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Search results for: All About Kerala & Kerala History

The Portuguese and the Dutch Period

Vasco Da Gama landed at Calicut in May 1498 and put Kerala on the map of the modern world.  At first the Zamorin treated the new-comers with traditional hospitality.  Later, when the Zamorin refused the Portuguese monopoly on pepper trade--the local Arabs vehemently opposed the new competitors in trade--the Portuguse went to Cochin and entered into an alliance with the Raja of Cochin.  Soon war broke out between the Arabs and the Portuguese on land and sea; the Zamorin supported the Arabs.  He declared war also on Cochin because that state refused to expel the Portuguese.  In one battle with the Portuguese (1504), the Zamorin lost 19,000 men.  The Portuguese captured the town of Cannanore and fortified it.  The hostilities between the Zamorin and the Portuguese went unabated during the campaigns of Kunjali Marakkars who supported the Zamorin.  Later the Zamorin made an unholy alliance (1540) with the Portuguese and turned against his former allies, the Kunjalis.  He destroyed the Kunjali fortress and arrested Kunjali and turned him over to the Portuguese, who later executed him in Goa.  The Portuguese decline, however, began with the arrival of the Dutch.

The Portuguese contact affected not only the political landscape of Kerala but also its cultural life.  The Portuguese ended the Arab and Chinese monopoly of the spice trade.  They introduced the Latin rite Roman Catholic Church through their missionaries.  European fashions and luxuries also came with them.  The church architecture and house construction were also influenced by the Portuguese style.  The Portuguese introduced into India the following agricultural products:  cashew nut, tobacco, the custard apple, guava, the pineapple, and the papaya, and an improved variety of coconut seeds.  They opened theological schools and colleges at Cochin, Cranganore, Ankamally, and Vaipicotta; they also set up printing presses at Cochin and Vaipicotta. The Chavittunatakam, the Christian dance-drama, originated  with the Portuguese missionaries.  They also Latinized the Syrian Church 
of Kerala, but in this process they alienated many local Christians who broke away from communion with Rome with the "oath of the Coonan Cross."

The Dutch

The Dutch East India Company, formed in 1592, sent Admiral Van der Hagen to India in 1603; the admiral entered into a commercial and political treaty with the Zamorin of Calicut who wanted to expel the Portuguese from Kerala.  In 1662 the Dutch captured Cranganore from the Portuguese and in 1663 they captured the Fort of Cochin and installed their partisan as King of Cochin. In 1664 they acquired monopoly of pepper trade in Cannanore.  In 1613 the Dutch brought the state of Cochin under their effective political control. The Mysore invasions of Hyder All and the coming of the British spelled the doom of Dutch power in Kerala.  In 1795 a British force under Major Petrie from Calicut marched against Cochin and forced the surrender of the Dutch fort of Cochin.  Marthanda Varma (1729-1758) of Travancore also crippled the Dutch power is a series of encounters, especially in the battle of Koiachel.  The Dutch sued for peace, withdrew from Kerala, and left for the East Indies.

Like the Portuguese, the Dutch also introduced new agricultural products and scientific techniques of cultivation.  They improved the agricultural economy of Kerala; they cultivated coconut, rice, and indigo on extensive scale.  They are most remembered for the celebrated botanical work on the medicinal value of Kerala plants, Hortus Malabaricus.



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