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History

The origin of Goa is lost in the mists of time. In the Vedic period (1000 - 500 BC), when the Hindu epic Mahabharata was written, Goa has been referred to with the Sanskrit name Gomantak, a word with many meanings, but generally signifying a fertile land. In the past, Goa has been known as Govapuri, Gomantak or Aparant. The Arab sailors knew it as Sindabur or Sandabur, and the Portuguese as Goa.

 

Goa was the first part of India that was colonized by Europeans and also the last to be liberated.

Hindu Legends and Mythology

The most famous legend associated with Goa, is that of the mythical sage Parashurama (the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu), who several thousand years ago created the entire stretch of Konkan coast by ordering the seas to recede. The Sea God gave up the lands on the banks of the two main rivers of Goa viz. Mandovi and Zuari (then called Gomati and Asghanasini) for the settlement of the Aryans accompanying Parashurama. This land, known as "Aparant" or "Shurparak", is spread between the Sahyadri mountains and Sindhusagar.

An interesting sidelight in this legendary origin of Goa is that Parashurama is supposed to have shot an arrow from the top of the Western Ghats into the sea to command the Sea God to withdraw till the place where the arrow fell and claimed that land to be his kingdom. The place where the arrow landed was called Bannali (in Sanskrit for 'where the arrow landed'; Bann: arrow, ali: village), or today's Benaulim.

Parashurama arrived in the new abode with other Saraswat Brahmins and sages in order to perform the Yagna and other rituals. These Brahmin families of Dashgotras from Panchgoudas of Trihotrapura in northern India came along with their family deities and settled themselves in this land of Gomantak or the land of the Gods as it came to be known thereafter.

They initially settled at Mathagram (Margao), Kushasthal (Cortalim) and Kardalinagar (Keloshi). The main deities which also came along with them were Mangirish, Mahadeo, Mahalaxmi, Mahalsa, Shantadurga, Nagesh, Saptakoteshwar besides many others. According to local legend, the ash found at Harmal beach in Pernem Taluka is cited as the ash of the Yagna or holy ritual performed in Goa.

Today a temple of Parashurama exists in Painguinim village of Canacona taluka in South Goa. There is no concrete proof to determine the exact date of the arrival of Saraswats or Parashurama in the area, nor is it conclusively proved that Saraswats or other Aryans were the first to arrive in Konkan.

Even if the legends are considered as only myths, the residence of Saraswat Brahmins in Goa since ancient times along with their family deities is an undeniable fact. And most probably they arrived in Goa under the leadership of a towering personality named Parashurama.

Another legend, less well known, states that the coastal area of Konkan enchanted Lord Krishna, who was charmed by the beautiful ladies bathing in the area. The ladies in turn, were so taken up by the melodious music coming from his flute, that they kept dancing forgetting their daily chores. Lord Krishna named the land Govapuri after the cows (gov) belonging to the locals.

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