A Letter from a Wronged Hindu Father Destroys Portuguese Power in the Persian Gulf

A Letter from a Wronged Hindu Father Destroys Portuguese Power in the Persian Gulf

Narottam writes a letter to the Omani warlord Sultan bin Saif, detailing the plan of attack to capture the two forts of Muscat that were controlled by the Portuguese commandant Pareira. This causes the extinction of Portuguese power in the Persian Gulf.

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A Letter from a Wronged Hindu Father Destroys Portuguese Power in the Persian Gulf

AFTER RECEIVING A REPRIEVE of one year from Pareira, the shrewd Narottam began toying with the Portuguese commandant’s mind. He outlined a strategy to combat and repel Sultan bin Saif’s force waiting outside the Muscat fort:   

In the mean time, as one acquainted with the vicissitudes of war, I venture to give you a little advice… Sultan bin Saif has not yet withdrawn his seige. He lies in wait for you with forces as numerous as the drops of rain, and his soldiers are exulting over you because you are afraid to accept their challenge; hence you are humbled and he is triumphant. I fear… that his forces will assault you by climbing over the walls like lions… I have no doubt that, with the aid of a few ladders, they might succeed and thereby leave you nothing but the two forts, the Eastern and Western, wherein they would besiege you completely. In that case you would be cut off from all supplies, more especially water, which he would prevent you from obtaining…Now, the water which is in the tanks of the two forts is foul and swarms with insects, and causes disorders in the bowels… the gunpowder and provisions which are stored in the two forts and the two batteries are old and worthless… My advice therefore is that you let off the water now in the tanks, have the tanks well cleaned, and fill them with fresh water before the siege begins…Let the powder also be brought out and restored by being pounded anew. The old wheat, too, should be discarded, and new grain substituted in its place…” 

And so he went on, preying on Pareira’s vulnerabilities. The mortified Portuguese commandant entrusted all these tasks to Narottam. Besides, he was basking in the heady prospect of marrying his beautiful daughter a year later.   

It didn’t take long for Narottam to render both the forts defenceless. And then, he wrote a long and precise letter to Sultan Saif. He mentioned Pareira’s degenerate lust for his daughter and described how he had enervated both the forts. He also gave pointed instructions on when and how to organise the attack. And then he threw a challenge: “You, O Imam of Oman! You’ve been beseiging Muscat for such a long time and you’ve achieved nothing! If you wish to succeed, march to Muscat next Sunday. The Portuguese are Christians and they don’t carry weapons on Sunday. It is their day of feasting and drinking and merrymaking. I have done the hardest task all alone. I’ve emptied out all the provisions and ammunition. Send your army to both forts and set fire to the gates. I’ve removed all the gunpowder from there and replaced it with powder sprinkled with vinegar. You will face no opposition.” 

It was too good to be true but it was also too good not to be true. Sultan bin Saif chose to believe Narottam. 

The next Sunday, Saif’s substantial army stormed Muscat. The battle proceeded exactly as Narottam had outlined. The Portuguese cannons and guns would not fire. And the Portuguese soldiers were “reeling drunk” to put up even a semblance of a battle. Those who did were mercilessly slaughtered. The battle was over before it had begun. 

On January 28, 1650, Commandant Pareira appeared in person before Sultan Saif and sought surrender. It was accepted. But suddenly, out of nowhere, the two large Portuguese ships anchored at some distance from the Muttrah fort began firing randomly into the town. While it did little damage, it evoked viscreal rage within Saif who ordered a wholesale destruction of all vestiges of Portuguese power in the city. In a matter of days, both Portuguese ships were thoroughly decimated and to the soldiers of Islam, “Allah gave…victory over the infidels, for they destroyed the two ships and killed all the polytheist crews.” 

One hundred and fifty years of Portuguese power in the Persian Gulf sputtered to death. The weapon that caused it was a letter written by a wronged Hindu father. 

To be continued

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