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Persians, Pilgrims and Portuguese: The Travails of Masulipatnam Shipping in the Western Indian Ocean, 1590–1665

  • Sanjay Subrahmanyam (a1)

The Coromandel port of Masulipatnam, at the northern extremity of the Krishna delta, rose to prominence as a major centre of maritime trade in the last quarter of the sixteenth century. Its growing importance after about 1570 is explicable in terms of two sets of events: first, the consolidation of the Sultanate of Golkonda under Ibrahim Qutb Shah (r. 1550–1580), and second, the rise within the Bay of Bengal of a network of ports with a distinctly anti-Portuguese character, including the Sumatran centre of Aceh, the ports of lower Burma, of Arakan, as well as Masulipatnam itself. Round about 1550, Masulipatnam was no more than a supplier of textiles on the coastal network to the great port of Pulicat further south, but by the early 1580s its links with Pegu and Aceh had grown considerably, causing not a little alarm in the upper echelons of the administration of the Portuguese Estado da Índia at Goa. The ‘Moors’ who owned and operated ships out of Masulipatnam did so without the benefit of carlazes from the Portuguese captains either at São Tomé or at any other neighbouring port, and while developing an intense trade within the Bay of Bengal, strictly avoided the Portuguese-controlled entrepot at Melaka. The Portuguese in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries were heavily involved in it in western India and a recent study has marshalled evidence from Portuguese sources on the mechanics of that trade in a port on the Kanara coast.2 In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with the entry into the Indian Ocean of the large Chartered Companies, evidence on the grain trade is substantially increased, enabling us to see it in sharper focus in the broad canvas of Asian trade. the port was no more than a minor nuisance, and in the engagements that ensued, the Portuguese frequently had the worst of it, subsequently negotiating to recover prisoners lodged at Masulipatnam or at the court in Golkonda.2 However, by about 1590, the tenor of the relationship between the viceregal administration at Goa and the court at Golkonda had begun to show signs of change

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1 The rise of Masulipatnam is discussed at length in my paper ‘Masulipatâo e o desenvolviment do sistema comercial do Golfo de Bengala, 1570–1600’, Portugale o Oriente, forthcoming, Lisbon. I would stress that Melaka was not a trading partner of Masulipatnam, contary to what is asserted in Moreland, W. H., India at the Death of Akbar (London 1920), pp. 197–8.

2 For example, see the letter from the viceroy Duarte de Meneses, D. to the King, dated 14 March 1585, in Cunha Rivara, J. H. da (ed.), Archivo Portuguez-Oriental, 6 Fascicules in 9 volumes (Goa, 18571876), Fascicule V (3), Document 664, pp. 1092–3. The policy of raiding Masulipatnam shipping is perfectly articulated circa 1580 in the ‘Livro das Cidades e Fortalezas…’, published by Mendes da Luz, F. P., in the Boletim da Biblioteca da Universidade de Coimbra, vol. XXI, 1953, pp. 123–4.

3 On the rise of the Golkonda Sultanate, the best accounts are those of Sherwani, H. K., History of the Qutb Shahi Dynasty (New Delhi, 1974), and Richards, J. F., Mughal Administration in Golconda (Oxford, 1975), ch. 1. This replaces somewhat older but still useful accounts such as Siddiqi, A. M., History of Golconda (Hyderabad, 1956).

4 Richards, , Mughal Administration, p. 10.

5 On Bijapur, see the excellent account by Eaton, Richard M., The Sufis of Bijapur (Princeton, 1978); on Ayutthaya, see, inter alia, Aubin, Jean, ‘Les Persans au Siam sous le règne de Narai [1656–1688]’, Mare Luso–Indicum, IV, pp. 95126. The Islamic element in the politics of Arakan is as yet imperfectly explored; however, see Collis, M. S., ‘The City of Golden Mrauk-u’, Journal of the Burma Research Society, vol. XII (3), 1923, pp.244–56, and Idem and Bu, San Shwe, ‘Arakan's Place in the Civilisation of the Bay’, Journal of the Burma Research Society, vol. XV (1), 1925, pp. 3452.

6 Algemeen Rijksarchief, The Hague (henceforth AR), Letters of the Heren XVII, VOC. 317, letter to the Governor-General and Council at Batavia, dated 14 10 1951.

7 Letter from Philip of Spain to the viceroy at Goa, dated 6 February 1958, in Rivara, Cunha (ed.), Archivo Portuguez-Oriental, Fascicule III, Document 59. For the text of one such cartaz—granted to the Sultan of Bijapur—see Biker, J. F. Judice (ed.), Colecçāo de Tratados e Concertos de Pazes, vol. I (Lisbon, 1881), pp. 181–2.

