Goa is a small tropical paradise set on the Konkan coast, on the Western Ghats, along the Arabian Sea. It's a tiny emerald land on the West Coast of India situated between the borders of the States of Maharashtra and Karnataka. The name Goa is derived from the Konkani word 'Goyan', which means a patch of tall grass. This former Portuguese enclave has enjoyed a prominent place in the travellers' lexicon for many years with its magnificent palm fringed beaches. Yet it offers much more than just the hedonism of sun, sand and sea. It has a character quite distinct from the rest of India.
Goa's history stretches back to the 3rd century BC when it formed a part of the Mauryan empire. Later at the beginning of the Christian era, it was ruled by the Satavahanas of Kolhapur and later by the Chalukyas of Badami took over the governance. Other dynasties followed, including a short-lived Muslim invasion, until the Vijayanagar Empire established itself for almost a century. This era, too, ended with the arrival of the Sultans of Gulbarga, around 1469 AD, from whom the rule passed on to Adil Shah of Bijapur. Goa soon became the bone of contention between the Dutch, English, French and Portuguese, all vying for its possession. Ultimately, in 1510, the Portuguese conquered Goa. After ruling for about four centuries, in 1961, fourteen years after India's independence, the Portuguese were ejected from the subcontinent.
With the rule of the Portuguese for over 450 years and the consequential influence of the Latin culture, Goa presents a somewhat different picture to the foreign visitor than any other part of the country. Not only the proportion of Christians (almost all of whom are Catholics) in the total population of Goa is much higher than any other States; the general way of living is also markedly different. Western influence is evident in the dress and food habits, and the general life of the people is quiet and peaceful. A striking feature of Goa is the harmonious relationship between the two principal religious communities, the Hindus and the Catholics, who have lived together peacefully for generations.
Portuguese style whitewashed churches, lush green paddy fields surrounding villages and hamlets, dense coconut palm groves, and crumbling forts guarding rocky capes makes up the Goan landscape. Markets are lively. Siesta is widely observed during the hot afternoons. With some of India's finest beaches, Goa is famous for its seafood, cashew and locally brewed feni (wine), for its song and dance and merriment, and above all for its peaceful and serene atmosphere.
Goa nearly splits into two districts - North and South Goa. The North has the state capital Panjim and the former capital of Old Goa and a string of beaches running right up to the coast to Maharashtra. South Goa has a few beaches and a sprinkling of up market resorts. The main town of the region is Mapusa, which is the transport hub. Goa's Dabolim airport is also located here.