Goa is India’s smallest state in terms of area and the fourth smallest in terms of population (after Sikkim, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh). Located on the west coast of India in the region known as the Konkan, it is bounded by the state of Maharashtra to the north, Karnataka to the east and south and the Arabian Sea forms its western coast.
Panaji (Panjim) is the state’s capital, and Vasco-da-Gama (Vasco) its largest city. The most historic city is Margao which is second largest and with the Portuguese style of culture. (Portuguese merchants first landed in Goa in the 15th century, and annexed it soon after. The Portuguese colony existed for about 450 years (one of the longest held colonial possessions in the world), until it was taken over by India in 1961).
Internationally renowned for its beaches, Goa is visited by hundreds of thousands of foreign and domestic tourists each year, and has become one of the most popular holiday destinations for European travellers, particularly in the Northern hemisphere winter.
Besides beaches, Goa is also known for its world heritage architecture including the Basilica of Bom Jesus, also one of the biggest Christian pilgrimage sites in Asia. Goa also has rich flora and fauna, owing to its location on the Western Ghats range, which are classified as a biodiversity hotspot.
Goa has a long history stretching back to the 3rd century BC, when it formed part of the Mauryan Empire. Goa was later ruled by the Satavahanas of Kolhapur (in Maharashtra) around two thousand years ago. It eventually passed to the Chalukyas of Badami, who controlled it between 580 to 750. Over the next few centuries Goa was successively ruled by the Silharas, the Kadambas and the Chalukyans of Kalyani, rulers of Deccan India. It was the Kadambas, a local Hindu dynasty based at Chandrapura, present day Chandor – Salcete, that laid an indelible mark on the course of Goa’s pre-colonial history and culture.
In 1312, Goa came under the governance of the Delhi Sultanate. However, the kingdom’s grip on the region was weak, and by 1370 they were forced to surrender it to Harihara I of Vijayanagara. The Vijayanagara monarchs held on to the territory for the next hundred years until 1469, when it was appropriated by the Bahmani sultans of Gulbarga. After the dynasty crumbled, the area came under the hands of the Adil Shahis of Bijapur who made Velha Goa their auxiliary capital.
In 1498, Vasco da Gama became the first European to set foot in India through a sea route, landing in Calicut (Kozhikode) in Kerala, followed by an arrival in what is now known as Old Goa. Goa, then a term implying the City of Goa on the southern bank of the River Mandovi, was the largest trading centre on India’s western coast. The Portuguese arrived with the intention of setting up a colony and seizing complete control of the spice trade from other European powers after traditional land routes to India were closed by the Ottoman Turks. Later, in 1510, Portuguese admiral Afonso de Albuquerque defeated the ruling Bijapur kings with the help of a local ally, Timayya, leading to the establishment of a permanent settlement in Velha Goa (or Old Goa). The Portuguese intended it to be a colony and a naval base, distinct from the fortified enclaves established elsewhere along India’s coasts.
Ruins of Fort Aguada in north Goa; one of the defences that the Portuguese built during their reign. With the imposition of the Inquisition (1560–1812), many of the local residents were forcibly converted to Christianity by missionaries, threatened by punishment or confiscation of land, titles or property. Many converted, however retaining parts of their Hindu heritage. To escape the Inquisition and harassment, thousands fled the state, settling down in the neighbouring towns of Mangalore and Karwar in Karnataka and Savantwadi in Maharashtra. With the arrival of the other European powers in India in the 16th century, most Portuguese possessions were surrounded by the British and the Dutch. Portuguese possessions in India were a few enclaves along India’s west coast, with Goa being the largest of these holdings.
An interesting development of the 18th century in Goa is the Conspiracy Of The Pintos in 1787 which was inspired by the French Revolution. This was the first ethnic rebellion against Portuguese rule in Goa. Goa soon became their most important possession in India, and was granted the same civic privileges as Lisbon. Portugal encouraged its citizens to marry local women, and to settle in Goa. However, among the local population (both Christian and Hindu) this was looked down upon. Progeny of these unions called the mestiço were favourably considered by the Portuguese rulers. Subsequently, a senate was created, which maintained direct communications with the king. In 1843 the capital was moved to Panjim from Velha Goa. By mid-18th century the area under occupation had expanded to most of Goa’s present day state limits.
After India gained independence from the British in 1947, Portugal refused to accede to India’s demand to relinquish their control of its enclave. Resolution 1541 by the United Nations General Assembly in 1960 noted that Goa was non-self-governing and essentially showed sympathy toward self determination. Finally, on December 12, 1961, the Indian army with 40,000 troops moved in as part of Operation Vijay. Fighting lasted for twenty-six hours before the Portuguese garrison surrendered. Goa, along with Daman and Diu (enclaves lying to the north of Maharashtra), was made into a centrally administered Union Territory. India’s takeover of Goa is commemorated annually on the 19th of December (Liberation Day). The UN Security Council considered a resolution condemning the invasion which was vetoed by the Soviet Union. Most nations later recognised India’s action, and Portugal recognised it after its Carnation Revolution in 1974. On May 30, 1987, the Union Territory was split, and Goa was elevated as India’s twenty-fifth state, with Daman and Diu remaining Union Territories.
