Portuguese conquest of Goa

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The Conquest of Goa
AMH-6577-KB Bird's eye view of the city of Goa.jpg
Map of Goa, in Linschoten's Itineraries, ca. 1590
DateNovember 25, 1510[1]
Result Portuguese victory
Conquest of Goa by the Portuguese
Portugal Portuguese Empire Bijapur Sultanate
Commanders and leaders
Afonso de Albuquerque
Ismail Adil Shah
Pulad Khan
First attack:
1600 Portuguese[2]
220 Malabarese[2]
3000 combatant slaves[2]
23 ships
2000 men of Timoji
Second attack
1680 Portuguese
34 ships[3]
First attack:
over 40,000 men[1]

Second attack
8–10,000 men
200 cannon[4]
Casualties and losses
First attack
200 Portuguese dead[5]
Second attack
50 dead
300 wounded
First attack
Second attack
over 6,800 dead

The Portuguese conquest of Goa occurred when the governor of Portuguese India Afonso de Albuquerque captured the city in 1510. Goa was not among the cities Albuquerque had received orders to conquer: he had only been ordered by the Portuguese king to capture Hormuz, Aden and Malacca.[6]


On November 4, 1509, Afonso de Albuquerque succeeded Dom Francisco de Almeida as Governor of the Portuguese State of India, after the arrival in India of the Marshal of Portugal Dom Fernando Coutinho, sent by King Manuel to enforce the orderly succession of Albuquerque to office.[7] Unlike Almeida, Albuquerque realized that the Portuguese could take a more active role breaking Muslim supremacy in the Indian Ocean trade by taking control of three strategic chokepoints – Aden, Hormuz and Malacca. Albuquerque also understood the necessity of establishing a base of operations in lands directly controlled by the Portuguese crown and not just in territory granted by allied rulers such as Cochin and Cannanore.[8]

Portuguese preparations[edit]

Shortly after a failed attack on Calicut in 1509, Albuquerque was replenishing his troops in Cochin and organizing an expedition with which to attack the Suez in the Red Sea, where the Mamluks were believed, correctly, to be preparing a new fleet to send to India against the Portuguese. The Portuguese Marshall Dom Fernando Coutinho had been killed in Calicut, fortuitously leaving Albuquerque with full, uncontested command of Portuguese forces in India. The Portuguese force was composed of 23 ships, 1200 Portuguese soldiers, 400 Portuguese sailors, 220 Malabarese auxiliaries from Cochin and 3000 "combatant slaves" (escravos de peleja).[2] The expedition set sail for the Red Sea in late January 1510, in February 6th anchored by Canannore and in the 13th sighted Mount of Eli.[9]

By the Mount of Eli, Albuquerque summoned his captains to his flagship, the Flor de la Mar, where he revealed the objective of the expedition: He had orders from King Manuel I to subjugate Hormuz, but seeing as the Mamluks were assembling a fleet at the Suez, he considered diverting from the original course of action and destroy it before it was ready.[10]

Thereafter, the expedition resumed its course and anchored by the city of Honavar, where Albuquerque was approached by an acquaintance of the Portuguese: the powerful Malabarese privateer, Timoji (Thimayya). Timoji claimed to Albuquerque that it would be dangerous to leave for the Red Sea, as within the nearby city of Goa the remnants of the Mamluk expedition destroyed in the Battle of Diu were regrouping and reffiting new ships, but the city was scarcely defended as Sultan of Bijapur Yusuf Adil Shah had recently died and his heir Ismail Adil Shah was young and inexperienced. Knowing of the discontent among the Hindus of Goa after falling to the Muslim rulers of Bijapur in 1496, Timoji proposed to Albuquerque his support in capturing the city.[6] Timoji's timely proposition was not entirely coincidental, as Albuquerque had already received in Cochin envoys of Timoji requesting a rendezvous.[11]

Upon assembling with his captains, Albuquerque convinced them that it was crucial that they attack Goa.[12]

First conquest of Goa[edit]

