The Sultan-ut-tawarikh (The King of Histories), the court history commissioned by Tipu as one of his legitimizing strategies, highlights his conversion of the “Nazarene Christians” as one of the "memorable events of this wonderful year", 1784. Having evicted the English from Mangalore, he mobilised his army on Goa's border, and closed Kanara's ports to Goan shipping. Within his frontiers, he destroyed all churches, expelled their padres, enslaved his Christian subjects, and confiscated their properties. In one swift operation, the Nação Portuguesa was wiped out within the saltanat-i-khudadad.

A desperate viceroy expressed his anguish in his letter of May 9, 1784 to his king: "Since he has made peace with the English, [Tipu] has acted as an enemy, causing much vexation and oppression of the Christians who number about 20,000 souls more or less who lived in the said kingdom of the ghats and below, ordering the arrest of the Portuguese priests and compelling the said Christians to go to live in the lands beyond the Ghats, imputing to them [alleging] that they had been the cause for the English to conquer the said kingdom, teaching and guiding them along the paths and places by which to enter... He has passed orders that the ships of the State should not be provided with rice from his lands and villages...The distrust of this untrustworthy neighbour has increased because not only he has ordered the forts that lie on the frontiers of the province of Canacona to be garrisoned with an excessive number of troops, but also it is reported that he intends to conquer Goa..." (Silva 1961: 25).

Throughout the saltanat-i-khudadad, in Kanara and the Kannada, Tamil, and Telugu speaking regions, Christian men, women, and children, even loyal soldiers of the state, were deprived of their freedom to live as Christians, deprived of their properties and homes, moved to the capital, and by the draconian clause 70 of the state's Revenue Regulations (Greville 1795a: 41), made slaves of the state. This was not rhetoric but state policy.

Slavery, a system by which men, women and children are kept as the personal property of another, was a common practice throughout the pre-modern world. It was an integral part of Islamic society.

Between the 15th and 19th centuries, European nations profited enormously by selling Africans to the sugar and cotton barons of the Caribbean and America. In India, slavery was widespread until very recent times. Wars generated great numbers of captives. In 1011, Mahmud of Ghazni returned from his 10th expedition with 200,000 captives which gave his capital a very Indian appearance (Ferishta 1829a: 53). In one battle alone, in 1196, Qutb-ud-din Aibak took 20,000 prisoners and many slaves (Ferishta 1829a: 197). Tipu was following well-established precedents.

Slavery has been also defined as "the condition of uprooted outsiders, impoverished insiders ‒ or the descendants of either ‒ serving persons or institutions on which they are wholly dependent" (Eaton 2006: 2). By such a definition the populations uprooted from Chitradurga, Carnatic, Kanara, KodaguKodagu, and Malabar by the saltanat-i-khudadad were nothing more than its slaves, military or otherwise.

Nair captives

The first of these forced relocations occurred in 1766 when Haidar transported 15,000 Nair captives to Mysore; a mere 200 survived (Wilks 1820: 477).

Of Haidar's action, Punganuri writes: "Those Nairs who fell into his hands were hanged by thousands; he took men, women and children, ten or fifteen thousand prisoners: whom he sent by thousands to live captive in various parts of the (Seringa) patam country” (Punganari 1849: 14).Peixoto writes that the Nairs were massacred and captured women were gifted to state officials (Peixoto 1938: 104). Tipu writes that the number hanged in one of these districts of Malabar amounted to 10-15,000 (Kirkpatrick 1811: Letter CCCXLII).

During the Carnatic wars (1767-69 and 1780-84), rice cultivators, artisans, merchants, and others were forcibly relocated to the saltanat-i-khudadad, and innumerable boys and girls were conscripted into the military slave ranks.

Rice planting is back-breaking work and done by women. By deporting them, Haidar ensured that the next season's crop would be adversely affected and famine would follow (EIMC 1823a: 291). In between these two wars, in 1779, 20,000 Beders from Chitradurga were relocated to Srirangapatna. Within the first five years of ascending the musnad, Tipu relocated large sections of his Christian (1784), Kodava (1785-86), and Nair (1788-89) subjects.

Tipu's brutal repression of the Kodavas and Nairs was in response to their continued resistance to his rule. Both regions had never accepted the legitimacy of the saltanat-i-khudadad and were subdued by a very strong military presence.

Kodagu, a mountainous country of jungles and heavy rainfall located less than a 100 kms from Srirangapatna and contiguous to Malabar was strategically critical to Tipu. In 1785, Tipu, stating that the Kodavas had rebelled seven times and inflicted heavy casualties on his troops, warned them of the most severe retribution if they revolted again (Kirkpatrick 1811: letter CLXIX, observations). He did just that when they rose once again. The Nairs too received ample warning from Tipu. He told them he was prepared to forgive them their earlier insubordination if they now conformed (Wilks 1817c: 4).

