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Panaji – A City Honours & Remembers Its Past

Sanjeev Sardesai

Though the City of Panaji is a host to many monuments of fond memories, and celebrations of its sons of the soil, it also records amd reminds us of the humane aspect of life – Just like in the pathway of life, we experience sweet and bitter memories.

In this article, let us take a journey to a few of these monuments that record the milestones of this city!

Panaji ferry cross

As one passes along the D B Bandodkar Marg, heading towards Miramar or Dona Paula, we can see a forlorn Cross, standing along the bank of River Mandovi near the Panaji-Betim ferry jetty. This is one of the most important monuments, stirring very emotional memories, is the form of this white-washed Cross that stands solemnly alone. Since the last decade, it has been patronised with a petite shed over it.

This monument is a very sad reminder of a tragic navigational accident that occurred a century and a decade ago, amidst the River Mandovi, off Panaji city. It is pertinent to note here that during the Portuguese era, road traffic was minimal, but travel and transit through waterways was a major mode of commuting, especially to the Goan hinterlands.

It was on December 3 1901 that the whole of Goa and its citizenry was getting ready to celebrate the Feast of St Francis Xavier at Old Goa. So were the 160 or so devotees, passengers and staff that embarked and boarded the small launch named “GOA”, at the Verem Jetty (now under the Indian Navy). The time must have been mid-morning, when the launch departed from the Verem Jetty and had hardly moved to the area in River Mandovi, opposite the present Dempo House, when tragedy happened!

Possibly due to natural cause, or due to sheer load or perhaps due to human negligence that the launch ‘GOA’ ferrying 160 passengers, suddenly capsized mid stream. The unsuspecting passengers— men, women and children, were flung into the cold December waters. In the panic that ensued, 81 passengers drowned, while the rest saved their lives by swimming to the mucky shore or were saved by other vessels around. The magnitude of this tragedy brought the whole of feasting Goa, to a shocked standstill.

While 75 bodies were recovered, six were never to be found. It was only in the year 1904, that the Goans who resided in the overseas colony of Aden, near Egypt, constructed this memorial, with two marble plaques— facing the city and the river respectively, topped with a Cross.

The plaque offers us the information of this tragedy and ends with a request of a prayer for the souls of the departed! A small traditionally Goan masonry seat or ‘sopo’ has been created towards the East side, where one can sit, relax and pray.

This forlorn Cross connects the city history, to the beginning of 1900’s.

Bust of Dr Luis de Menezes Braganza

In close proximity to this historic Cross, and towards the city, is an open space, landscaped into a garden –The Menezes Braganza Garden. This garden is well manicured, with a sprawling lawn, where many citizens, as well as visitors, find it convenient to relax.

This garden has a small white marble pedestal, hosting the bust of one of Goa’s prolific freedom fighter and writer (late) Luis de Menezes Braganza. The garden is named after this great son of Goa.

Initially, during the Portuguese era, this garden was named as Jardim de Oliveira Salazar and had a bust of the Portuguese dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, (April 28, 1889 – July 27, 1970), whose dictatorial government was overthrown in 1974, heralding a democratically elected government.

After liberation, this bust of the dictator and the pedestal were removed and a new one was installed. However, the old pedestal still lies, just behind the new one, at the southern entry gate, giving us a peek into the past, as some of the writings can still be distinguished.

2STC head quarters

To the west of Menezes Braganza Garden, is a very aesthetic building, in Indo-Portuguese architectural style, painted in strikingly burgundy and ochre colours. This is the Military HQ in Goa.

After the takeover of Goa, the Indian Armed Forces captured the Portuguese Military HQ building -Miltar Geral, and set up their own head quarters in this building. Today it serves as the Goa HQ of the 2 Signal Training Corps (2STC). Though out of bounds for civilians, for obvious reasons, the architecture of this building is a sure shot eye catcher to every passerby.

Before Liberation, this whole area was a host to a local market (mercado), in an area belonging to the Count of Ribandar (Conde de Ribandar). It was only around the 1950s that a building initially constructed to host the Clube Vasco da Gama, a social organisation, was taken over by the Portuguese Military, for their use.

This visually artistic building, having a canopied porch entry and two brass canons, stands out amongst the many modern buildings in Panaji.

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