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Goa is India's smallest state in terms of area and the fourth smallest in terms of population. Positioned on the west coast of India in the region well known as the Konkan, Goa is surrounded by the state of Maharashtra to the north, and by Karnataka to the east and south, while the Arabian Sea forms its western coast.
Panaji (also referred to as Panjim) is the capital of this province. Vasco da Gama (sometimes shortened to Vasco) is the largest city. The historic city of Margao still exhibits the influence of Portuguese culture. Portuguese first landed in Goa as merchants, in the early 16th century, and conquered it soon after. The Portuguese overseas territory existed for about 450 years, until it was taken over by India in 1961.
Renowned for its beaches, places of worship and world heritage architecture, Goa is visited by hundreds of thousands of international and domestic tourists each year. It also has rich flora and fauna, owing to its location on the Western Ghats range, which is classified as a biodiversity hotspot.
Places of Worship
Se Cathedral: The Se Cathedral in Old Goa built in Portuguese- Gothic style of architecture is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria. Se Cathedral is also known as Chapel of St Catherine and St Catherine's Cathedral. Constructed between 1562 and 1640, it is the largest church in Old Goa and the largest in Asia with a barrel vaulted ceiling. It took nearly 80 years to complete the church. The church is the prestigious seat of the archdiocese of Goa.
The cathedral has eight chapels and fifteen altars dedicated to several identities like Our Lady of Hope, Our Lady of Anguish and Our Lady of Three Needs and so on. The main altar has carved frames depicting scenes from the life of St. Catherine and a majestic crucifix. On the right, is the chapel of the Cross of Miracles, where a vision of Christ is said to have appeared in 1919. The cathedral tower house has a huge bell known as the Golden Bell.
Basilica of Bom Jesus: Basilica of Bom Jesus is a fine example of Jesuit architecture and has emerged as a landmark in the history of Christianity. This world renowned church which contains the body of St. Francis Xavier is located in Old Goa, 10 km east of Panaji. The saint was a pupil of the soldier- turned - saint, Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Order of Jesuits. The foundation stone of the church was laid on 1594 and was completed in the year 1605. In 1946 the church was raised to the status of a minor Basilica.
Church of St Francis of Assisi: The Convent and Church of St Francis of Assisi is located to the west of Se Cathedral, Old Goa. The church which has been constructed in 1517-1521 AD, was demolished and rebuilt in 1661 retaining only the exquisitely carved old gate made of black stone. The architecture is a blend of the Tuscan style on the exterior and the mosaic-Corinthian style on the interior. The church displays decorative paintwork and woodcarving and the floor is inlaid with elaborately engraved tombstones depicting scenes from the life of St. Francis. The convent at the back of the church which has been started in 1517 by Franciscan friars was converted to an archaeological museum.
Church of St. Cajetan: The church of St.Cajetan in Old Goa, is located about 1/2 km to the north east of the Se Cathedral. Built in 1661 by the Italian friars of the Theatine order, it is said to have been modeled on the original design of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The church is dedicated to Our Lady of Divine Providence, but was named after St. Cajetan, founder of the Theatine order and a contemporary of St Francis Xavier. The entire church is built of laterite blocks and plastered with lime. It has two towers on either side to serve as belfry. Besides the main altar there are six altars, three on each side of the church.
Shri Mangesh Temple, Priol: Shri Mangesh Temple, also known as Mangireesh, Manguesh or Mangueshi, is one among the famous temples in Goa. Dedicated to Mangueshi - an incarnation of Lord Shiva, this temple on a hillock is located at Priol in Ponda taluka, about 21 km from Panaji. To avoid destruction by the Portuguese, devotees shifted the deity (the Shiva linga) from the original temple at Kushasthali (present day Cortalim) to the present location. The temple which is believed to be built around 1744, has been rebuilt and has undergone several renovations. The temple is a modern piece of architecture blended with a mix of Hindu, Christian and Muslim influences. The image of the deity is housed behind a highly decorated silver doorway. At the entrance, slightly to the north of the temple, is a majestic 7 storied Deepa Stambha (lamp tower). It is the tallest and most imposing column in Goa and looks most beautiful on festival nights when illuminated with traditional oil lamps.