His admonitions were of no avail. Military action went together with large-scale conversions to Islam. Tipu's directive, authenticated by his seal and signature, found in Palghat fort, ordered "that every being in the district, without distinction, should be honoured with Islam, that the houses of such as fled to avoid that honour should be burned, that they should be traced to their lurking-places, and that all means of truth and falsehood, fraud or force, should be employed to effect their universal conversion" (Wilks 1817b: 24).

No warnings

There was no such warning to the Christians. The action against them was secret, sudden, and swift. It occurred, not because of any rebellion, but as a consequence of state policy.

Christianity and Islam originated beyond India's borders. For centuries, their adherents preached and practised intense global rivalry. They fought each other in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East until the Portuguese brought their bitter conflict to India. Converting to Christianity was viewed as 'turning parangi' (Tamil for Portuguese). Converts became inextricably drawn into this age-old conflict as they were absorbed into the pan-regional identity of the Nação Portuguesa (ferangi mazhab).

The Nação Portuguesa connected a widely dispersed community from Portugal through coastal Africa, Arabia, India, Sri Lanka, South-East Asia, China, and Brazil. It instilled among its subjects a deep sense of belonging to Portugal's religious supremacy or the padroado.

In India, the Nação Portuguesa tied together padroado Catholics (Indian converts, Europeans, mestiços, and topasses) living in Goa, and beyond the borders of the Estado da Índia in the states of Indian rulers (Carreira 2014: 163). Small communities of perhaps 30 to 50 casado families lived in Kanara and Malabar ports, and participated in the trade network linking them. This community, the port-dwelling elite of coastal Catholics, identified with Portuguese political and commercial interests and often acted as channels of information, diplomacy, and commerce flowing back to Goa (Carreira 2014: 47).

Throughout the Indian coast, the Nação Portuguesa was linked by another powerful tie: the Portuguese language. Through Portugal's long dominance of overseas trade, a corrupted form of Portuguese had become the lingua franca between Europeans and Indians in commercial and diplomatic affairs (Carreira 2014: 234). Hamilton, in the beginning of the 18th century, writes that most Europeans learnt this language so as to communicate with each other, and with Indians (Hamilton 1764: xii). It was here that the resident Portuguese-speaking padroado Catholics, became indispensable as translators and keepers of records.

The Canarins

This was not so for canarins or Konkani-speaking Christians living largely further inland. Extended family, religious, cultural, and ganvkari ties linked them to Goa, the mother country. They spoke little or no Portuguese as is clear by the viceroy's order of 1684 banning Konkani. Referring to them, Buchanan writes: "These poor people have none of the vices usually attributed to the native Portuguese; and their superior industry is more readily acknowledged by the neighbouring Hindus, than avowed by themselves" (Buchanan 1807c: 24).

The Goa-Ikkeri treaties reinforced these ties to the Nação Portuguesa by acknowledging Goan authority over Kanara's Christians in matters of justice. Haidar's treaty with Goa of 1771 reiterated this: "Everyone of the Christians that may commit any guilt or crime, the justice thereof belongs to the Padre and the Factor." Kanara's canarins, "peaceful and unoffending inhabitants" (Wilks 1817a: 530), were not among those punished in 1768 by Haidar. The viceroy's letter quoted earlier clearly identifies them as Portuguese subjects.

This dual nature of those belonging to the Nação Portuguesa was recognized by local governments. In 1680, the East India Company in Madras, faced with issues generated by the increasing marriages between Protestant Englishmen and Catholic mestiços, resolved that the latter community did not come under the purview of English laws concerning such marriages since they claimed they were "vassals to the King of Portugal."

It argued that "these Roman Catholics of the Portuguese nation" had been given incentives to settle in the new colony, had contributed to its security and commerce, and it was in the interest of the colony to allow marriages between "our men with their women, to prevent wickedness, and in regard there is not English women enough for the men, and the common soldiers cannot maintain English women and children with their pay, as well as they can the women of the country, who are not so expensive and not less modest than our ordinary or common people are, and in matter of marriages we have already gained by them many hopeful children brought up in the Protestant religion" (Wheeler 1878: 76). When Mylapore was captured by Aurangzeb in 1686, he acknowledged Goa's authority over padroado Catholics (Carreira 2014: 52). It was this same right that Ikkeri rulers and Haidar granted Goa.

Portugal's ruthless crusade to suppress Arab trade in the Indian Ocean inflicted immense losses on the Muslims of India's west coast. The 1678 treaty with Basavappa Nayaka specifically banned Arabs from Kanara's ports, required the Ikkeris to destroy the Arab timber yard in Mangalore, and permitted the Portuguese to attack and capture Arab vessels found in any port (Shastry 2000: 219).

