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Vasco da Gama (AD 1469–1524) was a Portuguese navigator who, in 1497–98, sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa and reached Calicut (now Kozhikode) on the south-west coast of India. This was the first direct journey from Portugal to India and allowed Europeans to cut down on the highly lucrative eastern trade of spices.

 Vasco da Gama’s visit to India – Establishment of Portuguese colony in India

   Da Gama repeated his visit in 1502–3, but this time diplomacy took a back seat to cannon fire. The well-established sense of trade in the Indian Ocean changed forever as other European powers followed da Gama and Europeans always moved east in search of wealth. Da Gama became a legend in his lifetime, and his rise to the top of Portuguese society was confirmed when he was appointed Viceroy of Portuguese settlements in India in 1524. Da Gama died of illness shortly after Vasco arrived at Cochin (now Kochi) on the southwest coast, to take on his new role in India for the third time in 1524.

Early life of  Vasco da Gama

Vasco da Gama was born in 1469 AD in Sines, in the Alentejo region of Portugal. His father was Estvao da Gama, a member of the minor nobility and his mother was Dona Isabel Sodre. Like his father, Vasco was involved in the military order of Santiago. He also became a member of the court of King Manuel I of Portugal (1495–1521). Little is known about his early life and career, except that he participated in several military campaigns, possibly serving in North Africa, and commanded a small fleet that sailed in 1492 on French ships in several southern Portuguese ports. Captured. The king’s favor in being chosen to command a major maritime expedition to the Indies is not known.


Vasco da Gama's visit to India - Establishment of Portuguese colony in India


The Portuguese Crown had already successfully colonized three archipelagos: Madeira (1420), the Azores (1439), and Cape Verde (1462) in the Atlantic off the coast of West Africa. The treacherous Cape Bojador was navigated in 1434, and it was discovered that ships with a late sail and bold course could be safely flown back home to Europe to catch the winds and currents in the mid-Atlantic. In addition, from 1456, Portuguese sailors used a quadrangle to measure their latitudinal position away from land using the stars. The road to the south and east was finally open to those willing to take the necessary risks to get there.

In 1488 Bartolomeu Dias set sail off the coast of West Africa and made the first voyage around the Cape of Good Hope, the southern tip of the African continent (now South Africa).

Dias planned a second, more ambitious voyage to find a direct sea route to India. However, this second expedition was commanded by Vasco da Gama; Its primary purpose, as a crewman to answer the question “Why are you here?” When they finally reached India: to find Christians and spices.

The purpose of the former rested on the belief that somewhere in the East there was a great Christian kingdom or several of them. These states could be useful allies against Islamic states in the Middle East, long rivals of European powers in terms of religion and commerce.

The Portuguese were aware of the well-established trade in the Middle East between Asian, African, Muslim, and Italian states, a trade that had already crossed the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and Middle Eastern land routes. Additional objectives were to find food sources, with Portugal being a net importer of foodstuffs at the time, to gain respect and prestige for the crown, and to gain wealth and glory for sailors who risked their lives.

The collection of scientific and geographical knowledge was considered useful only if it helped in the achievement of the primary objectives of the expedition.

Funding for the campaign came from a mix of Crown and private merchants, and there was no shortage of money. Two ships were built specifically for the voyage: the So Gabriel, to be commanded by da Gama, and the So Rafael. The other two ships were the Berio, a caravel, and the largest of the fleet, a 200-ton store ship.

Among the captains chosen by da Gama were his own brothers Paulo and Nicolaus Coelho, who would captain So Rafael and Berio, respectively. Another important member of the team was Porro de Alencar, Dias’s chief pilot, who had valuable experience at the Cape. In the end, the hand-selected crew, consisting of no more than 170 men in total, was well paid compared to other missions.

 First visit to India

The Portuguese explorer sailed from the mouth of the Tagus River near Lisbon on 8 July 1497 and reached the Portuguese colony of Cape Verde Islands, where it resupplied and re-supplied its ships. She left Cape Verde on 3 August and, instead of hugging the African coast, she sailed west in a wide curve into the mid-Atlantic in hopes of catching favorable winds. As a result, the sailors spent three months at sea without seeing land. In contrast, Dias hugged the West African coast and pushed painstakingly against the prevailing winds and currents.

The monotonous routine of life at sea was now broken only by mealtimes:

    Galley boys cooked a daily hot meal atop a sand-filled firebox on deck, and men ate the results of wooden trenchers with their fingers or pocketknife. Each crew member, down from the captain, received the same basic daily ration: a pound and a half biscuit, two-and-a-half pints of water, and small measures of vinegar and olive oil, along with a pound of salt beef or half on fasting days. Instead of meat in a pound of pork, or rice and cod or cheese. Dishes such as dried fruits were reserved for the top brass and would prove vital in maintaining their health.