8 Letter from Philip of Spain to the viceroy, dated 12 January 1951, published in Rivara, Cunha (ed.), Archivo Portuguez-Oriental, III, Document 76, Clause XXIII.

9 Letters from Philip of Spain to the viceroy, dated 18 February 1595, 2 January 1596, and 12 February 1597, in Rivara, Cunha (ed.), Archivo Portuguez-Oriental, III Documents 162 (XX), 204, and 243. For a description of an earlier raid on shipping from Masulipatnam to Pegu, see Diogo do Couto, Da Àsia, Década Décima, ediçāo Livraria Sam Carlos (Lisbon, 1974), Parte I, pp. 1415, 74–83. The importance of shipping from Masulipatnam to Pegu is best brought out in an anonymous relation from the 1590s, for which see Biblioteca pública e Arquivo Distrital, È Códice C III/2–17 fls 183–187v.

10 Historical Archives, Panaji, Goa (henceforth HAG), Monçōes do Reino 2B, fls 490–90v.

11 On Raposo, Henrique, see Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, Lisbon (henceforth ANTT), Manuscritos da Livraria, no. 1109, fl. 18. Another reference to the captain at Masulipatnam in about 1600 is to be found in a Jesuit account of Sāo Tomé de Meliapor, for which see British Museum (Manscript Room), London (henceforth BM), Additional Manuscript 9853, ft. 28v.

12 See Godinho, V. M., Os Descobrimentos e a Economia Mundial, 2nd edition, 4 Volumes (Lisbon, 19811984), vol. III, p. 133.

13 The text of this farman is summarized in Terpstra, H., De Vestiging van de Nederlanders aan de Kust van Koromandel (Groningen, 1911), p. 42; also see Raychaudhuri, Tapan, Jan Company in Coromandel 1605–1690: A Study in the Interrelations of European Commerce and Traditional Economies (The Hague, 1962), p. 16.

14 Letter from Philip of Spain to the viceroy, dated 10 December 1607, in de Bulhāo Pato, R. A. (ed.), Documentos Remettidos da índia, Tomo I (Lisbon, 1880), Document 55, pp. 144–5.

15 HAG, Monçōes do Reino nos. 911 (single volume), fls 183–4; also see Bocarro, António, Década XIII da Históa da índia, 2 vols (Lisbon, 1876), vol. II, pp. 620–2.

16 van Dijk, L. C. D., Zes Jaren Uit het Leven van Wemmer van Berchem (Amsterdam, 1858), pp. 22–4, 36–7;Raychaudhuri, , Jan Company, pp. 24–7.

17 On Ruy Dias de Sampaio's flotilla and its activities, see Bocarro, , Década XIII, vol. 1, p. 162, vol. II, pp. 620–2; also AR, Overgekomen Brieven en Papieren (henceforth OB), VOC. 1061, fls 198, 201; VOC. 1065, fls 72–72v. On the plan to reduce Masulipatnam by raiding its shipping, Biblioteca Nacional de Lisboa, Fundo Geral, MS. 628, fls 15–19v.

18 Terpstra, , De Vestining, pp. 54–5;AR, OB, VOC. 1055 (loose papers), various letters, eg. van Wesick to Bantam, 15 June 1610.

19 For a summary description of arrivals and departures at Masulipatnam, see Methwold's, William relation in Moreland, W. H. (ed.), Relations of Golconda in the Early 17th Century (London, 1931), pp. 36–9.

20 Moreland, W. H. (ed.), Peter Floris—His Voyage to the East Indies in the ‘Globe’, 1611–1615 (London, 1934), pp. 113–16.

21 See da Silva Rego, A. (ed.), Documentos Remettidos da Índia (New Series), vol. VII (Lisbon, 1975), documents 278 and 305. Also see AR, OB, VOC. 1073, fls 166–9.

22 Ar, OB, VOC. 1095, fls 53v–54v.

23 On the overland trade to Chaul, Dabhol etc., see Moreland, (ed.), Relations of Golconda, pp. 7980; on the carriage of Coromandel textiles to Persia and the Red Sea via Surat, see for example the cargo lists of the ships Ganj-i-Sawai, and Salabij (?), AR, OB, VOC. 1166, fls 797–806.

