Making of A Goan Heritage Home

By Sarvesh Sinai Borkar

The Portuguese conquered Goa in November 1510 and the capital of Estado da India (State of India) was transferred from Cochin to Goa in 1530. It was now the centre of small but numerous Portuguese possessions spread all over the orient. Goa was also a residence of the Governor or Viceroy and the Archbishop. It was the only place in the whole Portuguese empire to have a status very similar to that of Lisbon. The Portuguese rule under the King’s religious patronage extended material and financial support to the construction for a large number of royal buildings. To impress the colonial people, the greatness of power was expressed through architecture.

A new way of thinking about characteristically Goan architecture was spreading through the Goan fidalgo society. There was a string of the so-called Portuguese houses being built by upper and middle class land owners or bhatkars who were powerful local Gaonkars-just like mushrooms blooming during the first monsoon showers!

This distinct artistic architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries is christened ‘Portuguese houses’ by tourist operators and tourists today, however though found all over Goan villagers, it doesn’t exist in any town or village in Portugal or Portuguese influenced countries! It represents an art style that belongs to Goan architects, craftsmen and masons commissioned by Goan landlords.

These Goan houses were built using locally available red laterite heavy stones and set in lime motor placed not lengthwise but breadth wise to create thicker walls. These massive walls were designed to keep the sun’s heat out in the summertime while retaining the internal heat in the winters. Big windows were provided in the high walls for the excess light to brighten the deep dark interiors.

A layer of mud, jaggery, and lime was used as a plaster for it’s walls originally which has now been replaced by cement in restoration work. The roof framework was with locally available titles called Mangalore tile. These gorgeous red tiled roofs had massive wooden beams locally called pattyos or wall plates. The length of these beams sometimes created a problem in transporting them through the villages and needed a small army of men to carry! This maybe one of the reasons why such aristocratic family houses were built on river banks or close to the sea-to facilitate transport of this material by boat!

Smaller wooden beams or vashe as they are called in Konkani which formed the rafters were used to change the slope of the roof to drain rainwater away during the heavy monsoon showers, along with Mangalore tiles which gives the distinct rust colour to Goan roofs.

The wisdom of the Goan masons and craftsmen can be sen in discovering complex use of simple material and demystifying natural cycles by eradicating light and dramatic treatment of space inside these noble homes.

The traditional Goan architects and masons were not only astronomically accomplished with the knowledge of sun motion but used the display of sunlight to illuminate the interiors. With big doors and windows of typically rectangular halls and a long side of the building facing North or South thus taking maximum advantage of sunlight, this traditional architecture is designed in proportion to climatic conditions.

The central outdoor spaces was called the balcao with seats built in two opposite directions with distinct Goan identity of columned porches and long pillars imitating coconut trees in it’s natural surroundings.

In some houses window screens were fashioned to play a significant role with window panes made of translucent oyster shells called karppa. These karppas have been used from the time of the Portuguese motivated by the need to replace wooden shutters.

The Goan craftsmen observed the daily movement of the sun to choose these distinct bright colours-blue representing the sun rising amidst the turquoise mist of the morning sky, yellow being the radiant and magnificent colour representing the power of the afternoon sun and the flaming red as seen at sunset upon the horizon that quickly fades into darkness.

Solar dos Colacos mansion, Ribandar- This beautiful 300 year old palacial home sits on the bank of the river Mandovi. It was built in baroque style by Joao Colaco in 1730 with two wings. It has one little chapel inside. This house is known for the depiction of Ramayana scenes on the sideboard of the dining room.

Palacio do Deao, Quepem– This 213 mansion built a Portuguese noble, sits on the banks of the river Kushavati. It’s unusual architectural style that blends both Hindu and Portuguese architecture is worth seeing.

Eurico Silva’s House, Margao– This house is also known as the house of seven gables for it’s. The towering structure is a sight to see in baroque and rococo styles. Inside the impressive carvings, winding staircase that leads to an inner chapel are all marvels of the bygone splendour.

Sara Fernandes House, Chandor-The oldest remaining palacios in Goa, it is located in the heart of Chandor village. The 500 year old home exhibits a Hindu influence in the original structure. The Western influence can be seen much later. The house hold a secret and only the home owners Sara Fernandes and her son Rajeev will share once you visit.

Menezes Braganza House, Chandor- The Menezes Braganza house is perhaps one of the most popular heritage homes in Goa. Located in the idyllic hamlet of Chandor, the home is not divided into two parts. The Eastern wing occupied by the Pereira Braganza family has a relic of St Francis Xavier stored in the chapel. The great salon, ballroom, antiques and rose wood furniture speak of the grandeur of the time. The West wing belongs to the Menezes Braganza family. It houses 17th and 18th century family portraits and perhaps the first private library belonging to the noted son, Luis de Menezes Braganza (1878-1938).

For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.

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Author: Planet Goa Team
For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.

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