Known as “one of the most important wards of Panjim,” the cluster of commercial and residential properties in Sao Tome and Fontainhas is of historic significance. Located north of Fontainhas, Sao Tome is the oldest quarter.
The area is marked by the iconic Tobacco Square (Largo do Estanco), surrounded by historic administrative buildings, quaint shops and souvenir stores. This building is now the main Post Office (HPO) and is located right next to the building that once used to be the Old Mint House.
The Chapel of St. Thomas welcomes you to the district of Sao Tome. This Chapel was constructed in 1814 CE and has been described as “a monument to the piety of the masons of the city”. The streets of this neighbourhood are lined with a mix of establishments, including hardware stores, carpentry workshops, and locksmiths. Sao Tome stands as a living testament to the captivating heritage and cultural fabric of Panaji.
Originally established by Antônio João de Sequeira, a wealthy Portuguese individual, Fontainhas was intended to be a coconut plantation. However, the outbreak of a pandemic in the 1800s meant that the plantation was repurposed into a residential area primarily occupied by Portuguese officers and rulers.
The name ‘Fontainhas’ was derived from a spring that emerged at the base of the hill around 1770 CE. The layout of the neighbourhood drew inspiration from Lisbon’s Bairro Alto, with a similar architectural style.
After the capital shifted from Old Goa to the new city, space was at a premium. Saline lands and mangroves were filled up and paddy fields created to accommodate the population. The affluent residents resided on Panjim Hill, occupying large bungalows that offered extensive views. In contrast, those with less affluence lived at the foot and east of the hill, constrained between the hill itself and a tidal creek.
The connection between the two sides of the hill remained a problem until the construction of Corte de Outeiro, which took place between 1878 and 1882 CE. The excavated soil from this road project was utilised to fill low-lying areas within the city. For connectivity, steps were built to link the precinct with the rest of the city, specifically through the eastern slope of Altinho Hill. This previously untamed slope, covered in vegetation, was transformed into a significant pathway that culminated at the Natal well. Fontainhas, then and now, is renowned as a vibrant, distinctive neighbourhood of Panaji.
According to the late historian Percival Noronha, a resident of Fontainhas, the development of Mala-Fontainhas occurred between 1810 and 1839 CE. Prior to this period, the area was known as ‘Palmeira Ponte’ due to the presence of coconut groves owned by a man named Antonio Joao de Sequeira, fondly known by the locals as ‘Mossmikar’ owing to his Mozambique origins. The region was declared as a conservation zone in 1974.
At the heart of Mala is Fonte Fenix, a spring named after the mythological Phoenix bird. Adjacent to Fontainhas, Mala holds a special place as a pre-Portuguese Hindu enclave. A notable structure in Mala is the Maruti Temple dedicated to Hanuman. Perched on Altinho Hill, the temple offers a panoramic view of the Latin quarter.
Architecturally, there are palpable differences between Fontainhas and Mala, particularly in terms of plot sizes and scale. In Mala, the plots tend to be smaller and the houses generally shorter in height. While both areas feature houses with the typical roof-tiled design seen across Goa, a closer look reveals the coexistence of varied colours and architectural styles in these two localities. The Hindu houses in Mala often have an aangan (courtyard) and elevated plinths as prominent features.
In the 19th Century, the wards of São Tomé and Fontainhas became vibrant, thriving areas in Panaji. These neighbourhoods, along with Portais, and the locality of Boca de Vaca, popularly known as “Panjim’s Latin Quarter,” experienced development thanks to the presence of two refreshing freshwater springs known as Fonte Fenix and Boca de Vaca.
Portais, a relatively new neighbourhood, emerged during the 20th Century, its history closely intertwined with the presence of a chapel dedicated to Goa’s patron saint, St. Francis Xavier. Hymns and litanies often resonated in these areas during twilight hours.
This neighbourhood features narrow streets adorned with low houses and bungalows. These structures have traditional sloping roofs suited to the vernacular architecture. It exhibits an organic development with an informal arrangement of streets and stepped pathways, accommodating a diverse range of land uses within a high-density layout. The built environment and open spaces are designed to cater to human needs, fostering interaction and a sense of community. With limited tree cover, the structures lining the narrow streets offer shaded walkways, creating captivating interplays of light and shadow. Although this area lacks a distinct architectural style, the collective buildings harmoniously contribute to the overall aesthetic.
