April 21st, 2014
Our third day in India and we're getting a bit weary of the long days rushing from site to site. Our impulse was to stay on the ship, but who knows when we'll return to india, so we soldier on. Our chosen excursion was LONG - 6 1/2 hours! We took the scenic route along the coast to the Shantadurga Temple, one of the largest and most famous temples of Goa dedicated to the wife of Shiva as the `Goddess of Peace'.
The tale goes that she mediated in a quarrel between Shiva (her husband) & Vishnu and brought back peace in the Universe. The interior was gilded and filled with shrines and flowers and thick with insense. The devout were chanting and doing something with water in the inner sanctum which I couldn't quite make out and I was reluctant to be more intrusive than my presence already made me.
On the temple grounds we again met lovely people who wanted to pose with us for pictures as much as we wanted to photograph them. One woman in particular, visiting with her son and her parents, had just returned from study at Arizona State. The two year old son was born there and a US citizen, a fact made his mother and grandparents very happy!
From there we went on to another spice farm, home to more than 84 different species of bird, 100 varieties of orchids, and almost every spice imaginable. We were greeted with a shower of marigold petals and Goan dancers.
Our guide was a young woman who had us see, taste and smell beetle nuts, peppers, turmeric root, cinnamon, vanilla, and cashew trees. We even witnessed how beetle nuts are harvested by hand.
We then had a traditional Goanese lunch which was spicy and good. Our fellow passengers tend to be culinary light weights and fearful of food poisoning or worse. I stuck to cooked vegetarian dishes and beer with no ill effects.
At this point, we were in the absolute heat of the day when we returned to the town center to explore the Indian and Portuguese cultures in Old Goa. The first stop was the basilica of Bom Jesus, built of black laterite stone with marble and inlaid precious stones.
This church contains the tomb and mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier who spread Christianity in the Portuguese colonies.
The Se Cathedral, consecrated in 1640, was directly across the street although it was very hot and felt like we had to cross the Mohave desert to get to it! The interior was cooler...perhaps 90 degrees and 99% humidity. Some of the local dogs were inside taking siestas which made total sense to me. The whole structure was very imposing, austere, and very different from the Hindu temples of the area. I'm sure that it made an impression as the Portuguese missionaries pursued their quest for converts.