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PARAVAS AND THE PORTUGUESE


PARAVAS AND THE PORTUGUESE

A STUDY OF PORTUGUESE STRATEGY AND
ITS IMPACT ON AN INDIAN SEAFARING COMMUNITY

- KENNETH MCPHERSON,
INDIAN OCEAN CENTRE, CURTIN UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, PERTH, AUSTRÁLIA.

IN 1535, a delegation of leading members of the Hindu Parava fisher community of the Tirunelveli coast (at the southern extreme of the Coromandel Coast) approached the Portuguese in Cochin seeking an alliance. The Paravas were engaged in a bitter economic contest with the Muslim community of Kayal for control of the valuable Kayal pearl fisheries and the chank beds of the Straits of Manaar. Perhaps because of the already evident anti-Muslim sentiment of the Portuguese the Paravas saw a chance to trounce the Muslims of Kayal. In return for assistance in driving the Kayalars (1) from the disputed pearl and chank fisheries the Paravas offered to convert to Roman Catholicism.

Eagerly seizing the Parava offer, the Portuguese began a series of seaborne attacks upon the Kayalar late in 1535 which were to make them dominant along the Pescaria, or Fishery Coast, until ousted by the Dutch in 1658. Control of the coast not only gave the Portuguese access to the proceeds of the pearl and chank fisheries, but even more importantly it strengthened their strategic position in southern India, facilitating their economic activities in Cochin, Sri Lanka and on the southern Coromandel Coast. Access to ports on the Fishery Coast enabled the Portuguese, in theory at least, to better police the sea lanes linking Cochin to SriLanka and the Coromandel Coast. In addition, control of the coast enabled the Portuguese to undermine a thriving Muslim seafaring community astride a sea lane vitally important to Portuguese economic and strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region, as well as providing new manpower resources to assist in the struggle to control Sri Lanka (2).

Whatever the reasons for Portuguese involvement on the Fishery Coast it had a profound effect upon the fortunes and history of the Christian Parava community. A study of Portuguese-Parava relations is long overdue for, on at least two counts, it can provide us with new perspectives relating to Portuguese activity in the Indian Ocean region. Such a study can provide us with both a micro-view of Portuguese maritime strategy out of Cochin, and can help open up the largely unexplored territory of the reaction of South Asian societies to the intrusion of the Portuguese.

This paper does not set out to provide a detailed study of either of these two areas. The writer does not possess the skills necessary to research the large body of Portuguese and missionary material available for the period 1535 to 1658. It is hoped, however, that by drawing upon English-language secondary sources, a case can be argued that skilled historians of the Portuguese in South Asia should focus their research more sharply on areas beyond Cochin, Goa and other Portuguese strongholds, to gain a more comprehensive view of the intentions of the Portuguese and their long term impact upon indigenous peoples.

The idea for this paper came from the discovery of Patrick Roche’s study of the Parava, Fishermen of the Coromandel (3). In this work Roche examines the internal structure of Parava society, but by extending his arguments it is possible to suggest further areas for study which will add to our knowledge of both the Estado da India and South Asia.

This paper raises more questions than answers, given our present knowledge of the relationship between the Paravas and Portuguese. But the vast archival legacy of the Estado da Índia, and the range of disciplinary tools now available to historians of the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean region should provide fresh and innovative studies of the era.

Whilst there has been a tendency amongst historians of the Portuguese in India to relegate the Paravas to the ranks of a low caste fisher community, the image of Paravas portrayed by Roche forces us to reassess this description (4).

Roches (5) defines the Parava as a jati (caste) located mainly on the coast of the present-day Tirunelveli district, and to a lesser extent on the Ramnad coast – both in the modern Indian state of Tamil Nadu – and in Kerala. Traditionally the Parava were fishermen and seafarers whose economic life centred upon a range of settlements located around thirteen major towns, urs, which before the advent of the Portuguese functioned as ports. The most important of these settlements were seven major ports, yelu urs, the largest of which was Tuticorin. The jati had a variety of leaders ranked in accordance to the size and economic importance of the particular Parava settlement. Large settlements, specifically the seven yelu urs, were led by patangatimo-mór (or jati talaivans) (caste heads and their deputies), whilst less important settlements were under the leadership of headmen called patangatims (Tamil pattankatti). In the pre-Portuguese period the extent of the authority of these leaders is not clear. The positions do not appear to have been hereditary or clearly defined which would indicate a fairly loosely defined authority structure (6).

