Wednesday 28 July 2021

Re-discovering Goa

Kama Ayurveda      Decathlon

Re-discovering Goa

Goa on the west coast of India, a former Portuguese colony is a major tourist destination attracting tourists from all over the world. It is famous for the beaches, booze, colourful lifestyle, Goan cuisine and delicious seafood. There are many old and historical structures, Portuguese style villas and cottages, ancient temples, old churches and ruins. And the place is dotted with shacks, restaurants, hotels and resorts offering a wide range of amenities, Goan food and international cuisine. It attracts tourists throughout the year.

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Goa is a state in western India with coastlines stretching along the Arabian Sea. Its long history as a Portuguese colony prior to 1961 is evident in its preserved 17th-century churches and the area’s tropical spice plantations. Goa is also known for its beaches, ranging from popular stretches at Baga and Palolem to those in laid-back fishing villages such as Agonda. Goa is an attractive tourist destination amongst Indians and foreigners. While the sun, sand and surf are the prime attractions, there are also many beautiful temples, old churches and ancient structures, Goan, Indian and international cuisines and much more to taste and explore in Goa. The fun and frolic and the foot-tapping Goan music and sounds are the other major attractions.

Goa is visited by a large numbers of international and domestic tourists each year because of its white-sand beaches, active nightlife, places of worship, and World Heritage-listed architecture. It also has a rich flora and fauna because it lies on the Western Ghats range, a biodiversity hotspot. Goa reminds one of the glistening sands, the cool sea breeze and the warm sun are part of the beaches that make Goa, a must for all tourists, Indian and foreigners. It has some of the prettiest beaches, old Portuguese structures, the annual carnival in February and the flea markets give an insight of Goa and its culture. The monsoon adds to the beauty of the landscape and gives you a chance to re-discover the natural beauty of the place.

Konkani is spoken by some 2.5 million people in Goa. It is the official language of Goa state. Presently,  Portuguese language is spoken by a small community in some pockets of Goa. Konkani is a spoken language, with Devnagari script, is the sole official language of the Goan government but Marathi and English are also used for  official purposes.  Konkani language is an Indo-Aryan language of the Indo-European language family. 

Goa has a unique culture with a touch of Portuguese. Even Goan cuisine has a touch of Portuguese. While people don't particularly go here to shop, it does offer a few unique items. Most famous among them are Goa Sausages, a spicy chorizo that's available all over India, but best made in Goa. Then there are cashew nuts, which are of great quality and much cheaper too. And artifacts from Goa and outside are available. 

The state is divided into two districts: North Goa and South Goa. Each district is administered by a district collector, appointed by the Indian government.

Panaji is the headquarters of North Goa district and is also the capital of Goa.

North Goa is further divided into three subdivisions – Panaji, Mapusa, and Bicholim; and five talukas (subdistricts) –Tiswadi/Ilhas de Goa (Panaji), Bardez (Mapusa), Pernem, Bicholim, and Sattari (Valpoi).

Margao is the headquarters of the South Goa district.

South Goa is further divided into five subdivisions – Ponda, Mormugao-Vasco, Margao, Quepem, and Dharbandora; and seven talukas – Ponda, Mormugao, Salcete (Margao), Quepem, and Canacona (Chaudi), Sanguem, and Dharbandora. (Ponda taluka was shifted from North Goa to South Goa in January 2015).

Goa's major cities include Panaji, Margao, Vasco, Mapusa, Ponda, Bicholim, and Valpoi.

Panaji has the only Municipal Corporation in Goa taking care of the civic amenities of the city.

There are thirteen Municipal Councils: These councils look after the civic amenities and problems of these towns. They are: Margao, Mormugao (including Vasco), Pernem, Mapusa, Bicholim, Sanquelim, Valpoi, Ponda, Cuncolim, Quepem, Curchorem, Sanguem, and Canacona. Goa has a total number of 334 villages.

