Volume 11, Chapter 13  -- Voyage round the World, by Commodore Roggewein, in 1721-1723: *section index*

Volume 11, Chapter 13, Section 12 -- Account of the Commanderies of Malabar, Gallo, Java, and Bantam.

In such subordinate places as were not thought of sufficient consequence to require a governor or director, the Dutch East India Company has established another principal officer, with the title of chief or commander. If the person entrusted with this authority be a merchant, he is accountable for his conduct to the civil government; but if a captain, to the military establishment. A chief or commander, in conjunction with his council, has nearly the same authority with a governor, except that he cannot execute any capital judgment on criminals, till the case has been reviewed and confirmed by the council at Batavia.

At the time when our author was in India, the commander at the fort of Cochin on the Malabar coast, was Captain Julius de Golints, a native of Mecklenburg, from whom he received great civilities. Malabar was the first country discovered by the Portuguese in India, and in which they established themselves, not without great effusion of blood, nor were they many years in possession till they were driven out by the Dutch. These conquerors, in their turn, found it very difficult to support themselves against the natives, who attacked them with great spirit and success, and had infallibly driven them out of the country, but for the courage and conduct of Major John Bergman, who preserved their establishments with much difficulty.

Though very warm, the climate of Malabar is very healthy, and the soil is fertile in rice, fruit, and all sorts of herbs. It is divided into many principalities, among which the following are reckoned kingdoms: Cananore, Calicut, Cranganore, Cochin, Calicoulan, Porcaloulang, and Travancore. As the capital of the Dutch possessions in Malabar was the city of Cochin, it may be proper to describe this little kingdom as at that period. It reaches from Chitway in the north, and extends twenty-four leagues to the southwards along the coast, being divided into a multitude of small islands by the streams which descend from the mountains of Gatti [the Gauts].

These rivers have two great or principal mouths, one at Cranganore in the north, and the other at Cochin in the south, distant thirty marine leagues from each other. The Portuguese were the first European nation who settled here, where they built a fine city on the river about three leagues from the sea; but the sea has since so gained on the land, that it is now not above an hundred paces from the city.

This place is so pleasantly situated, that the Portuguese had a common saying, "That China was a good place to get money in, and Cochin a pleasant place to spend it at." The great number of islands formed by the rivers and canals, make fishing and fowling very amusing; and the mountains, which are at no great distance, are well stored with wild game. On the island of Baypin [Vaypen], there stands an old fort called Pallapore, for the purpose of inspecting all boats that pass between Cranganore and Cochin.

And five leagues up the rivulets, there is a Romish church called Varapoli [Virapell], served by French and Italian priests, and at which the bishop takes up his residence when he visits this part of the country. The padre, or superior priest, at Virapell can raise four thousand men on occasion, all Christians of the church of Rome; but there are many more Christians of the church of St. Thomas, who do not communicate [[=take Communion]] with the Romanists.[1]

About two leagues farther up than Virapell, towards the mountains, there is a place called Firdalgo,[2] on the side of a small but deep river, where the inhabitants of Cochin annually resort in the hot months of April and May to refresh themselves. The banks and bottom of the river here are clean sand, and the water is so clear that a small pebble stone may be seen at the bottom, in three fathoms water.

All the water along this low flat coast, to the south of Cranganore, has the very bad quality of occasioning swelled legs to those who drink it. This disease sometimes only affects one leg, but sometimes both, and the swelling is often so great as to measure a yard round at the ancles. It occasions no pain, but great itching, neither does the swelled leg feel any heavier than that which occasionally remains unaffected. To avoid this disease, the Dutch who reside at Cochin, send boats daily to Virapell, from which they bring water in small casks of about ten or twelve gallons, to serve the city. This water is given free to the servants of the Company, but private persons have to pay six-pence for each cask-full, which is brought to their houses at that price.

Still, however, both Dutch men and women are sometimes afflicted with this disease, and no means have hitherto been found out for prevention or cure. The old legend imputes this disease to the curse laid by St. Thomas upon his murderers and their posterity, as an odious mark to distinguish them: But St. Thomas was slain by the Tilnigue[3] priests at Miliapoor in Coromandel, above four hundred miles from this coast; and the natives there have no touch of this malady.

