Swaying palms, white sands and sparkling waters: the three essential elements that attract 2 million visitors annually to Goa’s balmy shores are plentiful in this tiny, glorious slice of India hugging the country’s western coastline and bounded by the Arabian Sea.
A solitary Portuguese outpost in India for almost 500 years, the influence of colonial rule can still be seen everywhere: in the exquisite, crumbling architecture; in the East-meets-West cuisine which combines coconut milk, palm vinegar and chillies with the refined flavors of Lisbon; in the melancholy strains of fado that still waft occasionally on the bougainvillea-scented breeze; and in the siesta-saturated joie de vivre that Goans themselves call susegad.
Nowhere else in India will you find the laid-back languidness of a Goan lunchtime, the easy charms of its people or the soothing serenity of a day on its beaches. Here in Goa, a herd of water buffalo will greet you at breakfast; a lily-covered lake might provide the scenery for your morning walk; a sea eagle will be your afternoon companion along a deserted stretch of pristine beach; a gorgeously spice-laden vindalho (vindaloo) might make your evening repast and a fiery glass of cashew-palm feni liquor your bedtime tonic.
But there’s far more to discover here than the exquisite pleasure of warm sand between your toes. Pep up your stay with a wander around a vanilla-scented spice plantation, stroll the bird-filled banks of the state’s gentle rivers, poke around centuries-old cathedrals, and venture out to white-water waterfalls.
All is not perfect in paradise, however, and Goa has problems aplenty – the state’s environment, in particular, is sorely taxed. Nevertheless, with a slowly growing group of environmentalists and eco- friendly individuals on the scene, the picture remains relatively rosy for this most magical of miniature states. So, come, minimize your impact as much as possible, and unwind to the swaying palms and Portuguese rhythms of Goa’s still-irresistible charms.
The state of Goa covers an area of 3,702 sq. km.
Capital of Goa
Panaii is the capital of Goa.
A brief summary of the 2001 census: Goa’s population is 13,47,668 with 6,87,248 Males and 6,60,420 Females. The growth of 14.8 per cent, during 1991 to 2000, is lower than the 16.08 per cent recorded during 1981 to 1990.
The sex-ratio (number of females per thousand males) in Goa is 961 in 2001 compared to 967 in 1991 and the national ratio of 933.
The density of population per sq km in Goa is 364 in 2001 as compared to 316 in 1991. North Goa has a much higher density (437) as compared to South Goa (300). The national figure is 324.
The literacy rate of 82 per cent is far higher than the national rate pf 65.38 per cent. 88.4 per cent of the male and 75.4 per cent of the female population is literate.
64.68 per cent of the population is Hindu, 29.86 per cent is Christian and Muslims are a minority of 5.25 per cent.
Around 0.15 to 0.2 million of the total population of 13,43,998 are immigrants from around India who have settled down in Goa.
At present, Marathi and Konkani are two major languages of Goa. Hindi, the national language of India, is well understood in Goa. In major towns, English is widely used in writing and conversation.
On the other hand, Portuguese, the language of the colonial rulers and the official language till 1961 before liberation, notwithstanding the official patronage and a compulsory medium of study, failed to make a dent in the mind of the majority of Goans.
It remained only the language of the elite but alienated the masses. Thus just after the departure of the Portuguese, Portuguese lost all its favour and usage. However, very few – particularly the older or pre-liberation generation – still use Portuguese.
Thus Goa is a multi-lingual state, thanks to its diverse history of thousands of years, which has seen people of various regions, ethnic races and religions from India and abroad coming over to and settling in Goa, while influencing the local language.