There are some important points which Castaneda wrote in his “The History of the Conquest of India”. Read through and this is the narrative which will be built. It is something like, after the violence in Africa, it is possible that the Zamorin got to know of the Portuguese and treated them nothing more than normal pirates. He cut them down to size – 11 of his compatriots were made to walk while only Gama was given a litter, they were made to pray in a Hindu Temple(and this is immediately after the inquisition news started trickling in), they were treated as play things in full view of the court, and when the Zamorin saw the quality of wares they brought with them, he decided to shoo them away. They were asking for a proof of their visit, which the Zamorin was not ready to do. And the Zamorin is impatient, they were behaving like freeloaders – nothing they bought is being sold, they are not paying the mandatory customs duty. So, what do the Portuguese do? They kidnap a few people and demand the wares they want, and once the wares are brought, escape with the prisoners. And what a counter narrative they built!!
All these things being settled, the general went on shore with his twelve attendants, all in their best attire; their boat furnished with much ordnance, dressed out with flags and streamers, and sounding trumpets all the way from the ships to the shore…
Ordnance from the ship to the shore in a small boat? What sort of ambassador is he?
The general being mounted in one andor and the kutwal in another, they set out for a town called Capocate, all the rest being on foot;
Except Vaso da Gama, all of his compatriots were walking.
From this place the kutwal carried the general to one of their pagodas or idol temples, into which they entered, and which the kutwal said was a church of great holiness. This the general believed to be the case, fancying it to be a church of the Christians; which he the more readily believed, as he saw seven little bells hung over the principal door. In front of this entry, there stood a pillar made of wire as tall as the mast of a ship, on the top of which was a weathercock likewise made of wire
Calicut is a well known sea port, with people from many areas coming and going, both from East and from West. There is a Chinakottah, the Spanish inquisition on the fall of Granada led to an exodus of Jews and Calicut was one of the destinations, Muslims had a trade monopoly on that area, Kodunganallur, the base of Syriac Christans is under the control of the Zamorin. Spanish Inquisiton would have given Calicut a clear picture of Portugal and Spain, their antics in Americas and the likes. And going by the fact that Calicut operates only on two tenets – don’t make a ruckus over religion and don’t kill cows, there is no reason for the Kotwal to insult Gama unless he planned it.
After this, on entering the city, the crowd was so great that they could hardly make their way through the streets. The general was astonished to see such multitudes, and praised god for having brought him in safety to this city, humbly beseeching his divine mercy so to guide him on his way that he might accomplish the objects of his expedition, and return safely into Portugal.
An indication that Calicut is one of the largest places he ever saw – may be, even bigger than Lisbon?
On coming to the gate of the house in which the king resided, they were met by the chief bramin, or high priest of the royal household, a little old man, who embraced the general, and conducted him and his people into the palace.
Is it possible?
Water was then presented to all the company to wash their hands, which was very refreshing, for, though it was then winter, they were very hot.
Winter in May? Or, they didn’t even know when they landed?
They were then presented with figs and jakas, and the king was much pleased to see them eat, laughing at them and conversing with the old man who served him with betel. Our people being thirsty, called for water, which was brought to them in a golden ewer, and they were directed to pour the water into their mouths as it is reckoned injurious to touch the cup with their lips. They accordingly did as they were directed; but some poured the water into their throats and fell a coughing, while others poured it beside upon their faces and clothes, which much amused the king.
Was there any concern or attempt to comfort them? There was only derision and they were treated as playthings.
After this, the king desired the general by an interpreter, to speak to those who were present as to the purpose of his coming to Calicut. But the general was not satisfied with this, and signified that he was ambassador from the king of Portugal, a powerful prince, and that Christian princes were not used to receive the embassies of other sovereigns by means of a third person, but by themselves in person in the presence only of a few of their principal persons: and this being the usage of his country, he chose to deliver his message only to the king himself. The king agreed to this, and commanded the general and Fernan Martinez who acted as interpreter, to be conducted into another chamber, which was adorned with as much magnificence as the first.
I have problems with this. In spite of the Spanish Inquisition, are we saying the king doesn’t know? Or is he just humoring them?
