What Govt of Goa books say on Sambhaji attacking Goa & St Francis Xavier

A new controversy has erupted in Goa regarding an article written by a history professor regarding Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj attacking Goa in the 17th century and the Portuguese colonialists praying to St Francis Xavier to save Goa from the attack by the Maratha king.

A couple of police complaints have been filed against Dr Prof Susila Mendes, a senior faculty of History at Government College of Quepem and a regular history columnist, protesting against her article that appeared on 3rd December, on the day of Goa’s biggest feast of St Francis Xavier at Old Goa. 

The original article “Goa, Marathas and Goencho Saib”,  (click here to read) appeared in ‘O Heraldo’ while its Marathi translation गोवा, मराठे आणि गोंयचो सायब (click here to read)  appeared in ‘Daily Gomantak’ the same day.  

Quoting from the famous book “Portuguese-Marathe Sambadh” (download the English version of the book here) by Dr Pandurang Pissurlekar, Dr Mendes narrated the events of how Sambhaji Maharaj bravely attacked Portuguese Goa and captured Bardez and Salcete as well as parts of today’s Tiswadi. 

Dr Mendes, daughter of a freedom fighter, narrates from Dr Pissurlekar’s book how in retaliation, the Marathas plundered and burnt several villages in Goa, captured small medium sized boats and even imprisoned two Portuguese fathers in 1682.” She then narrates the efforts of Sambhaji Maharaj to capture Chaul Fort in Raigad in July and August 1683, how on 9 November 1683 he entered the Ponda fort with 600 handpicked soldiers, and “Sambhaji’s final attempt to oust the Portuguese was made on the night of  November 25 when he occupied the Juve Island (Santo Estevão) to enter into Tiswadi by the Dhavaji pass at the time of the receding waters of the creek.” Since he had to retreat from his heroic chase of the Portuguese Viceroy due to high tide, Dr Mendes has then also quoted Dr Pissurlekar’s narration of how Sambhaji Maharaj attacked Bardez and Salcete in December 1683, burnt and plundered villages and captured men and women as slaves. 

Having panicked that Sambhaji Maharaj would now drive out the Portuguese from Goa,  the Viceroy rushed to the Old Goa church and sought help and mercy from the corpse of St Francis Xavier by putting the royal staff (राजदंड) into the saint’s hand. Sambhaji Maharaj had to retreat from Goa as the Mughal army led by Shah Alam was marching towards the Maratha empire. This is thus believed to be a miracle by St Francis Xavier. 

Dr Mendes, winner of the State Award for Excellence for Teachers in 2021, states in the article that there are many examples from oral history, which exhibit the deep faith and adoration that people have for the saint. She concludes: “St Francis Xavier has earned the title of Goencho Saib – it is not conferred to him by the Church or a government. It reflects the faith and devotion of the people. Goans and Goencho Saib are intrinsically bound together in perfect harmony as a part of our Goan heritage!” (Kindly read the full article to understand the context by clicking this link).

Complaints have been filed at different police stations by some citizens alleging that the article has hurt the sentiments of Kshatriya Maratha Samaj while glorifying St Francis Xavier. They have also alleged that Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj has been dragged into this misleading article, and derogatory, harsh and false claims have been made against Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj. 


In view of this, goanews.com dug into quite a few books to find out if the Government of Goa has made any mention of this history. The most authentic among these is the “Gazetteer of the Union Territory: Goa, Daman and Diu (Part I Goa)”, published first in 1979 and then reprinted in 2009. The whole incident is narrated in the book from pages 171 to 174. Once again, the Government Gazetteer has also quoted two books: “Portugeja-Marathe Sambandh” and “Portugueses e Maratas”. Following are the excerpts from pages 172 and 173:

From Ponda, Sambhaji turned his attention to the Portuguese territories of Goa itself. He occupied the fort of Juve on November 24. His plan was to enter Tiswadi by the Dhavji pass at low tide. The viceroy attempted to expel the Marathas from Juve on the 15th. He was beaten off with loss. But the Marathas suddenly retreated on the 26th. Sambhaji sent an envoy to the viceroy on the 28th saying that Prince Akbar, Aurangazeb’s rebel son, wished peace between the Marathas and the Portuguese. The latter ignored the envoy as his credentials were regarded unsatisfactory.

