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The Captivity of Mangalorean Catholics at Seringapatam was a 15-year imprisonment of the Mangalorean Catholics and the other Christians in the Indian region of Canara by Tippu Sultan, the de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore, from 1784 to 1799, at Seringapatam.[1]

Accounts of the number of captives differ, ranging from 30,000 to 80,000.[2] However the generally accepted figure is 60,000, as per Tippu's own records.[3] The captivity was the most disconsolate period in the community's history.[4]

The cause of the captivity is under dispute,[5] but is believed by most historians to be of political considerations, owing to the alliance of the Mangalorean Catholics with the British in the Second Anglo-Mysore War, and not of religious motives.[6][7]

During Tippu's father Hyder Ali's regime, the Mangalorean Catholic community had flourished. However, soon after Tippu gained possession of Mangalore in January 1784, he issued orders to seize the Christians in Canara, confiscate their estates, and deport them to Seringapatam.

20,000 Christians died during the journey from Mangalore to Seringapatam. They had to suffer extreme hardships, torture, death, and persecutions during the captivity. Many Christians were forcibly converted to Islam.[2]

The captivity ended when Tippu was killed by the British in the Battle of Seringapatam on May 4, 1799 during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War.[8] The captivity led to a near disintegration of the community.[1] Of the 60,000-80,000 Christians taken captive, only 15,000-20,000 made it out alive as Christians.[9]

The captivity had a deep impact on the Literature of Mangalorean Catholics.[10] The bi-centennial anniversary of the release from captivity was widely celebrated on May 4, 1999.[11]


File:Stmarys udupi 1.JPG

St Mary's Islands in South Canara, where the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama landed in 1498

The Roman Catholics from the South Canara district on the south-western coast of India, under the jurisdiction of the Mangalore Diocese, are generally known as Mangalorean Catholics.[12] They are Konkani people and speak the Konkani language.[13]

All records of an early existence of Christians in South Canara were lost at the time of their deportation by Tippu Sultan in 1784. Hence, it is not known when exactly Christianity was introduced in South Canara, although it is possible that Syrian Christians settled in South Canara just as they did in Malabar, a region south of Canara.[14]

The Italian traveler Marco Polo recorded that there were considerable trading activities between the Red Sea and the Canara coast in the 13th century. It can be surmised that foreign Christian merchants were visiting the coastal towns of South Canara during that period for commerce and possibly some Christian priests might have accompanied them for evangelistic work.[15]

In 1321, the French Dominican friar Jordanus Catalani of Severac (in south-western France) had arrived in Bhatkal in North Canara.[16] According to Mangalorean historian Severine Silva, the author of History of Christianity in Canara (1961), no concrete evidence has yet been found that there were any permanent settlements of Christians in South Canara before the 16th century.[15]

It was only after the advent of the Portuguese in the region that Christianity began to be propagated.[15] In 1498, the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama landed on St Mary's Islands in South Canara on his voyage from Portugal to India, and planted a cross there.[17]

In 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral, a Portuguese explorer, arrived at Anjediva in North Canara with eight Franciscan missionaries. These missionaries under the leadership of Henrique Soares de Coimbra converted 22 or 23 natives to Christianity in the Mangalore region.[18]

File:Mangalorean catholic migration.JPG

The path of migration of Goan Catholics towards South Canara

In 1526, under the viceroyship of Lopo Vaz de Sampaio, the Portuguese took possession of Mangalore.[19] The Portuguese Franciscans slowly started propagating Christianity in Mangalore[19]

Contemporary Mangalorean Catholics are, however, descended mainly from the Goan Catholic settlers, who had migrated to Canara from Goa, a state north of Canara, between 1560 and 1763, in two major waves. The first wave occurred during the Goa Inquisition of 1560, to escape the trials of the Inquisition. These migrants were welcomed by the native Bednore rulers of Canara for their agricultural skills. The second major wave occurred during the Portuguese-Maratha wars in Goa during the late 17th and the early 18th century.[20]

According to Mangalorean historian Alan Machado Prabhu, the author of Sarasvati's Children: A History of the Mangalorean Christians (1999), the Mangalorean Catholics numbered about 58,000 by 1765, during the capture of Canara by Hyder Ali.[21]

Under the Wodeyar Rajas


The reign of Kanthirava Narasaraja I, the Wodeyar ruler of Mysore from 1638 to 1659, saw a wave of persecutions directed against the Mangalorean Catholics at Seringapatam.

In 1686, Seringapatam, the capital of the Kingdom of Mysore had a community of more than 400 Catholics. However, the community was severely harassed in the following two decades, with the churches destroyed and the priest's house confiscated.[22]

The destruction was undertaken under the name of the Wodeyar king, Kanthirava Narasaraja I by his finance minister. The priest's house was eventually returned to the church in 1709.[22]

Sometime between 1700 and 1717, another church was built in Rampura, a suburb of Seringapatam, where it faced local opposition.[22]

The relations between the Wodeyars and the Mangalorean Catholics improved, until 1717, when there was an anti-Christian outburst and the resident priest was expelled and forbidden to preach. Several more anti-Christian outbursts followed. However, by 1736, there were better relations between the two groups.[23]

Under Hyder Ali


Hyder Ali had a very good relationship with the Mangalorean Catholics.

