independence, the influence of Portuguese culture over South India was quite evident, especially in the coastal areas.
In 1947, India became an independent republic. It became finally free. The British left India but, the Portuguese refused to do so. This was not well received by the Indian people and government.
In 1954, ‘The United Front of Goans’ attacked the Portuguese territory in Dadra and took control of it. Later, Azad Gomantak Dal succeeded in taking control over the territory of Nagar Haveli. There were agitations all around. It was evident that the Indian people wanted to be free from foreign rule.
Meanwhile, people in the territories of the Portuguese continued their protests and agitations to make the Portuguese leave India. These were done peacefully, as is the intrinsic nature of India. But, the Portuguese were having none of it. Many leaders of these protests were detained and the agitations were forcefully supressed.
The Indian Government decided to take action. They wanted the Portuguese to leave the Republic of India. The government suspended all diplomatic ties with the Portuguese government.
Till 1961, the government of India decided to wait and see. It wanted the Portuguese to leave India and tried to highlight its atrocities to the international forum. But, this yielded no results. Finally, the government decided that it had enough.
In December 1961, the government of India sent its military forces to the Portuguese territories in India to attack and liberate them. These territories included the regions of Daman and Diu, Goa, etc. In the confrontation that followed, Portuguese forces lost completely.
It was a decided battle really. India had the full force of its huge army with good fire power, while her opponents, the Portuguese forces had only meagre resources. The Portuguese forces finally accepted defeat.
There was no choice. An Instrument of Surrender was signed on the 19th of December, 1961. Like the British, the Portuguese finally left India. India got back its territories. The European colonisers were finally defeated.
However, the Portuguese government did not accept India’s sovereignty which was finally accepted only until later. Finally in 1974, both the governments decided to forget animosity.
Diplomatic relations were again set up. But, the government of Portugal still continued to give the people of Portuguese India citizenship. Currently, both India and Portugal share friendly relations.
This was the history of Portuguese in India. 450 years of Portuguese rule did leave its mark on India. When one goes to Daman and Dui, Goa, etc., one can still see the remnants of the former Portuguese rule.
Before and even after Independence, many Indian people went to Portugal to live there as its citizens. Thus, Indian culture too influenced Portugal. In fact, the current Prime Minister of Portugal, António Luís Santos da Costa, is of Indian descent.