Chapter 9 The Age of Vijayanagara and the Bahmanids, and the Coming of the Portuguese (Circa 1350–1565)


The Vijayanagara and Bahmani kingdoms dominated India south of the Vindhyas, for more than 200 years. They not only built magnificent capitals and cities, and beautified them with many splendid buildings and promoted arts and letters, but also provided for law and order and the development of commerce and handicrafts. Thus, while the forces of disintegration gradually triumphed in north India, south India and the Deccan had a long spell of stable governments. This ended with the disintegration of the Bahmani empire towards the end of the fifteenth century, and of the Vijayanagara empire more than fifty years later, after its defeat in 1565 in the battle of Bannihatti. Meanwhile, the Indian scene was transformed, first with the arrival of the Portuguese in southern India and their attempt to dominate the Indian seas, and second, with the advent of the Mughals in north India. The coming of the Mughals paved the way for another spell of integration in north India. The coming of the Portuguese marked the long era of confrontation between the land-based Asian powers and the European powers which dominated the seas.

​The Vijayanagara and The Bahmani Kingdom

The Vijayanagara kingdom was founded by Harihara and Bukka who belonged to a family of five brothers. According to a legend, they had been the feudatories of the Kakatiyas of Warangal and later became ministers in the kingdom of Kampili in modern Karnataka. When Kampili was overrun by Muhammad Tughlaq for giving refuge to a Muslim rebel, the two brothers were imprisoned, converted to Islam, and appointed to deal with the rebellions there. After a short time, Harihara and Bukka forsook their new master and their new faith. At the instance of their guru, Vidyaranya, they were re-admitted to Hinduism and established their capital at Vijayanagar. Some modern scholars do not accept the tradition of their conversion to Islam, but consider them to be among the nayaks of Karnataka who had rebelled against Turkish rule.

The date of Harihara’s coronation is placed at 1336. At first, the young king had to contend both with the Hoysala ruler of Mysore and the sultan of Madurai. The sultan of Madurai was ambitious. He had defeated the Hoysala ruler, and executed him in a barbarous manner. The dissolution of the Hoysala kingdom enabled Harihara and Bukka to expand their tiny principality. By 1346, the whole of the Hoysala kingdom had passed into the hands of the Vijayanagara rulers. In this struggle, Harihara and Bukka were aided by their brothers and by their relations who took up the administration of the areas conquered by their efforts. The Vijayanagara kingdom was, thus, a kind of a cooperative commonwealth at first. Bukka succeeded his brother to the throne of Vijayanagara in 1356, and ruled till 1377.

The rising power of the Vijayanagara empire brought it into clash with many powers both in the south and to the north. In the south, its main rivals were the sultans of Madurai. The struggle between Vijayanagara and the sultans of Madurai lasted for about four decades. By 1377, the Sultanat of Madurai had been wiped out. The Vijayanagara empire then comprised the whole of south India upto Rameshwaram, including the Tamil country as well as that of the Cheras (Kerala). To the north, however, Vijayanagara faced a powerful enemy in the shape of the Bahmani kingdom. The Bahmani kingdom had come into existence in 1347. Its founder was Alauddin Hasan, an Afghan adventurer. He had risen in the service of a Brahman, named Gangu, and is, therefore, known as Hasan Gangu. After his coronation, he assumed the title of Alauddin Hasan Bahman Shah.

The interests of the Vijayanagara rulers and the Bahmani sultans clashed in three separate and distinct areas: in the Tungabhadra doab, in the Krishna—Godavari delta, and in the Marathwada country. The Tungabhadra doab was the region between the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra and consisted of 30,000 square miles. On account of its wealth and economic resources, it had been the bone of contention between the western Chalukyas and the Cholas in the earlier period, and between the Yadavas and the Hoysalas later on. The struggle for the mastery of the Krishna—Godavari basin which was very fertile and which, with its numerous ports, controlled the foreign trade of the region was often linked up with the struggle for the Tungabhadra doab. In the Maratha country, the main contention was for the control of the Konkan and the areas which gave access to it. The Konkan was a narrow strip of land between the Western Ghats and the sea. It was extremely fertile, and included within it the port of Goa which was an important outlet for the products of the region, as well as for the import of horses from Iran and Iraq. As has been noted earlier, good quality horses were not bred in India. The import of horses from Goa was, thus, of great importance to the southern states.