Hyder Ali was born in 1721 or 1722 at Budikote in the northern part of Mysore State (present Kolar district of Karnataka).[24] He had joined the Mysore Army and distinguished himself in the Siege of Devanahalli in 1749.[25]

He had participated in the Carnatic wars (1751–1755) and had gained a rich experience of warfare. He rose to power in the Mysore court in a very short time, and soon became the Prime minister and general of the King.[26]

From 1761 onwards, he took de facto control of the throne of the Mysore Kingdom through the Wodeyar dynasty.[27]

Hyder Ali occupied Mangalore and Canara in 1763.[28] Hyder had amicable relations with the Christians. Historian Severine Silva states, "the general relations between Hyder and Christians form a chapter which has been entirely lost."[29] Hyder had a very close friendship with two Goan Catholic priests, Bishop Noronha, and Joachim Miranda.[30] Sehwarts, a Protestant missionary, also lived at the court of Hyder.[31] However, Hyder was also involved in suppressing the Jesuit order.[32]

Hyder's army also consisted of several Catholic soldiers. Hyder also allowed Christians to build a church within the Seringapatam Fort, where French generals used to offer prayers, and priests used to visit the fort. Mangalorean historian A. L. P. D'Souza mentions that Hyder had also used Canara Christians for his administrative purposes. As per the two treaties concluded with the Portuguese, he allowed the Portuguese priests to settle disputes among the Christians.[33] However, the Christians in general hated him for they had to pay heavy tax for king’s treasury.[20]

In February 1768, the British captured Mangalore and Canara from Hyder.[28] Towards the end of 1768, Hyder along with his son Tippu Sultan defeated the British and recaptured Mangalore. After the conquest, Hyder was informed that the Mangalorean Catholics had helped the British in their conquest of Mangalore. Hyder believed that this behaviour of the Christians amounted to treachery against the sovereign.[34]

He summoned a Portuguese officer and several Christian priests from Mangalore to suggest the punishment for the Mangalorean Catholics for treachery. The Portuguese officer suggested death penalty for those Catholics who helped the British, because it was the punishment to be awarded to the people who betray the sovereign. But Hyder exhibited a diplomatic stance and imprisoned the Christians who were condemned for treachery, rather than killing them.[35]

Later, he opened negotiations with the Portuguese. As a result of the agreement, the suspicion against the clergy and the Christians was removed. The Christians were no longer chastised.[36] During Hyder's regime, Roman Catholicism in Mangalore and the Mangalorean Catholic community continued to flourish.[37]

The Second Anglo-Mysore War began in 1780. After Hyder's death in the Second Anglo-Mysore War on 7 December 1782 at Arcot, the British captured the fort again.[38]

Historians claim that towards the Christians, he was extremely tolerant. According to historian Severine Silva, Hyder followed the same policy of religious tolerance towards the Christians, which he had followed right from the beginning, though the Christians revolted against him.[39]


File:Tipu Sultan BL.jpg

Tipu Sultan, the architect of the Seringapatam Captivity.

After Hyder's death, Tippu Sultan succeeded his father at the age of 31.[40] Tippu had also participated in the conquest of Mangalore along with Hyder in 1768, and was aware of the treachery of the Mangalorean Catholics towards the sovereign, and their help to the British.[39]

He was also aware of the treatment of the Canara Muslims by the Portuguese clergy. He had always resented his father's favourable policy towards the Mangalorean Catholics.[39]

The British army under Commander-in-Chief, Brigadier-General Richard Matthews landed in Canara on 9 March 1783, and captured the Mangalore fort, by the orders of the Bombay Government.[41]

Many Christians were also recruited in the army of General Matthews. Tippu was infuriated with the Christians of Canara for two reasons. Firstly, when the French soldiers laid down their arms because of the Peace of Paris (1783) treaty, the Christians also refused to fight for Tippu. Secondly, the Christians lent a sum of Rs. 3,30,000 to General Matthews, which made Tippu believe that the Mangalorean Catholics were helping the British.[42]

In May 1783, General Matthews was accused of procrastination and suspended by the Bombay Government, and John Campbell received provisional command of the strategic fort of Mangalore on 5 May 1783.[43]

Tippu laid several assaults on the Mangalore fort till January 1784, which resulted in failures.[40] Looking at the wounded embattled garrison, Colonel Campbell considered it useless to hold out any longer. The Mangalore fort was finally delivered to Tippu when the British capitulated it on January 30, 1784.[40]

The Treaty of Mangalore was signed between Tippu and the British East India Company on 11 March 1784, which brought an end to the Second Anglo-Mysore War.

Historian Ahmad Saeed states that the Christians acted as spies and guided the British.[44] Historian Praxy Fernandes points out that the Christians helped Colonel Campbell in the Mangalore fort and adjoining towns by providing them rice, vegetables, meat, men, and money.[45]

Fernandes also points out that the Christians had entered into a league with the Mysore traitors Kasim Ali and Mohammed Ali, who were enemies of Tippu, and had formed a plot with the English for Tippu's overthrow. He further records that the Head of the Congregation of Monte Mariano Church at Farangipet, near Mangalore, provided the British garrison with 1,000 bags of rice.[46]

Severine Silva points out that the Christians of Canara were eager to get rid of Tippu's rule over the region.[47][48] The History of the Diocese of Mangalore also purports to show that the Christians of Canara were charged with having assisted the English in their operations in the Second Anglo-Mysore War.[49].

