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The Clash of Cultures in Malabar : Encounters, Conflict and Interaction with European Culture, 1498-1947

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Myeong, Do Hyeong
Term Paper, AP World History Class, July 2012

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
II. Geographical Definition
III. Historical Background
III.1 Malabar Coast before the Arrival of Vasco da Gama
III.2 Early Settlements of Immigrants
III.2.1 The Jews
III.2.2 The Muslims
III.2.3 The Christians
IV. Encounters of Established Malabar Communities with European Cultures
IV.1 The Muslims
IV.1.1 Encounter with the Portuguese
IV.1.2 Encounter with the Dutch
IV.1.3 Encounter with the British
IV.2 The Jews
IV.2.1 Encounter with the Portuguese
IV.2.2 Encounter with the Dutch
IV.2.3 Encounter with the British
IV.3 The Syrian Christians
IV.3.1 Encounter with the Portuguese
IV.3.2 Encounter with the Dutch and the British
IV.4 The Hindu
IV.4.1 Encounter with the Portuguese
IV.4.2 Encounter with the British
V. Analysis
V.1 Before the Arrival of Vasco da Gama
V.2 After the Arrival of Vasco da Gama
VI. Conclusion

I. Introduction
            The southwestern coast of Indian subcontinent has long been an important center of maritime trade. Many cultures encountered one another along the coastline of Malabar, and by the 8th century, with the settlement of the Muslim immigrants, four cultural groups, the Hindu, the Muslims, the Jews, and the Syrian Christians, coexisted in the diverse cultural landscape of Malabar. For centuries these diverse communities coexisted, sometimes engaged in conflict with each other, but mainly in a modus vivendi, as members of Malabar society.
            When the European forces-the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British- arrived in the Malabar region, they had conflicts with the local population, some of them caused by the cultural differences. The term ¡°Clash of Culture¡±, although its usage has been the matter of dispute over many years, would probably best describe such conflicts; in this paper, the term would be used to refer to the misunderstandings and conflict between two or more cultural groups caused by the difference in their cultures as well as the major conflicts that result in the persecution of certain culture by another.
            This paper divides the native population of Malabar prior to the arrival of Europeans into four groups - the Muslim, the Jews, the Hindu, and the Syrian Christians - using religion as criterion, and observe the relationship between each group and the three main European forces that ruled over the Malabar Coast - the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British - from the arrival of the Portuguese in 1498 to the Independence of (British) India in 1947. The paper would focus on the interaction of Indian and foreign cultures and deal only briefly with the history and interactions of Indian religions.
            This paper aims to answer the following questions:
                What happened when different cultures encountered each other on the Malabar Coast ?
                What were the causes behind main misunderstandings and conflicts ?
                What were the influences of such events ?

II. Geographical Definition

The Malabar region lies along the southwest coast of Indian peninsula, lying on the coastal plain of modern day Karnataka and Kerala states between the Western Ghats range and the Arabian Sea. In old days the entire southwestern coast of Indian subcontinent was referred as Malabar Coast, but the modern usage of the term is restricted for the former Malabar District, which includes northern part of the modern Indian state of Kerala (1). In this paper, the term 'Malabar' will roughly refer to the modern day Kerala state, including historical kingdoms of Cochin, Calicut, Travancore, Quilon, and Cannanore.

