Goa is a coastal paradise, the original hippie capital of India. Pristine beaches, happy lifestyle and fantastic tourist infrastructure is what makes Goa a dream destination. But in this post, I am going to talk about some Goa facts that are unknown to many. It’s about the history of Goa, its culture, its pride, and its secrets. If you are planning to visit Goa, check out our Goa itinerary. However, if like me, you are intrigued by what lies beneath the surface read this. If you have never been to Goa, this might compel you to visit it once in your lifetime. Even if you have visited before, I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading this even more. As usual let’s begin with the famous facts of Goa, the ones we already know.
So when I went to Goa for the first time, I had a few questions in my mind. How old is Goa? What was it like before the Portuguese colonized it? How was the Portuguese colony different from British India? I started searching for these answers while exploring Goa on my first two trips.
Goa is not just about parties and casinos. It has a history of thousands of years since the prehistoric ages. So, to fully appreciate Goa it’s good to know a little bit about its long and diverse history that helped shape the unique Goan culture. Geologists claim that the evidence of human inhabitants in Goa can be traced back to the Paleolithic age. Some of the oldest rocks of India are found in Goa, as old as 3600 million years. There are several archeological sites in and around Goa in the Konkan coastline that intrigue the historians. The rock carvings at Pansoimol in south Goa is one such place on my wishlist.
As far as documented history is concerned, the oldest dynasty to rule over Goa were the Mauryas. This was from the 7th century BC to 2nd century BC. During this time Buddhism was also introduced in Goa. This region was successively ruled by some of the greatest dynasties in Indian medieval history- the Satvahanas, the Chalukyas of Badami, and the Vijayanagara empire among others. According to the Goa Directory, there are 25 Buddhist and other man-made caves discovered in Goa so far. Some of the most notable caves are the Aravalem Caves, Verna caves and Lamgau caves.
As a feudatory of the Chalukyas, the Kadambas ruled Goa for 300 years. It is believed to be the first golden era of Goa, marked by peace, prosperity and religious tolerance. That’s the reason behind several government services being named after them, for example, Kadamba Transport services. You can find many beautiful temples of the era throughout Goa, the most notable one being the Tambdi Surla temple in east Goa. Fierce Conflicts began in the latter half of the 14th century when the power dynamics shifted between the Vijayanagara rulers and Bahmani Sultans. Sultan Adil Shah’s palace is the oldest surviving residential building in India.
The Portuguese conquered Goa in 1510 and established the first European colony in India. The Portuguese influence is very evident in the Goan culture and quite well-known too. But here are some amazing examples. “Susegad” is a word used to describe the calm and laid-back lifestyle of Goa. It is derived from the word “susegado” which in Portuguese means “quiet”.
Foutainhas, the Latin Quarters of Goa is one of the prettiest locations of Goa which has old 18th and 19th-century houses of the colonial era. They stand out for their pastel colors, artistic doors, and balconies. Even now they are painted every year after the monsoons, a tradition that was started by the Portuguese.
Goa is also the only state in India which has uniform civil code – the Goan civil code.
Fun fact! A Goan resident born before 1961 is eligible for dual citizenship – Portuguese and Indian by default.
The brightest examples of colonial architecture can be seen in the Catholic churches of Panjim. The Basilica of Bom Jesus is one of the finest instances of the Portuguese Baroque architecture. But the most stunning aspect about the church is not its exquisite architecture but the mummified body of St Francisco Xavier. Opposite to the Basilica stands the Se Cathedral, which is the largest church in India and one of the largest in Asia. These and a few other convents in old Panjim are recognized by UNESCO as heritage sites for their significance in world history.
