Radhika's Diaries

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Pic courtesy – My nephew Dr. Anirudh Rao

I’ve chosen Goa as my theme for the A to Z writing challenge 2022, not without good reason. When I look back on a fairly uncorrupted, unpolluted region of some years ago, a region rich with natural beauty and resources, most of which have been exploited and milked dry through the years, my nostalgia is tinged with mixed emotions. I simply want to put the Goa that I know before you, in place of the Goa that it has become today.

A few technical details help in getting better acquainted with anything, even a place, so let me be your xenagogue (tour guide) to my most favourite place in the whole world.  

Goa is a state on the south-western coast of India with Maharashtra to the north, Karnataka to the east and south and the Arabian Sea along its entire western coast giving it the long stretch of sea and sand.

The smallest state of India at 3,702 sq km, Konkani is its official language, however Marathi and English are also widely used for official purposes.

Panaji or Panjim is the capital city while Vasco da Gama is its largest city. Goa gets its unique identity mainly from its blend of Indian culture and the Portuguese whose influence is still evident in certain parts of the state. The colonists first voyaged to the subcontinent in the early 16th C for trade purposes and later conquered it and Goa became an overseas territory of the Portuguese Empire for about 450 years. It gained its liberation in 1961 when the Indian Army marched in and Goa was granted the Status of a Union Territory along with Daman and Diu.

The name Goa was given by the Portuguese. The place was originally called Gomantak, which in general stands for fertile land, and Gove or Govapura was the name of the port town at the mouth of the river Mandovi. The Portuguese built their capital on this site which is today’s Old Goa.

A little bit of history and legend says that a section of people from the north of India were the first settlers in the area. They originated from the banks of the river Saraswati which subsequently dried up and caused a large scale migration of these Saraswat Brahmins to various parts of India. A considerable number of these migrants (around 96 families) settled along the Konkan coast on the western side of India and they were called Sastikars because the families settled in the villages of the Sasti taluk. These settlements were the base for agriculture and development in the area along with the indigenous tribe of Goa, the Kunbis.

This settlement theory of around 1000 BC, finds a basis in a very popular story mentioned in the Skanda Purana. The legend goes that Lord Parashurama shot his axe from the top of the Western Ghats into the Arabian Sea and commanded the Lord of the Sea to move back from the point where the axe fell and he claimed that land to be his. The exact spot where the arrow fell was called Benaulim (from Benali, Sanskrit for ‘where the arrow fell’) which is in South Goa.

In early times, Goa was part of Emperor Ashoka’s Mauryan Empire. In the next era, Hindu dynasties ruled over the area for 700 years which included the Bhojas, the Chalukyas, the Rashtrakutas followed by the Kadambas and the Empire of Vijayanagar. The Kadambas ruled between 1006 AD to 1356 AD and the period of the Kadambas is considered to be the golden age of Goa. The place was known by different names according to the different cultures pervading at any time – Govarashtra, Govakpuri, Gopakkapattana, Gove, Sindabur, Cintabor.

The Muslim invasion in 1350 marked the end of the Kadamba’s golden period and was noted for its complete destruction of temples and Hindu institutions. These invaders included Sultan Adil Shah Khan who ruled over the territory of Goa with Bijapur as his capital.

The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a new sea route to India opened up the region to Portuguese invasion. In 1510, under the command of Alfonso de Albuquerque they laid siege upon Goa and later invaded it. The Portuguese entered Goa on November 25th 1510. Goa soon became the jewel of Portugal’s eastern empire.

By the end of the 16th C, Goa had already reached its peak and was referred to as ‘Golden Goa’ or ‘Lisbon of the east’. Although, initially the Portuguese were only interested in exploiting the region to their advantage and profit from it, very soon religion entered the scene. When St. Francis Xavier and the Jesuits arrived in 1542, conversions began with a vengeance through the methods of persuasion, force, threats, mass executions and other techniques.

Those escaping from the persecution, fled to other areas thus spreading Konkani speaking people as far up to Maharashtra in the north to Kerala in the south with a vast majority of them re-settling along the Karwar-Udupi-Mangalore coast. Hence the various versions of the language can be explained, with common threads running through them all.

During the time we lived in Goa, neither was Konkani taught in schools as a subject nor was Portuguese. We had Hindi of course and Marathi. It was only after Goa achieved Statehood that the dream of Konkani as the state language gained traction.

Our colleges were affiliated to the Bombay University and our TV programs were all telecast from Bombay Doordarshan and therefore we are not to be blamed if we learnt more about farming and its intricate technicalities in Marathi as the initial charms of the television would have us glued to the black & white screen watching vague but informative programs which included Krishi Darshan and Amchi Maathi Amchi Maansa (our soil, our people).

The little of the local language that we did manage to pick up in the course of our stay there, was from our Goan friends and while we were about it, we also managed to pick up a few signature expressions of Goa.

Like there was Aavois! This word uttered with the accompanying tone, voice and inflection can mean anywhere from astonishment, awe, admiration to subtle sarcasm or ridicule.

We also had Ai Saiba! Accompanied with a face-palm it could imply mild exasperation or uttered plain could mean frustration.

And my favourite – Patrao, which basically refers to the owner of an establishment but which actually meant Boss in Portuguese. This can also be used as a casual greeting to a friend as in Dude!

Then there is Siesta, the mid-afternoon nap time, a healthy tradition passed down from the Portuguese era and still kept alive to a certain extent. From the time I can remember, shops and commercial establishments would down their shutters around 1.00 in the afternoon, everyone heading home for a rejuvenating nap to return around 4.00 pm or 5.00-ish. This was mainly due to Goa’s tropical climate and sea-side humidity which makes it unbearably hot in the afternoons especially during the long summer days, making it an impossible working atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the siesta concept brings us to yet another important term used very much in the Goan context – Susegad, a word misused so much that nobody quite knows what it originally stands for.

Just as the Japanese have their Ikigai, the Scandinavians their Hygge, the Goans have their Susegad. Yet another term and influence left behind by the Portuguese, it has nothing to do with the lazy, idle even lethargic interpretation that many have tagged it to, but basically it means a feeling of quiet within us. Especially in the times of the pandemic and the isolation experienced thereof, susegad is a way of looking inwards for one’s peace and well-being, of being one with nature, a way of saying ‘All is well”!

Dev Boren Korun – God bless you!

This post is part of the #BlogchatterA2Z challenge.

If you like my style of writing, then I have 3 books on Amazon – The funny side of it is an ebook of humorous anecdotes on the world and its people.

The Adventures of the JP family is a total laugh riot about a typical middle class Indian family and A Girl from Goa is a gentle romance with a dash of reality and a large dose of humor.

5 thoughts on “X – Xenagogue to the Goa I know

  1. Harshita says:

    Patrao, what a wonderful post!!


  2. Oh, I love this word ‘Susegad’ because its so important to have inner peace.


  3. Deepti Menon says:

    Siesta… don’t we all love the word! The Parashurama story is common to Kerala as well. There is so much of history in your post… you’re a natural Xenagogue! 😊😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehehe…thanks a lot Deepti! 🤗😍


  4. Sudeshna Kanjilal says:

    This Parashurama and his axe are quite something, eh!

    Loved reading the legend.

    Learnt so many words from you, Patrao!


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