Next day, being Tuesday, the general was greatly rejoiced to see so promising a commencement of his business, and resolved upon sending a present to the zamorin; upon which he sent for the kutwal and the kings factor, to whom he shewed the present which he proposed sending. This consisted of four capotas or cloaks of scarlet cloth, six hats, four branches of coral, twelve almasares, a box containing seven brass vessels, a chest of sugar, two barrels of oil, and a cask of honey. The kutwal and factor laughed in derision at this present, saying, that this was no fit present for their king, the poorest merchant presenting one more valuable. They desired him rather to send gold, as the king would accept, of nothing else. The general was offended at this, saying, if he had been a merchant he would have brought gold; but, being an ambassador, he had brought none. That what he now offered were his own goods, and not belonging to the king his master; who, being uncertain if he should ever reach Calicut, had given him nothing to offer as a present to the zamorin.
Is he serious? What sort of an ambassador is he, and what sort of a kingdom is his, which can’t afford to lose valuable gifts or trust it’s ambassador on a critical mission?
The general remained the whole of this day in his lodgings, much displeased that the kutwal and factor had not returned according to promise, and was at one time resolved to have gone to court without them; yet thought it better to wait till next day. In the afternoon of the Wednesday, the kutwal and factor made their appearance, when he mentioned his dissatisfaction at their long absence; but they talked of other things, and gave him no answer on that subject. At length they accompanied him to the palace; but the king, having greatly changed his mind towards him, made him wait three hours for admission, and then ordered that only two of his people should be admitted into the presence along with himself. Though the general considered this separation of his people as not looking well, he went into the presence attended by Fernan Martinez and Diego Diaz, his interpreter and secretary. The king did not receive him so well as formerly, and said with a severe countenance that he had expected him all the preceding day. And since it was manifest that he had brought him nothing, he demanded of him to send him the golden image of the Virgin, which he understood was in his ship.
Meaning the king knew of their so-called presents. He also knew how long it will take for them to return with better presents. What’s the use of the mission, then? By asking the statue of Mary, was the Zamorin goading them into anger?
One of these was written in the Portuguese language, and the other in Arabic; and the general explained that this had been done, because the king his master did not know which of these might be understood in the dominions of his highness: And, since he now knew that Portuguese was not understood in India, whereas Arabic was, he requested that some Christian of the Indies who understood Arabic might be employed to interpret the letter, because the Moors were known to be enemies to the Christians, and he was afraid lest they might purposely give it a wrong interpretation. The king gave orders to this purpose, but no Indian could be found who was able to read the letters, or at least who would acknowledge that he could read them. Seeing that it was now necessary that it should be read by the Moors, the general requested that Bontaybo should be one of those appointed for the purpose, placing more reliance on him than the others, as he was an acquaintance. The king accordingly commanded the letter to be read by him and other three Moors; who, having first read it over to themselves, interpreted it aloud to the king, to the following effect: “As soon as it became known to the king of Portugal, that the king of Calicut was one of the mightiest kings of all the Indies and a Christian, he was anxious to establish a treaty of amity and commerce with him, that he might procure spices, which were in great abundance in his country, and to procure which the merchants of many parts of the world trade thither: And, if his highness would give a licence to send for spices, he would send many things from his kingdom which were not to be had in the dominions of his highness; or if these things were not satisfactory, of which the general could shew him some samples, he was willing to send money, both gold and silver, to purchase the spices. And finally referring his highness to the general for farther information.”
Another bag of lies. It’s a Malayali translation of an Arabic letter. How did Gama knew what transpired?
The general immediately desired the kutwal to order him to be furnished with an almadia or pinnace, to carry him and his people on board; but the kutwal said it was now late, and the ships so far away that he might miss them in the dark, for which reason he had better stay till next day. The general then said, if he were not immediately furnished with an almadia, he would return to the king and complain that he was detained contrary to his license, and even mentioned as if he meant to return immediately to Calicut.
No one on a trade mission barge into a city and demand everything without inviting retribution. Is Gama that foolish or is there something he doesn’t want to tell us?
In the mean time, while messengers were dispatched on pretence to seek almadias, the general, having a strong suspicion that evil was intended towards him,
Calicut is an open port having people of all religions and ethnicities. Why fear unless there is something you did wrong or there is a general hostility? If there is a general hostility, is it because of their antics in Africa where they blasted towns?
Yet it was the will of God that the kutwal dared not to kill the general or any of his men, although the Moors had bribed him with a great sum of money, and notwithstanding his great credit with the zamorin.
Again lies. The Moors had the full weight of Oman and Ottoman Navies behind them and they had time to destroy them in open seas. But, they go for a treacherous murder. This paranoia will continue till the end – the Kotwal confined him, he was giving excuses for not sending them back to the ships and so on.
