The Pagan King Replies: An Indian Perspective on the Portuguese Arrival in India

TitleThe Pagan King Replies: An Indian Perspective on the Portuguese Arrival in India
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsPrange, S
KeywordsHistoriography, India, Malabar Coast, manuscript cultures, Portugal, primary sources

This article recommends a virtually unknown manuscript on the early Portuguese presence in India to wider scholarly attention. Dubbed here the Wye manuscript, this text purports to be an English translation of a sixteenth-century Malayalam history that was produced at the court of the ruler of Calicut. The South Indian kingdom of Calicut was central to Portugal’s project of monopolizing the region’s all-important pepper trade; the Wye manuscript therefore holds the promise of adding an Indian perspective to a history that has been written largely on the basis of European sources. This article examines the external and internal evidence for the author’s claim of having translated the text from an original palm-leaf manuscript held by members of Calicut’s royal family. An analysis of its content shows significant overlap with an Arabic history of the sixteenth century; a comparison of their similarities and differences suggests a number of insights into the processes of composition and revision of both the Malayalam and Arabic texts. Last, and most important, the Wye manuscript is transcribed in full in the hope of stimulating further discussion and study.

Refereed DesignationRefereed