24 The value of the trade to Pegu is estimated by a Dutch factor at Coromandel, AR, OB, VOC. 1095, fl. 64.

25 The best detailed account of Golkonda politics in the period is that of Sarkar, Jagadish Narayan, The Life of Mir Jumla, the General of Aurangzeb, 2nd edition (New Delhi, 1979), pp. 118.

26 Moreland, (ed.), Relations, pp. 78–9.

27 AR, OB, VOC. 1094, fl. 99v. ‘De Mier Comaldijn laet een groot schip voor den Coninck in Narsapour maecken, dat van meeninge is binnen twee maenden naer Mocha te versenden’.

28 ‘Dagh-Register Masulipatam’, AR, OB, VOC.1095, fls 7IV–72. The death of Mansur Khan and its circumstances are mentioned in AR, OB, VOC. 1095, fls 47, 77.

29 For this estimate, which contains a detailed breakdown by category of textile, see Dunlop, H. (ed.), Bronnen tot de Geschiedenis der Oost-Indische Compagnie in Perzië, 1611–1638 (The Hague, 1930), pp. 490–3.

30 AR, OB, VOC. 1095, fl. 74.

31 These storms are mentioned in AR, OB, VOC. 1096, fls 147–8; VOC. 1100, fls 68–9. The loss of the ship to Pegu is referred to in AR, OB, VOC. 1096, fls 147–8. The ship belonged to Mir Muhammad Murad and had 460 men on board.

32 The evidence on weather changes is from AR, OB, VOC. 1109, VOC. 1113, VOC. 1117 (numerous references). That on prices is from AR, OB, VOC. 1113, VOC. 1117, VOC. 1119 and VOC. 1122. The remark on the Nagulvancha region is from AR. OB, VOC. 1117, fl. 665v.

33 Masulipatnam to Pulicat, 14 January 1630, AR, OB, VOC. 1100, fl. 84. ‘Mier Comaldijn is oock door geruijneert, leydt nu heel int voetsant met weynich aparentie van wederom op te staen’.

34 The ship of Kamal-al-din that was captured in April 1629 was on its return from Aceh. For details, see AR, OB, VOC. 1098, fl. 489; VOC. 1100, fls. 63–4. For a general account of the circumstances of the capture, Foster, W. (ed.), The English Factories in India, 13 Vols (Oxford, 19061927), EFI [1624–1929], pp. 339–42, 346, passim.

35 AR, OB, VOC. 1109, fl. 283.

36 On the Mary and Exchange, see EFI [1630–1633], p. 236. A summary list of freight-goods aboard these ships is available from AR, OB, VOC. 1109, fls 276v–77. The disappointing cargo on Mir Kamal-al-din's ship is mentioned in AR, OB, VOC. 1109, fl.305v.

37 For the English account of the incident, EFI [1634–1637], p. 9; for the Dutch version, AR, OB, VOC. 1113, fl. 319.

38 The lading of Kamal-al-din's ship is described in a list of arrivals at Gombroon in Dunlop (ed), Bronnen, p. 474. Kamal-al-din's participation in the Makassar trade can be gathered from AR, OB, VOC. 1109, fls. 283, 304. In fact, the Danish President Roland Crappé in the early 1630s borrowed a ship of Kamal-al-din's to send to Makassar. Thus, ‘…sal hij [Crappé] een nieuw schip van Miercamaldij (dat gemelten Moor voordesen meende naer Atchijn te seynden) vooruijt binnen 10 a 12 daeghen naer Maccasser stieren’, AR, OB, VOC. 1109, fls. 282v–83.

39 Surat to the Company, 6th March 1636, EFI [16341636], pp. 137–8.

40 Instruction to the Captain of the Francis, 4 March 1636, EFI [16341636], p. 175.

41 Warden, Andrew, Captain of the Francis, at Chaul to Surat, 20 April 1636, EFI [16341636], pp. 195–6. Also see pp. 187–8, and finally, the diary of William Methwold at Surat, EFI [1634–1936], p. 310.

42 AR, OB, VOC. 1119, fl. 1147, 25 September 1636. ‘Mier Comaldij die ons langen tijt van veel onlusten heeft westen te bevrijden is naer Persia soo dat bij naer flu niemant hebben daerop ons met fundament verlaten connen.’

