GOA’S CAPITAL, Panaji, situated at the mouth of the Mandovi river, is reminiscent of a provincial Mediterranean town. Earlier a port of the Adil Shahi kings of Bijapur it became a military landing stage and warehouse after the arrival of the Portuguese in 1510. In 1759, after a series of epidemics in Old Goa, the viceroy was forced to move his residence to Panaji, or Panjim as it was then called. However, it was only in 1843 that the town became the official capital of Portuguese territories in India. Today, Panaji has a relaxed and friendly ambience, especially along the leafy avenues of the old town. The newer commercial hub, laid out on a grid, has concrete structures interspersed with colonial buildings and churches.
The river front Secretariat housing the State Legislative Assembly, is one of Panaji’s oldest buildings. It was once the summer palace of Yusuf Adil Shah, Goa’s 16thcentury Muslim ruler, and fell to the Portuguese in 1510, despite a formidable battery of 55 cannons and a salt-water moat that protected it.
Rebuilt in 1615, its strategic location made it a point of entry for ships and a stopover for viceroys and governors en route to Old Goa. In 1760, after Old Goa was abandoned in favour of Panama, the Idalcaon’s Palace (a corruption of Adil Shah’s or Khan’s Palace), as it was then known, became the official residence of the viceroys – until 1918, when the residence moved to the Cabo Palace, southwest of Panama. Extensive renovations have transformed the original Islamic structure into the colonial building it is today, with a sloping tiled roof, wide wooden verandahs and cast-iron pillars. The Ashoka Chakra and the Buddhist Wheel of Law, the emblems of the Indian government, have replaced the Portuguese viceroys’ coat of arms, above the entrance to the building. Standing west of the Secretariat is the arresting statue of Abbe de Faria. This Goan priest, who was born in Candolim in 1756, underwent theological training in Rome. After his ordination, he moved to Paris, where he won acclaim as the father of modern hypnosis.
A CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
Overlooking Largo dad Igreja or “Church Square”, Panama’s main square, is the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, the town’s most important landmark. Portuguese sailors used to come to the original chapel, consecrated in 1541, to offer thanksgiving prayers after their long and treacherous voyage from Lisbon. The present church, with its Baroque facade framed by twin towers, was built in 1619. Its most striking feature, the double flight of stairs leading up to the church, was added in 1871. The central pediment was built at the same time, as was the belfry to accommodate the huge bell brought from Old Goa’s Augustinian monastery. The chapel in the south transept has fine reredos (altar panels) retrieved from the viceroy’s chapel in the Secretariat. The Baroque splendour of the main altar and the two transept altars is in sharp contrast to the otherwise simple interior.
MENEZE BRAGANZA INSTITUTE
An excellent example of 19th-century Portuguese civic architecture, the Institute Vasco dad Gama was built to impart knowledge in the arts and sciences. It was later renamed after the philanthropist Luis de Menezes Braganza (1878- 1938), whose family home is in Chandor. Today, this is Goa’s Central Library, with a good collection of rare books. The superb mural in blue painted ceramic tiles (azulezos) was added to the entrance lobby in 1935, and depicts scenes from the epic Os Lusiadas (Lusiada, meaning the “people of Portugal”, is derived from Lusitania, Portugal’s old name). Written by the 16thcentury Portuguese poet, Luis Vaz de Camoes, this recounts the history of the Portuguese presence in Goa. The Institute used to have an art gallery with works by late 19th- and early 20th-century European artists. These exhibits are now housed in the State Museum.
The grassy square in front of the Institute, Azad Maidan, is lined on one side by the Police Headquarters, built in 1832 with stones from Old Goa’s abandoned buildings. The pavilion in the centre was made in 1847, using Corinthian pillars taken from a Dominican church, dating to the mid-16th century. Inside, a memorial to the freedom fighter, Dr Tristao de Braganza Cunha, has replaced an earlier statue of the first viceroy, Alfonso de Albuquerque, now in the Archaeological Museum in Old Goa.
This museum houses a rather modest collection of precolonial artifacts, including statues, sari stones, antique furniture and carvings from ravaged Hindu temples, as well as some Christian icons.
ENVIRONS: Panama’s nearest beach, Miramar, is 3 km (2 miles) west. Dona Paula, 7 km (4 miles) southwest of Panama, is near the headland dividing the estuaries of the Zuari and Mandovi rivers. It is named after a viceroy’s daughter who, the story goes, jumped into the sea when she wasn’t allowed to marry a local fisherman. The jetty offers fine views of Fort Aguada across the bay. Jet skis are available for rent and visitors can also take an enjoyable ferry-ride to Vasco dad Gama harbour.