Celebrating Fontainhas, Panjim

View from my Balcao (My dad blogs from Goa)…

Mitaroy Goa Heritage HomeStay is a house set apart, in the quaint, quiet bye-lanes of Mala-Fontainhas, a UNESCO Heritage protected Zone right in the heart of Panjim.

It is a 100+ year-old home, white with red-tiled-roof, a kind of a dak-bunglow seen somewhere in the Portuguese-era of the late 1800 and identified with their invasion and occupation of the Indian territory. It evokes the Portuguese word “saudade” loosely translated to ” a kind of deep longing, nostalgic and heart-rending of something lost, something dearly-loved”. It takes one back in time & space, to the relics of the Portuguese raj, visual signs of history presumably dead and done-with, reminiscing the unfamiliar little enclaves of the Portuguese settlers.

The simplicity & intrigue surrounding these little pockets of history strikes a chord in one’s mind ( heart ?) as a defence against an encroaching and threatening landscape across the Ourem Creek, a way of keeping its distance from the onrushing, almost cruel development by virtue of its lonely, recessed locale. Evolved from rudimentary dwellings into extremely comforting, even elegant guest-houses and home-stays, these bunglows carry the history of the Portoguese sahibs-memsahibs who lived hereabouts and developed the surrounding territory that is Goa today. A WalkAbout in these parts is a special treat for visitors in search of history & culture. A 400-year-old (white-washed) chapel dominates the landscape in hushed, respected silence through the day, as does a bright, domed temple.

The architecture is notably simple and simplified, with the heat-protecting red-tiled roofs, airy red-oxide balcaos for catnapping while passing the time of the (hot) days and (cooler) nights in discussion and repartee, built closely-knit, ostensibly to foster camaraderie and a kind of a protection from any intruders, close to the waters-edge and closer to the source of water (fountain …fontainhas in Porto) and large rooms with high-ceilings.

HomeStays & GuestHouses apart, many of these bunglows have been neatly metamorhed into boutiques, bakeries & cafes promoting the Goan culture in all its hues and tastes – a typical vase or jar, a simple prawn-curry-rice, an original version of bebinca(sweet).

Spot an old lady, elegant in her neatly-groomed white hairdo, prim in her laced-dress or marathi-tied cotton saree, powdered & all, staring vacantly out of her lace-curtained window as dusk gathers its folds and envelopes the surroundings in a kind of an eerie darkness, interrupted by the peal of the Church-bell or the gong of the bright-lit temple nearby. That one moment is a beautiful one that remains etched in one’s memory of a Goa that once was Portuguese territory.

 A holiday with some history tossed about for a pleasant recall about the last remaining vistages of the Portuguese culture.

 Mitaroy Goa Heritage HomeStay offers luxuriously appointed, spacious suites with privacy & silence, breakfast & beer, personalised service and peaceful existence starting at Rs 6,400 per night in a Heritage Suite.

Contact Us Now for a special Package…

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Goa Carnival 2013 to be made bigger and better

Goa Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar has announced that the Goa Tourism Ministry plans to make the Goa Carnival 2013 even bigger and better than it usually is by inviting neighbouring States such as Maharashtra, Karnataka and even Gujarat to join in the parades with their floats. 

The Goa Tourism Ministry is also planning to revive the Food and Cultural Festival during the Goa Carnival 2013 by inviting neighbouring States to participate at this festival to showcase their cuisine and culture with food stalls and programmes. While Goan cuisine will dominate the food festival, it would give Goans a taste of food from the rest of India, said Minister Parulekar.

Unlike previous years, professional event management agencies will be employed by the Goa Tourism Ministry who will conceptualise and work out the themes for the Goan and neighbouring state floats.

This is the first time that the Goan Carnival will include floats and food from outside the state. In the past, the Goan Carnival only showcased the unique food and culture of Goa. While this effort by Minister Parulekar to add other neighbouring states to the Goa Carnival 2013 will certainly help visitors and tourists from these neighbouring states to feel at home in Goa during the Carnival as well as expose Goans to the cultures of other states, the question remains whether the Goan Carnival is the right place to showcase other cultures or whether the Goan Carnival should be limited to Goan food and culture alone.

What do you think ? Should the Goan Carnival 2013 include other neighbouring states as well ? Or should the Goan Carnival only showcase Goa’s unique cultural heritage ? 

Do let me know in the comments…

Photo Credit: Anoop Negi

Big Foot, Lutolim

More commonly known as Big Foot, ‘Ancestral Goa’ is a ‘Center for preservation of Art, Culture and Environment’ created by Maendra Jocelino Araujo Alvares and situated in the small village of Loutolim in South Goa. 

At the entrance, you see a bronze statue of a guard and an elaborate door and wall decoration. Once inside, you see that the uniqueness of Big Foot Lutolim lies in the fact that it is an open-air museum that recreates Goan rural life as it was hundreds of years ago.  You can choose to visit the art gallery, that showcases work done by local children and artisans, a handicraft centre with locally produced Goan artifacts, a restaurant, a cross, a spring, a bird habitat, a spice yard and much more. The model village also includes a variety of miniature houses showcasign the traditional occupation and social classes that existed a century ago – from fishermen, Goan artisans, farmers, liquors shops to village markets and even a feni distillery.

From the dream of Maendra Alvares to the major tourist attraction that it is today, Big Foot Lutolim has certainly come a long way since it opened in 1995. Today, not just tourists – both Indian and European – but artists, students, teachers, nature lovers, environmentalists and others are among the visitors. 

