Thursday, July 17

History of Goa

Ancient History

The Mahabharata refers to Goa as Goparashtra, "a nation of cowherds or of nomadic tribes". Para­shurama, the Hindu god, according to legend, flung his arrow on the coast and made the waters recede, thus founding the Konkan.

The Southern Konkan was called Govarashtra. In ancient Indian texts in Sanskrit she is also known as Gopakapuri or Gapakapattana. This only corroborates the idea that Goa was a very prosperous State, since cattle was the criterion of wealth. The name Gomant for Goa also occurs in the said Indian epic Mahabharata and in the sacred Hindu texts like Harivansa and Skanda as well. In the latter, Goa is even known as Gomanchala. They equally refer to her as Govapuri. Suta Sanhita, an Indian classic, for instance, has a revealing passage: "To the north of Gokarn is a 'kshetra' with seven 'yojanas' in circumference: therein is situated Govapuri, which destroys all sins. The sight of Govapuri destroys the sin committed in a previous existence, as at sunrise darkness disappears. Even by making up his mind to bathe once in Govapuri one attains a high place (in the next world). Certainly there is no 'kshetra' equal to Govapuri.";

Goa has a long history stretching back to the 3rd century BCE, when it formed part of the Mauryan empire. It was later ruled by the Satavahanas of Kolhapur at the beginning of the Common Era and eventually passed to the Chalukyans of Badami, who controlled it from 580 to 750. Over the next few centuries it was ruled successively by the Silharas, the Kadambas and the Chalukyans of Kalyani. The Kadambas are credited with constructing the first settlement on the site of Old Goa in the middle of the 11th century, when it was called Thorlem Gorem.

Goa fell to the Muslim Sultanate of Delhi for the first time in 1312, but they were forced to evacuate it in 1370 by Harihara I of the Vijayanagar empire whose capital was at Hampi in Karnataka state. The Vijayanagar rulers held on to Goa for nearly 100 years, during which its harbours were important landing places for Arabian horses on their way to Hampi to strengthen the Vijaynagar cavalry. In 1469, however, Goa was reconquered, this time by the Bahmani Sultans of Gulbarga. When this dynasty broke up, the area passed to Adil Shahis of Bijapur, who made Goa Velhaa their second capital. The present Secretariat building in Panaji is a former Adil Shahi palace, later taken over by the Portuguese Viceroys as their official residence.

After a millennium of relatively stable Hindu rule, two centuries of alternating Hindu and Muslim dynasties ended in Goa's conquest by the Portuguese admiral Afonso de Albuquerque in 1510, after having been unable to secure a base on the Malabar coast further south. This was due to opposition from the Zamorin of Calicut and stiff competition from the Turks who, at that time, controlled the trade routes across the Indian Ocean. After losing the city briefly to its former ruler, the Muslim king of Bijapur, Albuquerque returned in force, massacring the Muslim inhabitants.

Goa had become important as a starting-point of Muslim pilgrims from India to Mecca, as a mart with no rival except Calicut on India's west coast, and especially as the centre of the import trade in horses (Gulf Arabs) from Hormuz, the control of which was a vital matter to the kingdoms warring in the Deccan. The Portuguese were also bent on their quest for control of the spice route from the east and the spread of Christianity. It was easily defensible by any power with command of the sea, as the encircling rivers could only be forded at one spot, and had been deliberately stocked with crocodiles. For a while their control was limited to a small area around Old Goa, by the middle of the 16th century it had expanded to include Bardez and Salcete.

Portuguese India

In 1498, Vasco da Gama became the first European to set foot in India via a sea route. His successful mission led to other European powers seeking an alternate route to India as the traditional land routes were closed by the Turks. In 1510, the ruling Bijapur kings were defeated by the Portuguese admiral Afonso de Albuquerque, with the help of a local ally, Timoji (Timayya). The Portuguese set up a base in Goa in their quest to control the spice trade. The city was made capital of the Portuguese Vice-Kingdom in Asia, and the other Portuguese possessions in India, Malacca and other bases in Indonesia, East Timor, the Persian Gulf, Macau in China and trade bases in Japan were under the suzerainty of its Viceroy. By mid-16th century, the area under occupation had expanded to most of present day limits.

In 1757, the king of Portugal, D. José I, put his seal on a Royal decree passed by his prime minister, Marquês de Pombal, granting the rights of Portuguese citizenship and representation to all subjects in the Portuguese Indies (Goa, Damão and Diu). The enclaves of Goa, Damão, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli became collectively known as the Estado da Índia Portuguesa, and had representation in the Portuguese parliament.

As Portugal's first territorial possession in Asia, Goa was the base for Albuquerque's conquest of Malacca (1511) and Hormuz (1515). Albuquerque intended it to be a colony and a naval base, as distinct from the fortified factories established in certain Indian seaports.

Goa became the capital of the whole Portuguese empire in the East. It was granted the same civic privileges as Lisbon. Its senate or municipal chamber maintained direct communications with the king and paid a special representative to attend to its interests at court. In 1563 the governor even proposed to make Goa the seat of a parliament, in which all parts of the Portuguese east were to be represented; this was vetoed by the king.

