blog cover


A Brief History Of Goa: From The Myth Of Mahabharata To Becoming The 25th State Of India

By Nishtha Gandhi

Updated - May 9, 202411 min read

Download App

This small state on the western coast of India got its name from the Hindu epic “Mahabharata“. It used to be referred to as “Gomantak” signifying fertile land. However, the name Goa was given by Portuguese. Before they arrived in the scenario, Goa, or Gove or Gowapura, was the name only of the port town near the mouth of the Mandovi River. This was also the same site on which the Portuguese later built their capital, which is today’s Old Goa. Let’s take you through a summary of History Of Goa. history-goa



1. Myths And Stories From Mahabharata

The history of Goa or Gomantak has been woven into seamless strings of various myths and stories that take us back into the time of Mahabharata. For some, the origin of Goa lies when Parshurama; the sixth incarnation of Vishnu ordered the sea god Varuna to recede the sea to the point his axe struck after he flung it. Lord Varuna then gave up this piece of land till the banks of River Mandovi and River Zuari to Parshurama and Aryan clan accompanying him. This piece of land came to be known as Konkan of which Goa is a southernmost part.history-goa



2. The Bronze & Iron Age – Age Of Village God & Goddesses

In 2200 B.C., the first written reference to Goa appears to have been in Cuneiform, in Sumerian times when the King Judea of Lagash called it Gubio.  Sumerians had established trade contacts with Goa and many Sumerians settled in Goa and along the Konkan coast. Sumerians are believed to have modified many local customs and introduce their own systems such as their style of temple architecture, the Devadasi system; the Sumerians also influenced the language, caste system, and the kinship practices to some extent. Sumerian influence in Goa can also be seen in the entertainment and games of the region. Even before any king ruled the territory, oligarchic democracy in the form of Gavkari existed in Goa. Gavkari System’s main idea was that village land must belong to the village god or goddess. It consisted of definite boundaries of land from village to village with its topographic detail, its management and social, religious and cultural interaction.history-goa


3. Era Of The Great Emperor Ashoka

Goa was a part of the Mauryan empire of Emperor Ashoka. It has been known to other cultures by different names. Two hundred years before Christ, Goa became the southern fringe of the empire of Ashoka. The Aryans had pushed the Dravidian kingdoms to the southern tip of India, such as the Cholas, Pandyas, Tamil Mad, Satyaputras, and Keralaputras. Having an edge over the past helps us understand the history of Goa better.history-goa


4. The Era Of Consecutive Hindu Dynasties

Goa was ruled by several dynasties of various origins from the 1st century BC to 1500 AD. For 700 years, a lot of Hindu dynasties ruled Goa. History of Goa is a timeline rule by several dynasties from origins with a different traditional and cultural background.history-goa


Suggested Reads:

Tropic Like It’s Hot: What To Wear In Goa

Explore The 10 Most Romantic Places In Goa - From The Best Beaches In Goa to Exquisite Restaurants

It's Shrimpossible To Not Have A Candle Light Dinner In These Restaurants In Goa

20 of The Best Restaurants In Goa That Make Us Fall In Love With This Beach City



One has to know the timeline to figure out the real history of Goa. The various dynasties that controlled Goa during this period are:

1. Scytho-Parthians (2nd -4th century AD)



2. Abhiras, Batpura, and the Bhojas ( 4th – 6th century AD)



3. Chalukyas ( from 6th – 8th century AD)



4. Rashtrakutas of Malkhed (8th to 10th Century AD) 

The Shilaharas of South Konkan ruled Goa from 755 till 1000 AD.   Sannaphulla, the founder of the dynasty, was a vassal of the Rashtrakutas. This was a tumultuous period in Goan history. As the Goa   Shilahara power waned during the 11th century, the Arab traders gained increasing control of the overseas trade. They enjoyed autonomy from the Shilaharas. In order to control this decline, Kadamba King Guhalladeva I, ruling from Chandor, established secular,   political, and economic partnerships with these Arab states. After the Chalukyas defeated the Rashtrakutas, exploiting this situation to their advantage, the Kadamba King, Shashthadeva II, firmly established his rule in Goa. You'll come across several wars and defeats to realize the real history of Goa.rashtrakutas_imagehistory-goa


5. Kadambas (10th to 14th Century AD) 

Kadambas ruled from Chandor, over a large part of Goa, but the port of Gopakapattana was not included in the early years. Later King Shashthadeva conquered the island of Goa, including the ports of Gopakpattana and   Kapardikadvipa, and annexed a large part of South Konkan to his kingdom. He made Gopakpattana as his secondary capital. His successor, King Jayakeshi I, expanded the Goan kingdom. Guhalladeva III, Jayakeshi II, Shivachitta Paramadideva, Vinshuchitta II and   Jayakeshi III dominated Goa’s political scene in the 12th century. During the rule of Kadambas, the name and fame of Goapuri had reached its zenith. Goa’s religion, culture, trade, and arts flourished under the rule of these kings. 



