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.

Early Recorded History

Goan history dates back to antiquity. Rock carvings and rock engravings found at various places in Goa, indicate that Stone Age people had settled in this ancient land around 10000 - 8000 BC. These people were hunters and gatherers.

In modern recorded history, the first written mention of the land of Goa is on the cuneiform writings of the Sumerian era around 2200 BC. Goa is referred to as Gubio, by the King Gudea, the ruler of the kingdom of Lagash. In support of this theory, interestingly, the agricultural fields in Goa follow the Sumerian measure of 12 cubits to a pole or 0.495 of a metre to a cubit. This is different from the 0.46 unit found in most areas of India.

There is also some evidence to suggest that around 1775 BC, the Phoenicians, who were expert seafarers, settled in the areas around Goa.

The Vedic Period

Goa is referred to as Gomantak around the period 1000 - 500 BC. This is considered to be the time when the epic of Mahabharata was written.

In this epic of Hindu mythology, the migration of Saraswat Brahmins from the north to the present day area of Goa is woven around the legend of Parashurama, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Goa finds its first mention as Gomantak in the Harivamsha part of the epic Mahabharata.

In this southward migration, the Saraswat Brahmins who first went to Bengal, are supposed to have settled in the Konkan area around the year 1000 BC. The indigenous locals of the area, the Kunbi tribals, worked together with the Brahmin families to create a fertile stretch of land between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats.


The first wave of Brahmins to settle in Goa, were called Saraswats because of their origins from the banks of the Saraswati river, an ancient river that existed in Vedic times. The subsequent drying up of the river caused large scale migration of Brahmins to all corners of India.

A group of ninety-six families, known today as Gaud Saraswats, settled along the Konkan coast around 1000 BC. Of these, sixty-six families took up residence in the southern half in Sashti (today's Salcete taluka) which derives its name from the Sanskrit word "Sassast" meaning the number 66. The other thirty families settled in the northern area in today's Tiswadi taluka which derives its name from the Sanskrit word "Tees" for the number 30.

The Saraswat Brahmins worked in partnership with the local indigenous people, the Kunbi tribals who still exist today. Around the year 740 AD, the Brahmins established their first Matha (religious centre of learning) at Kushasthali (present day Cortalim).

The Aryan Conquest

The oldest archaeological evidence of Goa's ancient history dates back from this period. Excavations have unearthed copper plates, stone inscriptions, coins, manuscripts and temple inscriptions which throw some light on the history of this period. The Girnar rock-edict of the Mauryan King Ashoka mentions the people of Goa as Peitinikas, Rashtrikas and Bhojas.

The history of the mighty Mauryan dynasty finds the next instance of a historical reference to Goa. Between 321 - 184 BC, Goa was under an administrative region by the name Kuntala. However with the death of the legendary Ashoka the Great in 232 BC, the Maurya empire fell into a rapid decline and Goa soon changed hands.

Incidentally, Buddhism is thought to have reached Goa around this period under the Mauryas, as did Jainism as evidenced by the ruins of Jain temples which have been discovered at Kudnem.

The Marathas from the neighbouring areas took control of Goa from the Mauryas, only to be shortly ousted by the strong Anand Chuttus who ruled for a short while themselves.

Then came the rule of the Satavahanas, who already controlled a large area on the western coast of India. They administered the Konkan areas directly and appointed the Bhojas, related to them matrimonially, as their feudatories in Goa. Goa flourished during the Satavahana period, becoming an international business trading centre having relations with Africa, the Middle East and even the Roman Empire.

An important book entitled Geography, from the era of Roman Emperor Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD), written by Strabo the Greek geographer, makes a reference to Konkan with the name of Komkvi describing it as a unique province of India.

Hindu Dynasties

For about 700 years after the Satavahana period, Goa was controlled by Hindu dynasties of the region. Among these were the Scytho-parthians (2nd - 4th century AD), the Abhiras, the Batpuras, the Bhojas (4th - 6th century AD), the Chalukyas of Badami (6th - 8th century AD), the Rashtrakutas of Malkhed and then the Shilaharas (8th - 10th century AD).