III. Historical Background

III.1 Malabar Coast before the Arrival of Vasco da Gama
            From before the 3rd century BCE to until early 12th century, the Kingdom of Chera ruled much of the Malabar Coast area; it is recorded that they had some battles with the 'Yavanas' (Romans) on the Indian coast during reign of Senguttuvan Chera (2). A 4th-century CE Roman itinerary, Tabula Peuteringiana, notes the presence of a "Temple of Augustus" at Muziris, near Cochin, and it is recorded that several roman troops resided in the city to protect the merchants from pirates (3). This shows the early interaction - and possible cultural conflict - between the Romans and the inhabitants of Malabar Coast, although their relationship was more likely a symbiotic one. It is said that with the decline of the trade with the Romans, the power of Chera dynasty declined from 2nd century CE, and eventually fell in 5th century CE.
            Even before the arrival of the European maritime power, port cities on Malabar Coast functioned as centers of the Indian Ocean trade for centuries. Since 3000 BCE, the cities of Malabar Coast had commercial intercourse with Mesopotamia, and then gradually spread its trade route to Egypt, Greece, Rome, Jerusalem and the Arabs; such relationship is proved by coins and other artifacts unearthed from ancient port city sites of the Malabar region. In the Periplus Maris Erythraei, a 1st-century Greco-Roman periplus describing the navigation and trading opportunities from Roman Egyptian ports to the ports in Afro-Eurasian maritime trade route, the historical kingdom of Chera is mentioned under the name 'Kingdom of Cerobothra', and cities such as Muziris (later Cochin), Naura (Cannanore) and Tyndis which belong there is mentioned. According to this manuscript, these port cities were "of leading importance and abound in ships sent there with cargoes from Arabia" (4). It is also mentioned that those cities "ex-ported great quantities of fine pearls, ivory, silk cloth, spikenard from the Ganges, malabathrum from the places in the interior, transparent stones of all kinds, diamonds and sapphires, and tortoise-shell" (5). Cities such as Muziris served as the center of trade along the route which connects Rome, Mesopotamia, Egypt and African port cities, the Arabian Peninsula, and Indian subcontinent.
            Many travelers and explorers also visited Malabar Coast and left records of their travels. Fourteenth-century traveler Ibn Battuta mentions in his travelogue about Malabar as the "country of black pepper", indicative of that the region was famous for the trade of pepper even before the Europeans came (6). Zeng He, a Chinese fleet admiral who led expeditions to Southeast Asia, South Asia, Middle East, East Africa and the Horn of Africa, also records his arrival at "Guli" (Calicut) and "Kezhi" (Cochin). In the inscription carved on a stele at Changle, Fujian, it is recorded that "In the fifth year of Yongle (1407) commanding the fleet we went to Zhaowa (Java), Guli (Calicut), Kezhi (Cochin), and Xianle (Siam). The kings of these countries all sent as tribute precious objects, precious birds and rare animals" (7). Although the word "tribute" is a result of pro-Chinese bias, it is obvious that there was some kind of cultural exchange between the two groups. These records show that the cultural interaction between the Malabar Coast and the rest of the world was relatively very active.
            Even before the arrival of the Europeans, the Malabar society was ethically and religiously very diverse, containing various cultures, societies and subcultures. This cosmopolitan nature of the Malabar Coast cities led to the earliest settlement of Jews, Muslims, and Syrian Christians in India established there during the time of Chera dynasty; with the arrival of Muslim migrants in 7th century CE, the four dominant cultural groups of later Malabar region was established.

III.2 Early Settlements of Immigrants

III.2.1 The Jews
            The Jewish community in Cochin is thought to be first established around the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Jewish merchants are believed to have conducted regular voyages to the Malabar Coast bartering for ivory, apes, and silver as early as King Solomon's time (8), and after the Fall of Second Temple many Jews, during several periods of Jewish Diaspora, gradually migrated to the region centering around the port city of Cranganore near Cochin, and created a number of communities there.
            The Malabar Jews were granted religious toleration and equality with the indigenous Hindu population. The oldest Sasanam, a copper plate on which the special privileges of the Cochin Jews were codified, dates back to 379 CE. According to them, the Jews were allowed to live freely, build synagogues, and own property (9). In the 8th century CE, the Jewish leader Joseph Rabban was even granted a rank of prince over the Jews of Cochin by the Chera dynasty ruler Bhaskara Ravivarman II. By this, the Jews were granged seventy-two "free houses", and the tax revenue from Jews was collected by Rabban, not by the king himself (10).
            One reason why the Jews were not discriminated or created a cultural conflict in their early settlement of Cochin is that the Cochin Jews were already familiar with the region and assimilated into to local culture quickly. It is believed that the first generation of Malabar jews was composed of Jewish merchants who traveled to the Malabar Coast frequently and the children they had through intermarriage with local women (11). Thus, they knew the customs and culture of the region quite well when they actually came to settle down in the region, and had relatively small cultural conflict with the local population. Although the Malabar Jews did not abandon their original religion and culture, strictly obeying to Biblical Judaism, they also came to speak Judeao-Malayalam, a dialect of local Malayalam language, instead of their original language. This assimilation allowed them to communicate and mingle with the local population much easier. Moreover, the Jewish settlers were mostly merchants who brought wealth to the region where they settled down, so they were welcomed.
            When Saint Thomas the Apostle arrived at the port of Cranganore in 52 CE, many Jews converted to Christianity and became part of the Syrian Christian community. Also, after the arrival of the Portuguese in 1498 CE, in places where the Portuguese exercised influence, the Jews were persecuted by the Inquisition and were deprived of many of their privileges.

