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August 22, 2009

Firangs in India

Why do Indians refer to the white man as firang? The first Europeans came to India during the Mughal rule. Here the court language was Persian, whereas the Europeans spoke French. That's why the Indians labelled them firang or farang - a corruption of Frank.

A Little Mangalorean History
There's a place called Farangipet - meaning foreigner's town - on a hillock near the Netravathi river that flows through Mangalore. My grandmother used to talk about the Europeans who lived and traded there. Historical records confirm that it was indeed a Portuguese trade outpost after they had conquered Goa in the 1500's. Some years later, the Franciscans built a church and a monastery in Farangipet. It is here that the Monthichen Fest gained popularity among the Mangalorean Konkani catholics.

Hyder Ali who conquered this region in the 18th century, held the Farangipet parish priest in high esteem. Which led his son Tipu Sultan to spare only the Farangipet church when he destroyed all other churches in and around Mangalore. Tipu Sultan confiscated all the properties of the Mangalorean catholics and force marched the entire community across the Western ghats to his capital  Srirangapatna. They remained there in captivity till his death at the hands of the British army, during the last battle of Mysore.

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