After visiting the most popular sights in Goa- exploring Fort Aguada, strolling along the Anjuna Beach & the flea markets, going on a Dolphin cruise, and exploring Colva beach where I managed to let go of my fears and go para sailing, I was now eager to explore the other side to Goa- The Old Goa as it is called. Also known as Goa Velha ["Velha" in Portugese means Old], it is located on the banks of the River Mandovi about 9 Kms Panaji, Goa's Capital.
Riding the bus to Panaji, I chatted up with the lady sitting beside me asking her if she knew anything about this part of Goa. She went on to tell me that the town was once a major Portuguese stronghold and before that was the capital of Bijaipur Kingdom as well. But apparently, most of the forts, weaponry, and traces of the era gone by have gone missing with time. Even though there has been a decline in heritage over centuries, the town is well maintained, inspite of the large influx of visitors year round. "You should explore the churches and temples there" she said before going on her way.
I got off in Panaji where the tour guide reccomended by a friend waited. He took over from where the lady had left off to shed more light on the history behind Old Goa. "The town was earlier surrounded by a fortified wall with barracks, a hospital and the prison. Europeans who ruled the region have left behind quite an impression apart from architectural marvels. I will show you some of the famous churches in this region for you to understand better."
Along the Mandovi River
Within minutes we were on a road flanked on either side by a Grand church. "On your right is the Basilica of Bom Jesus and across the road is the Se Cathedral. Why dont you go explore the Bom Jesus Basilica first?" he said before wandering off to chat with some friends.
Basilica of Bom Jesus is a Church marked as a World Heritage Site standing tall but without a towering cross on top. Apparently in its place was a Hindu temple which the portugese demolished to erect the church on.. And the cross they installed kept falling off due to natural calamities, till finally they realised something bigger was in power there and so the church stands tall without a Cross.
Basilica of Bom Jesus
The interiors are overwhelming, huge ceilings, beautiful art work.. its absolutely breathtaking. The church houses two chapels, a main altar, a sacristy and a belfry at the back. Apart from these, the church also has a rich collection of paintings related to various instances from the life of St. Francis Xavier.Altars dedicated to St. Michael and to Our Lady of Hope are also present.
The church houses the sacred relics of St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of Goa. St Francis Xavier is also known as "Goencho Saib" meaning "Lord of Goa". The saint died while on a sea voyage to China on December 2,1552. In accordance with his wishes , his remains were transferred to Goa the following year. Before I knew it, nearly an hour had passed. Making my way out onto the street to explore the Se Cathedral I noticed the guide lost in conversation.
Inside Se Cathedral
The largest church in Old Goa, Se Cathedral is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria. This Renaissance cathedral was designed in the 16th century and took nearly 80 years to complete. I noticed there was only one bell tower, apparently the other collapsed way back in 1776 when it was struck by lightening The interiors are filled with intricate detailing, the focal point is the 249 feet long central nave and a gilded high altar dedicated to St. Catherine.As you walk around , you will see the 15 additional altars inside the cathedral. What a beautiful building that was. I could have spent all day there, but I was thirsty for more...
I quickly made an exit towards our vehicle only to find the guide waiting there for me. "Shall we go? I have few more surprises to show you", he chirped! I wondered what could be more magical than these structures I had just visited...
This post was also submitted on Club Mahindra's Blog