European Exploration of India

India had not only been in the vivid memory of the Europeans since the exploits of Alexander the Great, but had occasionally received European visitors, such as Marco Polo on his return voyage. Prior to the Ottoman Conquest of Mamluk Egypt, Venetians, via Egypt, were involved in the Indian Ocean trade (an involvement not much publicized). Europeans consumed products originating from India (i.e. India and beyond), such as spices, precious textiles etc.
When am Abyssinian envoy reached Portugal in 1487, Pero de Covilhao travelled, disguised as a Muslim, via Alexandria, Cairo, the Red Sea, to Kozhikode (Calicut) on the Malabar Coast in India, which he reached in 1489 - nine years prior to Vasco da Gama. In 1490, at Cairo, he met two agents of the Portuguese king, whom he entrusted a report on his travels; Covilhao returned to Ethiopia, where he settled down.
When Vasco da Gama sailed out for India, he thus had definite knowledge of what awaited him, although many details were to be filled in. Following the East African coast, at Malindi he picked up an Arab pilot who showed him the route across the ocean to Kozhicode (Calicut) in India, which he reached in 1498. Da Gama's financially successful expedition immediately was followed by others; the Portuguese conquered cities on India's western coast (Goa 1510) and were in a constant conflict with Arab traders. In 1506 the first Portuguese on record reached Ceylon, Malacca was reached in 1509, Canton (China) in 1513. The first Portugiese reached Bengal in 1517, establishing regular trade. Early Portuguese relations to Gujarat were hostile; in 1512 the Portuguese burnt the important port of Surat. In 1531 the Portuguese conquered Daman (Damao, near Surat), and in 1534 Diu, an island off the southern tip of Gujarat.

Pero de Covilhao, from DW, from Vidas Lusofonas, in Portuguese
The Portuguese in the Bay of Bengal, The Portuguese in Ceylon, The Portuguese in India : Goa, The Portuguese in India : Cochin, Portuguese India : Northern Province, by Marco Ramerini
History of Surat, from in Surat
History of Daman and Diu, from Indian Visit
Colonial Coinage of India, posted by Uno Barner Jensen
REFERENCE Chapter Five : Sea Routes to the Indies, pp.60-73, in : Angus Konstam, Historical Atlas of Exploration, 1492-1600, NY : Checkmark Books 2000 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on June 25th 2003, last revised on May 11th 2006

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