Vasco da Gama, 1st Count of Vidigueira 1460 or 1469 was a Portuguese explorer, one of the most successful in the Age of Discovery and the commander of the first ships to sail directly from Europe to India. For a short time in 1524 he was the Governor of Portuguese India, under the title of Viceroy.
Vasco da Gama was born in either 1460 in Sines, on the southwest coast of Portugal.
Around 1480, Vasco da Gama joined the Order of Santiago. The master of Santiago was Prince John, who would ascend to the throne in 1481 as King John II of Portugal. John II doted on the Order, and the Gamas prospects rose accordingly.
In 1492, John II dispatched Vasco da Gama on a mission to the port of Setúbal and to the Algarve to seize French ships in retaliation for peacetime depredations against Portuguese shipping - a task that Vasco rapidly and effectively performed.
Exploration before Gama
From the earlier part of the 15th Century, Portuguese expeditions organized by Prince Henry the Navigator had been crawling down the African coastline, principally in search for west African riches (notably, gold). They had greatly extended Portuguese maritime knowledge, but had little profit to show for the effort. After Henry's death in 1460, the Portuguese crown showed little interest in continuing and, in 1469, the crown sold off the neglected African enterprise to a private Lisbon merchant consortium, led by Fernão Gomes. In a few short years, Gomes's captains rapidly expanded Portuguese knowledge across the Gulf of Guinea and drummed up some business in gold dust, melagueta pepper, ivory and slaves . When Gomes charter came up for renewal in 1474, Prince John (future John II), asked his father Afonso V of Portugal to pass the African charter to him.
Upon becoming king in 1481, John II of Portugal set out on many long reforms. To break the monarch's dependence on the feudal nobility, John II needed to build up the royal treasury and saw royal commerce as the key to it. Under John II's watch, the gold and slave trade in west Africa was greatly expanded. But John II was also eager to break into the highly-profitable spice trade between Europe and Asia. At the time, this was virtually monopolized by the Republic of Venice, who operated overland routes via Levantine and Egyptian ports, through the Red Sea across to the spice markets of India. So John II soon set a new objective for his captains: to find a sea route to Asia by sailing around the African continent.
By the time Vasco da Gama was in his 20s, these plans were coming to fruition. In 1487, John II dispatched two spies, Pero da Covilhã and Afonso de Paiva, overland via Egypt, to East Africa and India, to scout the details of the spice markets and trade routes. The breakthrough came soon after when John II's captain Bartolomeu Dias returned from rounding the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, having explored as far as the Fish River (Rio do Infante) in modern-day South Africa and having verified that the unknown coast stretched away to the northeast.
It remained for an explorer to prove the link between the findings of Dias and those of da Covilhã and de Paiva and to connect these separate segments into a potentially lucrative trade route into the Indian Ocean. The task, originally given to Vasco da Gama's father, was finally offered to Vasco by Manuel I on the strength of his record of protecting Portuguese trading stations along the African Gold Coast from depredations by the French.
On 8 July 1497 Vasco da Gama led a fleet of four ships with a crew of 170 men from Lisbon. The distance traveled in the journey around Africa to India and back was greater than around the equator. The navigators included Portugal's most experienced, Pero de Alenquer, Pedro Escobar, João de Coimbra, and Afonso Gonçalves. It is not known for certain how many people were in each ship's crew but approximately 55 returned, and two ships were lost. Two of the vessels were as naus or newly built for the voyage, possibly a caravel and a supply boat. The four ships were:
- The São Gabriel, commanded by Vasco da Gama; a carrack of 178 tons, length 27 m, width 8.5 m, draft 2.3 m, sails of 372 m²
- The São Rafael, whose commander was his brother Paulo da Gama; similar dimensions to the São Gabriel
- The caravel Berrio, slightly smaller than the former two (later re-named São Miguel), commanded by Nicolau Coelho
- A storage ship of unknown name, commanded by Gonçalo Nunes, later lost near the Bay of São Brás, along the east coast of Africa
The expedition set sail from Lisbon on 8 July 1497, following the route pioneered by earlier explorers along the coast of Africa via Tenerife and the Cape Verde Islands. After reaching the coast of present day Sierra Leone, da Gama took a course south into the open ocean, crossing theEquator and seeking the South Atlantic westerlies that Bartolomeu Dias had discovered in 1487. This course proved successful and on November 4, 1497, the expedition made landfall on the African coast. For over three months the ships had sailed more than 6,000 miles of open ocean, by far the longest journey out of sight of land made by the time.
By December 16, the fleet had passed the Great Fish River (Eastern Cape, South Africa) - where Dias had turned back - and sailed into waters previously unknown to Europeans. With Christmas pending, da Gama and his crew gave the coast they were passing the name Natal, which carried the connotation of "birth of Christ" in Portuguese.
Arab-controlled territory on the East African coast was an integral part of the network of trade in the Indian Ocean. Fearing the local population would be hostile to Christians, da Gama impersonated a Muslim and gained audience with the Sultan of Mozambique. With the paltry trade goods he had to offer, da Gama was unable to provide a suitable gift to the ruler and soon the local populace became suspicious of da Gama and his men. Forced by a hostile crowd to flee Mozambique, da Gama departed the harbor, firing his cannons into the city in retaliation.
In the vicinity of modern Kenya, the expedition resorted to piracy, looting Arab merchant ships - generally unarmed trading vessels without heavy cannons. The Portuguese became the first known Europeans to visit the port of Mombasa but were met with hostility and soon departed.
