Mermaid in a pool in the square before the Church of Lady of Immaculate Conception in Panaji town, Goa province.|
Goa has a long history, being part of the Maruyan empire in the third century BC. Several dynasties later it was taken by the Muslims in 1312 (Yuan Dyansty, China). Harihara I of the Vijayanagar empire took it back from the Muslims in 1370 and controlled the spice trade from here until 1510 (Middle Ming Dyansty, China) when the Portuguese arrived. Their aim was twofold, the spice trade and soul saving, under the auspices of the army and the Jesuits, Dominicans and other Christian orders.
The Jesuit missionary, Francis Xavier, stopped here for a time on his way to Japan, returned here once, and then went to Macao intending to enter China. He died on a small island off the coast of China in 1552 before reaching his goal. His mumified body, what's left of it, lies today in the Basilica of Bon Jesus in Old Goa. Bits and pieces of it have been taken, with great reverence to Rome and Japan to be worshipped. Xavier's body used to be displayed for worshippers and they lined up to kiss its feet, until, it is said, one day and excessively devout pilgrim bit off one of the Xavier's toes.
For the church, Xavier's claim to fame was his missionary work in Japan and Goa and for this he was awarded posthumous sainthood. But it was this compassionate Chistian who called down the Inquisition come to Goa! (Perhaps, like Bush centuries later, he would have called it a 'Compassionate Inquisition'?)
The original capital of Portuguese Goa was at Old Goa, 9 km up the Mandavi River from today's capital Panaji (Panjim). The city declined following the devastating effects of the Inquisition and virulent epidemics of 1635. (This decline coincided with the decline and fall of the Ming Dyansty in China) In 1843 the capital was moved to Panaji, a much healthier enviornment closer to the Indian Ocean. All that remains are the gigantic stone churches sitting in the middle of nowhere. Today it is a pleasant to vist Old Goa and stroll around the cavernous cathedrals.