The economic life of the jati was centred upon the sea. It would appear that most Parava were involved in fishing and with the collection of pearls and chank shells. As most Parava lived in small seaside hamlets they were undoubtedly poor fisher folk dependent upon the primitive catamaran constructed of two or three logs and manned by father and son crew. Within the larger Hindu community such Paravas would obviously have had low economic and ritual status. But the Parava jati was not confined to the economy of the catamaran. In the yelu urs, Paravas manned and sailed the vellam, a much more substantial plank built-vessel with sails and a crew of five or six. It was this vessel which was central to the exploitation of the pearl and chank fisheries. Were Paravas involved with the vellam held in the same low social and economic esteem as their fellow jati members dependent upon the catamaran? Roche does not tackle this question directly, but a brief consideration of the processes of pearl fishing would indicate a more complex social and economic life for the jati than the simple tag of fishermen would indicate.

Roche notes that the traditional involvement of the Parava with pearl and chank fishing defined the economic function of the jati. However, he does not note the very difficult and variable nature of pearl fishing. Pearl fishing seasons were extremely variable in timing and profit as the Portuguese, Dutch and British were to discover. There were long periods, from 1618 to 1634 for example, when the pearl banks failed, so it seems unlikely that the vellam was utilised solely in pursuit of the pearl (7). The vellam was primarily a trading vessel, and jati history and the comments of travellers such as Marco Polo indicate that the ports on the Fishery Coast were centres of maritime trade as early as the thirteenth century. Whilst the catamaran was a symbol of low economic, and perhaps low social, status, the vellam indicates that some Parava had much higher economic status based on substantial mercantile interests. Certainly Parava leaders laid claim to a proud mercantile past and kshatriyastatus, but the indications are that by the fifteenth century the economic base of the jati was under siege.

The problem for the Paravas was associated with the rise of Muslim mercantile and seafaring groups along the Coromandel Coast. From Nagapattinam to Tuticorin, groups of indigenous converts – Navayats, Marakayyars and Kayalars (8) – were, by the fifteenth century, links in the great chain of Indian Muslim mercantile groups which dominated sea lanes from the Arabian Sea to the Strait of Melaka. On the Tirunelveli coast, the Kayalar, Parava converts to Islam, and other Muslim groups were rapidly undermining the economic base of the Parava jati by intruding into their pearling and other maritime activities. The position of local Muslim groups was further strengthened by their links with Gujarati Muslim merchants and seafarers, which gave them access to a wide range of commodities eagerly sought by land-based powers such as the Hindu rulers of Madurai and Venad.

According to Roche, the Kayalar-Parava struggle centred upon the pearl and chank fisheries. Certainly both pearls and chank shells were valuable commodities with regular markets in China and Bengal, but, given the variable nature of pearling and references to Kayalar «fleets», it would seem reasonable to argue further than Roche does, that the Kayalar-Parava contest was more broadly based and incorporated a struggle for the carrying trade along the Coromandel Coast and across the Straits of Manaar to Sri Lanka.

Certainly the contest was bitter enough to turn the Parava towards the Portuguese in Cochin in a desperate bid to preserve the corporate economy of their jati, just as Malabar Christian communities «had utilised religion and conversion as a crutch to win Portuguese support against Hindu and Mapilla traders» (9). The central figure in this move was João da Cruz, a Parava patangatimo-mór and merchant who had visited Lisbon. Upon his return, in the hope of getting a share of the lucrative Coromandel horse trade which was dominated by the Portuguese, da Cruz offered his services as a «spiritual broker» to bring his community into the Portuguese fold. João de Barros, writing in 1539-1540, referred to a Parava delegation which visited the Jesuit college in Lisbon some years previously, so the indications are that the Parava initiative was quite deliberate and well-planned (10).

João de Barros was bound to win widespread support within the Parava community if he could restore the jati’seconomic fortunes. In turn the Portuguese no doubt welcomed his overtures, as skirmishes between them and Coromandel Muslim seamen had escalated during the early 1500s as each side contested control of local sea lanes.