In February 1498, Vasco da Gama continued north, landing at the friendlier port of Malindi - whose leaders were then in conflict with those of Mombasa - and there the expedition first noted evidence of Indian traders. Da Gama and his crew contracted the services of a pilot whose knowledge of the monsoon winds allowed him to bring the expedition the rest of the way to Calicut (Kozhikkodu), located on the southwest coast of India. Sources differ over the identity of the pilot, calling him variously a Christian, a Muslim, and a Gujarati. One traditional story describes the pilot as the famous Arab navigator Ibn Majid, but other contemporaneous accounts place Majid elsewhere, and he could not have been near the vicinity at the time. Also, none of the Portuguese historians of the time mention Ibn Majid.
The fleet arrived in Kappadu near Calicut, India on 20 May 1498. The King of Calicut, the Samudiri (Zamorin), who was at that time staying in his second capital at Ponnani, returned to Calicut on hearing the news of the foreign fleets's arrival. The navigator was received with traditional hospitality, including a grand procession of at least 3,000 armed Nairs, but an interview with the Zamorin failed to produce any concrete results. The presents that da Gama sent to the Zamorin as gifts from Dom Manuel—four cloaks of scarlet cloth, six hats, four branches of corals, twelve almasares, a box with seven brass vessels, a chest of sugar, two barrels of oil and a cask of honey—were trivial, and failed to impress. While Zamorin's officials wondered at why there was no gold or silver, the Muslim merchants who considered da Gama their rival suggested that the latter was only an ordinary pirate and not a royal ambassador. Vasco da Gama's request for permission to leave a factor behind him in charge of the merchandise he could not sell was turned down by the King, who insisted that da Gama pay customs duty—preferably in gold—like any other trader, which strained the relation between the two. Annoyed by this, da Gama carried a few Nairs and sixteen fishermen (mukkuva) off with him by force.Nevertheless, da Gama's expedition was successful beyond all reasonable expectation, bringing in cargo that was worth sixty times the cost of the expedition.
Vasco da Gama left Calicut on 29 August 1498. Eager to set sail for home, he ignored the local knowledge of monsoon wind patterns which were still blowing onshore. The fleet initially inched north along the Indian coast, and then anchored in at Anjediva island for a spell. They finally struck out for their Indian Ocean crossing on 3 October, 1498. But with the winter monsoon yet to set in, it was a harrowing journey. On the outgoing journey, sailing with the summer monsoon wind, it had taken Gama's fleet only 23 days to cross the Indian Ocean; now, on the return trip, sailing against the wind, it took 132 days. Vasco da Gama's fleet finally arrived in Malindion 7 January 1499, in a terrible shape - approximately half of the crew had died during the crossing, and many of the rest were afflicted with scurvy. Not having enough crewmen left standing to manage three ships, Vasco da Gama ordered the São Rafael scuttled off the East African coast, and the crew re-distributed to the remaining two ships, the São Gabriel and the Berrio. Thereafter, the sailing was smoother. By early March, they had arrived in Mossel Bay, and crossed the Cape of Good Hope in the opposite direction on March 20. They reached the west African coast by April 25.
The diary record of the expedition ends abruptly here. Reconstructing from other sources, it seems they continued to Cape Verde, where Nicolau Coelho's Berrioseparated from Vasco da Gama's São Gabriel, and sailed on by itself. The Berrio arrived in Lisbon on July 10, 1499 and Nicolau Coelho personally delivered the news to King Manuel I and the royal court, then assembled in Sintra. In the meantime, back in Cape Verde, Vasco's brother, Paulo da Gama had fallen grieviously ill. Gama elected to stay by his side on Santiago island, and handed the São Gabriel over to his clerk, João de Sá, to take home. The S. Gabrielunder Sá arrived in Lisbon sometime in late July or early August. Vasco da Gama and his sickly brother eventually hitched a ride with a Guinea caravel returning to Portugal, but Paulo da Gama died en route. Vasco da Gama got off at the Azores to bury his brother at the monastery of São Francisco in Angra do Heroismo, and lingered there for a little while in mourning. Vasco da Gama eventually took passage on an Azorean caravel and finally arrived in Lisbon on August 29, 1499 (according to Barros), or early September (8th or 18th, according to other sources). Despite his melancholic mood, Vasco da Gama was given a hero's welcome, and showered with honors, including a triumphal procession and public festivities. King Manuel wrote two letters in which he described Vasco da Gama's first voyage, in July and August 1499, soon after the return of the ships. Girolamo Sernigi also wrote three letters describing the first voyage of Vasco da Gama soon after the return of the expedition.
The expedition had exacted a large cost - one ship and over half the men had been lost. It had also failed in its principal mission of securing a commercial treaty with Calicut. Nonetheless, the spices brought back on the remaining two ships were sold at an enormous profit to the crown. Vasco da Gama was justly celebrated for opening a direct sea route to Asia. His path would be followed up thereafter by yearly Portuguese India Armadas.
The spice trade would prove to be a major asset to the Portuguese royal treasury, and other consequences soon followed. For example, Gama's voyage had made it clear that the east coast of Africa, the Contra Costa, was essential to Portuguese interests; its ports provided fresh water, provisions, timber, and harbors for repairs, and served as a refuge where ships could wait out unfavorable weather. One significant result was the colonization of Mozambique by the Portuguese Crown.
In December 1499, Vaso da Gama was rewarded by King Manuel I of Portugal with the town of Sines as a hereditary fief (the very town which his father, Estêvão, had once held as a commenda). This turned out to be a rather complicated affair, for Sines still belonged to the Order of Santiago. On the face of it, it should not have been a problem for D. Jorge de Lencastre, the master of the Order, to endorse the reward - after all, Gama was a Santiago knight, one of their own, and a close associate of Lencastre himself. But the fact that Sines was awarded by the king's hand, provoked Lencastre to refuse out of principle - lest it encourage the king to make other donations of the Order's properties. Gama would spend the next few years attempting to take hold of Sines - an effort which would estrange him from Lencastre and eventually prompt Gama to abandon his beloved Order of Santiago, switching over to the rival Order of Christ in 1507.
