By Prajal Sakhardande
When you pass the historic St Michael’s Church, Taleigao what will strike you is the beautiful restoration of the painting on the wall of the Casa do Povo de Taleigao.
Casa do Povo de Taleigao literally means house of the people of Taleigao. I had made a fervent plea at one of the gram sabha meetings of Taleigao, way back in 2008-09, that the historic plaque on the wall as well as the two huge murals on the rear wall of the Casa do Povo should be preserved. Finally my prayers have been answered. The restoration of these murals is beautiful. These murals showcase the life of the people of Goa. The agricultural scene, the toddy tapper, the Portuguese ship of Afonso de Albuquerque stranded on the waters of the Mandovi and the Gaonkars of Taleigao providing rice to the starving crew of Albuquerque on August 24, 1510. The colourful mural by artist Trinidade is a mosaic of all that is Goan, the budkulo, banana tree, paddy, sickle, winnowing utensil and fish, truly a lovely kaleidoscopic collage of Goa’s food and arboreal heritage. The historic plaque on one of the pillars at the entrance of the Casa do Povo reads as follows:
Casa Do Povo de Taleigao
Inagurada por sua excellencia
O Governador Geral, General
Manuel Antonio Vassalo e Silva
Translated it reads as follows: This House of the people of Taleigao was inaugurated by His Excellency, the Governor General, Manuel Antonio Vassalo e Silva on August 21, 1961.
This old community hall was inaugurated by the last Portuguese governor general of Goa, Manuel Antonio Vassalo e Silva on the day of ‘Konsanchem Fest’. August 21 is traditionally the Harvest Feast of the people of Taleigao till date as the people of Taleigao were given the privilege and right to cut the first sheaves of rice in Tiswadi. In Salcete, it was the people of Rai on August 5.
What was the purpose of building the Casa do Povo one may ask? The answer is provided by historian Maria Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues in her article titled, Vassalo e Silva: Some aspects of his Governance in the book Goa in the 20th Century History and Culture ed by Dr Pius Malekandathil and Dr Remy Dias. She elucidates that it was Vassalo e Silva who put in practice the concept of Casa do Povo. The interests of the village, villagers and the people would be considered in the casa. The fundamental points dealt with were that of social welfare, education and local improvement, financial assistance and cultural development. It was a community hall of the communidade of Taleigao where people would meet, hold sport activities, visit the library, hold cultural programmes and meetings, distribute water and provide financial assistance to poorer rural members.
The First Casa do Povo was built at Juvem (St Estevam) Island in 1960 and another one at Goa Velha.
Lourdes further adds that the respective communidades gave land for construction of the building and a committee was elected to manage the affair of the Casa do Povo.
Lourdes also tells that the first president of the Casa do Povo de Taleigao committee was the famous physician and football enthusiast Dr Remigio Pinto after whom the Sports ground of Taleigao is named.
It was like the original village ‘maand’ of the pre-Portuguese era. The Casa do Povo of Taleigao needs a facelift from within. The vulgar graffiti on the walls needs to be taken off. Once upon a time, the hall resonated with the sound of music bands, weddings, tiatrs, socials and communidade meetings. Today, it resonates loudly on the occasion of the gram sabha of Taleigao.
Let us revive the lost glory of the Casa do Povo of Taleigao!