In 1535, da Cruz led a Parava delegation to Cochin to negotiate an agreement with the Portuguese. In return for a promise of conversion, a Portuguese fleet under Pero Vaz de Amaral arrived offthe Fishery Coast in December 1535. De Amaral immediately launched an attack on Muslim shipping to remove the economic threat to the Parava. Early in the next year, Parava leaders moved to keep their part of the bargain by leading thousands of their followers to mass baptisms at the various yelu urs, and within a few months some 20,000 baptisms had taken place (11). In 1542, Admiral Martin crushed a large Muslim fleet, permanently removing the Muslim threat to Parava seafarers, and in the same year the Jesuits arrived on the Fishery Coast to confirm the nascent Christianity of the Paravas.

Portuguese Motivations and Rule

At one level it is easy to argue that the major concern of the Portuguese on the Fishery Coast was souls. The eagerness of the Portuguese to gain the accession of the Paravas to Christianity, the conscious introduction of the Jesuits after the first conversions had taken place, and the initial close liaison between Jesuits and the Portuguese authorities would indicate a concern for the souls of the Parava, yet is this interpretation too simplistic and does it mask a more complex series of objectives?

At the core of Portuguese interest in the Fishery Coast was a concern for the overall strategic interests of the Estado da Índia. Along the western coast of India the great commercial rivals of the Portuguese were the Gujaratis, Both Hindu and Muslim, and it was the Gujaratis who were involved in the Kayalar pearl trade as local Muslims edged the Paravas out. The horse trade was also particularly important along the Tirunelveli coast, where it appears that there was a business arrangement between the Hindu raja of Venad, local Muslims and Gujaratis (12). Obviously, if the Portuguese were able to establish a presence on the Fishery Coast they would at least curtail the activities of Muslim traders and seafarers, their prime commercial rivals. But, as they had found along the coast of western India, there was in reality no substitute for the Hindu or Muslim merchant or sailor who was vital to the running of the Portuguese commercial empire. However, on the Fishery Coast they were presented with the opportunity of gaining a Christian mercantile and seafaring substitute for the detested Muslim (13). In this sense the conversion of the Parava presented the Portuguese with a unique opportunity.

Given the chronic manpower shortage experienced by the Portuguese it was impossible for them to construct a purely Portugueserun commercial empire in the Indian Ocean. Collaboration with non-Christians was forced upon them, but on the Fishery Coast they were presented with the opportunity to collaborate with a Christian community – indeed a Christian community that was Roman Catholic and not aligned to a suspect sect as was the case on the Malabar coast.

The strategic importance of the Fishery Coast to the Portuguese was emphasised by their tenuous position further north along the Coromandel Coast at São Tomé de Maliapur. In 1521, the Portuguese built a church there around which a commercial settlement grew. Portuguese interest in São Tomé (or Mylapore as it was later known) centred upon the local cloth industry which provided valuable exports to Melaka, Pegu, Sumatra and China. Until the arrival of the Portuguese this trade had been in the hands of Hindu and Muslim groups, and if the Portuguese were to achieve their commercial objectives it was necessary for them to break into this trade. The Portuguese official position at São Tomé was never strong so it was imperative that the vital sea lanes between Cochin and the Coromandel Coast be secured as best as possible (14). To this end the Fishery Coast was central to any plans to promote the economic and political interests of the Estado da Índia eastward from Cochin.

Undoubtedly for some Portuguese there was a genuine concern for the souls of the Parava, and for the reputed wealth of the pearl and chank fisheries. However, it is difficult to argue that the desire to gain converts was the prime motive for the Portuguese, just as closer scrutiny of the pearl fisheries does not support the contention that they were a vital component in the Portuguese decision to intervene on the Fishery Coast.

Certainly, once in control of the Fishery Coast the Portuguese were concerned to raise revenue from the pearl and chank fisheries, yet, as pointed out, returns from this source were notoriously unstable. In addition, as K. S. Mathew has noted, there is little evidence that pearls figured to any great extent in official Portuguese commercial statistics, although it has to be admitted that his figures relate to a period when the pearl fisheries were under the control of local Muslims and their Gujarati partners (15). 

