Monday, January 17, 2011

India: Goa: The Charm of South Goa

In SE Cathedral
Mumbai is the city I come from. Near this city there are numerous tourist destinations that are famous. I have been to most of them barring Goa. The Goa trip has always been cancelled or not materialized right from my college days – for some reason or the other. 

Finally things fell into place and I visited Goa on my 30th year on Planet Earth, just before my wife's birthday! What an experience It was! Simply amazing! Since my wife was also visiting Goa for the first time, we ensured in this trip  – it is better that we do a market scanning and see as many spots as we can. On a 3 day trip to Goa in November 2010, we spent an entire day biking through South Goa. South Goa is famous for its blend of history, architecture, religious significance and beaches.

This starfish had our company @ Colva Beach!
What makes Goa so enchanting is because you get a unique blend of being in India and yet not being in India. The reason for this is the locals are easy going, the scenery, weather and sun makes you relax immediately and it is almost like a small town which still shows traces of the erstwhile Portuguese influence. The Portuguese ruled Goa for more than three centuries. As you drive past the cross section of the city, you can still feel the influence in certain forms – like the signboards of some shops in Portuguese apart from Devanagari and English, the folk dances shown in the cruise ships etc or the various churches on the street corners or important landmarks like Basilica of Bom Jesus, SE Cathedral etc.

Amazing scenery enroute
The best way to go about Goa and get a feel of the place is by renting your own bike and hopping from one destination to another. You can easily stop the bike enroute to catch a glimpse of some amazing scenery and take pictures. Finding  a parking space is also easier for a bike as you can just “squeeze it in” onto any small gap created between two vehicles.  We were staying in a very famous and upcoming chain of budget hotels from Tata group – “Ginger” in Panaji, the capital of Goa. The hotel is at the right location as South and North Goa are almost equidistant from this place.

Below is an insight onto some of the must see places in South Goa. We covered these in a single day starting at 9am and spending the next 10 hours on road, riding 120 kms of our rented bike (round trip) and having loads of fun.

Basilica of Bom Jesus:

Basilica of Bom Jesus
This is one of the oldest churches in India, located in Old Goa. Before Panaji, Old Goa was the capital of Goa in the early days of Portuguese rule. The basilica holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. 'Bom Jesus' (literally, 'Good (or Holy) Jesus') is the name used for the infant Jesus. The Jesuit church is India’s first minor basilica, and is considered to be one of the best examples of baroque architecture in India. The Basilica of Bom Jesus is more than 400 years old and is open to the public everyday. The body of St. Francis Xavier is kept in a well-decorated casket. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Inside the church
400 year old remains on top

Some pics inside

SE Cathedral:

SE Cathedral
This is located just opposite the Bom Jesus church. It is one of the oldest and most celebrated religious buildings in Goa and is one of the largest churches in Asia. It is dedicated to the Catherine of Alexandria. It is more than four centuries old. The Se Cathedral was built to commemorate the victory of the Portuguese under Afonso de Albuquerque over a Muslim army, leading to the capture of the city of Goa in 1510. 
Don’t’ Miss Golden Bell: The Se Cathedral's tower houses a large bell known as the "Golden Bell" on account of its rich tone. It is said to be the largest in Goa, and one of the best in the world.

Inside SE Cathedral
Inside the SE Cathedral

Shri Mangueshi temple

Mangueshi Temple
After visiting two churches, our next stop was the Mangueshi  temple in Ponda, Goa. It is about 30-45 mins ride from SE Cathedral. The temple is dedicated to Lord Mangueshi, an incarnation of Shiva. He is a kuldevta (family deity) of many Hindus in Goa including the Saraswat Brahmins. The famous family of Indian musicians with surname “Mangeshkar” is from the village where this temple is located – Mangeshi.

