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The Rediff Special /Archana Masih

Gama thought the Hindu residents of the port city were some kind of Christians

Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope, passed Mozambique, Kenya and reached Calicut on May 20, 1498. During the voyage, he twice lost sight of land for ninety days and reached India with the help of an Arab navigator, Ibn Majid. He met the Zamorin of Calicut and presented him with gifts far to meagre for the prestige of an opulent raja.

Other misjudgements followed: He thought the Hindu residents of the port city were some kind of Christians and their temples, some kind of churches.

Gama stayed in India for three months and returned to Lisbon in August. His brother who accompanied him died on the way and one of his ships had to be burnt because several crew members contracted disease. He received a hero's welcome in Lisbon and was made admiral of the Indian ocean by King Manuel I.

He returned in 1502. However, this time with brutal hostility. His fleet plundered Muslim ships and Gama asked the Zamorin to expel all Muslims in Calicut. He seized a ship carrying pilgrims to Mecca, robbed it and killed more than 300 men, women and children.

Gama's final voyage to India came 21 years later. This time, he was viceroy of Portuguese India. By now his ideas were different, he wanted to establish trading pacts with locals without colonisation and conversions. But he served a very short tenure and died on Christmas Eve, 1524. He was buried in Cochin and fourteen years later his remains were transported back to Portugal.

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