Big Foot, Ancestral Goa, Theme Park, Open 9.00 AM to 5.00 PM
For anyone, Goans and visitors alike, who want to soak up some Goan heritage instead, Ancestral Goa, popularly referred to as Big Foot in Loutolim is the logical destination. Proudly described by its visionaries as “Goa’s First Theme Park”, Ancestral Goa promises a comprehensive safari into Goa’s heritage and culture, beginning even before the period of Portuguese colonization.
For Rs 50 (per adult), and Rs 20 (per child), you can go back in time and stay all day. A labour of love and pride, it took Maendra Alvares over ten long years to execute the dream that began with a collection of rock carving tools displayed at the venue.
Record breaking sculpture of Sant Mirabai
In 1994, Maendra took a chisel to the giant laterite rock on the piece of land that is now Ancestral Goa, and pounded, carved and scraped for 30 days until he had fashioned what occupies in the Limca Book of Records the distinction of being the largest man-made sculpture in India. This sculpture of Sant Mirabai, India’s singing saint was later christened “Natural Harmony” in tribute to the surroundings.
A journey inside Ancestral Goa
Upon arrival, guests are ushered into another world with the façade of an ancient fort, which incorporates both Portuguese and local architectural elements. Once welcomed at the entrance, you are offered a choice of languages for the guided tour. Each group or guest is guided from spot to spot with a wealth of information provided at each stop through unobtrusive speakers that relay the information in the language best understood by the visitor.
Beginning with the story of Parshuram, the legendary creator of Goa, the tour weaves its way on to a fisherman’s hamlet of yore, and then into ever-more intriguing aspects of life in the days gone by.
From ancient traditions of feni brewing to basket weaving, a potter’s hut, a land-owner’s (bhatkar) perspective, trades, crafts, the conduction of trade and the fascinating religious rituals of a time when Goans were strongly connected with their religions and their faith played an intricate role in carrying out their tasks.
Ancestral Goa displays with meticulous detail, the architecture, costumes, tools, accessories, rituals, habits, and ways of life among Goans from various communities, and how all these come together to exude the harmony among its people that Goa still boasts. Guests have come away with new ideas from the wisdom of old and have applied them to present day occupations.
From carpenters to book-keepers, weavers to bangle sellers, the tour is a colourful explosion of culture, lifestyle and history, and proceeds on to a bevy of educational displays on nature, environment and conservation.
Gardens of exotic plants and birds
Ancestral Goa has a huge variety of medicinal plants, with their medicinal values prominently displayed. Tens of species of birds flock here every day, and Alvares also has each species documented and on display for visitors. Big Foot is dotted with interesting surprises to please the avid collector. Besides the flora and fauna, the handicrafts that are prominently displayed and also offered on sale.
The Cross Museum
The Cross Museum is well worth a visit. Ancestral Goa has an extraordinary collection of over 1400 crosses that began with Maendra’s search around Europe. Each is unique and represents a glimpse into materials, artwork, artistry, craftsmanship and faith across the Christian world. To this European collection, Maendra has added a whole gallery of crosses from remote corners of Goa, by traveling the length and breadth of the state in pursuit of unique crosses to add to the collection.
You must put Ancestral Goa on your To-Do List
At the end of the tour, guests are free to explore. Ancestral Goa provides shady spots for picnics enjoyed by busloads of people at a time. A quieter afternoon can be also had, by heading to one of several cozy little niches on the grounds.
Maendra’s dream of preserving that fast-disappearing legacy of Goan heritage for posterity has grown beyond the artist’s initial ambition, to now serve as all that and more. From school students to architectural study groups, tourists and bureaucrats, Ancestral Goa welcomes and enthralls hundreds of visitors each week. Maendra’s chef d’ouvre has been acknowledged by the Government of Goa as the "Most innovative and unique project in India's tourism industry".
And yet, for all its vital educational value, Big Foot also incorporates a fun side which shows the visitor the entire spectrum of Goan lifestyle.
The Big Foot Sanskriti Kendra
The Sanskriti Kendra holds annual workshops during the summer vacations for children from schools all over Goa. Bal Mela is a children’s camp held here annually wherein children from slums, villages, institutions for disadvantaged children, mostly from South Goa, participate in various events that include games, art and craft, music etc. Most of these programs are held in collaboration with other trusts. Others are also welcome to hold any charitable functions for the well-being of the disadvantaged at Big Foot.