It can therefore be argued that the situation on the Fishery Coast was one where the interests of God and Mammon went hand in hand. The introduction of the Jesuits in 1542 was a deliberate move to anchor the conversion of the Parava, as was the proposal seriously considered by the Jesuits, and to a lesser extent the Portuguese authorities, to establish a Christian Parava kingdom on the Fishery Coast, thus entrenching a client kingdom along a major line of Portuguese communication. But the Portuguese official presence on the coast was weak and soon the Jesuits began to work to achieve their own temporal goals. This led to conflict with both the Estado da Índia and local political authorities such as the Nayaka of Madurai. Until the Dutch took control of the coast in the mid-seventeenth century, this tension was a constant factor in life on the coast, not dissimilar to the situation further to the north where private Portuguese enterprise at São Tomé, Nagapattinam and Porto Novo was often at odds with the power pretensions of Goa and local rulers.

Initially the Fishery Coast was vital to the Portuguese if they were to secure sea routes eastwards from Cochin. Throughout the sixteenth century, Cochin was a central cog in a network of sea lanes linking the major Portuguese commercial centres at Melaka and Colombo into the commercial structure of the Estado da Índia. But Cochin, Colombo and Melaka flourished not only on the ability of the Portuguese to control contiguous hinterlands – not evident in the case of Melaka – but, equally importantly, on the Portuguese ability to enter the trading world of the Indian Ocean region and to exercise some control over major seaways. In pursuit of these latter objectives, control of the Fishery Coast ideally permitted control of the Straits of Manaar and kept access open to cloth exporting ports on the Coromandel Coast. But once Jaffna had been secured it would seem that direct control of the Fishery Coast was considered less important by Goa, and increasingly the Jesuits were left to their own devices. In 1605, however, the Jesuits were expelled from the coast for 16 years by the authorities at Goa, due to suspicions over the declining returns from the pearls fisheries and disturbances caused by their interference in the affairs of local Catholics. Their return in the 1620s led to more social disturbances amongst the Parava, and in the 1630s Goa made a last attempt to secure direct control over the coast and the more distant settlements at São Tomé, Nagapattinam and Porto Novo.

By the early seventeenth century the Portuguese on the Fishery Coast and in the more northerly settlements on the Coromandel Coast were under considerable pressure from other Europeans – the Dutch and the English – who were carving out a presence in the area. By the 1630s, Goa was determined to reestablish its authority over the Portuguese settlements from the Fishery Coast to São Tomé, but it was too late. They lacked sufficient resources and in 1658, Nagapattinam, the most important settlement on the Coromandel Coast, fell to the Dutch. In the same year the Dutch occupied the Fishery Coast and Sri Lanka, and in 1663 they took Cochin. The remaining Portuguese settlements at São Tomé and Porto Novo also passed out of the orbit of Goa altogether by the end of the 1660s (16).

Paravas and Portuguese

The argument that strategic considerations were paramount for the Portuguese in their relationship with the Parava, is bolstered by the nature of that relationship. In the years immediately following the conversion of the Parava the Portuguese moved deliberately to consolidate the commercial and strategic position of the Parava. Because Portuguese power was so restricted on the Fishery Coast it was decided to relocate the Paravas into the seven yelu urs or major ports which were to function «as pivotal centres of security, trade [and] educational and religious activity and were fortified by the Portuguese» (17). Almost immediately after this, various schemes were mooted to achieve even greater security for the Paravas by removing them to offshore islands where a Parava Christian kingdom would be established.

Such immigration schemes foundered upon the strength of Parava attachment to their ancestral lands. The yelu urs, however, increased in population, with the port of Tuticorin in particular benefiting from the consolidation of Parava settlement. In the 1620s, under the leadership of their Jesuit priests, some Parava communities were persuaded to settle on the west coast of Sri Lanka as part of the Portuguese scheme to secure the northernmost Sri Lanka port of Jaffna which came finally under their direct control in 1619. In this instance the Paravas were quite clearly being used to create a loyal community on a very sensitive flank of the Portuguese sphere of influence bounded by Cochin, Colombo and Jaffna.

Obviously the Parava were being used as part of a continually evolving Portuguese strategy to protect and expand their commercial empire. To an extent they were pawns, but they were willing pawns and a functioning part of the administrative, defensive and commercial infrastructure of the Estado da India. Given the already noted chronic shortage of manpower amongst the Portuguese, they were not in a position to exercise close control over the Parava on the Fishery Coast so they were forced to find surrogate means of binding the community to them.

