The state of Goa is known best for its beaches, churches and cheap liquor. Tourism is its primary industry. This relatively small state, situated on the western coast of India, between the borders of Maharashtra and Karnataka, is better known to the world as a former Portuguese enclave.
European tourists mostly arrive in Goa in the winter months. Tourism, the backbone of Goa's economy, registers an annual spurt during five months towards the end of the year i.e., October, November, December, January and February before trickling off almost to a naught during the rest of the year.
Apart from its beaches, churches and cheap liquor, Goa has a lot more to offer. The Patto Bridge, the Latin Quarter and...the nearly 30,000 year-old rock carvings at Usgalimal are reasons to visit Goa even after the 'season' is over.
The Basilica of Bom Jesus located in Goa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Basilica holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier.
Reis Magos is a village famous for two of Goa's famous structures; the Reis Magos Fort and the Reis Magos Church -- the first church in Bardez. This Fort, surrounded by sturdy laterite walls studded with typically Portuguese turrets, was erected in 1551 to protect the narrowest point at the mouth of the Mandovi estuary. Restoration work on the fort began in 2008 and the fort is now converted into a cultural centre.
The one image of Goa that stays in public memory is that of the St Augustine tower in Old Goa. The 46 m-tall tower served as a belfry and formed part of the facade of a magnificent Church. Out of more than twenty churches which once existed in the old city of Velha Goa, only ten remain today. ...And, of these, four are actually chapels.
The churches were located on and between seven hills around the Velha Goa region. The Tower and Church were built in 1602 by the Augustinian friars who arrived in Goa in 1587.
Garbage remains Goa's biggest scourge. If the state has to achieve its right potential as a world-class tourist destination for the discerning traveller, the garbage dumped along the countryside needs to go. Also, residents will have to exercise civic sense. You just can't dump garbage into the sea.


The Fairytale Bridge

The Old Patto Bridge, built between the years 1632--35, is also named Ponde De Linhares after the Portuguese Viceroy Conde de Linhares, during whose tenure this major developmental activity was carried out. The Patto Bridge is a symbol of Goa's heritage and a legacy left by the Portuguese.

Shades of Portugal in the lanes of Panaji

Fontainhas or Bairro das Fontainhas, as called in Portuguese, is an old Latin Quarter in Goa's Panaji. One can witness a distinct Portuguese influence here. There are narrow streets, old villas and buildings painted in lively colors. The quarter, earmarked as a heritage zone, gives a peek into how Panaji was during the Portuguese rule. The Latin Quarter should be given the recognition it deserves and, if projected well, could ensure a regular flow of tourists throughout the year.

History...On The Rocks

In 1993, local villagers discovered mysterious rock carvings on the laterite shelf at the bend in west-flowing river Kushavati outside the village. They lay on the banks of river Kushavati, in South Goa district. These engravings exhibit the earliest traces of human settlement in India.
These petroglyphs (rock art) are approximately 20,000 years to 30,000 years old and belong to the Upper Paleolithic or Mesolithic era. The spot, that lies about one km down from the main road between Rivona to Neturlim, is an archaeological wonder.
Goa will stand to gain immense mileage if Usgalimal is promoted as a prime tourist spot complete with directional information and state-guided tours.
Goa has a lot more to offer tourists than its beaches, churches and cheap liquor. You could:

* Book a room at a lodge in the Latin Quarter.
* Take a walk on the Patto Bridge while at it.
* Go for a ride straight into South Goa, follow the Kushavati River and see the age-old petroglyphs which need to be preserved.
To do this, you don't need to go in any particular season. Do it.




by Gajanan Khergamker

Spiritual energy pervades the elements in Arambol – the small fishermen town in North Goa that attracts bohemian souls from around the world. Goa is symbolic of beach parties and cheap alcohol… a tourist zone that defines fun as all things loud, bizarre and bordering on illegality.

