The pocket-sized paradise

“What happens in Goa, stays in Goa” is a quote that is often used from a place of humor and good fun when talking about Goa. However, this is far from the truth. What happens in Goa may stay away from conversation and what not, but it will stay in your soul forever, because trips to Goa always have something special about them that will never leave you.

A Brief History

Goa is a state that is known for its multi-cultural aesthetic influences that are often influenced by Europe. This is because of its colonial history. Originally, Goa was referred to as “Gomantak” in the epic Mahabharata, which means “fertile land”, which is a title it holds up to till date. However, the title of Goa came from the Portuguese who arrived on the scene in the sixteenth century. The name, “Gowapura” had been shortened to “Goa”. Before the Portuguese, Goa was home to eras of time ruled by exclusively Hindu and Muslim rulers. It was claimed by precisely ninety-six families of Gauda Saraswats or people hailing from the regions surrounding the Saraswati river. This is supposedly documented in the “Skanda Purana”, under the story of Parasurama, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Goa became a vessel for a mixture of culture, as it was later claimed by King Ashoka of the Mauryan empire, the Scytho-parthians, the Abhiras, Batpura, Bhojas, and the Rashtrakutas under the Hindu period. This was followed by the Muslim and Portuguese periods, as the region continued falling into the hands of more rulers, making the state what it has become today.

Over time, the Portuguese influence of Goa was apparent to the point where Goa was playfully referred to as the “Lisbon of the East”. This also brought about an era that is known as Golden Goa, a moment in history that lasted quite a few decades. With the Portuguese came their primary religion, Christianity. Although this is claimed to be a Golden era for the region, it was not a pleasant time for the Muslim population, as the Portuguese were willing to display tolerance towards Hinduism. However, in time, this policy was revoked, as the “Inquisition” of Goa took place in the year of 1540. 1542 saw the arrival of the famed Patron Saint of Goa, St. Francis Xavier, along with the other Jesuits, who were essentially members of the Society of Jesus that was founded by Xavier and Ignatius Loyola.

Over time, the Portuguese gold began to lose its luster, as the Dutch began to gain control over the trade of spice, and Marathas began attacking the state. Overall, Goa would not be the legendary experience that it is if it was not for its varied and tumultuous history.

Culture

Goa is the most magnetic state of India, with its culture drawing people from all over the country. The air takes you to the seaside and the aroma of a good time. The warmth of its beaches stand no chance against the warmth of its people.

Like most states in India, religion occupies quite a space in its culture. All Indian and even traditionally Western festivals are celebrated with fervor, and yet, it hardly ever divides its people. Despite a lot of its reputation among Indians being attributed to Western influence, Goa has its own culture that is a gorgeous amalgamation of various ways of life.

Population and Lifestyle

While Goa’s prominent and omnipresent coasts bring a lot of aesthetic beauty to Goa, it acts as a livelihood to many of its residents. One of the most popular occupations of the state is fishing, which is essential to its economy. The abundant water allows for more fertile soil, which in turn allows for a stable income that comes from agriculture. Coconuts, cashews, jackfruit all grow with the plentiful water as well as efforts and love.

Another means by which people in Goa survive is by relying on the eternal grace of art. Handicrafts such as jewelry, frames, and showpieces made of coconut shells, bamboo, brass, and silver, that act as souvenirs for the plethora of tourists, are what keep quite a few families in Goa afloat.

Clothing

The Goan attire that is traditionally worn by women is a golden thread that ties Goan culture to the rest of the country’s – the nine-yard saree known as the Pano Bhaju. Complemented by jewelry, wearing one of these is guaranteed to stun anyone who may lay their eyes upon it. As for the clothes traditionally worn by Goan men, they bring a lot to the table by simply adorning a cotton shirt of a bright color and half pants. With splendour and austereness, Goa is diverse in its sense of fashion.

Performing Arts

In all of the life that Goa breathes into the world, one of the most beautiful ways is through Goans’ pursuit of the performing arts. Like all things Goa, these arts happen to be a perfect blend of Goa and the West.

A dance that soothes the eyes and the soul in watching it is the Dekhni Dance that is brought to life exclusively by the grace of women in the community. These women generally don a ghumat or an earthen pot that grounds their otherwise heavenly performances.

