Portuguese in India. How Vasco da Gama landed in Goa.

What is colonialism? 

Portuguese in India started the colonialism in India. Many may answer that colonialism refers to the ruling of a country over another country but it actually means the rule of a country over another country for economic gain, i.e., the main motive of the ruling country is just to gain economic benefits rather than ruling and developing that country. 

Was Vasco da Gama, the first European who came to India? 

It was a myth that Vasco da Gama a sailor from Portugal was the first European in India, because we did not know that the main focus of European was not to rule India but to trade of spices with India because in Europe, climatic condition was not in favor to cultivate spices. But, their route was much different than Vasco da Gama’s route as they used to travel to India from the Mediterranean Sea via  the Red Sea. The spices were very valuable to Europeans because of the unfavorable climatic conditions to grow spices in Europe. The spices were so valuable for them that they were ready to gold in exchange of it, as at that time it was very useful to cure diseases. But as the Roman Empire started losing its control in Europe the trade declined. 

The beginning for the discovery of a new sea route. 

The spice trade between Europe and India was very much difficult as the old trade route had declined and the European traders had to pay high amount to the traders of the Ottoman Empire for importing spices from India even when the spices prices were very high. Thus, there was a need for the discovery of a new sea route to India to prevent them from the high prices paid to the traders. 

Now, in order to, find a new route to India, King John II of Portugal appointed a Portuguese explorer named Bartolomeu Dias on 10th October, 1486 to head on an expedition to find India by sailing towards the south of Africa. After about 10 months of planning, Dias with his crew members set off on the journey to discover the route to India in August 1487. On his way towards Africa he reached many ports from where they used to get provisions. After a long sail towards the west coasts of Africa they finally moved round from the Cape of Good Hope and reached Kwaaihoek on 12th March, 1488. Dias wanted to move towards the north-east but the crew members refused to go ahead because of the climatic conditions and they returned to Lisbon in December, 1488. Later on Christopher Columbus an Italian navigator also went on a voyage to discover India by sailing round the earth but he reached America. 

The first successful voyage of Portuguese to India.

After Bartolomeu Dias voyage to the southernmost tip of Africa another voyager named Vasco da Gama went on the same route and it is often said that he was helped by a merchant but there is no clear evidence about the merchant who helped him reach India. After his long way journey from the ports of Africa he finally reached Calicut (in Kerala) on 20th May, 1498. He asked the King of Calicut to allow trade with them but the king replied that he will also have to pay the custom duties like the other traders. The Arabs did not liked them as they were competitor to them. Finally, he left for Lisbon in October, 1498. 

On his next voyage in 1502 he asked the king to expel all Arabs from Calicut so that the Portuguese could create a monopoly over the trade route but the king refused and then Vasco da Gama bombarded the city and captured the port area. But, the third time when he arrived India he died out of malaria and was buried in Cochin. Although, he died but he sowed the seed of colonialism in India. 

Portuguese colonialism in India 

The Portuguese colonialism started in India by the capturing of major sea ports in order to create monopoly in the trade. Thus, they started setting up factories in many regions of the Western Coast of India. The first European factory in India was set up by the Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral in Calicut in the year 1500. But, after 2 months of its establishment it was attacked by the Arabs as they had a rivalry with them. This incident ended with the death of about 50 Portuguese. Later on, as we discussed earlier Vasco da Gama bombarded Calicut and captured it when the king refused to expel the Muslims from there. 

After capturing Calicut they started capturing many other major sea ports of India like Cochin and Cannanore. In the year 1503, they established their first fort in Cochin. After this Francisco de Almeida became the first Viceroy of Portuguese India in 1505. In 1509, Almeida became the first Portuguese to sail to Bombay. 

After 5 years of Viceroy Ship he died and Afonso de Albuquerque became the next Viceroy in 1510. In 1526, they captured Mangalore under the Viceroy Ship of Lopo Vaz de Sampaio. Later on in the year 1530 Goa became of the capital of Portuguese India and they also captured Diu in 1530 and Daman in 1559. After this the Nagar and Dadar Haveli were also annexed. They also captured the eastern Indian port of Hooghly which was later taken away from it. They also captured many ports of Sri Lanka also like Colombo, Trico male, Galle and Matara. These ports helped them in increasing trade profits as they enjoyed the monopoly power over the major sea ports because of the custom duties. 

Introduction of new harvests in India 

Beside these annexations, the Portuguese also introduced some crops which are still grown in India today also like papaya, cashew nuts, red chillies and tobacco. Although, they also introduced many other crops, these were the major ones with tobacco being the most dominant one. The tobacco cultivation was in ample amount as the climatic conditions were much ideal for its cultivation as compared to the European countries. The effect of high tobacco cultivation is very clear today also as India is the second largest producer of tobacco today after China and Brazil is the third largest producer of tobacco because of the Portuguese colonialism there also. 

Why Portuguese could not conquer India? 

Now, a question arises that if the Portuguese had captured the coastal regions and were having the monopoly over the ports then why did they failed in conquering the rest of the country. The main reasons responsible for the failure of Portuguese in India were: 

  • The strong empires of India – A main reason for the inability to conquer India was the rule of the Indian rulers which were very strong during the mid of the 16th century like the Mughal Empire and the Maratha Empire. That is why, they could not conquer the interiors of India. 
  • The decline of the Vijaynagar Empire – The Vijaynagar Empire which ruled most of the South India started losing its strength by the end of the 16th century. Its rule was very important for the Portuguese as many of the major sea ports of the Portuguese like Calicut, Cochin and Cannanore were on the coastline of the Vijaynagar Empire and thus, the Empire became a very important source of revenue for the Portuguese because of the trade practices. 
  • The Corrupt practices of the Portuguese – After the weakening of the Vijaynagar Empire the Portuguese could not generate much revenue so as to pay salaries to their employees and this forced the employees to take bribe from people to generate money. Thus, the management also got weakened. 
  • Arrival of other European countries – By the beginning of the 17th century many other explorers from other European countries like Dutch and later on the French and British started capturing the sea ports like the Battle of Swalley which became the main reason for the failure of Portuguese rule in India. 

To read what happen next visit:- https://myknowledgeclub.com/how-dutch-comes-to-india-and-won-over-portuguese/

Written by :- Rajvansh Sharma.

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