[Goanet-News] Why did the Marathas never overthrow the Portuguese in Goa? (Quora)
Goanet Reader
2018-09-25 07:15:36 UTC
Why did the Marathas never overthrow the Portuguese in Goa?

Akshar Prabhu Desai
Answered Dec 31, 2015

There are a number of reasons for the same as outlined in the
book "Hindoos of Goa" by Justice António Floriano de Noronha

The book was published in 1923 and described in great details
the Portuguese perspective on India/Goa and dwelled a lot on
Marathi-Portuguese relationship. Given that this is written
by a post-liberalization Portuguese judge, it is likely to be
much more unbiased.

1. Pacts. Shivaji's father Shahaji made a
not-so-formal pact with Portuguese. When Shivaji
was yet to become the force he was, Shahaji had
already suspected that his family might run into
trouble. As per the pact, Shahaji would let
Portuguese mind their own business and in return
Portuguese would take a neutral stand in future
conflict and give shelter to Shahaji's family.

2. Reliability of trade. Portuguese had a natural port of
Vasco in Goa. They hoped to buy stuff from surrounding
regions and then export it to other parts of the world.
However, Maratha forces were at a constant war in nearby areas
which lowered the productivity of the region. Portuguese
hoped for peace and made whatever concessions Marathi forces
asked for.

3. Concessions. Maratha forces and traders affiliated with
Shivaji's empire had access to all the trade routes that
passed through Goa. In certain cases without any tax and for
most cases with much lower tax.

4. Geography. While for most people today Goa is about
beaches and party; Goa of olden times was mostly a tribal
region with several islands, rivers and rampant with
dangerous wildlife as well as mercenaries. It is always hard
to launch a campaign in a region like that especially when
there is nothing of significance to gain.

Sambhaji's almost-successful campaign in Goa also ended as he
got stuck in a flood and eventually had to be saved by his

Conclusion: I think for most of the time Portuguese
simply ensured that they pretend to be the friends
of Marathas. That worked in their favor. Goa was
not really a territory Marathas valued which is the
second reason.

There is, however, an interesting exchange of letters between
the Goa Governor and Portuguese King. The governor claims
that he can simply run over the Marathi forces because the
Marathi forces seemed like rag-tag malnourished warriors who
did not have proper uniform, discipline, healthy horses and
did not eat pigs. The King reprimands him saying his primary
job is conversion and spreading the love to true God among
the barbarians and conquest of territory should come second.

It later turns out that he fails at both. The conversions see
some strong resistance from the locals. Also, the governor
loses badly all the small battles he had to fight with local
marathi forces. his successor writes that while these
soldiers appear to be malnourished are in fact capable of
traveling and fighting without food for several days, while
they are barefoot they travel in small groups at much faster
pace and never face an army in open battle but totally rely
on surprise attacks and tactical movements.


Vishal Kale
Vishal Kale, History & Business Book Blogger and Reviewer
Answered Dec 6, 2015
Source : Mahaaparaakrami Veer Maraathaa Chhattrapati Shivaji,
Tulsi Sahtiya Publications

From around 1656-1663, Chhatrapati was involved in a
triangular battle between Adil Shah {Bijapur}, Aurangzeb
{Mughal} and Self. He was consistently eating away at
Adilshahi, and was succeeding in expanding slowly, town by
town, careful not to attract too much attention to himself,
doing just enough to irritate, but not to go into open
conflict, at least not till he was ready for the big battle,
as he was intent on acquiring strength.

While the question is about the Portuguese, this is
relevant as it establishes Chhattrapati as a smart,
intelligent and politically suave military
tactician, who knew fully well his strengths and
weaknesses. He was careful to exploit the
faultlines of his enemies, and rode them hard till
they cracked along those lines. He was brave, and
he and his soldiers are almost legendary {in Modern
India} in their bravery as well as their integrity,
as symobolised in the Marathi movie Rajmata Jijau.

That was why, he initially went along a proposed friendship
treaty with Shahjah {Murad} and then Aurangzeb, as he was
keen to avoid a direct bi-partite conflict. That conflict did
come eventually, in the fullness of time, around 1660. But by
then, he had acquired enough skill and strength to ride it
out, and triumph. That tells us a lot about Chhatrapati --
who was quick to spot strengths and weaknesses.

He did try to take Goa, when he surrounded Goa, but the Goa
ruler welcomed him and offered a friendship treaty, to which
Chhatrapati agreed. I am not surprised, especially as this
had come after a long, sustained and brutally hard battle
against the superior might of the Mughals of Delhi and the
Adilshahi of Bijapur

There is of course far more to this that needs consideration
-- the overall atmosphere in those days, Chhatrapati
rising animosity with the English, his rising Naval strength
as well as the primacy of his attention being Bijapur and Delhi...

Why did the Marathas never overthrow the Portuguese in Goa?
The answer to that is both simple and complex at the same time.

