Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The crumbling remnants of colonial Goa

Goa was once a Portugese colony. I say once, but that makes it sound like a long time ago when actually this huge and rich part of India was under Portugese rule up until the 1960's, well past the liberation of the rest of India from British rule.
There are lots of parts of the region's Portugese past still in evidence here. Menezes is still one of the most popular surnames. The local dialect is littered with Portugese words. And 15km from the big town, Margao, is the tiny village of Chandor which hosts two crumbling mansions which once belonged to two branches of one of Goa's most powerful families - the Braganzas.
I can't resist a crumbling mansion, so I passed up the opportunity to go to a temple town in favour of going to look at dusty chandeliers and empty ballrooms.
The Branaganza houses are in two wings of the same house which was originally a fairly grand house in the fifteen hundreds but was expanded to provide two homes for the two sons of the family.
One half, the Menezes-Braganza house, is still quite grand, although the family now only uses the first floor of the house. The ground floor used to house the staff and kitchens but is now all closed up. The door was opened by the 90-something-year-old family matriarch, Aida de Menezes Braganza, and we were guided around by one of her reltives who speaks English, Portugese, the local Concani dialect and a bit of French as well. The house is packed with incredible old furniture, Goa's biggest private - although a little worse for bookworms - library and a vast array of antiques including incredible oyster shell windows, mother-of-peral inlaid ebony chests, Chinese porcelain and locally carved silver. In among it all are photos and portriats of the family thourhg the generations. But they wouldn't let us take photos, so I can't show you.
However in the other wing, the Pereira-Braganza family home, we were shown around by a caretaker who let us take photos of everything. It was a bit more dilapidated - which made it more romantic and charming as far as I'm concerned. I'm a bit of a sucker for these things.
It's obvious the family once had the same range of impressive antiques that the other side has, but as they've been sold off over the years they've been replaced by children's drawings, pictures of the family, posters and little religious plaques that quote the bible at you in a fairly unoffensive manner. The house is also run by an elderly matriarch, but it's quite clear that the two women aren't each others biggest fan - the Menezes-Bragazans seems quite bitter about everything they've lost and quite fussy about who they want in to allow into their ballroom, while the Pereira-Braganzas are just getting on with life.
Anyway, this was my idea of day trip heaven and I hope you're an old romantic like me and can see how amazing it is, even from my rubbish photos;

The salon - lined with cabinets that were probably once full of antiques from around the world but are now full of little nick-nacks given as gifts by visitors.

The ballroom complete with crumbling pressed zinc ceiling and chairs given to the family by the last king of Portugal.

The covered walkway that leads off from the ballroom and the guest bedroom.

The guest bedroom.

The relic (gold plated shrine containing a jewel encrusted fingernail) of St Frances Xavier, housed in the family chapel which has an impressive gold encrusted altar that leans forward so far that it feels like it's about to fall on you.

General views.

As we were leaving a whole bus load of school children arrived to have a look around. They weren't allowed into the Menezes Braganza half but they were allowed in to the Fereira-Braganza half...

The teachers relaxing in the grounds of the house

Mrs Fereira-Braganza surveying the scene

Aida de Menzes-Braganza doing the same, although much more disapprovingly

The old signpost outside

And afterwards we went into Margao and I bought 5 metres of pale peachy pink raw silk.
God knows what I'll do with it, but it seemed apt.

No comments:

Post a Comment