Aldona is the most beautiful village in the world. How often do you hear the whole village saying that? Wherever we went in Aldona and whoever we spoke to – we heard only one thing – Aldona is the most beautiful village in the world. Asking them, how many villages have you been to is not a valid question. They are simply in love with Aldona. We spoke to a shopkeeper who makes savories, we spoke to a pharmacist, we spoke to people who run lovely boutique hotels here and we spoke to a recent resident here. Everyone had just one thing to tell us – Aldona is the most beautiful village in the world.
Well, I must admit that a lot of literary giants are choosing to live in Aldona, so it must be true that Aldona is the most beautiful village in the world.
Aldona as per author Maria Aurora Couto, who is an Aldona resident, has its roots in Haldi or Turmeric – a crop that was the planted here in this village. As per another Aldona resident, we spoke to – it comes from the word ‘Hal’ that in many Indian languages including Konkani means plough. He argued that this is an agricultural village named after the agricultural instrument. In the recorded history though it was called Haldona till Portuguese twist made it Aldona.
Aldona has a population of 6000
The first thing we noticed as soon as we parked our car was a statue of Edward J Soares on a traffic roundabout. I walk across to the statue to figure out who this gentleman was. It was a pleasant surprise to know that Mr. Soares was the first principal of St Thomas school established way back in 1923. How often do you see a local educationist being celebrated – are these places not reserved for political leaders only? Yes, Aldona – you are beautiful.
Sao Tome or St Thomas Church
Most villages in Goa have a church around which the village life is centered. It may have been a temple before it was a church and some villages do have both a church and a temple. In Aldona, it is the Sao Tome, a church built in 1596 CE on a plateau next to Mapusa river. Whitewashed in pristine white standing in the middle of greenery, Goan churches are always charming to look at and so is this one.
Thanks to our friend Gouthami, we took a tour of the church and discovered the lovely paintings inside. On the side of the church, there was a house around a courtyard with various fruit trees. Technically, it is called a rectory. We noticed some nicely maintained wooden parts and a lovely altar. The most interesting part was the long list of donors along with their villages who have made donations to the church.
The day we went, the church was getting ready for a wedding and me met the beautiful bride sitting outside dressed in her white gown and tiara, wearing a smile that only a bride can. What was interesting was the green bangles that filled her forearms – a perfect example of how customs and traditions never die or may how they influence the communities that live together.
This church looks like a fort when seen from the river and from some distance.
This is the most beautiful part of Aldona – the place where its dead live – the cemetery. In pristine white, its gate says the most profound thing in Konkani – AIZ MAKA FALEA TUKA or Today it is me, tomorrow it is you. A not so gentle reminder that all of us have to finally belong to the country of dead men. There are all kinds of tombs here small, large, family pack. Some have angels sitting on them.
It is difficult to put in words how I felt looking at this lovely cemetery. I only remember that I could have looked at it for a long time.
Tale of three bridges & a fort
Aldona is flanked by two bridges across the Mapusa River, that flows along the village.
A small cable bridge connecting Aldona to Corjuem across Mapusa is a lovely bridge to both observe and cross. It is Goa’s first cable bridge and hence very special for the two villages that it connects. This is another reason for people of Aldona to say ‘Aldona is the most beautiful village in the world’.
At sunset time, this bridge is very picturesque, with the Mapusa flowing silently below it.
Calvim Bridge is built on a tragic story. 4 schoolgirls and two adults died while crossing the river in Feb 2012 and that is when this bridge was commissioned. The Plaque gives the names, dates of birth and photos of all these people and the Calvim bridge is dedicated to them. But for this story, this would be just another steel and cement structure connecting the two villages across a river. To me, this was another great example of remembering the locals who lost their lives in an accident. This is what makes Goa special.
I was told that you get lovely Samosas in the evening across the bridge and it is this Samosawala who drives the maximum traffic on the bridge. What bridges can do – feed hungry souls every evening with some tasty samosas?
There is a third stone bridge Gouthami showed us, on the backwaters. Small bridge with three arches stood in the middle of wilderness allowing you savor a bit of it if you cross the bridge. Small colorful fishing boats rested on the banks. At sunset, it was the best place to enjoy the wonders of nature.
Corjuem Fort or Forte de Corjuem
I have been to this Fort a few times and it looks more like an open outpost to me. The architecture of this fort is absolutely unique. It is a square structure with four tiny towers on all four corners. As you step inside, the only living thing you see is a small chapel. The inscription on the gate places it in Portuguese era but locals say that the fort is much older. It is also said that its original construction was by Desai’s of Sankhali before it went to Bhosles of Sawantwadi. The material used is local laterite stone so it could be older. There is a hint of Islamic architecture in the corner towers.
Inside the Corjuem fort, the most intriguing feature is the four wide ramps in all four corners leading to the roof that runs around the fort wall connecting the four ramps. I assume that these ramps were meant to roll supplies of some kind or to take animals on top. The rooms if any no longer exist. There is a well bang in the middle of the courtyard. It almost feels like a mansion that belonged to some rich family. The small size of Corjuem fort tells me that there is nothing much that could have been guarded inside the fort. It may have been a place to keep an eye on the surroundings and make sure that no invaders are coming through land or river route.
A legend says that a Portuguese female traveler by the name Ursula e Lancaster was traveling around the world dressed as a man, as women could not travel on their own in those days. However, when she reached Corjuem fort, she was caught and had to let go of her incognito travels. Not sure how true this is, as when I asked the locals about this story, they said – Who knows!. In Aldona, you can hear a new story every evening. No wonder best-selling fiction writers love to live here.
Next time you are in Goa, check out this Aldona – the most beautiful village in the world.
More to read on my travel blog on Places to visit in Goa.