There are many places of interest one can visit. We detail a few of them for the readers and visitors to Goa. Tourism is generally focused on the coastal areas of Goa, with lower tourist activity inland. Goa stands 6th in the Top 10 Nightlife cities in the world in National Geographic Travel. One of the biggest tourist attractions in Goa is water sports. Beaches like Baga and Calangute offer jet-skiing, parasailing, banana boat rides, water scooter rides, and more. Patnem beach in Palolem stood third in CNN Travel's Top 20 Beaches in Asia. Beaches and nightlife are the major attraction for tourists.

Over 450 years of Portuguese rule and the influence of the Portuguese culture present to visitors to Goa a cultural environment that is not found elsewhere in India. Goa is often described as a fusion between Eastern and Western culture with Portuguese culture having a dominant position in the state, be it in its architectural, cultural or social settings. The state of Goa is famous for its excellent beaches, churches, and temples. The Bom Jesus Cathedral, Fort Aguada and a new wax museum on Indian history, culture and heritage in Old Goa are other tourism destinations.

Panaji is the state's capital, while Vasco da Gama is its largest city. The historic city of Margão in Goa still exhibits the cultural influence of the Portuguese, who first voyaged to the subcontinent in the early 16th century as merchants, and conquered it soon thereafter, whereupon Goa became an overseas territory of the Portuguese Empire, part of what was then known as Portuguese India, and remained as such for about 450 years, until it was annexed by India in 1961. 

In 1843, the Portuguese moved the capital to the Cidade da Nova Goa, today known as Panjim or Panaji, from Velha Goa. By the mid-18th century, Portuguese Goa had expanded to most of the present-day state limits. Simultaneously, the Portuguese lost other possessions in India until their borders stabilized and formed the Estado da Índia Portuguesa or State of Portuguese India. And they ruled Goa for almost 450 years.

Panaji: Panaji or Panjim is the capital of Goa. The small city has much to offer. The church on the main square, the Immaculate Conception Church, Baroque architecture, pretty villas, cobbled streets and quiet buildings give Panaji a distinctly Portuguese ambience though new modern buildings are now being constructed in place of the old dilapidated structures. The lively city lies along the banks of the Mandovi river. Close by are a cluster of great beaches, perfect for lazing around and soaking in the sun.

The Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church is located in Panjim, Goa. The Church conducts Mass every day in English, Konkani, and Portuguese. This old church attracts many tourists.

Margao: Margao or Madgaon, the headquarters of Salcete taluka is the major town of South Goa. It has an old Portuguese flavor and charm. Some of the Goa’s famous beaches are located here.

Vasco: Vasco da Gama and the nearby Mormugoa port are busy, dusty and mainly commercial centre’s today. The Mormugoa port was constructed in 1888 and is today one of the major ports of India.

Velha Goa: Old Goa is the former colonial capital of Goa. Today it is home to some exquisitely designed and built churches and convents. The site is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India and is a UNESCO listed World Heritage site. The sacred cathedrals of the bygone era at old Goa are still in remarkably good condition. The Bon Jesus church where the sacred remains of St Francis Xavier lie in a glass casket is a big tourist attraction.

The Church of St. Francis of Assisi was built in 1661 by the Portuguese in the Portuguese Viceroyalty of India. The Church of St. Francis of Assisi, together with a convent, was established by eight Portuguese Franciscan friars who landed in Goa in 1517. It is part of the World Heritage Site, Churches and convents of Goa.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus is a Roman Catholic basilica located in Goa, and is part of the Churches and convents of Goa UNESCO World Heritage Site. The basilica is located in Old Goa, former capital of Portuguese India, and holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier.

Mapusa: Mapusa is the administrative centre of Bardez Taluka. It is located around 13 km south of Panaji. Mapusa is a busy market town, popular for its fish market. And it is also close to some of the popular beaches.

Ponda: Ponda is located in the centre of North Goa. It is surrounded by greenery, scenic villages and numerous temples. It is also known for its proximity to Goa’s wildlife and is hailed as the cultural capital for music in Goa. 

