A brief history of Goa

Legend has it that Lord Parshuram, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, shot an arrow into the Arabian Sea to create Parshuram Kshetra of which Goa was one part. Known in the past as Gomanta, Govapuri, Govarashtra, and Gopakapattana, this tiny state has a rich social and economic history that is reflected in its festive traditions, arts, crafts, cuisine, and architecture.

Legend apart, Goa’s earliest inhabitants were the Kunbis, Kharvis, and other Proto-Australoid Mundari races. Goa’s history dates back to the 3rd century when the Mauryas ruled it. The Satavahanas, the Bhojas, the Konkan-Mauryas, the Rashtrakutas, the Badami Chalukyas, the Shilaharas, and the Kadambas followed this rule. In the 14th century, Goa fell into the hands of the Muslims of the Deccan. The Bahamanis and the Vijayanagar Kings of the Deccan were rivals over Goa. Finally, the Adil Shahs took over from the Bahamanis.

The Portuguese arrived in Goa in the year 1510, captured the Panjim fort with the help of the overtaxed Panjimites, and stayed there until its liberation on 19th December 1961. The Dutch made a few unsuccessful attacks while the British East India Company preferred diplomacy with the Portuguese, who aimed to control the spice route, and gained the right to trade and use Goa’s harbour. In 1542, Jesuit missionaries led by St Francis Xavier arrived. By the middle of the 16th century, Portuguese control had expanded beyond Old Goa to include the provinces of Bardez and Salcete and aggressive conversions were fast spreading Christianity across this newly acquired colony. Once the Portuguese had vested power from the Turks, who controlled the trade routes across the Indian Ocean, Goa became the most prized Portuguese colony.

The Marathas nearly conquered Goa in the late 18th century, and there was a brief occupation by the British during the Napoleonic Wars in Europe.

Unlike what most people think, all of Goa was not under Portuguese rule over the entire period of 450 years. The mahals of Tiswadi, Bardez, Salcete, and Mormugao were under them since the 16th century, and the mahals of Ponda, Sanguem, Quepem, Canacona, Bicholim, Sattari, and Pernem towards the end of the 18th century.

The Goan independence movement began in the late 19th century and gained momentum when the Portuguese monarchy collapsed in 1910. After India gained independence from the British, it cut off diplomatic ties with the Portuguese. The new Indian government actively pursued the cause of Goa’s independence, especially after a liberation march resulted in several deaths in 1955. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru finally ordered an invasion on 17 December 1961 and Goa was liberated bloodlessly within two days. Initial moves to assimilate the region into neighboring states and to drop Konkani as the official regional language were resisted by Goans. Finally, in May 1987, Goa became India’s 25th state and Konkani was recognized as one of the country’s official languages. Goa is the only state to have a uniform civil code for all communities, which is a model and a legacy of Portuguese rule.

With the sixties and the Vietnam war came the first draft resisting Americans. Goa, with its beautiful beaches and its people’s easy-going tolerant ways quickly, became a part of the hippie circuit. With the start of chartered flights, a different kind of tourism started. Goa entered the millennium with a burgeoning tourist industry. Today several heritage action groups have been pressing the government to conserve Goa’s cultural and natural heritage, which is under threat from rapid and unplanned development and a large influx of people from other states