World Heritage Day, also known as the International Day for Monuments and Sites, was initiated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in order to promote awareness about cultural heritage and diversity, and at the same time, to encourage local communities to protect and conserve their heritage.
Goa is a melting point of several cultures. Over the years, the place has been under the reign of various dynasties, which have influenced its culture enormously. Besides this, the exchange via trade, migration, etc has left an impression on Goa’s rich legacy. Goa does not restrict itself to certain boundaries of a nation, but has a strong links with other nations.
Today, on World Heritage Day, we trace Goa’s connect with the world through its heritage.
1. British Cemetery
You might have heard about the Governor’s Palace – Raj Bhavan, in Dona Paula. But, you probably haven’t heard about the British Cemetery located in the vicinity. Interestingly, this cemetery has over 42 marked graves of British nationals. This might sound a little uncommon, right …. to have a British cemetery in Goa? The cemetery dates back to 1799, when British troops were dispatched to Goa. In France, when Napolean Bonaparte took over, there were a series of major global conflicts. The French and British were rivals.
And, India being under the control of the British, they felt that the French would use Portuguese Goa to throw the British out from India since the Mysore, King Tipu Sultan, was actively corresponding with Napolean and prodding him to invade India. In view of this, Britain dispatched troops to various forts like Reis Magos, Aguada, etc. All the British who died from 1799 to 1850 in Goa, including soldiers, officers and women, were buried in this cemetery, more so since they were Methodists, a protestant sect. Later on, the British, who arrived here and died continued to be buried in the cemetery. The last body to be buried here was in the year 1912.
2. Christ the King at Assolna
If you’ve visited the village of Assolna, in South Goa, you can’t ignore the statue of Christ the King, that stands in the compound of the Our Lady of Regina Martyrum Church. This statue resembles the ‘Monument to Christ the King’ in Karachi. In the year 1927, the parishioners of St Patrick’s Cathedral, in Karachi, under the then parish priest Rev Fr Vincent Giminez, decided to dedicate a monument to Jesus Christ, and ended up construction the ‘Monument of Christ the King,’ made of white ‘carrera’ marble with a height of 54 feet. It was one-of-a-kind in the world.
A villager from Assolna, the late Domingo Gaspar Sebastiao Silva Lobo, had been to Karachi as a port of call. In the year when he went to visit his son, Christopher, who was a student at St Patrick’s High School, he was awestruck and decided to build a similar one in his home town. He used white Italian marble, and constructed the ‘Christ the King’ statue re-titled as ‘Christo Rei’ in Portuguese, in the year 1937. The statue isn’t exactly the same, however, and there are a few changes. But if you closely, you will note that they are along similar lines. Today, the statue stands as a proud edifice connecting the two places through this interesting tale.
3. St Blaise Church, Gandaulim
Gandaulim, a village near Old Goa, holds a connect with Croatia, dating back almost 500 years. Around the 14th century, several independent trading towns began to gain popularity in Croatia, and among them, Dubrovnik was popular and thriving. The traders moved to several parts of the world for the purpose of trade, and, they came to India in search of textiles and spices. They had a trading outpost in Goa, in the village of Gandaulim. They had their own colony called ‘Sao Braz’ dedicated to their patron, St Blaise. A church was built later, in the year 1541, dedicated to St Blaise. It is said that it is a replica of the original church in Dubrovnik, which is dedicated to St Blaise, and which was destroyed due to an earthquake. Although it was eventually rebuilt, the church in Goa resembles the original design. This also shows Goa’s connect with Croatia.