There are many tales that are popular of people who traveled the world and explored varying cultures in their lifetime. However, there are a few people who made history for traveling the world because of the unique experiences they had. The tales of these people lived on and became a legacy in the years to come. Vasco Da Gama is a very popular name in the world of traveling history. He holds the credit for being the first person who sailed from Europe to the Indian region. Vasco Da Gama is a Portuguese sailor and is known for being most popular in the era that was popularly known as the ‘Era of Exploration’. The one thing that Vasco Da Gama became undeniably popular for was for his travel voyage directly from Europe to India very successfully. The discovery of this man holds a lot of significance in history because his travel voyages and bravery adventures helped him make Portugal a vast and major colonial empire of the world.
Overview of life of Vasco Da Gama
Vasco Da Gama is a very renowned and legendary name in the history of Portugal. He is a deeply honored man and his legacy continues to live in the present Portugal history as well. Vasco Da Gama was a nobleman who lived from the period of 1460 to 1524. His most prominent work in his lifetime was his travel from Lisbon to India. The main aim behind this direct voyage was to discover and start a sea route that directly connected the European region to East. Though many people believe that the direct journey from Lisbon to India meant a direct sail with no stops on the way; this was not entirely the case. His travel to the Indian coast had several stops midway. All the stops he made during the voyage were mostly in the region of Africa. At the time of the start of the journey and through the entire sail for years, Vasco Da Gama was not as big a name as he became when he arrived back home to Portugal. On his return, he was treated like an unedifying hero who had come back with great honor. His second voyage was not of will but rather on higher authority orders; that trusted him to attack the Muslim clan who was on the rise at that time. He fulfilled what he had ben trusted for. It was more for his bravery and smart mind that he became a hero for the Portugal cultures. After 20 years, Vasco Da Gama was sent back to India and this time he returned with the title of a viceroy for Portuguese. This, however, turned out to be his last journey and he died in India because of his poor health. He died in the present day city of India known as Kochi.
Early years of life
Born to a noble and renowned family of Portugal, Vasco Da Gama was raised in Portugal as well. He was born in 1460 in the city of Sines, Portugal. However, a few historians also debate the year of birth to be 1462. There is not much that has been recorded in history about the early life years and upbringing of Vasco Da Gama. There are however a few things that are known about him and noted in history.
- He was the third youngest son of Estevao Da Gama.
- Estevao Da Gama was the commander of the Portugal Army and was positioned in the fortress of Sines for a major part of his life.
- As a young man, Vasco Da Gama joined the army of Portugal as well. In the army, he began to acquire the basic knowledge of navigation and exploration.
Significance of the first voyage
From the very beginning of his days as a brave and fearless navigator of the Portugal army, Vasco Da Gama earned himself a well-deserved reputation for a knowledgeable sailor. The knowledge he had gained about navigation and sailing in his little time in the Portugal army was commendable. This became his reason to leave for his first voyage as well. In the year of 1492, King John ii who ruled over Portugal at that times dispatched orders for Vasco Da Gama. He was being sent to the French region known as Algarve to capture the French ships to revenge the unjust behavior the French government had demonstrated with the Portugal men. Vasco Da Gama was meant to travel from Lisbon to Algarve via the waters.
Vasco Da Gama was successful in fulfilling the orders from the King and returned home in no time after ceasing the French ships. However, King John II came off the throne not long after and was succeeded by King Manuel in 1495. King Manuel, as soon as he took over the throne, started to revive the plan to explore a direct route from Europe to India. The original plan was to facilitate trade by finding a direct route. This was the time when Portugal had managed to establish a successful position in Portugal as a recognized marine country.
First voyage to the Indian lands
King Manuel selected Vasco Da Gama to sail to India from Europe to discover a direct trade route because he was the most trusted and capable sailor at the time. Hence, along with 4 vessels and 170 men was sent out towards India via the waters. He captained all four vessels. He was also accompanied by his brother Paolo Da Gama.
The route Vasco Da Gama chose was through Africa. He sailed towards the south and traveled across the western African coasts. He then ventured into the Atlantic Ocean, gradually making his way towards into the India Ocean. However, by the time he had reached the Indian Ocean more than half of his men had developed a disease known as scurvy. Therefore, Vasco Da Gama had no choice but to stop and take a rest break at Mozambique to allow the men to recover and restore on all food supplies. However, this was the time when they began having battles with the Sultan who did not believe the European gifts to be enough for the rich and wealthy Muslims. This was they had to face a lot of hardships on their way to India. However, final after traveling for some more time, Vasco Da Gama along with his crew arrived in India. This was the year 1498.
