Stories of Goa's commercial capital, Margao

With its narrow lanes, vibrant cafes, colourful markets and Indo-Portuguese architecture, Margao still holds the old charm of Goa
Indo-Portuguese styled houses of Margao
Indo-Portuguese styled houses of Margao Photo: Rohan Fernandes

When we talk about Goa, places like Panjim, Calangute, Baga, Morjim and Anjuna are the first names that come to mind. People are constantly talking about these places -- how happening they are and how they have a vibe of their own.

But, have you ever thought of exploring Goa’s commercial town, Margao, which is called Madgaon in the Konkani language? It is believed that the word 'Margao' might have come from the word 'Mathgram', which means the village of maths (monasteries). However, the actual etymology remains unknown.


Margao is Goa's second largest, and one of the most interesting, cities. It came into existence on April 3, 1778, when the Senate of the Chamber of the Province of Salcete, by Feleciano Ramos Nobre Mourao on behalf of the Queen at the Palace of Nossa Senhora of Ajuda, put forth a petition. Through the Royal Decree of the Portuguese Queen Dona Maria I, who agreed to it, proclaimed Margao, which was one of the 66 villages of Salcete, to be elevated to a town.

An old photographer of Margao
An old photographer of Margao Photo:

Over the years, the city has established itself. However, it retains its old charm with the old and beautiful architectural structures that still stand tall. In the center of the city is the garden, and around it, the city has been established with markets, stores, commercial outlets and old houses.

If you go to the city, you are still able to find old stores, shops and buildings, that will definitely remind you of the good old days of Goa.

The city of Margao in the evening.
The city of Margao in the evening. Photo: Rohan Fernandes


As you enter the city, crossing the Margao-Colva circle, on the right, you can find Margao's old market. The tinto at the old market was once named after Vasco da Gama, the first European who reached India via sea.

Today, this place, is a junction for traffic jams. But, what is fascinating is the sausage market there. Ah! there are many other interesting shops, too, like the book stall that stocks magazines and newspapers from all over, and which are rare to find.

At the sausage market.
At the sausage market. Photo: Rohan Fernandes

Coming back to the sausage market. It is located in the old market and is home to the very famous sausage market. If you're looking to grab tasty, spicy sausages, you can pick them up from here.

At any time of the day, you can find people stopping to purchase sausages, which are used to make yummy chilli fry, or take to foreign countries.

You will also find pork meat sold in this market. Most of the vendors are locals and you can rest assured that you will get quality pork, here.

Indo-Portuguese styled houses of Margao
For the love of 'Chourico'
The crumbling Camara building in Margao.
The crumbling Camara building in Margao. Photo: Rohan Fernandes


A little ahead to the left lies the crumbling Camara Municipal de Salcete, reminding Madganvkars of their glorious past. During the Portuguese era, this was an important administrative building for the entire taluka.

However, this glorious past also reminds people of a gory past -- the unfortunate massacre of September 21, 1890. The Cidas Almas Chapel near the Camara building was built in memory of people who lost their lives on that unfortunate day.

For the people of Margao, this day is engraved deep in their hearts, a ghastly reminder of 23 dead in 20 minutes of indiscriminate firing outside the Holy Spirit Church.

The incident took place on the day of municipal elections when people started protesting the denial of voting to some. They claimed the election was rigged. This infuriated the Portuguese administrator. What followed were orders to fire at the protesting crowd which had children and women.

Scared, the people ran to the nearby houses. If one visits the Alvares house next to the church, one can still see still see the bullet marks, a reminder of the bloody incident. The bullet marks have been framed with a circular brass plaque. 

 The Cidas Almas Chapel near the Camara building was built in memory of people who lost their lives on that unfortunate day.
The Cidas Almas Chapel near the Camara building was built in memory of people who lost their lives on that unfortunate day. Photo: Rohan Fernandes


Just around the corner is the line of various stores in the old building. You can still spot the wooden doors with iron rod locks. In this lane, there are many general stores and bakeries. This lane is sure to make you love local Goan snacks and savories. From the many options available the preparation is what makes it different.

Jackris is known to serve some of the best local sweets and savouries. Most of the people after a day of shopping stop by Jackris to savoury on some savouries or take home some freshly-baked biscuits and cakes. If you're a foodie and want to hog on some savouries this place is best to catch up.

In this lane itself exactly opposite to Salcete Pharmacy is the Rosary Cafe. This place serves various local specialities such as sausages bread, beef roast, club sandwhich, cutlet pao, tongue roll, beef patties, beef croquets, samosas, rissois, etc. One can also take home, homemade strew, sorpatel, vindaloo, sanasa, Bebinca, Dose, etc.

This is a busy spot, the earlier you go especially in the morning, you can find a lot of fresh stuff here.  

At this lane in Margao, you are sure to love the local Goan snacks and savories.
At this lane in Margao, you are sure to love the local Goan snacks and savories. Photo: Rohan Fernandes

The main road here is lined with the old Indo-Portuguese-styled houses and the other side has the magnificent church of Holy Spirit. The houses add to the old charm of the city and take you back. If you're a fan of Bollywood or has seen this old Bollywood film Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa there is a scene shot here where SRK is seen riding a bike and the church is in the background.


The white-washed church of the Holy Spirit also known as 'Espirito Santo Igreja em Margao is one of the oldest churches in Margao and one of the most imposing structures in the city. The church not only looks beautiful on the outside with steps leading to it the interiors too are well decorated and golden gilded. The church is designed in such a manner that it can record the equinox which is represented by the lighting of the 2 statues of Jesus and Mary and the Holy Spirit emblem on the center of the church.

The church attracts crowds during the feast of the Holy Spirit also known as 'Purument Fest' and Immaculate Conception.

Though the fair gets the city caught in traffic it is however a great fair for the locals who spend seven days shopping at this local fair for clothes and items of daily use.

(This is just the beginning of a 3 part series on Margao. Look out for more stories in the next article.)

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