My grandfather is a historian, not by profession but because of his fantastic memory. Whenever he and I are together, we usually talk about the pre and post-independence chronicles. He is 1936-born and when the India-Pakistan partition happened, he was 11 and was old enough to observe and understand his surroundings to an extent that he would go on to remember almost every detail even now when he is more than 80.
Whenever he narrates a story, his tone sets the vibe instantly. He always has a new tale to unfold and every time, it gets more interesting. So, once I asked him if he remembered anything about Goa’s liberation from the Portuguese rule. Right away began another anecdote and this time, I just knew that I will never forget this story of his!
When India became an independent nation on Aug. 15, 1947, the western coast enclaves like Goa, Daman and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli continued to be under the Portuguese rule.
In 1950, it is believed that the Indian government started negotiations with Portugal over the status of its colonies in India. Unfortunately, the effort went in vain as the Portuguese claimed that those territories were a vital part of Portugal.
Eleven years later, the Indians finally decided to counter the ‘aggressive actions taken by the Portuguese’ in November 1961.
While the citizens and Portuguese were unaware, the Indian military was getting ready. My Grandpa does not remember the exact date; it was either Dec 17 or 18, that a handsome 25-year-old man began his journey from Calcutta (now Kolkata) and was en route Delhi to meet his would-be wife.
When the train halted in Kanpur, the passengers were informed that the train would not go ahead as the train lines were all directed to another side. They were not given the specific reason behind the change. So, my Grandpa boarded another train to Lucknow and from there, he headed to Delhi.
Before we proceed with the story, I would like to tell you that my Grandpa married the same woman he was going to meet that day. They tied the knot the following year on Oct. 7. They were married for 56 years before my Grandma passed away earlier this year.
Now I guess you know why the story turned out to be so special for me!
Anyway, so the Indian military barely needed two days to free Goa. The Indian forces attacked Goa from three sides on December 18. Air raids were also conducted, while there was hardly any resistance from the Portuguese troops. On Dec. 19 around 8.30 p.m, they surrendered – the 450 years of Portuguese rule in Goa came to an end.
Little Portugal still alive in Goa
Although the Portuguese left Goa, years ago, there is still a little bit of Portugal still alive in Goa. The smallest Indian state, Goa may be known for the party scenes, beach life and all the coolness it thrives on, but the heart of Goa lies in its heritage and culture.
If you are looking to explore the colonial architecture, head to Velha Goa (Old Goa), where distinctive Portuguese heritage can still be found.
One of the oldest components of its history and heritage is still well-preserved in the form of Fort Aguada. The majestic fort was constructed in the 17th century to guard the Portuguese troops against the Dutch and the Marathas. It sits on the shores of Mandovi River, overlooking the Arabian Sea and tells stories of traders, explorers, pirates and adventurers.
The highlight of the fort that still stands out today is its four-story lighthouse, which was constructed in 1864 and is the oldest of its kind in Asia.
If you happen to visit Candolim, a town in North Goa, your itinerary must have Fort Aguada.
Timings: 8.30 AM to 5.30 PM (Mon-Sun)
If somebody asks you to pay an entry fee outside the fort, you must know that you are being scammed because the entry is free of charge.
The purpose of building this fort was also the same, guarding the Portuguese against the Dutch and Marathas. Overlooking the Sinquerim beach, the fort divides the shore into two parts. Although the fort is almost in ruins now, it still is worth a visit because the beach is one of the cleanest we have witnessed in the country so far.
It was a gem amidst other crowded and dirty beaches in North Goa. When we visited Goa in 2017, the beach shacks were still functional and we had a great time sipping a beer at one of the shacks there and admiring the view around us. The water sports are a bonus if you are looking for an adventurous day. We visited it in the afternoon but the place is famous for witnessing stunning sunsets in Goa.
Timings: Open 24hrs (Mon-Sun)
According to the historic chapters, the original structure was built by Adilshah of Bijapur before the Portuguese rebuilt it in the 17th century. It was reconstructed to make the fort as a border watch post. The main feature of the fort were the tunnels that were built under the ground as an escape route for the residents in case of an attack.
While you can still recognise the two tunnels, the fort now is nothing but a picturesque piece of ruins. There is a bit of a climb to do to get to the top but the effort is worth it in the end. The incentive to walk up is the splendid view of nearby Anjuna and Vagator beaches.
Timings: Open 24hrs (Mon-Sun)
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church
They say that the original construction on this site was a chapel, which was built in 1541 so that sailors could thank God for delivering them safely to Goa and keeping them away from any possible danger on the sea. It was a small pitstop before they continued their journey to Velha Goa (Old Goa) where the important forts, like Aguada and Sinquerim, were situated.
The facade of the church is sparkling white as the structure sits on the top of a hill giving a panoramic view of Goa’s capital, Panjim. The view comes with some hard work as you need to climb approximately 100 steps to get to the top. If you ever are around the church in the evening, you might want to stay until sunset because that’s when the façade is lit by a multitude of lights.
Timings: 9 AM – 12.30 PM, 3 PM – 5.30 PM (Mon-Sun)
Sao Tome and Fontainhas
Once the capital of Goa, Fontainhas is an Old Latin quarter in Panjim. After the Portuguese had shifted their capital to Panjim in the 18th century, that led to abundant construction in the state. That still did not affect the twin areas of Fontainhas and Sao Tome, which ensured it retained the essence of Portugal. To date, the small town continues to maintain it’s Portuguese influence in the form of narrow, pretty and winding streets, old villas and buildings with beautiful facades, like those found in European cities.
It’s less than a km from Panjim and could turn out to be a great day trip. They offer heritage walk as the two quarters are still packed with history, architecture, food and more.