Cabral’s hostages

Idakkela Menon and Prangoda Menon were two hostages that Portuguese commander Pedro Alvarez Cabral took back with him to Lisbon after a fight with the Zamorin’s troops on 16th Jan 1501, or so I read in the Cochin state Manual.

Whatever happened to them? The quest for an answer proved to be a very interesting research and took all my experience from reading Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes in finally arriving at a plausible explanation.

As the story goes, Idakkela Menon returned to Cochin and was employed as a chief interpreter, obviously learning the Portuguese language during the voyage and the short stay at Lisbon. But Parangoda Menon vanished from the records. Some books mention that these two were originally employed by the then Cochin Raja Unni Goda Varma. (‘Ships of Discovery and Exploration’ by Lincoln P. Paine P.8 and ‘The Career and legend of Vasco Da Gama’ Sanjay Subramaniam P.181)

I wondered - This seems unlikely as Menon’s were honorary positions given by the Zamorin and usually remained in the employ of the Zamorin, and not his rival the Cochin Raja, but well, I guessed they were probably Nair’s and not Menon’s in the first place. Logan confirmed in Malabar Manual (p.305) that they were indeed working for the Cochin Raja, who incidentally was indignant that his subjects were ported away to Lisbon. Cabral later stated that they were accidentally taken by him into the ship

Further study of the Cabral voyage revealed that he had two other Malayalees and that these two were Joseph and Mathai, two Nazrani’s from Cranganore. The waters were muddled though. Most other books mentioned only Joseph and Mathai. Some confused the priest Joseph with a converted Yogi. Some books said that Mathai died on the ship, some said he died at Lisbon. But the story of Joseph is well recorded. He is none other than the illustrious Joseph the Indian.

Joseph the Indian…

In the Cabral ship that departed Cochin on 10th Jan 1501 was the 40 year old Joseph, ‘a man with a benevolent reception’ and his brother Mathias (Mathai). Fr Joseph was a St Thomas Christian Nazrani who hailed from Cranganore (Kodungallur). Mathias died enroute (or at Lisbon). After reaching Lisbon in June 1501, and meeting King Manuel, he stayed in Lisbon for 6 months as a royal guest (as the first Indian Christian to visit Europe) before proceeding to meet Pope Alexander VI in Rome. Then he left for Venice in 1502 and remained a guest of the Signoria of Venice and from there went on ‘probably’ to Jerusalem and Persia (Aramea and Babylon). Some say he came back to Lisbon from Venice. The various interviews he gave at Venice, Lisbon and Rome became known as the ‘Narratives of Joseph the India’, the very first accounts of India by an Indian. Strangely the identity of the person who recorded the interviews is unknown to history.

It appears that Joseph came back safe and sound and is identified as the Chief priest at Cranganore in the mentions of Pentaedo around 1518. Anyway Joseph is stated to be 40-ish, dark in complexion, of medium build, very ingenious, truthful and honest, remarkably friendly and of blemishless faith. Joseph himself had traveled extensively before, having been ordained at Babylon by the bishop of Babylon. In Novus Orbis the original account of his narratives – Joseph briefly describes Cranganore, Calicut, the customs of Kerala, the majestic war ships of China which had twelve sails and innumerable rowers etc for the first time from a Malayali perspective. The language people spoke in Kerala was termed ‘Malanar’ by Joseph!

All above Information from: India in 1500AD by Anthony Vallavanthara and Voyage of Pedro Alvarez Cabral – William Brooks Greenlee I consider the efforts of Fr Anthony Vallavanthara in providing an English translation after studying at least three versions of the narratives of Joseph, invaluable.

Eventually I came across a short book ‘Kerala Coast The Portuguese contributions’ by PJ Tomy, Retd professor of Kerala Agricultural University. He cleared up the story somewhat with a personal comment. The names were not Idakkela Menon and Parangoda Menon in the first place. They were according to him, Ittikoran and Peringodan, two typical Malayali Nazrani names!! He believed that Ittekkoran and Peringodan were perhaps the local names of Joseph & Mathai. Well quite plausible indeed. So that accounted for two Malabari’s in the ship, out of the total four we started with…or were there four?

But Prof Tomy helped clarify the case somewhat. He also transcribed the following from Padmanabha Menon’s Cochin Manual - about the people who aspired to go to Portugal on the Cabral ship in Jan 1501.

