FIRST VOYAGE:
TO INDIA (1541)
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The reasons for the great discoveries
Portuguese expansion in Asia
The monsoon climate
Asia today
Hinduism
Other religions

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Travelling to India (1541)

The Portuguese ambassador, on the orders of King John III of Portugal, requested the Pope to give him some of the "Paris maestros" for missionary work in India. Ignatius Loyola selected two Portuguese, Simon Rodriguez and Nicolas Bobadilla, to be sent to India. However, as the latter fell ill, he was substituted by Francis Xavier. Two days later (15 March, 1540) Xavier left Rome bound for Lisbon. Here the saint remained for one year, retained by the Portuguese King. Finally, he was able to begin his long journey to India.
The departure of the fleet on their voyage to India was a momentous event. Due to the hardships of the long and unpredictable passage the sailors made their last will and testament and confessed before setting off. Many people would gather to see off the fleet of ships.
Five galleons from the royal fleet set sail from Lisbon: Espiritu Santo, Santa Fe, San Pedro, Flor de la mar and the commanding ship, Santiago in which Xavier travelled. They had to cover some 26,000 km., the distance that separated Lisbon from the Indian city of Goa. The journey started on the 7th of April, 1541 the same day that Xavier celebrated his 35th birthday.
The voyage entailed the customary hardships and Xavier was seasick for the first two months. In the Gulf of Guinea, a long interval of still weather meant that the vessels had to stay anchored for several weeks. Under the hot sun and intense heat of summer, the victuals became rotten and infested with worms. The water became rancid and the sick lay suffering in cramped conditions below deck. Scurvy broke out among the crew and passengers followed by an epidemic of plague. Here they remained some forty days. Finally, the winds arrived and set the vessels once more in motion. They sailed towards the Brazilian coast, as this route was obligatory for the ships of the royal Portuguese fleet whose final destiny was the Far East
At the end of August, they arrived in Mozambique where they were retained for six months by the mon-
soons. The crew and the passengers were all in a pitiful physical state. It is known that Xavier arrived ill and exhausted. In spite of that, he immediately began to care for the ill in hospital.
On February, 1542 they set sail once more for India. On May, 1542, thirteen months after his departure from Lisbon, Francis Xavier could make out the approaching coastline of Goa, the final destiny of the voyage.

 
Primer viaje: de Lisboa a Goa
ampliarFirst journey: from Lisbon to Goa
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Xavier in India (1541-1545)

For the next five months, Goa served as the setting for Xavier's preaching. He also cared for the infirm at the Hospital Real, where he also resided, in spite of his standing as Papal Nuncio. He cared both for prisoners and for patients suffering from leprosy. He worked with great zeal at his preaching, the catechism and an improvement in morals.
He organized the Santa Fe College.
From Goa, he was sent down to the Fishery Coast some eight hundred kilometres away by the governor of Goa.
The Fishery Coast is situated in the extreme south of India, on the eastern side of Cape Comorin, looking at the Island of Ceylon, present day Sri Lanka. It is a large sandy belt between the sea and the barrier of high mountains. Its inhabitants, the Parava, lived in some thirty settlements of diverse extension. They made a living from fishing for pearls and they spoke the Tamil language.

La pesca de perlas
Pearl fishing
Pearl Fishing in the Indian Ocean was a dangerous activity due to the presence of sharks. The divers dived into the sea with a knife between their teeth and holding a stone as ballast. They plucked the oysters and brought them to the surface where they were opened to get the precious pearls.
ampliarPearl fishing  

In the sixteenth century the journey was made along the coast. If the winds were favourable a sailing boat could make the journey from between nine and twelve days. The saint disembarked at Tuticorin, one of the pearl-fishing settlements. This place would become the base for his activities in the region. Here he had a lot of problems coming to terms with the language. After four months in the settlement, he prepared his teaching of the catechism and began his evangelical work, town by town.
The paravas responded profusely to Xavier's preaching (1542-1543). In one letter, he wrote: "the multitude in this land which is converting to Christ's flock is such that very often my arms grow tired from baptising so many."
On his travels along the coast Xavier often came up against the Brahmins who were wary of his apostolic work and the success he was having in converting the Paravas. He held a memorable meeting with them in the coastal city of Tiruchendur at a large Hindu temple where Xavier expounded his religious beliefs (1543).
Xavier also preached in the neighbouring kingdom of Travancor (1544), which lies on the western side of Cape Comorin. The natives of this region, the Macua, were also mainly poor fishing communities like their neighbours, the Paravas. They lived in 14 different settlements and some of them were of the Muslim faith while others were Hindus.
The Rajah of Travancor requested the mediation of Xavier in order to make a political alliance with the Portuguese and he allowed his subjects to take a free decision to become Christians.
After spending five months on his apostolic mission in Ceylon (1545), Xavier travelled to Meliapur, the present day area of Madras, where it was said that the supposed tomb of St. Thomas lay. Tradition had it that this apostle had gone to India in the first century A.D. and had converted the first Christians there before dying in Madras. Xavier stayed four months in Meliapur and lived with the local parish priest, Gaspar Coelho. Here he felt that his mission to India was coming to an end and that it was necessary to spread the gospel in new lands.
With the favourable winds of September he took ship for Malacca. As a farewell gift, he was presented with a relic of St. Thomas by the local community and from then on he would take this relic everywhere with him.

