Does the Pagan King reply? Malayalam documents on the Portuguese arrival in India

Mahmood Kooria*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

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 Kērala 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, Tuhfat 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 Kēralōlpatti and Kērala-palama are clear voices from Malabar on the Portuguese arrival and consequent episodes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-442
Number of pages20
Issue number3
Early online date11 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Arabic
  • literary interactions
  • Malabar
  • Malayalam
  • Portuguese
  • South India
  • translation


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