Goa is India’s smallest state in terms of area and the fourth smallest in terms of population after Sikkim, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. It is located on the west coast of India, in the region known as the Konkan, and is bounded by the state of Maharashtra to the north, and Karnataka to the east and south. The Arabian Sea makes up the state’s west coast. Panaji is the state’s capital, and Vasco-da-Gama (Vasco) its largest town. Portuguese merchants first landed in Goa in the 16th century but soon after colonised it. The Portuguese colony existed for about 450 years, until it was annexed as part of India in 1961.
Internationally renowned for its beaches, Goa is visited by hundreds of thousands of foreign and domestic tourists each year.
Besides beaches, Goa is also known for its world heritage architecture including the Bom Jesus Basilica. 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. It was later ruled by the Satavahanas of Kolhapur at the beginning of the Christian era and eventually passed to the Chalukyas of Badami who controlled it from 580-750 AD.
Over the next few centuries it was ruled successively by the Shilharas, the Kadambas and the Chalukyas 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 Moslems 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 and during this time its harbours were important as places where Arabian horses were landed on their way to Hampi to strengthen the Vijayanagar cavalry.
In 1469, however, Goa was reconquered, this time by the Bahmani Sultans of Gulbarga. When this dynasty broke up the area passed to the Adil Shahis of Bijapur who made Goa Velha their second capital. The present Secretariat building in Panjim is the former palace of Adil Shah, later taken over by the Portuguese Viceroys as their official residence.
The Portuguese arrived in Goa in 1510 under the command of Afonso de Albuquerque after having been unable to secure a base on the Malabar coast further south 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.
Blessed as it was by natural harbours and wide rivers, Mumbai to Goa Taxi was the ideal base for the seafaring Portuguese bent on their quest for control of the spice route from the east and the spread of Christianity. For a while, their control was limited to a small area around Old Goa but by the middle of the 16th century they had expanded to include the provinces of Bardez and Salcete.
Goa reached its present size in the 18th century as a result of further annexations, first in 1763 when the provinces of Ponda, Sanguem, Quepem and Canacona were added and later in 1788 when Pednem, Bicholim and Satan were added. The Marathas nearly vanquished the Portuguese in the late 18th century and there was a brief occupation by the British during the time of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe.
It was not until 1961, when India ejected the Portuguese in a near bloodless operation, that the Portuguese finally disappeared from the sub-continent. The other enclaves of Daman and Diu were also taken over at the same time. Despite the 20 intervening years of Indian rule Goa still maintains its distinctively Portuguese flavour and easy going ways.