Shri Mahalaxmi Temple, Bandode: Shri Mahalaxmi Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu's consort Mahalaxmi, is situated in the village of Bandode (also called Bandora or Bandivade), about 4 km east of Ponda and 22 km from Panaji. The temple is considered as the abode of the original Goddess of the Shakti cult and its unique feature is that the goddess wears linga on her head. The idol of Mahalaxmi with four arms holding a sickle, a club, a dagger, and a vessel containing prasad and flowers, has a close resemblance to that of Mahalakshmi idol at Kolhapur. Besides the main black granite stone idol, there was another idol of the goddess made of panchaloha (five metals). Apart from the two idols of Mahalakshmi, the temple houses 18 wooden images of Lord Vishnu and idols of deities such as Shri Ravalnath, Shri Baleshwar and Shri Narayan Purush. The temple is believed to have been shifted from Colva in Sasasthi (Salcette taluka) in the 16th century during the inquisition, to save it from destruction by the Portuguese.
Jama Masjid, Sanguem: Jama Masjid is situated at Sanguem taluk about 26 km from Margao. Built in the last century, it is an elegant mosque of harmonious proportion and simplicity. A dome arises in the center of the mosque and it has four minarets at its entrance, flanked by two towers surmounted by pillared kiosks.
Aguada Fort: Aguada Fort is the largest and the best-preserved Portuguese bastion in Goa. This tourist destination is located in Canacona taluka, 37 km from Margao. It was built by the Portuguese during the period between 1609-12 as a guard against invasions from the Dutch and the Marathas. An interesting feature in the precinct of the fort is a 13 meter high circular lighthouse built in 1864 which was initially used as an oil lamp. It was later renovated and modernized in 1976. The Fort is currently the Central Jail, Goa's largest prison.
Archaeological Museum and Portrait Gallery: The archaeological Museum and Portrait Gallery, maintained by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has been functioning since 1964 in the premises of the convent of St. Francis of Assisi, Old Goa. The collections of the museums are displayed in 8 galleries. These include portraits and sculptures from the prehistoric to the late mediaeval period. The portraits of Portuguese Governors are placed on the first floor which provides an interesting study in the evolution of court dresses. Other objects on display are lintel of a temple depicting various types of Shikharas, architectural pieces, sati-stones, hero-stones, an inscribed slab containing Kannada inscription of 'Devaraya' etc. The museum is open on all days from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm except Fridays.
St. Augustine Tower and Church: The remnant of the St. Augustine tower and church located atop the Holy Hill in Old Goa is one among the most spectacular monuments in Goa. Both the church and the tower were built in 1602 by the Augustinian missionaries. The 46 km high tower that served as a belfry is a part of the facade of the magnificent St. Augustine Church which was abandoned in 1835. In 1871, the huge bell of the tower was moved to the Church of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The Church of St Augustine, when it was intact, was supposed to be the biggest in Goa. There were eight richly carved chapels and four altars and a convent with numerous cells and artistic columns attached to the church.
Church Of the Carmelites: Located in Old Goa to the southeast of the Church of St. Cajetan, is the ruins of the Church of the Carmelites. The church was built in 1621. From the year 1707, the church fell into disuse and ruins, when the Carmelites were expelled from there on their refusal to take the Oath of Allegiance to the king. The facade and a raised pavement, which served as an altar are the only remains found here.
Arambol Beach: Arambol beach, located at Pernem taluk in North Goa district, about 50 km from Panaji, is a vast stretch of golden sand interspersed with rocky headlands. It is Goa's northernmost beach. Arambol comprises of two beaches and the bigger one is known as the Harmal beach. The second, more picturesque beach lies beyond the rocky headband and can only be reached on foot and is bordered by steep cliffs on both sides. The sea is rough here than at other beaches.
Anjuna Beach: The Village of Anjuna in north Goa is a five square mile enclosure nestling between the Arabian Sea and the hill overlooking the beach. Anjuna beach is one the most popular beaches of Goa situated 8 km west of Mapusa and 18 km from the capital Panaji. The beach is known for its palm trees, soft sands and natural beauty. One attraction of the Anjuna beach is the Wednesday flea market where one can buy anything from bikes to second hand goods.
