Travel Bucket List – India: Goa Part 1

Located just south of my home state of Mahashtra, the state of Goa is the smallest Indian state by area and the fourth smallest by population. Goa has the highest GDP per capita among all Indian states – two and a half times that of the country. It was ranked the best-placed state by the Eleventh Finance Commission for its infrastructure and ranked on top for the best quality of life in India by the National Commission on Population based on the 12 Indicators

Rock art engravings found in Goa exhibit the earliest traces of human life in India. In the 3rd century BC, Goa was part of the Maurya Empire, ruled by the Buddhist emperor, Ashoka of Magadha. Between the 2nd century BC and the 6th century AD, Goa was ruled by the Bhojas of Goa. The rule later passed to the Chalukyas of Badami, who controlled it between 578 and 753, and later the Rashtrakutas of Malkhed from 753 to 963. From 765 to 1015, the Southern Silharas of Konkan ruled Goa as the feudatories of the Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas. Over the next few centuries, Goa was successively ruled by the Kadambas as the feudatories of the Chalukyas of Kalyani. In 1312, Goa came under the governance of the Delhi Sultanate. The kingdom’s grip on the region was weak, and by 1370 it was forced to surrender it to Harihara I of the Vijayanagara empire. The Vijayanagara monarchs held on to the territory until 1469, when it was appropriated by the Bahmani sultans of Gulbarga. After that dynasty crumbled, the area fell into the hands of the Adil Shahis of Bijapur, who established as their auxiliary capital the city known under the Portuguese as Velha Goa (or Old Goa). In 1510, the Portuguese defeated the ruling Bijapur sultan Yusuf Adil Shah with the help of a local ally, Timayya. They set up a permanent settlement in Velha Goa. This was the beginning of Portuguese colonial rule in Goa that would last for four and a half centuries, until its annexation in 1961. In 1843 the Portuguese moved the capital to Panaji from Velha Goa. By the mid-18th century, Portuguese Goa had expanded to most of the present-day state limits. Simultaneously the Portuguese lost other possessions in India until their borders stabilised and formed the Estado da Índia Portuguesa or State of Portuguese India. After India gained independence from the British in 1947, India requested that Portuguese territories on the Indian subcontinent be ceded to India. Portugal refused to negotiate on the sovereignty of its Indian enclaves. On 19 December 1961, the Indian Army invaded with Operation Vijay resulting in the annexation of Goa, and of Daman and Diu islands into the Indian union. Goa, along with Daman and Diu, was organised as a centrally administered union territory of India. On 30 May 1987, the union territory was split, and Goa was made India’s twenty-fifth state, with Daman and Diu remaining a union territory.

Goa features a tropical monsoon climate and being in the tropical zone and near the Arabian Sea, has a hot and humid climate for most of the year. The month of May is usually the hottest, seeing daytime temperatures of over 35 °C coupled with high humidity. The state’s three seasons are: Southwest monsoon period (June – September), post-monsoon period (October – January) and fair weather period (February – May). Over 90% of the average annual rainfall is received during the monsoon season.

The state is divided into two main regions – North Goa and South Goa. Panaji, which is the capital of the state is also the district headquarters of North Goa. The headquarters for South Goa is the city of Margao, which is the second largest city as well as the commercial and cultural capital of the state.

Goa is a state with highest proportion of urban population with 62.17% of the population living in urban areas. Even though the state was under Portugese occupation for more than four centuries, Hindus dominate the state. They are around two thirds the population in the state, while Christians account for a quarter of the population. Of the balance population, Muslims account for about 8.5% and the balance 0.5% are the Sikhs, Jains and other communities.

Tourism is the the biggest industry in the state, which accounts for around 12% of all foreign tourist arrivals in India. There are also scores of domestic tourists who love visiting Goa, especially for it’s beaches and nightlife. You generally see western or foreign tourists come to Goa in the winter months while domestic tourists visit Goa during the summer. One of the biggest tourist attractions in Goa is water sports. Beaches like Baga and Calangute offer jet-skiing, parasailing, banana boat rides, water scooter rides, and more. Over 450 years of Portuguese rule and the influence of the Portuguese culture presents to visitors to Goa a cultural environment that is not found elsewhere in India. Goa is often described as a fusion between Eastern and Western culture with Portuguese culture having a dominant position in the state be it in its architectural, cultural or social settings. The state of Goa is famous for its excellent beaches, churches, and temples.[61] The Bom Jesus Cathedral, Fort Aguada and a new wax museum on Indian history, culture and heritage in Old Goa are other tourism destinations.

Rice with fish curry (xit koddi in Konkani) is the staple diet in Goa. Goan cuisine is famous for its rich variety of fish dishes cooked with elaborate recipes. Coconut and coconut oil are widely used in Goan cooking along with chili peppers, spices, and vinegar is used in the Catholic cuisine, giving the food a unique flavour. The Goan cuisine is heavily influenced by Portuguese cuisine. Goan food may be divided into Goan Catholic and Goan Hindu cuisine with each showing very distinct tastes, characteristics, and cooking styles. Pork dishes such as Vindalho, Xacuti, chouriço, and Sorpotel are cooked for major occasions among the Goan Catholics. An exotic Goan vegetable stew, known as Khatkhate, is a very popular dish during the celebrations of festivals, Hindu and Christian alike. A rich egg-based, multi-layered sweet dish known as bebinca is a favourite at Christmas. Ros omelette is one of the most popular snacks and street foods in Goa, it is traditionally sold on food carts on streets. The most popular alcoholic beverage in Goa is feni; cashew feni is made from the fermentation of the fruit of the cashew tree, while coconut feni is made from the sap of toddy palms. In fact the bar culture is one of the unique aspects of the Goan villages where a local bar serves as a meeting point for villagers to unwind. Goa also has a rich wine culture, as a nod to its Portugese and Catholic heritage.

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