Among other accusations made by Tippu, he accused the Christians of inviting the British to invade Canara in 1781-82, furnishing supplies to and otherwise assisting General Mathews army when it landed and took position of Honavar, accompanying the British detachment to Mangalore, furnishing it with supplies both before and after the march, aiding the British in repairing breaches made when the fort was beseiged by Tippu Sultan and plundering the state treasury at Nuggur, when that fortress fell to General Mathews.[50]

Tippu received highly exaggerated reports about the role of the Christians and their help to the British in the Second Anglo-Mysore War.[47] To minimize the threat from the British to his kingdom, Tippu decided to banish the Christians of Canara from his kingdom.[48]

According to Severine Silva, this decision was the logical sequence of the plans he had in his mind all along at the time of the conquest of Mangalore with his father Hyder in 1768.[51]

On a whole, it is generally believed that due to the propaganda of the Goan priests and the alliance of the Christians with the English, Tippu banished the community from Canara. He thought that by banishing the Christians, he could keep the English at bay. This was the main political reason which induced Tippu to take the decision.[7]

However, the theory of large-scale Christian support for the British during the Second Mangalore War has been dismissed by Alan Machado Prabhu, as a myth which is not based on concrete evidence.[52]

Prabhu argues that the charge that the Christians constituted a united front cannot be sustained. He states that apart from the divergent viewpoints among the Catholic community at the time, difficulties in communication for a minority Catholic population spread over a forested coastline stretching over 300 kms broken by numerous streams and rivers, would have made a united action practically impossible.[53]

He further states that to the greater part of Mangalorean Catholics who were agriculturists farming a land capable of growing three crops a year, the thought of neglecting their fields in the cause of a tiny bunch of British isolated in the confines of a fort beseiged by the numerous Mysore army would have sounded insane.[53] Even if the British had made any promises, it would have had very little effect upon the militarily inexperienced Catholics, who would then have to fight a large and well-trained army, in support of a beleaguered army which was not even successful.[53]

He believes that any assistance, at best, was of a very limited nature and restricted to a purely individual enterprise.[52] Prabhu points out that European troops, both English and French, including those from among Tippu's own mercenaries, did receive some assistance, although these were more of a humanitarian nature than military.[54]

He says that the claim that the Catholics paid the British the sum of Rs. 3,30,000 is an utter fabrication. To make his point, he points out that the annual revenue of the Portuguese province of Goa itself amounted to over three to four lakhs, and reasons that the payment of such a huge sum as purported by Tipu, would have required a large number of wealthy donors which the Mangalorean Catholics definitely were not.[55]

Prabhu, instead states that the Christians were unfortunate victims of larger developments beyond their control.[52]

According to Prabhu, Tippu's reasons for the captivity were primarily religious, as he found the social customs of the Christians distasteful, such as their fondness for pork and the social acceptance of alcohol. They thus, came to be identified in Tipu's perception, as a community deserving of his religious zeal as a Padishah.[56]

As evidence of this, he states that Tippu nowhere mentions a large scale Christian conspiracy in his writings in the Sultan ul-Tawarikh, where he justifies his action instead as arising from the "rage of Islam that began to boil in his breast."[56]

Prabhu further states that Tippu's hatred of Christians was compounded by fears that due to them sharing the same faith with their European co-religionists, the Christians were viewed as a potential fifth column, in the event of a British attack.[57] To this, he adds that Tippu also had future territorial ambitions in Goa and wanted to rid himself of any potential dissent from the Christians within his domain.[52]

Therefore, according to Prabhu, through coerced confessions of prominent Mangalorean Catholics, Tippu fabricated evidence of a large-scale Christian conspiracy against him, in spite of his complete awareness of the truth being otherwise.[50]

Execution of orders

"We instantly directed the Divan of the Havur Kutchery to prepare a list of houses occupied by Christians, taking care not to omit a single habitation. After a detailed plan was made, we stationed an officer and soldiers in every place inhabited by Christians, signifying to them that at certain time they would receive orders that they would carry out in full effect.... On the morning of a specific day, (Ash Wednesday February 24, 1784) at the hour of Morning Prayer, let all Christians be made prisoner and dispatched to our presence. Accordingly all orders were everywhere opened at the same moment and at the same hour, namely that of the Morning Prayer."

– Letter of an officer to Tippu Sultan (Kirkpatrick's Collection of Letters)

Soon after Tippu gained possession of Mangalore in January 1784, he issued orders to seize the Christians in Canara, confiscate their estates, and deport them to Seringapatam, the capital of his empire, through the Jamalabad fort route.[58]

First, he expelled the 13 Goan priests from his kingdom (21 as per the Memorial to the Holy See of 1860, kept in Rome). The priests were issued orders of expulsion to Goa, fined Rs. 2 lakhs, and threatened death by hanging if they ever returned. He also banished Joachim Miranda, a close friend of his father Hyder Ali. He wrote to the Portuguese Government that he had pardoned the priests of capital punishment and a fine of 3 crore rupees.[59]

According to the report of 1784, Tippu had driven 26 missionaries out of his state. Three of them secretly joined the captives. Later, two died on the way, and one was killed by the soldier. The missionaries were warned that they would face death penalty if they entered Tippu's kingdom.[59]

