Two Sixteenth-Century Indian Ocean Intellectuals in Goa and Malabar: Orta and Zainuddin

  • Fernando Rosa Ribeiro
Part of the Palgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies book series (IOWS)


Garcia d’Orta and Sheikh Zainuddin, from Goa and Malabar, respectively, are different personages in many regards. Fontes (2011) shows that to this day Orta’s work is still discussed from the perspective of the development of pioneering botanical and medical knowledge (see also Lopes 2006). The specific cultural and historical aspects of his works are therefore traditionally neglected. As for Zainuddin, his work seems to be read as an anticolonial Muslim tract ever since it came to light in Portugal through the efforts of the Jewish professor of Arabic at the University of Lisbon, David Lopes (Zinadím 1898). 1 Nonetheless, not only were they contemporaries, but their lives had more than a little in common. For instance, it is clear that Orta and Zainuddin were at the same time near or at the very site of important armed confrontations between Malabar Muslims and the Portuguese, especially a couple of expeditions led by Martim Afonso de Sousa against Calicut on the Malabar Coast, to which Goa was actually intimately connected by sea (as indicated below, Orta was very closely linked to Martim Afonso, his patron since his time in Portugal, and accompanied him in his expeditions). Further down the coast, Cochin, Calicut’s rival, was in fact the first seat of Portuguese power in Asia, before it was transferred to Goa in 1530—hence just a couple of years before Orta’s arrival (Malekandathil 2009, p. 20; for Portuguese attacks against Calicut see for instance Orta 1563, pp. 56–8, Coloquio 15).2


Indian Ocean Port City Arabic Text Malabar Coast Coromandel Coast 


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