Calangute Beach: Calangute beach, popularly known as the 'Queen of the Goan Beaches', is located 16kms from Panaji. It was the hippies who discovered this pristine beach in the late 60s. Calangute beach covers several sub-beaches, including Baga and Anjuna beaches. Here some palm trees provide patchy shades to the visitors. This long beach has a host of facilities to cater to visitors, including water sports such as para sailing, water-skiing and wind surfing. At times undercurrent at this beach may be strong, then swimming is not recommended.
Colva Beach: Colva beach lies about 39 km from Panaji and 6 km west of Margao at Salecete district. It is the most crowded beach in the South Goa circuit. The warm and calm sea beach is a visitors paradise with 40km of uninterrupted white and golden sand fringed with coconut palms. Here you can get a moped for rent. The water is safe for swimming. The beach is equipped with all modern amenities like air-conditioned resort complexes, tourist cottages, discos, bar shacks, seashell artifact stalls, refreshment stalls, eateries and guest houses. The Church of Our Lady Of Mercy famed for the miracle statue of Menino Jesus (Child Jesus) is located here.
Dona Paula Beach: Dona Paula Beach, one of the popular tourist destination associated with romance and myth, is situated at a distance of 7kms from Panaji, North Goa. The beach is named after the daughter of a viceroy in colonial India, Dona Paula de Menzes who threw herself off the cliff, when refused permission to marry a local fisherman, Gaspar Dias. The place is also known as 'Lovers Paradise'. This small palm fringed beach with casuarina groves is very peaceful. Dona Paula beach offers a wide range of water sports to the tourists including motorboat rides, water scooter, windsurfing, parasailing, water-skiing, toboggan ski-biscuit, skibob, sports fishing, snorkeling, harpoon fishing, kayaking and yachting. The National Oceanography Institute that provides a world of information on marine biology is situated within the premises of Dona Paula Beach. The major attraction of the institute is its Marine Biology Museum and Taxonomy Reference Center. The official residence of the Governor of Goa, known as Cabo Raj Bhavan is situated on the westernmost tip of Dona Paula.
Miramar Beach: The beautiful Miramar Beach originally known as Gasper Dias Beach is located about 3kms from Panaji, North Goa and a km away from Dona Paula. It lies adjoining the estuary of the river Mandovi as it opens into the Arabian sea. This lovely golden beach of soft sand lined with palm trees is ideal for evening walks. The Miramar beach provides an excellent view of the Aguada fort.
Palolem Beach: Palolem Beach is Goa's southern most beach also known as 'Paradise Beach'. It is situated at Canacona district, about 37 km from Margoa and 70kms from Panaji. The beach is a curved stretch of white sand, backed by palm groves and low, green mountains. The water is shallow and warm, with very little surf and offers safe swimming. The beach offers trips to watch dolphins and is one of the favourite site for overnight beach picnics. Beautiful beach huts and family rooms are provided for accommodation. The Cancona railway station is just 3kms from the beach.
Aguada beach: Aguada beach is situated in North Goa about 4 m from the Sinquerim beach. The beach attracts tourist from all over the world with its exotic tropical beauty, powdery golden sand and stunning vista of blue marine waters. The main highlights here are the historical edifice, Fort Aguada built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and the Reis Magos Fort.
Vagator Beach: Vagator beach at the north end of the Calangute beach attained popularity because of its seclusion. This beautiful beach, lined with coconut groves and palm trees is located at Bardez taluk, around 22 Km north of Panaji and 9kms from Mapusa. The beauty of the beach is further enhanced by the Chapora Fort which makes the entrance to the bay. Here one can witness the seawater changing colors from aquamarine to emerald and the Goan fishermen in their traditional attire getting ready to venture into the sea or coming back with their day's catch. Situated close to the Anjuna beach, the picturesque Vagator beach is a favourite venue for mid night parties during the tourist season.
Best time to visit: Best time to visit Goa is October to February.
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