Afonso de Albuquerque

In February 16, the Portuguese armada sailed into the deep waters of the Mandovi river. Supported by 2000 men of Timoji, the Portuguese landed troops commanded by Dom António de Noronha and assaulted the fort of Pangim, defended by a Turkish mercenary Yusuf Gurgij and a force of 400 men. Yusuf was wounded and retreated to the city and the Portuguese captured the fort along with several iron artillery pieces. At Pangim Albuquerque received envoys from the most important figures of Goa, and proposed religious freedom and lower taxes should they refuse to aid the Muslims. Thereafter they declared their full support towards the Portuguese and Albuquerque formally occupied Goa on February 17, 1510, with no resistance.[13]

In the city, the Portuguese found over 100 horses belonging to the ruler of Bijapur, 25 elephants and partially finished new ships, confirming Timoji's information about the enemy's preparations. For his assistance, he was nominated tanadar-mor (the head tax-collector and representative of indigenous peoples) of Goa .[14]

Albuquerque reaffirmed that the city was not to be sacked and that the inhabitants were not to be harmed, under the penalty of death.

Expecting retaliation from the Sultan of Bijapur, Albuquerque began organizing the city's defences. The city's walls were repaired, the moat was expanded and filled with water and storehouses for weapons and supplies were built. The ships were to be finished and pressed into Portuguese service, and the five fording points into the island – Banastarim, Naroá, Agaçaim, Passo Seco and Daugim – were defended by Portuguese and Malabarese troops, supported by several artillery pieces.[15]

At the same time, Albuquerque sent friar Luiz do Salvador ahead of an embassy to the court of the neighbouring Hindu Vijayanagara Empire, hoping to secure an alliance against Bijapur.[16]

Adil Shah's counterattack[edit]

Unbeknownst to Albuquerque, the Adil Shah had just agreed on a truce with the Vijayanagara Empire, and could divert many more troops into recapturing the city than expected. To that effect, he sent a Turkish general, Pulad Khan, with 40,000 troops, which included many experienced Persian and Turkic mercenaries, that defeated Timoja's troops on the mainland. Ismail Adil Shah then set up his royal tent by the Benastarim ford, awaiting for the monsoon to trap the Portuguese before giving Pulad Khan the order to assault the island.

Albuquerque was informed of this plan through the Portuguese renegade João Machado,[17] who was now a prestigious captain in the Adil Shah's service, though he remained Christian. He was sent to convince his fellow countrymen to surrender or flee. Trusting the strength of his defensive position, Albuquerque rejected Machado's propositions.[18] Machado also told Albuquerque that Ismail maintained contact with the Muslims within the city, who informed him of Portuguese numbers and movements.[19]

With the coming of the monsoon rains however, the Portuguese situation became critical: the tropical weather claimed a great amount of Portuguese lives, foodstuffs deteriorated and the Portuguese were stretched too thin to hold back the Muslim army. Under these conditions, Pulad Khan launched a major assault on May 11, across the Banastarim ford at low tide amidst a heavy storm, quickly overwhelming the small number of Portuguese troops. As the defenses crumbled, a Muslim revolt broke out in the outskirts of Goa while the Portuguese hurriedly retreated into the city walls with the aid of their Hindu allies but abandoned several artillery pieces by the riverside.[20]

The following day, Pulad Khan ordered an assault against the city but was repelled. Only now did Albuquerque learn from friar Luiz of the truce between Bijapur and Vijayanagara, and he spent the rest of May preparing a retreat. Albuquerque refused to set fire to the city since this would announce their retreat to the besiegers and instead ordered a great amount of spices and copper to be scattered on the streets to delay the enemy's advance. Before leaving however, he had Timoji with fifty of his men execute the Muslim inhabitants within the citadel, but also took several women that had belonged to Adil Khan's harem onto his ship, to later offer them as cabin-mates to Queen Maria. Before daybreak of May 31, the remaining 500 Portuguese embarked under enemy fire, covered by a small number of Portuguese soldiers holding back the advance of enemy troops that breached the city walls.[21] Ismail then solemnly retook possession the city, at the sound of trumpets.[22]

Trapped in the river[edit]

Mandovi river seen from Ribandar

On June 1, the ships sailed away from the riverfront of Goa to the mouth of the Mandovi river, unable to leave for high seas due to the monsoon storms. The expedition was now trapped on their own ships within the rivermouth, and for the following three months would endure a severe rationing of supplies to the point of cooking rats and leather, a continuous Muslim bombardment and the harsh weather conditions, all which threatened to crush the expedition.

