Da Gama was a Portuguese explorer and navigator, and the first person to sail directly from Europe to India.
Vasco da Gama was born in about 1460 into a noble family. Little is known of his early life. In 1497, he was appointed to command an expedition equipped by the Portuguese government, whose intention was to find a maritime route to the East.
Setting off in July 1497, da Gama's expedition took advantage of the prevailing winds by sailing south down the coast of Africa, then veering far out into the Atlantic and swinging back in an arc to arrive off the southern African coast. This established a route still followed by sailing vessels. The expedition then rounded the Cape of Good and, after sailing up the coast of east Africa, took on an Arab navigator who helped them reach the Indian coast, at Calicut (now Kozhikode) in May 1498. This voyage launched the all-water route from Europe to Asia.
Da Gama returned to Portugal. The king immediately dispatched another expedition to secure a trading post at Calicut. After hearing of the massacre of all those at the trading post, da Gama sailed for India again in 1502 attacking Arab Muslim ships he met on the way. He forced the ruler of Calicut to make peace and, on his return voyage along the east African coast established Portuguese trading posts in what is now Mozambique.
Back in Portugal, da Gama was granted further privileges and revenues and continued to advise the king on Indian matters. After 20 years at home, in 1524, he was nominated as Portuguese viceroy in India and sent to deal with the mounting corruption among Portuguese authorities there. Arriving in Cochin, he fell ill and died on 24 December 1524. In 1539, his body was taken back to Portugal for burial.
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