Discovery of Sea-route to India:
Discovery of Sea-route to India by western countries happens to be one of the most important events in modern times. The wealth of India was an attraction.
The Europeans knew about the wealth since ancient time out of the trade link that India established with Greece and Rome. Indian traders used to carry Indian goods for sale in European markets through Afghanistan, Persia, Arab, Egypt and Turkey with hardship.
Europeans to facilitate trade with India were putting efforts to discover Sea-route to India. Some businessmen used to carry Indian goods to European markets through Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Persian gulf.
All these trade routes were closed for the Europeans during medieval period. The Muslims of Arab countries monopolized the trade and prevented others for that trade profit. Gradually the relation of the western people with the Muslims became bitter. By the end of medieval period there took place a great change in the minds of the Europeans due to the Renaissance. People could come to know the theory that “Earth is round”.
The world famous geographer Cristopher Columbus on the basis of this idea ventured to discover the sea-route to India. For this he appealed the European Kings for help. At last he got the blessings of the king and the queen of Spain for help and started his journey in the Atlantic Ocean.
After a long journey on the sea columbus and his sailors reached in a new land and hoisted the Spanish flag. Columbus thought that he had reached the Islands nearby India and thus named the islands as Indies and he called the people of that place as Red Indians because of their body colour. Actually Columbus could reach in the islands near North America and thus the Europeans could discover America.
On the other hand the Portuguese sailors were busy in getting the discovery of Sea-route to India materialized. Portuguese sailor Barthelomiu-Diaz started his journey and reached in the Southern part of Africa.
He could not able to proceed further due to heavy storm in that island and returned from that place giving the name of that place as the Cape of Storm. Vasco-da-Gama ventured to cross that cape of storm and reached near Calicut in the year 1498 on the western coast of India.
As he could not get any trouble in the cape of storm and could easily enter into the stream of Indian Ocean he renamed that island as Cape of Good Hope. Thus the Sea-route to India was finally discovered by Vasco-dagama in 1498 that made every European happy.
A new chapter in the history of India began. European traders started coming to India for trade. Competition for supremacy for trade among the European community’s started to grow on the soil of India. Among the Europeans the English, the French, the Dutch, the Spaniards, the Portuguese marched for creating a mark of their commercial supremacy in India.
Vasco-da-Gama discovered the sea-route and reached Calicut and entered into the court of Zamorine, the king of Calicut and presented the letter of the king of Portugal along with some valuable gifts. Zamorine welcomed Vasco-da-Gama and permitted him for establishing business settlements in Calicut. Alfonso-De-Albuquerque then came with ships and anchored near Calicut. He brought fame for Portuguese king but Portugal was not destined to win a permanent dominion in India.
In 1509 Albuquerque became the Governor of Portuguese settlement and became the founder of Portuguese power in India. In 1510 he conquered the Goa port and subsequently the Portuguese people extended their power to Diu, Daman, Salset, Basin, and Bombay.
The trading methods of Portuguese sea captains turned to be more than a flavor of piracy and profits were derived quite as much from plundering raids upon Arabian merchants. Portuguese treatment of the natives often showed cruelty lower than the standard of a cruel age.
With the result natives started to hate them and the Indian kings began to retaliate against them and gradually their image was shattered and they were made confined only in three places, Goa, Daman and Diu up to 1961 when the Government of Indian Republic liberated these places from their control.
Consequently they lost their ground while competing with others. One of the Governors in India Alfonzo-de-Souza nicely put it in 1545 that “the Portuguese entered India with the sword in one hand and the crucifix in the other finding much gold, they led aside the crucifix to fill their pockets and not being able to hold them up with one hand they were grown so heavy they dropped the sword to being found in this posture by those who came after they were easily overcome”. The Portuguese power thus dwindled away and confined themselves in three small places till 1961.
After nearly a century the people of Holland popularly known as the Dutch came to India for trade in 1596. They named themselves as the Dutch East India Company in 1602. They had to face sharp opposition from the Portuguese in the beginning and finally the Dutch emerged successful and captured a number of places from their rivals. The main aim of the Dutch Company was to import spices from India and for the whole of the 17th century they were the chief spice traders from the East to West.
At different places in India, the Dutch established their factories. The most notable of those places were Musalipatam, Surat, Karikal, Chinsura, Cassimbazar, Balasore, Patna and Cochin. Besides spices they were making hectic business in silk, cotton goods, rice, indigo, and opium. In the long struggle between English and the Dutch the English became victorious and the Dutch power began to decline from India.
