Top Pilgrimage Centers In Goa

Goa Churches
Churches are a crucial part of the social, cultural and religious life of the Goan people. The various churches also give an insight into the state's glorious past. The construction of churches began with the Portuguese invasion, and a large part of the population was converted to Christianity. The Portuguese confiscated lands meant for building temples and built churches instead. Many churches are modelled after buildings in Rome and Lisbon but the Hindu influence cannot be ignored as Indian motifs have been constantly used for adorning churches. This blend of architectural styles gives the churches a unique look.

NORTH GOA CHURCHES

The most important churches of North Goa are located in Old Goa. The churches of Old Goa testify to its glorious past.

Churches in Old Goa

Old Goa or Velha Goa is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site and has spectacular churches and convents. The architectural brilliance and historical importance of these churches is significant. Some of the important ones are Basilica of Bom Jesus, Se Cathedral, Church of St. Francis of Assisi, Chapel of St. Catherine and Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence.

Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa

Built in the 16th century and dedicated to Infant Jesus, Basilica of Bom Jesus has an impressive structure. The interior of the church is grand yet simple. The church has three storeys and has some exquisitely carved embellishments. The design of the church is inspired by the Church of St. Paul which is now dilapidated.

The main attraction of the church is that it enshrines the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Goa, which are kept on the right side of the altar. Another attraction for tourists is the sound-and-light show about Jesus, St. Francis Xavier, and Blessed Joseph Vaz. Also, many people flock to this church on December 6 for the Feast of ST. Francis Xavier.

Se Cathedral in Goa

Right opposite the Basilica de Bom Jesus, this church remained under construction for nearly three-fourth of a century beginning from 1562. It was built following the order of the Portuguese ruler, King Dom Sebastiao, and is a replacement of the old church of St. Catherine.

This is the largest church in Asia and has a very imposing structure. Dedicated to ST. Catherine, the architectural finesse of this church is amazing. Its Tuscan exterior and the bell in its existing tower, often referred to as the "Golden Bell" on account of its rich sound, are some of its striking features. The church's interior, though simple, is mammoth in its proportion. Also the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, adorned with gilded walls and ceiling, is a favourite among tourists.

A three-minute walk from this church is the Viceroy's Arch. Francisco da Gama, great grandson of Vasco da Gama, who was the Viceroy during 1597-1600, built it in 1599. It was rebuilt in 1954 and served as the gateway to Goa for Portuguese governors. Every new viceroy would alight at this place where he would be given a key to the city amidst great pomp and ceremony.

Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence in Goa

Towards the right of the Viceroy's Arch and just a three-minute walk from the Se Cathedral is the Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence. The church was modelled on St. Peter's in Rome. The church's interior is beautifully ornamented. Its architectural brilliance is evident from its facade, with Corinthian columns and an aisle with a Baroque interior.

Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Goa

Attached to the Se Cathedral, this church is just opposite the Basillica of Bom Jesus. It was built in 1521 but rebuilt in 1661. Be it the Tuscan facade, Baroque interior or the main entrance in Manuline style, its architectural brilliance is distinct. The church is adorned with 17th-century paintings on the life of St. Francis. Its gilded main altar and inscribed tombstones are impressive.

The abandoned convent of St. Francis of Assisi also houses an Archaeological Museum. It exhibits sixty portraits of Goa's governors and viceroys from Portugal. Also displayed here is a model of the ship, Sao Gabriel, which Vasco da Gama used to sail to India in 1498; the bronze statue of Afonso de Albuquerque and states of Vishnu and Surya, the Hindu gods.

Chapel of St. Catherine in Goa

Another place worth a visit is the Chapel of St. Catherine that lies between Se Cathedral and Church of St. Francis of Assisi. To celebrate his entry into Old Goa on ST. Catherine's Day, Afonso de Albuquerque built this church in 1510. Rebuilt twice in 1550 and 1952, its Renaissance features are evident from the square towers that flank the three-storey structure.

Church of St. Cajetan in Goa

This church is attached to the Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence. Built by the Italian friars of the Order of Theatines, it derives its name from St. Cajetan, the founder of the Theatine order. The Pastoral Institute of St. Pius X of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman is in this convent. Its altars are dedicated to Our Lady of Divine Providence. There are paintings on the left side of the church that depict the life of St. Cajetan. The church's facade, its altar and exquisite paintings are captivating.

