Get, Set, Goa! – Part I
In this Instagram-world of carefully curated images, most places in India seemingly or unseemingly have an image, too. Bengaluru is young, hip and tech friendly. Mumbai is known for Bollywood and its crazy trains, and Meghalaya is known for its pristine villages and landscapes.
Much like these cities, the state of Goa too has an image. Sadly, it is often known as a place where alcohol flows freely, beaches busy and parties wild. Deep inside I knew this wasn’t the full picture. It felt very lopsided and I was curious to find the more yogic side to this ancient state.
So, I jumped on the internet on a quest to learn. I wondered what existed in Goa beyond the pubs and the bars? What was it like before the Portuguese influence? Did that original culture remain? Did it dissolve? As I went down the rabbit hole of research and discovery on Google, I was amazed at what I found.
Despite being the smallest state in India, one-third of Goa is covered in forests. Around 20 percent of the land in Goa falls in the beautiful Western Ghats of India, a vast mountain range and treasure house of biodiversity–almost 4000 species of birds alone. Not just that, did you know Goa celebrates two Independence days? That’s right! They celebrate the first Independence Day when India became an independent country free from British rule, on 15 August 1947. The second is the Goa Liberation Day on 19 December 1961 because despite the British leaving the country, the Portuguese invaders did not. It was only 13 years later, when the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy invaded Goa and overpowered the under-prepared Portuguese army that Goa truly was independent.
The more I learnt, the more I was amazed at how little I really knew about Goa. I had to share my discoveries with people and as always, for me, the best way was by organising a yoga retreat. I quickly spoke to my designer and asked him to make me a poster for a yoga retreat in Goa.
As that was getting ready, I started looking for quiet, healing places to stay in Goa. I wanted it to be close to the beach, but also close to the lush forests. Google gave me plenty of options with seafood and alcohol and private beaches–totally the opposite of what I was looking for. But a deeper search helped me find Satsanga Yoga retreat, a beautiful space bought and curated by a French couple who had fallen in love with India. I spoke to them and told them my requirements of a yoga shala, sattvik and healthy food and most importantly, some quiet away from the raging party scene of the state. Emma, the owner, smiled and said all of it would be possible. I jumped in glee. The biggest components of the retreat were organised.
Now I had to look for someone who would take us to see the jungles, the old temples and the vibrant waterfalls of Goa. With a little bit of looking on the internet, I found a really interesting guy who was doing offbeat adventurous tours. I contacted him and told him about my retreat, he listened in excitement and quickly agreed to be part of it and show us some lesser known sides of Goa.
With the ground work done, I put my retreat poster up and in a month’s time I was on a flight to Goa along with 20 other yogis who were curious to discover and see the lesser known side of Goa.
(to be continued)