The many names of Goa

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

In the history of Goa over the centuries, the names of Goa have been several. The Goa name in ancient Hindu literature was Gomanta. This name itself seems to have originated from the Sanskrit Govarashtra, the ancient appellation of South Konkan. This name of Gomanta also occurs in the Bishma Parva of the Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, the Skhanda and other Purannas.

According to J N Fonseca, “it (Goa) is designated in the Kanarese inscriptions as Gove, and in the Sanskrit as Gopakapuri, Gopakapattana and Govapuri”.(1)

This Goa name variant of Govapuri appears also in the Suta-Samhita where it is said that the very sight of Govapuri destroys any sin committed in previous life just as the sunrise dispels the darkness.

In an inscription of Jayakesi of the Kadamba dynasty, the city is referred to as Gopakpuri and in another as Gove.

Some scholars specialising in the history of Goa trace the origin of the name Goa to Gualdev, identified with Guhalla, the real founder of the Goa branch of the Kadambas.

Some others appear to derive the same Goa name from the river Gomanti, the old name for the Mandovi river. Prof. Wilson identifies it with Gopakarastra i.e. the district of cowherds or of nomadic tribes mentioned in the Mahabharata, because the first Aryan settlers, as is well known, led a pastoral life.(2)

Historical map of Goa

Historical map of Goa (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Three centuries before Christ, in an inscription of King Ashoka, the Konkan region was known as Aparantã to which the Greek geographer Ptolemy(3) alludes and also to the city of Konba, interpreted by Mcbrindle(4) as Goa.(5)

According to history of Goa writer Gabriel Saldanha(6) the Greeks called what is now named Goa as Nelkinda or Tyndis, Tricadiba insula and the Persians and Arabs referred to the Goa name as Kave and Sindabur respectively. Prof. G M Morais, however, identifies Sindabur with Chandrapur (Chandor) rather than with Goa(7). He bases his opinion on a study made by M E Stuarts Gomes (Identificacao de Sindabur e Chandrapur) wherein she states “Sindabar is an Arab distortion (pronuncia arrevezada arabe) of Chandrapur.(8)

Finally, of the many Goa names in the history of Goa, Goa was known to Sumerians from the time of Ensi Gudea, their Governor in Sumer, some 2000 BC as “Gubi”.(9)


(1) FONSECA, J N; A Historical and Archaeological sketch of the City of Goa, Bombay, 1878, p.116.

(2) India Portuguesa, Imprensa, Nacional, p.56; PAIS, Leonardo; Promptuario das Definicoes Indicas I (Tratado 2, Chapter 3).

(3) Periplus of the Erythraen Sea written about 131 AD

(4) Indian Antiquary, 1884, vol. 13 p.367 and Naine, History of Konkan, 1894, p.1.

(5) SMITH, V; Early History of India, p.232.

(6) History of Goa, 2nd Edit. Edit. Vol.1, p.12.

(7) MORAES, Prof. G M; Kadamba Kula, 1931, p.215.

(8) GOMES, M E Stuarts; Sindabar, Goa and Chandrapur, Feb. 1932, p.19.

(9) WADDELL, Dr.; Makers of Civilization in Race and History, 1968, p.377.

Other References:

COSTA, J A J da; A History of Goa, 1982, pp.6-7.

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