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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Southwards bound: Goan architecture

I had heard and read that Goa has a number of beautiful churches dating back to the colonial era, when the state and some of its surrounding areas were ruled by the Portuguese. I found this to be true when my family and I took a conducted tour of North Goa. The best in terms of architectural splendour, perhaps, is the Basilica of Bom Jesus or the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier.

However, a fact that I had not known of before and one that I realised almost as soon as the train entered Goan territory was that among the most beautiful specimens of architecture, which is nearly ubiquitous in the state, is the Goan villa. Besides the sloping, khaprail (tiles made of clay) roofs, my attention was caught by the ornate glass doors and windows that had designs that were distinctly European (as can be seen in the photograph posted above, which was taken by my brother) and unlike any I had seen elsewhere in India, even in colonial-era buildings. Apparently, the British style of construction in India was much at variance with that of the Portuguese.

The hotel that we stayed in, was located at Panjim. I was glad to find out that several villas there, each of which must have been more than a hundred years old, were still inhabited by descendants of the original owners. Many of them, however, had carried out renovations that included replacement of the original doors and windows with those of the bland, contemporary type. I do wish that this could have been avoided and the houses maitained in pristine state.

One such structure in Loutolim, however, has been preserved for more than 200 years and is open to visitors, in return for a small fee. The place is owned by the sixth generation of the man who built it. Even as they no longer live there, the place is well-maintained and still has the original furniture and fittings. Without the help of the guide that we hired, it might actually have been difficult to understand the utility of several items in the house.

Additionally, pieces of old construction that attracted my attention in Panjim included quaint benches built into the walls along the boundaries of parks and even on some bridges across little streams flowing through the town, besides pieces of sculpture that appeared to be made of porcelain and were part of the fountains in the parks.

Even as I come to know, every now and then, about politicians selling off pieces of Goan land to land-sharks, I do hope very fervently that the immensely valuable Goan architectural heritage shall continue to be preserved for posterity.


Sidhusaaheb said...

Eloquently written. I feel as if I’m there!
Naomi | Homepage | 11.10.07 – 2:28 pm | #


wow … Goa sounds a heaven. I’m sure it is too.

Any pics that you took there too?? I’m a lover of architecture that you’ve beautifully described here

Its too far from the punjab side of India, I’d love to visit it too :>
Asma | Homepage | 11.14.07 – 8:08 pm | #


@Naomi: Thank you! I feel humbled!

@Asma: Yes, it is, indeed!

Well, I took fewer pictures, firstly, because my camera-phone’s battery wasn’t charged initially and, secondly, because my brother has a 5-megapixel camera with a 12x zoom. So, a lot of times I ended up asking him to take a photo or borrowing his camera to take one myself.

I certainly do hope that you’ll be able to see Goa’s architecture for yourself very soon. It is quite far from Indian Punjab, but I suppose you could fly there directly, if you manage to get a city-specific visa.
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 11.15.07 – 8:42 am | #

Sidhusaaheb said...

Lovely picture and this must have been a wonderful trip.
Mridula | Homepage | 11.18.07 – 5:33 pm | #

what a wonderful account .. it is also a place on my “to visit” list..
thanks for taking us there
razarumi | Homepage | 12.09.07 – 1:15 pm | #


@Mridula: Thanks! It was, indeed!

@Raza: Thanks! I hope that happens soon!

You are welcome!
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 12.09.07 – 3:37 pm | #

Sidhusaaheb said...

unaiza nasim Says:

November 12, 2007 at 12:51 pm | Reply edit

Goa is on my list to visit..I have heard so much about it


Sidhusaaheb Says:

November 18, 2007 at 2:19 am | Reply edit

Well, I hope you will be able to go there some time soon.