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Kolattiri Raja's minister Kuruppu's Arabic letter to da Gama (1524)

December 31, 1523
Mirza Firuz Shah
Babur 1526–1530

Kolattiri Raja's minister Kuruppu's Arabic letter to da Gama (1524)



The European period Following the discovery of sea route from Europe to Kozhikode in 1498, the Portuguese began to expand their territories and ruled the seas between Ormus and the Malabar Coast and south to Ceylon. Initially (c. 1500–1520), Portuguese traders were successful in reaching in agreements with the local Hindu chiefs and native Muslim (Mappila) merchants in Kerala. The major contradiction was between the Portuguese state and the Arab and Persian traders, and the Kingdom of Calicut.The big Mappila traders in Cochin supplied large quantities of Southeast Asian spices to the Portuguese carracks.These traders, along with the Syrian Christians, acted as brokers and intermediaries in the purchase of spices and in the sale of the goods brought from Europe. Wealthy Muslim merchants of the Malabar Coast - including Mappilas - provided large credits to the Portuguese. These businessmen received large trading concessions, stipends and privileges in return. Interaction between the Portuguese private traders and Mappila merchants also continued to be tolerated by the Portuguese state.Kingdom of Calicut, whose shipping was increasingly looted by the Portuguese, evolved into a centre of Muslim resistance. Sooner rather than later, tensions arose between the wealthy Mappila traders of Cannanore and the Portuguese state. The ships of the Cannanore Mappilas again and again fell prey to the Portuguese sailors off the coast of Maldives, an important point between Southeast Asia and the Red Sea. Interests of the Portuguese casado moradores in Cochin, now planning to capture the spice trade through the Gulf of Mannar and to Sri Lanka, came into the conflict with Mappilas and the (Tamil) Maraikkayars. The narrow gulf held the key to the trade to Bengal (especially Chittagong). By 1520s, open confrontations between the Portuguese and the Mappilas, from Ramanathapuram, and Thoothukudi to northern Kerala, and to western Sri Lanka, became a common occurrence. The Mappila traders actively worked in even in the island of Sri Lanka to oppose the Portuguese. The Portuguese maintained patrolling squadrons off the Kerala ports and continued their raids on departing Muslim fleets at Calicut and Quilon. After a series of naval battles, the once powerful Mappila chief was finally forced to sue for peace with the Portuguese in 1540. The peace was soon broken, with the assassination of the qazi of Cannanore Abu Bakr Ali (1545), and the Portuguese again came down hard on the Mappilas. In the meantime, the Portuguese also entered into friendship with some of the leading Middle Eastern merchants residing on the Malabar Coast (1550). The mantle of the Muslim resistance was now taken by the Ali Rajas of Cannanore, who even forced the king of Calicut to turn against the Portuguese once again.By the close of the 16th century, the Ali Rajas had emerged as figures with as much influence in Kerala as the Kolathiri (Chirakkal Raja) himself. Kolattiri Raja's minister Kuruppu's Arabic letter to da Gama (1524) Before the 16th century, Middle Eastern Muslims dominated the economic, social and religious affairs of Kerala Muslims. Many of these merchants fled Kerala in the course of the 16th century. The vacuum created economic opportunities for some Mappila traders, who also took on a greater role in the social and religious affairs in Malabar. The Portuguese tried to establish a monopoly in the spice trade in India, using violent naval warfare.Whenever a formal war was broke out between the Portuguese and the Calicut rulers, the Portuguese attacked and plundered, as the opportunity offered, the Muslim ports in Kerala. Small, lightly armed, and highly mobile vessels of the Mappilas remained a major threat to Portuguese shipping all along the west coast of India.Mappila merchants, now controlling pepper trade in Calicut in the place of the West Asian Muslims, drew Mappila corsairs and used them to transport the spices past Portuguese blockades. Some Mappila traders even tried to outwit the Portuguese by reorienting their trade to Western Indian ports. Some chose an overland route, across the Western Ghats, for the export of spices.By the end of the 16th century, the Portuguese were finally able to deal with the "Mappila challenge". Kunjali Marakkar was defeated and killed, with the help of the Calicut ruler, in c. 1600 AD. The Ali Rajas of Cannanore was given permission to send ships to even to the Red Sea, as a way of ensuring their cooperation.The relentless battles led to the eventual decline of the Muslim community in Kerala, as they gradually lost control of the spice trade. The Muslims — who had been depended solely on commerce — were reduced into severe economic perplexity. Some traders turned inland (South Malabar) in search of alternate occupations to commerce. The Muslims of Kerala gradually became a society of small traders, landless labourers and poor fishermen. The once affluent, and urban, Muslim population became predominantly rural in Kerala. The Tuhfat Ul Mujahideen written by Zainuddin Makhdoom II (born around 1532) of Ponnani during 16th-century CE is the first-ever known book fully based on the history of Kerala, written by a Keralite. It is written in Arabic and contains pieces of information about the resistance put up by the navy of Kunjali Marakkar alongside the Zamorin of Calicut from 1498 to 1583 against Portuguese attempts to colonize Malabar coast.It was first printed and published in Lisbon. A copy of this edition has been preserved in the library of Al-Azhar University, Cairo.Tuhfatul Mujahideen also describes the history of Mappila Muslim community of Kerala as well as the general condition of Malabar Coast in the 16th century CE. The Kingdom of Mysore, ruled by Sultan Haider Ali, invaded and occupied northern Kerala in the late-18th century.In the following Mysore rule of Malabar, Muslims were favoured against the high caste Hindu landlords. Some were able to obtain some land rights and administrative positions. There was a sharp increase in community's growth, especially through conversions from the "outcaste" society. However, such measures of the Mysore rulers only widened the communal imbalance of Malabar. The East India Company — taking advantage of the situation — allied with the Hindu high castes to fight against the occupied regime. The British subsequently won the Anglo-Mysore War against Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan and, consequently, Malabar was organised as a district under Madras Presidency. The discriminatory land tenure system — tracing its origins to pre modern Kerala — gave Muslims of Kerala (and other tenants and labourers) no access to land ownership.This led to a series of violent attacks against the high caste landlords and colonial administration (the Mappila Outbreaks, c. 1836–1921 and in 1921–22; it took in the form of an explosion known as Mappila Uprising (Malabar Rebellion).[58][59] The uprising — which initially had the supported of Indian National Congress leaders such as Mohandas K. Gandhi- was suppressed by the colonial government, with martial law being temporarily instituted in the region and the leaders of the rebellion tried and executed.

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Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.


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