Thursday, July 25, 2013

Magical and Mesmerising Goa

The state is promoting 'raindrop tourism', to lure visitors to come during the rainy season

Photo: The traditional Cotti Fugdi folk dance 

By Shevlin Sebastian

When Goan crooner Kevin Xavier began singing at a hotel in Kochi, a majority of the audience got up and drifted to the bar at the back of the hall. But that did not discourage Kevin one bit. He jumped down from the stage and went to the back and did his show - a mix of Konkani, classical Hindi and English songs.

The people showed their appreciation by smiling and clapping, even as the liquor went down appreciative throats. Kevin, wearing a colourful shirt, and a black cap, represents the carefree and fun-loving nature of Goans, who like to party every night.

Then there was the Corridinho folk dance, which is of Portuguese origin. The women wore colourful skirts and scarves, and the men were in black tuxedos and hats. There was a beautiful forward and backward movement, with dancers holding hands behind backs.

The other dances included the Cotti Fugdi, a traditional folk dance, where the women wore folded sarees and blouses, with flowers in their hair, apart from a dance of the Kunbi tribe.

All this was part of the ‘Go Goa’ campaign launched by Goa Tourism. “We have come to promote ‘Raindrop tourism’,” says Pamela Mascarenhas, the Deputy Director of Goa Tourism. “Although we are competitors with Kerala, we can also be friends. During November and December, our peak tourist season, the tariff is very high. But during the monsoon season the rates come down so much that it is affordable for all.”

And like the Kerala Tourism Department’s ‘God’s Own Country’, the Goans have come up with a catchy one-liner: ‘The Smallest State with the Largest Heart’. The state is blessed with 105 km of coastline, in which there are numerous beaches. 

“Some of the less well known beaches, which are of pristine beauty, include the Kerim and Arambol beaches of North Goa,” says Gavin Dias, the deputy general manager of the Goa Tourism Development Corporation. “Many people are unaware of this.”  

But perhaps the most interesting would be the Morjim and Agonda beaches, where the world famous Olive Ridley turtles come on shore to hatch eggs. “We have ensured that the beaches remain empty so that the turtles are not harassed,” says Dias. “Many people from all over the world come to see this.”   

Even though there is a recession in Europe, what has helped attract foreigners to Goa this year has been the devaluation of the rupee. “We expect the usual 4.5 lakh visitors this season also,” says Dias. Most of the people come from Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, and France. 

But Goa, like Kerala is also sustained by domestic tourism. “Last year, there were 22 lakh inbound tourists,” says Dias.   What was a revelation, in the audio-visual documentary, were the numerous places to see. “Most people think that Goa is only beach tourism,” says Dias. “But that is not true.”

In eco tourism, there is the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary which is very close to Panaji, the capital, apart from the Bondla forest, which is a wildlife sanctuary. Other places of interest include the Arvalem Caves, which were carved out by Buddhist monks in the 7th century AD, the scenic  Dudhsagar Waterfalls, and Chapora fort, 22 kms from Panaji, where several Bollywood films have been shot, including the Aamir Khan hit, ‘Dil Chahta Hain’.

In pilgrim tourism,  you can see the world famous Basilica of Bom Jesus (16th century), the Sree Bhagavati temple which is more than 500 years old, as well as the Safa Masjid at Ponda. “This was built in 1560 by Ibrahim Adilshah of Bijapur,” says Dias. 

The Goans also celebrate a carnival in February, with parades, dances and songs, the Shigmo festival, in February-March, which highlights the arrival of spring, and the Bonderam (feast of the harvest) on August 4. And a welcome new addition is white water rafting on the Mandovi River.         

Clearly, even though it is a tiny state, in terms of area, it is rich in art, culture, history and wonderful people. Definitely a state well worth a visit. 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

No comments:

Post a Comment