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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 was 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 the 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 of 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 to settle on the banks of the Konkan coast. The Brahmins differ from other sub-sects of Brahmins because 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 legend behind the name of their clan. They are called so because they originally resided on the banks of River Saraswati, which eventually dried up. Ninety-six families known as Gaud Saraswat shifted their base to the banks of the Konkan coast around 1000 BC. The settlements so formed by these Brahmins came to be known as Gomantak.

Photo Credit: Drshenoy at English Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

From the 3rd century BC, 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 Satavahanas, Chalukyas, Silharas and Kadambas in the 11th century. The arrival of the Kadamba dynasty is considered 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 Muslims arrived here.

Muslim Rule

The arrival of the Muslim Bahamani's brought in mayhem as they destroyed temples, looted wealth and murdered priests. Their rule was breached in between when the Vijayanagar Empire arrived in the 14-15th centuries AD. But they returned 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 arrived in Goa under the able guidance of explorer Vasco da Gama when he first landed in Calicut in 1498. In 1510, the Portuguese defeated the ruling Adil Shah and set up a permanent settlement in Velha Goa. This was the beginning of Portuguese colonial rule in Goa for almost four and half centuries until its annexation to India in 1961.

Albuquerque, a Portuguese general, admiral, and statesman, massacred all Muslims in the city as revenge against Adil Shah but left alone the Hindus. He appointed Timoja as the chief of Goa. Albuquerque did not interfere in Hindu rituals or customs but abolished humanly cruel ones, like 'Sati'.

In the 18th century, the territory of Goa was composed of two segments: the central nucleus of the Velhas Conquistas (Old Conquests) and the Novas Conquistas (New Conquests). In 1843, the Portuguese moved the capital to the Panaji (Cidade da Nova Goa) from Velha Goa. The Portuguese lost other possessions in India until their borders stabilised and formed the State of Portuguese India.

After India's independence from the British, the Indian Army invaded on 19th December 1961, resulting in the annexation of Goa. Goa was declared as a federally administered territory as wanted by its citizens. In 1987, Goa became India's state. Goans celebrate 19th December as "Liberation Day", which is a state holiday.