Arrival of the Portuguese

In 1498, Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and landed at Calicut. In March 1510, Portuguese Admiral Afonso de Albuquerque attacked Goa at the behest of the local chieftain Thimayya (also referred to as Timoja). After losing the city briefly to its former ruler Ismail Adil Shah in August 1510, the Muslim king of Bijapur, Albuquerque returned in force only three months later, on November 25, with a fleet fully renovated. In less than a day they took possession of Goa from Ismail Adil Shah and his Ottoman allies, who surrendered on 10 December. It is estimated that 6000 of the 9000 Muslim defenders of the city died, either during the fierce battle in the streets or drowned while trying to escape.

Afonso de Albuquerque gained the support of the Hindu population frustrating the initial expectations of Thimayya who aspired to gain the city. Afonso de Albuquerque rewarded him by appointing him chief "Aguazil" of the city, an administrator and representative of the Hindu and Muslim people, as a knowing interpreter of the local customs. He then made an agreement to lower yearly dues and taxes. In spite of constant attacks, Goa became the center of Portuguese India, with the conquest triggering the compliance of neighbouring kingdoms: the Sultan of Gujarat and the Zamorin of Calicut sent embassies, offering alliances and local grants to fortify

In Goa, Albuquerque started the first Portuguese mint in the East, after complaints from merchants and Thimayya about the scarcity of currency, taking it as an opportunity to announce the territorial conquest. Gold, silver and bronze coins were issued, respectively gold cruzados or manueis, esperas and alf-esperas, and "leais".

Albuquerque and his successors left almost untouched the customs and constitutions of the thirty village communities on the island, only abolishing the rite of sati (widow-burning). A register of these customs (Foral de usos e costumes) was published in 1526; it is among the most valuable historical documents pertaining to Goan customs.

Goa was the base for Albuquerque's conquest of Malacca (1511) and Hormuz (1515). Albuquerque intended it to be a colony and a naval base, as distinct from the fortified factories established in certain Indian seaports. Goa was made capital of the Portuguese in Asia, and the other Portuguese possessions in India, Malacca and bases in Indonesia, East Timor, the Persian Gulf, Macau in China and trade bases in Japan were under the suzerainty of its Viceroy. By mid-16th century, the area under occupation had expanded to most of present-day limits.

Goa was granted the same civic privileges as Lisbon. Its senate or municipal chamber maintained direct communication with the King and paid a special representative to attend to its interests at court. In 1563, the Governor even proposed to make Goa the seat of a parliament representing all parts of the Portuguese East but this was rejected by the King.

The Portuguese set up a base in Goa in their quest to control the spice trade. Merchandise from all parts of the East was displayed in its bazaar, and separate streets were set aside for the sale of different classes of goods – Bahrain pearls and coral, Chinese porcelain and silk, Portuguese velvet and piece-goods, drugs and spices from the Malay Archipelago.

In 1542, St. Francis Xavier mentions the architectural splendour of the city; but it reached the climax of its prosperity between 1575 and 1625. Travellers marvelled at Goa Dourada, or Golden Goa, and there was a Portuguese proverb, "He who has seen Goa need not see Lisbon."

The houses of the rich were surrounded by gardens and palm groves; they were built of stone and painted red or white. Instead of glass, their balconied windows had thin polished oyster-shells set in lattice-work. The social life of Goa's rulers befitted the headquarters of the viceregal court, the army and navy, and the church; luxury and ostentation becoming a byword before the end of the 16th century.

Almost all manual labour was done by slaves; common soldiers assumed high-sounding titles, and it was even customary for the poor noblemen who congregated together in boarding-houses to subscribe for a few silken cloaks, a silken umbrella and a common man-servant, so that each could take his turn to promenade the streets, fashionably attired and with a proper escort.

Around 1583, missionary activity in Cuncolim led first to small skirmishes and finally to the murder of all the missionaries. The Portuguese authorities called the 16 chieftains of each ward (vado) of the Cuncolim village to the Assolna fort, ostensibly to form a peace pact with the villagers. At the fort, all the chieftains were slain, except for two who jumped from the fort into the Arabian Sea and presumably swam to Karwar. The villagers were left without their traditional leaders and the Portuguese began confiscating the land of the locals and set up the Goa Inquisition.

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