In 1542 St. Francis Xavier mentions the architectural splendour of the city; but it reached the climax of its prosperity between 1575 and 1625. Travellers marvelled at Goa Dourada, or Golden Goa, and there was a Portuguese proverb, "He who has seen Goa need not see Lisbon."

Merchandise from all parts of the East was displayed in its bazaar, and separate streets were set aside for the sale of different classes of goods–Bahrain pearls and coral, Chinese porcelain and silk, Portuguese velvet and piece-goods, drugs and spices from the Malay Archipelago.

In the main street slaves were sold by auction. The houses of the rich were surrounded by gardens and palm groves; they were built of stone and painted red or white. Instead of glass, their balconied windows had thin polished oyster-shells set in lattice-work. The social life of Goa's rulers befitted the headquarters of the viceregal court, the army and navy, and the church; luxury and ostentation becoming a byword before the end of the 16th century.

Almost all manual labour was done by slaves; common soldiers assumed high-sounding titles, and it was even customary for the poor noblemen who congregated together in boarding-houses to subscribe for a few silken cloaks, a silken umbrella and a common man-servant, so that each could take his turn to promenade the streets, fashionably attired and with a proper escort.

There were huge gambling salons, licensed by the municipality, where determined players lodged for weeks together; and every form of vice, except drunkenness, was practised by both sexes, although European women were forced to lead a kind of zenana life of seclusion, and never ventured unveiled into the streets; they even attended church in their palanquins, so as to avoid observation.

Albuquerque and his successors left almost untouched the customs and constitutions of the thirty village communities on the island, only abolishing the rite of sati (widow-burning). A register of these customs (Foral de usos e costumes) was published in 1526, and is an historical document of much value; an abstract of it is given in R. S. Whiteway's Rise of the Portuguese Empire in India (London, 1898).

The appearance of the Dutch in Indian waters was followed by the gradual ruin of Goa. In 1603 and 1639 the city was blockaded by Dutch fleets, though never captured, and in 1635 it was ravaged by an epidemic. With the situation already volatile, Maratha troops entered parts of Bicholim in 1641 and began the minor Bicholim conflict, which ended in peace treaty between the Portuguese and Maratha Empire.

Its trade was gradually monopolised by the Jesuits. Jean de Thévenot in 1666, Baldaeus in 1672, Fryer in 1675 describe its ever-increasing poverty and decay. In 1683 the Mughal army prevented it from capture by the Marathas, and in 1739 the whole territory was attacked by the marathas again, but could not be won because of the unexpected arrival of a new viceroy with a fleet. This continued until 1759, when a peace with the Marathas was concluded.

In the same year the viceroy transferred his residence from the vicinity of Goa city to New Goa (in Portuguese Nova Goa), today's Panaji, which became the official seat of government in 1843, effecting a move which had been discussed as early as 1684. Old Goa city's population fell steeply during the 18th century as Europeans moved to the new city.

Early Freedom Movement

The first armed battle of independence of Goa from the Portuguese was fought by the Desais of Cuncolim in c.1583. The Portuguese missionaries used to regularly come along with soldiers to convert the villagers. This resulted in small skirmishes, with both parties suffering casualties each time. Finally, the villagers, angered after some missionaries desecrated a local temple, slaughtered the invading party, including all the missionaries. This angered the Portuguese authorities.

They called the 16 chieftains of each ward (vado) of the Cuncolim village to the Assolna fort to formulate a peace pact with the villagers. At the fort, the Portuguese brutally killed the unassuming chieftains, but luckily, two of the chieftains jumped from the fort into the Arabian sea and swam away to safety (presumably to Karwar), and managed to tell the tale. After this slaughter, the villagers were left without leaders. Taking advantage of this impasse, the Portuguese began confiscating the land of the locals refusing to convert to Christianity, and throwing bread dipped in pork on the houses, forcing the members of those houses into Christianity.

To avoid demolition of the village temple, the villagers shifted the idol of the village goddess Shantadurga, to an area outside the Portuguese control, deep in the forests of Fatorpa. In the present day, the annual festivals of Sattreo, Dussehra and Jatra (fair) are celebrated by both the Hindus and Catholics alike, in an outstanding example of syncreticism. Twelve vangddi (leaders representing the 12 groups of villagers of the temple), perform most of the rites in these festivals. Of these twelve vangddi, three are of Catholic religion, as there are no Hindus that remain of those wards. Today, a small chapel rests at the spot where the Shantadurga temple originally stood in the village.

Similar unrecorded battles have been fought in most of the villages and settlements all around Goa. This finally led to the stopping of the inquisition, and Goa remained peaceful under the Portuguese, though suppressed, and forced to study in either Portuguese language or Marathi language of neighbouring Maharashtra.

A lot of people fled the inquisition and suppression, and there are large Goan colonies in Karwar and Mangalore in Karnataka.

In 1787, there was a rebellion started by a few priests against Portuguese rule. It became famous as the Conspiracy of the Pintos.