On Ash Wednesday (24 February 1784), as is popularly believed, (22 February 1784 according to Goan Catholic priest Joachim Miranda, and March 1784 for some other Christians), in a secret and well planned move, Tippu arrested large numbers of Christians in the entire province of Canara and other parts in his kingdom.[60]

The accounts of the number of captives differ ranging from 30,000 to 80,000.[2] According to Mangalorean historian Kranti Farias, all the captives might not have been arrested on a single day, but the arrests might have been carried out in stages.[61]

When Tippu issued the orders to capture the Christians, the British who had entered into a treaty with him on 11 March 1784 were helpless. The captives also included the Malayali Christians, and the Tamil Christians from the Tamil-countries.[62]

The Portuguese who were the guardians of the Christian faith in Canara interfered and requested Tippu not to imprison the priests and to let the Christians live peacefully as his father Hyder Ali had done. But Tippu did not heed to their request.[63]

Estimates suggest that about 7,000 people were still left in hiding. Many were actively assisted by the Hindus. The few Christians in Canara who escaped Tippu's initial captivity fled to Coorg and Malabar, where they were protected by the native rulers.[64]

Account of the number of captives
Source Number
British officer James Scurry 30,000[65]
Tippu Sultan 60,000[3]
Scottish officer Thomas Munro 60,000[3]
Scottish physician Francis Buchanan 80,000[66]
British general Kirkpatrick 70,000[3]
Asiatic Register of 1799 70,000[3]
The Memorial of 15 May 1860Template:Ref label 60,000[3]
The Memorial of Rosario Parishioners 80000[3]
Barkur Manuscript 80,000 (60,000 from South Canara and 20,000 from North Canara)[67]
Goan Catholic priest Joachim Miranda 40,000[3]
French priest Abbe Dubois 60,000[68]
British Colonel Mark Wilks 60,000[3]
British general James Bristow 40,000[3]
Mangalorean Historian S.N. Saldanha 80,000 (60,000 from South Canara and 20,000 from North Canara)[69]

Confiscation of property and destruction of churches

File:St. Lawrence Shrine (Karkala).jpg

St. Lawrence Church in Karkala was destroyed by Tippu

File:Sultan Battery 2163.JPG

The Sultan Battery in Mangalore, built in 1784, was constructed from the stones of the destroyed churches


The Idgah mosque in Mangalore (opposite St. Aloysius College), is believed to have been constructed by Tippu Sultan, according to oral tradition, with stones from the destroyed Milagres Church.

As per Tippu's orders, all estates and properties of the Christians were seized, and distributed among Tippu's soldiers. Churches and historical records were also destroyed.[58]

Their seizure was so sudden that the Christians had no time to make the least preparation for their departure or to dispose of the little property they had.[70] The amount of property confiscated is estimated by Angelus Francis Xavier Maffei, an Italian Jesuit, at five lakhs of rupees.[71]

Tippu ordered the destruction of all the 27 churches in Canara.[72] The Idgah mosque in Mangalore, is believed to have been constructed, according to oral tradition, with stones from the destroyed Milagres Church. Other Christian establishments that were spared were converted to storehouses, offices, or homes for wealthy Muslims.[73]

A popular fortification in Mangalore, the Sultan Battery, built in 1784 by Tippu Sultan to prevent English warships from entering the Gurupura river,[74] was constructed from stones of the destroyed churches.[1] The bells from the destroyed churches found their way eventually into some of the temples in the area.[75]

Churches destroyed by Tippu
Original Portuguese name Common English name Sub-district District
Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Mangalore Our Lady of Rosary (Mangalore) Mangalore South Canara
Nossa Senhora do Melagres de Mangalore Our Lady of Miracles (Mangalore) Mangalore South Canara
Nossa Senhora de Mercês de Velala Our Lady of Mercy (Ullal) Mangalore South Canara
Jesus Maria Joze de Omzur Holy Family Church (Omzoor) Mangalore South Canara
Senhora Sao. Joze de Pezar St. Joseph (Pezar) Mangalore South Canara
St. Joseph Convent and seminary built by Joachim Miranda Mangalore South Canara
Menino Jesus de Bantwal Infant Jesus (Bantwal) Bantwal South Canara
Santa Cruz de Bedrim Santa Cruz of Bidre Bantwal South Canara
Senhor Salvador de Agrar Most Holy Saviour Church (Agrar) Bantwal South Canara
Sao. Lourenço de Carcoal St. Lawrence Church (Karkala) Moolki South Canara
Nossa Senhora de Conçuçao de Mulquim Our Lady of Immaculate Conception (Mulki) Moolki South Canara
Nossa Senhora de Remedios de Quirim Our Lady of Remedies (Kirem) Moolki South Canara
Nossa Senhora de Saude de Sirvam Our Lady of Health (Shirva) Moolki South Canara
De Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Cundapoor Our Lady of the Rosary (Kundapur) Cundapore South Canara
De Nossa Senhora de Conçuçao de Gangollim Immaculate Conception of the Blesses Virgin Mary (Gangolli) Cundapore South Canara
De Nossa Senhora do Melagres de Calliampoor Holy Rosary (Kallianpur) Barcoor South Canara
De Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Onore Our Lady of Rosary (Honavar) Onore North Canara
De Senhor Sao. Francisco Xavier de Chandor St. Francis Xavier Church (Chandavar) Onore North Canara
De Nossa Senhora de Remedios de Gulmona Our Lady of Remedies (Gulmona) Onore North Canara
Imaculada Conceição de Sunquerim Immaculate Conception (Sunkery) Sunquerim North Canara
Source: History of the Catholic Community of South Kanara (1983)[76]

The Igreja da Santa Cruz (Portuguese: Church of Holy Cross) at Hospet was saved at the intercession of the local Jain chiefs.

