The Real Emden

When we were kids, cocky braggarts were often silenced with “nee periya EMDEN-O?”. (Liberal translation: “You have the arrogance to presume you are an EMDEN?”). In colloquial Tamil, Emden is a fearsome, invincible entity. Now, how did a Germanic word sneak past linguistic purists into everyday Tamil? Blame it on World War-I. When the WW-I began, Germany wanted to harass Allied shipping in the Indian … Continue reading The Real Emden

The Portuguese Soldier who saved Kochi

Pacheco rightly guessed that Samuthiri’s huge army would pass through a narrow riverine pass called Kumbalam to reach Kochi; in that narrow pass they were extremely vulnerable. Pacheco’s men took hidden positions and waited there. As Samuthiri’s men arrived, Portuguese snipers effortlessly killed 1300 enemy soldiers.   Pacheco knew that Samuthiri’s state-of-the-art Italian field-guns had a deadly range and accuracy; so, he ordered his snipers … Continue reading The Portuguese Soldier who saved Kochi

The Marriage of Princess Catherine

Nobody asked for Catherine’s consent to marry Charles. Yes! When Catherine de Braganza, Princess of Portugal, came of age, they simply sent her portraits to Royalty in France, Austria and other Catholic European countries. But,  no wedding proposals materialised. One reason was that Portugal’s arch-rivals — the Spanish — were spreading rumours that the real Catherine was ugly and unfit to bear children. Why? If … Continue reading The Marriage of Princess Catherine

The Dutch Defector & The Kerala King

By the late 17th century, Holland was a naval and economic superpower. The Dutch East India Company was the largest multinational ever, and it dominated the world spice trade. Much of these spices came from the Indian state of Kerala where the Dutch had a stranglehold on purchases. This monopoly was not because of superior business strategy; it simply came from military power. They arm-twisted … Continue reading The Dutch Defector & The Kerala King

The Legend of the Chola King Karikalan

The beautiful Ekambareswara temple is in the heart of Kanchipuram. At its entrance, the statue of King Karikalan welcomes you. Why is it here? Because, according to one legend, Karikalan built this temple! We do not know if the legend is true, but we do know that he was a swashbuckling hero and a master-builder. Above: Karikala statue at Ekambareswara Temple. Image Credit: S V Kaushik … Continue reading The Legend of the Chola King Karikalan

Hallagulla about Rossogulla

Bengal is perhaps the sweetest Indian State. Who but the Bengalis, could have invented that divine sweet called Rossogulla? The Bengalis said exactly that, when they applied for the GI* Tag for Rossogulla in 2015. That’s when the gentle people of the neighbouring state of Odisha, exploded! “What nonsense,” they said, “we invented and you copied!”. And thus, began a bitter battle (or should we say sweet battle?). Continue reading Hallagulla about Rossogulla

Mackenzie: The man who found Amarāvatī

A very long time ago, in the 3rd Century BCE, Buddhism in India was in its Golden Age. Asoka the great, a powerful Indian Emperor had converted to Buddhism after a life changing event and sent missionaries to spread the religion far and wide. But something strange happened to Buddhism in India while it thrived in its neighbouring countries. By the 13th century AD, the … Continue reading Mackenzie: The man who found Amarāvatī