43 See AR, OB, VOC. 1109, fl. 305v.

44 AR, OB, VOC. 1113, fl. 319; EFI [1634–1636], p. 9.

45 On Muhammad Sayyid's early career, Sarkar, J. N., The Life of Mir Jumla, pp. 13, passim.

46 AR, OB, VOC. 1119, fls 1115–16, Masulipatnam to Batavia, 2 July 1636.

47 AR, OB, VOC. 1119, fls 139–40, Masulipatnam to Batavia, 25 September 1636.

48 AR, OB, VOC. 1119, fls. 1140, ‘…dat in plaets van ons vrij geleyde voor de Portugesen wilden proeureren…’

49 AR. OB, VOC. 1119, fls 1158–59, fls 1161–3, 1167–9. Also VOC. 1122, fl. 613.

50 AR, OB, VOC. 1130, fls 1037–8, Masulipatnam to Batavia, 8 January 1639.

51 AR, OB, VOC. 1135, fls 669–70, Shipping List for Gombroon, 1640–41.

52 See AR, OB, VOC. 1100, fls 61–2, 65–70.

53 ANTT, Documentos Remettidos da India, no. 56, fl. 209v, letter from D. Felipe Mascarenhas to D. Joāo IV, 10 January 1646; for earlier references to Muhammad Sayyid's trade with private Portuguese, see AR, OB, VOC. 1119, fl. 1140–3.

54 There are numerous references in Portuguese documentation to this incident. See, for example, ANTT, Doc. Rem. da Índia, no. 40, fl. 24; HAG, Conselho da Fazenda, no. 5 [1637–43], fl. 124v, fl. 174. The most detailed, however, is an enquiry into the proceeds of the capture, Arquiuo Hislórico Ultramarino, Lisbon (henceforth AHU), Caixas da Índia, no. 20 [New Number 344], Document 131, in 4 folio books. Book I is of 12 folio pages, Book II of 14 folios, Book III of 22 folios, and Book IV of 8 pages. Also see AHU, Caixa 20, Document 139 for a later reference, as also ANTT, Doc. Rem. da Índia, no. 61, fls 73, 74.

55 AHU, Caixa 20, Document 131, Book III, fl. 2v. ‘…e chegando perto della reconhecco ser de mouros, e chegando mais perto, vio na proa huns dinamarcas, que Ihe parecerāo ser olandezes, e preguntando Ihe quem erāo Ihe diçe o dito Luis Correa portuguezes, ao que as da nao respondeo (sic) que ainda em Ceilāo avia portuguezes e the atiraram duas berçadas…’; the value of the cargo is estimated in one place at 1,200,000 patacas [Book 1, fl. 6v], and later at over 950,000 pardaus [Book 1, fl. 9v–10].

56 The sentence passed on Bernardo Mendes ‘da terra’ is to be found in AHU, Caixa 20, Document 131, Book IV, fI. 6v, and is dated 29 May 1646.

57 HAG Conselho da Fazenda [16431647], no. 6, fls 44–44v.

58 For a discussion of the problems faced by Asian traders in this period, see Raychaudhuri, , Jan company, pp. 122–5; also Arasaratnam, S., ‘Some Notes on the Dutch in Malacca and the Indo-Malayan Trade’. Journal of South-East Asian History, vol. X, no. 3, 1969, pp. 325–46.

59 HAG, Regimentos e Instruçōes no. 4, [1640–1646], fls 11–11v. Also see HAG, Conseihoda Fazenda [1637–1643], fl. 17IV, on the same embassy, as also ANTT, Doc. Rem. da Índia. no. 56, fl. 79.

60 ANTT, Doc. Rem. da Índia, no. 56, fl. 209v.

61 On the fleet owned by Sayyid, Muhammadcirca 1650, see Brennig, Joseph J., ‘The Textile Trade of Northern Coromandel in the seventeenth Century: A Study of a Premodern Asian Export Industry’, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, Madison 1975 [University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan], pp. 32–4. Also see, on Tavernier's voyage, Ball, V. and Crooke, W. (trans. and ed.), Travels in India by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, Baron of Aubonne, 2 vols, reprint (New Delhi, 1977), vol. 1, pp. 203–7.

62 ANTT, Doc. Rem. da Índia, no. 57, fls 461–62v.

63 ANTT, Doc. Rem. da Índia, no. 57, fls 466–66v, ‘Treslado da carta de Darves Mamede nacoda da nao do dito mirzamalaque mir mamede saide que Ihe escreveo com as novas da tomada da dita nao…’.