Most, however, are unaware of the quaint beach town, Arambol, tucked away in a sweet spot along the northern end of Goan coastline that offers an alternate to seekers of all kinds. The peace and solitude of the place is perfect for those who have taken time off from their lives to rejuvenate, introspect and/or just experience a different lifestyle.

A vibrant culture with diverse inhabitants and a rich history riddled with mythological stories and legends is what attributes these distinct qualities to Arambol.

“I have lived all my life in Arambol… I was born here and grew up with my siblings playing in the narrow lanes and the pristine beach. I belong to a family of fishermen and I love to wander into the sea for fishing”, says 45-year-old Chandrakant Rama Khonekar who lives with his wife and children, parents and a brother in their ancestral house. There is immense pressure on his family to get into the tourism industry and cater to tourists by opening a shop or a restaurant. “How can we stop fishing? It is our family’s tradition, my heritage… We are fishermen and this is the only thing we know. This is who we are… we can never quit!” retorts the proud Chandrakant who stands by his decision to follow into his father’s footsteps.

However, financial woes have struck the family and with growing members and increasing expenses, income from fishing does not suffice. Chandrakant now sells coconut water also, especially during the tourist season. Fishing is meditative for him. He still wades into the water, every single morning, for an early morning catch for his family and to sell in the local market.

Arambol is unique in that it has managed to retain its traditional mien and encourages local activities and skills that have largely remained unchanged over decades. Most locals are engaged in family businesses and some have ventured into the tourism industry despite risk-laden and seasonal nature of affairs. Fishing, for example, is not yet modernised here. It is a social activity, an undeclared partnership of sorts, where fishermen in large groups of 40-50 row beautifully painted, big sturdy boats into the sea armed with ‘hand-knitted nets’.

These boats are motorless to ensure that the catch does not get injured which, they believe, spoils the taste of fish upon cooking. Another family-driven activity is the production and selling of Feni, an alcoholic beverage or spirit produced exclusively in Goa and made from cashew fruit or coconut toddy.

All members of a family, sometimes extended, and neighbours, get organised like a small-scale industry i.e. each member with a specific task to produce Feni.

If the bonhomie of local residents is not spectacular enough, the entrepreneurial spirit of various nomadic tribes from across India settled in Arambol will surprise you.

The bohemian underside of this town is derived partly from the blend of deep-rooted traditional sentiments of locals and free-spirited nature of gypsies. Although mostly engaged in tourism-related, unorganised business and commercial activities, these gypsy groups are very much integral to socio-cultural and economic framework of this town.

Vagharis originating from Gujarat, Pardis from Maharashtra and Banjaras (or Lamanis) from Karnataka are some of the predominant tribal groups who live and work in Arambol.

Young tribal girls in their respective ethnic constumes and jewellery wander the beach selling attractive wares. Vaghari and Pardi girls wear bright clothes, almost invariably tattoo bindis on their foreheads and flaunt long, rust-coloured hair; Banjara girls and women can be identified with their beautiful dark eyes, intricate metal jewellery such as earrings, ear studs, nose rings, bangles, necklaces, waist bands, finger rings and anklets.

“I sell silver and artificial jewellery to tourists on the beach. I speak good English… I am good at selling merchandise,” giggles 12-year-old Anjali, a Vaghari girl who has worked on all the popular beaches in Goa but likes it the best in Arambol. Her parents own a small shop of artefacts and clothes and often do odd jobs or labour work to sustain the family; a story typical of most such groups who migrate in search of work.

Often Anjali and her friends don the role of masseuses and offer massages to tired tourists. Members of these communities peacefully co-exist enriching local culture, cuisine and cosmetics and epitomise ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ i.e. the world is one family, the essential India philosophy.

Arambol is a micro melting pot – groups originating from different regions in the country live and work together with the locals; men and women from around the world come to teach or learn a spiritual or healing art; musicians, writers, artists and photographers come to explore themselves, polish their art, seek inspiration or simply rejuvenate by being one with Arambol.