While visiting this church, one comes across the Gate of the Palace of Adil Shah. It is made of basalt. Six steps in front the gate lead to be raised platform on which the gate stands. The palace of Adil Shah, a magnificent building, was the residence of the Portuguese governors till 1695. With time and due to neglect, the palace became dilapidated and was demolished in 1820. Now, only the gate remains.

Church of Our Lady or Rosary in Goa

A little towards the south of Basilica de Bom Jesus, past the convent of Santa Monica, is the church of Our Lady of Rosary. One of the earliest churches of Goa, it was built in 1544 by Afonso de Albuquerque to celebrate his victory over Yusuf Adil Shah.

The church, very simple in design, is built in the Manuline style. There is a strong Hindu influence in its decoration, with Indian motifs being used to adorn the main altar. The cenotaph of Dona Catarina's decoration bears the influence of Gujarati temples.

Royal Chapel of St. Anthony in Goa

A short walk from the Church of Our Lady of Rosary is the Royal Chapel of St. Anthony. It was built in the beginning of the 17th century. It is dedicated to ST. Anthony, the patron saint of Portugal.

This small, semi-circular chapel does not adhere to any particular style. Its semi-circular arched doorway and clerestory windows exhibit the Chapel's architectural finesse. The Portuguese government restored this chapel in 1961.

Church of St. Augustine in Goa

Dedicated to Our Lady of Graces is the Church of St. Augustine, built in 1602 by the Augustinian friars. It is opposite the Royal Chapel of St. Anthony and hardly a five-minute walk from the Basilica. This church, which was once the largest in Goa, was abandoned in 1835 because of religious persecution and collapsed in 1842. Now, what remains of the church is only the belfry of the tower, which is 46 metre high.

Convent of St. Monica in Goa

A stone's throw away from the Church of St. Augustine, and just before the Church of Our Lady of Rosary, is the Convent of ST. Monica. This three storey, laterite building was constructed in 1606 and reconstructed in 1637. It was once referred to as the Royal Monastery because of the royal patronage it got and also served as an exclusive convent for European, Eurasians and Goans.

The church in the convent is dedicated to St. Mary. From 1964, it is being used as a theological centre by the Mater Del Institute.

Church of Nossa Senhora De Monte in Goa

The Church of Nossa Senhora De Monte is also worth a visit. To get there from the Basilica, you have to go down the NH4A till the Gandhi Statue Square, take left, and go towards the post office: the church is just opposite it.

Following the order of Afonso de Albuquerque, this church was built in 1519, on top of the hill, to get a good vantage point. Though small, the church is impressive, thanks to its scenic location and regal laterite steps. The paintings and graffito adorning the walls are among the highlights of the church, more so after the restoration work done in the recent past.

Getting there: Old Goa is just 10km away from Panaji. Both Old Goa and Panaji are inter-connected by NH4A. From Panaji, one can easily opt for a taxi or a bus to reach Old Goa.

Timings: The monuments of Old Goa are open to public between 8.30am and 5.30pm on all days including public, state and national holidays. The Archaeological Museum is open between 10am and 5pm on all days, excluding Fridays. All major churches are located quite close and can be explored in one afternoon.

The Church of Mae de Deus in Goa

Built between 1867 and 1873, this church is located in Saligao, on Chogm Road, near Calangute in Bardez taluka. The villagers of Saligao are strongly attached to their church. Considered a perfect example of Gothic art, the church's beauty is enhanced by its dome-shaped structure and the two lofty bells adorning its tower. The golden statue of Mae de Deus (Mother of God) was rescued from the ruin of Daugin in Old Goa. A unique factor is the Indian dress that adorns the statue. On every first Sunday of May, the church holds a celebration. A popular dance, "Foxes Nite", marks the closing of the celebration.

Timings: 6 - 8.30am and 4-7pm

Getting there: Saligao village is near Calangute. From Panaji, it takes thirty minutes by road to reach here.

Church of Reis Magos in Goa

On the banks of Mandovi is the Church of Reis Magos, built in 1551. This church is at the foot of Reis Magos Fort from where the sea looks breathtakingly beautiful. The Feast of the Three Kings, which falls on January 6, is celebrated with enthusiasm in Reis Magos village. This church was built by Franciscan missionaries and is dedicated to St. Jerome. It has a beautiful interior and contains the tombs of three viceroys. The Hindu influence is evident from the facade and the lions portrayed at the foot of the steps. On top of the altar is a tableau of the Magi paying tribute to Infant Jesus.

