This port city on the west coast of India was the center of Portuguese influence in India from 1510 until 1961, and at its height, in the early 17th century, was one of the great cities in the region. Goa as a port dates to the third century b.c.e.
A Portuguese force under Afonso de Albuquerque with 20 ships and 1,200 men took the town in 1510 from Muslim rulers. Albuquerque had all Muslim men there killed, and gradually a Portuguese town of Goa began. The nearby regions of Bardez and Salcete were added to the areas under Portugal’s control and these areas together became known as the “Old Conquests.” Missionaries arrived, the most famous being Spanish Jesuit Francis Xavier (later sainted). The Inquisition was established in Goa in 1560 and operated until 1774.
Goa was initially threatened by a large Muslim force, which, in 1570, besieged the city for nearly a year. When Portugal merged with Spain in 1580, Goa was attacked by the English and the Dutch also. Goa thrived in the early 17th century and was said to exceed Lisbon in wealth with a population of 200,000. However Goa was located in a swampy area and diseases caused major health problems. In the late 18th century, Portugal acquired additional lands near to its original holdings. These areas became known as the “New Conquests.”
There were major differences between the “Old Conquests” and the “New Conquests.” In the former the population was overwhelmingly Catholic while in the latter there were large numbers of Hindus and Hindu temples survived. Freedom of worship was restored to the Hindus in 1833.
In 1752, the capital was moved from Goa to Panaji for health reasons. The old capital had been easy to protect from attack since the British accepted the Portuguese enclave on the west coast of India. Defense from enemies was no longer a problem. Goa continued as a Portuguese colony until 1961.