Goa's isolation from the rest of India for more than four centuries
under the Portuguese rule, its geographical borders in the form of the
Sahyadri ranges and the tidal rivers have managed to give the
people of Goa a unique and separate identity.
The people of Goa prefer to call themselves Goans and not Goanese as
mentioned in guidebooks and brochures. Goans are very much aware of
this unique identity; they are proud of it and guard it fiercely.
The population of Goa is composed of a Hindu majority of around 65%
and a Christian minority of around 30%. Muslims and other religions
make up the rest. The interesting part in all these percentages is
that, as is the case with most statistical figures, they conceal more
than they can ever reveal.
The Hindu community is dominant in the talukas (districts) of Ponda,
Bicholim, Pernem, Satari, Sanguem, Quepem and Canacona. These areas
actually form part of the Novas Conquistas, or the New Conquests, made
by the Portuguese in the last stage of the expansion of their Goan
empire in the eighteenth century.
By this time, the Portuguese military might was on the wane and the
religious ardour for forced conversions was at its lowest ebb. Hence
the population in these newly conquered areas were pretty much left to
practise their religion in peace.
The Old Conquests on the other hand, consisting of Salcete, Mormugao,
Tiswadi and Bardez bore the brunt of the Portuguese army and the
religious zealots. Together, the two arms of the Portuguese empire,
managed to destroy temples and converted hundreds of non-Christians in
these areas, which are predominantly Christian today.
Fortunately, these bitter memories of the past have done nothing to
change the warm, friendly and loving nature of the Goan people. By and
large, the Goan considers himself a Goan first and a Hindu, Christian
or Muslim afterwards. The bonds of language and the Goan identity are
strong enough to allow for different religious persuasions.
In contrast to other parts of India, Goans have developed a remarkable
degree of tolerance towards each other's religious beliefs, and hence
religious fundamentalism is completely unknown in the state.
The best evidence of this is seen in quite a few places of worship in
Goa, where both Hindus and Christians go together. The Damodar temple
at Sanguem, the Church of Our Lady of Miracles in Mapusa, the
Shantadurga temple at Fatorpa are excellent examples of this unique
religious harmony that exists in Goa. Besides these, a number of other
festivals in Goa are celebrated by members of both communities with
In proportion to their numbers, a very high percentage of Goans live
abroad than the members of most other regional communities of India.
But no matter where they might be on the surface of the planet, Goans
love to express the adoration of their homeland in some form or the