 
La India
ampliarIndia
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Templo de Tiruchendur
ampliarThe temple of Tiruchendur, where Francis Xavier had a meeting with the Brahmans
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The reasons for the great discoveries

At the end of the XV century, the Portuguese and the Spanish expanded the limits of the then known world, by discovering new sea routes.
The reasons for this expansion are as follows:

Socio-economical reasons:
- The end of the horrific Black Pest (1348) and of the long drawn-out wars of the Middle Ages, meant that, by the middle of the fifteenth century, Europe underwent a considerable population increase, and consequently, more raw material was needed to supply the crafts industries.
- Industrial development needs new markets and commerce demands in turn, a flow of money, which meant that more gold and silver were needed. For this reason, Portugal began heavy trading in Africa so as to obtain gold, ivory, and slaves from the Sudan. The Muslims in Granada had already been operating in these areas. The Spanish, for their part, were mining for silver in large quantities in the South-American mines.
- When the Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, the traditional overland trade routes from Asia to Europe were cut off to Western Europe and so it was necessary to find a direct maritime route to the Far East.

Scientific and technical reasons
- The success of these expeditions was due to new technical innovations in navigation. Two essential factors that greatly facilitated long distance sailing were the compass, in use since the XIII century and the astrolabe, from the XIV century.
However, a key factor was the improvement in shipbuilding. - The galley, which had been used up to then in trade around the Mediterranean was too cumbersome to sail the deep waters of the Atlantic. The Portuguese devised two types of vessel, which would serve for long-distance voyages: the nao and the caravel. In the XVI century the caravel would be substituted for the galleon.
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Rutas castellanas y portuguesas
ampliarPortuguese and Spanish routes
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Portuguese expansion in Asia

The Portuguese hoped to find a route to the Indian spices by going down the African coast. But they did not realize that this continent was so large. The Spanish, on the other hand, wanted to reach the same places by sailing across the Atlantic, believing that The Earth was round.
The Portuguese expedition led by Vasco de Gama sailed round The Cape of Good Hope and reached India in 1498 and The Spanish discovered the Americas in 1492, believing that they had arrived in India.
Portuguese settled in Goa and at various points along the Malabar coast. There they discovered that the spices originated in Indonesia and they determined to take this trade away from the Muslims.
In 1511, under the command of Alfonso de Albuquerque, the Portuguese conquered Malacca. They subsequently landed in The Moluccas and established commercial contacts with the Sultans of Ternate and Tidore, and they settled in Ambon and Timor.

Galeón portugués
ampliarPortuguese galleons of the XVI century

The portuguese galleons of the XVI century
The Portuguese galleons were large, heavy vessels of some 800 tons with a cramped space for about 100 men (women were prohibited from making voyages) between the crew, soldiers and passengers, as well as the storage area for merchandise.
They were three-masted vessels with turrets in the bow and stern as well as several bridges. They used bulky sails which had a cross painted on them. They would carry about twenty cannon along the length of both sides of the vessel. However, in spite of their imposing size, they were not very resistant and had only a life of some four or five years before becoming dilapidated and rotten. When Xavier first set off for India in the Royal fleet of five ships, one vessel sank on the journey and another, the Santiago, on which Xavier had travelled, sank within a few months of its arrival in Goa.
The speed of the lightest of the Portuguese ships was about 95 km. per day, faster than that of any of the natives' boats from The Moluccas, Japan, China or India which could only reach a maximum of between 50 and 70 km per day.
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Goa
The city of Goa, the capital of Portuguese India, had been conquered from the Muslims in 1510 by Alfonso de Albuquerque. The Portuguese transformed the site into a splendid city, one of the most important centres of their overseas empire. A Cathedral, Churches, Palaces, Schools and Administration offices were built. Fortifications were constructed and the city had the same design as any large European city.
Capilla del Bom Jesus en Goa
ampliarChapel of Bom Jesus in Goa where the mausoleum and remains of St. Francis Xavier lie
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The monsoon climate

The tropical monsoon climate is one of the varieties of tropical climates with a dry season. Curiously enough the monsoon zone is found at the same latitude as the Sahara Desert.
This climate is characterized by its high temperatures, a wide thermal fluctuation and with intense rain concentrations in one season of the year, caused by the monsoon winds.
The monsoon is a seasonal wind which blows from the continent and from the sea by turns.
In winter, Southern Asia is whipped by the winter monsoon, coming from the North East this dry wind blows from the continent to the sea. The wind gets warmer as it moves further south.
The summer monsoon, on the other hand, blows from the South East and it is very humid because it moves across the Indian Ocean. As it moves north, it comes up against the mountains in the south of India (The Chillong Range) and rises higher. On rising it gets colder and it condenses and creates clouds, and this brings about the subsequent rain. This phenomenon is the reason why there are no desert conditions to be found in any part of Southern Asia.
This warm humid climate allows rice to be cultivated quite easily and this constitutes the traditional basic diet of the inhabitants of monsoon Asia.

