Raj Bhavan (Goa)

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Raj Bhavan (Hindi for Government House) is the official residence of the Governor of Goa. It is located in the capital city of Panaji, Goa. The present governor of Goa is Mridula Sinha.[1] The governor is the first citizen of the state and the head of State. He is appointed by the President of the Republic of India.

History[edit]

The official residence of the governor of Goa, known as "Raj Bhavan", is located at the extreme end of a narrow cape jutting into the Arabian Sea. Situated on the rim of the water-space formed by the merging of the perennial rivers of Mandovi, on one side, and Zuari, on the other, into the Arabian Sea, it is one of the Palaces of historical and architectural significance and antiquity in Goa. Earlier, during the Portuguese regime, it was the Official Residence of the Governors-General, which was then known as "Palacio do Cabo". Later, it was the Official Residence of the Lt. Governors of the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu, under the name of "Cabo Raj Niwas", which name it retained till Goa was given the status of a State in 1987.[2]

The Raj Bhavan[edit]

The gates to the Raj Bhavan in Goa

The Raj Bhavan is a double-storeyed structure of great dimensions and architectural significance. While the ground floor consists of the Office Chamber and The Residence of His Excellency the Governor, and a few Guest Suites, the first floor occupies the Durbar Hall, Conference Hall, Banquet Hall, the main Kitchen and some additional Guest Suites and Rooms.[3]

There are, in the Palace, old antique items of decorative beauty and intrinsic quality, like Chinese porcelain objects of art and Bohemian glass chandeliers in the Durbar Hall and Banquet Hall. Five tall Cantonese vases, which are believed to be over 300 years old, as well as two large-sized Cantonese bowls - all with Coat of Arms - are among the antique items in the Palace. So also, two wooden ormolu mounted chests with veneer wood inlay and Carara marble tops. On the walls, in the Durbar Hall, are large mirrors and a painting of a Fisherman by Francisco Jose Rezende (1866). Exquisitely carved furniture of ingenious and rare workmanship form part of the beautiful collections of the Palace, whose quality has not diminished even after use for centuries, thanks to the proper maintenance. A row of verandahs elevated on pillars on the rear side, overlook the Mandovi River to the right, the Zuari River to the left, and the Arabian sea.[4]

Staff[edit]

The Raj Bhavan also employs many people to carry out the day to day functions of the Bhavan. Dr. N. Radhakrishnan is Special Secretary to Governor. Sqn Ldr Himanshu Tiwari of the Indian Air Force is Aide de Camp to the Governor. Shri. Allen De Sa of Goa Police is also Aide de Camp to the Governor.[5]

Renovation[edit]

During the years 1999 and 2000, the Palace underwent a major renovation. In order to strengthen the structure, as per expert advice, those old wooden beams above the ground floor, which had decayed over the years, particularly due to termite attack, were removed and, in their place, steel beams were installed for the entire building. This was done in a phased manner. In the area behind the Palace, facing the sea, which has experienced distress over the last few years, major remedial steps have been taken to protect and preserve this historical building.[6]

Landmarks[edit]

Raj Bhavan Chapel[edit]

At one corner of the Raj Bhavan, there is a beautiful Chapel which is about 500 years old. The Chapel, which has always formed part of the Raj Bhavan, is open for the Morning Mass on all Sundays, as also on Christmas and Easter. A large number of devotees, mostly from the nearby villages, attend the Mass. The Feast of the Chapel is celebrated on 15 August, (morning), which coincides with the Independence Day of India. Thousands of devotees, cutting across various religious groups, attend the special prayers held on this occasion, and a big 'mela' is held on the day at the Raj Bhavan. [7]

Grotto[edit]

At a small distance away from the Chapel, down on the slope, passing through steps, is the Grotto, a place of worship. The Altar in this Grotto, which is installed in a cage cut out of a rock, is dedicated to St. Paula, whose sculpture lies in a recumbent position. Behind it is the image of Jesus on a trefoil cross. There is a belief that those who offer a prayer here, will have their wishes fulfilled. The history, as written on a board hung at the place, states as follows: "St. Paula (347 - 404 A.D.), a Roman Senator's widow and her daughter Eustochium were living an austere life in Rome when St. Jerome (341 - 420 A.D.) came there from Palestine in 383 A.D. Four years later, mother and daughter followed the great doctor to Palestine and went with him to Egypt to visit the hermits in the Nitrain desert. Upon returning to the Holy Land, they settled at Bethlehem. Here, they erected a monastery under St. Jerome's direction and three convents ruled by St. Paula".

