Goa - Introduction @ whatisindia.com


What Is India News Service
Wednesday, August 22, 2007




Quick Information

State Area (Sq. Km.)


State Capital


Major Language(s)

Konkani & Marathi

Number of Districts








Growth Rate 1991-2001

14.89 %



Urban Population

49.77 %

Sex Ratio (Females per 1000 Males)


Literacy Rate

82.32 %


88.88 %


75.51 %


Legislative Assembly


High Court, Bombay


Sri S. C. Jamir


Raj Niwas, Dona Paula,

Goa 404 004

Office No.

0832 - 2453506, 2453507, 2453508

Residence No.



0832 - 2453510

Chief Minister

Sri Digambar Kamat


Office No.

0832-2223970, 2223464

Residence No.




Chief  Secretary

Sri. J. P. Singh , IAS/ AGMU :


Panjim, Goa-403001

Office No.


Residence No.








General Information

Goa is the smallest state of the Indian Union.  It was part of the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu.  It became the twenty-fifth state in the Indian Union on May 30th 1987. 


Goa is bounded on the north by Maharashtra and on the east and south by Karnataka and has a coastline of 105 km, opening up to Arabian Sea in the west.


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 meters (3,827 feet).  Goa has a coastline of 101 km (63 miles).

Goa's main rivers are the Mandovi, the Zuari, the Terekhol, Chapora and the Betul.  The Mormugao harbor on the mouth of the river Zuari is one of the best natural harbors in South Asia.  The Zuari and the Mandovi are the lifelines of Goa, with their tributaries draining 69% of it's 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.


A native of Goa is called a Goan in English, Goenkar in Konkani, Goês (male) or Goesa (female) in Portuguese and a Govekar in Marathi.  In many parts of India, the names Goanese is also sometimes used instead of Goan.

Goa has at present a population of 1.344 million residents, making it India's fourth smallest (after Sikkim, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh).  The population has a growth rate of 14.9% per annum.  There are 363 people for each square kilometre of the land.  49.77% of the population live in urban areas.  The sex ratio is 960 females to 1000 males.  Goa's literacy rate is 82.32%, broken down into: males 88.88% and females 75.51%.  Hinduism (65%), Catholicism (30%) and Islam are the three main religions in Goa.

Goa's major towns include Vasco, Margao (also spelt as Margaon, and pronounced as Madgaon), Marmagao (also pronounced by some as Murgaon), Panjim and Mapusa. The region connecting the last four towns is considered a de facto conurbation, or a more or less continuous urban area.

Following the end of Portuguese rule, the most widely used languages are Konkani as the primary spoken language, and English and Marathi for official, literary or educational purposes. Language is a controversial issue in Goa, over which an agitation was fought between two contending pro-Konkani and pro-Marathi camps between 1985-87. After the agitation ended in 1987, a complex formula grants 'official language' status to Konkani, while Marathi is also allowed to be used "for any or all official purposes." Given the bitter rivalry between the two lobbies, clubbed with a maudlin issue has resulted in a stalemate over the actual implementation. Portuguese, the earlier language of the elite, has been hit by shrinking numbers, though a small section still prefer it as the medium for discourse at home, while even a few Portuguese books have been published in recent years. English, viewed as a language of opportunity and social mobility is widely understood by the many of the state residents. Hindi, India's national language, is also spoken as a second or third language.


The ancient Hindu city of Goa, of which hardly a fragment survives, was built at the southernmost point of the island, and it was famous in early Hindu legend and history.  In the Puranas and certain inscriptions, the name of the place appears as Gove, Govapuri, and Gomant.  It has also been known as Aprant.  The medieval Arabian geographers knew it as Sindabur, or Sandabur, and the Portuguese as Goa.  When the capital was transferred to "Nova Goa" or New Goa (today's Panaji), the old capital came to be known as "Velha Goa" or Old Goa.

The region still retains many features from the period of Portuguese rule, including Catholic churches.  A majority of these churches were built on top of Hindu temples that were razed during the inquisition of Goa in the 16th century.  Few artifacts remain from those ancient temples, the most famous being the headless "Nandi" bull of the preexisting Shiva temple, that is situated outsize the Chandor church.