With the emergence of several important buildings being constructed between 1826 to 1870 CE, an effort was made for land reclamation to facilitate robust construction activities. In 1923, Engineer Luis Maravilhas designed the grid-iron pattern of the Central Zone or Central Business District, an area of two kilometres, limiting its potential for future expansion. The streets and squares followed traditional patterns, complemented by internal courtyards and open spaces, creating a harmonious blend with the public squares.
The orthogonal layout of the streets formed well-defined blocks with buildings facing the streets, while internal open spaces within the blocks mirrored larger city spaces. The cityscape featured numerous historic public buildings characterised by impressive façades. The structures had sloping Mangalore-tiled roofs and lush foliage, forming an enchanting skyline. The buildings, predominantly low-rise and with repetitive elements, showcased some areas with colonnaded arcades, providing a pleasant pedestrian experience.
The formal open spaces were thoughtfully integrated into the overall road network, and the area was predominantly commercial and institutional, with scattered residential buildings. The road spaces were extensively utilised for social and cultural activities.
CAMPAL, St. Inez
Campal, a picturesque, historic neighbourhood in Goa, showcases the Portuguese influence on town-planning. Its name was derived from “Campal de Dom Manuel,” honouring Dom Manuel de Portugal e Castro, who developed the area as a bustling commercial hub in 1830.
Originally, Campal was a barren and marshy land, intersected by the Campal creek, which stretched all the way to Taleigao. The area was connected by five bridges, but today, only three—Minerva, Ponte de Portugal, and Tona—remain.
Nestled around the beautiful Francisco Luis Gomes Garden, Campal boasts an array of exotic plants and trees. The neighbourhood is known for its grand and well-spaced homes, painted in muted colours that lend an air of elegance to the surroundings.
Exploring Campal reveals hidden gems from the past. An almost concealed cannon, believed to be the oldest of its kind in India and dating back to the reign of Adil Shah, stands as a silent witness to the neighbourhood’s rich history. Along the riverfront, a lighthouse adds to the charm of the area. It also houses architectural wonders such as the Maquinez Palace and Kala Academy.
Campal has a well-structured layout, with the Campal Garden serving as a focal point along the riverfront. The individual bungalows are strategically oriented to face the river, providing residents with scenic views.
Altinho Hills, dating back to the 19th Century, is a distinguished residential area in Goa. Divided into two sections, one leading to Emidio Gracia Road and the other to the Fontainhas precinct, Altinho offers a commanding view of Panaji city.
The Archbishop’s Palace and the residence of the State’s chief minister are prominent landmarks here, contributing to Altinho’s reputation as an exclusive residential colony. The Palace, once the abode of the Archbishop, gained significance in history, and even hosted the Pope during his visit to Goa in 1999.
Altinho’s charm extends beyond its residential character. Stepped streets, reminiscent of Latinesque European cities, add a touch of architectural elegance. Moreover, Altinho is home to Panaji’s All India Radio station, its roots going back to the renowned Emissora de Goa radio station from the Portuguese era. The neighbourhood also accommodates government servant quarters and residences allocated to politicians from the ruling party. Coupled with low density of built-up space, Altinho maintains a sense of openness and tranquillity.
Taleigão, or Platô de Taleigão, is a neighbourhood located in the southern part of Panaji. It is known for its palm-fringed beaches, verdant paddy fields and the Nagalli Hill, as well as age-old traditional houses and mansions, broad roads, adequate pavements, traffic circles with Azulejo titles, chapels and temples, educational institutions, hotels and restaurants and, of course, the inhabitants.
Traditionally, agriculture and horticulture were the main occupations of the people here, given the vast tracts of land where rice was cultivated during monsoon and vegetables were grown in summer. Since the last decade, farming has been on decline because of high labour costs, flooding of the fields in monsoon due to non-maintenance of water channels, youth opting for other occupations, and the migration of families to other countries.