Ever since Goa was liberated on the 19th of December in 1961, the state has been the recipient of extraordinary exposure from the nation as well as the rest of the world. In spite of all the fame and recognition there has been a lot of misconception going around about this utopia, so much so that the media has been glaring at Goa for all the wrong reasons. Tourists from all over are drawn to the state for its timeless beaches and verdurous cornucopia of atmosphere.
The village is the center of life for them no matter how many buildings or highways are constructed. People living the slow-lifestyle often feel that tourists visiting the state are intruding on their way of life and their community, even though tourism is essential to its economy. This feeling is never intensified more than when the media paints the land as a self-indulgent extravagant utopia where laws and policies are amenable and crime is served no justice even though it’s reported. Locals of the past lived quite the amphibian life, sprawling through the forest and harsh terrain from inland outwards to the rivers and seas in their canoes. Having the ghats as a well-defined and tough barrier on the eastern side and not more than 55 km away is the Arabian Sea that neighbors the Indian Ocean. Due to the ghats all the rivers would rise in the east and find their way westwards draining into the sea. The has a total area of a mere 3701 sq km, this makes it one of the smallest states to be part of the Indian union. This little piece of land, being only 105 sq km long and 65 sq km wide possesses beauty that is still mesmerizing despite the urban straddle and smokestack growth.
The Mughals called Surat ‘the door to the house of Goa’ when they were not calling it their ‘blessed port’. It is true that Goa does not have an identity independent of its water, but the waves and ripples masquerade just as much as they unclothe the different layers of historically embellished encounters after encounters with great religions of the world. However, categorizing them just based on religion would be atrocious, and be a crime against the layers of complex identity seen here; the different layers of education, history, dreams, caste, language, aspirations, and yearnings. There is culture oozing out of everything in this state, it can be witnessed in its air, the villages and its soil, its rivers, forests, trees and birds that nest in them, and stones. It is personified in their deities, in the prayers chanted at altars and in prayer rooms in homes, the tulsi in the front yards and crosses atop churches and entrance to their homes. This culture has endured and perpetuated this land through a series of empires, with the most traumatic being the early and final stages of the Portuguese rule.
Being one of the fastest growing states in the nation it has a GDP of nearly INR 58,667 per capita which when compared to the rest of the country is two and a half times more. The state also caters internationally, having people from all over the world coming to the state, many for a vacation and even more for an exotic destination wedding. And this may seem to be the visitors are the main driving force behind the economy but it is actually built with the blood and sweat of backbreaking residents who rely on the visitors for the growth of the economy, their economy.
Ref: Seasonal Weddings
Having Maharashtra and Karnataka towards the north and south and neighbours and the Arabian Sea to the west, this tiny state falls exactly at 28 degrees 38’ N latitude and 72 degrees 2’ E longitude. The state as per the census of 2011 has a population of 14.59 Lakhs and the language spoken and understood by these 14 lakh residents is Konkani, however English and Marathi is widely used too. The population is mainly made of Hindus at 66.08 %, followed by the Catholics at 25.10 % and then Muslims at a mere 8.33 %. The remainder is made up of other religions and local tribes and communities. Although being one of the smallest states in India, the state is incredibly diverse and this beautiful mosaic is built by the locals. This mosaic is no illusion and there is no underlying hate and animosity among these various ethnic groups. The locals live out their lives in peace and harmony with each other, it is as though all the locals are part of one big family, making it one of the nation’s most tension free social environment. In the state where everything is not so fast paced and where people still take time to smell the flowers, locals have long been moulded and built up with traditional occupations like fishing pottery, agriculture, and bakeries.
Without a doubt tourism is one of the main contributing factors to its GDP, contributing as high as 30 %. On an average caters to around 25 lakh tourists who visit this utopia for its beaches, tropical atmosphere, and outstanding amount of history that is crammed into its churches and temples. A major bulk of the visitors, 20 lakh to be precise consists of domestic tourists flocking to the beaches for some family fun, the remaining 5 lakh tourists are made up of different nationalities such as Russian, German, British, Portuguese, Israelis, and Swiss. With such a large footfall there has to be enough resorts and hotels to accommodate and entertain them. Therefore in order to cater to this ever increasing number of visitors there are more than 30,000 vacation rooms that are available across 83 resorts and hotels along with resorts that are starred as were accounted for in 2009. These accommodations witness an occupancy rate of more than 85 % during the peak season that is from November to April and it drops to 40 % in the months from May to October. The government is deeply involved in matter concerning tourism, they make it a priority to make sure that tourists are safe, and there are better roads and infrastructure, along with better connectivity. They also enforce strict commercial laws on business establishments and employ qualified and trained tourist police.
Being on the western coast this land has a been the recipient of a lot of fame throughout the centuries becoming the window for the outside world to the exotic and riot of life of South Asia. It has a coastline that stretches for 120 km and almost two thirds of it is beaches. The coastline has many excellent ports and river inlets that welcome you inland. Going by the records on copper and stone plates, Arab traders were drawn to it since the 11 century. This was followed by the Europeans and their hunger for spices and Christianity which left a major impact on the region. Later in the 1960s the hippies started their quest to find spirituality. The recent attractions are exotic destination weddings.
The state’s beauty is as hypnotic as its coconut trees sway in the breeze. Tourism arrived in its waves. About a whole generation ago the first hippies descended in Calangute, the northern belt of its landscape it still is a highly visited tourist spot. From there on they moved further north to Anjuna, Arambol, Morjim, Ashwem, and other places nearby. Subsequent to that tourism picked up in Salcette somewhere in the early eighties. Whereas the extreme points, Pernem in the north and Canacona in the south gained attention in the early nineties. At present, beaches such as Baga and Calangute are the main spot for all the tourists, with excellent night life, water sports, beach shacks, exotic food, and entertainment. Newer and smaller beaches are rising to the local tourism scenario offering a change of pace, making it slow, and serving up some exotic food. A wonderful example of this is the Palollem Beach, which is at the southernmost tip. Here tourists can roam, and explore picturesque unpolished coconut huts, built from… you guessed it, many of the omnipresent coconut trees.
Also Read: Destination Events
But this haven does not revolve only around it beaches. You can think of the beaches as sort of a first impression and with more and more interactions and visits you get to know the place better. When you first arrive, you make a mad dash to the beach and relax away, but when you come back you want something more and you get its churches and temples sprinkled generously all over the state and shine bright white like pearls on the seafloor, when you want more the land gives you its people, so warm and welcoming you feel like a family member reuniting. “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”, very rarely will a quote ever feel real than when you travel around the many cities, the winding roads, the rolling hills with shadows of the clouds cast on them, the green or golden fields, and the bewilderment that crosses your face when you take a hidden road are some of the things other than the beaches to satisfy your wanderlust. But if you still want more, this beautiful landscape gladly flaunts its villages. The diversity between each village is rioting, from opulent expat villages, to ones painted red with mining dust, to sandy beach villages, to hidden ones in forests, to ones that just love to fish, to other that are in love with agriculture and farming. But this does not mean that the locals are backward and have no foot in the modern world, they have found a unique way to blend outside influences and maintain their rustic charm and character. However if you still demand more from the state, if your explorer’s thirst has not been quenched yet, then this Eden will get you drunk on its culture.