From the European and world point of view the Continent of America was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492. However few know that it is because of India that Columbus discovered America! The following is the account of the historians – extracted from The Kingfisher Illustrated History of the World page 338-340.
In the second half of the 15th century, European sailors and navigators began to plan voyages which would take them beyond the limits of the world they knew. The main reason was to set up new trading links with the spice producing countries of Asia. Until 1453, spices were brought overland to Constantinople and then taken across the Mediterranean to the countries of Europe. This made them expensive. In spite of this, spices were an essential part of everyday life. There was no refrigeration so the only way to preserve meat was by salting it. Adding spices helped to hide the salty taste, and they also concealed the taste of meat which had gone bad despite being salted.
After 1453 with fall of the Byzantine Empire, direct land links between Europe and Asia were cut off completely. If spices were to reach Europe, then a sea route to the East had to be found. When Portuguese began exploring the west of Africa in the 1460s, they set up forts and traded in gold, ivory and silver. Gradually they sailed further south and Barthoholomeu Dias reached the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of Africa in 1488. Years later, he helped Vasco Da Gama to plan a voyage which took him round the Cape and across the Indian Ocean to Calicut. Vasco da Gama reached Calicut, India on May 20, 1498. Da Gama was followed by Pedro Cabral who returned from India with a cargo of pepper. This encouraged other navigators to try and sail further east. In I 517 the Portuguese reached China, and nearly 30 years later they arrived in Japan.
While the Portuguese sailed east, the Spanish sailed west. In 1492, Queen Isabella sponsored Christopher Columbus, a navigator from Genoa in Italy, to find a route to India. Existing maps showed the world to be much smaller than it really is. When Columbus reached a group of islands across the Atlantic, he was sure he had reached his goal and called them West Indies. They were the Caribbean Islands of the coast of North America! (They set sail on Aug. 3, 1492 from Palos, Spain, and on October 12, 1492, spotted the Caribbean islands off southeastern North America.) Land was sighted at 2 a.m. on 12 October 1492, by a sailor named Rodrigo de Triana (also known as Juan Rodríguez Bermejo) aboard Pinta. Columbus called the island San Salvador – now The Bahamas. Columbus also explored the northeast coast of Cuba (landed on 28 October) and then returned home. He made 3 more voyages and discovered many parts of West indies islands and latin America and Canada.
So his attempt to fond a new spice route to India is what led to the discovery of the Americas!
Also see India is shining !!