Attracted by information from the persons who returned from Portugal, an ascetic, (Some ascribe as a Brahmin Yogi) approached the friars while at Calicut, and expressed his desire to see Portugal. The friars said that he could be taken only if he embraced Christianity. The Yogi agreed to get baptized. He was baptized as Michael (Miguel) Vaz. It was the first Baptism by the Portuguese in Kerala.
The king of Kochi, pleased with the Portuguese, sent one of his relatives - a Nair youth, with Cabral to Portugal. He carried a letter from the king of Kochi to the king of Portugal written on a gold platter. During the journey the Nair youth studied Portuguese. Cabral presented him before the king in the costume of a Nair soldier. King Emmanuel was very much delighted and provided him a house to stay at Lisbon. The Nair youth desired to get baptized. The King arranged his baptism through Bishop Calcaditha. He was given the name of the king ‘Manuel’. Vasco da Gama and Cabral were his god fathers. Manuel was engaged in the palace of the King of Portugal as an interpreter and also to write letters to the king of Kochi. He was very zealous in religious matters and was a bachelor throughout. When he died, he was given a royal burial in a Cathedral. Manuel had left behind a good fortune. His wealth was divided between the churches and his associates as he had desired in his will. (Kochi Rajya Charithram - Padmanabha Menon, p. 132)
CP Achyuta Menon in the Cochin state Manual (p.79) states the following based on the MS translation of Gaspar Correa’s Lendas da India thereby corroborating Padmanabha Menon – There was a Nair youth as well, on the ship. He became friendly with King Emmanuel while at Lisbon and later became a Christian. A house was presented to him and he received a handsome pension. He lived like a Fidalgo and used to conduct correspondence with the King of Cochin regularly. He died in Portugal and was by the kings order honorably buried in the Cathedral of Evora, his wealth being divided between they churches and his servants as provided in his will.
Om Prakash concurs in his book ‘Encyclopedia history of Indian Movement’ that you can still see Manuel’s tomb at the Cathedral grounds. So much for Manuel, the first wealthy NRI!!!.

I then recalled that a Miguel Vaz, the Vicar General, based on a recommendation by Dom Jao da Cruz (see my previous blog) baptized many thousand Paravas in Cochin and Tuticorin around 1532. Later St Xavier came in 1542 to look after those Parava converts. So that is how the Miguel Vaz who went with Cabral reappeared in history books. Miguel Vaz rose up the ranks of Indian clergy and went to Goa while remaining a great friend of St Xavier.
It was this Miguel Vaz who continued his missionary work in Japan in 1563 after learning the Japanese language (correction – I discovered later, that this M Vaz was a later day abbot)
And that accounted for the Yogi convert.

The jigsaw puzzle of the Cabral hostages had finally been resolved; each hostage finding a proper niche in history except for the poor Mathais. My research on the Menon hostages from Malabar had reached a satisfactory conclusion. There were no Menon’s on board, in the first place, but the Malayalees were Joseph, Mathias, Miguel Vaz and Manuel. The only unknowns were the original names of Miguel and Manuel. It is also not clear why they were all termed hostages when all of them asked to accompany Cabral.

Pedro Alvarez Cabral – Succeeded Vasco Da Gama in establishing Portuguese links with the Malabar Coast. His commission was to establish permanent commercial relations and to introduce Christianity wherever he went, using force of arms if necessary. Starting with 13 ships he went on to formally (a clandestine operation, it seems) discover Brazil and Madagascar before reaching Calicut. Here he, if you ask me, made a nuisance of himself, bombarding various towns and creating mayhem in the pretext of establishing Portuguese supremacy. In this voyage, he lost 9 out of 13 ships and many sailors. Cabral got back to Lisbon in 1501 with the above Malayalees on board, little wealth, and soon fell out of favor with the King, never to be in the limelight again or commanding any ship. Cabral however was the first to manipulate the enmity between the Zamorin and the Cochin Raja to Portuguese benefit.

Another interesting snippet - Vasco Da Gama sailed off to Portugal on 28th August 1498 holding 14 (others say 4, 5 or 6) Malayalee captives on board. What happened to them? Food for thought.

Photos – Wikipedia and the Cabral ship pic from Guardian - A replica of the caravel of the 15th century Portuguese navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral sails past the Belem tower in Lisbon at the start of a regatta celebrating the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Brazil by Cabral.

