BY NICOLE SUARES
Online searches on ‘places to visit in Panjim’ will take you from the casinos lining the waterfront to as far as Old Goa. However, a hidden gem of the erstwhile crown lies a few blocks away. You are bound to miss this heritage precinct – Campal – hidden by the grand trunks of the rain trees around Kala Academy, in Panjim.
To find out what lends the neighbourhood its charm, we joined hands-on historian, Sanjeev Sardessai's, invigorating walking tour through the old lanes at the ongoing Goa Heritage Festival, in Campal.
Campal is an unlikely addition to the usual tourist itinerary. Sanjeev points it out as a transitory location. “People pass by when travelling to Miramar or Dona Paula. Unlike the Eastern side of the city, Campal is more of a residential block,” he explains.
To put things in perspective, Sanjeev dives into a little history. Panjim gained importance after the epidemic caused havoc in the old capital – it forced the Portuguese to relocate from Old Goa to Panjim.
He adds, “Panjim, is divided into the East and West parts. It grew from the East from Fonte de Phoenix or Fontainhas. The city flourished because it’s well-connected by bridges, and most business houses are on that side.”
From the narrow lanes in the old city to the expansive grid system, Campal beautifully illustrates the new town planning of the Portuguese. “In the past, there was nothing in Campal. It was just a marshy land divided by the Campal creek that goes right up to Taleigao. The area is connected with five bridges, out of which only three – Minerva, Ponte de Portugal and Tona – exist.”
It was Viceroy Dom Manoel de Portugal e Castro, who turned Panjim into a city that could rival any European one. His visionary thinking led to the widening of roads, the filling of marshy lands and stagnant pools, and the transformation of the dunes along the river banks.
It is on the flattened dunes that the Portuguese laid the foundations to ‘Campo de Dom Manoel’ or Campal.
The picturesque neighbourhood of Campal sits elegantly around the beautiful Francisco Luis Gomes garden. It is landscaped with endemic and exotic plants and trees, and you can’t miss the bandstand and pergola.
At the end, you meet the towering Goan personality, Francisco Luis Gomes, known as the Prince of Intellectuals. He was a physician, writer, historian, economist and MP in the Portuguese parliament.
The grand homes in the locality are well-spaced and in sober colours. The neighbourhood bore some of Goa’s illustrious sons, from Jack Sequeira (the Father of the Opinion Poll), to Dr Joao Manuel Pacheco Figueredo (the last Director of the Escola Médico-Cirúrgica de Nova Goa) before liberation and first dean of GMC.
Further, in front of the present Military Hospital (the former jail) stands a unique pillar, almost out of view. With the commotion of traffic whizzing past, you miss the details at the top. Closer inspection reveals symbols of Goa’s seafaring tradition.
Crossing over, if you take a scenic walk by the promenade along the riverfront, you spot a lighthouse on the side. It’s hard to imagine that the river touched so close inland, for on the reclaimed land is now the sprawling Bhagwan Mahavir Garden.
The solitary canon next to the lighthouse once provided firepower at the Banastarim fort.
The interested group on the walking tour included a mix of tourists and locals. It proved to be an enlightening experience for residents like Derrick, who runs Vivenda da Rebello Guest house in the area. He joined the walk with his wife.
“The talk was very informative and educative. I learned about the Military hospital, the origins of the Banastarim canon, and the two bridges,” he says.
Not too far away, Ryan Sequeira, Campal resident and Bombay Coffee Roasters Cafe and Old Quarter hostel owner, found the walk a ‘real treat.’ “Even though I grew up in Campal, there were many new things I learned during the walk. For instance, the cannon that is prominently located on the Campal promenade is the oldest cannon of its type in India, dating back to Adil Shah's reign. I thank Sanjeev for bringing our heritage alive on this enjoyable and most informative walk."
The Goa Heritage Festival is on till November 19, 2022. For details, visit www.goaheritagefestival.in