Walks

THE REIS MAGOS WALK

This is a lovely walk that gives you a panoramic view of the city of Panaji from across the river, takes you on an architectural journey through three famous monuments and offers you one of the best sunsets on the horizon.

Begin this walk at what are popularly called the Verem Villas in the village of Verem. You get a glimpse of the twin bridges over the mighty river Mandovi over your left shoulder. The villas are to your left, hugging the banks. These pretty little cottages were designed and built by internationally acclaimed architect Charles Correa who comes originally from the village of Moira in Northern Goa. What you see from the road are the villa backyards. Enjoy the spectacular array of colours that the bougainvillea from these backyards spread out before you. Walk with the river your left.

The road now veers away precariously from the river and leads you to some private house on the right. Look to your right at a house aptly named SURYA owned by India’s best-known “adman” Bal Mundkur who has made Goa his home. The house is perched on a hilly site and enjoys a full view of the river and the city across it. The faux Ionic columns that support the front façade are symbolic of new contributions to Goan contemporary architecture.

Walk further up and see a yellow house on the right. Its turned wooden windows point to a pre-Portuguese period when most Hindu houses had windows like these to protect the house from burglaries. Windows like these were outputs of Goan craftsmen for who woodturning came more easily than woodcarving. You are now in for a treat of a lifetime. An innocuous sign says 17th CENTURY CHAPEL OF TODO O BEM. Turn into this dirt track and keep walking into the lane until you see another sign and then the little chapel itself. This chapel named after Our Lady of All Good is located in Sonarbhat or the goldsmiths’ ward and once faced the liver. Today, a few houses have come up in front of it and the Fundacao Orient, with its head offices in the former Portuguese colony of Macau, has purchased an open plot behind the chapel to allow it to have a wooded backdrop. It was in 1997-98 that the historically important little chapel was rediscovered by this Foundation that has helped restore it to near-perfection. Some Islamic flower motifs on the sides offset the stone portal that has an image of the Holy Sacrament carved at the door head. The chapel shares many architectural genes with the church dedicated to St. Anne at Talualim. The nave is 10 metres long and has some very fine proportions. Three semi-circular chapels on each side support the rectangular nave. These chapels are covered in shell-patterned canopies that place the Todo o Bem in rather distinguished company. There are only three places of worship like this in the whole of India of which two are at Goa. There is the church dedicated to St. Anne (popularly called Santana) at Talaulim; there is one in Diu in Gujarat and the third is the Our Lady of Hope church in Margao. The chapel was designed by Vidal Fonseca Bravo de Almeida, one of the few fidalgos who actually came from a noble house in Portugal. The plan of the chapel has been desk described being “remarkable”. It was founded in 1726 but actually built after 1783. The architectural style, however, dates to between 1680 and 1720. Enjoy the polychromatic decorations on the walls and the ceiling of the chapel. The chapel has been restored so beautifully that it would take a genius or a really hardboiled cynic to start looking for flaws. If the chapel is shut, ask for the keys from the house on the left of the chapel gate. Visitors to the chapel are made to feel more than welcome here.

You can now either take the dirt road from the chapel toward the riverfront or stop for a breather under the coconut trees to your right. You could, on the other hand, leave this little enclave and head for the Reis Magos fort and church instead. For this, you will have to leave the chapel, come back on to the dirt track and take an entrance left from behind the great big mango tree that stands sentinel over the corner. You will now come to the crossroad that has a Hindu shrine under a tree in the middle of the road. It is a typically Goan community space and a few shops and houses have come up in the near vicinity of the tree but it is not head to imagine that this was once a village mand or square. Picture a scene from Goa’ past that allows you room to imagine that people once congregated here, met for a little local gossip, shared opinions and settled scores. Now take a left into the lane that takes you to the fort and the church in the village that popularly takes the name of the church, Reis Magos, but is still Verem.