The Marathas were never interested in possessing
Goa, although they were certainly interested in
checking the growth of the Portuguese and often
collaborated with allies to achieve this objective.
They were also more interested in obtaining revenue
such as the Chauth and the Sardeshmukhi from
captured territories rather than staying back and
administering them. This revenue helped finance the
constant military campaigns undertaken by the
Marathas in Central and Northern India. It is well
known that the Marathas maintained their focus on
actively fighting battles on several fronts against
their arch enemies such as the Mughals, the Nizam
and later, Haider in the Deccan.

Invading the Portuguese territory of Goa would be a waste of
resources and presented no significant gain. Beginning with
the reign of Chhatrapati Shahu, the Marathas followed mainly
a Northward expansion policy. This focus shifted Southward
toward the Deccan (against Haider) only during the Peshwaship
of Madhavrao I.

By the end of the 17th century the Portuguese dominance on
the west coast of India had reduced considerably and they
were confined to coastal enclaves such as Goa, Bassein,
Salsette, Daman and Diu. Bombay was transferred to the
British in 1661 as part of the dowry of Catherine de Braganza
on the occasion of her wedding to Charles II of England.

The religious intolerance stemming from the infamous
Portuguese Inquisition between the 16th to the 18th century
had made the Portuguese unpopular rulers within their
territories and among the Marathas. Ironically the Portuguese
targeted their subjects for conversion selectively. It was
easier for them to convert the underprivileged classes among
the Hindus. They were careful not to touch the influential
Saraswat Brahmins and allowed them religious freedom. This
explains why the famous temples such as the Shantadurga of
Kavlem was left undisturbed after it was built during the
reign of Shahu, although the Portuguese had razed smaller
Hindu shrines to the ground in other parts of Goa.

Sawantwadi acted as a buffer state between the
Portuguese and the Maratha Chhatrapati of Satara
and Kolhapur, Tarabai and the Angres who commanded
the Maratha Navy. The Portuguese cunningly
encouraged the rulers of Sawantwadi to fight
against the Marathas, even supplying them with
ammunition, rather than risk an open confrontation
with the latter. In return the Sawant reported back
the activities of the Marathas. The Portuguese
continued to help and exploit to their own benefit
anyone who resisted the Marathas. They always had
spies in the Peshwa's court who reported back with

The conflict between the Marathas and the Portuguese over the
latter's northern territories resulted in a treaty signed on
3rd July 1731. Both parties avoided confrontation for a few
years. However as a result of the continuing religious
persecution of the Hindus and forcible conversions in Bassein
by the Portuguese, Chimaji Appa (brother of Peshwa Bajirao I)
led an aggressive campaign against the Portuguese between
1730-40. The Portuguese surrendered and as per the treaty
signed with the Peshwa, they were allowed to retain their
presence in other territories provided they did not
interfere with the Marathas any more.

Another treaty followed on the 18th September 1740, and this
was signed in Poona between the Portuguese and Peshwa Balaji
Bajirao who had succeeded his father Bajirao I following the
latter's death in April 1740. Except for the time when the
Marathas successfully took over fort of Phonda, relation
between the two remained peaceful between 1756-63. When the
Marathas under the Peshwa helped the English bring down the
fleet of their rivals the Angres it actually benefited the
Portuguese who had been harassed in the past by the raids of
the Angres. When the power of Peshwa Balaji Bajirao was at
its peak, the Portuguese solicited and signed with him a
treaty of friendship on the 20th March 1760.

Following the defeat of the Marathas at Panipat in
1761 and the death of Peshwa Balaji Bajirao soon
after that, the Portuguese used the opportunity to
target territories such as Phonda which they had
lost earlier.

However after the death of Peshwa Madhavrao in 1771 the
British gained significant ground and managed to overtake the
Portuguese. Following the First Anglo-Maratha war and in
accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Salbai of 1782
signed between the Peshwa and the British, the latter gained
control on Salsette and Bharuch. By 1818 the British had
taken over control of the Maratha Confederacy thus ending any
possible skirmish between the Marathas and the Portuguese.

Balaji Taware

Great summary but you missed most important part here,
southern Konkan campaign taken by Chhatrap...

Andrew Roberts
Andrew Roberts, Read a bit and chatted, as Indian books are
cheap and the electricity is erratic

The Portuguese, apart from a brief squabble, were
their primary arms supplier, and Agent provocateur,
encouraging the various factions to raid (Bargi),
loot, and rape their way across the Mughal Empire,
in an economic attritional war on the Empire. They
sold the Maratha the majority of their cannon,
muskets, Firangi (sword) -- Wikipedia, ...as well
as supplying the gunnery crews, and Commanders for
their coastal raiders (Maratha Navy), and their
armies. They also supplied Naval architects to help
design the boats, for those piratical coastal raids.
The French may have added to the munitions, and
military advisers during the Napoleonic wars, but
the Portuguese were their primary dealer for almost
two centuries. All the way up to the 1814-1815
treaties of Paris and Vienna, where the European
nations sat down, agreed borders, and overseas
possession, banned slavery, and then handed over
territory, per the treaties, and Portugal, France,
the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom declared
best of friends, recalling, or abandoning the
personnel previously sent to cause each other mischief.