The most charismatic precincts, of Panaji city, lie in its central area—sprawling between the Panaji Church and the Panaji-Betim Ferry Wharf. Primarily, these areas make a wonderful itinerary for a walking tour of the city.
Though patronised every day, by thousands of tourists and office goers, some hidden feature of the vistas around, always catches your breath. Let us now proceed on a tour of the Central Panaji.
The obelisk in Garcia D’Orta
Close to the stunning Panaji Church, encircled by a commercial complex of modern buildings, and a few surviving, with old architecture style, lies a large, open precinct, which is well wooded and landscaped. This is the age-old memory generator of Panaji residents—the Garcia D’Orta Garden or more prominently known as Municipal Garden. This garden, was inaugurated on February 19 1878 and was called as Passeio Publico (Public Promenade), as per the book, ‘Snapshots of Indo-Portuguese History-I’ by historian Vasco Pinho. From then till date, this open area is used by hundreds of locals and visitors to Panaji. This garden is named as Jardim Garcia D’Orta, after one of the famous botanist of Portuguese-Jewish origin Garcia D’Orta, who carried out an extensive study on the herbs and plants in the Western Ghats, and wrote his famous ‘Coloquio dos Simples e Drogas e cousas medicinais na India’, during the Portuguese era.
This garden has two monuments— a renovated bandstand and a tall Obelisk or a pillar. Atop this pillar was a bust of Vasco Da Gama. This pillar has a base pedestal which is cubic in shape and had portraits in relief; and panels with writings.
After Liberation, these original artistic reliefs and panels were removed and replaced with the present day panels. The bust atop the pillar was replaced with the Indian four faced Ashok Lion symbol.
This garden is a meeting point for many residents, especially senior citizens and to indulge in a very animated conversation.
State memorial for martyrs, Azad Maidan
The most historic square of Panaji City is the Azad Maidan. Initially this square was named as ‘Praca de Sete Janelas’ or the ‘Square of Seven Windows’. This may have been so because of the existence of a building having sets of seven windows. We can still see these sets of seven windows on the south, central and north end of the massive, extended ochre coloured building housing the Government Printing Press, Goa Police Headquarters and the Institute Menezes Braganza Hall respectively.
On this open space is located the Goa State Martyrs Memorial dedicated to the freedom fighters and Satyagrahis, who dedicated and sacrificed their lives, to gain freedom of this land. This is a very tall, serrated structure reaching up to the sky. It has a crest, displaying a four-arm structure, having a pyramid atop and between these arms. This signifies and acknowledges that these freedom fighters came from all four directions in India, with one of the satyagrahis, even coming from Bangladesh. The pyramid atop this structure indicates the ashes, artistically indicating the sacrifices of these brave satyagrahis.
On either side, and in front, of this colossal monument are two rectangular pillars with granite cladding, which host the list of 67 names of those who had lost their lives in the freedom struggle. After Liberation, the earlier identity was shed and this open square was rechristened as Azad Maidan. Heartfelt respects are paid to these brave souls, every year, on behalf of the people of the Goa State.
Dr TB Cunha
memorial, azad maidan
Azad Maidan precinct is also a host to a very beautiful, dome shaped and pillared structure, which was initially built by the Portuguese Government, to honour Afonso da Albuquerque, the Portuguese conqueror of the island of Goa in 1510. The central open space, below the dome of this monument, had on a pedestal hosting a huge statue of Afonso da Albuquerque, which was brought from a dilapidated building from Old Goa.
Built in Corinthian style of architecture, with carved pillars, it is said to have been constructed inspired by the Temple of Glory of Ancient Rome. The beautifully carved pillars, with intrinsically carved crowns, may possibly have been brought from the ruins of the College of St Thomas Aquinas, which once existed at the site of the present day Panaji Church.
In 1961, soon after freeing Goa, through Operation Vijay, by the Indian Armed forces, the liberated people vented their anger and toppled and damaged this statue.
Today this aesthetically domed structure has been converted as a memorial to one of Goa’s famous Freedom Fighter Tristao Braganza Cunha (T B Cunha), whose relics are preserved in a shiny brass urn, placed on a black granite pedestal.
menezes braganza hall
One of the best examples of the Spanish tile painting art called Azuleijos, brought into Goa by the Portuguese, can be wonderfully experienced at the ground floor reception hall of the Institute Menezes Braganza Hall.
The year 1498, has been noted in golden words, in the history of maritime navigation. In this year, Vasco da Gama, a student of the Sagres School of Navigation discovered the sea route, around the Cape of Good Hope to India. After rounding the African Peninsula, he was guided by an Indian sailor and he berthed at Calicut, in Kerala.
After falling foul in the introductory visit to the court of the Ruler of Calicut, The Zamorin, Albuquerque found it difficult to set a sound footing in the lands of Kerala. Later on, the gift for the conquest of Goa fell in the lap of the Portuguese regime, through the encouraging invite, by Timoja or Thimayya to overthrow the Adilshahi regime in Goa.
This entire historic sea journey of Vasco Da Gama, from Portugal to the Court of the Zamorin in Kerala, has been beautifully transcribed as a wall graphic, in Azuleijos.
The six gorgeous, artistic tile panels, not only portrays the setting out of Vasco da Gama and his flotilla, from Portugal and the farewell granted by the King of Portugal; and but also his experiences along the new route; his ships rounding the Cape of Good Hope and finally his arrival and presentation in the Court of The Zamorin.
The ‘Azuleijo’ tile work in this entrance room is an awe striking experience and should be on every visitor’s itinerary, when in Panaji. A stately bust of Luis de Menezes Braganza sits on a square and high pedestal at the entrance. This hall is always open, till late evening, and entry is open to every art lover.
(To be concluded)