The Feast of the Grotto is celebrated on 2 August (evening). A large number of persons, living in the Raj Bhavan campus, as well as the nearby villages, attend this event.[8]

Raj Bhavan Estate[edit]

The Raj Bhavan Estate, which consists of a spur surrounded on three sides by sea, has an area of about 80 acres. One massive laterite stone wall exists to the East, which serves as its boundary on that side. On the sea-shore, there are masonry walls, which have withstood the onslaught of time for over four centuries. The flat table land of the spur, which is about 3/4th of the total land, has steep side slopes. About 5 hectares of the flat table land is occupied by buildings, gardens, lawns, and the remaining is full of vegetations, consisting of large number of species of trees, plants, shrubs, creepers, etc. Adding new species of trees in large number has been an annual phenomenon. There is a kitchen garden, where seasonal vegetables are grown.

The main garden in front of the Palace consists of three lawns, enclosed by seasonal flower beds. The Raj Bhavan has got the best prize for gardens in year 2000, in the State and second prize in 2001. Birds of various species abound the estate in large number. They include peacocks, eagles, kingfishers, tree-pies, doves, barbets, bee-eaters, etc. There are also a variety of reptiles like pythons, cobras, rat-snakes, chameleons, monitor-lizard, etc. and small animals like mongoose, hare, jackals, squirrels, porcupine, etc. and all these years they caused no harm either to the residents in the Raj Bhavan Estate or visitors. Special care is taken to protect, preserve and enrich the flora and fauna of the Raj Bhavan Estate. In brief, the Raj Bhavan estate is a treasure-house of bio-diversity representing the flora and fauna of the rich and luxuriant 'Sahyadris' (Western Ghats).[9]

Raj Bhavan Beach[edit]

Another ideal spot in the Raj Bhavan Estate is a narrow strip of beach, reachable through steps. There is a natural spring with sweet water, only at about 20 meters' distance from the sea water-line. From here, one can get a view of the Mormugao Harbour. The place is, however, not safe for diving.[10]

Raj Bhavan Cannon Point[edit]

Down the estate, on the Western side, just 3 minutes' drive from the Raj Bhavan through the forests, is a spot, named as 'Cannon Point'. A suitable small park, pathways and lighting have been provided at this scenic spot. Two old cannons, which were located and lifted from the shore waters, are placed on pedestals here. This place offers a beautiful view of the sunset and the ever-surging tides of the Arabian sea lustily lashing at the shore.[11]

Raj Bhavan Jetty[edit]

There is an old jetty existing, where the Mandovi river joins the Sea, which is believed to have been in use in the olden days. It is not operational now. Near the Jetty is a flat area, with Coconut and other trees, which is an ideal place to rest and relax. There is a very small and narrow sandy strip, but the place is not suitable for sea-bath. There exists an old well, about 30 meters away from the sea water.[12]

British Cemetery[edit]

Just outside the gates of Raj Bhavan, there is a 180-year-old cemetery, which is the only remaining evidence of the presence of British forces in the Fortress. The British occupied Goa for about 14 years from 1799 to 1813. During that period, they constructed several edifices in the Aguada Fortress area, Gasper Dias and Mormugao but most of them were demolished by the Portuguese in 1848. The Cemetery was built sometime in 1802 to serve the purpose of British Garrisons stationed at Fort Mormugao, Cabo and Fort Aguada. Mr. W. Walker, a traveller, described the cemetery in 1855 thus: "I visited the burial ground at Cabo built and used by the British force of 10,000 (sic) men when they held possession of the seaboard points of Goa, to prevent the French entering India by this route in 1805.

The massive laterite stone wall which surrounds it is as perfect as the day it was built, the laterite in this neighbourhood being the best I have anywhere seen, but the lofty arched entrance gates have long been despoiled of every particle of wood. The burial ground is used for rice cultivation and the very tombstones are worn down from the sharpening of native tools on them; where not cultivated, it is overgrown with high rank grass said to be alive with deadly cobras de capello. If it be true, as I have heard, that the Collector of Belgaum allows an annual sum to keep in order, I can assure him that not a piece worth of care is bestowed on it."

On 19 May 1869 a request was made by the then Government of British India to the Governor-General of Portuguese India to repair and maintain the cemetery, which was considered by the Portuguese Government in Goa. Sr. Gerson da Cunha described the cemetery in 1878 as an oblong area about 180 yards by 145 yards long wall all around, with an ornamental gate of massive teak wood. The key to this door was with the Chaplain of a neighbouring Convent. There are 47 tombstones and 56 gravestones in the cemetery.

The cemetery, which was repaired by the British Consul in 1941, is in good condition. The old wooden gate has been replaced by a metal one. Out of the six mango trees, which were there before, two have survived. There is a well inside the cemetery which is dry. The earliest burial according to the tomb plates was on the 19 December 1808 and the latest on 10 August 1912.[13]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 15°27′46″N 73°47′21″E / 15.462826°N 73.789159°E / 15.462826; 73.789159