Travel To Goa And Be Stunned By It's Cultural Wealth And Versitility
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The former Portuguese colony has beckoned travellers for many years with its tropical beaches, liberal attitudes and tourist-friendly locals. But things are changing for India's laid-back holiday destination, though.
Central government laws banning loud music in open spaces after 10 pm have curtailed the famous all-night rave parties, while the increase in charter and package tourism has resulted in rapid development at many of the once serene beach resorts.
Away from the tourism, Goa has a character quite distinct from the rest of India and offers much more than just the hedonism of sun, sand and sea. Despite four decades of 'liberation' from Portuguese colonial rule, Roman Catholicism remains a major religion in Goa, skirts far outnumber saris, and the people display an easy-going tropical indulgence, humour and civility.
Glowing, Portuguese-style whitewashed churches, paddy fields, thick coconut palm groves, and crumbling old forts guarding rocky capes make up the Goan vista. Markets are lively, colourful affairs, and siesta is widely observed during the hot afternoons. The people of Goa love to celebrate and this is reflected in the huge number of feasts and festivities.
Farming, fishing, tourism and mining form the basis of the economy, although the last two sources of income are sometimes at odds with the first. Mining has caused damage to paddy fields, and the five-star tourist resorts, with their swimming pools, have placed a heavy strain on water supplies. Even the popular beach shack restaurants may be under threat, as rising rent and taxes are making it difficult for small operators to make a living.
Goa's history stretches back to the 3rd century BC when it formed part of the Mauryan empire. Later it was ruled by the Satavahanas of Kolhapur with control eventually passed to the Chalukyas of Badami from AD 580 to 750.
Goa fell to the Muslims for the first time in 1312, but the invaders were forced out in 1370 by Harihara I of the Vijayanagar empire. whose capital was at Hampi. Over the next 100 years Goa's harbours were important landing places for ships carrying Arabian horses to Hampi to strengthen the Vijayanagar mounted army.
Blessed as it is by natural harbours and wide rivers, Goa was the perfect base for the seafaring Portuguese, who arrived in 1510 aiming to control the spice route from the east. They also had a strong will to spread Christianity.
Jesuit missionaries led by St Francis Xavier arrived in 1542. For a while, Portuguese control was limited to a small area around Old Goa, but by the middle of the 16th century it had expanded to include the provinces of Bardez and Salcete. The Portuguese wielded power with a high degree of religious zeal.
The Inquisition arrived in Goa in 1560, and for two centuries its tribunal brutally imposed its law, outlawing the religion of Hinduism and executing Christians who were suspected of being morally corrupt.
Despite this climate of fear, the fortunes made from the spice trade led to Goa's golden age, and the colony became the seat of the Portuguese empire of the east. It's difficult to understand these days that Portugal was a super-power. But competition from the British, French and Dutch in the 17th century led to a decline.
The Marathas almost vanquished the Portuguese in the late 18th century and there was a brief occupation by the British during the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. But it was not until 1961, when they were ejected by Indian forces under the orders of Prime Minister Nehru, that the Portuguese finally departed from from the subcontinent.
In 1967, Goans voted against being merged with Maharashtra, and Goa was officially recognised as India's 25th state in 1987. For the past decade, political instability has dogged the Goan government. There were three changes of government in 1999 alone, along with a four-month period of President's Rule, during which the Indian central government assumed power.