In the meantime, Gama made do with a substantial hereditary royal pension of 300,000 reis, and the award of the noble title of Dom (lord) in perpetuity for himself, his siblings and their descendants. In early 1502 (some say as early as 1500), Vasco da Gama was awarded the title of Almirante dos mares de Arabia, Persia, India e de todo o Oriente ("Admiral of the Seas of Arabia, Persia, India and all the Orient") - an overwrought title reminiscent of the ornate Castilian title borne by Christopher Columbus. (Evidently, Manuel must have reckoned that if Castile had an 'Admiral of the Seas' running around, then surely Portugal should have one too.) Another royal letter, dated October 1501, gave Vasco da Gama the personal right to intervene and exercise a determining role on any future India-bound fleet.
Around 1501, Vasco da Gama married Catarina de Ataíde, daughter of Álvaro de Ataíde, the alcaide-mór of Alvor (Algarve), and a prominent nobleman connected by kinship with the powerful Almeidafamily (Catarina was a first cousin of D. Francisco de Almeida).
Second voyage 4th Portuguese India Armada (Gama, 1502)
The follow-up expedition, the Second India Armada launched in 1500, was placed under the command Pedro Álvares Cabral, with the mission of making a treaty with the Zamorin of Calicut and setting up a Portuguese factory in the city. However, Cabral entered into a conflict with the local Arab merchant guilds, with the result that the Portuguese factory was overrun in a riot and up to 70 Portuguese killed. Cabral blamed the Zamorin for the incident and bombarded the city. Thus war broke out between Portugal and Calicut.
Vasco da Gama invoked his royal letter to take command of the 4th India Armada, secheduled to set out in 1502, with the explicit aim of taking revenge upon the Zamorin and force him to submit to Portuguese terms. The heavily-armed fleet of fifteen ships and eight hundred men left Lisbon on 12 February 1502. One of the squadrons was led by his cousin, Estêvão da Gama (the son of Aires da Gama), and two of his maternal uncles, Vicente Sodré and Brás Sodré, were pre-designated to command an Indian Ocean naval patrol.
Along the way, on the outgoing voyage, Gama's fleet opened contact with the East African gold port of Sofala, and reduced the sultanate of Kilwa to tribute, extracting a substantial sum of gold. On reaching India in October 1502, da Gama started capturing any Arab vessel he came across in Indian waters, most notoriously the Miri, a pilgrim ship from Mecca, whose passengers he had massacred in open water. He then appeared before Calicut, demanding redress for the treatment meted out to Cabral. While the Zamorin was willing to sign a new treaty Gama made a preposterous call to the Hindu king to expel all Muslims from Calicut before beginning negotiations, which was naturally turned down. The Portuguese fleet then bombarded the city for nearly two days from the sea shore. He also captured several rice vessels and barbarously cut off the crew's hands, ears and noses, dispatching them with an insulting note to the Zamorin.
The violent treatment meted out by Gama quickly brought trade along the Malabar coast of India, upon which Calicut depended, to a standstill. But the Zamorin nonetheless refused to submit to Portuguese terms, and even ventured to hire a fleet of strong corsair warships to challenge Gama's armada (which Gama managed to defeat in a naval battle before Calicut harbor). Gama loaded up with spices at Cochin and Cannanore, small nearby kingdoms, half-vassal and half-at-war with the Zamorin, whose alliances had been secured by prior Portuguese fleets. The 4th armada left India in early 1503. Gama left behind a small squadron ofcaravels, under the command of his uncle, Vicente Sodré, to patrol the Indian coast, continue harassing Calicut shipping and protect the Portuguese factories at Cochin and Cannanore from the Zamorin's inevitable reprisals.
Vasco da Gama arrived back in Portugal in September 1503, effectively having failed in his mission to bring the Zamorin to submission. This failure, and the subsequent more galling failure of his uncle Vicente Sodré to protect the Portuguese factory in Cochin, probably counted against any further rewards. When the Portuguese king Manuel I of Portugaldecided to appoint the first governor and viceroy of Portuguese India in 1505, Vasco da Gama was conspicuously overlooked, and the post given to D. Francisco de Almeida.
Pilgrim ship incident
On his second voyage, Vasco da Gama inflicted acts of cruelty upon competing traders and local inhabitants, which sealed his notoriety in India. During his second voyage to Calicut, da Gama intercepted a ship of Muslim pilgrims at Madayi travelling from Calicut to Mecca. Described in detail by eyewitness Thomé Lopes and chronicler Gaspar Correia as one that is unequalled in cold-blooded cruelty, da Gama looted the ship with over 400 pilgrims on board including 50 women, locked in the passengers, the owner and an ambassador from Egypt and burnt them to death. They offered their wealth which 'could ransom all the Christian slaves in the Kingdom of Fez and much more' but were not spared. Da Gama looked on through the porthole and saw the women bringing up their gold and jewels and holding up their babies to beg for mercy.'
After demanding the expulsion of Muslims from Calicut to the Hindu Zamorin, the latter sent the high priest Talappana Namboothiri (the very same person who conducted da Gama to the Zamorin's chamber during his much celebrated first visit to Calicut in May 1498) for talks.
