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Portuguese empire in India

Read in detail about arrival of Portuguese, the empire they built and their subsequent decline in India.

From 7th century onwards, India’s merchandise trade with European countries was dominated by Arabs who did not allow any other powers to encroach these routes. Due to the highly profitable nature of trade and huge demand of Indian spices and merchandise in Europe, European countries envied Arabs and wanted to find an alternative direct route to India. To find the alternative route, European sailors started taking long voyages.

Arrival of Portuguese : 

It was the Portuguese who succeeded and  discovered alternative sea routes to India. Portuguese traveler Vasco da Gama discovered an alternate route from Portugal to India via Cape of Good Hope. He first reached India in May 1498 in Calicut. He was received by Zamorin who was the ruler of Kozhikode. Despite objections from the Arab raiders, He obtained permission from the Zamorin to trade in Calicut.

Portuguese were also the first Europeans to settle and colonize India. They came to India mainly to trade in spices but gradually made their colonies here.

In 1503, Francisco de Almeida was sent as Governor and Viceroy of ‘Estado da India’( Name the Portuguese gave to their empire in India).

In 1510, He was replaced by Alfonso de Albuquerque. Below are the worth noting points about Albuquerque:

  • Albuquerque invaded Goa in 1510 and fought the Battle of Goa (1510) with the forces of Sultan of Bijapur Adil Shah and established a Portuguese colony in Goa.
  • He started the first Portuguese mint and issued coins in Gold, Silver and Bronze.
  • He encouraged Portuguese to have marriage alliances with Indian women. 
  • He was first to abolish the practice of Sati in Goa.
  • He maintained friendly relations with the rulers of Vijayanagar Empire.

Due to the above reasons, Albuquerque is known as the real founder of the Portuguese colonial empire in India.

Decline of Portuguese empire in India: 

The Portuguese empire in India could not last long and soon the Portuguese had abandoned India in favor of the other European powers. Following are the reasons for  decline of Portuguese empire in India : 

  • After Albuquerque, there came no Portuguese governor with strong will and ambition to expand the Portuguese empire.
  • In 1612, the Portuguese lost Surat to the British.
  • In 1631, Mughals recaptured Hugli from them.
  • Because of the strategic location of Bombay as a port, all European powers wanted to establish their hegemony on it. However, In 1661, the Portuguese gave Bombay in dowry to Prince Charles-II of England.
  • Their spirit of converting all their subjects to Christianity, even forcefully, was not liked by local masses and rulers. 

Due to the above reasons, By the 19th century, Portuguese became confined to only Goa, Daman and Diu.

In 1961 , Portuguese finally lost their final colonial outpost of Goa when the Indian army launched a military operation and liberated it after 450 years of Portuguese rule .

We this, we conclude this topic here. 

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