Cochin is washed by the greatest outlet on this coast, and being near the sea, its situation is strong by nature, but art has not been wanting to strengthen it. As built by the Portuguese, it was a mile and a half long by a mile in breadth. The Dutch took it in 1662, when Heitloff van Chowz was commander of the forces by sea and land. The insolence of the Portuguese had made several of the neighbouring princes their enemies, who joined with the Dutch to drive them out of that country, and the king of Cochin in particular assisted them with twenty thousand men.

Not long after the Dutch had invested the town, Van Chowz received notice of a peace having been concluded between Portugal and Holland, but kept the secret to himself and pushed on the siege. Having made a breach in the weakest part of the fortifications, he proceeded to a furious assault, which was kept up for eight days and nights incessantly, relieving the assailants every three hours, while the Portuguese were kept on continual duty the whole time, and were quite worn out with fatigue. Finding the city in danger of being taken by storm, the Portuguese at length capitulated and gave up the place.

There were at this time four hundred topasses in the garrison, who had done good service to the Portuguese, but were not comprehended in the capitulation. On discovering this omission, and knowing the cruel and licentious character of the Dutch soldiery in India, they drew up close to the gate at which the Portuguese were to march out, and the Dutch to enter, declaring, unless they had equally favourable terms granted them with the Portuguese, they would massacre them all, and set fire to the town. The Dutch general not only granted them all they asked, but even offered to take those who had a mind into the Dutch pay, to which many of them assented.

The very day after the surrender, a frigate came from Goa, with the articles of peace, and the Portuguese loudly complained of having been unfairly dealt with by Van Chowz; but he answered, that the Portuguese had acted in the same manner with the Dutch, only a few years before, in the capture of Pernambuco in Brazil. The English had at that time a factory in Cochin, but the Dutch ordered them immediately to remove with all their effects, which they accordingly did, to their factory at Paniany.

On gaining possession of Cochin, the Dutch thought it too extensive, and therefore contracted it to the size it is now, being hardly a tenth part of what it was before. It measures about 600 paces long, by 200 in breadth, and is fortified with seven large bastions and intermediate curtains, all the ramparts being so thick that they are planted with double rows of trees, to give shade in the hot season. Some of the streets built by the Portuguese still remain, together with a church, which is now used for the Dutch worship, the cathedral being converted into a warehouse.

The house of the commandant is the only one built in the Dutch fashion, which is so near the river that the water washes some part of its walls. The flag-staff is placed on the steeple of the old cathedral, on a mast seventy-five feet high, above which is the staff, [[an]]other sixty feet in length, so that the flag may be seen above seven leagues off at sea. The garrison of Cochin usually consists of three hundred men; and from Cape Comoras upwards, in all their forts and factories, they have five hundred soldiers, and an hundred seamen, all Europeans, besides some topasses and the militia.

They procure their store of rice from Barcelore, because the Malabar rice will not keep above three months out of the husk, though it will keep twelve with the husk on. This part of the country produces great quantities of pepper, but it is lighter than that which grows more to the northwards. The forests in the interior afford good teak-wood for ship-building, and two woods, called angelique and prospect, which make beautiful chests and cabinets, which are sent all over the coasts of western India. They have also iron and steel in plenty, and bees-wax for exportation. The sea and the rivers afford abundance of excellent fish of various kinds, which are sold very cheap.

Cranganore, a little to the north of Cochin, stands upon a river about a league from the sea, and at this place the Dutch have a fort. This place is remarkable for having formerly been the seat of a Jewish government, and that nation was once so numerous here as to consist of 40,000 families, though now reduced to 4000. They have a synagogue about two miles from the city of Cochin, not far from the palace of the rajah, and in it they carefully preserve their records, engraven upon plates of copper in the Hebrew language; and when any of the characters decay, they are cut anew, so that they still possess their history down from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar to the present day.

