GOA IN ITS HISTORICAL AND NATURAL ELEGANCE
Geographically, the state is the narrow stretch of land beyond the Sahayadri range of mountains on the western coast of India. It was known as ‘Aparant’ (land of beyond) in ancient Hindu literature. It was also referred to as ‘Sunaprant’ (golden land of beyond) in Buddhist literature. This region has always occupied a special status in the history of mankind. This is apparent from the ancient names, defining the place as a land of happiness and natural abundance.
Interestingly, much of the historical and the architectural wealth of the state remained unexplored until recently. Today, when you recover a discarded piece of artefact from an abandoned well, you are likely to find a archaeological specimen of the Silahara, the Yadava or the 20th century Kadamba period.
At a later stage the region along with its crucial ports were occupied by various dynasties and finally, by the Portuguese, due to its immense wealth as a business centre. In due course it was also as the ‘Rome of the East’ for its magnificent structures and was a major source of income to foreign occupants.
BEGINNING OF THE PORTUGUESE ERA
The capture of Goa by the Portuguese at the beginning of the sixteenth century was the outcome of a politico –religious compulsion of the western world. Vasco-da-Gama, a Portuguese explorer, sailed from Lisbon Portugal in July 1497 for India with a fleet of four small ships and one hundred and sixty men towards the east. By then, Bartholomew Dias had discovered the route to the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 and Columbus had earlier discovered a new continent while in search of India.
Under the Portuguese, the land was a free port with numerous bars and brothels, and shops full of imported consumer goods. Trading activities were largely concerned with smuggling these goods to India, where prices were naturally much higher. The deeply indented coastline with streams running miles inland, greatly assisted this illegal traffic. Old habits die hard and the state is still one of the main channels, through which, gold, narcotics are smuggled into India. But gone is the trade of refrigerators, cameras, radios, cheap whiskey and foreign cars. Not everyone was pleased when the Indian army invaded the land, especially those who were able to profit from the colonial system. Even now relatively poor locals can be heard complaining about the prices of consumer goods and the benefits of the old Portuguese rule.
EMBEDDING INTO THE GOAN CULTURE
Their (Portuguese) Christianity too has an eastern flavour. The interior of the churches have a distinctly Hindu appearance with brightly colored mural paintings and carved wooden altar screen covered in thick gold paint. The Hindus’s despite their persecution during the early centuries of the Portuguese rule, have clung to their traditions, but very few old Hindu temples remain expect in the most remote areas such as Ponda where temples such as Shri Nageshi Maharudra Temple, Shri Bhagwati Temple, Mangeshi Temple and Mahalakshmi Temple are still being visited by devotees near and far.
When the Portuguese first came here, they gave Portuguese names to many of the people the converted to Christianity, so that a Goan could bear a Portuguese name and yet will not necessarily have any trace of European blood. The Portuguese settlers, however, often married Indians and the fact that most Goans are lighter in skin color than Indians in neighboring states suggests that there are extremely few Goans without at least one European ancestor. On the other hand there are very few who claim to be purely Portuguese who do not have some Indian blood.
GOAN’S EMBRACING THE PORTUGUESE CULTURE & LIFESTYLE
Market spaces in many villages are is generally an open square in the middle of the village where women sit with little piles of shrimps and other fish or a few vegetables. In larger villages there will probably be open stalls selling other fast moving consumer items.
Fish, Feni and Bebinca summarize the dishes around most of the locals. Fish of course,undoubtedly tops the list. In rural areas, locals are still known to spend a lot of time fishing either collectively or individually. There are over 180 varieties of fish available in the market that includes fish from waters as well as backwaters.
The locals are a different breed of people altogether. Though they belonged to several different faiths, in course of time they blended to form a community that prefers to be known as ‘Goans’, rather than the religion they practice. You can always find a place to live among these peace loving warm hearted, contended and accommodating people here always welcoming you with open arms.
The state has already become a popular destination for people for people from all parts of the world. They enjoy the hospitality of the state and some even settle down, adding to the already existing chequered conglomeration. There are many spectacular beaches along the coastline with a number of five-star resorts adorning these beaches offering comfortable rooms, expensive restaurants, clean exclusive beachfronts with water sports facilities are common features.
HOMES, CULTURE & MUSIC
Houses here have a typical architectural design. Houses in the locality of Old Conquests have Portuguese characteristics, while those of the region of New Conquests have retained their original local design. A typical house has a compound and a garden and a sitting area in from of the main entrance , lovingly called as the ‘balcao’. This the place where the entire family relaxes for hours.
Music is in the blood of the locals living here. A good number of people encourage music in some form or the other in their family. The state has produced a number of great singers who still dominate in this field. The sweet sound of the piano and the strumming of guitar along with vocals still reverberate in the lanes and by-lanes of the villages and towns here.
A number of colorful festivals are organized in different parts of the state throughout the year. Festivals such as Carnival, Sigmo and New Year are celebrated all over the state with enthusiasm, while many interesting local festivals are organized by local communities. Inspite of being a tiny state, the variety of festivals organized in this part of India is amazing. Locals have adopted many of these festivals from their ancestors who belong to different communities and may have added some extra flavour to its original form that have their origins from Europe which were influenced by the Portuguese.
