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Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 2, p. 446.


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CHAPTER XIII
THE EARLY EUROPEAN SETTLEMENTS
The Portu- THE Muhammadan invaders of India had entered across the
guese in north-west mountains. Her Christian conquerors approached
India. by sea from the western coast. From the time of Alexander
the Great (327 B.c.) to that of Vasco da Gama (A.D. r498),
Europe had held little direct intercourse with the East. An
occasional traveller brought back stories of powerful kingdoms
and of untold wealth; but the passage by sea was scarcely
dreamed of, and, by land, wide deserts and warlike tribes lay
between. Commerce, indeed, struggled overland and by way
of the Red Sea. It was carried on chiefly through Egypt,
although partly also across Syria, under the Roman Empire;
and in later mediaeval times by the Italian cities on the Medi-
terranean, which traded to the ports of the Levant. But to
the Europeans of the fifteenth century India was an unknown
land, which powerfully attracted the imagination of spirits
stimulated by the Renaissance and ardent for discovery.
In I492 Christopher Columbus sailed westward under the
Spanish flag to seek India beyond the Atlantic, bearing with
him a letter to the great Khan of Tartary. He found America
Vasco instead. An expedition consisting of three ships, under Vasco
da Gama, da Gama, started from Lisbon five years later, in the southern
1498. direction. It doubled the Cape of Good Hope, and cast
anchor off the coast of Malabar near Calicut on May 20,
I498, after a protracted voyage of nearly eleven months. An
earlier Portuguese emissary, Covilham, had reached Calicut
overland about i487. From the first, Da Gama encountered
hostility from the Moors, or rather Arabs, who monopolized
the sea-borne trade; but he seems to have found favour with
the Zamorin, or Hindu Raja, of Calicut. After staying three
months on the -Malabar coast, Da Gama returned to
Europe, bearing with him a 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,



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