Goa’s always on the “Come to India to do yoga” itinerary, a little paradise on the country’s west coast.
According to Yogi Ashwini — cited by the Times of India as “a highly respected figure in yogic circles” — there’s more to the pull than just the Palm trees:
“Parshuram came and stayed here. Vishwamitra also got his energy here. There’s so much energy in Goa which needs to be channeled properly. I don’t think it is being channeled in the right direction, which is why you have the mafia here, drugs and all sorts of illegalities going on,” he says over breakfast at a resort in Sinquerim as volunteers from Delhi hover around.
And what’s more, he thinks Goa should really go back to nature:
He opined that the state government should forget its past mistakes and “turn Goa into an organic state. They should start organic gardens,” he says, when told that a large part of the forests here have been denuded by mining.
He laughs when told about a yoga festival held in North Goa recently. “Is yoga acrobatics?” he asks, “then Russian trapeze artistes are the best yogis!” He also dismisses claims that trance music can take you on an elevated spiritual level. “That’s absolute nonsense, but it’s a way of life for many,” he concedes.
I’m not sure I’d hold my breath, but maybe something just to have on your very distant radar.
Do I have to write much more than that? That single word, I bet, conjures up images of beautiful beaches, coconuts, possible a mind-altering substance or three.
And bliss. Bliss for sure.
Well, prepare yourself. Goa is marking the 50th anniversary of its independence and a “new Goa” may be emerging.
“Hey, hold on a second,” you say. “We’re way past India’s 50th anniversary of getting out from British rule.”
True. But it wasn’t the British in Goa. It was the Portuguese. Here’s more, from what’s clearly one of my favorite Indian news sources, the New York Times’ India Ink blog: “Five decades ago on Sunday, India’s armed forces marched into Goa to dislodge the Portuguese from the tiny, palm-fringed colony the European power had continued to hold on to 14 years after much of the rest of the subcontinent had been freed from British rule.”
Now, I said prepare yourself for the “new Goa,” right. Well, don’t work too hard, because it sounds like it will continue to be a yogi-friendly place:
The celebrations come at a time when Goa is in another period of transition. “I think that there is a new Goa that’s emerging,” said Peter Ronald deSouza, the director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, who is among the organizers of a conference examining Goa. “For 40 years, the idea of Goa was based on its history, its ecology and its diaspora. Now, it’s being redefined as a holiday destination for travelers.”
These current anniversary celebrations are trying to demonstrate that there is a bit more to the area than what not just yogis in the West perceive Goa to be all about:
DeSouza’s seminar, which is organized by the Indian Institute for Advanced Study, Goa University and Portugal’s Coimbra University, will take a long view of the effects of liberation – or the “Indian invasion,” as the event was termed in much of the Western press, including The New York Times. The celebrations will also be given a more serious edge by the Goa Arts and Literary Festival, which will feature several writers of Goan origin from around the world.
These rather introspective events are somewhat at odds with the place Goa occupies in the imagination of much of India. During the past decade, fueled by Bollywood films shot in the state, many Indians have come to view Goa as a beach resort sloshing with cheap liquor, where the locals, who always dress sharp because of the legacy of their Portuguese-tinged history, do little more than loll around in the sun all day, looking cool.
It’s an image that irritates Goans – and which they are keen to dispel.
Many Indians “see Goa as a state that’s always having fun all the time, but there’s much more to it” than the postcard impressions, said Nandini Sahai, the director of the International Center Goa, which is hosting the arts and literary festival. “People here love to read – in English, Hindi, Konkani, Marathi and Portuguese. Every second person I meet seems to be a writer, poet or artist. With the 50th year of liberation, we thought it was the perfect time to showcase this aspect of Goa.”
And here’s where things get interesting. Those Portuguese we already mentioned? Well, their influence made for a very different kind of India versus the larger part that was rules by Britain:
The state’s 451 years of colonial rule – among the longest anywhere in the world – have long fascinated social scientists. “Goa interests me because its political and cultural history is so radically different from that of British India,” said the historian Ramachandra Guha, whose book, “India After Gandhi,” contains a detailed section about the Goa freedom struggle. “The Goan experience of nationalism and colonialism was largely unknown outside Goa, and hence, I thought, worth writing about at some length.”
There’s more, but you’ll have to surf on over to the article to discover them.