‘The white people make a practice of going to the kingdom of Goa to enjoy the shade and the groves of trees and to savour the sweet betel.’
These revealing remarks on Goa come not from the hippies or ‘flower power’ generation of the sixties and early seventies who thronged the beaches of Anjuna, Vagator and Arambol in search of salvation and ‘peace’. These remarks were made over five centuries ago by the Portuguese Ambassador to China who visited Goa around the year 1511. They serve as a vivid precursor to the generations that followed in our times to the fabled land of Goa.
In those tumultuous and rebellious times in the sixties, it was then not the ‘sweet betel’ that was the prime attraction but a different kind of ‘weed’. But Goa, since those days of the angry generation, has moved on to attract a multitudinous, peaceful and cosmopolitan school of visitors from all around the globe.
Down the corridors of time Goa has been different things to different people. To the Portuguese conquerors it was ‘Golden Goa’, the El Dorado, the ‘Rome of the East’. Such was its beauty and grandeur, that a traveller was moved to remark: ‘Whoever has seen Goa, need not visit Lisboa’—Lisbon, which was then the grand epicenter of the Portuguese dominions.
Some decades later, the early 17th century French traveller Francois Pyrard wrote: ‘Whoever has been in Goa may say that he has seen the choicest rarities of India, for it is the most famous and celebrated city, on account of its commercial intercourse with people of all nationalities of the East who bring there the products of their respective countries, articles of merchandize, necessaries of life and other commodities in great abundance because every year more than a thousand ships touch there laden with cargo.’
Pyrard continued with near prophetic veracity: ‘…as for the multitude of people, it is a marvel to see the number which come and go every day by sea and land on business of every kind…One would say that a fair was being held every day for the sale of all sorts of merchandise.’
While the contemporary traveller may not come to modern, thriving Goa ‘for the sale of all sorts of merchandise’, the ‘fair’ is still very much on. The traveller is here to find something different: a balm on the busy mind, to enjoy days of freedom on Goa’s
magnificent beaches, to parasail or swim with the tide of fellow visitors from all around the globe, to savour its unique cuisine and imbibe its spirits, to take a long and invigorating trek in its unexplored interiors, to marvel at its majestic temples and churches, in short, to be at one with the most friendly people in the country.