For the next two decades, Vasco da Gama lived out a quiet life, unwelcome in the royal court and sidelined from Indian affairs. His attempts to return to the favor of Manuel I (including switching over to the Order of Christ in 1507), yielded little. Almeida, the larger-than-life Albuquerque and the efficient Albergaria were the king's new point men for India. But after Ferdinand Magellan defected to the Crown of Castile in 1518, Vasco da Gama threatened to do the same, prompting the king to undertake steps to retain him in Portugal and avoid the embarassment of losing his own "Admiral of the Seas of India" to Spain. In 1519, after years of ignoring his petitions, King Manuel I finally hurried to give Vasco da Gama a feudal title, appointing him the first Count of Vidigueira, a count title created by a royal decree issued in Évora on December 29, after a complicated agreement with Dom Jaime, Duke of Braganza, who ceded him on payment the towns ofVidigueira and Vila dos Frades. This decree granted Vasco da Gama and his heirs all the revenues and privileges related, thus establishing da Gama as the first Portuguese count who was not born with royal blood.
After the death of King Manuel I in late 1521, his son and successor, King John III of Portugal set about reviewing the Portuguese government overseas. Turning away from the Albuquerque clique, represented by Diogo Lopes de Sequeira, John III looked for a fresh start. Vasco da Gama re-emerged from his political wilderness as an important advisor to the new king's appointments and strategy. Seeing the new Spanish threat to the Moluccas as the priority, Vasco da Gama advised against the obsession with Arabia that had pervaded much of the Manueline period, and continued to be the dominant concern of Duarte de Menezes, then-governor of Portuguese India. Menezes also turned out to be incompetent and corrupt, subject to numerous complaints. As a result, John III decided to appoint Vasco da Gama himself to replace Menezes, confident that the magic of his name and memory of his deeds might better impress his authority, and manage the transition to a new government and new strategy.
By his appointment letter of February 1524, John III granted Vasco da Gama the privileged title of "Viceroy", being only the second Portuguese governor to enjoy that title (the first was Francisco de Almeida in 1505). His second son, Estêvão da Gama was simultaneously appointed Capitão-mor do Mar da Índia('Captain-major of the Indian Sea', commander of the Indian Ocean naval patrol fleet), to replace Duarte's brother, Luís de Menezes. As a final condition, Gama secured from John III of Portugal the commitment to appoint all his sons successively as Portuguese captains of Malacca.
Setting out in April 1524, with a fleet of fourteen ships, Vasco da Gama took as his flagship the famous large carrack Santa Catarina do Monte Sinai on her last journey to India, along with two of his sons, Estêvão and Paulo. After a troubled journey (four or five of the ships were lost en route), he arrived in India in September. Vasco da Gama immediately invoked his high viceregent powers to impose a new order in Portuguese India, replacing all the old officials with his own appointments. But Gama contracted malaria not long after arriving, and died in the city of Cochin on Christmas Eve in 1524, three months after his arrival. As per royal instructions, Gama was succeeded as governor of India by one the captains who had come with him, Henrique de Menezes (no relation to Duarte). Vasco's sons Estêvão and Paulo immediately lost their posts and joined the returning fleet of early 1525 (along with the dismissed Duarte de Menezes and Luís de Menezes). It is reported that, on the return journey, Luís de Menezes engineered a mutiny and seized control of the Santa Catarina do Monte Sinai, and proceeded to turn to a piratical career.
Vasco da Gama's body was first buried at St. Francis Church, which was located at Fort Kochi in the city of Kochi, but his remains were returned to Portugal in 1539. The body of Vasco da Gama was re-interred in Vidigueira in a casket decorated with gold and jewels.
Vasco da Gama and his wife, Catarina de Ataíde, had six sons and one daughter:
- Dom Francisco da Gama, who inherited his father's titles as 2nd Count of Vidigueira and the 2nd "Admiral of the Seas of India, Arabia and Persia". He remained in Portugal.
- Dom Estevão da Gama, after his abortive 1524 term as Indian patrol captain, he was appointed for a three-year term as captain of Malacca, serving from 1534 to 1539 (includes the last two years of his brother Paulo's term). He was subsequently appointed as the 11th governor of India from 1540 to 1542.
- Dom Paulo da Gama, captain of Malacca in 1533-34, killed in a naval action off Malacca.
- Dom Cristovão da Gama, captain of Malacca fleet from 1538 to 1540; nominated to succeed in Malacca, but killed in action while leading expedition toAbyssinia in 1542.
- Dom Pedro da Silva da Gama, appointed captain of Malacca from 1548 to 1552.
- Dom Álvaro d'Ataide da Gama appointed captain of Malacca fleet in 1540s, captain of Malacca itself from 1552 to 1554.
- Dona Isabel d'Ataide da Gama, only daughter, married Ignacio de Noronha, son of the first Count of Linhares.
His male line issue became extinct in 1747, though the title went through female line.
As much as anyone after Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama was responsible for Portugal's success as an early colonising power. Beside the fact of the first voyage itself, it was his astute mix of politics and war on the other side of the world that placed Portugal in a prominent position in Indian Ocean trade. Following da Gama's initial voyage, the Portuguese crown realized that securing outposts on the eastern coast of Africa would prove vital to maintaining national trade routes to the Far East.
The Portuguese national epic, the Lusíadas of Luís Vaz de Camões, largely concerns Vasco da Gama's voyages.
The 1865 grand opera L'Africaine: Opéra en Cinq Actes, composed by Giacomo Meyerbeer from a libretto by Eugène Scribe, prominently includes the character of Vasco da Gama. The events depicted, however, are fictitious. Meyerbeer's working title for the opera was Vasco da Gama. A 1989 production of the opera by the San Francisco Opera featured noted tenor Placido Domingo in the role of da Gama. The 19th century composer Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray composed an eponymous 1872 opera based on da Gama's life and exploits at sea.
