The Mahabharata refers to Goa as Goparashtra, "a nation of cowherds or of nomadic tribes". In other ancient Indian texts in Goa is also known as Gopakapuri, Gapakapattana, Gomanchala, Govapuri. Suta Samhita, an Indian classic, describes Goa as such: "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.";
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, Macau in China and trade bases in Japan were under the suzerainty of its Viceroy. 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.
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. Travellers marvelled 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 viceregal court, the army and navy, and the church; luxury and ostentation becoming a byword before the end of the 16th century.
Almost all manual labour 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 led 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. With the situation already volatile, Maratha troops entered parts of Bicholim in 1641 and began the minor Bicholim conflict, which ended in peace treaty between the Portuguese and Maratha Empire.
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.
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 slew the chieftains, but two of them jumped from the fort into the Arabian sea and swam to safety (presumably to Karwar), and managed to tell the tale. After this episode, the villagers were left without leaders. Taking advantage of this impasse, the Portuguese began confiscating the land of the locals who refused to convert to Christianity.
To avoid demolition of the village temple, the villagers took the idol of the village goddess, Shantadurga, to an area outside 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 example of syncreticism. Twelve vangddi (leaders representing the 12 groups of villagers of the temple), perform most of the rites in 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 stood in the village.
Similar unrecorded battles were 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 neighbouring Maharashtra.
In 1787, there was a rebellion started by some priests against Portuguese rule. It became famous as the Conspiracy of the Pintos.
When India became independent in 1947, Goa remained under Portuguese control. The Indian government of Jawaharlal Nehru insisted that Goa, along with a few other minor Portuguese holdings, be turned over to India. Portugal, however, refused. France, which also had small enclaves in India (most notably Pondicherry, see French India), gave them up. Portugal, however, amended its constitution so that Goa became a Portuguese province and refused to surrender it.
In 1954, unarmed Indians took over the tiny land-locked enclaves of Dadra and Nagar-Haveli. This incident led the Portuguese to lodge a complaint against India in the International Court of Justice at The Hague. The final judgement on this case, given in 1960, held that the Portuguese had a right to the enclaves, but that India equally had a right to deny Portugal access to the enclaves over Goan territory.
In 1955 a group of unarmed civilans, satyagrahis demonstrated against Portugal. At least 22 of them were killed by Portuguese gunfire.
Later the same year, the satyagrahis took over a fort at Tiracol and hoisted the Indian flag. They were driven away by the Portuguese, with a number of casualties. On 1 September 1955, the Indian consulate in Goa was closed. In 1955 also Jawaharlal Nehru declared his government would not tolerate Portuguese presence in Goa. India then instituted a blockade against Goa, Damão and Diu, in an effort to force the Portuguese to leave.
On December 19, 1961, Indian troops crossed the border into Goa. Code named 'Operation Vijay', the move involved sustained land, sea, and air strikes for more than 36 hours; it resulted in the unconditional surrender of Portuguese forces. A United Nations resolution condemning the invasion was proposed by the United States and the United Kingdom in the United Nations Security Council, but it was vetoed by the USSR.
Under Indian rule, Goan voters went to the polls in a referendum and elected to become an autonomous, federally administered territory. Goa was admitted to Indian statehood in 1987.
After annexation to India, 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 is also a state holiday.