Goa’s capital, Panaji, situated to the northern side of the Mandovi river, is reminiscent of a provincial Mediterranean town. An earlier port of the Adil Shahi Kings of Bijapur, it became a military landing stage, and a warehouse after the arrival of the Portuguese in 1510. In 1759, after a series of epidemics struck Old Goa, the Viceroy was forced to move his residence to Panaji or Panjim as it was then called. However, it was only in1843 that the town became the official capital of the Portuguese territories in India. Today, Panaji has a relaxed and friendly ambience, especially along the leafy avenues of the old town. The newer commercial hub, laid out on a grid, has concrete structures interspersed with colonial buildings and churches.
How to Reach
Air: Dabolim is the air terminal to Panaji and is 29 kms away from Panaji.
Road: The main bus terminal in Panaji is Kadamba; from here buses ply to different parts of the state as well as the neibouring states.
Rail: Panaji railhead is the part of Konkan railway. There are trains to all the important cities in India from this station.
Places to Visit in Panaji
Secretariat: The river front secretariat housing the State Legislative Assembly is one of Panaji’s oldest buildings. It was one of the summer palaces of Yusuf Adil Shah, Goa’s 16th century Musilm ruler and fell into the hands of the Portuguese in 1510, despite the presence of a formidable battery of 55 cannons and a salt-water moat to protect it.
Rebuilt in 1615, its strategic location made it a point of entry for ships and a stopover for viceroys and governors en route to Old Goa. In 1760, after old Goa was abandoned in favor of Panaji, the Idalcaon’s Palace, as it was then known, became the official residence of the viceroys till 1918, when the residence moved to the Cabo palace, southwest of Panaji. Extensive renovations have transformed the orginal Islamic structure into the colonial building that it is today, with a sloping tiled roof, wide wooden verandahs and cast-iron pillars. The Ashoka chakra, the Buddhist Wheel of Law, and the emblems of the Indian government has now replaced the Portuguese viceroy’s coat of arms, above the entrance to this building.
Standing west of the Secretariat is the arresting statue of Abbe de Faria. This Goan priest, who was born in Candolim in 1756 and underwent theological training in Rome. After his ordination, he moved on to Paris, where he won wide acclaim as the father of modern hypnosis.
Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate conception: Over looking Largo da Igreja or “Church Square”, Panaji’s main square, is the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, the town’s most important landmark. Portuguese sailors used to come to this original chapel. Consecrated in 1541, to offer thanksgiving prayers after their long and treacherous voyage from Lisbon. The present church, with its Baroque façades, framed by twin towers, was built in 1619. Its most striking feature, the double flight of stairs leading up to the church, was added in 1871. The central pediment was built at the same time, as was the belfry to accommodate the huge bell brought from Old Goa’s Augustinian monastery. The chapel in the south transept has fine redoes retrieved from the viceroy’s chapel in the Secretariat. The Baroque splendor of the main altar and the two transept altars and the two transept altars is in sharp contrast to the otherwise simple interior.
Menezes Braganza Institute: This is an excellent example of 19th century Portuguese civic architecture; the Institute Vasco da Gama was built to impart knowledge in the arts and sciences. It was later renamed after the philanthropist Luis de Menezes Branganza. Today this building houses Goa’s Central Library, with a rich collection of rare books.
The grassy square in front of the Institute, Azad Maiden, is lined on one side by the Police Headquarters, built in 1832 with stones from Old Goa’s abandoned buildings. The pavilion in the center was made in 1847, using Corinthian pillars taken from a Dominican church, dating back to the mid-16th century. Inside this church a memorial to the freedom fighter, Dr Tristao de Branganza Cunha, has replaced an earlier statue of the first viceroy, Alfonso de Albuquerque, now kept in the Archaeological Museum of Old Goa.
State Museum: The museum houses a rather modest collection of precolonial artifacts, including statues, sati stones, antique furniture and carvings from ravaged Hindu temples, as well as some Christian icons.
Goan river Cruises: A delightful way to spend an evening in Goa is to take a ride in one of the many sunset cruises along the Mandovi River, organized by the Goa Tourism Development Corporation and also by other private operators. Most of the cruises begin from the jetty at the foot of the Mandovi Bridge. The cruise starting from Vainguinim beach to the Cumbarjua Canal in Old Goa, passes through mangroves populated with birds and crocodiles.