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Vasco da Gama- The Portuguese Navigator's Historic Voyage to India and the Consequent Portuguese Colonization

Updated on January 30, 2018
Vasco da Gama, The Great Sailor
Vasco da Gama, The Great Sailor | Source

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.

Gama's Signature
Gama's Signature | Source

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++++++

Alcove with Crucifix in Portuguese Colonial Church, Panaji (Panjim), Goa,
Alcove with Crucifix in Portuguese Colonial Church, Panaji (Panjim), Goa, | Source
Goa Ribandar Church 2
Goa Ribandar Church 2 | Source
St. Francis CSI Church, in Kochi , earlier called Cochin, originally built in 1503, is the oldest European church in India
St. Francis CSI Church, in Kochi , earlier called Cochin, originally built in 1503, is the oldest European church in India | Source
Portuguese colonial architecture in Panaji (Panjim), Goa, India.
Portuguese colonial architecture in Panaji (Panjim), Goa, India. | Source
Street setting with typical Portuguese colonial buildings; Panaji, Goa, India
Street setting with typical Portuguese colonial buildings; Panaji, Goa, India | Source
Portuguese Villa near Chapora, Goa
Portuguese Villa near Chapora, Goa | Source
The Church of St. Francis of Assisi, Goa was built in 1661 by the Portuguese in the Portuguese Vice-royalty of India.
The Church of St. Francis of Assisi, Goa was built in 1661 by the Portuguese in the Portuguese Vice-royalty of India. | Source
Arthunkal St. Andrews Church, Kerala
Arthunkal St. Andrews Church, Kerala | Source
 India's oldest church, est. in 1500 by the Portuguese. The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was first buried here before his remains were exhumed and shipped off back home.
India's oldest church, est. in 1500 by the Portuguese. The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was first buried here before his remains were exhumed and shipped off back home. | Source
A Portuguese Church in Kozhikode, Kerala
A Portuguese Church in Kozhikode, Kerala

© 2013 Sunil Kumar Kunnoth

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    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      18 months ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      @wba108, Agree with your view. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your observation here.

    • wba108@yahoo.com profile image

      wba108@yahoo.com 

      18 months ago from upstate, NY

      That the tiny country of Portugal was able to send a fleet to round the uncharted tip of Africa and navigate to the Malabar was an amazing nautical feat in those days.

      Not only was the tiny country of Portugal able to secure trading rights with India but also was able to break the grip of Islamic control in the entire Indian ocean. That was an impressive feat at that time considering Portugal was 12000 miles by sea from the Malabar coast.

      As you mentioned, there was a high price that came with the new European contact with India. Native Lands were seized, power struggles ensued and new diseases were unintentionally introduced, resulting in much suffering to the native population.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      @Mick Beet

      Thank you.

    • Mick Beet profile image

      Mick Bert 

      3 years ago from Australia

      Interesting work

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      5 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Beth Eaglescliffe

      So pleased to note your comments. Thank you for the same. When you visit India, please do visit this place also. My assistance is guaranteed. All the best.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      5 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      wabad annie

      Glad to note that you loved my hub on Gama. I thought must write something about this great man since he arrived in our land 500 years back and that turned to be a great historic event. Thank you for your compliments.

    • Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

      Beth Eaglescliffe 

      5 years ago from UK

      This is a really interesting hub. I remember learning about Vasco da Gama at school, but I hadn't realized the long term implication of his voyages. Voted up.

    • wabash annie profile image

      wabash annie 

      5 years ago from Colorado Front Range

      Loved the hub and the pictures are beautiful. I've always so admired explorers (like da Gama) who jumped into what I call papier mache ships and sailed off on the endless ocean. Thanks for writing about this one.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      5 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Glad to know you loved it. Sure to give you some knowledge on unknown things from history and culture, I am striving hard here. Hope you go through my other hubs as well. Thanks for visit, sharing and vote.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 years ago from England

      Fascinating read about Vasco Da Gama, and something I never knew about. That's what I love about Hubpages, I learn so much, great hub sunilkunnoth, voted up and tweeted!

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