In Focus

More than beaches, nightlife and cheap booze

Rashmi Parab

Goa has always remained one of India’s most-preferred tourist destinations. Known for its pristine beaches, wild parties and cheap alcohol, India’s smallest state harbours a few gems that most fail to notice. The ‘real Goa’ hidden amidst historic structures and in heritage zones has fascinating tales to boot.

The archaeological wonders deserve and command far more appreciation than they actually receive. Sadly and for all the wrong reasons, Indian tourists and their global counterparts make a beeline for this charming state for strictly ‘touristy’ reasons while ignoring a lot of what should actually be cherished in Goa. Here grab a look at three of Goa’s gems.

Old Patto Bridge

It’s straight from a movie. The walk along a quaint bridge at Panjim during the nights is an exquisite experience. The laterite stoned structure is a joy to view with its dimly lit row of street lights; stray locals fishing at the corners; the tipsy tourist strolling down the pavement stopping just to pay reverence to the temple on the bridge and more.

The Panjim end of the Ponte Conde de Linhares, - Old Patto Bridge

The Ponte Conde de Linhares aka Ponte de Linhares better known as the Old Patto Bridge as locals call it, is one of the finer pieces of architecture in Goa built between the years 1632-35. Constructed with laterite stone, this bridge’s Roman inspired architecture is a thing of beauty.

Built by the Portuguese during their rule and stay in Goa, the old Patto Bridge is a 3.2 km long bridge constructed under the orders of Viceroy of Portuguese India, Miguel De Noronha. He was the fourth Count of Linhares and the Old Patto Bridge gets his name from him.

The bridge was built to facilitate the movement of horse-driven carriages and connects the Panaji to Ribandar. The bridge that stood tall over the River Gomati now caters to vehicular traffic in this most-sought-after tourist destination in India.

Fontainhas

Old Latin Quarters in Panaji aka Fontainhas is adjoined to the east by the Rue de Ourem, Ourem Creek and on the west by the Altinho hill. The quaint age-old legacy left back by the Portuguese comprises narrow lanes lined with old, colourful villas that transport you to back in the time and mood. The zone’s paver-block footpaths, brightly-hued villas and the distinct Portuguese architecture is a huge draw for the historically inclined. What’s striking about Latin Quarters is the splash of colours that assault your senses. There’s bright yellow; a brilliant blue, greens and reds all along the zone. The Quarters have more hues than you could ever see in your own neighbourhood.

Fontainhas aka the Latin Quarters in Panjim

At Latin Quarters, also referred to as Bairro das Fontainhas, one gets to witness a very different, quaint side of the fast-paced high-powered tourist state. The Latin Quarters given the heritage status is a must see if you want to explore the Portuguese Goa that once was.

Usgalimal

In 1993, a few Goa local villagers spotted some stone carvings near the banks of Kushavati River. Ensuing research and investigations revealed that they were petroglyphs around 20,000 – 30,000 years old.

These petroglyphs, it’s believed, belong to either Palaeolithic or Mesolithic era and may represent the earliest human settlement in India. The carvings are in an area that lies about one km down from the main road, between Rivona to Neturlim in South Goa District. The place is a must visit particularly for a history enthusiast.

Rock carvings at Usgalimal

Here, more than 100 distinct figures, spread an area of 500 sq.mts, including images of bulls, labyrinths and human figures are carved on laterite stones. When discovered, the layer of mud covering up the engravings had been washed away by monsoon floods facilitating their discovery. Subsequently when the soil was cleared, more engravings were found.

In the years to follow, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) began placing signs and began promoting the site as a tourist destination, while the Forest Department declared it a protected area. Some of the finds are displayed in the Panaji Archaeological Museum.

The engravings are situated on the bed of the river Kushavati, beyond old iron ore mines, outside Usagalimal village, accessible via a winding pathway. It is about one km down from the main road between Rivona to Neturlim, and about 16 km south of Rivona in the Sanguem taluka in South Goa district.

While Patto Bridge and Latin Quarters are easier to spot once in Panjim, getting to Usgalimal is a wee tough. It may make sense to use your smartphone or car’s GPS to help manoeuvre through South Goa’s terrains to move beyond Rivona to reach the spot. Look for a board propped by ASI to direct you to the rock carvings and once you reach the spot, try meeting up with the local villagers in the vicinity who could help guide you to the spot. And, while you are there, you could trek down to the Pandava Caves too.

When you plan your next trip to Goa, make it a point to include these rarities. Take time to stop, grab a look, admire and learn about these architectural beauties and charming stories associated. For all you know, you will be able to see Goa in a completely new light.