Discovery of the sea route to India

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The first trip directly made from Europe to India through the Atlantic Ocean was under the command of the Portuguese navigator and explorer Vasco da Gama, during the reign of Manuel I in 1497–1499.

This was one of the most remarkable expeditions of the Age of Discovery. It impacted the maritime presence and the domains of commercial trade routes by the Portuguese Empire.

Vasco Da Gama, a Portuguese explorer in 1497 was granted an audience with King Manuel where he took an oath and was awarded with a silken banner that displayed the cross of the order of Christ. Vasco da Gama was not commissioned to conquer new lands during his trip to discover the sea route. He was to seek out Christian kingdoms in the East and secure Portugal access to Asian markets. Vasco da Gama set sail from Lisbon on his conquest. Vasco Da Gama scoon miscalculated after traveling over six-thousand kilometers. In ninety-three days he reached Cape of Good hope and during further travel soon reached the tip of the Indian ocean. King Manuel had attempted to commission a fleet of ships to voyage around Africa to India. India was a source of spices that were scarce and costly to Europe. Muslim merchants carried spices by caravan across deserts of Arabia to Mediterranean markets. Vasco Da Gama found a way to import spices directly bypassing merchants who controlled caravan routes. Manuel believed India was a rich Christian kingdom and he hope to contact king and negotiate an anti-Muslim alliance. Vasco Da Gama was chosen for this task on many reasons one being his ability to avoid mutiny due to his violent past as a prison torture expert. Throughout this journey he was given two new ships and 2 new refurbished ships and food for three years. Gama’s crew consisted of seventy including ten convicted killers whose death penalty was put on commute for this conquest. Two of the crew consisted of Arabic and bantu translators. His men suffered from scurvy and soon made it to the tip of southern tip of Africa. Along the way several members of the crew attempted mutiny and were either bound in chains or beaten into ordinance. Soon they reached Mozambique where they met Arabs. Gama pretended to be Muslim in order to gain access to trade. Soon Gama met the Sultan of Mozambique. Despite trade access, the Portuguese could only afford fruit and could not afford Persian rubies and other Indian spices. Soon natives started spreading word that the Portuguese were not Muslims and accused them of being Christian pirates. The sultan soon ordered Vasco Da Gama out. Gama soon,in an effort of revenge fired several cannonballs at the town. Vasco Da Gama began sailing and started attacking and looting Arab merchant ships. Arab ships were not armed and were slow. The ships could not outrun Vasco Da Gama. Vasco Da Gama used intimidation and force to take over other ships. The expedition continued north to Malindi, another Muslim town. After continuing the expedition they finally reach Calicut. The Zamorin, ruler of Calicut, tolerated all religions. Zamorin welcomed trade as long as the Portuguese paid customary duties. Vasco Da Gama was welcomed with great respect. Zamorin sent ambassadors to Portugal. Next day Vasco Da Gama laid our presents of twelve pieces of stripe cloth, four scarlet hoods, six basins for washing hands and two casts of oil and honey. The officer of the Zamorin refused to forward the gifts calling the gifts “pathetic” and stating that it was not worthy enough for the king. Zamorin lost interest in Vasco Da Gama. This made Vasco furious as he demanded to see the king unannounced demanding access to trade. Zamorin granted it but many of the buyers boycotted the Portuguese sellers. Over three months, few spices were acquired. Some of the Portuguese were arrested for failure to pay harbor tax. Vasco Da Gama retaliated by taking Hindu hostages and releasing them once his men were released. Soon hope for trade was abandoned and the Portuguese left. Out of 170 men in 1497, 54 were alive when returning to Lisbon in 1499. Although there was not much success, a cathedral was built for Vasco Da Gama in honor of his bravery and for discovering trade in India. King Manuel organized another expedition with 15 ships only to name Pedro Alvarez Cabral the leader. In attempt to follow Vasco Da Gama’s route, Cabral soon went to far past the Atlantic and discovered Brazil and took it in Portugal's honor. Cabral had gold and trading goods and eventually made it to Calicut. Despite the trading requirements many Portuguese were killed in anti Portugal riots. Cabral sought trade in another Indian city and returned with 4 ships out 15 however; four of the ships contained loads of valuable spices. Despite success, King Manuel promoted Vasco Da Marco to admiral and sent him on another trip on February of 1502. Vasco Da Gama took over and killed many on ships outside of Calicut. Soon he overran the city and frightened merchants. Soon the Zamorin offered a trade agreement. Soon Vasco Da Gama established an empire in India leading to him becoming rich. Vasco Da Gama’s discovery of the Indian Sea route lead to more trade opportunities and the establishment of an empire in India. Vasco Da Gama was honored for his achievements and took Portugal’s power to new heights.Vasco found India.

Holmes, Michael. "Vasco Da Gama Seeks Sea Route To India." Dagamma.HTM. Old News, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. <>.