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Mangalore (also known as Mangaluru) is the chief port city of the Indian state of Karnataka. Mangalore lies between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghat mountain ranges. It developed as a port on the Arabian Sea—remaining, to this day, a major port of India. Lying on the backwaters of the Netravati and Gurupura rivers, Mangalore is often used as a staging point for sea traffic along the Malabar Coast. The city has a tropical climate and lies in the path of the Arabian Sea branch of the South-West monsoons.

Mangalore was ruled by several major powers, including the Kadambas, Alupas, Vijayanagar Empire, Keladi Nayaks, and the Portuguese. The city was a source of contention between the Britishand the Mysore rulers, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. Eventually annexed by the British in 1799, Mangalore remained part of the Madras Presidency until India’s independence in 1947. The city was unified with the state of Mysore (now called Karnataka) in 1956.

Mangalore’s historical importance is highlighted by the many references to the city by foreign travellers. During the first century CE, Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian, made references to a place called Nitrias, as a very undesirable place for disembarkation, on account of the pirates which frequent its vicinity, while Greek historian Ptolemy in the second century CE referred to a place called Nitra. Ptolemy’s and Pliny the Elder’s references were probably made to the Netravati River, which flows through Mangalore. Cosmas Indicopleustes, a Greek monk, in his 6th century work Christian Topography mentions Malabar as the chief seat of the pepper trade, and Mangarouth (port of Mangalore) as one of the five pepper marts which exported pepper.

Mangalore is the heart of a distinct multilinguistic – cultural region: Tulu Nadu, the homeland of the Tulu-speaking people, which was nearly coterminous with the modern district of South Canara. In the third century BCE, the town formed part of the Maurya Empire, ruled by the Buddhist emperor, Ashoka of Magadha. From the third century CE to sixth century CE, the Kadamba dynasty, whose capital was based in Banavasi in North Canara, ruled over the entire Canara region as independent rulers. From the middle of the seventh century to the end of the 14th century, the South Canara region was ruled by its own native Alupa rulers. The Alupas ruled over the region as feudatories of major regional dynasties like the Chalukyas of Badami, Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta, Chalukyas of Kalyani, and Hoysalas of Dwarasamudra. During the reign of the Alupa king Kavi Alupendra (c. 1110 – c.1160), the city was visited by the Tunisian Jewish merchant Abraham Ben Yiju, who travelled between the Middle East and India during the 12th century. The Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta, who had visited the town in 1342, referred to it as Manjarur, and stated that the town was situated on a large estuary, called the “estuary of the wolf,” and was the greatest estuary in the country of Malabar. By 1345, the Vijayanagara rulers brought the region under their control. During the Vijayanagara period (1345-1550), South Canara was divided into Mangalore and Barkur rajyas (provinces), and two governors were appointed to look after each of them from Mangalore and Barkur. But many times only one governor ruled over both Mangalore and Barkur rajyas, and when the authority passed into the hands of Keladi rulers (c. 1550-1763), they had a governor at Barkur alone. In 1448, Abdur Razzaq, the Persian ambassador of Sultan Shah Rukh of Samarkand, visited Mangalore, en route to the Vijayanagara court. The Italian traveler, Ludovico di Varthema, who visited India in 1506 says that he witnessed nearly sixty ships laden with rice ready for sail in the port of Mangalore.

European influence in Mangalore can be traced back to 1498, when the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama landed at St Mary’s Island near Mangalore. In the 16th century, the Portuguese came to acquire substantial commercial interests in Canara. Krishnadevaraya (1509 – 1529), the then ruler of the Vijaynagara empire maintained friendly relations with the Portuguese. The Portuguese trade was gradually gathering momentum and they were striving to destroy the Arab and Moplah trade along the coast. In 1524, when Vasco da Gama heard that the Muslim merchants of Calicut had agents at Mangalore and Basrur, he ordered the rivers to be blockaded. In 1526, the Portuguese under the viceroyship of Lopo Vaz de Sampaio took possession of Mangalore. The coastal trade passed out of Muslim hands into Portuguese hands. In 1550, the Vijayanagara ruler, Sadashiva Raya, entrusted the work of administering the coastal region of Canara to Sadashiv Nayaka of Keladi. By 1554, he was able to establish political authority over South Canara. The disintegration of the Vijaynagara Empire in 1565 gave the rulers of Keladi greater power in dealing with the coastal Canara region. They continued the Vijayanagara administrative system. The two provinces of Mangalore and Barkur continued to exist. The Governor of Mangalore also acted as the Governor of the Keladi army in his province. In 1695, the town was torched by Arabs in retaliation to Portuguese restrictions on Arab trade.

Hyder Ali, the de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore, conquered Mangalore in 1763, consequently bringing the city under his administration until 1767. Mangalore was ruled by the British East India Company from 1767 to 1783, but was subsequently wrested from their control in 1783 by Hyder Ali’s son, Tipu Sultan; who renamed it Jalalabad. The Second Anglo–Mysore War ended with the Treaty of Mangalore, signed between Tipu Sultan and the British East India Company on 11 March 1784. After the defeat of Tipu at the Fourth Anglo–Mysore War, the city remained in control of the British, headquartering the Canara district under the Madras Presidency.

According to the Scottish physician Francis Buchanan who visited Mangalore in 1801, Mangalore was a rich and prosperous port with flourishing trading activity. Rice was the grand article of export, and was exported to Muscat,Bombay, Goa and Malabar. Supari or Betel-nut was exported to Bombay, Surat and Kutch. Pepper and Sandalwood were exported to Bombay. Turmeric was exported to Muscat, Kutch, Surat and Bombay, along with Cassia Cinnamon,Sugar, Iron, Saltpeter, Ginger, Choir and Timber.

The British colonial government did not support industrialization in the region, and local capital remained invested mostly in land and money lending, which led to the later development of banking in the region. With the arrival of European missionaries in the early 19th century, the region saw the development of educational institutions and a modern industrial base, modeled on European industries. The opening of the Lutheran Swiss Basel Mission in 1834 was central to the industrialization process. Printing press, cloth-weaving mills and tile factories manufacturing the famed Mangalore tiles were set up by the missionaries. When Canara (part of the Madras Presidency until this time) was bifurcated into North Canara and South Canara in 1859, Mangalore was transferred into South Canara and became its headquarters. South Canara remained under Madras Presidency, while North Canara was detached from Madras Presidency and transferred to Bombay Presidency in 1862. The enactment of the Madras Town Improvement Act (1865) mandated the establishment of the Municipal council on 23 May 1866, which was responsible for urban planning and providing civic amenities. The Italian Jesuits, who arrived in Mangalore in 1878, played an important role in education, economy, health, and social welfare of the city. The linking of Mangalore in 1907 to theSouthern Railway, and the subsequent proliferation of motor vehicles in India, further increased trade and communication between the city and the rest of the country. By the early 20th century, Mangalore had become a major supplier of educated manpower to Bombay, Bangalore, and the Middle East.