Getting there: One can avail of the bus service that plies between Betim and Calangute-Candolim, alight at the Reis Magos junction, and take a walk from there. From Panaji, you can take a ferry across Mandovi.

Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception in Goa

Located in the Church Square, Panaji, this church is a landmark. It is Parish church, built in 1619, and has a flight of steps built in the Gothic style and a central pediment added in 1871. It is a white Baroque church, with two towers framing it. The church's striking feature is the main altar that is in the Baroque style.

On December 8 and during Christmas, the church is beautifully lit up and many people congregate here.

Getting there: It is in the heart of Panaji, so reaching is no problem.

Timings: 9am - 12.30pm, 3.30pm - 7pm

The Church of St. Ana at Talaulim, Ilhas in Goa

This Church is located in Talaulim Village, which lies 4km north of Pilar. The original church was built in the 16th century. It was rebuilt in 1695, modeled on the pattern of the Augustinian Monastery in Old Goa. Its Baroque facade, square towers, pinnacles and balustrades show its architectural finesse. The restoration work carried out by the Portuguese, Fundacao Oriente, has highlighted certain details of the church which had been formerly lost.

SOUTH GOA CHURCHES

Church of Holy Spirit in Goa

Popular as the main church of Margao, the Church of the Holy Spirit was built in 1565 by Jesuit Friar Antonio de Quadros after the Damodar Temple was razed to the ground in 1564. It was demolished by Muslim invaders and rebuilt several times. The present church was built in 1675.

This church is modeled on the Basilica de Bom Jesus. It's well decorated and its altar is impressive with a gilded and carved archway. The church's interior, designed in the Indo-Baroque style, is regal and spacious.

Getting there: It is near Margao's old market

Timings: 9am to 4-7pm

Goa Temples
Most people have the misconception that Goa is largely Christian. Goa has a Hindu population comprising 65 percent, and its diversity shows up across various parts of the region, particularly the temple heartland of Ponda.

Amid the dense woodland and areca groves are brightly painted Hindu temples. Though quite far from the coastal resorts, these temples are worth a visit.

In their detailing and embellishments, some temples display Christian and Muslim architectural influence, making for a unique Goan blend. Some temples, influenced by St. Cajetan's Church, have octagonal drums, crowned by tapering copper domes. Artisans and craftsmen, who were building temples at that time, incorporated these various styles, giving rise to a unique style of Indo-Christian temples.

Shri Mangueshi Temple in Goa

This temple is dedicated to Manguesh, the incarnation of Lord Shiva. Manguesh is worshipped only in Goa. Before the Portuguese captured the state, the temple was located on the south side of the Zuari River. However, after their invasion, the image was brought to Priol and a new temple was constructed. The temple is located on a hillock, amidst hills that look lush and verdant even today.

The temple is a perfect example of the mixed architectural styles partly influenced by the Christians and Muslims. The octagonal tower above the sanctum, the facade and the roof's balustrade design show the Christian influence. The domed roofs show a Muslim influence. At the entrance, a brightly coloured elephant on wheels welcomes you.

In the middle of the 18th century, the grounds of the temple were extended. During the temple festival, which generally takes place in the last week of January or the first week of February, the deities are taken out in a chariot in a procession. The chariot is kept on the right side of the temple is worth seeing.

Timings: 6am to 10pm
Location: In Priol, 22km away from Panaji.
Main Zatras: Manguirish Zatra in mid-February and Mahashivratri.

Sri Mahalsa Temple in Goa

This temple, located in Mardol village, is dedicated to Mohini, the female form of Vishnu. There was an ancient shrine in the Salcette taluka at the village of Verna where the deity was originally kept. Going by folklore, the building was so beautiful that the Portuguese priest, who was given the task of overseeing its destruction, requested that it be preserved and converted to a church. However, his request was turned down and the deity was smuggled to a safe place. However, the historical authenticity of the story remains to be verified.

The temple site is pleasant and peaceful. There is an ornamented silver frame surrounding the doorway. It has huge impressive wooden pillars. What makes this temple exceptional is its 21-tiered deepmal (lamp tower) which is perched atop Kurma, the tortoise incarnation of Vishnu. The 12.5 metre-high brass oil lamp is believed to be the world's largest. It is lit during all major festivals and is beautiful.

Timings: 6am to 9pm
Location: In Mardol, and just 1km from the Mangueshi Temple.
Main Zatras: Its annual festival is held in February, Zaiyanchi Puja in August or September and Kojagiri Purnima in September.