Shri Shantadurga Saunsthan is a private temple complex belonging to the Goud Saraswat Brahman Samaj, located 30 km from Panaji at the foothill of Kavalem village in Ponda Taluka, Goa. It attracts a lot of devotees from all over India and abroad.

Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park is a 240 square kms protected area located in the Western Ghats of West India, in Dharbandora taluk, Goa State, along the eastern border with Karnataka. The area is situated near the town of Molem, 57 kms east of Panaji, the state capital of Goa. National Highway 4A divides it into two parts and the Mormugao - Londa railway line passes through the area. It contains several important temples dating to the Kadambas of Goa, and home to waterfalls, such as Dudhsagar Falls and Tambdi Falls. The parkland is also home to a community of nomadic buffalo herders known as the Dhangar.

Mahadeva Temple, Tambdi Surla is a 12th-century Shaivite temple in the Kadamba style dedicated to Lord Shiva and a place of worship for Hindus. It is an ASI protected Monument of National Importance in Goa.

Popular Beaches

Goa is blessed and popular for its beautiful beaches and pristine waters. And most of the action happens here attracting the tourists in hoards. Some of the popular ones are Vagator beach, Calangute beach, Anjuna beach and Baga beach. If you want scenic beauty and tranquility, South Goa is the place to be. South Goa is home to the best secluded, rustic and pristine beaches that offer serene environs, relaxation and natural beauty.

Baga: Baga beach is known for water sports – parasailing, jet-skiing, body-boarding and surfing. The dolphin cruises are another tourist attraction at this beach.

Anjuna: This beach is famous with the foreigners. It is the most hip and happening place, known for its rave culture and parties, especially during the Christmas-New Year season.

Dona Paula: Dona Paula is quite a hot-spot for its beauty and romantic legend that the beach derived its name from. Dotted with palms and casuarinas it is an ideal spot for tourists. The beach offers water sport facilities, especially water-scootering.

Colva: Colva beach appears more organized and highly commercialized with resort complexes, discos and restaurants, shops, boutiques and the best known European bakeries in Goa.

Calangute: This is the most popular beach, close to Panjim. It is commercialized but offers good sun-bathing and some really delicious food.

Palolem Beach: Palolem Beach is situated in Canacona in southern Goa. The beach attracts many international tourists, mainly during the winter season between November and March. It is considered to be one of the region's most beautiful beaches. During the season it is crowded with tourists.

Best time to be in Goa  

Goa is enjoyable throughout the year. But October-February is the best time for tourists. The carnival takes place from February through March. The summers are very hot and humid. Beaches are unsafe during monsoons. Even a span of 2-4 days is enough to experience Goa at its best. When you're in Goa you can't miss visiting the azure beaches that are truly mesmeric. You can plan for half a day beach hopping where you can sunbathe, relax, chill out and try the thrilling water sports activities over here. Home stay, hotels and resorts are available, during the season it is advisable to book in advance.

Goa is accessible by rail, road and air. The best way to get around Goa is to hire a vehicle. There are no metered taxis and the bus service is erratic. Ideally it is better to fix the fare when you book the taxi for your journey. The pristine, natural beauty and the many tourist attractions, fantastic seafood and delicious Goan cuisine and friendly people make Goa a holiday destination. It’s apt to have a romantic break in Goa to rejuvenate your mind and body. No wonder tourists from around the world flock to Goa!


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Thursday 15 July 2021

Historical & Tourist spots in Maharashtra

 Kama Ayurveda     Decathlon

Historical & Tourist spots in Maharashtra

India is a vast country, almost a sub-continent. From the Himalayas in the north to the southern tip touching the sea close to Sri Lanka, and on the west from Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal on the east. Indian has many states with a different culture, cuisine and lifestyle. On the north east, there are seven states with a rich culture and tradition. Then you have Lakshadweep islands in the Arabian Sea to Andaman & Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal. It may take a couple of years to cover the length and breadth of the country to see all the historical and tourist spots across the country, rich with different and varied culture and cuisine. Each Indian state has its own attraction, culture and historical spots. Similarly Maharashtra on the west coast of India with Mumbai as its capital is rich in the historical and tourist spots.