The Malayali and the pachyderm

The elephant army of King Puru was the reason for Alexander’s retreat from India many centuries ago. You can imagine that for the uninitiated, this massive animal or many of them can give daymares and nightmares. While the trainers knew that the animal was not really meant for war, it did scare the bjesus out of the Greeks and Macedonians. Many wars were fought after Alexander’s retreat to amass elephants for armies, but that story can keep for another day, I guess.

Well, for the people of Kerala, the pachyderm is a gentle friend, one who graces the many festivals, processions, weddings, meetings and what not, when he is not lugging logs for its owners keep. As you start a drive on the North to South NH 47 highway in Kerala, you should not be surprised if you come across one of these ancient animals, hide fading with age, tusks yellowing but proudly poised, serenely ambling along the road side, with its bare bodied mahout atop it, a coconut palm leaf clutched in its trunk & tusks, nor caring a hoot about the economic riches changing the countryside or the noise & pollution. The trucks belch past spewing acrid black oily smoke with some having names like ‘Ashamol’ stating proudly ‘National permit’ on their foreheads (if one may call it so), the buses careen through the median, cars of various colors and makes speed past and you see the ever present auto rickshaws and two wheelers. Sometimes you would even see a lorry chugging away with an elephant standing on it…Ah, I miss it all…

You can’t help but love this gentle animal. The weary old eyes always intrigued me and as a child I have always wanted a bit of the elephants tail hair – legendary in Kerala for instilling courage and warding away enemies ( I never got one)…We have had so many movies featuring elephants and popular actors like Jayaram even owned one. When you go to Guruvayoor, you can visit the Anakotta or elephant sanctuary which is what the old Zamorin’s Punnathur palace grounds are used for now and where the sixty odd temple elephants live. In the past and even today only the very wealthy can own an elephant due to the prohibitive maintenance costs involved. My wife always tells me about her great grandfather who owned an elephant, and about the massive chain that was used to tie the elephant, lying in the corner of the attic, rusting away…reminding me of the majestic book by Vaikom Mohammed Basheer – ‘My grandpa had an elephant’

Wiki introduces it well; The Elephants of Kerala are an integral part of the daily life in Kerala, south India. These Indian elephants are loved, revered, groomed and given a prestigious place in the state's culture scape. Elephants in Kerala are often referred to as the 'sons of the sahya (sahyadri – western ghats).' The state animal of Kerala is also elephant and the Government of Kerala emblem has also two elephants in it. The most majestic view of the elephants is at the Trichur pooram where two rival groups representing the two divisions of Thrissur - Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi vie with each other in making the display of fireworks grander by the year. Each group displays a maximum of fifteen elephants and the best elephants in South India participate, wearing artistic parasols, several kinds of which are raised on the elephants during the display.

We have in Kerala Auyurvedic ‘elephant treatment’ books and even a monsoon rejuvenation therapy for elephants. Not all 700
of the elephants living in captivity in Kerala may get it, but well, in the days when they had more stature, I believe they were kept happier… Today you can even go on package tours in Kerala called = Spend a day with an elephant!!See them doing their thing in a lovely photo site of Seby Varghese.

Many centuries ago there was a mythical dwarf elephant that graced its forests called the ‘ikallaana’. Oct 4th is Elephants day in Kerala. Between Jan 17th and 20th, Kerala hosts the elephant march from Trichur to Trivandrum, a three day event. If you are a mahout in training, there are training courses and seminars on elephant care. Kerala has a woman mahout!!
The Guruvayoor temple spends about Rs3 crores every year for the upkeep of the 60 elephants they maintain. They do earn a third of their keep as rentals to other temples. Devotees can participate in the upkeep or even donate elephants, but it is not for the faint hearted or the middle class. New temple guidelines stipulate,that any devotee wishing to donate an elephant should also pay Rs 400,000 towards its upkeep. Instead of donating an elephant, a devotee can also make a 'symbolic offer' by paying Rs 500,000 to the temple. The latter provision, temple officials say, makes economic sense for the devotees because an elephant can cost anything between Rs 600,000 and Rs 800,000. "If a devotees offers an elephant to the temple, it could cost him more than Rs 10 lakhs (Rs 1 million) including the maintenance charge of Rs 400,000 we now ask for," a temple official points out. But the new rules have not deterred devotees. Temple officials reveal that eight applications to donate elephants are pending with the temple administration
Malayalis are famed for their sarcasm – Hear this, K P Krishnan, a frequent visitor to the Guruvayoor temple, says its elephants are the best looked-after pachyderms in the country. "The Guruvayoor temple," he declares, "takes care of its elephants much better than the Indian government or Kerala government looks after its citizens."
Malayalam movies have featured elephants in key roles – Gajakesariyogam, Guruvayoor Keshavan, Kudumbasameetham, Anachandam are a few. Keshavan – the most famous of them all, standing over 3.2 meters tall, was known for his devout behavior. Kesavan died on "Guruvayoor Ekadasi," considered a very auspicious day. He fasted for the entire day and dropped down facing the direction of the temple with his trunk raised as a mark of prostration. The anniversary of his death is still celebrated in Guruvayoor. Hundreds of elephants line up before the statue and the chief elephant garlands it. Kesavan was conferred the unique title "Gajarajan" (Elephant King), by the Guruvayoor Devaswom. Devotees never tire of praising the elephant's "majestic look, exceptional intelligence and amazing strength." Pic from Dr KES Kartha

