The First European in India

History was changed today in 1498 when explorer Vasco da Gama saw the land of the golden birds... on the horizon. The waters were in control now, the wooden birds flew and trade began - a new wave was set for newer things, yet to come.
Vasco da Gama on the shores of Calicut; Source: History Central

Vasco da Gama on the shores of Calicut; Source: History Central

India is a country surrounded by the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean. India touches the border with several sovereign countries. Due to its location, it had trading links with its neighbouring countries since ancient times. The world knew India before European arrival.

Indian history is not new; the first written account of maritime trade is dated back to the Harappan period. India had trade relations with Mesopotamia.

The story began with trade relations and ended with colonization.

With the development of navigation equipment, overseas expeditions began to establish trade relations. But why were Europeans interested in exploring the Indian subcontinent? The English were not the only country to come to India. Other European nations on the list were Portuguese, Danish, French, and Dutch who came to India to establish trade relations.

The main reason for European arrival in India was Indian spices especially Black pepper, cotton, and handicraft, trade, and religious beliefs (to spread Christianity).

The temptation increased so much for Indian spices that Portugal's head sent two spies through Egypt to East Africa and India, to discover details of the spices market and trade routes. Whoever came to locate Indian Subcontinent used to go back to his country empty-handed. The mission was successful when captain Bartolomeu Dias returned in 1488 via the Cape of Good Hope. Got the route?

Route to India; Source: Go High Brow

This is the story of a navigator who came to India to discover the trade route to India. India was not unknown before Vasco's arrival and had good trade relations with Arab countries.

He had 3 routes to reach Asia — first, through Russia — the longest route, second through Arab countries — Europeans were not allowed there, and the last option was the sea route. He had only one option left in the last, that was Sea route. One of his Colleagues Vartho Lomadis left Portugal in 1486 to come to India by sea and reached Madagascar. But this was another failed expedition!

Vasco now had to come on his own to discover something new for Europe. He started his journey with 176 sailors, the campus, and his ship "Sao Gabriel". In search of Asia, he reached the Cape of Good Hope. During his way, he came in contact with Abdul Manik (a Gujarati), who helped him reach Kozhikode in India.

Today in 1498, he reached Kappadu near Kozhikode (Calicut), in Malabar Coast. Finally, someone succeeded!

Following our old tradition of "Atithi Devo Bhava", upon hearing the news of the arrival of the foreign fleet, Zamorin (the Hindu ruler of Calicut) went to Kappadu to welcome Vasco. Vasco da Gama received traditional hospitality in India.

He gifted Zamorin four cloaks of scarlet cloth, two barrels of oil, a chest of sugar, and a box of seven brass vessels. These gifts enraged the ruler because they were useless for him. The unhappy king sent him back to his country.

When the new route discoverer returned to his nation, he was welcomed as someone who has come as the winner of Indian Idol. The finder failed to bring his trophy as his primary assignment to secure a commercial treaty with Calicut. However, Vasco had returned with black pepper and other merchandise.

Vasco repeatedly came back to the metaphorical Indian Idol stage, but as we know the trophy is available only once. The discoverer was allowed to participate but now the trophy has been taken by someone else. The Portuguese remained solely focused on trade, otherwise, they would never have allowed the British to enter India. After the Portuguese, many other sailors came to India for trade but their main mission turned into a political because including the English East India Company, Dutch, Danish, and France.

Goa was conquered by Estado da India (Portugal's registered company). They brought tobacco cultivation to India, spread Catholicism, established the first printing press in Goa, and abolished the Sati practice in Goa. Got something good!

European countries had come to India for the spice trade, but at the same time, they added mirch masala to modern Indian history.


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