Madgaon – you probably hear this name when you have to come to Goa via train. It is Goa’s main railway station. It is also the commercial hub of Goa and one of the 4 cities of Goa along with Panaji, Vasco, and Mapusa. The town is hardly thought of as a tourist destination for it is little inside from the tourist belt of South Goa Beaches. Having said that, any old city has its heritage & charm that can lure tourists. So, we decided to explore Madgaon Heritage and share the heritage walk with you.
One fine December afternoon, I landed in the town. We intended to start the walk from the municipal garden. But our bus dropped us next to a park, so we made it our first stop for the walk.
We discovered a lot of big and beautiful houses in the town – each with a unique personality, its own color scheme, and its own charm. There are lots of places in Goa where you can see beautiful houses. But in this town, you see them on a single road right next to each other.
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Madgaon Heritage Walk
Wear your walking shoes and let us start walking in the commercial town of South Goa:
This is a small garden with the statue of Ram Manohar Lohiya standing on a platform with his hand pointing in the manner of ‘Moving Ahead’. There was a function going on, so we took a quick round of this small garden and moved towards our intended starting point for the Madgaon Heritage Walk.
The Municipal Building in Madgaon is a more than 100 years old colonial-era building in pale yellow. Walkthrough its arched corridors to appreciate its neo-classical architecture. Go around and you would see a library behind it.
Bang Opposite the Municipal building is the Municipal Gardens where you would see tons of people walking around or sitting around. If it is siesta time, you would find people sleeping too in the garden. It is a small garden with busts of many prominent Goans standing here. Unfortunately, most of the plaques are illegible. There are benches around trees to sit. We walked leisurely admiring the people more than the garden. Exchanged some smiles with the street vendors, and crossed a closed garden that has the name Aga Khan mentioned on board.
Across the road, we met this lovely stainless steel sculpture by Goan Artist Subodh Kerkar celebrating the women workers of Goa.
The post office in its red and white color housed in what looks like an old house looks charming.
Houses of Abade Faria Road – Madgaon Heritage
We took the road on the left of the Post Office – the Abade Faria road. Our Madgaon heritage walk was essentially a walk on this road. We were surprised to find so many heritage houses and commercial buildings here that we took 3 hours to cover 600 meters of this road. Here are some of the things that we discovered:
As soon as we started walking we found an old printing press that no longer functions. But the board still stands.
Bang opposite the Press was Carotronics building – an erstwhile office of the company that then dealt in all kinds of electronic equipment like cameras, projectors, electronic typewriters, etc. You just cannot miss the sharply arched doors on the first floor against a turquoise wall. The paint has fallen off in so many places that it gives the impression of a print on the wall. We spoke to a gentleman at the only open door on the ground floor before braving to go up.
Yes, it needed some courage to take the wooden steps. Then walk on the wooden corridor that we had no idea if it can take our weight. We tip-toed to reach the main door when someone stepped out and we could breathe easily. The gentleman showed us the house – its kitchen, rooms, and backyard. It belongs to a business family. The first room still has its grandeur intact. There is stucco work around the room in green color. Even in its dilapidated state, it looked nice. Not fine work, but work that stands out.
Walking around the house, which is only half of the original house. I wondered how it would be to live in these wooden houses.
You would see a lovely pale pink building with shell windows on the first floor in the corner. Take a right and a few meters ahead you would find Confidant library in green color. This is a small but very old style library in the lane next to the Carotronics building. It is a bookshop, a text bookshop, a lending library and, hold your breath – a funeral service.
Confidant Library is a glimpse into how the old Goan libraries used to be.
We came back on AF Road and walked past some bright yellow houses on our left and a small blue one on our right. We stopped by a temporary shop selling Christmas items.
Colorful Goan Houses – Madgaon Heritage
Here onwards it was our time to be mesmerized by the grand houses of Goa.
The first house we spotted was a closed yellow house with Red Balcao and Red Sopa on the left. How we wished we could take it over and convert it into a cultural open space.
The Red House
Red House – Next was a big red house on the left. This is a corporate office now. Which means it is well maintained and used. We stepped inside its door that was open. We were greeted by the wide staircase that divided itself into two halfway through. Steps were made of solid stone and the railing in delicately carved wood. It seems like it would have been a public building of some kind. But I could not gather any information.
