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

The Basilica of the Bom Jesus (Holy Jesus)

The Basilica of Bom Jesus (Holy Jesus)


Although all of the religious Orders settled in Goa, the Jesuits played the role of principal order. They were involved in all areas, from the dissemination of the faith to teaching. In 1557, they founded the Collège Saint-Paul, into which a school of medicine was integrated; when it first opened it already had 133 students from all over Asia. Always at the service of evangelism, they introduced the printing works in 1556. In 1561, printers followed them, such as João de Endem. Originally from Germany, he published the first books of poems by the Portuguese poet Camões (1524-1579), as well as the famous "Coloquios dos simples e drogas da Asia" by Garcia da Orta (1501-1568) in 1563; this apothecary doctor brought together a world of educated people at his home, where he had a rich library and a museum with all his plants.

Architects, master builders and missionaries, the Jesuits usually took plans and scale models of the buildings they wanted to reproduce with them on their journeys. The Basilica of Bom Jesus (Holy Jesus), with an imposing façade, both in terms of its size and its rich decoration, reproduces the layout of the église-rue, appropriate for sermons with its large rectangular nave.

It was also at the request of the Jesuits that King D. João III of Portugal installed the Inquisition– which was one of the most feared courts of Portugal - in Goa in 1560. This court not only prosecuted the new Jewish Christians, but also the converted Hindus and Muslims who continued to practice their religion.