When you think of Goa your mind is probably filled with pictures of golden beaches fringed by palm trees and little else, but this south Indian state has a lot more to offer than just its natural attractions – including some excellent art.
If you’re keen to discover some of its creative gems during your cultural holiday in Goa, read our guide to some of the best places to visit and things to see – you may be surprised by just how much art is on offer here.
Stone Age rock carvings
We’re going way back into Goa’s history for our first example of its art – to the village of Usgalimal in the south of the state that’s home to a series of prehistoric rock carvings. These simple drawings depict animals and people, while others are complex labyrinths or simple spirals chiselled into the rock.
These engravings are thought to be between 20,000 and 30,000 years old and represent some of the earliest recorded human settlements in India.
Some of the most spectacular and beautiful artwork in Goa adorns its Hindu temples and Christian churches, with sculptures, paintings and frescoes all present for you to uncover. Some of the oldest pieces are the stone sculptures of deities that are kept in the Hindu temples – these can be incredibly elaborate, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for them if you visit any of these places of worship.
There are also paintings on the walls of the temples, many of which depict scenes from myths or religious tales. In fact, many of the temples are themselves works of art thanks to their stunning architecture. Among the places with impressive sculptures are Shri Madhav in Dhavli, Shri Keshav of Loliem in Kankona and Shri Chamundeshwari of Vargao in Bicholim.
It isn’t only the Hindu places of worship that boast stunning artworks, though, with some of the Christian churches home to equally striking pieces. In Old Goa there are many religious buildings from the Portuguese period of rule and it is in these that you’ll find some of the best examples of art.
For instance, the Convent and Church of St Francis of Assisi is home to numerous statues of note, as well as some beautiful wood carvings and intricate frescoes. The Basilica of Bom Jesus is, in many ways, very simply decorated. However, when you step into the chapel where the remains of St Xavier are kept you’ll be greeted by a range of striking paintings and wood carvings depicting various scenes from the life of Christ.
Not all of Goa’s artistic offerings are historical, with a growing contemporary art scene in the state being fostered by a few galleries and creatives. There’s a selection of mostly small galleries dotted around Goa where you can see pieces by local artists and, in some cases, even buy any exhibits that really catch your eye.
Calangute has several exhibition spaces, including Zahoor Art Palace, Yolanda and Rudy, Mir Arts Emporium, Aquila Art Gallery and Tamarind Art Gallery, which promotes up-and-coming artists from Goa and elsewhere in India. There are also various cultural establishments in the capital Panaji, with the Sunaparanta Art Gallery particularly worth a visit if you want to learn more about Goan art and its history.