Goa was the jewel of the Portuguese colonial empire. It is first mentioned as a city in the 3rd century BC under the Mauryan Empire. It would switch hands several times; to the Satavahanas of Kolhapur near the beginning of the first century AD, the Chalukyans of Badami gained control of the area in 580 AD. It would first fall into Muslim hands in 1312, but was retained for a very short time before coming under sway of the Hindu nation of Vijayanagar in 1370. The next 100 years would see the establishment of Goa as a major port in India.

It would be the city’s natural harbors and the wide rivers that would be the main draw for the Portuguese when they arrived in 1510. Goa would become the administrative center for much of the Portuguese Far Eastern and African empire. Portuguese control would last for 450 years and leave a lasting impression on the city that would become modern day Goa, as well as a lasting feel of a south European city, blended with its own native cultures.

Discovery of the Route to India

After Vasco da Gama left Malindi with his hired navigator, his next stop was the Indian subcontinent. He had become the first European to reach India by sea. He arrived a few hundred miles south of present day Goa. Unfortunately his success was also met by a bit of defeat too. The goods that da Gama brought with him where not in demand in India at all. The native peoples of the area were hostile to these outsiders and thus da Gama was forced to return to Portugal with his stores of goods still unsold.

The Portuguese Gain Goa

It would not be until the year 1510 that the Portuguese would first land in Goa. Alfonso Albuquerque would be the first Portuguese captain to land in Goa, but his arrival was staunchly resisted by Adil Shah of the Bijapur. Within a few months the Portuguese were driven out of the city, it would take them another year to arrive with enough forces to take Goa. Even when those forces arrived, they only managed to gain a single district of the area (Illhas), and in reprisal for his earlier defeats Albuquerque ordered the massacre of the Muslim population of the captured area.

By 1543 Portugal had finally gained a few more districts. These conquests formed Portugal’s ‘Old Conquests’, though they only make up 1/5 of present day Goa. Portugal quickly gained supremacy of the nearby seas and that coupled with their strong control of the conquered areas of Goa, began to integrate the city. By the end of the 16th century the Turkish control of the spice trade had been ended. Goa had grown to be the largest city in the east, with 40,000 people and 300 churches within the town, it would already be referred to as ‘Golden Goa’ and hold an immensely strong place in the spice trade and in the Far Eastern world itself.

Establishment of Portuguese Culture in Goa

Under Albuquerque the primary goal for the Portuguese government of Goa was commerce. Religion took a back seat and Hindu beliefs were allowed were very well tolerated, though the Muslim population obviously had a decidedly tougher time (though they were not actively targeted).

As the Counter Revolution began in Europe, the Inquisition also traveled abroad and eventually it would land in Goa. Led by Saint Francis Xavier, the Portuguese inquisition arrived in 1542, the policy of tolerance toward the Hindu religion was reversed and temples were razed with Christian churches built on the old sites. Muslim peoples were actively removed from the area or killed and the Goans was forced into the Christian religion. The distinctly Portuguese names that many Goans bear today are a relic of that time when converts were forced to accept a Portuguese name at their conversion.

Decline of Portugal and Goa

During the 16th century Portugal’s trade empire began to fail. The Dutch had seized control of the spice trade (Portugal’s original reason for colonizing in the far east) and Portugal had been forced to turn to Brazil as the center of its colonial empire. Goa was attacked twice by the Dutch in 1603 and 1640, though it weathered both of these attacks. Even the independent Indian nation of Marathas threatened invasion (1683), though its plans were halted when the Mughal Empire to the north invaded Marathas.

By 1741 the Marathas were again in a position to attack Goa. The invading forces manage to seize Portugal’s northern holdings, including the area around Bassein. In a remarkable bit of timing a new viceroy had been on his way. The viceroy, the Marquis of Lourical, arrived with reinforcements just in time to defeat the Marathas in Bardez, though Bassein was still lost to Marathas. This would actually spark Portuguese expansion and the resulting frontier wars significantly expanded the Portuguese holdings.

These new holdings were treated differently though. The Portuguese distrust of other religions had died down considerably and even the Jesuits had been banned from Portugal in 1759. By 1835, all religious orders had been officially banned and as a result the Hindu population in these newly conquered areas were given religious freedom to worship who and how they wished.

End of Portuguese Power in Goa

The first open revolt against Portuguese rule broke out in Goa in 1787. Know as the Pinto Revolution, it was led by several Goan priests, who were unhappy with the process of promotion in Goa’s clerical orders. The rebellion was put down after a few deportations and executions had been done. But Portugal’s woes in Goa were not over, the British actually managed to gain control of Goa twice in the beginning of the 19th century, once from 1797 –98 and another time from 1802-1813.

Though the British were eventually removed from power over Goa and Portuguese control resumed, these short periods led to other longer lasting problems for the Portuguese rule of Goa. The Goan population began to emigrate to other areas of India in large numbers. The opening of railroad links to British India in 1881 and the opening of the port of Marmagoa to other Indian traffic in 1878 led to even larger numbers of emigrants as Goa’s isolation decreased.

1900 saw not only the beginning of a new century of Portuguese rule over Goa, but also the opening of the first Anti-Portuguese rule newspaper. Established by Luis Menezes Braganza, the paper “O Heraldo” actively critized the Portuguese colonial government. The paper would last barely 25 years though as a viable source of critism and social change.

1926 saw the ascension of the Salazar regime in Portugal which established a strong grip on civil liberties. In Goa it was not allowed to publish any newspaper, pamphlet or even invitation without approval by the government. Another political activist, Dr. Cunha, established the Goa National Congress in 1928, which was strongly linked to the Indian National Congress. It seemed that Goa was moving ever closer to freeing itself from Portuguese hands.

Support did still exist for Portugal in Goa though. The majority of the Christian, Portuguese speaking, population still was actively in support of the Portuguese colonial government however much they might have disliked the current Salazar regime of Portugal.

By 1947 the British had left India and the nation had assumed a Republic form of government. France withdrew from Pondicherri (on the mid-east coast of India) in 1954. The Salazar leaders in Portugal refused to reliquinsh Goa though. Finally in 1961 the Indian army simply marched into Goa, the city was taken with almost no resistance. Goa had been the last colonial position in India, as well as the first.