6. Bahmani Sultanate ( 1350 AD to 1497 AD )

The rule of Goa switched from Bahmani Sultanate to Vijaynagar rulers and back to   Bahmani Sultanate of Gulbarga. When this Sultanate broke up in 1492, Goa became a part of Adil Shah’s Bijapur Sultanate, which established Goa Velha as its second capital. The former Secretariat building in Panaji is a former Adil Shahi palace, later taken over by the Portuguese Viceroys as their official residence. Interesting right? History of Goa has definitely got us intrigued with such details about the past history-goa


Suggested Read:

20 of The Best Restaurants In Goa That Make Us Fall In Love With This Beach City

From Thalassa to LPK and Club Cabana to Curlies: Explore All The Best Bars In Goa To Dance Your Night Away

Update Your Itinerary With These 50 Amazing Things To Do In Goa

Tropic Like It’s Hot: What To Wear In Goa


Colonialism By The Portuguese Empire




The Portuguese rule in Goa lasted for as long as 450 years. The history of the Portuguese in Goa was similar to the British in India. It is interesting to know that while the Portuguese ruled Goa, their country itself was ruled by Spain from the late 16th century for a period of 60 years. The Portuguese rule in Goa began in 1498. The Portuguese explorer  Vasco da Gama landed in Calicut after setting off from Lisbon, in present-day Kerala in 1498. This discovery and the establishment of a new sea route to India around the Cape of Good Hope gave an impetus to the Portuguese who wanted very much to exploit it to their advantage and profit from it. In 1510, when Goa was under  Sultan Adil Shah of Bijapur, Portuguese attacked Goa under the command of  Alfonso de Albuquerque.  history-goa

On February 17th he entered the city of Goa for the first time and met little resistance as the Sultan was engaged with his forces elsewhere. Soon after, Sultan came after Alfonso and that led to Alfonso fleeing the city of Goa. Alfonso de  Albuquerque made another attempt a few months later. This was a good time Sultan Adil Shah had just died and the heir to the throne was the infant, Ismail Adil Shah. Ela or the city of Goa was under Rasul Khan, one of his generals. After an initial attack on the Arsenal and a quick and bloody battle, Alfonso de Albuquerque victoriously entered the city of Ela, Goa on  St. Catherine’s Day, November 25th, 1510. Consequently, the Portuguese became the first Europeans to establish their colonies on the Indian sub-continent. Albuquerque did not interfere in Hindu rituals or customs but abolished those which were humanly cruel, such as ‘Sati’. But he massacred all the Muslims in the city as revenge against Adil Shah but left alone the Hindus. By 1543, the Portuguese were able to extend their control over Salcette, Mormugao, and Bardez, thus ending their first phase of expansion into Goa.  By this time, Goa became the jewel of Portugal’s eastern empire. The history of Goa remains as mysterious and rich in events as we keep on exploring.



Once established in Ela, the Portuguese began a religious conquest, aiming to convert Hindus that had remained in the city. Persuasion rather than force were used to convert at first, and soldiers were encouraged to marry local women thus ensuring Christian children. In 1532, however, the tactics became more forceful. Shrines across the territory were plundered, temples were closed and Hindus were even tortured and killed for failure to convert. Despite these measures, secret temples were still used throughout the crusades. 




Goa reached its peak culturally and economically by the end of 16th century when it was fondly referred to as ‘Lisbon of the East’. Christianity arrived in Goa with St. Francis Xavier and the Jesuits. Such was the Saints impact on the people’s mind that he still is remembered by the Goan’s as the city’s patron saint. The inquisition of Goa saw its attitude toward the Hindus change from being liberal to imposing with more duress given on to promoting Roman Catholicism and converting to Christianity. Yes, God did have a golden age and the history still remembers it. The history of Goa is embedded deeply with religion, wars, defeats, settlements and what not but isn't that exactly what the past and present are all about.history-goa



Several factors contributed to Goa’s decline as a Portuguese territory throughout the 17th Century. A recession in Portugal, the spread of diseases such as malaria and typhoid in the colony and the poor position of Old Goa on a river that was beginning to fill with silt all led to the decay and decline of this once rich and prosperous city. Muslim attacks weakened the Portuguese’s resistance. The Maratha Wars of 1664 to 1739 further destabilized the Portuguese stronghold in India. The Maratha Wars of 1664 to 1739 further destabilized the Portuguese stronghold in India. During this period, the Portuguese slowly expanded their territories which enabled them to extend their control over Bicholim and Safari  Pernem, Ponda, Sanguem, Quepem and Canacona in 1791. These acquisitions are known as the” Novas Conquestas. By 1835, all religious orders were banned, and the Hindu majority were granted the freedom to practice their religion. As a result, the “New Conquests” retained their Hindu identity, a characteristic feature is visible even today, and this is also why there is a religious/cultural/language or dialect difference existing in Goa. We've got to say every history is written in Blood so is the history of Goa.history-goa


Operation Vijay To Liberate India From the Portuguese Empire

The Portuguese influence on nearly 500 years of Goan history came to an end on December 17th, 1961 when Indian forces entered Goa, responding to an attack on Indian fishermen by the Portuguese a month earlier. The liberation of Goa, known as Operation Vijay took place with barely a shot fired on either side. Within three days, without much resistance from the small Portuguese force, India liberated Goa. On December 19, 1961, Goa officially became part of India and two years later, held its first general election. It's important to know every detail to get into the depth of the evolution of goa and nothing can help us know this better other than the history of Goa.history-goa

Goa was declared as a Union Territory and after a popular vote from the public, it was decided that Goa would not merge with Maharashtra but remain a Union Territory. Public pressure in the second half of the 1980s ensured Konkani, the language spoken by most Goans, was recognized in India as an Official Language. After India’s takeover in 1961, the Hindus that spoke Marathi came to power in Goa’s first democratic elections through the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) headed by Dayanand Bandodkar. The history of Goa ends here but with a new beginning - a stronger beginning with a recognition established for good.


On May 31st, 1987 Goa has declared the 25th state of India.



Q: Which is the best time to visit Goa?

A: October - Feb


Q: Which are the best beaches in South Goa?

A: Palolem, Agonda, Polem