Portuguese Conquests

Portuguese Conquest & Colonization

The Arabs were controlling the spice trade with India since the end of the 12th century AD. During the 15th century AD, Spain and Portugal, the then main maritime powers of Europe, initiated a series of expeditions with royal patronage. While one such voyage led to the discovery of West Indies by Columbus, another voyage brought the Portuguese to India, the El Dorado.

The Arrival of The Portuguese

Vasco da Gama

Vasco da Gama, a nobleman and navigator sailed out from Portugal on July 8, 1497, with 4 ships and 170 men, travelled along the western coast of Africa, crossed the Cape of Good Hope south of South Africa and moved eastwards to reach Kapukad, twelve kilometers north of Calicut on the Malabar coast of Kerala, on May 17, 1498. Indian spices and spread of Christianity were the two driving factors behind this voyage.

After sustained efforts of almost 80 years by the Europeans, this breakthrough heralded a new dawn in Indo-European relations. Portugal made expeditions to India a regular annual event.

The Portuguese eyed the Arab monopoly of Indian spice trade and tried to overthrow the Arabs. They succeeded, however, after continuous battles with the Arabs within twenty years of their arrival in India.

Pedro Alvares Cabral led the second voyage in 1500 AD when he brought 17 missionaries to convert the Hindus. He established the first Portuguese factory at Cochin and established friendship with the Chief of Cochin and Cannanor.

In his second voyage in 1502, Gama was instructed to snap the Arab trade with India. He destroyed the Muslim business at Calicut.

Francisco de Almeida

In 1505, the King of Portugal appointed Francisco de Almeida as his Viceroy in India for three years. Almeida built forts at Anjediva and Cannanor, developed friendly relations with Emperor Vir Narasimha of Vijaynagar. He defeated the combined naval might of the Sultan of Egypt and the Sultan of Gujarat in 1507 and initiated the Portuguese domination of sea-trade from Indian shores.

Afonso de Albuquerque

His successor Afonso de Albuquerque (1509-1515) furthered the cause by capturing Goa (1510), Malacca (1511) and Ormuz (1515), although he failed to capture Aden.

The Portuguese prestige and might received a tremendous boost. The Samudri of Calicut, the Emperor of Vijaynagar and the Sultan of Gujarat sent their envoys to establish friendly relations with Albuquerque.

Albuquerque developed Goa into a great trade centre, particularly for Arab horses. Albuquerque returned from Malacca in 1512. He attacked Rosal Khan at the Banastarim fort and after a prolonged battle forced him to withdraw from the fort. The Bijapuri reinforcement, arrived a day later, however, proved futile.

Now Vijaynagar and Bijapur both approached him to ensure a steady supply of Arab horses. But no arrangements could be reached with any of them.

Albuquerque established the Portuguese authority over Goa and took a series of measures to safeguard it. He made drills compulsory for the troops to keep them physically fit, allowed Portuguese men to marry local women in order to create a loyal population to be known as Casados, who got homes, cultivable lands, provisions and government jobs to settle. Their offspring could be recruited to the Army and the Navy to raise a local defense force.

He built churches and a hospital and established a municipal council. He banned Sati, the practice of burning a widow on the funeral pyre of her husband, followed by the Hindus. After his death on December 15, 1515, Lopo Soares took over.

The Old Conquests


The hostility between the Portuguese and the Adil Shah continued. The Shah tried to retake Goa in 1516 but failed. During the war between Vijaynagar and Bijapur in 1520, the Portuguese captured Bardez, Ponda and Salcete from the Shah at the instance of the Vijaynagar emperor Krishna Deva Raya. However, the Shah recovered the lands a couple of years later.

However, during the animosity between the Shah and his governor Asad Khan in 1532, the Portuguese sided with the latter in exchange of Bardez and Salcete.

But after the death of Ismail Shah in 1534, Asad Khan patched up with the new Shah. He retook both Bardez and Salcete from the Portuguese by force in 1536. However, when the rivalry between Asad Khan and the Shah surfaced, the Portuguese took the side of the Shah.

They signed a treaty in 1543 by which the Portuguese got Bardez and Salcete in exchange of sending Mir Ali, the Shah's uncle and rival to the throne, to Malacca. Though they never fulfilled their promise, the territories remained with them till 1961. Thus the old conquest ended in 1543 with the acquisition of Tiswadi, Bardez and Salcete, besides Daman and Diu in the 16th century.


The New Conquests

In 1570, the Portuguese under the leadership of Viceroy Luis de Ataide successfully repulsed a grand attack of the combined might of the Adil Shah of Bijapur, the Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar, the Samudri of Calicut, the Queen of Gersoppa and the Queen of Ullala, and consolidated their positions in the old conquest area decisively.

However, a new threat came from outside. The Dutch, more powerful than the Portuguese, inflicted heavy losses on the Portuguese in the East and India.

During years of rivalry for naval supremacy and control of spice trade, the Dutch entered into alliances with various anti-Portuguese Indian Kingdoms, and drove the Portuguese out of all the forts and territories along the west coast of India.

In addition, the Dutch captured Malacca and Ceylon. Thus by 1668, the Portuguese were left with only Chaul, Bardez, Salcete and Tiswadi or the Island of Goa.

The Portuguese had to wait for favourable occasions. In 1741, they forcibly seized Paroda, Molem and Siroda from the rulers of Sonda. In 1746, they captured the strategically important forts of Acaro and Tiracol, and the Satari Mahal from the Savants of Sawantwadi.

In 1781, they occupied Bhatagram, and obtained Pernem in 1788 from the Sawant for helping them against Kolhapur. In return of their help to the King of Sonda against Hyder Ali of Mysore, the Portuguese got Antruj alias Ponda and the Panch Mahals including Hemad Barshe, Zambaulim alias Ashtagar, Cacora, Bali along with Chandrawadi and Canacona in 1791.

Thus by the end of the 18th century, the new conquests expanded the Portuguese domination from Sawantwadi in the north to Karwar in the South, and Supa in the East to the West Coast. The territories of new conquest were Pernem, Bicholim, Satari, Ponda, Quepem, Sanguem and Canacona.