The port city of Vasco da Gama in Goa is named after him, as is the crater Vasco da Gama on the Moon. There are three football clubs in Brazil (including Club de Regatas Vasco da Gama) andVasco Sports Club in Goa that were also named after him. There exists a church in Kochi, Kerala called Vasco da Gama Church, and a private residence on the island of Saint Helena. The suburb of Vasco in Cape Town also honours him.
A few places in Lisbon's Parque das Nações are named after the explorer, such as the Vasco da Gama Bridge, Vasco da Gama Tower and the Centro Comercial Vasco da Gama shopping centre.The Oceanário in the Parque das Nações has a mascot of a cartoon diver with the name of "Vasco", who is named after the explorer.
South African musician Hugh Masekela recorded an anti-colonialist song entitled "Vasco da Gama (The Sailor Man)", which contains the lyrics "Vasco da Gama was no friend of mine". He later recorded another version of this song under the name "Colonial Man".
Vasco da Gama appears as an antagonist in the Indian film Urumi. The film, directed by acclaimed cinematographer Santosh Sivan, depicts a failed assassination attempt on da Gama by an Indian.
Vasco da Gama sailed from Lisbon, Portugal, on July 8, 1497, heading to the East. At the time, many people thought that da Gama's trip would be impossible because it was assumed that the Indian Ocean was not connected to any other seas. Da Gama's patron was King Manuel I of Portugal.
Da Gama rounded Africa's Cape of Good Hope on November 22, and continued on to India. After many stops in Africa, and problems with Muslim traders who did not want interference in their profitable trade routes, da Gama reached Calicut, India on May 20, 1498.
At first, da Gama and his trading were well-received, but this did not last for long. Da Gama left India on August 29, 1498, after he was told to pay a large tax and leave all of his trading goods. When he left, da Gama took his goods with him, together with some Indian hostages.
Da Gama returned to Lisbon, Portugal, in September, 1499. Along the way many crew members died from scurvy (a disease caused by a lack of Vitamin C). Upon his return, da Gama was treated as a hero and was rewarded by the king.
King Manuel I of Portugal then sent da Gama, now an Admiral, on another expedition to India (1502-1503). On this second trip, da Gama took 20 armed ships (anticipating problems from Muslim traders). On this voyage, da Gama killed hundreds of Muslims, often brutally, in order to demonstrate his power.
After King Manuel's death, King John III sent da Gama to India as a Portuguese viceroy (the King's representative in India). Vasco da Gama died of an illness in India on December 24, 1524; his remains were returned to Portugal for burial.
The city of Calicut is inhabited by Christians. [The first voyagers to India mistook the Hindus for Christians.] They are of tawny complexion. Some of them have big beards and long hair, whilst others clip their hair short or shave the head, merely allowing a tuft to remain on the crown as a sign that they are Christians. They also wear moustaches. They pierce the ears and wear much gold in them. They go naked down to the waist, covering their lower extremities with very fine cotton stuffs. But it is only the most respectable who do this, for the others manage as best they are able. The women of this country, as a rule, are ugly and of small stature. They wear many jewels of gold round the neck, numerous bracelets on their arms, and rings set with precious stones on their toes. All these people are well-disposed and apparently of mild temper. At first sight they seem covetous and ignorant.When we arrived at Calicut the king was fifteen leagues away. The captain-major sent two men to him with a message, informing him that an ambassador had arrived from the King of Portugal with letters, and that if he desired it he would take them to where the king then was. The king presented the bearers of this message with much fine cloth. He sent word to the captain-major bidding him welcome, saying that he was about to proceed to Calicut. As a matter of fact, he started at once with a large retinue. A pilot accompanied our two men, with orders to take us to a place called Pandarani, below the place (Capna) where we anchored at first. At this time we were actually in front of the city of Calicut. We were told that the anchorage at the place to which we were to go was good, whilst at the place we were then it was bad, with a stony bottom, which was quite true; and, moreover, that it was customary for the ships which came to this country to anchor there for the sake of safety. We ourselves did not feel comfortable, and the captain-major had no sooner received this royal message than he ordered the sails to be set, and we departed. We did not, however, anchor as near the shore as the king's pilot desired.When we were at anchor, a message arrived informing the captain-major that the king was already in the city. At the same time the king sent a bale, with other men of distinction, to Pandarani, to conduct the captain-major to where the king awaited him. This bale is like an alcaide, and is always attended by two hundred men armed with swords and bucklers. As it was late when this message arrived, the captain-major deferred going.On the following morning, which was Monday, May 28th, the captain-major set out to speak to the king, and took with him thirteen men. On landing, the captain-major was received by the alcaide, with whom were many men, armed and unarmed. The reception was friendly, as if the people were pleased to see us, though at first appearances looked threatening, for they carried naked swords in their hands. A palanquin was provided for the captain-major, such as is used by men of distinction in that country, as also by some of the merchants, who pay something to the king for this privilege. The captain-major entered the palanquin, which was carried by six men by turns. Attended by all these people we took the road of Calicut, and came first to another town, called Capna. The captain-major was there deposited at the house of a man of rank, whilst we others were provided with food, consisting of rice, with much butter, and excellent boiled fish. The captain-major did not wish to eat, and as we had done so, we embarked on a river close by, which flows between the sea end the mainland, close to the coast. The two boats in which we embarked were lashed together, so that we were not separated. There were numerous other boats, all crowded with people. As to those who were on the banks I say nothing; their number was infinite, and they had all come to see us. We went up that river for about a league, and saw many large ships drawn up high and dry on its banks, for there is no port here.When we disembarked, the captain-major once more entered his palanquin. The road was crowded with a countless multitude anxious to see us. Even the women came out of their houses with children in their arms and followed us. When we arrived (at Calicut) they took us to a large church, and this is what we saw: The body of the church is as large as a monastery, all built of hewn stone and covered with tiles. At the main entrance rises a pillar of bronze as high as a mast, on the top of which was perched a bird, apparently a cock. In addition to this, there was another pillar as high as a man, and very stout. In