GREAT FIGURES OF THE MISSIONARY WORK – Bengal and the Kingdom of the Dragon (98)

– Joaquim Magalhães de Castro

More than anyone, and above all, the Arakanese monarch wanted to expel the Mughals from Bengal, if possible with the help of the artillerymen and artillery from Goa. Now, such a measure would not only earn him fame and respect in the region, but would prevent the predictable attack on his northern domains, namely the coastal city of Chattigon.

The liberation of the city of Hugli, the destruction of the fleet and the dispersal of the Mughal army (caught by surprise from the rear), would pave the way for a future attack on Dhaka, the heart of Mughal power in Bengal. Without telling anyone, Thiri-thu-dhamma tried to send his ships stationed in Dianga to help the Portuguese in Hugli.

However, adverse weather conditions prevented them from fulfilling their mission, because when they arrived in Hugli, the city had already been taken and looted. They would still have time to intercept the Mughal vessels full of spoils and on their way to Dhaka. They sank them and recovered the spoils. Then, informed of the presence of Hugli survivors in Saugar, they immediately went there. Father João Cabral was preparing to leave when the Arakanese galleys anchored off the “island of sharks.”

There were twenty-seven in all, “very quick and prepared for war,” the Jesuit wrote, concluding that “one of them would have been enough to give us victory.”

Commanding Dianga’s men was Manuel Palmeiro, who insisted on informing Commander Manuel de Azevedo that a fleet of 300 ships was being prepared with a view to a large-scale attack on Dhaka, to avenge the Mughal affront. The plan, however, did not succeed and the desire for conquest was postponed until when greater military strength could be gathered.

Meanwhile, with the monsoon ending, Fr João Cabral was ready to leave for Mrauk-U, capital of the kingdom of Arakan, with instructions given, an assistant and a boat. Cabral made a stop in Dianga (where Manrique was, although there is no record of the two having seen each other) where he met another Jesuit, Father António Farinha, with whom, after a week, he was leaving for Mrauk-U. The priests would arrive in this city after four days of travel on the high seas.

Cabral describes the reception of the Arakanese monarch in this way: “Tiri Tu-Dama received us with expressions of sadness at the fall of Uglim and joy at our arrival, which he and his people ardently desired.” Although João Cabral was not an official envoy from Goa, or Hugli, as it were, integral parts of Portuguese Asia, the Arakanese king confided to him his intention to expel the Mughals from the Bengal region, taking his armies to Cooch Behar, three hundred miles east of the Arakanese border of Chattigon.

In order to achieve this objective, he intended to establish an alliance with the Viceroy of Goa, who, after the Mughal attack on Hugli,  would certainly be willing to retaliate as soon as possible. He also hoped that Father João Cabral, on his return trip, would do everything to ensure that the desired Portuguese-Arakanese alliance would materialize.

However, the Portuguese would reinforce the defensive system of the island of Saugar, which in the future would serve as a convenient base of support for the Arakanese fleet.