Panjim City – The Land That Never Floods
Panaji means “land that never floods”. It has terraced hills, concrete buildings with balconies, red-tiled roofs, churches, and a riverside promenade. There are avenues lined with gulmohar, acacia and other trees. The Baroque Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church is located overlooking the main square known as Praça da Igreja. Pretty villas, cobbled streets and interesting buildings give Panaji a Portuguese ambience. The official name is Panaji. The Portuguese name was Pangim. The city is called Panjim in English. The city is called ponnjé in Konkani.
Panjim is the capital of the Indian state of Goa and the headquarters of North Goa district. It lies on the banks of the Mandovi River estuary in Tiswadi taluka. With a population of 114,405 in the metropolitan area, Panaji is Goa’s largest city, ahead of Margao and Vasco da Gama. Panaji has various vāde or sub-divisions, some of which are São Tomé, Fontainhas, Mala, Portais, Altinho, Cortin, Praça da Igreja, Tar (near the ferry wharf), Bāzār, Japão (near Don Bosco), and Boca de Vaca. Some areas outlying it are Cāmpāl, Santa Inez, Chinchollem, Batulem, and Pātto. Besides lying on the banks of the Mandovi River, Panaji is bounded by two creeks, locally called pői in the singular, namely Ourém and Santa Inêz.
The capital of Goa was once little more than a minor landing stage and customs house – protected by a hilltop fort, and surrounded by stagnant swampland. In 1843 the city had been renamed Nova Goa (Portuguese for New Goa) when it officially replaced the city of Goa (now Old Goa) as the administrative seat of Portuguese India, though the Viceroy had already moved there in 1759. Panaji was annexed by India with the rest of Goa and the former Portuguese territories in the invasion of 1961. Panaji became a state-capital on Goa’s elevation to statehood in 1987. Between 1961 and 1987, it was the capital of the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu. A new Legislative Assembly complex was inaugurated in March 2000, across the Mandovi River, in Alto Porvorim.
The heart of the city is the Praça da Igreja (Church Square) or Municipal Garden with the Portuguese Baroque Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, originally built in 1541. Other tourist attractions include the old and rebuilt Adilshahi Palace (or Idalçao Palace), dating from the sixteenth century, the Menezes Braganza Institute, the Mahalaxmi Temple, the Jama Masjid mosque, the Chapel of St. Sebastian and the Fontainhas area—which is considered to be the old Latin Quarter—as well as the nearby beaches of Miramar and Dona Paula and Bambolim. Hanuman Mandir at Malā on the hill top (Altinho) and its annual zatrā festival in February are a major attraction of Panaji.
One can reach Panjim by the Dabolim Airport, situated at a distance of around 35 km from the heart of the city, Karmali Railway Station, located at approximately 10 km towards the east of this city, is its closest railway station and winding highways connect this city to the state of Maharashtra towards north and Karnataka towards south. Kadamba Bus Stand in Panjim is one of the major bus terminals in the city from where buses are run by K. T. C.
Panaji’s spiritual, as well as geographical center is its gleamingly picturesque main church. Well-known places in Panaji are the 18th June Road (a busy thoroughfare in the heart of the town and a shopping area for tourists and locals), Mala area, Miramar beach and the Kala Academy (a cultural center known for its structure built by architect Charles Correa). The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is a bird sanctuary located in the village of Chorão, near Panaji and it plays host to rare and endangered bird species—both migratory and resident. Also located near Panaji, is the Goa Science Centre which was opened to the public in December 2001. For anyone interested in checking out the incredibly clear night skies over Goa, the local branch of the Association of Friends of Astronomy has a public observatory. The local enthusiasts are only too happy to welcome visitors and explain what you’re looking at. The view of Panaji by night is lovely, especially around dusk. At the northwest corner of the Azad Maidan, the Menezes Braganza Institute and the city’s Central Library, the oldest public library in India, occupy part of the old buildings that were once the Portuguese army headquarters. On the west side of the Azad Maidan, the Institute Menezes Braganza houses Panaji Central Library and is worth popping into to see the pretty blue-and-white azulejos (glazed ceramic-tile compositions) in the entrance hall.
The Municipal Garden or Church square is the beautifully maintained rectangular park that was originally built in 1541 and still comprises the heart of the city of Panjim. One can enjoy reading a book under the trees or spend an evening with family. A recent addition to the park is the Ashoka Pillar, India’s national symbol. A Historical Landmark Formally known as Idalcao Palace, built during the 14th century by Sultan Adil Shah of Bijapur, the last Indian ruler in Goa. Now, it is the oldest surviving building in Panaji and houses the secretariat.
The State museum offers an eclectic collection of Christian art, Hindu and Jain sculpture and bronze statues, and paintings from across India. The museum additionally exhibits an elaborately carved table used in the Goa Inquisition and an antique pair of rotary lottery machines!
As for entertainment in Panjim city, there are a wide range of options available depending on one’s likes.
Sun set boat cruise – A host of floats sets out each evening just before sunset to ply the Mandovi waters and entertain tourists with nothing more sophisticated than the view, a beer or two and a dash of traditional Goan dancing.
There is a Goa By Night bus tour, which includes a river cruise. It also offers a whole bevy of day-long bus tours.
One can visit the Kala Acadamy on the west side of the city at Campal is Goa’s premier cultural center, which features a program of dance, theatre, music and art exhibitions throughout the year. Many shows are in Konkani, but there are occasional English-language productions. Casino Goa – Aboard a small luxury ship, the MV Caravela, moored at the Panaji jetty, opposite Hotel Mandovi, is a live gaming casino.
The Casa Menenez Bar and Top Gear Pub are two of the many bars to enjoy a relaxing night out with a glass of beer.
INOX Cinema is comfortable, plush multiplex cinema shows Hollywood and Bollywood blockbusters alike.
Goa Marriott Resort, Cidade De Goa, Hotel Fidalgo and Hotel Mandovi are some of the lovely hotels situated in the heart of the city.
One can take a stroll around Panjim’s old Latin Quarter and heritage district called Fontainhas. It transfers you back into the Portuguese days since it has retained its old charm and character.
The “Azad Maidan Square’ houses a beautiful pavilion with classical Corinthian columns and is a place for political and cultural programmes.
18th June Road at the heart of Panaji is a shop-lined paradise if you’re seeking brand name clothing at knockdown prices, whilst a web of side streets are packed with smaller stores selling everything from local handicrafts to precious gems.
Sign up for the Panjim Heritage Walk and a walk down memory lane! Starts at Tobacco Square, The Casa De Moeda (Mint House), The Tobacco house, meanders through the ward of Sao Tome, through Corte de Oeteiro to the Catholic dominated precinct of Fontainhas, Chapel Of Saint Sebastian, Welcomheritage Panjim Pousada (a restored 100 year old Hindu home), Welcomheritage The Panjim Inn (an over 100 year old Catholic home, also a heritage hostelry) and finally through the Hindu dominated ward of Mala culminating at Fonte Phoenix. The best way to experience Panjim is to take a walk or just watch the sunset on the long boulevard along River Mandovi’s edge.