Located along the busy road connecting Goa's capital city Panjim to the commercial center of Margao, the quintessential town of Goa Velha would come across as just another Goan town for most of us. After all, a mixed Hindu-Catholic population, those large mansions with sprawling verandahs, the coconut trees along the streets and the bright white cross amidst the lush green fields are typical characters of most places in this part of the beach state and Goa Velha is no different. However, what distinguishes this place from most others is the fact that long before Old Goa and Panjim were designated as the administrative capital of the state, it served as the seat of power.
Known in the medieval times as Govapuri or Gokapattana, this once flourishing town was an important trading port along the Indian west coast with ships from the Middle East and Africa laden with spices, precious stones and other valuable merchandise docking here. Situated along the River Zuari back then, it was the capital of the Goa Kadambas. The royal patronage and revenue generated by the profitable trade would have led to this being a bustling and prosperous metropolis. Unfortunately, the change in course of the river due to silting and the devastation caused by the wars between the Vijaynagar and the Bahamani Sultans for the control of Goa during the 14th and 15 centuries led to its ultimate downfall and the capital of the state was later shifted to Ilhas or present day Old Goa.
Though the place was once an important center of the Indo-Arabic sea trade, it is difficult to believe that today, there is absolutely no trace of the many grand palaces, those magnificent places of worship, the houses of the noblemen and the traders and other massive monuments that would have adorned the town when it was the capital of the region. Probably, one way to re-image Goa Velha's past grandeur is a short trip to the Pillar museum that contains several elegant sculptures that were unearthed in the vicinity during the construction of many modern buildings. Sometimes I wonder what more archaeological treasures are buried under the soil here and if we will ever be able to truly imagine the heights that Goa Velha reached during its glorious past.