THE REIS MAGOS
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
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.