Timoji (also referred to as Timoja or Timmayya) was a Hindu privateer who served the Vijayanagara Empire and the Portuguese Empire during the first decade of the 16th century. He claimed to have been born in Goa and to have escaped the city after its conquest by the Adil Shahi of Bijapur in 1496. After his support in the 1510 Portuguese conquest of Goa, he was for a short time appointed aguazil of the city.
Since the 14th century the Deccan had been divided in two antagonistic entities: on the one side stood the Bahmani Sultanate, and on the other stood the Hindu rajas rallied around the Vijayanagara Empire. Continuous wars demanded frequent resupplies of fresh horses, which were imported through sea routes from Persia and Arabia. This trade was subjected to frequent raids by thriving bands of pirates based in the coastal cities of Western India. Timoji acted both as a privateer (by seizing horse traders, that he rendered to the raja of Honavar) and as a pirate who attacked the Kerala merchant fleets that traded pepper with Gujarat. Timoji operated off Anjediva (modern Anjadip) Island, with two thousand mercenaries under his command and at least fourteen ships.
Relations with the Portuguese
He met Vasco da Gama's fleet off Anjediva in 1498, but the Portuguese admiral suspected him of being a spy and refused his advances. In 1505, he attracted the Portuguese Vice-Roy Dom Francisco de Almeida to an estuary and, after keeping him waiting for three days, appeared before him richly attired and offered him his services and a token tribute. In 1507 Timoji warned the Vice-Roy of the upcoming siege of Cannanore by Calicut forces and supplied the Portuguese St. Angelo Fort during the siege. In the end of 1507, when a Mamluk fleet under Amir Husain Al-Kurdi (named "Mirocem" by the Portuguese) supplements the Calicut forces, he becomes the main informant of Dom Francisco de Almeida. Soon after the Battle of Diu, Timoji met the Vijayanagara emperor Krishnadevaraya and offered him a rich tribute. He then prompted the Portuguese to conquer Goa, the main port for the horse trade. The city had been conquered from Vijayanagar by the Bahmani Sultans in 1469, and passed to Bijapur. In late 1509, the remains of the Mamluk fleet defeated in the battle of Diu had taken refuge there.
In 1510 the new governor Afonso de Albuquerque wanted to fight the Egyptian Mamluk Sultanate fleet in the Red Sea or return to Hormuz. However, Timoji convinced him that it would be easier to fight them in Goa, where they had sheltered after the Battle of Diu, and also of the illness of the Sultan Yusuf Adil Shah and war between the Deccan sultanates. So he invested in the capture of Goa to the Sultanate of Bijapur with the support of Timoji. On November, in a second strike, Albuquerque conquered Goa with a fleet fully renovated and about 300 Malabari reinforcements from Cannanore.
They regained the support of the Hindu population, although frustrating the initial expectations of Timoji, who aspired to gain the city. Afonso de Albuquerque rewarded him by appointing him chief "Aguazil" of the city, an administrator and representative of the Hindu and Muslim people, as a knowing interpreter of the local customs. He then made an agreement to lower yearly dues and started the first Portuguese mint in the East, after complaints from merchants and Timoja about the scarcity of currency.
Timoji was put in command of the native troops loyal to the Portuguese. However, he soon was relieved of his command due to his refusal to follow orders. The command of the native troops was given to a pretender to the throne of Honavar, and Timoji returned to piracy.
Timoji was made prisoner after a raid, and died by opium poisoning soon after being taken to the Vijayanagar capital. His wife and children, however, returned to Goa where Albuquerque arranged for their upkeep.
- Not to be mistaken for Timoji Nayak, a VOC's broker later, circa 1678, see R. J. Barendse, The Arabian seas: the Indian Ocean world of the seventeenth century
- The book of Duarte Barbosa By Duarte Barbosa, Fernão de Magalhães, Mansel Longworth Dames
- Bhagamandala Seetharama Shastry, Charles J. Borges, "Goa-Kanara Portuguese relations, 1498-1763" p. 34-36
- * Kerr, Robert (1824). A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Arranged in Systematic Order. Edinburgh: William Blackwood. (volume 6, I chapter)
- Foundations of the Portuguese Empire, 1415-1580, p. 253, Diffie, Winius 253, Diffie, Winius
- Castanheda, Fernão Lopes de História do descobrimento e conquista da Índia pelos portugueses (full text in Portuguese).
- Geneviéve Bouchon, "Inde découverte, Inde retrouvée (1498-1630) Études d'histoire indo-portugaise" ISBN 972-8462-07-7
- Bailey, Diffie, "Foundations of the Portuguese Empire, 1415–1580", p. 250-251, University of Minnesota Press, 1977, ISBN 0-8166-0782-6
- Bhagamandala Seetharama Shastry, Charles J. Borges, "Goa-Kanara Portuguese relations, 1498-1763" p. 34-36, Concept Publishing Company, 2000, ISBN 81-7022-848-4,
- Charles Ralph, "The Portuguese Seaborne Empire 1415–1825", p. 47, Hutchinson 1969, ISBN 0-09-131071-7 
- Duarte Barbosa, Mansel Longworth Dames, (1518) "The book of Duarte Barbosa: an account of the countries bordering on the Indian Ocean and their inhabitants", Asian Educational Services, 1989, ISBN 81-206-0451-2