64 For the list of goods pilfered and their value, see ANTT, Doc. Rem. da Índia, no. 57, fl. 463, ‘Rol da fazenda o capitāo das duas navas de portugal tomou…’. On the shipwreck of the galleon Sacramento and the nau Atalaya, see ANTT, Doc. Rem. da Índia, no. 61, fls 14–20. The death of Luís de Miranda Henriques finds mention in ANTT, Doc. Rem. da Índia, no. 61, fl. 60–61. ‘…e porque Luīs de Miranda (por quem se aguardava para esta queixa se pode verificar, e compor) he falecido…’. The same document also contains mention of a decision to compensate Muhammad Sayyid by giving him 150 quintais of Ceylonese Cinnamon, and two elephants ‘de dentes’. Two further points require mention. First, while the Atalaya is mentioned in the document ‘Armadas da Índia’ (BM, Additional Manuscript 20902, fls 151–51 v.), there is no mention of the galleon Sacramento. Second, Luís de Miranda Henriques in this incident ought not to be confused with his namesake who was captain of Diu in the mid 1660s, and governor of the Estado together with António de Melo de Castro and Manuel Corte Real from 1668. He could scarcely have held the post if he died in the shipwreck of 1647.

65 The shipping lists of the 1680s are as follows, all taken from the series AR, OB:

1681–82: VOC. 1378, fls 2083v–2089.

1682–83: VOC. 1405, fls 1356–59.

1683–84: VOC 1405, fls 1811–13v.

1684–85: VOC. 1414, fls 568–71v.

1685–86: VOC. 1423, fls 816–18v.

In the case of 1682–1683, we can cross-check these with the English Company's Masulipatam Consultation Book of 1682–83, Records of Fort St George Series (Madras, 1916).

66 On Freeman's ship to Persia, which left Masulipatnam on 23 February 1684, see AR, OB, VOC. 1405, fls 1811–1813v. Also see the other shipping lists cited above for further details.

67 Brennig, , ‘The Textile Trade’, pp. 36–8. On the Bengal case, see Bhattacharya, S., The East India Company and the Economy of Bengal from 1704 to 1720 (London, 1954), and Marshall, Peter J., East Indian Fortunes: The British in Bengal in the Eighteenth Century (Oxford, 1976).

68 Brennig, Ibid., pp. 182–8; Richards, , Mughal Administration, pp. 3844.

69 O'Kane, John (ed. and trans.), The Ship of Sulaiman (London, 1972), pp. 234–40, ‘The Case of Abul-Hasan and the Fall of Haidarabad’.

70 The Agent and Council at Madras to the Surat President and Council, 7 April 1662, EFI [1661–1664], p. 147. Also see Pissurlencar, P. S. S. (ed.), Assentos do Conselho do Estado, vol. IV, [1659–1695] (Goa, 1956), Document 25, dated 4 January 1662, pp. 7980, passim.

71 Masulipatnam factors to Bengal, 16 July 1666, EFI [16651667], p. 234. Also Pissurlencar, (ed.), Assentos, Documents 58, 59, 68, 77, pp. 158–61, 177, 192.

72 HAG, Livros de Reis Vizinhos, no. 2, fl. 45, Letter from Viceroy António de Melo de Castro to the English Agent at Madras. ‘…tāo bern restituir a dita cidade de Sāo Thome Repondoa no estado em estava, e o mais se tomou aos Moradores, monta muitas naos, a ernquanto isto se nāo faz nem eu hei de largar esta, nem as de Golconda hāo de navegar sem o risco de igual sucessos’. For details of the negotiations, see the same volume, fls 46–46v; EFI [1665–1667], pp. 234, 248.

73 Surat to Bombay, 16 July 1666, EFI [16651667], pp. 163–4.

74 Letter from the English consul at Aleppo, 22nd August 1667, EFI [16651667], pp. 331–2. Also see the letter from the President and Council at Surat to the Company, 1st January 1666, EFI [1665–1667], pp. 31–2, and a later letter from Surat to Masulipatnam, p. 164. There are other references to the Swedish ship in the same volume pp. 36, 66, 85, passim. For details of the subsequent adventures of this vessel and its eventual sale at Goa, Pissurlencar, (ed.), Assentos, IV, Documents 51, 52, pp. 149–51.

75 The reference is in particular to Gupta, Ashin Das, Indian Merchants and the Decline of Surat, 1700–1750 (Wiesbaden, 1979). In Das Gupta's Surat, the worlds of merchant and politico appear far more disjunct than on Coromandel.

76 ANTT, Doc. Rem. da Índia, no. 57, fls 461–61.

77 AR, Letters of the Heren XVII, VOC. 317, letter to the Governor-General and Council at Batavia dated 14 October 1651.

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