Vasco da Gama- The Portuguese Navigator's Historic Voyage to India and the Consequent Portuguese Colonization
Vasco da Gama’s arrival at Kappad, Kozhikode
May 17, 1498
The sea was calm as usual. Kappad, the hamlet on the outskirt of Kozhikode was slowly awakening. The fishermen, who reached back on the shore with their precious catch, also brought a surprise news. They had found four strange ships in the Arabian Sea. They had seen many ships earlier. But these are something different. The design of the ship, the dress code of the men in the ship, their color, language, everything made them bewildered.
They approached the ship with amazement and anxiety. The Captain of the ship received them joyfully. He treated the surprised locals with a lot of eatables and gifts. The captain also purchased their catch of the day (fishes) offering a higher price. The fishermen were impressed by this display of love and affection.
The news of the arrival of some foreign ships soon spread. The entire village folks reached the spot. All got a warm welcome plus some sort of gifts too.
That was the beginning of a new chapter of sea voyages in history. It was also the beginning of the European invasion of India. The captain mentioned here was none other than the famous Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama. Gama’s arrival at the Malabar coast at a place called Kappad in Kozhikode, a coastal district in South India was a historic event. The voyage also changed the course of history. It is even considered the first globalization process in the world.
The Documentary Proof
Fortunately, now we have some documentary proof to certify this great historic voyage made in the year 1498. There is a handwritten journal, which describes Gama’s first voyage to India. Unfortunately, we have no proof to say who wrote it. It is an anonymous work. But one thing is sure that it was written by an eyewitness, who was part of the fleet and the subsequent expedition on land. Though not in a literary tone, the journal describes the mishap and success of the entire voyage.
The UNESCO Recognition
About the document, the UNESCO says “This manuscript is the only known contemporary copy of the report of the first voyage of Vasco da Gama to India, whose journey apart from being one of the greatest pieces of European seamanship of that time, acted as a catalyst for a series of events that would change the world”.
Justifiably, they have included the journal in the list of World’s Greatest Documents. The UNESCO’s World Heritage body took this decision to include it in the Memory of World Register, 2013. Thus, the journal has got the value of the most precious world document.
The journal, written by an unknown participant on this great mission, which ended in finding a sea route to India from Europe has many interesting as well painful records of events. It narrates the accounts of departure from Lisbon and respective return to Portugal.
The narrative style of the journal takes the readers to many aspects of the great journey. It includes the dangerous situations they encountered including death, diseases, and other problems. Their contact with people on the shore, the welcome they got from the people of Kozhikode, their kind hospitality, and love, foods and gifts exchanged, musical and nautical instruments of that time and much more are well recorded in the journal. It had a mention of the village life, difficult navigation situations and the hostage by the then King of Kozhikode, the Zamorin (Sammodhiri) and everything related to the historic voyage.
Vasco da Gama's Tomb
The historians consider the voyage as one of the greatest pieces of European seamanship of that time. The voyage also settled a stage in the globalization of trade. It also paved a way for an unprecedented cultural encounter of the West and the East.
The voyage was done for the sole purpose of establishing some trade relation with India. Gama’s eye was on the rich spices of Kerala. On reaching the Malabar Coast, he made some agreement with the king Zamorin and started trading activities. He opened some merchandise establishments in Kozhikode and started a grand business.
The cunning Gama slowly began to operate his hidden agenda. The history thereafter shows a picture of Gama’s war with Zamorin and the Portuguese invasion to other parts of India. Soon some province of India came under Portuguese rule. The Portuguese colonization was beginning thus and it lasted for about 400 years.
The Portuguese Influence on the Indian Soil
If you like to study the Portuguese invasion of India and its influence on Indian soil, I recommend you to visit the state of Goa, one of the total 29 states in India. A travel to Goa will disclose more of the 451-year-old Portuguese ruling there. The churches, museum, some landmark buildings, all these in Goa will satisfy your research on the topic. I have visited the state and experienced all these during some of my Goan explorations. I have also done a couple of hubs on Goa and the link of the same is pasted below separately. The photographs supplied at the end of the text give you the glorious pictures of Portuguese influence at various places in India including Kerala.
Back to Vasco da Gama and his final journey. Vasco da Gama, the great sailor of history died on a Christmas eve in the year 1524. He made his final journey on 24th December 1524. (some records say he died on 23rd December). His body was cremated at St. Francis Church, in Kochi in Kerala. Later his body was taken to Jerome ca Cathedral in Portugal in the year 1538 for re-cremation, that is after 14 years of his death.
The journey must go on. After all, each journey is a discovery!
+++++Reference: "Sancharikal Kanda Keralam", a book in Malayalam on Kerala History written by Velayudhan Panikkasserry++++++
My Articles on Goa, a Portuguese Colony in India for 451 Years
- A Candlelight Dinner at Palolem Beach, Goa
Palolem Beach, Goa takes you to a different experience. It is one of the most beautiful beaches in India. The hills, forest all inside the sea is so nice. Alsotry a candle light dinner on the beach
- Feni, The Popular Drink of Goa, India
Goa is a hot spot of international tourists. It is a small state in India with lot of amazing features like fine beaches, cheap liquor and Portuguese influence. Goa has a unique drink in Feni.
© 2013 Sunil Kumar Kunnoth