Goa to Women in Bikinis: 'Come, Leave'

Officials at the Mahalasa Narany Temple in Goa India have issued an ultimatum: Tourists have to put on some damn clothes or stay out. The president of the temple took to the press this week, complaining about scantily clad foreign women.

The temple standoff sounds like another example of inconsiderate foreigners, but that tired tableau doesn't exactly apply because Goa has been aggressively marketing itself internationally as India's tropical getaway rather than as a cultural destination. Many of the advertisements for the Arabian Sea beach mecca would be more or less interchangeable with advertisements for Hawaii.

Goa has so far failed to find a way to sell itself without selling out its values.

Case in point: In January, 2010 the Goan tourism board backed a ban on advertisements featuring women in two-piece swimsuits, but in April State Tourism Director Swapnil Naik announced that two of the women in an international campaign would sport bikinis. Naik justified the television ads by saying they would only be aired in Europe and Russia, a logical that breaks down as soon as the foreign tourists arrive with bags full of skivvies.

Goa is a beautiful area, popular with Indians and foreigner, and eager to modernize everything except its temples. It is not the Vatica, which cracked down on inappropriately dressed tourists last year, and it isn't Maui. The middle ground where battles take place (like last month's tiff over a depiction of the Goddess Lakshmi on an Australian bathing suit) so it isn't clear if foreigners' will get dressed up before worshippers lower their expectations.

Temple officials are currently particularly upset by visitors who wear flower leis then place them at the temple's altar because flower offerings are traditionally carried.


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