Vasco da Gama: Round Africa to India, 1497-1498 CE



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Primary Source Analysis

Vasco da Gama: Round Africa to India, 1497-1498 CE

According to Halsall (26), the residents of India have a yellowish-brown complexion. They eat gazelles, seals and whales, as well as, the roots of herbs. The mode of dressing includes skins and sheaths. They have plenty of olive wood. Their dogs are similar to those in Portugal, in nature. Similarly, according to Halsall (26), the birds in India resemble those of Portugal and are varieties including gulls, cormorants, turtle doves, crested larks and many others. The climate in India is pleasant and conducive as it enables supports multiple plantation. There are captives that are small in nature just like Sancho Mexia. In India, bees deposit their honey at the foot of the mounds within the bushes; therefore, people gather honey in the sand. According to Halsall (26), people from the natives eat whatever is available and dress accordingly. There is a variety of natives, as well as, a diversity of merchandise in this country.

The goods available for exchange from the natives include shells, which they wear as ornaments in their ears. In addition, there are foxtails that they use to fan their faces. The natives value copper as they wear small beads of the metal in their ears. The Negroes also consume seal and roots. The Negroes are of high spirit and capable of violence. This is because they wounded the captain-major. According to Gama (27), this occurred when Fernao Velloso came alongside the vessels after having a meal with the Negroes and began to shout that the Negroes were in the bush. The Negroes came running after their boat and wounded four people including the captain-major. According to Halsall (27), all of this occurred because they looked at the Negroes as men of low spirit and quite incapable of violence. This, therefore, had made them land into their place without arming themselves. They had to return to their ships.

Ibn Battuta arrives at the city of Mali

 The Capital of the King of Mali comprises of the blacks, though there are quarters occupied by whites. The qadi of Mali was a Negro, a pilgrim and a man of good character. The interpreter was also a black and one of the principals of the blacks. The people are kind as they gave gifts of foon to Ibn Battutta, as well as, treting him with the greatest generosity. The food consumed in Mali comprises of gruel made of a root, which resembles colocasia. People prefer this food to all other meals (Halsall, 323). The medicine ‘baydar”, made of vegetable roots, mixed sugar, and antiseed, and stirred with water is used to treat and cure illnesses. Mansa in Mandingo means sultan and is used to refer to the kings. In commemoration of respected people, influential people attend the ceremony. The sultan presents gifts of bread, sour curds and beef fried in native oil rather than robes of honor and money. This is what the sultan offered Ibn Battuta.

In Mali, the king holds audiences in the palace yard on certain days. The ‘pempi’ is a platform under a tree, which is carpeted with silk and cushions. A pavilion is also established surmounted by a bird in gold almost the size of a falcon. During these occasions, the king’s dress code is a red tunic that is velvety, and which is made of ‘mutanfas’ (European fabrics). The king is preceded by his musicians. According to Harsall (326), two horses and two goats are brought and serve as a protection against the evil eye. The Negroes are submissive to the king and swear by his name. The king is highly respected by the residents in this country. There are festivals of the sacrifice and the fast-breaking. During these events, the sultan takes his seat on the ‘pempi’ after the prayers of mid-afternoon. Magnificent arms are brought by amour bearers. Four amirs stand at his head to drive away the flies. The rest of people such as the commanders, the preacher, and qadi sit in their usual places. Dugha (the interpreter) comes with his wives (four in number) and slave-girls, wearing beautiful robes, as well as, fillets of gold and silver.

Dugha plays an instrument made of reeds and chants a poem to praise the king. The women sing along with Dugha. There are thirty youths during this occasion who beat drums, as well as, pupils who turn wheels in the air just like the natives of Sind. The king then presents a gift to Dugha. The commanders give thanks to the sultan, and in the next day, the commanders give Dugha a present. According to (Halsall, 338), during every Friday Dugha carries out a similar ceremony. During the feats days, poets recite their poems in front of the sultan after Dugha finishes his show. After the recitations, the chief of the poets climbs on the ‘pempi’ and lays his head on the king’s lap and on his shoulder. This practice is an old custom among the people in Mali before the introduction of Islam.

Ibn Battuta judges the people in Mali as having admirable qualities are just. The king has no mercy to anyone who is guilty of his actions. The security in the country is tight meaning that there is no fear among travelers and in habitants of the country. They observe the time of prayers and attending congregations. They observe the Friday prayers and wear clean white garments on these days. They have a zeal for learning and memorizing the Koran. The poor quality of people in this country as observed by Ibn battuta is that women servants and slaves go in front of everyone naked. The eating of carrion, asses and dogs according to Ibn Battuta, as well as, the custom of putting dust on their heads as a sign of respect is a poor habit (Halsall, 335)


Works Cited

Halsall , Paul . “Vasco da Gama: Round Africa to India, 1497-1498 CE .” Modern History Sourcebook: 5.4 (1998): 26-40. Print.

Halsall, Paul . “Ibn Battuta arrives at the city of Mali, capital of the kingdom of Mali .” Medieval Sourcebook 6.1 (2001): 323-335. Print.

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