Shri Laxmi Narasimha in Goa

Built in the 18th century and located in Ponda, the temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and his consort, Goddess Laxmi. Like many others, the deities were also moved from the Old Conquests area in the 16th century.

The landscape of the temple adds to its attraction. The paintings and carvings in the temple chowka, depicting Sri Narasimha Purana, are worth seeing.

There is a tank in the temple compound. Fringed with coconut palms, the ancient tank is worth seeing. Unfortunately, entry to the temple is restricted to believers and devotees. However, the priest sometimes allows non-believers to have a darshan (look). There is a palkhi (palanquin) of Sri Laxmi Narasimha that can be seen on every Shukla Chaturdashi.

Timings: 7am to 8:30pm
Location: Nagueshi in Velinga
Main Zatras: Manguirish Zatra in mid-February, Sri Ramanavami and Navaratri

Shantadurga Temple in Goa

Dedicated to Parvati, the goddess of peace, Shantadurga Temple was built in 1738 during the reign of Shahu Maharaja of Satara. Located in Kavlem, the temple is known as Santeri Temple among Goans. Sri Shantadurga is worshipped all over Goa and there are many temples dedicated to the deity. Legend has it that Shantadurga is the combination of two forms of Parvati - Shanta and Durga - the violent form is Durga and the peaceful form is Shanta.

The temple is remarkably well decorated. The roof is made of stone slabs and there is a five-storey lamp inside the complex. The main shrine contains an image of goddess Shantadurga flanked by Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. The temple also has a huge tank, a Dipa Stambha and Agrashalas.

Timings: 7am to 9pm.
Location: It is located in Kavlem. To reach there, you have to take the route along the NH4A from Velinga to Farmagudi, from there, take right till a T-point, then take left.
Main Zatras: An eight-day Zatra is celebrated every year in February. Navratri is also an important festival here.

Shri Naguesh Temple in Goa

Located in the village of Bandora, 4km east of Ponda, Naguesh Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Naguesh is an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Built in 1413, the temple was renovated by King Shahu, grandson of Shivaji. The temple is one of the few that still retains its original site. It closely resembles the Shantadurga Temple.

Scenes from Ramayana are carved in wood in the gallery of the main hall. There is a five-storey lamp tower decorated with nagas (snakes). The lower half of the tower has brightly painted deities. The temple also houses a century-old water tank, surrounded by palms and weathered stones.

In the inner shrines is a lingam, a symbol of Lord Shiva, and in front of the shrine is an image of Nandi, the bull, carved in black stone. The temple's most important festival is Anguish Starap, celebrated in November.

Timings: 8.30am to 12.30pm and 3pm to 8.30pm
Location: Village of Bandora, which is 4km east of Ponda
Main Zatras: Eight-day Kartik Poornima, eight-day Chaitra Poornima and Mahashivratri.

Ramnath Temple in Goa

A short walk away from the Shantadurga Temple is the Ramnath Temple. The temple is dedicated to Ramnath, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Also worshipped in the temple are deities of Laxmi Narayan, Santeri, Kamaxi, Siddhanath, Betal and Kal Bhairav. These shrines together are known as Sri Ramnath Panchyatan.

The temple's lingam and the deity came from the village of Loutolim, in the Salcette taluka, in 1566. There is an unusual scene depicting kneeling devotees worshiping a lingam. A striking feature of the temple is a silver screen embossed with animal and floral motifs.

Timings: 5.30am to 10pm
Location: It is in Ponda taluka, 33km from Panaji, and 14km from Mapusa. It is near the Shantadurga Temple.
Main Zatras: Mahashivratri, Navratri and Dussehra.

Mahadev Temple in Goa

In the far east of Goa, is the oldest surviving Mahadev Temple. Located in Sanguem taluka, it was built in the 13th century. The temple dates back to the time of Kadamba dynasty. The intricate carvings on its pillars and walls are striking. The temple has a tower with the image of the Hindu trinity - Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma - carved on it.

Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple's entrance faces east so that the sunrays at dawn fall directly on the deity. At the centre of the temple is the state of Nandi, Lord Shiva's mount. The Surla River flows near the temple and many devotees take a dip in it before entering the temple premises. The entrance has ten pillars and the ceiling is decorated with floral motifs.

Timings: Sunrise to Sunset

Location: Near Mollem National Park in Sanguem, 73km from Panaji, and 40km from Ponda.

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