the center of the body of the church rose a chapel, all built of hewn stone, with a bronze door sufficiently wide for a man to pass, and stone steps leading up to it. Within this sanctuary stood a small image which they said represented Our Lady. Along the walls, by the main entrance, hung seven small bells. In this church the captain-major said his prayers, and we with him.We did not go within the chapel, for it is the custom that only certain servants of the church, called quafees, should enter. These quafees wore some threads passing over the left shoulder and under the right arm, in the same manner as our deacons wear the stole. They threw holy water over us, and gave us some white earth, which the Christians of this country are in the habit of putting on their foreheads, breasts, around the neck, and on the forearms. They threw holy water upon the captain-major and gave him some of the earth, which he gave in charge of someone, giving them to understand that he would put it on later. Many other saints were painted on the walls of the church, wearing crowns. They were painted variously, with teeth protruding an inch from the mouth, and four or five arms. Below this church there was a large masonry tank, similar to many others which we had seen along the road.After we had left that place, and had arrived at the entrance to the city (of Calicut) we were shown another church, where we saw things like those described above. Here the crowd grew so dense that progress along the street became next to impossible, and for this reason they put the captain-major into a house, and us with him. The king sent a brother of the bale, who was a lord of this country, to accompany the captain-major, and he was attended by men beating drums, blowing arafils and bagpipes, and firing off matchlocks. In conducting the captain-major they showed us much respect, more than is shown in Spain to a king. The number of people was countless, for in addition to those who surrounded us, and among whom there were two thousand armed men, they crowded the roofs and houses.The further we advanced in the direction of the king's palace, the more did they increase in number. And when we arrived there, men of much distinction and great lords came out to meet the captain-major, and joined those who were already in attendance upon him. It was then an hour before sunset. When we reached the palace we passed through a gate into a courtyard of great size, and before we arrived at where the king was, we passed four doors, through which we had to force our way, giving many blows to the people. When, at last, we reached the door where the king was, there came forth from it a little old man, who holds a position resembling that of a bishop, and whose advice the king acts upon in all affairs of the church. This man embraced the captain-major when he entered the door. Several men were wounded at this door, and we only got in by the use of much force.May 28. The king was in a small court, reclining upon a couch covered with a cloth of green velvet, above which was a good mattress, and upon this again a sheet of cotton stuff, very white and fine, more so than any linen. The cushions were after the same fashion. In his left hand the king held a very large golden cup (spittoon), having a capacity of half an almude (8 pints). At its mouth this cup was two palmas (16 inches) wide, and apparently it was massive. Into this cup the king threw the husks of a certain herb which is chewed by the people of this country because of its soothing effects, and which they call atambor. On the right side of the king stood a basin of gold, so large that a man might just encircle it with his arms: this contained the herbs. There were likewise many silver jugs. The canopy above the couch was all gilt.The captain-major, on entering, saluted in the manner of the country: by putting the hands together, then raising them towards Heaven, as is done by Christians when addressing God, and immediately afterwards opening them and shutting fists quickly. The king beckoned to the captain-major with his right hand to come nearer, but the captain-major did not approach him, for it is the custom of the country for no man to approach the king except only the servant who hands him the herbs, and when anyone addresses the king he holds his hand before the mouth, and remains at a distance. When the king beckoned to the captain-major he looked at the others [i.e., da Gama's men], and ordered them to be seated on a stone bench near him, where he could see them. He ordered that water for their hands should be given them, as also some fruit, one kind of which resembled a melon, except that its outside was rough and the inside sweet, whilst another kind of fruit resembled a fig, and tasted very nice. There were men who prepared these fruits for them; and the king looked at them eating, and smiled; and talked to the servant who stood near him supplying him with the herbs referred to.Then, throwing his eyes on the captain-major, who sat facing him, he invited him to address himself to the courtiers present, saying they were men of much distinction, that he could tell them whatever he desired to say, and they would repeat it to him (the king). The captain-major replied that he was the ambassador of the King of Portugal, and the bearer of a message which he could only deliver to him personally. The king said this was good, and immediately asked him to be conducted to a chamber. When the captain-major had entered, the king, too, rose and joined him, whilst the rest remained where they were. All this happened about sunset. An old man who was in the court took away the couch as soon as the king rose, but allowed the plate to remain. The king, when he joined the captain-major, threw himself upon another couch, covered with various stuffs embroidered in gold, and asked the captain-major what he wanted.And the captain-major told him he was the ambassador of a King of Portugal, who was Lord of many countries and the possessor of great wealth of every description, exceeding that of any king of these parts; that for a period of sixty years his ancestors had annually sent out vessels to make discoveries in the direction of India, as they knew that there were Christian kings there like themselves. This, he said, was the reason which induced them to order this country to be discovered, not because they sought for gold or silver, for of this they had such abundance that they needed not what was to be found in this country. He further stated that the captains sent out traveled for a year or two, until their provisions were exhausted, and then returned to Portugal, without having succeeded in making the desired discovery. There reigned a king now whose name was Dom Manuel, who had ordered him to build three vessels, of which he had been appointed captain-major, and who had ordered him not to return to Portugal until he should have discovered this King of the Christians, on pain of having his head cut off. That two letters had been intrusted to him to be presented in case he succeeded in discovering him, and that he would do so on the ensuing day; and, finally, he had been instructed to say by word of mouth that he [the King of Portugal] desired to be his friend and brother.In reply to this the king said that he was welcome; that, on his part, he held him as a friend and brother, and would send ambassadors