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Vasco da Gama

Updated on May 1, 2013

The Explorations of Vasco Da Gama - Goa, Daman and Diu

Ever since I discovered that Goa - that small enclave on the west coast of India - was actually a Portugese colony, I have been fascinated by its exotic mix of Portugese and Indian culture.

There are several other small portugese enclaves around the Indian ocean and elsewhere, as well as several countries which were once colonies of Portugal. The most obvious names include Brazil. Angola. Mozambique, Macau. Daman and Diu.

This lens is about Portugese exploration of the Indian Ocean and the settlements of the enclaves of Goa, Daman and Diu.

Image credit - National Maritime Museum, London

Bartholomew Dias
Bartholomew Dias

Bartholomew and Diogo Dias

For centuries, exotic spices (and silks) had been arriving in Europe via the Silk road and Venice. The prices were expensive and getting higher all the time. Around the time Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492, several other seafaring nations in Europe (England, Holland and Portugal) were sending out ships on voyages of exploration. Most often to find and convert new people to catholicism and to find a way to the Spice Islands without having to go through the Arabs or the Venetians.

So in 1487 King John (Joao) II of Portugal commanded Bartholomew Dias, and his brother Diogo, as well as Pedro Alvares Cabral to sail down around Africa and find the African ruler named Prestor John. They set off in 1487 in 3 ships, sailing down the coast of Africa and around the Cape of Good Hope. Bartholomew was unable to sail around the Cape - as it was just too stormy. He was forced to return to Portugal. Because of the bad weather, the ships became seperated. Diogo sailed around the Cape and up to Madagascar which he is credited with discovering, and his ship returned to Portugal safely.

Image source - Portugese Navigators on Stamps

A Portugese Caravel

Portugese caravel
Portugese caravel

This is a replica of the type of ship that the Dias brothers would have sailed on.

It looks rather small to me.

Image source - Mossel Bay, South Africa

Vasco de Gama
Vasco de Gama

Vasco de Gama

In 1497. King Manual l of Portugal commanded Vasco da Gama to find a route to India around Africa. Da Gama embarked on his voyage with 4 ships (2 caracks, 1 caravel, and 1 supply ship) and 170 men.

Two of these ships never returned and only 55 men did return - meaning over 100 men died on this voyage of discovery.

The Arab Muslims had been doing commerce around the Indian Ocean for many centuries and had built up a lucrative trade - especially on expensive goods from China and South east asia such as silks and spices. So when Vasco da Gama came sailing in, the Muslims did not want to deal with him. Da Gama made several stops along the African coast but was not welcome in these places and was often forced to leave.

Eventually he arrived in India in May 1498. In Calicut (modern Kozhikode) he commenced trade and but eventually the local ruler requested that Da Gama pay a large tax in gold (which da Gama did not have). Da Gama left Calicut, sailed north and left some portugese sailors at a small harbour (called Goa) to start a portugese trading post. Then da Gama sailed back to Portugal with goods that paid for the trip - probably including black pepper and other spices. A good number of men died of scurvy on the return trip - through lack of vitamin C in their diet. Upon Da Gama's return to Portugal, he was treated like a hero and showered with rewards from the king. (Kerala in southern India is a major source of Black Pepper)

Vasco Da Gama broke the Venetian and Arab monopoly on spices and the race began between the sea faring nations to control the spice trade. This is what began the Age of Discovery.

Vasco Da Gama made 2 further trips to India - one (1502-1503) was another trading trip to obtain more spices. The last trip was ordered by King Manual's successor - John lll (Joao) - who ordered Vasco da Gama to be made Viceroy of India. Vasco da Gama died in India in December 1524. His remains were buried in Portugal.

Image source - Portugese Navigators on Stamps

Vasco da Gama's first voyage to India

Vasco Da Gama - First  Voyage to India
Vasco Da Gama - First Voyage to India

Image source - Wikimedia Commons

Portugese architecture in Goa
Portugese architecture in Goa


Under Portugese control, Goa was the capital of the Asian empire and the base of Portugese efforts to control the spice trade. The 100 years from 1550 to 1650 were known as the Golden Age of Goa despite the presence of the Inquisition.

St Francis Xavier visited Goa and spent many years in Asia (even travelling to Japan and the Moluccan Spice Islands themselves) attempting to convert the locals to catholicism.

It is rumoured that his efforts were the major reason why the Inquisition came to Goa in 1560 and began its terrible reign. The Inquisition was not finally abolished in Goa until 1812 CE.

Image Source - Goa History

Portugese architecture

St Jerome Fort, Daman & Diu
St Jerome Fort, Daman & Diu

Image source - St Jerome Fort

Goa was settled by the Portugese in 1498.

Daman and Diu were not annexed by the Portugese until 1537 CE.

St Jerome Fort built by the Portugese in Daman between 1614 and 1627 CE.

Despite Indian independence in 1948, the Portugese refused to leave until they were forced out of all 3 enclaves in 1961.

There were 2 other small enclaves which were under Portugese control. These were called Dadra and Nagar Haveli. These 2 small enclaves came under Portugese control in 1783 and 1785 and were administered from Daman, They became semi-independent in 1954 - because they were still recognized by the international connunity as Portugese possessions. But in 1961 when the Portugese were forced to leave India, these 2 enclaves signed an agreement to become part of India.

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    • abidareacode profile image

      abidareacode 3 years ago from Areacode , Kerala, India

      First of all thanks to Serenia for this hub and sunilkunnoth for sharing the same. In Goa there is a place named Vasco and near by Daman is also there. So Goa really had to say the whole story of Vasco da Gama.

    • Jasdeep-Singh profile image

      Laddi Singh 3 years ago from (Punjab) India

      This is great! I remember my school days and learning about Vasco Da Gama that who was the first foreigner to reach India. And what a beautiful name is Vasco da Gama isn't it? Thanks for sharing it.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Interesting read. I too had done similar story. Vasco da Gama first reached in our land known as Kappad in Kozhikode and that was the beginning of the European invasion to India. The Portuguese ruling in India ended in the 60s only and they had great influence in the state of Goa. A nice article and worth reading. So shared.

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      It was nice to read through this history of Goa. I was born and brought up in Goa, before I left for Dubai, UAE and then finally settled down in Canada. I have a few close relatives in Portugal and Mozambique, and of course my family back in Goa. It's a shame, being away for so many years (even though I visit ever 2 to 3 years), I've forgotten my Portuguese. :)

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 6 years ago from Canada

      Great job; you've made me want to go to Portugal.

    • traveller27 profile image

      traveller27 6 years ago

      Well done Serenia - I just learned a bit more about Portuguese enclaves.