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Does the Pagan King Reply? Malayalam Documents on the Portuguese Arrival in India

  • Mahmood Kooria

Abstract

This article is a response to Sebastian Prange's essay in Itinerario 41, no. 1 (2017): 151–173 wherein he presented a ‘virtually unknown manuscript’ on the Portuguese arrival in India as an Indian voice, unheard in the existing historiography. Prange had consulted the English translation of a Malayalam text by John Wye, that the former had assumed to be lost. However its original palm-leaf manuscript (ōla) is kept at the British Library. This ōla, entitled Kēraḷa Varttamānam, brings to light some remarkable omissions and a few discrepancies in Wye's translation. Closely reading different manuscripts in Malayalam, Arabic, and English I argue that this ōla is in fact a translation of a sixteenth-century Arabic text, Tuḥfat al-mujāhidīn, well known among scholars of its place and period. Taking it a step ahead, I argue that the very existence of this text points towards the cross-cultural and cross-linguistic interactions between the Arabic and Malayalam spheres of premodern Malabar. The ōla demonstrates one of the first instances of Malayalam literature's engagement with a secular and historical theme as the arrival of the Portuguese. In addition, Malayalam works such as Kēraḷōlpatti and Kēraḷa-paḻama are clear voices from Malabar on the Portuguese arrival and consequent episodes.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is unaltered and is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use or in order to create a derivative work.

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Mahmood Kooria is affiliated with Leiden University, the Netherlands, and Ashoka University, India. Currently he is working on a research project funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) on the historical and legal traditions of matriarchal Muslims in the Indian Ocean littoral. Earlier, he was a research fellow at the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), New York; Dutch Institute in Morocco (NIMAR), Rabat; International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) and the African Studies Centre (ASC), Leiden.

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References

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Does the Pagan King Reply? Malayalam Documents on the Portuguese Arrival in India

  • Mahmood Kooria

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