Maendra began Big Foot Lutolim with a barren hill covered with shrubbery and thorny bushes and it is quite amazing to see the metamorphosis into a world famous terraced and landscaped parkland. Although Maendra could have sold off the 9 acres of land to land developers and lived a life of luxury like many other Goans, he chose instead to invest precious time and money to create Big Foot Lutolim. His aim was to create a treasure-house of artifacts as well as recreate the traditions and culture of Goa for future generations to see and learn. In recognition, the Goan Government deemed Big Foot as the “Most Innovative and Unique Project in India’s Tourism Industry” while the Goan State Department of Education called it a “Very Educative Centre” for students.

Have you been to Big Foot Lutolim ? What was your favourite part of the open air museum ? Let me know in the comments…

Photo Credit: http://photos.igougo.com/images/p222622-Ancestral_Goa.jpg

Supporting Goan artisans

At my Mitaroy Heritage Homestay, Sustainability has always been an important part of our philosophy. We believe that as a business, it is important to give back to the community that we benefit so much from. 

And that is why we support this latest initiative by the Goa handicrafts, rural and small scale industries development corporation (GHRSSIDC) to support the local Goan artisans. 

Pottery and clay idol-making is a traditional Goan cottage industry and in order to motivate the traditional idol makers and ensure gainful employment to these artisans, the Goa handicrafts, rural and small scale industries development corporation (GHRSSIDC), an undertaking of the government of Goa has introduced a subsidy scheme in order to encourage this ancient art form. 

Under this scheme clay idols made by artisans registered with GHRSSIDC are subsidized to the extent of 100 per idol provided the idols are at least a foot high. The subsidy is given to the registered artisans after they submit their applications in the prescribed format at the GHRSSIDC office. 

Unfortunately, however, these idols must have a religious purpose i.e. only idols pertaining to religious festivals such as Ganesha idols for Ganesh Chathurthi or Infant Jesus idols for Christmas etc are supported by this initiative and idols made for decorative/aesthetic purposes are not covered under this scheme. 

Many of these idols and handicrafts are available at the local Government handicraft emporium “Aparant”, two of which are located within walking distance of my Mitaroy Heritage Homestay. We encourage our guests to visit these local Government handicraft emporiums, when they wish to purchase souvenirs to take back home with them. Not only do they get souvenirs that are of guaranteed quality, they are also doing their bit to support the livelihood of these artisans. 

Have you ever purchased an idol / handicraft from the Aparant Government handicraft emporium as a souvenir ? Do let me know in the comments…

Goa’s colonial history rediscovered

Like with most colonial – native relationships, Goa has always seemed to have had a love – hate relationship with Portugal. Goa, once a Portuguese colony, was ruled over by Portugal for over 400 years. And in a sense, Goa’s Portuguese colonial history has made Goa what it is today. 

But as a new generation grows up in Goa today, more familiar with Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo as Portuguese heros rather than the old Portuguese rulers of Goa, Goa’s relationship with Portugal and everything Portuguese seems to be changing. Suddenly, everything described in Goa as “colonial,” “Portuguese” and “Latin” and suddently, Goa’s colonial history seems to have become an integral and intrinsic part of Goa’s “identity”. 

When compared to other colonial relationships in the region, especially “India’s” relationship with Great Britain, this is only common. The old guard – the freedom fighters who fought against the Portuguese or those Goan citizens who suffered under the 400 years of Portuguese colonial rule – are either dead or too old to retain their prominence and importance. Today, it is the youth of Goa that has grown up watching Cristiano Ronaldo or Luis Figo on television that determine what is cool and what’s not. In “colonial theory”, the longer the time gap since the end of colonial rule, the more positive the recollections of the colonial era are. There was a recent uproar in India when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, speaking at his alma mater Oxford University, said in a speech that Britain’s rule over India was not all that bad. And although this raised quite a few heckles among some parts of the population in India, most youngsters (eager to gain a British degree or fans of Manchester United for example) tended to agree. And Goa’s youth seems to be going the same way. 

One important area where the rise of Portugal’s popularity can be seen is in its language – Portuguese. Till 1995 or so, only a few students learnt Portuguese in Goan schools. Despite the efforts of the Indo-Portuguese Friendship Society and the Fundação Oriente promoting Portuguese in schools and colleges, most young Goans saw Portuguese as a language of the past and one that was more associated with one’s grandparents rather than one’s peers. This attitude towards Portuguese has changed dramatically over the last few years with University and private Portuguese language courses springing up like mushrooms all over Goa. Despite Portugal’s poor economic state, the youth of Goa today hope that learning Portuguese will increase their career prospects, especially with the emerging Portuguese-speaking economies of Brazil, Angola and Mozambique. Brazil, one of the BRIC countries and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, is suddenly now on the lookout for talented, Portuguese and English speaking employees – a gap that Goa is happy to fill. 

Tourism seems to be another area in which Goa’s colonial history is seeing a renaissance. 

Tourist brochures are full of “old colonial houses” providing an old world experience to tourists, who are looking for more than the usual sun and sand of Goa’s world renowned beaches. 

The “Latin Quarter” of Fontainhas – home to my Mitaroy Heritage Homestay – is also experiencing a revival of sorts. As more tourists learn about Goa’s rich cultural and colonial heritage, they seem eager to experience it first hand. Unlike the regular half-day bus tours to Old Goa and the Church of Francis Xavier that resemble cattle transport rather than tourist providers, many tourists now want to spend a few days simply walking around the quaint bye lanes of Fontainhas and soaking up the Latin atmosphere, rather than competing with the throngs of tourists in Old Goa or the beaches of Anjuna – Baga. 

While there remains lots to be done in the area of Heritage Tourism Communication – the topic of my PhD thesis in Salzburg, Austria – recognising the importance of Goa’s colonial history and heritage is the first and most important step in this direction.