About the year 1695, Mynheer van Reede had an abstract of this history translated from Hebrew into the Dutch language. They assert themselves to be of the tribe of Manasseh, a part of which was sent by Nebuchadnezzar to the most easterly province of his large empire, which is alleged to have reached Cape Comorin. Twenty thousand of them travelled from Babylon to this place in three years, and were civilly and hospitably treated by the inhabitants of Malabar, who allowed them liberty of conscience in religion, and the free exercise of their reason and industry in the management of their secular affairs.

Having increased in numbers and riches, they at length, by policy or wealth, became masters of the small kingdom of Cranganore: And a particular family among them being much esteemed for wisdom and riches, two of that family were chosen by their elders and senators to govern the commonwealth, and to reign jointly over them. At length one of the brothers invited his colleague to a feast, at which he basely killed him, thinking to reign alone; but a son of the deceased slew the fratricide, after which the state fell into a democracy, which still continues among the Jews here. Their lands have, however, reverted for many years into the hands of the Malabars, and poverty and oppression have occasioned many of them to apostatise.

Between Cranganore and Cochin there is an island called Baypin [Vaypen], four leagues long, but in no part above two miles broad. The Dutch do not allow any vessels or boats to enter or go out at Cranganore, obliging all to use the river of Cochin, which is a quarter of a mile broad, and very deep, but has a bar on which there is no more than fourteen feet water at spring-tides.

The inhabitants of this country are mostly idolaters, over whom the bramins or priests exercise great authority, which they much abuse, of which the following abominable custom is a strong instance. When any man marries, he is prohibited from bedding with his wife the first night, which function is performed in his stead by one of the bramins, or, if none of these be at hand, by some other man. Foreigners used formerly to be often employed on these occasions, as the Malabars made choice of them instead of their own countrymen, often making large presents to the substitutes, sometimes to the value of forty or fifty pounds. But of late the bramins have become so very religious, that they never fail to execute this duty themselves.

Besides this, the bramins frequent the company of the women so much, that no one of their religion can pretend to know his own father with any certainty. For which reason, by the laws of this country, sons or daughters never inherit from the husbands of their mothers, but the heritage always goes,to nephews and nieces, by sisters of the deceased born of the same mother, as certainly of his blood. This rule is observed also in the order of succession in their royal families, and is a glaring proof of the strange effects of boundless superstition.[4]

The next commandery is Gallo, or Point de Galle, on the island of Ceylon, at the distance of about twenty leagues from Columbo, the Dutch capital of that island. Gallo was the first place in Ceylon taken from the Portuguese by the Dutch, and still is a place of considerable trade. The commander at this place is entirely dependent upon the governor of Ceylon, and can do nothing without his approbation.

About the year 1672, Lewis XIV. sent out a squadron of eight frigates, with orders to make themselves master of this place, this project having been proposed to the court of France by one Mynheer Jan Martin, who had served the Dutch East India Company for many years, and had quitted their service on some disgust. When the royal orders came to be opened at sea, Martin found that the government was to be vested in another person, in case the place were taken, on which he took such measures as frustrated the object of the expedition.

Mynheer van Cosse, who then commanded the Dutch fleet, soon arrived on the coast, and the French retired without venturing an engagement. They went to Trankamala, or Trinconomalee, and anchored in the bay of that name, meaning to force the garrison of that small fort to surrender: But Van Cosse soon followed them, and brought them to action while disadvantageously situated in the bay, and either sank or burnt half of the French fleet. The rest fled to St. Thomas, on the coast of Coromandel, intending to have formed a settlement there; but Van Cosse again followed them to that place and seized all their ships, many of their guns having been carried ashore, as were at this time a great number of their officers and men. The French who were on shore capitulated with the Dutch to quit India, on being allowed shipping to carry them home, which Van Cosse agreed to, giving them his flag-ship, the Groote Britanye, and two others, for that purpose. Martin was detained and carried to Batavia, where he was confined for life on an allowance of a rix-dollar a-day.