with him to Portugal. This latter had been asked as a favor, the captain-major pretending that he would not dare to present himself before his king and master unless he was able to present, at the same time, some men of this country. These and many other things passed between the two in this chamber, and as it was already late in the night, the king asked the captain-major with whom he desired to lodge, with Christians or with Moors ? And the captain-major replied, neither with Christians nor with Moors, and begged as a favor that he be given a lodging by himself. The king said he would order it thus, upon which the captain-major took leave of the king and came to where the men were, that is, to a veranda lit up by a huge candlestick. By that time four hours of the night had already gone.The captain-major went on the back of six men [in a palanquin], and the time occupied in passing through the city was so long that the captain-major at last grew tired, and complained to the king's factor, a Moor of distinction, who attended him to the lodgings. The Moor then took him to his own house, and we were admitted to a court within it, where there was a veranda roofed in with tiles. Many carpets had been spread, and there were two large candlesticks like those at the Royal palace. At the top of each of these were great iron lamps, fed with oil or butter, and each lamp had four wicks, which gave much light. These lamps they use instead of torches.This same Moor then had a horse brought for the captain-major to take him to his lodgings, but it was without a saddle, and the captain-major refused to mount it. We then started for our lodgings, and when we arrived we found there some of our men [who had come from the ships] with the captain-major's bed, and with numerous other things which the captain-major had brought as presents for the king.On Tuesday, May 29, the captain-major got ready the following things to be sent to the king, viz., twelve pieces of lambel, four scarlet hoods, six hats, four strings of coral, a case containing six wash-hand basins, a case of sugar, two casks of oil, and two of honey. And as it is the custom not to send anything to the king without the knowledge of the Moor, his factor, and of the bale, the captain-major informed them of his intention. They came, and when they saw the present they laughed at it, saying that it was not a thing to offer to a king, that the poorest merchant from Mecca, or any other part of India, gave more, and that if he wanted to make a present it should be in gold, as the king would not accept such things. When the captain-major heard this he grew sad, and said that he had brought no gold, that, moreover, he was no merchant, but an ambassador; that he gave of that which he had, which was his own private gift and not the king's; that if the King of Portugal ordered him to return he would intrust him with far richer presents; and that if King Camolim would not accept these things he would send them back to the ships. Upon this they declared that they would not forward his presents, nor consent to his forwarding them himself. When they had gone there came certain Moorish merchants, and they all depreciated the present which the captain-major desired to be sent to the king.When the captain-major saw that they were determined not to forward his present, he said, that as they would not allow him to send his present to the palace he would go to speak to the king, and would then return to the ships. They approved of this, and told him that if he would wait a short time they would return and accompany him to the palace. And the captain-major waited all day, but they never came back. The captain-major was very wroth at being among so phlegmatic and unreliable a people, and intended, at first, to go to the palace without them. On further consideration, however, he thought it best to wait until the following day. The men diverted themselves, singing and dancing to the sound of trumpets, and enjoyed themselves much.May 30. On Wednesday morning the Moors returned, and took the captain-major to the palace. The palace was crowded with armed men. Our captain-major was kept waiting with his conductors for fully four long hours, outside a door, which was only opened when the king sent word to admit him, attended by two men only, whom he might select. The captain-major said that he desired to have Fernao Martins with him, who could interpret, and his secretary. It seemed to him that this separation portended no good. When he had entered, the king said that he had expected him on Tuesday. The captain-major said that the long road had tired him, and that for this reason he had not come to see him. The king then said that he had told him that he came from a very rich kingdom, and yet had brought him nothing; that he had also told him that he was the bearer of a letter, which had not yet been delivered. To this the captain-major rejoined that he had brought nothing, because the object of his voyage was merely to make discoveries, but that when other ships came he would then see what they brought him; as to the letter, it was true that he had brought one, and would deliver it immediately.The king then asked what it was he had come to discover: stones or men? If he came to discover men, as he said, why had he brought nothing? Moreover, he had been told that he carried with him the golden image of a Santa Maria. The captain-major said that the Santa Maria was not of gold, and that even if she were he would not part with her, as she had guided him across the ocean, and would guide him back to his own country. The king then asked for the letter. The captain-major said that he begged as a favor, that as the Moors wished him ill and might misinterpret him, a Christian able to speak Arabic should be sent for. The king said this was well, and at once sent for a young man, of small stature, whose name was Quaram. The captain-major then said that he had two letters, one written in his own language and the other in that of the Moors; that he was able to read the former, and knew that it contained nothing but what would prove acceptable; but that as to the other he was unable to read it, and it might be good, or contain something that was erroneous. As the Christian was unable to read Moorish, four Moors took the letter and read it between them, after which they translated it to the king, who was well satisfied with its contents.The king then asked what kind of merchandise was to be found in his country. The captain-major said there was much corn, cloth, iron, bronze, and many other things. The king asked whether he had any merchandise with him. The captain-major replied that he had a little of each sort, as samples, and that if permitted to return to the ships he would order it to be landed, and that meantime four or five men would remain at the lodgings assigned them. The king said no! He might take all his people with him, securely moor his ships, land his merchandise, and sell it to the best advantage. Having taken leave of the king the captain-major returned to his lodgings, and we with him. As it was already late no attempt was made to depart that night.May 31. On Thursday morning a horse without a saddle was brought to the captain-major, who declined to mount it, asking that a horse of the country, that is a palanquin, might be provided, as he could not ride a horse without a saddle. He