Seeped in cultural diversity unique to the place, the western Indian state of Goa remains testament to its Portuguese past till this day. With a coastline stretching along the Arabian Sea, this prosperous state is a popular tourist destination for its long beaches, breath-taking biodiversity, magnificent colonial architecture and vibrant nightlife.
As soon as we set foot in Goa, we felt as if we were taken back in time. Its history goes back 20,000–30,000 years, evident from the rock art engravings that show the earliest traces of human life in India.
In the eons that followed, Goa was witness to several changes of power and was ruled by the Mauryans, the Delhi Sultans and eventually the Portuguese – to name a few.
Along with forming the coastline of the Arab Sea, the province has several important rivers. It is thus no surprise that Goa oozes the fragrance of water, the cool breeze of the sea, and the tranquil rustling sound of the wind brushing against the coconut-palm trees. Hot and humid throughout the year, October-April is possibly the best time to visit the place.
The remnants of colonial architecture will surely strike any tourist. Margaon boasts an array of buildings that are ornate and vibrant in colour.
The famed Basilica of Bom Jesus, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, features the remains of St Francis Xavier. Along with the churches, temples are dotted throughout the place which speaks volumes for the diversity of the place and the religious tolerance of the inhabitants, past and present.
Another remarkable structure is the Fort Aguada, built around 1612, to keep an eye on Dutch and Marathi vessels.
Heavily fortified, the Aguada featured a lighthouse which guided European ships.
There was this large reservoir of fresh water around the Fort, which was used to refill their supplies by passing ships. It is an interesting fact that over 300 water reservoirs of various sizes built as early as 1015 still remain.
Architecture and history aside, it is a little known fact that the biodiversity of Goa has been compared by the National Geographic magazine with that of the Amazon!
The place boasts over 1512 species of plants, 275 species of birds and over 60 species of reptiles. Needless to say, the rich geo-diversity along with the scenic flora and fauna makes this place an ideal spot for trekking.
No surprises that one can find large number of tourists, foreign as well as domestic, immersed in reaping the best from nature.
Always a major port for the spice trade, Goa provides a unique opportunity for all chefs, amateur or otherwise. The unique gastronomical treats, the mouth-watering seafood is just another reason for you to travel to Goa.
The spectacular nightlife is also another major tourist attraction. For over 450 years the fusion of European culture with that of India has resulted in a concoction like no other. Ranked as one of the top 10 cities with a bustling nightlife, this aspect of the place should not be missed.
And lastly, the breath-taking sea!
As soon as we reached our destination, we headed to the sea and within minutes all our fatigue was gone; the water in its purest blue had rejuvenated our soul.
The place was crammed with people — sunbathers looking for a tan, children running around with kites, large pits for BBQs surrounded by people — this was the beach…a part of Goa that words can perhaps not do justice to. It is an experience to be had.
By Ranjana Huda
Photo: Ranjana Huda
Translated by Mannan Mashhur Zarif