A few, however, escaped, like a small chapel at Shantigramma near Hassan, built in 1768, said to have been saved by Tippu's Muslim officers under the pretext that it was used to store cotton.[77]

Tippu spared the Monte Mariano church at Farangipet in deference to his father Hyder Ali's friendship with Fr. Joachim Miranda.[78]

The church at Baleguli near Ankola is said to have been preserved at the express orders of Tippu himself in gratitude for a cure by a Christian woman while at Ankola. The Igreja da Santa Cruz (Portuguese: Church of Holy Cross) at Hospet (then known as Bidrem) was saved at the intercession of the local Jain chiefs.[77]

In Seringapatam, there was a whole battalion of Catholics under an officer named Michael Surappa, who upon hearing of Tippu's order to destroy the Seringapatam church called on his fellow soldiers to arms. Surappa, a veteran of Hyder's army, is even credited as telling the assembled Christians, "I shall remain a Christian in spite of all the orders of Tippu Sultan." The church at Kirangur was spared, although the battalion was gradually dispersed.[77]

Journey from Mangalore to Seringapatam


The Jamalabad fort passage. Rebel Christian leaders were thrown down from the fort

According to the Barkur Manuscript, written in Canarese by a Mangalorean Catholic from Barkur after his return from Seringapatam, the Christians were interned at holding camps at Mangalore, Manjeshwar, Kundapura, Honavar, Ankola, and Sunkery.[67]

The more rebellious Christians were also brought in chains.[79] They were forced to climb nearly Template:Convert/ft through the dense jungles and gorges of the Western Ghat mountain ranges along two routes, one along the Bantwal-Belthangadi-Kulshekar-Virajpet-Coorg-Mysore route,[80][81] and the other along the Gersoppa falls (Shimoga) route.[79]

The Christians were accompanied by three priests, who had secretly joined them, even after facing expulsion from Tippu.[59] It was Template:Convert/mi from Mangalore to Seringapatam.[82]

Trouble arose when the captives halted at their first camp at Bantwal, where the guards began molesting the women. The able bodied captives were able to resist the guards. At the next camp at Jamalabad fort, the rebel Christian leaders were thrown down from the fort.[81]

The town of "Nettrekere" or "Netterkedu" in Tulu, on the cross road from Maripalla to Kalpane, derives its name from the large pool of blood which resulted from the execution of rebellious Mangalorean Catholics who were being marched to Mysore.[73]

According to a captive from Barkur, while travelling pregnant women were often confined on the road, and the babies had to be borne bundled about them, to be suspended in cradles from the branches of trees when they rested.[81]

If anyone happened to die, the deceased was buried on the spot. They were not given any rations, and when the time to march came to another village, those who had not finished cooking had to leave behind their rice and the cooking pots as they stood over the fire.[83]

According to the Barkur Manuscrpt and several other British Government records and sources, 20,000 of them (one-third) died on the march to Seringapatam due to hunger, disease, and ill treatment by the soldiers.[81][84] The journey took six weeks to reach Seringapatam.

The 15 year captivity

File:James Scurry.jpg

The British officer James Scurry, who was detained a prisoner for 10 years by Tipu Sultan along with Mangalorean Catholics

After arriving at Seringapatam, the Christian captives were made to forcibly embrace Islam. All those who embraced Islam were freed. Those who refused to embrace Islam, Tippu ordered them to be tied to the feet of the elephants to be dragged and trampled upon them.[83]

An English prisoner relates that, two risalas were sent daily to Seringapatam to select girls that they could take as prizes to join their harems. Often, when they seized the girls, their young men would offer resistance and smash their dhoolies. The officers would capture the men and administer five hundred strokes with whips and canes, from the effects of which many men died.[85]

Historian Lewin Bentham Bowring reports that, "Tipu demanded the surrender of the daughters of some of these Christians in order to have them placed in his seraglio, and that, on the refusal of their parents, the latter had their[85] noses, ears and upper lips cut off, and were paraded through the streets on asses, with their faces towards the tails of the animals."[86]

Such treatments towards the Christians for the refusal of girls is also confirmed in the accounts of the British officer James Scurry , who was held captive along with Mangalorean Catholics.[87]

In his book The Captivity, Sufferings, and Escape of James Scurry, who was Detained a Prisoner During Ten Years, in the Dominions of Hyder Ali and Tippoo Saib (1824), Scurry also reports that Tippu relented the demand of the captive girls, when one captive fell from his beast and expired on the spot through loss of blood.[87]

About 200 young women, the prettiest and fairest of them, were selected for Tippu's seraglio. The rest of the women were distributed as wives to Muslim officers and favourite's living there.[84] The future Christian progeny of these young girls and women were lost, and their descendants are fully Islamic as of today.[67]