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Maharashtra is known for its many famous historical sites that dot the landscape throughout the state. They have a rich heritage and interesting stories of valor, deceit and love. Here we look at some of the historical places in Maharashtra – forts, palaces, monuments and culturally rich cities in the state. This will give you an insight to the culture and tradition of Maharashtra.

The Gateway of India: It is without doubt one of the most popular historical places in Mumbai, Maharashtra. Sitting proudly on the Apollo Bunder, it overlooks the Arabian Sea. It is one of the defining monuments of the city of Mumbai and was built in the year 1924. The construction was undertaken by the famous architect George Wittet, to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai. The imposing structure of the monument is a beautiful confluence of Indian, Arabic and Western architecture and has become a popular tourist hub in the city. And nearby is the famous Taj Mahal Hotel.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST): Formerly known, Victoria Terminus is a modern yet archaic railway station in the bustling capital city of Mumbai. Built in1878, the marvelous structure is the perfect example of the Victorian-Gothic style of architecture in India. In fact, the railway station, which still functions, as usual, was a World Heritage Site under UNESCO in 1997. It is a bustling railway terminus, but it will make you feel like you have stepped into the pages of British history. It is one of the most famous historical places in Maharashtra and is also the second most photographed monument in India.

Elephanta Caves: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Elephanta Caves is a specimen of rock-cut art and architecture from the times of medieval India. The caves are located on the Elephanta or Gharapuri island which is situated at a distance of 11 km from the city of Mumbai. Natively known as Gharapurichi Leni, the Elephanta Caves that exist today are ruins of what were once elaborately painted artworks. It also provides an amazing view of the Mumbai skyline. You can reach the Elephanta Caves via a ferry ride from Gateway of India. This collection of cave temples dates back to 5th to 7th centuries and most of them are dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Sawantwadi Palace: The palace or rajwada as it is known , is situated atop of Narendra hills in Sawantwadi belongs to the erstwhile state rulers called Khem- Sawant after whom the village takes its name. It is built in traditional Maratha style giving a quiet but imposing look. The lakes in the town attract a lot of tourists.

Ajanta and Ellora Caves: It attracts a large number of tourists throughout the year. One of the finest examples of Indian art and rock carving, these caves are situated in Aurangabad. The Ajanta Caves comprises about 29 Buddhist cave monuments, which were built in two phases – second century BCE and 400-650 CE. Also found in Aurangabad are the 34 Ellora Caves, built between fifth and tenth century. These comprise Hindu, Buddhist and Jain cave monuments. These come under the protected monuments category and are also bestowed with the heritage class mark. The Kailas temple is a marvel.

Bibi-ka Maqbara: This is situated in Aurangabad. This is the mausoleum of Dilras Banu Begum (wife of Aurangazeb). It’s believed that this mausoleum was constructed by Azam Shah in memory of his mother between 1651 and 1661 AD. Interestingly, the structure bears a striking resemblance to the Taj Mahal at Agra. The marble that was used to build this structure was brought from Jaipur, and the structure is situated amidst complex gardens.

Bassein Fort: Locally known as the Vasai Fort, it was constructed during the ruled by the Portuguese, who ruled for the longest time. It was then passed on to the English as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza. Much later, the Marathas took control of the place. Once a beautiful structure, the fort is now almost in ruins. It attracts a lot of tourists.

