Goa is one of the smallest states of India, comprises a mainland district
on the country's western coast and an offshore island, it is located 250
miles (400 kilometres) south of Bombay. It is sand witched by the states of
Maharashtra on the north and Karnataka on the east and south and by the
Arabian Sea on the west. The total area is 1,429 square miles (3,702 square
kilometres). The capital is Panaji (Panjim). Formerly Goa was a Portuguese
possession. It was annexed by India in 1962 and attained statehood in 1987.
The ancient Hindu land of Goa, of which hardly a fragment survives, was
built at the southernmost point of the island. Known as Gove, Govapuri, and
Gomant in the Puranas and certain inscriptions, Goa was famous in early
Hindu legend and history. The medieval Arabian geographers knew it as
Sindabur or Sandabur, and the Portuguese as Velha Goa. Goa's history
stretches back to the 3rd century BC, when it was part of the Mauryan
empire. Later, at the beginning of the Christian era, it was ruled by the
Satavahanas of Kolhapur. Control eventually passed to the Chalukyans of
Badami, who ruled from 580 to 750 AD. Goa fell to the Muslims for the first
time in 1312, but the invaders were forced out in 1370 by Harihara I of the
Vijayanagar empire, whose capital was at Hampi. Over the next 100 years,
Goa's harbours were important landing places for ships carrying Arabian
horses to the Vijayanagar cavalry at Hampi.
In 1510 the charm and the geographical location of Goa attracted the
Portuguese to the land. Their aim was to control the spice route from the
east and also carried a mission to spread Christianity. St Francis Xavier
with his Jesuit missionaries, arrived in 1542. Portuguese control had
expanded beyond Old Goa to include the provinces of Bardez and Salcete, by
the middle of the 16th century.
Apart from the Portuguese, the parts of Goa had captivated many from the
west - the Turks, the British, the French, the Dutch. The most prosperous
times of Goa happened with the eventual ousting of the Turks, who controlled
the trade routes across the Indian Ocean, and the resultant fortunes made
from the spice trade. The colony became the viceregal seat of the Portuguese
empire of the east, including various East African port cities, East Timor
and Macau. But rivalry between the British, French and Dutch in the 17th
century, combined with Portugal's lack of ability to service its distant
empire, led to their decline.
The Portuguese were nearly overthrown by the Marathas in the late 18th
century. However, the Portuguese clung on till 1961, when they were finally
ejected by India. Goa remained a Union territory for 26 years and gained
full fledged statehood on August 12th 1987.