III.2.2 The Muslims
            The Muslim population of Malabar region is referred to as the Mappila (alternatively Mopla or Moplah). The Islamic religion was first introduced in Malabar Coast by the Arab traders in the 7th or 8th century CE, before the Muslim invasions of Indian subcontinent. The Muslims also established communities in Cranganore. By the eighth century, Muslim traders were found along the Malabar Coast as traders and there they settled, intermarried, and sustained distinctive cultural forms forged from their Arab ties and local setting, and in so doing helped link 'al-Hind' to seaborne trade routes (12). With the expansion of the Islamic empire, the trade between Malabar Coast and the Islamic world became more active, and as a result the Muslim merchants of Malabar Coast became prosperous. The native rulers of Malabar Coast, especially the Zamorins of Calicut, extended all facilities and protection to the Arab traders since they were essential in the economic prosperity of the state (13).
            In his travelogue, Ibn Battuta mentions that while infidels(non-Muslims) were served water in a vessel, Muslims had their water poured in their hands. However, he moves on, "in most of their districts, the Muslim merchants have houses, and are greatly respected" and non-Muslim population generally provided food and lodging for Muslim travelers as well as non-Muslim travelers (14). This illustrates the presence of the wealthy, respected Muslim merchants over the Malabar Coast and that the Muslims, although some degree of discrimination existed, were generally accepted and treated well.
            The Muslims in Cochin also came to use Malayalam language as their native language, and assimilated into native culture through intermarriage with local population. Also, similar to the Jewish settlers, the first generation of the Muslim settlers was also composed of merchants familiar with the Malabar region and their families. Moreover, since they were wealthy and their existence were essential to the flourishing trade with the Islamic world, the Muslim settlers of the Malabar Coast were often welcomed and protected by the local rulers. This allowed the Muslims to be the second largest group in Malabar Coast. Thus, the initial cultural conflict was relatively small between the Muslim settlers and the native population during the early days of settlement. However, the clashes eventually developed and erupted in the 9th century CE between the Muslims and the Christian / Jewish settlers as the Muslim merchants gained strength. The large Muslim population also later became the cause of conflict with the Portuguese.

III.2.3 Syrian Christians
            Christianity first reached India in AD 52 through Thomas the Apostle, and the first Christian community in India was also established in Cranganore. The Syrian Christians, as they were called, were also known as the Nasrani or Saint Thomas Christians. Much of the community was composed of the converted local Hindu people and already settled Jewish population; thus the Syrian Christians also speak the local language, Malayalam, and developed a unique culture which mixed aspects of Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Syrian Church (15).
            The settlement of Syrian Christians in Malabar Coast was almost purely religious whereas the Jewish settlement and the Muslim settlement included the migration of different ethnic groups. Since the majority of the Syrian Christians were local population and their culture was based on the local Hindi culture, few cultural conflicts occured between them and the majority of local Hindu population. Like the Jews, Syrian Christians were also persecuted or forced to convert to Roman Catholic after the arrival of the Portuguese through the Inquisitions.

IV. Encounters of Established Malabar Communities with European Cultures

IV.1 The Muslims

IV.1.1 Encounter with the Portuguese
            To both the Muslim culture and the Portuguese culture, overseas trade was an important element during the 15th and the 16th century in which Portuguese first arrived at the Malabar Coast. As the main motivation for the Portuguese expedition was to establish a direct trade route with India, the conflict between the Muslim population and the Portuguese was predictable from the beginning. The main reason that the Portuguese established their earliest trade center in the city of Cochin, not on the port of Calicut where Vasco da Gama first anchored his fleet, was the conflict between the Muslims of Calicut and da Gama¡¯s fleet. Traditionally, the Muslims played a major role in Calicut society as the military leaders, foreign ambassadors, or merchants in the overseas trade. Therefore, when Vasco da Gama, who mistook the Zamorin as a Christian king, asked the Zamorin of Calicut to exclude the Arab merchants in favor of the Portuguese, the Zamorin refused. This became the seed of long-lasting enmity between the Portuguese and the Zamorin's Calicut. Sixteenth-century Portuguese historian Gaspar Correa records this incident as blaming the "Malabar Moors" that "they all agreed that with all the power of themselves and their property, they should get the Portuguese turned out of the country, which they would also do in all the other parts, in such manner as that they should not be able to trade nor profit, nor establish men at arms, whom the Portuguese would be unable to maintain because they were from a very distant country; and in navigating to India the sea would swallow up so many that a sufficient number of them never could come up to India to make themselves masters of it, and take possession of countries, and deprive them of the great footing and powers which they held in India" (16). Although Correa's account is certainly biased against the Malabar Muslims, it is indicated in this passage that the Muslims in Malabar Coast and the Portuguese had clashing commercial interests. In this conflict, the response of Muslim population was as negative as that of the Portuguese; fearing that they would lose the privileges they enjoyed, the Muslim merchants of Calicut acted against the Portuguese. Because of the conflicting economic interests, the Portuguese sanked ships of Muslim merchants, massacred many Muslims, and demolished mosques (17).
            The conflict between the Muslims and the Portuguese had another reason other than economic interest; the religion. The Portuguese were ardent Roman Catholics, and the hostility between the Muslims and the Christians in the Iberian Peninsula made the Portuguese consider the Malabar Muslims as their enemy from the beginning. On 3 January 1510 the Portuguese burned down the chief mosque in Calicut. There was also an incident in which a Portuguese boy was taken to Mecca and converted to Islam; the Portuguese retaliated by attacking the ships going to the pilgrimage to Mecca, massacring the adult passengers, and converting the captured Muslim boys to Christianity (18). Also, after the establishment of the Goa Inquisition and arrival of the Jesuits, Muslims were persecuted and sometimes forced to convert to Christianity.
            However, despite the religious rivalry, the non-merchant Muslim population and the Portuguese was not very hostile to each other. The Portuguese maintained good relationship with the Kingdom of Cannanore, the only Muslim kingdom of the area. Also, the Portuguese even hired some of the Muslim soldiers (19). This indicates while the religious hostility also played a role in the cultural conflict between the Muslims of Malabar and the Portuguese, the primary reason of their clash originated from the conflict of interest.

