The momentous interaction between Portugal and Kerala commenced with the historic voyage of Vasco da Gama in 1498. It had lasting impact on the society of Kerala.
The voyage, with the express purpose of searching for `Christians and Spices', left longlasting imprint on the life of the people of Kerala. Though the Portuguese did not have political dominion in Kerala, the political influence they gained in Kerala precipitated a lot of socio-cultural changes. The intensity and degree of these changes were commensurate with the tenor of the Portuguese networking with the diverse socio-cultural traits in Kerala. Those sections of the Kerala society that gained a higher extent of interconnectedness with the Portuguese manifested a higher degree of socio-cultural transition. One of the most significant means for socio-cultural change that the Portuguese employed in Kerala was ecclesiastical legislation. This cultural interface between Portugal and Kerala resulted in multiple fissions and fusions in the society of Kerala. This book delves deep into the multifarious interaction between the two communities and the consequent socio-cultural changes that Kerala witnessed during 1498-1663, the period when Portuguese influence was at its acme.
James John hails from the idyllic village of Elanji in Kerala and has a Ph.D in History from Pondicherry Central University. Presently he is Principal, St. Thomas College, Pala, and a Research Guide at M.G. University, Kottayam, Kerala.
India, in general and south India in particular, for the first time, came into contact with Europe with the opening of the direct sea-route connecting coastal India with the Atlantic regions towards the close of the fifteenth century. The dynamics of the monsoons compelled the Portuguese to establish factories, fortresses and settlements in various parts of coastal India. Besides, in course of time, the Portuguese missionaries took efficient steps to convert the local people to Christianity embedded in European culture, besides making strenuous efforts to make the existing Catholics conform themselves with the Western religious practices. The political domination in places under the Portuguese jurisdiction and the ecclesiastical authority claimed by them under the Royal Padroado rights provided them with opportunities to enact rules and regulations binding the members of Indian society to follow European customs and manners. A milieu of this nature opened up the avenue for cultural interactions between the Portuguese and the local society. It must be said that the 'give and take' process found in such interactions has not been very strong in the case of the Portuguese interactions with the local society. As a result, a lot of changes in the day-to-day life of the local people were brought about thanks to the Portuguese contacts.
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