Vasco da Gama! This name is mentioned in our History books as a great navigator who through daring expedition searched the sea voyage between Europe and India. Vasco broke the Muslim domination on the trade route to Europe from India. This indeed proves importance of our country in those days. For centuries all together Europeans fought with Muslims to establish this trade route.
Vasco de gama landed at Kappad Beach near Calicut, Kerala on 14th May,1498. It was an open harbor filled with vessels of different sizes and the beach was lined with shops and warehouses. Local families of curious sight seekers, along with their children, came out to see the ships that looked quite different from those plying the Indian Ocean.
The local king Samudrin(Zamorin) of calicut lived in a palace. On his way to the palace, Vasco stopped to pray at a Hindu temple. He was under the mistaken belief that the Hindus were heretical Christians.
His landing party had assumed that Hindu temples were Christian churches, they had misconstrued the Brahmans invocation of a local deity as veneration of the Virgin Mary and they had decided the Hindu figures on the temple walls were outlandish Christian saints.” True, “the temples were also crammed with animal gods and sacred phalluses,” but these surely reflected exotic local Christian practices. What mattered to the Portuguese was that these long-lost Indian Christians permitted images in their “churches.” Thus, whatever their idiosyncrasies, they could not be Muslims. The Portuguese joined in the chants and invocations with gusto. When the Hindu priests chanted “Krishna,” the Portuguese heard it as “Christ.”
[Ref. Nigel Cliff, Holy War:How Vasco da Gama's Epic Voyages Turned the Tide in a Centuries-Old Clash of Civilizations,2011]
In the Palace the navigator was received with traditional hospitality, including a grand procession of at least 3,000 armed Nair’s. The king while seated on a green couch below a silk canopy was wearing a string of pearls and a heart shaped emerald surrounded by rubies, the insignia of royalty.The presents that Gama sent to the Zamorin as gifts were trivial, and failed to impress. However the King agreed to trade in pepper and other spices in exchange for gold and silver. Vasco returned soon to Portugal. Though he lost many man on the voyage but he succeeded in breaking the monopoly of Arabs.
Preparations now began in Portugal to send a larger fleet of thirteen ships, armed with cannons and 1200 men. The fleet arrived in 1500. The reached calicut and demanded the King to expel all Arabs and to trade exclusively with Portugal. Indians were not interested on such arrangement. While negotiations were ongoing the Portuguese captured a large ship of Arabs.
They retaliated by attacking a Portuguese contingent in city.
Portuguese now seized ten more ships in the harbor and burned their crew alive. Now they bombarded the city for two days and even forced the Samudrin to flee from his palace. It was a humiliation that the rulers of Calicut would never forget. Portuguese fleet returned home with loads of pepper. This was first attempt by Europeans to dominate on the Indian Ocean.
Vasco returned soon to establish his image as a cruel navigator. He again refused to negotiate and bombarded the city for three days. He seized all the ships on harbor and their crews-800 men in all. They were paraded on ship’s decks and then killed by having their arms, noses and ears amputated. The body parts were piled into a boat and sent ashore. When the Samudrin sent a Brahman messenger to negotiate for peace. He was gruesomely mutilated and sent back. His two sons and a nephew, who had accompanied him, were hanged from the mast.
The same story repeated again and again along with the coastline of Indian ocean for the next decade. Portuguese established their rule in Goa in 1510 under the command of Alfonso de Albuquerque. A new era of Christian persecution and forceful conversion was penned by the Christian missionaries. Not to forget St. Francis Xavier was foremost in this heinous crime against Humanity.
The historical account of Portuguese invasion on India is not a simple historical record but a dismal record of greed, savagery and fanaticism. Vasco through his expeditions and the manner in which he handled the Samudrin proved that was a cruel Christian missionary in the grabs of explorer. They looted our country and never refrained to kill anyone. It will be right to say that this expedition by Vasco was nothing more than a Christian Jihad.
Biggest agony is that Communist historians of our country portrayed Vasco as a great navigator who established the trade link between India and Europe. Truth is that he was a greedy, religious bigot and an oppressor pirate.
Dr Vivek Arya