IV.1.2 Encounter with the Dutch
            Unlike the Portuguese, the religiously tolerant Dutch did not persecute the Muslim population of Malabar Coast. Perhaps the reason for this was that by the time the Dutch came to dominate the region the Muslim merchants were already defeated by the Portuguese so that they were no longer a powerful rival. Since the dominance of the trade was already moved to the Portuguese, was no reason for the Dutch to be hostile to the Muslims. Also, some Dutch trade centers were established with the help of Muslim merchants; a Muslim merchant by the name of Mooskoi contributed to the development of trade centers in Chenganacherri, Pandalam, Kayamkulam, and Alappuza (20).
            Moreover, the Dutch, having arrived at the Malabar region comparatively later, might have had to collaborate with the local population hostile to the Portuguese rule. For example, when conquering the Portuguese Fortress in the city of Cochin, the Dutch got support from the zamorin of Calicut, the local Muslims, and Syrian Christians (21). The Dutch destroyed many Catholic institutions established by the Portuguese, which was welcomed from many native cultural groups (22).

IV.1.3 Encounter with the British
            Under the British rule which lasted from 1795 to 1947, there were many conflicts between the British and the Malabar Muslims, and also between the Hindus and the Muslims. The main reason for such conflict were religious tensions which increased through the series of Mysore invasions, the will for freedom, and most importantly, some British policies which intentionally or accidentally proved to be more harmful to the Muslims than to other groups of indigenuous population. Among various incidents such as the Anglo-Mysore wars and the Khilafat movement, the most indicative of such clashes would be the Mappila Riots, more specifically the Malabar Rebellion in 1921.
            The Background of the riots shows the misunderstanding of the local culture by the British. Traditionally the land tenure system in Malabar region included the Jenmi, Hindu landowners belonging to Brahmin caste who were forbidden to cultivate their own lands, the Nairs, wh were responsible for the security and supervision of the land and distribution of respective shares of produce, and the Thiyya (Hindu) and Mappila (Muslim) classes, the actual cultivator of the land (23). In this system all three classes harmoniously coexisted; the Jenmi was not allowed to evict the tenants under him unless for non-payment of rent, and the rights of the actual cultivators of the land were also respected as well as the rights of the Hindu landowners (24). However, lacking this knowledge, the British superimposed their own juridicial concepts, most importantly the concept of absolute property rights, upon the existing legal system and customs of Malabar. As a result, all of the lands suddenly became the private property of the Hindu landowners and they were also granted the rights to freely evict the tenants and raise the rent (25).
            As a result, great hostility grew among the Mappilas against the Hindu landowners and the British colonial power. According to British historian Annie Besant, "they murdered and plundered abundantly, and killed or drove away all Hindua who would not apostatize. Somewhere about a lakh of people were driven from their homes with nothing but the clothes they had on, stiripped of everything" (26). This incident resulted in 20,000 Muslim rioters deported to the penal colony in the Andaman Islands, in which process more than half of them went officially missing, and death of the 67 captured rioters suffocated in the closed iron wagon while being send to the Podanur prison (27). This incident was the result of cultural misunderstanding; the British were not familiar with the legal system of Malabar region.

IV.2 The Jews

IV.2.1 Encounter with the Portuguese
            The relationship between the Portuguese and the Jews were relatively hostile, first because of the religious conflict and second because of their competition in overseas trade. Starting from the 16th century, there was a new wave of Jewish immigrants from Europe to Malabar seeking fortune and religious freedom. This increased Jewish population-the increased competitors for overseas trade- was a matter of concern for the Portuguese; Afonso de Albuquerque, the second governor of the Portuguese India, even sought advice of the king of Portugal regarding the management of the Spanish Jews in Malabar (28). In 1567, through a decree of the First Provincial Council of Goa, the Christians were forbidden to bring and take any Jew to any commercial centre where Christians traded. This was to keep the Jews away from the trade and thereby get rid of the competition on their part (29). Also, the third Goan Provincial Council instructed the Christians not to lend houses to the Jews in towns and in Christian settlements. Jews were also forbidden from entering the houses of the Christians (30). This decree was issued for the assumption that the presence of the Jews would create problems in Christian faith.
            For the Portuguese, the main cause of clash with the Jews was the religion. Although the Portuguese ardently tried to convert the local population of the Malabar Coast to Roman Catholicism, the Jews were regarded as the least interested in conversions; even after their conversion, the former Jews were never free from the doubt that they secretly performed occult Jewish rituals. Along with the Inquisition, the Portuguese also burned down the Jewish synagogue and confiscated Jewish books. In 1497, when Martim Pinheiro, an expelled Jew from Portugal, sold the Jewish books he brought with him to Cochin Jews, the Viceroy confiscated those books and returned the money to the Jews (31).
            Perhaps the most severe cultural clash between the Jews and the Portuguese occurred in the synagogue of Parur. At the time of the arrival of Portuguese the Jews had a ritual, of making the figure of Jesus and persecute it as the New Testament records, in order to mock the nearby Christians; the enraged Portuguese set fire to the synagogue and massacred the Jews (32).
            Rather than trying to embrace the Jewish presence and their culture, the Portuguese persecuted them, trying to convert them and superimpose the Portuguese religion and culture over the indigenous one. Because of such persecution, the Jews often supported the opponents of the Portuguese such as the Dutch or the Zamorin of Calicut. Eventually the Portuguese were defeated, but until then the conflict lingered on.

