Old Goa Heritage Site

Old Goa was a thriving city even before the Portuguese arrived in 1510. It had been the capital of the Bahmani Sultan Adil Shah. The large palace of Adil Shah, surrounded by fort walls, towers and a moat was located here as well as many temples and mosques. Unfortunately none of these structures remain in existence today except for the ruins of the gateway to the palace.St. Cathedral

After the Portuguese conquest, Old Goa went on to become a bustling metro glittering with gold and glamour. As its reputation grew, the fabulous city attracted visitors from all over Europe.

Under the Portuguese the city grew rapidly in size and splendour, eventually coming to rival Lisbon itself. At the height of the Portuguese power, it was called the `Rome of the Orient’, its population surpassing that of even the European cities of London and Lisbon.

Afonso Albuquerque - the founder of Goa - built the first church here, that of Our Lady of the Rosary. He also built the Se Cathedral, the largest church in Asia, that took 80 years to completed. The construction of Churches continued at a fast pace and eventually there were some 12 huge and magnificent churches and monuments roughly in an area of one square kilometre in Old Goa.

The city had as many as seven markets where traders came from China, Arabia, Zanzibar and other Indian states to trade in silk, cotton, spices and perfumed oils, etc. There were markets for blacksmiths, goldsmiths, fish and meats, and one for diamonds.

Rua Direita ("the Right Path") the main avenue which lead from the wharf, under the Viceroy’s Arch and passed through the centre of the city, was lined with shops and palatial villas of the rich. As many as two lakh people lived, partied and prayed across seven square kilometres.

The magnificent splendour of Old Goa was however quite short-lived. By the end of the 16th century the Portuguese maritime and colonial power waned. The fortunes of Old Goa began to dwindle too. The city's decline was accelerated by the activities of the Inquisition.alt

Devastating epidemics struck the area wiping out almost half the population in 1543 and 1570, and another 25,000 died in the first thirty years of the 17th century.

Then the Mandovi river started to silt up, making it difficult for the ships to berth at the once-bustling port. Soon, in 1759, under the orders of the viceroy, Conde do Alvor, the city was shifted to Panaji. Most of the buildings except the churches, were pulled down and the rubble used to build the new capital.

Today, Old Goa is a World Heritage site. There is a small village around the huge churches and convents. Some of these are still in active use, and others have become museums maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.

The city no longer bustles with crowds and trading people, but with a little imagination, you can picture the thriving city that used to be at the site. Early morning and late evening (till 5.30) are the best times to visit the site.