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

Arch of the vice-regents

Arch of the vice-regents


This is the arch through which the vice-regents who had just arrived by boat from Portugal and who had come to take up their functions in Goa, usually for a period of three years, entered the city. It is also where the Senado– the city council, one of the most important political institutions of the city – handed the keys of the city over to them.

It was the vice-regent Dom Francisco da Gama (1565-1632) who ordered its construction in 1597 in honour of his great-grandfather, the great Vasco da Gama – whose full-length figure, in the niche, dominates the arch opposite the Mandovi River.

Built by the Goan architect-engineer Julio Simão, it is an example of “Manuelin art”, which takes its name from King Dom Manuel (1469-1521), during whose reign it was created. The Manuelin, a typical Portuguese art form, which lies between Gothic and Renaissance art, is essentially decorative and uses a naturalist vocabulary to evoke the great discoveries and the sea: exotic fruit, nautical ropes. On either side of the central niche we can see the armillary sphere, the symbol of discovered worlds, offered by the papacy to the Portuguese Crown after the discovery of India.