Walks

THE FONTAINHAS WALK

This walk takes you through the aesthetic beauty of Panaji and exposes you to its multi-cultural identity.

Begin this walk at the Peoples’ High School, established in 1936. Your first stop should be in the direction of the yellow house with a sign on the front door saying B. CORREA. Look up at the wooden railings on the first floor with their white floral motifs. One should remember that each floral motif would have seven (and not eight) petals as seven is considered the ideologically auspicious number in Goa. Do take a look at its moulded roof as you head towards the building that houses the office of the Delegate, Fundacao Oriente. This is the office of a cultural institution based in Lisbon with activities spanning publication of books, music concerts art exhibitions and architectural conservation. Drop in and see if there are any on-going programmes that you might like to attend. Passes are usually available on request.

The ubiquitous Goan baker’s man or pudin whizzes past the Fundacao Oriente building exactly ten minutes to four in the afternoon. Catch him (if you can!) for some freshly baked Goan bread. Turn to your right for a clear view of the Anganwadi (Project Services Scheme, lntergrated Child Development) building. The eavesboards of this charming brick red house are in mint condition. The pattern on the front facade is definitely worth a second look, Laterite is a different stone to carve as it crumbles under the mallet. An ingenious Goan craftsman has allowed the laterite blocks on this front facade to project in such as way so as to give it a patterned look.

Opposite the Anganwadi is the Seventh Day Adventist English School. The cast iron railings here have been set on high floorboards. Take a look at the single window that faces the North. It is perched on corbels that are reminiscent of pulpit in a church. Further, past a few examples of fine heritage buildings lies the oasis of Fontainhas, the Panjim Inn. Stop and have a cup of chai here or enjoy a leisurely lunch on the upper floor verandah. Meet with the owners of the Inn and ask to be taken to see the Panjim Poussada where the same owners have refurbished an old Hindu house (notice the courtyard), filled it with period furniture and made it into a heritage hotel.

Further up, Maureen Lodge and Afonso Guest house have both been charmingly refurbished, keeping conservation in mind. Take a left to face the beautiful chapel of St. Sebastian. Even a cynic would not miss the sense of drama at the St. Sebastian Chapel Square. Records say that the original chapel vas located at a site opposite the present chapel and was dated 1818. What compelling reason necessitated the relocation of the chapel to the present site in 1888 is unknown. It could have been for directional reasons. Most chapel and churches in Goa are made to face the West. This is so that the ray of the evening sun would fall on the nave or alter to heighten one’s emotions at prayer. This chapel has both historic and architectural value in addition to its locational advantage. It dominates a neighbourhood square and is an exquisite example of Goan Baroque. The Chapel has three doors at the base to accommodate two side aisles. The facade narrows in width at the nave on the upper storey which is then capped with the belfry. Once inside, you will feel (and rightly so) that the chapel is over-filled with retables, heavy Baroque furniture and elaborately carved wooden columns. Apparently, when the old City of Goa fell, the statue of Our Lady of Good Counsel from the Chapel of the High Court there was moved to this spot. Notice the delicately crafted barrister’s portfolio and scales in the hands of this image of Our Lady. She was meant to inspire the advocacy of justice during the repressive days of the Goan Inquisition. The three heavily ornamented alcoves containing statues of saints from a much larger church in the Portuguese Colony at Diu in Gujarat and the huge Crucifix has come from the Palace of the Inquisition. It is believed that when the Inquisition was suppressed in 1812, the Crucifix was brought to a small chapel in the Viceroy’s Palace and when this chapel was also closed in l918, it was housed here. Apart from its historic significance, what is of interest is that unlike on most other crucifixes, the figure of Christ has the head raised and eyes open.

Afonso Guest House has some very basic accommodation available for tourists at reasonable prices. You could occupy these if only for a view from your window of the beautiful camel foot tree (bauhinia) at the entrance of the house. Admire the flowering hibiscus on the street, the Indian almond tree on the side of the street and the ornamental plants in pots on the pavement.

If you are interested in the evolution of the Goan balcao you might want to visit Maureen Lodge. You enter this building through a bulky masonry gateway once popular in pre-Portuguese Goa. These high walls and bulky gateways reiterated principles of privacy and gender seclusion for the Hindu and Muslim women of those times. Once in take a look at the stone sealing on either side of the portico. Called a sopa in Konkani, this is believed to be a precursor of the Goan balcao.

Now take a right turn off the chapel of St. Sebastian for a real treat. The house on your left was where Goa’s most famous bibliographer, the late Alexio Manuel Costa lived. Once a local landmark in yellow ochre, it has recently been given an indigo wash. Take a look at this little square with its shrine and courtyard well. But for an incongruous addition, you could be in provincial Europe!

Walk further to Park lane Lodge, another heritage hotel. Notice its high pitched roof over the entrance and the beautiful garden that offset the eavesboards. Further up is Dr. Saldanha’s Clinic with its pointed arches, high moulded roof, plinth and quoin. Take a look at the guava trees across the street from the Clinic and the little shrine of Our Lady in a niche in a wall corner. The Carlos Xavier House next door sports beautifully crafted wooden railings that may have been hi, inspired by cast iron originals. Now walk back, retracing your steps and keeping the chapel to your right until you get to a lovely little tile gallery next to Panjim Inn. Enjoy the afternoon breezes as they waft through Velha Goa Galeria (Open 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., 3.30 p.m. – 7 p.m. Sundays Closed). The gallery displays handpainted tiles in varying size. Replicas of the Portuguese azulejos, these tiles are designed in Portugal and manufactured in Southern Goa. Designs vary from traditional motifs to reproductions of drawings done by Mario de Miranda, India’s best known cartoonist.