The next commandery is that of Samarang, on the island of Java, and he who commands here has the direction of all the factories in that island, except those which depend immediately on the government of Batavia. Kuttasura, which is the residence of the emperor of Java, is within his jurisdiction. In the year 1704, a war broke out in Java between the brother and son of the deceased emperor, as competitors for the succession, which lasted twenty years. The Dutch sided with the former, but the affections of the natives were with the latter, who drew over to his party a great number of the native soldiers who had served under the Dutch, and who, being well disciplined, behaved gallantly on all occasions, and gave the Dutch much trouble.

At Bantam, on the same island, the Dutch have a strong fort with a numerous garrison, to keep the people in awe, who are very mutinous, and far from being well affected to the Dutch government. The king, or rajah of Bantam, has also a fort only a few hundred paces from that belonging to the Dutch, in which be keeps a numerous garrison for the security of his person. The only commodity of this part of the country is pepper, of which they are able to export 10,000 tons yearly. The king is obliged to supply the company with a certain quantity of pepper yearly; but in all other respects they treat him kindly enough. His dominions are extensive and well peopled, and his subjects are hardy and enterprising, but perfidious and revengeful, and mortally hate all Christians.

The bay of Bantam is safe and pleasant, having many islands, which still retain the names given them by the English, who had a fine factory here, from which they were expelled in 1683. The territory of Bantam is very fertile, abounding in rice, pepper, fruits, and cattle. In the interior of the country the natives sometimes find precious stones of great value, of which however the Dutch rarely get possession, as the people fear they might be induced to extend their conquests, by which they are already greatly oppressed. The head of the factory at this place has the title of chief.

Another Dutch chief resides at Padang, on that part of the coast of Sumatra which is called the gold-coast. This chief has a council and fiscal like all the rest, and his post is considered as both honourable and profitable. Sumatra is a very large fine island, separated from the continent of Asia by the Straits of Malacca, and from the island of Java by the Straits of Sunda, and is justly esteemed one of the richest and noblest islands in all India. The Dutch have a factory at Palambaugan, about eight leagues from the sea, on the banks of a very large river, which empties itself into the sea by four different channels.

The great trade of this part of the country is in pepper, which the Dutch company wish to monopolize, as they have done cloves, nutmegs, mace, and cinnamon; and are at great expense in keeping several armed barks cruising at the mouths of this river, to prevent what they are pleased to call smuggling. It must be allowed, however, that they have a contract with the king of this country to take all the pepper in his dominions, at the rate of ten dollars the bahar of 400 pounds weight, which is a fair price.[5] They have, however, a clause in the contract, by which half the price is to be paid in cloth, at such rates as greatly reduce the cost.

The interior of the island is very mountainous, but most of the mountains abound in mines of gold, silver, lead, and other metals. The company possesses some mines of gold, said to be very rich, and great care is taken to secure and conceal the profits. Gold-dust is found in great quantities in all the rivers and rivulets of the country, especially when the western monsoon reigns, when the torrents roll down from the mountains with great rapidity. Abundance of copper is also found here, of which they make very good cannon. There are likewise found several sorts of precious stones.

There is a burning mountain on the island, which continually throws forth flame and smoke, like Etna in Sicily; and there is said to be a fountain of balsam, or petroleum. This island abounds also in spice and silk; but the air is not very wholesome, especially to strangers, owing to the great numbers of rivers, standing waters, and thick forests, which everywhere abound. It produces no wheat, nor any other of the grains which grow in Europe; but has plenty of rice, millet, and fruits, which afford good and sufficient nourishment for the inhabitants. It produces also, in great abundance, honey, bees-wax, ginger, camphor, cassia, pepper, and many other valuable articles.

It is of great extent, being 310 leagues long from N.W. to S.E. and about 50 leagues across at an average. The greatest sovereign in the island is the king of Acheen, Atcheen, or Achem, who resides in a city of that name at the N.W. end of the island. It was formerly always governed by a woman, and it is not above forty years ago since the government fell into the hands of a man, since which several attempts have been made to restore the old constitution.