Shantadurga Temple
Shanta Durga Temple

The temple is dedicated to Shantadurga, the Goddess who mediates between Vishnu and Shiva. The deity of Shantadurga is shown as holding two serpents, one in each hand, representing Vishnu and Shiva.  This goddess is the kuladevi (family deity) of many Brahmins from this part of the world. The temple is surrounded by a huge complex with facility for accommodation for folks who come from different parts of the country to offer prayers and conduct religious ceremonies. The temple campus also has a cafĂ©, which serves lip smacking India food at really competitive rates. The practice of leaving your footwear outside the restaurant is intriguing in the beginning, but well appreciated seeing the cleanliness inside.

Colva Beach

Rocking Couple @ Colva Beach - Goa
After a religious trip visiting two churches and two temples, we finally were itching for the sun, sand and sea waves kissing our feet. That made us drive down to Colva beach, which is right at the southernmost point of South Goa, about 40-45 kms from Panaji. It is one of the most famous white sand beaches in South Goa. The beach is one of the longest in the world (About 25 kms). The beach is full of Beach shacks, food stalls, small restaurants and bars and enthusiastic salesmen from the water sports shops bothering you all the time. We resisted the temptation and continued unfluttered, walking along the beach with the sea waves lashing at our feet.

Timeless pic at Colva Beach
Colva Beach
Finally, after a long day of close to 50 kms of driving in the sun, we decided to ride back to Panaji, to our hotel. On the way we went to another place near Panaji that is quiet famous – Dona Paula.

Dona Paula

One side view from DP hill

Dona Paula is a small fishing village-turned tourist attraction and a suburban area of Panaji.
Water sports - other side of DP hill
Here is where the rivers Mandovi and Zuari meet the Arabian sea. As you climb to the top of the small hill in Donna Paula, you can see the confluence of these rivers into the sea seamlessly onto the horizon. We were there right at the evening time and ensured we captured a memorable sunset with the sun kissing the waters way into the horizon. This area has lot of small shops, facilities for water sports etc. It also has a small sculpture there – literally making you think of “Statue of Liberty” signifying New York or “Little Mermaid” signifying Copenhagen. The sculpture is also called “Donna Paula” and has some fascinating stories attached to it. 

Dona Paula Sculpture
The true story is however different. "Dona is the title given to married women according to Portuguese customs. And Paula Amaral Antonio de Souto Maior is the lady in debate. She is not a romantic figure but definitely a historical figure. She was the daughter of the Portuguese Viceroy of Jaffnapatnam, in Sri Lanka. She and her family arrived in Goa in 1644 and she married a Fidalgo from Spain in 1656. Her husband was Dom Antonio Souto Maior. The were an extremely affluent family and the entire property from the present day Cabo Raj Nivas all the way to Caranzalem belonged to the Souto Maiors. She later passed away on December 16, 1682.

The grave of Dona Paula Amaral Antonio de Souto Maior was found in the transept of the Chapel at the Governor's Palace where a part of her history is engraved on her gravestone. Dona Paula was a woman of charity and is known to have helped the villagers and worked a lot for their betterment, so after her death, the villagers decided to re-name the village as Dona Paula. Initially the village was called Oddavell.

Sunset view at Dona Paula, Goa 
The alleged statue of 'Dona-Paulo' the statue seen today at the jetty in Dona Paula is in reality the sculpture of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Knox. It was a Dutch sculptress, Baroness Yrse Von Leistner who etched the sculpture as she was in awe of the philosopher Robert Knox.

Riding the bike back to hotel – though was shorter in distance, but longer in terms of time, weariness we experienced after being on the bike for more than 100-120 kms throughout the day in the scorching sun. Enroute, we did hop on and hop off to capture some amazing sceneries.

Nevertheless it was an exhilarating experience to have a full scan of South Goa in one day and we thoroughly enjoyed it. In the next trip, definitely want to explore other spots in South Goa. 

Church on the way
Another church

1 comment:

Meenakshi Deepak said...

revisited goa again.. all the memories came flashing bck.. Miss you!