19 December 2005

Panjim and Old Goa

Panjim was a city founded by the portuguese on the south bank of the river Mandovi. Initially it was just a port of first call for portuguese sailors from Lisbon who then moved upriver to Old Goa (Goa Velha) which was the capital of the Portuguese enclave of Goa in India. But in early 19th century (?1821) they shifted their capital to Panjim apparently because of a plague epidemic. The city of Panjim really flowered and today it arguably the most beautiful state capital in India. It still a very small city of narrow but good roads and there are districts which still have the colonial flavour in architecture and way of life - Sao Tome, Fountainhas and Mala. Urbanisation is fast claiming this pleasant city and high rises have begun appearing but it still retaining the flavour of a colonial town. Iam heading to Old Goa which is 9km away on the hired Kinetic Honda and it is such a pleasant ride - the Mandovi on my left and greenery all over the place and the road is fantastic. Old Goa has a high concentration of churches incuding the largest churc in Asia - Se Cathedral.
When we reach there the sunday evening service s in progress with a curt sign outside saying tourists not allowed as service is in progress. So in the meantime we visit the nearby Church of St Francis of Assisi and The Bom Jesus cathedral which houses the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier. There is also an innovatively done ASI museum where unforunately photography is not allowed. It houses among other things the portraits of all the portuguese governors of Goa. Quite impressive. Se Cathedral open and one can see easily why it is the largest church in Asia. I wish I had taken a guide along as I can gather precious little of the myriad paintings and sculptures painted over by golden paint. But the church is really massive. We move back to Panjim and suddenly I can see a certain similarity with Daman. A river dividing a port city into north and south banks with a fort on either side. Its good that we have visited Daman first otherwise it would have seemed a poor imitation of Panjim. We head to the nondescript and crowded Miramar beach. After a hefty dinner we get back to Altinho. Next post: North Goa.
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