THE TRAVELOGUE @ THE TRAVEL ROOM
Goa, the Portuguese heart of India!
You too like us might think of Goa as a seaside city that caters to both foreign package tours and hippy retreats, however the first thing we found out was that there isn’t actually a city of Goa and that the name actually refers to India’s smallest state, thus again exposing our pre arrival, limited knowledge of Indian geography.
The real fame of this area though is bestowed on it by the 16th century Church of Bom Jesus which houses the body of one St Francis Xavier (FX), who until he died, was mildly (in?)famous for two things, the first being his propensity to wander the earth and spread his churches version of the word of JC, and that he requested the inquisition to pop on down to Goa and wreak merry havoc on those who disagreed.
It was in death though that he took on a whole new aura, because as the story goes, when he died, they poured lime on his body to hasten decomposition and ensure no harm could come to FX in death. When the body was discovered in perfect condition sometime later, and the Catholic Church certified that no embalming had taken place, the miracles began to occur. Thus the legend of the never decomposing body began. The body did however become separate from several pieces as treasure hunting churches and individuals grabbed bits of FX for their own uses.
Today the majority of FX is held in the Church of Bom Jesus and is displayed to the faithful from within its crystal casket every 10 years.
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So arriving in the state of Goa we chose to head for the small capital of Panaji, which with its access to the coast line, Portuguese heritage and easy transport links to old Goa, seemed like the perfect base, which indeed it turned out to be. Panaji itself has few outstanding remnants of its Portuguese history, but a walk around town will highlight a European influence on the architecture and one huge, old whitewashed cathedral that dominates the centre of town. There is certainly something different in the air in this part of India, a feeling that is difficult to describe but easy to experience. Could it be the purchase of the Portuguese snack Nata, last tasted in that other Portuguese enclave Macau, that has overcome us?
Hopping on a local bus we headed out the next day to ‘Old Goa’, an area set in a time when the Portuguese and specifically the Roman Catholic Church with its destructive inquisition in tow, firmly dominated the area. You will enter one magnificently stylised cathedral after another, all adorned with ornamentation extolling the virtues of Jesus Christo (JC) and his troop of disciples. The floors of several of these cathedrals are paved with the headstones of the faithful who came to Goa and never returned to their native land. To see so many graves dating from the 16th and 17th centuries makes one wish for just a little knowledge of Portuguese, to find out the circumstances of those deceased. We sadly had to make do with our own poor attempts at translation, which whilst inaccurate proved highly entertaining. Ahh some of the lives these boys and girls led… In our imaginations!
The area also contains the old Viceroy's gate which was commissioned by Vasco de Gama’s
great grandson and is dedicated to the great man himself. There is a genuine old world feel to
this area which shows just what this Portuguese enclave would have been like prior to the
Indian invasion and reclamation in 1961. Portugal took many years to come to terms with the
loss of Goa and still had 3 seats in Parliament set aside for the citizens until 1974.
Leaving old Goa we headed to Anjuna beach and its promised hippies, parties and pristine
beaches. What we ended up with was the sight of bewildered travellers (gringos) sitting nursing
bottles of water and small beers wondering what brought them here. This combined with the
bus loads of Indian men who seemed to be shipped in to just stare out the windows at the dazed
gringo tourists combined to give the place a wildlife park theme, where the harmless gringos
can be viewed safely from the confines of your tour bus. The hippies were invisible, the parties
nonexistent and the beaches churned by monsoon and anything but pristine. Even with the best
of imaginations, Anjuna beach is an ordinary strip of black and white sand combined with red
volcanic rock with a serious erosion problem.
The one redeeming feature is that very few of the buses decant their loads, so you have a quite existence without the usual daily hassles of beggars, photo takers and the general grind of Indian life.
Every traveller who spends a lengthy period in India will get to a point where they need solitude and peace. In Anjuna we, along with several dozen others found that.
Reinvigorated, the journey continues.
Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Panaji (Panjim), India
Gravestones cover the floor inside Church of St Francis of Assisi, Old Goa
Above is the casket of and right are photos of the body of St Francis of Xavier at the Church of Bom Jesus in Old Goa
Ted stares out at the churning sea of Anjuna
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