Affonso d’Albuquerque, who succeeded Almedia as Governor, reversed the policy of his predecessor and laid considerable stress upon the importance of erecting forest wherever he founded a factory, not only to protect trade on the shore, but to enable him to dominate the local rulers whom he invariably endeavoured to coerce into acknowledging Portugal as a suzerain power.
He had the glorious vision of a Portuguese empire in the East. “Once again I repeat,” he wrote to his king, “that if you wish to avoid war in India, and be at peace with all her Kings, you must send a power of men and good arms, or you must take the principal heads of the Kingdom which she possesses on the shores of the sea”.
Later he made the idea more clear in another letter by saying: “And I hold it to be free from doubt, that if fortresses be built in Diu and Calicut (as I trust in our Lord they will be), when once they have been well fortified, if a thousand of the Sultan’s ships were to make their way to India, not one of those places could be brought again under his dominion.
But if those of your Council understood Indian affairs as I do, they would not fail to be aware that Your Highness cannot be lord over so extensive a territory as India by placing all your power and strength in the navy only (a policy at once doubtful and full of serious inconveniences); for this, and not to build fortresses, is the very thing which the Moors of these lands wish you to do, for they know well that a dominion founded on a navy alone cannot last “.
With this grand design of an empire in his mind, Albuquerque started his work in South India. He was bent upon destroying the power of the Zamorin and made a savage attack on his palace on 2nd January, 1510 with disastrous consequences to the Portuguese. Marshal Dom Ferdinando Cutinho, the Supreme Commander of all the Portuguese forest in the East, who was instrumental for this unprovoked attack, died along with 300 of his men, Albuquerque himself having received two wounds in the shoulder.
After retiring to Cochin, Albuquerque tried to establish diplomatic relations with King Narasinga of Vijayanagar with a view to securing his assistance by land, whilst the Portuguese operated by sea, for the destruction of the Zamorin. But the Hindu King of Vijayanagar was not eager to destroy another Hindu King when he was engaged in a life and death struggle with the Muslim Kingdoms. Thus, Albuquerque’s mission failed.
On land, the Portuguese were no match to the Zamorin’s forces, even though on sea they were matchless. But he harassed the Portuguese fleets by guerrilla tactics and greatly impeded their trade activities. They could not even send supplies in paraoes to Cochin for fear of being captured. Albuquerque, therefore, realised the futility of trying to subdue the Zamorin and decided to abandon the erstwhile Cochin policy for an honourable settlement of issues with Calicut.
This also prompted him to strive for securing a base in the mainland on the West coast from where he could direct his naval operations – Cochin, even though it was dependent on them, could not be relied upon, as it was a Hindu kingdom.
Moreover, rice had to be brought there from Coromandel Coast by Muslim traders who could tighten their stranglehold at them in periods of stress and moment. The dream of an empire, over and above all these, was so tempting to him that he ultimately decided to conquer Goa which could be defended with facility and could be attacked by enemies with difficulty.
It was taken by force from the King of Bijapur and was made their stronghold. The Raja of Vijayanagar, desirous of having a port free from Muslim control, looked with favour at this political maneuver of the Portuguese. Thus, Albuquerque let the King of Portugal have “Goa like a stone set in a ring”.
As he said, “By it we got a foothold in India and destroyed the dockyard of the Moors. Now no one can order us not to touch the Moors, nor can the Raja of Cochin demand the life of a Portuguese for that of a cow. It is the chief port of India for the Deccan, for Vjjayanagara, and for Europe. In Cochin you cannot get supplies for 500 men; there is no fish, and no flesh, and fowls there are six pence each.
In Goa 2000 men extra are hardly noticed. In a foreign country you cannot cut a stick without permission; and in the bazaar, if you do not pay what you owe, or if you touch a Moor woman, or wound a man of the country, swords are drawn at once and the fortress is besieged.”
Having thus settled in Goa, Albuquerque was free to carry out negotiations with the Zamorin for peace but during his so journ in the Red Sea the Rajas of Cochin and Cannanore who disliked such a peace, secretly tried to thwart it. However, the Portuguese got the unwilling Zamorin disposed by being poisoned by a willing heir-apparent. The peace signed with the new Zamorin gave permission to the Portuguese to build a fortress at Calicut.
As the importance of Cochin as the seat of the Portuguese power was stolen by Goa, the Raja was greatly annoyed and he intrigued with Antonio Real and the faction working against Albuquerque at Cochin to urge the king of Portugal to abandon Goa.
Albuquerque tried not only to enhance trade facilities but also to devote all his energy to the fulfilment of the religious responsibility which his post threw on him. He set his heart upon converting the Raja of Cochin with Duarte Barbosai as interpreter but failed. The Raja, a worshipper of Brahmins, was ordered not to heed his priests but to obey the king of Portugal. At Cannanore he asked the Raja to dismiss the Kazi because he was friendly towards the Arabs.
All these political and religious endeavours of Albuquerque led to slacken his attention on trade and on reports of informers; the king of Portugal replaced him with Lopo Soares. On 16th December, 1515 he died at sea as his ship was casting anchor in front of Goa. He was a man with the true imperial instinct and he based his policy entirely on physical force.
The power and might of his own nation he made the Hindus and Muslims of South India feel and recognise as incontestable. Says Whiteway, “He considered that alliances could not assist: if the Portuguese could command obedience they were unnecessary; if they could not, there was neither truth not honour in the East to make the allies faithful.”