Shaniwar Wada: This grand mansion, an imposing structure was built by the Peshwa Bajirao I himself as the residence of the Peshwas. Covering a vast area of about 625 acres, the palace is the ideal place to catch a glimpse of Maharashtra's rich history in Pune. Shaniwar Wada  is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Maharashtra. A well laid out structure with many rooms, door-ways and temple stood tall. It was presumed to be a 7 storey structure. Since it was built with wood, this imposing structure was destroyed by a big fire. Now only a small part at the entrance is still there as a mute spectator to the history of the Peshwas and Shaniwar Wada. The rest was totally destroyed in the fire. But the layout gives an idea of the pomp and lifestyle of the Peshwas.

Mastani Mahal: The love story of Bajirao and Mastani has been immortalized. Mastani, wife of Bajirao, stayed in one of the sections in the palace of Shaniwar Wada in Pune. This part of the palace was called the Mastani Mahal and its door-way was referred to Mastani Darwaza. History has it that Bajirao later built a separate palace for her in Kothrud.

Aga Khan Palace: The mighty edifice of Aga Khan Palace is situated in Pune and was built in 1892 by Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III, the palace holds a significant place in Indian history. It is where Mahatma Gandhi and his wife Kasturba and Mahadev Desai stayed immediately after the launch of Quit India Movement. Aga Khan IV donated the palace to India in 1969. The structure was inspired by Italian architecture. Spread over 19 acres, the palace is now the headquarters of the Gandhi National Memorial society. Here, making khadi is still one of the prime activities.

Karla Caves: A complex rock-cut Buddhist caves located near Lonavala, it has innumerable inscriptions recorded in Brahmi characters. The oldest cave shrine is believed to have developed in 160 BC. This is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India.

Raigad Fort: Perched at the height of around 820 metres, the captivating Raigad Fort is perched on the Sahyadri mountain range. The fort is of great pride for the Marathas and is known for its glorious past. It is a reminder of the valour and audacity of the Marathas. The Raigad fort is not just a tourist spot, it is a sacred place of pilgrimage which holds the imprints of the grand vision of Hindavi Swarajya as cherished by Chhatrapati Shivaji.

Sinhagad Fort: Site of the battle of Sinhagad in 1670, the fort is located on an isolated cliff in the Sahyadri hills. It was built to provide natural protection from enemies, and has only two entrances – Kalyan Darwaza and Pune Darwaza. This is the fort where the brave Tanaji led a small band of soldiers, climbed the difficult terrain, fought, won and laid down his life. Here, on the victory of the Marathas, Shivaji is supposed to have come to the fort and uttered the famous words – Gadh ala pun shima gela (The fort has been won but the lion is gone).

Narsobawadi temple

Panhala Fort: Apart from being a hill station, Panhala is known for the fort. It was built between 1178 and 1209 BCE, the fort has played host to Shivaji and his entourage. It is one of the largest forts in the Deccan and was initially built to supervise trade routes. The architecture reflects the Bijapuri style. The Panhala Fort lies 20 km away from the main city of Kolhapur, situated at its north-west. This historical place in Maharashtra holds its position amongst the most massive and famous fort, is the largest one in the Deccan region. It was built at a strategic location where a major trade route ran within Maharashtra from Bijapur to the coasts of Arabian Sea. This place is not only a must-visit for the people who love exploring historic locations but also for those who love to trek.

Konkan during monsoon

Jaigad Fort: Also known as the Fort of Victory; is a 16th-century fort that extends over an area of 13 acres in the coastal region of Ratnagiri, Maharashtra. Located near Jaigad village and approximately 20 kms to the north-west of Ganpatipule, the remains of the fort stand steady on a cliff overlooking the Jaigad creek where River Shastri enters the Arabian Sea. Jaigad Fort is an engineering marvel for the purpose it was built. A glance at this magnificent historical place in Maharashtra before you enter will surely amaze you. A visit to the Jaigad lighthouse which was built in close vicinity to the Jaigad fort is a must.