One obvious avenue of influence and control was through religion. In the 1540s, the Portuguese authorities had worked closely with the Jesuits to entrench Christianity, and hence the authority of the parish priest, amongst the Paravas. This move was enormously successful insofar as it wrought the Paravas into a model orthodox Roman Catholic community. Undoubtedly this was due immediately to the great skills of Jesuits such as St. Francis Xavier, but in the long term it was confirmed by Parava converts such as Tomé da Cruz, who embraced the Portuguese language with such fervour that in 1554 he translated the Catechism of João de Barros into Tamil (18). 

The church militant on the Fishery Coast wove a Catholicism that bound the Parava initially very close to the interests of the Estado da Índia. But the Jesuits were not pawns of the Portuguese Crown and in the early seventeenth century they were expelled for some years from the Fishery Coast for helping their parishioners avoid some of the more unreasonable pearl levies raised by the Portuguese authorities (19). In addition, there is some evidence that «Jesuit interference in succession disputes to the posts of patangatim and patangatim-mór. .. exacerbated» tensions between the Jesuits and leaders of the Parava community(20).

Central to the Portuguese plans for the Pescaria were the seven yelu urs which they turned into fortified ports. Of necessity the Portuguese presence in these ports was limited, so the running of the ports depended upon Parava leadership. It was in this area that the impact of the Portuguese upon the structure of Parava society appears to have been greatest.

Prior to the coming of the Portuguese, the position of the patangatim-mór was far from clear in terms of authority over the jati. The patangatim-mórs and the patangatims were undoubtedly men of influence, but it appears that their formal authority was limited. However, the arrival of the Portuguese ushered in changes in the power structure within the Parava jati. Quite simply, the Portuguese needed to deal with a hierarchically structured group for they were forced to delegate authority to chosen partners within the Parava jati.

The obvious partners as far as the Portuguese were concerned were the presumed power brokers within the Parava jati, the patangatim-mórs and the patangatims. Their earliest contact with the Parava had been through a patangatim-mór, João da Cruz, the «spiritual broker» who had facilitated the conversion of the Parava. As his reward da Cruz had entered the commercial world of the Estado da Índia, and had been invested with the mantle of Portuguese authority within his jati. With the fortification of the yelu urs and the establishment of churches in lesser Parava settlements, Portuguese administrators and priests increasingly relied upon and bolstered the authority of the «natural leaders» of the jati. Such positions tended to become hereditary, office holders wore gold crosses and chains as symbols of their new religious status, and were called «Senhor Senhor Don» to emphasise their elevated social status.

At an obvious level the Portuguese were changing the power structure within the community. In later centuries the British were to do much the same when they sought to impose a fiscal and social ordering on rural India. But the result of Portuguese activity upon the structure of indigenous society was markedly different from that of the British.

The Portuguese destruction of the commercial power of local Muslims reinforced the economic basis of sections of the Parava jati, not only in relation to the pearl and chank fisheries, but also in relation to the mercantile function of the vellam. In addition, the conversion of the Parava to Christianity re-emphasised jati boundaries in relation to the contiguous non-Christian population. Finally, the creation of a more powerful and hierarchical jatileadership provided yet another means for jati consolidation, and created a clearly defined group within the jatiwith an economic and power interest in maintaining a caste identity and solidarity. Ironically, the Portuguese intervention in the affairs of the Fishery Coast in the 1530s and 1540s probably saved the Parava jati from precipitous social and economic disintegration. Equally, the intervention created new divisions within the jati: at one end of the social and economic power spectrum were vellam owners (champanottis), «at the other the pearl divers, both of the same caste but with a vast social and economic gulf between them» (21).

As Arasaratnam has pointed out, the end result of Portuguese intervention on the Fishery Coast was that the Parava «entrenchedthemselves in the trade of that region, separated themselves from Hindu Paravas and competed more strongly with the Muslims [and] in the seventeenth century… expanded from coastal trading to brokerage in the interior and became cloth merchants» (22).