IV.2.2 Encounter with the Dutch
            Under the Dutch rule the Jews experienced religious tolerance. Little conflicts existed between the Jews of Malabar and the Dutch residents. The Portuguese religious institutions were abolished, and the persecution of the Jews ended. Synagogues were rebuilt, and the books Portuguese burned were reprinted. David Ezekiel Rahabbi, the Jewish leader and merchant, had close links with the local community and the European countries; he was appointed as chief merchant agent by the V.O.C., and worked as the company¡¯s diplomat to the king of Travancore, the zamorin of Calicut, and other native rulers. He imported many Hebrew books, existing copies of which were destroyed by the Portuguese in Malabar, from Amsterdam (33). The Jews provided services for the local rulers and the V.O.C. The Jewish merchants rather cooperated with the V.O.C in their overseas trade (34).
            In this period, the Malabar Jews reestablished their links with the European Jews. In 1687, a Jewish delegation from Amsterdam led by Thomas Perera arrived at Malabar Coast. After his return to Europe, Perera published his report under the title "Norsias Dos Judeos De Cochim" (on the history of Cochin Jews) (35). Under Dutch rule, the Jews, in particular the white Jews who settled in Malabar at comparatively later period, played the role of bridge between the two cultures of Europeans and the natives rather than having cultural conflicts with the Dutch.

IV.2.3 Encounter with the British
            The British rule starting from 1795 was also relatively favorable for the Jews. Like the Dutch, the British did not try to convert the Jews and granted them religious tolerance. In 1900, Lord Curzon, the British Viceroy, even visited the Jewish Synagogue in Cochin. Under the British rule, the school which taught English and Hebrew was established in 1835, and the Hebrew Malayalam Press was established later in 1877 (36). Again, the Jewish community in Malabar had little conflict with the British.
            Soon after the Independence of British India, the Jewish nation-state of Israel was established. The vast majority of the Jewish community in the Malabar Coast migrated into Israel, and the community is nearly extinct nowadays (37).

IV.3 The Syrian Christians

IV.3.1 Encounter with the Portuguese
            Historically, the Saint Thomas Christian community was part of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and their bishops came from Antioch, Syria. When the Portuguese first arrived at the Malabar Coast, the response of the local Syrian Christians were more than happy to meet fellow Christians. Gaspar Correa records the incident in which the group of "Moors" approached the Portuguese fleet and begged to be made Christians (38). He also takes record of the visit of the Syrian Christian envoys to Vasco da Gama. In this visit, the envoys "came to offer themselves as subjects of the King of Portugal, and gave to Gama, in sign of obedience, a red staff like a scepter with silver ends, and at one end three little silver bells; they asked to be visited and protected from the infidel people who vexed them" (39). The reason for the Syrian Christians' request for protection might have been the conflict they had with the Muslims and the Hindus; the two other religious groups occasionally persecuted the Syrian Christians on account of religious and commercial rivalries (40).
            As indicated by these accounts, with the religious affinity and mutual benefits, the earliest relationships with the Portuguese and the Syrian Christians were favorable. One possible reason the Portuguese remained friendly to the Syrian Christians would be that those people were the primary producers of the pepper and the spice which Portuguese sought to have monopoly on. The Syrian Christians helped the Portuguese in the trade of pepper, and so they were important to the Portuguese.
            The Portuguese, suspicious of the Syrian Christians in Malabar to belong to the Nestorian heresy, tried ardently to preach Roman Catholicism. The missionaries were brought to preach to the Syrian Christians, and a college for the children of Syrian Christians were established in 1541 (41). When these efforts proved to be fruitless, the Portuguese decided to bring the prelates of Syrian Christians under the obedience to Rome and interrupt the coming of Bishops from Syria. The Portuguese even Mar Joseph, the prelate of Syrian Christian, to the Inquisitor in Portugal for propagating false faith (42). In 1599, the local customs were officially anathematized as heretical and the manuscripts were condemned in a incident known as Synod of Diamper. Many Syrian Christian prelates took refuge in the interior region in avoidance of the Portuguese force, and the community was divided between the Catholic-indoctrinated population and those who maintained their original belief. The Portuguese policies only caused a schism and cultural confusion within the Syrian Christian society.
            Although the two groups belonged to the same religion, the Portuguese regarded as the differences in lifestyles as heretic elements and sought to change the lifestyle of the Syrian Christians in accordance with the Portuguese cultural norm. As a result, the Syrian Christian community in Malabar society was divided into two distinct groups; the Roman Catholics who accepted the Portuguese cultural standards and the Syrian Christians who maintained their original way of life.

