Ancient History of Goa

Ancient History of Goa

The original inhabitants of the Konkan region on the South Goa coast are the Kunbi, Gauda and Velip tribes.

It is claimed that they inhabit the region of the coast for over five thousand years. Today, they live in the region of Kerala, Karnataka and South Goa. Some of these tribes adopted the Roman Catholic religion as a result of the Portuguese missionary practices who settled here in the 17th and 18th centuries, while others remained by the tradition of worshiping Shiva and the pantheon of Hindu deities. But still, they maintain contact with their native folk tradition.

Some of these families represent the longest-lived farmers in the region. In the contemporary social hierarchy, the people of these tribes are classified as Vaisha – caste also includes the land cultivating fathers. However, for centuries they have been bothered by missionaries, invaders, and higher castes, and have become relatively poor and now often represent lower service castes.

However, there are much older proofs of the existence and culture of the Goans. In the valleys of the two main rivers of the state of Goa – Mandovi, and Zuari, and near the mouths of smaller rivers along the coast, were discovered tools from the early Stone Age. The findings included blades, hatchets, arrowheads, chisels, scrapers made of light colored quartz.

Other traces left by the inhabitants of the region in the later Paleolithic and Mesolithic period were the engravings on granite boulders (called Usgalimal Rock Carvings – about 180 petroglyphs carved in the rock) discovered on the banks of the Kushavati River, near the village of Usgalimal in southern Goa. They present animals, people and other elements which are the subject of discussions for years. Undoubtedly, the engravings indicate that they had a good knowledge of the surrounding world and a developed shamanic culture among their authors. Like many other later cultures, they were interested in the relationship between disease, death, and birth. In their shamanic practices, they used psychedelic plants and fungi. There are suggestions that the rock drawings of Kushavati people describe the practices of “divine visions” about the world they experienced during the trance.

Kushavati hunters had complex techniques to deal with the surrounding nature, they also used complex weapons made of several elements – bones, wood, and stone.

Also in the Usgalimal region, there are caves developed by ancient people of Kushavati, and not far from them are the eternal springs of water. They founded their habitats in such places, due to the constant concern for water management. Similar cave findings from this period are also found in Mopa, Old Goa, Kudne, Sanguem, Pilerne, Fatorpa, Dabolim and the city of Margao in the Aquem district (at the back of the St. Sebastian Chapel).

In the villages at the bottom of the Sahyadri Massif – or the Western Ghats – were found numerous fossils of seashells dating from over 12,000 years ago. This fact is a proof of the sea waters in the area of modern Goa at that time. The Goa region was formed as a result of tectonic movements during the late Pleistocene period when the bottom of the Deccan plateau was raised from the sea to form the west coast of India.

The Hindu Legend of Parashurama talks about this geological incident. According to it, Parashurama – the sixth incarnation of Vishnu – in front of the command to exile from the lands he once captured, released seven arrows from the Sahyadri mountains to move the sea and create an area of land under his control.

According to one of the Hindu scriptures, Skanda Purana, the land of Goa or Govapuri is associated with spiritual purification:

“The mere sight of Govapuri destroys every sin committed in former existence, just as the sunrise rejects the darkness … There is certainly no region as great as Govapuri.”

Suta Samhita, Skanda Purana

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