A panoramic view of Goa through Murals

The festive colorful state of Goa is filled with people of different cultures and religions.These cultures are vividly depicted in the various murals seen on the walls of hotels,guest houses and public spaces like railway stations.They have managed to bring forth the Catholic and Hindu spirit of the state while effectively depicting its varied peoples.These murals while representing the people- their clothing, mannerisms and daily life events- blend so well into the background that they can be observed and appreciated by a patient observer as he relaxes sipping his daily chai or feni.The murals display not only the buildings but the beach life,market place, pav wallahs, fisherwomen with the lazy cat nearby and other stories of Goan history.

Goa’s famous cartoonist and illustrator Mario Miranda has his works displayed as murals in public places like markets, Madgaon railway station ,hotels,cafes clubs and even college campuses.They have a story to tell bringing alive the plain walls,merging foreign influence which starts with the arrival of the Portuguese in Goa, with narrations from Indian culture and heritage thus revealing contemporary and modern lifestyles.

Works of other artists like Trinidade can also be found.These artworks while amusing the viewer with their humor beautifully reflect the very heart of Goa.They are carefully maintained by the places where they are housed.so they can be appreciated by travellers to Goa.

I have been so influenced by these murals that I have put up cartoons depicting similar themes showing the various facets of Goan life, in my own Mitaroy Goa hotel. Viewing them my guests too, can appreciate the rich culture and heritage of Goa.

Goa Carnival to begin in less than a month

The famous Goa Carnival will begin in less than a month!

From a small state event, the Goa Carnival has now gained national importance with the Union Tourism Minister K Chiranjeevi himself scheduled to inaugurate the five-day Goa carnival festivities to be held across Goa, beginning February 9.

As part of the Goa Carnival, parades would be held in the cities of Panaji, Mapusa, Margao and Vasco. The Goa Carnival is a festivity witnessed by thousands of locals and tourists, who stand on the side of the road as parades spearheaded by a float of King Momo (a mythological figure symbolising chaos and fun who rules the state for three days) pass them bye.

The Goa Carnival celebrations were brought to Goa by erstwhile Portuguese rulers but have now become an integral part of Goa’s festivity calendar. Most people choose to see the parade in the capital of Panjim or Panaji, since it is the most elaborate and fancy. The Goa Carnival celebrations are rounded off by a traditional black and red dance held at the famous Clube Nacional in Pajim.

A Goan Sea Food festival, starting on February 8 will also be held on the outskirts of Panaji as part of the run up for the carnival.

Are you planning to come to Goa for the Goa Carnival ? Why ? Why not ?

Reminiscing about Goa

In the good old days, four annas could fetch a pao bhajji and tea, hardly any passenger would complain if a bus driver stopped for a shave and even the governor walked to Old Goa for St Francis Xavier’s feast.

Inflation was not a problem then. 1 anna (= 4 paisa) could buy a whole lot of food items and articles. One could have a bread and tea at an anna each and bhajji for two annas. Sugar cost 50 paise per pound (half kg) and jaggery and potatoes, about 3 annas a piece, per pound.

Though the cost of food items and other goods was low and often remained static for years, the people’s poor economic conditions constrained their purchasing power. Most people could not even afford to buy a bicycle and had to walk home after working in the main cities like Panjim. Very few families had cars and a few buses were introduced later in the same decade (1950s). On an average, there was just one or two buses on every route. The first caminhao would leave from Panaji at 7am to Agasaim, taking about an hour to reach its destination, without any regular stops. Any passenger could stop the bus anywhere. 

The network of tarred roads existed only between towns, especially Mapusa, Panaji, Margao and Vasco. Beyond Cuncolim, the national highway was a kutcha road. The village roads were mostly kutcha roads. In Panaji, the Dayanand Bandodkar road along the river front was fully tarred up to Dona Paula, as the governor traveled on it from Raj Bhavan to the old secretariat. MG road, 18th June road, Rua de Ourem and the Altinho road from the old Secretariat were tarred, but most other internal roads were kutcha roads.

The lack of basic infrastructure determined the people’s lifestyles and their night life. The main towns of Panaji, Mapusa, Margao and Vasco had government-supplied power. A pall of gloom and darkness would descend over almost all villages, and even suburban areas after sunset. Villagers used to light torches of coconut leaves and walk home in the dark. Even students were forced to study and do their homework only in daylight. 

Recreational activities were hard to come by. Football was perhaps the only sport given any importance. Cricket was played at the school-level and there were also some amateur teams. In villages, people played loggorio. For children, there were some strange pastimes. A hand-held contraption made of discarded reels of thread, fixed to a cross-shaped bamboo piece kept children busy. One of the reels at the top of the contraption served as a steering to push the wheels around.

