GOA – TAKING THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
One typically associates Goa with just beautiful beaches, fun, food and party. But what if we told you that Goa isn’t just for the party-lovers. It is as much for the historians, temple tourists and art lovers as it for the fun seekers and leisure travelers.
Through this article, we will bring out some of the forgotten stories of Goa – of a sleepy, nondescript village in South Goa called Chandor, which once was the flourishing capital of the Goan Hindu kingdom before the arrival of the Portuguese. Located on the banks of river Kushavati, Chandaura or Chandapura as it was known earlier, this little town is now just a string of ruins and dust, but that doesn’t belie its magnificent history. For the keen eye, it only instigates curiosity.
The ancient capital was a naturally endowed with iron ore and was well-connected by trade thanks to its proximity to rivers and the sea. Did you know that the Bhojas dynasty ruled over the current Goa from 4th century AD and the Kadambas reigned in the 11th century AD? But when the Portuguese came, they annexed this town from its Hindu King Harihara in a bloody battle after slaying both the king and his men.
In 1930s Father Heras first excavated Chandor, later followed by the Archaeological Survey of India which further excavated Chandor between 1974 and 1975 under SR Raja. The city continued to be explored by historians well into the early 2000s too. And slowly the rich and forgotten history of Goa’s Chandor came to the fore.
While exploring Chandor wouldn’t find a place in a typical tourist’s itinerary, it should be on any history buffs travel plan. Here’s a list of places that are an absolute must-visit when you are in South Goa.
NOSSA SENHORA DE BELLEZA CHURCH
This centrally-located whitewashed church rests in the village centre. Rebuilt several times, the interiors of this church are simply breath-taking. Remember to dress appropriately when you visit the Church and don’t go in an inebriated or intoxicated state. The Church authorities sometimes stop certain tourists from visiting the place if they don’t meet the said standards.
All around the church premises you will see old graves and aged structures. They are beautiful and are a photographer’s delight. In front of the Church, you will find a three-tiled portrait of the three kings of Portugal who once ruled Goa. An interesting aside here – the story of the three kings is rather morbid and tells of how one of them kills the other two for control over the Goan state and on seeing the citizens violently revolt to it, he ends up killing himself.
To this day, there is a procession to the Three King’s Church in memory of the three wise men of Bethlehem to honour Infant Jesus, and one of the processions starts from this church at Chandor.
The Portuguese very violently converted the Goan Hindu population to Christianity. Chandor was a hugely populated Hindu region and this church was previously ‘Sapta Mallika Temple’ which was raised to the ground.
THE BRAGANZA HOUSE
After you have seen the church, you can visit the Braganza House, one of the finest and biggest bungalows with a 500-year history. This bungalow was one of the biggest mansions ever built by a prosperous family. Today it is split into two wings – the Pereiras and Braganzas.
Built in the 17th century, the artifacts collected here are a peek into the rich lifestyles and cultures of the Portuguese. The priceless artifacts range from dinner plates, furniture, books, chandeliers and each piece on its own is wholesome and attractive. The library, ballroom, dining room are simply a sight to see. There’s also a chapel with relics of Francis Xavier’s nail and porcelain ware, which were gifts received in those times.
It is a must-visit place. Remember sometimes children might not be allowed here. The house is closed for visits on weekends and is open on weekdays from 10 AM to 5 PM only. There is an entry charge of Rs 150 per head (the amount collected goes towards the upkeep of the place). An interesting trivia – the Braganzas were once a prosperous Hindu family!
These Portuguese homes can be rented out for photography, movie shoots, exclusive dinners too. Of course, at a steep cost. At Chandor, there’s another Portugal residence, the Fernandes, a little away from the central town. But don’t miss the Braganzas, where the family descendant takes you around, a strict upper lip no-nonsense woman.
ISVORACHEM, SHIVA TEMPLE
Do not be surprised if you happen to be the only visitor here! There is nothing much here except the remains of what was once a temple.
The temple is virtually absent except for a broken Nandi is an Archaeological Survey of India site, guarded and housed by them. There’s a plaque of information on Chandor out here. The broken remains of invaders and spoils lie scattered.
SAINT TIAGO CHAPEL
A modernised chapel today, it was once the site where the Queen of King Harihara cursed the people of Chandor before killing herself for not fighting with her beloved husband from the Portuguese invaders. She ground her gold ornaments on the stone which lies in front of this chapel alongside her footprints visible even to this day and threw it into the adjoining river Kushavati. A lot of the population of Chandpur ground their gold ornaments and threw them into the river so that the invaders couldn’t get hold of them or their wealth and killed themselves by jumping into the river. The queen’s cursed that every woman who marries at Chandrapur shall return as a widow.
To this day the just-married people of Chandor marry and move to adjoin villages at Goa!
SAINT ANTHONY's CHAPEL
This is a beautiful old edifice built over and over, notwithstanding the vagaries of nature. This church is built among picturesque fields and makes for a lovely location for photographers. While it is a little distant from Chandor, it makes a great family portrait with its picturesque background.
SRI BHUTNATH TEMPLE
Nine kilometres away from Chandor Paroda near Quepem on top of five kilometres, hill drive is a beautiful, rebuilt temple of Lord Shiva known as Sri Chandraeshwara (because of the crescent moon on his head). The Bhoja dynasty is attributed to building this temple. The name of the town also came to be because of this temple! This temple built on a rock enclosed with modern building houses almost all Hindu Gods. It’s colder climbing up the hill and the temperature will be pleasant in the warmer season.
There are 100-odd steps to climb from the parking lot. You may want to carry a picnic basket and some water. There’s just a small tuck shop at the parking lot.
Closer around this region, the archaeology and history buffs can find petroglyphs or rock carvings by cavemen at a place called Rivona. Or the whisky lovers can take a whisky tour at Paul John’s Distillery and see how a single malt is brewed – there’s a fee for the tour.
Check the Paul John website for more details.
Kids not allowed on the brewery tour.