IV.3.2 Encounter with the Dutch and the British
            The Dutch helped the Syrian Christians against the Roman Catholic Church (43). During the Bent Cross Oath in 1653 the entire Syrian Christian Community split out from Rome. After the Dutch conquered Cochin they expelled all the Portuguese and other European missionaries. Although the converted Roman Catholics were still present in the Malabar society, the Syrian Christians as a separate sect maintained their existence. In the British period, the missionaries from Anglican Church influenced the education of the Christians and brought emphasis on Biblical studies (44). Around 1795, the kingdoms of Travancore and Cochin were reduced to the client regimes of the E.I.C. and had to disband their armies. This deprived many Syrian Christians, who served as military officials in these kingdoms, of their livelihood (45). Ever since, the socio-economical status of Syrian Christians experienced a downhill path with the further division and conflicts within their religion.
            During the Dutch and the following British period the Syrian Christian church had undergone several splits, reformations, and conflicts between sects. This complicated situation was the legacy of the Portuguese rule, however; the Dutch and the British did not cause the trouble, but it just happened in their era as a result of former problems. As Mar Jacob said to the Portuguese king, "the change in the customs of the St. Thomas Christians" created "troubles in the community itself" (46).

IV.4 The Hindus

IV.4.1 Encounter with the Portuguese
            The Hindus composed the ethnic majority of the Malabar population when the Portuguese arrived. While the Hindu population of Malabar Coast had no particular interest conflict with Portuguese, and thus maintained peaceful relationships, certain cultural differences resulted in outward conflicts. The Portuguese ridiculed the Hindus for having many god, and tried to convert the native population to Christianity; however, although some persons from lower castes converted to Christianity to seek social mobility, the dominant ruling class remained negative to the Christianity (47). To the Portuguese this kind of attitude was very irritating, and the efforts to convert the local population often led to minor conflicts, although major clash did not occur.
            Also, the Portuguese killing and eating cow had been the matter of concern for many Hindu rulers of Malabar. Many cultural groups such as Syrian Christians avoided eating beef in Hindu villages in respect to their religion, but the Portuguese, without such respect, killed cows and ate beef in the Hindu-dominant regions (48). The king of Cochin even wrote a letter in 1510 gently requesting the Portuguese to avoid the killing of sacred cows (49).
            Later, the Portuguese prohibited the mingling of the Hindus and Christians, as well as the hiring of Hindu native to the ecclesiastical affairs. Because of these prohibitions the contact - and thus conflict - between the two cultures became scarcer, and the two cultures maintained rather good relationships - at least not hostile relationships - with each other at least on surface level.

IV.4.2 Encounter with the British
            After the Portuguese period, the Dutch period passed without big cultural conflicts; the Dutch were religiously tolerant and did not try to alter the local culture. Under the British rule, many of the British cultural elements were imposed to the Malabar region. For example, the law system was "modernized", systemized education system was established, and land reform was implemented (50). As mentioned earlier in reference to the Malabar rebellions, these newly imposed cultures sometimes collided with the local customs. Reforms such as abolishment of slavery or the ban on sati interfered with established customs. However, although some independence movements and anti-British movements occurred in the Malabar region, the conflict of culture did not play major role in those movements. Many Hindus, especially those belonging to higher castes or the educated ones, understood the values behind such policies although they clashed with the local culture, and tried to embrace and take advantage of them.
V. Analysis

V.1 Before the Arrival of Vasco da Gama
            Few cultural clashes occurred on the coast of Malabar before the arrival of the European explorers. From ancient periods, Malabar engaged in a maritime trade with various countries in the world, and in that course also encountered many cultures. Because of this reason, the Malabar society was already accustomed to the coexistence of various religions and cultures, and developed a rather relative and tolerant viewpoint towards foreign cultures. Merchants and immigrants were welcomed from all over the world as far as they do not threaten the local population. Newcomers were integrated and given the same rights and status as the natives, as shown in the attitude of Chera ruler Bhaskara Ravivarman II towards the Jewish migrants to Cochin. Many religious communities, such as the Muslims, the Jews, and the Syrian Christians established their religious communities in Malabar and preserved their own religion and culture along with native South Asian cultures such as the Hindus, the Buddhists, or the Jains. Many cultural groups coexisted in Malabar region, and they interacted with each other: sometimes having conflicts, sometimes accepting elements of other cultures, sometimes assimilating to a shared common culture. Although some conflicts occurred, they were results of the clashing political or economic interests, not results of the cultural differences. Thus, before the arrival of the Europeans, not much of the cultural clashes happened between diverse religious-cultural groups of Malabar although the religious kaleidoscope became more and more diverse throughout this period.