The riverwater was muddy, making fish hard to catch and the water undrinkable although the heavy rain permitted some of the drinking water to be replenished. The Portuguese also suffered from the constant bombardment from artillery pieces on shore which, though erratic, forced them to frequently relocate the ships and avoid leaving out onto the decks. They avoided replying, to save ammunition.[23] According to João de Barros: "Thus by hunger and thirst on one part and by war, lightning and Winter thunderstorm on another, the common folk was so stricken that some were driven to desperation".[24]

Many jumped overboard and defected, informing the enemy of the scarcity in the armada.[25] The Adil Shah however, feared the renewal of hostilities with Vijayanagar at any moment, and wished to conclude a truce with the Portuguese. He sent an envoy proposing peace and the nearby town of Cintacora. Albuquerque received him with an abundant display of food and wine but rejected Ismail's proposal.

The governor would run through every ship, raising morale and instilling discipline, but his relation with his captains was degrading rapidly after his popular nephew, Dom António de Noronha, died in a sortie on land. One episode was relevant, as one fidalgo Rui Dias had been disobeying the governor's orders, sneaking out of his ship to meet with the women that Timoja had captured, and were locked in a cabin on the governor's own flagship. Upon finding of this blatant disobedience, Albuquerque ordered him to be immediately hanged. With the noose around his neck, mutiny sparked among the ranks of Portuguese fidalgos in the armada – who objected not so much his execution but the fact that he was being hanged and not beheaded as befitted a fellow nobleman.[26] Albuquerque was, however, resolute. Dias was hanged and several of the rebellious captains arrested, though only for a few days.[27]


Angediva Island

By August 15, the armada finally sailed out of the Mandovi towards Cannanore and the next day reached Angediva Island to fetch water. There, they encountered Diogo Mendes de Vasconcelos leading an expedition of 4 ships and 300 men, sent by King Manuel I to trade directly with Malacca, based on the assumption that Diogo Lopes de Sequeira had been successful in opening trade with that city the previous year. As the head of Portuguese forces in India, Albuquerque knew that he had not, and persuaded Vasconcelos to, reluctantly, assist him in attempting to capture Goa instead.[28]

Passing by Honavar, Albuquerque knew from Timoja and his informants that Ismail had left Goa to fight Vijayanagar at Balagate and an insurrection had taken place, killing many officers of the garrison left behind.[28]

The Portuguese fortress of Cannanore

At Cannanore they careened and refitted the ships, and were joined by the 12-ship squadron of Duarte de Lemos coming from Socotra along with the annual fleet of carracks coming from Portugal commanded by Gonçalo de Sequeira, with orders to relieve Lemos of his command and turn his ships over to the governor. The Portuguese now counted 1,680 men and 34 ships, among naus, caravels and galleys – though Gonçalo de Sequeira stayed behind with his ships to oversee the loading of the pepper and return to Portugal with Duarte de Lemos.[29]


Before leaving for Goa, Albuquerque was alerted by the Raja of Cochin, a faithful ally of the Portuguese, of an impending power dispute between him and his cousin and requested his assistance. The annual provisioning of pepper bound to Portugal depended on the King of Cochin, and Albuquerque quickly sailed to his aid. Through a swift display of force the conflicting prince was sent to exile and the King of Cochin secured.[30]


