Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/168

This page needs to be proofread.


[i6 4 j CHAPTER XII. Early European Settlements, 1500-1700. Europe and India before 1500 A.D. — The Muhammadan invaders of India had entered from the north-west. The Christian conquerors of India came by the sea from the south. From the time of Alexander the Great (327 b. c.) to that of Vasco da Gama (1498 a.d.), Europe held little direct intercourse with the East. An occasional traveller brought back stories of powerful kingdoms and of untold wealth. Commerce never ceased entirely. It was carried across Western Asia ; or through Egypt and the Red Sea, and finally fell to the Italian cities on the Mediterra- nean which traded with the Asiatic ports of the Levant. In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed westwards under the Spanish flag to seek India beyond the Atlantic, bearing with him a letter to the great Khan of Tartary. He found America instead. Vasco da Gama, 1498. — An expedition under Vasco da Gama started from Lisbon five years later, in the opposite or eastern direction. It doubled the Cape of Good Hope, and cast anchor off the city of Calicut on the south-western coast Of India on the 20th May 1498, after a voyage of nearly eleven months. From the first, Da Gama encountered hostility from the Moors, or rather Arabs, who monopolized the sea-borne trade of the Malabar coast ; but he seems to have found favour with the Zamorin, or Hindu Raja, of Calicut. After staying nearly six months on the Malabar coast, he returned to Europe, bearing with him the following letter from the Zamorin to the King of Portugal : — ' Vasco da Gama, a nobleman of your household, has visited my kingdom, and has given me great pleasure. In my kingdom there is abundance of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, pepper, and precious stones. What I seek from thy country is gold, silver, coral, and scarlet.'