   The small fleet eventually turned back east, and they reached the southern tip of Africa on 7 November, several weeks faster than Dias had managed. The ships were repaired, cleaned, and restored in a bay called St. Helena Bay. A meeting with Africans began well but descended into violence in which several people were injured, including da Gama, who was shot in the leg with an arrow.

Rounding the Cape of Good Hope on 22 November, da Gama again stopped taking new stores, this time in Mosel Bay. It was decided to disband the largest ship and redistribute men and stores among the remaining three ships of her fleet. The sailor then left the coast of East Africa, stopping at the Islamic trading post of Quelimane among others.

Many of Da Gama’s crew were by this time suffering from scurvy, then a disease new to European sailors and whose cause and cure were unknown (vitamin C deficiency). Arab sailors in Mombasa, East Africa, arrived on 7 April, and apparently knew about it and how to deal with it as they gave oranges to some of the crew members, and it was observed that they made a speedy recovery. Unfortunately, nothing was done to prevent the disease from returning due to travel. 

  Da Gama then reached the Kingdom of Malindi on 15 April where he was given a pilot and a chart to help him travel to India. It has long been claimed that this pilot was the famous sailor Ahmad ibn Masjid (aka Majid), but this has since been refuted by scholars.

The explorers sailed from Malindi on 24 April 1498 and crossed the Indian Ocean to reach Calicut on the Malabar Coast on 18 May. The direct sailing route from Portugal to India took ten months. As was the custom of Portuguese sailors, pillars – in this case, six – were erected to mark the expedition’s landfalls. 

  The Portuguese did some sightseeing such as visiting Hindu temples, although visitors mistook Hinduism as some kind of strange branch of Eastern Christianity. Da Gama was able to communicate with the ruler of Calicut through the many fluent Arabic speakers present in his crew who, in turn, worked with native Malayalam interpreters. However, a major disappointment was that the Indians seemed completely satisfied with their existing trade relations and were quite skeptical about these new interlocutors in strange clothes.

The ships took with them many precious spices, such as pepper, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon, although in reality there was only a sample compared to future expeditions. In his role as ambassador, da Gama tried to entice the ruler of Calicut, whom he called the Zamorin, by exaggerating the great power of King Manuel and offering some gifts. Unfortunately, inexperience here took its toll as da Gama’s gifts of clothing and food items were nowhere near as spectacular as was customary in this part of the world. 

   There was also some irritation on the part of da Gama at the difficulties of organizing several spectators with the Zamorin and then assuring him that he had come as ambassador to a rich and powerful king. It seems that the relationship deteriorated due to mutual doubts and lack of communication. In a misunderstanding about the port’s departure tax, many Portuguese ashore were arrested. Fearing the safety of his ships, da Gama himself took several hostages. 

  These hostages were also useful for showing the authorities back home that da Gama had indeed left for India. All this was a very unsatisfactory way of doing business, but next time the Portuguese cannons would speak, not the ambassadors.


 Return and recognition

In October, da Gama crossed the Indian Ocean again, this time encountering a series of calm and storms. The scurvy disease struck again, leaving the ships lacking capable crew as more than 30 people died. Returning to Malindi on 2 January 1499, the surviving crew members were revived, but so many succumbed to the disease that So Rafael was abandoned due to a lack of crew to handle all the ships.

The ruler of Malindi, eager to gather support in his rivalry with Mombasa, sent an ambassador to meet the Portuguese king. The Portuguese left Malindi on 11 January. Rounded the Cape of Good Hope on 20 March 1499, and da Gama sailed to make landfall in the Portuguese Azores. It was here that Paulo da Gama died.

The ships, arriving separately in July and August 1499, returned to Portugal after a grueling 11-month voyage from India. Of the 732-odd crew that left Lisbon 70 days earlier, only 55 made it back home. The remaining adventurers were at least warmly welcomed.

To celebrate the success of da Gama’s voyage, the longest voyage ever made in the history of navigation in terms of time and miles, King Manuel minted a giant new gold coin, the ten-cruzado, which was only known as the Portuguese. Known in A famous account of the voyage, actually, a diary or retro was written by a crew member often identified as Alvaro Velho.

