The Portuguese conquest of Goa

The Velhas Conquistas:

Vasco da Gama landed in Calicut in 1498 on the the west cost of India, several hundred miles south of Goa, and thus became the first person to find a sea route from Europe to India around the Cape of Good Hope. The Portuguese were desperate to control the spice trade from India, then controlled by the Arabs, and needed a good port, which turned out to be Goa. In 1510, the Portuguese fleet under Afonso Albuquerque landed in Goa, only to be driven out by Adil Shah (of Bijapur) a few months later.

Finally, later that year, the Portuguese with reinforcements, finally usurped Goa (Ilhas region) from Bijapur. In an apparent reprisal for his earlier defeat, Albuquerque ordered the massacare of its muslim inhabitants.By 1543, the Portuguese were able to extend their control over Salcette,Mormugao and Bardez, thus ending their first phase of expansion into Goa. The teritories of Ilhas, Salcette, Mormugao and Bardez formed part of the Portugal's "Velhas Coquistas" or Old Conquests, and formed only one fifthof the total area of modern Goa. With Portugal's command of the seas and its supremacy over the Arabs, Goa became the jewel of its eastern empire. By the end of the 16th century, Goa had already reached its peak and was referred to as "Golden Goa".

Christinization of the Velhas Conquistas:

With the influx of the Portuguese, came their religion. Under Albuquerque's rulecommerce was the primary factor governing Portuguese policy in India. As a result, the Portuguese were initially quite tolerant of the hindu religion,(although not as tolerant of the muslims). From 1540 onwards, under the influence of the Counter Revolution in Europe and with the arrival of the Inquisition in Goa, Portugal's liberal policy towards the hindus was reversed. Many hindu temples were razed and churches built on them; while the few muslims that were there were dispersed or disposed of. The characteristic Portuguese names that many christian Goans have today, is to a very small extent due to inter-marriage between the Portuguese and local Indians. Rather, the converts, were forced to adopt a Portuguese name, usually that of the priest responsible for their conversion.

Empire in Decline:

By the mid 17th century, Goa's decline as a commercial port began to mirror the decline of Portuguese power in the East as a result of several military losses to the Dutch and the British. The Dutch had taken control over the spice trade – the original reason for Portugal's Eastern empire. Brazil had now supplanted Goa as the economic centre of Portugal's overseas empire. Having survived two naval assaults by the Dutch in 1603 and 1640, Goa was almost over run by the Marathas in 1683, but was then saved by the presence of a strong Mughal force that was planning to attack the Marathas in an other unrelated battle.

The Novas Conquistas

In 1741, the Marathas invaded Bardez and Salsete and threatened the city of Goa itself. Fortunately for the Portuguese, a new viceroy, the Marquis of Lourical arrived with substantial reinforcements and defeated the Marathas in Bardez. But the valuable Portuguese territory of Bassein further up the coast was lost to the Marathas. During this period, the Portuguese got involved in several frontier wars which enabled them to extend their control over Ponda, Sanguem, Quepem, Canacona, Pernem, Bicholim and Satari. Hence, although Portugal lost a large number of its asian territories, Goa itself expanded.

This second (and final) phase of Portuguese expansion was rather different from their initial conquests. By the time these territories were added, the zeal for religious conversions had died down. In fact, the Portuguese mistrusting the Jesuits whom they viewed as being puppets of the pope in Rome, banned the order in 1759. By 1835, all religious orders were banned, while the hindu majority were "granted" the freedom to practice their religion. As a result, the "New Conquests" retained their hindu identity, a characteristic that persists until today.