Celebrating the Land and the People

Geography and history both define Goa, influencing and shaping its unique identity.

Historically, Goa has always been a part of larger empires. The Kadamba dynasty ruled over Goa for over 100 years (from 2nd century CE to 1312) with their capitals at Chandrapur (today’s Chandor) and Gopakapattana (today’s Goa Velha/Agassaim).The Mahadev temple at Tambdi Surla in the Mollem National Park is the only significant remnant of their architectural heritage.

Between 1312 and 1367 Goa was a part of the Delhi Sultanate. From 1367 to 1440 it was in the possession of the Vijaynagara Empire, a Hindu off-offshoot from the break-up of the Bahamani Sultanate. The Islamic faction of the Bahamani Sultanate took over in 1440 and established the port city of Ella (today’s Old Goa, Portuguese-Velha Goa). In 1482 Adil Shah of Bijapur took over. The Adil Shah Palace at Panjim (Palacio da Idalcao) is the most significant architectural remnant of that era.

Menez Braganza House, located in Chandor Village, is a grand mansion narrating stories of Goa from the 17th century

Situated about 20 km inland from the Arabian Sea, the Port of Ella was taken over by the Portuguese Viceroy Albuquerque in 1510. After his death in 1515, the Portuguese added the talukas of Bardez and Salcete to their territories by the middle of the 16th century. These three talukas (Tiswadi, Bardez and Salcete) were called the Velhas Conquistas (Old Conquests) and have a significant Christian population as the zeal for conversion was at its peak in the 16th and 17th centuries. The talukas of Quepem, Ponda, Canacona and Sanguem were handed over by the Raja of Soonda in 1764 when he sought protection by the Portuguese from the rampaging Hyder Ali in 1764. Parts of Pernem, Bicholim and Sattari were handed over by the Bhonsle rulers of Sawantwadi in 1783 as they sought Portuguese help against the Raja of Kolhapur and the present northern boundary upto Tiracol fort was fixed in 1788. These talukas were called the Novas Conquistas (New Conquests) and have retained most of their traditional culture.

Ella or Velha Goa (Old Goa) was one of the most important trading cities of the world with its zenith between 1575-1625 when it was called ‘Goa Dourada’ (Golden Goa) and ‘Pearl of the Orient’. Each street had a market where commodities like silk and porcelain from China, spices from Malacca and slaves from Africa were traded. Horses were imported from Persia and sold to the Islamic kingdoms of the Deccan and Vijaynagara Empire. Several splendid buildings and fine mansions dotted the countryside. Its architectural splendor and ostentatious way of life led to the saying, ‘He who has seen Old Goa need not see Lisbon’.

The advent of the Dutch led to the decline of the Portuguese Empire and consequently Velha Goa. Ravaged by a devastating epidemic in 1635, the population declined from 20,000 to 1600 by 1775 and by 1835, the city of Old Goa was inhabited by only a handful of priests, monks and nuns.

Adil Shah Palace in Panjim, Goa, built by Yusuf Adil Shah of Bijapur in the 16th century, is one of the oldest structures in Goa and has been preserved to date

Today Old Goa’s remaining churches and convents are protected as a UNESCO world heritage site and the area includes the Se Cathedral (1652), Basilica De Bom Jesus (1605), Chapel of St Catherine (1510), Church of St Cajetan (1661) and the convent of Santa Monica which houses the Museum of Christian Art.

The capital of Goa was eventually shifted to Panaji, then a small fishing village with an imposing white church built in the mid 16th century (Church of Immaculate Conception) used as a pit stop for sailors and traders before they entered the city of Old Goa. In 1843 Panaji was declared as the Cidade De Nova Goa (City of New Goa).

The first area to develop in Panjim was the palm grove called ‘Palmar Ponte’ popularly known now as Fontainhas. A large number of perennial springs led to a high demand for land. However, the land was parceled out randomly and the area developed in a haphazard manner. Narrow lanes interconnected at various points. The buildings were painted in in red, blue, green or yellow and this along with the Portuguese language spoken by its residents led to it being called the ‘Latin Quarter’. A vibrant tourist and social hub today, Fontainhas was declared a conservation zone in 1984. The Campal area in Panjim and the area around the Holy Spirit Church in Margao are the other two conservation zones in Goa.

Each village in Goa, especially in the Old Conquests of Tiswadi, Bardez and Salcete could be considered as a model for planning. ‘The layout of the Church, the Village Green, the market and the houses that defined the village were as if a master builder was at work. These houses had borrowings from the West, roots in the East and defined a people in search of its identity.’ (Houses of Goa, Gerard da Cunha).

As the feudal system waned several of these houses fell into disrepair. However some houses can still be noticed in the villages of Loutolim,Chandor, Curtorim, Majorda, Chinchinim as well as in the city of Margao in South Goa.

Between 1799-1815 Goa was briefly occupied by the British who feared that Napoleon would invade Goa. The British cemetery at Dona Paula speaks of their presence in Goa.

India gained Independence in 1947 while Goa got liberated in 1961.

In the 1970’s the hippies first discovered Goa, making it their winter home. Over the next few decades they created their own sub-culture especially in the North Goa beach belt, bringing a variety of foods to Goa at the Anjuna Flea Market and at Ingo’s Saturday Night Market and creating a new genre of trance music called ‘Goa trance’.

Author: Planet Goa Team
For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.

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