The Muslim Trade from Coromandal Coast in relation to Kedah and Penang

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The Coromandel Muslims – the Cholias(Chulias) – picked up the maritime trade in the ports of Kedah in 17thcentury. They became the favourites of the ruling house and were nominated as harbour masters and royal merchants. The Sultan of Kedah sent his ships to the ports of Coromandel Coast where the Cholia merchants negotiated goods for him. Thus the Coromandel trade was initiated in both ways. The concentration of Cholia Muslims swelled in Kedah in due course of time and they stood in the forefront of the sea-borne trade here. The commercial records of the British portray the dominant role of the Coromandel Muslims in the maritime trade of Kedah. The Tamil – Cholia –Muslim, Jamal, was the most influential minister in the State and was authorized by the Sultan to handle the negotiation with Francis Light over the British settlement in Kedah. The deep rooted commercial contact of the Cholia families continued in Kedah

The Coromandel Muslims – the Cholias(Chulias) – picked up the maritime trade in the ports of Kedah in 17thcentury. They became the favourites of the ruling house and were nominated as harbour masters and royal merchants. The Sultan of Kedah sent his ships to the ports of Coromandel Coast where the Cholia merchants negotiated goods for him. Thus the Coromandel trade was initiated in both ways. The concentration of Cholia Muslims swelled in Kedah in due course of time and they stood in the forefront of the sea-borne trade here. The commercial records of the British portray the dominant role of the Coromandel Muslims in the maritime trade of Kedah. The Tamil – Cholia –Muslim, Jamal, was the most influential minister in the State and was authorized by the Sultan to handle the negotiation with Francis Light over the British settlement in Kedah. The deep rooted commercial contact of the Cholia families continued in Kedah beyond 19thcentury.

When English settlement was founded in Penang in 1786 it captured the imagination of the Cholias as a place with a future. Penang became a free trade zone where the Indian and British goods were exchanged for Straits products. Hence Penang was the most desired destination of the Coromandel Muslim vessels. Muslim traders from Nagapattinam, Nagore, Karaikal, Tranquebar, Porto-Novo and Cuddalore conducted vast trade in Penang. Immigration also flowed along with trade. The early birds got bigger worms. The Coromandel Muslims could not withstand the competition of the British in the long run and their trade enterprises declined. However, many of the immigrants settled here as traders, big and small, and continued at various levels to the present day.