Palace where Burmese king lived
in exile in Ratnagiri

Lohagad Fort: Situated at a height of 3,400 feet, Lohagad Fort is a formidable fort about 52 km away from Pune. Perched atop an impressive hill near Malavali, this destination is the perfect amalgam of ancient architecture and natural beauty. Lohagad Fort was built in the 18th century and is an ideal destination for trekking and nature lovers, especially from Pune and Mumbai. This historical place in Maharashtra is flanked by nature at its lush green best and hosts panoramic views and cool mountain air.

Narayani Dham temple, Lonavala

Kolaba fort or Alibag fort: Situated amidst the sea and surrounded by waters of Arabian Sea from all sides, Kolaba fort or Alibag fort is one of the most important historical places in Maharashtra. It is a 300-year old fort which was once chief naval station during the reign of Shivaji Maharaj in Maharashtra. This isolated military fortification located amidst the Arabian Sea is a spectacular sight. Located not more than 2 km from the Alibaug beach, it can be reached by foot during low tides, but during high tides, a boat must be hired. The walk is quiet and scenic as the area is scarcely populated with only a few beachgoers here and there.


Ratnadurg: The fort which is shaped like a horse shoe is 1000 meters wide and 1300 meters long. It is spread over 120 acres and was once a strong hold of the Maratha Empire, later to be occupied by Mughals. It’s surrounded by the Arabian Sea from three sides. Situated in Ratnagiri, it was built during the rule of Brahamani, from whom it was captured by Adil Shah. Finally Chatrapati Shivaji took over the fort. Apart from Ratnadurg, Ratnagiri also boasts of temples and Rajapur Ganga, a collection of 14 pools that appear once in three years.

Vetoba temple, Aravalli

Visapur Fort: Situated on a lush green plateau, the Visapur Fort is a very popular historical place in Maharashtra for adventure mongers as well as nature lovers. The fort stands majestically tall and ruggedly firm at the height of 1084 meters above sea level offering a panoramic view of a wide range of hills covered in a thick blanket of green. The majestic fort is a very popular destination for trekking activities.

Daulatabad Fort: Located 15 km away from the main city of Aurangabad, Daulatabad Fort is an ancient fortification that rises formidably from the midst of  a difficult terrain and greenery. Often hailed as one of the 'seven wonders of Maharashtra, this architectural marvel is believed to have been built in the12th century. Perhaps the most enchanting qualities of the Daulatabad Fort, is its location, from the top of which you can capture a mesmerizing view of the entire city. You need to climb some 750 odd steps up to the top, but the view down below is really magical and wonderful.

Sateri temple, nr Aravelli

Pune: It is considered to be the cultural city of Maharastra, and an ideal place for retired people to settle. It is known for Information Technology companies based here and also many reputed educational institutes, including the army training centre at Khadakwasla. Travelling Mumbai-Pune by road or train, specially during monsoon is a treat to watch the beautiful scenery. Earlier it was known for the Peshwas who governed from here. Nearby at Wanowri one can visit Shinde Chatri, a memorial in the name of Mahadoji Shinde, the founder of Scindia dynasty in Gwalior.

Sai Baba temple, Shirdi
Nashik: Located on the banks of Godavari, Nashik is famous for the Kumbha Mela it hosts once every twelve years. Nearby Panchavati is where Lord Ram was believed to have stayed during his exile from Ayodhaya. The city has more than hundred ancient temples, brilliant rock sculptures and caves like the Panchavati caves, Pandavleni caves and Sita Gumpha. Close by Shirdi is famous for the Sai Baba shrine, visited by a large number of devotees from all over India.

Sri Mahalaxmi temple, Kolhapur
Kolhapur: The princely state before independence, Kolhapur was ruled by the Bhosale clan of the Maratha Empire. Apart from being historically rich, the entire city has quite a bit of mythological connection as well. It is believed to have been founded by demon Kolhasura; it finds mention in Devi Bhagavata Puran as well. The city was said to be the heart of the Maratha Empire. The main attraction here is the Panchaganga river and its five tributaries, along with the various palaces and monuments, like the Shahu Palace. It is also famous for the Mahalaxmi temple where devotees from all over come to seek her blessing.

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