The Siege of Goa – 1342 AD

The city of Sandabur in Goa (modern: Goa, India) was a massive Hindu settlement comprised of a coastal palace and hundreds of surrounding villages. Around 1340 AD, it was ruled by King Surya Deva of the 14th century Kadamba Dynasty. This king’s son resented his father and wanted power, so he wrote to one Sultan Jamal-al Din Muhammad ibn Hasan (also known as Ala-ud-Din Bahman Shah) of neighboring Hinawr (modern: Honavar, Karnatak Coast, India), inviting him to invade his father’s kingdom in order to help him assume his father’s throne. If done, the prince promised to convert to Islam and marry Jamal’s sister. Sultan Jamal accepted this offer and prepared a naval siege of the city’s harbor.

Goa, India CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=115599

The geo-political landscape of 14th century central-west India where Goa lies involved maritime trade on the coast, agriculture in the interior, and warring kingdoms all over. The region was home to two major kingdoms: to the north, the Islamic Delhi Sultanate led by Sultan Tughqluq; and to the south, the Vijayanagara Empire ruled by Harihara I, also known as Haryab. Now, Muslims were hardly welcome in Medieval India. Where they were not merchants, they brought war, conquest, and forced religious conversion. Muslims merchants would typically be permitted to conduct trade but would have to keep their own residences outside of Hindu settlements. Therefore, Muslim colonies were established. Hinawar (modern: Honavar, India) was one such Muslim colony and it belonged to the Sultan Jamal.

Sultan Jamal was a devout Muslim of Persian descent and resented the fact that lived under the domain of the Hindu Vijayanagar Empire, but he also resented the violent warmongering of the Turkic-descended Islamic Delhi Sultanate directly north of him. These two larger kingdoms fought frequently. So, in order to carve out a kingdom of his own, Sultan Jamal accepted this invitation for what he deemed to be a holy war – to conquer a city for his kingdom and convert its people and princes to Islam. 

So, Jamal outfitted 52 ships to sail from Hinawr on a Saturday. By the following Monday, October 15, 1342 AD, the fleet entered Goa’s harbor ready for besiegement.

However, the enemy was prepared to receive this invasion with a defensive array of mangonels–large artillery similar to catapults–aimed at the sea.

Jamal’s forces waited around the harbor for one night and then launched their attack in the morning. They endured heavy damage from the stones being catapulted by the mangonels, but they had with them two tartars, or small boats covered with a wood roof that housed armored cavalry. These little boats were able to reach the harbourfront while the Muslim infantry swam to shore.

The result was a rout of the Hindu inhabitants. Those who were not cut down by sword fled into King Surya Deva’s royal palace. But once Jamal’s forces stormed up and seized the palace by setting its walls aflame, the Hindu citizens surrendered. Forced to relocate to suburbs, most were allowed to leave peaceably, but some of their wives were given over as slaves to Sultan Jamal’s men. The famed Moroccan traveler who joined this campaign, Ibn Battuta, himself received one of these women as a prize. Her name was Lamki. He made her a sex slave and changed her name to Mubarakah, “. . . and when her husband wished to ransom her I [Ibn Battuta] refused.” (p. 288).

Sultan Jamal held the palace town and its surrounding settlements for nearly a year. Eleven months later, King Surya Deva retuned and reconquered Goa on August 24, 1343 AD. Fighting over Goa persisted for two more years until King Surya Deva was killed. What formed in the aftermath was the Persian-Muslim Bahmani Sultanate that controlled the maritime trade and agricultural settlements in that central-western region of India. Goa itself would fall to the Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagara approximately fifteen years later. Though it has had many dynasties and kingdoms rule over it, the glory of Goa belongs to its earth, sea, and people, not to its rulers.

Source: Ibn, Batuta, and Tim Mackintosh-Smith. The Travels of Ibn Battutah. London: Picador, 2002. Print.
Source: De Souza, Teotonio R. (1990). Goa Through the Ages: An economic history, Volume 2. Concept Publishing Company. p. 129. ISBN 9788170222590.
Source: Moraes, George M. (1990). K Kula Velliapura inscriptions pg 181 190 317 384. ISBN 9788120605954.

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