When Maldives was ruled by Catholic kings living all the way in Goa: Ajay Kamalakaran

(Ajay Kamalakaran is a Kalpalata Fellow for History & Heritage Writings for 2021. This column first appeared in Scroll on October 16, 2021)

  • When Italian composer, writer and traveller Pietro Della Valle visited Goa in 1623-’24, he met his fair share of interesting people from different parts of the world. Jesuits, fellow travellers, local Goans and other Europeans – he must have expected to meet them all. But there was one encounter that left the Italian a bit surprised and amused. The gentleman in question was Dom Philippe, the third-generation Catholic king of the Maldives, who ruled the archipelago from Goa and had a regent in Male. “I stood to see this shew in the same street of Saint Paul, in the house of one of whom they call king of the islands of Maldiva or Maladiva, which are an innumerable company of small islands, almost all united together, lying in a long square form towards the west, not far from the coast of India, of which islands, one of the man’s ancestors was really king, but being driven out by his own people, fled to the Portugals and turned Christian with hopes of recovering his kingdom by their help,” wrote Della Valle…

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