Acheen is a free port, to which the English, Dutch, Portuguese, and Chinese resort, and in short all the trading nations of Europe and Asia. The goods brought there are rich brocades, silks of all kinds, muslins of all sorts, raw silk, fish, butter, oil, and ammunition, for which the payments are mostly made in gold, the great commodity of the country, and remarkably fine.

During the western monsoon, the rains fall here with prodigious violence, attended with terrible storms of thunder and lightning, and frequent earthquakes; but the people, being used to them, are not much alarmed. The natives are, generally speaking, Mahometans, and are very expert in making all sorts of plate and ornaments in gold, with very few tools, yet with such inimitable dexterity, that their workmanship sells at a high rate all over India. The company sends a great number of slaves to this island every year to work in their gold-mines; but the kings in that part of the country are seldom on good terms with the Dutch, with whom they often quarrel.

The principal places where gold is found are Trion and Manicabo, and the way in which they procure the gold is as follows:They dig trenches at the bottoms of the hills, so as to intercept the torrents which roll rapidly down their sides in the winter months: and having drained off the water from the ditches in summer, they find considerable quantities of gold-dust in the mud which remains. It is generally believed that this island furnishes annually 5000 pounds weight of gold-dust,[6] yet very little of this quantity is ever brought to Europe, being mostly employed by the servants of the East India Company in making purchases of commodities in places where gold bears a high price.

The Dutch East India Company has long entertained a project of building ships at this island, as its timber is so good that ships built here are expected to last forty or fifty years, whereas those of Europe seldom last more than twelve or thirteen years. The Dutch have a strong fort and great factory at Jambee, and another at Siack, both in this island. This last place is excessively unwholesome, owing to the following circumstance, which certainly might be obviated.

It stands on the great river Andragheira, into which, at one season of the year, there come vast shoals of large shads, a third part of their bulk being composed of their roes, which are accounted a great delicacy. Wherefore, after taking these out, the rest of the fish is thrown away, and as these lie in great heaps to corrupt, they exhale pestilential vapours and infect the air. The persons, therefore, who are sent to reside at Siack, are much of the same description with those formerly mentioned as sent to Banda, being of abandoned characters and desperate fortunes.

There is another very considerable factory on the river Bencalis, which produces a large profit from the sale of cloth and opium, for which gold-dust is received in payment. This trade was discovered about forty years ago, that is, about the year 1680, by a factor, who carried it on privately for his own emolument for ten years, during which he acquired upwards of a ton of gold yearly, a Dutch phrase implying £10,000 sterling. He then resolved to secure what he had got by making a disclosure of this valuable branch of traffic to the company. There are also several Dutch establishments on what is called the West-coast of Sumatra.

A very powerful and warlike people subsists in this island, known to Europeans by the name of the Free-nation, who are equally averse from submitting either to the Sumatran sovereigns or Europeans, and have always defended themselves valiantly against both. All the natives of Sumatra are much more inclined to the English than the Dutch, perhaps because they are not under subjection to the former. But the latter use every precaution they can to prevent the natives from dealing with any except themselves.

For a considerable time past, the chiefs at Padang have been so unlucky as to have their honesty much suspected, chiefly owing to their management of the mines, which do not turn out greatly to the profit of the company, while all their officers gain immense sums out of them, which the councils at Batavia are much dissatisfied with, yet cannot prevent. For this reason they change the chief very frequently, yet to little purpose.

[Footnote 1: A very interesting account of the remnant of an ancient Christian church in the Travancore country, a little to the southward of Cochin, has been lately published by Dr. Buchanan, in a work named Christian Researches in India, which will be noticed more particularly in an after division of our Collection. --E.]
[Footnote 2: Perhaps Bardello, about the distance mentioned in the text. --E.]
[Footnote 3: This word ought assuredly to have been Telinga. --E.]
[Footnote 4: This strange custom has been differently related formerly, and we believe more accurately, as prevalent only in the Nayra tribe, in which the women are allowed several husbands at the same time, and may change them at pleasure. --E.]
[Footnote 5: Exactly five farthings and two-fifths of a farthing the pound. --E.]
Footnote 6: Supposing these troy pounds, the value may be estimated at £240,000 sterling.  E.]


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