The local language is Konkani, an Indo-European language related to Hindi and Marathi.  It is spoken by 1.5 to 2 million people in Goa and the Konkan coast.  Few Goans speak Portuguese now (3 to 5%), although the language lives on in place names and some family names.  English is the most widely spoken foreign language, and shops in tourist areas invariably have signs in English.  Some shops also have signs in Hebrew or Finnish.

Fort Aguada - The region is famous for its excellent white sand beaches, and in the 1960s was a popular destination on the hippie trail.  Goa trance music originated here and became popular as a result of the hippie culture.  Today the region has a booming tourist industry, and many large hotels have been built in the last twenty years.

Ancient History

Mahabharata refers to Goa as Goparashtra, ‘a nation of cowherds or of nomadic tribes’.  Parshuram, the Hindu god, according to legend, flung his arrow on the coast and made the waters recede, thus founding the Konkan.  The Southern Konkan was called Govarashtra.  In ancient Indian texts in Sanskrit she is also known as Gopakapuri or Gapakapattana.  This only corroborates the idea that Goa was a very prosperous State, since cattle was the criterion of wealth.  The name Gomant for Goa also occurs in the said Indian epic Mahabharata and in the sacred Hindu texts like Harivansa and Skanda as well.  In the latter, Goa is even known as Gomanchala.  They equally refer to her as Govapuri.  Suta Sanhita, an Indian classic, for instance, has a revealing passage: “To the north of Gokarn is a 'kshetra' with seven 'yojanas' in circumference: therein is situated Govapuri, which destroys all sins.  The sight of Govapuri destroys the sin committed in a previous existence, as at sunrise darkness disappears.  Even by making up his mind to bathe once in Govapuri one attains a high place (in the next world).  Certainly there is no 'kshetra' equal to Govapuri.”

Goa has a long history stretching back to the 3rd century BCE, when it formed part of the Mauryan empire. It was later ruled by the Satavahanas of Kolhapur at the beginning of the Common Era and eventually passed to the Chalukyans of Badami, who controlled it from 580 to 750.  Over the next few centuries it was ruled successively by the Silharas, the Kadambas and the Chalukyans 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 Muslim Sultanate of Delhi 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, during which its harbours were important landing places for Arabian horses on their way to Hampi to strengthen the Vijaynagar cavalry.  In 1469, however, Goa was reconquered, this time by the Bahmani Sultans of Gulbarga.  When this dynasty broke up, the area passed to Adil Shahis of Bijapur, who made Goa Velhaa their second capital.  The present Secretariat building in Panaji is a former Adil Shahi palace, later taken over by the Portuguese Viceroys as their official residence.

After a millennium of relatively stable Hindu rule, two centuries of alternating Hindu and Muslim dynasties ended in Goa's conquest by the Portuguese admiral Afonso de Albuquerque in 1510, after having been unable to secure a base on the Malabar coast further south.  This was 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.  After losing the city briefly to its former ruler, the Muslim king of Bijapur, Albuquerque returned in force, massacring the Muslim inhabitants.

Goa had become important as a starting-point of Muslim pilgrims from India to Mecca, as a mart with no rival except Calicut on India's west coast, and especially as the centre of the import trade in horses (Gulf Arabs) from Hormuz, the control of which was a vital matter to the kingdoms warring in the Deccan. The Portuguese were also bent on their quest for control of the spice route from the east and the spread of Christianity.  It was easily defensible by any power with command of the sea, as the encircling rivers could only be forded at one spot, and had been deliberately stocked with crocodiles.  For a while their control was limited to a small area around Old Goa, by the middle of the 16th century it had expanded to include Bardez and Salcete.

Portuguese India

Church in Old Goa - In 1498, Vasco da Gama became the first European to set foot in India via a sea route.  His successful mission led to other European powers seeking an alternate route to India as the traditional land routes were closed by the Turks.  In 1510, the ruling Bijapur kings were defeated by the Portuguese admiral Afonso de Albuquerque, on request of a Hindu king, Timayya (Timoja).  The Portuguese set up a base in Goa in their quest to control the spice trade.  The city was made capital of the Portuguese Vice-Kingdom in Asia, and the other Portuguese possessions in India, Malacca and other bases in Indonesia, East Timor, the Persian Gulf, Macao in China and trade bases in Japan were under the suzerainty of its Vice-Roy.  By mid-16th century, the area under occupation had expanded to most of present day limits.

