“Goa has inherent interest and liking for tourism”, said Governor of Goa Mr Bharat Vir Wanchoo while inaugurating the recently held Goa International Travel Mart.
It’s very true. Since its liberation from the Portuguese in 1961, this tiny state on the west coast of Arabian Sea has emerged as one of India’s most popular tourist destinations for holidaymakers from other parts of India and abroad.
For most Indians, vacation in Goa means travelling to a seafront nest quite different in culture, lifestyle and architecture from the rest of the nation. This cliché comes from the legacies of the Portuguese who laid claim to the territory in 1510 and developed it as the sub continent’s first major European settlement. The impact of their 451 years stay makes Goa unique. The landscape is dominated more by white churches than temples and mosques. Women out in the streets are attired not in saris but in pretty
Latino influenced dresses with puffed sleeves. Likewise widows are dressed in black rather than usual white. Most significantly what impress outsiders is the colourful architectural line-up which with imagination wide open grants flavours of an old European settlement. Abundance of bars and wine shops in almost every corner is certainly a tempt, particularly for those keen for a “chill out”, mouth watering “Vindaloo”, “Xacuti” recipes and “Fado” based vibrant music coming in as bonuses.
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Located on the bank of river Mandovi, Panaji or Panjim, as some still fondly call it by its colonial name, is the state capital and principal town of Goa, Margao, Mapusa and Vasco da Gama being other key urbanized settlements.
Few kilometres south of Panaji along the Mandovi is the16th century established quarter of Old Goa, the region’s most tourist infected site. It was here the Portuguese first landed and subsequently developed the riverfront site as the capital of their empire in the Indian sub continent. During heyday this site was no less important and grander than Lisbon, their European capital. In fact it was a common saying then among ardent travellers that “He who has seen Goa need not see Lisbon”. The maze
of twisting streets, piazzas and grand villas have long gone; all that remains today are a score of some of ecclesiastical and administrative edifices, their spires and bell towers reminding the magnificence of the past.
Spreading Christianity was high in the agenda of the colonizers. As a result churches mushroomed everywhere and during the peak of Portuguese reign there were over 50 churches in Old Goa. Now from what survives, the most sought after ones are the Se Cathedral dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria, the St Cajetan Cathedral modelled on St Peters Basillica in Rome and the Church of St Francis of Assisi. However Taj Mahal of Goa is the Basilica of Bom Jesus which houses the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier, the renowned sixteenth-century missionary. Every ten years it’s taken out for public viewing, 2014 being the auspicious year. From 22 November till 4 January 2015 the body will remain exposed for all.
Like previous times, it’s expected that pilgrims from India and abroad will visit Goa to take part in this pious event.