V.2 After the Arrival of Vasco da Gama
            After the arrival of the Portuguese, the local host cultures and European guest cultures often had conflicts with each other. Since the cultural clashes usually originated from the intolerance of European culture, the clash of cultures in Malabar occurred depending on the attitude of the European forces towards a certain cultural group and the response of that group. The first group of the Europeans to arrive, the Portuguese, had two main concerns; economical benefits through trade and the spread of Roman Catholic. As the Portuguese culture in the age of discovery put emphasis on overseas trade, the clashing economic interests were also the reason between many cultural clashes between the Portuguese and other trade-based communities such as the Muslims or the Jewish merchants. The Portuguese persecuted the Muslims and the Jews because of both reasons, and while they maintained relatively good relationships with the Hindus and the Syrian Christians, also undermined their religion and tried to convert them. However, the Dutch, who were also interested in commercial benefits but was religiously tolerant, maintained relatively peaceful relationships with all four main groups of the Malabar society. The last group, the British, were interested more in reform than conversion; the cultural element the British tried to impose upon the native culture was their social system rather than religion. Thus, while the lack of understanding to some local culture created a problem, as with the Muslims in the Malabar Rebellion, the British also maintained a relatively peaceful, although discontented because of economic exploitations and racial discriminations, relationship with the locals.
            The clash of cultures in Malabar was often caused by the combination of multiple reasons. However, if one were to choose a single factor behind the majority of the cultural clashes, it would be ethnocentrism, or the belief of certain culture¡¯s supremacy over others. Cultural conflicts in the Portuguese period occurred mostly because of the religious rivalry; the Portuguese considered all four main religions of the Malabar region as inferior to their own, and tried to change the locals in order to make their culture identical with the Portuguese one. The British, although in much lesser degree than the Portuguese, also had some conflicts with the local populations, mostly the Muslims, because they enforced their cultural norm over the colonial Malabar society which had conflicting customs with the British policies. On the other hand, the Dutch, who were not only religiously tolerant but also much less ardent in imposing their culture over the native one, suffered the least cultural conflicts.

VI. Conclusion
            The relationships between the local cultures and the Europeans were formed according to the attitudes of the "guest culture" - the European - and the reactions of the "host culture" - the locals. When the two encountering cultures had common religion or were tolerant of each other, politically or economically beneficial to each other, or did not try to enforce the cultural norms of one group to the other, a peaceful relationship was established, and little cultural clashes occurred. Else, when there was religious rivalry, competition, or imposing of one culture upon another, cultural clashes occur, often resulting in the outward violence and hostility between the involved groups or the assimilation of one group to another.
            The causes behind cultural clashes varied according to situations, but the main reasons were the religion, the socio-economic background, and the ethnocentricism. The religious persecution and efforts to convert the other group led to the conflict between the cultures, and the fierce competition and rivalry often resulted in the persecution of one cultural group by another. Also, the intolerance to different groups and belief of cultural superiority lies in the background of all cultural conflicts. Between the cultures in which trade was of key importance, economic reasons also became the cause for cultural conflict. Such cultural clashes often resulted in long-term influences. A cultural group that dominated the region before could be reduced to the powerless. The existing cultures diverged, or changed, in accordance with the foreign influence.
            On the Malabar Coast various cultural clashes occurred, proceeded, and influenced the rest of the society over long time. With the encounters with the Europeans some communities flourished, others declined; some were permanently changed, others stayed the same; some divided into many branches while others merged to form a single culture. These encounters, conflicts, and interactions with European culture are what formed the present cultures of Malabar region, embracing and excluding the elements of new cultures on the basis of the native ones.

(1)      Wikipedia, Malabar (Northern Kerala)
(2)      Wikipedia, Chera Dynasty
(3)      Peutinger map
(4)      Schoff 1912 , ch. 53-54
(5)      Ibid., ch. 56
(6)      Battuta 2004, p. 166
(7)      Zheng He's Inscription
(8)      Katz et al. 1993, p. 98
(9)      Burgess 1874, pp. 333-334
(10)      Blady 2000, pp. 115-130
(11)      Fernandes 2011, p. 98
(12)      Metcalf et al. 2002, p. 5
(13)      Wikipedia, Mappila
(14)      Battuta 2004, p. 166
(15)      Coward 1993, p. 16
(16)      Correa 2005, pp. 156-157
(17)      John 2010 p. 124
(18)      Ibid., p. 125
(19)      Ibid., p. 246
(20)      Kerala History, Muslims of Kerala
(21)      Wikipedia, Fort Kochi
(22)      Ibid.
(23)      Wikipedia, Mappila Riots
(24)      Wikipedia, Malabar Rebellion
(25)      Ibid.
(26)      Besant 1922, p. 252
(27)      Wikipedia, Malabar Rebellion
(28)      John 2010, p. 131
(29)      Ibid., p. 212
(30)      Ibid., pp. 212-213
(31)      Ibid., p. 129
(32)      Ibid., p. 130
(33)      Encyclopaedia Judaica, Rahabi, Ezekiel
(34)      Jewish Encyclopedia, Cochin
(35)      Kerala History, Jews of Kerala
(36)      Ibid.
(37)      Wikipedia, Cochin Jews
(38)      Correa 2005, pp. 333-334
(39)      Ibid., p. 354
(40)      John 2010, p. 103
(41)      Ibid., p. 106
(42)      Ibid., p. 108
(43)      Wikipedia, Dutch Malabar
(44)      Kerala History, Christians of Kerala
(45)      Wikipedia, Saint Thomas Christians
(46)      John 2010, p. 107
(47)      Ibid., p. 93
(48)      Ibid.,
(49)      Correa 2005, pp. 295-296
(50)      Wikipedia, British Raj