Military conflicts between the Vijayanagara and the Bahmani kingdom were almost a regular feature and lasted as long as these kingdoms continued. In 1367, when Bukka I assaulted the fortress of Mudkal in the disputed Tungabhadra doab, he slaughtered the entire garrison, except one man. As a result Bahmani kingdom and Vijayanagara entered into a long drawn war. The war dragged on for several months. Finally, both the side were exhausted, and decided to conclude a treaty. This treaty restored the old position whereby the doab was shared between the two.

Having strengthened its position in south India by eliminating the Sultanat of Madurai, the Vijayanagara empire embarked upon a policy of expansion towards the eastern sea coast under Harihara II (1377–1404). There were a series of Hindu principalities in the region, the most notable being the Reddis on the upper reaches of the delta, and the rulers of Warangal in the lower reaches of the Krishna–Godavari delta. The rulers of Orissa to the north, as well as the Bahmani sultans were also interested in this area. However, the Bahmani sultan fixed Golconda as the boundary of his kingdom and promised that neither he nor his successors would encroach against Warangal any further. The alliance of the Bahmani kingdom and Warangal lasted for over 50 years, and was a major factor in the inability of Vijayanagara to overrun the Tungabhadra doab. In meantime, Harihara II was able to maintain his position in the face of the Bahmani–Warangal combine. His greatest success was in wresting Belgaum and Goa in the west from the Bahmani kingdom. He also sent an expedition to north Sri Lanka.

After a period of confusion, Harihara II was succeeded by Deva Raya I (1404–1422). Early in his reign, there was a renewed fight for the Tungabhadra doab. He was defeated by the Bahmani ruler Firuz Shah, and he had to pay huge indemnity. He also agreed to marry his daughter to the sultan, ceding to him in dowry Bankapur in the doab in order to obviate all future dispute. However, this marriage could not bring any peace. The question of the Krishna–Godavari basin led to a renewed conflict between Vijay inagara, the Bahmani kingdom and Orissa. Following a confusion in the Reddi kingdom, Deva Raya entered into an alliance with Warangal for partitioning the kingdom between them. Warangal’s defection from the side of the Bahmani kingdom changed the balance of power in the Deccan. Deva Raya was able to inflict a shattering defeat on Firuz Shah Bahmani and annexed the entire Reddi territory up to the mouth of the Krishna river.

Deva Raya I constructed a dam across the Tungabhadra so that he could bring the canals into the city to relieve the shortage of water. It irrigated the neighbouring fields also, for we are told that the canals increased his revenues by 350,000 pardaos. He also built a dam on the river Haridra for irrigation purposes.

After some confusion, Deva Raya II (1425–1446), who is considered the greatest ruler of the dynasty, ascended the throne at Vijayanagara. In order to strengthen his army, he reorganized his army, incorporating in it many features of the armies of the Delhi Sultanat. He, therefore, enlisted 2000 Muslim cavalrymen, gave them jagirs, and commended all his Hindu soldiers and officers to learn the art of archery from them. However, the collection of a large cavalry force and standing army made the Vijayanagara empire a more centralized polity than any of the earlier Hindu kingdoms in the south, even though it must have put a strain on the resources of the state since most of the good mounts had to be imported, and the Arabs, who controlled the trade, charged high prices for them.

With his new army, Deva Raya II crossed the Tungabhadra river in 1443 and tried to recover Mudkal, Bankapur, etc., which were south of the Krishna river and had been lost to the Bahmani sultans earlier. Three hard battles were fought, but in the end the two sides had to agree to the existing frontiers.

Nuniz, a Portuguese writer of the sixteenth century, tells us that the kings of Quilon, Sri Lanka, Pulicat, Pegu and Tenasserim (in Burma and Malaya) paid tribute to Deva Raya II. It is doubtful whether the Vijayanagara rulers were powerful enough on the sea to extract regular tribute from Pegu and Tenasserim. This could not have been attained without a strong navy.

