The Portugese ship anchored 2 leagues from Kozhikode

Vasco da Gama set foot on Indian shore at Panthalayani

Little known facts about the history, heritage and social landscape of Kozhikode are raised and discussed at meetings of the Calicut Heritage Forum, launched by a group interested in these facets of the city.

About its prime objective, C.K. Ramachandran, convener of the forum, says: “The emergence of Kozhikode as the capital of a flourishing centre of manufacturing and trade coincided with the emergence of the rule of the Zamorins in the 12th century AD.

In the next 800 years, Kozhikode witnessed the rise and fall of the Zamorins, the Portuguese, the Mysore Kingdom and the British. These turbulent times have left behind their record in the shape of monuments, documents, cultural practices and folklore.

Much of this has been preserved for the sake of posterity. However, we feel a lot more needs to be identified and documented. Ours is a humble effort in this direction.”

At one of its meetings, the discussion centred on the question “Did Vasco da Gama land in Kappad?”

Popular belief

Mr. Ramachandran, who introduced the topic, said though popular belief was that Vasco da Gama landed at Kappad, some 15 km north of Kozhikode city (this has been accepted by historians and the State government, which is promoting Kappad as a tourist destination), historical evidence indicated that he did not land there.

A diarist who was part of the voyage had recorded that Vasco da Gama’s ship, navigated by a Moor (some say Gujarati) from the African port of Milindi, anchored two leagues from the city of Kozhikode.

The diarist recorded, “We did so because our pilot mistook Capna, a town at that place, for Calicut.”

This is the first reference to the small hamlet of Kappad (also known as Kappakkad), Mr. Ramachandran said. When the Zamorin came to know of the arrival of the Portuguese, he instructed the Thalachennavar (Mayor) to ensure that the armada was safely anchored at the port of Panthalayani (Pandarani, according to the diarist).

This was to protect the ships from the fury of the coming southwest monsoon.

“Thus, it was at Panthalayani that Vasco da Gama set foot on the Indian shore,” said Mr. Ramachandran, basing his arguments on his readings of books on Malabar.

During the discussion that followed, it was contended a local businessman had set up the stone which commemorated the landing of Vasco da Gama at Kappad during the last century.

Interesting incidents

Participants referred to interesting incidents involving Vasco da Gama’s visit to two local temples.

It was said they were taken first to the Durga temple at Puthoor, near Puthiyangadi (outskirts of Kozhikode), and to another Durga temple at Varakkal (near West Hill).

At these places, Vasco da Gama and his team thought they were worshipping “Our Lady.” The Portuguese carried the impression that people of Calicut were Christians.

In his report to the King of Portugal, Vasco da Gama said he had discovered the Christian kingdom of the East.

Neither the Zamorin nor his officials bothered to correct the misunderstanding for some reason, a participant in the discussion said.

Question of discovery

Finally, the question did Vasco da Gama ‘discover’ the route from Europe to Calicut was discussed. Bartholomeo Diaz had already charted the route till the ‘Cape.’ Vasco da Gama travelled northeast from there to Maputo, Mombasa and Milindi.

From Milindi, a navigator escorted him till Kozhikode.

Achievement

What then was the great explorer’s achievement?

Perhaps, Vasco da Gama’s achievement was that his was the first continuous journey from Europe to the shores of Malabar, a participant in the discussion remarked.

Mr. Ramachandran says, “One of our important tasks is to create a sense of awareness and belonging for the city’s heritage among the local community — and among students in particular — and thereby generate social responsibility for their preservation. This can be achieved only with the collaboration of the citizens who take pride in the unique composite culture which symbolises our city’s heritage.”

An Indologist from Poland will be the speaker at the meeting of the Calicut Heritage Forum later in November.

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To know more about the activities of the forum, log on to http://calicutheritageforum.googlepages.com or http://calicutheritage.

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R. Madhavan Nair

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