The ancient megalithic period caves from Chicalim village may be notified by the Goa Archaeology Department shortly. These megalithic caves have been in a state of neglect long enough, and the new director of the Archaeology Department has shown great interest in protecting and notifying them. The site will have to be inspected by the department to verify the location and other aspects of the cave that confirm its status as a heritage site.
The state of Goa is blessed with not just scenic beauty but rich heritage structures, a veritable treasure trove for any historian or history buff. While a few heritage sites have been notified as protected heritage sites under the Archaeology Department, there are other sites which need to be notified and conserved for posterity.
The serene village of Chicalim has megalithic caves which are believed to have existed since the Stone Age. Unfortunately, the Archaeology Department has still not been able to notify these heritage sites which need immediate attention from government authorities.
Cyril Fernandes, a history aficionado from Chicalim, says that the first known evidence of pre-historic settlements discovered in Goa, somewhere in the 1970s, is of particular interest. A cave was discovered by accident during a hill-cutting venture for laterite bricks at the foot of a hill in Naquelim, Chicalim.
German Indologist and art historian Gritli Metterwalner, together with members of the Archaeology Department, was instrumental in discovering two more similar underground caves and pot shards in these caves. The entrances to two caves are open while the third is closed.
According to Metterwalner, these caves are actually underground cells, and a scientific study of these pot shards dates them back to the megalithic period. The shards have found a home at the Goa State Museum, being displayed with great pride.
The subterranean location of the underground caves in Naquelim essentially contributes to their distinctiveness. They are located about 300 metres from National Highway 17-B with the caves shielded by greenery and few houses. However, heritage lovers fear that they may be at risk of damage or destruction owing to growing construction activity in the area. Prof Prajal Sakhardande and the Goa Heritage Action Group (GHAG) have done their utmost to have these caves categorised as protected and preserve them for all posterity.
The local Chicalim Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC) was able to aid the heritage lovers in having these caves listed in the People’s Biodiversity Register (PBR), a statutory document under the Biodiversity Act. The Chicalim PBR was validated by the Goa State Biodiversity Board in July 2021, protecting the caves under the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
Meanwhile, Nilesh Faldessai, Director of the Goa Archaeology Department, was positive about the protection of these megalithic caves. He and his team will inspect the site and make a strong effort to notify this place as a protected heritage site.