As the saying goes that all good things come in small packages, Goa with an area of only 3,701 square kilometers is touted as God's own land. It would be only here that even God would love to descend to have the most appropriate sojourn. Veritably, with an expansive and contiguous coastline extending 105 kilometers, Goa is the ideally idyllic tourist destination and how! One is promised of sea, surf, sand and sun right here, leaving an indelible feeling of nostalgia in the psyche of the visitor. The ambience coupled with the warmth, gregarious demeanour, hospitality and geniality of its denizens, the rich culture inherited from the Portuguese and other historic colonisations, meld into its social fabric and create a unique richness of culture that has been well preserved till the present time. The sultry clime, luxuriant fields and verdant hinterlands vouch for the same. One can revel in the taste of quintessential Goan cuisine, which is truly a gourmet's delight. When one enters this picturesque and blessed land, one has the pleasure of listening to the sweet, pure and totally unplugged musical melody doled out by musicians from across the state. Music, it is said, runs like blood in the veins of every Goan and occupies center stage, be it a happy occasion or sad one. Goa has withstood the ravages of the cataclysmic happenings of the bygone historic era to stand unscathed like the proverbial 'phoenix1. Such is the vibrancy of the Goan ethos the one can't help but be smitten by it. Goa has also kept pace with modernization to cater to the ever burgeoning visitor's list. Efficacious communication network, staggering rise in the number of hotels both starred and otherwise, discotheques, pubs, restaurants, massage centers, casinos, ecotourism hotspots etc. all this and more to make one's stay immensely pleasurable. Environment friendly or ecotourism is another ramification of the tourism industry which speaks volumes about the naturalist proclivities of its people.
CULTURE: Goa has been bequeathed the rich Portuguese culture and the status quo still remains. In addition, the myriad other forms of art and culture abound here right from the traditional dances like the Dhalo, Kunmbi, Dekhni, Fugdi, Corridinho, Mando, Ghodemodni, Dhangar, Lampdance, and several others that bring to the fore that Goa is a melting pot of the various forms of dance passed on over the ages. The 'Tiatro' plays a pivotal role in Goa in the realm of performing arts, while Zagor, Khell, Dashavatari kalo, Veerbhadra and Mussallam khel exhibit the kaleidoscopic exuberance, and diversity of the other performing arts. Mirth and merriment form the core of the cultural legacy of Goa. A whole gamut of music in all its purity and distinctiveness can be visualized and heard here. One may be treated to mesmerizing percussion on the Ghumat or the Dhol. The violin, mandolin and guitar may just strike a chord in one's heart and the mellifluent strains of the harmonium, cymbal, flute and many other instruments are guaranteed to warm the cockles of everyone's heart.
CHURCHES: It is next to impossible to view the Goan landscape without the preponderance of churches that seem to dot the entire geographical dimension of the state. High reaching citadels, gothic and ancient architecture and the immaculately white hue portray the same. Most of the beautifully splendid churches were conceptualized and structured by European monastic orders like the Theatines, Augustines, Franciscans and Jesuits, in the Renaissance, Baroque, Iberian and lesser known Manueline architectural styles. Churches are meant to signify the celebration of oneness in Christ and is the prayer centre of the sizeable Roman Catholic population in Goa. Many of the churches also serve as a home to a patron saint, who is venerated on the appointed day of the feast of the respective patron saint by means of a winding procession accompanied with the sonorous sound of a brass band. Feasts are a celebration and people are at their sartorial best on that day, as well wine and dine with great fervor and gaiety. Several ancient churches have fallen to ruins owing to natural calamities and the vicissitudes of time. While many others have been preserved with all its old world charm and have been brought under the purview of heritage and protected sites. UNESCO has deemed the famed churches in Old Goa namely the Se Cathedral, the convent of Santa Monica and the Basilica of Bom Jesus as world heritage sites. The mortal remains of the patron saint of Goa, namely Saint Francis Xavier is housed in a glass casket in the basilica of Bom Jesus and draws crowds of devotees from across the globe on the 3rd of December that is celebrated as the feast of Saint Francis Xavier. Other historically acclaimed churches in Goa are the Mae de Deus Church (Saligao), Mary Immaculate Conception Church (Panaji), St. Ana Church (Talaulim) and the Church of our Lady of Miracles (Mapusa).
