Monday , 22 January 2018

From Loutolim to Raia

Sanjeev V Sardesai

It is with confidence that we can say that a visitor to Loutolim will be impressed with the charm and priceless artefacts in the grand old Indo-Portuguese houses.

Some Goans have retained their huge mansions in immaculate conditions and have preserved the tangible heritage in the form of utensils, carvings, paintings and artworks, dresses, furniture, and crockery and cutlery, some of which are decades and even a century old.

A visit to these houses can help one travel back in time that Goans of yesteryears lived in and enjoyed. Many of us can definitely pick up workable ideas of house architecture for a prospective new home.

Besides these houses, Loutolim is endowed with many other important assets which can be seen all at a stone’s throw from each other. The sight of the facade of the Saviour of the World Church heralds that one has reached Loutolim. One will find a crossroad which directs travellers to proceed straight to Big Foot or to take the highway to Margao. In Konkani, such places in a village were called ‘tinto’. The ‘tinto’ was the hub of village activity and a point of exchange for information and rumours.

A turn to the left at this ‘tinto’ leads one to the historic heritage of the granite timepiece or sun dial just beside the right hand side of the church. And if one takes the road on the right, one enters another ward – Shitolem – which has a unique cross called the ‘fatracho khuris’ or ‘chiryancho khuris’. It was informed that this five to six feet cross was made from a single laterite stone without any joints in fulfilment of a vow. It is one of the rare architectural crosses in Goa without the coat of white lime.

Speaking about crosses, one must not miss the ‘tolleantlo khuris’ along the left side of the road which is flanked by fields on either side, when proceeding from the Figueiredo House Museum to the Loutolim Tinto. This cross was possibly built at the ground level of the fields or on a ‘bandh’ or a raised footway between fields. Later as the height of the road was raised it was enveloped by embankment.

The cross is a very religious icon for the Christian community as Jesus was crucified on the same. Many a times we take it for granted that all crosses are the same but the book ‘In Search’ helps us explore the various identities and shapes of crosses and their relevance. It is worthwhile to stop and observe the Bandh Cross. Though we cannot see these factors etched on every cross the clarity of every aspect of relevance on this cross enlightens the visitor to aspects etched on it.

At the head of the cross is the customary identity – INRI. Just below that is carved the image of Jesus with a crown of thorns at the juncture of the cross arms, portraying that his head lay at this point. On the horizontal beams are carved two flails or whips, portraying the torture that he had to bear. Below the juncture is shown a ladder which was possibly used to bring him down the cross and where lay his feet nailed to the wooden cross, are shown three nails (one each for the hands and feet).

Another beautiful facet of this village is a nearby square fresh water well which the author never fails to visit every time he is in Loutolim. The waters of this well seep into a plantation nearby. This is a 15 feet x 15 feet well with steps leading to its ankle deep waters. This fresh water well is just off the road and accessible by a short detour when one takes a left turn immediately after Casa Alvares on way to Margao. It has many small fish which give one a free fish pedicure by eating away the dry skin off one’s feet.

When we proceed along the Loutolim to Margao route, we cross another very important and traditional aspect of Loutolim – The Jilla Bakery! This famous Goan bakery outlet has a limited stock of macaroons, mouth watering melting moments, tangy cakes, pastries and pies. Their soft stuffed éclairs ensures that a sweet-toothed culinary connoisseur takes a detour to this outlet whenever in Loutolim or passing the nearby highway to Margao via Raia.

Immediately after the Jilla Bakery, we meet the National Highway that proceeds from Borim Bridge to Margao through the historic Raia Village. The left turn takes one to Ponda via the Borim Bridge while the right turn leads one to Margao. Raia village is about a kilometre from this junction.

As you pass along the NH route, towards your left is a display board of the famous Goan cuisine served at Nostalgia Restaurant, and just behind this is a small shrine or a temple built in modern architecture which possibly could have been the original site of Sri Rayeshwar Temple presently located at Thal, Shiroda in Ponda just across the river.

Folklore informs us that this deity along with the Sri Kamakshi Temple deity was shifted across the Zuari River to safer lands during the 16th century period of religious persecution in the yesteryears.

The etymology of the identity of Raia may have arisen due to its importance to royalty as kings were referred to as ‘rai’. Even the Portuguese referred to their king as ‘rei’. This village was possibly patronised by royalty and kings due its strategic importance and hence the name.

The village of Raia is graced with a beautiful and huge ecclesiastical edifice dedicated to Our Lady of Snows. In actuality Raia was just one of the parishes of the focal Portuguese administrative village of Rachol. Though we know it as Rachol today, it was originally known as ‘Raitur’ – the origination of the surname ‘Raiturkars’ of Goa.

Initially the main church – Our Lady of Snows Church – was in the fortification of Rachol which was surrounded by a moat. Folklore informs us that during one of the battles, the enemy killed an elephant and dumped it in this moat leading to the spread of diseases. It was then that people had to leave the place in an exodus.

The devout of Raia village also had to come all the way to Rachol to hear the Word of God which was difficult during the ferocious monsoons. Hence it is said that during this traumatic epidemic the idol of Our Lady of Snows was shifted to Raia where it is housed in a prestigious church dedicated to it.

On August 5 every year the village of Raia bustles with activity as this is where the first ‘konnsache fest’ or Harvest Feast takes place.

If you do happen to pass along the highway from Borim to Margao or vice versa, take time off to stop here and look at the beautiful edifices.

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