Sunset at Kappad Beach
Global awareness, global warming, global politics, global citizen, global governance… the word ‘global’ has become part of our daily conversations. It is hard to imagine a world where you cannot pick and choose goods and products from all over the globe. We are truly enjoying the fruits of globalisation. I was reminded of a significant historical incident on the route to this globalisation, when I visited Kappad, a beach on the Malabar coast on the south western shore of India.
In 1453 Ottoman Turks, under the leadership of Sultan Mehmed II, conquered the city of Constantinople, after a siege that lasted 50 days. With the fall of Constantinople (the city was renamed Istanbul), the Ottoman Turks cut off the overland caravan routes that were essential to the spice trade between Europe and countries in Asia that produced spices like cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, ginger, and turmeric.
Meanwhile, the demand for spices which were scarce and costly kept growing in Europe. In addition to flavouring food, spices were valued for their medicinal qualities and as a status symbol.
Finding a sea route to India became an immediate need. Tales carried by travellers, of the fabulous wealth of the East, also fuelled the quest. It was under these circumstances that King Manuel of Portugal commissioned an expedition to India under Captain-Major Vasco da Gama, who set out with four ships on July 8, 1497. After much hardship, Vasco da Gama landed at Kappad near Calicut (of Calico fame) on May 20, 1498. Thus was started an era of strife and competition and warfare among the European nations for mastery over the land and wealth of the East. At the same time, it also was the beginning of cultural and commercial interactions on a global scale.
Calm, serene, peaceful… these are the words that best describe Kappad beach today.
The place is very beautiful and quite. Rocky formations extending into the ocean on either side of the sandy beach add an extra charm. The huge rocks can easily be climbed and provide wonderful views.
On a regular day, the beach is not crowded at all.
It is glorious to sit on the rocks and watch the sun setting in the Arabian Sea.
The old temple on one of the rocky formations is quite charming.
If you are an early bird and get to the beach, in the morning when the fishermen’s boats land, you can buy almost live fish, including the fabulous pearl spots.
The early stories about the mysterious East were so full of fantasy… In the 7th century, Europeans believed that pepper grew on trees guarded by serpents. The only way it could be harvested was by setting the trees on fire, which would frighten the serpents away. May be that would have explained why pepper was black… 🙂