Information and travel tips on Panaji Goa

Everybody sidesteps Panaji for the more obvious allure of sun, sand and sea! Those who give it a second look or stop by to explore it are smitten by its subtle charms! The precedent was set by the Portuguese whose victorious flotilla sailed up the River Mandovi choosing to drop anchor deeper inland at Ela, river port and capital of Adil Shah. The Portuguese paid scant attention to the marshy, mosquito-infested headland at the mouth of the River Mandovi, nor were they impressed by Adil Shah’s palace or the pretty sight of a fishing village and miles of waterfront.

But when the harbour at Velha Goa (Ela) silted up forcing its residents to look for new real estate, it was to Panaji they came! The Portuguese settled in Panaji — its marshes were drained, land reclaimed and the infrastructure for governance established — a time consuming project that took a while. Dom Manuel de Saldanha de Albuquerque became the first viceroy to move to Panaji (1759) setting up his vice regal residence in Idalcao’s (Adil Shah) Palace on the riverfront.

Distances from Panaji

1. Bangalore: 690km

2. Belgaurn: 157km

3. Hyderabad: 747km

4. Mangalore: 371km

5. Mumbai: 594km

6. Pune: 458 km

7. Mapusa: 13km

8. Margao: 33km

9. Old Goa: 10km

10. Ponda: 27km

11. Vasco: 30km

Beach Resort in Goa

Panaji was declared the official capital of Portuguese Goa in 1843. By this time, the north bank of the Mandovi had been taken over by wharfs, jetties, shops and residences. That the new town grew around the river wasn’t surprising — that it could sustain the river is, considering the Indian penchant for devastating their immediate environment, especially their rivers! Indians share a deeply symbiotic relationship with rivers — they pray to them, and pollute them, they use them and abuse them, they love them but they leave them looking like cesspools. Consequently, few Indian rivers are worth living beside. The Mandovi is an exception — it flows down from its source in the Sahaydri Mountains, traverses through most of Central Goa before immersing itself into the Arabian Sea at Cabo Aguada and manages to retain its self-esteem despite the many towns and villages, harbours and jetties, farms and fields that lie along its course. And in all that distance, trials and tribulations notwithstanding, not once does it overflow its banks!

With the capital issue settled, the Portuguese began to administer and monitor their Eastern and Far Eastern colonies from Panaji. Panaji was elevated to the status of city by a royal decree (22 March 1843), designated capital and christened Nova Goa but never did quite live up to its billing. It became the eastern command centre for the Portuguese Empire but didn’t acquire the grandeur of Old Goa or the majesty of Lisbon. Till date, Panaji retains its small provincial town ambience — narrow streets fringed by old houses, out-of-date hotels and passé shops contribute to its unsophisticated mien.

The busiest stretch is Dayanand Bandodkar Marg, Panaji’s main thoroughfare. It enters Panaji from Patto Bridge on Rua de Ourem creek, moves parallel to the waterfront, curves its way around Idalcao’s Palace, Abbe Faria’s statue, the old Goa Medical College building, climbs up Altinho Hill, goes past the National Institute of Oceanography and peters out at the Cabo Raj Bhawan overlooking the Arabian Sea. The summit of Altinho offers magnificent views of the city below, the endless expanse of the Arabian Sea and Cabo Aguada with its fortress standing watch above the Mandovi. On the opposite side, ships patiently wait their turn to dock at Marmagao harbour, the busy port on the estuary of River Zuari.

Originals

Institute Vasco da Gama, a scientific and historical institute founded in 1871 houses among other things, India’s oldest public library. Central Library (1832) has an outstanding collection of books and manuscripts dating back to the Inquisition circa 1750. Renamed the Menezes Braganza Institute after an eminent freedom fighter, the institute also houses the infamous Inquisition Table where the Auto da Fe (Act of Faith — the judicial ceremony of the Inquisition) were conducted.

Contact: Institute Menezes Braganza, PO Box 221 Panaji, and Goa 403 00

Timing: 10:00 to 17:30 hrs

Closed on Sundays and Government Holidays.

Another original on D B Marg is Goa Medical College (now moved to its new campus in Bambolim) established in 1842 as the Escola de Medica Cirugiao. Its first student doctors graduated in 1846, which makes it the oldest medical school in Asia!

Panaji Highlights

The palace of Sultan Adil Shah (Idalcao’s Palace) became the Secretariat, administrative hub of the Goa’s Portuguese government when the Viceroy discarded it for the impressive new Viceregal Palace on Altinho. The viceroy’s palace, taken over by the Government of India after Goa’s Liberation, became Cabo Raj Bhawan, the official residence of the Governor of Goa. ldalcao’s Palace had no such luck. It housed the administrative offices of the Union Territory of Goa till Goa was granted statehood. When the state government moved into its new quarters across the River Mandovi, the sultan’s palace was relegated to the lowly status of Regional Passport Office.

