We’ve all grown up hearing stories and reading about Vasco da Gama. Despite not discovering any new land, or any new path, he is one of the most famous explorers. He is widely considered to be among the first explorers, and the most famous and important Portuguese explorers. He is the first European to set foot on Indian soil, a feat he achieved when he arrived at Calicut on Malabar Coast on May 20, 1498. His discoveries were made possible after a few years earlier, Bartolomeu Dias found out that the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean were connected. That paved the way for explorers to go to India and other countries. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the unknown facts about Vasco da Game. These are the kind of facts not many of us learn in school.
He was a racist
You can somehow understand Vasco’s hatred towards Muslims and Arabs. After all, Lisbon and Portugal were under Arab slavery and command for more than 400 years. The Moors, an Arabic nomadic tribe from North Africa, invaded Portugal in the 8th century.
That is why when Vasco went to India, he demanded that all Muslims be banned from the country. In addition, he massacred several Muslims returning from Mecca by setting their ships ablaze. He often ordered his commanders to go after Arab and Muslim ships.
Exploring runs in the family
Da Gama was born in a noble family. His wather, Estevao, was also a known explorer and a knight. Actually, his father wanted to launch an expedition to India, but it never happened. Estevao was supposed to be the commander of the expedition to India. But because the expedition was delayed for so many years, Vasco ended up being the commander. In a way, if the expedition was not delayed, we might not even know about Vasco da Gama. He would have been the son of the famous explorer, not the explorer himself.
He was in the army
Being born in a noble family, it was mandatory that Vasco da Gama joined the navy. There, he learned to navigate, as soon as he was old enough to join the navy. It was there that he learned all of the nuances that later helped him to sail to India.
He was not initially buried in Portugal
Vasco da Gama died on his third trip to Portugal. Because he died in Kochi, his body was originally buried in St. Francis Church, which is the oldest European church in India. The church has a great historical significance, being a mute witness to the European colonial struggle. After fourteen years, his remains were transported to Lisbon. He was buried in a casket decorated with gold and jewels. His remains can still be seen there, at the Belem (Jeronimo) Monastery.
He came to India thanks to Arabs
The irony here is amazing. Vasco da Gama grew up hating Muslims and Arabs. But if it wasn’t for them, he might not have gotten to India. During his first trip, most of his crew was infected with scurvy by the time they reached the Indian Ocean. Because of that he made landfall in Mozambique to rest and resupply. His crew had skirmishes there, and then landed in Mombasa and Malindi. It was there an Arab guide agreed to assist Vasco. It is believed that the guide was the famous Arab navigator, Ahmed Ibn Magid.
The legacy of Vasco da Gama, and his significance is huge. That is why he has a crater on the moon named after him. After all, he was an explorer, and nowadays, space is our frontier, not India.