S USEGAD IS A TERM OFTEN associated with Goa; it’s hard to describe so you have to travel there to discover its real meaning. Stretched out on the beach, half-dozing in the sun, a cool drink in hand and no intention of ever moving again, we finally grasped the essence of the word: susegad encapsulates the relaxed spirit of Goa and its laid-back, welcoming spirit. Goa, on the western coast of India, has been a port since prehistory, welcoming traders from all over the world. In the first century, Roman merchants came here to buy the pepper and cardamom that were an indispensable piece of Roman cuisine. But, with the collapse of Rome, these trade networks withered and spices became a rare luxury in Europe for which Arab merchants, who controlled the market, demanded exorbitant sums. Walking through one of the spice plantations of Goa, inhaling the intoxicating perfume of pepper, cardamom and cinnamon, it is easy to understand why Vasco da Gama was willing to brave the unknown and lead a Portuguese fleet around the southern tip of Africa, landing in India in 1498. His ships returned to Lisbon carrying a cargo of spices that sold for a fortune – enough to pay several times over for his voyage. Direct access to Asia proved extraordinarily profitable for the Portuguese, but the Arab traders they sought to displace had no intention of retreating without a battle. The Portuguese needed a fortified base and Goa, a busy port and prosperous city, seemed an ideal choice. In 1510, a Portuguese army assaulted the walls of Goa and captured the place that they were destined to rule for the next 450 years. A walk on the walls of Fort Aguada, whose ancient cannon still brood over the approach to the city, makes it clear how jealously they guarded this possession.
GOA: There’s more to the laid-back spirit of Goa, India than western travellers might realize, including a fascinating legacy of Portuguese influence
A prized possession
BY SMITA CHANDRA & SANJEEV CHANDRA
Panjim Church, Goa
B O N V I VA N T T R AV E L . C A • SPRING/SUMMER 2019
SPRING/SUMME R 2019 • B O N V I VA N T T R AV E L . C A
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