The Portuguese Nazarenes - Part I
There were more than 30,000 Mangalorean Catholics in South Kanara district of present day Karnataka State when Hyder Ali of Mysore conquered the rich kingdom of Bedanore in 1763. The Christians under the Keladi queen Rani Chennamma (1671-1697) were hardworking and a prosperous community holding high posts at her court. She had donated land to them to build churches and they enjoyed her patronage which was later followed by other Keladi rulers. She is the same queen who stood up to Aurangzeb's great army and forced him to sign a friendly trade treaty with her. I have been reading about the Keladi Nayaks for a number of years who ruled Malanad, coastal Karnataka, North Kerala and Malabar. I have searched many libraries in Kerala, Mysore and London. Read the history of Mysore by Shastri and Mark Wilks. And the book - Journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore and Canara by Francis Buchanan which has thrown light on this episode. But, I am yet to go through the archives in Tamil Nadu State Library. This will be of interest because Mangalore went under the British rule after Tipu Sultan died in 1799 and then became part of Madras Presidency.Tippu fought four wars with the British East India Company, called Anglo-Mysore Wars. The Second Anglo Mysore war (1780-84) gave victory to Tippu Sultan and the British had to sign the humiliating Treaty of Mangalore. This is the only time, an Indian power dictated terms to the British. Tipu took many British officers and soldiers to Srirangapatna and had them tortured and killed. But, what is of interest to me and the people of Mangalore-- is that Tipu took all his anger on the poor helpless Christian Community in Mangalore who were Roman Catholics unlike the British who belonged to the Church of England and not Rome. And the British crown in England and the Portuguese powers in Goa and Portugal did not take any interest in the plight of Tippu's Christian prisoners. They were not even mentioned in the Mangalore Treaty. For the British the Indian natives were of no consequence. They were pawns in their great game of colonization and power. Tippu in his great wisdom thought it was the Christians of Mangalore who supplied food to the British Garrison at Mangalore when he surrounded the city to cut off supplies. He camped with his great army flying green flags of Islam and ordered that no food supply should reach the British holed up in side the fort; And it may bring a smile to Indians that the British surrendered to Tipu only after months of starvation when they were ready to eat rats, crows and insects as food. Many British soldiers died of starvation and scurvy.After the British left Mangalore, the Great Sword of Tipu Sultan came heavily on the Mangalore Christians who became his sacrificial goats. In a military type of pre-dawn operation; Tippu ordered the march of 30,000 well to do innocent rich Mangalorean Christians on foot through the jungles of the Western Ghats to the plains of Mysore into captivity in Srirangapattanna in the summer of 1784 with only the clothes they had on and nothing else. Most of them died on the way of starvation and those that lived and survived led a pitiful existence working in Tipu's ammunition factories till they were liberated by the British when Tipu died in 1799. It is assumed not more than 2000 came crawling back to Mangalore to find all their possessions and land confiscated and given to Tipu's loyal subjects. Though later, the British gave the Christians uncultivable or barren land which today are rich Coffee Estates and big mansions here and there and slowly they limped back to life and devoted their time in spreading education in South Kanara. It is even said that the young and handsome Christian boys captured were converted to Islam and Tipu Christened them Amadis or God's chosen people. And the girls and women were married off to his soldiers. He gave the boys military training and used them as front line fodder in his Anglo-Mysore Wars with the British! Even as late as the sixties many Mangalore Christians held Tipu Sultan in great awe and fear. In some of the Christian homes in Mulki,Kinnigoli and Kalyanpur little children crying loudly were silenced with the words "Don't cry Tippu will come and take you away!