(Last Updated on : 18/02/2010)
Vasco da Gama was one of the notable Portuguese explorers who discovered a sea route from Portugal to the East. He was born in a noble in Sines, Portugal. On the 27th of May 1498, Vasco da Gama stepped ashore on the coast of Malabar, and for Kerala a new era began, an era lasting four and a half centuries, in which its life was linked by chains of politics and commerce with the shifting patterns of power on the Atlantic seaboard of Europe. The patron of Vasco da Gama was King Manuel I of Portugal. Da Gama's career as an explorer started after his father was selected to lead an expedition to open the sea route to Asia and to outflank the Muslims, who enjoyed a monopoly of trade with India and other eastern states and he took command when his father died and sailed from Lisbon in the month of July 1497.
Vasco da Gama, more than most men whose names seem prominent in history, was an instrument of forces mainly beyond his own control or even comprehension. He was not a genius or even of great original enterprise. It was his good fortune to be picked out from the obscurity of a courtier's life to lead an expedition which others had planned completely. Bartolomeo Dias had found the way round the Cape of Good Hope and had monitored the building of the two ships for the Indian expedition, and when da Gama set out he found guides to take him from Africa on long-known trade routes over the Indian Ocean
and also went provided with knowledge of India amassed by the many European travellers who by the mid-fifteenth century had found their way as solitary voyagers to the ports of Malabar.
The sailing of Vasco da Gama to Kolikod
(Calicut) was neither accident nor cynicism with the banner of the Cross flying from his masthead. The very justification on which their enterprise was supported was embodied in the Bulls they had obtained from successive Popes granting them the right over all the territories discovered in Africa and Asia. They believed it their duty to discover new lands to be proselytized for the Roman Church, and this sense of being committed to a special mission, of being in their own way as much the representatives of God as any Brahmin
, explains much about their conduct on the Malabar Coast which otherwise be dismissed as incomprehensible arrogance. But to explain postures is not to justify actions, and the record of Portugal in Asia, and mainly on the Malabar Coast, contains much that no system of morality could excuse.
Vasco da Gama made two expeditions to India. From Belem, the Portuguese explorer arrived at the Malabar Coast in India. The second time when he arrived in India, he visited the sub-continent as the representative of the King John III. He returned back to Portugal in September 1503 AD. The Portugals were faced with several problems in India under Eduardo de Menezes. Vasco da Gama was, thus, once again sent to India to tackle the problems. Unfortunately he contracted malaria soon after reaching Goa and breathed his last in Cochin on December 1524 AD.