At Honavar the Portuguese once more joined forces with Timoji, who informed Albuquerque that Ismail had left a considerable garrison behind, about 8,000–10,000 "whites" (Persian and Turkic mercenaries) supported by native infantry. Timoji could provide 4,000 men and 60 foists (light galleys) of his own, while the king of Honavar proposed to send 15,000 men by land.[29]

Second conquest of Goa[edit]

On November 24, the Portuguese again sailed into the Mandovi and anchored by Ribandar, where they landed some men commanded by Dom João de Lima to scout the city's defences. Albuquerque summoned a council in which he expressed his intentions to storm the city in a three-pronged attack and divided his forces accordingly: one squadron commanded by himself, who would attack the city defences from the west, where the shipyards were located; the other two commanded by Vasconcelos and Manuel de Lacerda would assault the city's riverside gates to the north, where the main enemy force was expected to be concentraded.[31]

By daybreak of November 25, day of Saint Catherine, the landing began, with the Portuguese galleys moving in first to bombard the riverfront in order to clear it of enemies for the landing boats. Once ashore, the heavily armoured Portuguese infantry, led by the steel-clad fidalgos of the squadrons of Vasconcelos and Lacerda assaulted the outer defences around the riverside gates and, resorting to hand thrown clay bombs, quickly threw the defenders into disarray. The Portuguese managed to prevent the gates from closing with their pikes and thus breached into the city's fortified perimeter amidst their fleeing enemies. This initial success was followed by some confusion, as both the Portuguese and the defenders on both sides of walls found themselves simultaneously trying to open and close the gates. A certain Fradique Fernandes managed to scale the walls with the assistance of his lance, and hoisted a banner shouting Portugal! Portugal! Vitória! Santa Catarina! adding to the defenders confusion. In a last-ditch effort to organize a defence, some of the defenders rallied around the palace of the Adil Shah, but they too were eventually shattered by a second Portuguese assault commanded by Vasconcelos, arriving at the sound of trumpets.[32]

After five hours fighting, the defenders were now in a definitive rout, fleeing across the streets and away from the city along with many civilians – many of whom drowned trying to cross the narrow bridge over the moat in the ensuing flight, or were chased down by the Hindus of Goa.[32]

Albuquerque, in the meantime, could not personally participate in the assault into the city, as the western defences of the city proved to be much stronger than expected. Nor did Timoja, who only arrived later. The governor then spent the rest of the day eliminating pockets of resistance within the city, and allowed the soldiers four days to sack it. The shipyards, warehouses and artillery reverted to the Crown and the property of Hindus was spared. The Muslims who hadn't fled however, were killed under the governors' orders for colluding with the army of Bijapur – despite accepting Albuquerque's generous terms. To avoid an outbreak of plague, their bodies were thrown "to the lizards" in the river.[32]

The Portuguese suffered 50 dead and 300 wounded in the attack – mainly due to arrows – while Albuquerque estimated that about 800 "Turks" and over 6,000 "moors" among civilians and fighting men had perished.[33]

Defence of Goa[edit]

Native foot-soldier of Goa wielding a longbow, depicted in the Códice Casanatense

With the city now firmly in Portuguese hands, on December 1, 1510 Albuquerque resumed its administration and organizing its defence. The old castle was rebuilt in European fashion, under the supervision of architect Thomaz Fernandez, with 20 Portuguese stonemasons and many paid local labourers at his disposal.[34] It was garrisoned with 400 Portuguese soldiers, while a corps of 80 mounted crossbowmen served as watchmen and gateguards of the city, commanded by the captain of Goa Rodrigo Rabelo, who received a bodyguard of 20 halberdiers. Francisco Pantoja was nominated alcaide-mor (chief magistrate) of the city. A riverguard was also created, with two tall ships, a galley, a galleot and two brigantines.[35]

Timoji regained his post as tanadar-mor but his lowly caste as well as his mistreatment of underlings caused tensions within the Hindu society, and so he was replaced with his rival Melrao, who had at his disposal 5,000 men to assist with the defence.[35]

