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iXiGOers Dec 09 2012

What are the religious attractions in Goa?

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It's a large, busy metropolis that lives in here now, yet you'll encounter powerful evocations of a long and spectacular past, from the Neolithic man to the Portuguese era. A colonial outpost for 500 years, the influence of colonial rule can be seen nowhere as strongly as in its sites of religious importance. Some of the religious attractions in Goa that you can add to your Goa holiday package's itinerary are:


For a World Heritage site and as a site famous throughout the Roman Catholic world, the basilica's layout is simple but grand, contained beneath a simple wooden ceiling. As you enter you will find, stretching from floor to ceiling behind the altar, huge and ornate gilded reredos, its barouque architecture contrasting strongly with the classical, plain layout of the cathedral itself. It is to the right of the altar that the current mausoleum, since 1698, of St. Francis Xavier lies, courtesy of the last of Medicis Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Give more than cursory glance to the mausoleum as its a structure of beauty. A three-tiered structure, designed by Florentine sculptor Giovanni Batista, it is made of jasper and marble, flanked with stars and adorned with bronze plaques that depict scenes from the saint's life. On the silver casket's surface, placed on top of the mausoleum, you might observe tiny empty holes. These are actually places where precious stones had been originally encrusted in 1659, but over the years they have been picked off. You might have noticed as you entered that unlike other churches in old Goa, the basilica is not plastered on the outside. It originally was, but in 1959 an overzealous Portuguese conservationist stripped off the entire lime plaster covering in his misguided attempt to strengthen the building. So what we have now is the Basilica all exposed, in its laterite stone exterior, to the elements and with each successive monsoon its intricate carving undergoes some erosion.

If you happen to travel in the last week of November then a visit to the Basilica is a must for the Feast of St Francis Xavier. Though the festival is held annually on 3rd December, but it is preceded by 9 day devotional novena that will give you another opportunity to take part in Goan lighthearted festivity along with more solemn open-air masses. Take a Dabolim to Panjim cab to reach this gorgeous church in no time.

Timings: Sunday : 10.30 am to 6.30 pm. Weekdays : 9 am to 6.30 pm. Masses: Sundays : 8 am & 9:15 am. Weekdays : 7 am & 8 am.

Being 2 km east of the central area, the church often gets overlooked. You will have to take long and overgrown flight of steps but it will be well worth the stitch in your chest. The hill on which the church stands commands a panoramic view of entire old Goa below. An engaging way to experience the sights of Divar and Charoa islands, Mandovi river, and surrounding forested hills against the setting sun is to picture Yussuf Adil Shah, resplendent in war armoury, as he defended the city from this spot twice, in May and November of 1510. However, he lost out to Alfonso de Albuquerque, who eventually built the chapel in 1519. If you visit in late January or early February then you will get to witness the Music festival held every year here.

Dedicated to Lord Shiva and nestled amongst lush greenery, Sri Magneshi Temple is one of the more prominent and visited religious shrines of Goa. Fearing destruction at the hands of the Portuguese, the Mangnesh Linga (idol) was moved away from its original location at Cortalim and eventually installed in its current location at Priol. A simple yet elegant structure, the temple has a beautiful seven-storeyed deepstambha (lamp tower) and chandeliers that have survived 2 centuries. With aartis performed day and night, weekly festivals and annual festivals, the temple will be bustling with activity and religious ceremonies whenever you visit and if you happen to visit at night, you will find the temple aglow silver and gold, appearing as if Lord Shiva was spreading his blessings.


Its at the religious sites where you will find ancient Goa rubbing shoulders with the medieval, the modern running into the Renaissance and the result is a city with timeless allure and ever-evolving distinctiveness.

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