In 1757, the king of Portugal, D. José I, put his seal on a Royal decree passed by his prime minister, Marquês de Pombal, granting the rights of Portuguese citizenship and representation to all subjects in the Portuguese Indies (Goa, Damão and Diu).  The enclaves of Goa, Damão, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli became collectively known as the Estado da Índia Portuguesa, and had representation in the Portuguese parliament.

As Portugal's first territorial possession in Asia, Goa was the base for Albuquerque's conquest of Malacca (1511) and Hormuz (1515).  Albuquerque intended it to be a colony and a naval base, as distinct from the fortified factories established in certain Indian seaports.  He encouraged his men to marry local women, and to settle in Goa as farmers, retail traders or artisans.

These married men soon became a privileged caste, and Goa acquired a large Eurasian population.  Goa became the capital of the whole Portuguese empire in the East.  It was granted the same civic privileges as Lisbon.  Its senate or municipal chamber maintained direct communications with the king and paid a special representative to attend to its interests at court.  In 1563 the governor even proposed to make Goa the seat of a parliament, in which all parts of the Portuguese east were to be represented; this was vetoed by the king.

In 1542 St. Francis Xavier mentions the architectural splendour of the city; but it reached the climax of its prosperity between 1575 and 1625.  Travelers marveled at Goa Dourada, or Golden Goa, and there was a Portuguese proverb, "He who has seen Goa need not see Lisbon."

Merchandise from all parts of the East was displayed in its bazaar, and separate streets were set aside for the sale of different classes of goods–Bahrain pearls and coral, Chinese porcelain and silk, Portuguese velvet and piece-goods, drugs and spices from the Malay Archipelago.

In the main street slaves were sold by auction.  The houses of the rich were surrounded by gardens and palm groves; they were built of stone and painted red or white.  Instead of glass, their balconied windows had thin polished oyster-shells set in lattice-work.  The social life of Goa's rulers befitted the headquarters of the vice-regal court, the army and navy, and the church; luxury and ostentation becoming a byword before the end of the 16th century.

Almost all manual labor was done by slaves; common soldiers assumed high-sounding titles, and it was even customary for the poor noblemen who congregated together in boarding-houses to subscribe for a few silken cloaks, a silken umbrella and a common man-servant, so that each could take his turn to promenade the streets, fashionably attired and with a proper escort.

There were huge gambling salons, licensed by the municipality, where determined players lodged for weeks together; and every form of vice, except drunkenness, was practised by both sexes, although European women were forced to lead a kind of zenana life of seclusion, and never ventured unveiled into the streets; they even attended church in their palanquins, so as to avoid observation.

Albuquerque and his successors left almost untouched the customs and constitutions of the thirty village communities on the island, only abolishing the rite of sati (widow-burning).  A register of these customs (Foral de usos e costumes) was published in 1526, and is an historical document of much value; an abstract of it is given in R. S. Whiteway's Rise of the Portuguese Empire in India (London, 1898).

The appearance of the Dutch in Indian waters was followed by the gradual ruin of Goa.  In 1603 and 1639 the city was blockaded by Dutch fleets, though never captured, and in 1635 it was ravaged by an epidemic.

Its trade was gradually monopolised by the Jesuits.  Jean de Thévenot in 1666, Baldaeus in 1672, Fryer in 1675 describe its ever-increasing poverty and decay.  In 1683 the Mughal army prevented it from capture by the Marathas, and in 1739 the whole territory was attacked by the marathas again, but could not be won because of the unexpected arrival of a new viceroy with a fleet.  This continued until 1759, when a peace with the Marathas was concluded.

In the same year the viceroy transferred his residence from the vicinity of Goa city to New Goa (in Portuguese Nova Goa), today's Panaji, which became the official seat of government in 1843, effecting a move which had been discussed as early as 1684.  Old Goa city's population fell steeply during the 18th century as Europeans moved to the new city.

Early Freedom Movement

The first armed battle of independence of Goa from the Portuguese was fought by the Desais of Cuncolim in c1583.  The Portuguese missionaries used to regularly come along with soldiers to forcibly convert the villagers.  This resulted in small skirmishes, with both parties suffering casualties each time.  Finally, the villagers, angered after some missionaries desecrated a local place of worship, slaughtered the invading party, including all the missionaries.  This angered the Portuguese authorities, who formed a heinous plan, a method frequently used by the Europeans to capture the small Indian towns and villages.