Under a series of capable rulers, Vijayanagara emerged as the most powerful and wealthy state in the south during the first half of the fifteenth century. The Italian traveller Nicolo Conti who visited Vijayanagara in 1420 had left us a graphic account of it. The Persian traveller Abdur Razzaq, who had travelled widely in and outside India, visited Vijayanagara in the reign of Deva Raya II. He gives a glowing account of the country. Abdur Razzaq considers Vijayanagara to be one of the most splendid cities anywhere in the world which he had seen or heard of.

​The Bahmani Kingdom—Its Expansion and Disintegration

The history of the rise of the Bahmani kingdom and its conflict with the Vijayanagara empire till the death of Deva Raya II (1446) has already been traced. The most remarkable figure in the Bahmani kingdom during the period was Firuz Shah Bahmani (1397–1422). He was well-acquainted with the religious sciences and was particularly fond of the natural sciences such as botany, geometry, logic, etc. He was a good calligraphist and a poet and often composed extempore verses. According to Ferishta, he was well versed not only in Persian, Arabic and Turkish, but also in Telugu, Kannada and Marathi. He had a large number of wives in his haram.

Firuz Shah Bahmani was determined to make the Deccan the cultural centre of India. The decline of the Delhi Sultanat helped him, for many learned people migrated from Delhi to the Deccan. The most remarkable step taken by Firuz Shah Bahmani was the induction of Hindus in the administration on a large scale. It is said that from his time the Deccani Brahmans became dominant in the administration, particularly in the revenue administration. The Deccani Hindus also provided a balance against the influx of foreigners. Firuz Shah Bahmani encouraged the pursuit of astronomy and built an observatory near Daulatabad. He paid much attention to the principal ports of his kingdom, Chaul and Dabhol.

Firuz Shah Bahmani’s marriage with a daughter of Deva Raya I and his subsequent battles against Vijayanagara have been mentioned already. The struggle for the domination of the Krishna—Godavari basin, however, continued. In 1419, the Bahmani kingdom received a setback when Firuz Shah Bahmani was defeated by Deva Raya I. Thi defeat weakened the position of Firuz. He was compelled to abdicate in favour of his brother, Ahmad Shah I, who is called a saint (wali) on account of his association with the famous sufi saint, Gesu Daraz. He could not forget that in the last two battles in which the Bahmani sultan had been defeated, the ruler of Warangal had sided with Vijayanagara. In order to wreak vengeance, he invaded Warangal, defeated and killed the ruler in a battle, and annexed most of its territories. In order to consolidate his rule over the newly acquired territories, he shifted the capital from Gulbarga to Bidar. After this, he turned his attention towards Malwa, Gondwana and the Konkan.

​Mahmud Gawan

The loss of Warangal to the Bahmani kingdom changed the balance of power in south India. The Bahmani kingdom gradually expanded, and reached its height of power and territorial limits during the prime ministership of Mahmud Gawan. The early life of Mahmud Gawan is obscure. He was an Iranian by birth and was at first a trader. He was introduced to the sultan and soon became a favourite, and was granted the title of Malik-ut-Tujjar. Soon, he became prime minister or Peshwa. For almost 20 years, Mahmud Gawan dominated the affairs of the state. He extended the Bahmani kingdom by making further annexations in the east. A deep raid in the Vijayanagara territories up to Kanchi demonstrated the strength of the Bahmani army. Mahmud Gawan’s major military contribution, however, was the over-running of the western coastal areas, including Dabhol and Goa. The loss of these ports was a heavy blow to Vijayanagara. Control of Goa and Dabhol led to further expansion of the Bahmani overseas trade with Iran, Iraq, etc. Internal trade and manufacture also grew.

