History of Panaji

The history of Panaji is obviously deeply linked with the history of Goa, of which it’s a proud capital and headquarter. Although Panaji is a very small city, as Goa is itself the smallest state of India. But, its history by no means is dull or uninteresting. If at all, the history of Panaji and Goa is richer than many bigger cities and states of India. It’s a history that dates back to the golden Vedic age, which in the later millennium became one of the few places in entire India to have been ruled by Portuguese Empire.
Here is a look at some of the very important events in the history of Panaji, which have also unarguably shaped the destiny of this city.

The Ancient History of Panaji

Goa is one of those few places of India which has found auspicious mention in the sacred epic Mahabharata. Although Panaji specifically doesn’t find any mention but Goa certainly does. Goa during golden Vedic period was referred as ‘Gomanta’. However, much of the Vedic history of entire Goa region is shrouded in lot mythological stories and the exact history of Panaji is believed to have started from 4th Century B.C. When many successive Hindu kings and dynasties started ruling it for many centuries. These kings and dynasties included Suketavarvan, Chandravarman, Ajitavarman, Shatavahanas and Kadamba.
Amongst these Kadamba Dynasty surely deserves a special mention, as many historical evidences of this ancient dynasty including a stone inscription are still found in Panaji city. During this ancient period dominated by several Hindu dynasties, the name Panaji also slowly and slowly started becoming synonymous with the city. However, during very ancient times Panaji is believed to have been referred as Pahajani Khali (a Sanskrit name), only to be replaced by Panaji in later millennium.

Conquest between Muslim ruler and Vijaynagar Empire

By the mid 12th century A.D many Muslim dynasties and powerful southern kingdom Vijaynagar Empire had began invading Panaji and much of Goa. In fact by mid 12th century the entire Goa region had become a battleground that witnessed continuous supremacy war between various Muslim rulers and powerful southern kingdom Vijaynagar Empire. Among Muslim dynasties it was Bahmani Sultanate and Adil Shah's Bijapur Sultanate that were seeking to build their own empire in Goa.  

After 12th century Goa kept switching between these two Muslim dynasties and Vijaynagar kingdom at different times. Eventually Adil Shah's Bijapur Sultanate succeeded in winning the supremacy war. The Bijapur Sultanate was the last Muslim dynasty to rule Goa.

History of Panaji

The Portuguese Rule

In year 1516 the history of Panaji and Goa region took the most dramatic turn. As this year marked the beginning of Portuguese rule over Goa. This was truly an exceptional event not only in the history of Goa, but also India. Since during 16th century most of India was either under Mughal rule or other Muslim dynasties, but Goa on other hand had come under Portuguese Rule. Portuguese made Panaji and Goa their invincible citadel. Hence, even after 18th century when virtually all of India was annexed by British Empire, Goa was still under the rule of Portuguese Empire and in fact continued to be so for a long time even after India’s independence.

Portuguese as matter of fact ruled Goa for staggering 450 years and  left behind a rich colonial legacy that is obviously felt even today. And Nowhere is this impact more visible than through Portuguese style catholic churches that are present even today all throughout Panaji and Goa. These hundreds of churches actually symbolizes the spread of Christianity in Goa during 400 years rule of Portuguese Empire. In fact today Goa has highest number of Christians than any other Indian state.               

Marathas almost conquered Goa:

History_of_Goa17th century witnessed the meteoric rise of Marathas and talismanic King Shivaji Maharaj. Since Maratha Empire was based in Maharashtra and Goa was its neighboring region, It was obvious that Marathas would invade Goa to expand their kingdom. And by the end of 17th century Shivaji Maharaj had almost succeeded in conquering most part of the Goa region. But Portuguese somehow managed to defend their citadel against resurgent Marathas. Marathas also lost the steam and intensity after untimely death of Shivaji Maharaj in year 1680.
Peshwas did manage to carry forward the glorious legacy of Shivaji Maharaj, but they were mainly concentrated in expanding Maratha Empire in Southern and Northern India. Hence Portuguese were much pretty much relieved from Maratha Challenge forever. And whatever scarce challenge from Marathas did exist collapsed permanently when Marathas lost all the three successive Panipat Battle to British in 18th century.

While rest of India gained Independence in 1947, Panaji didn’t

One of the interesting aspect of history of Panaji and also invariably of Goa is that it did not gain independence in year 1947. The very year when rest of India had gained independence from the mighty British Empire. Panaji and rest of Goa had to wait for 14 years after independence of India to achieve freedom from Portuguese Empire.

In 1947, India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Nehru requested Portuguese authority to unconditionally surrender Goa to Indian Government. But, Portuguese refused to budge to Indian pressure. This resulted in many Satyagrah movements initiated by local Goans. These movements, however, didn’t yield much result. Eventually on 16th December 1961 India sent its army under Operation Vijay to annex Goa. The entire operation lasted for nearly 36 hours and was hardly met with any resistance by Portuguese. The small Portuguese army was too outnumbered by the huge Indian army and there was little support from locals, who were vying for Goa’s merger with Union of India.

And hence on 19th December 1971 Panaji and rest of Goa eventually became part of India and with it the 450 year rule of Portuguese came to an end. To mark the merger of Goa with India 19th December always is celebrated as Liberation day in Goa.

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