They called the 16 chieftains of each ward (vado) of the Cuncolim village to the Assolna fort to formulate a peace pact with the villagers.  At the fort, the Portuguese brutally killed the unassuming chieftains, but luckily, two of the chieftains jumped from the fort into the Arabian sea and swam away to safety (presumably to Karwar), and managed to tell the tale.  After this slaughter, the villagers were left without leaders.  Taking advantage of this impasse, the Portuguese began confiscating the land of the locals refusing to convert to Christianity, and throwing bread dipped in pork on the houses, forcing the members of those houses into Christianity.

To avoid demolition of the village temple, the villagers shifted the idol of the village goddess Shantadurga, to an area outside the Portuguese control, deep in the forests of Fatorpa.  In the present day, the annual festivals of Sattreo, Dussehra and Jatra (fair) are celebrated by both the Hindus and Catholics alike, in an outstanding example of syncreticism.  Twelve vangddi (leaders representing the 12 groups of villagers of the temple), perform most of the rites these festivals.  Of these twelve vangddi, three are of Catholic religion, as there are no Hindus that remain of those wards.  Today, a small chapel rests at the spot where the Shantadurga temple originally stood in the village.

Similar unrecorded battles have been fought in most of the villages and settlements all around Goa.  This finally led to the stopping of the inquisition, and Goa remained peaceful under the Portuguese, though suppressed, and forced to study in either Portuguese language or Marathi language of neighboring Maharashtra.

A lot of people fled the inquisition and suppression, and there are large Goan colonies in Karwar and Mangalore in Karnataka.

After the Independence of India

When India became independent in 1947, Goa remained Portuguese.  The Indian government of Jawaharlal Nehru insisted that it, along with a few other minor Portuguese holdings, be turned over to India.  Portugal, however, refused.  France, which had also had small enclaves in India (most notably Pondicherry, see French India), gave them up.  Portugal, however, amended its constitution to have Goa made a Portuguese province and refused to surrender it.  In 1954, India assisted a few armed insurgents to take over the tiny land-locked enclaves of Dadra & Nagar-Haveli, an incident which led the Portuguese to lodge a complaint against India in the International Court of Justice at The Hague.  The final judgment on this case, given in 1960, was ambiguous in that the Portuguese had a right to the enclaves, but India equally had a right to deny Portugal access rights to the enclaves over its territory.

India's independence revamped the resistance groups that were operating in and around the territory.  In 1955 an unarmed invasion was launched by a mass of Indians satyagrahis, following the teachings of Gandhi.  The Portuguese met them with brutal force and 22 were reported to be killed by Portuguese machine-guns.

In the 1960s the World Court and the United Nations General Assembly both ruled in India's favor in the dispute.  World public opinion was also turning against Portugal due to their brutal actions in Angola.  The United States, however, remained supportive of its NATO ally and would not allow the UN Security Council to rule against Portugal.  The Indians offered continued special treatment for the Portuguese in Goa and protection of the area's distinct culture, but still the Portuguese refused to negotiate.  This was mostly out of concern for the situation in Angola, where any concessions in Goa would weaken Portugal's colonial hold.

The Indian consulate in Goa was active until 1 Sep 1955, when it was closed down after unarmed Indian "satyagrahis", who had taken over the fort at Tiracol and hoisted the Indian Tricolor there, were driven off by the Portuguese with a number of casualties.  In that year Jawaharlal Nehru declared his government would not tolerate Portuguese presence in Goa even if the Goans themselves wanted them.  Many natives of Goa were, by this time, demanding that the Portuguese leave the state but the demand was met with brutal repression.  The Indian Government then instituted an armed blockade against Goa, Damão & Diu, in an effort to force the Portuguese to leave.  Instead, the Portuguese government in Goa proposed to make Goa, Damão & Diu independent, but there was little support for this from the local population.

On December 19, 1961, India, under pressure from public opinion as a result of the brutal policies of the Portuguese, moved into Goa.  Named Operation Vijay, twenty Indians and 17 Portuguese were killed in the fighting, which lasted twenty-six hours.  A famous telegram was sent to a newspaper correspondent at the time – the single word "Goa?".  He replied, "Gone".  Goa became an Indian Union Territory, and later a state, in 1987.

After annexation the area was under military rule for five months, but the previous civil service was soon restored and the area became a federally administered territory.  Goa celebrates its "Liberation Day" on 19 December every year, which it is also a state holiday.

Manorama Year Book 2007

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