The bohemian ambience and exquisite beauty of the place leave its guests entranced. So much so that many visitors, mainly foreign, have made this town their permanent home. Others come to stay for extended periods ranging from a few months to years on end. The rest keep visiting Arambol at every opportunity they get.

The sand, the water, the food and the music have a serenading effect on visitors. Shacks lining the beach are the perfect venue to enjoy all of these at one place and one time. ‘Raja’, the owner of one of the most famous shack, The Sea Horse, has been in the business long enough to know what his guests like. He hosts musicians from all over to sing and play at his shack in the evenings. Live music and delicious food along the beach is the simplest trick in the book to attract big crowd.

A scrawny Japanese singer, who spends at least six months in Arambol every year, is one of the most popular and in-demand musicians and has a significant fan-following. “I offer him a platform to perform, a place to stay with food on the house. He loves it here and the people love him. It’s a perfect combination. He is a big hit among tourists who return to hear him perform,” remarks Raja. Several musicians and singers perform in beach shacks from time to time.

Shacks arrange for seating on the beach as well for those who want to feel the wind. Candle-lit tables and the sound of waves occasionally breaking the musical rhythms in the background is a must-have experience.

If you wander further, the beach is speckled with creative souls practicing their art or just having fun.

Men and women, local and foreigners, can be seen contemplating, meditating or juggling; practicing yoga, shamanism or tai-chi; gyrating hula hoops or just themselves; playing an instrument or beach volleyball or cricket like the local boys; walking their child or a pet, selling artefacts and taking a dip or just enjoying the sun. Arambol has something for everyone.

Despite the influx and influence of visitors, Arambol has managed to retain its distinct character. At a time when almost every beach in Goa like Baga and Calangute has succumbed to the pressure of tourism and is riddled with five-star hotels and luxurious resorts, Arambol has successfully kept ‘development’ of this nature at bay.

Locals offer their homes for tourists to stay or modify parts of their property into a guest-house. Some offer taxi services while others have set up restaurants, bars, shops to sell items of daily need, etc. Most of the merchandise such as jewellery, clothes and artefacts are sold by the tribal communities that have settled here.

There is a lot more to Arambol than what meets the eye. It is perhaps the pride, originating from the great history of the land that spurs devout locals into uniting each time the cultural and social fabric of this community faces threat. They strive hard to preserve their land, landscape, festivals, rituals, heritage, architecture and legends that have transcended generations… to serve a purpose and tell a story of how Arambol aka Harmal came to be!

How Arambol is Pavitra Bhoomi

“Arambol is pavitra bhumi (holy land) … Lord Parashuram chose this land to perform the sacred fire ritual (Ashwamedha Yagya) when the Pandavas arrived here during their recluse” says 40-year old Narayan Redkar, an affluent local leader and owner of two beach shacks and a restaurant. “Harmal means Land of Lord Vishnu or Hari. We like to call it Harmal and not the Portuguese,” he adds.

Home to a majority Hindu population, Arambol has several temples and structures symbolic of numerous legends, mythological stories and the dynasties that ruled the region. Legend has it that Parashuram Shrine on a hill still contains sacrificial ashes from the fire ritual. “Do you know the Pandavas built the beautiful Narayan (Lord Vishnu) temple when they were passing through?” exclaims Narayan before leaving for his daily meetings.

Rohan Pednekar, a 26-year-old guide and paragliding agent has been working at the Sweet Water Lake in Arambol for the past ten years. This natural lake formation is popular among tourists, particularly foreign, who come to Goa for solitude and rejuvenation. For the adventure seekers, the hills surrounding the lake offer the perfect venue for paragliding.

But, the lake, also called Parashuram Kund, harbours a significant piece of mythology. Rohan narrates a legend that a cave in the surrounding hills, whose other end opens at Keri beach further north of Arambol, once sheltered the Pandavas.