GOA AS THE WORLD KNOWS IT!
Goa is known for its golden beaches, pristine surroundings, relaxed lifestyle and its tranquil atmosphere. Many people from other states of India and other countries of the world enjoy what the land has to offer them. Some prefer to spend a few days here as tourists, while others have preferred to settle down here.
Apparently, the Konkan coast of India was discovered by the hippies of the western world in the 1960’s. The hospitable local residents accommodated the foreigners and provided them with whatever comfort they could offer and often invited them, to share their houses and their localities. As the state was occupied by the Portuguese for a very long period, people were not only exposed to the western culture by actually practiced it in many form which made it a lot easier to accept foreigners. Thus, the progressive western beach culture was more accepted here than it would have been in any coastal belt of India.
Tiracol forms the northern boundary of the state. Querem locally named as Keri is the northern most beach that extends into the mouth of the Tiracol river. Keri is a beautiful beach with a row of casuarina trees that adorn the beachside producing a constant swishing as they face a strong wind all the time. The Tiracol fort is visible from the beachside which is a magnificent view. The next beach along this coast is the Arambol beach which was initially a peaceful hamlet, it is now a popular beachfront. Para –sailing, windsurfing and water-scooter rides are some popular activities amongst tourists. The beach acquires it most romantic mood only after sundown. A heavenly tranquillity descends on the moonlit beach. Many enjoy the late night beach parties and rock band concerts which continue till the morning hours on specific days of the week. One you experience the divine comfort of Arambol, you get addicted to the place forever. Many European tourists prefer to come back to this place each year. Arambol has changed from its original fishing village image, but the tranquillity and peace still prevail here.
BEAUTIFUL COASTLINE LIKE NO OTHER: SOUTH GOA
Heading south leads to beaches that are relatively less congested such as Mandrem, Ashwen and Morzim that offer a different experience in comparison to the other crowded beaches.
If Calangute is the Queen of Goa beaches for its gorgeous look, then Vagator can be labelled the princess because of its sheer magnetic beauty. A hillock projects into the sea separated the Vagator beach from its less know counterpart Little Vagator. While Vagator remains the favorite beach of Indian tourists, Little Vagator is preferred by foreign tourists.
Every beach has a typical atmosphere and is preferred by a specific group of tourists. The quiet beach resorts of Mandrem are preferred by tourists from England, Austria and Spain. These resorts also provide their favorite cuisine served in the restaurants, while tourists from Russia and Israel prefer the neighboring Morzim Beach. Those tourists who prefer music and beachside band parties throng to Arambol and Baga as these beaches are famous for organizing nightlong parties. Orzan is a small beach close to Anjuna guarded by two rock faces on each side. The approach to the beach is by climbing down a hillock, which is known as Sunset Point. The unique feature of this small beach is the face of Lord Shiva on the rock face by an unknown artist.
Anjuna is a beach that is guarded by to hillocks on either side and has acquired its international reputation by virtue of being one fo the first five beaches were the hippies settled along with Calangute beach in the initial period of tourism here. Anjuna is also famous for its flea markets that found open on Wednesdays during the tourist season.
NORTH GOA COASTLINE: A TOURISM HOTSPOT
The Baga-Calangute beach complex is certainly the most popular tourist zone of present day tourism here and thus is one of the most congested beaches. Calangute developed into a popular tourist destination on the Northern coastline during the initial stages of tourism in the region along with Colva beach in the southern coast. Baga at that time was a small fishing hamlet just north of Calangute. Foreign tourists who preferred to spend their time away from the hustle-bustle of Calangute, gradually moved towards this quiet fishy village. Though Indian tourists continued to throng Calangute, foreign tourist preferred to occupy Baga beach cottages. Candolim and Sinquerim are the two beaches next to each other south of Calangute. The latter extends upto Auada Fort, a portion of which has been converted into a luxury resort.
The river Mandovi divides the state into Northern and Southern parts . If Miramar is considered an extension of Panaji city, then the South Goa beach front starts from Bogmollo beach. There are some smaller sand patches along the coast which are not preferred by tourists for various reasons.
Bogmalo is the nearest beach from Mormugao harbour, Daborlim airport and the railhead of Vasco-da-gama connecting the state with the rest of the world. Valsao is the first beach on the long stretch of beachfront of southern coast. Thereafter, a very long stretch of golden beachfront extends several kilometres upto Mobor beach which ends at the mouth of the river Sal and a projecting hillock on the opposite bank. Various stretches of this beachfront include Valsao, Majorda, Colva, Benaulim, Varca, Cavelossim and Mobor.
If you have not visited this part of the world, you have missed the most exclusive experience one can have. Once you have experienced the warmth of the people, the splendid view of the sea and the pleasure of viewing nature at such a close range, you will have no choice but to come back again and again to rejuvenate your body, mind and soul. May god keeps this land as peaceful as this forever.