Behind the shine of the magnificent cathedrals lies a lesser-known part of Goan history – the horrific Goan Inquisition. While trade flourished under the rule, the history of Portuguese administration was also stained with oppression and bloodshed of natives. The Inquisition established by the Roman Catholic Holy office in 1560 put under scrutiny all the native Indian converts and persecuted those who were found to be practicing their original religion in secret. Thousands of lives were affected. Richard Zimler, the author of Guardian of Dawn called it “the machinery of death, one that continued for over 200 years and was finally abolished in 1812.
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I always have mixed feelings when I look at the colonial architecture in India. On one hand, they are beautiful, they add to the rich diversity of Indian architecture, and most importantly transport you into a different part of the world without a visa. On the other hand, you know that colonial history was dotted with humiliation, penury, and oppression of the fellow Indians. Goa’s Portuguese architecture is as much a part of the colonial history of Goa as is the horrific Goan Inquisition. As responsible World Citizens, it is important for us to appreciate and preserve the Heritage sites, while also acknowledging the history behind them – the good, the bad and the ugly. For only when we acknowledge the truth of the past can we ensure mistakes from repeating in the future. Read my comprehensive guide for first-time visitors of Goa for such trivia, interesting facts and discovering Goa beyond the beach parties. Link in bio. . . #backpacknxplore #UNESCOWorldHeritage #HeritageGoa #ilovetripadvisor #goaholidays #instatravel #travelblog #vacationstories #travelblogger #incredibleindia #vitaminsea#goaoffbeat #northgoa #beaches #bluesky #instatravel #indiaphotography #gogoagone #exploregoa #goaphotos #centralgoa #panjimgoa #panjim #natgeoyourshot
15th August 1947 is the day India became an independent country, free from the British rule. But the Portuguese refused to release control of Goa. Goa’s struggle for independence was fought both from within Goa as well as outside, through political diplomacies by the Indian government.
On December 17, 1961, the Indian Army, Airforce and naval forces invaded Goa. It is a momentous day in Goa’s history as the under-prepared Portuguese army was overpowered almost without any bloodshed. On 18th December, the Portuguese governor officially surrendered, and the next day, Goa officially became a part of India. So Goa celebrates a second independence day, the Goan Liberation day on 19th December every year.
Okay, enough of wars and bloodshed. Let’s talk about the present. Despite its chequered history, Goa has largely been a bountiful state. The first printing press in Asia was installed in Goa in 1556. Somehow the printing press has mysteriously disappeared and we can’t find it anymore.
But there are many exclusivities that Goa still boasts of and must be on your bucket list. The Naval Aviation Museum is one of its kind museum in Asia. Quite surprisingly, not many people know about it. Situated close to the port city of Vasco –Da-Gama, this beautiful museum showcases the evolution of the Indian Naval force. With an entry fee of just Rs. 20 this is truly a hidden gem of Goa. You can find old decommissioned aircraft, military exhibits and galleries showcasing naval equipment, attires, etc.
Goa is not just about the sun and the golden sands. 33% of the state is under forest cover, and about 20% of the state falls in the Western Ghats of India. The Mollem national park and Bhagwan Mahavir National park are some of the notable wildlife sanctuaries in Goa. These forests are recognized among the biodiversity hotspots of India but are unfortunately not included in the list of 31 natural heritage sites recognized by UNESCO. That means lesser conservation efforts by the government and a blind eye towards the illegal mining that can ruin the forest ecosystem. It’s really disheartening to even think that such rich ecological hotspots do not get the attention from authorities as they deserve. Lately, the government is making efforts towards conservation as they have great potential for sustainable tourism, but it’s a long way to do. The most famous spot in the Western Ghats of Goa is, of course, the Dudhsagar falls. This 310 m high cascade is one of the highest falls in India.
Cabo Raj Bhavan, a palatial building erected by the Portuguese in the 16th century is the official residence of the governor of Goa. Entry to this historic building was earlier only restricted to VIPs but form January 2019 its gates have been opened for the commoners. Perched atop the rocky cliff of Dona Paula, this former fortress is a castle of dreams. Imagine stepping into the castle and learning about the history of Dona Paula, the serene fishing village of Goa. There are over 100 medicinal herbs in the garden of Cabo which is maintained by the forest department. You will also be treated with a tour of a garden where VIPs had planted saplings in the past that have now grown into large trees. This includes a mango tree planted by former president Morarji Desai, an Ashoka tree planted by a former first-lady of Portugal among others.
