One of the most touristy places in India. The mini state of Goa where the crowds throng mainly for the beaches and the parties. However there is much more to Goa than these. A fact known to very few is that all the temples of the family deities of our GSB (Gowd Saraswat Brahmin) community are in Goa. We visited Goa for 3 days in March of 2010. Though this was more of a religious visit, we managed to go around North Goa and experience what the place has to offer.
As all trains were running full on the weekend when we travelled, we had booked a cab for this trip. We left Bangalore early in the morning around 6 and reached Goa around 4 in the evening. The route that we took was Bangalore–Tumkur–Shimoga–Sagara–Kumta–Karwar-Goa. A very scenic route this one was. The lush green dense forests of the Western Ghats, the Sharavathi River Valley and a glimpse of the Arabian Sea as well as the Kali River at Karwar were some of the highlights of this route.
Our trip started with a visit to Shri Damodar temple located in Zambaulim village in South Goa. Lord Damodar (one of the names of Lord Krishna) is the family deity for my parents’ family. The architecture of the temples in Goa is very different compared to those in other parts of South India. Every temple has a beautiful deepa sthan (Tower which is typically lit with earthern lamps or diyas in the evenings). The murals on the walls of the compound looked beautiful. The temple wore a deserted look as a fair had just ended. Most of the people who had gathered had already left. After paying obeisance to the Lord we had a cup of tea along-with some fried snacks in a small shack outside the temple. The sweets in one of the shops next to the shack looked attractive and we did some buying here.
Shri Mahalasa Narayini Temple in Mardol is one of the most popular temples in Goa. Goddess Mahalasa also called as Mhalshi is the Mohini Avatar of Lord Vishnu and our family deity. We stayed in the rooms in this temple complex. I was awestruck by the beauty of this temple. The Goddess is considered very powerful. Even the Portuguese (when they ruled Goa) supposedly believed in the power of the deity. The story goes that they used to get suspect criminals to the temple and ask them to ring the bell at the temple if they were really innocent and a truly guilty person would not dare to do that. The verdict of this was accepted in the court of law!
We were lucky to be there during the weekend as we got to watch the idol of the Goddess being carried around the temple in a Palakhi or a Palanquin. The colourfully lit deepa sthambh gave the place an ethereal look in the night. It was a pleasant place to laze around. Not to forget the delicious food that we savoured here for each meal. The best way to beat the heat during summer in Goa is to have some Kokum Soda.
One of the largest and richest temples of Goa. The Mangueshi temple is dedicated to Lord mangueshi (an incarnation of Lord Shiva). This temple is located in Mangeshi village which is very close to Mardol. Notable patrons of this deity include the likes of Lata Mangeshkar whose family hails from here.
Navadurga stands for the nine forms of Goddess Durga. The Navadurga temple is located at Madkai town in Ponda district and about 30 minutes away from Mardol. One of the striking features of this temple are the beautiful pillars.
For those interested in taking a virtual temple trail across Goa, here is some useful link that I found.
Panaji aka Panjim is the capital of Goa. We spent some time sauntering here near the waterfront. The streets were dotted with lovely homes and shops. The bridge across Mandovi river could be seen from afar.
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church
A beautiful and immaculate white church which has been used as a location in movies. This church is also one of the oldest churches in Goa and dates back to the 16th century.
Mandovi River Cruise
We went on one of the many cruise boats that ply the Mandovi river in the evenings. To watch the lit city while cruising along the river enjoying the traditional dance being performed by local students was a nice experience.
We had booked the North Goa Tour starting at Panaji offered by the tourism department. The below places were covered as part of this tour.
We took a motor boat ride from Coco Beach to try and spot some wild Dolphins. We almost gave up on this as we had not sighted anything for almost an hour. Some of our co-passengers on the boat, especially one i-live-in-the-instant-world lady, were very irritating and started harassing the poor boat guy as they hadn’t seen any dolphins. Phew! They didn’t even seem to understand that these were wild dolphins and wouldn’t come out just because the people in the boat were waiting for them. As we were leaving back for the shore lady luck smiled on us. We spotted some dolphins. They were giving us a brief glimpse every now and then for about 5-10 minutes before they disappeared under the water. Now the complaining lady had a new problem. She had not managed to either see the dolphin or get a picture of it as she was concentrating more on the camera. Divine justice :)
On our way back to the shore we spotted a lone Seagull flying across. We also saw the prison and the palatial mansion of Jimmy Smuggler. Fort Aguada could also be seen at a distance.
Fort Aguada is a 17th century fort built by Portuguese. Aguada in Portuguese means Water. The place got this name as it was used for supplying water to the ships passing by it. The fort overlooks the Arabian Sea. It is a popular location for shooting movies.
Some more places
A few other places that we visited during this tour were
- Vetal Maharudra Temple – We visited the Vetal Maharudra temple in Mulgao.
- Mayem Lake – We stopped at the GTDC resort overlooking the Mayem Lake for lunch. The lake was nothing spectacular and we felt that the restaurant was over priced for the quality of food offered.
- Anjuna Beach – We spent some time at Anjuna Beach walking and watching the waves crash against the rocks. The water had a reddish tinge here.
- Calangute Beach – This was the last place that we visited as part of the tour. Calangute beach is very popular amongst tourists. It was overcrowded and like any normal beach.