Cities of Goa
Goa basically was a fishermen’s cove. A small relaxed town with smaller villages, that was Goa before the Portuguese came in. The people were happy growing paddy, coconut, mangoes, cashews and fishing. With a fertile land and vast sea the people too were relaxed. With Portuguese rule came the laws and the Churches and various trades. Ports were developed and churches were built. Today’s bigger towns of the city are centered on the port, or churches and more recently tourism.
The important towns of Goa are:
Panaji, Margao, Vasco, Ponda, Mapusa and Old Goa.
Panaji, the capital city of Goa is located on the left bank of the river Mandovi. A small fishing village with trees, creeks and fishermen was called as Ponjy, which means the land that never floods. The present name is the corrupted version as the Portuguese called it Panajim which now has become Panaji. Today this town boasts of having the oldest Municipality in Asia and is an enchanting city of beaches, gardens and statues with an air of Portuguese touch. Panaji is very different than any of state capitals in India.
In 1632 the then Viceroy, Count de Linhares, Dom Miguel de Noronha built the 3.2km causeway linking Panajim with Ribandar village and Panaji came into existence. Earlier this small village was almost negligible. On December 1, 1759, the then Viceroy, Dom Manuel de Saldanha de Albuquerque, Count of Ega, shifted his residence from Panelim (near Old Goa) to Panajim. Panaji is a typical Goan town, built around a church facing a prominent square, with beautiful Portuguese Baroque style buildings and enchanting old villas. The riverside, speckled with brightly whitewashed houses with wrought iron balconies and red Mangalore tiled roof gives a different look altogether.
There are some fine government buildings along the riverside boulevard, and the Passport Office is especially noteworthy. This actually was the palace of Adil Shah the Sultan of Bijapur, built in the 16th century. It was later converted to Vice regal Lodge in 1615 by the Portuguese and in 1843 the structure became the Secretariat. Today it is the Passport Office. The Church Square is a fine illustration of the awesome Portuguese Baroque style. . There are two old sections of the city existing today, one called Fontainhas and the other Sao Tome. The hillock overlooking the city is called Altinho.
Today, Panaji is not only the state capital, but also an educational, commercial and cultural center of Goa. It has many educational institutes and theatres catering to the growing demand.
Mainly a market town for the surrounding beach areas of Calangute, Candolim, Anjuna and Baga among others Mapusa is 13 km from the capital city of Panaji. The whole town wears a lively look when the famous weekly Friday Market begins. The market attracts people from all over Goa who come here to buy and sell their wares. Everything from fresh and dried fish, incense, spices, fruits and vegetables to souvenirs from other states of India is available here. Local Goan specialties such as spicy sausages and the Goan spirits such as toddi and cashew feni are much in demand amongst locals and outsides. Another item to look out for is the magnificent banana crop from the nearby village of Moira. Most of the items are sold after a few rounds of bargaining and the prices are usually much lower than anywhere else and the goods are authentic. Church of Our Lady of Miracles about 2 km east of the market area. The Church of Our Lady of Miracles has a beautiful gabled facade but is more famous for its annual feast than for its architectural splendour. The other famous shrine is that of Lord Bodgeshwar, located on the outskirts of the town in the middle of some rice fields, which is beautifully lit up at night and draws thousands of devotees for its annual Jatra.