The story of a capital city



With Panaji recently celebrating 175 years of being the capital of Goa, and to help people to rediscover the treasures and the story of city, the Goa Heritage Action Group recently released the book ‘The Mapped Heritage of Panaji Goa 2017’. The book which was released at Maquinez Palace, Panaji has been curated by architect Poonam Verma Mascarenhas.

Having previously released ‘Walking in and around Panaji Goa’ together with the Corporation of the City of Panaji, 13 years ago, Mascarenhas disclosed that they used that book as a benchmark to guide them forward in this project which began three years ago, as a means of looking at how Panaji has changed over the years. “Today we have two primary changes confronting us- the energy crunch and climate change. But while looking at the judicial management of our resources, we may have overlooked our built and natural heritage as an important and valuable resource,” stated Mascarenhas. She added that traditional buildings which have survived for centuries teach us as they are the sum total of the survival of the fittest. “We need to value these, because what we value, we save,” she said.

Mascarenhas further explained how they went about the project, stating that they mapped the city based on its geography, history and present day reality and also took into account the grading system of heritage as adopted by the government of Goa. She also mentioned that over the last decade, Panaji has lost 124 heritage structures.

The book has covered 13 areas- Ribandar, Sao Tome, Fontainhas, Mala, Portais, Altinho, Central City District, Campal, St Inez, Miramar, Taleigao, Caranzalem and Dona Paula – and has a total of 907 entries. It consists of maps, photo records and description and a chapter, ‘A general maintenance guideline of the heritage’.

Historian Vasco Pinho who was a special guest along with former CCP councillor and activist Patricia Pinto and former director of education and historian Celsa Pinto at the launch applauded the book project while also making a few observations on how future works can be improved.

Activist Patricia Pinto highlighted two of the many problems confronting Panaji today- the pollution of the St Inez Creek and the coming of a building at the Captain of Ports Jetty. She also lamented on the parking and traffic issues confronting Panaji today.

Speaking on the changing face of Panaji, Celsa Pinto stated that over the span of 130 years, many authorities, planners, engineers and workman have laboured to convert Panaji from a marshland to a capital city. She also mentioned the many notable changes that have been made over the years including the embankment of the river Mandovi and the two creeks in Fontainhas and St Inez, etc, as also making note of heritage structures that continued to exist since the Portuguese time. Given all this, she said, how can we allow Panaji to go to ruins?  She observed that it could be possible that in another three decades, Panaji could well be going back to a marsh land again. “Does Panaji deserve this in its 175th year?,” she asked.  Talking about how in Europe heritage cities which continue to remain the same alongside the cropping up of new cities she said: “here however, we have a mixed city. Can we then perhaps think along those lines? We need to preserve the old and need to think of the modern beyond the old,” she said.

The foreword of the book has been written by former city town planner Edgar Ribeiro and Mascarenhas states that the book is dedicated to all known and unknown traditional building artisans for handcrafting Panaji in the last four decades.