Unable to stomach the indifferent camp food, Balthazaar of Belthangady, a Mangalorean Catholic nobleman, offered to make a chutney, which came to be known as the lengendary "Balthazaar Chutney" for the captured Mangalorean Catholics.[88]

File:Dungeon dwelling of Seringapatam.jpg

A dungeon at Seringapatam. Many Christians who refused to embrace Islam were imprisoned in such dungeons

The Jemadars, Subedars, and Havildars meted out more ignominious punishment by slitting off their ears and noses, who refused to accept Islam. They were seated on asses, paraded through the city, and thrown into the dungeons of Seringapatam.[83]

The able-bodied young Christian men were drafted into the army after being circumcised and converted to Islam.[89]

The Bakur Manuscript records, "On four occasions the young able-bodied Christian men were thus drafted for the Army. Some of them were appointed jemadars, subedars, and havildars. The Sircar supplied them with ghee, butter, curds, firewood, etc. One hundred men were formed into one company, four companies into a risala, four risalas into a sufedar, and four sufedars were placed under a bakshi. Out of every company twenty-five men were taken and circumcised at the end of every month. When the wounds were healed, another twenty-five were taken and circumcised, and so on, until the whole company was initiated into Islamism."[89]

British general Kirkpatrick arrives at a figure of 15,000, who have been capable of bearing arms, forming 30 risalas.[89]

Some Christian captives like Salu (Salvadore) Pinto was appointed Tippu's Deputy Vizier, and Anthony Gagialgar (clockmaker) Saldanha as his House Chamberlain.[81] One of his most faithful servants, a Mangalorean Catholic by the name of Manuel Mendes, later even saved Tippu's life in Travancore by donning his robes and sitting in his palanquin, thereby giving Tippu a chance to escape in the general panic. Mendes was captured and killed by the Nairs.[90]

The risalas (army companies) of the captives were formed as the Ahmedy Corps in 1785. They were employed in the campaigns of the Marathas, Nizam, and the British during 1786 and 1787. They suffered heavy casualties, and very few returned back.[81]

Those who remained, such as the lame, the blind and the aged, employed themselves in cultivating the land and in doing various manual works. Many were made to carry baskets filled with gobra (cowdung) for three days as a public display of warning to others.[91]

The stubborn Christians were given the most menial tasks, and made to work in the paddy fields, They were underfed, and whenever they got into a fight were immediately imprisoned. The men were completely isolated from any women, the idea being that they would die of old age without creating any new progeny.[91]

File:Louis XVI Receives the Ambassadors of Tipu Sultan 1788 Voyer after Emile Wattier 19th century.jpg

Tippu's embassy visited the court of the French King Louis XVI in 1788. During the visit, Pope Clement XIV's representative conveyed the appeal to the embassy to allow the priests in Seringapatam

In 1785, after declaring the Coorgis guilty of polyandry, Tippu seized nearly 70,000 Hindus of Coorg along with the King of Coorg, Dodda Vira-Rajendra, and held them captive at Seringapatam. They were also subjected to forcible conversions to Islam and the same treatment as the Mangalorean Catholics.[92]

From 1786-1789, even the Nairs of Malabar were captured and deported to Seringapatam.[93]

In 1787, when half the number of Christians had perished by disease and starvation, Tippu attempted to proselytize the remaining Christians in Canara, and took them into custody.[64]

As the Christians settled down in Seringapatam, they slowly reorganised themselves with the elders forming a secret group named "Council of Ten", to help keep their faith alive.[91]

According to Balthazar of Belthangady, a Mangalorean Catholic captive, in the "Coucil of Ten", the Christians used to meet together from time to time to deliberate on issues concerning the community. In 1789, Tippu came to know of the group through an officer, and he specifically banned any political gathering of the existing Christians.[94]

The Christians believing that this tribulation came upon them for their neglect of the Law of God and their religious duties, began to read the Krista Purana, an epic poem on the life of Jesus Christ written by the English Jesuit Thomas Stephens (1549–1619), with fervor. Some Muslims coming to know of this, destroyed the books, but the Christians constructed subterranean refuges to perform religious duties, read the books, and strengthened their faith.[84]

According to Mr. Silva of Gangolim, a survivor of the captivity, if a person who had escaped from Seringapatam was found, the punishment under the orders of Tipu was the cutting off of the ears, nose, the feet and one hand.[95]

"Several thousand Christians in the dominion of Tippu Sultan had often in past years represented to him the discomfort attending the due exercise of their religion. He had hitherto paid no manner of regard to their supplications. Nevertheless, the present state of affairs in his extensive empire had inclined his heart to mercy and not to harshness. Wherefore he had dispatched these his trusty messengers who might convey the words of his mouth in all variety, begging the Governor and the Archbishop not to refuse every needful exertion towards succoring their brethren Christians according to the obligations of their religion. And he would as soon as might be convenient rebuild at his own expense the Churches that the fate decreed agents of destruction had leveled to the ground."