Tropical cyclones
Tropical cyclones, also known as Typhoons in South-East Asia and as Hurricanes in Tropical America, are meteorological phenomena of extreme violence which affect parts of the rain tropics. Sometimes the winds will reach a speed of 200 or 300 km per hour in the form of whirlwinds and these are accompanied by torrential rains. They cause great damage to the country and communities wherever they pass through them.
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Puerto de Cochin
ampliarThe port of Cochin in the state of Kerala
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Asia today

Asia has been, and continues to be, a very attractive continent for Europeans. Its dimensions are of an enormous scale: their peaks are the highest, their mountain ranges are impassable, their large rivers cause extensive flooding, etc.
Within its enormous territory, more than half of the world's population is to be found: 1,281 million in China, 1,050 million in India and 127 million in Japan.
Up to the XX century Asia has continued to live with its traditional way of life and moral customs which have always been the basis of its civilizations. Thus, Asian culture cannot be understood without knowledge of the foundations of its religious beliefs.

 
Mercado en Panaji, capital del estado de Goa
ampliarMarket in Panaji, capital of the state of Goa
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Hinduism

The India which St. Francis Xavier experienced was a mosaic of religions and beliefs just as can still be found today: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, etc.
Without a doubt the most important of these religions is Hinduism, or Brahmanism, because of the profound role it has had on the social structure of India. Buddhism has also spread widely across Asia thanks to its open universal appeal.
Around 1200 BC Indoeuropean peoples invaded the north of India and they brought with them a wide variety of gods, which combined with the native gods and goddesses, has produced an extensive pantheon of Hindu deities, where Brahma, the supreme god rules over them all.
Hinduism, like many other religions in Asia, believes in reincarnation. After death, souls return to the earth time and time again, to become reborn in a new body. These successive reincarnations are always arduous and the final objective of the Hindu is to escape this wheel of reincarnations and become united with Brahma, who is eternal and immutable.
Hinduism entails a social system of castes. In other civilizations it is wealth or lineage which conditions the social hierarchy while in India it is religion. Brahma wanted just one single group to guard the doctrine and lead society: the Brahmans. Below them are three other groups, each one dedicated to a distinct activity: the Shatriya or warriors, the Vaisya, farmers or tradesmen and the Sudra, the serf class. Each group exists independently and they do not mix with each other.
Further below are the Pariahs, the untouchables, to whom all rights and respect are denied as they are seen as impure and outside society.
Working from these divisions, in an evolution of more than one thousand years a very complex system of castes of some 2,400 types has developed, depending on their greater or lesser state of purity.
Belief in reincarnation favours an attitude of resignation and acceptance of this unjust caste system. Inevitably, any person who does not lead an upright life is condemned to be reincarnated in an inferior life. Thus, belonging to a low caste is the consequence of immoral acts in an earlier life and a sign of culpability.
The Indian constitution, thanks to the inspiration of Gandhi, abolished the caste system. Nowadays, all citizens have the same legal rights, but traditional beliefs are not easy to change and they continue to hold a lot of sway in society.

 
Imagen india de San Francisco
ampliarIndian figure of St. Francis Xavier
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Other religions

Buddhism
Buddhism is one of the fundamental religions and cultures in monsoon Asia. Although it originated in India, it has all but disappeared from this country and it has extended to the North (Tibet), The North-East (China and Japan) and to The East (Ceylon, Indochina, Malacca and Java).
At present it has some 800 million followers and its influence has become more pronounced in the western world.


Islam
It originated in Saudi Arabia, was spread by Muslim conquerors, initially across the desert lands of the northern hemisphere (Western Asia, North Africa, Iran) whose natural conditions were similar to its land of origin. Later it spread to India (Eastern and Western Pakistan), Indonesia and down into black Africa.

 
Yogui hindu
ampliarHindu yoga man
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Exercises
1. Briefly summarize the reasons for the discoveries.
2. Why do you think that spices were so important in this period?
3. Analyze the map of the Castilian and Portuguese routes, and comment on the situation of the Turkish Empire and the need to find alternative routes to the Far East. Notice also that Xavier made the same journey as the Portuguese sailors.
4. What did the Treaty of Tordesillas determine?
5. Look for information on the territories occupied by the Portuguese Empire.
6. Find out what important achievements were carried out by Marco Polo, Columbus, King Henry the Navigator and King Juan III of Portugal.
7. Describe what a Portuguese galleon of the XVI century was like. Check the illustration.
8. What is the scurvy?
9. On a physical map of Asia locate the principal mountain ranges, the highest mountains and the main rivers.
10. How does the climate of a region affect sailing on the high seas?
11. Make a short personal observation on the caste system in India.
12. What similarities and fundamental differences can you find between the Christian religion as
preached by St. Francis Xavier and Hinduism?
Saint Francis Xavier's world home
pictures Illustrations travels
webs
contact us
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