Walks

THE PORTAlS WALK

This is an idea wa1k that you through a mix of Goa’s Hindu and Catholic houses in a journey through Panjim’s historic past.

A good starting point for this walk would be at the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier in Portais, Panaji. The little wooden statuette in the niche in the front façade is probably borrowed from a smaller altar inside. The Saint lived between 1506 and 1552, the last ten years of which he spent pioneering extraordinary missions in the East. Responsible for masterminding Christian evangelism in India, Malacca, China and Japan, he was the first missionary to turn local caste system, languages and perceptions to advantage. The Feast of the Saint falls each year on 3rd December and a big fair is held in the grounds of the Basilica de Bom Jesu, Old Goa, where the mortal remains of his body are placed. Attend the Mass that is celebrated during the Feast if only to feel the reverberating effect of the Saint’s sway over both Christians and Hindus.

The North-South axis of this capela is something of a curiosity. Most chapels and churches in Goa face the East or the West. When they faced the East, the rays of the setting sun from the West showed off glass windows behind naves to full advantage. When they faced the West, it allowed streaming rays of the setting sun to bathe the nave in a soft, mellow light. Faceless concrete blocks that pass off as residential buildings today sadly surround the Chapel, dedicated to Goa’s patron saint and divine benefactor.

Leave the Chapel to the left and walk into portais, where a lovely mix of Hindu and Catholic houses awaits you. The walk takes you to the two natural springs at the end of the road and to the famous Fontainhas or Latin Quarter. There is a sense of mystery in this walk. You never know what to expect each time the road turns! The first house that a merit a look is a while house on the right as you enter the street. Admire its cast -iron railings which appear to be carved in filigree work. Corbels, reminiscent of church pulpits, support the first floor balcony. There is a well in the Front garden and the finials on the posts supporting the cast -iron fencing are also an obvious borrowing from a Christian religious building. Take a look at the old jackfruit tree in the compound. The jackfruit bears its bolster-shaped fruit in May-June with the fruit hanging precariously on the trunk of the tree. An unkempt boungainvillea in virgin white forms a bower in the South and before you move on, take a look at the mullions that Form a ‘V’ on the French windows on the upper floor.

As you move on, do not miss the striking indigo-blue house on the left. Take a look at the layers of country tiles on the roof that give the house its soft, moulded look. The verandah railings in turned wood are the obvious work of a Goan master craftsman. As you walk on ahead, be sure to look at the masterpiece on the left at the top of the supped street. Panaji is the only city in India that has stepped streets. This is probably a hangover from its Portuguese days. Set high above the hill, its numerous steps, wooden balusters and perforated stone balustrades give this house poise and distinction. The perforated laterite balustrade has an interesting resemblance to a compound wall giving this fenceless house an illusion of being within a compound.