The Old Portugese Settlement
Goa is a dream world of fun, frolic and leizure – rolling stretches of silver sands, wonderful golden beaches and waving palm trees.
According to Hindu mythology, the sage Parashuram (sixth of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu) created Goa; and Goa became a popular retreat for the Gods in times of stress.
Lord Shiva, the Destroyer, visited Goa twice, after marital squabbles with his wife, Parvati. But on both occasions, Parvati followed him, made up and they returned back to the heavens!
During the 3rd century BC, Goa was part of the great Mauryan kingdom of Emperor Ashoka. After his death in 232 BC, the region came under the rule of various Hindu dynasties such as Satavahanas, Kshatrapas, Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas.
The Kadambas, an indigenous dynasty, rose to power in the 10th century. They ruled for over three hundred years and using the natural harbours, they turned Goa into a thriving centre of maritime trade.
The 14th century was a turbulent period. Goa passed from the Yadavas of Devagiri to the Delhi Sultans (1356-1378), and finally to the Vijayanagar Empire who ruled it for almost a hundred years.
Towards the end of the 15th century, the Bahamani Sultans of Gulbarga and the Adil Shahis of Bijapur held sway.
In 1498, the Portuguese landed in Calicut, Kerala. They could not get a foothold there, so in 1510, they snatched Goa from the Adil Shahis. They established maritime supremecy in the Arabian Sea and controlled most of the prosperous trade routes.
Goa became the seat of the Portuguese Empire in India and the Far East. Its capital, Old Goa, became a centre of immense wealth and opulence, attracting hoardes of Portuguese immigrants. By the end of the 16th century, Old Goa had a population of around 300,000 - much larger than that of Lisbon, Paris or London!
During the early 18th century, the Marathas posed a threat, but the Portuguese not only managed to retain control, but enlarged their territory further east. Some movements for independence did begin in the late 19th century, but Goa remained under Portuguese rule till its merger with India in 1961.
Goa is actually a state with its own capital which creates some confusion.Goa state is geographically divided into North and South districts.
What to see
North Goa The capital of Goa is Panaji. It lies on the southern bank of the Mandovi River in North Goa. Here, you can purchase almost any thing you like. There are also some good hotels and restaurants.
The dominating structure of Panaji is the Church of Immaculate Conception (1541 AD). In medieval times, all Portugese sailors arriving in Goa came to this Church for thanks giving mass for their safe arrival. It is situated in the main market place.
9 km east along the river is Old Goa - the old centre of the rich and wealthy Portugese. Old Goa was practically abandoned after the river silted up and the new capital Panaji was set up in 1843. All that remains of this glorious city are half a dozen churches, cathedrals, a monastery and convent. You can still see the old style houses and streets.
The Se Cathedral of St. Catherine, is the largest church in Asia. It has 14 altars, an 80 metre long aisle and 5 bells including the Golden Bell - one of the finest in the world.
The 16th century Basilica of Bom Jesus with its richly gilded altars is famous for believers and non believers alike. Since 1553, the beautiful Church contains the embalmed mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier in a silver casket.
Beaches in North Goa
Miramar Beach is closest to the capital Panaji (3 km), and therefore far more crowded and dirty. But from here, you can watch spectacular sunsets as the sun sets at the confluence of the River Mandovi and the Arabian Sea.
Dona Paula, 9 km south west of Panaji, is a small, idyllic beach.The Palm-fringed Sinquerim beach is at the foot of Fort Aguada.Nearby is Candolim beach. Further north are Calangute, Baga and Anjuna beaches.
The Baga Beach is popular for various water sports - parasailing, jet skiing, body boarding and surfing. During the seasons, you can go out into the sea to watch the dolphins. Calangute and Baga both have flea markets where you can purchase all kinds of handicrafts.
There are a number of other beaches further north. They are more secretive and more secluded. If you want peace and quiet - head North.
South Goa is quieter than North Goa.
The main cities of South Goa are Margao and Vasco da Gama.
Some of the popular beaches are Majorda, Colva and Varca.
If you have time, you could drive down south of Goa and visit the picturesque beaches of Karnataka.
What to do
You can take a cruise on one of the many vessels there. On the vessel, you can watch the local dance and music and taste the local liquor feni.
You can go to the casino on the floating vessel Santa Monica and try your luck.
Try to visit a Spice Garden. You will see different kinds of spices. The entry fee includes a good local meal and a traditional dance.
The night life of Goa is legendary. There are plenty of discoes, pubs and bars.
Other Places to see
There are a number of other places to see around Goa. Old Forts. Water Falls. Wild Life sanctuaries.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit is between late October and early April.
Goa is all play and no work during the Christmas week. The entire place is teeming with tourists.
If you plan to visit Goa during Christmas, make all your reservations well in advance.
A second season is during the rains. The tariffs are very low. And the entire place becomes a fairy land.
There are numerous places of all kinds from the 5 star to the budget type available.
And if you like sea food, Goa is the place to visit.
You need only cottons throughout the year.
But bring beach wear, caps, sunglasses, sunscreen creams and suntan lotions.
Don’t worry, you can purchase all these items in Goa at reasonable rates.
Goa has an international airport at Dabolim - 30 km from Panaji.
Goa is well connected with Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kochi, Chennai and other major cities of India.
A number of overseas travel organizations organize cheap charter flights to Goa.
There are two main railway stations - Margao (Madgaon) and Vasco da Gama. The train journey from Mumbai and Mangalore on the Konkan Railway is picturesque and delightful.
You can even travel from Mumbai, Bangalore, Mangalore, Mysore, Pune by car.
The road is good.