Return from 1st voyage
Though the first voyage lasted for around 2 years but Vasco Da Gama only stayed in India for around 3 months. During this time duration, he traded spice and earned a good profit for it. When he was leaving back for home, he was alerted of an approaching storm but he left nonetheless. As predicted a very threatening rainstorm hit the ships while they were on the waters. The travel across the Indian Ocean that should traditionally have taken no longer than 3 weeks lasted for more than 3 years and the men faced a very tough time on the waters. As a result, all ships took different routes towards Portugal. The result was that all other ships returned back home way earlier than the main ship being captained by Vasco Da Gama that was traumatized the word. Word spread in the country and the bravery of Vasco Da Gama became extremely popular as well. Vasco Da Gama returned home last, almost 2 months after every other ship had made it back home.
Circumstances on return home
Years had passed ever since Vasco Da Gama had left home on his first voyage. It was after more than 2 years that he had spent on his journey that he came back home. In this total time period of a little over 2 years, Vasco Da Gama held pride in traveling over 24,000 miles and had spent 302 days on the water. At the time of departure of the first voyage, there were 170 men who had left alongside Vasco Da Gama. However, by the time he made his way back home, only 54 men returned including Da Gama. All other team members died, either of injury of severe illnesses that they developed on their way through different lands. Da Gama’s brother Paolo Da Gama was also one of the people who died during the journey. Despite returning home with such few men, Vasco Da Gama was still honored as a hero and welcomed by his countrymen with open arms. As a reward for his bravery and noble position, he was also offered the hand of Lady Catarina De Ataide in marriage. She belonged to a very noble family of Portugal. He accepted and in no time after his return, they both were married in an elaborate celebration.
Second-time travel to India
The second travel to India happened in 1502 and was a rather deadly one because Vasco Da Gama slaughtered a lot of Muslims in India this time. He even attacked a ship that was returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca and killed Muslims endlessly. This spread till India and hence, the Indians decided to cease the trade between Europe and India. However, a direct route had been established by the time.
Life after return from 2nd voyage
There is not much known about the life of Vasco Da Gama after he came back home from his second voyage. Though initially, Vasco Da Gama had enjoyed a lot of appreciation and praise as a national hero, this time around he had to face disappointment and criticism. This came from people who were not supportive of his exploitation acts that he made during the second Voyage in India. Failing to understand where and why the criticism was pouring in, Vasco Da Gama felt offended and betrayed by his countrymen as many sources report.
This is why Vasco Da Gama came to the decision to never travel again and settle into a life of a normal man along with his family. He was fortunately also married at the time and had six sons to look after. Therefore, he made the decision to retire from navigation and sailing and began living a happy family life. However, though he had retired from sailing professionally, he maintained an active contact with King Manuel. He did this in order to advise the king on matters relevant to the Indian land and in return earned financial rewards for it that helped him maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, his active involvement with King Manuel soon earned him a royal title as well. He was titled the Count of Vidigueria in 1519. This was less than two decades before his death.
Final Voyage and Death
After a few years of being title the Count of Vidigueria by King Manuel, the king passed away. The new King appointed was King John III. Within days of being titled the King, he asked Vasco Da Gama to return to India. Though Vasco Da Gama was well over with traveling and exploring and had aged in the past years as well, there was no chance of defying the orders of the King. As an honorary incentive for coming out of retirement on the King’s order, he was made the Viceroy of Portugal before he left for India. Hence, as an official of the Portugal royalty and government, Vasco Da Gama began sailing towards India in 1524 yet again. However, little was it known at the time that it would be the last journey of Vasco Da Gama in his lifetime!
Within no time after arriving in Cochin (present day Kochi) India, Vasco Da Gama became desperately ill. The illness he developed was unnamed at that time and hence, there was no cure available for it. Fighting the unknown disease, Vasco Da Gama died in India in 1524, the same year he had come to India. He was buried in a Catholic church after his death in India. Years after his death, his remains were brought back to his homeland Portugal in 1538 and buried there again.
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