TEMPLES: Goa is known for its religious harmony and temples and mosques and other places of worship also abound here. Hindu temples mostly have a residing deity who is deified by the villagers in that area. Interestingly, the architectural designs of most Hindu temples of Goa smacks of strong Maratha, Christian and Moslem influences. A characteristic and a special feature of Goan temples is the Lamp Tower or the 'Deepastambha' going to a height of anywhere from two to six stories high in the temple courtyard. It is on the festival days that it is embellished with oil lamps thus adding to its beauty and creating a luminescence. Most temples have the inner sanctum that houses the idol of the residing deity adorned with silver and gold. Holy rituals form a vital part of the Hindu tradition and thus every temple has a huge water tank that mostly serves the purpose. Like a strain of commonality running through the socio-religious traditions of Christian and Hindus alike, each temple has its annual Jatra (feast) and it is on this day that the idol of the local deity is carried in a huge wooden chariot around the temple premises with devotees thronging the flanks of the temple and following in the procession chanting many a religious note. Small stalls selling eatables and other items like toys, household articles etc. are also erected on the temple grounds. Technically Goan temples are of recent origin and have more of a modern architecture compared to temples in the other parts of India. The reason attributed for the same is that most of the temples in Goa have been rebuilt at new locations following their decimation during the Moslem and Portuguese invasions. Temples like Shantadurga (Kavlem), Manguesh (Priol), Mahalaa (mardol), Chandreshwar bhutnath (Paroda), Damodar (Zambaulim), Datta (Sanquelim), Mallikarjun (Canacona) and Kunkolkarin (Fatorpa) are some of the famous temples of Goa that attract tourists both domestic and international.
RECREATION/CHILLING OUT: If you rest you will rust and in keeping with the motto, Goa offers a multitude of recreational activities. The languid hinterlands are most inviting for eco-trips and other such ecotourism guided tours. One can lose oneself to nature here in the cradle of nature. The tropical forests of Goa are ideal for trekking for those with a strong heart. The diversity of flora and fauna found in Goa is simply amazing. Spice farms provide an insight into nature at its very best. Chilling out on the beach with just sun tan lotion wouldn't be good enough if not for the various sea sporting activaties like windsurfing, parasailing, swimming, speedboating, jetskiing, angling and bananarides. The fair weather from October to May present ideal conditions for all travel bugs to come and revel in the splendour of the azure skies, the humid conditions and the pleasant weather. Goa even hosts a wind surfing regatta competition every year. For the groovy lot, clubs, pubs or discotechques are the places to hit. Goa boasts of a number of casinos and also, the offshore casinos. Evening cruises along the Mandovi with the accompaniment of song and dance is another potential avenue for recreation. One can sit back and enjoy some of the lively Goan song and dance while drifting on the Mandovi river sipping what one likes best and oblivious to the travails of life.
HOSPITALITY: It goes without saying that there is a gentleman in the core of every Goan. The gregarious and convivial nature of the Goan populace is a trait to kill for. An average Goan will have the words thank you and visit again writ large on his face when one visits Goa. This coupled with the ambience and the boarding and lodging facilities makes the visit worth the while. There are a plethora of hotels, resorts and guesthouses to minister to all and sundry and yes every fiscal plan. The Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) also accommodates tourists in its residences all over Goa. There is no dearth of accommodation for any tourist in Goa. It begins right from the heart of every Goan. Accommodation is available round the year and the tariffs are devised to meet the choice and demands of the tourists and hence vary in range. December to January heralds the peak season and booking a place would be a wise thing to do.