Geography and Climate
Goa encompasses an area of 3,702 km² (1,430 sq mile). It lies between the latitudes 14°53’54” N and 15°40’00” N and longitudes 73°40’33” E and 74°20’13” E. Most of Goa is a part of the coastal country known as the Konkan, which is an escarpment rising up to the Western Ghats range of mountains, which separate it from the Deccan Plateau. The highest point is the Sonsogor, with an altitude of 1,167 metres (3,827 feet). Goa has a coastline of 101 km (63 miles).
Goa’s main rivers are the Mandovi, the Zuari, the Terekhol, Chapora River and the Betul. The Mormugao harbour on the mouth of the river Zuari is one of the best natural harbours in South Asia. The Zuari and the Mandovi are the lifelines of Goa, with their tributaries draining 69% of its geographic area. Goa has more than forty estuarine, eight marine and about ninety riverine islands. The total navigable length of Goa’s rivers is 253 km (157 miles). Goa has more than three hundred ancient tanks built during the rule of the Kadamba dynasty and over a hundred medicinal springs.
Most of Goa’s soil cover is made up of laterites which are rich in ferric aluminium oxides and reddish in colour. Further inland and along the river banks, the soil is mostly alluvial and loamy. The soil is rich in minerals and humus, thus conducive to plantation. Some of the oldest rocks in the Indian subcontinent are found in Goa between Molem and Anmod on Goa’s border with Karnataka. The rocks are classified as Trondjemeitic Gneiss estimated to be 3,600 million years old, dated by the Rubidium isotope dating method. A specimen of the rock is exhibited in the Goa University.
Goa, being in the tropical zone and near the Arabian Sea, has a warm and humid climate for most of the year. The month of May is the hottest, seeing day temperatures of over 35°C (95°F) coupled with high humidity. The monsoon rains arrive by early June and provide a much needed respite from the heat. Most of Goa’s annual rainfall is received through the monsoons which last till late September.
Goa has a short cool season between mid-December and February. These months are marked by cool nights of around 20°C (68°F) and warm days of around 29°C (84°F) with moderate amounts of humidity. Further inland, due to altitudinal gradation, the nights are a few degrees cooler.
Mangueshi Temple, a Hindu temple in Old Goa.The most popular celebrations in Goa are Christmas, Easter Sunday, Ganesh Chaturthi, New Year’s Day, the Shigmo festival and the Carnival. However, since the 1960s, the celebrations of the Shigmo and carnival have shifted to the urban centres, and in recent times these festivals are seen more as a means of attracting tourists. Celebrations for all festivals usually last for a few days and include parties and balls.
Western English songs have a large following in most parts of Goa. Traditional Konkani folk songs also have a sizable following. Manddo, the traditional Goan music which originated in the nineteenth century, is sung and danced on special occasions. Goa is also known for its Goa trance music.
Rice with fish curry is the staple diet in Goa. Goa is renowned for its rich variety of fish dishes cooked with elaborate recipes. Coconut and coconut oil is widely used in Goan cooking along with chili peppers, spices and vinegar giving the food a unique flavour. Pork dishes such as Vindaloo, Xacuti and Sorpotel are cooked for major occasions among the Catholics. An exotic Goan vegetable stew, known as Khatkhate, is a very popular dish during the celebrations of festivals, Hindu and Christian alike. Khatkhate contains at least five vegetables, fresh coconut, and special Goan spices that add to the aroma. A rich egg-based multi-layered sweet dish known as bebinca is a favourite at Christmas. The most popular alcoholic beverage in Goa is feni; Cashew feni is made from the fermentation of the fruit of the cashew tree, while coconut feni is made from the sap of toddy palms.
Goa has two World Heritage Sites: the Bom Jesus Basilica and a few designated convents. The Basilica holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, regarded by many Catholics as the patron saint of Goa. Once every decade, the body is taken down for veneration and for public viewing. The last such event was conducted in 2004. The Velhas Conquistas regions are also known for its Goa-Portuguese style architecture.
In many parts of Goa, mansions constructed in the Indo-Portuguese style architecture still stand, though in some villages, most of them are in a dilapidated condition. Fontainhas in Panjim, has been declared a cultural quarter, and are used as a living museum showcasing the life, architecture and culture of Goa. Some influences from the Portuguese era are visible in some of Goa’s temples, notably the Mangueshi Temple, although after 1961, many of these were demolished and reconstructed in the indigenous Indian style.
In the 2004 film The Bourne Supremacy, Jason Bourne and his girlfriend Marie are hiding in Goa at the beginning of the movie. Scenes include Bourne running along the Arabian Sea and Marie walking through a street market.
In the 1981 film The Sea Wolves, set in India during World War II, this fair action drama relies heavily on the good acting talent gathered to convey its slight, uninvolved story. Gregory Peck is Col. Lewis Pugh, backed up by Roger Moore as Capt. Gavin Stewart, David Niven as Col. Bill Grice, Patrick MacNee as Major Crossley, and several others—all retired and past the age for active duty. At issue are three German freighters that are parked in the waters off Goa, the Portuguese coastal colony on the subcontinent of India. Since Portugal is neutral, the regular army cannot destroy the freighters, and it is up to the retired army officers and a large corps of over-the-hill volunteers to take on the mission of eliminating the German ships.