Silver sands, sparkling blue waters, the sky mirroring the sea below, white churches resting against green paddy fields and coconut trees lining the coastal streets. Goa is a place you can fall in love with at first glance.
There’s much more to Goa than sun, sand and sea. The allure of Goa is that it remains quite distinct from the rest of India and is small enough to be grasped and explored in a way that other Indian states are not.
Goa became one of the youngest Indian states after 451 years of colonial rule and 26 years as Union territory. Its history dates back to the 3rd century when it belonged to the Mauryas, followed by the rule of the Satvahanas, Chalukyas, the Shilharas and Kadambas. In 1312, Goa fell into the hands of the Muslims. The Portuguese took over in 1510, ending the Muslim rule. Apart from a brief spell during the Napoleonic wars, when the British briefly occupied Goa, the Portuguese were the masters of Goa till 1961, when they were finally driven out.
450 years under Portuguese domination produced a unique blend of East and West that is both exotic and strangely familiar. Christmas and Carnival are celebrated as enthusiastically as Diwali and Durga Puja. The state’s separate identity is also visible in its Latinate architecture and preference for a fish- and meat-rich cuisine. Another marked difference is the prevalence of alcohol, which is cheap in the state and is widely available.
Panaji, Goa’s capital since 1843, is among the most pleasant Indian capitals. Most people use it as a link to old Goa or to the beaches, but it’s worth a visit. The atmosphere is easygoing and the people are friendly. In the oldest part of the town, the Portuguese heritage is evident: broad avenues spilling into cobbled squares, grand public buildings, old houses with overhanging balconies and numerous bars and cafes.
On the coast itself, coconut cultivation and fishing are the major sources of income. But, tourism is the main money-spinner and the majority of the population is engaged in related business.
Places To Visit in Goa:
Mapusa – 13kms from Panaji, Mapusa is a small town in north Goa. People from all over Goa come here to buy and sell their wares in the famous Friday market.
Margao (Madgaon) – is the second largest city in Goa and a commercial metropolis. Margao an 18 km stretch of silvery sand: Palolean, Betul and Colva. Other interesting places around Margao are Chandreshwar Bhutnath temple and the Rachol Seminary.
Vasco-Da-Gama – This coastal town popularly known as Vasco was originally called Sambhaji. This well planned city is also the railway terminus for passenger service. Goa’s only airport, Dabolim is also 4km from Vasco, at the other end.
Ponda – is also called Antruz Mahal because of the concentration of culture, music, drama and poetry. This town also has many temples – Shri Gopal Ganapati Temple, Mahalakshmi temple, Shri Nagesh temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, Shri Mangesh temple and the Safe Shahouri Masjid.
Old Goa – is the state’s showpiece and the only remnant of the Portuguese. In the 1500s, it was the largest and most flourishing of the great Asian cities. The monuments and cathedrals today represent just a fraction of the urban development that was Old Goa.
Se Cathedral at Old Goa: The largest church in Asia, the cathedral in Old Goa, is a mighty 16th century monument to the Roman Catholic rule of Goa under the Portuguese. Its huge Golden Bell is the biggest in the world. It has 14 side chapels; the last chapel, in Mauresque style, preserves a cross upon which a vision of Christ is said to have appeared in 1919.
Church of St. Francis of Assisi at Old Goa – Built in pure Manueline style, the interior is adorned with a profusion of carvings and exquisite paintings. The convent at the back of this church is now the Archaeological Museum. It houses many portraits of the Portuguese Viceroys and fragments of sculpture from Hindu temple sites in Goa.
Bom Jesus Basilica – Partially in ruins but awesome still, it is a fine example of Jesuit architecture. The church’s most precious relic is the embalmed body of St. Francis Xavier entombed in a marble mausoleum presented by the Duke of Tuscany, who received the Saint’s pillow in exchange. Once every 10 years, the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier are exposed for public veneration. It was last exposed in 1994.
Aguada Fort: This Fort was built by the Portuguese in 1609-1612 to control the entry into the river Mandovi and to protect Old Goa from potential enemy attacks. A spring within the fort provided water supply to the ships that called there. The fort presently houses the Central Jail.
Cabo Fort (Raj Bhavan) – 9 km from Panaji, the Cabo Fort lies on the peninsula at Dona Paula, which juts into the Arabian Sea. Initially during the Portuguese era, a Franciscan Convent, was attached to the fort. This later became Coba Palace and is now the Governor’s residence.
Chapora Fort – Located 10 km outside Mapusa, this fort has a splendid view of nearby Anjuna and Vagator beaches. The fort, which belonged to Muslim rulers before the Portuguese wrested it, has some interesting ruins.
Terekhol (Tiracol) Fort – 42 km. away from Panaji, at the northernmost tip of Goa’s shoreline, at the mouth of the river Terekhol, stands the Terekhol Fort. In its courtyard is the century-old church of St. Anthony. It is now a tourist resort.
Rachol Museum of Christian Art – About 7 km east of Margao, is the Rachol seminary. Its main attraction, the Christian art museum is the only one of its kind in South Asia. It was set up by the Indian National Trust for Architecture and Cultural Heritage and the Gulbenkian Foundation of Portugal. The Museum has an amazing collection of artefacts from Goa’s churches and chapels, private collections and donations.
Kerkar Art Complex – in Calangute is the only art gallery of its kind on this beach strip. The gallery stocks a wide variety of art, as well as arts and crafts done by local artistes. Concerts of Indian classical music and dance are held on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Population: Approximately 12,00,000
Climate: Summers are particularly hot and the monsoons heavy. Winters are pleasant during the days and cool during the nights.
Main Language(s): Konkani, Hindi and English
Time Zone: GMT + 05:30
Phone Area Code: 0832
Best Time To Visit: Goa is best experienced during the winter months between October and the end of February. The famous Mardi Gras Carnival happens in February and is a fabulous experience. The tourist season starts in November and goes on till March. January, February and March are the best months for Hindu festivals and celebrations. January has the colourful festival of Shantadurga Prasann, February the three day zatra of Shri Mangesh, and in March is the festival of Holi, called Shigmo.
Airport Distance from City Center: 30 kms
Taxi Rates from Airport to City: Most 5 star hotels have complimentary services. Taxi ervices available Rs. 350 flat rate to Panaji city centre
Map of Goa, India