CUISINE: Goan culinary skills are a rare wedding of East meets West. A Goan fish curry rice is a must have when one is visiting Goa. It is spiked with all the flavours of the land. The taste buds are titillated with sumptuous Goan dishes like prawn balchao, xacuti, vindalo, sorpotel, chiken cafreal, sausages and recheado fish are a heady mix of spices and tastes. The gastronomic delight of all is impacted by various seafood items that usually constitute the main menu of Goan cuisine. Vegetarian items like khatkatem, shakbhaji, and oosal are a culinary delight. Sweets lovers can feast on bebinca and dodol. For those who need a draught of the spirit of oblivion can venture to sample the exotic transparent spirit feni that has come to be synonymous with the taste of goa. Cuisine from the Orient and the Occident have also found their place in the Goan culinary landscape. International cuisines like Italian, thai, Chinese etc. have come in to whet the appetite of connoisseurs of good food.
FESTIVALS: Festivals are second nature to Goa. The socio-cultural fabric of Goa is incomplete without the numerous festivals that occupy a preponderant nature in Goa. It is also a healthy commentary on the several-year history of religious harmony and equality despite the diversity in religion, caste and creed. Some of the world renowned and vibrant festivals are the carnival a fun-filled festival that marks the beginning of the season of lent. It represents a whole gamut of mirthful extravaganza marked by song, dance and revelry. Colorful parades are held in the streets and hordes of exited bystanders are waved to by King Momo who is said to preside over the festival of carnival. The Hindus celebrate Shigmo, the festival of colours, a harbinger of the season of spring. Colourful floats and parades depicting figures from Hindu mythology in tandem with folk dancers in traditional costumes carrying multicolored flags are a pleasure to watch. Goa celebrates among others, the festival of lights or 'Deepawali'. This festival is not compete without the effigy of Narkasura being consigned to flames. It marks the victory of good over evil and hence the practice of burning the effigy that signifies diabolism. Ganesh Chaturti or the birth of Lord Ganesha vernacularly known as 'Chovoth' by Goans, is another festival of importance. The end of the festival is commemorated by the immersion of the stature or 'murti' of Lord Ganesha in water. Another spectacular festival worth seeing is the one held at Shirgao, where devotees of Goddess Lairai walk in the middle of the night through burning hot coals. Christmas globally known at the birthday of Jesus Christ is celebrated by Christians in Goa with religious fervour and fanfare. The feast of Saint Francis Xavier celebrated on the 3rd of December is one of the biggest Christian festivals where hundreds of thousands of devotees, pilgrims and tourists throng every year. Another unique feature is that Goa is the only place besides Rome that has the annual procession of all saints (Goa Velha). The feast of the three kings at Cansaulim re-lives the life and time when Jesus was born in the stable in Bethlehem and the kings came visiting with gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh.
HERITAGE: Various historical monuments all across the land of Goa bear mute testimony to the changes that have taken place over thousands of years. Goa formerly called 'Gomantak' came under the sway of various rulers, Hindu, Moslem and the Portuguese. Goa thus has a chequered historical legacy and a rich and diverse heritage. Some of the churches in Goa are more tan 400 years old, like Our Lady of Rosary Church at Navelim formerly known in the time of the Kadamba rulers as 'Navahalli' meaning new village. The ancient architecture and exquisite art on their altars and pulpits speak about the chronology of the same. The museum of Christian art at Old Goa houses priceless and rare art objects ranging from large silver crosses to miniature size ivory ornaments and embellishments. The Saint Augustine tower at Old Goa is the only historical remnant of what the church of Saint Augustine, one of the biggest church in Asia that was gutted in a fire. In the vicinity is the Viceroy's arch that during the yesteryears welcomed each Portuguese governor on his arrival in Goa. The Mahadev temple at Tambdi Surla was built from basalt stones and is the oldest existing temple in Goadating back to the 11th to 13th century Kadamba period. Expansive and majestic ruins of forts along the Goan coastline also gives us a peek into the history of Goa. Some are the forts of Aguada, Cabo-de-Rama, Reis Magos, Corjuem, Chapora and Terekhol that have been preserved in its original form for posterity. Heritage houses are fabulous mansions from the 1700s, maintained in good condition until this time. The style is mostly the Portuguese architectural style with magnificent exterior facades and equally impressive and exquisitely beautiful interiors with antique furniture, ceramics, crystal and glass. These mansions look regal and bear testimony to the life of the Portuguese in Goa.