Facts and figures
The coastal state in western India became a household name in the 1960s, when hippies flocked to its yoga retreats to find themselves. Nowadays the westerners who visit are an odd mix of backpackers and package holiday tourists. Some are drawn by the 1000km of exotic coastline, some by the promise of delicious authentic Indian food. Unfortunately, the tell-tale signs of tourism are beginning to show ie. the unspoilt beaches are beginning to be spoilt. Enough about the tourists - let's find out just why they all want to go Goa!
The history of Ancient India is fascinating, and that of Goa, like the rest of the country is a tale of invasions, counter-invasions, colonialism, and finally independence. The state formed part of the Mauryan Empire as far back as the third century BC. Around the time of the beginnings of Christianity, Goa was ruled by the Satavahanas of Kolhapur. In 580AD, control was taken by the Chalukyans of Badami, who remained in power until 750AD. The first successful Muslim invasion in 1312 was short-lived: they were forced out by Harihara I of the Vijayanagar Empire only fifty-eight years later. Over the next hundred years Goa served as an important harbour for transporting Arabian horses on their way to join the Vijayanagar cavalry at the Empire's capital, Hampi.
Then the Portugese colonials arrived in 1510. They had two main aims: to control the spice route from the East, and to work as missionaries to spread Christianity. In 1542, Saint Francis Xavier showed up, with his band of Jesuits. By this time, the Portugese had succeeded in capturing more land, and ruled not only Old Goa, but also the neighbouring provinces of Bardez and Salcete. Goa's Golden Age began when the Turks finally lost control of the trade routes across the Indian Ocean. As a result, the Portugese in Goa became rather wealthy. They made their Indian colony the Viceregal seat of their Eastern Empire.
During the seventeenth century, however, the Portugese colony became less stable and successful. Portugal found it more and more difficult to keep a reign on its far-flung subsidiary, and its hold began to slip. This, combined with growing competition from the British, French, and Dutch, led to a terminal decline. In the late eighteenth century, the colonials came close to being ousted by the Marathas. During the Napoleonic Wars in Eurpoe, the British managed to rule Goa for a short while.
The first rumblings of the independence movement were heard in the late nineteenth century in Goa. The push for liberation began in earnest when the Portugese monarchy collapsed in 1910. It was not until 17th December 1961, when Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru ordered an invasion, that the colonials were finally removed from power.
The turbulence did not come to and end even once Goa had been liberated. The difficulty now lay in finding its place within India. There was local resistance to the attempts to merge Goa with neighbouring states. In May 1987, Goa became India's 25th state, and its predominant language, Konkani was recognised as (yet another) national tongue.
Places of Interest
The beaches remain one of the biggest appeals to tourists. It is still possible to find a few straggling (and often ageing) hippies at places such as Anjuna and Arambol. Calangute, once the resort of preference for those in search of inner peace, has now become one of the main package holiday destinations in Goa.
Old Goa, the former capital of the Portugese colonials, exists now as little more than a handful of imposing churches and cathedrals, and a pile of stones which used to be a spectacular gateway. The hundreds of thousands of citizens of Old Goa were driven out by a wave of epidemics, leaving the maze of Mediterranian-style alleys and plazas to crumble away. The churches remain, as does the city's status as the spiritual heart of Christian Goa.
Panaji became the state capital in 1843, after the decline of Old Goa. For most tourists, it serves as little more than an arrivals lounge or bus depot, but it is worth exploring further. Unlike the former capital, Panaji has retained its Iberian air, and contains many splendid governmental buildings, some dating back to before colonisation.
Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary is located 50km south-east of Panaji and provides a home for sambar, wild boar, and deer, as well as containing a zoo.
Anjuna flea market is no longer the preserve of hippies alone, and now sells more than incense. The traders come from as far afield as the Himalayas to sell their wares.