A large part of the western coast of India is a narrow strip ranging between 50 and 100 Kms. in width between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea. In most places, it is closer to 50 than 100. In Goa the width is about the average, around 50 Kms and the western Ghats flanking Goa are quite low in height. The Western Ghats’ high peaks are mostly in the southern States of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu & Kerala. There is only one in Goa’s territory above 1000 meters, probably not even among the top 50. The experts call it the ‘Goa Gap’ which is next only to the famous ‘Palghat Gap’ in Kerala as the low elevation pass from the coastal region to the western Ghats and the Deccan Plateau. More important from our point of view is the distance from the Arabian Sea to the Ghats. This distance varies widely and sharply along the coast. You have the hill slopes practically entering the sea as observed in some of the earlier posts here and then there is Coimbatore on the Deccan Plateau in Tamil Nadu which is practically not obstructed by the Western Ghats. Goa is somewhere in between these extremes.
The other characteristic of this terrain is the rivers flowing down from the higher elevations into the sea. Most of these are seasonal rivers discharging waters into the Arabian sea in the rainy monsoon reason. A large part of most of these rivers is subject to ingress of seawater at high tides, creating the creaks. In most places one does not know what to call the body of water- river or creek. We have encountered this difficulty at a number of places during our travel so far from Gujarat southwards. This phenomenon is much more complex and interesting when the river mouth is very wide as we saw earlier at Rajapuri Creek after Mumbai and Jaigad river creek later on. This Wide-Mouth-of-River phenomenon in the region accentuates itself in Goa and has probably determined its history. The rivers Mandovi and Zuari meet sea within a short gap, creating two creeks within a close distance. Have a look at this Google map and you will get a good idea of what I am talking about. The seafaring Europeans in general and the Portuguese in particular loved this. The first one is the mouth of Mandovi and the second one is of Zuari. The space in between in very small.
Goa is characterized geographically with these large river mouths and a short distance from the sea to the hills, giving it a small area to express itself. Goa has done well within this short space in finding itself a place on the world map as an important tourist destination.
As we enter Goa as a part this expedition, we face a peculiar problem. We are the ‘locals’, both of us being born, brought up, educated and married (to each other), in Goa. Where do we go? What do we see? For us everything in Goa is a part of our life- the normal not a part of ‘travel’. Considering this we opted for a post on ‘Forts of Goa’. This surprised many. Forts? And in Goa? Are you sure? Where did they bring them from? They are not on Goa’s tourist Menu. What happened to the beaches and all those famous tourist spots? Well, I have decided to give a miss to all those things which are well known and have been seen by practically everyone. I would have rather opted to look at a few other interesting lesser-known places in Goa but most of them fall beyond the purview of our ‘coastal travel’
Having said this I cannot altogether ignore the great churches and temples of Goa and a few other items. I will dwell on these briefly before we enter the next phase- Karnataka State or what was earlier known as Canara Coast.
These are the historical structures at what is called Old Goa along the Mandovi.
This one is the entrance to the Adil Shah’s palace reminding us of the Muslim rule before the Portuguese came. Many of the structures that you see at Old Goa are built on the Adilshahi capital.
And these are the churches and other structures that you see in the tourist literature of Goa.
Most of Goa’s major temples are found away from the seashore. The Portuguese conquered the seaside territories called Salcete, Bardez and Ilhas first and destroyed the temples during Inquisition. Some of them were moved further inland and survived. This one is Mallikarjun temple in South Goa with the typical architecture. The Mangalore tiles and the woodwork are the hallmarks.
The wooden carvings that form the window panels are from the places down south in coastal Karnataka.
And here is another one at Fatorpa, in south Goa again.
When you are travelling in Goa you will see this Blue & White colour combination on many buildings.
It could be residences:
Office buildings. ( this one is State Bank of India and the building had earlier housed the Imperial Bank of Portugal).
If you are reading the name of the boat, you are reading the name of the village where my mother was born.
Incidentally ferry crossings are quite common given the topography of the State. In earlier times the motorized ferries were used only at the major crossings, the minor ones like this were serviced by wooden boats. Now the major crossings have bridges and the minor ones with short distances are having ferries.Passengers are not charged. Motor vehicles have to pay to cross.
Goa is known for another combination – Fish & Fenny. Fenny is a huge topic that I am reserving for another day. The Fish is not a small topic either but we can have a look at one of it’s important aspect in Goan context.
What you see in the picture below is called a ‘manas’
This is almost an institution. The required ingredients are: 1. Sea and seawater. 2. A water channel like a small creek. 3. Land near 2.
You can see 2 in the lower part of the picture and 3 in the upper right.
Now have a closer look at the picture below:
The water which enters 3. at high tide is trapped by way of a gate. At the low tide low tide when the water recedes back to the sea through the creek, just put up a net around the gate. And you are rich!!. This method is used to harvest some of the best and tastiest fish varieties in Goa. As far as I know the hordes of tourists visiting Goa are not fed this stuff. It is for the local connoisseurs.
Did you notice that my forefathers got their fish without much of an effort? They were smart.
If you are driving in the rural parts of Goa, you might come across people walking along the roads to the tune of music.
You might be tempted to join the festivities until you see the ‘caix’ being carried contains a dead body. This is a funeral.
There are many many stories and legends and one among them is of Dona Paula.At this monument you have a chance of getting crushed under the tourist traffic at the peak season.
Of course Goa has a Lighthouse. although a small one. I am sure none of the locals are aware. They don’t have any use for this kind of western innovations.
If you are a serious history buff and travelling in Goa, you might come across this structure in Goa. This is the building which housed a ‘municipality’ in the western sense, one of the oldest or probably the oldest in the Eastern Hemisphere. Located at ‘Old market’ at Margao, this structure is in a bad state of repairs.
And this is the new one still in use.
Did you say there is no wildlife in Goa? There is plenty of it. It is you who have not bothered to look around because you wanted to laze around on the beaches. Goa can show off with many a dry leaves that can double up as butterflies when required.
There are mammals of course and then there are birds.You can see below Salim Ali Wildlife Sanctuary inside which there are bridges for the birds to cross.
Dont think that Dr. Salim Ali’s name is being misused here. He did visit Goa and probably the first scientific listing of birds of Goa was made by him, subsequently supplemented by others.
If you happen to be on your way to Karnataka in the south , please stop and pay a visit to Cotigaon Wildlife sanctuary. Even if you are not interested in the wild mammals and birds, you can still have a look at the beautiful butterflies at the small park at the entrance gate which is at a very short distance from the highway.
If you are a tourist visiting Goa in an organized tour you are most likely to miss ( because of parking problem) this ‘palace’, pronounced ‘palash’ locally. This ancient building has seen various rulers- Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Indians, foreigners – ruling the territory. Until recently it functioned as the ‘Vidhan Sabha’, the legislative assembly.
Goa is not lacking in wisdom. The sign on the cemetery of one of Goa’s villages has this to say in Konkani. ‘Moron ek novem jivit’ which means ‘ Death is a new life.’
Text by Suryakiran Naik
Pictures by Suryakiran & Veena Naik