Old Goa – Short History


Detail of a hero-stone with a royal personage sitting on a throne. (Fourteen century AD) ASI Museum Old Goa.

The area around Old Goa extending to 3800 sq km between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea, with the Sawantwadi Ghats and North Canara forming respectively the northern and southern boundaries, is now known as Goa. The name is derived from ‘Gomanta’ referred to in Bhishinaparva of the Mahabharata, Harivan’sa and Skandapurana. In ancient times, this land was known variously as Gomanchala, Gomanta, Gopakapura and Gove. Ptolemy, the Greek geographer of the second century AD mentions ‘Kouba’, which is identified with this place, while the Arabs referred to it as Sindabur or Sandabar.

According to tradition, Parasurama reclaimed this land from the sea and settled the Aryans, who accompanied him, on the banks of the rivers Gomati and Aghanasini, as the Mandovi and the Zuari were then called.

The ancient history of Goa starts in the third century BC when it formed part of the Mauryan empire. It was ruled by the Satavahanas of Kolhapur in the beginning of the Christian era.

The Bhoja dynasty, with its capital at Chandrapur, modern Chandor, ruled this area in the fourth century AD.

In the sixth century, king Anirjitavarman, ruling from Kumaradvipa (present Kumbarjuva), held sway over this land. Goa passed under the Chalukyas of Badami from AD 580 to 750 and later, till the end of the thirteenth century, was successively ruled by the Silaharas and the Kadambas as nominal feudatories, respectively of the Rashtrakutas and the Western Chalukyas of Kalyani.

In the beginning of the eleventh century, the Kadambas of Goa under Shashthadeva (AD 1005-1050), extended their authority over the whole of Goa vanquishing the Silaharas.

Thcir capital was moved from Chandor to Goapuri (Goa Velha) about AD 1052 and in the reign of Jayakesi I (AD 1050-1080), Goapuri grew into a great commercial centre having trade relations with countries far and near. The maritime supremacy of the Kadambas reached new heights. Brahmanical religion and Jainism flourished under the patronage of the Kadambas during this period.

In the thirteenth century, the territory was administered by ministers appointed by the Yadavas who reduced the Kadambas into nominal rulers. The most notable among the ministers was Hemadri serving under the Yadava King Ramachandra (about AD 1271). Of the many temples traditionally attributed to him, the temple 0f  Sri Mahadeva at Tambdi (Surla) is the only extant specimen of Kadamba-Yadava architecture of the thirteenth century.

The Kadambas enjoyed a brief spell of independence when the controlling grip of the Yadavas vanished with their defeat at the hands of the Delhi Sultanate. Malik Kafur, the general of Alau Din Khaiji, on his onward march to south, leaving death and destruction behind, did not spare the Konkan. Kamadeva, the last of the Kadambas, abandoned Goapuri and took refuge in Chandor, the erstwhile capital of the Kadambas, where he built a fort. What was left of the grandeur of the Kadambas complete, ended when the army of Muhammad bin Tughlaq attacked Chandor and razed it to the ground.

Goa became part of the Vijyaynagar kingdom by the fourteenth century. Arabian horses were imported at the harbours in Goa by the Vijayanagara kings to strengthen their cavalry.

In 1469, Goa passed under the Bahmani Sultans of Gulburga when Mahmud Gawan, a general of Muhammad III (1463-1482) conquered the Konkan area. With the break-up of the Bahmani dynasty, it became a part of the kingdom of the Adil Shahis of Bijapur in 1488. During their rule Ila or Velha Goa became a prosperous city and was virtually the second capital of the Bijapur Sultans.

Following the landing of Vasco da Gama at Calicut in 1498, the Portuguese established their trading station at Cochin. The opposition they met from the Zamorin of Calicut combined with the competition in trade offered by the Arabs, compelled the Portuguese to look out for a permanent base from where they could control the seas. Goa, with its natural harbours and navigable rivers provided the answer.

In 1510, Afonso de Albuquerque, after a futile attempt at holding the city of Goa (Old Goa), succeeded in driving out the forces of Ismail Adil Shah (15104534), the Sultan of Bijapur. In the seventeenth century the Portuguese extended their control over Bardez and Salcete.

The Marathas under Sivaji built up a strong fleet and harassed the Portuguese on the sea, while his army overran Bardez. Sambhaji, threatened at the very gates of the city of (Old) Goa, had to give up the siege to meet the Mughals. The Marathas

failed to retain their kingdom against the English, and the Portuguese by virtue of their treaty relations with the latter continued to rule over Goa, Daman, Diu and Nagar Haveli. In 1954, Nagar Haveli was liberated and in 1961, Goa, with Daman and Diu, merged with the Indian Union.

In this span of about a thousand years, beginning from the ninth century the rulers embellished Goa with temples, mosques and churches.

Of the three cities, Chandrapura (Chandor), Goapuri (Goa Velha) and the city of Goa (Old Goa), which had served as capitals at different periods, the last named attained considerable fame rivalling Rome in splendour.

The cultural history of Old Goa can be traced back to the eleventh century when the Kadambas established a brahmapuri in this part. Later, the city flourished as one of the principal emporia of trade on the western coast of India. Ibn Battuta, who visited Goa in AD 1342, refers to this city in his account of his voyage down the western coast.

Of the many travellers who have left behind eyewitness accounts is Duarte Barbosa, who, while describing the city on the eve of the Portuguese conquest in the sixteenth century, says that the city was very large with lofty edifices including temples and mosques, streets and squares surrounded by fort walls and towers. Of the buildings, the most conspicuous was the palace of Adil Shah.

With the advent of the Portuguese, both public and private buildings began to be erected. The wide moat surrounding the fort walls was filled up and the city began to grow in size. In 1543, an epidemic broke out sweeping away a part of the population estimated at two lakhs. When the epidemic was over the city grew once again. Churches of lofty attached with equally large convents were built by the various religious orders who settled down in Goa under royal mandates.

The Franciscans were the earliest to arrive, followed by other religious orders. The failure of the Portuguese in holding their maritime supremacy by the end of the sixteenth century led to their demoralization leaving an adverse effect on the city which started losing its grandeur. Added to this, in 1635, an epidemic of unprecedented magnitude struck the populace from which the city gradually recovered. Philip Baldaeus, a Dutchman visiting the city about 1672, wrote that there were shops full of silks, porcelain and other articles along the principal road, and slaves could be seen being sold by auction as before. Another traveler, Dellon, speaks of the terror caused by the Inquisition. Subsequently, the city deteriorated, population decreased and houses fell into decay for want of resources and maintenance.

Portuguese Viceroy, Count of Alvor’s plans to shift the capital from this city to Marmagoa in 1702 failed due to lack of resources and architects. The Viceroy had shifted his residence in 1695 to Panelim on the outskirts of this city and thence, in 1759, to the erstwhile palace of Adil Shah at Panaji (the present Secretariat), which officially became the administrative capital in 1843.The transfer of the seat of power and the repressive religious policy pursued by the Government, forcing the eviction of many religious orders in 1835, led to the desertion of the city.  Velha Goa turned into a desolate small village, with huge buildings standing mute testimony to its glorious contribution to the culture and history of this land.

Content sourced from asigoacircle.gov.in



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