The education scenario in the state was rather dismal as well. There were a few high schools in Panaji, Ponda, Mapusa, Margao, Vasco and among villages, Parra and Cuncolim. “The total students answering SSC exams was around 800 to 900, as against an average of 15,000 now and schools were affiliated to the Maharashtra board.

Amost all students, including some from Ribandar and St Cruz, walked to school barefoot. Students from Aldona and Britona availed the launch service. And most students used to go to Bombay for higher studies. 

Today life is very different in Goa. And this has made the Goans lazier. 

But in the old days, things were different. Given the difficulties that the Goans faced, the long distances they had to walk and the limited resources and amenities that they had to cope with; the concept of soscegado was a totally different one. 

Big Foot, Lutolim

More commonly known as Big Foot, ‘Ancestral Goa’ is a ‘Center for preservation of Art, Culture and Environment’ created by Maendra Jocelino Araujo Alvares and situated in the small village of Loutolim in South Goa. 

At the entrance, you see a bronze statue of a guard and an elaborate door and wall decoration. Once inside, you see that the uniqueness of Big Foot Lutolim lies in the fact that it is an open-air museum that recreates Goan rural life as it was hundreds of years ago.  You can choose to visit the art gallery, that showcases work done by local children and artisans, a handicraft centre with locally produced Goan artifacts, a restaurant, a cross, a spring, a bird habitat, a spice yard and much more. The model village also includes a variety of miniature houses showcasign the traditional occupation and social classes that existed a century ago – from fishermen, Goan artisans, farmers, liquors shops to village markets and even a feni distillery.

From the dream of Maendra Alvares to the major tourist attraction that it is today, Big Foot Lutolim has certainly come a long way since it opened in 1995. Today, not just tourists – both Indian and European – but artists, students, teachers, nature lovers, environmentalists and others are among the visitors. 

Maendra began Big Foot Lutolim with a barren hill covered with shrubbery and thorny bushes and it is quite amazing to see the metamorphosis into a world famous terraced and landscaped parkland. Although Maendra could have sold off the 9 acres of land to land developers and lived a life of luxury like many other Goans, he chose instead to invest precious time and money to create Big Foot Lutolim. His aim was to create a treasure-house of artifacts as well as recreate the traditions and culture of Goa for future generations to see and learn. In recognition, the Goan Government deemed Big Foot as the “Most Innovative and Unique Project in India’s Tourism Industry” while the Goan State Department of Education called it a “Very Educative Centre” for students.

Have you been to Big Foot Lutolim ? What was your favourite part of the open air museum ? Let me know in the comments…

Photo Credit: http://photos.igougo.com/images/p222622-Ancestral_Goa.jpg

Houses of Goa Museum, Bardez, Goa

Goa has enjoyed a unique history as a result of both Western and Eastern influences. This unique history is especially visible in the architecture and layout of Goan Homes.

“When the Portuguese colonized Goa,” the famous Goan architect Gerald da Cunha says, “they brought in their own architectural designs and lifestyle to influence the already strong culture and architecture that prevailed here. As a result of the amalgamation, an entirely new thing emerged. What you see in Goan houses, you don’t see in Portugal, or elsewhere in the world.”

The Houses of Goa is a unique museum by Gerard da Cunha and a must see for all students and fans of unique Goan architecture from the American Ambassador and his wife to local couples who come to discover their Goan heritage. As an architect and a Goan, da Cunha felt that it was his responsibility to document the architecture as a local.

The result is a rather strange ship like structure with exposed brick that houses this museum, located kind of right in the middle of the road !

On the first floor, you have a depiction of Goa in the context of the world as well as wealth of Goan architecture.

On the second floor, Gerard da Cunha delves into the details of Goan architecture with a painstaking collection of doors, windows, a rare hat stand, old French doors from a house in Margao built in 1917 as well as rare postcards of Goa dating back to 1900, giving an exclusive picture of what Goa and its cities looked like a century ago.The panels on the walls showing important Goan monuments such as the Se Cathedral as well as other world monuments that were built at the same time in other parts of the world.

Climb the winding steps to the theatre upstairs and you can see a slide show presentation, with an adaptable screen, conducted by Da Cunha himself and taking you on an architectural tour back to the earliest mud house.

What I personally liked best about the Museum is the fact that it never seems finished, always a work in progress. The many trinkets, paintings and architectural accessoires seem to be in a permanent state of influx. I guess, what I am trying to say is that it is as if the Museum is constantly changing, evolving, like a living being. 

“Goans, who were people who were converted, were looking for a new identity, and thus embarked on the experiment in architecture, to produce something unique and unseen anywhere in the world”. 

Da Cunha’s landmark museum provides a ringside view!

Stay Romantic!

Mihir

Only a 5 km drive from my Mitaroy Goa Hotel, the Houses of Goa Museum is located in Torda, Salvador-do-Mundo village of Bardez taluk in North Goa.

Please note that the Houses of Goa Museum is open from 10 AM to 7.30 PM and closed on Mondays!