Old Goa, India
by R. Niranjan Das
It was a lovely morning ride on my hired Royal Enfield all the way from Anjuna to Velha Goa. Velha Goa! That is the Portuguese translation for Old Goa. In fact the name Velha Goa is quite commonly used by people of that region. From Panjim, along with the Enfield, I had River Mandovi for companionship through the villages of Ribander till I reached the UNESCO World Heritage site of Old Goa. As I rode from Panaji, the landscape, houses, people and everything changed. Even though it was crowded, the place with numerous Cathedrals, Churches, Chapels and Convents still holds an old world charm. The prominence of Christianity cannot be ignored in this part of the world.
Built by the Bijapur Sultans in the 15th century, the city was evangelised from the 16th to the 18th century by the Portuguese before abandoning it in the 18th century after it was hit by a plague. The beautiful structures have intricate carvings both on the outside and inside.
Basilica De Bom Jesus with its imposing facade and baroque architecture stands tall and was the first one that I visited. The Basilica looked quite different from others with respect to its dark colour and size. Though it might seem dilapidated at the first look, the Basilica with its reddish brown colour, ornamented pillars and magnificent carvings stands rock solid even after 400 years. Dedicated to infant Jesus, this grand structure also rests the mortal remains of St.Francis Xavier which is taken out for public viewing once in ten years. The interiors of the basilica has a lot of art work, murals and numerous altars which captivate every visitor.
As I came out of the Basilica, a few meters away stood the white coloured Se Cathedral of Santa Catarina. Dedicated to the Catherine of Alexandria, it was once considered the largest cathedral in Asia. Built in Portuguese architecture, it was constructed to portray the power and fame of the Portuguese. The cathedral also houses many altars, paintings and a large bell known as the Golden bell.
From Se Cathedral I moved to Church of St.Francis of Assisi which also has baroque style architecture with beautiful frescoes on the walls and ceilings. The church also houses some brilliant 17th century wall paintings. Next to it lies an archaeological museum which displays ancient statues and portraits.
Half a kilometer away lies the beautiful Viceroy’s Arch next to Mandovi quay. The arch built in 16th century must have been witness to thousands of people landing on the Goan shores. Near to the arch lies the Gateway of the palace of Adil Shah. Built before the arrival of the Portuguese, it is only the gateway that survives now.
From the gateway I walked towards the immaculate looking Church of St. Cajetan. It is built in Corinthian architectural style using laterite blocks with two towers on either side of the main dome. The interiors of the church look neat and its altar is one of the most beautiful ones I have ever seen.
I walked further towards the de Bom Jesus Basilica and from nowhere appeared the Chapel of St. Catherine which looked abandoned and dilapidated. It was built by Alfonso de Albuquerque in early 16th century when he took over the possession of Goan territory.
In a different direction but not far away from de Bom Jesus lies the Towers of St.Augustine church. Built in the early 16th century this church was over a period of time abandoned and neglected which led to the fall of the vault and the body of the church in mid 19th century. By the mid 20th century every part of the church collapsed except for one of the four towers that existed. Now this single tower is the only remnant left.
Next to the Augustine tower lies the Convent of Santa Monica and a christian museum which definitely is worth a visit.
A few meters away from Santa Monica and Augustine tower is the Church of Our Lady of Rosary. Built in the 16th century it has a mix of renaissance and gothic architecture. The view of the Mandovi river from the church is spectacular.
There are many more churches, structures and museums to excite any traveller in Old Goa which have not been mentioned here. The above list shows the most well known and frequently visited locations in Old Goa.
If You Go:
About the author:
Niranjan is passionate about travel, be it long bike rides or treacherous trekking or leisure holidaying or backpacking through the countryside or an engrossing train journey, He dreams of setting foot on every single country on planet earth and meeting adorable strangers and learning new cultures. His travel blog link: rajniranjandas.blogspot.in
All photographs by Niranjan Das:
Cathedral of Santa Catarina
Basilica De Bom Jesus
St. Augustine Church
Church of St. Cajetan