Today was are in docked in the Indian state of Goa, the smallest in terms of area and the fourth smallest in terms of population. It is on the west coast of India on the Arabian Sea. It was ruled by a succession of Hindu kings until conquered by the Muslims who held it for 10 years. The Portuguese assumed control in 1510 and stayed until 1962, 15 years after India gained independence from Great Britain.
Shortly after the arrival of the Portuguese, Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries arrived and began converting the local inhabitants to Christianity. It is the beautiful churches of Old Goa that we will be visiting today. Old Goa was the original capital until the Portuguese moved the seat of government to Panjim (or Panaji in Hindu) in 1759 due to cholera and other epidemics that swept Old Goa.
We once again have a landing card, a new one, but the departure was a little less onerous; I presume because this is not our first port in India. We are docked at Marmugoa, a natural harbor. We take a bus from the harbor to Old Goa by following the southern bank of the Mandovi River and then crossing north at a narrow section of the river. Marmugoa is Goa’s only year-round operational port.
We were traveling at low tide and we saw women out in the shallow sections of the river collecting shellfish. The Goans use lots of spices, but the food is not spicy (hot). The spices are ground in the flesh of a coconut and mixed with seafood. This state’s economy is not dominated by agriculture. 40% of the Goans work in tourism; mining and related activities are also popular forms of employment. The main tourist season is winter when the weather is warm and dry (about 19 C). Goa welcomes mostly domestic tourist. Goa has an 87% literacy rate, second only to Kerala.
There are eight remaining churches in Old Goa, two of which still have regular masses. We are visiting three of the churches. Our first stop is the Basilica Bom Jesus where the remains of Saint Francis Xavier are enshrined. St. Francis Xavier was born in Spain and along with St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Jesuit order. St. Xavier based his missionary work out of Goa and was much beloved. He died in China at age 46 and the Goans requested that his remains be returned to them.
The relics are encased in airtight glass and silver and are displayed high on a side altar. There is a ceremony every 10 years and the case is lowered and taken to the Cathedral across the street (which is larger). The relics are displayed for 45 days from November to January in commemoration of his death on December 3. When the shrine was last lowered in 2004, two million pilgrims came to pay their respects.
The churches at Goa were named World Heritage Sites in 1986. Although the Goan churches are now maintained by the archeological society, seven Jesuit Priests still conduct services at the Basilica and the Cathedral. The Jesuits hold a special place in my heart with Rocky’s attendance at the Jesuit High School and the many relationships I formed while working with the Mothers’ Club. My visit was quite moving.
While the Basilica, with its gold leaf over teak wood, took 9 years to build (consecrated in 1605), the Cathedral of Saint Catherine, completed in 1642, took 90 years to complete. It is just across the street. The richly gold-leafed main altar panels depict the life and beheading of St. Catherine. There are 15 altars and seating for 5,000 in the Cathedral. It is one of the largest churches in Asia. Some of the chapels featured preserved frescos. There is also a canopied seat for the Archbishop and box seating for the nobility.
While the Spanish Jesuits built the Basilica, the Portuguese financed the building of the Cathedral. Behind the Cathedral is the Archeological Museum housed in the former Franciscan Monastery. Our third stop was the was the Church of St. Cajetan, built by Italian Friars in the second half of the 17th century and modeled after St. Peter’s in Rome. It no longer operates as a church and certainly did have more of a museum field. The soaring ceiling and dome were impressive. The site also has beautiful grounds.
On the way back to the bus, we spotted the viceroy arch where the new Portuguese leader would enter the city. As we left Old Goa we saw evidence of the city walls that once surrounded the city. We drove along the Manbor River to Panaji, Goa’s new capital. The River has two islands in it where the Portuguese nobility had formerly made their home. People still live there and there is regular ferry service. We are driving along the backside of the houses as the primary entrance is too the River. Many have their own private dock. Our guide compared it to Venice.
We saw bamboo sticks in the river that hold nets to catch fish that are collected at low tide. There are mangroves that can grow in salt water and salt “making” is practiced here. We crossed a bridge built by slave labor during Portuguese times that connects Old Goa to the new capital of Panaji. Throughout Panaji we saw examples of Portuguese colonial architecture (like we saw last year when we visited Portugal) with the familiar roofs, porches, and balconies.
There is a river promenade over three miles long. Gambling is not allowed on land, so all along the river we saw casinos on the water. There are high taxes to be paid by locals to reach the floating casinos. This is meant to discourage locals; the casinos are intended for tourists. Goa’s many beaches also serve to attract tourists. There are also lower taxes on alcohol in Goa than in other Indian states.
We learned a few assorted facts from our guide as we made our way back to the ship. It is illegal to demand a dowry, but they are still common in Goa. A dowry is often in cash and kind, with appliances being a typical item. All the gifts are displayed on the eve of the marriage, first at the bride’s home and then (after being carried over) at the groom’s home. The bridal gown is also displayed prior to the wedding.
The Indian freedom fighters fought hard to earn their independence from Portugal, finally driving them out in a single day with the assistance of the Indian army. I spotted a monument to the freedom fighters dedicated in 1988 in the port city of Marmugao on our way back to the ship.
We ended the day with a second Chef’s Table dinner with the Barnes Family back on the ship. Tomorrow we port in Mumbai (Bombay), our last destination before leaving the Azamara Journey.