Mapusa is one of the four major cities of Goa. It is the trading hub of North Goa since the olden days. People of Goa still rave about the Mapusa market. Even the name of Mapusa comes from the marketplace that is its identity.
Mapusa is to North Goa is what Madgaon is to South Goa – a city surrounded by villages. Panjim came much later in the timeline of Goa and in the lives of Goans.
Mapusa comes from the word – Maap or to measure. What can be a more apt name for a place best known for the trade? In a lighter vein, people call it Maha Piche, meaning the town of Big Mad people.
Every Friday, people head to the Mapusa market for their shopping. Although, these days, the market is more or less the same on all days. People still associate it with the Friday, the day traditional market used to be held in the town. So, every day of the week, a different village would have the market.
Historically speaking, the Mapusa market as we see it today, came up only in 1960, a year before the Goan liberation in 1961. It was the first planned and designed market place in Goa, kind of like a shopping mall of its era. With open spaces between lanes of shops, it was designed to allow the unloading and loading of merchandise. Some historians also say it was meant to allow the police to patrol the market. Shops have a pillared corridor running in front of them.
The plan included different lanes for different trades say Jewelers in one lane, clothes merchants in another, etc. The last lane was meant for fish, the product that you can pick up in the end before you head back home.
A Shakuntala sculpture stands as a fountain in the market square. We know Shakuntala lived in Kanvarshram in Uttarakhand and has no known connection to Goa. Ask around, and you may find an answer.
You can still buy a lot of fresh products that come from distant villages to this market. With time, of course, the traders sell whatever the buyers want, including the Chinese products.
Do not miss the baker’s platform in the market. This is where the bakers come with their freshly baked Pois, Kankanas, and other loaves of bread to sell. You can watch the buyers choosing their bread and bakers swiftly wrapping it in the newspaper.
Potters of Goa are a star attraction of the market.
The backside of the market belongs to Bananas and baskets. Cane basket weavers are typically women who come with things like baskets, small pouches, and hand fans. A set of 2 baskets, a purse, and a fan is used in the weddings for gifting to the bride. Our guide said this craft has survived because of the ritual use of these baskets.
Before 1960, the old market used to be in the lanes next to the current market. The area is now called Angod – that comes from Kannada word Angadi or Shop/Market. If you look at the addresses on the boards, you will notice this word.
The gram Devi of Mapusa is Shantadurga. She now lives in Dhargalim, some 14 KMs away, across the Chapora River. During the Goan Inquisition, she was moved from the village. However, she continues to be treated as the presiding deity of Mapusa.
People of the town would still go to her before starting anything new or any important thing in their lives. Even festivals like Holi first start in the temple in Dhargalim and then are celebrated in the town.
In one of the houses opposite the old bus stand, you can see a small Shantadurga temple, where she was temporarily kept during her move. When I visited the temple was closed, but it can be visited it seems.
4 deities in four directions, called Rashtroli, sit at the limits of Mapusa town. In the south, it is the famous Bodgeshwar Temple. People used to pray to them before starting their journeys outside the town.
As you approach the market or bus stand, there is a bright saffron color temple that you can not miss. This is the famous Hanuman temple of the town. The presiding deity here is Dakshinamukhi Maruti as it faces the southern direction.
The temple used to be a shop about 200 years ago. The owner was a Hanuman devotee, who brought a sandalwood image of Hanuman and kept it in the shop. Since the shop faced south, so did the deity. When he prayed, people starting joining him. The following increased and the shop made way for the temple.
Mapusa and the Freedom Movement
Sudhatai Joshi, one of the freedom fighters of Goa came to Mapusa to address a gathering. She was arrested here, fined and imprisoned for a few years for saying ‘Jai Hind’. Read more about it on this FB Page.
Mukund Pundalik Kamat Dhakankar was deported to Angola when he and his colleagues tried to loot the bank and the police station in the town. A road in the town is named after him. He was related to the Goa’s CM Manohar Parrikar.
A plaque next to the Maruti temple commemorates the names of the martyrs of Bardez, of which the town is a part.
Chacha Nehru Park
A small children’s park opposite the Maruti temple is best known for an elephant slide in grey shade. Apparently, the locals had to fight to keep this elephant intact.
Library – Walk ahead from the Maruti temple till you see another bright yellow Laxmi Narayan temple.
You will pass by an old library, that has moved a little ahead. I noticed a lot of tailors and fashion studios. A pharmacy in green seems was very famous in Mapusa. Home-based doctors were famous and some of them still seem to be in practice.
Close it is a small island surrounded by white walls with an Ambedkar statue standing in the middle. This used to be the old bus stand. Well, buses came much later, but Tongas or bullock carts used to take people from town to the Siolim or Dharghil. After that, if you need to go further, you walk.
Close to this is Attai Library, named after Father Attai, who was not a priest but a philanthropist.
A small bright white chapel stands in the middle of the old town. No one really knows why it is called the Swiss Chapel. Best guess is that there is some hint of swiss architecture.
A little ahead there is defunct Alankar theater, with the poster of Bahubali, the last film that was screen here, still intact. Outside it is small shack-like shops, that open around 7 PM and that is when this place is buzzing with life. This is Goa’s or the town’s very own night street food market. Bappa stall gets its fame from the fact that CM Parrikar used to visit this stall regularly and even have some party meetings here. The place is known for its shakes.
Walk around and you will some lovely colorful house and some crumbling ones in laterite. A colorful wall with a small hole in it serves a need when everything else is closed.
Where to Eat
Babaji Café – Right Next to Maruti temple. Limsi – a lemonade made with mint flavor is very famous here. It is a go-to place for young people in the town.
Vrindavan – Once upon a time, this was the first restaurant to get an Idli maker, and that made it famous. Apparently, people used to come here to see how Idli maker looks like. Fame once gained tends to stay with you.
Le Jardine – Once upon a time a big restaurant in the town.
Mapusa is well connected with Panjim and Margao through public transport.
There are enough eateries around the city to eat, some of them are listed above.
There are hotels like GTDC operated Mapusa residency to stay.
Mapusa market is most visited on Friday and is sometimes called Friday Market. Though these days, it is as vibrant on other days too.