Doddamane writes that coastal Muslims were forced out of the sea trade, and suffered severely in social and political standing (Doddamane 1993: 35, 38). Forced into a subordinate status, they developed a fear complex towards the Portuguese and their padres. So much so, that even well into the 20th century, Muslims avoided living in Christian localities, and were urged by their clerics to stay away from modern education since "English means white people, white people were Portuguese" (Doddamane 1993: 42, 99).

With Kanara's Christians closely identified with the Nação Portuguesa or ferangi mazhab by their religion and Goan origin, they were inevitably drawn into this debilitating rivalry, even if they had no active role in it. Pe Francis Xavier writes: "About the beginning of the year 1784, he (Tipu) began to give sufficiently clear signs of his hatred against us. Then it was rumoured that this great hatred was infused in him by some pseudo-prophets of that sect, who, going to the king, told him that his kingdom would not be firm unless he led all the Christians to give their name to the Mahomedan religion and unless he completely eliminated the Christian name from his kingdom" (Silva 1958: 118).

Quest for legitimacy

The support of Muslim clerics played a decisive role in Tipu's quest for legitimacy at this vulnerable stage of his rule. Further, as shown in 1768 and 1782, Kanara could easily be invaded from Bombay and Tellicherry. The Muslims of the west coast, who had suffered so much from Portuguese hostility, expected relief under a powerful Muslim ruler.

Doddamane makes a clear distinction between Portuguese actions and Christian attitude, saying they had nothing to do with the Christian faith and its people (Doddamane 1993: 42).

Yet, as made explicitly clear in the Sultan-ut-tawarikh, Tipu felt compelled to erase all vestiges of Christianity within the saltanat-i-khudadad, and remove his Christian subjects from the shadow of the Nação Portuguesa, and anchor them firmly within his saltanat-i-khudadad.

Churches were destroyed. Unlike Goa's grand churches built with state patronage to impress and convey a political message as well, these churches, many of them just chapels, had been built by the people as places of worship and community identity. Afonso de Albuquerque had erected the first Goan church, the chapel of St Catherine, a small, simple structure of laterite stone.

Soon after, the church of St Monica was built on a hill top overlooking the city to increase the visibility of its glistening white dome. Within decades, Goa was inundated by churches, each more imposing than the other. Goa's early civil and religious architecture was characterised by the highly original style adopted by military engineers. It leaned towards plain, massive, buildings without ornamentation and imparted "an impressive rigor and austerity." It was, Carita writes, "steeped in the vocabulary of power: its aesthetic conveyed calm, solid and imposing strength" (Carita: 15). Among the oldest example is the Palace of the Archbishops, built in the 16th century. Its fortress-like walls and high roofs convey, along with a dry functional austerity, a sense of secure, solid power residing within.

A new style linked to the economic supremacy of the Church and specifically the Jesuits, the Mannerist movement, influenced church architecture from the mid-16th century (Carita: 31). It changed from the impressively austere to the monumentally grand as "The Jesuits substituted the policy of military power for a more subtle one based on the value of the word and Aristotelian rhetoric" (Carita: 35).

Churches, altars, and statues, were decorated with a profusion of dazzling, gold-plated representations of divine power from which there was no escape, even in the after-life. Here, the judgements of the autos-da-fé were passed; here, macabre frescos emblazoned the fires of hell and its dark, horned guardians eagerly awaiting the dissident and rebel. Here, in statues and paintings, Christ and his saints were white and spiritually superior; cavorting devils were black and ugly and reeked of evil.

Seat of power

The state, which met a large part of the construction and maintenance expenses of churches and participated in public religious celebrations, was viewed as a patron of this all-pervading divine power worshipped in churches. Goa's monumental churches were grand statements of the state's political authority, and Goa's answer to India's temples; her padres, to brahmans.

As Bayly writes: "In south India all holy places were perceived as repositories of power, and there was no clear distinction here between spiritual or sacred power and the power accruing to kings and would-be state builders" (Bayly 2003: 48).

These statements spilled into Kanara where small churches, rather chapels, were erected within the forts built at Mangalore, Kundapur, and Honavar. Though small and unimpressive, in their alien architecture and use as a place of communion with divine authority, they still remained significant symbols of Goa's political influence in Kanara.

Goa insisted on the right to build churches in Kanara. In 1748, the viceroy protested to the Ikkeri king when measures were not taken to fulfill the clause relating to "the erection of churches of our holy religion in conformity with the established provision of the peace (treaty)" (Shastry 2000: 297). Fifty years earlier, in 1699, Mangalore's governor had threatened to destroy the churches that had sprung up during Rani Chennamma's reign (Shastry 2000: 287).

