Legacy of The Past
One legacy of the long period of Portuguese colonization
which is still quite in evidence and in everyday use is
the magnificent architecture of the traditional mansions
of the Goan gentry. Goa can perhaps claim to be the only
place on the subcontinent where houses dating back to the
1700s are still in pristine condition and still inhabited
by generations of the original owners.
Unlike the other colonial powers in India, the Portuguese
managed to leave a much more visible mark on the residential
architecture of the area they ruled. The British and the
French left their mark on the architecture of huge buildings
such as assemblies and railway stations which have since
become landmarks of the period.
The Portuguese in Goa, built residential houses reflecting
a style which is hardly found elsewhere on the Indian subcontinent.
These magnificent palatial houses inspired by European architectural
style are still found in Goa today, although they are confined
to the rural areas such as Chandor and Loutolim. An exception
is the commercial town of Margao, which still has some fabulous
houses in its Borda area.
These mansions were built in an era which saw the Portuguese
raking in a handsome profit from their trading colonies
in Africa and South America. Interestingly, the owners were
not usually Portuguese noblemen, but wealthy Goan merchants
and high-ranking officials who were granted land by the
The materials and techniques for the construction of such
houses was usually local while the furnishings and decorations
came from all around the world. The walls and pillars were
built of red laterite stone and local wood while the roof
was overlai with terracotta roof tiles from Mangalore. Inside
there was fine porcelain from China and Macau, cut glass
and mirrors from Venice, chandeliers from Belgium and tapestries
from Portugal. The exquisite furniture was carved from rosewood
by the local craftsmen.
The exterior facade of these mansions is not the only thing
that attracts the visitors. The interiors are much more
impressive, with some houses even having their own mini-chapels
and dance rooms. There are long, well-preserved dining and
drawing rooms usually with a magnificent collection of blue
china ceramics and glass items.
Most such houses are accessible only on special request
or appointment either directly from the owner or through
the nearest Tourist Office. It is also advisable to seek
such an appointment well in advance and it is customary
to make a small donation which helps towards the upkeep
and maintenance of these superb specimens of a bygone era.
In this section, you can find some of the more famous of
the Portuguese style mansions which can be visited to have
a glimpse of the lifestyle of the higher echelons of Goan
society under the Portuguese rule.
Salvador Costa mansion - This mansion
in Loutolim, a South Goa village is famous for the many
large and beautiful houses spread out in a radius of about
1 km from the nucleus of the village. The Costa mansion
was built in the 19th century by two wealthy siblings and
priests, Padre Pedrinho and Padre Laurence. Built in the
Indian style (low pitched tiled roof, wide verandas) with
European accouterments (Gothic- style windows, cluster columns),
it's architecture straddles both worlds just as Goa still
Solar dos Colacos mansion - is at Ribandar
on the left bank of the River Mandovi, mid-way between Old
Goa and Panjim. It is built in baroque style with an imposing
facade with a spectacular view of islands and the historical
churches of Old Goa. It is, probably, the only Goan mansion
that faces the river. Typical of the ambivalence of the
times, Nazario Colaco II carved a sideboard of his dining
room with scenes from the Ramayana. But this is counterbalanced
by the strident Catholicism of the family's private chapel.
Pinto de Rosario mansion - in Porvorim,
half-way between Panjim and Mapusa, reflects more the joy
of possession than reverence for style. Piled up in side-boards
and cup- boards are rare pieces of cut-glass, silver, blue
china, ivory. The objets d'art are yet to be categorised
and dated. But the sheer quantity and doubtless quality
of most of the items are quite simply astounding.in Porvorim
has Indo-Portuguese furniture and European and Chinese knick-
knacks. The Italian floor tiling is the highlight of the
parlour. Above the exquisitely carved sofa is a Dutch tapestry,
a replica of Rembrandt's Night Watch. The love- chair is
said to be 200 years old.
Mascarenhas mansion - in Anjuna, north
Goa, is classic due to its characteristic 'balcoes'(balconies).
It is monumental. The riches overpower you. The seat along
the length of the porch are L-shaped, of expensive wood,
the glare is cut off with a mixture of brightly coloured
stained glass and, as if to contrast it, light tinted flint
glass "such as which is no longer made" with fine
Voddlem Ghor, Chandor - Built even before
the arrival of the Portuguese, the house of Sara Fernandes
is an imposing structure in the tranquil village of Chandor.
Four decades after the ouster of the European rulers, the'
Voddlem Ghor' or 'Casa Grande' has been recently declared
as a ' heritage house'. click for more...
Vivian Coutinho mansion - in Fatorda at
the entrance of Margao reveals the care that went into the
planning of the entrance of a house. The Coutinhos had a
well kept garden, the green pleasantly contrasting the red
of the masonry seats. They broke the monotony of the red
wash and the outer wall, interspersing decorative tiles.
Colaco mansion - The corridor runs along
the front facade and faces the Mandovi river. This is the
only extant Goan mansion that faces the waterfront. The
walls are washed in ox-blood colour, one of the three traditional
colours of Goan exteriors, the other being white (very Portuguese)
and indigo (very Indian).