A lot of Goan culture is incredibly specific to the region it was birthed in, no matter how small. A lot of these local dances are generally performed with the intention of celebrating the arrival of spring, and with the same amount of brightness and joy that the season can bring. The dance known as the Goff is accompanied with a variety of braids in different colors, and was created in the Canacona Taluka region of Goa.

The Shigmo dance is a spectacle to behold, as it generally accompanies the loud thuds of the dhol, tasha, and other percussion instruments. The ordeal is grand and beautiful, with floats lighting up the streets with energy.

Language

The history of Goa over its earliest centuries is only known to us through the language of Sanskrit, over time evolving into Konkan. One of its first pieces of evidence was a book by a Jesuit priest and Fr. Thomas Stephens.

Food

Goa is mostly known for the beaches that surround it, and so it is only apt that its food is mostly based in seafood. The scent of kokum and vinegar linger in your senses as these foods serenade your taste buds. The cuisine is an exquisite blend of Konkani, Portuguese, and Sultanate influences to bear beautiful dishes such as Humann, a simple fish curry and rice, an absolute staple and favorite, multiple different preparations of fish such as fried fish, fish suke, kalputi and much more, as well as Catholic dishes such as Arroz doce, which is a Catholic variation of kheer.

Nature

Goa is a land of all things fun and wild. While this may conjure up an image of a night of partying on a beach, another aspect of Goa that elicits these words is the nature, forestry and wildlife that surrounds the pulse of the party culture Goa is known for. Goa would not be known as the paradise it is if it weren’t for the breathtaking scenery that grows and blooms into the land.

National Parks

A perfect way to encapsulate the natural beauty of an area is the national park or a wildlife sanctuary. Goa is filled to the brim with teeming wildlife as can be seen in the famous Bhagwan Mahavir National Park, which also happens to be its largest national park, spread over 240 square meters. The Dudhsagar Waterfalls sprout from its edges, forming a spectacular view and experience for tourists.

Another national park that is the opposite of Bhagwan Mahavir national park, in that it is the smallest national park in Goa, covering a mere 8 square kilometers. It is the perfect place to take the whole family for a picnic surrounded by the most gorgeous fauna in the world, including leopards, boars, porcupines, anteaters and many more fascinating beings.

Beaches

Beaches are the perfect backdrop to the movie of your life. Especially Goan beaches, which happen to be where every Indian youth comes of age. Every nook and corner of the state smells of the salt air beaches are so accustomed to. Examples of some great beaches that are also home to fun-drenched karaoke bars are:

Colva beach

Nearly 2.4 kms long, this length is filled with people having fun and making memories, thanks to the well-oiled tourism infrastructure that caters to your every need. It is also a fairly walkable distance from the Our Lady of mercy Church, for when you feel thankful for all that you have, or if you simply feel like witnessing the history of a beautiful state.

Dona Paula Beach

Donning the delightful nickname, “Lover’s Paradise”, Dona Paula is exactly what it claims to be. It has a story beneath its grains of salt and sand, that follow Dona Paula, the daughter of a Portuguese viceroy. She was forbidden by the viceroy to meet the man of her dreams, who also happened to be a man of the sea, a fisherman, and hence her father, saddened by this loss, named this beach after their forbidden love.

Palolem Beach

This is a beach that allows for the most offbeat of tourist stays, as you can live in a coco hut on the beach! But don’t mistake the rustic nature of this form of stay for a lack of amenities; any luxury you want is one call away, and the pull of the beach also happens to be a few steps away.

Calangute Beach

The “Queen of Beaches” is an apt title for one of the most accommodating and lavish beach experiences in Goa; Calangute beach. Here you can enjoy the water not only from the shore, but also from its depths as you can participate in activities such as snorkeling, sailing, dolphin watching, and much more. To contrast all this exploration is the pious experience that comes with the St. Alex Church, which is also located on the shore of Calangute.

Goa is known as many things, paradise on earth, Venice of the East, and so much more, but what people fail to see is that it is home to many people. This allows for it to stray away from an absolutely robotic paradise, but rather an aromatic homely wonderland, receiving you with its loving arms, a bare canvas for a transformative learning experience.