There are so many elephant enthusiasts in India, some as young as Akshay all of 10 years old, who know all the names and details of the popular elephants of Kerala. But the best story I read was the story of the amorous male elephantHowever, he ended up with the 75 year old Maheshwari. Picture shows Bombay Rajkumar being greeted by Education Minister MA Baby. Rajkumar of Bombay who was taken to Kerala to meet up with Rani, resident of Kerala.

Those interested in reading all kinds of Indian elephant news can check this site.

Tail notes –

The word Elephant comes from the ancient word Elephas that Greeks used to describe the Indian pachyderm. It comes apparently from the Sanskrit word Ibha, meaning elephant.

The saying that elephants never forget has been backed by science.
The elephant brain is denser than the human's, and the temporal lobes, associated to memory, are more developed than in humans. Elephant's lobes also have more folds, so that they can store more information. That's why elephants have excellent memory. See my earlier blog regarding the Malayali elephant Murugan in Amsterdam – you can now understand his sad but not fading memories of the Nilambur forests in Kerala while ensconced in the cold climes of Netherlands.

Elephants have a matriarchal society - Elephants often travel large distances in search of food. A typical group of elephants consists of a matriarch grandmother and a number of her daughters and granddaughters. Male elephants leave the family units at an early age and remain single or in small bachelor groups (Kerala used to be a Matriarchal society).

The usage ‘white elephant’ - Because the animals were considered sacred and laws protected them from labor, receiving a gift of a white elephant from a monarch was both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because the animal was sacred and a sign of the monarch's favor, and a curse because the animal had to be kept and could not be put to practical use to offset the cost of maintaining it.

Pictures from the web - thanks to every uploader/owner

India the marvelous

I can conclude now that it was fate and Rudyard Kipling which brought Samuel L Clemens, AKA Mark Twain to India, and as I am bound to explain my comment, I shall do so with gusto….
Let us first look at ‘fate’ aspect - Twain even though famous through his books, went virtually bankrupt by 1895 and was deeply depressed due to the death of his daughter Suzy. In order to climb out of the morass, he decided to take on a world tour; reading and lecturing with the promise to his creditors that he would pay them back every cent he owed. This tour was to cover Australia, New Zealand, India, Ceylon and South Africa and end in Britain.

The second was due to Twain meeting Kipling some years earlie
r. Kipling was a big fan of Twain and when he visited USA in 1889 ensured that they met and talked amongst other issues, mutual problems with publishers. The fascinating interview is recorded here for those interested, needless to conclude that Kipling considered himself much the richer after meeting this bankrupt writer. Their relationship was quite interesting to say the least. Twain thought that the ‘Jungle books’ were far superior to his ‘Tom Sawyer books’ and Kipling thought vice versa, each believing and publicly stating that they wished they had authored the other. Twain had this to say about Kipling - I am not fond of all poetry, but there's something in Kipling that appeals to me. I guess he's just about my level. He is a stranger to me, but he is a most remarkable man--and I am the other one. Between us, we cover all knowledge; he knows all that can be known, and I know the rest. However, somewhere along the way their relationship did sour…

Twain cleared his debts within three years, and his cash flow became green once again following the successful tour and his publishing the great travelogue ‘Following the Equator’ which detailed his experiences. The book went on to cover his visit to India and other places and the prose that he used to describe India is unrivaled
in many ways, considering that it was a period when British strong hold on India and print publishing was as tight as one can imagine. It is simply a pleasure to read the book, so if you have not, head to the nearest book shop or library.

