May 28, 1498. It was on this historic day the Western world’s 5 centuries long colonial invasion of the Indian subcontinent began. Vasco da- Gama,the Portuguese seafarer stepped on the shores of Kappad beach in Kozhikode with 170 men on this day and made history by becoming the first to discover the sea route to India around the Cape of Good Hope in the southern tip of Africa. Until then the world had thought the only way toreach the spice-rich Indian coast was through the Mediterranean discovered since by the ancient Roman traders.
Kozhikode, capital of Zamorins, was however known to the Arab, Chinese, African and Roman traders much before Gama’s expedition as the centre of Malabar’s coveted spices and other wealth like pepper, cardamom, ivory etc. Gama’s setting foot in Kozhikode opened the gates for each colonial power of the following centuries to make a beeline to India first as traders then as conquerors. They included Gama’s own Portuguese first followed by the Dutch, French and the English in the next 5 centuries. Thus Kozhikode,-the jewel in the crown of Malabar-entered history as the first door for the West for its economic and geographic invasion of the subcontinent as its unsuspecting and hospitable king, the Zamorin, welcomed the first foreign visitors with open hands. The Arab traveler Ibn Batuta called Kozhikode as a great port where traders from all parts were found. Thanks to the Arab traders, it was from Kozhikode that Islam spread to the state as acommunity of Mappila (Moplah) Muslims emerged here.
Though today this ancient port town has grown into a major commercial centre it continues to bear the indelible marks of its tumultuous history. But despite its centuries-long exposure to a variety of foreign powers,Kozhikode (Calicut as the English called it) successfully retains all its ethnic Malabar flavors too.
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