Death of Sultan Bahadur at Diu in front of the Portuguese, 1537


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This illustration, from an early Indian history of Portuguese activities (ca. 1603-1604), shows the drowning of Bahadur Shah, a Hindu sultan, during an on-ship meeting with the Portuguese governor. The Portuguese said that the sultan jumped overboard; Indians insisted that he was pushed.


Extract from page 14, The Cambridge history of the British Empire
THE PORTUGUESE IN INDIA, 1498-1598

Nino da Cunha arrived in India in November, 1529. Early in 1530 the headquarters of the government were moved from Cochin to Goa, which from this date became, as it has ever since remained, the capital of Portuguese India. The next eight years were mainly occupied with the dealings of the Portuguese with Sultan Bahadur of Gujarat and their acquisition of Diu. The history of this period is copiously illustrated by both the Portuguese and the Muslims; and on the whole the various narratives art convincingly consistent, in order the better to understand the local conditions with which the Portuguese had to cope, it is necessary to sketch briefly the state of affairs in Gujarat itself. In the year 1526 the emperor Babur had made himself master of Hindustan from the Indus to the borders of Bengal. He however, died in 1530 before be could subdue the kingdoms of Bengal, Gujarat or the Deccan. His son and successor Humayun endeavoured to complete his father's work, and one of his first undertakings was an invasion of Gujarat and Malwa. The campaign opened with the battle of Mandasor at the beginning of 1535. The troops of Bahadur were in every engagement unsuccessful and in the early stages of the campaign he was deserted by his most valuable soldier, the famous master-gunner Mustafa Rumi Khan, who, aggrieved at the treatment he received at Bahadur's hands, offered his services to Humayun. In October, while Humayun was still pressing his conquest, Bahadur had made an appeal to the Portuguese for help, and had agreed to give them a footing at Diu in return for a contingent of 500 Portuguese. He had already, in 1534, made considerable concessions, ceding the island of Bassein with all it's dependencies and revenues to the Portuguese. When at last, in 1537, Humayun suddenly withdrew, Bahadur, feeling that his troubles were over, regretted his promises, and set about negotiating with Nino da Cunba for his withdrawal from Diu. It may be mentioned incidentally that the 500 men had not been forthcoming. Long discussions took place with a view to a conference between Bahadur and Nino da Cunha, who had come up to settle the matter, Bahadur begging the Portuguese governor to visit him ashore, and the Portuguese insisting that the sultan should visit the fleet and conduct negotiations on board. Each thoroughly mistrusted the other; but eventually Bahadur consented to visit Nino on board, where a scuffle arose, and Bahadur was drowned endeavouring to escape. All Portuguese historians say that Bahadur had intended to murder the Portuguese governor on the occasion of his return visit. The exact circumstance, which led to the drowning of Bahadur will probably never be known. The various narratives for the first time here come in conflict, each side blaming the other for the disaster, which occurred on 3 February, 1537.



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