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Goa

The best five sights
The ruins of St Augustine church at Old Goa
Rugged beauty of the Tambdi Surla temple site
Cabo da Rama (Cape Rama) fort and view
River Sal and Betul beach in south Goa
Chapora fort and river.

Worst five sights
Calangute village square and main beach
Colva village square and main beach
Panjim market area
Mapusa town.
Ponda town



Old Goa
Se Cathedral
Basilica of Bom Jesus
Church of St Francis of Assisi
Archaeological Survey of India Museum
Viceroy's Archway
Church of St Cajetan
Santa Monica Cloister
Ruin of St Augustine Church
Beaches
Churches
Temples
Mapusa Friday Market
Old Mansions of Goa
Anjuna Flea Market
Rachol Museum of Christian Art
Forts

Old Goa
The state's showpiece. The only remnant of the massive and overpowering Portuguese presence which established its capital on the southern bank of the Mandovi river, about 10 km east from present day Panjim.

In its day, the 1500s, it was the largest and most flourishing of the great Asian cities. Its population then was 300,000: much bigger than the contemporary London and Lisbon. It was called `Goa Dourada' - golden Goa - in its time of glory. The monuments and cathedrals today represent just a fraction of the urban development that was Old Goa. It was the empire's Asian seat of power, and the port did enormous commerce. Near the port were the religious centres and the administrative buildings, while the suburbs reached out as far as the north banks of the Zuari river.

The settlement though dates back to the early 12th century, when it was the capital of a local king. It expanded under the Vijaynagar empire, was captured by the Muslim Bahmani rulers, and then by Afonso de Albuquerque to mark its beginning as a colony capital.

Old Goa is a Unesco World Heritage site. The most interesting monuments to visit are:

Se Cathedral
The largest church in Asia the cathedral is a mighty 16th century monument to the Roman Catholic rule of Goa under the Portuguese. It took eighty years to build and was financed to a good extent by the wealth realised from estates of Goan Hindu who died un-Proselyzed. Se Cathedral is a fine example of Jesuit architecture. However its bell towers -- which house the largest bell in Asia -- are very Goan.

Basilica of Bom Jesus
The tomb of Saint Francis Xavier, the Basilica has an elaborate design that takes a few minutes to get used to. Completed in 1605, the church, three centuries later is one of the most important churches of India. A detailed tour, with time given to absorb the various architectural facades, is advised.

Church of St Francis of Assisi
Built in 1661, a peep into the fascinating interior of this church makes a visit worthwhile. Sumptuously ornate and replete with much carving and paintings the inside decoration takes one's breath away.

Archaeological Survey of India Museum
Housed in a former Franciscan monastery, the museum contains interesting relics of Goa's Portuguese history. Of interest too is a grand carving of Vishnu. Closed Fridays.

Viceroy's Archway
The very pretentious gateway into Old Goa which today is like a grand footnote to Goa's history; only palm trees remain of the once bustling avenue, Rua Direita that led from the gateway into the town. Erected by the grandson of Vasco da Gama to honour his grandfather.

Church of St Cajetan A replica of the famous St Peter's Basilica in Vatican City located however at 74 degrees into the eastern hemisphere. Of interest is the covered well inside that indicates that the site was one perhaps a temple. Walk over to the side to see the doorway that once was the entrance to an Islamic palace belonging to Adil Shah, the ruler of Goa before the Portuguese disembarked.

Santa Monica Cloister
Located on the Holy Hill a visit into this crumbling convent that is still occupied by nuns, transports one quickly into another era.

Ruins of St Augustine Church
Also located on the Holy Hill, this church and monastery was once the most beautiful building of the settlement. Bear with the weeds and rubble to visit the spot where the Augustinians lived when they first arrived in Goa in the 1500s.

Temples
Scattered around the wooded valleys and hills in region around Ponda (30 km east from Panjim) of central Goa are the premier temples of Goa. In the face of Portuguese aggression and expansion from the coast of Goa, and retreating from conversion, the Hindus went into the state's hinter land and re-established their worship. Several of the temples here are not extremely old structures, but their deities are ancient and are revered so.

The Shri Manguesh temple is the most famous in Goa, about 10 km north of Ponda near the village of Priol. The main deity, a stone lingam, was brought here over 300 years ago from its earlier concealment on the south bank of the Zuari river. Goan Hindu religious traditions have endured unchanged for over 15 centuries. The early temples were as richly carved and embellished as the famous examples of the Deccan, but first Muslim invasions and then Portuguese intolerance led to their destruction, so much that dieties were routinely smuggled out of temples to protect them from ruin.

