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To make traditional batik, designs are hand-drawn with hot wax on prepared fabric, using special tools called cantin. Designs follow standardized patterns, some of which have been preserved for centuries. The wax is used to cover the areas which are to be protected from the dye. The cloth is then dyed, and additional areas are covered with wax before it is immersed in a second color of dye. This process is repeated until all of the colors have been added. The making of a fine batik can take as long as six months, and such works are highly prized.
Commissioned by King Manuel I of Portugal to find Christian lands in the East (the king, like many Europeans, was under the impression that India was the legendary Christian kingdom of Prester John), and to gain Portuguese access to the commercial markets of the Orient, da Gama extended the sea route exploration of his predecessor Bartolomeu Dias, who had first rounded Africa's Cape of Good Hope in 1488, culminating a generation of Portuguese sea exploration fostered by the nautical school of Henry the Navigator. He was created count of Vidigueira for his services to the crown.
Da Gama's voyage was successful in establishing a sea route from Europe to India that would permit trade with the Far East, without the use of the costly and unsafe Silk Road caravan routes of the Middle East and Central Asia. Together with Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama is deservedly one of the most famous of all European explorers since his voyages changes the face of the globe, bringing two continents closer to each other for good or for ill.