In Panjim, the river meets the ocean; as does the old and new. The river Mandovi flows along Panjim from Ribandar and the Ponte de Linhares, before it empties out into the blue waters of the Arabian Sea at Campal. Then the ocean takes over curling around the shores of Panjim all the way from Campal to Dona Paula and the Taleigao Plateau, creating lovely little coves and beaches at Miramar, Caranzalem, the Dona Paula Cove, Hawaii Beach and Orchel.
When Old Goa grew unsanitary with disease and death in the 18th century, the Portuguese decided to shift the capital to Panjim, ‘the land that never gets flooded’. They pulled down the magnificent structures of Old Goa, built in Portugal’s hey-day, and carried the stones to Panjim, where they set up less impressive structures. Panjim was bestowed the status of ‘city’ on 22nd March, 1843 and was renamed ‘Nova Goa’ or New Goa. Today’s Panjim is struggling to come to terms with the modern; reluctant to let go of the past with heritage areas like Fontainhas and Campal contrasting with areas like MG Road and Patto Plaza.
Take a different approach
There are many entries to this capital city of Goa. One entry is from Old Goa and Ribander, along the 3.2-km-long Ponte de Linhares Causeway. Salt pans and mangroves rise to the left and the gently flowing Mandovi is on the right, with a couple of barges steaming importantly up the river to load iron ore, some yachts, and a clutch of blue fishing trawlers.
From the west, the Taleigao Plateau entry lets you cruise down along the Caranzalem-Miramar coast, through the heritage area of Campal and beautiful tree-lined avenues, past Kala Academy, the cultural centre of Panjim, past Children’s Park and into the market area of the city.
A third entry, from the south, is through Four Pillars via Santa Cruz, down the long Vasantrao Dempo Road that arrows its way through fields and khazans, into Fontainhas, the Latin Quarter of Panjim, to the left of Ourem Creek, with the modern business sector Patto Plaza, on the right bank.
But by far the most spectacular entry to Panjim is zooming down NH17, from Mapusa and Mumbai. The road rises slightly at Alto de Porvorim, then rushes down as though in a hurry to show you a jewel of rare beauty — the view of Goa’s capital rising above the south bank of the Mandovi River. Twin bridges carry you across the silver river and you could swear you feel a physical embrace as you enter this city, which, as the late city planner David Menezes once wistfully remarked, is “a gift from God”. This is Panjim. Or Panaji, as it was referred to in post- Liberation times. Also known as ‘the Princess of the Mandovi’, and simply called ‘Ponjje’ by Goans.
The things to see and do
Any resident will tell you that Panjim is a walker’s paradise. There are tree-lined roads, jetties and promenades and the best possible walking areas are any of the quiet winding lanes on Altinho.
In Panjim, all roads lead to the Church Square, dominated by the towering Immaculate Conception Church at the heart of Panjim, so this is a good place to begin. Turn your back to the church and face the Municipal Garden. Emidio Garcia Road goes behind the church immediately to the left, leading straight to the heritage precinct of Fontainhas and continuing down to the Ourem Creek, where it meets the Rua de Ourem, which runs down to the Patto Bridge. The next left from the church is Boca de Vaca Road, which leads up to the Mahalaxmi Temple, the Boca de Vaca Spring and further up into Altinho.
The road straight ahead is 18th June Road, one of Panjim’s busiest. It goes almost all the way up to Campal near Miramar Beach in south-west Panjim, where it meets MG Road. Jose Falcao Road is on your right, and leads straight to the Mhamai Kamat House and Abbe Faria statue, on the east end of MG Road. MG Road begins at the entrance to Panjim from Ribandar and skirts Panjim all the way to Campal. Mirroring the curve and length of MG Road is the waterfront Dayanand Bandodkar Marg, which begins at the Ribandar end as Avenida Dom Joao Castro.
Miramar and Dona Paula beaches
What Chowpatty is to Mumbai and Marina to Chennai, Miramar is to Panjim. Goans descend on the beach every evening, especially if it’s a Sunday, and the sands metamorphose into the city’s unofficial recreational area. In peak season, the beach offers a stunning view of the illuminated Raj Bhavan, which is a good enough reason as any to drop by. More excitingly, love and legend merge seamlessly along the length of this beach, more so in the little islet hillock to the south of Miramar known as Dona Paula.
Dona Paula consists of three beaches. Just 200m long, Hawaii is located opposite the jetty, and most of Goa’s sailing activities take place here. Vainguinim Beach is longer, and is entirely enclosed by the 5-star resort Cidade de Goa, but there are two public approaches to the beach, from either end.
The islet-hillock is landscaped and is topped by a traditional Portuguese pergola, which gives great views of the Mormugao Harbour and the Arabian Sea to the south and west, and up to the Zuari Bridge to the east. At the base is a sculpture by Baroness Yrsa von Leistner, depicting a man facing west (representing the past) and a woman-facing east (representing the future). This is often mistaken to have something to do with the Dona Paula legend.
Location The capital of Goa lies on the south bank of the river Mandovi in Tiswadi Taluka in Central Goa
Distance 595 km S of Mumbai JOURNEY TIME By rail 101/2 hrs + 20 mins by road By air 1 hr + 45 mins by road By road 12 hrs
Route State road to Kalamboli; NH4 to Panvel; NH17 to Panjim via Mahad, Chiplun, Sawantwadi and Mapusa
When to go Any time of the year but November to February is best
Goa Tourism Development Corp Ltd (GTDCL)
Central Reservation Office
Dr Alvares Costa Road
Tel: 0832-2436666, 2424001-03
STD code 0832
By Bevinda Collaco
About the author
Bevinda Collaco wears many hats- currently feature writer for national and local Goan publications, manuscript editor for local publishers, editorial consultant, gossip writer and guest lecturer at a postgraduate diploma course in journalism at Dhempe College, Goa.