THE ESSENCE OF GOA

SANGITA SHARMA

 

The measure of success of a nation seems to be decided on the basis of its military and economic strength. But this strength is of no use unless complimented by peace and harmony. Human values and traditions survive or evolve within tranquil spaces, and violence of any nature impedes growth. For the soul to be nurtured, peace is most essential and so should be considered most sacred.
In a world fraught with disturbances and unrest, it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify places where life in general is harmonious. Our own country seems to be riddled with complex issues of descent, unrest, violence and protests. They play on the mind and generate a sense of insecurity.
But there is this beautiful and blessed land within our country which is the epitome of all that is good, kind and free spirited. Here, the mind, body and soul feel relaxed, and imagination dares to take wings. There is no guessing as it is none other than Goa. Almost a gem, it glimmers with bright prospects and hope, and is a delight to all.
Hordes of tourists visit Goa every year with stars in their eyes. For a regular tourist, Goa may be all about sea, sun and sand. The beaches, shacks, parties, and rock shows may give them respite from their daily lives, but for the discerning traveller, Goa has a lot more to offer than what meets the eye, and once on the path of discovery, it’s a never ending journey.
The scenic beauty of the state is not overwhelming but mellowed and soothing. As one travels the length and breadth of the state, the sea delights, the forests enchant, the rivers mesmerise and the terrain enthrals. The coconut trees, tall palms, the paddy fields, cashew nut tree laden hills, the water bodies with lilies and ducks, the butterflies and a huge variety of local and migratory birds, all combine to make Goa a nature’s paradise.
While the influence of the Portuguese rule seems less evident today, yet the people have retained the Portuguese legacy which adds an enigmatic dimension to Goa. Restoration of old Portuguese buildings and houses, learning the Portuguese language, reviving music like ‘Fado’, promoting food and culinary delights of that era and creating museums out of old heritage homes gives visitors an insight into the life of the people during the Portuguese rule. Many churches made during Portuguese rule remain intact. Bom Jesus at Goa Velha houses the body of Saint Francis Xavier and is a heritage site drawing people from world over.
The Portuguese exit left the state stronger and richer in a lot of ways as the people of Goa could assert their independence and identity like never before. The exciting new events taking place in the state today is because of the freedom that the people have come to value.
Goa has emerged as a very fine example of communal harmony for the rest of the country and also the world. Christians and Hindus have transited peacefully into the new found freedom after the Portuguese rule ended. While they cherish the past, they have come to value the present and come together for the welfare of their homeland. They are also magnanimous to include into their fold, people of other religions and communities, without being judgemental or fussy.
Village life in Goa comes across as one of peaceful existence. The panchayats are the hubs of government programmes promoting social and civic issues. One sees the names of villages mentioned on the panchayat buildings and not of politicians which is rather refreshing. The unique feature of villages like well-kept temples and churches, vegetable & fish markets, football fields, shacks & bakeries serving local cuisine and beverages, good roads and the fact that nearly all the villages have electricity show the earnest endeavours of the governing bodies and the people. Villages have their unique cultural and religious activities with fascinating festivals and fairs throughout the year.
The urban areas are modernising swiftly but consciously. Apprehensions exist but citizens’ awareness leads to thoughtful solutions. Cities are commercial centres and also host world class festivals related to films, music, art, food, wine etc. Neat venues and disciplined crowds make it comfortable for all to attend. All the events are well coordinated and have only improved with time.
The social fabric is strong and that is evident in the way different communities retain their traditions and cultures. The Christians take pride in the religious culture that they have evolved. Having been converted to Christianity by the Portuguese, they retain age old beliefs and taboos of an earlier culture. Religious activities are carried out with utmost dedication and dignity. The Hindus who had survived the onslaught of the Portuguese rule, retained their culture and traditions, and today, are able to assert themselves with more freedom and zeal. Old Hindu families today celebrate their festivals and customs with renewed enthusiasm. Communities like the Muslims and Sikhs too follow their beliefs and faith with no restrictions.
However, there are certain aspects of social life which are common to all the Goans. They are conservative yet adapt to modern times. They are polite, soft spoken and down to earth. Flamboyancy and ostentatious behaviour is rare even amongst the affluent and rich people. There is a genuine interest for intellectual pursuits, and progressive ideas seep down to all sections of the society. Gender equality is a part of living and citizens assert their power in the political and economic stream. Display of anger or being abusive in public is rare. The patient, helpful and hospitable nature is something that attracts others to the Goans.
A lot more can be said about life in Goa. If the other states come to recognise and emulate just a bit of Goa, our country would be a better and a happier place.

September 5th, 2017

Posted In: Feature

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