Da Gama received himself a royal grant, which gave him the right to bear the sign and his various tax income, the right to membership in the Royal Council, various maritime honors, the title of Admiral of the Indies, and the title of Dome before his name. By 1501, the Portuguese explorer had further increased his position in society, when he married the noblewoman Donna Caterina de Atide.

Establishment of India route to Europe

The Portuguese now had a sea route that allowed them to have direct access to the wealth of the East and cut out the middlemen merchants. Furthermore, it seemed (entirely mistaken) that there were Christian states in the east that could be useful allies against the Mamluk Sultanate.

India previously had some European trade links, but the scale it would reach now was unprecedented. It is also true that this new development in world trade certainly did not put an end to the traditional Arab land caravan routes from India to the Mediterranean Sea. A second Portuguese expedition, this time with 13 ships and 1500 men and under the command of Pedro Alvarez Cabral, sailed in March 1500 to repeat da Gama’s feat and let him sink any Arab ships to briefly press on the Muslim trade. Details given. Cabral, trying to emulate da Gama’s Atlantic route, went too far west and accidentally ‘discovered’ Brazil, which eventually became another Portuguese colony.

Second trip to India

In 1502–3, as the Portuguese Empire in the east became a reality, Vasco da Gama dispatched a 15-ship fleet to Calicut (the fourth to be sent to the Malabar Coast by Manuel) as an act of revenge. A group of Portuguese led by Cabral, himself guilty of atrocities in Calicut. Da Gama was instructed by the Portuguese king to build a series of forts and a permanent fleet that could patrol and protect Portuguese trade interests there.

The first of these forts were built in 1503 at Cochin. To further boost Portuguese trade, da Gama asked the Zamorins of Calicut to drive out all Cairo and Red Sea Muslim merchants from the city. The Zamorin refused to change their established business partners.

Da Gama’s general policy of attack first, and trade second made him few friends, and his reputation was seriously damaged by an attack on a ship of more than 300 pilgrims en route to Mecca.

Calicut was treated to a constant barrage of cannon fire from the Portuguese fleet and had a naval battle that was won by the Europeans. On the other hand, in that curious mix of trade and force, relations down the coast with Cochin remained friendly. Increasingly, the entire Indian Ocean became a dangerous place to trade as Indian, Arab, Dutch, Venetian, and Portuguese ships were not shy about using their cannons to outperform their rivals.

Da Gama returned to Portugal on 10 October 1503 with a fleet laden with precious spices, and it was rumored that the admiral was not shy about stuffing his pockets in gems and pearls.

    There was also the added bonus of a trade treaty and tribute from the ruler of Cochin, and a beautiful gold tribute from the Muslim ruler of Kilwa on the Swahili coast.

     The Portuguese Crown hoped to establish territorial dominance and monopolies in one way or another of trade, and in 1505, Francisco d’Almeida, viceroy of India, was appointed. The Portuguese always moved east, even setting up a fort in China, although they did not understand the power of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).

The death and legacy of Vasco da Gama

In April 1524, after a period of falling out of royal favor (he was counted in 1519, but only after the threat of defections in Spain), da Gama returned to the limelight when he took office for the third time in India. left for. His new role as Viceroy.

The old sailor had certainly covered a few nautical miles, but when he landed at Portuguese Cochin in November he was seriously ill. Taken to the home of a Portuguese settler named Diogo Pereira, Vasco da Gama spent his last days. He died on Christmas Eve in 1524. He was buried in the Church of Santo Antonio in Cochin, but his remains, as he wished, were returned to Portugal a few years later. In the 19th century, his remains were reportedly buried in the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém, where several Portuguese emperors were buried.

Those who followed Dias and da Gama demanded one thing: complete control of the Indian Ocean trade network, then dominated by merchants from the Swahili coast of East Africa and Muslim traders from the Persian Gulf.

With inferior weapons and a lack of cooperation between city-states, the Swahili coast was not able to defend much. For example, the fort was built in 1505 in Sofala, in 1507 on the island of Mozambique, and in 1526 in Shema. However, the Portuguese were such ruthless traders and so many settlements were razed and ships sunk that African merchants went north to escape them.

Meanwhile, India proved too large to dominate but the Portuguese established trading centers on the west coast of the subcontinent.

More generally, the voyages of Vasco da Gama to India and Christopher Columbus to the Americas in 1492 opened the world to European exploration and colonization.

The Portuguese went even further, establishing colonies in China’s Macau, Japan’s Nagasaki, and even visiting Korea. Empires arose, Europeans benefited from a cheaper and more diverse range of products, flora and fauna were moved around the world, diseases found new prey, and the lives of millions of indigenous peoples on four continents were forever lost. changed to.

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