But why did T
wain become indebted? He used to get involved with supporting all kinds of inventors and inventions, and was a holder of a few successful patents himself. On top of all that, many of his earlier literary works were plagiarized and he got little revenue from them.

And thus he set off on August 13, 1895, aged 59, to cl
ear his name and accounts. Before he started, he told the press this (CHAPTER CXCI of AB Paine biography) It has been reported that I sacrificed for the benefit of the creditors the property of the publishing firm whose financial backer I was and that I am now lecturing for my own benefit. This is an error. I intend the lectures as well as the property for the creditors. The law recognizes no mortgage on a man’s brain, and a merchant who has given up all he has may take advantage of the laws of insolvency and start free again for himself…………

And he wrote to R Kipling thus -It is reported that you are about to visit India. This has moved me to journey to that far country in order that I may unload from my conscience a debt long due to you. Years ago you came from India to Elmira to visit me, as you said at the time. It has always been my purpose to return that visit & that great compliment some day. I shall arrive next January & you must be ready…..

But Twain and Kipling did not meet again for as Twain left for India, Kipling was working on his second Jungle book in USA, after settling down with his American wife and losing his fortune (Like Twain!) in Canada. Kipling later moved to Sussex in England in 1896 and never again visited India (last visit in 1891). Twain had initially heard that Kipling was heading back to India and hence the starting line – It is reported….

Twain said upon arrival in Bombay that if he had to find fault with Kipling, it would be on the inaccurate representation of Indian matters by Kipling. Kipling was consistently pro-Empire and supported the Victorian blend of imperialism, believing that the Brits weren't subjugating people but instead educating and civilizing the Indian hordes, and that the British were missionaries, whereas Twain believed that he himself was an anti imperialist and an anti racist and
thus at odds with Kipling’s ideology.. Though they respected each other immensely, their political views and positioning were shores apart. Kipling incidentally received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907, while Twain was still living
Following the Equator

‘Following The Equator’ is an account of Mark Twain's round-the-world lecture tour of 1895/96. The book opens in Paris and midway through it reaches Bombay

A synopsis by Michael Waisman - - The first stop in India is Bombay, which Twain finds to be a fabulous city of great contradictions: great wealth and extreme poverty, ornate palaces and ramshackle hovels. Twain gives a lengthy description of his interesting experiences while taking in Bombay, including a religious ceremony, the wedding of a 12-year-old girl, and a murder trial. The party takes the train to Baroda, where Twain rides an elephant. A longer train ride to Allahabad - the City of God - follows, where a religious ceremony is being held. Next stop is Benares, an important religious center, where they take a cruise on the Ganges. The journey through India continues, with stops in Calcutta, Darjeeling, and numerous other cities. At this point, Twain relates the history of the Great Mutiny of 1857, in which the Indian people revolted against the British.

After ten days of sightseeing and three lecture appearances in Bombay, the Clemenses began an extended tour of Indian cities which took them twelve hundred miles by train across the country to Calcutta, then north to Darjeeling, Delhi, and Lahore, and back again to Calcutta.

They all found the country fascinating. Twain wrote in Following the Equator that the Indians were "the most interesting people in the world—and the nearest to being incomprehensible . . . Their character and their history, their customs and their religion, confront you with riddles at every turn—riddles which are a trifle more perplexing after they are explained than they were before."

Upon leaving India, the party heads for Durban and proceeds through other countries to Britain.

"Following the Equator" is dedicated to Twain’s benefactor’s son. "This book is affectionately inscribed to my young friend Harry Rogers (Son of HH Rogers), with recognition of what he is, and apprehension of what he may become unless he form himself a little more closely upon the model of The Author."

But how can you not like this man?

Without much ado I will provide here some of Twain’s oft quoted impressions on India with the suggestion that you read the book to enjoy those that have not been quoted.

This is indeed India; the land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendor and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of a thousand nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition, whose yesterdays bear date with the moldering antiquities of the rest of the nations—the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the globe combined.
India has two million gods, and worships them all. In religion all other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire.

