1. PALACIO DO CABO, Dona Paula
Raj Bhavan is a residential palace and fort situated in Dona Paula, Tiswadi, and currently serves as the official residence of the Governor of Goa. Built between the 16th and 17th century by the Portuguese, the sprawling 88-acre estate was known as ‘Palacio do Cabo’ until it gained official status as the Governor’s residence.
The main purpose of the fort was to guard the entrance to the Goa harbour. A church and convent were also attached to it. In time, the Cabo (Portuguese for ‘cape’) was converted into one of the best equipped fortresses, although nothing remains of the old citadel that served as the Franciscan Convent. Eventually, the buildings were used as temporary accommodation for the archbishop, and over the course of time, became the official residence of the Portuguese Governor of Goa.
It is said to be a strategically designed fort, not just holding panoramic views of the meeting of three water bodies, the Mandovi and Zuari rivers with the Arabian Sea, but also of the river bay, Fort Aguada and the busy port of Mormugao. The scenic beauty and solitude combined with its uniqueness and planning are some of the attractions at the Palacio do Cabo. The small Church, founded in 1541 at the very end of the mansion, is dedicated to Our Lady of The Cape (Nossa Senhora do Cabo), and once served as a landmark for seafarers. Its annual feast is celebrated on August 15.
Sometimes called Cabo Raj Niwas or Cabo Raj Bhavan, the Cabo is believed to be the oldest residence of a Governor of India and is over 400-years-old. The palace is a huge double-storey structure. The ground level consists of the office and residence of the Governor and a few guest suites. The upper level has halls for gatherings (Durbar hall), conferences and banquets along with the main kitchen and additional guest rooms. A row of verandahs, elevated on pillars on the rear side of the mansion, overlook the Mandovi river to the right, the Zuari river to the left, and the Arabian sea ahead.
Bohemian chandeliers, Chinese porcelain, silver and exquisite wooden furniture, intricately carved chairs with figurines of Hindu gods and temples (indicating the harmony between Christians and Hindus), large mirrors and a painting of a Fisherman by Francisco Jose Rezende (1866) are just some of the things worth seeing here.
2. BISHOP'S PALACE, Altinho
No longer called the Bishop's Palace, but the Archbishop's House or Paco Patriarcal, it houses the administrative offices of the Archdiocese of Goa and the residence of the Archbishop of Goa and the officers of the archdiocese.
It is situated near the Chief Minister's residence on the Altinho Hillock, Panjim. On entering the gates of the palace, one is greeted with beautiful gardens and a huge statue of Jesus Christ.
The interiors of the building are amazing, with gleaming wooden floors and furniture. The palace has a total area of around 2,000 sqm, with antique collections inside. The throne room on the first floor displays a portrait gallery of all the 33 archbishops of Goa. Adjoining the palace, on the extreme left, is a beautiful chapel which is open to the public and has daily services.
For a brief moment in history, the Archbishop of Goa resided at the Raj Bhavan, Dona Paula, before his residence was shifted to this palace. As the seat of Archbishop, the premises is busy on weekdays. However, if you visit on a Sunday, you can attend the mass in the adjacent chapel.
3. RAURAJE DESHPRABHU PALACE, Pernem
Located in Goa’s northernmost taluka of Pernem, this is a 400-year-old palace with beautiful architecture, gardens and lawns on one side, and a watch-tower on the other. Within, there is a private museum, family temple structures, palanquins, a library, royal ceremonial swords, and several garages with an impressive collection of vintage cars.
Among the treasures found here, there are ancient artifacts from the ruins of Harappa and Mohenjodaro and coins of the Kadamba kings.
The furniture in this orthodox Hindu household was crafted by Christian carpenters and had cherubs and angels on the backrest.
The residence also had the first telephone in Goa (in 1902), the first motorcar and the first piped water supply. The entrance hall was so enormous that the temple elephant would be brought into it every year for a ritual that was the cynosure of the whole village.
A separate two-storied structure, with lancet windows, called Casa de Hospides or ‘House of Hospitality’, was styled to Western tastes and sports the family monogram. It was the venue where European guests were entertained.
Each European official guest had a suite, complete with valet, valet room and bathroom, a concept unthinkable in the main house. Inside the kitchens of the main house, the aristocrats sat upon low stools and ate vegetarian meals. Basalt slabs, Italian and French tiles made up the floors.
The title of ‘Visconde de Pernem’ was awarded by the Portuguese colonial rulers in recognition of the Deshprabhu family’s success in safeguarding the northern borders of the Portuguese’s new conquest.