An amazing and fascinating blend of Indian and Portuguese cultures, blessed with sea, sun, sand, seafood and spirituality, Goa is India’s incredible pocket sized paradise.
Popularly known as the Pearl of the Orient, Goa is located in India’s western coastal belt called the Konkan Coast. Being a coastal state, Goa is blessed with more than 50 picturesque and stunning beaches which attract tourists from not only India, but also tourists of foreign background.
A former Portuguese colony, Goa is known for its relaxed, laid back and content lifestyle, or as many call it, susegad. Goa is visibly different from other Indian states owing to Portuguese rule which isolated it from rest of the India for over four hundred years. This also influenced Goa’s culture, which is a mix of Hindu and Portuguese traditions and the population which is mostly Hindu and Roman Catholics.
The design of province is a combination of Indian, Islamic and Portuguese styles. Since the Portuguese ruled Goa for more than four centuries, many churches and houses bear a great resemblance to the Portuguese style of architecture. One such church is the Bom Jesus Basilica, built in 1605, which has the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, one of the patron saints of Goa. Another must see church is the Se Cathedral church which is one of the largest churches in Asia and took around 80 years to build.
As Goa also has a large number of Hindu population, there are also many must see temples. For example, Shree Manguesh Shantadurgai Prasanna temple, which is located at Mangeshi in Priol, Ponda Taluka, 22 km from Panaji (capital of Goa). The temple is devoted to the spiritual being of Lord Shiva. It is famous for its pristine glory and attracts hundreds and thousands of visitors every year. A huge fair is also held here on the occasion of Maha Shivratri Festival every year.
Churches and temples aside, the major attraction that lures tourists to Goa as mentioned earlier are its gorgeous beaches. One of the most famous beaches of North Goa is the Arambol beach. Filled with immense natural beauty, Arambol has also become a great cultural hub in Goa. It has a ton of water sports and activities such as paragliding and parasailing, many massage options and spas and a very big beach market. Near Arambol is also the Sweet Water Lake which is the only source of fresh water in Goa. There are also live music options, many shops and hundreds of restaurants. The water is also shallow and ideal for swimming. You can say that Arambol is a Goa within Goa. Anjuna beach is another such marvel whose key attraction is the Albuquerque Mansion built in 1920. There is also a flea market that takes place here every Wednesday. In the nearby village of Arpora, two magnificent Saturday night bazaars take place in the non-monsoon season. Other amazing beaches in Goa include Palolem Beach, Patrem beach, Morjim beach and many others.
Moving forward to the most important topic that is food! The Goan everyday diet consists of rice, fish curry, pickles and fried fish. This kind of food can be found on almost every beach shack. Goa’s cuisine is also a blend of Portuguese and local flavours. For example, dishes like Prawn Balchao or Kingfish in garlic have distinct Portuguese flavours. Because Goa is a coastal region, seafood is majorly consumed and the staple foods are rice and fish. For those with a sweet tooth, Bebinca is a must eat. It is made of egg yolks, flour and coconut milk and is a traditional Goan pudding.
If you are planning to visit Goa, then the ideal time would be between September to November. It is better to avoid visiting Goa during the peak season (November to March) because it is usually completely packed and the prices are also very high.
Overall, Goa is a great place to go if you want to escape the everyday stressful life and relax for a while. The place is great, the folks are great and also the food is great. What more could you ask for?
Author Bio – Mehar Malhotra, from Sharjah, a participant of Monthly Essay Competition, March, 2019.