With an effective defensive system in place, Diogo Mendes de Vasconcelos requested the governor's permission to proceed to Malacca, which Albuquerque refused. Vasconcelos then attempted mutiny and tried to sail without permission, for which he was arrested and his pilots hanged. Albuquerque personally assumed the command of the expedition and in February 1511 left Goa towards Malacca.[36]

For the duration of the following year, the city would come under siege by the reorganized forces of general Pulad Khan, who would construct a bridge and a fortress at Benastarim, and occupy the island of Goa. Pulad Khan would be replaced with Rassul Khan but he was likewise unable to recapture the city. The return of Albuquerque the following year, in August 1512, with considerable reinforcements, saw an assault on the stronghold of Benastarim and the defeat of Rassul Khan, who finally agreed to sign a peace treaty, formally granting Goa to the Portuguese.[citation needed]


Portuguese and Christian women of India.
Marketplace of Goa, 1596

Unlike the Portuguese military garrisons established in allied lands such as Cochin and Cannanore, Goa included for the first time a large body of native non-Portuguese inhabitants for the Portuguese crown to rule. To better achieve this, Albuquerque resorted to medieval Iberian procedures: people of different religious communities were allowed to keep their laws and representatives of their respective communities.[37] Exception was made to the practice of sati however, which was promptly abolished. Certain taxes due to the Adil Shah of Bijapur were also abolished.[38]

Goa was an important trading port for war-horses imported from Arabia or Persia. Taking advantage of Portuguese mastery of the seas, Albuquerque decreed that all vessels importing war-horses to India unload exclusively at Goa, thus securing what would become one of Goa's most valuable sources of income, as both the Vijayanagara Empire as the Sultanate of Bijapur sought to outbid each other for exclusive buying rights.[39][40]

At Goa, Albuquerque instituted an orphan's fund and opened a hospital, the Hospital Real de Goa, modelled after the grand Hospital Real de Todos os Santos in Lisbon.[41] Also at Goa were built smaller hospitals run by the city's charity, the Misericórdia, dedicated to serving the poor and the natives.

Arguably, what became Albuquerque's most iconic policy was that of encouraging his men to take local wives and settle in the city, granting them land confiscated from the evicted Muslims and a dowry provided by the state.[42] Native women were legally allowed property rights for the first time.[43] Albuquerque's generous policy was, however, not without controversy among high-ranking Portuguese officials and clergy. Nonetheless, the practice continued well beyond Albuquerque lifetime, and in time the casados and the Indo-Portuguese descendants would become one of the Crown's main reserve of support whenever insufficient men and resources arrived from Europe.

As a whole, Albuquerque's policies proved immensely popular amongst his soldiers as well as the local population, especially his characteristically strict observance of justice.[44] When Albuquerque died in sight of Goa in 1515, even the Hindu natives of Goa mourned his passing alongside the Portuguese.[45][46]

In 1526 King John III granted the city of Goa and its town hall the same legal status as Lisbon, in a foral in which the general laws and privileges of the city, its town hall, and the local Hindu community were detailed – especially important since at the time the native laws of Goa were still not written, instead being handled by councils of elders or religious judges and passed down orally.[47]

