Sanjeev V Sardesai
Goa has always been the centre for not only the number of tourists visiting here in the present era, but also of kings and powerful dynasties for centuries. Many of these dynasties have left their imprint on this land and these are valuable heritage assets of this State.
Among many of these heritage sites in Goa, one place that evokes a sense of mystery, coupled with awe, is the village of Chandor in Salcette in South Goa. Located besides the meandering Kushawati River, across the village of Assolda, this part of Goa was the first administrative capital of the Kadamb Dynasty, in their almost half a millennia rule over Goan lands from 960 A.D to 1310 A.D. During that era, the area was called ‘Chandrapur’ and as time passed by, got corrupted to Chandor, during the Portuguese reign.
Much of their trade was carried on through river navigation over River Kushawati, which further to the West met up with the River Zuari and then poured into the Arabian Sea. There might have been a rich trade in precious metals and stones, as well as of other goods and spices. But the silting of River Kushawati, forced the Kadamb dynasty to shift their primary base to Gopakapattan, or what we know as the present day Goa Velha in Tiswadi.
Today, we shall see the beauty that is Chandor. As in the case of all dynasties, there was always a need for protection from enemy attacks; in other words security of its people and lands was a priority. To achieve this goal, many kings established forts and fortified palaces, that still stand proudly to this day. However, many have fallen prey to the vagaries of nature or have been deliberately demolished by rulers that followed. This destructive practice used to be an acceptable modus operandi to erase traces of the earlier rulers.
Chandor too had a massive fort, encompassing its primary areas with high fortifications, and a moat around it. Sadly these massive fortifications have been lost to time and are not immediately visible today. Archaeologists did excavate a small area behind the Sarah Fernandes House, along the bank of the River Kushawati, and found the remnants of the original fortification wall. While the River Kushawati acted as a natural moat towards the Eastern sector of Chandor, there existed a man-made moat around this fort, which can still be seen passing under a newly constructed culvert in a pitiable condition as you enter Chandor from Guirdolim side.
Though the original, fort has disappeared, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has recreated a model of this fort, with the possible locations of its architectural assets. This model of the Chandor Fort can be viewed at the ASI Museum at Old Goa. This area of Chandor called as “Kottan” or ‘inside a fortification’, we shall visit later.
Chandor Village is approximately about 9 kilometres from the Margao city. You can access the village from the industrial hub of yesteryears – Sao Jose the Areal and Guirdolim, by turning left near the roundabout hosting the bust of Florian Vaz, on the Margao NH Bypass; or proceed straight along the route to Quepem and turn left at Gudi Paroda. Either ways, you will be treated to some beautiful natural views of tall peaks, as you pass by.
The first impression you get of extended Chandor is the Church of Nossa Senhora de Belem, which stands facing a huge open area towards the East. This church built in Neo-Gothic style dedicated to Our Lady of Bethlehem, was founded in 1645, as part of the Old Conquest. However, the ferocity of the Goan monsoons may have destroyed its frontispiece or the facade in August 1949. The same was immediately rebuilt and the new renovated edifice was blessed in December 1950.
This Church is known for a very famous feast of the Three Kings celebrated on January 6 annually. On the hillock, exactly in front of this Church, and about half a kilometre straight ahead, lies a picturesque chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Piety. It is from here that at about 9 a.m., three young boys, selected from the villages that come under the Parish of the Chandor Church, enact the role of the Three Wise Kings or Reis Magos. They ride on horse-back astride smartly decked horses brought especially from Kolhapur and make their way to the Nossa Senhora de Belem Church. The religious services are then held and the whole village celebrates this feast with pomp. This feast attracts devotes, as well as local and foreign visitors, who return back with amazing memories and photos, while some get invited to the feasting at homes.
One of the villagers informed that the locals of this Chandor Village were fondly known as ‘Chandorche Rede’ or ‘Buffaloes of Chandor’. He elaborated that initially the Feast of the Three Kings was celebrated by the three young men riding from the hillock to the Chandor Church buffaloes. But the instinct of these buffaloes to rest their bodies in cool muddy ponds, had led to one buffalo, with the ‘King’ astride, to take a cooling dip in a muddy pond. Possibly it was from then that the mode of transport was changed to horses.
Around the Church there are many impressive mausoleums, erected in memory of eminent local personalities of Chandor Village, who have left their indelible mark in the history of Goa, through their many acts of eminence, philanthropy and bravery.
Very close and to the left of the Chandor Church is situated a massive private mansion, famously known as the “Menezes Braganza House”. It would be a huge understatement to call this edifice as a ‘house’. It deserves to be called a “museum house”. Built with an impressive elongated facade in an Indo-Portuguese architectural style, this house has a ground plus one construction. Without a visit to this house, as well as the many other house museums that we have, a visit to Goa would be incomplete.
The members of this family were at the forefront of the intellectual opposition towards the ousting of a foreign Portuguese rule from Goa. Many names of members from this family find high mention in the history of the liberation movement of Goa. This house showcases the immense Goan grandeur of the aristocratic residences and the opulence that they regaled in. It should take about an hour for you to see the collection of heritage items.
There is more than meets the eye at Chandor. Let’s visit that in the next visit to the Unexplored Goa.