The Bhojas took over in the 4th century and ruled from Chandrapur (present day Chandor) for almost 300 years. Then the mighty Chalukyas of Badami brought the region under their control, leaving some isolated regions where the Kadambas ruled supreme. The Shilaharas overcame the Chalukyas in the 8th century and ruled for another two centuries.

In 973 AD, the Chalukyas laid siege to the Shilaharas. Taking advantage of the situation, the King Shastadeva of the Kadambas conquered Goa. The Chalukyas also were content to let the Kadambas be in power, leading to one of the most stable periods in Goa's history.

This first Golden Age of Goa under the rule of the the Kadambas lasted from 1006 - 1356 AD. A local dynasty which soon became fairly powerful in the area, the Kadambas were feudatories of the Hoysala kingdom.

They set up their capital at Chandrapur (modern day Chandor) and it remained so from 937 - 1310 AD at which time it was moved to Govepuri or Gopakapatana on the banks of the Zuari river, the site of today's Goa Velha. The first settlement at Old Goa, then called Thorlem Goem, was constructed by the Kadambas in the 11th century.

Goa became an important trading centre during this period, with merchants from the Malabar coast, Bengal and as far away as Sumatra and Arabia vying for business. At one time, an Arab merchant was even made governor of Gopakapatana.

Religious tolerance was a very important part of the Kadamba rule; a mosque was built on the west coast under the patronage of the Kadambas. With a number of temples being built, Goa became an important place of pilgrimage for Hindus from around India. Hindu centres of education also sprang up in Goa.

In 1198, the last Chalukya King to hold power, passed away and the Kadambas were left without their formidable ally. The Yadavas of Devagiri (modern Daulatabad) took control of Goa from the 12th to 13th century AD, and the Hindu empire of Vijayanagar held sway between the 14-15th century AD.

Soon after that, Goa became the prime target of numerous Muslim invasions and changed hands quite frequently among the southern Kingdoms.

The Greek merchant Kosmas Indikopleustes, in his work Topographia Christiana (530 - 550 AD) describes the city of Sibo identified with Goa, the Sindabur of the Arabs, as one of the best ports in Western India. Old Arab geographers, referred to Goa as Sindabur.

The Turkish book Mohit, a treatise on the seas of the Industan, written in 554 AD by Sidi Ali Kodupon, refers to Guvah-Sindabut, joining the names Guvah (Goa) and Sindabur (Chandrapur). Al-Masudi (943 AD) an Arab voyager, considered Sindabur as the foremost of the coastal cities of Malabar.

Muslim rule

The 14th century saw a series of Muslim invasions on Goa, from the north. In 1312 Govepuri was almost completely destroyed, and after 15 years of fighting, the Muslims returned under Mohammed Tughluk and Chandrapur was beaten down to ruins.

The Muslim kingdom of Bahmani conquered Goa in 1347. The temples in Goa were the target of the fanatic zeal of the invaders who murdered priests and looted the temple wealth. Devotees moved their deities to safer areas under Hindu control.

Many Hindus fled southward. The persecution continued till 1378, when Goa was retaken by the neighbouring Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar. Goa then started exporting spices to Arab nations, and got Arabian horses for the Vijayanagar army.

The mighty Vijayanagar Empire, with its capital at Hampi controlled most of southern India and Goa remained a part of their kingdom for almost 100 years. The Bahmanis were back again in 1470 under Mahmud Gawan when they regained control and made Goa an important part of their Deccan Kingdom.

In 1492, the Bahmani Kingdom split into five kingdoms, namely Bidar, Berar, Ahmednagar, Golconda and Bijapur. Goa came under the control of Sultan Yusuf Adil Shah Khan who ruled from the capital city of Bijapur.

During this period, a lot of bloodshed followed when the Bahmanis persecuted the Hindus on a mass scale. Hindu temples were razed and Govepuri was brought down to its last brick. After the destruction of Govepuri, the Bahmanis organised a new capital at Ela, created on the northern banks of the river Mandovi to facilitate trade through the sea routes as the Zuari had begun to silt up.

