History of Goa

The history of Goa is much shrouded in mystery. When the Hindu epic Mahabharata was written in the later Vedic period (c.1000-500 BC), Goa was referred to "Gomantak" (a Sanskrit word having many meanings, two of them being 'fertile land' and 'land of the Gods').

One legend has it that the mythical sage Parashuram - who was the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu - created the entire stretch of Konkan coast, several thousand years ago, by ordering the seas to recede. The entire community of the warrior tribe Kshatriyas was eradicated by Parashuram. He then gifted the land that was captured Kashyapmuni - a sage. The Kshatriya annihilation left the land unadministered; thus leading to lawlessness and turmoil. As a result, the anxious sage Kashyapmuni, requested Parashuram to leave and settle in a different place. So Parashuram, in obedience to Kashyapmuni, recovered land from the sea by ordering the sea to go back - he is believed to have shot an arrow from the top of the Western Ghats into the sea; the distance covered by the arrow indicated the amount of land to be given up by the sea god. The location where the arrow is said to have landed was called "Bannali" (Sanskrit for 'where the arrow landed'; Bann: arrow, ali: village). Today the place is better known as Benaulim. Legend has it that the land surrendered by the Sea God lies on the banks of the two main rivers: Gomati and Asghanasini - now known in Goa as Mandovi and Zuari.

Another legend has it that the beautiful ladies of the Konkan region enthralled Lord Krishna when he saw them bathing in the coastal area. The ladies in their turn were drawn to the music generated by his flute, that they were entranced and kept dancing. Lord Krishna, christened the place "Govapuri" after the cows ('gov') belonging to the locals.

The first settlers of Goa were the Brahmins who were called Saraswats. They were originally residents of the land lying on banks of the River Saraswati; hence the name. Following the drying up of the river, an exodus of Brahmins took place to all corners of India.

A group of ninety-six families, who are today called Gaud Saraswats, set up residence along the coast of Konkan. This took place in around 1000 BC. Sixty-six of them settled in the southern half of Goa, in what is today's Salcete taluka (Sanskrit: "Sassast" means "66").The rest of the thirty families settled in the northern region of Goa, in what is today's Tiswadi taluka (Sanskrit: "Tis" means "30").

These Saraswat Brahmins lived in harmony with the local indigenous people, the Kunbi tribals, who are still around to this day. Around the year 740 AD, the Brahmins erected their first Matha (religious centre of learning) at Kushasthali (present day Cortalim).

Today a temple of Parashuram stands in Painguinim village of Canacona Taluka in South Goa as a proof of the state's mythical history. There is no concrete proof to find out the accurate date as to when the Saraswats or Parashurama arrived in the Konkan. Even if the legends are counted as mere myths, the long inhabitation of Saraswat Brahmins in Goa, along with their family deities, remains an indisputable truth.

Last Updated on : 20th March 2013