A beginner's guide to the Kadamba dynasty and rock art in Goa

Calling, history buffs! Here's a beginner's guide to discovering Goa beyond it beaches and parties ...
Rock art of a labyrinth.
Rock art of a labyrinth. Photo: Venita Gomes

When you first land in Goa, and are at the railway station or airport, you are anything, but impressed, by the scene that greets you. It appears very much like the usual sights that you see in many of India's cities, with crowded streets, taxis drivers beckoning passengers, food outlets, passengers lugging their trolleys etc. The scene seems very common; nothing out of the extraordinary.

However, once your travels begin, and you take a ride through the interiors of the villages, that is when Goa begins to surprise and amaze you.

Narrow roads, lined with colourful houses, fancy window panes, lovely gardens and more will soon greet you. The atmosphere and ambience makes you wonder how this tiny state of India can be so different from the rest of the country, and how it has been able to sustain this unique identity for decades.

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It is not hard to find evidence of the colonial influence on Goa since the Portuguese ruled the place for over 450 years. But, over the course of centuries, this state on the western coast of India, has seen the rule of other dynasties and kingdoms, too.

Apart from colonial rule, many dynasties have also left their footprints on Goa's lifestyle and history.

There are several interesting historical periods in Goa's timeline. Two interesting sites in Goa give a glimpse into Goa's past. One being the ancient rock art site in Sanguem -- Panasaimol; and other is the Kadamba dynasty that ruled Chandor, Goa Velha and other parts of Goa.

Rock art of a labyrinth.
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In the interiors of Sanguem village lies a rock bed filled with petroglyphs and rock art carvings, while the banks of the River Kushwati gives a peak into Goa's distant past. These rock carvings exhibit images of local fauna like zebu bull, peacock, etc. A human figure and labyrinth leave one's mind curious and baffled with endless unanswered questions.

Due to a lack of appropriate scientific research and carbon dating, it hasn't been possible to determine the age of the site or how ancient it is. But, the rock carvings found along the banks of the river are intriguing.

There are several places across the globe where such carvings are found, but the ones found in Goa are quite different.

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Rock carvings of animals.
Rock carvings of animals.

Archeologists and historians, who have studied the site, believe that it dates back to the Megalithic Period, and the River Kushwati was an important source of water for the civilizations back then.

However, due to lack of substantial evidence, these sites continue to remain a mystery to the many visitors who come there annually.

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While the petroglyphs are not so well-known, what is fairly unknown is the fact that the Kadamba reign was one of the most important periods of Goa's history.


The Kadamba dynasty ruled Goa from the 10th to 14th century, and evidence of this can be found in the villages of Chandor and Goa Velha.

Chandor, formerly known as Chandrapur, was the capital of this dynasty, and an important port. Not just that, Goa had a good degree of international trade, and there was much exchange of goods between Goa and several countries.

A plaque that mentions that Chandor was the ancient capital of the Kadamba dynasty.
A plaque that mentions that Chandor was the ancient capital of the Kadamba dynasty.
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If you visit Chandor today, you will find Indo-Portuguese homes which literally narrate a tale of this dynasty. From stories to traditions to customs and artifacts, the essence of this kingdom can be still found in Chandor.

The curse of the Kadamba queen is a famous folk tale you will hear in this region. It is believed that a Kadamba queen cursed the villagers that whoever gets married in this village would become a widow. The reason for this was that the queen was not in the town when it was attacked by invaders, and they ended up killing the Kadamba king. The people were also unable to protect their king, and so, the queen ended up inadvertently turning into a widow.

There is a stone outside the Sao Tiago Chapel, in Cotta, Chandor, which the locals call 'Xprancho Fator' (the cursed stone) and believe that the queen stepped on the stone and cursed the villagers.

This is one of the many fascinating tales you will hear about the Kadamba dynasty in this village of South Goa.

The ancient temple site in Cotta, which bears the headless structure of the Nandi bull seated in the center, hints at the presence of a Shiva temple. Similarly, Sara Fernandes' heritage home contains stone artifacts that reveal the existence of the dynasty.

Artifacts from Sara Fernandes' house in Chandor.
Artifacts from Sara Fernandes' house in Chandor.Photo: Makeithappen.com
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Chandor was the ancient archaeological site that was excavated and is currently being studied by archaeologist, Fr Henry Heras, who founded the Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archeology at St Xavier's College, Mumbai, which is focused on studying these hidden stories of the past.

The Kadamba symbol, the lion, can be seen on, either, the rooftop or gatepost of many houses in Goa, and serves as a reminder to the locals of their illustrious history and past.

The Kadamba rulers later shifted their capital to Gopakapattna, which is now Goa Velha, and here too, there are several traces of this dynasty.

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The Pilar museum contains several artifacts and archeological remains of the Kadamba dynasty. Fr Cosme did pioneering work on tracing these artifacts as well as the history of the Kadambas in Goa.

Also seen along the banks of the River Zuari, is the wall of the ancient Gopakapattana port, which is visible during the low tide.

These are just a few fascinating tales of Goa's past. Many more intriguing stories of this kingdom in Goa can be found in the pages of history books.

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