– Letter sent by Tippu to the Archbishop of Goa

Reports of Joachim Miranda and the Portuguese Government confirm that the Christians were forcibly circumcised and converted to Islam. These Christians openly practised Islam.[96] Some writers hold the view that the Christians did not voluntary submit to the conversions.[97]

Some Christian missionaries had also been appealing to the Roman Catholic Church to intervene on behalf of the captive Christians. A priest had also written a letter to the Holy See to put pressure on Tippu to allow the priests.[98]

When Tippu's embassy visited the court of the French King Louis XVI in 1788, Pope Clement XIV's representative conveyed the appeal to the embassy. In the Third Anglo-Mysore War (1789–92), English and their allies defeated Tippu. Desperate to break the alliance of powers surrounding him on all sides, he sought to make peace with Portugal, the Marathas, and other powers.[98]

According to Severine Silva, Tippu consequently gave up the persecution of Christians, opened negotiations with the Portuguese Government and with the Archbishop of Goa, with a promise that he would no more molest the Christians, and asserted that he would build all destroyed churches at his own cost.[98]

The Christians found the supervision over them relaxed and Tippu was more conciliatory in his attitude. The Christians now escaped from the camps of Seringapatam and gradually began to enter the neighboring kingdoms of Coorg, Malabar.[98]

At this time many Christians performed daring feats in rescuing the captives from Seringapatnam and taking them to places of safety.[98]

A captive named Domingo Pinto (brother of Salvador Pinto, who rose to high rank in the services of Tippu) excelled himself particularly in this. He rescued many people and took them secretly to Mangalore or Tellichery. He proposed that those who were anxious to regain their liberty will be rescued, provided they paid him a certain sum of money. He fixed the price of rescuing the captives at 8 hoons (Rs. 32) for a male, and 4 hoons (Rs. 16) for a female respectively.[98]

In 1792, the King of Coorg, Dodda Vira-Rajendra, had managed to escape from captivity at Seringapatnam, and with the aid of the English armies under Lord Cornwallis, was able to recover Coorg for himself in the treaty of 1792 between the English and their allies and Tippu.[99]

Anxious to repopulate his kingdom which had been depopulated by Tippu, he welcomed the fugitive Konkani Christians. As an inducement to remain permanently in his territory, he granted them several privileges, obtained a priest from them at Goa, and built a chapel for them.[99]

After the relaxation of policies from 1792 onwards, the Christians began to resettle in Canara. Many Mangalorean Catholic students, who had studying for the priesthood in Goa, also returned back to Mangalore.[99]

After full consideration of the changed circumstances, the Archbishop of Goa, by a provision on February 20, 1795, appointed Minguel José Louis Mendes interim vicar of all the four sub-districts of Mangalore, Barkur, Onore and Mulki.[99]

With him some other priests also came to Canara. The Goan priests who came to Canara had kept their old prejudices. They could not accept the rule of Tippu. They openly advocated rebellion against Tippu, and made themselves offensive to him by their letters and even by their speeches. As a result, in 1797, the brief relaxation ceased and persecution of the Christians commenced again.[99]

End of captivity and re-establishment

File:Tipu death.jpg

The Last Effort and Fall of Tippoo Sultan by Henry Singleton

In the Battle of Seringapatam on May 4, 1799, the British army under officers George Harris, David Baird, and Arthur Wellesley stormed the fortress, breached the town of Seringapatam, and killed Tippu.[8]

After Tippu's death in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, the Mangalorean Catholics were freed from his captivity.[8] Of the 60,000-80,000 Christians taken captive, only 15,000-20,000 made it out as Christians.[9] British general Arthur Wellesley helped 10,000 of them return to Canara.[100][101] Of the remaining Christians freed, about a thousand went to Malabar, and some hundreds settled in Coorg.[102]

According to Francis Buchanan, 15,000 of them returned to Mangalore and its vicinity, while 10,000 of them migrated to Malabar.[103] The Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency (1883) mentions that 15,000 persons returned, of which 12,000 were from South Canara, and 3,000 from North Canara.[104] According to the Mangalorean Catholic genealogist Michael Lobo, the present Mangalorean Catholic community is descended almost entirely from this small group of survivors, who returned to South Canara.[11]

File:Sir Thomas Munro, 1st Baronet.jpg

Thomas Munro helped the Mangalorean Catholics recover their lands after their return from captivity

After the death of Tippu, soon a detachment from the Bombay army under Lieutenant-Colonel Wiseman took possession of Mangalore on 4 June 1799, along with the entire province of Canara, with the exception of the fortress of Jamalabad.[105]

Thomas Munro was appointed the first collector of Canara in June 1799. He remained till October 1800.[106] He was accompanied by officers John Goldsborough Ravenshaw and Alexander Reade to take control of the administration and reorganize it.[101]

Munro passed three orders in respect of the estates of the Christians, which were taken over by non-Christians during the captivity. For the purpose of finding the ownership of the lands, he sent two Mangalorean Hindus, Muthsuddy Vencappah and Saly Purvoe Dur Shetty, and other Christians to investigate and inform him about these estates.[107] Through the assistance of the Church, and with the support of Munro, the Christians were able to recover their lands and estates.[108]

In 1800, the British took a census of the region. Of the 396,672 people living in South Canara,[109] 10,877 were Christians residing in 2,545 houses.[110] According to the same census, in the entire province of Canara, out of the 5,92,000 people,[111] the Christian population was recorded as 10,877 in South Canara, and 2,380 in North Canara.[110]

Padre José Miguel Luis de Mendes, a Goan Catholic priest, was appointed Vicar of Our Lady of Rosary at Mangalore on 7 December 1799. He took a lot of interest in the re-establishment of the community from 1799 to 1808.[112]

Later, John Goldsborough Ravenshaw was appointed collector of South Canara, while Alexander Reade was appointed collector of North Canara.[101] Ravenshaw took active part in the re-establishment of their former possessions and recovery of their estates. He constructed a church for them, which was completed in 1806.[113] The churches which were earlier destroyed by Tippu were rebuilt by the Christians.[114]

File:Sir Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington.jpg

Arthur Wellesley helped 10,000 Mangalorean Catholics to return to South Canara and resettle on their lands.

