There’s a small corner of India where it’s not weird to chow down on chorizo and down it with a glass of port – where church steeples tower over town and the body of dead a 16th century catholic saint sits unmolested on display for all to see.
They call this tiny enclave Goa.
Goa was not officially admitted to Indian statehood until 1987. It wasn’t even part of independent India until 1961. A Portuguese colony long after India’s colonial days ended, Goa is beguiling, fiercely independent, and 100% unique.
This Portuguese enclave is the smallest state in India. It’s also the richest and most developed with the highest quality of life. The per capita income in Goa is a staggering two and a half times that of the country as a whole.
Christianity is said to have arrived in South India in 52 AD with Thomas the Apostle. It’s widely believed that Christianity spread in India even before it spread to many Christian nations of Europe. Some theories even hold that Jesus Christ traveled to Kashmir in present day India after crucifixion along with Mother Mary and studied Hinduism and Buddhism before being entombed.
Today, Christianity is India’s third-largest religion with roughly 24 million followers. Many of them live in the southern states like Goa.
Indians are a devout people, no matter the religion. Just like the fanatical Hinduism of the north, many in southern states like Kerala and Goa are passionate about their Christian faith.
Christianity really took root in Goa with the arrival of Vasco de Gama in 1498 when the Portuguese Goan Inquisition brought repression and brutality in the name of religion, introducing Catholicism to the subcontinent.
In the 1500s, Old Goa had a population exceeding that of Lisbon and London and was able to stand up and demand real authority in the European-Catholic community. However, the good times did not last long – the Inquisition and a major epidemic saw to that, decimating this decadent dropping of Portugal.
Though the Portuguese are no longer in control, their influence remains not only in the food, but in the landscaped gardens and palm-encased villas of Margao and Panjim: