Reforms and Development

Urban Evolution of Bardez & salcete

Currently a taluka (sub-district) in the district of north Goa, Bardez was a concelho—a Portuguese term for ‘municipality’—under Portuguese rule until 1961. The name ‘Bardez’ is derived from the words ‘bara’ (twelve) and ‘desh’ (countries). Here, it is believed that the ‘countries’ actually refer to the 12 clan territorial limits, namely Anjuna, Aldona, Assagao, Candolim, Moira, Nachinola, Olaulim, Pomburpa, Saligao, Sangolda, Siolim and Serulda. Today, Bardez consists of 33 villages.

In South Goa, the Salcete taluka currently comprises nine comunidades—Benaulim, Betalbatim, Colva, Curtorim, Loutolim, Margao, Nuvem, Raia and Verna. Salcete gets its name from the Konkani word ‘Sashti’, a corruption of the original Sanskrit term ‘sata-sasti’, or ‘sixty-six’. It is believed that the original 66 settlements of the Salcete territory were established by 66 Saraswat Brahmin clans who emigrated to Goa from north India.

The urbanisation of Goa goes back a long way. While it flourished at the beginning of the 16th century as a port city, its urban design—with poor drainage, sanitation and public health systems—was a major deterrent. Thereafter, the downfall of Velha Goa (Old Goa) meant that the Portuguese had a lot to learn from their mistakes whilst developing new townships. In the regions of both Bardez and Salcete, the aim was to create an urban and economic balance. While cities like Panaji, Mapusa, Marmagao and Ponda developed in terms of transport, trade, administrative and port activities, large swathes of land across Bardez and Salcete entered into a new phase of urbanism, also known as ‘RUrbanism’ or ‘peri-urban’ areas. It is characterised by the blurring of urban and rural lands, with settlements having mixed elements of both. These regions are not centralised but are dispersed; settlements are spread over farmlands and waterways, and co-exist with plantations and shorelines.

With time, however, the urban sprawl is going way beyond just the hinterland, beginning to extend into areas comprising paddy fields, mangroves and coconut orchards. Moreover, several villages across Bardez and Salcette originally emerged around riverine systems, a natural ecosystem that worked in the favour of the locals, yet recently threatened by the ills of pollution due to commercial activities like mining and real estate.

Shifting Capital Cities

In the earlier days, Goa did not have rigid boundaries; the region’s boundaries kept varying, spanning from Vengurla nowin Maharashtra, to Karwar nowin Karnataka. The current boundary of Goa is defined based on the area that the Portuguese finally colonised. Between the 8th and 12th centuries CE, the Shilaharas and the Kadambas established Chandor or Chandrapur along the banks of the Kushavati river – presently in south Goa – as their capital. A tributary of the fierce Zuari river, the Kushavati was integral to trade back then. However, heavy silting of the river meant that the capital had to be relocated.

The Kadambas then moved their capital to Gopakapattanam, a port so vast, it is believed it could dock 200 ships. During the reign of the Bahmani kings between the 14th and 15th centuries, the riverine Ella (or Ellapuri) was established as the capital. Trade largely took place via the Mandovi river, and continued to, even as the Portuguese attacked the capital city, after which it was known as Cidade de Goa (or City of Goa). The entire city was strongly fortified with only seven gateways through which access was possible. In 1492 CE, the Bijapur Sultanate established Velha Goa (Old Goa) as the second capital. On 10 December 1510 CE, Ismail Adilshah of the Sultanate surrendered the territory to the Portuguese. An epidemic of plague struck the region in the 17th century, causing a large number of deaths, and while the viceroy had shifted to Nova Goa (Panaji) in 1759 CE, Old Goa continued to serve as the administrative node. Ultimately, the capital was moved to Panaji, and the Adilshah Palace—referred to as ‘Idalcao’ by the Portuguese—in Panaji functioned as the headquarters. 

Following the Liberation of Goa in 1961, the Indian state continued to use the Adilshah Palace for administrative purposes until a new establishment was set up in Porvorim. Vasco was the other contender for the capital city but eventually Panaji was preferred, and continues to remain the state’s capital. It is said that the city was planned along the lines of Lisbon Baixa, its fabric developed keeping in mind the river Mandovi that flows through Panaji.

MAJOR Cities


Located in the Bardez taluka in north Goa, Mapusa is well known as a crucial market town for centuries, and continues to remain so. Goods were brought into Mapusa from across the state. Traditionally, the weekly market in Mapusa is held every Friday, and locals from neighbouring towns and villages arrive here to sell their wares, minus the involvement of any middlemen. The wares include agricultural produce (fruits and vegetables), homemade marinated sausages, spices, pickles, dried fish, clothes, Goan pottery and handicrafts, and in the monsoon, plants too.

The town is also an apt example of Goa’s syncretic nature. The Sri Dev Bogdeshwar Sansthan Temple stands on the outskirts of Mapusa, while the Maruti Temple in the centre of the town, built in the 1840s, is a site where Hanuman was covertly worshipped during the oppressive period of Portuguese rule. The doorway of the shrine has intricate carvings made by local artisans. Meanwhile, the Church of Our Lady of Miracles—founded in 1594 CE by the Portuguese and rebuilt multiple times since then—was constructed on a piece of land where a Hindu temple once stood. Sixteen days after Easter, the church’s annual feast day is observed every year by both Christians and Hindus together.


Deriving its nomenclature from the famed Portuguese explorer and former viceroy Vasco da Gama, this city was founded in 1543 CE and remained a Portuguese stronghold until the annexation of Goa in 1961 CE. Vasco was a key port and served as the nodal point for the smooth operation of shipping activities, i.e. the vessels sailing into the Zuari river. Today, it is the base of the Indian Navy’s Goa Naval Area, from where it controls the Dabolim airport. It is also a major transport hub, as it is well connected to other parts of Goa and the rest of India by road, rail, air and sea.

The Sada Fort, constructed in Vasco by the Portuguese in the 17th century to track the movements of the ships accessing the harbour, now lies in a state of semi-ruins, with the remnants of a few ramparts standing. When the capital city had to be relocated from Velha Goa, Vasco was one of the contenders along with Panaji. Eventually, however, the latter was made the capital. 


Located in central Goa, Ponda is a city and municipal council that is also home to a number of places of worship. The ruins of the Mardangad Fort lie here, within which is the dargah of the saint Hazrat Abdul Khan. Commemorating the saint, the festival of Urs is held here every February. While the Portuguese controlled a large part of Goa, Ponda and its immediate surrounding areas were under Maratha rule. Following the Portuguese destruction of temples in the areas under their regime, it is said that a number of Hindu priests crossed over to Ponda to rebuild temples. In 1791 CE, when the Portuguese acquired Ponda, they had become comparatively tolerant, and this refrained from causing harm to the temples.

In 1700 CE, the Church of Ponda, dedicated to St. Anne and St. Anthony, was established. While the present residence of the parish members was built in 1967, the church sanctuary was remodelled and expanded in 1987. Ponda is also home to the Safa Masjid, constructed in 1560 CE by Ibrahim Adil Shah I of the Bijapur Sultanate, and is one of the two Islamic monuments from 16th-century Goa that survived the Portuguese Inquisition. The village of Bandivale (or Bandora) in Ponda is where a Jain temple dedicated to tirthankara Neminatha was built by King Sripala. Presently, however, it lies in ruins.


Located on the banks of the Sal River in the Salcette district in south Goa, Margao (or Madgaon) is the commercial capital of Goa. During Portuguese rule, the municipality was called ‘Camara Municipal de Salcete’, catering to all the villages in Salcette for more than 300 years until the Goa Municipalities Act was enforced in 1968. The municipality is, today, reconstituted as the Margao Municipal Council.

Margao is known for several cultural institutions such as the Ravindra Bhavan, the Metropole Theatre, and the Gomat Vidya Niketan. Goa’s largest sports stadium—the Nehru Stadium—is located in the suburb of Fatorda. Some of the key sights in the city include the Praça Jorge Barreto gardens (Margao Municipal Garden), the Largo de Igreja (the Church of the Holy Spirit), and the Sat Burzam Ghor (the House of the Seven Gables), a mansion built by Inacio Sebastiao de Silva, an emissary of the Portuguese Viceroy. In terms of transportation, the Margao Railway Station is a key transit stop along the Konkan Railway.

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