As compared to western India and the Arabian sea, the official presence in the Bay of Bengal region was very limited. Perhaps to alter the situation, as early as 1507, governor Almeida sent a delegation ostensibly to find out the tomb of St.
Thomas, the apostle. Actually, it was to investigate the establishment of an official presence complete with forts and fleets, but it came to nothing. Incidentally, the tomb was found in 1517 in Mylapore, a suburb of modern Chennai. The area of the tomb was renamed San Thome. The port at Chennai and Nagapatam were the places in Coromandal where the Portuguese had a presence. Both had captains, local Portuguese residents recognized by the king.
They did not receive any salary, and often the posts remained vacant. By 1550, there were over 100 casados, long time residents engaged in private trade staying with their families, in San Thome.
A similar mingling of commerce and religion was there in Bengal. Early in the century, private traders were calling at Satgaon and Chittagong in the east, and circa 1580, their main centre was at Hooghly near the soon-to-be-established Calcutta.
It developed into a town of about 6,000 residents by about 1603. Religious services were provided by various orders of the Church and from a large Augustinian monastery at Bandel, founded late in the sixteenth century, a few miles up the river Ganga. Chittagong and Arakan also had about 2500 Portuguese residents in 1598.
They were not inconvenienced in any manner due to the lack of official presence. On the contrary they were quite prosperous and traded extensively all over the Bay of Bengal area. As a confirmation of the hypothesis that peaceful trade would have helped the Portuguese more, almost every one of them made his mark in the local country trade.
However, it would not be correct to regard these private traders, regardless of their share, as a united or distinct group. No doubt, they spoke a different language, a language used widely over the littoral regions of Asia. But, they constituted just one of the myriad elements in the rich mosaic of the country trade and were not different in any manner, commercially or politically, from all the other people there.