After relocation, the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Goa commenced again.[112] Their population almost doubled in 1818. The total Christian population in North and South Canara was estimated to be 21,280 out of a total population of 670,355.[115]

According to various parish books existing that time, Mangalorean Catholics numbered 19,068 in South Canara (12,877 in Mangalore and Bantwal,[66] 3,918 in Moolki, 2,273 in Cundapore and Barcoor),[116] while the Christians in North Canara numbered 2,749 (1,878 in Onore, 599 in Ancola, and 272 in Sunkery).[116]

Soon, the Mangalorean Catholics became a prosperous and influential community consisting mainly of planters, tile manufacturers, and agriculturists. They also competed for offices in the services of the British. They gradually prospered under the British.[114]

Criticism of Tippu


Mark Wilks has described Tippu as an Islamic fanatic[117]

Many Roman Catholic and British writers have severely criticized Tippu for his policies and treatment towards the Christians. British general Kirkpatrick has called Tippu as, "the intolerant bigot and the furious fanatic."[118]

British Colonel Mark Wilks in his Historical Sketches of the South of India, cites an account of Tippu, in which Tippu mentions that, "the cause arose from the rage of Islam began to boil in his breast when informed of the circumstances of the spread of Christianity in Goa and Canara."[119]

According to historian Thomas Paul, Tippu directed his hatred for the British over the Mangalorean Catholics and other South Indian Christian communities.[62]

Sitaram Goel mentions that Tippu's justification for the conversion was that during the Portuguese domination, many Muslims were forcibly converted to Christianity. Tippu proclaimed his action as a sort of punishment for the conversion of Muslims to Christianity.[120]

Contemporary scholars like Surendranath Sen, Mohibul Hasan, N. K. Sinha, and B. Sheik Ali, who have elaborately analyzed Tippu's religious policies on Christians, have concluded that he was not a religious bigot.[117]

They argue that the forcible conversions to Islam were purely for political reasons and not for religious ones. It was done to punish the Christians who supported the British against their own native suzerain. The conversions came after much warnings by Tippu.[117]

Irrespective of the views, the Mangalorean Catholic community still considers Tippu as a bitter religious bigot and a ferocious conquistadore, and is a hated personality among the community.[117]

Indeed, more than a century after the Captivity ended, Jerome Saldanha, a government servant during the British Raj at the Bombay Presidency, noted in an article in Mangalore Magazine, published by St. Aloysius College, which chronicled contemporary developments and views from the closing decades of 19th century:


Criticism of the Christians

Thirty years after the event the apparent lack of resistance from the Christian captives found criticism from the French priest Abbe Dubois in one of his letters dated 1815.[121] In his letter, Dubois mentioned, "not a single individual among so many thousands had courage enough to confess his faith under this trying circumstance, and become a martyr to his religion."[122] Various writers have concluded that the acceptance and practise of Islam by the Christians amounted to partial apostasy.[97]

Remembrance of captivity

During the mid-19th century, Victor Fernandes, Bishop of Mangalore (1931–1955), erected a large cross at former outskirts of Mangalore in Nanthoor near Padav hills to honour the memory of the Mangalorean Catholic martyrs who died on the march during the captivity.[80]

The bicentenary anniversary of the release from captivity was widely celebrated on May 4, 1999 by the Mangalorean Catholic community. Five Catholics walked from Seringapatam to Mangalore to retrace the 278 km route that Tippu Sultan forced the Christians to take in 1784. The commemorative march ended on May 11 at the Rosario Cathedral, Mangalore.[11]

Accounts of the Captivity

James Scurry


Mr. Silva of Gangolim, a survivor of the captivity


In popular culture

  • Many of Konkani litterateur V. J. P. Saldanha's Konkani historical novels such as (Belthangaddicho Balthazar (Balthazar of Belthangady), Devache Krupen (By the Grace of God), Sardarachi Sinol (The sign of the Knights) and Infernachi Daram (The gates of Hell) deal with the Seringapatam captivity of Mangalorean Catholics. In these novels, the Mangalorean Catholic community of the eighteenth century are portrayed as brave, hardworking and selfless.[10]

See also


a Template:Note label "Malabar Christians" is a possible misinterpretation by James Scurry. The term actually refers to the Christians of Canara.
b Template:Note label demon or monster
c Template:Note label The Memorial of 15 May 1860 was addressed by the Catholics of Mangalore to Monsignor Bonnand of Pondicherry, who had then been appointed as the Apostolic visitator by the Holy See.[123]


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-August, May 1824,, retrieved 2009-08-19

-December, September 1824,, retrieved 2008-10-15

External links

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