"India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only."
In India, 'cold weather' is merely a conventional phrase and has come into use through the necessity of having some way to distinguish between weather which will melt a brass door-knob and weather which will only make it mushy. India had the start of the whole world in the beginning of things. She had the first civilization; she had the first accumulation of material wealth; she was populous with deep thinkers and subtle intellects; she had mines, and woods, and a fruitful soil. It would seem as if she should have kept the lead, and should be to-day not the meek dependent of an alien master, but mistress of the world, and delivering law and command to every tribe and nation in it. But, in truth, there was never any possibility of such supremacy for her. If there had been but one India and one language--but there were eighty of them! Where there are eighty nations and several hundred governments, fighting and quarreling must be the common business of life; unity of purpose and policy are impossible; out of such elements supremacy in
the world cannot come. Even caste itself could have had the defeating effect of a multiplicity of tongues, no doubt; for it separates a people into layers, and layers, and still other layers, that have no community of feeling with each other; and in such a condition of things as that, patriotism can have no healthy growth.
The Indian crow was a favorite subject in the book - They were very sociable when there was anything to eat - oppressively so. …. I suppose he has no enemies among men. The whites and Mohammedans never seemed to molest him; and the Hindoos, because of their religion, never take the life of any creature, but spare even the snakes and tigers and fleas and rats. If I sat on one end of the balcony, the crows would gather on the railing at the other end and talk about me; and edge closer, little by little, till I could almost reach them; and they would sit there, in the most unabashed way, and talk about my clothes, and my hair, and my complexion, and probable character and vocation and politics, and how I came to be in India, and what I had been doing, and how many days I had got for it, and how I had happened to go unhanged so long, and when would it probably come off, and might there be more of my sort where I came from, and when would they be hanged, - and so on, and so on, until I could not longer endure the embarrassment of it; then I would shoo them away, and they would circle around in the air a little while, laughing and deriding and mocking, and presently settle on the rail and do it all over again.
Hell Hound Rogers - In 1893, Twain was introduced to industrialist and financier Henry H. Rogers, one of the principals of Standard Oil. Rogers reorganized Twain's tangled finances, and the two became close friends for the rest of their lives. Rogers' family became Twain's surrogate family and he was a frequent guest at the Rogers townhouse in New York City and summer home in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Clemens, wishing to make some acknowledgment to his benefactor, tactfully dedicated the book to young Harry Rogers. Excerpt from his autobiography.

Twain’s Patents & craze for invention

Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) received his first patent (#121,992) for the "Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments" on December 19, 1871. The strap was used to tighten shirts at the waist, and was supposed to take the place of suspenders. Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) received two other patents: one for a self-pasting scrapbook (1873), and one for a history trivia game (1885). His scrapbook patent was particularly lucrative. According to "The St. Louis Post-Dispatch," he made $200,000 from his books, and he made $50,000 from the scrapbook alone.

In addition to the three patents known to be associated with Mark Twain, he financed a number of inventions by other inventors, but these investments were never successful. He lost a fortune on inventions, which he was sure would make him rich and successful. It has been said that Twain's unsuccessful investments (and his subsequent bankruptcy) lead to depression and a much darker view in his later works.

Twain and Gandhiji
Did Twain meet Mahatma Gandhi as claimed in many books and sites? GB Singh explains - The fact is Mark Twain did come across an individual named Gandhi in Bombay during his first week in India, but it was definitely not Mahatma Gandhi. To be more exact, Twain had actually met Mr. Virchand A. Gandhi, Honorary Secretary of the Jain Association of India.

Twain’s double death
Following the erroneous publication of a premature obituary in the New York Journal, Twain famously responded: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated" (June 2nd 1897) while he was traveling.

He wrote in 1909, "I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it." And so he did, he died in 1910. Halley's Comet can be seen in the Earth's skies once every 75-76 years. It was visible on
November 30, 1835, when Mark Twain was born and was also visible on April 21, 1910, when he died (although the exact dates of Halley's highpoint were November 16th and April 10th, respectively).

Some notes
The title of this article is what Twain himself titled his notebook on India.
Twain’s other impressions of India can be read in his autobiography by A Bigelow Paine.
All of Twains books are available as ebooks, check here.

A literary analysis can be found here
A chronology of his life
The attached is a picture of a discarded page of notes from the draft the book. Here he recounts a slightly ribald story of a non-native English speaker who confuses the two meanings of "maid."

Twain had a tough time finding the lighthearted tone for the Equator book as he was severely depressed after his daughter Suzy’s death. She was looking forward to traveling with Twain to India following the meeting with Kipling but never made it.

My favorite Mark Twain quote - Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.

Pictures from the web - Thanks to the uploaders...