Tipu did what the governor threatened. Declaring that the erection of churches in Kanara, Nagar, and Sunda showed the weakness of local rulers, he demolished them in the time-honoured tradition used by rulers to demonstrate their superiority.

Such demonstrations also included the appropriation of idols and other religious icons patronized by defeated rulers, and their exhibition in the victor's capital. Writes Bayly: "Any one of these gods in his temple is perceived as a king in majesty, and his worshippers are the subjects of a divine realm which he commands from within his terrestrial seat of power" (Bayly 2003: 42).

Daily temple ceremonies imitated those of the palace, and the ceremonious procession of the richly attired idol seated on a chariot through the main thoroughfares showed subjects the ruler's divine ally who participated in the governance of his state, and provided him access to the potent power of an invisible realm. The appropriation of such an idol and its installation in the victor's capital was a clear statement to the subjects of both states of the appropriation and transference of this power to the victor.

Such practices were an integral part of medieval Indian politics. Davis writes: "Medieval Indians often linked the founding of new kingdoms with the acquisition of significant icons... images were often seized publicly by one ruler from another in circumstances of conflict...Not only does the seizure of objects from opponents in war convey political messages; so too does the subsequent redistribution of those objects. If an image forcibly taken from an unwilling opponent and repositioned in one's own capital can serve as a figurative incorporation of that opponent's polity, then by the same token an image accepted willingly by a subordinate ruler from his overlord may signify a subjugation voluntarily accepted" (Davis 1999: 54, 68).

It is in this context that the Chola King Rajendra I broke into Sri Lankan monasteries in 1017 and "seized many valuable images made of gold and other precious materials, like blood-sucking ogres, seizing the very essence of Lanka" (Davis 1999: 83). Rajendra enhanced his regional status into one of imperial sovereignty when he had water brought in pots from the Ganga, for long the centre of political power in India (Davis 1999: 75). His son Rajadhiraja returned from the Chalukyan capital in northern Karnataka with the stone idol guarding its temple and installed it in his capital, 800 kms south, as a war trophy (Davis 1999: 51).

Portuguese writ

This was one practice that Tipu could not carry out. Kanara's churches did not have anything of value, no idols or statues to put on display as captured trophies of war in the capital. Some priests had prior warning and acted to save sacred items. Pe Menezes removed 12 richly dressed life size statues of the apostles into the fort (EIMC 1823a: 201); in Mangalore the revered statue of Our Lady was taken into the fort for safety (Appendix 7).

The island of Anjediva became a repository for church property of the Sunkeri mission (Silva 1958: 120). Some church bells turned up in temples; one of them was made in Amsterdam in 1713 (MAR 1900-01: 3). Four years later, though, Tipu returned from Malabar with the copper cladding of Malabar's church domes (Bristow 1793: 114).

The Christian religion vests its legitimizing authority in its priests, a right that derives from Christ's delegation of authority to his apostles and through them to the Church and the priests. The priests of the padroado played a pivotal role in the creation of the Nação Portuguesa.

Beyond Portuguese territory, they assumed judicial authority over Catholics of the region. Consequently, they were seen as representing Portuguese interests, and often viewed with suspicion by other governments, even European. When Kochi fell in 1663, among the first acts of the new Dutch administration was to expel all priests of the padroado, permitting them to take their religious images and ornaments except those of gold and silver (Galletti 1911: 14).

In 1720, the government of Bombay replaced Portuguese priests with Italian Carmelites after making them swear allegiance to the English king, citing "several ill consequences that have risen from their being permitted to reside here as reaping the benefit of the labours of our people and carrying it into foreign countries, stirring up the Roman Catholicks to sedition, especially when we have any dispute with the Portuguese" (Selections from Letters...1887: 11).

In expelling all priests from the saltanat-i-khudadad, Tipu was only following such precedents in declaring a political victory over his European rivals: the Portuguese and English against whom he was openly hostile, and the French who had betrayed him.

While padroado priests were sent back to Goa (Pissurlencar, Antigualhas, fasc ii, document LXXV: 302), Pe Pavone, a Jesuit of the propaganda fide, who had served the Mysore Missions from 1761, was expelled to Pondicherry in February 1784. In Macleod's intercepted letter to Pe Miranda, Pe had portrayed him as an English sympathizer. Although a Goan, he was sent to Kannur which Macleod had captured the previous December. This message was further reinforced by the deportation of Christians and deprivation of their rights.

No European state raised a murmur of protest.

This is an extract from Slaves of Sultans (Goa,1556)  by Alan Machado.