The Other Side of Goa

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Most people’s image of Goa involves a combination of beaches, drugs, all-night raves, and burnt out hippies. Few come here to take in the Portuguese heritage of Panaji, its capital city. This is the side of Goa that captured my attention.

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The Portuguese settled in India before the British and left after them. In the early 1500s they established a capital at Velha Goa. By the end of the century, the city surpassed the imperial capital in Lisbon, leading to the proverb “Quem viu Goa, dispensa de ver Lisboa” (He who has seen Goa, need not see Lisbon). Its heyday was short lived. Soon, cholera, malaria, and the inquisition led to a rapid decline. A population which once rivaled London and Paris was reduced to a mere handful. Velha Goa became a buggy ghost town with some very large cathedrals, most of which can be visited through this excellent quicktime tour.

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A few of the remaining churches in Velha Goa.

A new capital rose up 9km to the west, next to the Indian Ocean. Originally called Nova Goa, the city is now known as Panaji or Panjim. The current population hovers around 100,000 and the buildings and churches are consequently more modest than the ones in the nearby ghost town.

Although the Portuguese left India in 1961, traces of their presence can still be heard, felt, and seen in Panjim. Portuguese words occasionally pop up in Konkani, the local language. An aging 4% of the population still speaks Portuguese. The influence is also apparent in the widespread presence of the Catholic church, excellent curries made with chorizo and red wine, and a latin attitude towards drinking that is absent in the rest of India. Moreover, certain areas of the Sao Tomé and Fontainhas neighbourhoods in Panjim would not look out of place on the Iberian peninsula.

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The chapel of Saint Sebastian, built in 1880, Fontainhas.


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This entry was written by Patrick Donovan , posted on Thursday March 08 2007at 07:03 pm , filed under Architecture, Heritage and Preservation, History, South Asia and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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