Mahmud Gawan also tried to settle the northern frontiers of the kingdom. Since the time of Ahmad Shah I, the kingdom of Malwa (ruled by the Khalji rulers) had been contending for the mastery of Gondwana, Berar and the Konkan. In this struggle, the Bahmani sultans had sought and secured the help of the rulers of Gujarat. After a good deal of conflict, it had been agreed that Kherla in Gondwana would go to Malwa, and Berar to the Bahmani sultan.

It would, thus, be seen that the pattern of struggle in the south did not allow divisions along religious lines: political and strategic considerations and control over trade and commerce being more important causes of the conflict. Secondly, the struggle between the various states in north India and in south India did not proceed completely in isolation from each other. In the west, Malwa and Gujarat were drawn into the affairs of the Deccan; in the east, Orissa was involved in a struggle with Bengal and also cast covetous eyes on the commercially rich Coromandel coast. The Orissa rulers made deep raids into south India after 1450, their armies reaching as far south as Madurai and the territories of Orissa extended upto the river Krishna. Their activities further weakened the Vijayanagara empire which was passing through a phase of internal discord following the death of Deva Raya II.

Mahmud Gawan carried out many internal reforms also. He divided the kingdom into eight provinces or tarafs. Each taraf was governed by a tarafdar. The salaries and obligations of each noble were fixed. The salary could be paid in cash or by assigning a jagir. Those who were paid by means of a jagir were allowed expenses for the collection of land revenue. In every province, a tract of land (khalisa) was set apart for the expenses of the sultan. Efforts were made to measure the land and to fix the amount to be paid by the cultivator to the state.

One of the most difficult problem which faced the Bahmani kingdom was strife among the nobles. The nobles were divided into the long-established Deccanis and the new-comers who were foreigners (afaqis, also called gharibs). As a newcomer, Mahmud Gawan was hard put to win the confidence of the Deccanis. Though he adopted a broad policy of conciliation, the party strife could not be stopped. His opponents managed to poison the ears of the young sultan who had him executed in 1482. Mahmud Gawan was over 70 years old at the time. The party strife now became even more intense. The various governors became independent. Soon, the Bahmani kingdom was divided into five principalities: Golconda, Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Berar and Bidar. Of these, the kingdoms of Ahmadnagar, Bijapur and Golconda played a leading role in the Deccan politics till their absorption in the Mughal empire during the seventeenth century.

The Bahmani kingdom acted as a cultural bridge between the north and the south. The culture which developed as a result had its own specific features which were distinct from north India. These cultural traditions were continued by the successor states and also influenced the development of Mughal culture during the period.

​Climax of The Vijayanagara Empire and its Disintegration

As mentioned earlier, there was confusion in the Vijayanagara empire after the death of Deva Raya II (1446). Since the rule of primogeniture was not established in Vijayanagara, there were a series of civil wars among the various contenders to the throne. Many feudatories assumed independence in the process. After some time, the throne was usurped by the king’s minister, Saluva. The earlier dynasty, thus, came to an end. Saluva restored internal law and order, and founded a new dynasty. This dynasty too soon came to an end. Ultimately, a new dynasty (called the Tuluva dynasty) was founded by Krishna Deva. Krishna Deva Raya (1509–30) was the greatest figure of this dynasty. Some historians consider him to be the greatest of all the Vijayanagara rulers. Krishna Deva had not only to re-establish internal law and order, he had also to deal with the old rivals ofVijayanagara, viz., the successor states of the Bahmani kingdom and the state of Orissa which had usurped many Vijayanagara territories. In addition, he had to contend with the Portuguese whose power was slowly growing. They were using their control over the seas to browbeat the smaller vassal states ofVijayanagara in the coastal areas in order to gain economic and political concessions. They had even offered to buy the neutrality of the Raya by promising him assistance in recovering Goa from Bijapur and giving him a monopoly in the supply of horses.

In a series of battles lasting seven years, Krishna Deva first compelled the ruler of Orissa to restore to Vijayanagara all the territories up to the river Krishna. Having thus strengthened himself, Krishna Deva renewed the old struggle for the control of the Tungabhadra doab. This led to a hostile alliance between his two main opponents, Bijapur and Orissa. Krishna Deva made grand preparations for the conflict. He opened the hostilities by overrunning Raichur and Mudkal. In the battle which followed, the Bijapur ruler was completely defeated (1520). He was pushed across the river Krishna, barely escaping with his life. In the west, the Vijayanagara armies reached Belgaum, occupied and sacked Bijapur for a number of days and destroyed Gulbarga before a truce was made.

