This is part of a series of guidebooks published by the Archaeological Survey of India to showcase World Heritage Sites in India. A UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site, Old Goa or Velha Goa, is famed for its churches and convents.
Although Christianity came to India with the arrival of St. Thomas in the first century AD, it was the Portuguese who firmly implanted the faith in this land in the sixteenth century after the conquest of Goa in 1510; the Portuguese began studding the land with churches and convents. The architects responsible for building these monuments were inspired by the architectural styles then prevalent in Europe.
The magnificent monuments in Goa served an additional evangelical purpose by inspiring awe and reverence in the new converts.
Among the most significant churches in Old Coo is the Basilica of Bom Jesus, which houses the mausoleum of Goa’s patron saint, Francis Xavier. The largest church in Goa, the impressive Se Cathedral is architecturally Portuguese-Gothic in style, the exterior being Tuscan and the interior Corinthian.
Old Goa is today a quiet and charming place, far from the madding crowd of the capital at Panaji. Its incredible cultural heritage adds to its popularity as a tourist destination.
This guide to Old Goa is an account on the architectural masterpieces in the form of cathedrals, churches, chapels and convents for which Old Goa (Velha Goa) is famous. These were built between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries AD in laterite and lime-plaster. Among these the most fascinating ones are Se Cathedral, Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assisi, Church of St. Cajetan, Chapel of St. Catherine, Basilica of Bom Jesus, Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and Church of St. Augustine.
Basilica of Bom Jesus, enshrining the mortal remains of St. Xavier, is an imposing edifice with Ionic, Doric and Corinthian pilastered façade. The Church of St. Cajetan is also another impressive building modeled on St. Peter’s Church in Rome. Also notable is SC Cathedral, which is an example of Renaissance architecture with Corinthian columns at its portals, Tuscan exterior and the barrel vault above the nave. The paintings in the churches were done on wooden borders and fixed between the panels having floral designs as in the chapels housing the tomb of St. Xavier, the arches above the altars in the transept of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. Apart from a few statues in stone, there are some carved delicately in wood, depicting the saints, Mother Mary and Jesus on the Cross, painted to adorn the altars.
Venture beyond the palm-fringed beaches of Goa and discover the most enduring landmarks of this heritage, viz., the churches and convents of Old Goa.
Old Goa, also known as Velha Goa (Lat. 15° 33’ North; Long. 73° 15’), lies 10 km to the east of Panaji, the capital of the state of Goa. Apart from its world- famous beaches, Old Goa has a magnificent group of churches dating from the sixteenth century onwards. The architectural styles then prevalent in Europe, be it the Classical, the Baroque or the Manuline, are reflected in the construction of these churches.
The Church of St. Augustine with its Corinthian columns and colossal bell tower, the Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assisi with its ornamented entrance, trefoil arch and rib-vaulted nave reminiscent of the Gothic style, the Basilica of Bom Jesus with its façade decorated with Ionic, Doric and Corinthian pilasters and the Se Cathedral with its Tuscan exterior and the Corinthian columns at its portals are a few of the stately monuments of Old Goa.
The monuments of Old Goa are open to public between 8.30 am and 5.30 pm on all days including public, state and national holidays. The Archaeological Museum is open between 10.00 am to 5.00 pm on all days, excluding Fridays. There is no entry fee for the monuments, but those above 15 years of age are charged Rs 5 to enter the Museum. The ASI Director General’s permission is required for taking photographs of the museum artefacts. However, still photography, without the use of tripod, is allowed in the monuments.
The nearest international airport is located at Dabolim, 32 km from Panaji. Most domestic airlines operate direct flights from Goa to Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. Private chartered airlines from international destinations also land here. The nearest railhead at Vasco da Gama, 35 km from Panaji, has daily trains to and from Delhi and Mumbai. Konkan Railway has a station at Karmali, close to Panaji.
Old Goa is connected by excellent bus services to Panaji, which lies on the National Highway (NH 4A) leading to Ponda and onwards to Belgaum and Hubli. Long-distance and local buses leave from the Kadamba Bus Terminal in Panaji for Mumbai, Bangalore, Hampi and other destinations. There is the Tourist Hotel run by the Goa Tourism Development Corporation in Old Goa. However, Panaji offers a large variety of hotels to choose from.
The area around Old Goa extending to 3800 sq km between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea, with the Sawantwadi Ghats and North Canara forming respectively the northern and southern boundaries, is now known as Goa. The name is derived from ‘Gomanta’ referred to in Bhishmaparva of the Mahabharata, Harivamsa and Skandapurana. In ancient times, this land was known variously as Gomanchala, Gomanta, Gopakapura and Gove. Ptolemy the Greek geographer of the second century AD mentiones ‘Kouba’ which is identified with this place, while the Arabs referred to it as Sindabur or Sandabur.
According to tradition, Parasurama reclaimed this land from the sea and settled the Aryans, who accompanied him, on the banks of the rivers Gomati and Aghanasini, as the Mandovi and the Zuari were then called.
The ancient history of Goa starts in the third century BC when it formed part of the Mauryan empire. It was ruled by the Satavahanas of Kolhapur in the beginning of the Christian era.
The Bhoja dynasty, with its capital at Chandrapur, modern Chandor, ruled this area in the fourth century AD.
In the sixth century, king Anirjitavarman, ruling from Kumaradvipa (present Kumbarjuva), held sway over this land. Goa passed under the Chalukyas of Badami from AD 580 to 750 and later, till the end of the thirteenth century, was successively ruled by the Silaharas and the Kadambas as nominal feudatories, respectively of the Rashtrakutas and the Western Chalukyas of Kalyani.
In the beginning of the eleventh century, the Kadambas of Goa under Shashthadeva (AD 1005-1050), extended their authority over the whole of Goa vanquishing the Silaharas.
Their capital was moved from Chandor to Goapuri (Goa Velha) in about AD 1052 and in the reign of about AD 1050-1080), Goapuri grew into a great commercial centre having trade relations with countries far and near. The maritime supremacy of the Kadambas reached new heights. Brahmanical religion and Jainism flourished under the patronage of the Kadambas during this period.
In the thirteenth century, the territory was administered by ministers appointed by the Yadavas who reduced the Kadambas into nominal rulers. The most notable among the ministers was Hemadri serving under the Yadava King Ramachandra ( about AD 1271). Of the many temples traditionally attributed to him , the temple of Sri Mahadeva at Tambdi (Surla) is the only extant specimen of Kadamba-Yadava architecture of the thirteenth century.
The Kadambas enjoyed a brief spell of independence when the controlling grip of the yadavas vanished with their defeat at the hands of the Delhi Sultanate. Malik Kafur, the general of Alau’d Din Khalji, on his onward march to south, leaving death and destruction behind, did not spare the Konkan. Kamadeva, the last of the Kadambas, abandoned Goapuri and took refuge in Chandor, the erstwhile capital of the Kadambas, where he built a fort. What was left of the grandeur of the Kadambas completely ended when the army of Muhammad bin Tughlaq attacked Chandor and razed it to the ground.
Goa became a part of the Vijayanagra kingdom by the fourteenth century. Arabian horses were imported at the harbours in Goa by the Vijayanagara kings to strengthen their cavalry.
In 1469, Goa passed under the Bahmani Sultans of Gulburga when Mahmud Gawan, a general of Muhammad III (1463-1482) conquered the Konkan area. With the break-up of the Bahmani dynasty, it became a part of the kingdom of the Adil Shahis of Bijapur in 1488. During their rule Ila or Velha Goa became a prosperous city and was virtually the second capital of the Bijapur sultans.
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