Goa, a multi-racial land

A paradise for hippies, who were originally attracted by its heavenly beaches during the 1970s, and today teeming with both Western and Indian tourist, the state of Goa (India’s smallest state covering just 3,700km2), bounded by Karnataka and Maharashtra, was a Portuguese enclave for 400 years.  So although Goa is in India, it is a different India which has been profoundly influenced by four centuries of Portuguese presence, giving this small region its uniqueness.  Colonisation, which mixed the Portuguese and Indian worlds together, produced a unique society which would for evermore be different to the rest of the Indian Peninsula and marked by multi-racial mixing at all levels: art, literature, language, food and even religion, where the caste division of the Indian society hasn’t been erased by Catholicism.

The campaigns of Alexander, traders and missionaries began to cross through the Indian sub-continent, but it was Vasco da Gama who opened the first maritime route to India.  He started out in search of "Christians and spices" – according to the famous words of the first Portuguese to land in India – his small fleet of four ships sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and reached Calicut on the Malabar Coast in south-west India on 18th May 1498 after eleven months at sea.

  • Goa Velha, capital of the Portuguese Empire of Asia

    Goa Velha, capital of the Portuguese Empire in Asia

  • Arch of the vice-regents

  • Se Patriarchal

  • Interior of the Se Patriarchal Cathedral: altarpiece of the principal alter

  • The Basilica of the Bom Jesus (Holy Jesus)

    The Basilica of Bom Jesus (Holy Jesus)

  • Saint François Xavier Shrine, Apostle of Indies

  • Frescoes of the covent of Saint Monica

    Frescoes of the covent of Saint Monica

  • Church of Saint-Gaetan

  • Church of Saint Francis of Assisi

  • Interior of the church of Saint Francis of Assisi

  • Panjim, contemporary New Goa

    Panjim, contemporary New Goa

  • Two-storey aristocratic house at Fontainhas

  • Window with « carepas »

  • Road in Fontainhas

    Road in Fontainhas

  • Façade in Fontainhas

    Façade in Fontainhas

  • Small shrine in Panjim

    Small shrine in Panjim

  • Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church in Panjim

  • Sunday Mass in Panjim

    Sunday Mass in Panjim

  • The Bambolim Miraculous Cross

    Tha Bambolim Miraculous Cross

  • Church of Our Lady of Refuge, Mandur

  • A sculpture woekshop in Goa

    A sculpure workshop in Goa

Goa Velha, capital of the Portuguese Empire in Asia

Goa Velha, capital of the Portuguese Empire in Asia

Bordered in the west by the Indian Ocean and in the east by the Ghats mountain ranges, the state of Goa is part of the Konkan region. At the crossroads of the Mandovi River in the north and the Zuari River in the south, their shared estuary is full of islands. The most important, Tiswari, which means "thirty villages", was part of the Portuguese city of Goa Velha, Old Goa, which was abandoned in the 17th century due to poor hygiene and epidemics for Nova Goa (New Goa), the modern-day Goa.

It was in 1510 that the Portuguese governor Afonso de Albuquerque and his armada conquered Goa, which then became the capital of the Portuguese Empire in Asia, a vast area which extended from Mozambique to Japan in the 16th century. When Goa was chosen as the capital of the Estado da India (State of the Portuguese India), it had already been a commercial crossroads for some time because of the privileged strategic location it enjoys between Asia and the West. Afonso de Albuquerque very quickly implemented a policy of mixed marriages between Portuguese men and Indian women, who had previously been converted, which helped to create a multi-racial society.

Although Goa Velha is today a ghost town which is   only inhabited by empty churches, during the 16th century it was described by western travellers   who   visited it   as a   “golden town”, “a luxurious market, where precious stones, silks and spices from Maluka and China were traded, and inhabited by a cosmopolitan population”. As important as Antwerp or London at that time, it also had many hospitals. The French seaman François Pyrard de Laval, who stayed there between 1608-1610, described the Royal Hospital as “the most beautiful in the world”, a “true palace” where everything was well-organised and clean; the patients were served food and drink on   “Chinese porcelain” and the “hospital’s corridors were painted with stories from the Bible”. Also with a large important port, this is where the horses from the Persian Gulf which were destined for the princes of Deccan arrived and which represented a source of large profits for Goa.