Thus, under Krishna Deva, Vijayanagara emerged as the strongest .military power in the south. However, in their eagerness to renew the old feuds, the southern powers largely ignored the danger posed to them and to their commerce by the rise of the Portuguese. Unlike the Cholas and some of the early Vijayanagara rulers, Krishna Deva seems to have paid scant attention to the development of a navy.

Krishna Deva was also a great builder. He built a new town near Vijayanagara and dug an enormous tank which was also used for irrigation purposes. He was a gifted scholar of Telugu and Sanskrit. Of his many works, only one in Telugu on polity and a drama in Sanskrit are available today. His reign marked a new era in Telugu literature when imitation of Sanskrit works gave place to independent works. He extended his patronage to Telugu, Kannada and Tamil poets alike. Foreign travellers like Barbosa, Paes and Nuniz speak of his efficient administration and the prosperity of the empire under his sway.

The Vijayanagara rulers are considered great protectors of Hinduism. Under their patronage a large number of temples, schools and maths were built. In this period, temples became very elaborate in structure and organization; even old temples were amplified by the addition of pillared halls, pavilions and other subordinate structures.

After the death of Krishna Deva (1530), there was a struggle for succession among his relations since his sons were all minors. Ultimately, in 1543, Sadashiva Raya ascended the throne and reigned till 1567. But the real power lay in the hands of a triumvirate in which the leading person was Rama Raja. Rama Raja was able to play off the various Muslim powers against one another. He entered into a commercial treaty with the Portuguese whereby the supply of horses to the Bijapur ruler was stopped. In a series of wars he completely defeated the Bijapur ruler, and also inflicted humiliating defeats on Golconda and Ahmadnagar. It seems that Rama Raja had no larger purpose than to maintain a balance of power favourable to Vijayanagara between these three powers. At length, they combined to inflict a crushing defeat on Vijayanagara at Bannihatti, near Talikota, in 1565. This is also called the battle of Talikota or the battle of Rakshasa-Tangadi. Rama Raja was surrounded, taken prisoner and immediately executed. It is said that 1,00,000 Hindus were slain during the battle. Vijayanagara was thoroughly looted and left in ruins.

The battle of Bannihatti is generally considered to mark the end of the great age of Vijayanagara. Although the kingdom lingered on for almost one hundred more years, its territories decreased continually and the raya no longer counted in the political affairs of south India.

State and Economy Under Vijayanagara

In the Vijayanagara kingdom the king was advised by a council of ministers which consisted of the great nobles of the kingdom. The kingdom was divided into rajyas or mandalam (provinces) below which were nadu (district), sthala (sub-district) and grama (village).

The Chola traditions of village self-government were considerably weakened under Vijayanagara rule. The growth of hereditary nayakships tended to curb their freedom and initiative. The governors of the provinces were royal princes at first. Later, persons belonging to vassal ruling families and nobles were also appointed as governors. The provincial governors had a large measure of autonomy. They held their own courts, appointed their own officers, and maintained their own armies. They were allowed to issue their own coins, though of small denominations only. There was no regular term for a provincial governor, his term depending on his ability and his strength. The governor had the right to impose new taxes or remit old ones. Each governor paid a fixed contribution in men and money to the central government. It had been estimated that while the income of the kingdom was 12,000,000 parados, the central government got only half the amount.

In the large centrally controlled area, the king granted amaram or territory with a fixed revenue to military chiefs. These chiefs, who were called palaiyagar (palegar) or nayaks, had to maintain a fixed number of foot, soldiers, horses and elephants for the service of the state. The nayaks or palegars also had to pay a sum of money to the central exchequer. Many of the nayaks, such as those of Tanjore and Madurai, became independent after battle of bannihatti and subsequent disintegration of Vijayanagar Kingdom.

