GOA is a strip of land 110 kilometres long and 60 km wide, between the Sahyadri range of the Western Ghats and the Arabian sea on the west coast of India. The coastline is indented by numerous deep, sheltered river estuaries which account for the importance of Goa’s harbours on ancient trade routes. The climate is tropical with a June to September monsoon, when rainfall is approximately 400 cms. For the rest of the year humidity is surprisingly low and average daily temperature is 27°C (85°F). The coolest months are November to February when night temperat-ures can fall to 20°C (70°F) and a pull-over may be worn.
Much of Goa’s allure is its native Hindu culture combined with its Portugese-Christian heritage. It has a long, colourful history dating back to 300 BC when it was part of the Mauryan Empire under the Buddhist king Ashoka. According to legend, Goa was formed when Parashurama (an incarnation of Vishnu) shot an arrow from the Western Ghats into the sea and the land rose up. Under the Chalukyans of Badami (570-750AD) the capital was Chandrapura, then, under the Kadambas, it was transferred to Gowapuri (c.1050). In 1312 Goa fell to the muslims under Ala Udin Khilji who returned to Chandrapura, which was razed to the ground fifteen years later by Mohammed Tughluq. Between 1370-78 Goa was incorporated into the Vijayanagar Empire and its harbours became important for the Arabian horse trade.
By 1490 it had been conquered by the Bahmanis and then the Adil Shahs of Bijapura, who made Velha Goa (Old Goa) the Capital. In 1510 the Portugese, under Alfonso de Albuquerque, invaded Old Goa in order to secure the “Spice Route”. By 1788 they had secured their hold on all Goa, and this era became known as Goa’s “Golden Age”. Churches and cathedrals were built and the natives forcibly converted to catholicism (Old Goa was known then as ‘Rome in India’). In 1893, due to the silting of the Mandovi River, the capital was moved to Panjim (Panaji). In 1961, fourteen years after the British left, the Indian army peacefully ‘liberated’ Goa from the Portugese in ‘Operation Vijay’. On 30th May 1987 it achieved full statehood and became the 25th state of the Indian Union.
The Secretariat in Panaji is the seat of the Goa Legislative Assembly which has 40 elected members. Though Goa has 3 elected members of Central Parliament, the Head of State is the Governor who is advised by a council of ministers headed by the Chief Minister.Whilst Panaji is the capital, the state is divided into North Goa and South Goa (with its headquarters at Margao).
Whilst the majority of Goa’s 1.2million inhabitants are Roman Catholic, there is also a large minority of Hindus and various sects of Islam. Similarly, though Goa’s own language (Konkani) predominates, Marathi, Hindi and Portugese are also spoken along with English, which is the lingua franca.
The major industries are mining (iron, manganese, bauxite & silica), agriculture (coconut, cashew, fruit & spices), fishing and tourism.