Old Goa - Yesterday
When the Portuguese arrived in the island
of Goa in 1510, it was a rich commercial city, where
people from different parts of Asia converged. Goa was
a natural port. All the Muslims embarked here for Jeddah
on their way to Mecca. The city was adorned with many
buildings such as the beautiful mosque, the majestic
palace of Adil Shah, the Adil Shah's castle, etc.
With the advent of the Portuguese, the development of
Goa attained its apogee; it was called Goa Dourada (Golden
Goa), Rainha do Oriente (Queen of the East), Roma do
Oriente (Rome of the East). Goa gave origin to the Portuguese
proverb Quem viu Goa, excusa de ver Lisboa (He who has
seen Goa need not see Lisbon). Besides being a commercial
city, Goa was also an educational centre with many Colleges
and a University; it was here that the first printing
press in India was established in 1556. As we shall
see later, Goa was also a centre of art. Here are some
impressions of famous travelers who single it out, from
the innumerous places they had visited during their
Pyrard de Laval: "Whoever has been in Goa may say
that he has seen the choicest rarities of India, for
it is the most famous and celebrated city, on account
of its commercial intercourse with people of all nationalities
of the East, who bring there the products of merchandise
and other commodities in abundance because every year
more than 1000 ships touch there, laden with cargo".
Talboys Wheeler: "Every morning the sun rose at
Goa upon scenes which may be easily realized the sailors
coolies loading or unloading in the river; the busy
shopkeepers displaying their wares, the slaves bringing
in the supplies of water and provisions for the day,meantime
above the noise of offices and bazaars, the bells were
ever ringing from the numerous Churches and monasteries,
and filling the whole city with an ecclesiastical clangors".
There were many famous streets such as Rua Direita,
Rua dos leiloes, (Auction Road), Rua dos ourives (Goldsmiths'
Road), Rua dos Judeus (Jews' Road), and the bazaars
such as Bazar graride, Bazar de S. Caetano, Bazar de
Peixe; Baratilha (similar to the Bombay 'Chor Bazar')
etc. There were also many colleges: St. Paul's College,
College of Populo (People's College), St. Bonaventure's
College etc. Many wayside crosses, chapels, hospitals
and Government houses adorned the city.
The best description of Old Goa has been given by Francesco
Placido Ramponi who was the artist sent by the Grand-Duke
of Tuscany, Cosimo III to erect the mausoleum of St.
Francis Xavier. Ramponi writes: "That which filled
me with admiration was the sight, every eight or ten
days, of the arrival of fleets of 20 to 30 boats; one
with a load of linen, another with raw or spun cotton,
a third with pepper, a fourth with large quantities
of drugs; these goods were being loaded and unloaded
and dispersed some, to one part of India, some, to another.
And the city shops! Full of merchandise. And among the
streets that of "Baniani", which is very long,
where on both sides one could see ships, all full of
great chests, piled high with linen, turbans and coloured
cloth, and cloth for Brazil, for the ships which return
to Lisbon from Goa, touch at Brazil. The chests which
come from Cochin are made of six planks and are about
two arms high, that is to say the smaller chests are
of this height; the length is from 3 to 5 arms, and
the top edge of the plank is reinforced with bonds of
iron. In these chests Indian cloth is kept on land,
as well on the sea".
"Another thing which I saw with wonder, three days
before the fleet left for Europe, was the arrival of
those merchants called "Guseratti', who carry little
sacks full of a collection of precious stones, of all
sizes; bags of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, topaz, diacinti,
cat's eyes and others; and for this sight alone, I would
wish to return. The way in which the Canerini mould
the real earth of red clay into jars and jugs which
they call 'Gurgulettas' and other jars, for holding
water, worked like fine porcelain, is curious. They
give them the colour of carmine with the juice of grasses.
The workmen are real artists and their method of work
is quite different from ours. They spoil much ivory
and ebony whilst cutting it."
"Many of the graceful things which come from China
are so elegant that they grace the European cities.
First and foremost there are the trinkets of porcelain
of every kind, every quality, colour and size, draperies
and brocades with gold leaves and other fine materials,
'contadores' that is cabinets, varnished, in different
colours and scented and with locks picked out in different
colours; screens about three arms high, made of strips
of finest silk, and various other gallantries and merchandise.
But, what is even more admirable, each year they vary
their inventions in all types of work from porcelain
vases to 'contadori', from the quality of draperies
to linen. These Chinese come to Goa to sell their merchandise
at their own price, and if they do not get it they do
not sell. Their clothes are all of one piece and look
odd when they move..."
But Old Goa lost its splendour when it was abandoned
and the capital city was transferred to Panjim. There
were many factors which accelerated the ruin of Old
Goa. People were forced to abandon the city on account
of its climate and an epidemic that broke out there,
so that by the second quarter of the 17th century, the
streets and houses were lying vacant. Besides, due to
the change in naval technique the ships required deeper
waters than those available at Old Goa.
The churches and other buildings collapsed giving place
to palm trees. However, the picture is little different
today with the advent of priests and nuns for whom some
study courses are conducted in this city and the pilgrims
and tourists who break the stillness of the atmosphere
now and again.