The Grand Tour III-8: Goa…and the Estado da Índia

1 - Velha Goa

Old Goa, with its swaying coconut trees and magnificent baroque cathedrals.

The name Goa conjures up these images of golden-brown beaches and idyllic palm trees swaying in the breeze, crumbling Portuguese mansions and the sweltering heat, and those age-old edificios – the cathedrals and churches that point to the territory’s history as a small slice of Europe on the Indian Subcontinent.

The Portuguese arrived here in 1500. By 1505, they had defeated the ruling Sultanate of Bijapur and wrestled the port of Goa from Sultan Yusuf Adil Shahi, thus establishing their Estado da India.  In 1530, the capital of the Estado da India was moved from Cochin to Goa. And here, the Portuguese would stay for another 450 years till 1962, when Goa became part of the Republic of India.

From Goa, the Portuguese ruled over a vast network of trading settlements across Asia.  The heyday of the Estado da India, and thus Goa itself was in the 1500s to the early 1600s, when Portugal reigned supreme across the eastern seas. Goa was the western-most port in a string of ports that included Hormuz in Persia, Malacca in the Malay Peninsula, Macau in southern China and Nagasaki in southern Japan.

2 - AMH-6577-KB_Bird's_eye_view_of_the_city_of_Goa

Bird’s Eye View of the City of Goa, 1595, by Jan Huygen van Linschoten. The map is oriented with north at bottom – the city at centre is Velha Goa, or Old Goa. [Public Domain.]

When the Portuguese first arrived, they “set up shop” in what is today known as Velha Goa, or Old Goa. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and contains some dozen magnificent cathedrals and religious edifices the Portuguese built here in the 16th and 17th centuries. This – Old Goa – was so beautiful and held sway over such a vast empire, that it was known as the “Rome of the East”.

By the mid 1600s, Old Goa had begun to decline with the rise of the Dutch East India Company in global trade, and significant loss of territory on the part of the Portuguese in the East Indies and Japan.  Old Goa lost its shine and begun its centuries-long process of decline.

3 - Viceroys Gate

The Viceroy’s Arch was the main entrance to the city of Old Goa. Visitors would arrive by river and dock here. This is the back view of the Arch. The Arch was built in 1599 and reconstructed in 1954.

4 - Se

The Se Cathedral was constructed in 1619 in a typical Portuguese-Manueline style (as in, the style that prevailed under the Rule of King Manuel I of Portugal). It is one of the major sights in Velha Goa.

5 - St Francis of Assissi

The St Francis of Assisi Church was built in 1661 – its front facade is also in the Portuguese-

6 - Francis inside

The breathtaking interior of the St Francis of Assisi Church.

7 - Bom Jesus

Perhaps the most important church in Old Goa is the Basilica of Bom Jesus, built in 1605 in a Baroque style. It is best known for holding the body of St Francis Xavier.

8 - St Francis

Just beyond lies the body of the Saint.

9 - St Catherine

The Chapel of St Catherine, built in 1550, is the oldest Christian structure built in Goa. It’s earlier incarnation was built in 1510 by Afonso de Albuquerque – the second Governor of the Estadio da India.

By the mid-1700s, plague had forced the inhabitants of Old Goa to move en masse, further west to the mouth of the Mandovi River. To build their new capital city of Panjim (Panaji), the Goans simply demolished all buildings in the Old Goa – save for the religious edifices – and transported the blocks of stone and rubble down the river, reusing them in the construction of new civic and residential buildings.

10 - Mandovi River

The Mandovi River, just off Panjim, with its floating casinos.

Unlike Velha Goa, Panjim has the air of a provincial township, and is distinctly free of major monuments, save, perhaps, the iconic Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Imaculada Conceição, or the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.  This church, previously a parish church, predates much of the city, having been built in 1609. From its location at the top of a small knoll, it commands a magnificent view of the city and the river just beyond.

Downtown Panjim is small, and easily taken in in a series of walks – which we shall undertake in the next few posts. While the city centre still contains a significant number of historic buildings, it is in the quaint little district of Fontainhas, the old Latin quarter, and its adjoining Altinho quarter, that one gets a feel of “old goa”, in the quotidian sense of the term.

Here in this oldest district of the city, one may walk for hours amongst dozens and dozens of old houses built in a historic Indo-Portuguese style. Here too, one finds delightful restaurants and cafes with traditional Goan cuisine.

11 - PAlace

This is the oldest building in Panjim – the Summer Palace of Adil Shah of Bijapur, which was repurposed as the Secretariat during the Portuguese era.

12 - Immaculate Conception

The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1609.

13 - ImCon Closeup

Close-up of the church, with its Baroque style architecture.

14 - Panjim Streets

The streets of Panjim are filled with colour.

15 - Panjim Mint

The Casa da Moeda, or Panjim Mint House, circa 1834.

16 - Bishops House

The Bishop’s House, in the Altinho.

17 - Fontainhas I

Portuguese-style houses in Fontainhas, the Latin Quarter.

18 - Fontainhas II

Indo-Portuguese style house, Fontainhas.

19 - Fontainhas III

Azulejo tiles on the street.

22 - Fontainhas Azulejo

Azulejo tiles on the facades of buildings, Fontainhas.

20 - Fontainhas IV

Old residences, Fontainhas.

21 - Fontainhas V

The pink house, Fontainhas.

23 - Street cenes

Small and colourful details, Fontainhas.

24 - Street cenes II

Art Deco, Fontainhas.

I arrived in Goa during Carnival, and the city was a awash with colour and festive cheer. With a friend in Goa showing me the sights, I was able to get a glimpse of the best the city could offer during this period – flamenco concerts in ancient churches, parades and markets in the city, and everyday people, dancing in the streets till the wee hours of the morning.

26 - Garcia da Orta

The Jardim Garcia da Orta (Garcia da Orta Gardens), all decked out for Carnival.

27 - Carnival

Large floats preparing for the evening’s parade.

28 - Velah Goa

The Church of Our Lady of the Mount, Old Goa, was built in the 1500s. I came here, with a friend, for a night-time concert.

29 - Concert

Flamenco, in the courtyard of the Church of Our Lady of the Mount…

30 - Goan Fish Curry

Hearty Goan food…

31 - Carnival

…and music and dancing in the streets.

Elsewhere in Goa, one of the most significant legacies of the Portuguese are a string of forts that they had erected along the coast. I visited one of the largest of them – the Aguada Fort – built in 1612 at the mouth of the Mandovi River to ward off a Dutch invasion of Goa.

Here, on the edge of the ocean, it was hard not to feel overwhelmed by the sheer enormity and audacity of the Portuguese overseas effort in the 1500s to gain control of the oceans; and the irony that all of that effort was motivated by a desire for those dry and aromatic bits of tree and shrub; those spices like pepper, cardamom and cinnamon that we view as commonplace today.

32 - Reis Magos

Near Reis Magos Fort.

33 - Aguada

Beach at Aguada.

34 - Fort Aguada

View of part of Fort Aguada, from the Taj Fort Aguada Resort and Spa.

35 - Fort Aguada

The main Fortress, Fort Aguada.

36 - OCean

Staring out into the Ocean, Fort Aguada.

37 - Se Cathedral

…and a backward glance at Se Cathedral, in Velha Goa.

About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Art & Architecture, Cities & Regions, Culture & Lifestyle, Heritage, India, Landmarks & History, Photography, Travel & Mobility and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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