Summary of Goa’s ancient history

A Summary of the Early History of Goa
(2000 BC – 1500 AD)

By: Alfredo Froilano de Mello

In Sumerian Times ~ 2200 BC

The first written reference to Goa appears to have been in cuneiform, in Sumerian times, when King Gudea of Lagash called it Gubio. This was around 2200 BC In fact Goa was shaped geographically and ethnically by many cultures that single it out from other parts of India. Sumerians must have designed the fields of Goa because these follow their measure. Unlike the 0.46 unit generally prevalent in India, it is pointed out that the portioning in Goa agrees with the Sumerian 12 cubits to a pole, and 0.495 of a metre to a cubit.

Later the seaborne community of Phoenicians became the first extensive settlers of Goa around 1775 BC

The Early Vedic Periodic ~ 1000 – 500 BC

In the later Vedic period (c.1000-500 BC) when the Mahabharata epogee was written, Goa is referred to with the Sanskrit name GOMANTAK, a word which signifies, a land similar to paradise, fertile land and good waters. Goa’s origin has extinguished since long in the mists of its myths.

The Mahabharata also makes reference to the brahmanic colonization of Goa. After the Aryan invasion of India from the northwest around 1750 BC, some Aryans settled around the river Saraswat in the Punjab. Drought and famine obliged these Brahmans to eat fish, and they emigrated to Sind, Rajputana and Bengal (Gaud). Meanwhile the Saraswat river dried up and exists no more. The section of the Saraswat Brahmans who went east to Bengal, changed course, and became the first wave of Brahmans to settle in Goa. Ninety-six families, known as Gaud Saraswats, trekked southwest to settle in Gomantak around 1000 BC. These settled in the Ilhas de Goa (of which Tiswadi is the biggest), Salcete, Bardesh, Pernem and Kudal. Salcete derives from the Sanskrit word SASSAST meaning 66, Tiswadi is the Sanskrit for 30, and Bardesh, the Sanskrit for 12. The settlement of these 96 Brahman families were a milestone in the history of Goa, who together with the hardworking Kundbis, a race which migrated from the south, literally wrenched from the mountain range and the sea, the fertile stretch of land between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats. It is worthwhile to recall how the reality of the Kundbis and Brahmans ingeniously working together, making bunds to gain soil from the sea for period of more than 250 years, is described poetically as a legend in the Skanda Purana: Vishnu, in his avatar as PARASURAMA argues with SAMUDRA, the Indian Neptune. From the height of the Ghats, Parasurama lets fly an arrow to mark the limit where Samudra should withdraw. Defeated, Samudra has to cede many miles of its aquatic reign. The arrow falls in Bannali (Bann: arrow, ali: village),and this is how the village of Benaulim got its name, quite close to the beach.

Aryan Conquest ~ 200 BC

Two hundred years before Christ, Goa became the southern fringe of the empire of Ashoka. The Aryans had pushed the Dravidian kingdoms to the southern tip of India, such as the Cholas, Pandyas, Tamil Mad, Satyaputras and Keralaputras.

Strabo the Greek geographer, whose GEOGRAPHY is the only extant work (during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus (27 BC -14 AD) makes the first reference to Konkan with the name of KomKvi, and defines it as a province DIFFERENT from India.

The Greek merchant Kosmas Indikopleustes, in his work TOPOGRAPHIA CHRISTIANA (530-550 AD) describes the city of Sibo identified with Goa, the SINDABUR of the Arabs, as one of the best ports in Western India. Old Arab geographers, referred to Goa as Sindabur. The Turkish book MOHIT, a treatise on the seas of the Industan, written in AD 554 by Sidi Ali Kodupon, refers to GUVAH-SINDABUR, joining the names Guvah (Goa) and Sindabur (Chandrapur).

Al-Masudi (AD943) an Arab voyager, considered Sindabur as the foremost of the coastal cities of Malabar.

The chronology of the history of Goa after the Mauryan Empire (321 BC to 185 BC) can be summed up as follows:

various dynasties of diverse origins, fought over the control of Goa. Selma Vieira Velho mentions in her book that “it is a cyclical tragedy of bloody battles for independence and integration in the most varied empires”. However it must be noted that GOA was never in the “eye of the political storm”, nor was it the capital of the warring empires, save for a very short time,

  • the Chalukyas and the period of the Kadambas, who made Chandrapur (Chandor) their capital (937 AD to 1310 AD).
  • Yet the Kadambas were FEUDATORIES of the Hoysalas (1006 – 1346 AD) a dynasty which started in Dorasamudra (modern Halabid).

Dynasties Controlling Goa ~ 1st century BC to 1500 AD I will not tire the readers about the various dynasties in whose outer fringes Goa existed:

  • From the 2nd-4th century AD , the Scytho-parthians,
  • then from the 4th to 6th century, the Abhiras, Batpura, Bhojas;
  • next theChalukyas of Badami (6th to 8th century AD).
  • The Rashtrakutas of Malkhed(8th to 10th Century AD)
  • The Kadambas (1006 -1356AD).
  • After the Kadambas, Goa was ruled by the Yadavas of Devaguiri (modern Daulatabad) from the 12th to 13th century AD,
  • next the hindu Empire of Vijayanagar (14-15th century AD),
  • and later s a part of the Muslim Bahmani Kingdom of Deccan (15th century).

In 1492, the Bahmani Kingdom split into five kingdoms, namely Bidar, Berar, Ahmadnagar, Golconda and Bijapur. Bijapur was the capital of the territory which included Goa under Adil Khan.


Alfredo Froilano de Mello

E-mail: Alfredo de Mello,

Alfredo de Mello born in Panjim, Goa, 1924.
Eldest son of Dr. Froilano de Mello Director of Goa Medical College (1927-1947,) renowned scientist, founder of Macasana Leprosarium.
High School (Bangalore),college BSc (Madras).
In 1943 sailed to Portugal to study medicine.
Involved in counter espionage, collaborating with Britain, volunteered to fight in W.W.II,
Parachuted in Holland in Dec. 1944, POW in Germany.
Back in Portugal, disillusioned by Salazar’s dictatorship, emigrated to Uruguay in 1946.
Fluent in five languages, established as Manufacturers’ agent, specialised in Chemical Engineering.
Founded his own plastic industry in 1970. vice-president of Uruguayan Chamber of Industries (1978-1984).
Traveled widely.
Retired in 1991.
Since then has published a book “Columbus” (Carlton Press Corp.) and is now writing “Memoirs of Goa”

Dr. Froilano de Mello

Contribution to the study of haemoprotozoa in Portuguese India.
Calcutta: Thacker, Spink, 1916, 731-737 p. ; 25 cm
(from the Indian Journal of Medical Research. Vol. III, no. 4 April 1916)
Available in the Central Library Panjim, Goa.