Interestingly this house has two smaller gates on both sides that now lead to the parking lot. But, may have been the gardens once upon a time. There are glass-paneled windows in dark wood. The upper floor ones have hanging balconies resting on small white brackets.
The Green & Blue House
Green & Blue House – This is a unique single story with a huge garden in front. The corridor running in front of the house and the porch has a filigree-like delicate design on both the pillars and the brackets. The walls have Azulejos tiles. The Aquamarine tiles look lovely with the green wooden frames around them.
Instituto De Artes Femininas – Housed in a room of another beautiful house, this is an old tailoring school. We were gracefully invited inside. Mira Coutinho, the instructor told us that she runs five batches of tailoring every day. They also teach paper flower making and machine embroidery. What was fascinating here was the old sewing machines that still in use. Mira could tell us where each machine came from and how it is used. Do step in and see this lovely government-approved school if you go on this Madgaon Heritage Walk.
The Blue & White House
Blue & White House – Bang opposite the institute is this majestic house in White and Blue. I wonder if it was originally white? During the Portuguese era in Goa, houses were not allowed to use the white color. As that was reserved for the churches. Or, did the bit of Blue outline allowed this house to circumvent that rule. The special architectural feature of this house is its long-running hanging balcony that runs across the length of the house. Two small sit-outs on either side of the main gate are interesting.
The Red & Green House
Red & Green House – This is a small house with red walls and green parapet railings. The windows have a white dot on the cross-section of panels. A simple design element lends a certain elegance to the house.
Here and there we saw houses with shell windows. Sometimes part of them is replaced with glad. There are big and small houses in all possible colors and color combinations.
The Pink House
Pink House – Pass by the red building of Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters that now houses a nursery to reach this pink house with an intricate railing outside it. I wonder what purpose it served as the space behind it is very narrow. I cannot think of anything but ornamentation. It does lend an elegance to the otherwise plain house with tall windows. There is a moat-like opening outside the house. Then another small wall with floral Azulejos on top as if compensating for the absent garden.
Heritage House Turned Boutique Store – This is a large house that is now a fashion boutique. We walked around the boutique and I wondered how they managed to renovate the house so well.
Yellow House Celebrating Glass – A pale yellow house has a window full of small glasses again decorated with a finely carved railing. Looks like this house reminds us of the times when the glass started replacing shells in Goan windows.
Temples of Margao
After relishing the heritage houses, we met two temples on the same road.
Ram Temple – This is a small temple dedicated to Ram, Laxman, and Sita. It has Ram Stutis written on the walls.
The Damodar Sal is a small private temple that is open to the public. This is where Swami Vivekananda stayed when he visited Goa in October 1892. It is dedicated to the Damodar Avatar of Shiva. One room temple has large Tanjore paintings of various Hindu Deities like Ram, Laxman, Sita, Hanuman, and Tirupati Balaji.
It is believed that the deity mounts his horse and takes the round of the town every Monday – the day of the Shiva. Shivaratri attracts a lot of crowds to Damodar Sal. It was at one of the temples before the deity was moved to this privately-owned hall of a wealthy Hindu family. It has been here for 250 years or so.
What is interesting is that it is the cultural heritage of Madgaon. Sal comes from Shala that means a hall. This was the town hall where community disputes were settled in the presence of the presiding deity of the community.
Remember Madgaon was called Mathagram in ancient times for the nine Mathas or the spiritual schools that used to be here a long time back in history.
At the end of Abade Faria road is the old market. Take a right turn from here to reach the Margao Church which it is said was built on the temple tank of an ancient temple.
It took us nearly 3 hours to cover just one road. We had to let go of visiting the famous town market.
Madgaon heritage walk left us overwhelmed with the grandeur and scale of houses here. They tell you about the affluent people of Goa. In another place, some of these houses would be called palaces or mansions. I wonder how many people lived there. And how many were employed there. I wonder how it would be to live in them.
I know I need to go back to explore the famous market of the town. But for now, I am enjoying the gorgeous houses of the town.