After visiting the most popular sights in Goa-  exploring Fort
Aguada, strolling along the Anjuna Beach & the flea markets, going
on a Dolphin cruise, and exploring Colva beach where I managed to let go
of my fears and go para sailing, I was now eager to explore the other
side to Goa- The Old Goa as it is called. Also known as Goa Velha
[“Velha” in Portugese means Old], it is located on the banks of the
River Mandovi  about 9 Kms Panaji, Goa’s Capital.
Anjuna beach
Riding
the bus to Panaji, I chatted up with the lady sitting beside me asking
her if she knew anything about this part of Goa. She went on to tell me
that the town was once a major Portuguese stronghold and before that was
the capital of Bijaipur Kingdom as well. But apparently, most of the
forts, weaponry, and traces of the era gone by have gone missing with
time. Even though there has been a decline in heritage over centuries,
the town is well maintained, inspite of the large influx of visitors
year round. “You should explore the churches and temples there” she said
before going on her way.
I got off in Panaji where the tour guide
reccomended by a friend waited. He took over from where the lady had
left off to shed more light on the history behind Old Goa. “The town was
earlier surrounded by a fortified wall with barracks, a hospital and
the prison. Europeans who ruled the region have left behind quite an
impression apart from architectural marvels. I will show you some of the
famous churches in this region for you to understand better.”

 
Along the Mandovi River

Within
minutes we were on a road flanked on either side by a Grand church. “On
your right is the Basilica of Bom Jesus and across the road is the Se
Cathedral. Why dont you go explore the Bom Jesus Basilica first?” he
said before wandering off to chat with some friends.

Basilica of
Bom Jesus is a Church marked as a World Heritage Site standing tall but
without a towering cross on top. Apparently in its place was a Hindu
temple which the portugese demolished to erect the church on.. And the
cross they installed kept falling off due to natural calamities, till
finally they realised something bigger was in power there and so the
church stands tall without a Cross.

Basilica of Bom Jesus
The
interiors are overwhelming, huge ceilings, beautiful art work.. its
absolutely breathtaking. The church houses two chapels, a main altar, a
sacristy and a belfry at the back. Apart from these, the church also has
a rich collection of paintings related to various instances from the
life of St. Francis Xavier.Altars dedicated to St. Michael and to Our
Lady of Hope are also present.
The church houses the sacred
relics of St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of Goa. St Francis Xavier is
also known as “Goencho Saib” meaning “Lord of Goa”. The saint died while
on a sea voyage to China on December 2,1552. In accordance with his
wishes , his remains were transferred to Goa the following year.
Before I knew it, nearly an hour had passed. Making my way out onto the
street to explore the Se Cathedral I noticed the guide lost in
conversation.

Se Cathedral 
Inside Se Cathedral
The
largest church in Old Goa, Se Cathedral is dedicated to St. Catherine
of Alexandria. This Renaissance cathedral was designed in the 16th
century and took nearly 80 years to complete. I noticed there was only
one  bell tower, apparently the other collapsed way back in 1776 when it
was struck by lightening  The interiors are filled with intricate
detailing, the focal point is the 249 feet long central nave and a
gilded high altar dedicated to St. Catherine.As you walk around , you
will see the 15 additional altars inside the cathedral. What a beautiful
building that was. I could have spent all day there, but I was thirsty
for more…
I quickly made an exit towards our vehicle only to
find the guide waiting there for me. “Shall we go? I have few more
surprises to show you”, he chirped! I wondered what could be more
magical than these structures I had just visited…

This post was also submitted on Club Mahindra’s Blog