After the Portuguese

In 1658, after they had expelled the Portuguese from Sri Lanka and before their seizure of Cochin, the Dutch captured the fortified yelu urs on the Fishery Coast. The Dutch entered into an agreement with the Nayaka of Madurai for exclusive rights over the pearl fisheries, but as these had not been profitable for years it is doubtful if they counted for much in Dutch considerations (23). What the Dutch wanted was jurisdiction over the Fishery Coast to further wider commercial objectives. The Coromandel Coast was a source of cloth for the country trade to the east, and a market for commodities from Sri Lanka and the Malabar coast. In strategic terms too, control of the Fishery Coast was vital to the protection of the recently acquired Dutch interests in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in southern India.

The yelu urs were occupied, the Parava settlers were expelled from Sri Lanka, and the Jesuits were banished from Dutch territory. Despite legal proscriptions, however, the Paravas proved obdurate in their Catholicism which was too central to their jati identity to be abandoned. The Dutch wore in fact forced, like the Portuguese before them, to utilise the skills of the Paravas.

The Fishery Coast was in many ways more commercially important to the Dutch than to the Portuguese. In their economic exploitation of Sri Lanka and of the whole «country trade» system, the Dutch wore more efficient than the Portuguese. But their efficiency was to a large extent posited upon the collaboration of indigenous commercial and maritime groups. Once their control over Sri Lanka and Cochin had been establisFed, the Dutch began to actively trade a large range of commodities across and through the Gulf of Manaar as well as exploiting the pearl and chank fisheries.

Elephants and areca nuts from Sri Lanha, pepper from Malabar and goods from the Indies were traded by the Dutch along the Coromandel Coast in return for textiles, and in this trade the Paravas found a niche. Pearling appears to have declined in importance for the Dutch (24), but the Dutch shortage of manpowor forced them to the same social and political compromises with the Paravas as the Portuguese. If the Dutch were to neutralise the Fishery Coast as a potential base for enemies and to utilise the wider commercial possibilities of the yelu urs, they needed Parava commercial and managerial skills. This pragmatic approach in time allowed for the return of the Jesuits who were restored in 1714 to their churches in Dutch territory. Choosing between two evils: on the one hand the Catholic Paravas who were small-scale merchants, on the other the much more formidable Hindu Chetty merchants and Muslim Chulia shipowners, the Dutch absorbed the Parava into their system and concentrated upon attempting to exclude the Chottys and Chulias. Not only were the Paravas permitted to flaunt their Catholicism, but in the 1740s the Dutch handed over complete control of the pearl fisheries to them and even offered protection from land-based powers. The social and economic dynamics of the Fishery Coast were such that it was logical for the Paravas «to preserve themselves into the eighteenth century as a ‘Christian caste in Hindu society’» (25).

In 1825, the Fishery Coast finally passed into the hands of the British. British commercial interests were going to place AngloParava relations on much the same level initially as earlier relationships between Paravas and Europeans. In the years that followed, the changes in the Parava jati which had been initiated by contact with the Portuguese were confirmed. The economic world in which the Parava lived changed greatly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but the seaLaring and mercantile traditions of the Parava stood them in good stead, and they found a niche in the maritime economy of modern India when the vellam developed into the larger deep-sea sailing dhoni which now flourishes out of ports such as Tuticorin.

Conclusion

A study of the Parava and the Portuguese has potentially much to tell us about two neglected aspects of Portuguese history in the Indian Ocean Region. At one level the Portuguese occupation of the Fishery Coast reveals the complexity of Portuguese motivation in the region, particularly Portuguese strategic motivations. At another level a study of Portuguese-Parava relations reveals the need for a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of the social history of the Estado da Índia.

Although Patrick Roche’s study of the Parava is historically and geographically restricted to the community itself, it nevertheless suggests fascinating possibilities for new approaches to the history of the Portuguese in India: both from the angle of exploring the nature of Portuguese activity, and from the point of view of the indigenous peoples who came into contact with the Portuguese. Portuguese intervention not only saved some sections of the Parava community from economic decline, but created a new caste with its own internal economic and social dynamics moulded by the economic forces unleashed by the processes of intervention.

A study of the Parava and of the Fishery Coast would also reveal more intimate detail of Portuguese strategy, with particular respect to the acquisition of fortified strongpoints to sustain their commercial empire. Portuguese activity on the Fishery Coast, and indeed later Dutch activity on the coast, is often too readily explained by the attraction of the pearl fisheries. On closer examination the pearl fisheries were but one of a variety of commercial attractions, all of which were arguably less important than the strategic considerations of dominating the Gulf of Manaar (26).


