Anatomy of a Goan Home

Goan homes exude a charm which can never be matched by the multi-stories which seem to be the trend of the hour. Appreciate the uniqueness of Goan homes through this article.    

There is something very regal and yet whimsical about a Goan home, very European in its look, and yet very Indian, with the use of Mangalorean tiles on its sloping roofs. It is one of the most startling features in a Goan Landscape, especially for someone who hasn’t grown up seeing Goan homes. Right at the outset is my disclaimer that I write this article not because I have an in depth knowledge of the ancient histories and workings of a Goan home, but because of an inherent fascination for them. 

The signboards: a beautiful signboard consisting of a few tiles put together, and painted in the traditional blue states heralds the entrance of the house. It could simply read “Menezes” or be a more elaborate “Casa de Menezes” meaning home of the menezes, or could even have a quote or an elaborate saying, like “Me casa su casa”. These signboards are called Azulejos, which are traditional Portuguese tin – glazed tile paintings. 

They are not restricted to signboards or homes, and tile paintings can be elaborate enough to decorate entire walls or facades, can be present within a building or on the exterior, and can depict elaborate historical events and the art can be dated according to the centuries it belonged to dating back to the 13th century. The windows: The windows of some of the Goan homes have a distinctive glass pattern, with small square shaped pieces of glass slotted within the frame. In the early 18th century, the homes used the local mother of pearl from locally sourced oysters. The light filtering through these translucent mother of pearl windows, cast an ethereal glow within the homes.  

The courtyard is the heart of the Hindu home. The courtyard generally was without a roof, and allowed the wind, air, and sunshine to circulate within the home. 

In contrast to the balcaos of Portuguese homes which encouraged interaction with the outside world, the courtyards were intimate gathering places for the members within the home away from prying eyes. where the members of the family gathered to sit out and enjoy a cool evening breeze and see the village folk pass by, or even gossip with each other. These balcaos are present just outside the main gate, and staircases lead up to the balcao. The higher the plinth, the more the number of stairs leading up to the entrance of the house; it signified the social standing as well as the wealth of the owners of the house. Verandas and railings: The verandas are interesting parts of the Goan homes anatomy. 

They are generally narrower than the average balcony, they sometimes run the entire length of the floor, or might be restricted to individual rooms. These balconies were signs of affluence amongst the nouveau riche in the 18th and 19th centuries. The railings too were elaborate and decorative, first made in laterite, then wrought iron and in wood. The painted walls: It is said that the Portuguese prohibited any home from being white, and only the churches and places of worship were allowed to shine in pristine white. 

This led people to use natural organic colours such as red of the earth, yellow from saffron, and blue from Indigo, while the green was a mix of the blue and the yellow. Over the years it has become a beautiful way to showcase their home rather than out of any religious compulsion. The courtyard: The courtyard is the heart of the Hindu home. The courtyard generally was without a roof, and allowed the wind, air, and sunshine to circulate within the home. In contrast to the balcaos of Portuguese homes which encouraged interaction with the outside world, the courtyards were intimate gathering places for the members within the home away from prying eyes. 

The courtyard is also home to the Tulsi Vrindavan; in Goa the pot within which it was held became more decorative and ostentatious. The Mangalorean tiles: This might have been the only true blue Indian entity which stood the test of time even during the Portuguese rule and thereafter. The torrential monsoons were no match for these burnt kiln roofs, which even till date grace almost all homes in the villages and cities of Goa.  

In my search to know more about the homes of Goa I found myself in a museum which is dedicated solely to the houses of Goa, the House of Goa, in Porvorim. Designed like an inverted triangle, this building is like no other house in Goa and yet is an ode to the architects of yesteryears. The entrance of the museum has these lines by the architect Gerard de Cunha: “Walk down a village lane and you’ll see that these houses are like elegant and dignified men and women chatting at a formal reception. The atmosphere is cordial and though the dress code is specified, each invitee is nattily dressed, colourful personalities with great individual confidence and swagger! And just as each party guest is unique and varied, the variety in the details of the elements in these Goan houses is astonishing.” 



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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