We have very little idea about the share of the produce the peasants were required to pay. According to an inscription, the rates of taxes were as follows: One-third of the produce of kuruvai (a type of rice) during winter One-fourth of sesame, ragi, horsegram. One-sixth of millet and other crops cultivated on dry land. Thus, the rate varied according to the type of crops, soil, method of irrigation, etc.

In addition to the land tax, there were various other taxes, such as property tax, tax on sale of produce, profession taxes, military contribution (in times of distress), tax on marriage, etc.

Urban life grew under the Vijayanagara empire and trade flourished. Towns grew, many of them around temples. The temples were very large and needed supply of food stuffs and commodities for distribution of prasadam to the pilgrims, service of the god, the priests, etc. The temples were rich and also took active part in trade, both internal and overseas. There was considerable growth of towns and urbanization under Vijayanagara rule. It is in this sense that many historians consider the period of Vijayanagara rule to be a period of transition from the old to the new economy.

​The Advent of The Portuguese

Let us first examine the factors which brought the Portuguese to India. Very broadly, the Portuguese came to India at a time when European economy was growing rapidly. Since Roman times, there had been a steady demand for oriental goods. With economic revival, this demand increased, especially the demand for pepper and spices which were needed to make meat palatable.

Pepper was brought to the Levant, Egypt and the Black Sea ports overland and partly by sea from India and Southeast Asia. With the rise of the power of the Ottoman Turks from the early part of the 15th century, all these areas came under the control of the Turks. Thus, they captured Constantinople in 1453, and Syria and Egypt later. The Turks were not opposed to trade, but the virtual monopoly over pepper established by them was bound to work against the Europeans. The banner of struggle against the Turkish danger was, therefore, taken up by the powers in the western part of the Mediterranean, Spain and Portugal. They were aided with money and men by the North Europeans and by ships and technical knowledge by the Genoese. It was not the Portuguese alone, but all these elements which started the search for a direct sea route to India, and hence started the era of naval discoveries, including the ‘discovery’ of America by Christopher Columbus.

From 1418, Prince Henry sent two or three ships every year to explore the western coast of Africa, and to search out a sea-route to India. His objects were two fold: first, to oust the Arabs as well as his European rivals, the Venetians, from the rich eastern trade, and second, to counterpoise the growing power of the Turks and Arabs by converting the ‘heathens’ of Africa and Asia to Christianity. Both objectives were steadily pursued.

In 1488, Bartholomew Diaz rounded the Cape of Good Hope and laid the basis of direct trade links between Europe and India. Such long sea-voyages were made possible by a number of remarkable inventions, notably the mariner’s compass and the astrolabe for fixing the height of heavenly bodies for purposes of navigation.

Vasco da Gama landed at Calicut in 1498, with Gujarati pilots on board. The strong colony of the Arab merchants settled there was hostile, but the Zamorin welcomed the Portuguese and allowed them to take pepper, drugs, etc., on board. In Portugal, the goods brought by Gama were computed at sixty times the cost of the entire expedition. Despite this, direct trade between India and Europe grew slowly. One reason for this was the monopoly exercised by the Portuguese government, excluding not only rival nations in Europe and Asia, but also private Portuguese traders.

Alarmed at the growing power of the Portuguese, the sultan of Egypt fitted a fleet and sent it towards India. The fleet was joined by a contingent of ships belonging to the ruler of Gujarat. After an initial victory in which the son of the Portuguese governor, Don Almaida, was killed, this combined fleet was routed by the Portuguese in 1509. This made the Portuguese navy supreme in the Indian Ocean, and enabled the Portuguese to extend their operations towards the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.

Shortly afterwards, Albuquerque succeeded as the governor of the Portuguese possession in the east. He advocated and embarked upon a policy of dominating the entire oriental commerce by setting up forts at various strategic places in Asia and Africa. This was to be supplemented by a strong navy.