Although Albuquerque had intended Goa to be the center of the Portuguese Empire in Asia, it was only in 1530 that governor Nuno da Cunha transferred the viceregal court from Cochin to Goa, thus officially making Goa the capital of the Portuguese State of India until 1961.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Geneviève Bouchon, (2014) Albuquerque: Le Lion des Mers d'Asie, Paris, Éditions Desjonquères, p. 168
  2. ^ a b c d Gaspar Correia (1558–1563) Lendas da Índia, 1864 edition, Academia Real das Sciencias de Lisboa, book II p.146.
  3. ^ History of the Portuguese navigation in India, 1497–1600 by K. M. Mathew p.191 [1]
  4. ^ According to the account of Piero Strozzi, a Florentine knight serving under the Portuguese, in Sanceau, 1936 pg. 193
  5. ^ Gaspar Correia (1558–1563) Lendas da Índia, 1864 edition, Academia Real das Sciencias de Lisboa, book II p.94.
  6. ^ a b Conversions and citizenry: Goa under Portugal, 1510–1610 Délio de Mendonça pg. 82ff [2]
  7. ^ João Paulo de Oliveira e Costa, Vítor Luís Gaspar Rodrigues (2008) Campanhas de Afonso de Albuquerque: Conquista de Goa, 1510–1512 p. 18
  8. ^ Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pg. 30
  9. ^ Bouchon 2004 p.156
  10. ^ R.A. Bulhão Pato, H. Lopes Mendonça (1884) Cartas de Afonso de Albuquerque seguidas de documentos que as elucidam Lisbon, book II, pp. 3–5
  11. ^ Bouchon 2004 p.158
  12. ^ Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pg. 29
  13. ^ Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pg. 160
  14. ^ Sanceau 1936, pg. 115
  15. ^ Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pg. 34
  16. ^ Elaine Sanceau (1936) Indies Adventure: The Amazing Career of Afonso de Albuquerque, Captain-general and Governor of India (1509–1515), Blackie, p.156.
  17. ^ Machado was left by Cabral's expedition of 1500 on the east-African coast to find the precise location of Ethiopia, and since then had made his way to Bijapur
  18. ^ According to Gaspar Correia, Albuquerque requested Machado to "Tell the Hidalcão that the Portuguese have never given up anything they won, and a proper agreement would be if he gave me all the lands of Goa, for which I'd strike friendship with him" – Portuguese: Dizei a Hidalcão que os portugueses nunca perderão o que huma vez ganharão, que o bom concerto que com elle farei he que elle me dê todalas terras de Goa, e por isso com ele assentarey amizade. In Gaspar Correia (1558–1563) Lendas da Índia, 1864 edition, Academia Real das Sciencias de Lisboa, book II p.87
  19. ^ Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pg. 36
  20. ^ Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pp. 37–38
  21. ^ Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pg. 39
  22. ^ Sanceau 1936, pg. 126
  23. ^ Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pg. 44
  24. ^ Portuguese: Assim que por uma parte fome e sede, e por outra guerra, relampagos, e coriscos, e trovoadas de Inverno trazia a gente comum tão assombrada que começou a entrar a desesperação em alguns, in João de Barros, Da Ásia 1973 edition, decade II, book V, p.6
  25. ^ Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pg. 43
  26. ^ Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pg. 51
  27. ^ Albuquerque would later regret his harsh sentence of Rui Dias, and on his will bequested 90 masses to be prayed on Rui Dias' part
  28. ^ a b Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pg. 53
  29. ^ a b Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pg. 54
  30. ^ Sanceau 1936, pg. 145
  31. ^ Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pg. 55
  32. ^ a b c Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pp. 55–56
  33. ^ Raymundo Bulhão Pato (1884) Cartas de Affonso de Albuquerque, seguidas de documentos que as elucidam volume I pg. 26
  34. ^ Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pg. 62
  35. ^ a b Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pg. 63
  36. ^ Costa, Rodrigues 2008 pg. 65
  37. ^ Luís Filipe Ferreira Reis Thomaz (1994): De Ceuta a Timor p.240
  38. ^ Luís Filipe Ferreira Reis Thomaz (1994): De Ceuta a Timor p.248
  39. ^ Roger Crowley (2015): Conquerors: How Portugal Seized the Indian Ocean and Forged the First Global Empire p. 316-317. Faber & Faber. London.
  40. ^ Sanceau, 1936, p.220-231
  41. ^ Sanceau, 1936, p.235-236
  42. ^ Luís Filipe Ferreira Reis Thomaz (1994): De Ceuta a Timor p.250
  43. ^ Roger Crowley (2015): Conquerors: How Portugal Seized the Indian Ocean and Forged the First Global Empire p. 288. Faber & Faber. London.
  44. ^ Sanceau, 1936, p.235
  45. ^ Sanceau, 1936, p.298
  46. ^ Crowley, 2015, p.356
  47. ^ Luís Filipe Ferreira Reis Thomaz (1994): De Ceuta a Timor p. 249