On receiving this letter, and a circumstantial relation from the messenger of all that had happened on shore, Paulo de Gama immediately sent the goods; but said in answer to the general, that he could not answer to his honour to return to Portugal without him, and he trusted God would enable the small force he had still in the fleet, with the aid of his ordnance, to compel the kutwal to liberate him.
Something fishy happened, which the Portuguese were hiding. Calicut was trading for almost 450 years without an incident, what happened this time?
Thinking that the zamorin knew nothing of all these transactions, he sent him an account of the whole five days afterwards, by his factor, of all that had happened, and of the injurious conduct of the Moors respecting the sale of the goods. The king seemed much offended by these proceedings, sending the general word that he would punish all those who had used him ill, yet the kutwal remained unpunished.
Again and again and again…the Zamorin has got a kingdom to rule, not to be an attendant to the boorish and uncouth foreigners.
The king likewise sent seven or eight merchants of Guzerate, who were idolaters, to buy the goods, accompanied by an honest nayre, to remain with Diaz at the factory to defend him against the Moors. Yet all this was only done colourably, that the Moors might not appear to suborn the merchants; for these men bought nothing, and even beat down the price of the commodities, to the great satisfaction of the Moors; who now boasted that no person would buy our goods any more than they.
This can be interpreted two ways – the Portuguese didn’t have anything worth selling, the Moors wanted no sellers. I would rather go by the first option, not the second one.
They bartered several things on shore, such as bracelets of brass and copper, pewter, and other European articles, for the productions of the country, as freely and quietly as if they had been in Lisbon.
Seeing the quietness of the people, and their familiarity with his men, who never met with any injury from the Moors or nayres, the general believed the zamorin was willing to preserve friendship and peace with the subjects of Portugal, and determined upon establishing a factory in Calicut for the sale of his commodities, although very little of what was landed had as yet been sold. By this means, he hoped to lay a sure foundation for the establishment of trade, against the next expedition which the king his master might send, if god pleased to send him home with the intelligence of the discovery.
This is a reference to what they brought with them. Who would want to buy such trinkets? And this is a clear indicator of their grasp of reality – what exactly are they planning to sell?
He likewise prayed his highness to send on board as a full confirmation of his having actually made the voyage to India, a bahar of cinnamon, another of cloves, and a third of some other spices, which should be paid for by the factor out of the first sales of the goods in his possession. It was four days after Diaz received this order before he could get access to the zamorin, though he went every day to the palace for this purpose. At length he was admitted to audience; and on seeing Diaz with his present, the king asked him what he wanted in so stern a manner that he was afraid of being killed. After delivering the message from the general and wishing to deliver the present, the king refused to see it, and commanded that it should be delivered to his factor. The answer he gave to the message was, that since the general wished to depart he might do so, but must first pay him 600 serasynes, according to the custom of the country.
It’s natural the king will be angry – Gama brought wares which have no value, he wants some stuff on credit, which will be based on the sale of goods which won’t be sold, he gives a present, again, not worthy of the king and may be, the Zamorin is under the impression that they are planning to make a run without paying the customs duty? And with the sort of stuff they brought, the worst the Zamorin ever saw, what’s the guarantee they are not pirates? After all, their track record in Africa proved that.
This was done out of policy to deceive the general and to detain our ships, till the king might be able to send his own fleet to set upon him, or till the ships might arrive from Mecca to take him prisoner.
So, the complaints went to the Ottomans over the Portuguese antics in Arabian Sea…
But, on the Sunday, six principal Malabars came on board attended by fifteen men in another pinnace. Believing that the king would liberate Diaz and Braga in return for these men, he made them all prisoners; and sent a letter in the Malabar language, by two of the native boatmen, to the kings factors, demanding his factor and clerk in return for those men he had detained on board.
So, the Portuguese fired the first shot. And going by the fact that six people of note came aboard, how much should be believe in the Portuguese claim that the Zamorin intended foul play?
The Malabars pretended that they had brought off all the goods, which they offered to put into his boat, and required him in return to deliver up the rest of the prisoners. But convinced this was a mere deception, the general desired them to go away, as he would have none of their merchandize, and was resolved to carry the Malabars to Portugal as witnesses of his discovery. He added, if God spared his life, he should convince them whether the Christians were thieves, as the Moors had made the king of Calicut believe, who had therefore treated him with so much injustice. He now commanded several cannon to be fired, on which they were afraid and made off.
So, they have finally skipped the customs duty…