Goan temple architecture, when the structures have been rebuilt during the Portuguese era (although the colonial masters destroyed the originals) display a fusion of styles not found elsewhere in India. There are elements of the Catholic geometry to be seen in for example Old Goa, Latin eaves and roofs, Far Eastern glazed ceramic figures (trade with Macao was big business), Roman balustrades and Islamic domes. Other temples worth visiting are Mahalsa, Laxmi Narsimha, Naguesh, Shantadurga, Ramnath. A visit to the Tambdi Surla temple starkly situated in dense wilderness is highly recommended. Located 12 kilometres out of Molem on the road from Ponda, the beautifully constructed temple in the middle of nowhere evokes a dreamlike feeling.

Mapusa Friday Market
Mapusa in north Goa is 12 km from Panjim. A trading and commodities oriented settlement, the Friday market is its chief attraction. Like the souvenir and curio stalls that dot the main beaches, the market has these, set up by the colourful Lamanis of Karnataka. It's popular mainly for the range of foodstuffs - strings of Goa sausages, piles of local bread, plenty of fruit, and fish: at least two dozen types including crab, prawn and shellfish. Farmers from the region bring their produce here. An excellent snapshot of a rural bazaar.

Old Mansions of Goa
The massive old country houses that dot coastal Goa are usually around 150-300 years old. Their owners were not always Portuguese though but Goans, often families who had been converted: influential and rich merchants and officials who were given titles and land to ensure their loyalty to the colonial regime. The families - known as `bhatkars' (landlords) in Konkani - lived off the rent paid to them by the cultivators on their land. In later years, they often intermarried to preserve this aristocracy.

The best known and largest of these palatial mansions are in the Salcete `taluka' (county) of south Goa. But they are also commonplace in the north, near Panjim and its neighbouring village of Santa Cruz, on Divar island in the Mandovi river estuary, and around the Anjuna village and beach area. Their architecture was predominantly European but relied heavily on traditional building material - the red laterite stone of Goa, and the distinctive Mangalore tiles. The furnishings were almost always imported. Excellent examples of glazed pottery came from Macao, China and Korea; cut glass, mirrors and chandeliers from Belgium and Venice; tapestries from Portugal or Spain. One typical Goan feature of the houses is the oyster shell sunscreens on the windows and for the huge porches. The thin inner layer of the shells is cut into rectangles and squares and fitted into wooden frames to shade the interior from the sun. It is an art that is in decline, but examples abound in numerous smaller houses all over coastal Goa.

The south Goa village of Loutulim, about 10 km north of Margao, has a countryside peppered with the stately homes. Chief among these are the Miranda house, built in the early 18th century, the Salvador Costa house, and the Roque Caetan Miranda house. In the village of Chandor, about 12 km east of Margao, is the most famous of the stately Goan homes: the Menezes-Braganza house. Its enormous frontage decided the size of the square that abuts it. The Grand Salon and its Chinese porcelain collection are famous. In Margao, just off the central Largo de Igreja square, is the Seven Gables house built in the late 18th century belonging to the da Silva family. Worth seeing for its rococo facade.


Held on Wednesdays, a good place for souvenirs. It used to be set up mainly by backpackers and dope heads selling anything from tattered tents to dubious tea bags. Now its turned into an ersatz handicrafts beach mall and the main chunk of what you get is embroidered and mirrorworked knick-knacks like tote bags, waistcoats, waist pouches and other curios and accessory jewellery.

The displays are sort of segregated culture wise: Indian, backpacker, long term Goa resident, New Ager, rave maniac. The most colourful by far are the Lamanis from Karnataka, the neighbouring state. The women wear multihued tribal costumes and lend a festival air to the place.

Bargaining is absolutely essential, and those with the requisite patience will usually walk away with a good deal. Otherwise, the flea market is just a good place to experience Goa's multinational, multi cultural life.

Rachol Museum of Christian Art
About 7 km from Margao eastwards the Rachol seminary was the unofficial border between the coastal Catholicism and the interior Hinduism. It dates back to the 16th century. The complex houses a seminary, and the main attraction: the Christian art museum, the only one in South Asia, which was set up by the Indian National Trust for Architecture and Cultural Heritage and the Gulbenkian Foundation of Portugal. The collection is an accumulation of artefacts from Goa's dozens of churches and chapels, private collections and donations.

Forts
The Cabo de Rama fort, located at the southern end of Colva is said to be the place where Ram and Sita took shelter after their exile from Ayodhya. Once a Hindu and subsequently a Portuguese fort the promontory commands a splendid view of the Colva Beach. Exercise caution while climbing among the rocks.

The Chap ora fort located 10 kilometres out of Mapusa has a splendid view of nearby Anjuna and Vagator beaches,. The fort once Muslim before the Portuguese wrested it away affords some interesting ruins to pick around at.


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