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For almost eight months now, I have been learning Portuguese on my own. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, Hindi has been influenced by many other languages, and these were oftentimes those of merchants who came to the subcontinent to trade in its rich natural resources. Portuguese is one such language that has influenced Hindi through South Indian languages with which it came in direct contact as well as Arabic (Arab merchants were trading in the subcontinent around the time that the Portuguese first arrived there). Knowing the source language of a word in Hindi can help tremendously in determining that word’s gender; because Hindi is somewhat of a mishmash of different languages, it is sometimes dangerous to make hard and fast rules as to the gender of a certain word if you don’t know that word’s source language because each source language has its own rules for determining gender. For example, most people would say that you determine the feminine gender in Hindi by the addition of an -इ (short “i”) or an -ई (long “i”) to the end of a word, but that rule doesn’t work for words like पानी/paani (water, masc.), आदमी/aadmi (man, masc., from Arabic) and हाथी/haathi (elephant, masc.). This rule also doesn’t work for some words that come from Sanskrit, like भाषा/bhaasha (language, fem.) and आशा/aashaa (hope, fem.), which end in a -आ (long “a”) usually associated with masculine nouns. However, though Hindi rules (and exceptions) of gender could be discussed at length, this blog (divided into three parts) is devoted to a different topic: the fascinating history of Portuguese’s influence on Hindi!
Major Portuguese (पुर्तगाली, purtgaali, adj.) interaction with the subcontinent began on May 20th, 1498, when Vasco de Gama arrived by ship (नाव/nav, fem. noun) in Calicut (Kozhikode) in the modern-day South Indian state of Kerala. During that visit, the Portuguese initiated trade (व्यापार करना/vyaapaar karnaa or लेन-देन करना/len-den karnaa) when they invited native fishermen onboard and bought some of their wares. On the advice of another, non-Portuguese merchant (व्यापारी/vyaapaari), Gama sent a group of his men to the city (शहर/sheher, masc. noun) of Ponnani (also in Kerala) to introduce themselves to Calicut’s Hindu ruler, the Zamorin (in Portuguese, this hereditary title is known as “Samorim”). Provoking the ire of the Arab merchants already there, who were one of the Portuguese’s main sources of competition for trade (which partly explains the great number of Arabic words that exist in Portuguese and Hindi), Gama was successful in obtaining a letter from the Hindu ruler permitting he and his men to take part in trade; but, unfortunately, the Portuguese were not able to pay custom duties as well as the gold (सोना/sonaa, masc. noun) required to purchase the Zamorin’s goods. Angered at the Portuguese’s lack of funds, Calicut officials apprehended some of Gama’s men in an attempt to force payment; when Gama learned of this, he seized fishermen and other natives in retaliation. Despite these unsavory occurrences, the voyage (यात्रा/yaatraa, fem. noun) itself was a success as Gama returned to Portugal with goods worth sixty times the cost of the expedition.
The next prominent Portuguese figure to make his mark on the subcontinent was Pedro Álvares Cabral; en route to India, he sailed to Brazil as well, which was significant as it was the first time Europeans had set foot in Brazil to date (1500). Once in India, he aimed to trade in pepper (काली मिर्च/kaali mirch, fem. noun) and other spices (मसाला/masaalaa, masc. noun) and was able to establish a factory (कारख़ाना/kaarkhaanaa, masc. noun) in Calicut in 1500. Apparently taking a dislike to the Portuguese, the natives later attacked the factory and killed more than 50 Portuguese. In revenge (बदला/badlaa, masc. noun), Cabral took ten Arab merchant ships by force that were anchored in the harbor (बंदरगाह/bandargaah, masc. noun), killed their crews, stole their goods and set the ships on fire. He also attacked Calicut with cannons and other weaponry for an entire day as payback for the destruction of the factory and the loss of Portuguese life. In the end, however, Cabral was successful in negotiating treaties with rulers in Cochin (Kochi, in the state of Kerala) and Cannanore (or Kannur, also in Kerala).
Later, in 1505, Francisco de Almeida became the Portuguese Viceroy of India with the stipulation that he establish four forts (क़िला/kilaa, masc. noun) on the Southwestern Indian coast to protect Portuguese trading interests and wealth (धन/dhan, masc. noun) in India; in Cannanore (Kannur), he established St. Angelo Fort with the cooperation of the local ruler, Fort Anjediva on Anjadip Island (also Anjadiv or, in Portuguese, Ilha de Angediva) and Fort Manuel in Cochin (Kochi), to name a few. In a relationship with the Portuguese that was generally adversarial, the Zamorin tried to attack them at sea in 1506, but Lourenço de Almeida, Francisco’s son, won the battle (लड़ाई/laraai, fem. noun) of Cannanore (located at the harbor of Cannanore, obviously a strategic spot for trading), which effectively dampened the Zamorin’s morale. In spite of his prowess in warfare, Lourenço was eventually killed in an intense battle at sea against the forces of the Mameluk Egyptians and Gujarat Sultanate at Chaul and Dabul (both of these locations are in present-day Maharashtra) during the Battle of Chaul. Nevertheless, these oppositional forces later came under the control of the Portuguese at the Battle of Diu (Diu is located on Diu Island near Gujarat).
Stay tuned for the second part of this historical saga as well as a third part of this blog, which will discuss the fascinating journey of Portuguese words into Hindi!