Beach Resorts in Goa

Luxury Beach Hotel

There are lot of beach resorts around Panaji which could be divided geographically in North and South Goa. There are hotels and resorts available in different categories; most popular are the luxury resorts in Goa including taj exotica goa, Vivanta by Taj Holiday Village Goa , Vivanta by Taj Fort Aguada Goa and the Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Goa

Father of Hypnotism!

Guano spotted benches outside the defunct palace are a favourite haunt of the footsore and frustrated applicants who pay scant attention to the statue that shares their waterfront space. No viceroy or emperor, the sculpture is of Abbe Faria, a Goan priest. The sculpture portrays the priest hypnotizing a young woman and illustrates just one aspect of this unusual priest who was as much a man of cloth as a writer, revolutionary and a scientist recognized as the Father of Hypnotism. Born in Candolim (1756) to parents who split up (to enter the Catholic Church as nun and priest!), he was ordained as priest in Rome. One of the leading members of the unsuccessful Pinto Revolt of 1787, Abbe Faria escaped to Paris where he studied the science of hypnotism and wrote ‘De La Cause de Sommeil Lucide’, a book based on his theory that hypnotic trances were an outcome of suggestion therapy.

Between the river and the Raj Bhawan lies Altinho Hill, Panaji’s best address! The Chief Minister of Goa lives here as does the Archbishop of Goa, bureaucrats, plutocrats and other important personages! The Bishop’s Palace with its impressive coat of arms was built in the 1890s and duly reflected the consequence of the Archbishop, newly elevated to the office of Patriach.

Sandwiched between the riverfront and Altinho is a warren of alleys packed with shops, taverns and cafés — the atmosphere is true blue Portuguese from the quimico (chemist’s) and doutor’s clinica to the Latin Quarter with its charming squares, traditional homes and abundance of churches. Panaji’s heart beats in the Largo Da Igreja Church Square, classical Baroque and very, very south European. Twin stairways climb asymmetrically up to the Church of the Immaculate Conception (1541AD), an all white church with a central bell tower flanked by two Baroque towers with arched windows. This church is the marker for Panaji — roads lead away from it towards the waterfront, Altinho, Fontainhas and San Thome, the areas with a distinctive Portuguese appearance.

The white with blue trimmings San Thome Church is located near Panaji’s General Post Office in the old Tobacco House. The Goa Tourism Office and Tourist Hotel is a few metres away from the GPO. The square in front of the Tobacco House and mint was the site of public executions, consecrated with the blood of Goa’s very first revolutionaries, the fifteen conspirators of the unsuccessful `Pinto Revolt’ who were executed here in 1843.

Godly Revolutionaries

Local clergymen ignored for senior positions in the Church in Goa took their case to the royal court in Lisbon and were summarily dismissed. Back in Goa, they conspired to overthrow the Portuguese rule. The conspirators led by Caetano Francisco Couto of Panaji, Jose Antonio Gonsalves of Divar and Jose Custodio de Faria (Abbe Faria) met at the house of Father Pinto (hence ‘Pinto Revolt’) to plan out the uprising that included disaffected and disgruntled army officers. The Portuguese got wind of it and the uprising failed even before it began.

Fontainhas

Portuguese Goa lingers in Fontainhas, the precinct between Altinho and Rua de Ourem creek. A popular residential quarter of the 18th and 19th Centuries, Fontainhas has narrow streets packed tight with double and triple storied houses painted indigo, red and ochre and topped with tiled roofs. Steps lead off the street to elegant wrought iron gates with nameplates that read Albuquerque, Da Cunha, Rodrigues, Cardoso, Nunes, Sousa and Carvalho. Shrines housing blue and ivory statues of Madonna and Christ, gardens and deep verandahs full of potted aspidistras and palms, lacy wrought iron balconies overhanging the street recreate an era long gone. The Vhurch of St. Sebastian stands at the southern end of the Fontainhas. Its most valued possession is the ‘Crucifix of the Inquisition’, which originally adorned the Place of the Inquisition Velha Goa, then hung in the Viceroy’s chapel in Idalcao’s Place before being brought to san Sebastian in 1918.

Celebrating Fontainhas!

Fontainhas got its name from the freshwater springs in the area — the springs disappeared but sincere efforts are being made to preserve the character and heritage of Panaji’s Latin Quarter. One such measure is to designate it a Conservation Zone in 1974, another is the annual Fontainhas Festival of the Arts.

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