Sambhaji’s forces entered Bardez on December 11. None of the captains of the Portuguese fortresses there came out to oppose the Marathas. It was in keeping with the instructions of the viceroy as an open battle was impossible. The Maratha soldiers robbed and burnt churches and villages, lifted the cattle and caused much damage. The fort of Tivim fell into Maratha hands after 10 days for want of potable water inside. The remaining forts also fell soon after. The fort of Chapora surrendered without a shot.

The Marathas had entered Salcete also the very day they had attacked Bardez. A huge quantity of foodgrains and cattle were carried away. The fortified and armed churches of Margao and other pláces were attacked and looted. The people of Assolna and Cuncolim agreed to become Maratha subjects and pay whatever amount of revenues they used to pay to their Portuguese masters. The enemy remained in Bardez and Salcete for 26 days beginning with December 11, 1683.

The Portuguese were too weak to withstand the Maratha attack. Tiswadi also could have been taken by Sambhaji easily. Realizing the hopeless position in which he found himself, the viceroy, Conde de Alvor (Francisco de Tavara), knelt before the tomb of St. Francis Xavier at Old Goa and prayed the saint to save Goa. Soon after, he received the news that the Marathas had withdrawn in order to face a huge Mughal army which had descended on the Konkan. Shah Alam, a son of Aurangzeb had arrived at Bicholim on January 15. 1684, with a Mughal army. Three days later a Mughal fleet with provision for the Mughal soldiers also anchored at the mouth of the river Mandovi. Shah Alam proceeded to loot Bicholim and pull down Sambhaji’s place there. The Portuguese professed friendship with the prince and allowed the Mughal fleet to enter river Chapora.”


There is another authentic book गोवा दमण दीव स्वातंत्र्यलढ्याचा इतिहास (History of Freedom Struggle of Goa, Daman and Diu), written by Manohar Hirba Sardesai and published by the Government of Goa. After the first edition was published by the Directorate of Sports & Culture in 1986, the second edition was reprinted by the Directorate of Art & Culture in 2011. 

The magazine-size book covers the whole episode of the attack by Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj from pages 74 to 81 (nine pages). Once again, this book also quotes a total of six books, out of which four are by Dr Pandurang Pissurlekar: 1) Assentos do Conselho de Estado Vol IV 1956, 2) Portugueses e Maratas, 3)  पोर्तुगीज मराठे संबंध and 4) Antigualhas Bastora Goa 1941. The other two books are शिवचरित्र साहित्य खंड 8 वा by भारत इतिहास संशोधन मंडळ ग्रंथमाला and गोवे दप्तर Rv. No 5. 

This book also mentions how Marathas led by Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj plundered villages in Bardez and Salcete, demolished churches and other structures, killed some Portuguese soldiers and priests in different battles, and captured men, women and children and either gifted them to their soldiers or sold them to Arab and Dutch traders. The Portuguese had lost both Bardez and Salcete and were left with only four forts of Raitur, Murgao, Aguada and Reis Magos. The Portuguese empire, which was established in Goa in 1510, had almost come to an extinction. 

The book states that when the Viceroy placed the royal staff at the feet of St Xavier and prayed for mercy and to save Goa, Sambhaji Maharaj withdrew from Goa and marched back to fight the Mughal army. This was considered to be a miracle and since then a tradition was set for every Viceroy, till 1961, to place the royal staff at the feet of the Saint when he arrives in Goa.  

(goanews.com does not wish to either quote or publish the images of the pages since some parts of history sometimes are very upsetting.)

  1. What has been written about This so called Sambaji too can be false. Have we to believe in what has been written by someone. In that case everyone would be right who will be wrong who cares what and who has written what. These people writing now are just trying to make some quick bucks.

  2. Congratulations🎉👏 to Sandesh for digging into History to verify Sushila’s article. Kudos and accolades to you!

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