In recent years Goa attained prominence as a music festival haven specializing in psychedelic and trance. Considering the festivals’ target age groups, word has spread and earned Goa a party destination reputation. However, there is much more to this small Indian state than wild nights. Here you can find some examples of the spiritual heritage of Goa.
Many aspects of Goan culture have receded and given way to the progressive sounds of contemporary musicians and DJs.
Its lovely beaches have become the poster children of Goa, while culture and spirituality unwarrantedly dissipated, at least in the minds of its younger visitors. Considering the fact that the province of Karnataka and the city of Bangalore and all its temples are literally right next door, who would want to visit tiny Goa in pursuit of spirituality?
However, this small province on the Arabian Sea is overflowing with Hindu temples and Catholic churches, an amalgamation of two spheres of influence from Goa’s rich past. If you find yourself on a pilgrimage through India—or simply on a journey to uncover the architectural grandeur of its religious structures—paying a visit to any of the following places of worship will surely elevate the quality of your visit.
Portuguese colonial rule has spawned numerous Catholic churches which are as visually breathtaking as they were in times past.
Basilica of Bom Jesus
Harboring the incorruptible remains of St. Francis Xavier, one of the founders of the Jesuit order, the Basilica of Bom Jesus dates back to 1594. Its stout exterior and amazing attention paid to every detail still inspires awe in travelers and capture their hearts to this day. It is the best example of baroque architecture in India.
Church of St. Cajetan
If you come across a church that suspiciously looks like St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, that’s because Church of St. Cajetan was purposefully designed to resemble it as much as possible. When viewed from above, it represents a Greek cross and features a large dome, much like its sister in Europe. Its Corinthian architectural style makes it oddly unique among the churches in Goa, with only slight touches of baroque.
Church of St. Diogo
Speaking of unique religious structures that decorate the landscape of Goa, taking one look at the Church of St. Diogo will reveal a magnificent Neo-Roman building that truly stands out. Observing it from the front side reveals a fairytale-like design with various shapes and forms that add to its beauty.
Going to Goa during Christmas? Check out my guide to visiting Goa during Christmas!
Quite naturally, Hindu temples possess mystery and charm that stretch much further in the history of India and its religious practices. These temples are greater in number, and much more varied architecturally.
You may come across an ancient temple while hiking through the jungle of Goa and think to yourself how unremarkable this basalt stone structure is. Size and grandeur-wise, you would not be mistaken. However, Mahadeva Temple means to the Hindus of Goa more than any other. It is a standing testament to Old Goa and an age long gone.
Unfortunately, it is the only monument to such an age, having survived the vandalism and destruction that often came with other religious influences. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it features a lingam and a very interesting legend about an enormous king cobra that calls the dark interior of the temple home.
Unbelievably beautiful and almost magical at night when all the lights go on, Maruti Temple is home to the monkey god, Hanuman. The peculiar design of the structure, combined with interesting color choices (red and orange on the green background of the jungle) make this temple a must-see on your holiday.
Shri Damodar Temple
Set right next to the Kushawati River that is said to have healing powers, Shri Damodar Temple is the place where the pious come to worship Lord Shiva’s incarnation as Lord Damodar. From the architectural perspective, Shri Damodar Temple is rather plain and ordinary. However, devotees from all over India come here to pay their respects, and so should you if you’re on a quest to rediscover your spirituality.
These are just some of the dozens upon dozens of places of worship where you can find peace and wisdom in Goa. While these religions were incompatible in the past, to say the least, today they all come together to maintain what I’d refer to as the rich spiritual heritage of Goa.
So there you have it: proof that Goa is more than just a party place. Have fun exploring.