17 May 1498 is the day Vasco-da-Gama reached India.
Here’s a short story about it…
When Vasco-da-Gama docked at Malindi in modern day Kenya, on the East coast of Africa, his crew was listless, after months of travel and no clear navigation path to Bharat.
At the harbour as he walked about, he saw ships twice the size of any of his in his ships. Amazed he walked up and enquired about the owners and uses of the ship. He found the ships were merchant vessels bearing flags he had never seen before, and found the ships carrying cotton, indigo and spices from Bharat!!!
He rushed to meet the ship’s captain and found an unassuming man staring out at the sea.
Vasco-da-Gama got an African translator to introduce him to the Indian, and asked for directions to India. The owner of the ship, agreed to not just navigate his lead ship but even tugged his boats with the huge Indian ship.
The unassuming Indian boat owner and captain was Kanji Malam from Mandvi in Gujarat.
After a span of 23 days at sea, on the 17th of May, today in the year 1498 Vasco Da Gama’s ships saw land off the coast of Calicut, and Kanji sailed on to Gujarat from there.
Vasco-da-Gama had no idea how Kanji had navigated the seas as he had used a technique which nobody in the ‘west’ was aware of at the time.
The quality of Kanji’s navigation can be assessed from the fact that Vasco Da Gama took 125 days to sail back to Africa on his return journey.
The story of Kanji Malam is portrayed at the Naval Museum at INS Dronacharya, Kochi and the routes and navigation method he used are also included in the exhibit…