It was a lovely morning ride on my hired Royal enfield all the way from Anjuna to Velha Goa. Velha Goa!! That is the Portuguese translation for Old Goa. In fact the name Velha Goa is quite commonly used by people of that region. From Panjim, along with my Royal Enfield I had River Mandovi for companionship through the villages of Ribander till I reached the UNESCO world heritage site of Old Goa. As I rode from Panaji, the landscape, houses, people and everything changed. Even though it was crowded, the place with numerous Cathedrals, Churches, Chapels and Convents still holds an old world charm. The prominence of Christianity cannot be ignored in this part of the world.
Built by the Bijapur Sultans in the 15th century, the city was evangelised from the 16th to the 18th century by the Portuguese before abandoning it in the 18th century after it was hit by a plague. The beautiful structures have intricate carvings both on the outside and inside.
Basilica De Bom Jesus with its imposing facade and baroque architecture stands tall and was the first one that I visited. The Basilica looked quite different from others with respect to its dark colour and size. Though it might seem dilapidated at the first look, the Basilica with its reddish brown colour, ornamented pillars and magnificent carvings stands rock solid even after 400 years. Dedicated to infant Jesus, this grand structure also rests the mortal remains of St.Francis Xavier which is taken out for public viewing once in ten years. The interiors of the basilica has a lot of art work, murals and numerous altars which captivate every visitor.
As I came out of the Basilica, a few meters away stood the white coloured Se Cathedral of Santa Catarina. Dedicated to the Catherine of Alexandria, it was once considered the largest cathedral in Asia. Built in Portuguese architecture, it was constructed to portray the power and fame of the Portuguese. The cathedral also houses many altars, paintings and a large bell known as the Golden bell.
Se Cathedral of Santa Catarina
From Se Cathedral I moved to Church of St.Francis of Assisi which also has baroque style architecture with beautiful frescoes on the walls and ceilings. The church also houses some brilliant 17th century wall paintings. Next to it lies an archaeological museum which displays ancient statues and portraits.
Church of St.Francis of Assisi
Half a kilometer away lies the beautiful Viceroy's Arch next to Mandovi quay. The arch built in 16th centuy must have been witness to thousands of people landing on the goan shores.
Gateway of the Palace of Adil Shah
Near to the arch lies the Gateway of the palace of Adil Shah. Built before the arrival of the Portuguese, it is only the gateway that survives now.
Stay tuned for Raj's second part where he covers more of Old Goa...