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Stretches of silver sand wetted by a rush of blue waters, the sky mirroring
the sea below, the strumming of guitars from distant taverns, white churches
resting against green paddy fields and coconut groves, long nights spent
over brewed feni, longer days of sun, sand and sea. In other words, Goa.
Yet, there's lot more than sand and sea here. Goa is about style, haute
couture and sophistication.
The tiny west-coastal state is a slice of the Mediterranean. Being in Goa
is as close as one can get to being abroad. No wonder then that the tourists
one sees here are international and from all walks of life. There are lords
and ladies, bigwigs from Hollywood and Bollywood, businessmen from the world
over who seem to find Goa an irresistible place to come to again and again
for a holiday.
One of the attractions are the residents of Goa. Ready smiles greet one
as does the mellifluous language and a certain conviviality of spirit. Over
the centuries, many a conqueror came and claimed 'Govapuri' to be his. Each
left behind his mark on the topography and culture of Goa. The resultant
cultural intermingling has created the irrepressible Goan spirit one encounters
Legacy Of A Glorious Past
One of the youngest states of the Indian Union, Goa attained statehood 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 and then the Shilharas and Kadambas.
In 1312, Goa fell into the hands of the Muslims when Harihara of the Vijayanagar
Empire evacuated the coastal area. The Muslim rule ended when the Portuguese
took over in 1510. During the Napoleonic wars, Britishers had a brief occupation
of Goa otherwise the Portuguese were masters of Goa till 1961 when they
were finally driven out.
Gifts Portuguese Brought To India
The most long lasting influence on Goa came via the Arabian Sea. The Portuguese,
pursuing their dream of controlling the golden goose - the spice trade,
were looking for a strong base on the west coast of India. They chose Goa,
then under Muslim rule. After deposing the sultan, the Portuguese used Goa's
numerous resources to their best advantage -
the wonderful natural harbour,
the fertile land and the plentiful water supply. Soon the new colony became
so prosperous that it earned the title 'Golden Goa'. From here, the Portuguese
set up smaller colonies in Daman, Diu and Bassein (Vasai).
The Portuguese brought to Goa their grand architectural styles. These imported
ideas, married with the skills of the local craftsmen who executed them,
gave rise to some unique and beautiful buildings dotting Goa. Take the wonderful
fountainhas area of Panjim, where colourful houses with their wrought iron
balconies stand in flower-filled glory. Street after narrow, cobbled street
is filled with these quaint and delightful houses.
Not many Indians are aware that the staple of Indian spices - chillies are
not of Indian origin. The Portuguese introduced them to India. They were
also responsible for introducing Tobacco to India. They brought the Pineapple
from South America, Papaya from the Philippines and Cashew from Brazil;
Maize, Peanuts and Sweet Potatoes from Africa. They also introduced Lichis
and oranges to India. Imagine how Indian would have done without these products,
specially the chillies. Best Of Both World's
Goa's 450 years under Portuguese domination produced a unique, syncretic
blend of East and West that is at once exotic and strangely familiar: Christmas
and Carnival are celebrated as enthusiastically by the 30% Christian minority
as Diwali and Durga Puja are by the mainly Konkani-speaking Hindus. The
state's separate identity is discernible in other ways too, most visibly
in its Latinate architecture, but also in a preference for a fish-and meat-rich
cuisine. Another marked difference is the prevalence of alcohol. Beer is
affordable, and six thousand or more bars around the state are licensed
to serve it, along with the more traditional tipples of Feni, the local
Hootch, and Toddy (Todi), a derivative of palm sap.
Goa's Hep Scenario
Alongside is the haute couture scene. Goan fashion designer Wendell Rodericks'
haute couture has held its own in the competitive world of international
fashion and his clients come all the way to Goa to buy his creations. Wendell's
latest project is a costume museum in Goa to showcase the history of the
Fundacao Oriente, a Portuguese cultural institution working in ex-Portuguese
colonies, is doing admirable work in restoring Goan architecture. Their
own building, located in the quaint Latin quarter of Panjim called Fountainhas,
has been nicely renovated, as have some lovely buildings in the neighbourhood.
As a happy sequel to that, the Panjim Municipal Corporation built footpaths
in this area. Also nicely restored and painted blue is the Customs House
on the bank of the river Mandovi, with the mouldings picked out in white.
Shopping should be a priority on the itinerary. There are many tempting
options among the interesting lifestyle and fashion shops; some located
in restored Goan houses. These shops also bring the country's best selections
in home styling and fashion to Goa.
Cruising Along The River
No holiday in Goa is complete without a cruise on the river or on the serene
backwaters. Yes backwaters, less known than the Kerala ones, but almost
as beautiful. The government run Yacht Santa Monica runs river cruises for
an hour along with song and dance. Or if one would rather watch the sunset
or moonrise in secluded luxury, then charter an exclusive private yacht.
But don't miss out on a fun-filled cruise along the Mandovi.
Goa In The Rains
Goa is magical during the rains. As the warm tropical showers come down,
the countryside turns spectacularly lush and green. It is wonderful to sit
out on a verandah, to curl up with a book, to watch the rain come down or
walk along a deserted beach in the rain and see the waves come thundering
onto the sand. Special packages and off-season rates make "Goa in the
Rains" especially attractive.
Wine And Dine In Goan Style
Goan cuisine has always been popular, with its repertoire of Portuguese-Goan
dishes. To enjoy the best of this, get invited to a Goan home or visit an
authentic restaurant to get the taste of a feast. Or you could in Panjim.
But the new trend in the restaurant scenario is international cuisine: Italian,
French, Fusion, and colourful interiors. In the Konkani language, there
is no phrase, which means 'I'm leaving'; instead whosoever visits Goa says
'I am coming back'.
Climate: 25°C - 30°C (67.96F - 81.56F Approx)
Rainfall: 325cms (June To September)
Clothing: tropical clothing through the year, light woolen in December-January.
Languages Spoken: Marathi, Konkani, & English
Nearest Airport: Dabolim Airport situated 30-km from Panjim.
Nearest Railway Station: Vasco-da-Gama
Nearest Bus Station: Kadamba transport Corporation, Panjim.