And finally, let’s end the list with one of the things Goa is actually famous for – casinos! Casinos are not very common in India, but Goa is an exception. There are many casinos in Goa, but did you know it boasts of the largest and the most luxurious floating casino in Asia? Deltin Royale is the largest of all the floating Casinos anchored in the Mandovi river. It’s a magnificent ship that stands out at night for the multicolored tube-lights dazzling on its body. The casino provides different types of packages for different budget starting at Rs. 3000 for stag entry. A premium offer includes a two-night stay at Deltin Suites Hotel.
Check out the best places to stay in Goa.
So these are the 10 lesser-known facts about Goa – the good, bad and the ugly. I am mostly a regular tourist just with a huge curiosity to know beyond the obvious. It often leads me to discover not just the fun parts but also the horrible sides of it. I don’t regret it because it brings me closer to the locals, helps me appreciate the culture more. What do you think about it? Have you visited Goa? How many of these facts did you already know about? Tell me in the comments section. If you learned something new please share the post. Pin the image below to save the post.
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Fascinating…I never knew all of this so thank you.
This is so fascinating. I had no idea that Goa was still a colony of the Portuguese long after the British gave up India. And all the way to 1961.
Goa is on my list but haven’t made it there. This is great info for planning and learning! Keeping for future reference.
Missed visiting Naval Museum and the Raj Bhavan. The 2 ID celebrations is indeed unique to this state.
I have been to Goa several times yet I feel I have not explored enough and this post convinces me more.
I had no idea how much history Goa has. While I visited once, I spent most of my time on the coast (I understand why so many settle there). I didn’t know that the Portuguese ruled Goa for a time or how they ruled. That history tidbit fascinated me. Excellent post!
The temple under Goa fact #2 is very beautiful — is it the Tambdi Surla temple? I can’t tell. Thank you! The Portuguese architecture such as the The Basilica of Bom Jesus is incredible, but I thank you for pointing out that it came with a price. I wasn’t aware of the Goan Inquisition and it is definitely an important piece of history to keep in mind when visiting this area.
What a great post about Goa! You’re right, a lot of people don’t know about the horrific Goan Inquisition. I was shocked when I learned about it from one of my friends during my last visit. Also, even though I visited, I didn’t know the museum in Goa is the only naval aviation museum in Asia
This was an interesting read about Goa. I’ve yet to visit India, but I’ve always been interested by the scenery and culture of Goa. There are always good and bad sides to every destination, and I feel I know much more, especially if we ever get to visit in the future.
Thank you for sharing such a great post about Goa! I didn’t know about Goa being a Portuguese colony! It must have been so interesting to see these Portuguese churches and structures in India. I’ve never been so I can only imagine! The Dudhsagar falls are truly a sight to behold! It looks so impressive that I cannot imagine how impressive it is in person!
Goa is one of those areas in India I have never managed to decide, should I visit or not visit? As we are not beach lovers, I usually decide against, but on the other hand the Portuguese cultural influences and the local cuisine are quite different here to other parts of India, which interests me. I also appreciated reading about the Western Ghats, this is somewhere I think we would enjoy.
Goa is always a multi-hued experience. Every time we visit Goa we explore some new facet of the place. The Portuguese legacy in the form of its heritage buildings is something absolutely love. There is so much to Goa than just its beaches and nightlife. Your post unveils some of the lesser-known aspects of Goa.
I’ve learned so many things about Goa from your article, and this makes me wanna visit soon! I’ve always associated it with great coastline and beach parties but there is so much history behind it. For example, I had no idea it celebrates two independent days!