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History of Goa

Goa is a lot more than an idyllic holiday destination; its land and people have been shaped by events in history that give it a unique identity which is distinct from the surrounding areas. The history of Goa is long and varied, and full of diverse influences. The first written reference to Goa's history can be traced back to around 2200 BC, during the Sumerian times, when it was called Gubio.

During the early Vedic period (between 1000 - 500 BC), the region was referred to as Gomantak, the Sanskrit word for a rich fertile land with good waters. It was also known as Gove, Govepuri, Gomant or Aprant in Hindu mythology, finding a mention in epics like the Puranas and even the Mahabharata.

The medieval Arabian scholars referred to Goa as Sindabur or Sandabur and during those times the land of Goa became a major transit point in the trade of horses between Arabia and the Indian states of the Deccan region. However, the first signs of a unique Goan identity emerged during the rule of the Kadamba dynasty, around the 10th Century AD. The 14th and 15th Century saw control of the region shift between the Muslim rulers of the Bahmani kingdom, the Hindu rulers of Vijaynagar and the Sultans of Bijapur. Goa had prospered as a result of the sea trade with the Arab, and the neighbouring kingdoms sought it as an access point to trade with the Arab world.

Portuguese rule left a lasting influence in the history of Goa. After Vasco da Gama's discovery of the sea route from Europe to India in 1498, the Portuguese needed a good port on the western coast of India so that they could influence and control the spice trade from the region. In 1510, the Portuguese landed in Goa under the leadership of Afonso Albuquerque, only to be turned out a few months later by Adil Shah of Bijapur. However, Albuquerque returned later that year with reinforcements and conquered the Ilhas region.

By 1543, the Portuguese control had extended to Salcette, Mormugao and Bardez regions and Goa had become a prominent Portuguese colony on the western coast of India. Since the primary Portuguese concern was economic, initially they were quite tolerant of the local religion and customs (although there were some instances of reprisal of the Muslim inhabitants). However, later Portugal's liberal attitude towards the Hindu populace was also reversed after the Counter Revolution in Europe. Then many temples were decimated and the local population was forced to convert to Christianity.

Goa reached the pinnacle of prosperity between 1570s and 1620s. During that time 'Golden Goa's' streets were proverbially paved with gold. During those times, the markets overflowed with exquisite commodities like pearls and corral from Bahrain, porcelain and silk from China, velvet from Portugal and spices from Malaya.

By the middle of the 17th Century, the Portugese power in south-eastern Asia was on a decline, and it was reflected in Goa's diminishing status as a commercial port. Although, Goa survived two Dutch assaults in 1603 and 1640, it lost its importance in the spice trade which was then dominated by the British and the Dutch.

Goa's struggle for freedom from the Portuguese rule can be traced back to the Pinto Revolt in 1787, followed by several attempts to free the region from Portuguese influence by the British and the Marathas in the late 17th Century. However, most of the attempts were foiled. Even after the independence of India from the British rule in 1947, it took another 14 years for the people of Goa to gain their freedom, in 1961. December 16 has been celebrated as Liberation Day in Goa from then on, and Goa has come into its own, preserving its heritage while marching towards a new progressive dawn dotted with wonderful tomorrows.

Last Updated On: 2011/07/01


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Posted on 2011-11-17excellant