Zheng He (Cheng Ho) in Calicut

A towering seven footer Mongol Hui Muslim, who entered the Ming King’s (Yongle emperor Zhu Di – the third Ming king) service, Zheng He, is immortal for his astounding navigational quests. When the Ming army captured
the Yunan province, the 11 year old Ma Sanpao was one of the many castrated and put into the palace servant team. For his service in helping the new emperor win the throne (helping with the coup where the palace was burned) after three years of vicious warfare, Zheng He was promoted in 1404 to the position of Director of Eunuch Affairs and given the surname Zheng (Zhu Di renamed Ma Ho as Cheng Ho because the eunuch's horse was killed in battle outside of a place called Zhenglunba – Cheng Ho became Zheng He to The West)

Between 1405 and 1433, the Ming government sponsored a series of seven naval expeditions. Emperor Zhu Di designed them to establish a Chinese presence and impress the foreign people in the Indian Ocean basin. 

Much is written about his seven voyages and his exploits reached the world’s public media with Gavin Menzis announcement after the 1421 project that concluded Zheng He discovered America. Great historians debated and ridiculed the Menzis suggestion. The discussion goes on.

Zheng He, newly promoted as Admiral oversaw the production of the ships and headed these voyages. I hope you can watch the truly wonderful PBS documentary “1421 – the year Zheng He reached America”, I did, just fascinating.

It was the time when the Zamorin of Calicut was powerful and well known, a time when the pepper trade was in the hands of the Moors of Calicut. The Zamorin apparently ordered craftsmen to draw fifty ounces of gold into hair-like fine threads, and weaved them into ribbon to make a gold girdle embedded with pearls and precious stones of all sort of colors (basically a nice Kasavu Mundu or PONNADA I presume), and sent his envoy Naina (Narayana) to present the gold girdle to the Ming emperor as tribute. The Ming Zhu Di returned the favor by deputing Zheng He with a shipload of presents.

Zheng He was appointed as the admiral in control of the huge fleet and armed forces that undertook these expeditions. Zheng He's first voyage consisted of a fleet of 317 ships holding almost 28,000 armed troops. Many of these ships were mammoth nine-mast’ed "treasure ships" which were by far the largest marine craft the world had ever seen. If the accounts can be taken as factual, Zheng He's treasure ships were capable of accommodating more than 500 passengers (Marco Polo and Ibn Batuta have stated 500-1,000 passengers & private cabins in these junks), as well as a massive amount of cargo.

Now imagine this 7’ tall chap dressed in majestic silk robes coming off the majestic Chinese junk berthed at Calicut’s historic harbor in 1405…I have taken the liberty to slightly reword the National Geographic article for effect (the person who sees it in the NG article is in Srilanka)

Viewed from the Calicut Shores, the first sighting of the Ming fleet is a massive shadow on the horizon. As the shadow rises, it breaks into a cloud of tautly ribbed sail, aflame in the tropical sun. With relentless determination, the cloud draws ever closer, and in its fiery embrace an enormous city appears. A floating city, like nothing the world has ever seen before. No warning could have prepared officials, moors, or the thunderstruck peasants who stood near the beach for the scene that unfolds in front of them. Stretched across miles of the Indian Ocean in terrifying majesty is the armada of Zheng He, admiral of the imperial Ming navy.

In Zheng He's time, China and India together accounted for more than half of the world's gross national product, as they had for most of human history. Even as recently as 1820, China accounted for 29 percent of the global economy and India another 16 percent, according to the calculations of Angus Maddison, a leading British economic historian.

When the Chinese sailors reached Calicut, India, their giant ships certainly created a stir. The Chinese were entertained with music and songs. Zheng He’s four latter expeditions were recorded by a Chinese scribe named Ma Huan, who was attached as a translator to the fourth armada, which sailed in 1413 with 63 ships and 28,560 men. The book is titled The Overall Survey of the Ocean’s Shore (Ying-yai Sheng-tan).Fei Xin another writer/translator who accompanied Cheng Ho. Ma Huan wrote that the Indians' musical instruments (Veena) were "made of gourds with strings of copper wire, and the sound and rhythm were pleasant to the ears."

What did the Chinese do at Calicut? They picked up spices of course, but only on the Journey eastwards back to China. They did stop over in Calicut on each of the 7 voyages, recuperated, replenished their stores and continued on frequently to the west. For the westerly trade, they bartered in Calicut with gold coins, spices from SE Asia and mainly rice that they had picked up at Orissa, to purchase Silver for the trip to Zanzibar. Ian Blanchard gives the reasons in detail in his book on Mining. Curiously in Zanzibar, they bartered the Silver for Rhodesian native gold and more spices!!

