Mangalore, Feb 5, 2012: Some time in March 2009, I J Saldanha-Shet, a senior citizen and a resident of Bolar, Mangalore, an admirer and prolific writer of city history in the local media, was exploring local spots as part of regular fact finding routine.
He accidentally stumbled on what looked like an old granite tomb stone with a coat of arms and inscription in Roman like script; not far from the river edge behind ’Hale Kote Mukhyaprana Temple’ and Joyland School at Bolar.
This 383 year old tomb stone was discovered by Shet on a fine day in March 2009. On April 25, 2009, City Herald also published his ‘discovery’ under the title ‘History in the dust’ and appealed the authorities concerned to take steps to preserve it. Initially the local museum showed some interest and took pictures of it and so on. Now it is three years and the stone continues to be lying there as a sad witness to Mangalore’s neglected glorious past.He enthuses that the stretch along the rivers from Nethravathi Bridges to Old Port at Bundar, a stretch of a 4 or 5 kms is saturated with ancient history.
A few weeks ago this gentleman brought this to the notice of hi friend, writer and historian Alan Machado Prabhu, who arranged to get the inscription deciphered with the help of international experts.As expected the stone turned out to be the tombstone of Domingos de Mourao Coutinho, the captain of the fortress of Mangalore, who died on April 30, 1629. “It would have been installed over his grave which in all probability was located within the first church in Mangalore, the Nossa Senora de Rosario, known as the ‘poyeda igerji’ or ’church in the sand’, which could have ceased to exist some time in 1784 during the rule of Tipu Sultan.”
It is probably the only existing monument of the church and fort which since 1568 formed a part of Mangalore’s history. It must be considered for public display at Rosario Cathedral where another ’stone’ already exists and where a museum by the church is fore seen. Will the authorities concerned take steps to preserve the same and ensure it does not disappear into the dust, like much of local history.
A tale of two stones
By Alan Machado-Prabhu, Bangalore
Visitors to Rosario Cathedral in Mangalore will not fail to notice the large granite slab inscribed with faded letters and a Portuguese court of arms mounted at its entrance.
Most will recognise it as belonging to the Portuguese era in Mangalore and some would certainly be curious to know more about how it got there. Most have never seen another stone, larger and with finer details, for it lies discarded and neglected under a layer of sand and fallen leaves and wild brush in a place which once proudly proclaimed the Portuguese presence, however miniscule, in Mangalore.Pointed out to me by my friend I J Saldanha-Shet of Bolar. This is the story of those two stones.
The familiar stone at the entrance of Rosario Cathedral bears the court of arms of Dom Joao V, the king of Portugal from 1706 to 1750. Unfortunately, the letters are all defaced and cannot be deciphered. The court of arms, however, dates the stone and the construction of the Portuguese factory or trading warehouse at the site of the present Cathedral. Between 1652-54, the Ikeri king Shivappa Nayaka wiped out the Portuguese presence throughout his kingdom, capturing their forts at Mangalore (1653), Kundapur, Gangolly and Honavar.
Twenty years later, however, Somashekara Nayaka I, found himself under attack from Bijapur and sought Goa’s military assistance. Goa used this to extract concessions which the treaty of 1671 lists out. Among them was the establishment of factories with low walls in Mangalore, Kundapur and Honavar. That this clause was repeated in the next treaty with Rani Chennammaji in 1678 means that the factories had not yet been built.
This treaty introduces a number of new clauses in favour of the Portuguese, one of them allowing them to build a church within the factory wall. These clauses were repeated again in a 1707 treaty, clearly placing the construction of the first Rosario church at the present site of the Cathedral to after this date.
This is where the Rosario stone helps us. It probably stood at the entrance of the factory when it was built and confirms it came up only during the reign of Joao V, not before. Two numerals are decipherable, 7 and 2, which dates the stone to 1712, for the factory and church existed by 1718 as confirmed by Alexander Hamilton who visited Mangalore that year. This site was not a strong defensible fort, but a warehouse defended by a small garrison and four canons.
In 1768, the factory was taken over by an English force commanded by Gouin. Hyder retook the factory within weeks, and in return for military supplies and expertise from Goa, allowed the Portuguese to resume operations at the factory. Portuguese aid did not come up to Hyder’s expectations and he took over the site in 1771 for the construction of his own fort under the direction of a Frenchmen, Catini.
But that is a different story and we now turn to the other stone. This stone is about 1.8 x 0.7 metres and bears the court of arms of the Mourão Coutinho family, prominent noblemen of 17th and 18th century Northern Portugal. It is a tombstone which bears the legend “Here lies Domingos de Mourão Coutinho, who was Captain of Fort Mangalore. He died on April 30, 1629.” It clearly once lay within the first church built in Mangalore, Nossa Senora de Rosario, built within the fort of Sao Sebastio.
The foundation stone of the Portuguese fort of Sao Sebastio was laid on 20 January 1568 at Bolar, a short distance from the palace of the Bangher king who extended labour and material for its construction.
The fort was square with walls extending 220 metres in length, 5 palms in width and 8.8 metres in height. Four bastions with guns were located at each corner. These guns, falcons, had a range of approximately 2 kilometres so that they covered the entrance to the harbour. The garrison consisted of 200 men, mainly locals. Beyond the fort was a settlement of 35 families.
A small chapel with a thatched roof, Rosario, served the garrison. By the time of Pietro della Valle’s visit in 1623, two more chapels, served by two Franciscan padres came up beyond the fort but within the settlement.
A 1635 map shows the northern boundary of the settlement along a ditch leading to the river Gurpur. This is almost certainly the present ditch along the railway line that forms the boundary wall of the Albuquerque Tile Factory. The area under Portuguese jurisdiction extended upto a falcon shot (approx. 2 kms) from the fort.
The extent on the east and south would have been about 2 to 3 kms from the fort so that the total extent of Portuguese Mangalore was around 5 to 6 sq kms.
In 1619, Venkatappa Nayaka’s army had surrounded the fort and starved the garrison and forced it to surrender.
He, however, allowed the fort, rather a house as it was deprecating described by della Valle, to remain under Portuguese control for the trade and customs revenue that it brought.
In 1653, however, Shivappa Nayaka, captured it along with the other three Portuguese forts in Kanara, at Kundapur, Gangolly and Honavar. When the Portuguese were allowed to return to Mangalore, they built a factory or warehouse on the elevated site where the present Deputy Commissioner’s offices are located, which Hyder took over in 1771. The first Nossa Senora de Rosario was allowed to stand and came to be known as the ’poyada ingreji’ or the church on the sands, and also as the ’factory church’.
The church had a thatched roof and was in a dilapidated condition when Padre Jose Vaz came to Mangalore in 1684. He had the church repaired and it survived until it was pulled down by Tipu in 1784. Today little remains in the heavily populated area to remind us of Sao Sebastiao’s 85 year domination of the entrance to the bundar. Its memory, however, lives on in the name given to the area ‘hale kote,’ and hidden in a neglected spot lies the forgotten tombstone unearthed from where it once protected the disintegrated bones of Domingos de Mourão Coutinho, once Captain of the Fortaleza de Mangalore, Sao Sebastio.
Alan Machado-Prabhu - (Extract from his forthcoming book on Mangalore). He has also authored two other books one historical ’Sarasvati’s Children’ (1999),and a novel based on old Mangalore ’Shades within shadows’ (2011)