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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