NOTES

(1) The term Kayalar is somewhat ambiguous. The Tamil-speaking Muslim community comprised four main groups: Marakayars, Labbais, Rawther and Kayalar. The latter two groups were generally poor pedlars, whilst the other two groups were prosperous merchants with extensive shipping interests. In terms of Muslim-Portuguese conflict in the area during this period it is most likely that the seagoing Muslim interests the Portuguese wished to curtail were controlled by Muslim groups other than the Kayalar.

(2) Sanjay SUBRAHMANYAM, The Portuguese Empire in Asia 1500-1700. London, 1993, p. 263.

(3) P. ROCHE, Fishermen of the Coromandel. A Social Study of the Paravas of the Coromandel. New Delhi, 1984.

(4) M. N. PEARSON, The Portuguese in India. Cambridge, 1987, p. 12.

(5) All references in this article to the Paravas are taken from Roche unless otherwise stated.

(6) See also Sanjay SUBRAHMANYAM, op. Cit.

(7) C. R. de SILVA, The Portuguese in Ceylon 1617-1638. Colombo, 1972, p. 212-213, but note the textual contradiction where on p. 48 the Portuguese conquest of Jaffna is attributed, in part at least to the need to control the pearl fisheries, but on p. 212 the author notes that there had been no fishing for 15 years before the conquest of Jaffna in 1619. K. M. de SILVA, A History of Sri Lanka. London, 1981, p. 117, uses the same «pearl» theory.

(8) See K. MCPHERSON, «Chulias and Klings: Indigenous Trade Diasporas and European Penetration of the Indian Ocean Littoral», in Giorgio Borsa (ed.), Trade and Politics in the Indian Ocean. New Delhi, 1990, p. 33-46.

(9) P. ROCHE, op. cit., p. 42.

(10) C. R. BOXER, João de Barros. Portuguese Humanist and Historian of Asia. New Delhi, 1981, p. 83, 94n.

(11) Sanjay SUBRAHMANYAM, op. cit.

(12) G. BOUCHON, «Sixteenth Century Malabar and the Indian Ocean», in Ashin Das Gupta & M. N. Pearson (eds.), India and the Indian Ocean 1500-1800. Calcutta, 1987, p. 3.

(13) S. ARASARATNAM, «India and the Indian Ocean in the Seventeenth Century», in Ashin Das Gupta & M. N. Pearson, op. cit., p. 105, refers to the Paravas as fishermen and coastal traders.

(14) Kenneth MCPHERSON, «Enemies or Friends? The Portuguese, the British and the Survival of Portuguese Commerce in the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia from the Late Seventeenth to the Late Nineteenth Century», in Francis A. Dutra & João dos Santos (eds.), The Portuguese and the Pacific. Santa Barbara, 1995, p. 211-237; L. VARADARAJAN, «San Thome – Early European Activities and Aspirations», in Il Seminario International De Historia Indo-Portuguesa. Actas. Lisbon, IICT, 1985, p.436-438.

(15) K. S. MATHEW, Portuguese Trade with India in the Sixteenth Century. New Delhi, 1983, p. 134. See also reference 7.

(16) For their later history see Kenneth MCPHERSON, «Enemies or Friends?…»

(17) P. ROCHE, op. cit., p.46.

(18) C. R. BOXER, op. cit., p. 85.

(19) C. R. de SILVA, op. cit., p. 212.

(20) Sanjay SUBRAHMANYAM, op. cit., p.264.

(21) Ibid, p. 266.

(22) S. ARASARATNAM, Merchants, Companies and Commerce on the Coromandel Const 1650-1740. New Delhi, 1986, p. 217.

(23) C. R. de SILVA, op. cit., p. 214.

(24) In the very voluminous, Memoir of Jan Schreuder, Governor of Ceylon, 1772, published as no. 5 Selection from the Dutch Records of the Ceylon Govt (Colombo, 1946) there is only one very brief reference to seed pearls from the Manaar pearl fisheries.

(25) S. B. KAUFMANN quoted in Sanjay SUBRAHMANYAM, op. cit., p. 267.

(26) For another approach to the historical problem of Portuguese-indigenous contacts see K. MCPHERSON, «A Secret People of South Asia…», Itinerario, Lisboa, 11 (2), 1987, p. 72-86.

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