After the Ming - Yongle Emperor died in 1424, China endured a series of brutal power struggles; a successor emperor died under suspicious circumstances and ultimately the scholars emerged triumphant. They ended the voyages of Zheng He's successors, halted construction of new ships and imposed curbs on private shipping. Soon after Zheng He's death, the Ming Dynasty officials burned most of his charts and writings. By 1500, the Government ordered the destruction of all oceangoing ships and made it a capital offense to build a boat with more than two masts. Basically officials took control and decided that the outside world had nothing to offer them. Upon returning to China, Zheng dead at age 62, Zheng's crew found that the expeditions, rather than being celebrated as heroic, were slandered by the Confucian court officials as indulgent adventures that wasted the country's resources. Zheng He's trip logs were "lost" by officials seeking to suppress further overseas travels.

Some say he brought in Chinese fishing net technology to Cochin, some say Kublai Khan did….He introduced Chinese culture in what is today’s SE Asia and many believe they have the Zheng He lineage in Indonesia & Malacca. India was known to produce very fine quality steel and produce skilled metallurgists. It appears Indian miners & artisans traveled back with the treasure fleets of Zheng He. See my earlier blog about some of people who accompanied him.

Zheng He’s giraffe – It is said that it came either from Somalia or Bengal/Orissa. While logic says Somalia, PBS in their article mentions Bengal. The Chinese persuaded their hosts to part with the giraffe as a gift to the emperor and to procure another like it from Africa. A splinter group under Yang Min went to Bengal during the 4th voyage, and returned to China with the new king of Bengal, who presented to the emperor a giraffe which he had received from the ruler of Malindi (in Kenya). The giraffe was thought to be a mythical qilin, and auspicious. The giraffe arrived at the court in Nanjing in 1415. Check this link for details of how the Giraffe got to China.
Stone in N African Verde islands –Left by Zheng He with Malayalam inscriptions.
Gavin’s presumption - Found a large, free-standing stone near the coast at Janela.. The author then faxed a copy of his picture to The Bank of India, and they advised it was Malayalam. Does this make any sense at all; the Chinese would erect a stele on Cape Verde and carve the inscription in Malayalam? Who would read it? What would it say?

Or was it left by sailors from Kerala who halted at Janela, Cape Verde, and they carved the stele in their own language.

Here is a link with the pictures of the stone. I did not see any Malayalam on it!

The routes of Zheng He's voyages and A stunning computer animation of the Treasure Junks

Cheng Ho died at Calicut and was either buried there or at sea. His shoes and a braid of his hair, at his request, were thought to have been brought back to Nanjing and buried near Buddhist caves outside the city according to Fei Xin. To day Zheng He is revered in China, there are museums and you can see his tomb as well.


Starting with the first Zamorin envoy to China Mr. Narayanan in 1405, many of the future diplomats in China even in the near past have been Malayalis ( KPS Menon (Sr & Jr) , KM Panikkar, Shiv Sankar Menon, KR Narayanan, Vijay Nambiar, to name a few).
Coincidence or by purpose, I am not sure. In any case it was relations with China that got Eminent Malayali VK Krishna Menon into lots of trouble.

The Chinese explorer Zheng He (Cheng Ho) arrived to get the Buddha's tooth relic but left without it in 1406. Zheng He came back five years later, abducted Vira Alakasvera, and took him to China. By the time the captives were brought back, Parakramabahu VI (r. 1411-65) had taken power; he sent envoys to China with tributes five times. In 1960, Chou en Lai returned the Buddha tooth to Sri Lanka.

At first eunuchs were in large supply because captured enemies - Since the eunuchs were often the only males in close daily contact with the emperor and top government officials, they gained vast political power and were able to sway the policies of the day. The Confucian bureaucrats who ran the government were in constant struggle with the eunuchs for supremacy. Over time, the eunuchs took part in imperial power plays at the highest levels, sometimes even effecting a change of emperor or running the show from behind the throne. Their power waxed and waned throughout the different dynasties, running strong in the Tang, weaker in the Song, and again quite strong in the Yuan (Mongol) and Ming dynasties

Pics – various sites acknowledged, Thanks