was then taken to the house of a wealthy merchant of the name of Guzerate, who ordered a palanquin to be got ready. On its arrival the captain-major started at once for Pandarani, where our ships were, many people following him. The others, not being able to keep up with him, were left behind. Trudging thus along they were overtaken by the bale, who passed on to join the captain-major. When they reached Pandarani they found the captain-major inside a resthouse, of which there were many along the road, so that travelers and wayfarers might find protection against the rain.May 31 to June 2. The bale and many others were with the captain-major. On our arrival the captain-major asked the bale for an almadia, so that we might go to our ships; but the bale and the others said that it was already late---in fact, the sun had set---and that he should go next day. The captain-major said that unless he provided an almadia he would return to the king, who had given orders to take him back to the ships, whilst they tried to detain him---a very bad thing, as he was a Christian like themselves. When they saw the dark looks of the captain-major they said he was at liberty to depart at once, and that they would give him thirty almadias if he needed them. They then took us along the beach, and as it seemed to the captain-major that they harbored some evil design, he sent three men in advance, with orders that in case they found the ship's boats and his brother, to tell him to conceal himself. They went, and finding nothing, turned back; but as we had been taken in another direction we did not meet.They then took us to the house of a Moor---for it was already far in the night---and when we got there they told us they would go in search of the three men who had not yet returned. When they were gone, the captain-major ordered fowls and rice to be purchased, and we ate, notwithstanding our fatigue, having been all day on our legs. Those who had gone in search of the three men only returned in the morning, and the captain-major said that after all they seemed well disposed towards us, and had acted with the best intentions when they objected to our departure the day before. On the other hand we suspected them on account of what had happened at Calicut, and looked upon them as ill-disposed.When they returned [June 1] the captain-major again asked for boats to take him to his ships. They then began to whisper among themselves, and said that we should have them if we would order our vessels to come nearer the shore. The captain-major said that if he ordered his vessels to approach his brother would think that he was being held a prisoner, and would hoist the sails and return to Portugal. They said that if we refused to order the ships to come nearer we should not be permitted to embark. The captain-major that said King Camolin had sent him back to his ships, and that as they would not let him go, as ordered by the king, he should return to the king, who was a Christian like himself. If the king would not let him go, and wanted him to remain in his country, he would do so with much pleasure. They agreed that he should be permitted to go, but afforded him no opportunity for doing so, for they immediately closed all the doors, and many armed men entered to guard us, none of us being allowed to go outside without being accompanied by several of these guards. They then asked us to give up our sails and rudders. The captain declared that he would give up none of these things: King Camolin having unconditionally ordered him to return to his ships, they might do with him whatever they liked, but he would give up nothing.The captain-major and we others felt very down-hearted, though outwardly we pretended not to notice what they did. The captain-major said that as they refused him permission to go back, they would at least allow his men to do so, as at the place they were in they would die of hunger. But they said that we must remain where we were, and that if we died of hunger we must bear it, as they cared nothing for that. Whilst thus detained, one of the men whom we had missed the night before turned up. He told the captain-major that Nicolau Coelho had been awaiting him with the boats since last night. When the captain-major heard this he sent a man away secretly to Nicolau Coelho, because of the guards by whom we were surrounded, with orders to go back to the ships and place them in a secure place. Nicolau Coelho, on receipt of this message, departed forthwith. But our guards having information of what was going on, at once launched a large number of almadias and pursued him for a short distance. When they found that they could not overtake him they returned to the captain-major, whom they asked to write a letter to his brother, requesting him to bring the ships nearer to the land and further within the port. The captain-major said he was quite willing, but that his brother would not do this; and that even if he consented those who were with him, not being willing to die, would not do so. But they asked how this could be, as they knew well that any order he gave would be obeyed. The captain-major did not wish the ships to come within the port, for it seemed to him---as it did to us---that once inside they could easily be captured, after which they would first kill him, and us others, as we were already in their power.We passed all that day most anxiously. At night more people surrounded us than ever before, and we were no longer allowed to walk in the compound, within which we were, but confined within a small tiled court, with a multitude of people around us. We quite expected that on the following day we should be separated, or that some harm would befall us, for we noticed that our jailers were much annoyed with us. This, however, did not prevent our making a good supper off the things found in the village. Throughout that night we were guarded by over a hundred men, all armed with swords, two-edged battle-axes, shields, and bows and arrows. Whilst some of these slept, others kept guard, each taking his turn of duty throughout the night.
On the following day, Saturday, June 2, in the morning, these gentlemen [i.e., the bale and others] came back, and this time they wore better faces. They told the captain-major that as he had informed the king that he intended to land his merchandise, he should now give orders to have this done, as it was the custom of the country that every ship on its arrival should at once land the merchandise it brought, as also the crews, and that the vendors should not return on board until the whole of it had been sold. The captain-major consented, and said he would write to his brother to see to its being done. They said this was well, and that immediately after the arrival of the merchandise he would be permitted to return to his ship. The captain-major at once wrote to his brother to send him certain things, and he did so at once. On their receipt the captain was allowed to go on board, two men remaining behind with the things that had been landed. At this there was great rejoicing, thanks being rendered to God for having extricated us from the hands of people who had no more sense than beasts, for we knew well that once the captain-major was on board those who had been landed would have nothing to fear. When the captain-major reached his ship he ordered that no more merchandise should be sent.