Albuquerque initiated his new policy by capturing Goa from Bijapur in 1510. The island of Goa was an excellent natural harbour and fort and was strategically located. Goa was, thus, suited to be the principal centre of Portuguese commercial and political activity in the east. From their base at Goa, the Portuguese further strengthened their position by establishing forts at Colombo in Sri Lanka, at Achin in Sumatra, and at the Malacca port which controlled the exit and entry to the narrow gulf between the Malay peninsula and Sumatra.

The success of the Portuguese was, however, more apparent than real. From the beginning they had to face a number of challenges, both external and internal. The external challenge was the one posed by the Turks who were sometimes joined by the Arabs and some Indian powers.

In view of the growing Portuguese threat to the Gujarat trade and coastal areas, the sultan of Gujarat sent an embassy to the Ottoman ruler. In return, the Ottoman ruler expressed a desire to combat the Portuguese, who had disturbed the shores of Arabia. Before the Gujarat–Turkish alliance could be consolidated, a bigger threat to Gujarat appeared from the side of the Mughals. Humayun attacked Gujarat. In order to meet this threat, Bahadur Shah granted the island of Bassein to the Portuguese. A defensive-offensive alliance against the Mughals was also concluded, and the Portuguese were allowed to build a fort at Diu. Thus were the Portuguese able to establish their foothold in Gujarat.

Bahadur Shah soon repented his concessions to the Portuguese. Following the expulsion of the Mughals from Gujarat, he once again appealed to the Ottoman sultan for help, and tried to limit the Portuguese encroachments at Diu.

Although the Ottoman sultans claimed to be champions of Islam and hence opponents of the Portuguese, they did not, in practice, seriously contest the position of the Portuguese in the Persian Gulf or beyond. This despite the fact that the Turks had broadly kept pace with the growth of artillery and, to a lesser extent, with the naval sciences in the west. The Turkish navy dominated the eastern Mediterranean and even made raids beyond Gibraltar.

The Turks made their biggest naval demonstration against the Portuguese in Indian waters in 1536. After a siege of two months, the Turkish fleet retired without any success. The Turkish threat to the Portuguese persisted for another two decades. A final Ottoman expedition was sent under Ali Rais in 1554. The failure of these expeditions resulted in a final change in the Turkish attitude. In 1566, the Portuguese and the Ottomans came to an agreement to share the spice and the Indian trade and not to clash in the Arab seas.

Portuguese Impact On The Indian Trade, Society and Politics

From the beginning, the Portuguese tried to monopolize certain goods, and tax the others. Thus, trade in pepper, arms and ammunition, and war horses was declared a royal monopoly. No nation, not even Portuguese private traders, were allowed to engage in the trade of these goods. Ships engaged in the trade of other commodities had to take a permit from the Portuguese officials.

However, the Portuguese were hardly able to change the established pattern of Asian trade networks. The Gujarati and Arab traders continued to dominate some of the most lucrative Asian trade. The Portuguese were not even able to monopolize the pepper and spice trade to Europe, except for a couple of decades at the outset. Nor were the Portuguese able to develop Goa as the dominant centre of the Asian trade.

The Portuguese, however, opened up India’s trade with Japan from which copper and silver were obtained. They also opened up India’s trade with the Philipplines.

The Portuguese could not act as a bridge for transmitting to India the science and technology which had grown in Europe since the Renaissance. This was partly because the Portuguese were themselves not as deeply affected by the Renaissance as Italy and North Europe.

The defeat of Vijayanagara at Banihatti in 1565 emboldened the Deccani states to make a concerted effort to dislodge the Portuguese from the Deccan coast. So long as Vijayanagara had threatened Bijapur in the south, peace with the Portuguese was essential since they controlled the horse-trade and hostilities with them would have meant a diversion of the trade in favour of Vijayanagara. In 1570, Ali Adil Shah, the sultan of Bijapur, entered into an agreement with the sultar of Ahmadnagar. The Zamorin of Calicut was also drawn into the alliance. The allies decided to attack the Portuguese positions in their own dominions. Adil Shah personally led the attack against Goa, while Nizam Shah besieged Chaul. But, once again, the Portuguese defence, backed up by their navy, proved to be too strong. Thus, the Portuguese remained masters of the Indian seas and of the Deccan coast.



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