This walk takes you through some of the prettiest
country roads and heritage homes in Goa. The walk
also helps you see that there is more to Goa than
just the sand and the sea.
You should begin this walk at the St. Francis
Xavier Church in the village of Velim. Welcome
to the prettiest village this side of the river
Sal, but if you want to be a little adventurous
and skip the walking for just a few more minutes,
take a drive past the church on your left and
head for the mouth of the river. The resort hotels
of The Leela and Holiday Inn are not too far from
here and the drive will help you understand why
this most picturesque of spots is the location
for some of Goa’s finest hotels.
If you are hungry or thirsty then head for the
Hotel River Sal for fresh fish and copious quantities
of beer as you watch fishing trawlers head out
to sea. Watch out for dolphins that swim up close
to the mouth of a river that was once the lifeline
of the ancient Kadamba kingdom.
Back on your walk, keep the church to your right
and stop en route at Rose STD Booth and Tailoring
Shop if only for a glimpse into the rural scene.
You are now heading straight into the village
of Velim. Look at the yellow house on the left
and notice the sequence of the perforated compound
wall with its spade pattern. Whether this is the
result of an over zealous card player’s
mind or just a pattern randomly picked up by the
village mason is hard to tell. It is also possible
that it is really an inverted version of the stylized
betel leaf, a traditional hospitality motif. An
imaginative mind might also lead you to believe
that the spade is actually the lance that is always
seen in the hands of St. Thomas, the patron saint
of builders in India. Either way, it is an interesting
pattern that provokes comment and a cynic would
perhaps say that all the pattern does is allow
the cool breezes from the river to come into a
house set on a high plinth!
You will now go past the seven Stations of the
Cross on your left. Stop at Brothers Bakery for
a bottle of water or packaged snacks. There is
a branch of the Bank of India here where you can
change foreign currency if you have to but that
sort of thing is best left for a main branch in
Margao. You would have noticed by now that every
village in Goa has a family-run bakery. Christian
missionaries introduced the techniques of baking
bread in India and as the host is a mandatory
part of the Christian ritual of worship, bakeries
are often located in close proximity of the village
chapel or church. Before the arrival of the first
Europeans, Indians ate unleavened bread made from
wheat or millet- It is also possible that one
family of newly converted Christians was picked
to bake the bread for the church and the village.
While both Hindus and Christians in Goa enjoy
their daily bread, it is something of curiosity
that there are only two Hindu families in this
profession in the whole of Goa. Hindus converted
to Christianity for reasons of caste exaltation
among many other reasons. And yet even after conversion
to Christianity, the Portuguese-run state ensured
that caste barriers remained in place. Perhaps
this intervention created a special sub-caste
of bakers amongst the newly converted Christians.
One can only surmise, but the results of such
a research would not surprise most Goans.
As you can see, there is more to Goa than meets
the eye Admire House No. 103 on you walk and in
particular the grapevine design on the slim columns
that SUPPORT THE roof. Take a look at the Reinforced
Cement (RCC, as it is popularly referred to) railing.
It bears the results of a colonial hangover.
The next visible signage might put a chill down
your spine but is certainly worth the time. Don’t
just stand and stare, read the sign! It says LONCA
UNDERTAKERS. FOR COFFINS, TOMBSTONES, ENGRAVINGS
EXTERMATION, EMBALMING, BODY REMAINS DEPATCHED
TO ANY PART OF THE WORLD. WOODEN CROSSES. DAY
& NIGHT SERVICE.
Now go past the soothing stands of pandamus
on your right and look across the pen paddy fields.
Flocks of small, medium and large egrets dot the
landscape as they dart in and out of the pathways
of buffaloes wallowing in the wet mud of the fallow
fields, Picture the fish vendor returning home
after a hard morning peddling his catch on his
bicycle. This walk will allow you to imagine that
you are doing more than just a walk through a
village. You arc embarking on an exercise in watching
the Goan world go by.
If it is a Sunday and the celebrations at the
church are over, do not be surprised to see the
chaplain in a cassock tucked high above his knees
and a crash helmet whiz past you on his Royal