The people of Denmark or Danes also came to India towards the later part of the 17th century. They made Serampur in Bengal as the chief centre of their trade activities. They were very weak to compete with other Europeans and with the foundation of the British Empire the Danish hope to thrive ended forever.
The English East India Company:
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth there began the real greatness of Great Britain. Francis Drake the great English sailor of Elizabethan era once plundered the Portuguese ship and collected a map of the Sea-route to India and after that he completed his voyage round the world in 1580.
The English sailors braved the Sea-voyage and tried to make their fortune in the East. After the defeat of the Spanish Armada the courage of the nation increased. At last towards the close of the reign of that great Queen a company of the traders obtained the charter from Queen Elizabeth on 31st December 1600 A.D for trade with the East.
First they called themselves as the company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies and subsequently they became famous as the East India Company. India at that time was ruled by Akbar. Nobody could imagine at that time that the English in someday would rule India and another Queen of England Victoria would call herself the Empress of India (Kaiser-i- Hind).
The English traders reached India in 1608. Next year they sent Captain Hawkins to Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s Court for permission for trade. Hawkins met him in 1609 and prayed for permission to establish a trade settlement at Surat. The emperor was willing and at last in 1613 Jahangir permitted the East India Company to establish a factory at Surat.
Thereafter Thomas Roe was sent and he remained in the court of Jahangir for a long period and established a close personal relation with the emperor. Through his effort the East India Company obtained permission to establish trade centres at a few places in the Mughal Empire.
In course of time at many places in India the English factories began to rise and the local kings or Governors allowed them to carry on trade and establish small settlements. The English East India Company established their settlements at Surat, Agra, Ahmadabad, Masulipatam, Hariharpur, Balasore, Hugli, Cassimbazar and Patna. Among all their settlements three places — Madras, Bombay and Calcutta rose into prominence and became strong holds of the English Company.
Madras was established in 1639 by an English man named Francis Day. The chief of Chandragiri a local ruler on the Coromandal Coast gave a piece of land to Day on lease and in that small place the English constructed a big factory well protected and fortified by strong walls. That fort was called Fort St. George and became the centre of Madras.
Bombay came under the possession of the Company in 1668. It was occupied by the Portuguese and the king of Portugal while giving his daughter Catherine in marriage to the king of England Charles II gave it away as dowry. King Charles II gave it away to the East India Company in 1668. The Company then established a big commercial centre at that place and Bombay began to grow since then with the fort St. David.
The most important English settlement began to grow at Calcutta in the year 1690. An English man Job Charnok established a factory at a place called Sutanati. That was the place destined to be the future capital of the British India for a long period till 1911. At the order of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb his Subadar granted some trade facilities to the East India Company. Within a few years the company became the landlord over three villages of Sutanati, Kalikata and Govindpur.
On those villages there developed the most prosperous trading centre named as Calcutta. A fort was built there which became Fort William which was made their official headquarters. The East India Company began its Indian career and the servants and the traders of the company began to measure the scope for unlimited commercial enterprise with immense profit. The wealth of India made them more and more greedy.
They started to work in unity and with confidence. The company came basically for trade yet it obtained permission from the Home Government to fight with other powers if necessary to safeguard its interest. That enabled the company to maintain an army and thus the company began to emerge as a military power in India.
The French East India Company:
The French East India Company was formed in 1664 sixty four years after the formation of the English East India Company. Calbert the French Minister did his best to organize that company. The king of France Luis XIV, the Grand Monarch granted many rights to the company and financed it.
Within four years in 1668 the French Company established a factory at Surat and then at Musalipatam. The biggest French settlement was established at Pondicherry by a French man Francois Martin in 1674. Pondicherry very quickly grew into fame as a centre of trade in the Southern India.
Gradually they fortified Pondicherry and made it a strong citadel of French power. They maintained a small European army and trained Indians in Western warfare and the Indian soldiers came to be identified as Sepoys.
The French Governor of Pondicherry M. Dumas combined power and politics with trade and commerce. His power attracted the attention of the Indian rulers who unfortunately could not anticipate the future dangers from the foreigners. Duma was succeeded by the greatest Frenchman Joseph Francois Dupleix. His intelligence and high aspiration led him to dream a French Empire in the East.
He observed the weakness of the Indian rulers. India appeared the most suitable place for political adventure when India was passing through one of the worst period of her history due to internal fighting among the rulers. Dupleix prepared him for his venture and proceeded with his ambitious designs against the rival English Company. The English Company took up the sword to oppose. India turned to be a battlefield of Europeans.