Saturday, January 7

Vasco Da Gama's Description of his landing in India

While I was in Manchester son, after finishing my lecture at the uni, I was walking back to the hotel when I spotted a second hand book seller on the pavement. And of course I had to stop and browse. Besides other books, I got two books. One was on Goan food and its history and second was on Portuguese history including what the Portuguese did in Asia and India. 
The Treaty of Tordesillas which was signed between Spain and Portugal way back in 1494 divided up the free world, the Spanish got the west of Cape Verde and the Portuguese got the east. And that blasted treaty signed so many years and centuries back is still causing problems because for example Argentina used that sodding treaty to claim the Malvinas or Falklands Islands. And that Falklands war was documented by professor sir Lawrence freedman, my PhD supervisor. How's that for a link? 
The Sykes Picot treaty dividing up the carcass of the Ottoman Empire was just signed a century or so back. If the The Treaty of Tordesillas is any guidance, the bloody Middle East will be in turmoil for another 3-4 centuries. 
Anyway, the Portuguese were admired for their ship building and navigation prowess. For a minor economy to rule over such a large empire was amazing. But the brutality was also extraordinary. Never before had anybody seen such brutality in the Indian Ocean before and believe you me, there have been some despots. See what religious fervour does to you? 
But this document is fascinating. The riches of India meets the greed and religious fanatics of Europe. But they left behind some exciting architecture in Goa and some excellent food. I'm looking to make some of those dishes. 

Vasco Da Gama's Description of his landing in India
(via Instapaper)

[Vasco Da Gama, "Round Africa to India, in The Library of Original Sources, O. J. Thatcher, ed., vol. 5 (Milwaukee, WI: University Research Extension Co., 1901), pp. 27-29]

[arrival.] That night (May 20) we anchored two leagues from the city of Calecut, and we did so because our pilot mistook Capua, a town at that place, for Calecut. Still further there is another town called Pandarani. We anchored about a league and a half from the shore. After we were at anchor, four boats (abrades) approached us from the land, who asked of what nation we were. We told them, arid they then pointed out Calecut to us.
On the following day (May 2I) these same boats came again alongside, when the captain-major sent one of the convicts to Calecut, and those with whom he went took him to two Moors from Tunis, who could speak Castilian and Genoese. The first greeting that he received was in these words: "May the Devil take thee! What brought you hither?" They asked what he sought so far away from home, and he told them that we came in search of Christians and of spices. They said: "Why does not the King of Castile, the King of France, or the Signoria of Venice send thither?" He said that the King of Portugal would not consent to their doing so, and they said he did the right thing. After this conversation they took him to their lodgings and gave him wheaten bread and honey. When he had eaten he returned to the ships, accompanied by one of the Moors, who was no sooner on board, than he said these words: "A lucky venture, a lucky venture ! Plenty of rubies, plenty of emeralds ! You owe great thanks to God, for having brought you to a country holding such riches !" We were greatly astonished to hear his talk, for we never expected to hear our language spoken so far away from Portugal.

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