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Goa Travel Guide

Variously known as "Rome of the East", "Tourist Paradise" and "Pearl of the Orient", the state of Goa is located on the western coast of India in the coastal belt known as Konkan.

The magnificent scenic beauty and the architectural splendours of its temples, churches and old houses have made Goa a firm favourite with travellers around the world.

But then, Goa is much more than just beaches and sea. It has a soul which goes deep into unique history, rich culture and some of the prettiest natural scenery that India has to offer.

Much of the real Goa is in its interiors, both inside its buildings and in the hinterland away from the coastal area.

Destinations

Four centuries of Portuguese rule and that of other rulers before them has given Goa an unique life-style that consists of a blend of Indian and Western influences as can be seen in its varied culture and architecture of its towns and villages. Today Goa also boasts of glorious traditions that have been handed down to it over the ages.

Dedicated to the preservation of art, culture and enviroment and inorder to preserve Goa's past and its rich traditions this magnificent project named "Ancestral Goa" is the result of a lot of meticulous research, planning and hardwork. It opened to the public in April 1995.

Ancestral Goa is miniature Goan Village as it would have existed 100 years ago. It is located on a nine acre verdant hillock at Loutulim ins South Goa, about ten kilometers from Margao.

Graceful swans charm the entrance to the reception. Elephants carrying flowered pillars with multi-hued and decorated beams deck the entryway.

A spacious room redolent of the Goan - Portuguese aura replete with a palanquin, sepia-toned photographs, domed lamps and a designed marble floor feeds one the anticipation of a moment when a whole treasure in the book of history will unfold. The traditional 'aarti' is performed as part of the greeted welcome by a sari-clad goan girl.

An incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Parashuram shot the legendary arrow into the bosom of the Indian Ocean resulting in the emotive paradise known as Goa. The visitor is treated to a sight of Parashuram at the entrance itself, all ready with the proverbial bow & arrow.

One step out of the high- ceilinged entrance, sporting a "punkah" and one moves into a landscape spread over a gently rolling hill where laterite steps lead to "Demo" (the caretaker of the landlord's property).

The Ancestral Goa project, the brainchild of Goan artist, Maendra J. Alvares who has used his family's ancestral property to keep Goa's culture alive and is a place worth visiting as any lay visitor can get a glimpse of Goa in its original grandeur and authentic form.

This place also gives visitors a glance of a sight other than beaches, churches and temples which Goa is famous for and imparts a culture based education about the roots and heritage of Goa. Ancestral Goa is included as one of the sight seeing spots by Goa Tourism Development Corporation's buses in their cultural tour package.

Local feasts and festivals are celebrated with traditionsl style and fervour. A visit to Ancestral Goa on any of the feast days, allows for a pure experience of Goan customs and lifestyles. The Eat-out offers a menu full of traditional Goan Specialties. Local vegetables, fish and sweets are treats to be indulged in.

Some of the sights inside Ancestral Goa are :

  • Art Gallery & Handicraft Center
  • Mirabai Sculpture
  • Big Foot Dance Floor
  • Casa da Dona Maria
  • Anand Lotlikar's Ghor
  • Legend of Big Foot
  • The Farmer's House
  • Cross, Spring & Rakandar
  • The Fisherman's House
  • Escola da Musica
  • Bhati - the feni distillery
  • Tinto - the village market
  • Taverna - the country liquor shop
  • Goan Artisans
  • Bird Habitat
  • Spice Yard & Rubber Plantation

People & Lifestyle

Goa's isolation from the rest of India for more than four centuries under the Portuguese rule, its geographical borders in the form of the Sahyadri ranges and the tidal rivers have managed to give the people of Goa a unique and separate identity.

The people of Goa prefer to call themselves Goans and not Goanese as mentioned in guidebooks and brochures. Goans are very much aware of this unique identity; they are proud of it and guard it fiercely.

The population of Goa is composed of a Hindu majority of around 65% and a Christian minority of around 30%. Muslims and other religions make up the rest. The interesting part in all these percentages is that, as is the case with most statistical figures, they conceal more than they can ever reveal.

The Hindu community is dominant in the talukas (districts) of Ponda, Bicholim, Pernem, Satari, Sanguem, Quepem and Canacona. These areas actually form part of the Novas Conquistas, or the New Conquests, made by the Portuguese in the last stage of the expansion of their Goan empire in the eighteenth century.

By this time, the Portuguese military might was on the wane and the religious ardour for forced conversions was at its lowest ebb. Hence the population in these newly conquered areas were pretty much left to practise their religion in peace.

The Old Conquests on the other hand, consisting of Salcete, Mormugao, Tiswadi and Bardez bore the brunt of the Portuguese army and the religious zealots. Together, the two arms of the Portuguese empire, managed to destroy temples and converted hundreds of non-Christians in these areas, which are predominantly Christian today.

Fortunately, these bitter memories of the past have done nothing to change the warm, friendly and loving nature of the Goan people. By and large, the Goan considers himself a Goan first and a Hindu, Christian or Muslim afterwards. The bonds of language and the Goan identity are strong enough to allow for different religious persuasions.

In contrast to other parts of India, Goans have developed a remarkable degree of tolerance towards each other's religious beliefs, and hence religious fundamentalism is completely unknown in the state.

The best evidence of this is seen in quite a few places of worship in Goa, where both Hindus and Christians go together. The Damodar temple at Sanguem, the Church of Our Lady of Miracles in Mapusa, the Shantadurga temple at Fatorpa are excellent examples of this unique religious harmony that exists in Goa. Besides these, a number of other festivals in Goa are celebrated by members of both communities with equal fervour.

In proportion to their numbers, a very high percentage of Goans live abroad than the members of most other regional communities of India. But no matter where they might be on the surface of the planet, Goans love to express the adoration of their homeland in some form or the other.

Art & Culture

Goa is a land of crafts and craftsmen, where aesthetic quality finds a natural expression. Goa has a rich and magnificent tradition of the classical arts. Over the years, Goans have excelled in poetry, music and the fine arts.

The exquisitely carved rosewood and teak furniture, the terracotta figurines, the classic brass items and the unique gold jewellery designs all speak of an age still valuable in this technology obsessed world.

The folk paintings of Goa have been traced to different places from ancient temples, churches and palatial manors to humble households. They mostly depict episodes from the epics - the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and the Puranas and also scenes from the New Testament.

During the Portuguese colonisation, local craftsmen played a major role in the development of the exquisite furnishings and decorations used in residential houses, churches and chapels. This art can still be seen the Christian Art Museum at Old Goa.

Goans have contributed greatly to the world of music. Many famous names on the Indian music scene originate from Goa. Famous singers such as Lata Mangueshkar and Kishori Amonkar in the classical variety and Remo Fernandes in pop music, are from Goa.

Konkani literature has produced many great names such as Bakibab Borkar who have contributed to the development of Konkani as a national language with some superlative writing.

Local craftsmen in Goa produce a wide variety of crafts ranging from terracotta pottery and figures to superb brass lamps and decorative items.

A large number of Goans have also played a major role in drama and Hindi film industry in the neighbouring state of Maharashtra.

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