Margao is Goa's second largest but busiest town, the commercial capital of the state, and the administrative headquarters of South Goa district and of the Salcete taluka.
Located in the Salcete taluka of South Goa district, Margao is the nerve-center of the Goan economy. The second largest city in Goa after Vasco da Gama, Margao functions as the headquarters of the South Goa district. Apart from being a bustling commercial and industrial center, Margao also boasts of a flourishing tourism culture by virtue of its opulent churches, scenic beaches and stately mansions.
Despite the conspicuous Portuguese influence, Margao was once a Hindu religious center with a number of temples and dharmshalas. The name Margaon is regarded a derivative of Mathgram which literally means 'the village of temples.' After the Portuguese invasion, the temples gave way to the spawning of majestic churches and palaces.
The present Margao town exudes a quaint charm with its landscape speckled with fine specimens of Portuguese architecture. The main town square known as the Praca Jorge Baretto houses most of the offices and prominent buildings. The Church Square, called the Largo de Igreja, features the Church of the Holy Spirit and other monuments. Tourists traveling to Margao also visit the nearby Colva beach for a tranquil beach vacation.
Being Goa's largest and most connected railway junction makes Margoa the gateway to south Goa. The city is replete with various sights and attractions such as the 'Closed' Market (Mercado de Alfonse de Albuquerque), Anna Fonte or the famous natural springs, the Church of Holy Spirit, the Monte Hill chapel and mansion. The city suburbs such as the Pajifond, Gogol, Navelim and Comba present various religious and tourist attractions. The famous St Sebastian chapel which is situated in Aquem, the 'Damodar Mandir (Saal), the 'Hari Temple’ as well as the 'Maruti Mandir' and the 'Saibaba Temple' at Davorlim are a must visit in the city of Margoa.
Located in the heart of the Salcett taluka in the southern part of Goa, Margao ranks second (in the state) as far as its area is concerned. The history of Margao states that the town held its own significance even before the arrival of the Portuguese. It was home to the mathas of the Vaishnava. The number of mathas grew gradually and gave the name of matha - gram to the place. With the passage of time, this name became Madgaon. It finally became Margao when the Portuguese arrived and started facing problems in pronouncing the name.
Apart from the mathas, trade was also an important reason why Margao was important in the pre Portuguese era. River Sal, which is now silted up, was once the hotspot of trade, with cargo boats from Arabia and Africa coming in quiet frequently. Infact, it is river Sal which lent its name to the Salcett taluka.
Toady, Margao is an important commercial centre, however, as far as attractions are concerned, choices are very limited.
Margao in pre-Portuguese times was one of the important settlements in Salcete and known as Matha Grama (the village of Mathas) as it was a temple town with nine Mathas in temple schools. Most of the inhabitants were Brahmins (GSB and Daivajnas). It was then famous for its many bea utifully built temples. Long before the Portuguese came here, it had a university with a library. During the Portuguese conquest in 1543, Hindu temples were demolished and Catholic churches were built in their place. Almost all traces of Hindu settlements were wiped out. The first church to be built in Margão, and its replacement in 1579, were destroyed by raiders along with the seminary that had been built alongside. The present church was built in 1675.
The initial settlement of Margao grew from the site of the ancient Damodar Temple. The original temple was demolished and the temple tank was filled up to be replaced by the Holy Spirit church and church grounds. The Hindus carried their deity Damodar (a form of Lord Shiva) across the Zuari Agranashini river to the Hindu territories held by the Sonde rulers. While the western side of the Church developed as a market place, the settlement grew on the eastern side, that is, the Borda region, with the church at its core and extended outwards.
The Holy Spirit main square is defined on one side by the church with its baroque architecture and the parochial house, and on the other side by the palatial mansions of affluent elite Catholics, positioned in a row. The Associação das Communidades building and the school being the odd exceptions. They add to its character and sense of scale. They have a maximum height of two stories, and balcões and varandas facing the square. Parallel to the church square is the commercial street (old market). There is also a landscaped area next to the church called Praça da Alegria (joy square).
Margao's importance as an administrative and commercial area grew with the increasing dependence of the surrounding towns and villages; leading to the administrative centre with the town hall at its centre being built in the south. The commercial market became attached to it and was hence called maud-gao or the market town of Goa, and since then the city has grown towards the east.
In 1961, Goa was incorporated into the Indian Union, and Margao was declared as the administrative centre of the district of South Goa.
How to Reach Margao by Road
There are frequent bus services from Margao to other parts of the state. Interstate and local bus services operate from the KTC bus stand, 3 km north of Margao city. One can also avail of taxi services to visit nearby tourist attractions such as the Colva beach.
How to Reach Margao by Rail
Margao enjoys good rail connectivity courtesy the Konkan Rail train station located about 3kms from the Margao city center. This station is an important stop in the Konkan Railways and is the main railway terminal in south Goa.
How to Reach Margao by Air
The Dabolim airport is 28 km from Margao.
Margao also has a 'covered' market (earlier Mercado de Afonso de Albuquerque, near Pimplapedd or Pimpalakatta in Konkani), along Francisco Luis Gomes Road (a.k.a. Old Station Road), even if the town's main market today adjoins the Kadamba bus terminus near its northern reaches.
The markets of Margao mostly offer agricutural products. In addition to agricultural products you can buy fruit and vegetables, wines, baked goods, cloths, hardware or appliances or pots and pans. If you are not interested in shopping just stroll around and enjoy a quietly festive atmosphere.
Margao shopping can be done from the reputed shopping centers and curio shops in the city as well as the local bazaar in Margao. The tourists may gather collectibles which can be carried home as memoirs of their trip to the city of Margao.
The gifted artisans of Margao are reputed for their bamboo work, crochet work and shell work. The talented craftsmen are reputed for the carved furniture as well. The tourists may gather brass ware and trinkets from the local bazaars of Margao.
The local bazaar of the city is situated along the railway station and stretches to the fringe of the main square in the city. The tourists may purchase articles from the local bazaar at a good bargain. The handloom materials and articles are available at the Goa Handicrafts Industries Development Corporation emporium situated in the city of Margao. The tourists will find shops and stalls along the beaches as well. The Colva beach is thronged by tourists who purchase souvenirs from the stalls. Beach wear and bath suits are also available in the stalls at the beach.
Margao is the commercial hub of Goa so the hotels in the city are more functional than posh. Most of the hotels in Margao are conveniently located close to the railway station.
4 Star Hotel : Dona Sylvia Resort
3 Star Hotel : Nanutel Margao
Economy Hotel : Goa Woodlands Hotel
Other Hotels : Hotel La Flor, Hotel Paulino, Hotel Red Roof, Hotel Saaj, Margao Residency, Sincro Hotel.