Yussuf Adil Shah of Bijapur built many impressive buildings and a wonderful palace. The former Secretariat building in Panaji is a Adil Shah palace, later taken over by the Portuguese Viceroys as their official residence.

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.

Decline of the Portuguese rule in Goa

The appearance of the Dutch in Indian waters was followed by the gradual ruin of Goa. In 1603 and 1639 the city was blockaded by Dutch fleets, though never captured, while in 1635 it was ravaged by an epidemic. With the situation already volatile, Maratha troops entered parts of Bicholim in 1641 and began the minor Bicholim conflict, which ended in a peace treaty between the Portuguese and Maratha Empire.

Trade was gradually monopolised by the Jesuits. Jean de Thévenot in 1666, Baldaeus in 1672, and Fryer in 1675 describe its ever-increasing poverty and decay.

In 1683, the Mughal army protected it from capture by the Marathas. In 1739, the whole territory was attacked by the Marathas again, but could not be won because of the unexpected arrival of a new Viceroy with a fleet. This continued until 1759, when a peace pact was concluded with the Marathas.

In the same year, the Viceroy transferred his residence from the vicinity of Old Goa to New Goa (in Portuguese, Nova Goa), today's Panaji, which became the official seat of government in 1843, effecting a move which had been discussed as early as 1684. Old Goa's population fell steeply during the 18th century as Europeans moved to the new city.

In 1757, King Joseph I of Portugal issued a decree penned by his Prime Minister, the Marquês de Pombal, granting the Portuguese citizenship and representation to all subjects in the Portuguese Indies. The enclaves of Goa, Damão, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli became collectively known as the Estado da Índia Portuguesa, and had representation in the Portuguese Parliament.

In 1787, a rebellion was started by some priests against Portuguese rule. It became famous as the Conspiracy of the Pintos.

Goa was peacefully occupied by the British from 1812 to 1815 in the context of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance during the Napoleonic Wars.

Goa’s Liberation

Goa remained under Portuguese control when India became independent in 1947. The Indian Government of Jawaharlal Nehru insisted that Goa, along with a few other minor Portuguese holdings, be turned over to India. Portugal amended its constitution so that Goa became a Portuguese province and refused to surrender it. On 3 February 1951, to avert international criticism, Portugal amended her Constitution to declare Goa as an overseas province of Portugal. Being an overseas province of Portugal, the Goan Catholics enjoyed the official rights as Portuguese citizens.

In 1954, unarmed Indians took over the tiny land-locked enclaves of Dadra and Nagar-Haveli. This incident led the Portuguese to lodge a complaint against India in the International Court of Justice at The Hague. The final judgement on this case, given in 1960, held that the Portuguese had a right to the enclaves, but that India equally had a right to deny Portugal access to the enclaves over Goan territory.

In 1955 a group of satyagrahis demonstrated against Portugal. At least 22 of them were killed by Portuguese gunfire. Later the same year, the satyagrahis took over a fort at Tiracol and hoisted the Indian flag. They were driven away by the Portuguese, with a number of casualties. On 1 September 1955, the Indian Consulate in Goa was closed. In 1955, Jawaharlal Nehru declared his government would not tolerate Portuguese presence in Goa. India then instituted a blockade against Goa, Damão and Diu, in an effort to force the Portuguese to leave.

On December 16, 1961, Indian troops crossed the border into Goa. Code named 'Operation Vijay', the move involved sustained land, sea, and air strikes for more than 36 hours; it resulted in the unconditional surrender of Portuguese forces on 19 December. A United Nations resolution condemning the invasion was proposed by the United States and the United Kingdom in the United Nations Security Council, but it was vetoed by the USSR.

Under Indian rule, Goan voters went to the polls in a referendum and elected to become an autonomous, federally administered territory. After annexation by India, the area was under military rule for five months, but the previous civil service was soon restored and the area became a federally administered territory.

Goa celebrates its "Liberation Day" on 19 December every year, which is also a state holiday. Goa attained Statehood in 1987.

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