An extract from the final Chapter of the Book ‘ Malabar and the Portuguese’ by K.M. Panikkar
Posted on April 10th, 2018


“An influential school of history holds that the benefits, that India has received from the direct contact with Europe, are of such a nature that, in spite of all
their faults, the Portuguese should be considered as the pioneers of civilisation and as the forerunners of the British Empire. It may be permitted however, to ques- tion the correctness of the point of view, wrongly called historical, which thus tries to import retrospective values into events of an earlier date.

Even accepting that the connection with Europe has been beneficial to India, it is open to doubt whether a century and a half of barbarous outrages, of unscrupulous plunder and of barren aggression, is not too great a price to pay for the doubtful benefits of having the way opened for other European traders. India’s own direct trade was ruined, and, in its place, there was established a mono- poly by alien races, which had the effect of draining the wealth of India into Europe.

The Portuguese could not even claim what the Mahommedan Rulers of India could legitimately put forward in their justifica- tion, that they had a cultural contribution to make, to the life of India, such as we may, even now, see in the magnificent architectural monuments at Agra, Delhi, Ahmedabad. The Portuguese of the 16th and the 17th centuries had nothing to teach the people of India except improved methods of killing people in war and the narrow feeling of bigotry in religion. Surely, these were not matters of such importance as to make it necessary for Indians to feel grateful towards Vasco da Gama or his successors.

The relations between Portugal and India were barren of cultural or political results, and there is in that history nothing which any civilised nation can be proud of. A host of imagina- tive historians, anxious to sing the glory of their fatherland, have pictured to us the heroic story of a small nation going forth to conquer India and holding it under sway for 150 years, fighting and win- ning battles against great hordes and conquering heathen worlds for Christ.

Europe has accepted as true, for too long a time, the myths and legends of Barroes, Castenheda and Correa. The idea is wholly and absolutely untrue. The Portuguese had mastery of the Indian seas; but never had they the mastery of any area in India outside the range of their ships’ guns. The battles they won were more mythical than actual; ani the pompous descriptions of Portuguese historians should not make us forget that all their campaigns were nothing more than indecisive skirmish- es against very minor local Chieftains. It is indeed a fine picture which writers have drawn for us — a small heroic country draining itself of its best blood in a great attempt to conquer and hold India

But the picture has not even a background of truth except in the vainglorious phraseology of the Portuguese Kings, who called their administrative representatives, the “Viceroys of India,” and the few square miles of territory at Goa, the ” Estado da India. “


One Response to “An extract from the final Chapter of the Book ‘ Malabar and the Portuguese’ by K.M. Panikkar”

  1. aloy Says:

    “It is indeed a fine picture which writers have drawn for us — a small heroic country draining itself of its best blood in a great attempt to conquer and hold India”

    Very true. But how large is Britten; only five times more and about one sixtieth of India. They are the people who made India as we know today. How did they ruled the waves of Indian ocean?. That is with Navigation technology first invented by Portuguese and copied by others in europe. How is Israel, a very small country in the middle east dictating to US?. You can see one Jewish guy talking to powerful men surrounding him in the US senate today. That too is mastering a technology. Sri Lanka is a small country trying to survive and would like to get help from any quarter. I think that help was there during the last UNHCR session whether Indians liked it or not.

    Hindus in India have never given a reprieve to Sri Lankans. I am not blaming any religion here; there may be truths in all of them.

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