Goa's isolation from the rest of India for more than four centuries under the Portuguese rule, its geographical borders in the form of the Sahyadri ranges and the tidal rivers have managed to give the people of Goa a unique and separate identity.
The people of Goa prefer to call themselves Goans and not Goanese as mentioned in guidebooks and brochures. Goans are very much aware of this unique identity; they are proud of it and guard it fiercely.
The population of Goa is composed of a Hindu majority of around 65% and a Christian minority of around 30%. Muslims and other religions make up the rest. The interesting part in all these percentages is that, as is the case with most statistical figures, they conceal more than they can ever reveal.
The Hindu community is dominant in the talukas (districts) of Ponda, Bicholim, Pernem, Satari, Sanguem, Quepem and Canacona. These areas actually form part of the Novas Conquistas, or the New Conquests, made by the Portuguese in the last stage of the expansion of their Goan empire in the eighteenth century. The bonds of language and the Goan identity are strong enough to allow for different religious persuasions. The best evidence of this is seen in quite a few places of worship in Goa, where both Hindus and Christians go together.
In proportion to their numbers, a very high percentage of Goans live abroad than the members of most other regional communities of India. But no matter where they might be on the surface of the planet, Goans love to express the adoration of their homeland in some form or the other.
According to the 2001 census, Goa has a literacy rate of 82% with 89% of males and 76% of females being literate.Each taluka is made up of villages, each having a school run by the government. However, many of the state's residents prefer to enroll in privately run schools, which offer better facilities. All schools come under the state SSC whose syllabus is prescribed by the state Education department. There are also a few schools run by the all-India ICSE board. Most students in Goa complete their high school using English as the medium of instruction. Primary schools, on the other hand are largely run in Konkani (in private, but government-aided schools). As is the case in most of India, enrollment for vernacular media has seen a fall in numbers in favour of English medium education.
After ten years of schooling, students join a Junior College which offers courses in popular streams such as Science, Arts, Law and Commerce. Additionally, many join three year diploma courses. Two years of college is followed by a professional degree. The Goa University is the sole university in the state located in Taleigao and all Goan colleges are affiliated to it.
There are four engineering colleges and one medical college in the state. The Goa Engineering College and Goa Medical College are run by the state whereas the other three engineering colleges are run by private organisations. The other private engineering colleges are BITS Pilani Goa Campus, Shree Rayeshwar Institute of Engineering and Information Technology, Shiroda, and Padre Conceicao College of Engineering, Verna. There are also colleges offering pharmacy, architecture and dentistry along with numerous private colleges offering law, arts, commerce and science.
Many residents, however, choose to take up courses in other states as the demand for a course in Goa is more than that available. Goa is also well-known in India for courses in marine engineering, fisheries, hotel management and cuisine. The State also hosts a premier business school - the Goa Institute of Management which is autonomous and was founded in 1993 by Fr. Romuald D'souza. Portuguese is taught in part of the school curriculum as a third language in some schools. The Goa University also offers Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Portuguese.
With 105 km of coast line and a large number of rivers, it is but natural that fishing is a passionate pastime for the average Goan. Then there are the traditional fishermen who catch fish for a living. These fishermen use their small nets and little canoes. They venture out into the rivers the whole day and return with a proud catch. Of late they also double up as guides and take any visitor, willing to pay a small price to learn how to fish. They even carry live prawns as sure-shot bait. An inquiry at a riverside jetty and you are hooked!
Goa is a state of mind. And to most Goans, this is best expressed in the lines of the Konkani poem.