Bibliography The following websites were last visited in June 2012. All Wikipedia articles cited below are from the English version, except noted.

1.      Schoff 1912: William H. Schoff, The Periplus of The Erythraean Sea: Travel and Trade in the Indian Ocean by a Merchant of the First Century, Longmans, New York, 1912
2.      Battuta 2004: Ibn Battuta, The Travels of Ibn Battuta in the Near East, Asia and Africa 1325-1354, translated and edited by Rev. Samuel Lee., Dover Publications, Mineola, 2004
3.      Katz et al. 1993: Nathan Katz et al., The Last Jews of Cochin, University of Sotuh Carolina Press, Columbia, 1993
4.      Fernandes 2011: Edna Fernandes, The Last Jews of Kerala, Granta, London, 2011
5.      Burgess 1874 : Jas Burgess, Indian Antiquary, Volume iii, Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Archaeological Survey of India, London, 1874
6.      Blady 2000: Ken Blady, Jewish Communities in Exotic Places, Jason Aronson Inc., Northvale, 2000
7.      Metcalf et al. 2002: Barbara D. Metcalf et al., A Concise History of India, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2002
8.      Coward 1993: Harold Coward, Hindu-Christian Dialogue: Perspectives and Encounters, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1993
9.      Smith 2001: Vincent A. Smith, The Oxford History of India( first edition printed in 1919), Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001
10.      Correa 2005: Gaspar Correa, The Three Voyages of Vasco da Gama and his Viceroyalty ( first English edition printed in 1869), translated and edited by Henry E. J. Stanley, Elibron Classics, London, 2005
11.      Besant 1922: Annie Besant, The Future of Indian Politics: A Contribution to the Understanding of Present-Day Problems, Theosophical Publishing House, London, 1922
12.      Joseph 2003: George Joseph, The Life and Times of a Kerala Christian Nationalist, Orient Blackswan, Delhi, 2003
13.      Panikkar 1931: Kavalam Madhava Panikkar, Malabar and the Dutch, D. B. Taraporevala sons & co., 1931
14.      Logan 1887: William Logan, Malabar Manual, Asian Educational Services, London, 1887
15.      Fischel 2007: Walter Joseph Fischel, Encyclopaedia Judaica (Vol. 17), edited by M. Berenbaum et al., Detroit, Macmillan Reference USA, 2007

Thesis Papers
16.      Malekandathil 2010: Pius M. C. Malekandathil, Portuguese Cochin and the Maritime Trade of India, 1500-1663, Pondicherry University, 26 Oct 2010
17.      John 2010: James John, The Portuguese and the Socio-cultural Changes in Malabar: 1498-1663, Pondicherry University, 26 Oct 2010

18.      Article, Malabar Coast, Wikipedia,
19.      Article, Malabar (Northern Kerala), Wikipedia,
20.      Article, Chera Dynasty, Wikipedia,
21.      Zheng He's Inscription, University of Minnesota,
22.      Peutinger map as a seamless whole, by Richard Talbert,
23.      Article, Cochin Jews, Wikipedia,
24.      Article, Mappila, Wikipedia:
25.      Article, Muslims of Kerala, Wikipedia
26.      Article, Saint Thomas Christians, Wikipedia,
27.      Marco Ramerini, The Portuguese in Cochin, ColonialVoyage.Com
28.      Article, Kingdom of Cochin, Wikipedia,
29.      Muslims of Kerala, Kerala History,
30.      Jews of Kerala, Kerala History,
31.      Christians of Kerala, Kerala History,
32.      Article, Fort Kochi, Wikipedia,
33.      Article, Mappila Riots, Wikipedia
34.      Article, Malabar Rebellion, Wikipedia,
35.      Article, Cochin, Jewish Encyclopedia
36.      Article, British Raj, Wikipedia
37.      Article, Rahabi, Ezekiel, Encyclopaedia Judaica (from Gale Virtual Reference Library):
38.      World History at KMLA, History of Malabar
39.      World History at KMLA, History of Cochin
40.      World History at KMLA, History of Travancore,
41.      World History at KMLA, History of Calicut,
41.      Article : Dutch Malabar, Wikipedia,

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