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The Mahabharata Era

The history of Goa or Gomantak has been woven into a seamless mixture of various myths and stories that take us back into the time of Mahabharata. For some, the origin of Goalies when Parshurama; the sixth incarnation of Vishnu ordered the sea god Varuna to recede the sea till the point his axe struck after he flung it. Lord Varuna then gave up this piece of land till the banks of River Mandovi and River Zuari to Parshurama and Aryan clan accompanying him. This piece of land came to be known as Konkan of which Goa is a southernmost part.

Another mystical legend is a collection from Krishna’s stories according to which Lord Krishna became fond of the coastal area of Konkan. He then named the area Govapuri (gov: cows) after the cows belonging to the locals.

The settlements of the Saraswat Brahmins

The Saraswat Brahmins firmly believe that they were the first ones to settle on the banks of the Konkan coast. The Brahmins differ from other sub-sects of Brahmins in the fact that they are the only ones who devour meat and fish, probably because of the proximity of their settlements to the coastal regions. They have their own legend behind the name of their clan and are called so because they originally resided on the banks of River Saraswati which eventually dried up, after which migrated to other places. Ninety-six families of these known as Gaud Saraswat shifted their base to the banks of the Konkan coast around 1000 B.C.

The settlements so formed by these Brahmins came to be known as Gomantak.

Photo Credit: GFDL/Drshenoy

Rule of Maurya Empire

From 3rd century B.C Emperor Ashoka ruled Gomantak for some time as a part of his Maurya dynasty. After him, many empires subsequently tried to form their base permanently in Gomantak, prominent among which included Satavahana’s, Chalukya’s, Silhara’s and Kadamba’s in the 11th century. The arrival of the Kadamba dynasty is considered thought to be the first phase of the Golden Age of Goa. The death of their king in 1198 marked the end of their dynasty and finally the arrival of the Muslims.

Muslim Rule

The arrival of the Muslim Bahamani’s brought in mayhem as they destroyed temples, looted wealth and murdered priests. Due to their rule, today no remains have been left behind belonging to the Hindu Rule, except for the Mahadev mandir at Tambdi Surla. Their rule was breached in between when the Vijayanagar Empire arrived in 14-15th century A.D. But they returned back with more power in 1470 as the Muslim Bahamani Kingdom of the Deccan. When the dynasty split up into five parts, Goa was attached to Sultan Yusuf Adil Shah Khan Bijapur territory.

Portuguese Rule

The Portuguese first arrived in Goa in 1498 under the able guidance of explorer Vasco da Gama when he first landed in Calicut on the eastern western shores of India. They were very much happy with the discovery and establishment of Cape of Good Hope which turned out to be a very profitable trading route for them. A permanent trading post became very much necessary but their inability to do along the Malabar Coast pushed their efforts northwards Goa.

Goa finally came under Portuguese rule when Alfonso de Albuquerque attacked it in 1510, which was then under the rule of Adil Shah of Bijapur. His efforts became futile when Adil Shah ousted him from the city with full retaliation. But after the Shah’s death, the Portuguese had no enemy left in any form as Adil Shah’s son was still young and Rasul Khan; General of Adil Shah could not tighten the ropes of control over Goa. On November 25th 1510, Alfonso de Albuquerque victoriously entered Goa, initiating an uninterrupted and extensive rule for 450 years.

Albuquerque massacred all the Muslims in the city as revenge against Adil Shah but left alone the Hindus. In fact, he appointed Timoja as the thanedar of Goa. Albuquerque did not interfere in Hindu rituals or customs but abolished those which were humanly cruel, such as ‘Sati’.

Goa’s Golden Age

Goa reached its peak culturally and economically by the end of the 16th century when it was fondly referred to as ‘Lisbon of the East. Christianity arrived in Goa with St. Francis Xavier and the Jesuits. Such was the Saints impact on the people’s mind that he still is remembered by the Goan’s as the city’s patron saint. The inquisition of Goa saw its attitude toward the Hindus change from being liberal to imposing with more duress given on to promoting Roman Catholicism and converting to Christianity.

The decline of Goa’s Golden Age

As the Dutch ships touched the coastal waters of India, Goa’s Golden Age started witnessing a reversal role. Military infringement by the Dutch and their increasing control over the spice trade could not be dealt with by the Portuguese resulting in several losses. The Marathas took advantage of the situation which ended in the Bicholim war in 1641. But it didn’t last long with a peace treaty signed between the two warring parties.

Reverting attacks by the Marathas and Mughals added to the woes of the Goan population with the final peace treaty signed with the Marathas in 1759. Old Goa lost its charm and the population fell sharply after the viceroy shifted his base to ‘Nova Gova’ (now Panaji). In 1757 due to the efforts of the prime minister of Portugal Marquês de Pombal, King Joseph I of Portugal granted citizenship rights and representation in parliament to all Goa citizens. The collective enclaves of Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Goa came to be known as ‘Estado da Índia Portuguesa’.

Goa’s Independence

After India achieved independence from the British on 15th August 1947, it suggested to Portugal to give up its holdings in Goa and in other parts of India. By then even the French had given up their territories; namely Pondicherry to India without much resistance. But Portugal refused to do so and instead modify its constitution to accommodate Goa as a Portuguese province.

In 1954, Indians tried to revolt by trying to access small land-locked lands in Dadra and Nagar Haveli. But they were attacked by the Portuguese who had lodged a complaint in the International Court of Justice regarding this matter. In 1960, the judgement given announced that the Portuguese had full control over the enclaves but even India had the right to refuse entry to the Portuguese in the Goan enclaves.

Several attempts were made by the Satyagrahis to rebel against the Portuguese rule. But each they were compelled to run away with causalities increasing day by day.

On December 19, 1961, the Indian military crossed Goan borders and attacked the Portuguese under the code name ‘Operation Vijay’. For nearly 36 hours there were continuous air, navy and army strikes which resulted in complete surrender by the Portuguese. The United Nations, United States, and the United Kingdom criticized the attack, but Russia was pro for it. 

Goa was then declared as a federally administered territory as wanted by its citizens. It achieved proper statehood in 1987. Now every year, Goans celebrate December 19 as “Liberation Day” which is a state holiday.